Preparation for the ‘Last Days’,
A Primer for Christian Commitment
and Spiritual Warfare
By Jerry Clifford, DBA, The Word Guru
Chapter 1 – Introduction to the Battle, Page 1
Chapter 2 – The Goal, Page 7
Chapter 3 – My Creed, Page 9
Chapter 4 – Personal history, Page 10
Chapter 5 – State of the Union, Page 12
Chapter 6 – Historical perspective, Page 17
Chapter 7 – Symptoms of disease, Page 20
Chapter 8 – The Remedy, Page 31
Chapter 9 – Remedy application, Page 36
Chapter 10 – Who is Jesus? , Page 38
Chapter 1, Introduction to the Battle
Explosive gunfire shattered the still night air. The slumbering troops bolted for their weapons and raced instinctively for their posts while radios crackled with clipped intense voices spitting out enemy positions and retaliation instructions. It was another in a series of caustic attacks by a well-armed, organized, and cunning adversary. Scrambling for cover, Sargent Conner was barely audible as he barked his warning, “This’ll take all we’ve got!” As I fell next to him within the relative protection of the bunker, I lamented, “Will it ever end?” Within minutes of the first enemy salvo, our team was venomously answering with blistering counter-fire from a wide array of deadly weaponry. Thirty minutes later silence hit as suddenly as the battle began, leaving a dense cloud of dusty, acrid smoke ripe with the stench of hot metal and gunpowder.
The foregoing represents a brutal scenario too often experienced by our brave soldiers in both World Wars and the subsequent conflicts in Korea, Viet Nam, and the Middle East. However, a similar grave script awaits the players involved in the virulent end times called the “last days” about which we read and hear volumes of prophesy. War is a stark and horrifying historical tradition of Man. It is embraced by many and condemned by many, but it will likely haunt us until the end of this age. For those in arms, it is an endurance test complete with brutal and arduous moments of terror laced with periods of boredom all framed within a rigorous Spartan existence awaiting the next adrenalin rush. Each one of these warriors has his moment alone with the burning question, “Will tomorrow be my last day?”
In like fashion, multitudes of Christians ask, “When will be the last day?” Many have a marked fascination with all the sensational predictions of horror coming upon Man that includes monstrous battles between nations interlaced with supernatural intervention. When will the “last day” and the preliminary tribulation occur? Will Christians escape or will they experience that terrible period? We will examine that issue in Chapter 7.
Therefore, we quite possibly have a very difficult ordeal or even a pitched battle looming in the future. However, that type of warfare is, at least, overt, physical, and inescapably “in-your-face”. It affords rational, natural, and learned motivation for reaction with a solid defensive or aggressive offensive strategy for action familiar to us. It may be hell, but it is within the realm of understanding and it is a tangible situation to analyze and act upon accordingly. What is significantly more difficult is the quantum leap to engagement and struggle with an intangible enemy – an unseen metaphysical adversary with extreme intelligence and cunning; one that has almost unlimited resources, energy, and weapons to wage his insidious campaign of destructive terrorism. This formidable foe hides in the darkness of the supernatural world where humanity is lost in unfamiliar territory and vulnerable prey to deception, subversion, and corruption. This wily adversary employs a wide array of deadly tactics and weapons; however, they are usually far less obvious and brazen than Hollywood satanic film scenarios lead us to believe. Real-life victims, most often, do not recognize any influence of the covert spirit world insurgency.
It appears that Christians today face a struggle far more complex, confusing, and dangerous than ever before. In the early days, the church experienced physical threats from heathen antagonists who injured or killed believers for their profession of, adherence to, and trust in Jesus. That behavior advanced to persecution and murder by organized religion because of their alleged heretical beliefs or their meritorious resistance to, or rejection of, doctrinal errors, moral decline, political power-hungry misdeeds, and outright crimes. The Spanish Inquisition and early American witch burnings are among the many horrors of fanatical religious terror campaigns. These acts were perverse and egregious travesties of justice, especially so because they were committed in the name of God who, of course, had no part in these evil activities. The world has likely never experienced more inhumanity, death, and destruction than from those falsely claiming divine direction
I believe our creator recoils in horror and sorrow as He surveys the timeline of post resurrection history. Yes, God presided over wars in Old Testament times for His necessary purposes, but in these last days Jesus came forth as the human embodiment of the invisible God to usher in the new era of peace as well as love, compassion, and forgiveness. It is as if God repented of the age of war and wanted a new approach made available if Mankind wanted it. Now, as those who know the scriptures can agree, Man, on balance, has rejected that new concept, for Jesus said, “Broad is the path to hell, but narrow is the path to life, and few find it.” However, though the Lord Jesus came for peace, we now have a new frontier of warfare to negotiate. A true believer can experience inner peace with Jesus, but the overall societal peace will never be realized until Jesus returns to establish a new heaven and earth. Therefore, in this current age we now face the unseen enemy, the prince of darkness, Lucifer the angel of light – the notorious devil cast from heaven for his rebellion against God.
Satan, or Lucifer, walks the dark, foreboding halls of the supernatural world seeking whom he can pervert or convert and conform to his evil ways. His dirty deeds range from extreme demonic behavior, murder, terror, sexual depravity, and misguided religious zealotry to mere complacency. Criminal acts covertly inspired by the devil are heinous enough, but lukewarm attitudes and lifestyles of professing Christians are just as dangerous to our spiritual health as blatant Satanic practices or sociopathic transgressions. Many church people assent to this but approach it as abstract philosophy and therefore have difficulty incorporating this concept into their daily lives. One reason is that many of us have been erroneously led to believe that, simply by church or Bible school attendance, tithing, observing religious rituals, or toiling in ministries, that they then acquire good standing with God. Moreover, because of the enemy’s deceptive powers, these people find it nearly impossible to grasp the fact that reliance on those outward actions is a slippery slope – a smokescreen of the Devil to keep them from the truth of faith in Jesus and learning the real emphasis of the Christian life. Our heavenly Father wants His children undergoing an intense training program for eternal existence and an intimate relationship with our Savior; it is a thorough preparation for the spiritual warfare that will result from, and escalate in relation with, our growth in Jesus. Our enemy does not waste much effort on those already lulled into complacency. He concentrates his efforts on new believers and those actively engaged, by faith and trust, in the Lord’s work or those who awake to the need for change to a serious walk with the Lord.
Now, those Godly activities mentioned above, or the “works” referred to in the scriptures, are right and good as long as they spring from the essential grounding and saving faith in Jesus. For it is by faith alone that we are made right with God. And by that faith we bring forth the fruit of good works as God intended for us. We must always remember that God’s principles in this manner are eternal. Even though appearances can lead us astray, it has always been salvation by faith and trust in God and always will be. As we have all read, by faith, Abraham was made right with God. There were no church pews to warm, no ministries for labors, no Bible schools to attend, and no established religious rituals to observe.
Amazing! Abraham experienced salvation without all the modern trappings of our current religious machine. Moreover, this forerunner of saving grace proved his faith by his “works”. He trusted God and followed orders even though it was terrifying to do so. His trust paid off and the goodness and mercy of God was on display. However, it is relatively easy to whip up zeal for significant spiritual endeavors. We can momentarily envision ourselves as members of an elite sports team intensely striving for excellence and winning performance or as heroic warriors in the battle for truth and justice, but when we get right down to converting that abstract theory to action in our everyday existence, there is a monumental block of confusion. How does one realistically implement the vision and the concept of conflict with the invisible yet notoriously depraved and vicious supernatural beings. It is a frustrating dilemma, for we are firmly entrenched in the familiar routine of working with the natural and tangible world with which we can converse, touch, and feel.
Let us consider the quandary that we Christians now face. It is the essential admonition of the Apostle Paul found in the letter to the Ephesians: “Put on the full armor of God to fight the good fight of faith…” vs. the valid question, How do we realistically do that? The first step is cultivating a deep personal friendship with Jesus and getting to know him in the fellowship of His sufferings and in the power of His resurrection. It is written that those who will not submit to the Lord’s personalized training program to vicariously or realistically share in and experience all that Jesus endured such as long-term toil, humiliations, false accusations, persecution, and possibly even torture and murder will not share in the final glory or enter His eternal rest. Although we find some enjoyment in this current life, its primary purpose, for those committed to Jesus, is serious training for eternity, not an indulgence in selfish pleasure. This rule at first may seem beyond comprehension and be difficult to swallow, but with God, all things are possible.
So, again the query: how do we move from the abstract concept to the reality of implementation? I personally have struggled with this issue for many years. For a while, on fire, then at other times lost in confusion, but the Lord helped me persevere. Keep in mind that I have not arrived;
I continually strive for improvement in this endeavor. Jesus spent His time on earth utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit to do all the wondrous works we read of in the Bible. He rose from the dead to then impart that same Holy Spirit to all those who would believe and trust in Him. We have, at our disposal, the very same power that enabled our Lord for His work on earth with, and in, us now to use for His purpose and Mankind’s benefit. It is then a matter of committing to learn to live and operate our lives by the Holy Spirit’s leading, strength, and energy. It will not happen overnight; we must be patient and follow in His footsteps as we wage our war against the forces of darkness. He WILL teach you how, why, and where. Just trust in Him.
Therefore, lay aside this world’s alluring attractions and join God’s elite team as agents of light, truth, and hope in an age of declining morality, serious threats to our security, and the rise of atheism. The modern church has, virtually, a chapel on every corner of this land, yet has failed to be the beacon of God’s morality and compassion He desires. Let us correct this travesty and reverse the tide of evil moving against us. Take hold of the mighty sword of the Spirit and wake the sleepers to effective Godly action not with fire and brimstone anger, but with the unswerving tough love and compassion of Jesus.
Chapter 2, The Goal
What will it take for an awakening and why? America, as I mentioned, despite sporting a church on nearly every street corner, suffers from a serious moral decline. Those who stay abreast of our nation’s condition cannot ignore this glaring problem. This vast array of these assumed bastions of spiritual strength, guidance, and protection in our land appear inhabited by clergy and congregations woefully unable to prevent or even deter the disastrous red-tide of immorality inundating our great nation. The traditional Biblical guidelines of honor and ethics that made this country foremost in the world are under vicious assault from what appears to be a number of significant steadfast enemies.
My goal, one that I believe Jesus has encouraged me to achieve, is to expose this deplorable state of the union with a vigorous call to arms and diligent opposition to doctrinal error, historical ignorance, and unethical, immoral philosophies and practices. Those calling themselves Christians must awake from the stupor of apathy, materialism, overwhelming daily pressures, responsibilities, and distractions of activities at work, play, and at home. We must open our eyes to the intense spiritual conflict now playing at our local venue as well as everywhere across the USA.
Why should we implement this essential imperative? How can we perform the extremely important directives inherent within the clarion call? This presentation is dedicated to answering these questions by a thorough examination of our roots, the historical road we have tread thus far, our current heading, and the correct narrow path that Jesus has established for us. We must prepare for the return of Jesus at the last day. It could occur at any moment or any time in the future; we do not know the day or the hour. We just need to be ready. We must position ourselves like the five ready virgins among the ten that our Lord referred to in the famous parable that had their lamps burning and filled with fuel when the Bridegroom arrived to take them home. We must not suffer the fate of the five who, though claiming bride status for Jesus, were not ready and tragically, left forever without hope. It is important to note that all ten were virgins.
I believe that aspect shows that all ten were part of God’s family. They accepted the Lord into their hearts with gladness and enthusiasm, but the pressing cares of this life snuffed out the necessary on-going flame.
Chapter 3, My Creed
As background and a critical framework for this work, I must establish a statement of faith. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word, Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among us for the express purpose of complete identification with us and the redemption of Mankind from the captivity and eternal penalty of sin. Jesus became a genuine human like us, not a God-man or God masquerading as a man.
Under heaven, there is no other name given among men for forgiveness, salvation, healing, and acceptance into eternal life with the awesome God and Father of all those who place their trust in Jesus. His pre-planned and willing sacrifice of betrayal, torture, bloodshed, and death, was the penalty payment for our sins. Moreover, His amazing resurrection enabled us to obtain the treasure of eternal life with Him. As a result of this amazing process, God, the eternal Father, has elevated the name of Jesus above all names. At the name of Jesus, the Son of God, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall worship the Son. In this, glory is automatically returned to the almighty God, who, through Jesus, grants us the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, the omnipresent spiritual manifestation of the Father and the Son in our hearts.
Jesus is our righteousness. Nothing we can do will earn that treasured status. It is our faith and belief in what Jesus did for us that renders us righteous in His eyes.
Chapter 4, Personal History
My life with Jesus began as a baby dedicated to Him by my mother. At age 8, on my own, I dedicated myself to the Lord. Through my teen years, I wandered a bit, mildly questioning the story of Jesus, but I remained steadfast in my belief in the one true God. At 21, I experienced an amazing spiritual awakening with a vision from the Lord and an association with a group of believers experiencing an incredibly stimulating move of the Holy Spirit that I have never since encountered. I have hungered for that wonderful scenario to present itself again, but to no avail.
Fortunately, I have been sustained by its memory and the continual personal touch of Jesus and his gift of strong faith and persistence in my heart. Therefore, not counting the time up to age 21, I have been committed to Jesus for 43 years. However, you must know that I do not count that chronological period, in and of itself, as anything lending credibility to my message. It is what the Lord has led me through during that time that counts for righteousness and experience to address the issues at hand.
For several years, He buried me in serious Bible study comparing all the significant versions of the Holy Book as well as the Greek inter-linear version of the New Testament. I voraciously read countless books about, and by, famous figures in Christian history. I also enjoyed a semester at Simpson Bible College, but, again, I must emphasize that it is not head knowledge that matters. The essential condition is filling one’s heart with that knowledge through the filter of the Holy Spirit by appropriate application within circumstances that Jesus engineers specifically for each of us. We must then realistically live by that knowledge for self-improvement and gain the ability to render wise and proper assistance for others. It is not gathered simply for our own satisfaction or pride of achievement. All of the years spent and knowledge acquired is nearly worthless if they are not spent or it is not applied within the framework of the specific program that Jesus has prescribed for the unique relationship between each believer and his, or her, Lord. Therefore, what I share within this treatise is what I have learned and personally experienced over these last 43 years. It is not a neophyte’s exercise in recent exciting revelation or the result of upstart zealotry, and I do not selfishly claim this as “my ministry”. I have committed humiliating errors and undergone many trials as well as circumstances that tested and proved the validity and effectiveness of these concepts in practical long-term application.
In contrast, I must also point out that if, in the process of sharing this message, the Lord leads me to someone with greater insight that requires adjustment of my beliefs, I am all for it because that is the goal for which I have committed to Jesus. Much of what I have learned has been a lone-wolf program, just between the Lord and me, though not totally by my choice; that is just how it has been so far. My desire for fellowship with true believers or solid Godly leaders may just lead me to someone who will have another piece of the puzzle for me. What I hope for is the meeting of the minds in order to be an effective tool within the body of Christ. The goal is continual improvement to become more and more like Jesus, no matter what it takes. My life is a bit like that of Moses. I had negative encounters within the body of Christ and ran off to the wilderness for time alone with Jesus. Now, I am on the road of return, following the Lord for whatever He has in mind for me.
Chapter 5, The State of the Union
Again, it cannot be said enough: with innumerable churches casting their ubiquitous shadows across the American landscape, why should an alarming number of our people be trapped in bondage to some degree of debilitating sin? Why is the spiritual health of our overall societal body in dismal decline? How can it be that our citizens are sorely afflicted with chronic moral corrosion? Why is our government in disarray and unable to cope with the far-too- many intractable problems? Why is political corruption running amuck?
Why are the youth abandoning traditional American morality? Why is it that too many people today do not know American founding history? One is hard-pressed to find someone under age 45 that has a grasp on how and why we are America, and what our constitutional precepts are. Yes many claim to know but are steeped in serious error because they cannot properly read and understand English, or they have been brainwashed by our liberal and immoral educational system, or they hear and believe it second-hand from those who deceptively revise history for special interest purposes. These misguided individuals or groups then erroneously interpret our laws quite often for malicious pursuit and promotion of their own warped agenda.
Thousands of Christian book stores and libraries spanning this continent offer every possible literary tome imaginable. Adorning these commercial havens and hallowed halls are endless shelves harboring a king’s library of literature espousing spiritual virtue, self-help guides, daily devotionals, Biblical theme calendars, prophesies, apologetics, exegesis, biographies of famous spiritual leaders, and yes, of course, scores of varying versions of our spiritual food staple, the Bible.
In addition, television and radio daily disgorge waterfalls of Christian doctrine, dogma, and prophetic warnings yet it appears to have no effect on the insidious scourge of evil engulfing this nation. We are in serious straights. We are on the road to ruin – the highway to hell and destruction. To the skeptical, this may sound like a James Bond, 007, fantasy film scenario, or just another dubious conspiracy theory, or merely like my own sensational and questionable emotional ploy purely to grab your attention. Yes, gar-nering your attention is essential; however, this venture has no self-serving nature (that I am aware of). It is an absolutely necessary trumpet call for battle against evil spiritual forces of incredible cunning and power.
Of course, Jesus holds the ultimate power. All the malignant forces are subject to His control, but those who lack proper training and Biblical knowledge do not understand this dark spiritual world. They have failed to learn the leading of God’s Holy Spirit; therefore, they are fair game for seduction and deception by an intellect far superior to that of any human being. My introduction claimed an attack from several sources; however, all of these enemies are covertly coordinated by the master of deceit, Satan – the ruler of this earthly system comprised of all that deceptively appears attractive and valuable – but in reality is grotesque, corrupt, and eternally worthless. These diverse adversaries, though claiming various specific agendas, each have one basic goal to achieve: the complete eradication of God’s influence upon our laws, morals, traditions, and attitudes. In addition, they are diligently in the process of villainous revision of our history to eliminate all references to, and any basis for living according to, God’s timeless and essential moral codes and honor system.
To elaborate further on previous descriptions is necessary for impact. This seductive intellectual being, Satan, was once the most beautiful angel in heaven. He became overwhelmed by his own radiance and imagined supremacy. He, as a result of this vaulted ego, rebelled against God and was subsequently ejected from the heavenly realm along with many of his nefarious followers. This dark monarch and his malevolent storm troopers were granted dominion over this material realm to roam and pillage within boundaries set by God. Satan, or Lucifer, the infamous black-ops king pin, the roaring and ravenous killer lion, the mortal enemy of all Mankind, and fallen angel of light appears fabulously handsome by nature and exudes an illusion of virtue by way of unfathomable craftiness, but he callously rules with crushing devastation in the heart and spirit of the unwary. We must also understand that all the special interest malefactors are utilizing clever subterfuge that appears meritorious, honorable, and virtuous, but when their deeds and philosophy are carefully examined by a spiritually discerning eye, it is revealed to be a web of devious trickery. If one does not have a close relationship with Jesus, there is a serious danger of entrapment within this web of deception.
Again, when surveyed on the surface, it appears that our society is confronting many different foes with their own specific legions of zealots. One faction within this diabolical group is that of the gay marriage crusaders waging a scorched-earth campaign to legitimize and legalize reprehensible sexual immorality as well as procure tax and other legal rights for all homosexuals, lesbians, and transsexuals. The gay marriage campaign is deviously promoted as the new civil rights movement. This indicates just how far into falsehood one can go and still have many Americans completely fooled. Civil rights are those afforded only to that which is natural, proper, substantial ,and worthy in a society such as race, religion, and gender, not for a small minority whose only claimed qualification is a deviant sexual preference deemed a serious perversion by most civilizations for nearly 5,000 years. Moreover, for gays to equate their struggle to legalize sin with black civil rights and female equality efforts is a monumentally grievous insult to blacks and women who truly deserved the rights for which many fought and even gave their lives.
Then we have the murderous pro-choice crowd advocating government sanctioned and funded killing of innocent unborn children. In addition, the militant and subversive Muslims are busily at work effecting diabolical infiltration of every facet of our government and the justice system, as well as our businesses and personal lives, in order to eventually establish a repressive, anti-Christian Islamic republic here on U.S. soil when our system collapses.
Antagonistic police arrest Christian activists peacefully distributing outreach literature in public areas. Belligerent atheists haunt the halls of municipal governments conniving for elimination of any public display of Christianity or reference to God. Our wayward school and university systems are now nothing more than a liberal and progressive “mad-scientist” laboratory for the reprogramming of pliable young minds facilitating the incremental evaporation of Godly morality and American tradition.
Furthermore, the communists, fascists, and neo-socialists are designing their own shifty plots to topple Christianity and capitalism for eventual control. It is a mind boggling maze of subversive activity that though it is all coordinated by Lucifer, each of these forces struggle for individual control over our society. Can you imagine the results at some future date if, because of the monumental prize at stake, the struggle becomes overt? Can you conceive of certain scenarios like communist or Muslim control in just one aspect of their regime? They are supporting the gay rights crusade now because it is a convenient and effective vehicle for erosion of morality necessary for the success of their ideology, but if in power, they would perform a Nazi-like roundup of all homosexuals and dispose of them in ways unthinkable. The gay community is being dangerously deceived and used; they have no clue of the price they are paying for the support of these villainous pseudo allies. In fact, most of them do not even know that these goons are assisting their cause. One can explore in depth the gay rights and Muslim issues on my blog site listed at the end of this treatise.
Next, there is the entertainment industry and many private enterprises peddling every conceivable tool for numbing, stimulating, or influencing moldable grey matter with films, products, and services that range from simply wasting valuable time to marketing tantalizing but decadent and corrosive sexual fare.
It then would appear that we have a diverse band of marauders and plunderers on the loose. The truth is either ignored or unbelievable to many but easily recognizable to those few in fine tune with our awesome Lord Jesus. The diverse gang of assailants is but a puppet squad unknowingly dancing to the tune of the dashingly attractive dark prince occupying the usurper’s throne in the legendary smoke-filled back-room global command center for the establishment of anarchy and Godlessness. In this quagmire of conspiracy, unwary and ignorant young people are the primary victims. The silken-tongued Lucifer, the ultimate slick salesman, has convinced them that the Bible and its sound moral precepts are out of date and, moreover, even a dark-ages plague. Biblical morality is said to be dangerous because it is employed as an excuse for hatred and discrimination against gays or any other faction practicing immorality or other anti-social behavior. And because it is a neo-political curse to be guilty of hatred and discrimination, the enemies of morality fire-brand these “Scarlett letter” labels upon any and all who, no matter how diplomatically, attempt the preservation of God’s precepts by exposing their follies, dubious ethics, and sins.
The longevity of this unconscionable activity and the severe damage inflicted dictate that it may well be too late to prevent the demise of America, the rejection of allegiance to almighty God, and the loss of our cherished freedom and traditions. However, I do not abandon the fight to preserve the aforementioned treasures. I encourage anyone who will listen to rise up and join the battle of the ages. To stand strong in the power of God’s Holy Spirit employing the full armor of God listed in the Biblical letter to the Ephesians. Wield the powerful sword of the Spirit, deflect Satan’s fiery arrows with the shield of faith, proudly wear the breastplate of righteousness, don the protective helmet of salvation, and secure your core with the supportive belt of truth. Let us boldly charge into the fray with feet securely outfitted with the gospel of peace. Like Jesus said, we need to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves in this war. This means that we know who our main enemy is (Satan) and learn effective counter action. However, we must always remember that our human adversaries are Satan’s tools, not the people themselves. The prince of darkness fools and motivates them most often without their knowledge. We must learn the proper balance of fighting evil, yet displaying compassion for those for whom Christ gave His life.
Chapter 6, Historical Perspective
What is the background for this pernicious subversion? It appears that the decline of morality had a subtle boost in the late 1950’s with rock-n-roll and the buds of thematic agitation against the norm. However, please understand, I love rock as well as many other music styles, but music is a neutral vehicle that can be used for good or abused for evil purposes. Therefore, the emotional rhythmic beat of this period played a considerable role in the evolution of blatant blossoming of rebellious and anarchistic attitudes and factions in our society. It was then laced with the “free-love” and mind-altering drug explosion in the ‘60’s. However, though the events of this era were significant steppingstones, the real seeds of decay sprouted in the antiquity of 313 A.D. when Emperor Constantine 1 extricated Christianity from the societal caverns of obscurity and disdain in order to establishment it as a state-recognized religion worthy of freedom to exercise faith along with all other religions.
A warning is in order. Be prepared, for much of the following information will appear bizarre and unbelievable. If that fits your reaction, please realize that without the research that I have completed, you will naturally find these revelations incredible; however, if you truly seek the Holy Spirit’s confirmation, I believe He will, in due time, reveal the light of truth in the following passages.
Religion, with its often searing controversies that brew within and the reprehensible devastation it wreaks without, is likely the number one cause of world suffering. As Mark Twain so aptly quipped, “Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion –- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.” A warning is in order. Be prepared, for much of the following information will appear bizarre and unbelievable. If that fits your reaction, please realize that without the research that I have completed, you will naturally find these revelations incredible; however, if you truly seek the Holy Spirit’s confirmation, I believe He will, in due time, reveal the light of truth in the following passages.
Religion, with its often searing controversies that brew within and the reprehensible devastation it wreaks without is likely the number one cause of world suffering. As Mark Twain so aptly quipped, “Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion –- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.” The Catholic Church, developing early in the first century A.D., is likely the forerunner of deceptive and destructive religions, with Islam, the world’s most deadly ideology, arriving on the middle-eastern stage circa 700 A.D. Please notice an important distinction. Islam is a dangerous fascist or Marxist type ideology masquerading as a religion.
The Catholic reign of corruption and terror began docile enough with the resurrection of underground Christianity that eventually led to its elevation to an official status as the state religion of Rome. This positioning evolved to a point that it subjected the faith to provocative systematic demolition by the powers of mediocrity and mutation dispatched by the prince of darkness by means of the ascendency of the powerful Catholic Church.
As part of my spiritual studies, I explored a comprehensive volume by an ex-Catholic priest. His startling exposé of Catholic history permeated with ungodly conduct, as well as accounts by other ex-priest’s revelations of reprehensible doctrine and behavior, painted an extremely grim and shocking portrait of the dynasty of the Roman popes. The rise to corruptive power of the Catholic Church set the stage for modern contempt for religion that many in America, and the world, vigorously display and advocate. Roman Catholicism spun a dismal web of erroneous doctrine that spit in the face of Jesus and trampled all that He meritoriously and faithfully taught. Papal Rome’s voracious appetite for power enabled the sale of its soul to the highest bidder offering counterfeit currency. For nearly 1,500 years, the powerful and well-funded Roman Catholic machine wreaked havoc through worldwide aggression and plunder. Mercilessly enslaving millions to the fear of hell and the pope’s extortion methods to fatten the bank account, they fulfilled the satanic empire with a maniacal stranglehold on the Western world.
Until Martin Luther challenged this criminal rampage of twisted imperatives, Rome was an invincible monolithic fortress for the dark side. The pope and his diligent gestapo-like lieutenants, the Jesuits, littered the minds of the faithful with mangled doctrine, spewed oppressive dogma, applied ruthless pressure, and issued punitive threats of eternal damnation to control the ignorant masses as well as European monarchs. Rome engaged in unethical meddling in world political affairs and by clever intrigue, egregiously instigated devastating wars between nations. They fell heavily into sexual immorality and monumental monetary greed, while all along masquerading in magnificent pomp as God’s immaculate earthborn emissaries. However, it is not surprising. The Bible clearly warns us that Satan can appear as an angel of light to deceive many. Moreover, the religious leaders of Jesus’s day harbored similar nefarious traits that our Lord vigorously exposed in public. The long-running Catholic Empire was the ultimate hypocrisy and grandest deception in all of history. It was a colossal feat of conquest resulting in globally devastating consequences.
Luther’s courageous though flawed and erratic rebellion initiated the exasperatingly long procedure for dilution of Catholic dominion. Unfortunately, the Devil was not to be denied his designs. He easily derailed the protestant movement by stirring up numerous squabbles between the reformers resulting in never-ending splits in alliances and congregations. Far too numerous denominations have corrupted the reformation surge leading to the modern American church system that overall has tragically strayed from the simple model that Jesus established. Many segments of the contemporary church have adopted the financial power and congregation control concept that led to Rome’s mutation of proper and responsible shepherding obligations. Over many years, I have personally experienced many disappointing and demeaning situations while attempting to be a part of several different church denominations. I suffered expulsion from a church because I opposed sin in the leadership, but found vindication by the pastor’s termination for misconduct. I have been subject to the humiliation of kangaroo courts held by church boards convinced I was a heretic. I endured betrayal by my ex-wife and supposed Christian friends in the matter. But what should a committed disciple of Jesus expect? Our Lord endured these conditions; so shall we.
Chapter 7, Symptoms of Disease
I believe that the American church system is suffering from a debilitating disease. There are many symptoms of this insidious malady that I have personally observed and from which have experienced adverse effects. However, please realize that I fully understand that as “works in progress”, Christians make many mistakes and can have periodic bouts of wandering off the Lord’s narrow path to life. I have made more than my share of mistakes and strayed a bit at times. Any critical eye can have a field day picking apart the misconduct of believers. In today’s society there are many vultures who relish exercising that unfortunate freedom in every media market possible to capitalize on our flaws for their wicked purposes. Therefore, my critique should not be thoughtlessly dismissed as a bitter and cavalier backlash, but rather be assessed in the context of a careful questioning of the crucial example we Christians set for non-believers and new or developing Christians.
In politics, perception is reality; it applies to God’s family as well. We must attempt righteous behavior because it is possible by utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus did, and it is strongly encouraged throughout the Bible so unbelievers may be attracted to Jesus; however, it is inevitable that undesirable behavior will occur. Often it is the result of a poor example by the leadership or a lack of proper discipleship programs, but we should not fall back on lame excuses when all the resources of God are available to us for righteous living. In addition, because a large contingent of the immoral opposition is using our imperfections to illustrate to the world the worthlessness and hypocrisy of religion, we need to make an extra effort to set a good example.
We are unintentionally making God look bad. The enemy is mounting a massive siege against God’s morality against which we must vigorously oppose and attempt victory by our Spirit-filled and directed conduct. It is true that many times, no matter how exemplary our behavior, the evil minds at work will find something about which to bring false accusation. That is just one reality a Christian must endure just as Jesus did. One could nit-pick at the following offenses endlessly, but my desire is to find a Christian body that though they might exhibit the flaws, they are clearly dedicated to Jesus and His Holy Spirit’s self-improvement program for methodically growing to be more like Jesus in reasonable increments.
Most of the denominational groups of people with whom I have attempted fellowship displayed many symptoms of spiritual malaise but also lacked the proper daily commitment to the Lord that would foster personal growth. They were stagnating or getting worse along with a leadership that was far too blind to the truth and were content with that status. One might ask how I could determine what their heart’s direction was. It is spiritual discernment that those who know Jesus can utilize to determine who is of Him and who is not. I want fellowship with those who are truly in Jesus no matter what their faults.
What I have personally seen and heard is that many of our religious leaders preach their own wayward versions of the gospel. I have heard the name of Jesus carelessly thrown to the wind and His poignant teachings flagrantly diluted. However, just being in an environment that appears dedicated to God, a few alert pew warmers can learn some measure of Jesus if they can weather the chronic pressure to fill the offering basket, error-filled preaching, and the guilt trips foisted on those who fail the subtle but stringent rule of uninterrupted Sabbath day attendance.
Many pastors and church administrations depend excessively upon cash flow and mind control of their flock. They are often guilty of a lesser version of the Catholic extortion model to procure funds for egocentric expansion projects or grandiose but unrealistic outreach programs. So often I witness a dreamer’s unrealistic and ego-driven endeavor such as “The First Church of the Apostolic Virtue Global Outreach” or “World-wide Visionary Ministries, Inc.” The one old spiritually needy beggar pushing his meager belongings in a rusty shopping cart just outside the dreamer’s front door gets ignored as the minister seated in a high-flying jet heads off to save the world. Moreover, these misguided religious zealots compound their folly by vigorously claiming that God has specifically called them to this “ministry” of dubious activity.
Then, there are the glittering “showman” pastors and evangelists who proclaim Jesus, but the theatrical emphasis often overwhelms God’s message. I have, for many years, performed on stage as a rock guitarist and vocalist. I know how it feels to entertain an enthusiastic crowd. It is an adrenalin rush – an addictive high. Many of these “performers” are junkies living solely for the next high. They love the adulation and hearing fans claim how the power of the message and their mesmerizing oratory brought crowds to the altar and filled the offering plates. It is not good, but at least a few actually find Jesus and remain with Him despite the hype. Similarly, parishioners get in a groove of getting high on the Sunday sermon. “Wow, did you hear Reverend Thumper’s sermon? It was awesome.” Yes, very moving, but it is deceiving. They think that there is righteousness in loving powerful preaching; they feel good, but the seeds of life never take hold. Their life is rooted in the excitement of the moment, not on the everyday struggle with life and darkness that is too boring or much too difficult for them.
Many denominations are mired in the swamp of debilitating legalism such as controversy over the proper Sabbath Day. This rule promotes that which is clearly opposite to the foundation of faith that Jesus laid. It does not matter which day one counts as the Sabbath. When God finished His creation, He rested on the seventh day. Do you know what day that was? No one knows because at that time, the days had not been named. It could have been a Tuesday.
However, Sunday seems to fit society’s subsequent establishment of the workweek with a two-day weekend respite, but it just does not matter in the overall eternal view. Furthermore, there is a disparity lodged in the argument. God rested on the seventh day, but in Genesis, there is no mention of a decree that that seventh day be a day of special worship though it has evolved as such. I worship the Lord every day, so for me the day controversy is moot.
Another example is the implied imperative of the 10% tithe that many pastors say if not adhered to will incur God’s disapproval. Of course, if one has committed to church membership, it is proper to support their leaders, administrative obligations, and property expenses with an affordable amount, but that is a personal decision according to an individual’s direction from the Lord as to how much and when to contribute, not a legalistic decree allegedly from God. In addition, this error is compounded when during a service, the pastor piously announces, “It is time now to worship the Lord with your tithes and offerings.” It may sound benign, scriptural, and even holy, but the hidden agenda is subtle deception. The pressure of the basket thrust in one’s face with those around watching, and the disingenuous claim that you are worshipping while coerced to give, is a reprehensible ploy to rake in as much money as possible. In addition, we are reminded of the obligation of cheerfulness as we conform to this charade.
The concept of worshipping the awesome creator of the universe with money is a diabolical subterfuge in conflict with worshipping “in Spirit and in truth”, as Jesus taught. Now, if that is not bad enough, the pastor often uses the “give to get” seduction. If we just give abundantly, then God will pour out His blessings upon us. The implication is that we will get money back, or a better job, or whatever is the desire of our self-centered hearts and minds if we just shell out our funds to enrich the church. This devious method of collection represents a lack of respect for the congregation, outsiders, or those of meager means. It is a distasteful manipulation of emotions, a pandering to material longings, and a void of proper Biblical knowledge by the pastors. Yes, God did use that concept in the Old Testament, but again, those days are over. The worst aspect of the game however, is the leadership’s bankruptcy of faith that God can provide needed finances without this grievous weekly shake-down.
I have attended churches that fare quite well by employing the passive method of placing an offering box out in the foyer or other spot where, without pressure and by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, people can freely give. The Old Testament philosophy of a mandatory 10% tithe was not designed for this age. It was specifically for the Jewish Temple and support of the Levites. Jesus eliminated this legality with His blood shed for a New Testament providing essential freedom from irrelevant and repressive Jewish laws.
Next, there are the intensely passionate ones crusading against social evils and political corruption. It is meritorious, but exposing these shadowy activities too often becomes a quagmire of entanglement in the thrill of their horrors. There are many hideous practices such as mysterious satanic and Masonic rituals along with untold numbers of other demonic cult ceremonies. Watching videos of these things and studying them in detail actually allows a deception. These crusaders are often unaware that they have become prey to the spirits behind these practices. They would vigorously deny this, but they appear to find a secret pleasure in what is taboo. They do not realize that the fascination is a distraction that can prevent effective action and hinders a closer relationship with Jesus.
Another issue is that even though the bible unequivocally states that we are saved by faith, not by works, it has become a regrettable situation of legalistic standards of outwardly pious behavior that is the meat of acceptance by the church and the “ticket” to salvation. One example is the excessive use of the phrase “praise the Lord” that is plugged into conversations as though it proves one’s spirituality. Another is the forced greeting of someone sitting near you. Then, there is placing money in the circulating offering basket so that others will know that we are holy. Next, we are gaining points by attendance every Sunday, or because as thought in the Catholic Church, if one skips attendance to services they are in danger of going to hell, many are watching and ready to exercise self-righteous subtle admonishment for those who are irregular.
Moreover, the level of prejudice exhibited against people in moral struggles is appalling. It is as if a display of hatred for assumed or perceived evil, though often incorrectly judged, constitutes righteousness. I have personally experienced such adversity in several churches where that mentality is encouraged by the behavior and teaching of the leadership. Furthermore, and regrettably, in the ignorance of my overly zealous early days, I scolded smokers out on the church front steps. Yes, smoking is detrimental to health, and though there are those legalistic folks, like me in the beginning, who insist that it is sinful and must be rebuked. It is not a sin and correction is the prerogative of the Lord if for some reason He sees fit for such admonition with a smoking disciple.
Pastors will encourage zealous behavior but fail to teach the boundaries and diplomacy of such action. It is like the scene when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the mountain top and He spoke with Elijah and Moses. Peter was filled with misguided zeal and without sense claimed that he would go to all the trouble to build tabernacles there for the three dignitaries. Jesus had to smile at his well-intentioned but inappropriate action. Zeal is a valuable emotion, but it must be controlled, used according to correct knowledge, and backed by adequate experience.
Overall, the diverse American church carries out a subtle program requiring unquestioning obedience to denominational doctrine. Respect for our leadership is necessary; however, each of us must establish our own deep personal relationship with the Lord for His personal direction in the Spirit. We should not just engage in a lock-step march according to church dogma or the pastor’s directives. We need this in order to know when the leadership is on track which will lead to loyalty and when they are in error which will protect us from falling in the pit as the parable of the blind following the blind leaders. Parishioners usually need pastoral guidance in the beginning of their walk with the Lord, and counseling during adolescence, but this influence must decrease as the Spirit’s necessary influence increases in each believer. This essential concept appears forgotten or ignored. The leadership has a selfish and irresponsible tendency to retain the principle influence for a believer’s perpetual dependency.
I again must state that Abraham gained righteousness with God by his faith, and then his obedience was a result of that faith. More important, he was justified and deemed righteous without the influence of any church. There were no churches at that time – a significant proof that the church scene, though it can be conducive to belief and has great potential for a beneficial social and spiritual role, is not an essential component of salvation. In addition, when the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus questioned Him concerning worship, He responded with the basic concept that it does not matter where or how one worships Him as long as it is rooted in the Spirit and in truth. Alarmingly, this crucial directive is missing or ignored within the American church system.
I am not advocating a total self-sufficiency philosophy of forsaking good Christian fellowship and spiritual direction. My point is not dismissal of the church as irrelevant but as a reality check for those who place too great a halo on its head. I aim to nullify the teachings that set forth the church as the ultimate altar or portal to heaven that many sects erroneously infer or blatantly claim.
Moving on, there is a dangerous misconception taught in some Christian circles that claims, “Once saved, always saved”. This philosophy is a significant problem because it leads to complacency and a lukewarm condition that against which, in The Revelation, Jesus issued warnings. Of course, Jesus will never leave us or forsake us when we place our trust in Him; however, He said that, as the branches, we must stay in Him, the vine, because all those who are not deeply rooted in Him are gathered and burned.
Moreover, in the letters to the seven churches in The Revelation, He clearly admonishes us to overcome as He overcame so that our names would escape erasure from the book of life. I admit that this is an extremely volatile and controversial issue – one that about which I have taken much heat from church leaders. However, would you not rather be sure about your status at the last day? If we get to that point and somehow don’t receive Jesus’s welcome statement saying, “well done… enter into my rest”, it is all over – lights out. It is too late. There will be extreme anguish and the infamous gnashing of teeth far beyond comprehension because the realization of the resultant eternal condemnation becomes brazenly clear.
One can argue until exhaustion in opposition to the concept of possibly losing salvation, but if Jesus said it is possible, it must be true. Therefore, let us do everything possible through faith to prevent that. Do we really want to test the threshold where the line is crossed? I do not think that test would be wise. Let us then, be diligently working at the essential task of overcoming so that we gain the rewards Jesus promised in every letter to those seven bodies – to please Him and prove our love for Him by our efforts. In that, we shall then have confidence to stand boldly before the Lord on judgment day. There will be no need for any anxiety over what might transpire before His throne. Be certain. Do what He says, then there is no question and no debate.
Let us also consider the misconception that Christians should refrain from involvement in politics or advocacy against immorality in our society. I say that it is essential that we get involved because that is the representative, free-speech system of government that God expressly established in America. If we follow the Lord’s essential commandment to love one another, then we will, out of love and responsibility, work diligently for the welfare of our loved ones and future generations for the preservation of our beloved country that has its very foundation rooted significantly in God’s moral principles.
You might agree that there are a considerable number of flaws to cure; therefore, let us now examine the notorious “rapture” theory and then in Chapter 10 we will review the most serious transgression: the withholding of the truth about the person of Jesus.
According to opposing factions, we Christians will have two options concerning the terror of the tribulation period. Either we will be spirited away by the Lord in a miraculous escape, called the rapture, or the circumstances will finally force us to don the full armor of God (as well as possible firearms) to avail ourselves of the mighty power of God’s Holy Spirit to endure the monumental trial coming upon the entire world.
The rapture theory is a controversial subject based largely on piecing together many different vague hints in the scriptures that lead its adherents to cobble together an argument that appears credible, but they are unable to define when the alleged extraction might occur along the prophetic timeline. There is also a significant question regarding whether “The Lord’s Day” is the “Day of Judgment” or the day Jesus comes to rapture His bride. In addition, considerable doubt arises concerning this concept because Jesus only refers to one “last day” and just one visible appearance – when He returns in the sky for the final judgment of all the living and the dead.
The rapture scenario dubiously contains two returns, one where, supposedly, Jesus visibly comes back halfway to receive the believers in the “air”, and the other more credible account is His triumphant appearance in the sky at the “last day”. The keystone, it seems, for rapture adherents is the passage that says (paraphrased), “one will be taken and the other left”. They ignore the entire preceding paragraph that sets the context. Jesus lists many signs of the end – His day – the revealing of the Son of Man, and says that as a part of that process some are taken and some are left. It is interesting that the Lord does not make it clear what the destination is for the one taken or what happens to the one left. Therefore, considering all these factors, I believe that there is too much speculation and uncertainty concerning a possibility of eluding the end time tribulation for us to count on that as our panacea.
One might ask, Why even quibble about the rapture? What harm could befall those who believe in it, but then find it a false teaching?
The answer lies in an encounter I had with a vigorous proponent of the rapture concept. After much discussion about this man’s views and sharing my take on the doctrinal flaws of the rapture philosophy, he remained adamant that the Lord specifically showed him the truth of the escape mechanism. He was desperately holding on to a lifeline upon which my alternative idea was a serious threat to his relationship with Jesus. The possibility of the rapture being false doctrine rocked the stability of his belief system. If, after much study and prayer, a person becomes so convinced that the Lord has personally affirmed the rapture concept, they are wide open to great disappointment if it does not occur. It will appear as if the Lord misled them or that they will conclude that their own Christian process has gone seriously off track. If they are not well established in Jesus, in light of what horror they contemplate facing without the rapture as a safety net, they could be angry or depressed enough to abandon the faith.
In contrast, most rapture supporters do not know the philosophy from personal Bible study; they just blindly believe everything modern day “prophets” proclaim. These Biblical wizards serve up a hefty dish of obscure, complex, and confusing scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, then arrive at a simplified conclusion based on arbitrary interpretation that defies logic, but the gullible, anxiously hoping that it is true, devour it whole without question.
The Apostle Paul warned against doing anything that could make weaker believers fall; therefore, we should reconsider this doubtful rapture idea so that we can encourage sound doctrine and eliminate future problems. Another point of logic is that if one is ready by serious training for Jesus’ approval at the last day judgment, then one is ready for the alleged rapture. If one is not ready for the last day, neither will one be ready for possible escape. Furthermore, if there is no truth to rapture speculation, it is imperative that we vigorously commit to the Lord’s grooming program for righteousness that alone will prepare us for tribulation.
I believe that Jesus will protect and enable us as we struggle through the tribulation by proper training and a tight bond with Him. It will be a great opportunity to prove our faith, overcome evil, and gain a deeper intimate knowledge of our Lord by watching Him work with us during these hard times. His prayer to the Father for His disciples on His last night was our standard, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one”. I believe that biblical usage of the word “keep”, found often in scripture, means protection and guidance through a circumstance, not prevention of, or extraction from a circumstance. If God did not spare His only begotten Son from betrayal, torture, and death, why should we expect to escape some tribulation? The Bible says that we must share in His sufferings in order to share in His glory just as many saints throughout history have suffered adversity or martyrdom for Jesus.
It would be amazingly comfortable and convenient to fly away to safety prior to calamity, but I believe the wise man would prepare for anything according to all that Jesus encouraged us to do as well as the admonitions found within every other letter of the New Testament. We need to be wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves. I certainly would not want to experience the terrible shock of realization that the rapture did not occur and I was stranded and unprepared for the holocaust. Therefore, how DO we truly prepare for the “last days”?
Chapter 8, The Remedy
After the foregoing litany of negative and possibly depressing observations and conclusions, what is the remedy? What is it that will truly prepare us for the last days? It is simple, yet difficult. It is an intimate, heart-to-heart, one-on-one relationship with Jesus. This singular remedy appears to be simple elementary logic on the surface, but the real-world implementation is very difficult because of stiff opposition in the dark spiritual realms. Satan does not expend much effort or resources on those who operate on a surface level of lip service to God or a mindless conformity to church doctrine. The prince of shadows, instead, allocates most of his legions and corrosive power to the siege against those who find the narrow path to life where Jesus holds periodic personalized training sessions for the committed believers.
Our enemy cleverly hides among the trailside bushes where he can take sporadic, convenient, and strategic pot shots at our faith or lure us off the path with some irresistible temptation. The difficulties encountered on this side road apart from the broad highway to destruction are those crucial for us to overcome as Jesus described in the letters to the seven churches found in the Book of Revelation. These seven letters are the essential critique and progress report for the church overall. They contain the only directly applicable imperatives and knowledge among all the veiled revelations. The remainder is purely fuel for speculation until the appropriate time for the Lord to reveal the interpretation. As the Lord promised, in each of those seven letters, only the overcomers will enter His eternal rest and glorious life with the Creator of the universe on a new and perfect Earth. Will you be one of the overcomers?
This may appear to be a campaign of achieving righteousness by works, but it is not. If the devil cannot prevent intimacy with Jesus, he will then mislead you concerning faith and works. He desires that each believer unwittingly abandon the concept of faith alone that saves. He promotes adopting a worthless rigor of activities for a futile attempt at right standing with God. This deception can easily occur when faithful ones diligently strive to please the Lord and therefore innocently and incrementally resort to legalistic adherence to arbitrary rules or find him or herself feeling proud of certain accomplishments that ignore the faith component of pleasing God. We must never forget that only the shed blood of Jesus grants us righteousness if we believe it and live it. We must rely upon Jesus, crucified in place of us, as the required punishment according to God’s plan. Nothing we can ever do will ever earn what Jesus accomplished by His willing submission to torture and death followed by His magnificent resurrection.
What is the definition of “overcoming”? For born-again Christians, it is waging the daily battle with, and against, everything that happens in their lives. Satan will use anything, everything, and many people around us in the course of living, working, and playing to trip, deter, intimidate, humiliate, thwart, or even injure us simply because we have committed to Jesus. If one does not experience these things, it is time to dig deep to determine whether there really is a serious commitment to Jesus and His training program.
We often do not even realize that we are under attack because our enemy can weave circumstances that make us believe that we are not suffering for the sake of Christ Jesus. It will simply appear that the cause of negative consequences is our own mistake or sin. This deception robs us of self-confidence or joy as an overcomer. It also paves the way for depression for those responsible and serious about pleasing the Lord. Considering all that Jesus has given us and has promised for eternity, it is a defeat for a Christian to be depressed; however, it happens. I know. I struggled with it for many years because of consuming regret over many things for which I was ashamed. I thank our awesome Lord. He taught me much through that dismal time and I emerged more mature in Him and because of His love shown for me; my heart is full of love for Him. My constant inquiry to Him is that I actually put that love into action by faith in order to please Him. It is not pleasing Him because I think it renders me righteous, but because that is the behavior for one you love. He is already my righteousness by virtue of my gaze at Him on the cross of forgiveness, trusting in, and submitting by faith to Him.
According to Jesus, here are the specific things that, in the letters to the seven churches of Asia, He lists as areas in which we must overcome, as well as the rewards for doing so. This paints a very good picture of what the Christian life is all about and it covers every aspect of the conflict:
To Ephesus: “….you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
To Smyrna: “….the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
To Pergamos: “….you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam…. to commit sexual immorality… you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth…. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
To Thyatira: “….I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality… I will give to each one of you according to your works… hold fast what you have until I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations….”
To Sardis: “….I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God…. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels….”
To Philadelphia: “….Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write. on him My new name….”
To Laodicea: “….I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth…. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent…. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne….”
Can you think of any further rewards for those who overcome? I think Jesus covered it all. Furthermore, because the letters are quite comprehensive, is there any higher goal for a Christian to seek? No. By His overcoming example, Jesus set the height of the bar. It is not easy, but Jesus supplies all that it takes to accomplish this treasured goal.
Chapter 9, Remedy Application
So, how do we achieve this preparation by intimacy with Jesus, the amazing King of all the galaxies? How do we become worshippers in Spirit and in truth, overcomers, and best friends with the ultimate Sovereign? We must commit to Him and to His program that He will personally tailor for each one of us. It is a daily life of communing with Him and allowing Him to do whatever it takes in us, for us, and around us to bring us into conformity with Him and His plan. This is not a once or twice weekly church service script. Whatever it takes – a concept that escapes so many church leaders who consistently mislead believers that God exists mainly to ease our pain, provide the nice house, or grant success in employment or business if we just earnestly pray, believe, pay our tithes, and brazenly claim it.
Yes of course, earnest prayer is part of God’s plan, but it should be in accordance with God’s will or for that which will bring us closer to Him. An excess of church attendees have a strong aversion to experiencing, economic distress, excess toil, hardships, humiliation, false accusations, betrayal, heartache, pain, sickness, or any type of adversity or problems; but, guess what? These are exactly what Jesus endured during His tenure on Earth, plus the additional excruciating torture and murder that most of us fortunately will not undergo. These feared things, if experienced by believers in faith and belief in the Lord’s directive, are the essential steps toward the necessary close relationship with Jesus.
These things are chosen for us, not simply for the sake of gaining endurance such as rituals practiced by reclusive mountaintop gurus for their own sense of personal triumph over the odds, it is an extremely important exercise of sharing in what Christ endured that we may feel a kinship with, and an enduring love for, Him. It is an assurance that we are not alone in adversity. Jesus pioneered the trail for us and He offers the strength and power to endure and overcome. Our Lord claimed that if we do not share in what he endured, then we would not share in the afterlife of eternal glory with Him. This is a serious doctrinal pillar of faith largely ignored or belittled in church circles.
Commitment to Jesus and His training program is much like that for which professional football athletes offer ravenous dedication. They eat, sleep, walk, talk, and dream football. It is giving 150% with full-on physical and mental training, field practice, video analysis sessions, strategy meetings, psychology programming, and of course the grueling game day with all of its thrill, possible glory, and threat of injury. They do it all for just temporal and materialistic rewards such as a high salary, temporary fame, and the coveted Super Bowl ring. However, because we play for infinitely higher stakes, we should commit, train, and perform in such fashion, but for a far superior prize: eternal life with the amazing Lord and creator of the universe. However, for the proper beginning of the true commitment to the process, we must begin with a thorough exploration of the person of Jesus.
Chapter 10, Who is Jesus?
This is what I believe is the worst crime that the church commits. It is the continuing misleading doctrine of who was, and is, Jesus. Proper application of the remedy requires a solid and proper understanding of our awesome Lord and what was, and is, the amazing eternal plan for the redemption of fallen Mankind, His ultimate creation.
Jesus is the Word of God. It is like one completely trustworthy saying, “I give you my word….” Jesus is the full and complete embodiment of God’s integrity as well as all the other extremely significant aspects of deity. However, when He came to Earth, was Jesus only a man, or was He actually God? Was He a combination of the two? Let us look at the truth concerning this crucial issue heatedly debated for centuries.
Most Christians are afflicted with stunted growth because leaders hinder, obscure, or prevent learning exactly who Jesus is, and why He performed all that we read about in the Bible. We have already set forth His status as the Word in John 1, but the book of Hebrews states, “… He, for a short while, became a little lower than the angels for our benefit….” and in Philippians 2:6-8 it says that He emptied Himself and became a man humbling Himself as such before God….” Further, 1John, 4: 2 and 3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of Antichrist….” Moreover, in the Gospel of John, “….the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The meaning here is real flesh, not just a façade or a sham. He was a real human, not a divinity!
Why? Because only as fully a man without automatic advantages of being God could He live life being led by the Holy Spirit as the forerunner of those who would believe and therefore live by the Holy Spirit that Jesus would breathe into them. It was the only method offering the necessary validity for what Jesus endured in torture and death for our salvation. Furthermore, it would be easy for a god to endure merciless beatings at the hands of contemptuous jailers as well as suffer the criminal’s crucifixion with spike-pierced hands and feet until dead. He set the crucial example by sacrificing as totally a man, but also, before His great ordeal He fashioned the model for our daily life. He said in the scriptures that all He did, we could do also because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would also reside in us. As a complete human being operating according to the divine direction of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus set the example for us to live the same way.
Further proof of this concept is found in John 14:10, “….the Father who dwells in me does the works.” John 14:12, “….he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also….” John 14:17, “….the Spirit of Truth… He dwells with you and will be in you.” Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you….” And of His full humanity: Hebrews 2:14-17 says, “Inasmuch as the children (all humanity) have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself (Jesus) likewise shared in the same….”; “….in all things He had to be made like His brethren that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest….”
The modern church often sets forth a statement of faith that though having the appearance of proper doctrine is actually falsehood and completely contradictory to scripture. The main phrase in question is: “We confess Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God who became fully human while remaining fully divine.…” Nowhere is there even a hint in the scriptures of the concept of remaining fully divine while being fully human. This is no less than a cowardly attempt to straddle both sides of an issue, avoiding a solid but contentious stand for the truth. Not too many Christians relish an accusation of heresy leveled against them. Likewise, few desire doubting the Godhood of Jesus.
Nevertheless, the misleading creed statement strives to please all sides of the divinity/humanity argument that threatened to split the early church during the Nicean Council in A.D. 325. However, a deeper look in the Spirit reveals definite demonic deception to deny the essential truth of God’s perfect design to redeem Mankind and prevent full knowledge of what Jesus sacrificed to carry out the plan. Moreover, it is impossible to be fully human and fully divine simultaneously; it flies in the face of Holy Spirit- led common sense. Oh, I know that with God all things are possible, but with God all things are reasonable – done with wisdom, common sense, and most often according to his established science of physics. In addition, if Jesus were not temporarily human, He would be open to accusation of perpetrating a sham in that He assumed a pretense of full humanity while instead using covert but intrinsic divine power in order to complete His terribly difficult, frustrating, humiliating, and dangerous mission. Is it possible that a truly divine being can die? I do not think so. Can a man kill God? Yes, Jesus made use of divine power, but for authenticity and credibility. He did not use more divine power than each believer has access to if they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
We must also remember that God remains consistent in His methods. In the Old Testament, He utilized an integral and valued part of people’s lives – the unblemished lamb of their flocks, to sacrifice for sin. Therefore, true to this precedent, Jesus who as a genuine, earthly, and highly valuable human – an integral part of society – became the ultimate unblemished sacrificial lamb.
The issue is essential for three reasons: 1.) Christians need to realize that the validity and credibility of salvation depends on relevancy – a human Jesus sacrificing as a human, for humans. 2.) We must know that His Holy Spirit-led example is crucial for our success as Christians. 3.) Scriptural correctness is extremely important.
If a believer does not know the details of Biblical truth or is uncertain about it, then the devil has great opportunity to take advantage of them often to their ruin. Knowing exactly who Jesus is paves the road to intimacy with Him. Moreover, knowing to whom we address our prayers is quite beneficial as well. Many I hear praying are a bit confused. Sometimes it is God, then it’s Father, then it’s Lord, then Jesus; I even hear prayers to the Holy Spirit. This may appear trite because Jesus is all of those, but confusion over details allows our enemy to play with us. Our uncertainty tells him that we do not know what we are about. He will therefore leverage that into more things to be uncertain about. If one does not have the details right, then one becomes fair game for the deceptions of the prince of darkness. It is like the account of the seven Sons of Sceva who did not know what they were doing when attempting to cast out a demon using the name of Jesus as they had observed the Apostle Paul doing with others. The demon in the man said that he knew Paul and knew Jesus, but had no idea who they were. Therefore, the possessed man jumped all seven and brutally beat them, driving them away humiliated and half-naked. We need to know the rules and we must know Jesus, not just about Him.
At some point in the Christian maturity process, we must understand what we face and how to go about it. The sooner that develops, the better it is for us and all those around us. Many Christians remain on milk for far too long or even indefinitely, and they have no clue what the spiritual reality is. We must grow up as soon as possible. We must know what our powers are and how to discern the import of issues and adversaries we face. We must know everything about our Lord so that we can overcome the world and the evil one. Because of God’s perfect plan, we do have the power to be like Jesus; He showed us how. To be like Jesus is how we overcome. There is no other way.
The letter to the Ephesians lists our garments and weapons for success in the battle, but most of us fail to comprehend this truth or just do not believe it because it appears that this view denies the Deity of Christ, yet Jesus unselfishly denied His own Deity (Philippians 2) for the sake of bringing mankind to salvation. Moreover, it was only for 33 years that he devoted to complete manhood. After his resurrection God restored his full divine nature and Jesus acquired an even greater status than before He gave up His posh position in Heaven to come down here and slug it out along with us, experiencing all that we feel and endure.
The church, from misunderstanding, errs in its contention that He, on Earth, was fully divine. They cite Colossians 2:9 that says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily….” It is true of the fullness, but the context of the passage is the relevant time-frame for Him prior to His virgin birth and then after the resurrection. The defining passage on this subject is in Philippians 2:8 and 9. It reads: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and has given Him the name which is above every name.” We see that after His death and resurrection, Jesus was then, as passages in Hebrews support, restored to His earlier glory and even granted greater esteem with a name above all others.
Try to imagine how difficult it would be for us to give up the lives we now know to spend 33 years in an alien place so entirely different, impoverished, and dangerous that it filled us with grief and fear. Consider this mission. Relocate to Central America, set up a home in a cardboard or scrap tin shack complete with a dirt floor, armed with a mandate to remain for 33 years in that condition. That is the relative comparison between Heaven and earth. That is what Jesus weathered for us.
As a child, an adolescent, and a young adult, He patiently passed the 30 years waiting for the rigorous three years of ministry. It was then, a gripping saga of traveling hundreds of miles by foot along arid roads through the sizzling heat of the summer plagued by its ever-present dust turned to mud in the rains and cold of winter. It was many nights in the wilderness with no comfort of a bed or a tasty home-style meal. It was day after day in towns and cities feeling the crush of humanity in need as they pressed often selfishly upon Him only for whatever they could extract to their advantage. The pressure was so great that once He, exasperated, uttered a cry of, “How long must I put up with this evil generation.” Moreover, it was a ministry of enduring chronic and hurtful false accusations like from those who said He was possessed of the devil or like His role as the target of vitriolic verbal attacks and subversive logic traps by the religious leaders. He felt the sting of hurt from betrayal and public humiliation. He then, of course, graciously and willing submitted to bloody torture and brutal murder so that after His fantastic predicted resurrection we could experience forgiveness and life in Him for eternity if we would only ask and believe.
It is quite interesting to note how John, the favorite disciple, recorded the trial, brutality, and killing of his beloved Lord. John barely mentions what happened. He cites it so briefly that one reading his account really misses the full impact of the Lord’s ordeal. Why? Because, to John, it was so traumatic that there was no way he could bring himself to elaborate on the atrocity. However, all serious Christians need to know just how terrible the experience was. Some who have seen Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of Christ” complain that it is too gory. Excuse me, but that is exactly what Jesus endured for us to be forgiven and free. We owe the awesome Lord Jesus so much that it is imperative that we establish a serious commitment to Him – to live worthy of His shed blood, His calling, and His nearly unfathomable sacrifice.
We should strive to know Him in the power of His resurrection, and in the fellowship of His sufferings – to live daily with Him in a close personal relationship. His resurrection is a key ingredient. Without that historically documented fact, there is no substance to what Jesus taught and represented. We also must learn the subtle voice of His Holy Spirit for our guidance. The ultimate goal is to see Him smile at us and hear Him say at the last day, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and enter my rest.” That, my friends, is what life is all about. Nothing else holds more importance. Never will there be a more fantastic day!
The forgoing process of intimacy with Jesus that presents us in righteous standing before Him on that awesome and historic day is the only way that we can truly prepare for the “last days”.
Will you be prepared?
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For truth, justice, God’s morality, honor, and the original American way,
The Word Guru
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