Saturday, May 06, 2006

Overview of the End Time Church

..... In 1982, through a series of circumstances, I began a Scriptural study on the church of the last days. No, not the world events such as plagues, wars, and rumors of wars, but the church as it will appear on the inside, in the final days before Jesus returns to the earth.

.... There will be a good side to the end time church, and a bad side; like the parable of the ten virgins, there will be wise and foolish Christians among them (Matt 25:1-13). Half of the church will be at the height of its potential, surpassing even the first century church in excellence, because theirs will be the generation that fulfills the church’s destiny and ushers in the Lord's coming. But growing alongside them, like tares among the wheat, will be the other half of the church. Those Christians will be spoiled with false and destructive doctrines, authored by the devil, that will somehow pass for Christian teachings (1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

.... Teachings, in fact, will play a major role in defining both end-time groups. At the most basic level, each will have a special way of interpreting the Bible. With a passionate focus, the true Christians of those days will search for the testimony of Jesus that the Scriptures contain (Eph 4:13). Learning from this perspective will conform them to His image and transform their lives from within, from a religious aura to an actual relationship with God (John 5:39). They’ll have contemporary issues too, and their own set of trials and challenges from the adversary. They’ll certainly be aware of the times in which they live.

.... On the other hand, the Bible foretells at least thirteen false teachings that will challenge the Christians of those days, and these will form the core beliefs of the other side of the end time church. As I studied those out, years ago, I discovered eleven of them in existence already, in various quarters of the church around us. A twelfth such teaching was under development in almost every quarter, and has recently reached its zenith. One more false teaching is yet to be.
.... So if the end time church sounds like an obscure study to you, it shouldn’t. It’s the church of the very near future, of our own gathering dawn. It has a profound impact on the Christians of today because it is the outcome of our present trends.

.... This blog was created to discuss this perspective so discerning Christians could take counsel among them- selves and prepare. We genuinely value your input and would very much like to dialogue with you about it. And in the postings below, specific parts of the end-time church will be discussed in further detail.
This blog uses a top-to-bottom format. To prcoeed to the next article, see below.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Rise of Denominations

.... Jesus prayed that the church would be one, just as He and the Father are one (John 17:21-22). Nevertheless, denominations were formed from the earliest days. They reflected the personalities of well-known preachers, including the apostles themselves (1 Cor 1:12), a result which was completely unintended and which they found mortifying (1 Cor 4:7; 15:11). In fact, it was exactly the opposite of what most of them had preached:

.... "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake."

(2 Cor 4:5)

.... Rather than preaching about themselves, those men of God had focused their message on Jesus (1 Cor 15:11). Had the Christians of their day perceived this clearly, looking past the preachers to see Jesus Himself, they would have gotten it right and remained in the unity of the faith from the beginning, and those denominations would never have formed (Eph 4:13-15). So a communications gap existed when it came to their seeing Jesus. And over the centuries, new denominations have come and gone for similar reasons.
.... Denominations have a good side because, at least among themselves, those Christians have obtained a unified belief. Yet they are unfortunate because their very existence proves that the church, as a whole, does not agree on everything. It is the undeniable root from which their distinctions spring (1 Cor 11:19). And since the truth is in Christ Himself, who is not divided, and they still cannot agree, it proves that error is present among them. Or to address the problem at it's root, it proves that they are still not seeing Jesus as clearly as they might (Eph 4:21; 1 Cor 1:13).
.... We will continue this discussion in our next posting, which appears below.

Denominations in the Last Days

.... Despite the rise of denominations, the true church is a mystical, spiritual entity that has always transcended such labels. Furthermore, it has a destiny with the fullness of Christ through seeking to know Him intimately. Therefore, the Bible fortells an end time reformation that will close this communication gap through a renewed focus on Jesus, and that will permeate every quarter of the church; and this, in turn, will bring the cherished goal of unity for which Jesus prayed so long ago:

.... ". . .till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ . . ."

(Eph 4:13)

.... But even so, there will be a challenge. Jesus prayed for our unity because He knew this hour would present its difficulties. For that last, great movement of the Holy Spirit on the earth, called "the Knowledge of the Son of God", will have to compete with a clever demonic counterpart. This will be a very self-centerered emphasis that will somehow be presented with a form of godliness; and this, too, will permeate the entire church of the end times (1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 2 Thes 2:3).
.... So will men become lovers of themselves, or lovers of God? An unmistakable battle line will be drawn between them, and the answer will target the very core of our existance (2 Timothy 3:1-5); and for good or for ill, the doctrinal cohesion of all our modern denominations will be challenge with it. So how will these two very powerful yet opposite forces affect us?
.... Jesus seems to acknowledge that denominations will still exist in the church of the Last Days, though they may be different from the way we understand them today. They are demoninations as He sees them, when the time of the end shall come. We find this clue in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). For in this parable the church is represented by two mind sets (the wise and the foolish,) which are the two distinct sides of the end time church we've described. Yet each mind set consists of five distinct members, and not simply of one.
.... So in some minor ways, each side of the end time church may still be fragmented. They will achieved almost complete agreement, for better or worse, though slight distinctions will remain until He appears. Perhaps some residual effects from the old denominations will influence them still, though their differences will be essentially superficial by this time. We will continue this discussion in our next posting, which appears below.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

.... In the church of the last days, all Christians will gravitate toward one of two distinct mind sets, or schools of thought, regardless of their denominational backgrounds. But the two schools are not the same. Half of the end time church will be considered wise, and the other half foolish. As discussed in our previous posting, we've draw this conclusion from the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13). When Jesus returns at the end of that parable, this is the situation He actually finds as the kingdom of God is accounted for, so it includes a glimpse of the church itself in its final days.
.... But what is the essential difference between those two mind sets? What makes wise virgins wise, and foolish ones foolish? Jesus explained the difference by saying:

.... "Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps."

(Matthew 25:3-4)

..... It is commonly agreed that the oil, in this parable, represents the Spirit ( as in 1 Samuel 16:13), so let's offer a thought to build on this. It was stated that the virgins carried the oil in their vessels (within themselves), and that the oil was applied to their lamps -- but what do the lamps represent?

.... "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

(Psalm 119:105)

.... In other words, the lamps represent the Scriptures. Those virgins with oil in their vessels (those Christians having the Spirit of God within themselves,) were those who sought, from deeply within their hearts, to connect with the spirit of Scripture as opposed to its letter (2 Corinthians 3:6,17). And this means they were yearning to see Jesus Himself in the things they studied:

.... "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

(Rev 19:10)

.... As they passionately searched the Scriptures for His heart and mind, He met them and transformed their lives from within, so that a living relationship formed between them. "I know you." He would say to them in love; and the Greek word (ginosko) means that their acquaince was mutual. For He would say to the other group in contrast, "I do not know you." (Matthew 25:12), which means that a relationship never formed.

.... Now let’s apply this understanding to our modern denominations. Every Christian has a commendable loyalty to the teachings of their church. Yet every true Christian has a higher loyalty still: to Jesus Himself, who saved their very soul. So if it comes to a choice between a Christ-centered doctrine and a traditional one that is not necessarily Christ-centered, every true Christian will gravitate toward Jesus before long. To do otherwise would, in fact, mean denying something of Him, and no true Christian would ever do that. So seeking Jesus is the key to opening new dialogues, and by this many Christians will come to the unity of the faith before the end (Ephesians 4:13).

.... In this sense the end-time church will excel even the first century church, which had frequently stumbled at this very point. Though individuals may still belong to denomi- nations because of their personal history and sense of community, they will trans- form those denominations from within to form a lively new relationship with God through Christ, that is shared with their fellow believers. Even though their ‘brand names’ may remain out of habit, there will no longer be essential differences in their beliefs (Ephesians 4:13-16).

.... The five foolish virgins, too, will gravitate toward a common mind set, which we will discuss in our next posting (see below).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Emerging of the End Time Church

.... In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus portrayed the church as it would one day be. When He returned at the end of the parable this was how He actually found it, so He has given us a glimpse of the church in the last days. By this time in history the kingdom will be divided into two mind sets or schools of thought, being the ‘wise’ and the ‘foolish’:
.... “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept."
(Matthew 25:1-5)
.... Additional prophecies of the church, focused on the same time period, portray those mind sets in further detail (and are discussed below).
To investigate a potentially complex subject, it is often beneficial to approach it chronologically; and by including those companion prophecies along the way we may see the whole sequence unfolding, and understand how those pieces fit together. This becomes easier when those prophecies can be matched to an historical fulfillment, which many of them now can be. In fact, almost all of the groundwork for the end time church has already been laid and the rest is not far behind us.
The end time church springs from the church of our own recent past, whose role has been socially and historically vital, yet in spiritual terms the Lord Himself would describe them as being ‘asleep’ (Think early-to-mid twentieth century). And during those long years of spiritual slumber, the seeds of destruction were quietly sown (Matthew 13:25; 25:5). As the time of the end drew near, a hostile, imposter religion sprang forth from those seeds to grow along side of true believers as an unfruitful counterfeit to their beliefs. Thus, Jesus would find them both in the world together at His coming (Matthew 13:30).
Nevertheless, it is too simplistic to say that the two mind sets of the end time would emerge in the church simultaneously. The ‘foolish’ side of the church would actually appear on the scene first (think mid-to-late twentieth century), and the ‘wise’ would follow much later, as a very late arrival indeed (think twenty-first century). This means that the sleepy church would be alone in the beginning, in the latter half of the twentieth century, in facing a challenge it was ill prepared for.
Now, when the Lord Himself describes the church as being ‘asleep’ we must understand that it was not very effective in His eyes. Their ministry was largely unfruitful as well. A vacuum was formed that reached throughout the western world, and a new type of soulish 'ministry' emerged in it's place through the ascendence of a subtle, subjective, theoretical new form of earthly wisdom.
. .
As the sleepy church came into contact with this new wisdom, many years ago, it was too sluggish and lazy to regognize the challenge and compete with it. So instead, it went to the opposite extreme and began to ‘Christianize’ it, adopting it for its own use as a strong new friend to Christianity. But in reality it was a usurper.
.... Through this process, Christians moved away from true Biblical counsel toward a substitute which they, themselves, would start to endow with a form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5). Their ministry became mere lip-service to the Lord and to His word, cloaked in Christian-sounding terminology, since the actual substance was now derived from another source:

.... "By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber."

(2 Peter 2:3)

.... This movement away from God’s truth to a much lower form of wisdom, which effectively replaced it, is the downward motion envisioned in the prophecies of ‘the great falling away’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3; see also Galatians 5:1; Colossians 1:23). For it is too simplistic to think that the sleepy church merely stopped believing in God; but rather, they departed from Him because they were seeking a substitute. The principle involved inmoving away from Him is called ‘exclusion’:

.... "They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them."

(Galatians 4:17) .

.... Yet God has always reserved a remnant for Himself, and He was still at work in the church, even in those days (Romans 11:5). True Christians struggled through this dark period and even, in some ways, benefitted by reacting to it. This propelled them more deeply into the true heart of Scripture, which is the testimony of Jesus, and they began to yearn for more of this perspective (2 Corinthians 3:6,17; Revelation 19:10e). And this laid the foundation for the 'wise' side of the end time church to emerge (1 Corinthians 3:11).
As the 'wise' side of the church begins to take root and grow, in the early twenty-first century, they will find the ‘foolish’ side already at its zenith. This growth had to occur before the ‘wise’ Christians could be established and mount a sufficient challenge, for the prophecy of the great falling away could not otherwise have been fulfilled. For a major part of the 'wise' calling and identity is:

.... ". . . that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ . . ."

(Ephesians 4:13-14)

.... Had the wise school of thought existed in the beginning as well, it would have effectively countered the emergence of the 'foolish' side and blocked the enemies efforts. And as the wise side grows, it will begin to exert this basic effect.
.... As the twenty-first century unfolds, the numerical ratio between the two sides of the church will begin to change. Partly, the ‘wise’ Christians will reclaim some who had previously been deceived, and recover them to the truth that is in Christ. But even more importantly they will reach out to the lost and complete the task of evangelizing the world (Matthew 24:14). As the ‘foolish’ side of the church maxes out, begins to stagnate, and then to decline, the ‘wise’ side will grow along side of them to a level of parity. When they are approximately the same size, the Lord will return.
Through this scenario, we should think about the things that are destined to remain and those that must pass away. The sleepy church of our recent past will disappear entirely, being absorbed into one of the two end time mindsets or the other, for better or for worse. Therefore, anything we are doing now that does not look like them is a waste of our time. It is doomed to be superceded; and the things we are doing foolishly, through worldly wisdom, will perish in the end. For only those that are focused on Jesus are destined to remain and bring forth fruit to eternal life:

.... "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

(John 6:27)

.... We will discuss the individual elements of this scenario in greater detail in future postings, and in our next two posting we will name the false basis of wisdom that the ‘foolish virgins’ have followed.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Basis of the End Time Heresies - Part 1

.... As the end-time church takes form, it will divide into two distinct mind sets or schools of thought: the ‘wise’ and the ‘foolish’ (Matthew 25:1-13). As discussed in our previous posting, the ‘wise’ side of the church will be the true followers of Jesus, but their ‘foolish’ counterparts will construct a counterfeit Christian religion. So how do we explain their course of action? Do they just not get it, or what? Or will they really go so far as to form a counterfeit? That will be the subject of this posting.
.... Below is an illustration of the structure of a religion. As you can see, all religions have three basic points in common: a god (or gods) that they worship, a basis of wisdom to tell them about their god, and a mediator or some other form of clergy between themselves and their god.

Model of a Religion / Christianity by the Model
.... Let’s take Christianity as our most familiar example. Our god is God. The basis of wisdom that tells us about God is the Bible. The mediator between God and man is the man Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).
.... Another familiar example is Judaism. Their God is also God. Their basis of wisdom is the Old Testament and other Jewish writings. Their mediator is found in a two-part system of prophet and priest.
.... As another example, Islam worships Allah, their basis of wisdom is the Koran and some other writings, and they have their own set of clerics.
.... In a much simpler appli- cation, ancient tribal religions may worship the heavens or some other aspect of nature; their basis of wisdom may be superstition or folklore; their mediator may be the shaman, witch doctor or medicine man.
.... Ancestral worship deifies dead ancestors; family history is their basis of wisdom; their mediator is a patriarch or matriarch who is the oldest living member of their family.
.... The end time heresies fit this basic model as well. First they will establish a new, counterfeit ‘god’ as the true object of their worship (see Matthew 25:12). A new clergy will arise to tell them about their god, and they will delelop a new basis of wisdom from which their core beliefs will be formed. Taken together, these actions will form an actual counterfeit to Christianity, and this counterfeit religion will share its basic tenants with the world.
.... Let’s begin by discussing the ‘god’ of their religion, which is quite easily identified through their basic mind set:

.... "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!"

(2 Tim 3:5)

.... The first and last items on this list form parameters that define their core beliefs perfectly: For men will be lovers of themselves . . . rather than lovers of God.’ And in fact, every other item on that list fits perfectly within those parameters, being equally self-centered traits. And let’s understand this clearly, that Paul is not merely speaking of this world! The group he describes has a form of godliness!
.... To the ‘foolish’ side of the end-time church, ‘godliness’ allows for the selfish conduct that Paul has just described. Their version of God agrees with their greeds, justifies their misconduct, and seems to approve of their vices, while allowing them to blame it on others if necessary (see Titus 3:11), So let's be bold enough to see that their professed belief in God is nothing more than a figurehead. Beneath that con- venient veneer they are only worshiping themselves.
.... Thus their true god, in their own mind, will turn out to be ‘self’, regardless of how much lip service they offer to our Lord Jesus in the process (2 Peter 2:3). If we take a broader view of all their sermons and consider them by their actual nature, we will constantly see their true focus emerging: ‘Me, me, me!’
.... In order to complete our three-part model, we'll discuss the other two points in our next posting and show how the ‘foolish’ side of the end-time church, with a form of godliness, matches this model yet again.
To proceed to the next posting, simply scroll down to the article below.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Basis of the End Time Heresies - Part 2

.... In Part 1 of this posting we examined the basic model of a religion, which will always include three elements: a god (or gods) to be worshiped, a basis of wisdom for teaching about this god, and a mediator or some form of clergy between mankind and this god. When we applied our model to the ‘foolish’ side of the end-time church, (foretold in Matt 25:1-13,) we discovered that their real ‘god’ would simply be themselves, even if they offered lip service to the Lord along the way (see Jer 2:12-13).
.... Here in Part 2, we'll describe the basis of wisdom that teaches this wayward side of the church about themselves, and how the professional 'clergy', of this group will emerge. To begin, please consider the following two passages carefully:
.... "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."
(2 Tim 4:3-4)

.... ". . . always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
(2 Tim 3:7)

.... Both prophecies were given in the context of the last days and prove that a new type of wisdom will emerge during this period. It will be vast in its scope so that one could study it forever; its teachers will be plentiful and they will speak to people according to their desires, which demonstrates their selfish human focus.

.... About 100 years ago, just such a wisdom emerged in the world though it remained obscure until after WWII. In the years since then it has grown to unimaginable scope and influence, and it has infiltrated the church as well. We are speaking of psychology, that vast basis of wisdom that teaches us about ourselves; and it’s many teachers, who went on to become our new ‘clergy’, have found their way into the pulpit and every other form of Christian life imaginable.

Model of a Religion / The End Time Religion by the Model
.... The church of our recent past, which the Lord described as being ‘asleep’ (Matt 13:25; 25:5), was largely ineffective in pointing to the true life that is in Jesus. As psychology grew in our culture, many who felt the need for ministry found more attention there (and a better sense of justification) than they could obtain from the church. So instead of shaking themselves from their slumber and examining themselves and their teachings, many churches began to incorporate psychology itself into their messages. Psychology was seen as Christianity's a strong new friend.

.... As the assimilation took place, preachers cloaked their psychology in Christian sounding terminology and phraseology for use in the pulpit (2 Peter 2:3). Thus, even when the Bible was quoted, it was explained through a psychological grid of reasoning. (For example, Biblical characters might have been ‘psychoanalyzed’ as though their lives were fables, so that ‘biblical proof texts’ could be offered). But when the premise is psychology, the conclusion is essentially psychological as well, and not Scriptural at all. And through this, the church fell further and further away from the truth of God’s word (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

.... O, church of the Living God! The Lord has rejected your trusted ally, and you shall not prosper by them!

.... In an earlier posting we mentioned that thirteen false teachings would arise in the last days. About half of them spring from a basis in psychology. This is a subject we have studied at great length and for which we have develop an additional Break-out module (see the complete list of modules in the right hand column). But for now we’d like to suggest that the emergence of psychology in the pulpit is another recognizable step in the end-time sequence of events: and it is a step that most of us have lived to see.

.... We would greatly appreciate some further discussion on how psychology’s assimilation into the church took place. But in our next postings we’ll return to the ‘wise’ side of the end-time church to offer the next recognizable steps, and to attempt to explain their perspective as well.

To proceed to the next posting, simply scroll below.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Pendulum of Reformation

.... Throughout the Old Testament, God had a problem with Israel. They kept backsliding into idolatry though He sent them His servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them and saying, "Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!" (Jer 44:4). Yet idolatry was so ingrained in their hearts that they kept returning to it. So finally, God took another approach with them:

.... 'Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor.'

(Jer 16:13)

.... Israel was uprooted in punishment and carried away to Babylon, where they cried out to their idols all day long; but as for Himself, God show themed no favor (see Matthew 25:9-10). They sat down and wept as they remembered Zion (Psalm 137:1), and they learned something important through their catastrophic loss:

.... ‘Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the fear of Me is not in you," says the Lord GOD of hosts.’

(Jer 2:19)

.... After seventy full years, as foretold by the prophet, their captivity was returned. And through this, an amazing result was achieved. Israel was finally and forever CURED of their idolatry! They never had a problem with that again! Sometimes, to achieve the impossible with rebellious mankind, God allows the pendulum to swing too far in the wrong direction as a form of punishment; and by way of this, when it swings back again, it gains the momentum needed to carry them through to the desired correction.

.... In a similar way, God has always had a bigger problem with man than our propensity toward idols. This larger problem is our own selfish focus and pride, which is the ultimate form of idolatry. For this reason Jesus said:

.... "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

(Matt 16:25-26)

.... For many centuries, especially following the enlightenment, God fought the ‘self’ mentality within the heart of His own people as it dogged the edges of the church. It has always been our biggest problem and it has ever seemed to grow. It has always been our worst stumbling block. So it seems that in the end time church, to deal with this problem once and for all, God will finally allow the pendulum to swing.

.... As demonstrated in our previous two postings, the ‘foolish’ side of the end time church will be thoroughly absorbed with a focus on ‘self’, and it seems that God will finally turned them over to this. But many who follow this route will eventually get a belly full of it. They will be filled with disgust, completely react, and pour themselves into the Scriptures in prayerful search for the truth instead . . . to finally discover that the truth is in Jesus Himself, alone. The only thing of importance to them will be to die to themselves and live to God; they'll want to connect with Him if it's the last thing they ever do: it will be the only thing that matters any more, the only meaningful thing left to them.

.... "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

(Rev 12:11)

.... The 'testimony' referred to in this passage is their belief that Jesus is the Son of God (compare to Matthew 16:16-18). Through this reaction, the pendulum will begin its return swing and a heartfelt desire for seeking Jesus will be reborn. So after the great falling away is fulfilled, and while time still remains on the earth, we may see the captivity of many more returned (Psalm 14:7).

.... And let's take this opportunity to make a similar point. Israel was astounded when the Apostles preached salvation to the Gentiles: "But. . . but that’s OUR God. What are the Gentiles doing with our God?" The Lord did this intentionally to provoke them to jealousy, in the hope that they might yet repent and believe:

.... "They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation."

(Deut 32:21)

.... In a similar way, many Christians have formed the mentality of a ‘heritage’ within our Christian sub-culture. They have served the Lord for so many generations that they now have a false confidence about it, like the Jews who had said in their hearts "We are the descendants of Abraham." But they will be caught flat-footed in a similar way.

.... As the end draws near, God will pour out His Spirit in world-wide evangelism, using those who have followed Him in truth (Matthew 24:14). He will be found in new cultures that had not previously sought Him (Isaish 65:1-2). This will bring a jarring, jealous reaction from our own vast Christian sub culture: "But . . . but that’s OUR God! What are they doing with our God?" They will be amazed when those whom they have viewed with contempt arise, at the end, as heirs in their Father’s house, and they find themselves shut out.

.... Nevertheless, God’s thoughts are to provoke them to jealousy as well, while hope yet remains for them.

To proceed to the next posting, simply scroll below

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The End Time Reformation

.... Sometimes we’ve heard the claim that a new Reformation will emerge in the end time church, but is that really true or is it just someone’s idea on a website? If it is true, where do the Scriptures speak of it? What will this refor- mation be like, and where will it take us?
.... As it happens, Paul himself foretold such an event before the end:
.... "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting . . ."
(Ephesians 4:13-14)
.... Everyone agrees that such a church would be ideal, but why would we call this an actual prophecy? It’s because Paul envisioned this as a future reality in verse 13, by using the word ‘till’. For when he says ‘until’ that day, it is first of all accepted that such a day is foreseen in the plan and purpose of God. It is the basis for making such a remark, so the prophecy exists at the premise level. Think of the passage like this and you’ll see the point more clearly:

.... The day will come when we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

.... And God Himself has given some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, until that day.

(This rendition is based on Ephesians 4:11-16)

.... When you see ‘apostles’ mentioned in this passage, think in terms of new churches being formed, because that’s what apostles do. When you read about ‘evangelists’, think in terms of new, open-minded Christians who are learning from a clean slate. When you see the body working together, think in terms of a community in Christ in whom our identity is formed. But especially, consider their doctrinal emphasis:

.... These Christians will adopt a new mind set for interpreting the Scriptures. In theological terms we would call this emphasis their ‘hermeneutic’, and this is where the end time reformation will come from. Their doctrinal perspective will be called ‘the knowledge of the Son of God’ because they desire to see Jesus Himself in all they are learning:

.... ". . . till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . ."

(Eph 4:13)

.... Since it has always been God's intention to reveal Himself through Jesus Christ, these Christians will finally connect with the full, original and spiritual meaning of the Scriptures (1 John 1:1-3). The communications gap between God and man will close, as well as the gap between different groups of Christians, for in Christ the church will find its whole sense of unity and community (Col 1:17-18). And in the postings below we'll have a great deal more to say about this!

.... But, why would we call this reformation an end-time event? There are two basic reasons. First, it hasn’t happened yet, and we are nearer to the end than when we first believed. This makes it an end-time event by default. Second, when this reformation is completed, we will come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,’ so no further growth is possible. And doesn’t that sound to you like the field would be ready for harvest?

.... One final thought, if we may offer a distinction between a ‘reformation’ and a ‘revival’. A 'revival' assumes that our teachings are already correct and we only need to get zealous about them. A 'reformation' assumes we haven’t yet gotten them right, and some fundamental changes must first occur. In either case those beliefs, for better or worse, will begin to spread to others. So doesn’t it make sense to honestly re-examine our focus first of all? (2 Corinthians 13:5). Otherwise we could just be spreading errors that we'd have to chase down again, later on.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

The Reformation Stirs

.... Before the Pendulum of Reformation could begin its cor- rective swing, the days would grow dark indeed. As the in- fluence of psychology grew within the church, in the second half of the last century, a Christian sub-culture of consumerism emerged (See Matt 25:9). Their ‘products’ included ‘me’ oriented sermons, seminars, books, etc. Their sales- men and stars were preachers and other types of performers whose message and popularity fueled selfish human desires, and who formed new beliefs that were somehow accepted as ‘Christ- ian’ (2 Timothy 4:3-4):

.... " . . .having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!"

(2 Timothy 3:5).

.... By necessity all forms of ministry include a ‘business’ side, but now it would grow to an unprecedented level. Through it, the foolish side of the end time church would dominate all forms of Christian media, and the true servants of the Lord would find themselves marginalized or shut out entirely as they were reduced to a voice in the wilderness. A reformation was sorely needed.
.... Although many will disagree with this estimation, it is now apparent that the first breath of relief came through the Word of Faith movement in the late 70's and early 80's. It is true that much abuse crept in as well, but we speak of faith in it's purest sense, which was certainly God's intention. And the Greek word for 'faith' envisions a relationship, just as we might hear the English word 'marriage' and understand this to be so. (In fact the same Greek word is translated 'fidelity' in Titus 2:10, which helps to illustrate this concept.)
.... Through the Word of Faith movement, a breath of fresh air came into the church and a stirring took place within our hearts. And for some, an initial awakening occurred. Here, at last, was a message of life and relationship: that we could trust the Lord and dare to follow Him, and act upon His word because He were confident He would be with us. For the first time in a generation, the dominance of psychology in the church was challenged by a moving, stirring message.
For a short space of time, the ‘foolish’ side of the church gave ground, but it would gradually reassert itself. To them, Christianity is a self-serving arrangement rather than a submissive relationship with God, and this perspective would infiltrate the Word of Faith movement as well. Before long, it was ‘Me, me, me!’ all over again, clad anew in the 'faith' mentality, as God was reduced to a ‘mentor’ who merely served man. Faith became impersonal rather than intimate, and so it became an end in itself, and another means of peddling God's word (2 Timothy 3:5; 2 Corinthians 2:17).

.... " . . . useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself!"

(1 Timothy 6:5)

.... But God, too, was changing gears by this time. For the Word of Faith was designed as a starting point; but when a sufficient maturity had formed, other things were designed to follow:

.... "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love . . . for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

(2 Pet 1:5-7,11)

.... This sequence of ‘movements’ began to unfold in 1981, and would eventually position the church for the end time reformation to emerge. The fact that actual events started to correlate with this sequence was carefully noted at the time. In fact, based on this very passage, it was anticipated what God would do next -- and the sequence even held true in this predictive sense. To prove this would require many personal illustrations, and if you want to hear them we can start a dialogue in the ‘comments’ section. We will also touch on them in our following posting. But for now, please allow us to go on:
The key to this entire sequence, and the true nature of the overall movement, is found in the emphasis on knowledge, which is the third item on the list Peter gave. Faith and virtue prepare the way for this, and everything that follows must be understood in relation to it. But what kind of knowledge does this mean? The context itself provides the answer:

.... "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."

(2 Pet 1:2)

.... This is the same Christ-centered perspective that Paul referred to in Ephesians 4:13 in describing the ‘wise’ side of the end time church. It is the last, great movement of the Holy Spirit within the church that will prepare us for Jesus’ return. Please notice that Peter’s sequence ends with an entrance into the everlasting kingdom, so again we are talking about the last days and the growth that must precede it.
This Christ-centered ‘hermeneutic’ was introduced to the church in 1982, but something else would happen that still effects us today. We will continue this discussion in our next posting.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Failed Reformation of the 80's

.... Like many of the readers of this blog, I was part of a special crop of Christians who came to the Lord in 1978-1981. They seemed to have such fervor and passion in seeking the Lord that their devotion would be unmatched for another generation. We were confident we would be used by the Lord to usher in the return of Christ, and we were fully prepared to devote our lives to this. But then, amazingly, came a word of warning:

.... "When God brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt, He intended for that generation to go in and possess the land. Nevertheless, when they proved faithless, their bodies fell in the wilderness as they wandered forty years, and God did this work through their children.

.... "Likewise God has a plan for our generation in following Him. But if we turn aside, He is able to wait for another generation who will have this faith."

(see 1 Cor 10:5,11)

.... The people who heard this prophecy received it gladly, being fully convinced of our ultimate success and thus that the warning was moot. Nevertheless, in the years that followed, most of this confidence failed. As shared in our previous posting, a Christ-centered emphasis did indeed emerge in 1982, and many within the church recognized it at the time. But successfully cultivating that movement was another matter entirely.
.... For example I spoke, in those days, to one of our pastors and showed him how the Lord’s emphasis had brought the church to the Knowledge of the Son of God (I’m assuming you’ve read our previous posting). His eyes lit up when he matched the Scriptures to our situation and he saw the correlation very clearly. He completely agreed and was taken with enthusiasm.
.... The next Sunday he preached one of the most Christ-centered sermons we had ever heard and the whole church rejoiced. The following Sunday he did so again. In the weeks that followed he tried a few more times but the emphasis was clearly losing steam.
.... Soon the church was disappointed and confused. Their shift toward the knowledge of Christ seemed unsustainable so they began to refocus outwardly. An emphasis on relationships, a focus on the family, and other horizontal connections were substituted as psychology rushed back in to fill the gap. I was dismayed to see the knowledge of the Son of God falter so quickly, and it brought me to a very sobering realization.
.... Please think about this for a moment, and try to be honest with yourself. If you were to preach a Christ-centered sermon today, what would you say? We all have a wonderful lesson that we've experienced, that we’d love to pass along to others. Maybe two. Maybe three? But after our personal experience peters out, we’d have to start digging for new material. Soon, our Christ-centered sermons would degenerate into pep rallies and we would start to feel discouraged about them. Can this really be all there is? Does it really mean that our walk with Christ has been so shallow? Could we really say it all in just one or two weeks? Then what?
.... I struggled with this perspective like everyone else in those days. I realized that we were woefully unprepared to pursue it. We had asked our leaders to teach us, and they had tried but could go no further. The prophecy I mentioned brought sorrow to my heart because I saw our generation failing and it seemed we could do nothing about it. The learning curve was simply too great.
.... I did realize, however (in returning to the analogy of Israel possessing the land), that the entire generation of the Exodus had not perished in the wilderness. Two survivors, Joshua and Caleb, had endured the long dusty march and had come to the promised land at last, before the end of their days. In fact, they were the only ones who had been there before and they had not lost faith the entire time. This was a sobering new challenge for one who had been so hopeful just a short time earlier, but if that was all that was left to me, I set my heart to prepare for it.
.... Our own hope had slipped beneath the horizon and the long wildreness march lay ahead. But when that next generation came along I wanted to be prepared and know what steps we must take so I could enter in with them. We will talk about the next generation and those necessary steps in our next two postings.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Rise and Fall of the 'Emerging Church'

.... In our previous posting we discussed the failed reformation of the early 80's and the spiritual confusion that followed. Twenty more years would pass as that generation regressed, descending into the doctrinal darkness of the great falling away with only a remnant of exceptions. Another generation would have to arise in their place; and so it was that their children came of age and would face the challenge anew. Whispers of another reformation passed between them, and their strength and numbers grew. In their hearts, enthusiasm began to surge.
.... In 1999 I was invited to an early conference on the post-modern church, which has since become known as 'the Emerging church'. I had never heard of them before but most of what I saw was impressive. I had not seen such a passionate zeal for the Lord since the early days of my own lost generation, almost twenty years earlier.

.... In particular, it was impressive that they were so willing to hear a teaching -- but that they also wanted to hear the proof for what what they were hearing was true (Acts 17:11). As such, they were willing to revisit every doctrine or practice to be convinced of it for themselves. They knew that another reformation was coming and they were confident it would occur through them:

.... "Better a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more."

(Eccl 4:13)

.... But the same vigor contained the seeds of their undoing. Later that evening I remarked to my friend Berry: "They are like a troop of very fine actors, full of talent and enthusiasm, who are boasting of the performance they will one day give. But for the moment, they do not have a script."
.... It is perilous to seek change simply for the sake of changing, or just to be different from other Christians. The sobering truth is that heresies start that way (1 Corinthians 11:19). But if we seek a better understanding of Jesus, to move closer to Him in becoming more Christ-like, we will find a legitimate engine for our change:

.... "but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-- Christ."

(Eph 4:15)

.... Soon the enthusiasm of the 'emerging church' lead to pride as other segments of the church were openly mocked by them: "Those hypocrites just don't get it!" was their constant attitude, and it turned to a weaning exclusivism. They were the different ones, the 'cool' ones who 'got it'. They would dare to be different for they knew they were called to change it all before the end. My friend Berry calls this attitude a 'remnant identity', and it is exactly the sort of thing the enemy would cultivate in order to ruin their usefulness to God's kingdom.
.... As the emerging church pursued reform without the spiritual compass of Christ, they began to establish 'the conversation': that great, open, ongoing discussion of every Christian issue, with the goal of hearing and considering the voice of all.

.... "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."

(James 1:19)

.... Though noble in concept, their application led to regression. An open mind is an overrated thing since it is basically an admission of ignorance; yet to appear 'open minded' on every issue, the emerging church had to 'dummy up' and retreat from even the best doctrinal decisions of the ages. One emerging blog argues that Arius of Alexandria deserves another hearing. An emerging pastor on another blog explains why he 'leans toward' the theory of evolution. Still another exclaims with pretended exasperation that there is 'no adequate answer' in the Bible to the question of homosexuality: issues to which the Bible speaks clearly, which should be well beyond the doubts of anyone who sincerely seeks the Lord and believes His word.
.... The reason for their doubt is two-fold. First, it is no longer the Lord they are seeking to please. The emerging church more highly values it's reputation for 'openness' as it seeks the world's friendship. As such, it has simply become another cultural expression within the church. And the second reason is related to the first:
.... Doubts will always remain within this sub-culture because doubt itself has become their identity. They have quietly decided, long ago, that no conclusions will ever be reached, for this would mean that 'the conversation' was over and the great adventure would come to an end. Their message is about always seeking, even at the cost of never finding.
.... My many friends in the emerging church would be shocked to hear this assessment from me, whom they have considered a strong friend. They would claim that it undermines the love by which they are reaching out to the unsaved. But in truth, nothing in the image they are presenting would impress those precious, lost souls in a helpful manner anyway:

.... "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ."

(Phil 1:9-10)

.... Since the emerging church never reaches conclusions, it can never satisfy the spiritual hunger of the lost whom they are seeking to reach. So in the end it becomes an insincere form of love devoid of discernment, which offends before the Lord and never becomes effective when applied to men. And ironically, their emphasis on community has actually made them one of the most closed, suspicious, unfriendly communities that can be imagined, unless one is already an insider -- though it is true that once this is achieved, there is love after all.
.... Like the generation that preceeded them, the true Christians of this generation have been reduced to a remnant to join the long, dusty walk toward the promised land yet to come. Rather than seeking Jesus in the things they've learned, they have repeated the mistakes of their fathers by turning their attention to horizontal relationships -- with an ironic twist of their own that romances the world yet excludes their fellow Christians (James 4:4). Sadly this movement, which once held such great hope, has produced the first generation since the dark ages to actually lose ground.
.... But what about that 'script' that a successful reformation must one day follow? We will discuss it in our next posting.

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