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Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Is Your Hour And the Power of Darkness

…but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. Luke 22:53

Jesus said this to the soldiers who had come to arrest him and take him away to be crucified. Puny sinful men with their swords and their staves exercising authority against the Creator of the Universe himself. Step back and look at the scene from God’s point of view and if it were not for the seriousness of what was transpiring that night it would seem absurd and almost laughable. They could have no power at all against him unless God had allowed it. (John 19:11)

This is your hour …

This is to serve notice on all the wicked that your time is limited. Do not think that you will be able to continue to exercise this power you are enjoying right now forever, because God has only given you a short time. It may seem like the wicked are going to prevail in the world right now, but their time in the limelight will end at the very moment appointed by God.

Then there is another hour coming:

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. John 5:28-29

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. Rev. 19:11-13

The wicked will have no power in that hour. It will not be their hour then.

…and the power of darkness.

Darkness has no power of its own. It is nothing. It is the absence of light. Darkness vanishes at the simple appearance of light. It takes no brute force, no power of nature, no violence at all to make darkness disappear. Nothing could be more gentle than the shining of a light, and that is all it takes to remove the power of darkness. Those who walk in darkness seem to think they possess some kind of power, and walk about arrogantly abusing others and blaspheming God. But their pitiful, puny power is so easily extinguished that they are very easily revealed to be fools.

So in this dark generation in which we live the true children of God can take heart and be encouraged. As we watch the world plunge deeper and deeper into evil we can be assured of two things: it will not last long, and it will vanish with the light. And the light is coming! The night these soldiers came and took Jesus it looked like they were the victors and that the power of darkness was the real power. When they beat him and spit in his face, and mocked him, and crucified him it seemed that darkness had prevailed, but three days later it was a different story, and it has been ever since. God who rules the universe is righteous and as long as He sits upon his throne you can be assured that righteousness will prevail in the end. Jesus told us these days were coming and this was his command in Matthew 24:6 concerning how we should deal with it:

… see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

So woe, woe, woe unto the wicked who forsake God and walk after this world in its rebellion against him, their day is coming, and it is coming soon! If you are among them you better escape while there is time.

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Rev. 22:17

Come to Jesus and trade in your uniform of a rebel for a robe of righteousness and get on the winning side!

Mike Miller
Straight Paths Bible Church
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Apostasy and Idolatry

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? John 6:67

Apostasy is the turning away from, or abandonment of one's profession or church. It is the forsaking of faith or principles for which one has professed love and commitment. Apostasy happens because people put their own interests above God's. It does not happen suddenly, but very slowly. Apostasy is the result of seduction, which is "to entice with flattery, deceit, or promises to a surrender of chastity." It begins with wandering eyes and ears and curiosity, as well as a desire to be accepted. Immediately following is a resistance to God's demand that they be exclusively his, holy and separated from sin and the world. Christ will not share his bride with other lovers, and so it is not possible to have an open relationship with Him. This is why many embark on the Christian life, but abandon it somewhere along the way. Their affections and desires are simply fixed on the things and pleasures of the world and not on Christ.

Apostasy throws off all the moral restraints and erases all the moral boundaries – that is what people are seeking to do when they turn away from God – without exception. The parallel in earthly relationships is the wife who abandons her husband supposing to rid herself of his presence, his needs, his demands, and his right or authority over any area of her life. She determines to "assert herself" regardless of the cost to her husband, her children, and others. In our modern society it is considered shameful for a wife to acknowledge any "need" for her husband, or to depend upon him, or to be concerned about his needs at all. The apostate has the same feeling and attitude toward God – he does not need God, and does not care about God's desires, and he rejects God's authority over any area of his life. This is rebellion against God's order and all that He has created. This illustrates what apostasy is and what it is like in the sight of God – it is an abominable thing. It breaks God's heart, just as it does a husband who is abandoned by the wife he loves. Apostasy causes great confusion in the family of God, and it never produces anything but grief and misery to all it touches, just as divorce does in an earthly family. It leaves the next generation with no structure for their life, adrift with no bearings for life or eternity, and also leaves them vulnerable to deception and abuse by those who are evil – and all because someone demands to have their own way, and throws everything to the wind to assert themselves and fulfill their own selfish desires.

But apostasy is never the end of it. Apostasy is always followed by idolatry, just as separation in a marriage is almost always accompanied by or followed by adultery. For one who has professed to have faith in a loving God who created all things and has been a part of the fellowship of the church to abandon it all they must put in its place a different set of values and affections. They have to invent or embrace some other system of thought and view of things. No one walks out into nothing – at least not for long. Man who is made in the image and likeness of God is so constituted that he will set his heart on something – his heart WILL be given to something or someone. It is a terrible thing when a wife abandons her husband – but the situation is drastically worse when she becomes another's lover. When she appears publicly with another man and makes it known abroad that she has developed an intimate relationship with him it is considered by most to be the final death blow to the relationship with her husband.

This is precisely the state of the modern church now. It has moved from apostasy to open idolatry. What is known as the church is not shrinking anymore due to the fact that people are apostatizing. It is growing in numbers and appears successful but it no longer worships the God of the Bible. Instead the "emerging church" has invented another god – one without laws or demands, one that is compatible with the world and with confusion. This new god is all about pleasing self and nothing at all like the Savior of the Bible who said if any man would be his disciple he must first "deny himself." This new god and this new gospel is not concerned with sin, while the God of our fathers was so concerned with the sin of the world and its consequences that he sent his Son to die to make an Atonement. They have eliminated sin by redefining it according to their own terms. This new, enlightened generation has finally come to understand after all of human history that there is no right and there is no wrong – that it is only a matter of opinion and circumstances. Therefore, there is no authority (such as a Book of God) and everyone is free to make up their own mind about what is right and what is wrong – as long as they keep it to themselves and do not try to hold anyone else to any kind of standard.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Isa. 5:20-21

The apostasy took place a lot longer ago than most people are aware of. While men slept the tares were sown. The true doctrines of righteousness based on the law of God were replaced with permissive ideas and new definitions for sin and righteousness. These new things were made acceptable because they were presented as more loving and understanding, while the law was made to appear harsh and unforgiving. Just as the adulterous man woos another man's wife with sweet talk, taking advantage of any trouble or weakness she is experiencing with her husband and promising to fulfill all that she is lacking and make her happy, the devil and his prophets smooth-talked many people into believing his lies. He lied about the nature of God, the method and substance of the Atonement, the true effects and evidence of true salvation, the purpose of the church, and many other foundational things. The mainline churches have been offering salvation for a long time now without any mention of repentance, holiness, or separation from the world. You may obtain a ticket to heaven with absolutely no strings attached. You may continue to live in your sin, love the world, and embrace their philosophy …and still be a Christian. This is apostasy. This is not historical, Biblical Christianity. It is not saving, Bible faith. It is another gospel, another Jesus, and spiritual adultery in God's eyes.

So the church has been involved in spiritual adultery for a long time now, but mostly in secret. All the while, on the surface, a veneer of tradition has been maintained. Public statements of faith remained pretty much the same. Holding to the fundamentals of the faith was always something that no church would criticize or reject while claiming to preach the gospel. They still wore the ring in public and called themselves by his name, but they sneaked around to practice their unfaithfulness. Now, in the last few years we have seen a drastic change in the state of things. It is no longer popular to hold to any form of "fundamentals," and has now become a reason to be ostracized. The very word "Fundamentalist" has become almost vulgar to most professing Christians. The old ways are out and the new ways are in. There is a new king in the house now and the old One is gone. The law of God has been cast out as an unpleasant, undesirable, and unnecessary thing. It was considered abusive and oppressive. Now there is no law at all! No boundaries, no absolutes, nothing right and nothing wrong – it is all about "love," but it is a different kind of love because it has no claims on anyone, makes no demands, and carries no responsibility. It is like an open marriage instead of an exclusive relationship. It is a different kind of love because it manifests no forgiveness or tolerance – except for those who will agree with its proponents. While the law of God is our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ this new lawlessness leads nowhere but to judgement, destruction, and misery.

Yes, we are living in a time of idolatry – we have gone far beyond apostasy now. Churches do not even resemble the churches of our fathers. What is being worshipped now is NOT the God of our fathers. We find in the Word of God many references to those who forsook "the God of their fathers" and served other gods until their sin was about to destroy them. Then in desperation they returned to the "God of their fathers" or they were destroyed by their enemies. We are in the same position now – if there is not an awakening among the people of God and a return to the "God of our fathers" we are facing certain and imminent calamity.

When throwing off moral restraints becomes the popular trend it brings down that society and leads quickly to chaos, confusion, and hopelessness. So people start seeking something to take care of that emptiness in their soul and bring some sort of order back into their chaotic lives and society. People are so constituted that they will inevitably worship something or someone. The children and grandchildren of apostates will always be idolaters. As a whole, the human race cannot, and will not ever abandon religion. Therefore, when apostates in their empty longings begin to worship again, they worship unholy gods of their own making, and this is idolatry. In the Old Testament the idolaters sometimes called their false god by the same name that referred to Jehovah. Modern idolaters may call their gods Jesus, Jehovah, and Lord, but other than that this new god of theirs does not resemble the God of the Bible at all. Idolatry is a lie. Idolatry is a counterfeit. It's power and effect depend completely upon its power to deceive. Therefore, the closer it appears on the surface to the real thing, the more easily it is accepted. However, the god of idolaters is always immoral and unconcerned about the immorality of others, therefore, immorality becomes a part of his worship. He is always loving and not condemning, therefore, that also becomes a requirement of being one of his worshippers – you must never condemn or make any judgment about others, with the exception being those who still believe in total commitment and true holiness. An idolater's god is a lawless god, just like those who worship him. Idolaters simply imagine their god to be whatever they want him to be in whatever situation they are in. This is far different from the true God who was made flesh and dwelt among us revealing himself to us, and who has written in a Book his law and character and preserved it forever.

Idolatry immediately precedes the judgment of God. God always judges idolatry – and He does it quickly. We have heard for years that the sexual immorality and the rise of the sodomites is sure to bring the wrath of God upon us just as it did in Sodom, but God is longsuffering toward those sins compared to idolatry. He is a jealous God and when those who are called his people openly embrace another god He is quick to act. The next thing we are facing is the wrath and judgement of God and the real people of God better prepare themselves soon. It is coming – and it is coming soon. We need to realize that we are not just talking about the charismatics and the health and wealth crowd - the fundamental churches are now being swallowed up in it, too. The Word of God contains a clear record and example of what God does when the people who are known by his name forsake Him for another.

How would you fare if his judgment came today? Is your heart pure or is it yearning after the world? Are you a faithful bride or are your eyes, ears, and heart wandering from Him? Now is the time to return to the Lord. "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord."

Listen to the heart of God as he gives his invitation:

Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Jer. 3:12-13

…thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. Jer. 3:1

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. Rev. 2:4-5

Mike Miller (Pastor)
Straight Paths Bible Church
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Coming Out of Egypt

So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance. Josh. 16:4

Joseph was brought down into Egypt by the will and actions of other people, and not by any choice or decision of his own. He was the victim of injustice in every step that led him to Egypt. He did not want to be in Egypt and he did not choose to go there, much less as a slave and then a prisoner in a dungeon for years. But God had a purpose in all of it and Joseph had enough faith in God to just trust Him through it all. By God’s grace and mercy he managed to just keep doing what was "right in the sight of the Lord," even though his situation just grew worse and more hopeless at each turn in his journey. One morning Joseph awoke in the prison just as he had for many years there. But that night he went to bed in the palace with Pharaoh’s ring on his hand and had been exalted from a prison cell to second in authority over the most powerful country on earth. The Psalmist says they hurt his feet with fetters, and he was laid in iron, "until the time that his word came…" (Psalm 105:18-19) God promised, Joseph waited, and God made good on his promise, in due time. In Joseph’s case it was a long, long time.

Joseph never left Egypt alive. Because he was there many people’s lives were saved, including those of his own family who came down into Egypt with him. There God made Israel a great nation, and 400 years later brought them out of Egypt to bring them into the land that He had promised to Abraham so long ago. When the children of Israel left Egypt they carried Joseph’s bones up with them and later buried them with those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the land of Canaan.

And Joseph’s children left with them.

Joseph never was an Egyptian. He learned their language and ruled over their land. He lived all but the first few years of his life there. But he never identified himself as one of them. He always had his eye on another country. His dying request was for them to carry his bones out of there when they left. He married an Egyptian woman and his children were born there, also. There came a day when Joseph’s children had to decide if they were going to be Egyptians or Israelites. Obviously, history records who they chose to identify with. Although they were born in Egypt and had never known any other existence they, like Moses years later, "chose to suffer affliction with the people of God," rather than conform to Egypt’s ways. This is an important fact to ponder and to apply to our own lives.

We are born into this world and this is all we have ever known. It is really difficult for us to imagine any other existence. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when they are exposed to the knowledge of God and eternal things. At some time in their life, everyone knows. They know there is a God and they know there is another existence besides this sinful world full of injustice where everything is turned backwards. Everyone is faced with the choice that Joseph’s children had to make. Who am I? Among what people do I belong? Who will I identify myself with?

Will you become one of God’s children or will you stay in Egypt? Most people have already made their choice, but as of right now it is still not too late to change your mind. Jesus has still not come for his church and you are still breathing God’s air. You can still be born into God’s family and leave with them when they leave this world for the land of promise. You can be sure that Joseph’s descendants were not sorry for the choice they made when they finally arrived in the promised land.

So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance. Josh. 16:4

Mike Miller
January 3, 2012
Straight Paths Bible Church
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