KANYE – SIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Matt:21:31,32 – Jesus said, “You’re right. For many sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes are going into God’s kingdom realm ahead of you! John came to show you the path of goodness and righteousness, yet the despised and outcasts believed in him, but you did not. When you saw them turn, you neither repented of your ways nor believed his words.”

Kanye West has got church people talking, everyone has their opinion. I guess everyone is shocked to see Kanye accept the message of Christ and repentance. Who would have thought? It’s quite shocking to see who accepts the gospel and those who don’t. That was one of the shocking things about the ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus. The folks who were practicing religion, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were unimpressed with the ministry of Jesus and had no intention of following the Lord. Actually His ministry was quite inconvenient. On the other hand the prostitutes, the publicans, tax collectors, and all sorts of common sinners were passionately following the Lord. The church folks were disgusted with the likes of Mary Magdalene, Simon the Zealot, and Matthew the tax collector but these were part of His inner circle who followed Him with their lives and ultimately changed the world. Like Jesus said, “people’s hearts burn with extreme passion to press in and receive it (the kingdom of God)”.

Today, not much has changed. Church people like the status quo. Of course they want more folks but don’t rock the boat with riffraff, just give them the “quality people”. The problem is Jesus has always liked to rock the boat. Uneducated fishermen, prostitutes, tax gatherers, and a cursing Pharisee were His primary vessels. He sits in the heavens and laughs as He orchestrates His plans to change the world.

What made me start thinking about all this was Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, not exactly the pair you would have picked to represent your church last year. Kanye claims to be born again and has renounced his old lifestyle. What if his salvation is legit? This reminds me of the summer of 1973 and the movie JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. The church world was irate and even picketed some theaters, I was getting saved and beginning my gospel journey. Maybe the Lord is calling in His tax collectors, publicans, and sinners once again. Maybe Kanye is just another sign of how Jesus loves to rock the boat.

ARE YOU REALLY SAVED?

Matt.11:12 – From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.

Are you saved? How do you know? Often times today salvation is portrayed as easy. There is not anything easy about it! How often have you heard these words “Repeat after me” ? Evangelical formulas can’t and don’t save anyone. There is nothing you can do to deserve or earn salvation but there is a requirement. You want to know what that is? You have to want it badly. Casual prayers are really meaningless. In today’s verse Jesus described people pressing into the kingdom of God violently. We only get violent about things that matter. When you see for yourself the value of eternal life and the risk of eternal damnation violence suddenly becomes part of your world. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this statement that the Lord made.

“The tax-gatherers and heathens, whom the scribes and Pharisees think have no right to the kingdom of the Messiah, filled with holy zeal and earnestness, seize at once on the proffered mercy of the Gospel, and so take the kingdom as by force from those learned doctors who claimed for themselves the chiefest places in that kingdom. Christ himself said, The tax-gatherers and harlots go before you into the kingdom of God. He that will take, get possession of the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and spiritual joy, must be in earnest: all hell will oppose him in every step he takes; and if a man be not absolutely determined to give up his sins and evil companions, and have his soul saved at all hazards, and at every expense, he will surely perish everlastingly. This requires a violent earnestness.”

This reminds me of the Jesus movement back in the 1970’s. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1973. No one told me to stop smoking marijuana, or drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes, or living an immoral life. When I was converted, repentance was part of the package. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Repentance is the violence with which we press into the kingdom. So that brings us back to the original question; are you really saved or did you just repeat some prayer? Repentance is real and the sure sign that Christ is at work in your life.

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Rom. 10:10 – for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

How do you know if someone you know or maybe a new friend that you meet is actually saved? Or even more disturbing, how do you know if you are saved? Many will go back to the answering of the altar call or “praying the prayer” but do those things really tell us of a person’s conversion? Another thing that some may look at as a good indicator of conversion is their behavior. Are they walking in moral purity? Do they dress modestly and behave appropriately around members of the opposite sex? Or do they drink alcohol or use recreational drugs? Do these things really tell us about the true condition of a person’s soul? Maybe, but some people live a pretty clean and moral life without a true born again experience. Maybe their is another indicator we can look at. Maybe it has to do with our affections, the things that we love. Here is how John Piper describes conversion.

“There is a connection between the feelings of the soul and the sensations of the body. This is owing, Jonathan Edwards says, to “the laws of union which the Creator has fixed between the soul and the body.” In other words, heartfelt gratitude can make you cry. Fear of God can make you tremble. The crying and the trembling are in themselves spiritually insignificant. The train can run without them…… Minimizing the importance of transformed feelings makes Christian conversion less supernatural and less radical. It is humanly manageable to make decisions of the will for Christ. No supernatural power is required to pray prayers, sign cards, walk aisles, or even stop sleeping around. Those are good. They just don’t prove that anything spiritual has happened. Christian conversion, on the other hand, is a supernatural, radical thing. The heart is changed. And the evidence of it is not just new decisions, but new affections, new feelings.”

That is it, Christianity is radical and conversion is supernatural. Salvation gets to the very core of our human experience. The new birth changes our heart, the very essence of what makes us tick. When we are truly born of the Spirit we begin to love different things than before. Rather than our lives being dominated by our sensual pleasures of choice we begin to have a passion for spiritual things. A new love for the Bible, gathering together with other Christians for worship and Bible teaching, and spending time in personal worship becomes the passion of our soul. So that’s how you know, have a look at the things you love and you will get a clear indication of the condition of your soul.

MIGHTY TO SAVE

Isa.63:1 – Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”

I have an unusual memory that I recall from time to time of a street preacher in Seoul, Korea. Parris and I were there attending a church growth conference with Dr, Yonggi Cho and were taking a break at an outdoor sidewalk cafe. A Korean street preacher approached us and began to preach to us in his best English sermon. He said Jesus is mighty to save. He is able to save, heal, and provide for us. I clearly remember him repeating, “He is able; able to save, able to heal, and able to supply all of my need”. He had that sermon down, he seemed excited to find an American to preach it to. Jesus is mighty to save. His salvation is complete; able to save us to the uttermost. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes today’s verse.

“By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification….. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of His name to bend the knee before Him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.” The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep His people holy after He has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven.”

Salvation is the work of God. Think about it for a moment; the work of God begins with a holy attraction. The Bible often calls this spiritual hunger. Unexplainably we find ourselves attracted to the Lord. Once that happens you are done, He will not stop until you are finally consumed by His love and transformed by His power. He is mighty to save.

SCHOOLED BY THE LAW

Rom.7:7 – What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”

You ever wonder about the law ? You know, the Ten Commandments. What was the point anyway. The Mosaic Law was quite complicated, actually impossible to keep it perfectly (except for that one man, Jesus Christ). That was exactly the point. It revealed the holiness of God and exposed the sinfulness of man. In today’s verse, Paul the Apostle, that old Pharisee of Pharisees himself, said that he never really knew he was a sinner until the Holy Spirit quickened those four words to his heart. “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” That did it for him, his heart was eaten with covetousness. Saul of Tarsus was a sinner in need of a Savior. Here is how the Believer’s Bible Commentary describes this verse.

“In 7:7-13 he goes on to describe the important role which the law played in his own life before he was saved. He emphasizes that the law itself is not sinful, but that it reveals sin in man. It was the law that convicted him of the terrible depravity of his heart. As long as he compared himself with other people, he felt fairly respectable. But as soon as the demands of God’s law came home to him in convicting power, he stood speechless and condemned.

The one particular commandment that revealed sin to him was the tenth: You shall not covet. Coveting takes place in the mind. Although Paul may not have committed any of the grosser, more revolting sins, he now realized that his thought life was corrupt. He understood that evil thoughts are sinful as well as evil deeds. He had a polluted thought life. His outward life may have been relatively blameless, but his inward life was a chamber of horrors.”

So have you looked into the mirror of the law? Have you come face to face with your own shortcomings? I hope so because that is the place where recovery begins. You have to admit you are sick or you will never go to the doctor. You have to come to some hard conclusions to come to the Savior. What is that conclusion? That we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

SAVED – SAVED – SAVED

Rom.5:10 – For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Are you saved? That question may be hard to answer because we may not be sure what the person asking the question really means. In one sense I got saved in 1973 when Christ arrested me on the lakefront in New Orleans and I opened my heart to His love. You could also say I am being saved. The work of salvation, making us completely whole and holy, began when we first called upon the Lord. That work is truly a work in progress. His life in us is continually saving us. Another thought is that we will be saved on that great day when Christ returns. Then, and only then, will our salvation be complete. We will be like Him the moment we see Him. Here is how this phenomenon is described in the Wuest wordbook.

“The word “life” here is zōē, “the life principle.” The comparison is with death. Our Lord said to His disciples, “Yet a little while, and the world sees Me no more,” referring to His death; “but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also,” referring to His life in resurrection power. That is, in virtue of the fact that our Lord lives after death, He is able to save us completely and to the end. Salvation is in three parts, justification, the removal of the guilt and penalty of sin and the bestowal of a righteous standing in Christ before God’s law, which is given to us at the moment of believing; sanctification, the progressive work of the Holy Spirit during the Christian life; and glorification, the glorifying of our bodies at the Rapture. It is of the latter two Paul is speaking, since he is writing in a context of justification.”

So what is Paul getting at in this passage? I think the critical word is saved, sozo, which is a beautiful New Testament word. Sozo is describing salvation for the whole man. When we were “saved”, we got way more than just a ticket to heaven when we die. The Lord began to do a work in us by His indwelling Spirit. We are being daily changed, or saved, as we yield to the Lord. How are we being changed? We are being conformed into the image of Jesus.

THE UNPOPULAR WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

John 16:8-11 – And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

Look at what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He comes. These verses are some of the most important in the Bible. The Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

First we will look at this unpopular word called sin. The Holy Spirit is the One who comes to us and reveals to us our own sinfulness. Only He can reveal to us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. For me it was as if someone had removed the covers off of my life, suddenly I realized how messed up I was. I was a sinner and I needed to change.

Next, let’s think about what Jesus meant by saying the Holy Spirit would convict us of righteousness. First of all, the Holy Spirit presents Jesus to us as the only righteous man that has ever lived. His life was perfect and seeing our sinfulness in light of His holiness can be quite devastating.The Holy Spirit brings us to the end of ourselves preparing to change our lives.

Finally He shows us about judgement. As Paul said, the wages of sin is death. All of us deserve judgement, all of us have violated the justice of God. We see our lives deserving God’s righteous judgement against sin. Now here comes the best part, Christ bore the wrath of God for us on the cross. He took all of our judgement on Himself at Calvary. God’s justice was satisfied, man’s sin was judged in Christ.

The Holy Spirit helps us to sort all of this out; first, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Secondly, Christ was and is completely holy and righteous. Third, all sin requires judgement by a holy and just God. Finally, we begin to see the light breaking in on us, the righteous One took my sin, He actually became sin on my behalf at the cross. All of those who see this and believe it become justified, declared righteous by faith. We actually take on the very righteousness of Christ as a gift received by grace through faith. Until the Spirit opens our eyes the gospel seems like foolishness for weak minds. Once the Holy Spirit opens our eyes we truly see, the gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

SUPERSTAR

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It’s funny the things the Lord uses to reach the people He is after. My story has been intertwined with Jesus Christ Superstar even before my conversion. Actually, I was mesmerized by the sound track from the Broadway Rock Opera even before I was converted. I knew every song and listened to that album endlessly. When the movie was released, Parris and I had to go. It was a hot summer’s night in August of 1973, we had no idea the drama that would unfold in our lives as a result of that movie. Even though the movie wandered away from the Biblical account, I was somehow entranced by the crucifixion scene. In the movie there was a fast moving collage of famous artwork of the cross. Somehow, I connected the dots. I got it, it was my sin that was somehow responsible for the death of the Lord. I left the theatre that night a blubbering mess looking for someone just to point the way.

That’s when the real drama began. Parris and I ended up at the Mardi Gras Fountain on the lakefront of Lake Ponchartrain. The Lord was waiting for us there. Actually it was a small group of Jesus freaks but the Lord was unmistakably in their midst. Before the night was over I had experienced the new birth.

What a strange season the seventies were. In a moment of time I experienced a life change. It didn’t happen in church, there were no televangelists involved. Just some hippies, a folk guitar, and a testimony. You see, at the end of the day I was looking for something real. I had tried the whole sex, drugs, and rock and roll thing and it left me empty. Finally I was tasting something with some substance. Is it possible that is what this generation is looking for? Rather than a watered down relevant message that seems to be borrowed from a multi-level marketing scheme maybe its the reality of God found in the same old gospel message that this generation longs for. We will never know until we try it. Maybe its time to get out those old gospel tracts, dust off your guitar and launch out into the deep. Maybe there are some other lonesome souls crying out for something real.

CHANGE OF HEART

Jn.3:7,8 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

 

As usual Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter. Man’s problem lies at the very foundation of who he is. Without something radically happening to us we have no way to change who we are. That’s what the issue is, not what we do but who we are. Have you been born again? What does that question mean to you? It is more than ‘repeat this prayer after me’ or ‘you need to come to our church’; it is way more than any of that. Our nature is flawed and without an infusion of life from God we stay dead in our sins, unable to improve or reform our lives. It is the breath of God coming into our very nature than produces what Jesus called being born again. Here is Spurgeon on today’s verse.

 

 

“Regeneration is a subject which lies at the very basis of salvation, and we should be very diligent to take heed that we really are born again, for there are many who fancy they are, who are not….Nevertheless, it is a change which is known and felt: known by works of holiness, and felt by a gracious experience. This great work is supernatural. It is not an operation which a man performs for himself: a new principle is infused, which works in the heart, renews the soul, and affects the entire man. It is not a change of my name, but a renewal of my nature, so that I am not the man I used to be, but a new man in Christ Jesus. To wash and dress a corpse is a far different thing from making it alive: man can do the one, God alone can do the other.”

How do you know when that happens? The best way for me to see it in my life was to see the change in the things I loved. Rather than loving weed and alcohol there was a desire to read my Bible and go to church. You can’t fake the desire or will thing, that only comes by a true change of heart.

I AM THE DOOR

Jn.10:9 – I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Recently the Lord spoke to our church about an open door He had set before us. To be even more clear, in today’s verse Jesus tells us that He Himself is that door. He is the open door for everything that pertains to life for us. This verse speaks to us about the open door to salvation, entering into life itself. It tells us of the open door into His pasture of nourishment. This door leads us to a place of spiritual nourishment feasting on God through His written word. It also tells us about a place of protection, we are kept safe from the spiritual thieves and robbers that try to bring us back into some version of slavery. This is also the door into the community, the local church, where we experience the life among all of His sheep. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s verse.

“Christ is the door of the sheep, if any man enter into the sheepfold, as one of the flock, he shall be saved; shall not only by safe from thieves and robbers, but he shall be happy, he shall go in and out. First, Plain directions how to come into the fold: we must come in by Jesus Christ as the door. By faith in him, as the great Mediator between God and man, we come into covenant and communion with God. There is no entering into God’s church but by coming into Christ’s church; nor are any looked upon as members of the kingdom of God among men but those that are willing to submit to the grace and government of the Redeemer. We must now enter by the door of faith… Secondly, Precious promises to those who observe this direction. They shall be saved hereafter; this is the privilege of their home. These sheep shall be saved from being distrained and impounded by divine justice for trespass done, satisfaction being made for the damage by their great Shepherd, saved from being a prey to the roaring lion; they shall be for ever happy.”

I spent years try to find my way into life some other way. Let me say this emphatically, there is no other way. Jesus is the only door that leads to life. You won’t find it in new age meditation, secular education, or experimentation with the pleasures of this world. Christ alone is the Door who leads us into life.