Hearing The Voice of God – Part Two

26 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – May 2008 Vol. 13  Issue 4 – Hearing The Voice of God Part Two – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Hearing The Voice of God Part Two

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Last month I began to lay the axe to the root of a common error, one that is held dearly in the minds of many Christians both sign-gift folks and evangelicals alike and that is the belief that God speaks to them personally.

For well over twenty years I most assuredly believed that God did speak to His people (especially the “great” ones who led the charismatic movement) and that all I had to do was the necessary work in order to get myself in the correct spiritual position to tune-in to His frequency. It was commonly taught among us that God was always speaking to us, but most of us simply were not listening to His voice due to a myriad of things in our lives. Because of our low level of spiritual maturity God out of His Fatherly kindness restored prophets back to the Church so we could go to them and hear the present day truth (2 Pet. 1:12) and hear the word of the Lord until such time as we could mature and discern His voice ourselves.

I realize that you are probably shaking your head wondering how I (and millions more) could be misled into believing such nonsense. It really is not difficult to understand if you begin with the premise that God is speaking to all His children personally and individually and this premise is taught by very charismatic (in the personality sense of the term) individuals who regale the audience with their own experiences in “hearing” God on a daily basis. When this type of message is reinforced by every teacher you see on television, in conferences, and in your local church then you believe what they are saying.

The problem with what was taught to me and is currently being taught to multitudes of people is that it was not validated with any contextual scriptural evidence. Almost all the accounts we heard were anecdotal accounts passed on as gospel truth to us sign-seeking power mongers. That message is very appealing to most Christians, after all, who does not want to have such a close fellowship with Almighty God where He converses with one throughout the day! When you as a mere low-wattage believer hear that type of fellowship is available to you (if you pay the price, which varies according to the teacher) naturally you will strive to obtain it.

What we learned in last month’s Truth Matters is that throughout the entire Bible very few individuals ever actually held conversations with God. Those who did actually “hear” from the Lord were people whom God used to change the course of either the people of Israel or His Church. The Ancient of Days is never seen merely chatting with His children about mundane affairs, who to marry, what job to take, which local church to attend. It simply is not in the Bible.

When I first began to come to the biblical understanding my initial reaction was to reject it on the grounds that it seemed to make Christian Spirituality “dry” and certainly not dynamic. I also had to struggle with the reality that all the years I thought I was hearing God “speaking” to me personally was not the case. Once again I had been misled by a myriad of teachers, many of whom were no doubt will intentioned, but just as deceived as I was. This was (and sadly still is) a classic case of the blind leading the blind and all of us sign-seekers falling into the ditch of deception (see Mat. 15:14) Yet thanks be to God who sent Jesus to open the eyes of the blind (see Luke 4:18) and I certainly qualified.

It is not just the sign-seekers who have been misled, although they are more numerous but also many “Baptistic” evangelicals as well. Charismatic believers have their teachers and so do the evangelicals. The primarily disseminator of this error is Henry Blackaby:

For thousands of Baptist churches in America today, as well as churches of many other denominations [including Roman Catholic churches], the answer has been that they accept and embrace this teaching, as found in the best-selling workbook Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, by Henry T. Blackaby (co-authored by Claude V. King and published by Lifeway Press of Nashville, Tennessee)…

Blackaby clearly states that God is giving revelation to us in the same way. He did to Moses and Jesus, only now through the Holy Spirit versus direct communication with God the Father. It certainly appears as if Blackaby is teaching that God’s revelation is continuing today just as when the Old and New Testaments were written. Obtained from Adapted from two articles by Thomas Williamson (Assistant Pastor of Tabemaculo Bautista Metropolitaro, Chicago, Illinois).

Blackaby goes as far as to say that if a Christian is not personally hearing from God then there is something seriously wrong with them. Naturally Blackaby was a “darling” on the speaker’s circuit of the Promise Keepers and his 12 week course materials have been adopted by not only Protestant congregations, but Roman Catholic groups as well as the charismatic extremist Vineyard movement. I mentioned Blackaby in conjunction with the charismatic teachers to illustrate how widespread this specific error is.

The tremendous spiritual danger inherent in such teaching is that it usually leads to spiritual abuse by the leaders. On page 166 of Experiencing God. Knowing and Doing the Will of God we read the following:

“When God wants to reveal His will to a church, He will begin by speaking to one or more individuals. Because of the nature of his call and assignment from God, this is often the pastor, although it may be another member of the body. The pastor’s job is to bear witness to the church about what he senses God is saying.”

In other words God will speak to the pastor and the role of the people is to “swallow-and-follow” the direction coming to the pastor from “on high”. I know from personal experience how much harm and abuse occurs when any leader is given this much authority. Also Blackaby endorses the false belief that there is only one correct way to go in every situation of life. This places an ungodly and unbiblical burden on people who must then struggle and worry if whatever they decide to do is in fact God’s will for their lives. This bondage often leads people to relying heavily on their pastor or spiritual overseer to tell them which way to go and what to do in life, again this leads to spiritual abuse most times.

Another problem which is never adequately addressed by those who teach this error is how does one determine if it is “God” or Satan who is speaking to their minds? Usually the pat answer is that whatever God tells you will line up with the Scriptures. Yet didn’t Satan cite Scriptures when he tempted our Lord (Matthew 4:5)? Yes, Satan took the verses out of context, yet how many Christians are skilled in hermeneutics to really know the difference? Also, the voice of God nine times out of ten will guide us in the direction we had already determined to go, i.e. God usually agrees with us!

These are just a few of the problems associated with the belief that God is personally speaking to all His children. I am sorry if what I am writing offends some of you; it was somewhat offensive to me when I first encountered it too. Yet DMI has a mandate to “teach truth and expose error,” regardless of how cherished the error may be. This much I can assure you, if you will humble your hearts and stick to the truth of God’s Word you will be set free indeed (see John 8:32). Sometimes spiritual surgery can be painful, but Jesus is the Great Physician, the Balm of Gilead and the One who rose with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2) as we continue to submit ourselves to the absolute authority of His Word we will be healed. Additionally, we shall also experience more and more of the glorious liberty and inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8) that belongs to us as the children of God.

How Does God Speak to Us Today ?

I believe the Holy Spirit says it best in the first Chapter of the book of Hebrews:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many time and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1:1-2

He begins by saying that in the past God did speak to the patriarchs at many times and in various ways (dreams, visions, angels, etc). Yet now in these last days God has spoken to us personally through no less than God the Son. It is no mistake that Jesus is called “The Word of God” in the book of the Revelation (Rev. 19:13) and that phrase is used 48 times in both the old and New testaments always referring to what God is saying.

This is one of the beautiful things about having the Holy Scriptures. Every child of God can know exactly and with certainty what God is saying. There is no guesswork, no subjective sensing or feeling led to go one direction or another. No need to strive to achieve some mystical level or work to obtain some hidden gnosis. It is all in front of us in black and white!

Today, now that Christ has set me free from my former charismania, I am amazed and grieved at the thousands of people flocking to the various so-called restored prophets to get a “word” from the Lord when they have in their hands the Bible which is completely trustworthy and accurate which is far more than can be said of any of today’s crop of pathetic prophet$. Again this is indicative of a serious problem within the Church at large. There are multitudes of people whether charismatic or evangelical who are placing more trust in their own ability to subjectively hear from God, while ignoring His written God.

The Bible is the voice of God to His people. It is all sufficient and within its pages is contained all we will ever need to know about living a life of godliness that is fully pleasing to our God. In a few lines the sweet psalmist of Israel speaks of the vast storehouse of wealth between the covers of our Holy Bible:

1. The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.

2. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

3. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.

4. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

5. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

6. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.

7. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;

8. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11

King David seems to be in a musical rapture in this psalm, he begins by extolling the awe inspiring wonders of God’s creation and then into ecstasy as he uses one superlative after another in describing the value and inherent power contained in the Word of God.

1. It is perfect (complete, sound — 1. Complete, whole, entire, healthful, of men).

In a time when many of God’s children grow weary, we can turn to God’s Word for true revival.

2. It is trustworthy (confirm, support –1. Pillars. Supporters of the door, made firm, sure, lasting, verified, faithful,) In a time when many things are in flux we can know that heaven and earth will pass away before even a “jot” of the Bible fails (Matthew 5:18). If we lack wisdom, all we need do is ask of God who gives us wisdom via His Word liberally (James 1:5).

3. It is right (ethical sense, straightforward, upright, Pi. 1. make smooth, straight, make smooth or straight, i.e. free from obstacles, successful; in ethical sense). In a world that only leads people astray from God, His Word gives us joy by leading us to the Shepherd of our souls.

4. It is radiant (light, light is closely related to life and happiness, which may account for the frequent comparisons between God and light. In line with this usage Dahood argues that “to see light” is often really to see the light of God’s face in immortality (Psa 36:9 [H 10]; and contra Psa 49:19 [H 20]). In a spiritually blind world, groping around for answers, we can turn to God’s Word and receive illumination to direct our daily path.

5. It is pure (adj. clean, pure –ethically pure, clean; of heart; hands; eyes (of God); words of men; words of God; law of y as object of reverential fear.) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and wisdom (Psalm 111:10). Those who rightly fear the Lord have obtained this wisdom and knowledge through His Word and they shall endure forever!

6. It is sure (firmness, faithfulness, truth (contr. For fr.) reliability, sureness, stability, continuance. An attribute of God. Truth (a) as spoken. (b) of testimony and judgment. of divine instruction. (d) truth as a body of ethical or religious knowledge. In a time of uncertainty we can trust that God is watching over His Word to perform it (Jer. 1:12).

7. It is more precious than gold and anyone with half-sense should know that the eternal riches of God cannot compare with the best of the best in this fallen sinful world.

8. It warns us (teach, warn, admonish. The meaning “teach” is probably basic to the root. The most frequent meaning is “warn,” which is used fourteen times in two chapters alone, Ezek 3 and 33, the classic portions dealing with the responsibility of watchmen to warn people under their care (Ezek 3:17-21; Ezek 33:3-9). Not only does the Word of God warn us from what is dangerous to our spiritual and physical wellbeing we are also told that by being a doer of the Word we will be blessed (James 1:25).

Just from these few verses from one psalm we can see the richness of abiding in the Word of God and hearing God speak to us through His Word. How can we keep our way morally pure and upright in God’s sight, simple — Psalm 119:9. How can we know about Jesus and His ministry, again we look to the Word of God (see Luke 24:32) as Jesus revealed His ministry. Do we need to run to a so-called prophet? NO!! We have a more sure word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:19).

God is indeed speaking to us, as He has to all His people throughout the Church age, by speaking to us through His infallible Word. Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord, how is he or she to know the Lord? Simply according to what He has revealed as His will in the Scriptures.

For anyone to seek any additional information than what God has given to us in the Bible is to in effect accuse God of not giving us all we need. Yet the Apostle Peter says:

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:2-4

Our gracious heavenly Father has given to us everything we need to know in order to live a life that is fully pleasing to Him. Seeking additional information through dreams, visions, or going on long fasts in hopes of achieving some mystical insight is to denigrate the value of the Scriptures and is an evidence of a lack of genuine faith in God’s provision.

It is my hope that all of you reading these two articles will begin to rely fully on God’s written Word and cast aside any dependence upon “voices” or “leadings” that are subjective at best and have no grounding in the Bible. God’s Word is more than enough and I encourage all of us to dig into the “Book” like never before in order to draw truly closer to our God and thus walk in His will for our lives.

Psalm 100:5

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

2 Samuel 22:31

As for God his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

A good book you might enjoy reading on this topic is written by a fellow pastor and apologist named Gary E. Gilley.  His latest book is a well presented argument for the sufficiency of Scripture and a solid refutation for those who have been misled into thinking that God is indeed speaking directly to them and giving them daily guidance.

It would be a good addition to anyone’s library, especially if you know of family members or friends who are being misled by this specific false teaching.

DMI does not receive anything from the sale of our brother’s book, but as is our custom we gladly promote other ministries which are teaching truth and exposing error and brother Gilley surely does this in his book entitled “Is that You Lord?”  It is published by Evangelical Press and is available on Amazon.com.  I am not sure of the retail price because DMI’s copy was given to us by some dear friends in S. Lake Tahoe. 

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

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The Mose Code

25 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – May 2008   Vol. 13 Issue 5 – The Moses Code – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Moses Code

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

All of our troubles are over ! Finally the Creator has seen fit to entrust once again “the most powerful manifestation tool in the history of the world” to mankind, through His humble servant James F. Twyman. After making this statement Twyman in his book’s introduction goes on to say:

That may sound like a grandiose claim, an impressive statement one may write just to sell books or grab attention…but what if it’s true? Is it possible that an ancient code exists—a magical formula used by one of the greatest leaders of all time—but has been lost for thousands of years (pg.ix.).

The premise of his book is that when Moses encountered God in the burning bush God revealed to Moses that he was in fact “god.” Being God Moses could operate the spiritual law of attraction revealed to him and create whatever reality he wanted! Once Moses became self-actualized he went and used this metaphysical “law” to free the Israelites. Now once again, mankind can use what Moses used to free ourselves from every bondage. WOW!

What is true freedom, exactly? It’s simply the ability to express your Divinity in every situation, in every moment and realize that you’re the creator of the Universe you experience (pg. xiv).

Twyman goes on to say that “chief among the practitioners was Jesus of Nazareth” (pg.2) You see Jesus did not work miracles because He was God manifested in the flesh. No He was a man who evolved spiritually and grasped the Moses Code. He immediately goes on to say “ it’s now time for all of us to master the Code as well” (pg. 2).

You’re being offered the most powerful tool in history for creating your reality. This isn’t New Age fairy tale; it’s real and true. We need enlightened souls to finally manifest the world of our dreams. (pg. 3).

This book purports to take the reader farther than “The Secret” but in reality is nothing more than what I was taught in the Word of Faith Cult regarding speaking “faith-filled words” and creating whatever I needed. Twyman’s only twist is that he reveals to us that we are all really God (we just don’t know it yet). Which as we all know was Satan’s original lie. Pray for Twyman that his eyes be opened to see that he is really not God, but a sinner in need of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

 





Ye Have Not Because Ye Ask Not

25 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – May 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 5 – Ye Have Not Because Ye ask Not By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Ye Have Not Because Ye Ask Not…James 4:2

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Anyone who has supported Discernment Ministries International for any length of time knows that we strive not to continually ask our partners for financial support. When DMI does ask it is because we have a serious need for support.

That time has come and we must ask for your help. During the last two months we’ve seen a very significant drop in financial support. It could be due to “tax-time” or other economic pressures, or possibly people simply forgetting to send in a donation.

As most of you know DMI is a small ministry but one with a rather large outreach through the internet, our newsletter, books, cd’s and other publications. In April DMI received several appeals for materials from overseas but we have not been able to send anything due to a lack of funds.

We are very thankful for those partners who faithfully give every month, without their faithfulness DMI would not be able to operate at all. Yet many people give sporadically which makes it very difficult to plan ahead, to set a budget and determine who we can help.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I wish I could wave my hands over your donation envelop and decree a “100-fold blessing” on your gift, but I cannot (nor can anyone else for that matter). All I can promise you is that DMI works hard to be good stewards of what is entrusted to us, knowing that one day we will have to give an account to God.

DMI understands financial times are difficult, but we also know that our gracious God does bless giving (how He chooses to bless you is His business). Please help DMI out by making use of the enclosed envelop and helping us meet some very pressing needs. Thanks!

His servant and yours,

Rev. Bob Liichow





“HEARING” THE VOICE OF GOD

23 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – April 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 4 – “Hearing the Voice of God – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Hearing the Voice of God

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

One of the most frustrating things for me as a charismatic extremist was hearing the various testimonies of my teachers regarding hearing the voice of God. All of these men and women made it abundantly clear to us mere sheep that they were in fact in daily, if not, moment-to-moment communication with the Ancient of Days.

Usually their sermons or lessons began with statements like “ I was in prayer the other night and the Lord said to me ‘son why don’t you explain what faith is to My people’ and I said yes Lord and He opened my eyes to the scriptures like never before.” Obviously, we as the hearers upon hearing this statement buckled down in our seats, got out our pens and took notes on what was divinely revealed to the speaker (you can insert almost anyone’s name e.g. Ken Hagin, Copeland, Savelle, Dollar, Price, Jakes, White, Meyer, Dupantis, Hayes, et al.). After their stirring words we little sheep would wander to our homes wondering what did it take to actually “hear the voice of God”? We were literally in awe of people like Kenneth Hagin senior who said on a regular basis that God was more “real to him then his wife.” Also, Mr. Hagin was a man who claimed to have had at least seven (7) direct face-to-face encounters with the risen Christ, during which encounters Mr. Hagin was given revelations which became some of the body of his teachings {doctrine}. Obviously Mr. Hagin and many of our other teachers had a relationship with Jesus Christ that we did not have. Hagin used to share an anecdote that went something like this: “A man told me he was afraid of anyone who said God spoke to them, I answered him back and said I was afraid of anyone who God didn’t speak to!” In context let me add that Hagin was not talking about God speaking through His Word, he meant God speaking directly to us as individuals. Hagin’s position was that it was normative for God to speak to His children.

This obviously lack of intimate fellowship with the Godhead that our teachers seemed to have led many of us “on-fire” saints (me included) on the “hunt” for obtaining such an equally close fellowship with our Lord and Savior. After all, who does not want to “hear” the Holy Spirit say directly to them “go this way, turn left on Elm, “ or marry this woman,” or “accept this job position, it is My will.” Hearing from “God” on that level would take all of the guesswork out of life. If a person could hear so clearly from the Lord it would equal an error-free life (something God nowhere promises any of us in His Word) assuming the individual heeded everything the Lord told Him directly.

I’ll let you in on one of charismania’s dirty little secrets. A large portion of what charismatic teachers offer to those who will follow can be condensed into the claim that they (the teacher) possesses some spiritual experience which can be anyone’s if they will learn how to “tap in” as their teacher did. This experience can include some of the following examples: receiving revelation knowledge, receiving divine healing; walking in divine life; increasing the anointing in one’s life; achieving financial prosperity among other claims. Naturally merely attending a conference will probably not give one any of the above abilities. Thus the seeker is urged by the SINister or his or her shills to purchase books, tapes and DVD’s on the experience being sought, all of which happen to be for sale, authored by the SINister just outside the arena (all major credit cards accepted).

Apart from the extraordinary gifts, such as the power to heal or work miracles, every charismatic teacher claims to hear directly from God. The old expression “from God’s lips to my ear” would be wildly accepted by these people. Most Christian’s will accept that they will probably not work miracles or heal the lame, but at least they can hear from God can’t they?

The question is a simple one —does the Bible teach that the children of God would in fact hear His voice and be led by Him directly and individually? It does not matter how many people vociferously declare that God speaks to them directly to their spirits. As discerning Christians we must always go back and look at what the Bible teaches concerning this or any other matter being foist upon us.

Really the challenge is in the court of the charismatic extremists to prove to us biblically that it is the practice of God to speak individually to His children. The spiritual enthusiast has two general responses to this challenge. The popular response today (at least since the Holy Laughter paranormal manifestations) has been well expressed by Jack Deere, a former Dallas Theological Seminary professor who went off the spiritual rails so to speak:

God can and does give personal words of direction to believers today that cannot be found in the Bible. I do not believe that he gives direction that contradicts the Bible, but direction that cannot be found in the Bible.

According to Dr. Deere, John Arnott and a host of other charismatic leaders God speaks to His children all the time, gives them guidance, but it is of such a type that cannot be verified biblically. The best they can say is that any supernatural direction given, whether through dreams, visions, apparitions or voices will not violate the Bible!

This is the same type of argument that John Arnott (former pastor of the Toronto Airport Christian Church i.e. vortex of the holy laughter nonsense) gave me personally in our e-mail correspondence. Mr. Arnott in answering my concerns regarding all the non-biblical manifestations my wife and I eye witnessed in his congregation was simply to begin by citing John 21:25

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25 (KJV)

Arnott’s response to me was simply that what was taking place in the outpouring of the “new wine” of the Holy Spirit was nothing new, it just was not recorded in the Bible for us to read about. Holy Laughter, making animal noises, being slain in the spirit, uncontrollable jumping, jerking and running are simply part of the “many other things” Jesus did as well !!!

I responded by asking Arnott how can we know that what is happening is biblical if the Bible is silent on this specific matter? What are we to use as our guide pertaining to spiritual matters? His response was to direct me to all the good fruit being borne by the revival, the joy, the laughter, the changed lives of those undergoing these manifestations.

In the words of the arch-heretic Kenneth Copeland “that dog won’t hunt!” If the best Arnott can do is point me to subjective paranormal experiences that some people were undergoing as proof that it was “God” at work then he has a great deal to learn about religious experiences. I can take Arnott to various ashrams where the same manifestations are being experienced by the devotees of various power gurus and these followers will give passionate explanation of how their lives have been changed.

Appealing to anything other than the Bible as the final arbitrator of doctrine and experience is to leave oneself wide open to demonic deception, delusion, and disappointment. What today’s charismatic enthusiasts want the Church to do is simply accept their teachings, experiences and practices on the power of their word alone, not on the authority of God’s Word.

I warned Mr. Arnott that he and those like him were in danger of becoming a cult due to their going down the same pathway all the Bible-based cults have gone. The reason we call them “Bible-based” cults is due to their claim to believe in the Bible, however God has given them further revelation whether it is in the form of the New World Translation of the JW’s, or the Book of Mormon, The Divine Principle, The Scripture Keys to Science and Health or the Mo Letters. So for these cults it boils down to a formula like — The Bible + new revelations/writings {guess which ends up being authoritative }. Many charismatic are in the same place — The Bible + new revelations, fortunately the Bible still seems to hold ultimate authority in may of their lives.

The second response to our apologetic challenge is a finally turning to the Bible and cherry pick examples that seem to fit their particular belief or practice. In the case of our topic, they will show us people God talked to and use these examples to attempt to prove these encounters as normative. This is GREAT! Always guide the discussion with these misguided folks back to the Bible, because we both can agree that it is God’s Word and as Christians It is binding on our lives. So then the weight is upon us to prove our position is in fact – the biblical one.

Who “Heard” the voice of God?

Old Testament

Adam & Eve: Obviously we can start with them. They not only heard the voice of God, but also walked with Him in the cool of the garden (Genesis 2:3). Obviously none of us can use Adam and Eve as our examples of fellowship with God since after they sinned and were kicked out of the garden their face-to-face communication ceased with the Lord.

Noah: Yes Noah heard from God directly. Since it had never rained on the earth until the flood I’m sure the Lord had some things to make clear to Noah, such as the directions on building the ark and who to place within it. (Gen. 6:9). Noah conversations with the Lord can hardly be normative since it involved the salvation of mankind.

Job: Only towards the end of the book of Job (Job 38-42) do we read of Job having a divine communication from the Lord.

Abraham: Over the entire span of his long life Abraham heard directly from the Lord in various manners only 16 times, hardly a daily ongoing conversation between The Ancient of Days of the patriarch of the faith!

Sarah: She only was spoken to once, which she initially denied saying what she had said (read Gen 18).

Moses: He holds the “record” of hearing from God, but then leading a few million Jews no doubt required quite a bit of direction. We read are approximately 85 times when God spoke to Moses. Again the majority of these times had to do specifically with the economy of God and the leading of God’s people.

Aaron: Moses’ brother and first high priest, he heard from God about 14 times, again always involving serious matters.

Joshua: The man who replaced Moses and led the people across the Jordan — again only around 13 or so experiences with the “voice of God” in his life.

Samuel: The great prophet of the Lord, we know at the beginning of his ministry the Lord spoke to him and he did not even recognize the Lord’s voice (1 Sam. 3) How the “word of the Lord” came to him and the other prophets we are not always told. We do know that in Samuel’s time the “word of the Lord was rate” (3:1) and there were few visions. What I am focusing our attention on is direct, personal communication from God to individuals.

David: The sweet psalmist of Israel, you’d think he would had daily running conversations with the Lord (like Hagin, Copeland, and others claim), But, no, go read the accounts of his life again and you’ll find less than 12 direct encounters Person-to-person.

Solomon: One of Israel’s most blessed kings, wisest of all O.T. personages, he only had 3 experiences hearing directly from the Lord. (read 1 Kings, 3:5-14; 9:2-9; 11:11-13).

My brothers and sisters there are many other O.T. examples I could cite, but these examples should make it very clear that people in general never personally heard God’s voice. Even God’s specially chosen vessels, rarely heard His voice and when they did it was regarding salvation’s history in some form or another.

The charismatic belief that throughout biblical history God is just chattering away to His people simply doesn’t stand up to any close examination of the Bible. Of course many within the charismatic movement will point that we are “New Testament” believers, ergo we should consider the New Testament as our “norm.” Ok, let’s take a quick look through the New Testament.

New Testament

Again our sign-gift inclined brethren would have us believe that under the new covenant we find our heavenly Father speaking to His children on a regular basis, leading and guiding them via personal speaking, dreams, visions and even angels. However, as Christians we must allow the Bible to be our guide, not subjective personal experiences. We know that during Jesus’ ministry when God spoke it was at times considered thunder by those who heard it (see John 12:29). On the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter, John and James did hear the audible voice of God they were speechless (see Mark 9). There is absolutely no evidence that “God” apart from the personal earthly ministry of Jesus, God and Son, ever spoke internally to any of the disciples in the Gospels.

As a former charismatic I’d be quick to argue that the Book of Acts is really the template for the Church and that’s where will find God speaking to about everyone. I also used to believe that miracles were commonplace and were being wrought by just about every Miriam, Peter and John. Folks the truth is, as with hearing the voice of God, very few people were ever used by God throughout the entire Bible to work a miracle. Think about it, write them all down and you will have a very short list. Common sense dictates that if miracles where commonplace then they would cease to be “miraculous.”

Well if one reads the Book of Acts carefully one will discover that the vast majority of the times we read of God speaking directly or even indirectly, say through an angel, less than twenty times and the majority of these times were involving the Apostle Peter and Paul. The few others so specifically guided by God were folks like Agabus (a prophet), Cornelius (whose salvation was a catalyst for the Gentiles), and Ananias (who went to pray for a man named “Saul”.

What is remarkable about each occurrence is that none of these individuals were seeking to hear from God directly! God was the One who reached out to them. Also keep in mind that none of these people were ever taught any formula, hidden keys, or method on how to hear from God (which is a very popular subject in almost all Christian bookstores & conferences). Even more astounding is the FACT that no one is ever counseled to seek to hear God’s voice.

A simple truth that really “blew” my mind in seminary was when I learned from Dr. Eugene Mayhew that the Book of Acts is a historical account of what took place in the early Church and NOT a template on how to do Church. This was contrary to everything I had been taught as a sign-seeking believer. However, once you realize this is true you see that everything that took place in Acts is not normative nor to be expected in the daily life of Christians today.

Some may respond “but brother Liichow doesn’t the Apostle Paul tell us that those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14)?” Yes, but the text does not say “those who hear from God directly are the sons of God.” In fact, this text does not tell use exactly how God’s Spirit will lead us. Sign-gift folk insert voices, dreams, visions, visits from Jesus and /or angels into the text in invisible ink. They may assent that this text does not say exactly how the Spirit will lead us but will often counter with another text, this time from the Gospels. “Didn’t Jesus say that ‘My sheep hear My voice’ so obviously His true hear from God!” The context of John 10:16 is regarding sheep and goats and the fact that untimely there will be one flock (Jew & Gentiles together) under one Shepherd, Jesus. Jesus is not speaking about some private conversation(s) He will have with His sheep. Compare this text with Romans 10:17 “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Add to this “how shall they hear without a preacher’? (Rom. 10:14). Jesus was not speaking about Him personally talking with His sheep. Oh yes He does “call” us but He does so generally through the foolishness of preaching or even through our baptism.

Some Charismatic Comments

“In June God gave us a vision of the world with silver and gold bands covering the entire globe —we began to understand that God was telling us to take the message…” Charles and Francis Hunter, How to Heal the Sick, Hunter Books, pg. 1.

“I could hear the Spirit of God challenging me, “You’ve approached it wrongly. You’ve worked on the wrong end of the thing. You fasted and you prayed that I would do something and I’ve done all I’m ever going to do…” Kenneth E. Hagin, The Art of Intercession, Faith Library, pg. 47

My Father said to me (oh, I could hear His voice so plainly as He spoke to me), ‘Son, you don’t know how that delights My heart…You know, He said to me, ‘I made man so I’d have someone to fellowship with. I made man for My companion…I’ll put this way (and He said it is just these words), I made man so I’d have someone to pal with,’ “ Kenneth E. Hagin, Growing Up, Spiritually, Faith Library, pp. 64-65.

“The Spirit of God spoke up on the inside of me and said, ‘She has been holding fast to the problem al of these years. If she had prayed in faith she wouldn’t have prayed all those other 24 years…But she has bound Me from the situation by the words of her mouth.” Charles Capps, Releasing the Ability of God, Harrison House, p. 38.

“I asked the Lord, ‘Why did the centurion have that kind of faith…The Lord said, ‘He was a military man who understood authority because he was under authority. If you will teach My people to understand authority as this man understood authority, they will operate in the same kind of faith.” Charles Capps, Authority, Harrison House, p. 5

“Just this Pat: God is telling me to go and share the message of His power an the baptism of the Holy Spirit with Mrs. Peale.” Pat Robertson & Jamie Buckingham, Shout It From the Rooftops, Logos, p. 66

Fear not, I am sent from the presence of Almighty God to tell you that your peculiar life and your misunderstood ways have been to indicate that God has sent you to take a gift of divine healing to the people of the world. IF YOU WILL BE SINCERE, AND CAN GET THE PEOPLE TO BELIEVE YOU, NOTHING SHALL STAND BEFORE YOUR PRAYER, NOT EVEN CANCER… He told me how I would be able to detect diseases by vibrations on my hand. He went away, but I have seen him several times since then.” Gordon Lindsay, William Branham A Man Sent From God, Voice of Healing, p. 77.

The BIG Question

These are just a very few examples of some instances where well known charismatic leaders are relating a little of their personal conversations with the Lord. In the same arena we have to also include today’s restored prophets and the “word of the Lord” they proclaim to congregations and individuals (that also is a common charismatic way to hear from God). The question for either individuals hearing from God or from the mouth of an alleged restored prophet is the same: “Why isn’t the words you’ve received from God authoritative?” In other words if God is indeed speaking then what is said should be transcribed and placed in the back of the Bible, right? Since when does God’s “word” cease to become God’s word to us? Also, if the words received in whatever manner (through a neo-Montantist prophet, dream, and vision or audible voice) is not elevated to such a level, then what good are they?

Our sign-gift brethren have a problem on their hands (as does anyone who says they have heard directly from God) and their response is to say that these words are a combination of both our flesh & the Lord which is what many leaders suggest having mature believers discern the wheat from the chaff so to speak. They say this is the biblical pattern as taught by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 14:29. This text says let 2 or 3 prophets speak and the others should weigh carefully what is said. That’s fine considering at the time there were still prophets in the Church as well as false prophets! The Corinthians being sign-gift driven needed to be told to “judge” what was being told them in the name of the Lord. Plus there is nothing in the text to indicate that the “others” ere discerning if part of the word given was of God and part of the flesh. Biblically either one was a true prophet, 100% accurate or one was a false prophet. From the record of scripture it seems most likely that the “others” were judging whether the person speaking was in fact from God or our enemy.

When it comes to the accuracy of today’s so-called prophets and their prophetic declarations virtually every charismatic leader will defend the blatant error, lies and unfulfilled statements given out in God’s name as being simply part of the “growing process” we all undergo in our God-given gifts! Just as one develops as a pastor or a Bible teacher even so one develops as God’s prophet. Oh really? Pray tell where is that in the Bible? There is nothing to indicate that the prophets developed from one level of accuracy to another. Daniel was not 5 % accurate as a young man and about 80% as an old man. What nonsense! Yet this explanation is commonly handed out to those who dare question the inaccuracies of today’s plague of prophets.

All of us who have thought that God was speaking to us and directing us in some area of life have had to admit that it was not God after all. I remember before I was married another sister in our congregation “heard from the Lord” that I was supposed to marry her. God had told me nothing about it and I told this deceived sister she was in error. She later went on to marry someone else and would gladly admit today she was not hearing from God. Other couples said they both heard from God to marry and now are divorced, what happened to the “plan of God” (I can assure you His plan never includes divorce).

There is a method by which we ALL can hear from God, but I have run out of space to go into this month. Stay tuned for Part Two! (Below are some examples of the many books out there to mislead the unwary).♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

 





Being Fruitful for the Kingdom of God

20 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – March 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 3 – Being Fruitful for the Kingdom of God – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Being Fruitful For the Kingdom of God

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Many saints don’t like to mediate on the time when they will stand literally before their Lord Jesus and give an account of their life and actions while on earth. Many hold onto the naïve idea that everybody will receive the same reward from Jesus. Such a belief is simply unbiblical. It is true that God loves all of His children equally, there are no big I’s and little u’s in the Body of Christ.

Every child of God is equally saved by the blood of the Lamb with no distinction. However in this article I am not writing about God’s love for us or our justification by grace through faith, all of this falls under the sovereignty of God.

Let’s be clear that there are differing rewards for faithful service to our Lord. All saints on the Day of Judgment will not be treated the “same” regarding their faithfulness. This is plainly taught by the Apostle Paul in the following text:

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Cor. 3:12-15

At the bema-seat (reward seat) of Christ there will be gain or loss depending upon what the Christian did for their Lord. Were their works those inspired by the flesh (wood, hay, or straw) or were they works done by the spirit unto God’s glory alone (gold, silver, costly stones)?

God expects us to mature spiritually and as we do we are to become more useful to our Master in building His Kingdom. As we are united to Christ (the Vine) through our baptism and faith we are expected to produce fruit. Here the words of our Master:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:1-4

Here we see some important insight into being fruitful for our Master. First we read the fearful words that every branch in Christ which bears no fruit the Father cuts off. Secondly, those branches that are bearing even just a little fruit He does what? He prunes it! He cuts away the portions of that branch that are hindering productivity. The pruning process s without a doubt painful but the end result is increased fruitfulness for the Father’s glory. The author of the book of Hebrews says it this way “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6). Thirdly, Christ assures us that we are clean because of His Word and exhorts us to remain in Me (we do this through Word and sacrament). Note that we cannot spiritual bear fruit (truly good works) by ourselves we must stay connected to Jesus. He goes on to say —

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:5-8

Jesus makes His point again (whenever He repeats Himself He is making a point of vital importance) — He is the Vine we are the branches. If we remain connected to the Vine and He connected to us we will bear much fruit. Again, we must keep in mind that apart from Jesus we can do nothing of any value spiritually. Obviously the one who cuts himself off from Christ withers spiritually, becomes dry and is worthy of being burned. The great news is that as we abide in Christ and His Words remain in us we can ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us. The governor of this vast prayer promise is Christ’s Word abiding in us and thus directing what we ask for. Jesus concludes by saying that our Father is glorified when we bear much fruit. The producing of much fruit is the proof that we are His disciples.

“Then the righteous will answer him ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

These sheep, these righteous ones, simply did what came naturally from being attached to the Vine! If the tree is good the fruit will be good and I assure you the “tree” that arose from the stump of Jesse (see Isa. 11:1) is the finest tree in all creation! Branches don’t consciously strive to produce fruit; the fruit comes from the Vine Himself and flows out to the branches which yield themselves to the workings of the Vine.

Just as in the natural life a child does not grow. Growth comes from nurturing that child and feeding it a proper diet and adding play and exercise to its young life. Jesus Himself in His humanity increased in wisdom and stature with man and God” (Luke 2:52). The same is true for spiritual growth and development. This growth comes about through a divine interplay of the Holy Spirit and our willingness to yield ourselves to Him.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3

How do we grow spiritually? By craving the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God in other words you need to develop an intense addiction to hearing and studying the Word of God. Why? So that by it ( the hearing & doing of God’s Word) you may GROW UP in your salvation! This is not some “new” revelation God commanded the Israelites in the great “Shema” to do the same thing in the following text:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deut. 6:4-7

Even under the Old Covenant God expected His people to get into His Word. Obviously loving the Lord with all our being is tied into focusing on His commandments (Word). As parents we have both the privilege and obligation to impress (like a signet right makes an impression in wax or clay) them on our children. How do we do this? By talking about the Word at home, maybe the sermon preached and how it can be implemented in each family member’s life (appropriate to the development). Or by discussing the portion of the Small Catechism you are going over as a family, maybe just sharing insights from personal Bible study. Here is something convicting to admit to and by God’s grace change —out of the abundance of the heart our mouth speaks. If we sit down as a family and never discuss the Word of the Lord then His Word is not in us to the degree that it should be. This is why God says talk about the Word at home, when your walking on the road, when you lie down with your spouse and when you get up, in short ALL THE TIME! In New Testament lingo I’d call this renewing our minds:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom. 12:1,2

Those who fill their thoughts with God’s Word and mediate on His precepts (Psl. 119:15) are able to transform their very thought processes. The NIV Bible Commentary says the following regarding this text:

“Dedication leads to discernment and discernment to delight in God’s will. An intimate connection between certifying the will of God and making oneself a living sacrifice is demonstrated by the use of “pleasing” in each case (cf. Php 4:18; Heb 13:16).”

The inference is plain in the texts we’ve been considering; if someone does not have any real craving to hear and apply the Word of God then they will remain spiritual infants all their lives and be of little benefit to the Kingdom of God. Paul dealt with some Christians who should have grown spiritually but had not:

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? 1 Cor. 3:1-3

“Napios” is the Greek term for infant and it refers to a child not yet weaned off its mother’s breast, unable to care for itself in life. Paul fed them spiritual milk, i.e. the basics of the Christian life, Christianity “101” if you will. He could not feed them with the meat of the Word because they could not handle it, such food would have choked them. What I want you to see is that people are at different levels of spiritual growth and spiritual productiveness.

The author of Hebrews upbraids his readers along the same lines (people are basically the same regardless of geographic location :

Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of mild, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belonged to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14

Again we see a distinction being made between Christians. The author had many more things to teach them about Jesus but they were “hard” sayings and these people had become dull of hearing. These folks should have grown to the place where they could teach , but their growth had been stunted, and they needed to be re-taught the first principles of the truths of God! Instead of progressing on from milk to solid food to meat, they had fallen back to the stage of needing spiritual milk.

Let me state that there is nothing wrong with spiritual milk; it is Always good and beneficial. Yet in regards to spiritual development those who can only handle milk are referred to as being “unskillful” in the Word of righteousness. On the other hand those who have drank their spiritual milk, been faithful in hearing the Word, studying It and applying it to their lives these saints are referred to as those who are of “full age” (GK. teleios) or mature ones. These believers by constant use and exercising (Gk Gumnazo) what they have been taught and integrated into the lives are able to discern/distinguish between good and evil.

The only difference between the babe in Christ and the mature saint is a question of hunger and thirst. When we come to Church are we merely going through the “motions,” not focusing on the sermons and the hymns? Or do we come conscious that we have come to commune with our Lord, to hear His Word and come with a determination to act upon what we hear? There are really only two types of Christians (both equally loved by God, both saved by the Blood of the Lamb); (1) The forgetful hearer and (2) the doer of what he has heard. Jesus puts it this way:

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent stuck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:46-49

Both men heard the same Word from the lips of Jesus. The first person heard it and put what he heard into practice. In fact, he goes and digs deeper into what he has heard to lay an even more solid foundation for his spiritual life (house). To me this is the individual who takes notes during Bible Study and during the sermon, buys the tape or CD, hears it again a couple of times and then gets out his concordance, commentaries and prayerfully digs into the text to mine every nugget of applicable truth to his life.

The second man, he hears the Word, nods his head sagely and say “yes amen” at the proper times and leaves the Church forgetting what the message was even about. This is true of far too many Christians, ask anyone during lunch what the sermon was about and see if I am correct.

Something happens, a storm arises and beats against both men’s spiritual houses. The result? The first man, the mature son, the one who listened & put into practice what he had been taught suffered through the storm but lost no spiritual ground! The second man, the babe in Christ, who did not practice that which was preached, and is hit with the exact same storm suffers a complete spiritual breakdown!

Again the only difference was the diligence or lack thereof on the part of these two individuals. Which one are you and I ? Are we doers of the Word and thus grow spiritually and produce mature fruit or are we merely hearers floating along until some satanic storm wreaks havoc in our spiritual walk with Christ?

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he behold himself, and goeth his way, and straightway fretted what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. James 1:22-25

Those who hear and do not deceive themselves, the devil does not even have to deceive them! They hear that they are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-19) and His ambassadors and forget almost immediately whom they represent in this life. They call Jesus “Lord, Lord” and DO NOT the things He tells them to do!

Yet the good news is that those of us who will crave the spiritual milk, being faithful with the little things God reveals to us through His Word and take baby-steps, i.e. it is never to early to begin acting on the Word received with grow quickly onto a diet of spiritual meat and soon will progress to teaching others and bearing much fruit in whatever vocation God has called us into and bringing much glory to our Heavenly father. These people will be blessed in their doing of the Word of God.

In the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ our Lord makes some amazing statements regarding the Christians who preserve and overcome the obstacles placed before their witness for Christ. Here are some examples of what Christ Jesus promises to those who will overcome:

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Rev. 2:7; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Rev. 2:11; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it Rev. 2:17; And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations Rev. 2:26; He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels Rev. 3:5; Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. Rev. 3:12; To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne Rev. 3:21

If words mean anything then it seems that in some way those who press onward towards the high calling of God in Christ (see Phil. 3:13) and overcome (be victorious) will be given special rewards from the Lord God! These promises alone, however they are to be understood should be more than enough incentive for all of us to lay aside the sins and weights which so easily beset us and run the race God has given us to run with perseverance looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith (see Heb. 12:1-2).

Thank God that salvation is not based on our works or even the lack thereof! We are saved by the work of God in Christ through the cross alone. We are saved by grace through faith period! This is called “passive” righteousness, it is something we receive and do not add to nor can we take away from. Yet our spiritual growth, fruitfulness and yes, sanctification is not passive, but requires our activity. Let me close by reminding you that our “activity” is to look to our Lord (apart from Him we can do nothing), to call upon Him in prayer, to be active focused participants (not mere spectators) at Church and to make use of His means of grace whereby we do grow spiritually, i.e. Word and sacrament. Take time daily to study His Word, dig down deep into it and ask the Lord how it applies to your daily life. Determine to rid yourself of anything and everything that hinders the life of Christ flowing through you and producing true spiritual fruit. In order to do this you must humble yourself before God and ask Him to reveal these areas of your life to you, for a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes (Psl. 36:2). As He reveals them to you ask Him for grace to remove them from your life (again any true spiritual advancement is a work of grace dependent upon Jesus and the power of His Spirit). ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow





Dead Men Walking

15 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – February  2008  Vol. 13  Issue 2 – Dead Men Walking – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Dead Men Walking

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Please forgive the somewhat abbreviated first article and the lateness of this specific newsletter it is all due to my work load at seminary. Since so many of you gave sacrificially for me to attend classes I feel it is my duty to God and our partners to do the best I can in them.

What was I trying to get across in the first article can be boiled down to the following — victory over the world, the flesh and the devil is experienced by those who have “died” to the world, the flesh and devil, i.e. are purposefully living the crucified life.

This type of message is not very popular and it has not been for probably 2,000 years. Certainly you will never hear any televangelists or other popular SINister teach about dying to self for the sake of expanding the kingdom of God. The teaching of the cross is as radical today as when Jesus and the Apostles initially taught it.

The important thing to keep in our minds is that this teaching is not for some people who have risen to some high degree of personal holiness, in fact, from what I read it seems that this teaching of “dying to live” is really spiritual boot camp, sort of Christianity “101” and really when looked at properly it becomes crystal clear why this teaching has to be foundational because almost all our “work” for the kingdom to be of any value has to flow from this basis of the crucified life. So allow me briefly to share with you some of the texts which will be GREAT ones for us all to ponder and mediate on during this Lenten season.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25

The context of this verse is plain, Jesus is speaking to His followers about the need to “die” to ourselves. It is only when we die, i.e. get ourselves off of our hands, that we become free to focus on the needs of our neighbors. As long as we stay focused on our needs, our wants and desires we cannot and will not see the desperate needs of those around us. Regarding Himself Jesus said:

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:28

In His comment here Jesus is settling the dispute of who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. The greatest one is the one who serves all the others. Jesus came to serve humanity by dying for our sins. We as His disciples serve humanity by picking up our cross and following in Jesus footsteps (see Matt. 10:38) to the place of crucifixion and dying to self. The author of Hebrews tells us to “go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore” (Heb. 13:11).

We know that this death to self took place in the waters of baptism:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed form sin. Rom. 6:6-7

It is one thing to remember that one has been baptized, it is quite another to live out that baptismal life consciously. This seems to be how the Apostle Paul lived life — being aware of his death and new life in and by the power of Christ:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20

Paul makes his comment in the context of a rebuke to the Galatians who were being misled into thinking they could start their spiritual life out by God’s grace and somehow complete it by their works. Paul calls them “foolish.” Please understand I am not advocating some systems of works or of human will power. Quite the opposite. What the Bible is calling for is: for us as the people of God to wake up to who we really are and by God’s grace live accordingly. The Apostle Paul says in another place—

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. 1 Cor. 15:34

He reminds them again in his second letter to them that they are the righteousness of God in Christ and are now ambassadors of reconciliation to the rest of the world (2 Cor. 5:17-19).

I think it is time for many of God’s people to “wake up.” Wake up to the fact that in their flesh dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18) and we must realize that our flesh cannot be reformed or renewed that is why it must be crucified daily.

We also must wake up to who we are in Christ. I’ve stated this before but I want to say it again and really meditate on this FACT: What God did in our re-birth is vastly more powerful and superior to what Satan accomplished when Adam fell.

If the work of Satan and sin in the fall were more powerful than Jesus work on the cross, then logically Jesus would not have been victorious over the devil. Yet we know He was! He says to His disciples “REJOICE, I have overcome the world” (Jh 16:33). He overcame death, hell and the grave for you and I. He lovingly gives His victory to us if we will but accept it and lean upon the power of His Holy Spirit, our Divine “Helper” who indwells us to grant us grace to grasp hold of what is ours in Christ in the face of all temptation, trails and tests. Let’s work together with the Spirit of Grace and be the overcomers Christ so dearly paid for.

Let us close this Lenten mediation out with a quote from Dr. Francis Pieper:

God who creates faith, also produces sanctification by His infinite power (1 Thess. 5:23-24). But in this work of sanctification, the Christian also plays a part. In conversion man merely experiences the working of God, but in sanctification the Christian plays an active role; he cooperates (synergism of the new man)…In other words: it is the Holy Ghost who produces the activity of the new man; the new man remains the organ of the Holy Ghost. (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 14) ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow  

 





The Axis of Evil

14 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – February 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 2 – The Axis of Evil – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Axis of Evil

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

(KJV)

One thing that is missing in my seminary experience thus far is any real discussion of spiritual warfare.

There is a thing called “victory” in living this Christian life. I am not referring to our ultimate victory when our bodies are fully redeemed from death and glorified. No, I am referring to living a victorious life in the midst of our fallenness. I readily acknowledge that I am a saved “sinner” or in good Lutheran parlance “simil Justus et pecator” (justified at the same time a sinner). Yet to me there seems to be an inordinate concentration on the reality of our “old man” and our fallen condition. The other side of the “coin” is just as real, i.e. our ability in and by Christ to be victorious over what I am calling in this article “the Axis of Evil”

In order to be a victor in a war, one has to understand who the enemy is, what are his tactics and discover his weaknesses and exploit them to the fullest. Too many Christians are simply ignorant of Satan and his devices when the Bible tells us not to be (see 2 Cor. 2:11). It is a fact that Jesus defeated Satan on the cross making an open show of him:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col. 2:14-15

Yet the New Testament is clear that we still have to contend with Satan and his forces in this life. We need to realize that although we have been delivered out of the dominion of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col 1:13) through the life giving waters of our Baptism and through faith in Gospel message of the cross of Christ; we still have an enemy to fight. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we need to:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rules of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Eph. 6:11-13

Many Christians get no further then “we wrestle not” in their lives when it comes to contending with the enemies of their faith. It is my hope that as we begin this new year we all will stand victorious in God’s armor and by His power and to His glory over all the works of the evil one.

Some time back President Bush shocked the world and the politically correct by declaring North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as comprising an “axis of evil.” What the President meant was that these three nations were in league together to expand terrorism and increase their own power.

As Christians we too face an axis of evil comprised of (1) the world, (2) the flesh and (3) the devil. All three work in concert to keep us from growing spiritually and effectively shining as lights amidst a wicked and perverse generation. (Phil. 2:15).

Enemy Number One: The Devil

Satan marshals these forces together against us to keep us ineffective and shames us into silence about our Christian faith. For example, when you are at home and ou see your neighbors and you think “I should go and invite them to church this Sunday.” Immediately the thoughts come faster than machine gun bullets — “you can’t do that, who do you think you are? Religion is a private concern. What if they got offended?

Brothers and sisters let me tell you those thoughts come from Satan and his minions. Remember what Jesus said of him? Jesus in John 6 says “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” In Rev. 12:10 Satan is called “the ACCUSER of the brethren.” So when Satan and his demons speak to your mind telling you, that you can’t or that you are not a good enough Christian to share Christ with others…simply remind the hosts of wickedness of a few things, one of my favorite verses is:

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col. 2:15

Remind this LIAR that he has been disarmed and that Christ Jesus has triumphed over all his hosts by the cross! Tell him that you are baptized into Christ, and in Him you can do all things INCLUDING sharing your faith with your neighbors and friends. REMEMBER Satan goes about as a roaring lion, but he is not one! (1 Peter 5:8). He is a defeated foe whose ONLY POWER is to get you to believe the lies he tells you.

Usually Satan works along these lines, first he tempts us (he is called the “Tempter” in Matt 4:3) with some sins, when we give into his temptation he then immediately accuses us. In these cases his accusations are not lies because we did give into temptation and sinned. At this point most Christians are silenced by shame. The correct response is to immediately turn to Christ and confess our sin knowing that when we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our transgressions and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jh. 1:9). The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb. 4:14-16

As we grow spiritually and learn to depend upon God’s grace more and more Satan must employ other, sometimes more subtle means in order to attempt to defeat us. He must call upon another one of his “partners” in his axis to assist him in the battle.

Enemy Number Two: The World

The world, cosmos in the Greek and this term refers to everything that adorns this world-system and that is against the Kingdom of God. Our opening text tells us that the cosmos is comprised of (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life.

We all succumb to the Tempter (1 Thess 3:5) from time to time when he offers up the baubles of this decaying world before our eyes. Think about the programs and commercials on television almost all of which are directly opposed to godly living. The images projected tell us that we’d be happier with a new car, new husband or wife, bigger house, more money, etc…Satan uses the manifold pleasures of the world to blind us to that fact that we as the people of God are not “of” this world, we are “in” it but not of it. This world is not our home an our lives are to be lived as stewards of what God graciously gives us.

Yes we all fail and give into our sinful fleshly desire for the world but read what Jesus says of US!

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth John 17:14-17

Let me ask you one question — do you believe that the Father answered Jesus’ prayer? ABSOLUTELY! Jesus says we are not of the world any more than He is! In fact, He says that TWICE! We have to begin to see ourselves as Jesus does. Yes we are IN the world but we are NOT of it! Let us echo our brother Paul when faced with the enticements of the fading system of sin and say with him:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal 6:14

Our attitude towards the world is this: We are not it! We are set apart from it by the POWER inherent in God’s Word and by the means of His grace! Our boast is not in fleshly achievements bt only in the cross of our Lord Jesus through whose sacrifice the world has been CRUCIFED and I have been CRUCIFIED to the world!

As we renew our mind through the power of God’s Word (Rom 12:2-3) and allow His Word to set us apart from the world we begin to become bolder witnesses for our Lord and vessels fit for honor. (2 Tim. 2:21).

Enemy Number Three: our Flesh

The last axis of evil Satan calls upon is our fallen flesh. We all carry about with us that fallen man who was drowned in the waters of our baptism…yet as the late Professor Marquart said “the old man is a great swimmer.” Nonetheless what Paul says to us in Romans is true:

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Rom. 6:4-6

This is the ongoing power of our baptism. Our old man WAS and IS crucified with Christ and henceforth we should not serve sin. Paul goes on to encourage us in the same chapter saying:

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Rom. 6:11-14

We all carry with us the fallen nature. Yet it is equally true that the old man died a real death just as we have received NEWNESS of LIFE through faith in Christ. I believe the new man recreated in Christ is stronger than the old man who is easily led by Satan.

The devil has no power over us at all! Jesus defeated him and his forces on the cross openly! The victory Jesus won on the cross was for YOU and for ME! We are in Christ and we share His Triumph! Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus won the victory for us, He had no need of victory He had not lost anything to the devil.

The world is not our home, we are to wear it as a very loose garment, knowing that we brought nothing into this life and we will take nothing with us when we leave apart from what we did for Christ. We are now citizens of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). Our joy is to shine as lights amidst this wicked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15).

The flesh is with us, but we MUST reckon it DEAD, because it really is. It will try to resurrect itself in the face of Satan’s temptations…but we are not to yield to its desires. The good news is by the virtue of our Baptism into Christ we are now empowered to be what God says we are in:

No, in ALL these things we are MORE then conquerors through HIM who loved us. Rom. 8:37

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:30

 

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow