Another church has been seduced by wickedness, confusing it for love.
“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 (ESV)Eve's passion was for her eyes to be opened and to be wise like God. Sounds good, except that single decision resulted in immediate death for her and billions of others who would follow. Her redefinition of what godliness was paved the way for innumerable people throughout the ages entering into never-ending torture in Hell. Evangelism wouldn't be necessary if it wasn't for Eve. Tragically, another church leadership team has looked to redefine spirituality, and because of the cunning deception of a wicked serpent, they ate of the fruit, fruit that was good for food and a delight to the eyes. Their decision was catastrophic. I've attended Assembly of God churches at various times throughout my life, and I have so appreciated their devotion to holiness and classic, historic, Biblical Christianity. I was stunned to hear about a Assembly of God church in Texas making the decision to fully embrace homosexuality, without apology, becoming what is know as an inclusive church. Eikon Church in Kyle, Texas, led by Pastors Dan and Kelly Matlock has sadly, tragically been duped by modern, cultural arguments and is now fully affirming. On an interior page on their website, suggested resources are provided including a podcast titled How to Be a Girl Podcast: A Christian Family's Story of Raising Their Trans Child, a book titled God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, a glossary of LGBTQ+ terms and much more. The following is also found there:
In our endeavor to promote unity over uniformity, we’ve compiled these resources that we believe will be helpful as you learn more and lean into conversations regarding our church’s decision to be a fully inclusive church for the LGBTQ+ community.I contacted the General Superintendent of the Assembly of God. Thankfully, he sent me a copy of a statement he released publicly this morning:
As many of you are aware, a certified minister at an AG church in Texas on Sunday announced a departure from the official Assemblies of God position on human sexuality. The Assemblies of God has a well-established process to deal with such departures. Immediately upon first knowledge, the North Texas District initiated appropriate action required in dealing with both the minister and the church. When it comes to matters of marriage, sexual orientation, and gender identity, the Bible is clear. That is why the only acceptable position for Assemblies of God ministers and churches is clearly outlined in this statement: CLICK TO READ THE STATEMENT
FALSE LOVEIn my article The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The Rise, I wrote:
Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG) 9 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings 10 so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of… We are to learn to love appropriately. This scripture is a critical exhortation! Why? It means there are inappropriate ways to love. There are deceptions that feel right, but are poor representations or even counterfeits of truth. As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.Affirming wickedness is the furthest thing from true, holy love. Endorsing homosexuality and welcoming those who participate in this forbidden lifestyle as brothers and sisters in Christ eliminates any hope of deliverance and eternities are put at great risk. Heaven and Hell are very much in play. Their departure from Christian faith is made clear, in bold words, on their website: We believe in and practice full inclusion here at Eikon Church, which means that individuals from the LGBTQ+ community can serve and be involved in EVERY AREA of Eikon Church from serving to pastoring. This affirmation is not only heretical, it's spiritually deadly. This church family will most certainly experience a season of glee where the rush of false-love floods in. Understand, I'm sure these people are caring and tender-hearted and they want every person to feel their affection. The problem is in their theology, and, yes, bad theology can lead to destruction. When the church becomes more about the people than about God, more about welcoming them, affirming them and celebrating them than about worshiping a most holy, fearful God, flaws can be overlooked, sin minimized and wickedness redefined as the purest form of love. Wicked love. I wonder, will the leadership of Eikon Church preach on the topics of sin, Hell, holiness, consecration, repentance and surrender? Or, have they already fallen through the trap door of false-grace and Universalism? The terror of the Lord must hit every church and ever Christian in this hour. God's love is very different than what is humanly discerned. Many question how a loving God could sentence someone to eternal torment. A better question is how a wicked people could ever presume to deserve anything less. God is fearsome, he is holy, and yes, he is love. He is not, however tolerant. He is not affirming of that which he defines as an abomination. He is a good, good Father, and he is also a just, just judge. We need to intercede for the sheep at Eikon Church that are being led into wholesale deception, heresy and undeniable departure from the Christian faith.
20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Isaiah 5:20-21 (ESV)
Many seduced by unbalanced grace theologies misunderstand the desperate need for the church to contend for a move of God.“I felt such release when I realized I didn't need to work and contend like I had been taught by pastors and preachers. Instead I'm just relaxing in God and it is so freeing!” “There's no need to work, war or battle. God's love for you is immeasurable! Nothing you can do could cause God to love you more!” “Your identity isn't defined by what you produce, it's in a revelation of God the Father.” “God is with you in your struggle. No need to beat yourself up over sin.” I've heard these defenses of grace-centric ideologies many times, and while some of the statements do absolutely contain irrefutable truth, there is still some serious concern to deal with. Of course it's true that our identity is in Christ and not in what we produce, but it's honestly not as simple as that. To dismiss the command to respond to the directives of God, to be productive, would raise the question of whether we are in Christ at all. The parable of the talents makes that clear.
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:26-30 (ESV)
DYS-GRACEFUL MINDSETSI believe there are churches and ministries that are all in on the grace teachings of Scripture, and unlike false-grace doctrine there is legitimacy to what is being communicated. However, the problem comes when these grace truths are adopted to the exclusion of the full counsel of Scripture. It's dysfunctional. I propose there is a radical misunderstanding of the purpose of grace, and today's translation of it can result in a self-idolatrous culture. If the focus is mostly on how we can benefit, on who we are and on eliminating Kingdom responsibilities from our lives we can know we have fallen for a distorted view of grace. Grace actually empowers us to do, to obey, to work, to move, to heal, to deliver, to respond to God's Kingdom mandates. I was stunned several years ago when someone actually admitted to me that they were praying against the prayer movement! I'm not sure if they appreciated the irony. They rejected the idea that we have to do anything in order for God to be revealed in our lives. Our identity, he said, is not in proving ourselves or in coercing God to move. He believes the prayer culture is damaging to our ability to understand our identity. We are sons and daughters and we don't have to do anything to convince God to love us or to move in our lives, or so he argued. News flash: movements of intercession have little to do with us, though it seems so much of today's grace movement is very much about self. When we contend in intercession, we are pounding Heaven and assaulting Hell. We are seeking and knocking, warring and resisting. It's a governmental position of authority where we stand in our identity in Christ and move mountains, rebuke demons, establish truth and tear down strongholds. It's about other people! We are fighting for the freedom of others, we are moved to tears as we contend for freedom in other people. When we contend for revival, it's a strategic advance in the spiritual realm against barriers, demonic strongholds and wickedness. We are not doing this to discover our identity or to convince God that we are lovable. That is ridiculous! We do this to expose the darkness and rescue the perishing! We do this to awaken the sleepers and to prepare the Bride of Christ for his return! To all of my grace friends out there, I'm thrilled that you have discovered the wonder of resting in your true identity in Christ, if that has truly happened. I appreciate and promote that same revelation without reservation. It's impossible to do what God has called us to do without it. And, that's where I probably lost some of you. You see little need to “do” anything. You just want to be. After all, we are human beings, not human doings, right? Yeah, I've heard that more times than I can remember.
RESOLVE THE LOVE ISSUE ALREADYGod loves you. It's settled. While I agree that there are never-ending realms, expressions and revelations of God's love, and that we will forever be experiencing new encounters in his love, it's time that we simply understand that we are loved, and then get on with the mission. The problem comes when people discover a supposed fresh revelation of God's love that removes the very mandates and responsibilities that Scripture reveals he has placed on us. A revelation of love that minimizes or eradicates God's assignments doesn't exist. You have been deceived. It's possible to be deeply loved by God while not being usable to God. Both being loved and being available impact our relationship with God and our eternities. Heaven and Hell lay in the balance. Obedience plays a role just as enjoying intimacy with God does. The parable of the Talents along with many other truths in the Bible make this clear. Our very purpose of living on the earth is to bring God glory and to advance the Kingdom. As we develop intimacy with Jesus and as we grow in revelation of his love, we cannot help but to emerge as mighty warriors advancing against the darkness and setting the captives free. God loves you. Now from that place of love, serve the Master with passion. Don't sit around for the rest of your life celebrating how free you are while the extent of your relationship with God is soaking in his presence and sitting in his lap. God loves you, but from here on out it's not as much about you as it is those God has called you to rescue. Remember, you aren't attempting to coerce God to love you more. That argument from the grace camp is true. However, the identifying mark of the dys-graced camp is to stop doing anything that smells of work, effort, contending or sacrifice and to simply focus on enjoying him. The appropriate response is to settle the love issue and to get moving, get working and change the world!
BEATING YOURSELF UP OVER SINIn all my years, I've never seen the a collective shrug that I'm seeing in much of today's church regarding sin. The dys-graced movement is perpetuating this by promoting the idea that God is unconcerned with our sin and, over time, if people discover God's love in greater measure, the sin will auto-magically take care of itself. This is deception.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:27-29 (ESV)No we shouldn't beat ourselves up in condemnation if we are truly repentant. However, the above passage sure seems more extreme than an internal, emotional beat down—and God sanctioned it. He suggested it. The reality of eternity in torment, darkness and maddening terror in Hell is so severe that we must go to whatever extreme necessary to avoid it. Note, he didn't suggest following more closely or becoming a part of the family as they “do life” together. Nowhere do we see him unconcerned with sin. Quite the opposite, he makes it clear that continued sin will result in never-ending Hell. Stop and think about this for a moment. Today many Christians would say it's ridiculous to think anybody could be free from lust. I've had people rebuke me for suggesting that. In fact, a “Christian” sex therapist scolded me in a long email after I wrote about this in a Charisma Magazine article and confessed that he actually prescribes sexual fantasy about other people to struggling married couples! In fact, it's quite common for those in the dys-graced religious system to lambaste those who would encourage people to stop sinning. An angry retort often follows: “You can't put such a burden on them! It's not loving! Quit judging!” Tell that to Jesus, who also famously once said, “Go and sin no more.” With the high percentage of Christians regularly involved in pornography, and a huge percentage of pastors involved in the same sin, and with lust, greed, apathy, unforgiveness, gossip and other spiritual crimes rampant, how can we not shout from the rooftops, “Repent!” We need loving, zealous hellfire preaching in the church again! The reality is that the Bible gives very clear guidelines regarding all of this:
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)When is the last time you heard of a church obeying God's guidelines regarding immorality? It's extremely rare. Why? The infiltration of dys-graceful philosophies into the church. Do we not understand that it's a powerful expression of love to trust God's wisdom in the handling of sin in the camp? He desires redemption and he understand that it takes severity to get people there at times.
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (ESV)That is love in action. It should not be done with a heart of retribution, but rather with tears streaming down our cheeks we should intercede passionately for them. We have no choice but to obey God and administer his prescription for their behavior.
TRUE GRACE WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND SHAKE THE PLANET!True grace empowers us to do the impossible. Who wouldn't want to sign up for that? What a life we can live if we step into the current of the Holy Spirit's movement on the earth! As we trust God's Word, preach the truth and move in supernatural grace we will live miraculous lives that will pierce the darkness and topple demonic kingdoms…and rescue precious souls.
A basketball legend is suddenly gone, yet the world carries on mostly unconcerned about where people will spend eternity.
Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in Southern California, according to a TMZ report confirmed by Variety and the Los Angeles Times.To say that I'm sick in my spirit would be a woefully weak attempt to explain the internal trauma I'm experiencing right now. I'm certainly saddened by today's tragic news of the loss of Kobe Bryant, and my heart goes out to his family, his many friends and his fans who loved him. However, the source of my grief isn't limited to the loss of several people who entered eternity in a helicopter crash today. It's much, much deeper, more comprehensive and incredibly serious than even today's awful events were.
The crash comes one day after Bryant was passed by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.Mamba 4 Life. Those haunting words adorned on the sneakers of LeBron James are almost too much to bear. Life would last less than one more day for Kobe. I feel raw, and if I were to be completely honest, a little hopeless. For years I've been sounding alarms to a sleeping, casual, unconcerned and presumptuous people, mostly Christians, who refuse to adopt a fearful tremble in their spirits. Other men and women much more anointed, effective and reputable then myself have been doing the same, yet there are millions of people, both lost and saved, who have no sense of forever. Too many are slipping right into eternity and down into an indescribable, eternal fire. The parties continue. The intoxication on entertainment is non-stop. Fame, wealth, notoriety, pleasure and greed drive our culture, and so many in the church have likewise been seduced. Listen to the podcast… We need awakeners to arise in the world, those who will power through the false ideologies and theologies and excuses and accusations and shout, “Wake up! You are in great, imminent danger! The earth is about to swallow up the casual, unconcerned sleepers! Arise before it's too late and repent!”
THE ONLY REASON WE ARE ALIVEThe purpose of this sliver of time on the Earth before we launch into eternity is to glorify God and to advance his Kingdom. That's it. Please listen to me, we are called to be fiery, passionate lovers of Jesus every moment of our existence. As we live our daily lives, we must be consumed by God as we walk and live and pray in the Spirit. We go to sleep praying, we wake up praying, we worship throughout the day, we live holy. we battle the enemy and we advance with great anointing as God leads. Yes, we are to enjoy our lives. Yes, our families are precious. Yes, we can fall in love. Yes, we can be entertained. Yes, we can relax. Yet none of this should ever compromise our unrelenting zeal for Jesus. We are aliens from another world with an other-worldly mission that should consume us every second of our lives. Kobe Bryant and Eternity from John Burton on Vimeo.
DEADLY DOCTRINESI won't take the space to debate theology right now. I'm not in that state of mind. I'm wrecked and undone. I'm provoked and irritated. Irritated enough to go for the throat of deadly doctrines that so many are selling their very souls for. I'm upset at those who have been seduced, but I'm enraged at the pastoral impostors who are selling this snake oil. Without hesitation I'm shouting from the rooftops with everything I have that false-grace and eternal security theologies are seductive poisons that are leading untold numbers to Hell every day. I believe it's quite rare for someone to enter Heaven. Of course, I could never confirm this, but just like you I have the right to an opinion. I believe following Jesus is a much more serious, sobering and costly endeavor than most realize, and I wonder if maybe one in 500 enter Heaven instead of Hell when they die. Point two percent. The level of surrender that's required is well off most people's grids. They erroneously lean on the story of the thief on the cross to affirm their casual position and their belief that all it takes is a “prayer of salvation.” I don't believe any of us will ever understand the level of surrender that man committed to.
THIS ISN'T ABOUT KOBE BRYANT…IT'S ABOUT YOUKobe Bryant isn't on the earth anymore, but he is somewhere right now. We don't know where. You or I don't know what the level of his passion for Jesus was. This article isn't about him, however, It's about you. It's about me. It's rare to find people who are on fire, who are surrendered, who are living holy lives and who are preaching raw, offensive truth. It's this truth that will wake the dead and provoke the sleepers to arise. Eternity is upon us. 150,000 people die every day. It's 5pm right now. This means, since Kobe Bryant died, in the neighborhood of 31,250 more people have died and entered into eternity. Since I started writing this article about a half an hour ago, approximately 3,125 people have died. …30 minutes later, as I'm proof reading the article, another 3,125 people have died. Is it possible that of the 150,000 people who die today that only around 3,000 will be with Jesus forever? 147,000, give or take, will be tormented non-stop as they are gripped with indescribable, maddening terror that will never end? Yes, it's absolutely possible. We can't know for sure, but the sheer possibility should crush us. You can see why I'm broken and heartsick. You can understand my holy rage.
WE NEED HELLFIRE PREACHERSI'm done with the ridiculous, passive and biblically unsound messages of “love and kindness” that are choking out the fiery truths of Scripture. Of course, we need a greater revelation of the love of Jesus, but, man, how people have twisted that reality! I implore you to read some articles that speak directly to this issue:
- The Great Love Deception : A False-Love Movement is on the Rise
- “Damn John Burton to Hell!” The Return to Convicting Preaching that Riles Demons
- Is It Time for Hell-Fire Preaching Again?
- 5 Marks of the False Grace Message
“I’m just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play,” James said.Bryant congratulated James via Twitter not long after his historic basket. sin into your life? What about pornography? Lust? Greed? Unforgiveness? Hate? Unbelief? Are you a walking furnace of intercession, or are you devoid of fire? Have you lost your first love? Please don't ever presume you are safe because of a prayer you prayed. You are not. Salvation requires endurance and it must be worked out with fear and trembling. Remember, you are not alive to fulfill your personal dreams. The selfish pursuit of dreams and the entertainment induced drunkenness must come to an end. You are alive for a single purpose—to serve the King and to know him intimately. I implore you to wake up, to get serious and to embrace the call to martyrdom. Lay your life down, and do it now. We are all one breath away from leaving our physical bodies and stepping into forever.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
The uniting of two sinister forces, hyper-grace and hyper-love, has created a ferocious monster that is devastating lives.I'm going to do something I've never done, because I believe right now, in light of the current false-grace/false-love crisis, the message of my book “The Coming Church” is an urgent one. I'm giving away the ebook version of this 300 page nuclear bomb of prophetic revelation for FREE. Download your copy immediately HERE. I believe there are two evil, powerful and seductive demonic spirits that are roaming freely in churches all over the world, and people are celebrating them, promoting them and imparting them into millions of others. These spirits, dark and crafty entities that have already caused extreme destruction in innumerable people, are: hyper-grace and hyper-love. The reason I call these two mindsets, philosophies and theologies “spirits” is simple: Satan has devised a scheme to deceive the church to such a degree that people believe themselves to be radical followers of Jesus while living in such a way that disqualifies them from an eternity with Jesus. Those infected by hyper-grace and hyper-love are at great risk, with many of them already surrendering their salvation and many others moving in that direction. I was at Jimmy Swaggart's confession in 1988. I helped give leadership to a city-wide prayer movement with Ted Haggard approximately 15 years ago. My wife and I had a private meeting with Todd Bentley in Lakeland in 2008. All three had a powerful, undeniable anointing. All three failed dramatically. Hyper-grace didn't restore them. Hyper-love didn't remedy the destruction. I remember John Bevere sharing the story of him visiting Jim Bakker in prison. John asked Jim, “When did you stop loving God?” Jim shocked John Bevere by saying, “I never stopped loving God. I stopped fearing God.” Listen to the podcast…
HYPER-LOVEFor a closer view into this topic of hyper-love, read one of my more popular articles titled, “The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The Rise,” HERE.
When we encounter love, we will be presented with a view of God that is quite different than what we previously understood to be true. God’s love can be expressed in a very direct, uncomfortable way that breaks you and may even wonder how a loving God could act that way. God’s expression of love will often put you at risk, threaten you and trouble you. ~The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The RiseI'll say it loud, clear and repeatedly until it's finally received: The love of God that results in glorious breakthrough and warm feelings, no matter how great the revelation, is not nearly enough to keep us calibrated with the heart and expectations of God. (Yes, contrary to the love camp, God absolutely has expectations. If you read your Bible, you can't miss them.) I've heard from countless people, most of them wonderful yet deceived, that all we need to do, whether its in evangelism, in our personal relationship with Jesus, in ministry or in any place in our life is to focus on God's love. Reveal God's love. Preach God's love. Grow in understanding of God's love. Go deep in God's love. Meditate on God's love. Study about God's love. Minister God's love. I'll be the first to say that I agree we have the glorious opportunity to do what they are campaigning for. Going deep in revelation of God's love will mark us, transform us and overwhelm us. God's love is powerful beyond description. However, it's not enough. The fear of God is critical (and fear here doesn't always translate as reverence. It's also translated as terror in places.) We must embrace both God's kindness and severity. We must minister both. Someone mentioned to me that God would forgive him if he starts dating a girl who wants to have sex prior to marriage. He knew that this sin was wrong, but he didn't believe it was a big deal, and God certainly wouldn't send anybody to Hell over it. He argued he could just ask for forgiveness later and all would be well. While most might not be as brazen as this young man, millions would actually agree with him. The percentages of people who profess Christ while also living in sexual sin is staggering. Fornication, pornography, lust, adultery and other sinful lifestyles are a pandemic in the church. A misunderstanding of God's love has led to this. The bible is clear on just what appropriate love looks like in this case:
11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (ESV)True love protects the flock, and true love trusts God's wisdom. True love obeys God even when it doesn't feel like the humanized love so many have adopted. When leaders are the ones in sin, love demands we handle it immediately. Ministry must stop for that individual. Restoration into the ministry is not the next step. It's possible they will never step behind a pulpit again. That's okay. Ministry has become an idol for too many. True love will expose that in someone's heart and deal with it. True repentance is so rare today. I am waiting for the day the failed minister is more broken over the lives he destroyed than he is endeavoring to start preaching again. That is true love in action.
HYPER-GRACEMy article “Five Marks of the False-Grace Message” is my most read ever, and the most scrutinized. Read it HERE.
We as Christians are not exempt from judgment or from the repercussions of sin. If we are in Christ, there is no condemnation, but if we are deceived by false theology into thinking we are in Christ, while actually living in disobedience, we are in trouble. We are not in Christ and there is condemnation. No salvation. The wrath of God remains on us. False-grace doctrine is eternally deadly. There are many people following Jesus today in an unsaved condition. ~Five Marks of the False-Grace MessageWhen you add the deception of hyper-love to hyper-grace, a rampant theology that actually encourages Christians NOT to confess sin, you have a two-headed monster that is bringing widespread destruction to the church. Those who subscribe to both deceptions promote God's love and forgiveness to the exclusion of his severity, and they believe God is indifferent to sin. This monster creates the perfect environment for sin to be nurtured, and to kill.
15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:15 (ESV)So, the response to sin is tepid. The threat is wildly minimized. Instead of a severe and immediate response to sin, “love” and “grace” is enacted, believing all is well and that is all that's necessary to see happy restoration take place. This fallacy has put millions in the path of unrepentant ministers and has caused many of those millions to adopt doctrines of demons as a result. When true love and true grace are in play, it looks very different than the passive, mild response we see today. People presume that we are all sinners (we are not) and that we all sin daily (we should not) and therefore the sexual sin, sins of leadership, unforgiveness, lust, greed and any other number of evil acts are minimized, deemed benign. In reality, unrepentant, unresolved sin is eternally deadly, especially for Christians.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)False-love coupled with false-grace will rip people to shreds spiritually. It's already seduced untold numbers of people. I want to encourage you to read a bold, sobering and tear-driven message from Jeremiah Johnson regarding the recent controversy regarding Todd Bentley and Rick Joyner. It was written with much prayer and fasting, and the message it contains will have us all trembling in the fear of the Lord. You can read the message titled, “An Open Letter To The Body Of Christ 8/26/19,” HERE. If you'd like more details on the current crisis, read a Charisma News article titled, “Revivalist Todd Bentley Accused of ‘Sexual Perversion' With Male, Female Interns,” that was released today HERE.
Arguments against the invitation to go deep in God are increasing…and it’s Christians who are leading the resistance.
re·li·gion /rəˈlijən/ Man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
Slap the label “religious” on anything that threatens your theology or impacts your definition of freedom. It feels spiritual. It is spiritual. The demonic spirit realm is filled with unholy wisdom, and very often this is the source of such a defense. Today’s rallying cry seems to be fueled by the desire to be free from anything that places restraints, expectations or requirements upon someone. All of that, to them, is religious.
Many of the arguments are coming from those who have been duped into believing an unbiblical doctrine of grace. This false-grace ideology presumes that all has been completed by Jesus, and that nothing remains for us to do in order to be in relationship with him. Simply, his actions on the cross and at the tomb were sufficient. The result, if we only understood, they would argue, is that absolutely nothing can be done by us to increase our nearness to him, and, from the other direction, nothing can be done to decrease his nearness to us.
They argue that our sin is impotent. Our effort is both futile and unnecessary, and actually an offense to the finished work of Jesus. Their proposition is that we simply need a revelation of this supposed truth. When they discovered it themselves, burdens and weights were lifted and they began enjoying God as a good, good Father. They would say they do nothing, except believe and receive and live in that revelation.
The truth is that eliminating every burden (God’s burden is light, not non-existent) just may cost us our lives. If you are carrying a backpack on your three-day hike into the mountains, it’s going to get heavy. If you decided to take it off and leave it behind, it will feel like freedom! You are suddenly relieved of that irritating, uncomfortable burden. However, you will also be without food, water, a sleeping bag and shelter. The elements of the world will overtake you and you may very possibly succumb.
I celebrate with zeal every time someone I know encounters legitimate freedom and the immeasurable love of the Father! However, our experience in God cannot stop there. Those who do stop short need to be awakened to the deeper call of God on their lives.
You see, religion isn’t that which produces a barrier to freedom, it’s the attempt to use God in order to have the most pleasurable experience possible, no matter how selfish that pursuit may be.
Those who wanted Jesus to be their king one day, turned on him and demanded his death the next. Why? They were not set on worshiping Jesus but rather on using him. When he didn’t deliver what they wanted, they decided to eliminate him for a better option. This is religion in action.
9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9 (ESV)
12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:12-15 (ESV)
A SIMPLE YET PROFOUND CALL
God is calling us into the deep.
The only way there is through radical surrender, fervent intercession, living in the Spirit and unapologetic holiness.
We must die daily. We must be living sacrifices.
I’m writing this from my hotel room during a ministry trip to Albany, New York, and I’m watching The International House of Prayer’s prayer room live on YouTube. I was on staff at IHOPKC for a couple of years and it was easy to see one specific reality: Most of these people were devoted to God at a level rarely seen in this nation. They weren’t perfect people, but they were hungry people with a level of consecration rarely seen in the church. I’ve known many people who are offended at this. They actually despise IHOPKC and ministries like them. Why? Because their own level of passion for Jesus and depth in God are exposed as lacking. The thought that much is required of disciples of Jesus is contrary to their personal pursuits of undisciplined freedom.
Understand, I know these words I’m writing are provocative. I also believe they must be written so I can most effectively make my point. As obvious as it seems, a growing number of people in this generation don’t get it: we can only experience the deep things of God if we are fervent, radical, surrendered and dying daily to the things of the flesh. There is no other way. There are no shortcuts.
At IHOPKC and other similar ministries all around the world, people are praying 2-4 hours a day or more. They are allowing the groans of the Spirit to erupt out of them. They are devouring the Word of God as they allow the presence of God to permeate them in the prayer room. The Holy Spirit is speaking to them with clarity. The prophetic atmosphere around them is electric. Dreams, visions and a powerful anointing become regular. The chambers of their heart are opened to the searching of the Spirit of God. These people are undone, hungry, desperate and relentless.
Yet, those who subscribe to the unbiblical “freedom theologies” that I addressed above somehow believe that they are as close to God as those who are giving themselves in a more deliberate manner, even if they make no effort in drawing close to him.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10 (ESV)
A POWERFUL ANOINTING
I’ll never forget the time I had a regional prayer meeting in my church. A well known mega-church leader was in the prayer meeting along with several of his friends. I was praying with my eyes closed when I felt this intense wave of the glory of God wash over me. I opened my eyes and this man of God had just walked by me. I waited for him to make another lap, and as he passed by again, the wave hit me a second time. This happened several times.
I knew this man knew God. There was a depth that was uncommon. He was living in such a way that resulted in a very powerful anointing swirling around him. I yearned to do whatever it took to carry that type of glory on my own life.
I’ve experienced similar manifestations several times, and each time leaves me crying out for a deeper hunger and a more resolute life.
Pastor John Kilpatrick was preaching at a Bay of the Holy Spirit remote event in Detroit. I was on the front row during this morning session enjoying the wisdom that John was releasing to us. Suddenly, in the middle of a point, he stopped. He simply said, “He’s here.”
As he gazed toward the rear of the auditorium, I turned my head and looked myself. You could see a wave of God’s glory moving from the back to the front, row by row. Then it hit me. If I had an unlimited vocabulary at my disposal, I would still not be able to describe that experience. Simply, God arrived.
There is no way that manifests except via a radically devoted life, a life that John Kilpatrick exemplifies. There are precious few who live this way.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)
As we life consecrated lives, encounters are revelations will increase. The truth found in Scripture will explode off the pages. We will be undone. As with Isaiah, the revelations will result in a declaration of God’s holiness and our weakness and struggle. If there is sin in our lives, it will be instantly evident. Then, the fire will sear us and our redemption and deliverance will be made clear.
We will live with a never-ending burning in our spirits and a tremble that marks us forever.
If we want to experience the wonders of God, radical consecration is the only option.
5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Not only will we live tepid, powerless lives that are focused mostly on our own personal experience instead of laying our lives down for Jesus, but those who refuse to consecrate and devote in the place of intense prayer and surrender are at risk of eternal separation from God. There is a terror of Hell that the enemy is making ready for them to experience.
My book The Terror of Hell is a sobering message of how intimacy with Jesus and salvation in Jesus are related. In the encounter, I was dragged toward Hell. The terror I experienced was horrifying and fully indescribable. God spoke to me after the encounter and said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
It’s possible that a Christian may be in a good place today, but in the future they may grow apathetic or they may lose their first love. Here’s a portion of an article based on my book:
A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him. This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.
We need a wakeup call, church. We can’t presume to be in a place of safety simply because we said a prayer, go to church, give offerings and talk about Jesus. An intense pursuit of holiness and intimacy is required.
This is a message that must be shouted from the rooftops.
I can’t imagine multiplied millions of people who are current following Jesus in an unsaved condition crying out in terror one day, “I’m going to Hell? That’s impossible!”
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)
WE MUST DIVE INTO THE DEEP
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
Unbiblical “freedom theologies” reject the call to the deep. I’ve had people actually tell me that going deep is unnecessary. Others have called people out of the prayer rooms! They argue it’s an unnecessary practice if we truly understand that there is nothing left to be done. They say we just need to rest in our fully resolved position in Christ. Still others reject prayer movements like IHOPKC because their devotion to intercession is a devotion to unnecessary works.
I’ll be honest with you, I never thought I’d see entire movements of supposed Spirit-filled Christians standing in opposition to prayer!
Someone connected with me on Facebook recently and shared her desperation to see a prayer movement emerge in her region. She actually said she’s been involved in a church that’s all about revival, but they haven’t had a prayer meeting in ten years! I simply responded by confirming her suspicions: you can’t be a revival church without a fervent, consistent and supernatural culture of prayer. It’s impossible.
THE SUBMARINE DREAM
My wife and I were in a military grade nuclear submarine following behind a second submarine that contained my Father and Mother-in-law.
I was analyzing the situation, trying to gain understanding on what exactly were were doing while my wife was playfully looking through the periscope. Both submarines were staying at the surface of the water, and they were being used as tour vessels. The atmosphere was playful and carefree.
After a short time everybody was done playing and we decided to park the submarines alongside a long pier. We climbed out and walked down the pier and onto an ocean side boardwalk. There were people everywhere enjoying a beautiful sunny day. The restaurants and shops were full of activity.
We walked onto the sandy beach which was about one hundred yards from the submarines.
As we gazed out over the water, both submarines suddenly began leaving. They headed out toward deeper water.
My in-laws immediately started running into the water giving chase to the submarines. As they did, I was thinking that it was impossible for them to get anywhere near to the fast moving vessels and I didn’t understand why they had tried.
Then, my wife ran into the water as well.
What I saw next can’t easily be described in a way that is true to the emotion I felt. The water immediately began erupting as if a powerful hurricane was upon us. I was terrorized as I frantically tried to devise a plan to help. What I saw next drained every bit of hope from my being. A whirlpool opened up underneath my in-laws and sucked them under. Then, a second whirlpool took my wife.
I was screaming for help. A few people gathered around but could offer no help whatsoever. I called 911 and all I heard was this recording, “We can’t send help for an hour. We can’t send help for an hour.”
It looped over and over. I knew that THIS was the hour. I couldn’t wait! The emergency was upon us.
As I stood on the beach, hopeless, the scene changed.
Only a few days had passed yet it was now bitterly cold and the water had frozen over. There was at least ten feet of snow on top of the ice.
I started moving slowly, though as quickly as I could, through the snow in the direction of where the whirlpools were.
I started digging ferociously and what I saw next will forever be seared in my memory.
It was my wife, frozen. She was gone.
I ran back to the boardwalk and into a restaurant. I saw someone who had tried to help previously behind the counter of a sports bar. He was a volunteer firefighter in addition to working at the restaurant. I yelled, “Help! Help! I found her! I found her! Come quickly!”
He just casually said, “Sorry man, I’m working.”
What? I couldn’t believe what I heard. I said, “No, you don’t understand! I found my wife! I need help!”
He just said, “Sorry.” and then looked at a customer and said, “How can I help you?”
I ran back to the snow where my wife was buried. I thought that maybe, just maybe, since she was frozen that there was a chance she could be revived. I’ve heard of people freezing and their heart beat is slowed to almost nothing before being brought back.
As I was thinking about this I looked down at her, and there was a piece of paper right next to her frozen face.
I picked it up. All it said was, “Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.”
Then I woke up.
When I woke up I was shaken to my core.
As I started to pray and analyze the dream, the following is what was highlighted to me:
- The submarines: Vehicles represent ministry, and I believe the submarines represented the church. The church is not meant for casual play at the surface of the water. It’s a military weapon of war designed to move into the deep as it advances toward enemy targets. When the submarines left on their own, that represented the truth that the church will most certainly advance on its mission with or without us. We can be left behind as we continue our focus on entertainment and leisure if we so choose.
- My family: Of course, this was a hard core part of the dream. The first reaction is to do everything I can to ensure those close to me are doing well and burning hot for Jesus. Beyond that, symbolically I feel they represented familiarity and presumption. It’s very easy to presume those who are close to us are most certainly doing well in their relationship with Jesus—and then to model our lives after theirs. What happens so often is that we can adopt their pace and their level of passion instead of staying locked in, on alert and advancing in the fire of God. The pressure of maintaining civilities and false-unity can result in a marginalized, lukewarm, casual disposition.
This verse best represents what I am communicating:
…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
We must be careful not to presume that we are alive and that others are alive simply because of the preceding reputations. There are many people with both a spiritual legacy and a name for being zealous who are doing little more than playing—and it’s possible that those people may be some of our closest friends, family, pastors and other personal heroes. Don’t measure your life by their grid. We must calibrate to the truth in scripture that will bring light to every issue of our heart.
Then, we can be true awakeners. If we think people who are are asleep are already awake, then we will have no need to step into our roles as end-time prophetic messengers.
- 911: I was sounding the alarm in a variety of ways including by calling 911. I also ran into the sports bar looking for help. Both rejected the alarm. It’s clear that the hour is now for awakening though even those trained as emergency responders won’t see it. What was the alarm? Those that have a reputation of being alive are dead! Wake up!
- The storm: It was sudden, violent and really out of place. It didn’t make sense, but it wasn’t obligated to explain itself. If we would have been in the submarines AND in the deep, the storm would not have touched us.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; Matthew 24:36-38
So, what’s the call?
It’s simple, and it’s directed to the church, to those who are to be in the deep:
Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:4-6
God instructed me to wrestle with Revelation 3:1. I've been burning hot for Jesus for over 20 years, yet, is it possible that my devotion is not as deep as I might think? Yes, it is possible.
God didn't accuse me of being dead. He didn't reveal that my passion was false. He simply wanted me to always consider the possibility that my reputation will always be at risk of being more intense than my reality.
…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
It's time to go deep, to be awake and alert and then to awaken the sleepers…many who may have a reputation of being very much alive…but are not.
It’s time for revival, not the promotion of selfish “freedom theologies.” This is the hour.
Misunderstanding grace as it relates to salvation has compromised the theology of millions.
False-grace adherents, Universalists and the millions who subscribe to the doctrine of eternal security (once saved, always saved) arrive at their related positions via a theological journey that takes them all right through Ephesians 2:8-9.
They have been so inoculated by this belief system that anybody who suggests that faith is not enough, or that works play a part in salvation, must be following another Jesus and subscribing to another gospel.
Antinomianism is often the result for those who reject works in relationship to salvation. Antinomianism states that God forgives sins fully, and sinning has no disadvantage. Additionally, obedience has no impact. If it did, it would taint what Jesus did at Calvary.
Regarding Antinomianism, Steve Hill wrote:
Purveyors of this poisonous teaching fail to realize that Jesus calls us beyond the requirements of the law in His teaching, stating, for example, that adultery refers to adultery of the heart and not just the physical act (Matt. 5:27-28).
This, folks, is an eternally destructive theology.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? James 2:14 (ESV)
The question is answered several verses later:
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. James 2:24 (ESV)
In order for that verse to register rightly, we’ll have to talk about the difference between our own works and works that are graced and mandated by God. There is much more to the salvation equation than simply exhibiting faith.
The idea that all we have to do is believe in faith to gain salvation leads many to believe that all is well after we profess that faith. We are forever secure no matter how we live.
The manifestation of that belief is destructive in many ways, on many levels. Just yesterday someone quite adamantly told me that Hitler most definitely could have been saved. They also said that Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about possibly entering the ministry and preaching as a United Methodist should be celebrated. Since she believed on Christ long ago, she should be affirmed in her pursuit, no matter what abominable fruit she may produce.
Where did the basis of the argument come from? A misunderstanding of salvation, of faith and of works of righteousness. Many professing Christians simply are not saved. Some were at one point and their unrighteous decisions cost them their relationship with Christ.
WHAT KIND OF WORKS ARE NECESSARY?
A lot of people get tripped up when considering works as a part of our salvation process. Many have flashbacks to Catholic penance, where repetitively reciting the rosary is the prescribed answer to their sin. This, friend, is not the type of works that we should be endeavoring to accomplish. In no way should we attempt to trade work for an eternal paycheck.
Let’s look at a passage of Scripture:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)
This is a solid, clear truth. Our own righteousness is a non-player. Works that come from our own righteousness are fruitless. Jesus alone could atone for our sins and make it possible for us to be in relationship with God. Jesus alone could make a way for us to spend eternity with him. So, on the front end, we don’t have anything of worth to offer.
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; Romans 3:10 (ESV)
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned– In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; Isaiah 64:5-6 (NKJV)
Understand, our own attempts to atone for our own filthiness is futile. It’s laughable. We deserve Hell and we are absolutely helpless outside of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.
But, works of another type absolutely do play a role in our salvation. Obedience and a right response to be holy is critical. If we don’t play our part, our salvation was either never secure, or it can be surrendered.
Above, in Titus chapter three, it was made clear that our righteousness and our works were powerless in regard to salvation. However, the message continues:
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. Titus 3:8 (NKJV)
True faith must manifest works that are not empowered by our own ability, but rather graced by God himself.
Let’s look at Ephesians 2:8-9 a little more closely:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved…
Another way to say it would be, “God, through divine favor and influence, has empowered you to be made whole.”
Since it’s impossible for us, in our humanness, to work the miracle of salvation, to bridge that uncrossable chasm, no matter how hard we work at it, God granted the power necessary.
You could reword this by saying, “by being convicted and convinced of truth, and becoming reliant upon Christ…”
Faith is a loaded word. We know that even demons believe. They are convinced that Jesus is Lord, but their reaction is very different. If simple belief was all that was necessary for salvation, we’d be living in our heavenly mansions next door to demons of every stench. Of course, that will not happen, so just what defines faith? Our response. Our obedience. Our works. I don’t believe works that are empowered by God’s grace are simply an “expected outcome” for one who comes to Jesus. (Have you ever met someone who “got saved” and still struggles with obedience?) I believe they are an integral, strategic part of the salvation process. God’s grace and our response are both key.
And, yes, I’ll agree to a point that you are probably thinking about right now. Consecration takes time. However, I believe a repeated failure at consecration can threaten our justification. We can’t take God’s calls to obedience and works lightly. Faith is not enough.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…
God initiated the relationship. He did what we could not do. Our wretchedness wouldn’t keep him away and our righteousness wouldn’t draw him near. God recognized that we all had hit rock bottom as we realized we had no power whatsoever to save ourselves. His love required that he simply rescue us by offering a relationship with him, and we didn’t have to pay for it, work for it or convince him we were worthy. We could never be.
Our humility is required as we allow God to move in and take over. Outside of Christ there is no grace to live in obedience so the only option was for God’s gift to be given.
…not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
God knew any hope of relationship with him would be compromised if we ever thought we could find salvation through our own effort. Our pride would take over and we’d boast about our remarkable abilities to find eternal life outside of God.
Here’s how this works: We can’t say, “Thanks God, but no thanks. I really don’t want to subscribe to your methods, protocols or mandates. I want to do this on my own terms, so I’m going to give one million dollars to charity. I’ll also do good, be good and think good thoughts. I’ll pay my own way. See you in Heaven some day (but don’t bother me too much. I’ll be busy doing my own thing there too.)”
We need God. Period. So, we are graced when we truly believe to be in relationship with Jesus AND adopt his way of life. We cannot simply have faith and then live according to our own plans. Works are not simply an evidence of faith, they are a key part of the salvation process. What trips people up so often is a misunderstanding of our own works versus works that are graced by God to fulfill. When God gives us power to respond, we must respond.
In order for this article to be written, I need the free power that the laptop receives by being plugged into the outlet in the coffee shop. I couldn’t type this out without the gift of electricity. Because of that grace, I can now get to work. God will anoint me, inspire me, grace me and empower me to write, but he won’t write it for me.
OUR WORKS ARE FRUITLESS BUT WORKS EMPOWERED BY GOD’S GRACE ARE MANDATED
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
Immediately after our human works were deemed to have no value in regard to our salvation, the very next verse highlights a primary purpose of our salvation—good works that we must walk in! Again, works are not an automatic result of salvation, nor are they disconnected from salvation. Works are mandated and God gives us the grace to those who are saved to fulfill them.
God absolutely will grace us to obey, but we must be the ones to respond. If we live a life of disobedience to God, a life devoid of works, the salvation that we freely received via faith will quickly be surrendered.
We have been given a gift that’s much greater than spending eternity in Heaven (and not in Hell). God’s grace enables us to work miracles! We can be full of supernatural joy and life every day! The works we now can do could never be done in the old covenant. Jesus made it possible to work wonders!
Yes, I believe calls to obedience and work that are fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit do impact our salvation, but they also launch us into a phenomenal, remarkable, other worldly life!
We absolutely can live free from sin! If we do sin (not when), we have access to Jesus and the same grace that we discovered when we initially gave our lives to him.
Let’s be sober regarding the issue of grace, faith and works but also exuberant! Jesus has made it possible to live the most amazing life—now, and forever with him in eternity!
The blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity. It grants us authority.
The rise of the unbiblical false-grace message has had predictable results: Christians are increasingly dabbling in darkness in the name of freedom. Those in that camp wrongly presume their casual response to sin has no consequences and that God’s love will cover every iniquity.
My recent Charisma News article on the dangers of engaging in cultural wickedness resulted in some Christians reacting in disagreement. Many vehemently resisted the idea that we should have any measure of concern about participating in Halloween due to our position in Christ—a position they believe cannot be compromised no matter how we behave. However, this emerging false principle reaches far beyond whether we should go trick or treating or not. Our entire lives are at risk the moment we dismiss caution regarding the unholy.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
This unbiblical, permissive principle that laughs at concern over evil in our culture gives license to careless playing with darkness. As a result, the aggressive defense against calls to separation and consecration very often comes in the form of an accusation. They presume to be standing for liberty and against religion as they boldly accuse messengers of holiness of legalism.
I actually believe it’s a severe offense to the cross when we reject calls of consecration in the name of freedom. This liberal position of casual unrighteousness is gaining wide acceptance in the Charismatic world. Instead of exposing the darkness, the evil in the land is resulting in a collective yawn.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:6-10 (ESV)
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 5:11-12 (ESV)
The argument is that we as Christians should never be afraid of repercussions from entertaining worldly elements in our culture. After all, perfect love casts out all fear, right?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 (ESV)
Perfect love doesn’t automatically manifest simply because we are saved and that we have a connection with Jesus. Not even close. Perfect love produces evidences and one of those evidences is a repulsion of anything that is unholy.
I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music. I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. Psalm 101:1-3 (ESV)
Perfect and steadfast love, as declared in the above passage, results in worship of God AND living a blameless life. We won’t put anything worthless, or anything wicked as the Kings James Version puts it, before our eyes. We will have a hatred of anything unholy and will do all we can to ensure it doesn’t cling to us.Sadly, instead of hating the wickedness in our culture, many are working hard to validate their “innocent” participation as proof of their freedom. The result? Wickedness is clinging to them as they bring dishonor to the God they say they love. Deception is running rampant.
WHAT ABOUT THE BLOOD?
Many presume the mere act of repeating a prayer and inviting Jesus into their life makes them bulletproof. The idea is that a revelation of the power of the blood will result in a confidence that we are untouchable by the enemy. Thus, we can have no concern regarding our behaviors, what we are entertained by or the growing darkness in the land. We can participate without fear. Friend, that is a gross misunderstanding of liberty, love and fear.
Others have accused preachers of righteousness of inciting fear in people when they talk about the consequences of participating in worldly entertainment such as Halloween, immoral movies and television and music. The truth is that ungodly fear of the enemy is an expected result if we are aligning ourselves with him. The warning is to resist the devil, not to ignore him. If we resist, we can walk free from fear. However, if we ignore the enemy or dismiss worldly attractions as benign, we open ourselves up to a very real nightmare. We can’t embrace evil and avoid fear. It’s not possible.
If we are entertaining demons and the evil that demanded the slaughter of Jesus, we can be sure our love has not been made perfect. Further, we can have confidence that access to our lives has been granted to very evil beings.
The blood of Jesus absolutely does not grant Christians immunity from attack or from the influences of evil that we open our lives to. The blood of Jesus grants us authority to pierce the darkness as we live consecrated, blameless lives of perfect love.
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight. Proverbs 11:19-20 (ESV)
Our connections, or alliances, or permissions can make us extremely vulnerable. They result in open doors for the enemy to access our lives.
A very important question comes from the Bible: Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:2-3 (KJV)
The moment we roll our eyes at those who are making calls for holiness is the moment we become aligned with evil. Further, our agreement with the enemy and his plans of destruction result in a hand-in-hand walk with him. We become partners. We further his cause while we shout freedom from the rooftops and mock those who are exposing the darkness.
No, the blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity. But, if we walk in authority the power of the blood is beyond our ability to imagine! Sin is eradicated in a moment. Disease is healed, demons are cast out and people are transformed for eternity!
HOUSE CLEANING AND DELIVERANCE
I’ve been involved in some incredible deliverances and house cleanings over my 25 years of ministry. I absolutely love it when I can participate in ministering freedom and deliverance to people who are bound up by the enemy.
Some amazing Christian people have been unable to break free until they went through deliverance or until they invited people to pray through their house. One person actually removed twelve large trash bags full of items from their home after such a ministry session with my wife and me. The items were acting as curses upon them simply because they brought them into their homes.
Others eliminated movies and other media from their DVR or devices that were resulting in oppression and demonic activity.
In fact, over twenty years ago I sat down to watch a very popular movie at the time, Silence of the Lambs. Common spiritual sense should have made it clear that I shouldn’t watch such a movie. Nevertheless, I did, and in the middle of it the Holy Spirit spoke very directly to me: John, you have to turn this off.
Some time went by and my new wife and I were vacationing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. One night in the hotel I was exhausted and decided to go to bed early. As I was drifting to sleep I noticed my wife decided to watch Silence of the Lambs. I saw that it was on network television, so it was the “sanctified” version. I wasn’t too concerned and I fell asleep quite quickly.
I suddenly started dreaming, if you can call it that. It was real and it was pure evil. I couldn’t breathe as the demonic atmosphere overwhelmed me. In the dream I was in the same bed, in the same hotel room as I was in reality. I looked over and saw my wife next to me. She was watching Silence of the Lambs.
I then started levitating above the bed and was maneuvered above my wife. Somehow I had a very large knife in my right hand. As I was convulsing due to the inability to breathe, I took the knife and violently advanced against my wife with the intent to murder her.
Then I woke up.
My wife was extremely disturbed as she was shaking me awake. She told me I was convulsing and aggressive. Nothing like that had ever happened to me and it was disturbing.
As I came to, Silence of the Lambs was still on the television. I told her to turn it off immediately.
The room was filled with the thickness of demonic activity. Now awake, I could still barely breathe. The evil we somewhat unwittingly invited into the room had taken up residence.
Now, remember, my wife and I were blood-bought, Spirit-filled Christians. We were not immune to the attack of the enemy that we invited into our lives by watching that video. We opened the door and gave Satan authority to move in.
After turning off the television, we didn’t rely on immunity and ignore the myriad of demons in the room. That immunity wasn’t there. What we did, however, was move in our authority.
We repented for our sin and commanded every demon to leave, in the name of Jesus. Instantly they obeyed and left. The room was clean again and I could breathe.
Why am I sharing this? I want to point out how vulnerable we are to the enemy if we participate in unrighteousness. The evils of Halloween, most media and other forms of entertainment are saturated with demonic intent, and all it takes is an open door. Our participation is that open door. You can’t innocently, harmlessly go trick or treating, dress up the kids and eat candy. You can’t determine that certain types of movies don’t offend you if they contain forbidden content. We must not put anything wicked before our eyes. We must not adopt the evil in our culture.
“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. Deuteronomy 18:9 (ESV)
Depression, fear, anger, sickness and even death can come if we don’t aggressively resist the devil and his schemes while proclaiming to follow Jesus. It’s that serious.
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11:28-30 (ESV)
It’s critical that we examine ourselves, live blamelessly and resist the devil. If we are careless in the name of freedom, we can only expect open doors to allow those who are bent on destroying us free access.
On the contrary, if we sound the alarm, reject wickedness and call people to righteousness, if we live in love and are zealous servants of the most high God, we can walk in extreme authority and annihilate the kingdom of darkness!
I never thought a simple comment would result in such a reaction.
“I give myself an 80% chance of making Heaven.”
There it is. A clear and simple comment that has provoked people into honest pondering at the least and vicious personal assaults at the worst.
Before I continue, allow me to provide some context. This message is intended for those who believe that a Christian can lose their salvation. We have to have a common starting point. Those who subscribe to the doctrine of eternal security (once saved, always saved) will certainly be at least intrigued by this article, but many of their arguments will be unaddressed. I’m not going to attempt to debate their position in full here, but I am going to present what I hope to be a clear breakdown of why I am so convinced of my perspective.
My estimation is that I will spend eternity with Jesus, but it is not a guarantee. If it was, I would, by definition, be an adherent to the doctrine of eternal security. I am not.
Simply, if you don’t believe in eternal security, that means that every current Christian will have an opportunity to lose their salvation—to turn from Jesus. And, no current Christian would ever presume that they would do such a thing, but nonetheless many certainly will.
Why would we be immune from that temptation while multitudes of other Christians are not? I definitely am not immune.
Mat 24:21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Many current lovers of Jesus will be deceived (even the elect) by extremely convincing yet false moves that have the name of Jesus attached directly to them.
1 Tim 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…
Those who are currently in the faith are at risk. I am currently in the faith. I am at risk.
I and others more scholarly than myself have written on the dangerous false/hyper/unbiblical grace doctrines that are on the rise. You can read my previous articles to gain a better understanding of the theology here:
The reason I need to briefly address unbiblical grace in this article is to highlight a common thread that is woven through both of these talking points.
There seems to be an increasing desperation with people who are convinced that they simply cannot experience freedom from sin. Their last hope is a theology that overlooks their overpowering inclination to repeated failure. So, any teaching contrary to a quasi-universalistic viewpoint becomes a threat to their hope of eternal security.
I am absolutely sympathetic to those who are in bondage to sin. It breaks my heart that they are living in struggle and torment most every day of their lives and I am devoted to seeing them find radical, complete liberation!
The answer, however, is not unbiblical grace that would simply overlook repeated, intentional sin, but rather, true grace that actually gives supernatural power to be free from sin!
It’s from this place that I understand that I cannot continue in intentional sin and hope to live forever with Jesus. I will have many opportunities to live in sin, to intentionally gossip, lust, hate, to refuse to forgive, to lose my love. I, John Burton, must die daily, must take up my cross and must allow God to continually reveal the issues of my heart so I can turn, change and fall deeper and deeper in love with Jesus. If I don’t, I can presume that my name will be blotted out of the book of life.
Rev 3:5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
It’s simple. Pressure to turn from Jesus is only going to increase as the end draws near, and it will be so severe that many will turn from Jesus to avoid persecution and death. Imagine living during the Tribulation without the ability to buy, sell or trade. If we don’t take the mark we will have no access to medical care, food, communication tools, or much of anything else. Imagine what that will be like when Christians will have to move out of their homes because their bank accounts are closed. They can’t rush an injured child to the emergency room. They will lose everything including all natural hopes for survival. Will the pressure be high to take the mark, to turn on Jesus? Absolutely—and it’s fairly easy to presume that most will bow to that pressure. Will I? From a place of comfort it’s easy to say I won’t. It’s from a place of wisdom, however, that I must more carefully analyze that sobering question. Yes, I will be at risk of bowing.
With such a provocative statement it’s easy to make incorrect presumptions about what I really mean and what has driven me to that conclusion. I will address some of these here.
I’m confident that if I died TODAY that I’d be with Jesus forever.
I believe we absolutely can have a certain measure of confidence in our position in Christ. We are saved by the grace of God. The power of the blood of Christ is indescribable and I am fully dependent on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. As I respond to his gift and live in repentance, from a place of loving surrender and intimacy with him I know he has me. He’s mine and I’m his. If I died today, I’m quite confident I’d be welcomed into glorious eternity.
What I am not sure of (as nobody can be) is what decisions I will make TOMORROW. My very strong free will will always provide me the opportunity to lose my love, to fall into sin and to become lukewarm.
Rev 3:15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
It must be said that tomorrow can come very quickly, and my reaction to the drawing of the Spirit of God today is critical. I know that I can slip into a state of presumption, convinced that all is well when actually I have compromised my position in Christ.
See how the passage in Revelation chapter three continues:
Rev 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
If you jump back to the beginning of the chapter you’ll see this:
Rev 3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Am I, John Burton, somehow exempt from the fate that so many other current Christians will suffer due to their continued sin? Absolutely not. It would be quite arrogant to say that I, John Burton, don’t have to repent, can continue in sin, can fall asleep, can become lukewarm at some point in the future and will not suffer the consequences. There will be a great falling away, and I must stay alert to avoid becoming a part of that tragically massive group of people.
So, my life is focused on staying awake and strengthening what remains—and alerting others to do the same. The resulting passionate life for Jesus is well worth the internal introspection!
I don’t believe that one sin in the life of a Christian will automatically send you to Hell.
God loves us. He understands that we are in a process of sanctification and some failure is to be expected.
It’s our reaction to that failure that is so important. The Bible is a story of redemption and it should go without saying that we can fail and then embrace redemption, forgiveness and enjoy the hope of the prodigal.
However, if we choose to continue in sin, without repentance, without turning from darkness to Jesus, we absolutely are at risk of Hell. The Bible makes it so clear that it’s shocking that it’s even debated.
Heb 10:26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The answer? Live a life of wonderful, joyful repentance. Run into the arms of our Father at the point of failure. Repent. Turn. Fall in love with him again and enjoy a glorious forgiveness and a refreshed relationship with God.
I do believe we don’t ever have to sin again.
One of the reasons unbiblical grace is so popular is because so many Christians presume that we are all expected to sin every day. How tragic a theology that must be to live out!
We are no longer sinners. We are saints. True grace is so powerful that it enables us to live free from sin! If we sin every day, we have a sin problem and we should certainly be shocked into reality.
Of course, there’s a famous verse that’s pulled out in support of the idea that we are all continuing in sin:
John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
So, the argument is that we are all with sin. The problem with that argument? Jesus followed up the analysis of the situation with a command that could only be obeyed via the grace (power) of God:
John 8:10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Sin no more. Don’t sin again. Stop sinning. That was the message.
It was clear that Jesus expected this woman to live free from sin, and certainly from a life of daily sin!
Often when I state that we don’t have to ever sin again I receive a snarky comment in response: “So, how’s that working out for you, John?”
That reply exposes the condition of the person’s heart and reveals the point I’m trying to make. People feel hopeless against the power of sin and are attempting to use grace to cover it instead of eradicate it. This belief is tragic—and dangerous. It moves us quite close to a fearful judgment:
Heb 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
I don’t live my life in fear of Hell.
The most common presumption that people have about me when they hear me say that I am not convinced I’ll end up in Heaven is that I must be living in great fear. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am full of joy and am experiencing an abundant life in Jesus! Check this out:
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
There is no fear in love. There are many who “got saved” to avoid torment in Hell. That is their motivation and their theology is keenly focused on the eradication of any threat of eternal torment. Though I have had an encounter with Hell, and I understand to a very small degree the horror associated with that place, I would never attempt to use God to avoid it. God isn’t one to be used for our own selfish pursuits. God is to be loved with immeasurable passion!
Let’s continue reading the passage in 1 John 4:
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
It’s not a theology of eternal security that casts out fear, it’s love. And, this is where it gets a bit more serious. It’s possible to subscribe to a theology that ensures our salvation while also hating someone—and go to Hell.
So, my focus isn’t on avoiding Hell. I’m not living in torment. If I were, I’d know that love was not being perfected in my life and I would certainly have cause for concern. My barometer is the manifestation of love in my life. My daily goal and continual desire is to be with Jesus in a place of joyful, love driven encounter. I crave his presence. I yearn for a deeper intimacy with him. I am free, alive and thankful for what Jesus has done for me. I have no fear. But I am sober. I am alert.
I don’t believe it’s easy to lose your salvation.
For those who are truly saved, who have put their faith in Jesus and are following him, I believe it takes quite a set of circumstances to lose that salvation.
Remember, it’s intentional, continual sin that does not result in repentance the will eventually result in separation from Jesus. If we are actively wrestling with our flesh, dying daily, growing in sanctification and trusting in God’s justification, we are in a very good place!
However, if we refuse to repent and live a life of sin, no matter how insignificant that sin may seem to be, we should be very alarmed.
Again, the Bible is a book about redemption. We can look at the lives of many godly people who failed miserably yet are still considered giants of the faith. Their common thread? They turned back to God.
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,' forgive him.”
Rev 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
2 Pet3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
I do understand the miraculous, glorious work of the cross.
One accusation that I’ve heard is that I am lacking in revelation of just how comprehensive and powerful and conclusive the work of the cross is in the lives of Christians.
I won’t pretend to have a perfect revelation, but this accusation couldn’t be further from the truth.
Check out the doxology in Jude:
Jude 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
God is great! He is able to keep us from stumbling—but only if we are in agreement with it. If we choose to stumble of our own volition, we absolutely will.
The power of the blood of Jesus is worthy study and we will be growing in understanding of it for all of eternity. We have truly been set free from the penalty of sin and sin itself! We can be free, joyful, prosperous, empowered and abounding in love every moment of our lives!
The issue isn’t a lack of revelation of God’s greatness, it’s an overestimate of mankind’s devotion. I know God loves me, but do I love him? Will I be at the foot of the glorious cross when the pressure is high or will I run? Will there be a better offer, like thirty pieces of silver in a financially trying time? These are the questions that I keep in front of me as I grow in love and revelation of the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.
I do believe we must stay awake, pray and watch.
The key reason I believe we must see the prayer movement escalate, and contend for every Christian to become invested in continual prayer is that the temptation to fall will be overwhelming as the end draws near.
Mat 26:40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The command is to watch and pray so that we may not enter into temptation. Just what temptation was Jesus referring to? Notice who he was talking to. He was telling Peter to stay awake, to watch, to pray, because his flesh would certainly give in to the temptation that was coming very soon—the temptation to deny Christ.
He slept and he sinned.
Rev 3:1 “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.This the warning for casual, sleepy Christians today.
I was watching a TV show called They Shouldn’t Be Alive. It’s a series of survival stories that depict various adventures that should have ended in death—but somehow did not.
This particular episode told the story of a man who was canoeing alone down a river through the Grand Canyon. His boat overturned and he lost it and all of his supplies. He was cold and wet and the temperatures were quickly plummeting under the night sky. He was able to build a fire and he warmed himself as he sat under a massive cliff. He had no way of escape and his only hope was to survive the night.
The Holy Spirit got my attention as the narrator said, “If he falls asleep, and the fire goes out, he dies.”
This is the story of today’s church.
It is shocking to me how many supposed Spirit-filled Christians are actually coming out against the prayer movement. They make statements like, “While you are hiding away behind the four walls of the church I’m out evangelizing the lost.” I would be the first to argue that winning souls is a primary mandate for the church—and it’s funny when people presume I would believe any other way. However, I don’t believe we’ll have anything to offer other than religion and false hope to desperate sinners if we aren’t bathed in a lifestyle of never ending prayer.
Mat 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
We are commanded to go behind closed doors and pray. This is where the term prayer closet originated.
Simply, if someone isn’t active in continual prayer they won’t be of much value in the work of the Kingdom. They will be at risk of sleep and spiritual death. They will attempt to move in the flesh when a discerning spirit is what is required.
Mat 26:50 Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
Peter famously did what a sleeping, spiritually dull person would do—he reacted in the natural. He was aggressive and instant in action. He was protecting Jesus. Yet, he was wrong. This was the beginning of a great fall for Peter and it came due to many reasons, none greater than his prayerless, sleepy lifestyle.
Will I ever be tempted to stop watching, to fall asleep and to fall into temptation. Of course. And, as the end draws nearer the pressure to do so will only increase.
I don’t believe the state of our position in Christ is a mystery.
One of the questions I always have when someone struggles with this statement, that I give myself an 80% chance of making Heaven, is this: why not just live a life of joyful repentance?
We don’t have to worry and wonder whether we are in a good place with Jesus or not. If we sin, we repent. Period. It’s extremely simple.
We shouldn’t have to struggle with this at all. I don’t. If I sin, I repent. That being the case, why would I presume there is still a chance I can go to Hell? It’s also simple: there may come a day that I lose faith and refuse to repent—and continue in intentional rebellion to the point where my name is blotted out of the book of life.
Mat 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
And, there it is. When unparalleled tribulation, trial, murders and mass hatred comes to the church (it already has in other nations in a significant measure) many in the church will be offended. Betrayal, hatred and lawlessness will come and then love will grow cold. Cold love is the key to eternal separation from God.
In the face of such a great assault, there will be some who endure—and those are the ones who will be saved. Will I be a part of that remnant group? I don’t know. God’s pulling for me. But, it’s fully up to me.
I want to encourage you to read my book The Terror of Hell. This is the awakening that caused me to take my salvation very seriously. I had an encounter with the forces of Hell, and God spoke very clearly to me afterwards: John, many current Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
I agree with false-grace adherents on one key point—intimacy with Jesus is the goal.
I will take responsibility for failing to communicate my position comprehensively enough at times. This failure can result in knee-jerk analysis and critiques that often presume I hold to a particular position due to my silence on a related and connected point.
One such point that I want to clearly communicate here is that intimacy with Jesus is the goal. In fact, it’s not only the goal, but it’s also the primary focus of our journey.
When we are deeply intimate with Jesus our heart explodes with love and our passion for him becomes intense and immeasurable. Oh how I love to spend countless hours in the secret place enjoying God, praying in the Spirit and worshiping him with unbridled exuberance! If there’s anything that defines my life in God it’s intimacy!
If we are madly in love with him and are cultivating intimacy, the unrighteous invasions into our lives will be soundly rejected. We will guard our love connection with God jealously. This is where holiness dominates in a sin wrecked world.
So, where do unbiblical grace teachers and I part ways? In more than one place, but the key point is this:
If we don’t feel intimacy with Jesus, if we aren’t in a place of abandoned desire for him, we must beware. I think we would all admit that it’s terrifyingly easy to fall into a life of lukewarm apathy. The result is a careless approach to sin that puts our salvation at risk, and this is where the departure between the camps begins.
Neither camp would ever argue that it’s okay to sin. Neither would casually deal with sin. But one camp teaches that indifference to sin and a continued pattern of unforgiveness, anger, lust or any number of other issues will result in one following Jesus in an unsaved condition. The other camp would teach that those sins don’t threaten eternity. This is why we must deal with this topic carefully. I believe millions of people are living daily with unforgiveness in their hearts or with lust and they are not repentant. These are the people who are at risk of an eternity separated from God.
For the sake of clarity, if we are living a repentant life, rejecting our sin and understanding that God deeply loves us and is ready to set us free, we are in a very good place! It’s not a single sin that will cost us our eternity, it’s a willful, deliberate, continual life of sin that will.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Hebrews 10:26-27 (NIV)
With this in mind, we’ll go back to square one—intimacy with Jesus.
THE COMMAND TO LOVE
Let’s talk about the call to love. This is the call that God has for us to be intimate with him. Have you ever considered this mandate? It’s very, very intriguing. I can understand calling someone to serve, to give money, to feed the poor or to avoid sin. That makes sense very easily. However, a mandate to love?
Certainly the act of love in many ways is fully intentional and can often be void of feeling. We act in love toward others. This is also quite easy to understand. But this idea goes well beyond a call to act out in right ways. It’s a call to intimacy, a mandate to be deeply intimate with our Lover.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)
In the original Hebrew, the word love is ahab.
It means: to have affection for
Additionally it means to like as a friend.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can be forced to like anybody, much less have deep affection for them. But this is what Scripture is telling us. Could it mean that the call isn’t for instant intimacy, but rather a determined and unwavering process of pursuit and faith toward the promise of experiencing an enjoyable God?
As we, in faith, more easily believe that being with God in a continual and significant way will result in continual and significant enjoyment, we will allow the old things to pass away. We will not stop until we discover the joy that only God can provide.
So, if we are to understand that God is mandating us to fall deeply in love with Him, there is a disciplined process that must commence. The goal is deep and passionate intimacy with our Lover, the invisible God.
It makes sense that when we discover this ultimate of pleasures, that we will not be as inclined to pursue the human desires that demanded so much of us in years past. It’s been said more times and in more ways than we know, “Our sin causes separation from God. We, in effect, trade intimacy with God for intimacy with the world.”
Certainly there is truth to that statement. However, if we view the issue from the other side, we could say, “Intentional pursuit of intimacy with God carries with it the reward of perpetual discovery. Deliberate surrender of human desire coupled with a craving for the manifest presence of God Himself in our lives will lead, sooner or later, to fulfillment that cannot be measured or effectively explained. It’s that extreme. It’s that good.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)
In the above passage, the Hebrew interpretation of the word “love” is different than ahab. It is agapaō, which emphasizes the attitude of love. It’s the moral and socially appropriate act of service and attention to others, including both mankind and God Himself.
Throughout Scripture we do see various translations of that single word “love”, and God is the central figure regardless of the interpretation. However, it’s that unique call to ahab love that has captured my attention. It’s a mandate to intimacy.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, That you tell him I am lovesick! Song of Songs 5:8 (NKJV)
Lovesick! What a word that is. As you might guess, the Hebrew translation is ahab. In the Song of Songs we see this amazing story of love unfold beautifully. In the following verses the word “love” is translated ahab each time. As we gain insight into the intimate longing of our God for us, our hearts melt and our understanding changes.
“I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him. The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, “Have you seen the one I love?” Song of Songs 3:2-3 (NKJV)
[The Shulamite to the Daughters of Jerusalem] He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, Refresh me with apples, For I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, And his right hand embraces me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases. Song of Songs 2:4-7 (NKJV)
He made its pillars of silver, Its support of gold, Its seat of purple, Its interior paved with love By the daughters of Jerusalem. Song of Songs 3:10 (NKJV)
How fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights! Song of Songs 7:6 (NKJV)
[The Shulamite to Her Beloved] Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised. Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NKJV)
Read the last passage, Song of Songs 8:6-7, over and over. Its communication of passionate desire is intense. As we establish a vow with our Lover, the intentional and disciplined pursuit of intimacy with Him is alluring and strong. It is a vehement flame that even water, the fierce enemy of fire, cannot drown. It’s this that we are pursuing, the fire of passion that will overcome the waters of human desire.
In the following Song of Songs passage, we discover a different translation of love.
Draw me away!
[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will run after you.
[The Shulamite] The king has brought me into his chambers.
[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.
[The Shulamite] Rightly do they love you.
Song of Songs 1:4 (NKJV)
The Hebrew word used for “love” in the part of the passage that says, “We will remember your love more than wine” is dôd. The literal meaning is to boil. The idea is that God’s love is actively boiling. It’s hot and constant and intentionally set on us.
The enemy of human desire is a very strong one. A simple resolution to avoid sin and do good is far too weak to be seriously considered for inclusion in our arsenal. The burning fire of passion for God, ahab love, is our most effective weapon. The reward of the perpetual discovery of new depths of God’s zeal for us is enough to keep us burning with a vehement flame that the waters of carnal human desire cannot put out.