Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

Can Christians be LGBTQ+? A Bethel Church Controversy

Bethel Church has an opportunity to correct a seriously flawed post regarding LGBTQ+. They are on the clock.

The Terror of Hell(I'd like to offer to you my most potent and critical book, The Terror of Hell, for FREE. More info below.)

It was a day, not unlike every other day, doing what most every person on the planet does: flicking through posts on Facebook. Then, something caught my attention. I did a double-take and read it again. And again. I was shocked.

At the time of this writing, the post in question had over 2.5 thousand comments, and it seems that a large number of them voiced grief and great concern. Also at the time of this writing, clarification has not been given and the post has not been taken down nor reworded.

CHANGED, a ministry of Bethel Church in Redding, California, wrote the post and included the following statement in it:

God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message of CHANGED has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!

Of course, this was immediately troubling to me as it seemed as if Bethel Church was moving closer to the false-grace, hyper-love philosophy that is bewitching so much of the church today. However, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't believe it's appropriate to launch into attack mode, as many of today's “protectors of truth” tend to do. It's important to honor even when questions and controversies arise. I am believing that Bethel Church will bring clarity to a murky and concerning situation.

Listen to the podcast on this topic…

Here's my response to their post:

Oh no. Please, Bethel Church, PLEASE rethink this. Reconsider your wording. The following that you wrote is NOT GOOD. Did you possibly word it incorrectly?
“We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!”

Since then, there's been quite a stir among many who are equally troubled about their apparent stance. Some Christian news sites are picking up the story as well.

Bethel Church bashed on social media for being ‘weak’ on LGBTQ+ stance ~Premier Christian Magazine

Today, I received a response from Bethel Church to my request for clarification:

We believe you can fully love someone who you disagree with, Jesus modeled this for us well.

That's it.

Of course we must love those we disagree with. This is such an obvious concept that it makes one wonder if they are attempting to toe the line or to completely cover something up. What do they really believe? Right now, nobody knows.

I replied:

We still don't know if:
1. You simply worded your original post wrongly.
2. You actually believe Christians can identify as LGBTQ+ and for those who are fulfilled and happy, there is no further action necessary.

I'm curious about what would happen if they were addressing another issue in their ministry, and posted the following:

“We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in viewing pornography. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!”

You can switch out the key word with any. What if they are unfulfilled in child abuse? Pornography? Fornication? Hatred? It's clear that Bethel Church must clarify their statement. The confusion can be catastrophic for those who are convinced that respected, well-known Christian leaders are affirming their lifestyles. Yet, they are available to talk if they should ever want to change, if they stop enjoying their lifestyle. I honestly don't think their position could be any weaker, more confusing or more dangerous.

ALL MUST CHANGE

Contrary to the message that Bethel Church is communicating, very directly and boldly I might add, radical, wholesale change is absolutely required for those who desire to follow Jesus.

A revelation of our debauchery and hopelessness is the critical starting point when sharing the Gospel with someone. We cannot cover up this reality out of fear that someone will get defensive, offended or resistant to the message. Do we even understand anymore in our hyper-modern age that God is holy? If we modify the message of truth in hopes of ensuring a longer, more “successful” audience with a sinner, we are in serious violation.

Simply revealing the love of God to someone is NOT evangelism. In fact, it can have devastating results. It takes much more than a love revelation to draw someone into a legitimate relationship with Jesus.

As was done with the Rich Young Ruler, you must make it hard, not easy, to follow Jesus. You aren't a salesman, you are a representative of a holy God. Address sin, hell, the fear of the Lord, surrender, the cost of following Jesus and the personal loss that will result.

They will lose friends, leave immorality and selfishness behind, surrender all and sign up as a martyr should God call them to that.

If they eagerly repent after you share all that, you'll know they are starting their Christian journey the right way. If you only share God's love with them, they are at great risk of living their entire lives convinced all is well while actually following Jesus in an unsaved condition.

STOP minimizing the cost of following Jesus and hiding offensive truth in the hopes that people will get saved.

If they don't like God as he is or if they get offended when faced with their own wickedness, let them walk. They have zero bargaining power as they are mere moments away from entering Hell. That sounds harsh, but it's truth. God is who he is, and we can't attempt to make him more attractive. He truly is a loving and fearful God.

Of course, their decision to walk should rip at our hearts, launching us into tears and intercession for them. True love looks just like this. Refusal to confront with truth is damaging beyond measure, and Hell is growing larger because of it.

GAY CHRISTIANITY?

The idea that Bethel Church is propagating (even if they erred in communication) that you can identify as both a Christian and as LGBTQ+ is extremely dangerous, not to mention fully and completely wrong. Can you be a Christian pornographer? A Christian adulterer? A Christian serial killer? A Christian witch? It's lunacy. Until Bethel Church refutes this idea and corrects their error, this is what people will be led to believe.

Today many are arguing that all sin is the same, and that Christians are in fact themselves sinners, and that homosexuality is no different than lying. I'd encourage you to read an article that I wrote titled, “No, Not All Sin Is The Same—Here's Proof.”

First, it's untrue that all sin is the same. That idea is fully unbiblical, and the article I linked to above will bring clarity on the matter.

Second, Christians are not sinners. We absolutely should not be living a life of sin as the world does. If we do, we are in trouble for sure.

We are living in a time when the high majority of evangelical young people are having sex outside of marriage. A huge percentage of Christians, including pastors, are regularly viewing pornography. The Bible clearly reveals that continuing in sin as Christians has dire, eternal consequences. Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27

I'd like to offer the ebook version of my book The Terror of Hell to you for free. It's a short read but a troubling and revealing—and life-altering—account of an encounter I had with the forces of Hell. God placed a disturbance in my spirit that has lasted nearly 30 years, right up to this very moment. He said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.” My life was forever changed. My life message was given to me.

You can download the book here: https://burton.tv/the-terror-of-hell

This is why I'm so disturbed by messages like the one that Bethel Church is communicating. I believe they, if not more careful, can lead millions to the slaughter. Hell can absolutely be the result of faulty theology.

Now, all of this being said, I am absolutely holding out hope that Bethel Church will bring better clarification than what they offered me in the comments of the Facebook post.

They are tackling a very important issue in our generation, and I pray they are able to do it with utmost biblical integrity instead of sociological, philosophical, psychological strategies.

A Catastrophic Error Pastors Make: Presuming Everyone in Their Church is Saved

Preaching to the saints? You need to understand that many of them are not safe—if they are saved at all.

“Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 (ESV)

The call of church leadership is not to confirm someone's salvation, but rather to challenge it. We need the fear and trembling to reverberate through our spirits night and day that only wrestling with our salvation can produce.

Jonathan Edwards brought his bold, fearful message to the church, to the saints:

The wrath of God burns against them; their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared; the fire is made ready; the furnace is now hot; ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth under them.

The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. ~Jonathan Edwards

I understand that many who read this will wholeheartedly disagree with my conclusions. They are either adherents of eternal security doctrine or some form of unstable, unbiblical or fully false-grace ideologies. Instead of tossing this article aside or attacking the viewpoint, I challenge you to humbly, soberly take it in and ask God to impact you, to shake you regarding this very serious topic.

As you might have guessed I believe that it's not only possible to surrender one's position in Christ, but I'm convinced it's common. Entire churches, many of them “Spirit-filled,” are fully lost while others are filled with people who have never had their relationship with Jesus challenged, and are as lost as the wicked of the world—yet they don't know it.

It's from this position that I am shining the light on possibly the greatest epidemic regarding the issue of salvation in the construct of the church today. Pastors commonly presume those who are faithful attenders, givers and friends in their churches to be saved. It's a given. It's obvious. It's settled. If they are raising their hands, dancing at the alters, serving in ministry, leading small groups or involving themselves in other activities, then, of course, they are true followers of Jesus, right? Not always. In fact, the salvation journey is one of endurance, and it's extremely easy to pull back, to slip up, to become casual or to lose faith.

12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV)

Many in the church are simply not saved. They are following Jesus in an unsaved condition, all while the pastor is sharing messages on how to be successful in Christ, how to prosper, how much Jesus loves them and the benefits of the Kingdom—a kingdom they are not a part of.

Where are the gut-wrenching holiness messages? What happened to assaulting sin and compromise from the pulpit? Where is the weighty presence of the Holy Spirit that results in tearful repentance and an eager rejection of wickedness?

Pastors, do you realize that a large portion of your church is very possibly involved in pornography on a regular basis? Lust drives them. Many others are absolutely okay with filling their lives with movies, television and other media that is filled with filth. F-bombs, nudity and absolute evil is consumed day after day without the slightest conviction of the Holy Spirit. This puts their salvation at risk. To presume they are safe and destined for Heaven is to be blinded and duped. It's utter foolishness.

You've made it easy for them to fit right in on Sunday mornings, after a night of debauchery, to sing songs of worship and to blend right into the fellowship. You've convinced them that all is well and Heaven is their home, when the reality is that, absent legitimate repentance, they will be tormented in Hell forever.

I'm talking about elders and worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, ushers, children's ministry workers and faithful attenders. Many of these people are entertaining themselves with evil, fully devoid of discernment and convinced that God is unconcerned about their lifestyles.

THE RESOLUTION

ONE: Preach Hellfire and Holiness

“The Christian world is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” ~George Whitefield

It's nonsensical to teach the joys and blessings of the Kingdom to people who are foreigners, who are not truly adopted sons and daughters of the King. We have “Rich Young Rulers” filling our pews, except instead of alerting them to their unsaved condition, they are confirmed as legitimate followers of Jesus.

Those who are perverse, sleeping, unconcerned and driven by their flesh must have a shock come to their system! The fire from Heaven must consume them, but it's rare for a pastor to release that fire from the pulpit today. It's too risky. It's too costly.

Their eternal blood will be on the pastor's hands due to the failure to bring their rebellion and apathy to light. We need bold, confrontational messages today that strike us, break us and sear our flesh.

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 (NKJV)

After a sermon in Lyme, Connecticut, “many had their countenances changed; their thoughts seemed to trouble them, so that the joints of their loins were loosed, and their knees smote one against another. Great numbers cried out aloud in the anguish of their souls. Several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged, and a ball had made its way through their hearts.” (http://www1.cbn.com/spirituallife/a-great-awakening-stirs-the-colonies)

TWO: Cultivate an Atmosphere of Holy Spirit Fire

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (ESV)

Every meeting should be driven by the raging fire of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating a culture where bold, deep groans of intercession and praying in tongues is normal will have a clear result: those who are uncomfortable with an encounter with a very Holy Spirit will either repent or run.

I have often counseled pastors to bring this type of focus to their staff and leadership. Gather them to pray in tongues together for an hour a day and watch what happens. Staff members who are not on board with the vision, who are manipulative, who are functioning in Christian witchcraft and those who are gossips or resisters will be identified very quickly. When the Holy Spirit is present in such a deliberate and powerful way, impurities will be exposed. I also propose this type of environment be nurtured for the entire church body.

I heard in a message at church this morning that in the Assemblies of God, a historic movement that was shaped by revival and Pentecost, only 22% of people in their churches today have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. How can this be?

Without this baptism of fire, oh my, the hope of living holy, obedient and fiery lives for Jesus is greatly and negatively impacted.

They are unable to build themselves up in the faith:

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20 (NKJV)

They are unable to pray the mysteries of God:

2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV)

They are unable to overcome their limited understanding when praying:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)

Those who don't live, walk and pray in the Spirit are disadvantaged significantly. This is why it's crucial for all Believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to pray and groan in tongues daily! Doing so develops intimacy with Jesus. The prophetic in our lives intensifies. So do dreams and visions. Many will receive other gifts such as words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, faith and more. And, most definitely, when the Holy Spirit is moving, the unholy won't be able to remain.

THREE: Revise How You Lead and What You Teach

The issue of salvation should be front and center week after week in the church. I'm not talking about simply giving the lost an opportunity to get saved. I'm referring to the sobering responsibility to lead the saints toward a successful transition into eternity.

Never presume someone is saved. Never confirm to them that they are. In fact, I never presume myself to be safe. It infuriates some that I would ever suggest that I or they may not retain our salvation. The great falling away will be very great. Enduring to the end is an intense and challenging call. Working out our salvation is a fearful thing.

Teach on holiness. Call people into obedience to the Word. Refute unbiblical grace theologies. Target the spirit of the age that has infiltrated so many in our churches. Expose the darkness of the media and entertainment that is being devoured by professing Christians without any concern whatsoever.

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)
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. Hebrews 10:29-31 (ESV)

FOUR: Embrace Biblical Church Discipline

When is the last time you heard about someone being barred from the church for violations of Scripture that demand such action?

Failure to be faithful to the scriptural mandate to enact church discipline has resulted in compromised churches and a generation of people who are absolutely convinced they are saved, all while they are moving closer and closer to the fires of Hell.

Today unmarried men and women are living together, and they head to church together, hand in hand, each week, greeted by hugs and smiles. People who are consuming porn on Saturday are leading ministries on Sunday.

God is clear. We must purge those from among us who are sexually immoral, greedy or idolaters. We can't even eat with them.

In fact, turning them over to Satan is God's prescription in certain situations.

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. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Corinthians 5:4-6 (ESV)

We have entire churches that have been compromised because they are refusing to follow biblical church discipline protocols. This is extremely serious.

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)

In fact, it's not only sexual immorality or drunkenness or greed that we need to deal with. Check this out:

6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (ESV)

Those who are idle, lazy, not being productive as God has called them to be should be avoided as well. Why did I include this last verse? Well, first because it's in the Word. Second because I wanted to highlight just how serious God is about obedience and how we should respond to those who are in rebellion. Again, it's very serious.

Of course, when they are ready to repent, we run to them with open arms and welcome them back home!

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (ESV)

STAYING SAVED

So much focus is put on evangelism and people getting saved, while so little is put on staying saved. Failure in consecration and sanctification absolutely can impact justification.

Pastors, it's time to bring this issue front and center, and leave it there. Many under your care are in trouble. They are dying or dead spiritually and you haven't even noticed. That may be because your church culture is dead and they simply don't stand out. Or, it may be that your theology is off and that you believe salvation is easy and permanent. False-grace may have infected your ministry. You may have failed in the call to preach on the holiness of God. Hell and eternity may not be focuses as they should be.

I implore you to allow God to wreck you. Ask him to put the people in the church on your heart and intercede for them. Confront them. Challenge them. Awaken them. Eternity draws near.

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. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 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.’ Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV)

It’s Not about YOU—Stop Worrying Whether You Are Saved Or Not

Constantly stressing about whether you are saved or not reveals a heart issue.

It’s quite possible false-grace teaching was born due to a number of related issues, including the never ending torment that comes from wondering if one is saved or not. Additionally, many struggle to find freedom from sin and they ultimately throw up their hands and adopt a theology that better matches their experience. This theology argues that, even as Christians, we are all sinners, we sin every day and the only resolution that works for them is eradication of the penalty of sin—instead of the truth of true grace that enables us to find very real victory from sin itself.

Instead of declaring that the blood of Jesus truly enables us to stop sinning (through a process of sanctification), false-grace adherents commonly believe it’s ridiculous to presume Christians can legitimately find freedom. Instead, they attempt to lift the burden of sinfulness and where they will spend eternity by teaching that their sin has no eternal consequence.

In my Charisma Magazine article titled 5 Marks of the False Grace Message, I called this a theology of exemption:

A theology of exemption states that since we are saved, we are exempt from the penalties of sin. That there are parts of the Bible that no longer apply to us. Yes, it's a heresy. False grace removes bible-based responsibilities to respond to God in holiness.

The number of people who subconsciously or unwittingly embrace a theology of exemption is far greater than those who explicitly pronounce their agreement with this doctrine. Many subscribe to false-grace doctrines without realizing their deception.

Many have been lulled into a false sense of security while actually existing in an unsaved state. They are confident they'd enter heaven if they died, yet the reality is that they would not. They have come to believe they are exempt from certain parts of the Word of God that requires response.

The Terror of Hell: A Shocking True Story by [Burton, John]THE ISSUE OF SALVATION IS WEIGHTY

You may be wondering why the title of this article is calling for us to stop worrying about our salvation. If it’s true that many professing Christians are actually not saved, shouldn’t we all be on high alert? Stay tuned. I’ll answer that in a moment.

I write about the topic of salvation quite a bit. I have no choice. My encounter with the forces of Hell over two decades ago changed me for eternity. (Read about it HERE.) In that encounter, it was clear that many who profess Christ will be shocked to find themselves in hell one day. This revelation matches up very well with truth on the matter in Scripture.

Since this is a life message for me, I receive a lot of email and other messages from people who are tormented, wondering if they are truly saved or not.

Remarkably, I have been counseled not a few times to tone down the message so as not to trouble people. Sadly, many argue that shielding people from biblical truth in favor of lighter, more affirming and satisfying messages will somehow help matters. This argument often comes from pastors and others who have a strong gift of mercy that they function from. They don’t want people to wrestle with the topics of eternity and hell. In fact, many will go as far as confirming their salvation just to alleviate their burden—a burden that should not be removed.

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26 (ESV)

The disciples had the same question that so many have today. Interestingly, Jesus didn’t give them a big hug and tell them that everything will be okay. He allowed them to continue to wrestle. He didn’t affirm their salvation, but rather presented a plan of salvation that is rarely shared today (he didn’t tell them to simply believe and to ask him in to their hearts!).

27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:27-29 (ESV)

Jesus tells them that those who honestly and radically surrender, in his name, will inherit eternal life. Can you imagine going home after that church service? The wrestling match would go to an entirely new level! Have I truly surrendered to that degree? Is Jesus really my Lord? The questions would reverberate from my mind to my spirit to my emotions.

So, again, I’m sure you are asking, what about the title of this article? I know, it seems I’m arguing against the prime point I’m attempting to bring to you. I actually am not. I’m simply laying a foundation that is very important—salvation is a very serious issue, and it would be foolish to become casual about it. We cannot adopt false-grace or eternal security theologies. Fear, trembling and a determination to endure to the end must drive us every day.

MY MOST CONTROVERSIAL BELIEF

My most controversial belief has to do with this very issue. There are many who get extremely upset about it. Others will start analyzing it and commence in tearing it apart and calling me out as deceived, or at least unbalanced. Those who affirm eternal security reject it with force. Here it is:

I give myself about an 80 percent chance of making Heaven.

Yes, that short, simple statement sends people of the rails. In fact, I’m ready for the emails and assaults as a result of this article. The issue of eternal insecurity (versus eternal security) causes a reaction that makes it more obvious than ever—many are at risk and this topic absolutely must be discussed.

Here’s a short explanation from an article titled A Clear Breakdown of my Most Controversial Belief, where I more fully unpack this point of view:

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.

Some of the points I address are:

  • I’m confident that if I died TODAY that I’d be with Jesus forever.
  • I don’t believe that one sin in the life of a Christian will automatically send you to Hell.
  • I do believe we don’t ever have to sin again.
  • I don’t live my life in fear of Hell.
  • I don’t believe it’s easy to lose your salvation.
  • I do understand the miraculous, glorious work of the cross.
  • I do believe we must stay awake, pray and watch.
  • I don’t believe the state of our position in Christ is a mystery.

I’d strongly encourage you to read that article so you best understand where I’m coming from, and so the rest of this article is read from that place of understanding.

STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR ETERNAL POSITION

One of the points above that I break down and explain in the other article is: 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 believe worrying about our salvation is much different than wrestling. When we wrestle, we are aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit as he guides us into truth. When we worry, however, a heart issue is revealed.

It becomes clear that were are more concerned with avoiding hell than we are in simply falling in love with Jesus. It becomes about us instead of him.

When troubled people contact me, asking how they can stop worrying about going to hell, or how to be sure of their salvation, I challenge them. What really is the purpose of knowing where we are going to spend eternity? Their goal should simply be loving Jesus and following him. Just spending time with him is so worth it! Then, wrestle. Let God have you fully.

Some might just give up hope, if they can’t be assured of their salvation, and just stop following Jesus. They are identifying with their sinfulness and have determined they will probably end up in hell anyway, so why even try.

This right here is the heart issue I’m talking about.

Do we follow Jesus because he’s our ticket out of hell, or do we follow him because we love him?

Let me ask you this question: If heaven was never guaranteed to you, would you still fall madly in love with Jesus and serve him with passion anyway? Or, is your quest for salvation more about you and your desire to avoid torment?

This is a weighty question and you absolutely should wrestle with it. Salvation isn’t mostly about living in a safe, happy place for eternity. It’s mostly about being undone and overwhelmed by the lover of our souls! It’s all about Jesus!

(If you are curious about how works and faith are both key in our salvation process, read this eye-opening article: Are works a part of our salvation? Let’s talk about Ephesians 2:8-9)

LET THE WRESTLING BEGIN!

10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:10 (ESV)

I wrestle with my relationship with Jesus continually. Part of that wrestling match includes a healthy (not unhealthy or unbiblical) fear of hell, a desire to live in heaven and a hunger for greater understanding. The bulk of it, however, is all about a more glorious revelation of Jesus! I want to know him better and to respond more wholeheartedly.

I understand my salvation is tied to my relationship with him, and I take that very seriously. I’m thoroughly enjoying my pursuit of Jesus and my growing experience in him. I’m also more aware than ever of my weakness and my humanness. My diligence and passion in loving Jesus holds the key to more than I understand. If I am diligent to confirm my calling and election, I won’t fail. If I’m not, I better wake up to reality, and fast.  The wrestle can never cease.

So, stop worrying and start wrestling. Don’t turn salvation into a selfish pursuit of safety and eternal pleasure. Fall desperately in love with Jesus and let him prepare you daily for an eternity with him. He is so worth it!

11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12 (ESV)

Unbiblical “Freedom Theologies”–The Growing Rejection of the Need to Go Deep in God

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.

imageSlap 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.

YOGA-12-7-2018 3.03.07 PM 00000000The 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)

THE TERROR OF HELL

The Terror of Hell Paperback 500Not 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

YOGA-12-7-2018 2.12.07 PM 00000000My 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.

imageI 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?”

imageI 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.

Interpretation

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

THE CALL

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.

Are works a part of our salvation? Let’s talk about Ephesians 2:8-9

Misunderstanding grace as it relates to salvation has compromised the theology of millions.

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)

YOGA-000000029False-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.

Wikipedia:

Antinomianism in Christianity is the belief that under the gospel dispensation of grace, moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation.

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.

…through faith…

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!

I’m Going to Hell? That’s Impossible!—The Terror of Hell

THE TERROR OF HELL

The-Terror-of-Hell-PaperbackHow could I be going to Hell?

What I was experiencing messed with my theology to a radically uncomfortable degree. The Holy Spirit was making sure I would never be the same again. Mission accomplished.

I count the early 1990’s as the most significant season of my life to date. God had invaded my life. (Do you feel the weight of that reality? The burning, raging Creator thrust himself into this mere mortal!)

The Holy Spirit took me beyond a mere understanding of my need for a savior and a simple acceptance of Jesus as that savior to a place of breath-taking experience in his extreme, fearful and surprisingly vivid invisible realm. The sudden all-consuming desire of my heart was to be intimately joined with the Lover of my soul every moment of my life. I was craving and experiencing a legitimate, reportable and constant weighty manifestation of the presence of God in my life. I was burning! The desire and the cry of my heart was, “More!”

In those early years, as I was diving into the increasingly deeper realms of life in God, many things happened that I’ll never forget–but one event shook me like no other before or since. 

I HAD A DREAM

The night I had this uninvited invasion of both God and Hell into my sleep, I was living in an old, vacant church building as the care taker. The dramatic scene was what you would imagine–the church was a relatively ancient stone structure. I would regularly encounter God as I walked through the now empty corridors, hidden rooms, sanctuary and other mysterious places throughout that relic. The countless hours praying in this vacant building resulted in forming me as a young burning man in some very memorable ways. 

One destined evening I prepared for bed as I did every other night. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I prayed myself to sleep in the weighty and wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit as I had done so many times before.
What was about to happen as I slipped into sleep that fateful night would result in a tremble that is with me to this day–twenty-five years later. I was invited into an other-worldly encounter that I had no freedom to turn down.

Because of the unimaginable panic and terror I experienced that night long ago, I would often pray as I went to sleep, “God, please don’t give me any dreams tonight.” I prayed that way for thirteen years.

Thirteen years! God eventually spoke clearly to me, after thirteen years of receiving many visions, but no dreams of God, “John, I need you to stop praying that prayer. I have things to reveal to you. I need to talk to you. I have dreams for you to dream.” I relented and have since craved dreams, angelic visitations and other forms of communication from the heavenly realm.

During this night of terror over twenty-five years ago I fell asleep in the old, empty church building and found myself dreaming.

In my dream I was laying on my stomach in a one room building. It was very comfortable inside, though there was nothing in the room. It was empty. I rested on the carpet and looked out of the two windows, one in front of me and one to my right. The overwhelming feeling that I had was one of comfort and relaxation. I had no concerns and no thoughts beyond enjoying the atmosphere I was in. This feeling is what drove my entire experience. Obviously nothing could be wrong if I was feeling so good, right?

Through the windows I could see a peaceful, lazy and bright sunny day unfolding. It was beautiful! The trees were blowing in a gentle breeze. The birds were chirping and flying from tree to tree. What a brilliant Creator we have! Everything was so refreshing and alive! I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon.

Then, suddenly, I experienced a changing of the scene. Like time lapse photography, as I was in the same position on the floor looking out the window, I watched the atmosphere suddenly change. There was an immediate and progressive shift. The clouds were ever so slightly darkening and increasing in coverage in the sky. The gentle breeze picked up velocity and the brilliant brightness started to go in and out as periodic shadows covered the area while the sun hid beyond the advancing clouds. It seemed as if some rain may be moving in. I rested there, stretched out on my belly with my head in my hands as I watched it unfold. I remained immersed in my own comfort. I was taking deep breaths and enjoying every moment of my day.

Time lapsed again and I saw the sky completely covered in clouds–clouds much darker than just a few moments ago. I could now smell the fresh and unmistakable scent of the coming rain.

Matthew 24:36-39 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. or as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

The birds were taking cover as the wind picked up significantly. In the distance I saw several lightning strikes. It sure seemed as if this could be quite a storm. How was it that I was feeling no concern, no urgency to prepare as I enjoyed my personal, careless experience in that small, one room shack? I stretched out and relaxed even more. The greater the threat, the greater the “peace.” What a wonderful day I was having.

Again, for the third time, I watched the scene in front of me change suddenly. Now, it was fully obvious the storm would most definitely hit–and soon. The wind was intense and large, ominous drops of rain started to hit the windows. Violent and arrogant lightning that seemed to have a personality all its own struck less than 300 yards away. The thumps of hail hitting the roof started and quickly increased in force. It was time for concern. The threat of danger was increasing by the second, but I didn’t feel any urgency or need to respond. I remained prostrate on the ground, refreshed and at ease, just as I did when it was a beautiful sunny day. I was enjoying the perceived safety of my environment. I was feeling so good.

Once again, time lapsed and I found myself in the center of a churning, dreadful force that seemed powerful enough to split the Earth in two. The storm of the century was upon me. The massive trees were nearly snapping in two as they bent over parallel to the ground. The hail was massive in size and was slamming every surface around me. The windows were buckling in and out as the incredible pressure of the storm weighed on them. The lightning that burned hotter than the surface of the sun was literally striking mere feet from the shack. The walls were shaking. You can imagine what I was experiencing in that terrible and fearful moment. You guessed it: beautiful peace, safety and comfort. It truly was a wonderful day, until…

In a fraction of a moment my overwhelming sense of peace and safety and relaxation turned to the most gripping terror I had ever known. It was as if every source of life and good had been eliminated from the atmosphere. Evil dominated the place that just moments ago was so enjoyable.

My mind raced in an attempt to figure out what had just happened. The fear I was experiencing was beyond description. It made no sense. What was going on? Everything was so perfect! Today was supposed to be about enjoying life!

Suddenly, as I was confused, horrified and trembling on the floor, two hands grabbed my ankles. My terror instantly escalated to levels I cannot describe. I quickly looked back and saw nothing–but I knew a demonic entity had grabbed on to me.

The grip on my ankles was like a vice. The thought of escaping was a ridiculous one. It was impossible. My life, which seemingly just moments ago had been under my own control, was now overpowered by an invisible yet horrifying force. A force that I knew had intents–and the ability–to destroy me.

Again, the terror immediately increased nearly to the point of literally losing control of my mind as that demon started to pull me backwards–and then down. My feet and legs were disappearing below the floor of that shack. I knew I was going to Hell.

YOGA-000000034How can this be? It’s impossible! I’m going to Hell? But, I’m saved. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. This is contrary to everything I have ever learned in church. Yet, the moment was real, and I was losing every ounce of hope. I was about to enter an eternity of continual torture. Never ending panic, madness and torment was upon me.

The demon kept slowly pulling me downward, as if he was relishing every single moment. My feet were well below the floor and my waist was at ground level. Then, suddenly my hope increased. I thought to myself, “If I say the name of Jesus, the demon must flee!”

So, in my new state of hope I was able to squeeze out, “In the name of J—–. In the name of J—–. Ahhhhh!”

I couldn’t say it! The demon was controlling my very breath. I was suffocating every time that name was about to be said. I could have said any word in the dictionary–but that one. My hope instantly was lost and I started to cry out as I convulsed under the unbreakable control of that demon.

He continued to pull me down, one grueling inch at a time. Finally, my neck and then my mouth were entering Hell as my body was taken below. At the height of my madness and terror, and as my eyes were about to descend beneath the floor, I woke up.

I sat straight up, trembling in my bed in that old church building. I was sweating in such volume that my entire bed was saturated. The light switch by my bedroom door was no more than seven feet from my bed. Just two quick steps to the wall would have been all it took to lighten the room. But I was frozen. I sat there for at least three hours in the darkness in absolute terror.

What Just Happened?

I finally fell back to sleep and awoke the next morning. I didn’t realize how radically my life had taken a turn the previous night. As I tried to gather my thoughts while the events of the previous night overwhelmed my spirit and my mind, I looked outside the two windows that were there in my bedroom in that old church building. It was a beautiful sunny day–but I did not feel comfortable or relaxed. I was shaken.

I begged God to tell me why I had that dream. What had just happened? Finally, later on that day, He spoke to me, “John, you represented the church. You were comfortable in your place of supposed safety. The storm was intensifying yet you were lulled into a state of apathy. Many in the church will be surprised one day, just as you were surprised in the dream, to find themselves under the control of demons as they are taken to Hell.”

Proverbs 14:11-14 The house of the wicked will be overthrown, But the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.

There is a way that seems right. Intellectually it makes sense. Other people seem to confirm that it is right. Common sense tells us that it is right. Even our theological dispositions confirm it is right. But, it leads to death. And, if it’s the type of death I experienced in my dream–it must be avoided at all costs. 

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)

You can order THE TERROR OF HELL here.

The Error of Profession Based Salvation

“Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”

Dell-000050436On average, 1.8 people die every second. That's over 155,000 every day. Most of them will end up in Hell. We have to talk about this.

I am so disturbed by the insanity of our culture that I refuse to hold back. I know I’ll be accused of being insensitive. Others will be enraged that I would presume someone to be in Hell. I’m sure I’ll be accused of being prideful and arrogant. Others might say I’m hateful.

Revealing that people are in Hell isn’t an indicator of hatred any more than reporting that an individual is in the state penitentiary. If I enjoyed the fact that they were there, however, I would indeed be deranged. I’m sick that they are there. I want to vomit. I can’t handle the fact that so many are in indescribable torment there right now. They will never find relief. I honestly feel helpless. For them, there is truly no hope.

Since you started reading this article, around 100 more people have died. For many of them it was unexpected. Just over 60 seconds ago, all was well as it had been for years. Now many of them are in the clenches of unrelenting darkness. The grip is too tight to struggle free from. It will never loosen.

I’m shocked at the number of people who are convinced that people are often, by default, considered Christian simply because they mentioned God at times or have given indicators of religious interest. Do we understand that MANY professing Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day? I’m talking about people living lives much more spiritually remarkable than those with simple religious interest ever did. Tongue-talking, Bible-reading, tithe-paying, hungry-feeding, naked-clothing Christians—many of them pastors and other ministers—will be cast into eternal fire. If even some of the most passionate appearing people in the church will not make Heaven, we should at least stop and consider that those who are less in love with Jesus could be at risk. It’s common sense.

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)

Now, for all of you who misunderstood the intent of this article, I want to make a very clear statement:

I do not know where specific people will be spending eternity. I am grieved when their lifestyles don't make the analysis easier. I am shocked more Christians aren’t sufficiently discerning concerning this.

The Bible tells us there is to be clear evidence of a person’s salvation. We shouldn’t be left guessing or hoping. This is why we have to talk about people who die leaving questions:

9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:9-10 (ESV)

I'm honestly disturbed that SO MANY people are using the deathbed conversion possibility as their excuse to eliminate any discussion about eternity. People have been declared to be in eternity with God because of a last minute radical life change that led to repentance. Yes friend, that is the hope that people are hanging on. Is it possible for it to happen that way? Sure. Statistically speaking however, the chances of someone rejecting Jesus their entire life suddenly falling in love with him and surrendering their lives to them is astronomically low. And, attempting to get saved at the last moment because of fear of death just won’t cut it. It’s self-serving instead of God-honoring. That is not true salvation. Unless it is true surrender, it doesn’t work.

Do we have any idea how rare it is to make Heaven? People are always declaring RIP…rest in peace…over people who have died. They say they are now in a better place. That's rarely true. The reason people say it is to provide false peace to those who remain behind—including themselves.

The reason we need to have this discussion is to awaken people to the reality of Hell. If people think they can be casual about their submission to God and that they can just repent when they die, their eternity is pretty much sealed.

PROFESSION BASED SALVATION

Somewhere in the recent world of instant and easy everything, people have fallen for the lie that a simple, casual declaration of the divinity of Jesus is all it takes to be saved. This is ludicrous.

I know, some of you are already warming up your fingers to type a response accusing me of promoting works based salvation. Let me spare you the effort. I’ve heard your accusations and arguments. I don’t believe in works based salvation. I also don’t believe in faith only salvation.

In 1983, a man by the name of R.T. Kendall wrote: Whoever once believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, and confesses that Jesus is Lord, will go to heaven when he dies. But I will not stop there. Such a person will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith.1 Later, he expanded on this saying: “I therefore state categorically that the person who is saved – who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead – will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith. In other words, no matter what sin (or absence of Christian obedience) may accompany such faith.

This is clearly unscriptural. There is a cost to discipleship. Evidence of salvation will always follow true salvation. Everything has changed for the person who has encountered and surrendered to Jesus.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:18-20 (ESV)

…I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2 (ESV)

16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Titus 1:16 (ESV)

We cannot simply profess that we are Christians and presume we are saved. There’s a lot more that we have to consider.

We must exhibit evidences of salvation:

  1. We will refuse to walk in darkness: 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:6 (ESV)
  2. We reject sin: 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:9-10 (ESV)
  3. We obey: 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 2:3-4 (ESV)
  4. We follow after holiness: 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:29 (ESV)

Additionally, Intimacy with Jesus is a key component of salvation.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

The goal of God is to know us, and to be known by us. That is the definition of intimacy.

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13 (ESV)

A simple profession of faith is insufficient when it comes to our salvation—radically so, in fact.

Is your lamp full of the oil of the Holy Spirit? Do you see the difference between simply professing and going on with life and actually cultivating a life of extreme intimacy with Jesus?

Some of you might be thinking back to your old Sunday School classes. Don’t we just have to believe on Jesus? Let’s look at that:

16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16 (ESV)

The loaded word in this scripture is believes. This does not refer to an intellectual acknowledgment of the existence of God, or even of his divinity. To believe means much more. True belief results in significant spiritual fruit. This is one reason why it’s stunning to me that Christians don’t want to attend prayer meetings. Connecting with Jesus in a close, intimate way through prayer is a fruit. Show me someone who loves to pray and we’ll be looking at someone who is in a great place regarding their relationship with Jesus. It’s not the final word, but it’s a great indicator for sure.

If we keep reading beyond verse 16, we’ll see just what true belief looks like:

17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]] Mark 16:17-20 (ESV)

Mark records the above passage as the final words of Jesus before he left the earth. These are pretty important instructions.

How can we look at celebrities or any other person who gives a casual thanks to God or simply acknowledges his existence, or even those who have an affinity for Jesus and so quickly presume they are saved—and when they die that they are so obviously in Heaven? Such a stance is reckless and irresponsible. It’s opening the door for millions of others to presume casual, carnal Christianity is their key to salvation.

No, salvation requires much more. MUCH more. Even those who are truly saved are but a breath away from eternal damnation.

And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:18

I want to strongly encourage you to read a much more in depth article I wrote regarding this topic before you leave comments:

Unsaved Christians—Thoughts on Sin, Hell and Following Jesus in an Unsaved Condition

Powerful message from Moriah Ranch—End Time Ready

Watch this powerful, can’t miss message from Moriah Ranch—End Time Ready.

Dell-000050017This is a can't miss teaching delivered at Moriah Ranch in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. John boldly deals with the current state of the church and tragic misunderstandings regarding salvation.

A prayerless people are at great risk of falling away, though they profess Christ and live an otherwise devoted life.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.

A clear breakdown of my most controversial belief

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.

image

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.

UNBIBLICAL GRACE

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.

The-Terror-of-Hell-PaperbackThere 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.

THE BREAKDOWN

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.”

ORDER THE TERROR OF HELL IN PRINT OR EBOOK FORMAT HERE.

Video: Do Christians sin every day? Are works necessary for salvation? Watch…

Watch the video: Is obedience necessary for salvation? Do Christians sin every day? If faith alone enough to be saved? Can we lose our salvation?

Watch as I discuss possibly the most important theological topic of our generation—obedience, sin, works, faith and how they relate to salvation.

I reference two articles that will give you loads of scriptural support for the positions I take in the video:

You will want to check them out as you watch.

It’s shocking to me how sharply resistant Christians can be when the doctrine of salvation is discussed. Many have been lulled into a state of false-comfort through incredibly dangerous and fast spreading theologies—and anything that would threaten their confidence is reacted to fiercely. A pastor once told me that the most violent reaction from Christians against him comes when he deals with false-grace.

Titus 2:11-15 (ESV) 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

imageMy life message is to awaken the comfortable, sleeping church and declare the true, empowering grace of God.

It’s not a message that I chose. In the natural that would be insanity as my fervent attention to it has brought trouble and grief not only to me but to my family. We’ve lost friends and awakened enemies we didn’t know we had.

Here’s an email from our great friend Julia Palermo:

Hi John! I wanted to let you know that the Lord has really put you, Detroit Revival Church and the city of Detroit on my heart the past few weeks. I’ve been following your posts and just carrying you all in my heart. I feel like you are very much in need of extra prayer coverage as you are stepping out very boldly in some areas of proclamation of the truth. Just wanted you to know that I am going to be praying for you and for the church. Would love to talk some time and hear what the Lord is doing. Though I think this bold stand may cost you in some sense, I truly feel that for the remnant who receives these messages and signs up to pursue Him in holiness, He is going to come with His fire and His presence. I believe you are going to experience some times of such a weight of his holiness and nearness in the room that people will only be able to weep on the floor and won’t move for hours. You have not seen before what He is about to do in you and in the church. Be encouraged! He is with you! Julia

Thankfully, it’s a message that has resulted in continual messages from people sharing how their life has been powerfully impacted by it.

Shortly after hearing a teaching that (God forgives all sin, past, present and future) I was ignorantly relieved of the struggles I was having with particular sins and then went soo far away from truth, deep into more self justified sin, self deception, coldness, distance from God, family, etc. …. Now I’ve been hearing teaching from John Burton and others against sin and this false doctrine (false-grace teaching) and now for the first time since I became a Christian almost 10 years ago, I have been free from the power of habitual sin and no longer live a life of torment … All Glory to GOD!!! God needs more TRUTH Ministers.~Nick

It’s a message that, by design, urgently and aggressively provokes those who are personally comfortable yet eternally vulnerable.

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