…"But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!" 2Tim. 2:9
Churches are everywhere. So why is it so difficult to find a good one? There are many towns and cities void of even one Bible-teaching, gospel-proclaiming, disciple-making church. There are several reasons good churches are so rare today.
1. Leaders are entrepreneurs, not shepherds.
Recent decades have given rise to an abundance of maverick churches led by entrepreneurial pastors with grandiose visions. They approach the pulpit not as shepherds of God’s flock, but as CEOs executing corporate strategies for their personal brands. That model is a stark departure from the New Testament’s job description for pastors and church leaders, but its popularity is pervasive in U.S. churches and it’s sadly been exported around the world.
2. Leaders prize pragmatism, not preaching.
Another factor that makes finding a good church difficult is the widespread lack of doctrinal conviction and commitment. Postmodernism dictates that we don’t hold too tightly to one truth, one moral standard, or one way of thinking. And as that mindset further infiltrates the church, many shepherds are exposing their own wavering convictions to the very people they are called to protect and defend. Doctrinal statements are altered or simply ignored, as churches prize pragmatism and popularity over faithfully preaching the truth of God’s Word.
3. Pragmatic entrepreneurs do not produce mature disciples.
Finally, many believers struggle to find a church because they are confused about what constitutes a good church in the first place. The prevalence of unqualified teachers and a weak commitment to the truth have left a generation of Christians spiritually undernourished. They sense their need for faithful teaching and caring leadership but they lack the discernment and wisdom to identify such a church. They simply don’t know what to look for.
The quality of a church is inextricably tied to the quality of its leaders. Yet the evangelical landscape is overrun with CEOs, self-help gurus, stand-up comedians, and motivational speakers masquerading as pastors. While the world looks for leaders with skills and charisma, the church must focus on the biblical qualifications for church leaders.
We will discuss what the bible says are the qualifications of a pastor, and what a good church should be.
The period of European history known as the Dark Ages were just that—dark. Mortality rates were exceptionally high. Medical advances could not keep up with the spread of disease. Poverty and illiteracy were pervasive. And on top of all that, the light of God’s Word was monopolized and distorted by the Roman Catholic Church. Only the religious elite had access to Scripture, and most of them manipulated and perverted its message beyond recognition.
That darkness gave way to the Reformation. The Protestant Reformers recovered the gospel and made Scripture accessible to the common man. They rejected the idea of a pope who presumed to speak for God on earth. God spoke through Scripture and the Reformers devoted themselves tirelessly to the labor of making it readily available in the language of the people.
Today, people all over the world can own and study the Bible in their own languages. That great blessing for Christians brings the responsibility to study God’s Word. And from that study, believers have the joy and duty of representing the Creator and proclaiming His message.
Those fundamentals, when incorporated into your study of Scripture, will progressively grow your knowledge of God and yourself, and cultivate a well-rounded biblical worldview. It is in His Word that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in an intimate and saving way. He owns us, knows us, and holds us responsible to know, understand, and proclaim Him on His terms and not our own.
Scripture is sacred and we should treat it as such by carefully handling its truth. Paul exhorted Timothy to study Scripture as a workman “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The tradesmen of Paul’s time needed to carry out their work with precision and great care. Paul was saying that the same sort of approach is needed when studying Scripture.
God instructed Israel concerning that very issue:
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:6–7)
In other words, you ought to have God’s Word running around in your mind all the time. If you’re reading a portion of the New Testament thirty times in a row, as previously suggested, it will penetrate and shape your thinking. It should lead to meditation, which takes all the dimensions of study we’ve discussed and molds them into a unified understanding of biblical truth.
The word meditate can evoke thoughts of empty minds and eastern religions. But it is more likely that Hindus and Buddhists borrowed the term from the Bible and twisted its meaning to conform with their false religions. From the time of Joshua’s military conquest of Canaan, we hear the Lord instructing His people to meditate on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). So what does meditate mean? Biblically, it means to focus your mind on one subject.
In Deuteronomy, God tells His people that they should bind His words, “as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals to your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8–9). God says He wants His Word everywhere.
David highlighted the role meditation plays in our sanctification when he wrote the first Psalm. The blessed man is one who meditates both day and night on God’s law rather than seeking counsel in the fellowship of unbelievers (Psalm 1:1–3). It is the key to his perseverance and fruitfulness as a child of God.
Meditation is no less needed today. We live in a culture that continually assaults us with distractions through billboards, television, the Internet, and more. God says that we should keep His Word perpetually in front of our eyes, filling our minds and conversations wherever we go.
Paul clarified what our minds should feed on:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Ultimately, our ongoing relationship with God hinges on sound biblical study. He places monumental importance on knowing, proclaiming, and worshipping Him rightly. And Scripture is the engine driving all of those things. The Dark Ages may have ended, but those who neglect to study and meditate on Scripture shun the light of God’s Word and continue to walk in willful darkness.
“The word that most adequately describes this age is crisis. Political convulsions, national upheaval, racial unrest, rebellion against the existing order and outright revolution are becoming almost normal. We know that tomorrow’s headlines will probably bring some new crisis to our attention.
Many people are asking, “Where is history heading?” A careful student of the Bible will see that God controls the clock of destiny. Amid the world’s confusion, God’s omnipotent hand moves, working out His unchanging plan and purpose; and the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).
Jesus Christ is coming to earth again. It is Christ who is in control, and He will determine the outcome. If the Bible is clear on any point, it is this: “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time” (Hebrews 9:28).
What is to be the attitude of the Christian toward the fact of Christ’s coming? One man said to me, “Well, the Lord is coming soon; so what is there to do about anything?”
Such a fatalistic attitude is not the one taught by the Lord Jesus Christ. When He told His disciples of His return to earth, He said, “Do business till I come” (Luke 19:13), and “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing” (Matthew 24:46).
Dwight L. Moody once said, “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. Its ruin is getting nearer and nearer. God said to me, ‘Moody, here’s a lifeboat. Go out and rescue as many as you can before the ship sinks.’” If the end seemed about to come in Moody’s day (he died in 1899), how much closer must we be to the climax of history?
If there was ever a time when we should man the lifeboats and go out and rescue as many as we can, it is now. That is why we proclaim the Gospel in the strategic centers of the world wherever we can.
We believe this is a day of glorious opportunity to proclaim the saving grace and power of Christ, and to declare the Gospel against the opposition of every false ideology.
George Whitefield, the great English evangelist, said, “I am daily waiting for the coming of the Son of God.” But he did not sit down and do nothing. He burned out his life in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
The prophet Daniel lived in a pagan nation and under the worst possible conditions. He knew that God’s judgment was about to come, but he did not fold his hands and wait for it to strike. He opened wide his windows toward Jerusalem and prayed. And he walked with God.
It would not seem that the reign of Ahab and Jezebel in Israel would have been a good setting for the ministry of a great prophet of God. But Elijah walked with God during that dark period, and he used the treachery of cowardly King Ahab and the clever strategy of the evil Queen Jezebel as a backdrop against which to reflect the glory and power of God.
Crisis times are times when Christ should be proclaimed. Although there has never been a worldwide revival, I believe we may be on the verge of one now. The Spirit of God is making His power felt throughout the world. From Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America, from the islands of the sea and from Australia, there are reports of the activity of the Spirit of God. This is a glorious time to be alive.
I have found that people everywhere, all over the world, will respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ if we present it simply, with Christian compassion.
There are some who are in deep despair. I receive many letters daily from people who are discouraged, depressed and ready to give up. They are yielding to the pessimism of our times, to the mood and spirit of our day. A man in England wrote, “It’s too late to do anything about the world.”
That isn’t true. All is not lost. We still have the Bible, and “the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9). We still have the Holy Spirit. We still have the fellowship of believers. We still have the prayers of God’s people. We still have an open door to most of the world for proclaiming the Gospel.
There is much to be gained. Remember, Jesus said: “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:43).
I would like to give you three keys that will open doors of usefulness and power for you. The first is the key of humility—humility born of honest self-evaluation. It is essential for all people to realize their own weaknesses, sins and failures. The Bible says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The word for sin here is hamartia; it means “missing the mark, failing, falling short.”
To confess that we are sinners is the most difficult thing for us to do, because we are so proud. We want to feel that we can be good and honorable and decent without any help from God.
But God has declared, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), that means me.
The Bible tells me that I have sinned.
My conscience tells me that I have sinned.
My reason tells me that I have sinned.
Every part of my nature points an accusing finger and cries, “Guilty! Guilty! There is none righteous!”
John Bunyan said, “When I saw John Bunyan as God saw John Bunyan, I did not say I was a sinner; I said that I was sin from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.”
Great prophets were used of God because they were humble. They saw themselves as God saw them and realized the truth about themselves. When you confess with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5), you will stand on the threshold of a victorious life. When you face the fact of your own inadequacy, your own failure, your own sinfulness, you have taken the first step toward gaining a glorious and wonderful personal victory that will carry you through the days of crisis that lie ahead.
The second key is the recognition that God’s standard of a holy life is not attainable by human effort. God is first of all concerned with what you are. What you do is the result of what you are.
There is no way that we by ourselves can generate sanctification. Our sanctification is Christ. There is no way we can be holy. Our holiness is Christ. This caused Paul to write: “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
The third key is reliance on the Holy Spirit. To paraphrase Galatians 5:16—“Walk by means of the Spirit.” In Romans 8:14 Paul writes: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
You cannot live the Christian life by yourself. The Holy Spirit must live in you and express Himself through you.
Paul said, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:11).
Sin shall no longer rule or dominate you when you are allowing the Holy Spirit to live Christ’s life through you. It is living by faith, living by trust, living in dependence upon God.
If we look to our own resources, our own strength or our own ability, as Peter did when he walked on the water, we will fail. During these crisis days, we must remember that many stumble along the road of life. We must rescue as many as we can before catastrophe strikes.
God is at work in the midst of crisis. In the midst of the problems, pessimism and frustrations of our day, God is doing His own work. Let us realize that there are certain things we cannot do. Let us be faithful in the things He has called us to do.
Will you surrender totally to Christ? As you look forward to the day when Christ shall return, be up and about your Father’s business—give of your income, spend time in prayer, be faithful in worship, tell others about Jesus Christ—and you will discover the usefulness, the optimism, the confidence, that belong to God’s children.”
Billy Graham 1962
Let me urge you today to become, as Jesus said, “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). Think about what it would mean, what changes you would have to make, what habits you’d have to break . . . most of all, what masks you’d have to peel off.
At Halloween everyone wears a mask or hides their face in some way or another. They talk to you from under the mask. You can’t see their face or eyes, you can’t see the expressions they were making, which would help you to decipher the sincerity they were talking to from.
It’s a funny thing, but when we wear literal masks, nobody is fooled. But how easy it is to wear invisible ones and fake out people by the hundreds week after week.
Did you know that the word hypocrite comes from the ancient Greek plays? An actor would place a large, grinning mask in front of his face and quote his comedy lines as the audience would roar with laughter. He would then slip backstage and grab a frowning, sad, oversized mask and come back quoting tragic lines as the audience would moan and weep. Guess what he was called. A hupocritos—one who speaks from under a mask. That’s the exact word Matthew recorded that Jesus used of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:23, 25, 27, 29).
Servants who are “pure in heart” have peeled off their masks. And God places special blessing on their lives.
The Bible teaches us that God is in three Persons. God is One, but He is manifested in three Persons. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Don’t ask me to explain it—I can’t. It’s impossible for me to explain to you the Holy Trinity. I accept it by faith. God the Father; God the Son, who is equal with the Father in every respect; God the Holy Spirit, who is equal with the Son and with the Father in every respect.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He is never to be referred to as “it.” He is a mighty Person, the Holy Spirit of God. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is eternal. The Bible tells us that He is holy. He is referred to in the New Testament alone some 100 times as the Holy Spirit—absolute holiness, absolute purity, absolute righteousness.
The Bible tells us of the work of the Holy Spirit. What does He do? We are told in John 16:8 that He convicts men and women of sin: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Before you can come to Christ you must acknowledge that you are a sinner. You must renounce your sins. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts you of your sin. He makes you feel uncomfortable. He pricks your conscience. He makes you admit that you are a sinner, and then He gives you the strength and the power to turn from your sins.
The Bible teaches that the moment you receive Jesus Christ as Savior, the Spirit of God comes in and gives you new life. For the first time, you begin to live with a capital “L.” There’s a whole new direction to your life because the Spirit of God has given to you the very life of God.
The Bible also teaches us that the Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
This cluster of fruit should characterize the life of every Christ-born child of God. We’re to be filled with love, we’re to have joy, we’re to have peace, we’re to have patience, we’re to be gentle and kind, we’re to be filled with goodness, we’re to have faith, we’re to have meekness, and we’re to have temperance. But what do we find? In the average so-called Christian today we find the opposite.
Every person, before coming to Christ, is dominated by one nature—the “old man.” You’re controlled by your ego, your self. The moment you receive Christ as your Savior, that self is put down. Christ is put on the throne in your life, and the Spirit of God dominates your life.
However, self is still there—sometimes hidden, sometimes quiet—waiting for the opportunity and the chance to attack the citadel of your soul and take control again. You have the will as a Christian to yield either to the flesh and live a fleshly, carnal life; or to yield to the Spirit and live a Spirit-filled life.
Which life are you living? Are you living a fleshly, carnal life? Oh, you go to church, but there is no daily walk or fellowship with Christ. There’s not the joy, the buoyancy that you know a Christian should have.
God never meant it to be that way. God meant the Christian life to be on the highest possible plane at all times, bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
I cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit by my own strength. I cannot love, I cannot have joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance by myself. I have no power. But this Holy Spirit, who lives in me since I received Christ as my Savior, is the one who gives me the power to love. He gives me the joy. He gives me the peace. He gives me the patience. He bears the fruit in my life.
You say, “I’m a Christian.” Are you? Well, let’s see what kind of fruit you have produced. Is your life filled with immorality? Is it filled with idolatry? That is, do you have more time for other things than you do for God? Is there hatred? Is there wrath? Is there strife? Is there partying? Is there envy? Is there jealousy?
Now regarding the fruit of the Spirit: The first one is love, and this is the heart of it all, because all of them are wrapped up in this one word: love.
There are three words for love in Greek. In English there is only one. But in Greek, eros is sensual love. Philia is love between friends or the love between a man and wife. And there is one word to describe supernatural love, God’s love for us: agape.
Notice God’s love. You and I were sinners. We were enemies of God. We had rebelled against God. We deserved hell. But the Bible says God loved us anyway with an everlasting love, so that He was willing to give His Son to die on the cross for our sins.
When I see Jesus Christ dying there, the nails in His hands, the spikes through His feet, and the crown of thorns on His brow—when I see Christ suffering and dying—I see the love of God outpoured for us.
If Christ were dying for friends it would be one thing; but He was dying for enemies. The moment you give your life to Christ, the Bible teaches that God sheds abroad in your heart that same love—agape love.
There is not a person who has the ability to love that way unless he or she comes to Christ—unless the Holy Spirit has control of their life. You don’t have the power to love. But when men and women turn to God, God gives them agape love—and then they love their neighbors no matter what the color of their skin, no matter what their circumstances.
This is the love that God gives as a gift, and it is produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit who lives there.
Then there’s joy. The summons to rejoice is sounded no less than 70 times in the New Testament. Seventy times in the New Testament it says that Christians should rejoice! Count it all joy, even when you face trials and tribulations and troubles.
There is a vast difference between pleasure and Christian joy. Pleasure depends on circumstances. Many times it requires good health to really enjoy yourself. But Christian joy is completely independent of health or circumstances.
When circumstances are savage, when circumstances are against you, when every modern comfort is withdrawn, there is still the miracle of joy produced by the Holy Spirit who lives within. How many sick people I’ve called on who knew Christ and there was a radiant joy—there was heaven on their faces.
And there is peace. Millions of people would gladly give their right arms to find peace. They would like to have deep, inward, satisfying peace.
You are searching for peace: you long for it. You thought you would find it if you made a lot of money, but you didn’t find it. You thought you would find it if you had sexual experiences, but you didn’t find it.
You thought you would find it if you got drunk, but you didn’t find it. You thought you would find it in getting and accumulating a lot of knowledge, so you got all the degrees you could get, but you didn’t find it. You’ve searched the religions of the world, but you haven’t found it.
There are a thousand ways you’ve turned, trying to find peace, but you haven’t found it. You’ve escaped from reality for a few moments, for a few hours, and then it’s back—the old burden, the old suffering, the old emptiness, the old monotony, the old grind. Give your life to Christ and let Him give you “the peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
As you yield completely to Him as Savior and Lord—when you come to Christ by an act of faith—He gives you the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of the Spirit. After the Holy Spirit is in you, you must yield to Him to the extent that He controls your life. Then sin will not rule over you. “He who is in you [the Holy Spirit] is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
You say, “What must I do?” By an act of faith you must receive Christ. You must give Him your total life, your intellect, your emotional life. Your will must be bent to His will—surrender, commit, receive. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Give your life to Him! Don’t let anything keep you back! You may never again be this close to the Kingdom of God.
Who doesn’t like being on a victorious team? Victory is something we all want to experience. In fact, I have never met anyone who would choose defeat over victory. Human nature strives for victory. The late Paul “Bear” Bryant, award-winning coach at the University of Alabama, said, “The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.”
Are we willing to endure the training and the vigor’s that will lead us to victory?
What is the greatest and most costly battle ever to take place? Who was the victor, and what was the reward?
The greatest battle ever fought was between good and evil. This great battle took place at Golgotha—also known as Mount Calvary—a rugged hill outside the walled city of Jerusalem.
Jesus Christ was Victor, paying the cost with His blood. The reward was the salvation of human souls.
Jesus had spent three years with 12 chosen men—His disciples. He had walked with them across the plains and through the valleys. He had sailed with them upon the waters. He’d sat with them on the mountains and taught them many things, including this: “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19).
This was the very purpose of Jesus’ birth into our world. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. This is why the word Christmas starts with the word Christ.
Jesus gave his disciples a glimpse of what was to happen, but they did not comprehend that the Man they believed to be their King could ever fall into the brutal hands of mere men. They were focused on the Friend they called Master—the One who preached salvation and a coming kingdom, the One whom they believed to be the promised Messiah.
Jesus willingly died on the cross to identify with all those searching for truth. Are you among them? Have you heard what Jesus has said to you from the cross? You were there. I was there. Oh, it’s true that we hadn’t been born yet, but our sins were present that day. It wasn’t just the soldiers, thieves, religious leaders, and passersby who took part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Our sins also nailed Him to the tree.
When Jesus hung on the cross, a great unseen cosmic battle raged in the heavens. And in the end Christ triumphed over all the forces of evil and death and hell, giving us the greatest of all hope—eternal forgiveness.
Though the cross repels, it also attracts. It possesses a magnetic quality. Once you have been to the cross, you will never be the same. The greatest vision of sin is at the cross, where we also see the greatest vision of love.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
This is what Christmas is all about.
If you hear Him speaking to you today, ask Him to forgive you.
Ask Him to come into your life and make you a brand new person.
The one He created you to be when He brought you into this world.
He will do it. He’s just waiting for you. Ask Him now…
People have all kinds of ideas and notions on whom they are to marry, how they go about finding “the one” to marry, and the list of standards and ideals they have for the one they marry. Let’s clear up a few things, shall we?
The bible doesn’t say anything about waiting for your soul mate to get married. It also doesn’t say anything about God having that one special person just for you…although people will argue with me on that one! What it does say is that we are to get or find a spouse—that means you don’t sit and wait for God drop one into your lap.
The only other clear directive to believers is to make sure that the person you marry is also a believer. (See 1Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14.) Notice that scripture doesn’t tell us to marry a person who simply says he or she is a believer. There is a huge difference between the two, but in all honesty, most people don’t get that.
Far too often single people—especially women—will date anyone who claims to be a Christian regardless of whether or not they have any real evidence of action to back that report up. You are not a Christian just because you went to church as a child, or because you attend services on Christmas and Easter. Even sitting in church every Sunday doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in your garage makes you a car. There are signs that you need to look for when trying to evaluate a person’s commitment to their faith. And make no mistake, it is exactly what you should be doing during the dating process.
Does the person actually show the fruit of their proclamation of faith? Does he regularly attend worship? Is she actively involved in a local church body? How often does he read his bible, pray, or fast? Is she a generous giver who volunteers her time, money and also tithes? Or is this person someone who just stamps “Christian” on their life but is not living out the Christian disciplines? Are they impatient, inflexible, demanding and selfish? Do their behaviors reflect the heart of a true believer or do they act no differently than those pagans in the world around us?
You need to really look at the person you are interested in and honestly assess their commitment to self- restraint, denying their flesh, exercising sacrificial attitudes and a devotion to truly following Jesus Christ. Check the fruit. Are they the real deal, or just some facsimile or counterfeit of a genuine believer? Far too often single people will jump into a relationship and get all emotionally tangled with another person who claims to be a believer but in reality, is living like total hell.
They don’t read the bible, pray, give to or even attend a church regularly. Some of these men and women may attend church but are out there living just like the heathens when it comes to dating by freely giving oral sex or fornicating their little brains on the first few dates. Clearly there are those who say they are a Christian, and then there are those that truly live as one.
Singles out there in the dating pool must be more discerning and less duped and dense when it comes to choosing the person they will be yoked to in marriage. Don’t make the common mistake thinking all that matters is what a person says in regard to their faith. This is definitely a time that actions speak louder than words, and you need to see their faith in action.
Most people don’t understand the power of sex. Our culture has poisoned their thinking and they’ve bought the lie that sex is just something you do because it’s exciting and feels good. Most people are totally unaware of the consequences of being sexually involved with another person.
I’m convinced that we are clueless about the ramifications of sex done the wrong way instead of the right way—God’s way. We have to start connecting the dots, folks. How you behave sexually outside of marriage has an impact on sex inside your marriage. It’s an important message that we must get out to our Christian young people.
Dr. Kenneth Ryan has written a great book titled, Finding Your Prince in a Sea of Toads. I highly recommend it for all single women and for parents of teenage girls. The book explains how to date the right way in order to “find a quality guy without getting your heart shredded”. A large portion of it is dedicated to telling young women how to handle themselves when it comes to sex and the importance of doing it right prior to marriage.
Dr. Ryan draws a brilliant analogy that drives home the point of how illicit sex has consequences:
In a classic ridiculous movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is a scene in which a supposedly horrible beast is guarding a cave. The knights have heard horror stories about its ferocity, having been told, “It has long claws and horrible fangs. It is a hideous monster,” so they approach the cave with great fear and caution. But all they see is a little bunny hopping around in front of the cave. “It’s just a bunny,” the first knight says in a British accent filled with derision. He approaches the cave casually and the bunny leaps to his throat biting and killing the knight. More knights follow and are slaughtered by the fake-looking killer bunny. It is a classic moment in movie comedy.
Sex outside of marriage is like the bunny. It looks like a harmless, fuzzy thing that you would want to cuddle. It looks warm, friendly, and desirable. People who warn against the dangers of sex while single are usually considered radical nuts, out of step with modern times. The derision is similar to that of the knights just before they were slaughtered. Many people hear the warnings about premarital sex and think they are not susceptible to its powers. You are surrounded by movies, magazines, TV shows, and friends who all deal with dating sex as if it is a harmless little fluff ball, nothing but fun. Any negative consequences are ignored or laughed at. Everyone seems to think sex is “just a little bunny” until it is too late.
Far too many people have fallen prey to the fuzzy little bunny of sex, not thinking that it can actually do a ton of damage. This isn’t about condemning people but rather, we need to teach and warn others…especially our young people. You have to talk to your kids and warn them of the potential damage they face and the probability that they will impact their future sex lives when they become sexually active outside of marriage.
People who have had several partners, had all kinds of sexual experiences, used pornography, gotten into masturbation, or ventured into homosexual behavior, etc. have all sorts of imprinting and images stuck in their heads. There are memories and associations in their minds from all they have seen and done. Often people ask me, “Pastor, how do I get rid of these things so that my spouse and I can have a normal sex life?”
Now, this will really depress a lot of people—not that I’m here to depress you all—but the truth of the matter is you may never get rid of these images or feelings. One of the problems we have in Christianity is that because we believe in healing and restoration, people live casually. They think that what they do won’t matter because Jesus will heal it all and make it okay.
The reason so many churches don’t speak out about sexual sin is because Christians think it’s not big deal since once you get saved and ask Jesus to forgive you He’ll just heal it and it will all be gone. But that’s simply not true. Those of you who have been down this path, have you noticed the pictures never go away? You may be serving Jesus for 30 years and be living as pure as the wind driven snow, but sometimes you might be having sex with your spouse and you’ll still remember having sex with someone else. There are woman and men who love their husbands and wives deeply. Yet, if they are honest, they’ll admit that those thoughts still intrude into their minds even years later. They still remember it. A sound, a smell, a touch can all trigger a memory or an image in your mind. It’s not something you can just do casually without repercussions. This is why the bible says, don’t do it!
Paul warns us to flee from sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18 because “All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” What he is saying is that you hurt yourself, you sin against yourself and there is damage done to your own mind and body when you do this.
When you go down this path it’s going to be harder for you and at some level, you may struggle for the rest of your life. There is no magic formula or pixie dust or special prayer that you can say to make the residual consequences disappear. I know that people get upset when I say this, but it’s true. It’s like if you commit murder and then repent and ask God to forgive you, He will. You can even ask the victim’s family to forgive you and they will…but you still have to serve your time in prison. Why? Because even though there is forgiveness, there are still consequences. You can ask God to forgive you of your sexual sin and in your standing before Him, it’s like it never happened. But in your body and in your mind there are consequences to that sin.
Scripture tells us we can renew our minds and take our thoughts captive and that is what people who have done these things have to do. Again, I’m not condemning people but trying to point out the importance of telling your kids and our young people about this. They need to know this is a big deal and that they can’t casually have sexual experiences before they’re married thinking they will just forget it all when “the right one comes along”. You don’t forget it. You can be haunted by the images and the experiences for the rest of your life.
Sexual experience are highly imprinting even if you are not serious about it. Your brain and body don’t know that it “doesn’t really mean anything” and that you aren’t serious and just messing around. There is hope and you are not doomed, but it will require a lot of intentionality, a lot of resistance, a lot of energy fighting the thoughts, feelings and temptations because of your past. You can heal and have a meaningful life, but there is no magic wand to wave to make it like it never happened. People who don’t go there, the ones who do sex right in the context of marriage, don’t struggle with these things.
That is why churches need to talk about this. We should all be driven to teach the truth and quit giving the picture that Jesus will just make things all better…especially those who have been down this road and know what I’m talking about. We must start connecting the dots and realize that sex is very powerful and it’s a really big deal outside of marriage.
Remember the analogy…it’s not just a cute fuzzy bunny.
For many severely conflicted couples, divorce seems to promise peace from the infighting, a fresh start, the hope of new love, and a kind of “reset button” for life. Many buy into the idea that ending a marriage is a viable way to solve relationship problems.
Besides, you reason, it will ultimately be better for all, and the kids will make it—kids are resilient. And you won’t have to look for to find voices to side with you. People who love you will give you a biased shoulder to cry on; they want you to feel loved and supported. But don’t be quick to listen to your personal fan club. They are not objective; they are out to protect and rescue you. People like this will always urge you to divorce if they believe you are suffering emotionally in your marriage.
But divorce has been oversold. What most fail to acknowledge is the longstanding pain created by a divorce. Contrary to popular belief, statistics show that after divorce children are not okay. The ‘trickle-down effect” causes them emotional trauma that stays with them throughout life. Also, divorced people are less healthy and less happy, and have a higher risk of substance abuse. Depression is three times greater in women who divorce than in those who do not. And divorce severely lowers one’s standard of living. In fact, if statistics are to be believed, the one sure way you can guarantee that you, your children, and your grandchildren will live at or below the poverty level for their entire lives is simply to get a divorce.
Never mind the religious implications, we should fight for our marriages because divorce sucks. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t eliminate the relational dysfunction evidenced in the marriage. Marriage problems are relationship problems, they are the result of how two people interact with each other. You may abandon a troubled marriage, but you will still bring the way you interact with others along with you. You can run, but you cannot hide who you are.
And what of the pain you feel when you have to deal with your ex-spouse? You may think you’ll be free when you “ex” your spouse, but you will relive the pain and awkwardness of facing that ex at every holiday, every birthday, and every special occasion. Even in divorce, spouses don’t disappear.
Neither do the problems that divorce creates. It will hound you for the rest of your life.
Yes there really is a National Day of Prayer. It’s the first Thursday of every May. What do you do on the National Day of Prayer?
To all those who deny that America was founded on Christian and biblical morals, I have printed the exact message from President Abraham Lincoln’s 97th Proclamation.
Read this carefully and note that this came from the Senate to the President’s desk. Also notice how many times, the entire devotion and dependence on Almighty God is referenced.
March 30, 1863
Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State
Our country has changed dramatically since 1863. This was a time when we had a President and other government officials that were leading America by their faith and dependence on Almighty God. We stood out from the rest of the world. We openly and readily proclaimed our devotion and faith. It was nothing that we hid from or denied, and certainly nothing that offended people, as is much the case today.
The Bible was a revered book, whether you believed it or not, people honored it.
Not so today. The Bible is scorned and laughed at as just a story book full of fairy tales that you can’t take seriously, while other religious books are held in the highest regard, and shame on those that would ever bring any type of discredit to them. They may even loose their life if they do.
It’s time that is well over do, that those who claim that the Lord is the One True God, and He is their God, should not stand up, but take to their knees in humbleness and total dependence on Him, to confess the sins of this nation, and fall on the mercy of God, to heal our land and cleanse our nation from it’s evil ways. That God would restore us to wholeness, and once again be that beacon of light, that shines out into a dark world as a source for the kind of freedom, that only God can provide. That truly once again we can be “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.
I started this post with the proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, and I will end it with what God has to say to the nation that follows His ways. May God have mercy on us and heal our land.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.
And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.
Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.
Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
The LORD will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.
And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.
And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.
The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them,
and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them”. Deuteronomy 28: 1-14
Are you in anguish over what is going on in America today? Does it go deep into your heart and soul what is taking place in this land of ours? We need people whose hearts have been moved and touched by God, to feel what He feels and see what He sees.
Listen to what David Wilkerson said about anguish, in this short video message. Listen with your heart and not your ears.