Tuesday, April 28, 2009


As the disciples of Jesus gathered in the upper room to pray for “the promise of the Father,” the culture outside their doors was profoundly decadent and corrupt. Understanding the times into which the Church was born, as well as the powerful impact of the Church upon the ancient world is both instructive and a source of encouragement for those of us who are the Church of the twenty-first century.

Though small by comparison to the other ancient capitals, the Jews in Jerusalem tenaciously proclaimed God to be holy, loving, personal, and active in governing the universe. They zealously preserved the inspired words of the Law and the Prophets.

But ritualists were running and ruining the Jewish church. The Lord Jesus had warned the Pharisees, “Woe unto you,… for ye… have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” Matthew 23:23. But their pride and their self-righteous attitudes were incompatible with the Christ.

They were the ones who delivered Christ to the Roman rulers whom they despised, shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They were the ones who had urged the Romans to guard the tomb where the Lord was laid. And they were the ones who paid the Romans to say that Christ’s body had been stolen, rather than to admit He was risen from the dead. (Matthew 28:13ff)

It was into this world that the Church of Jesus Christ was born.

Three ideas were captivating the minds of the philosophers in Athens—the philosophical capital of the ancient world.

The Stoics were teaching that the knowledge of what is good or evil was self-referenced or subjective. Each person must decide for themselves, based on their own thoughts and emotions, what was right.

The Epicureans, were contending that happiness was man’s highest good, and that happiness was to be found in pleasure. For them, the standard for knowledge was the impression of the senses. The motto of the Epicureans of our day is, “If it feels good, do it!”

The Skeptics were convinced that truth could not be perceived through reason or the senses. They simply refused to make any absolute moral judgments. Their attitude might be summed up in one word, “Whatever!”

Subjective truth, pleasure as the measure of all things, and a skepticism that refused to make any moral judgments were the three dominant philosophies of ancient Athens; sound familiar? It was into this world that the Church of Jesus Christ was born.

And what was happening in the world’s sole super-power when the Church was born? For centuries the Romans boasted of their military prowess, economic dominance, and established civility, but moral decay was rampant.

Economic Disparity
Wealthy Romans lived in beautiful houses—often on the hills outside Rome. They enjoyed extravagant lifestyles with luxurious furnishings, exotic meals, and lavish dinner parties. Their slaves and servants catered to their every whim.

The disparity between the rich and the poor could not have been more pronounced. The poor eked out a subsistence living. Their houses were squalid and structurally unsafe. When the demented Emperor set fire to the city just to watch it burn, the homes of the poor were devastated.

Whatever marriage meant to the Romans, it certainly did not mean “a lifelong commitment of a man and a woman.” Marriage was not regulated in any way by the state. A man could declare himself married, and declare himself divorced. Divorce and remarriage was far more common in the 1st Century than it is even in 21st century America.

Transvestitism and Transgender Deviancy
The Emperors led the empire in deviancy. Nero married two men. In the first marriage he had his lover castrated and then had him dress as the bride. In the second marriage Nero played the bride. He was often seen wearing women’s clothing. And he wasn’t alone in this love of transvestitism. One historian observed, “It might be said that the emperor who didn’t like to dress in women’s clothing was the exception.”

Elagabalus, an Emperor of the 2nd Century was married four times though he was an avowed homosexual. He often prostituted himself in the brothels of Rome. He wanted to cut off his genitals, and asked a doctor to create a vagina for him by means of an incision. He shaved and wore makeup. He is reported to have said to one of his guests, “Call me not a lord, for I am a lady.”

With rampant promiscuity came thousands of unwanted babies. Many were left by their parents to die by exposure in the forests and countryside. Others were offered up as human sacrifice. The Pelasgians offered a sacrifice of every tenth child during difficult times. It is from this practice that we derive our verb, “to decimate,” the population.

In the Roman city of Carthage, located in northern Africa, the charred bones of literally thousands of infants have been found. In one area over 20,000 burial urns have been unearthed. The Roman historians Plutarch, (AD 46-120), as well as Tertullian, Orosius, and Philo all reference the practice.

Infanticide was viewed with callous calculation by parents of the ancient world. A 1st century letter from a Roman citizen to his wife has been uncovered that reads in part, “"Know that I am still in Alexandria. [...] I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered [before I come home], if it is a boy, keep it, if a girl, discard it."

The Spartan soldiers were notorious homosexuals. The bath houses at Pompeii and in Rome were filled with men who were looking for homosexual encounters. Young men, teens, and even pre-pubescent boys were often brought off the streets to gratify the licentious desires of the older men.

Romans Bath Houses
Both the rich and the poor frequently visited the Roman baths. It was there that males and females would mix freely, exercising, washing, and chatting. Sexual promiscuity was rampant. Art on the walls of the bath houses was explicitly pornographic.

God’s people denied themselves the array of pleasures available at baths, or "Cathedrals of Flesh," as they were known by the Christians.

Roman Games & Stadiums
To entertain the masses, the Romans constructed great stadiums throughout their empire. Here Gladiators would fight to the death, Athletes would compete in the nude, and Actors would portray sexually explicit roles. With the coming of the Christians, a new sport gained popularity. While blood thirsty masses cheered, wild animals attacked the Christians. Thousands of Christians paid for their testimony with their lives.

Religious Views
Because the Roman Empire incorporated so many regions, each with its own religious preferences, the Romans brought idols or writings from each district back to the Capital City. To maintain some semblance of cultural stability, Roman leaders soundly reproved those who were not tolerant of the religions found throughout the empire. It is no wonder that early Christians were scorned by the Roman masses. After all, Christians affirmed that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

Roman Temples not only featured idols of their many gods and goddesses, they were also centers of “religious prostitution.” Young girls as well as young boys were brought into the temples to be used as prostitutes for “worshippers.”

It was into this world, that the Church of Jesus Christ was born!

History records that it was the influence of the New Testament Church that:
1. Changed lives (saving the lost and sanctifying believers),
2. Brought stability to the home (standing with Christ for the permanence of marriage and sanctity of human life), and
3. Transformed culture (promoting civic virtue and dismantling vice-ridden institutions like the public baths).

Our greatest need is not for more education, nor is it for more legislation. Our greatest need is for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth! (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Our great need is for a Church that is dead to sin, and alive unto God.

When God’s holy people are abundantly filled with all the fullness of God, when they are uncompromisingly allegiant to the truth of God’s Word, and when they are aggressive in their evangelism, lives are changed, and all of history is changed.

…New Testament Christians are not concerned about fitting in with their culture, they want to stand out!

…New Testament Christians are not worried about what people think, they wanted to know what God thinks!

…New Testament Christians are not as concerned about saving their own lives, as they are about saving the lost souls around them.

…New Testament Christians are not looking for a church to ‘dinner-tain’ them, they are fasting and praying for God to speak and to move in life-changing, miracle-working power.

…New Testament Christians are not slaves to fashion, they are not attracted to or are they adorned with gold and pearls, nor are they allured by the pleasures and treasures of this world. They are single minded, suffering the loss of all things that they might win Christ!

…New Testament Christians know that no amount of strategizing and organizing will further God’s Kingdom. They knew that man-made promotions and productions cannot accomplish God’s purpose. They want to know and to fulfill God’s agenda.

Only a people who are purified, empowered, and emboldened with the Spirit of Holiness can “assault the gates of hell,” and prevail.

This is the Church that will become the conscience of a nation and that will “turn the world upside down!”

Oh that God would revive our hearts, and revive our churches, that we might once again see world history, national history, and personal histories changed as they were in the first century. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8).

HERE AT FAITH COMMUNITY we have covenanted together to “wait for the Promise of the Father.” Our cry is that of the songwriter:
“Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me!
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me!
Melt me, Mold me, Fill me, and Use me!
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me!”

Monday, April 20, 2009


Only seconds before our Lord ascended, He gave His disciples specific last instructions. He "commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father," (Acts 1:4).

He did not say "Go!" He said "wait!"
He did not say "Testify!" He said "wait!"
He did not say "Organize." He said, "wait!"
He did not say "Strategize." He said, "wait!"
He did not say, "Rest and Relax." He said, "wait!"
He did not say, "Go fishing!" He said, "wait!"
He did not say, "Go shopping!" He said, "wait!"

Waiting for "The Promise of the Father" was no doubt challenging. But the Disciples took Christ at His word. They knew He meant what He said. They knew He was reliable.

So they waited for "The Promise of the Father,"--the outpouring and infilling of the Holy Spirit! The fulfillment of this promise would complete God's redemptive and sanctifying plan. Now "whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved!" Peter testified that when the Holy Spirit came on that first Pentecost, He "purified their hearts by faith!" Now the world could experience God's promise of grace, and mercy, and complete spiritual restoration!

When we speak of the Holy Spirit we are not speaking of an emotional feeling. People today do the craziest things on a whim, then attribute their actions to the Holy Spirit. We would do well to remind ourselves of the essential character of the Holy Spirit as He is revealed to us in New Testament!

He is the Spirit of Life! Romans 8:2
He is the Spirit of Adoption! Romans 8:15
He is the Spirit of the Living God! 2 Corinthians 3:3
He is the Spirit of Liberty! 2 Corinthians 3:17
He is the Spirit of Wisdom! Ephesians 1:17
He is the Eternal Spirit Hebrews 9:14
He is the Spirit of Grace Hebrews 10:29
He is the Spirit of Truth 1 John 4:6
He is the Spirit of Comfort John 14:16
He is the Spirit of Holiness Romans 1:4

The evidence of that the Promise had been given to the Disciples was not "the sound of rushing mighty wind," "flaming tongues of fire resting above their heads" or even "speaking in languages." Peter declares that the evidence that they had received the Promise was first and foremost Purity!

The tragedy of our times is that too many have put such emphasis upon the "accidents" of Pentecost, that they have neglected or even rejected the essence of Pentecost--namely purity of heart!


It is our conviction that only THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER filling the PEOPLE OF GOD will turn the tide of immorality that is now drowning our nation.

I can hear God's people affirming "Yes the Promise of the Father is the Spirit of Holiness!" And "Yes, unless we have this Promise of the Father today, our nation, our churches, our homes, and even our own souls will fall to the onslaught of the devil."

But our problem is this, too many of us today are suffering from SPIRITUAL ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER! (SADD) We will not wait! We will not stay in the place of prayer! We will not surrender all! We will not set aside entertainment, eating, and delights of the flesh, so that we can devote ourselves to being filled with THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER!

I "googled" "The Promise of the Father," and I was surprised that one of my first hits was from the New York Times! A Bishop in the Methodist Church had preached a sermon on "The Promise of the Father," and was quoted in the paper saying, "The disciples were not to wait for this promise of the Father in the theater, in the billiard room, in the ten-pin alley, in the places of public amusement!" November 19, 1877. I can't imagine the editors of the New York Times publishing such truth today!

It is another evidence of the depths to which we have fallen. Oh that God would give us such a hunger and thirst for righteousness and for the Spirit of Holiness, that we would purposefully, specifically, and without reservation wait for the Promise of the Father!