Friday, May 22, 2009


On the outskirts of a midwestern college town near a settlement of needy souls there once was a Gospel Mission. Their white clapboard building had no indoor plumbing. Their piano was out of tune. Yet every Sunday about 25 children would walk to the Mission to hear the dear Salvationist (She was an officer in the Salvation Army) tell the story of the cross. Though her husband had unexpectedly died many years before, she was a Mother to the scores of children she loved and brought to the Savior. Usually 5 or 10 people would stay after Sunday School for a worship service.

The year John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, a young Nazarene pastor and his family were led by God to move from Kansas and lead the fledgling mission. Though the young pastor’s stamina was diminished by heart disease, he prayerfully and faithfully set out to knock on every door in the settlement.

Those who came to the mission heard the Word of God, were touched by the presence of God’s Spirit, and they were changed by the power of God’s love. Many were saved. Within a year the mission grew to a record attendance of 100.

It was by divine appointment that the young pastor found himself calling along a nearby country road inviting a retired farmer and his wife to attend the mission. “No” they said, “we are moving.” Seizing the moment, the young pastor asked, “Have you sold your house and acreage?” Within a few hours a contract was written and signed. The four acres were located only a mile from the Mission.

The Pastor gave the house and the land to the Mission. The hardworking craftsmen of the Mission set out to build a new church. Clarence, Dave, Russ, Bob, and Ken were all there, along with their sons, and other volunteers. The new church would be called Faith Church. In less than a year the congregation moved into their new building. And God’s presence hallowed that first service.

As the congregation continued to grow, the young Pastor and his people were tested and tried—but their allegiance to God’s Word, and their determination to be holy and wholly God’s did not wane. Time after time God blessed! God supplied their needs! Souls were saved. Young people were called into the ministry.

Within 7 years the church outgrew their building. A new auditorium was planned and built, debt-free! The lovely colonial style building would seat 500. The first Sunday in the new building was thrilling. God again met with His people. Shouts of victory rang out in the services.

But only weeks after moving into the new auditorium the Pastor and his people were confronted with a life changing choice. Should they follow the lead of their denomination and compromise their stand against divorce and remarriage? Or should they lovingly insist that “what God has joined together let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6). Unwilling to change, the 40 year old Pastor resigned from the church and moved out of the parsonage.

The Church remained connected with the denomination and over the next twenty years called several pastors. The congregation struggled. Anxious to separate themselves from their former Pastor someone sawed his name off the cornerstone.

Some suggested that more contemporary music might help so the church brought in drums and electric guitars to replace the organ.

Others thought that the church could better attract young people with more entertainment. It was decided that the 500 seat auditorium should be transformed into a giant game room. The lovely colonial pews were taken up and stacked in the back of the building. Pool tables were moved onto the platform area. Air hockey tables and basketball hoops were added. A speaker system that would accommodate a heavy beat was added. And a snack bar window was added next to what had been the baptistry.

But programs and entertainments were no substitute for the presence of God that had once hallowed that place. Compromise led only to more compromise. There was no difference between the sacred and the secular. Finally the church was closed.

If only that were the end of this sad story: The vacant church was offered for sale. For months the building sat empty until recently the Church of Nazarene sold it to a Muslim group to be used as an Islamic center.

Now compromise has turned defeat into tragedy.

…Where once Christ was praised as King, today He is acknowledged as merely a prophet.
…Where once the Word of God was preached with clarity and power, today the dangerous and deceptive words of the Koran are honored.
…Where once the Holy Spirit moved with convicting, converting, and sanctifying power, today the spirit of anti-Christ prevails.
…Where once the Love of God was evident, today the hatred of Mohammed is praised.

Christians, let us never forget the lessons of this true account. Let us never compromise in the slightest way with the world, the flesh, or with the devil. Let us resolve to walk in holiness and righteousness. Let us pray that God will forgive us for the error of our ways, for making the slightest accommodations for sin, and for being more seeker-sensitive than Spirit-sensitive!

O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years
make known; in wrath remember mercy.
O Habakkuk 3:2

Saturday, May 16, 2009


May 9, 2009

Do people need love and comfort more than they need conviction and conversion?

Recently I was contacted by a professing Christian salesman who was selling computer software and growth strategies for churches. According to his statistics 80% of the people who visit a church are coming because they have a problem and they are looking for answers.

Furthermore, he said most visitors do not return because they do not feel that they are included and genuinely welcome by the congregation. (We work hard to be sure that everyone is welcome here!)

I asked, Do you think that churches should emphasize love and acceptance more than repentance?" "Absolutely!" He quickly shot back.

It's too bad that Jesus wasn't coached by this salesman. For that matter, John the Baptist and the Apostles Peter and Paul could have used his help as well. The first message each preached urged "repentance." See for yourself:

"From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
Matthew 4:17

"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:1-2.

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38

Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision, but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
Acts 26:19-20.

Clearly the first priority for the Son of God, as well as for the Sons of God, was to call the lost to repentance. Sincere repentance prepares the heart to receive "the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost." (Romans 5:5). And "The love of God" is the deepest need of every heart.

Unless people repent, literally change their minds about sin and self, the Holy Spirit will not be welcome. But all those who do repent--who turn from loving sin to hating sin, and then begin to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matthew 5:6) will be filled. Repenting souls are sick and tired of their own rebellious ways. Repenting souls unconditionally surrender their will to the "good, acceptable, and perfect" will of God. (Romans 12:2). Repenting souls deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. They pray, "Not my will, but thine be done." (Luke 22:42).

The Apostle Peter could not have been more specific. "Repent, and be baptized,...and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38).


The Bible tells us that when God created Adam he "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:27). You will notice that it was not until God breathed into man's nostrils that he became "a living soul."

Shortly before returning to Heaven, Jesus met with His disciples and "breathed on them," saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." (John 20:21-22).

As the body could not and can not live without the breath of God, so the spirit of man cannot live without the Spirit of God. That is why Jesus urged Nicodemus to be born of the Spirit or "born again." He said, "Verily verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." (John 3:5,6)

The Spiritual person--or one who is "born of the Spirit" discovers the Holy Spirit to be:

The SPIRIT of LIFE (Romans 8:2)
The SPIRIT of ADOPTION (Romans 8:15)
The SPIRIT of TRUTH (1 John 4:6)
The SPIRIT of WISDOM (Ephesians 1:17)
The SPIRIT of COMFORT (John 14:16)
The SPIRIT who ASSURES (Romans 8:1, 16)
The SPIRIT who GUIDES (Romans 8:14)
The SPIRIT who EMPOWERS (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13)
The SPIRIT of RIGHTEOUSNESS (Romans 14:17)
The SPIRIT of PEACE (Romans 14:17)
The SPIRIT of JOY (Romans 14:17, Galatians 5:22)
The SPIRIT of LIBERTY (2 Corinthians 3:17)
The SPIRIT of HOLINESS (Romans 1:14)
The SPIRIT who SANCTIFIES (1 Peter 1:2)
The SPIRIT of LOVE (2 Timothy 1:7)

Just think how different our lives, our churches, and our world would be, if this Holy Spirit lived in every heart. You can see now why WE BELIEVE THAT THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER--THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT--IS THE GREATEST NEED OF OUR DAY!

Because I have limited space, I would like to focus for a moment on one aspect of the Spirit-life, namely "Assurance."

There is a profound difference between the assurance that comes from God's Spirit, and the assurance that comes from people. THE BEST WE CAN OFFER OURSELVES, OR THAT PEOPLE CAN OFFER US, IS FINITE, OR LIMITED. I'm afraid that sometimes people base their salvation on the words or the witness of other people, rather than the clear witness of God's Spirit.

BUT WHEN GOD'S SPIRIT ASSURES US, WHEN HIS SPIRIT WITNESSES TO OUR SPIRITS THAT WE HAVE BEEN BORN OF GOD HE OFFERS US HIS INFINITE BEST! My Grandmother Jones said that there were some things that you know that you know, that you know that you know! Certainly those who are "born of the Spirit" have that wonderful confidence that they are indeed saved from their sins.

It was this kind of assurance that inspired the Methodist hymnwriter Charles Wesley to pen:

It is our prayer that in every service of the Church those who are longing for this kind of spiritual assurance will "seek and find." (Matthew 6:33, 7:7). There is nothing that we can do that is more important than leading souls into the knowledge of that Blessed Assurance. In fact, if that is your heart's desire, you can experience that assurance right now.

The blind poet Fanny Crosby rejoiced in that "Blessed Assurance" in her classic hymn. Her first verse is one of praise, her last is one of surrender--both are keys to Assurance:

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood!

Perfect submission, all is at rest.
I in my Savior, am happy and blest.
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love!

May we all rejoice in that Blessed Assurance today, and as we gather to worship our Lord on Sunday!