Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

Have you ever noticed how fast the minutes and hours seem to go when you’re having a wonderful time, but how slow they seem to go when you’re not? Time is something we never seem to have enough of, yet we all have the same number of hours in a day. We order our lives according to time, reflect on the events and happenings of the past according to it, and try to plan out a course for time in the future. However, time is something none of us can control. We can’t extend it, or stop it any more than we can stop the aging process. We’re all caught in the current of this intangible river called time.

There will come a day when time shall be no more. We can’t fathom such a state because everything within our finite minds is based on a beginning and an ending, but not so with God. He is eternal, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. God exists outside of the dimension of time. He is in control of this thing we call time. God orders events in this Universe, in this world, in nations, and in our lives, according to His will. In other words, there is an appointed time for everything, and that included the exact time for the birth of Jesus Christ.

We read in Galatians 4:4-6: “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”  The birth of Jesus was not only miraculous because He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of a virgin, but because the exact time and place of His birth had been foretold by the Old Testament prophets.

God was precise in His timing for Jesus’ birth. We read this in Matthew 1:17: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.” Now we are once again entering that time of the year when Jesus’ first advent is celebrated by many, in spite of Satan’s and the world’s best attempts to deny, ignore or pervert the truth. Nevertheless, Jesus’ birth is a historical fact that neither man nor time can erase.

God also has an appointed time for you and me. Ecclesiastes 3:2a says: “A time to be born, and a time to die . . .” God knew all about us before we were even born. Psalm 139:15, 16 says: “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”  In Psalm 90:12,Moses prayed: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

This reminds me of the powerful song, “For Such A Time As This,” written by Wayne Watson, which goes, in part: “Now, all I have is now To be faithful, To be holy And to shine, Lighting up the darkness Right now, I really have no choice But to voice the truth to the nations A generation looking for God For such a time as this I was placed upon the earth To hear the voice of God And do His will Whatever it is For such a time as this For now and all the days he gives I am here, I am here And I am his For such a time as this.”

You know, we may be living in the perilous times foretold in Scripture, but God has ordained for you and me to be here “for such a time as this.” Think how blessed we are to be living after the advent of Christ! Regardless of what challenges we face, think what it would have been like for you and me if we had been born before Christ.

Let’s try to imagine what our lives would have been like prior to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. No matter who we were, or where we lived, we would be without the hope of heaven. No one who lived and died before Jesus’ death on the cross, His burial and His resurrection entered into heaven at death. Even though ancient people of nearly every tribe and nation scattered upon the face of the earth believed in an afterlife, they had no assurance of eternal life in heaven. Even Abraham and his descendants up until the resurrection of Christ, knew that heaven was God’s dwelling place, and that no man was worthy to enter that holy place upon death. Instead, the souls of those who believed God, lived by faith and walked in obedience to His commandments went to what the Bible refers to as “Abraham’s bosom,” known as the abode of the souls of the dead” called Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in Greek, or Hell located in the center of the earth. This place was divided into two compartments. The righteous went to paradise, and the wicked into torment or Gehenna. “Abraham’s bosom” or Paradise was a place of peace and spiritual bliss. Between these two places was a barrier, so that those in paradise could not pass to the place of suffering and those in the place of suffering could not pass to the place of comfort. Both places were in Hell, the abode of the souls of the dead. You can read about this in Luke 16:19-31.

Imagine what your life would be like with no answers as to the meaning of your existence. After all, Bibles weren’t printed and available to everyone as they are today (at least in the free world). You have nothing but your conscience, the witness of creation and your own empty, seeking soul as a witness to something greater than yourself. The people around you are just as lost as you are, and live mainly by fear, superstition and demonic influence.

Perhaps you may have been fortunate enough to either be born an Israelite, or become a proselyte to Israel. At least you would be blessed with the promises and covenant of God as long as you adhered to them. This means you would be required to not only obey the Law, but to repeatedly offer acceptable sacrifices to atone for your sins. However, the blood of animals could never wash away your sin. When you died, your only hope would be to go to Abraham’s bosom (if you had lived by faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

You would not celebrate Christmas, for there would be no such thing as the celebration of Christ’s birth with all the joy, hope and love that accompanies it. There would be no beautiful hymns and carols telling of the Savior’s birth; no bright lights to remind us of the Light of the world; no special times of celebration with family and friends; no nativity scenes; no candlelight church services, and no glittering decorations to reflect the joy of knowing God has not left us without hope.

Stop and think how different life would be. There would be no remembrance of Christ’s resurrection. Remember, the Word of God would not be printed and available to you as your source of guidance, comfort, hope, and inspiration. There would be no wonderful hymns retelling the Gospel story. There would be no fellowship and communion of the saints. There would be no assurance of forgiveness for sins repented of, and definitely no hope of gaining heaven and being in the presence of the Lord upon death.

 I must admit, it’s difficult trying to imagine living in such a dark, lonely, harsh, and hopeless world. After all, the history of the world changed two thousand years ago when God sent His Son, and it will forever be impacted and changed by this event, in spite of Satan’s relentless efforts to eradicate the truth and plunge us once again into a Christ-less existence.

It’s also difficult trying to stretch the imagination of life before Christ because we are so used to our own perception of Christianity and all that it means to us according to our own personal religious upbringing, influences, perceptions, and conclusions. These beliefs may not be biblical or in line with truth, but they carry enough of the essence of Christianity to convince us that we are bound for heaven. False or misplaced hope is one of the gravest of all spiritual maladies in the world today.

But, you may argue, “My faith is in Christ alone.” That sounds all well and good until we dig deeper and ask two questions: 1) Which Christ do you place your trust in, and 2) Why did He come from heaven to earth? The Bible warns us to beware of receiving “another Jesus, another spirit, or another gospel.” (See 2 Corinthians 11:4). The Apostle Paul also warned of those who “pervert the gospel of Christ.” He went on to write: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” Galatians 1:8, 9.

Perversions of the true Gospel are nothing new. We have to agree wholeheartedly with Sandy Simpson who said in his excellent article, “Another Gospel, Another Jesus:” “Alterations of the Christian message have always been with us, but not since the beginning of the Church have they become so rampant and outrageous. Some of the cults would blush at what is now being said from Christian pulpits.” Keep in mind that whenever the true Gospel is perverted, the end result will always be another Jesus and another Spirit. You cannot alter the Gospel to suit yourself and come out with the real Jesus and the right spirit.

How do you know if you have the right Jesus or not? It all comes down to which Jesus you are building your life upon, what doctrines you believe, and what kinds of fruits are being produced in your life. The Bible tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Is your life established upon the Rock—the Jesus of the Bible—or upon the shifting sands of another Jesus? What spirit did you receive after you first believed? Did you receive the Holy Spirit, or some other spirit? Your motives and fruits will tell what spirit you have.

If you have the real Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then your life will reflect Christ in you. Your heart will belong to Him as you deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him. Your desire will be to grow in Christ, to know and love Him more, and to please Him by consecrating your life to Him. You will know His voice and will follow Him wherever He leads. You will flee from hirelings and heretics. Your goal is to know Him more, be like Him and to be prepared to meet Him face-to-face. This doesn’t mean that you will somehow be less “human” than other people, or that you will be humanly perfect all the time, but it is a steadfast state of your heart.

On the other hand, if you have received another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit, delusion and confusion will be your companions. What you value most will be a religious façade or counterfeit of the real thing. You may want to give the impression that you are a superior human being, or a “super spiritual” person, who has it all together. This is an antichrist or religious spirit that operates through you, causing you to believe that you are a specially “anointed” person who must be “in ministry” of some sort.

There are many facets to false gospels with “another Jesus and another spirit.” Satan has a multitude of lures. Some are blatant, others extremely subtle. Therefore, it doesn’t upset him if you are wise to many of his deceptions, because he knows that it only takes one to destroy a soul.

Consider that millions believe that Mary is co-redeemer with Christ. Countless others have been brainwashed into believing that only those who belong to their particular denomination or church are saved. Millions more believe that Jesus is the brother of Satan, thus denying His deity. Others believe that He is Michael the archangel—again denying His deity. Many deceived souls who profess to be “Christians” believe that He was a mere man, thereby likewise denying His deity which classifies them as a cult. Mind science cults and New Agers believe that He was a cosmic Christ, or the “way shower,” but not God incarnate. These are just a few examples of the more blatant lies of Satan.

Other examples of Satan’s subtle, but popular, lures spring from the premise of being “positive.” Being “positive” has put a whole new spin on Christianity. Nothing “negative” will be tolerated. Thus, the truth is redefined according to whether it is perceived as “negative” or “positive.” If a certain Scripture is considered to be “negative,” then it can be ignored or rejected. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the Word of God has now been added to, and taken away from, producing the many modern so-called “versions” by those who have no fear of the judgment to come. Thus by altering and redefining the Word of God, the intent and spirit behind it has been changed into something that the early church would have instantly recognized and rejected as being false.

Which Jesus have you received? Have you received the Jesus who came, as one televangelist was heard to say, to deliver us from poverty? This is the Jesus of the “positive confession” and “God wants you to be rich” camp. Perhaps you have received the Jesus who came to make you happy? This is the pliable Jesus who pretty much becomes whatever you imagine Him to be as long as you feel good about it. The Jesus who wants you to be happy understands and overlooks your sin and immorality (thus leaving you a lost sinner).

Maybe you’ve received the Jesus who came because you believe you are “worthy” and your self-esteem (pride) needs to be upheld. Never mind that Jesus said His followers must deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Him. You’re an exception, right? On the other hand, possibly you’ve received the Jesus who came to alleviate world hunger, poverty, disease, and suffering. If so, you’ve received the Jesus of the “social gospel” who came to sympathize with humanity and make the world a better place in which to live. Or, it could be your Jesus is merely your “higher power,” but definitely not the Jesus of the Bible who calls for repentance of sin. After all, talking about sin messes up your fragile ego, disturbs your pseudo “peace” and requires you to step up to the plate and get real.

Maybe you’ve received the sad, somber, legalistic, religious Jesus who seems to be remote and distant, and who doesn’t have any real influence in your life, let alone a living relationship with you. But, you’re comfortable with your dead religious life and wish it to remain so. Finally, perhaps you’ve received the mystical Jesus who can only be approached through contemplative prayer, or some other type of Eastern meditation, methods or practices.

Hopefully you have received the Jesus whom God sent “in the fullness of time” to “redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” This Jesus is the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” He is the One who said: “for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The Apostle Paul summed up Christ’s mission in 1 Timothy 1:15: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

The Apostle Peter wrote: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” 2 Peter 2:1-3. I ask you, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” Hebrews 2:3?

As you celebrate the gift of God’s Son during this special season, hopefully you will set aside some time to reflect on Who He is, and why He came, remembering that in a future “fullness of time” “he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Are you ready?