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


By Jeannette Haley

There’s a traditional old round we “Oldsters” used to sing in elementary
school that went like this: “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” That old song finds its way
into my mind often these days as I watch throngs of people glibly “floating” down
the stream of life as if nothing matters except their little personal world of fun, fun,
fun. The truth, however, is that the world is on fire in more ways than we know or
can even count. The raging battle between the kingdom of darkness and the
kingdom of light is escalating by the day, and has begun to spread into counties
and local levels.

Those Christians who are truly wide awake and know their Bibles recognize
that we are engaging in a monumental, world-wide battle against the forces of a
darkness so evil words fail to describe it. Satan is indeed the “god of this world”
(the systems of the world), as well as the “prince of the power of the air,”
(Ephesians 2:2, 3). Proof of that is blatantly “in our faces” every day. The
sobering aspect of it all should cause Christians to ask what the visible churches
are doing to prepare people for this end-time tribulation that Jesus warned us of
in Matthew 24. After all, He did ask, “… when the Son of man cometh, shall he
find faith on the earth” Luke 18:8b? When you consider that most Christians have
been taught the Church won’t be here to experience the things we are seeing
and experiencing, even as I write this, and when the event (rapture) they are
focused on does not appear when they think it should, they may very well lose
what little faith they do have. It’s not unbelievers, but believers who will fall away
and become scoffers saying, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (See 2
Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Peter 3:3-4.)

Granted, the wise are aware of the dangers that lie all around us; they can
“hear” the ominous roar of the cascading “waterfall” ahead that will surely plunge
many merry “rowers” floating down the world’s seemingly gentle stream into a
terrifying and shocking end. Not only does the whole Word of God (both Old and
New Testaments) warn us of these facts, but history does so as well. For
example, in the Book of Nehemiah, Chapter 9 we can see a clear parallel
between the children of Israel (who were returning to Jerusalem after seventy
years of captivity in Babylon) and the America we live in today. Before we look at
this example, however, we need to take heed that the history, testimonies, types,
attitudes and actions of these ancient people, and God’s interaction with them,
are not flippantly dismissed or waved away as non-essential and unimportant for
modern man. Remember, the Old Testament was written for our example. “For
whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we
through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” Romans 15:4.
And, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are
written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” 1
Corinthians 10:11.

Bottom line, we must never forget that the God of the Old Testament is the
same as the God of the New Testament; therefore, we need to seriously

consider, and pray about whether our attitude, responses, and beliefs concerning
God Almighty line up with Who the entire Holy Bible declares Him to be. Before
the New Testament as we know it came into being, Jesus said, “It is written, Man
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth
of God.” (See Matthew 4:4.) Thus, He was pointing to every word of the Old
Testament as the Word of God and at no time since then has God or His Word
changed even though our post-modern, man-centered, “relational,” “happy
clappy,” nominal churches have steadily moved far from center. Nowhere in the
New Testament do we read of Jesus approaching the Father in a flippant, glib, or
disrespectful manner such as some do today who think it’s “okay” to portray our
Lord as a “regular guy” who “gets us” and is “in tune” with our dumbed-down and
irreverent culture which has accepted “another Jesus, received another spirit,
and “another gospel.” (See 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4).

Concerning the difference between the early church and the modern church
when it comes to knowing the Bible, Preston Sprinkle wrote, “The first Christians
actually lived as if the same God who breathed stars into existence also breathed
out His Word for us to cherish, memorize, and read ten thousand times over.
They would have been mystified by our modern ability to own, read and yet
neglect the priceless written word.”

An example of Who God is, and the attitude that we, both as needy
individuals and as an exceedingly sinful nation, need to approach Him in is set
before us in the Book of Nehemiah beginning in Chapter 1 verses 4 and 5, “And
it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and
mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. And
said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that
keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his
commandments ….” [Addition mine.] In Chapter 9 we read that the children of
Israel fasted, greatly humbled themselves, separated from all strangers
(unbelievers), and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their
fathers, and worshipped the LORD their God.

Those who worship the “great, mighty and terrible God of heaven,” are
humble and repentant people who know their God and want more of Jesus (and
not the world) with all of their hearts. Such are the ones who truly know what
acceptable worship is and how to express it before the LORD. They know that
the vain repetition Jesus warned of is pagan, unholy, faithless and unacceptable
to God. They also know that jumping up and down until they end up in an altered
state of consciousness is likewise unscriptural, pagan and dangerous; and they
know that singing “me, myself and I-centered” lyrics is not worship either. Jesus
said in John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in
spirit and in truth.” What is truth? Jesus said God’s Word is truth, and that He is
“the way, the truth, and the life.” (See John 17:17; John 14:6.)

In Nehemiah we read that after the children of Israel humbled and separated
themselves, they confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. Then
they read the book of the law of the LORD their God, confessed before Him, and

then worshipped Him. The Levites stood up and praised God and said, “Stand up
and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious
name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even thou, art LORD
alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the
earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou
preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee” Nehemiah 9:5b, 6.
In reading these Scriptures we see the proper order that is required in
leading not only individuals, but a whole nation back to the God of heaven. It
begins with an acknowledgment of Who God is, not the god we want Him to be.
He is “our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest
covenant and mercy” (Nehemiah 9:32a). There must be true soul searching,
brokenness, and repentance before the Lord, followed by reading, studying, and
meditating on God’s Word, confession made of failure to obey Him which results
in genuine worship such as we read of in Nehemiah 12, the entire Old
Testament, and especially in the Book of Psalms.

Our God is a great and mighty God, terrible in power and holiness. (“Terrible”
in the sense of His awesome and incomprehensible greatness, majesty and
power; His omnipotence, omniscience; omnipresence and immutability.) Psalm
47:2 says “For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the
earth.” In Moses’ song (Exodus 15:1-19) we read, “Who is like unto thee, O
LORD, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises,
doing wonders?” In Deuteronomy 10:17 we read, “For the LORD your God is
God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which
regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.” Psalm 47:2 says, “For the LORD most
high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.”

The question is, what are the contemporary churches doing to prepare
people for, not only the troubled times in which we live, but the even more
turbulent days to come? How are believers being prepared for the imminent
return of the Lord Jesus Christ who is coming, not as a sweet babe as in His first
Advent, but as the great, mighty and terrible King of kings, and Lord of lords? Is
this a time for God’s people to be “eating and drinking and making merry,” while
worshipping their feel-good forms of “worship,” and whose faith amounts to no
more than “faith in their faith” and their “positive confessions?” Where is sobriety
and the fear of the LORD, which is the beginning of wisdom? Psalm 89:7
admonishes, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be
had in reverence of all them that are about him.” Who is preaching and warning
the people that “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,
before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come” Joel 2:31? (See also
Isaiah 13:9-10; Malachi 4:5; Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:11; 2 Peter 3; Psalm 66:3-5;
Psalm 76:7.)

Finally, if we don’t get God right, then we won’t be right either. If our habit is
to randomly pick and choose verses of Scripture out of context that we enjoy
reading, or that make us feel good, or seem to “fit” whatever mood we’re in, or
that give us the “warm fuzzies” of how “Pappa” loves us no matter how we live,
then we’ll end up spiritually “malnourished” and lacking in the godly fear that
produces knowledge, understanding, and the wisdom which pleases God. In

other words, we may know just enough to “get by” without a trace of the genuine
sobriety that is exemplified by the lives of the disciples, apostles and martyrs of
the early church as well as in the lives of the “sold out,” great men and women of
God who have gone before us whose lives should be studied by young and old in
order to add substance and perspective to the otherwise mountains of
“Christianity Lite” reading material floating around today. Let us repent of any and
all attempts to “soften the truth” by putting on a phony front, playing games, and
being “people pleasers” instead of being committed to pleasing our great, mighty
and terrible God!

Finally, if we don’t build on the right foundation of Jesus Christ, our Rock, and
live by every word of God as Jesus instructed, (Matthew 4:4), then our “spiritual
building” won’t stand. But, thank God we have God’s “instruction manual” for our
lives which is more than able to cause us to know our God, to establish us in
Him, and to guide our steps. May we sing with David, “I will extol thee, my God,
O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee;
and I will praise thy name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be
praised; and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Amen.

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The Goal of Gentle Shepherd Ministries is to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to make disciples in compliance with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19).

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