Friday, February 22, 2013

The Triumphant Church

It used to be that I couldn’t understand how you could have your “Post-tribber,” your “Mid-tribber,” your “Pre-tribber,” and your “No-tribbers.” I have since become a “Pan-tribber.” I used to make fun of people like me, but I have adopted the “Pan-tribber” philosophy of: No matter how it turns out, it’s all going to pan out. It’s all going to be okay according to the plan of God, and I don’t have time to weary myself on trying to figure out exactly when Christ will return. This much we probably can agree on: Christ will return and when He does, He will return for a glorious Church.

A glorious Church is a triumphant Church; it is not defeated, diseased, confused, perplexed, or weak. A glorious Church is without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing. This is the Bride for which the Groom, Christ, is returning. The really good news, and the crux of what I want to share today, is that the Church described above is a triumphant Church! It is not because we are triumphant in and of ourselves. It’s because God causes us to be triumphant. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 2:14, wherein the Apostle Paul wrote this: 
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” 
If we are in Christ, we have a promise from God that we will always triumph. I really like this part where Paul says, “Through us, God diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” We’re the perfume of God . . . His diffuser! Through us, He releases the fragrance of His life because we are in Christ. Our lives are mirroring His life. Now to some it can smell like death, Paul said. In other words, to some people, Christians stink. They carry with them the stench of death, and that is because in our representing Christ, it is a reminder to the world that there is a God, and in the end all of us will be judged by the one who has given us life. To build on that succession, because there is a God, it reminds people that Jesus is real, and as a result, those who are following Jesus can become a stench to those who are rejecting Christ.

To those who believe in Him, we smell good . . . at least to each other. There’s a difference between the “Lazarus Syndrome” and the fragrance of Christ. The “Lazarus Syndrome” is “he stinketh by now.” But we carry the fragrance of God; He diffuses that through us. I love the way the Amplified Bible states it: 
“But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere.” 
Do you know that you are a trophy of Christ’s victory? The Word says that, “through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere.” We are diffusing the knowledge of God as we go. Now keep in mind that this is being written by Apostle Paul, a man who is acquainted with tremendous challenges and conflict in his life. He had been betrayed and ended up being confined in prison and put to death. In fact, we will look at the criteria that qualified him for the title, “Apostle.” Through all of these things that he endured, he said, “Yet none of these things move me.”

If you look at 2 Corinthians 11:24, you’ll see a list of qualifications that Paul gives us: 
24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 
I wanted us to read that so we’d be reminded that Paul was a man who was familiar with tremendous challenges, obstacles, and conflicts in his life. He was also a man who was full of faith. Sometimes I think that when people hear a faith message, they think that it might be coming from someone who has no knowledge of pain or loss in their life.

Apostle Paul was well-acquainted with the challenges of life and ministry. Yet, he says of his life, that through all of these things, none of them moved him. He said that in Acts 20:24. Why? Because he was a man who was motivated by the love, knowledge, and the Spirit of God. So none of the challenges that surrounded him had the ability to knock him off course, or to get him to move in some other direction. Christ was his compass, and he had set his heart on following Christ. I want to remind us that without trials there can be no triumph! How are you going to be a winner if you’ve never won anything? How are you going to be triumphant if you’ve never been tried?


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Powerful Gospel, Part 5

Many want forgiveness, but they do not want to repent. Repentance does not simply mean, “God, I’m sorry. Oops, I did it again.” Repentance involves a sincere change of heart and mind and a determination to change the way I think. In order to change the way I think, I must get my mind renewed. In order to get my mind renewed, I must study to show myself approved unto God, a worker who needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

A church without the Holy Ghost is simply an institution offering a religious experience. Now I’m gonna go out on a limb and some may not like it, but that’s okay. It’s my humble opinion that we’re seeing extremes in the Church today. We’re seeing a lot of what is being put forth as spirituality, and many people are basing their Christianity more on their feelings and experience than they are on the Word of God.

I had a lengthy discussion about this again with Apostle Kelly when we were together in Connecticut. The level of spiritual frivolity is very disturbing. Spiritual frivolity: not a whole lot of substance, not a whole lot of Word, not a whole lot of life-transforming truth being preached, but everybody comes mainly to have a good time. I can go to a rock concert and have a good time! I need truth. I need the Word. I need conviction. I need transformation. I need repentance. Repentance is a good thing! I don’t need to simply learn about heaven coming down to earth; I need to understand that hell is just as real. I’m all for heaven touching earth, but you better know that if you aren’t getting heaven, you’re getting hell.

Let’s look at Jeremiah 1:12. This is where it comes down to the nuts and bolts, the practical application for this week. God had given Jeremiah a vision, and He asked Jeremiah what he saw, so he told Him. God let Jeremiah know that he had seen well, and then He reaffirmed it in chapter 1, verse 12:

12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.”

One thing that God wants you and I to know is that He does not slumber. He doesn’t grow tired; you can’t wear Him out and neither can the devil. God is active and alert. He’s wide-awake, and He doesn’t need Red Bull or RockStar. The Scripture in the Amplified says that He is active and ready to perform His Word.

I remember on one occasion meeting with a doctor in regard to my late wife. I went into his office alone and he said, “Well, Pastor Goodman, you know I’m a Christian.” I said, “Wow, I didn’t know that, that’s great.” He replied with, “Yeah, I go church almost every week. Now maybe the difference between us is this: I really don’t believe in a God who needs to be involved with my daily life and decisions.” To which I replied, “Well, yes, then there is a difference because I believe in a God whom I need involved in my day-to-day life.” The doctor said, “I just believe that God gives us knowledge and wisdom and the ability to make our own decisions,” and I said, “Yes, He’s given us the ability to make our own decisions, that’s why I need Him in my everyday life because I’m prone to going the wrong way.” Evidently this doctor didn’t think that he had a propensity to make bad decisions and that he didn’t need God.

We can see how “accurate” everyone is in his or her own opinion and knowledge base, huh? Man, all of the financial experts and all of the medical experts, people practically aren’t dying anymore today, right? And it’s like man is saying to God, “We got this, God, we don’t need You in our day-to-day life.” Well, you know what? We need Him in our daily life. When I’m getting out of bed, I’m tempted to say, “Hey, God, I’m getting out of bed now. Please keep a close eye on me because I’m prone to going the wrong direction and doing what I shouldn't.”

I had someone say this to me just the other day, “Oh Pastor Goodman, we need you to do this, and we need you to do that, and you don’t know how people are looking to you.” I said, “Brother, don’t be putting that weight on me; if you see a red “S” on my chest, it doesn’t stand for “Superman,” it stands for “Stupid.” I know some of you right now are correcting me in your mind saying, “You’re not stupid, you’re one of the smartest guys I know.” Ha!

God is alert, active, and ready to perform His Word in you! What’s that tell us? Get the Word coming out of your mouth! Change the way you talk. You say, “How do I do that?” Change the way you think! “And how do I do that?” Change what’s in your heart.

“Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”
“Guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life."

God is looking to perform His Word in you and through you. God can be tested. He doesn’t mind being tested, and you know why? Because He’s faithful. Get the Word coming out of your mouth. Finances? Speak the Word. Healing? Speak the Word. Don’t ever stop speaking the Word.

“Speak the Word only, and My servant shall be healed.”

Let’s be diligent to get the Word in our hearts and coming out of our mouths that we might be a demonstration of the Gospel of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen?

Father, we thank You for Your Word. May it be forever sealed and indelibly marked upon our hearts today. I pray that each person who reads this will have something to take with them and apply to their lives, homes, marriage, business, finances, whatever it is, God, that he or she may implement this message in some practical way. May we not be of the camp that is involved in preaching a powerless Gospel, for Your kingdom, Lord, is not one that is lacking in power. It is the power of God unto salvation, and we thank You for that which is working in our lives today!

 ~ pg

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Powerful Gospel, Part 4

One of the greatest miracles of salvation is the indwelling of God’s Spirit. He came to prepare a temple, and that temple is you! The only way that the temple could be properly prepared—regenerated, sanctified, dedicated to the purpose of God—was if it was first washed in blood. When you came to Christ, that’s really what happened. You weren’t only being forgiven of your sin. You were being called out, and your life was being dedicated to Almighty God as something holy, and now the way was prepared for Him to take up residence in you. You have God on the inside of you! Wow! To me, that’s the greatest miracle. Not just being forgiven of sin, but that God would see something in us . . . and it wasn’t that we qualified on our own . . . God chose us! He called us out of darkness and said, “Boom, I’m setting you apart because I want to live in you.”

In the early verses of Matthew 11, John the Baptist was in prison. He sent his messengers to go and ask Jesus if He was “The One.” Was He the Messiah? I think Jesus’ reply was very interesting to those sent by John the Baptist. His response speaks volumes! Did you notice that He merely referred to the evidence? He didn’t say, “Go and tell John that I Am,” so that maybe they’d fall to the ground or something. He didn’t make any attempt to convince them of who He was or who had sent Him.

Jesus simply said to the messengers of John, “You go tell John that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf are receiving their hearing, the dead are being raised. Now, who do you think I am?” This was evidence of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Gospel of the Kingdom is not a powerless message that simply attempts to feed the hungry or clothe the naked. The Gospel of the Kingdom is filled with power, and the purpose of that power is to produce evidence that the Kingdom of God is here! It is the same power that is available to us as the Church. We are Christ’s representatives on the earth, so we must ask ourselves, “Are we accurately ‘re-presenting’ Christ?”

It’s good, honorable, and noble to feed the hungry; the Red Cross can do that. I’m not against it. I feed the hungry; I give money to the poor. It’s hard to believe, but I go jogging most mornings now. I know you all want to see evidence. I take a three-mile run and then go jump in the ocean. I meet people on the way, and I don’t mind giving food or money to the hungry or clothing to those who need it. I’ve been involved with that for a long time. Listen, if that’s all we do, then we are preaching a powerless Gospel, not the Gospel that Jesus preached or demonstrated while He was on the earth.

Society, the Church included, seems to think that Christ came simply so we can be made better. That’s contrary to the truth! Listen to these words by General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army (which used to be one of the most effective Gospel-preaching organizations in the world about one hundred years ago).

He said, “I consider that the chief dangers that confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” That to me pretty well describes a powerless Gospel.

I’m going to stop there for today, but next week we’re going to wrap up this message. Christ is calling us to be His “re-presentation” on this earth. We’re going to talk more about doing what He did and being the Church for such a time as this. The world needs us to be everything that Christ has created us to be!

~ pg