Man Was Created Male and Female, Part 2


One of the rising stars in the hermetic literary world is American writer J.T. LeRoy. At the young age of 24, his work is already read and praised in universities such as Duke and Berkeley, and LeRoy himself has, over the past five years, become something of a celebrity, palling around with famous writers, actors, and musicians. His personal and artistic fame is driven by a transparency in his life that reveals a world of drug and sexual abuse, prostitution, and gender confusion.

In a fawning Los Angeles Times piece (subscription req'd) on LeRoy, his themes are described as being compassionate and forgiving, in contrast to the "rural, religion-dominated areas" of the U.S. from which his stories draw their inspiration. In nearly all modern art and criticism, objective truth and authorial intent are ignored or dismissed in order to present nonjudgmental "reflections" of reality. The simple Scriptural truth that man looks upon God as "through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12) — an acknowledgment of man's perceptive inadequacy — is unacceptable in the humanist paradigm. Society nears the precipice when it not only accepts chaos as is, but desires chaos for what it is.

In the midst of all the plaudits, J.T. LeRoy's tragic history of childhood abuse is implicitly regarded as fodder for literary inspiration. The very real fruits of such darkness — pain, despair, sexual addiction, mental illness — are not addressed. In the L.A. Times article, Leroy claims that, although medicated, voices in his head are "always there." It's an admission which escapes comment, as if his interviewer viewed it as essential to the fabric that enhances a talented artist. This is the kind of humanist attitude that enables further self-destructive and self-deceptive behavior. The people heaping unqualified praise upon LeRoy would do well to consider the Scriptural underpinnings (Jeremiah 17:9) in the title of one of his books, "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things."

One of the central themes of LeRoy's work is gender confusion, which will partially explain its appeal to the literati and academia. Distortions of Biblical sexuality and sexual identity have spread like wildfire through a society that no longer acknowledges any spiritual super authority except that which man creates for himself. In her excellent two-part article (part one and part two) on transgenderism for, Annabelle Robertson writes:

Some might say that despite evidence to the contrary, the prevailing myth about [gender identity dysphoria] – that people are “born in the wrong body” – might well have led the 17th century philosopher René Descartes to re-define today’s emotion-centric culture as, “I feel, therefore I am.”

Either way, the sense that transgender is uniquely a genetic issue has become a foregone conclusion which leads more and more people to assume that God simply somehow made a mistake.
In recent months, television talk show host Oprah Winfrey has covered transgender issues. In Winfrey's supposedly nonjudgmental televised forum, children struggling with gender identity (as young as 5) were basically encouraged to pursue these feelings — even consider sex-change operations — while dissenting opinions were dismissed as unsympathetic and uninformed. Responding to the show, Annabelle Robertson commented, "Even more interesting – though not surprising, given the popular trend of revering children’s opinions over those of adults – is the fact that the children’s feelings were assumed to be fact." In a provocative commentary on this same episode (which aired back in August), R. Albert Mohler said, "the very idea that we 'discover' our gender as a matter of interiority is itself an act of aggression against the moral order and a demonstration of human arrogance against the divine design of creation" and described Winfrey as an "agent of moral insanity." As a famous television personality, Winfrey commands a fairly powerful sphere of influence, and her guiltless morality dovetails with the broader humanist agenda.

The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians Chapter 5:
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light
9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Today, many fruits of darkness — in this case, cross-dressing and transgenderism — receive increasingly unqualified acceptance from a society heedless of their source: sexual abuse, pornography, and a popular culture intent on destroying traditional male and female roles. Women are portrayed as sex objects and men as brutes. Is it any wonder that, in such a climate, children reject these false ideals of true manhood and womanhood? Without any real Biblical guidance, children (and later as they become adults) will search for the answers elsewhere. An individual's rejection of their own gender is likely a rejection of these ungodly role models, and furthermore, mutilation of their body is encouraged in a society where physical change is regarded as a cure-all.

In addition to its wholesale slaughter of innocents, modern society engages in the widespread corruption of innocence. Believers must recognize that acquiescence to the prevailing culture is a key enabler of humanist deception — deception which destroys the lives of millions. In Luke Chapter 17, Jesus told his disciples:
1 Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.
2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
3 So watch yourselves.
The physical well-being and spiritual welfare of children is under direct attack by a selfish humanist system that cannot help itself. The weblog for Contender Ministries recently posted about an incident at a Chicago YMCA where children attending a swim meet encountered transvestites who were leaving a transgendered fashion show held there the previous night. Transgendered teachers are accepted by and legislated into America's public schools. The popular media unabashedly sell so-called "gender-bending" artists. In the case of the writer J.T. LeRoy, his talent is mined with little regard for the fractured past that is tied into it. LeRoy, raised with no knowledge of his father and subjected to abuse by an unprotective prostitute mother, has had his childhood innocence undeniably stolen from him. But like many troubled artists before him, LeRoy's self-destructive tendencies are ignored by hangers-on and admirers who desperately seek reassuring solidarity in a morality-free peer group.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]." The advocates of gender dysphoria argue that issues of sexual identity deal solely with the mind and the body. But gender confusion cannot be reduced to a physical/mental issue because sin, that is, separation from God, is always a spiritual issue. When people lock their sexuality away from God on ownership principle, it is inevitably distorted by the prevailing winds of emotion, circumstance, and rationalization. Mankind's dire spiritual situation will yield any number of mental and physical afflictions. Human-based solutions can be superficial fixes at best and totally destructive at worst because the ultimate deceiver distracts us from the true source of our problems — sin. If a child were encouraged to rob a bank or kill another human being, people would be justifiably angry and appalled, but when a child is encouraged to destroy their God-given identity, people are supposed to stand back and allow it to happen. Western society's rejection of natural gender roles is a terrible symptom of its terminal illness.

Earlier this month, the Christian Courier reported that the IRS will offer tax deductions for sex-change operations. Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University wrote on the subject of sex-change surgeries in the November issue of First Things:
I have witnessed a great deal of damage from sex-reassignment. The children transformed from their male constitution into female roles suffered prolonged distress and misery as they sensed their natural attitudes....We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.
Gender identity issues revolve around the need for transformation, but the only true transformation that any man or woman can receive is from Jesus Christ. There is hope in a world that has lost its way. Purity does the cleansing blood of Christ. The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:7, "The blood of Jesus...purifies us from all sin."

No Time to Think


As the massive death toll continues to rise in the wake of the powerful tsunamis that struck Southern Asia the day after Christmas, the mainstream media, the scientific community, relief organizations, students of Bible prophecy, and common observers struggle to understand the magnitude and meaning of the catastrophe. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake, centered 155 miles off the coast of Sumatra, triggered tsunami waves of up to 500 mph. The quake was so strong, its force has been compared to the detonation of a million atomic bombs (the type dropped on Japan at the end of WWII). Some scientists are even claiming that it literally altered, if infinitisimally, the earth's rotation. Researchers at the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) note that tsunami waves in the Indian Ocean are historically rare to even nonexistent on record. This was not your average natural disaster. Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs described firsthand (subscription req'd) his experience in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit:

The speed with which it all happened seemed like a scene from the Bible, a natural phenomenon unlike anything I had experienced.
Scientists and the media will attribute these tsunamis to geological chance or even years of ecological irresponsibility. However, the sheer scale of the calamity, when set against the backdrop of natural disasters over the past 12 months, ought to give believers pause: there is something supernatural to these natural disasters.

The metaphor of a "thief in the night" is memorably used in several passages of Scripture to describe Christ's return. Peter wrote that "the day of the Lord will come like a thief." (2 Peter 3:10) Likewise, Paul warned, "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief." (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Jesus Himself says in Revelations 16:15, "Behold, I come like a thief," referencing his own words from Luke 12:39-40. But not everyone is to be surprised. Jesus cautioned believers not to fall asleep spiritually; foreseeing this, He gave us explicit clues to His return in addition to end times prophecy located elsewhere in Scripture. Among these signs are natural disasters. From Matthew Chapter 24 (KJV):
7 There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these [are] the beginning of sorrows.
Bible prophecy is often the focus of the mainstream media because, in isolation, it sensationalizes Scripture and reduces it to sound byte consumption. The secular media manipulate and overemphasize the role of natural disasters in prophecy to play on people's fears and, knowingly or not, impugn the veracity of Scripture by heightening a sense of Cecil B. DeMille-like theatricality. Our psyches are conditioned by the special effects images of Hollywood disaster movies to the point where we are clearly desensitized to the real thing. To Western countries observing the events in Southern Asia, the disaster is removed, held captive on a picture tube, and thus abstract. In other words, if it ain't in our own backyard, we don't pay attention. Sadly, short-sighted Western-centric perception, dimmed by selfishness and moral turpitude, is slow to recognize that the world as a whole is experiencing an incredible amount of upheaval with great rapidity. Jesus was quite clear that, in the last days, natural disasters would strike in diverse locales and that they would be a very real part of supernaturally directed design. In Luke Chapter 21 (KJV), Jesus said:
25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
North America certainly has experienced its fair share of atypical climatic and ecological occurrences in recent months, and yet there is the sense that the increasing frequency of such events is not resonating with a public inured to "breaking news" stories. After 18 years of silence, Washington state's Mount St. Helens made the news again when it erupted in early October. Although the steam-and-ash eruption was relatively minor as far as volcanoes go, notable seismic and magmatic activity continues there. Far more devastating was this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which was considered to be among the worst ever to hit the United States. Four major hurricanes in a six-week span -- Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne -- battered the state of Florida alone, and damage will likely exceed that caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The hurricanes caused thousands of deaths in the Caribbean, and the next several years are expected to bring similarly powerful hurricane seasons.

Yet it is on the international scene over the past 12 months where natural disaster is looking less natural and more "supernatural." Exactly one year to the day previous to this week's tsunami disaster, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake shook southeastern Iran and killed upwards of 30,000 people. The terrible tragedy has nonetheless faded from Western consciousness. This year alone, there have been nine earthquakes around the world (including the December 26th Sumatran temblor) of magnitude 7.0 or higher. During June, July, and August, some of the worst monsoon flooding in 15 years ravaged parts of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, killing 1,800 people. A record ten typhoons have struck Japan this year, leaving more than 100 fatalities in their wake. Among them was Typhoon Tokage which hit Japan on October 20 with a record 80-ft. wave. Three days later, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the city of Niigata, Japan. Volcanic activity, in addition to that of Mount St. Helens, continues to dot the globe from hot spots in Japan and the South Pacific to the Kamchatka region of Russia.

We hear reports more and more frequently of astronomers spotting an asteroid that could possibly strike the Earth, causing damage on an worldwide scale. While such an event seems quite remote, some Bible prophecy watchers believe the Apostle John described an asteroid in Revelation Chapter 8 when he wrote:
8 Something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea.
9 A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Just this week, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California reopened their tracking of an asteroid that could make impact with Earth in 2029. The odds are 300-to-1.

Everyone from the U.N. to insurance companies to Hal Lindsey recognizes the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Worldwide, the number of major weather-related disasters in the 1990s was more than five times the number for the 1950s, and the number of natural disasters over the past half century have surpassed those in the previous half. The secularists and evolutionists desperately point to phenomena like global warming and increasing carbon dioxide levels to explain the meaning of these natural disasters. Even if substantiated, their hypotheses do not even begin to deal with the why. A world so fixated on empiricism and the kingdom of physical senses cannot mitigate the fear and suffering of its people when faced with supernatural judgment.

Journalist Alan Morison wrote this eyewitness account of the tsunami's effects on Phuket Island (in Thailand):
What do you do when you see a huge wave-wall coming at you? You run. You run as fast as you can. You think: "This is surreal."

But you keep running ... until the water lifts you off your feet and sweeps you onwards.

It makes no difference whether you can swim or not.

The force carries you forward, and you become a living, breathing projectile. Grab onto something and you may live.

Surf the wave and you have a chance. Hit something solid, and you die.
Faced with so-called "forces of nature," man is reminded of how powerless he truly is. We have no time to think, only time to react. Jesus warned believers to be spiritually ready at the end of the age. These signs, these birthing pangs, are warnings for His Church to prepare itself, to return to its faith, to return to the Word and turn away from the world. Fear and unbelief have ruled man for eons, but by God's design, calamity and disaster tear man's grip away from the minutiae of his life so that he may focus on the reality of his spiritual situation. But this applies only to the survivors; only in life can we prepare. For once we are in the moment, there will be no time to think.

A considerable number of lives lost in the tsunami disaster in Southern Asia were children's. Several Christian relief organizations (including Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse) are currently assisting aid workers. Please consider a financial contribution to help those in an extremely difficult situation.

The Pride of the Ruthless


More news from the Groningen Hospital in the Netherlands: Dr. Eduard Verhagen, head of pediatrics at the hospital, has admitted euthanizing four seriously ill infants over the past 16 months. His admission is intended to bring support to his cause at the level of the Dutch national legislature. This week, World Net Daily reported the recent comments Dr. Verhagen made to the London Telegraph:

"There is a small group of children for whom no treatment is possible for the congenital disease and malformations they are born with," Verhagen told the London Telegraph, explaining why he had chosen to break the law. "Asking doctors to take away the pain easily and allow the child to die quietly is the natural reaction.

"For the incurable to die early requires that we do this or they enter a starvation phase and what suffering is more unbearable than a minor left to die from natural causes such as these."
Intelligent and articulate rationalization like that espoused by Dr. Verhagen is sure to please the rebellious human spirit. What was once unthinkable is now being practiced, legislated, even lauded. While sympathy is focused squarely on the plight of children, ruthlessness is ignored. In the article, a spokesman for Wim Eijk, the Roman Catholic bishop in Groningen, wisely responded, "It is a slippery slope that will give doctors the right to impose life or death, and will lead to an argument that it should be extended to all." Because humanism exists only to serve the physical world, centuries-old prohibitions against the "man playing God" syndrome are tossed aside. The humanist regards man as the supreme judge of his own fate and owner of his body. The logical extension is that an individual or group of individuals can be the intercessory judge of another's human being's fate and the owner by proxy of another human being's body when practicality or circumstance necessitate it. A godless world can lead only to tyranny.

In Proverbs Chapter 6, King Solomon wrote the following words with rather definitive clarity:
16 [These] things the LORD hates...
17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood.

Shamed by the Blood of Innocents


The recent news stories have been hard to ignore: the Groningen Academic Hospital in the Netherlands permits doctors to euthanize terminally ill or long-suffering children under the age of 12. In this program, the patients are administered a lethal dosage of sedatives and parental consent is not necessary. Wesley J. Smith reported in The Weekly Standard that "Dutch doctors have been surreptitiously engaging in eugenic euthanasia of disabled babies for years." A British study found that 31% of Dutch pediatricians admitted to performing medically sanctioned infanticide. And Belgium is now considering a similar program in a bill before its Parliament.

These physicians, unfortunately, are the product of a Western society that celebrates death over life, pragmatism over conviction, and man's moral and ethical permutations over God's immutable will. The sheer audacity of child euthanasia is greeted with apathy in nations where souls are dulled by decades of quotidian materialism and a godless humanism that reduces man to the status of a mere animal.

King David wrote in Psalm 9 (KJV):

12 When He [God] maketh inquisition for blood, He remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.
At no time in human history has the taking of innocent life been of a greater magnitude or pervasiveness than it is today. From child euthanasia in Western Europe to the over 40 million babies legally aborted in the United States the past 30 years to widespread female infanticide in India and communist China, the systematic and socially condoned slaughter of innocents in our modern times is chilling. Believers must face this unsettling conclusion: the nations of the world face a terrible reckoning for these sins. "These . . things doth the LORD hate: . . a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood." (Proverbs 6:16-17, KJV)

The same individuals who condone abortion and eugenic pragmatism are the same ones who triumphantly declare the progress of mankind. Their rational clarity is sacrificed at the altar of relativism. The genocide of millions of babies generates barely a whisper among the humanists who raise a hue and cry over wars waged against brutal dictators and murdering terrorist organizations. In covering the Iraq war, the Western media has bent over backwards to cover civilian casualties. They have been far less dogged in reporting the daily murder of innocents in their own countries.

While no individual is spiritually innocent before God, Scripture asserts the existence of earthly innocence. Children, infants, and, yes, the unborn fall into this category. (Even the conscience of natural man, untainted by peer-induced solipsism, recognizes this fact.) God does not make prenatal life a special case as contemporary thinking would have us believe. In Psalm 139:13, David describes the Lord's involvement in his life -- from conception. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." This point is even more unequivocal in Jeremiah 1:5 when the Lord says to the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart."

Last year, both houses of the U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to ban partial birth abortions, which are abortions performed in the second or third trimester. Since President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on November 5, 2003, there have been several judicial injunctions on the ban. Among the judges who've strayed from their Constitutional jurisdiction are U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, Federal District Judge Richard Casey, and U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf. The litigators have, naturally, included the usual suspects: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the National Abortion Federation. Even the most egregious of medical procedures are not enough to bend the will of humanists who view personal and social freedom as something best defined by the very few, i.e. an oligarchy.

From Psalm 94:
21 They band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
On April 25th this past spring, hundreds of thousands of abortion rights supporters marched through Washington D.C. to rally their cause. The parade of secular and Christian humanists revealed the irrational and shameless depths of their relativist moral stew. Their view of the human body as property subverts the Biblical concept of stewardship, that life is a gift from God -- it is His to give and to take away. When man regards the body as property, personal or otherwise, he can conclude that it's subject to convenience and pragmatism, no spiritual strings attached. Abortion, euthanasia, and eugenics follow. And yet the defiance on display at the abortion rights march was very spiritual indeed; that is, no amount of profane shouting can quell Godly judgment on the human heart. C.S. Lewis once wrote that noise was the sound of Hell: "Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile -- Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires." For it is in the quiet that God's voice can be heard. When you shout loud enough, you can't hear your own conscience. Legalized abortion is the terminal symptom of a sick society, a convenience to sop, at any cost, the selfishness of its people.

Just this week, the Bush administration declared that over $1 trillion will be needed to resuscitate Social Security. The plan will be buttressed by extensive government borrowing; in order words, by ballooning the national debt. Financial observers have mentioned the direct effect that abortion has had on the stability of Social Security -- the fact that tens of millions of potential workers now do not exist to support what was already an unstable system, a system lauded by those who also celebrate the genocide that is killing it.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5) Think of all the aborted babies who haven't even been given the opportunity to fulfill God's earthly purpose for them! The millions of innocent lives lost call out for justice -- not man's imperfect and sometimes self-defeating sense of justice, but God's justice. For believers, it is His righteousness, not graphic abortion photos, that should open our eyes and our souls. New Testament-only Christians unwisely ignore the inexorable nature of Divine Judgment. Society as a whole is responsible for abortion's terrible legacy, just as it is for the corruption of innocence. We've often heard the phrase, "the punishment fits the crime." And one day there will be an answer for today's mass slaughter of innocents, a crime whose scope far surpasses the comparable atrocities of ancient Rome and Greece and antediluvian civilization. Speaking of the end of the age, Jesus said the following in Matthew Chapter 24 (KJV):
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Narcotics for Man's Soul


Tradition can be a dangerous thing when the roots of that tradition are stripped away. The dried-out husk that is secularized Christianity has been the dominant worldview in Western nations for decades. A lyric sung by Johnny Cash some years ago comes to mind: "I stopped outside a church house where the citizens like to sit/They say they want the kingdom but they don't want God in it." Where once the early Christians brought Scriptures to the world, now churches vainly bring the world to Scripture.

The world's paradigms are not God's, yet as Christians we persist in the whole square peg/round hole exercise with embarrassing futility. Popular culture (whether labeled "Christian" or not) must be vetted warily by the word of God. If it is not, we have the tendency, through upbringing or tradition, to find Christian meaning where there isn't any. Christianity is thus reduced to being just another course in the cafeteria of the world's philosophies and religions.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians Chapter 5:

16 So, I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.
The idols of our modern age may no longer be made of gold or silver as they were for the Israelites of the Old Testament, but they are just as ubiquitous and certainly no less displeasing to God. Mankind trades in earthly securities like money, power, sensuality, possessions, entertainments, artistic indulgences, intellectual rationalizations, and perhaps most deluding of all, external moralism. While fallen man has no thirst for the truly spiritual, it is tragic indeed when nominal Christians attempt to sublimate their idol worship (whatever form it may take) with "Christianese" -- a layer of icing over a very stale cake. The secular humanists can, and do, see right through this charade. Tradition in name only is a very desolate place. Robbed of God's Word, tradition poisons rather than preserves the soul.

God made us for His purpose, not the other way around. It is delusional to be led by one's own sense of "niceness" and "morality," hoping for a pat on the back from some kind of cosmic entity. When we pray to our blessings rather than to the Lord, we are placing our trust and devotion in idols. Ignoring or twisting Scripture to suit the Self is usually not far behind. If a believer's walk with the Lord is weak, that individual will see only what their idols show them -- in effect, they see what they want to see. As a consequence, prayer and their references to prayer ring hollow. For it is as Jesus said: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8) The unsaved are not moved by talk or labels but by the grace of God working through those men and women obedient to His will.

Christians will find sustenance in God's Word, not tradition or experience. Ray Comfort writes that "for the Christian, every day should be Thanksgiving Day," knowing full well that not every day feels like a holiday. The meaning behind the Thanksgiving tradition is certainly worth remembering. The Thanksgiving holiday (word origin: "holy day") in the U.S. is a unique vestige of a once Christian nation. But as Christian beliefs have become more and more marginalized and diluted, Thanksgiving is now thought of as the day that officially precedes the beginning of the "holiday shopping season," the epitome of gross consumerism in a secular society. The holiday may still celebrate the blessings of hearth and home, family and friends, but deprived of its spiritual context, the idols of humanism are once again placed above the source of all that is holy and righteous.

Thanksgiving Day should be a time to cast down idols and worship our Lord. The 18th-century English poet William Cowper once wrote:
The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol may be,
Help me to tear it from its throne,
And worship only thee.
Thanksgiving as a holiday should remind believers that thanksgiving as a form of worship (cf. Psalm 69:30) is really God's gift to us every day of the year. When we abide in His will, we find that the Lord is always watching over us and providing for us, far above and beyond what we deserve. For this, our thanks cannot truly be contained to one day.

Consider Jesus' words from Matthew Chapter 6:
25 Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

The Gloves are Off


Once the smoke began to clear from the November 2nd election in the United States, it wasn't long before media observers noted the effect of "values" and "morality" on the choices that voters made at the polls, from the Presidential contest to state referendums on homosexual marriage. Among the first to make this observation was David Gergen -- once an adviser to former U.S. President Bill Clinton and now a political commentator -- who told CNN on the night of the election: "This was not about a difference of policies but a difference over values."

The mainstream press have been alternately stunned and galvanized by reports that so-called evangelical Christian voters swung the election in President George W. Bush's favor. Bush won the popular election by about four million votes, a number conspicuously similar to the number of these same "evangelical" Christians who didn't vote in 2000 -- an election which Bush lost by about 500 popular votes.

If the sudden surge of old-fashioned values in America appeared to initially alarm the media, the election results ultimately served to confirm their darkest suspicions. The mainstream press's favorite target of derision -- Bible-believing Christians -- turned out to be the culprit. From the New York Times to ABC News, post-election news coverage has focused on these particular Christians who, as described (as if some kind of obscure cult) by Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times (subscription req'd), "see the Bible as the authoritative word of God, emphasize 'born again' religious conversion and are committed to spreading their faith and values."

For better or worse, conservative American Christians are politicized as a voting bloc and will continue to be tied to the Bush administration. The war in Iraq and future wrangling over nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts will give critics in the media more opportunities to subtly and not-so-subtly point fingers at evangelicals. Further polarization over issues of homosexuality and decency in popular culture threatens to make fence-sitting a thing of the past. Jesus spoke of such divisions in Mark Chapter 13:

12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
The hue and cry from secular voices grows ever more strident. Robert Reich, the secretary of labor under the Clinton administration, raised many eyebrows (including those in the secular media) months ago when he made a veiled comparison between Bible-believing Christians and Islamic terrorists: "The true battle will be...between those who believe in science, reason and logic, and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face."

One recent high-profile publication, The End of Faith by Sam Harris, is far more direct. In the book, subtitled Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Harris lumps theistic religions together and predictably blames them for the violence and suffering that plagues humanity. Harris writes:
Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity -- a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible....When foisted upon each generation anew, it renders us incapable of realizing just how much of our world has been unnecessarily ceded to a dark and barbarous past.
Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a comprehensive review of Harris's book, and he also reviewed a similar, but lesser-known title God Willing?: Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the "War on Terror" and the Echoing Press by David Domke.

Anti-Christian rhetoric is pervasive and not merely confined to political contexts. For example, when Judeo-Christian elements intrude upon the secularist's hallowed grounds of consumerism, there is apparently a great deal of friction. In an article for a consumer electronics web log, writer Joel Johnson dismissed an "e-book" version of the Bible for a popular digital music player as "Jewish science fiction" in addition to other snide remarks.

While on the one hand vociferously arguing that religion and faith are not provable, Harris and other secular humanists seek to legitimize and empiricize mysticism. New Age and Buddism, in paricular, generally avoid their harshest criticisms. And not too surprisingly. The findings of a new book The Spiritual Revolution, widely reported in the press, claim that 20 or 30 years from now, "spirituality" will be more prominent than Christianity in the U.K. Carol Midgley of The Times (of London) reported:
Study after study appears to prove that people are increasingly losing faith in the Church and the Bible and turning instead to mysticism in guises ranging from astrology to reiki and holistic healing...Twice as many people believe in a “spirit force” within than they do an Almighty God without, while a recent survey hailed a revival of the Age of Aquarius after finding that two thirds of 18 to 24-year-olds had more belief in their horoscopes than in the Bible.
The Bible warns of a one world religion that will reject the divinity of Christ and propagate the age-old fallacies of "man as god" and subjective spirituality. The great harlot in Revelation is frequently interpreted as an allusion to this kind of last days apostasy/one world church. The Apostle John writes in Revelation Chapter 17:
6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
More corrosive to the body of Christ than these anti-Christian secular attacks are the institutions and organizations within the Christian Church that aggressively push various brands of Christian humanism. One such institution, the Fuller Seminary in Southern California, has for years insisted on its evangelical mandate while supporting ecumenicalism (such as its "interfaith" program with Islam), promoting the so-called "seeker-sensitive" church growth movement, arguing against Biblical literalism and/or inerrancy (i.e. rationalizing away any "outdated" content), and desperately attempting to cultivate favor with the secular academic world. What will hasten the creation of a one world religion is the Christian Church's tacit acquiescence to the spirit of this Earth (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12).

The persistent assault on the Biblical worldview should get the attention of believers. Christians everywhere are stumbling and wandering, but there will come a time when that faith is tested and the wheat and tares are separated (cf. Matthew 13). For it is in tempestuous times that God calls His flock. In John Chapter 10 (KJV), Jesus said:
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father's hand.
30 I and [my] Father are one.

Shamelessness commercialized


Over the last 35 years, the commercialization of sexuality has increased with such gradual intensity, and people as a whole have become so desensitized, that societies (particularly in the Western Hemisphere) now offer little resistance. Traffickers in the pornographic desperately wish to drive us those last few steps to the yawning abyss, a world where shopping for sexually debased material is as commonplace and acceptable as shopping for a loaf of bread.

Writing last month in the Financial Times (subscription req'd), Clare Dowdy described the recent arrival of so-called "adult-oriented" shops to London's main retail districts. These stores are high-class, corporate-driven affairs, more in line with Gap than a seedy, hole-in-the-wall X-rated shop. Indeed, they are expecting to attract more women and couples, and profit from the very pervasiveness of debased sex in mainstream media.

Both [Gordon] Lee and Roger Ede, project director of Hustler Hollywood U.K., say the effect of the television series "Sex and the City" on women's behavior should not be underestimated. Sex has become mainstream, the retailers say, so it is now acceptable on high streets.
Harmony, a British retailer of pornographic goods, opened a store In September on London's famed Oxford Street. In Dowdy's article, Harmony director Danny O'Sullivan said: "A visit to Harmony should be as normal and everyday an experience as going to any other chain store in your lunch hour."

A society without shame is a society that does not recognize human limits and has lost its fear of God. The flippant phrase "sex sells" has proven so axiomatic that there is little thought given to its destructive consequences. But history is always keen to repeat itself. The prophet Isaiah warned of impending judgment on Jerusalem and Judah in Isaiah Chapter 3:
8 Their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence.
9 The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.
We tend to keep God out of the decision-making when it comes to sexuality. Yet, the areas in one's life most in need of Him are the ones that are the most personal and locked up in a vault. Jesus Christ is Lord over our entire life, not just the parts of our choosing.

Jesus warned that an act of adultery is committed with an unfaithful and lustful thought (Matthew 5:27-28). The famously wise Solomon, speaking from his own regrettable experiences, had these words of caution for his son in Proverbs Chapter 5:
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 But in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.
The drumbeat of Herculaneum-like sexual chaos grows ever louder. "Adult" businesses are eyeing a new market: the introduction of pornographic content providers for cell phones is on the horizon.

The Absence of Conviction


For what they're worth, The Barna Group's surveys offer some soul-provoking glimpses into the state of the Christian church today. One of their most widely disseminated studies (December 1, 2003) found that as few as 9% of American men and women describing themselves as born-again Christians have a Biblical worldview. Another study (February 12, 2002) found that, of born-again Christians, less than half (32%) believe in moral absolutes. Even wiithout the benefit of surveys, however, there should be ample evidence to believers everywhere that post-modern relativism and humanism have crippled a Church that more and more exhibits Laodicean laxity than ever before.

Modern society, by and large, conditions people to reject absolutes and to object to moral convictions. Relativism has achieved widespread acceptance to the point that it is now ingrained. The caricatures of the "holy roller" and "fire-and-brimstone preacher" have had popular cachet for years. From the schools to the popular culture and, sadly, to the churches, sincerity is mocked and irony cherished.

The prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah Chapter 5:

20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
An outrageous example of today's relativism came nearly two years ago when U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.) addressed a group of students at Columbia River High School in Vancouver, Washington. The local paper, The Columbian, reported her remarks:
Murray concluded the session by challenging the students to consider alternatives to war.

"We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world?," said Murray, who faces re-election in 2004. "Why are people so supportive of him in many countries...that are riddled with poverty?

"He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.

"How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"
"What is true for one individual may not be true for another" is the gold standard in contemporary philosophy. 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume, among others, popularized these notions of subjective truth which are now accepted whole cloth. The line of despair that 20th-century Christian theologian Francis Schaeffer wrote about so many years ago is clearly evident today.

David Virtue, writing in Touchstone Magazine, explained Schaeffer's argument from his 1968 book The God Who Is There:
In it Schaeffer articulated what he devised and called the “line of despair” (Europe about 1890 and the United States about 1935) in philosophy, art, music, and the general culture, as well as the New Theology. He attempted to show that for modern man, absolutes had died, modernity reigned, and the floodwaters of secular thought had overwhelmed the Church because its leaders did not understand the importance of combating a false set of presuppositions. Young people were being raised on the old sense of what was right and wrong based on absolutes the West had established from a biblical worldview, but on leaving home they were being exposed to “rationalism” and “humanism” that saw man as the center of all things and pushed God to the sidelines or out of the picture altogether.
Proponents of subjective truth and relativism, despite their protestations otherwise, resort to intellectual shorthand and demagoguery to advance their worldview and marginalize believers. Belief in moral absolutes is tied to fascism, fundamentalism, intolerance, hate-mongering, even luddism. Each of these descriptors carry with them a tremendous amount of pejorative baggage. By using these type of buzz words, or talking points if you will, arguments against objective truth can be left unsubstantiated and uncorroborated.

Secular (and theological) polemics against believers, conservatives, and others espousing belief in moral absolutes involves subtle and disingenuous tactics. Though fascism, by the very nature of totalitarian rule, requires the absence of moral absolutes, conservative Christians are often labeled "fascists." Though cursory comparison of Christianity and Islam would reveal serious incompatibility, Christians with a Biblical worldview are labeled "fundamentalists," i.e. suggesting that there is as much to fear from Christian fundamentalists as Islamic fundamentalists. Christians who believe in the inerrant Word of God and display the sincerest forms of faith are mocked and/or patronized; they are by turns portrayed as hypocritical, overly emotional, unctuously spiritual, or worst of all lacking education, intellect, worldliness, and the capacity for rational thought.

The absence of conviction in the inspired and infallible Word of God has dealt a serious blow to today's Church, from which it will not soon recover. The Church, in short, is undergoing a sinner's rebellion. Relativism and subjectivity, for all their high-class pretense, appeal to the natural man. Man resists (futilely) his own mortality, his culpability for that mortality, and most especially his inability to atone for that culpability. The prevailing feeling in churches today is that an individual's sin prevents them from having moral conviction regarding that sin, and sin in toto. The travesty here should be obvious: it represents a complete loss of faith in the transforming power of Jesus Christ. If a Christian cannot believe that Jesus has the power to change their life, then how can they possibly have any conviction whatsoever?

We naturally empathize with other people's troubles -- an ostensibly sympathetic gesture, to be sure. The truth is, as sinners, we empathize in order to make up (or buy favor) for our own shortcomings. Some Christians call this "good works," others call it "karma." But it is not Biblical. Christian action must derive from love of the Lord, not love of the Self (humanity). If there are none to stand up for Godliness and the faith, to declare the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, then humanism will continue its soulless march unimpeded. The tragic consequences should already be evident. As Edmund Burke famously said, "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

Jesus warned in Luke Chapter 6:
39 "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?"
At the very highest echelons of the Church today, leaders are under an intense spiritual onslaught, and the worst thing is, they're not prepared for it. Many have failed to put on the armor of God and are defenseless. As a result, the Church has been terribly hurt. Those who've abdicated Biblical conviction for "tolerance" and ecumenicalism do so because they are ruled by personal shortcomings and doubt, rather than the Lord. Christian churches are becoming cults of religiosity where situational ethics and emotion rule the day. When the Church proudly wears the filthy rags of its own righteousness (cf. Isaiah 64:6), there are certainly darker days around the corner.

We've all heard a lot of talk about "faith" of late. Yet, as surely as there can be no conviction without faith, there can be no faith without conviction.

Prayers Answered


In the October 9 entry, the story of Alice Mowatt and the international prayer circle that formed to save her life was highlighted to illustrate Jesus' powerful words from Matthew Chapter 18:

19 Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
From Redmond, Washington today there comes a similarly compelling news story. Laura Hatch, a teenager who'd been considered missing since October 2nd, was found Sunday in a crumpled car that had sailed into a deep ravine, not far from where searchers looked for her a day earlier. Sha Nohr, the woman who found Hatch, explained she'd had several dreams Saturday night, directing her to a wooded area. Nohr, a friend of the Hatch family and a member of their church, said that her prayers with others (in an online prayer group) precipitated the dreams and finally led her to Laura Hatch, who is now in serious condition at a Seattle hospital.

Please read the full story here. A side note: some news outlets are completely ignoring the prayer/church angle and instead are primarily focusing on the dreams.

Everything is Connected


A few weeks ago, print advertisements were touting a new television program with the following slogan: "Everything is connected." From the fascination with all things Eastern to the digital explosion, it's a phrase that's seeing a lot of currency. Yet acolytes of the New Age and dot-coms ought not to be the only ones co-opting its meaning.

For the Christian, however, there is this major difference: God is in control. In Proverbs Chapter 15 (KJV):

3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
The question that often follows is, if God is in control, then why is there evil and suffering in the world? It's because God is in control that we live in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 3), there were not only physical consequences (death and disease) but spiritual ones, as well (separation from God, i.e. sin). A fundamental Biblical law is that all action and thought have consequences, as Jesus reinforced when He said a man commits the sin of adultery in his heart when he looks at a woman lustfully (Matthew 5:28). The inner mind of man is not hidden from God, and He is a true and just judge.

Clearly, Adam and Eve's actions had consequences for the whole of the human race. Despite modern "me"-oriented philosophy to the contrary, both an individual's private and public actions affect others -- known and unknown, directly and indirectly. There are consequences. "The Butterfly Effect," the popularized notion explaining chaos theory in meteorology was summarized thusly: "Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" (Edward Lorenz) Setting aside its deterministic (and therefore non-Christian) underpinnings, chaos theory at the very least appreciates causality. In spite of the great complexity of the world and its inhabitants and the limitless variables, God is still in control.

As the Sovereign Creator, God enforces His laws unfalteringly and immutably. Again, everything is connected. Nowhere is this more evident than in prayer. As the Apostle Paul wrote memorably in Romans Chapter 8:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Lest there be any confusion regarding prayer, the God spoken of here is the Triune God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God who sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for the sins of those who believe upon Him. Jesus specifically instructed believers to pray to their Father in Heaven (Matthew 6:6) Prayer is not supposed to be any old supplication addressed to "whom it may concern," "Mother Earth," "the gods," or some other entity. When a believer hears someone say that "their prayers are with them," that believer ought to wonder, "prayers to whom?" Even when we're using the right words, God knows when we're praying to Him or to one of our idols (Self, fear, desire, and so on). In other words, prayer must be taken seriously.

Keeping in mind this essential qualification then, the Bible tells us that prayer can have a powerful and righteous effect, especially when more than one believer is involved. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 18:
19 Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
Remember King Jehoshaphat leading the nation of Judah in prayer and fasting before the Lord (cf. 2 Chronicles 20)? God spared them from destruction at the hands of their enemies. The devil constantly strives to make man doubt God's promises. There is, however, in the midst of today's negative news, an occasional nugget of inspiration. The following story was in the news again last month, and it not only affirms that everything is connected, but that God is in control.

On September 23, 2002, Alice Mowatt, a 19-year-old British tourist, was struck by an SUV in Los Angeles. Her head injuries were so severe that doctors induced a coma and several times considered taking her off life support. Sgt. Dan Horan, the investigating police officer, prayed for her, and over the next few days asked others, by phone or e-mail, to do the same. In a few short weeks, an international prayer circle had formed. Ten weeks after her accident, Mowatt had recovered enough to return home to England, where she was greeted by hundreds of letters and e-mails. Nearly two years later, Mowatt reunited with Horan, once a complete stranger who simply took the time to care about someone else.

It should be noted that in the articles, there were no direct references to God or Jesus Christ, but then there rarely ever are in the positive "spirituality" stories from the mainstream media. (Had the story been a negative one, say, involving a church scandal, then there almost certainly would have been.) In any case, even the most cynical among us must acknowledge the selfless motives behind Horan's actions and the fact that, among the hundreds of those praying, surely there were believers among them.

Stories like these have additional meaning. "Personal faith" is an oxymoron. "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." (James 2:26) Jesus calls individuals into a personal relationship with Him not only for their own salvation but for the salvation of other people's souls. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) The selfless agape love that Christians are to exhibit cannot be man-made; it can only come from the Holy Spirit.

When an individual follows Christ, they are not giving up their individuality but rather the (love of) Self. While believers are indeed commanded to love one another, their greatest responsibility is as an individual before Christ. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "let your light shine before men," but he added that "when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." (Matthew 6:6) An in-depth article on this subject can be found at Pilgrim's Post. The contrast of these two verses clearly indicates that faith can neither be isolated nor used as a show of personal holiness. A believer's close walk with Christ must eventually, sooner or later, have an affect on others, not through proclamation, but by action. The light of Christ will shine from the believer as a result of true faith and obedience rather than ritual. Jesus also said at the Sermon on the Mount: "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting....But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting..." (Matthew 6:16-18)

Prayer is action but not a substitute for all action. Private and public actions have an effect, whether we are aware of it or not. David wrote in Psalm 139:4, "Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O LORD." But our lives are not predetermined simply because causality and order operate in this world. One cannot be both deterministic and a Christian. In His great mercy, God stays His judgment so that more may come into a saving knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ. If we allow ourselves to become fatalistic, to convince ourselves we know the exact timing of the final hour, we are hardening our hearts and deluding ourselves into a spiritual isolation. Reality will be all the more brutal if we do so -- the quickening downward spiral of the culture today painfully reminds us that we already have.

Trimming the Wick


In Matthew Chapter 25, Jesus tells the parable of the wedding party and the ten virgins, or bridesmaids. When the bridegroom makes his appearance at midnight, five of the ten virgins are unable to join the wedding banquet because they have failed to bring enough oil to light their lamps, a custom at that time. The five wise virgins who came prepared join the bridegroom at the banquet. Some time later, after having gone out to purchase some oil, the five foolish virgins plead to be let in, to which the bridegroom responds, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you." (v. 12)

The parable of the ten virgins is a tale of great importance for believers in any age, from the early Christians to today. No one knows the time of their own final hour nor the time of Christ's return. The chilling words of the bridegroom, "I don't know you," is a warning for Christians to be spiritually ready at all times, to submit their lives to Christ -- that is, to store up oil. This warning is echoed in Matthew Chapter 7 when Jesus said:

21 Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?"
23 Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
But today, the parable of the ten virgins should have eye-opening resonance to believers. When Jesus spoke of the last days, He used the metaphor of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-33). Just as we know that summer is near when the leaves on the fig tree begin to bloom, so will we know the coming of the end of the age via Scripture's prophetic signs. We live in a time when many brothers and sisters in Christ are being deceived. Jesus warned, "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." (Matthew 24:4-5) Believers must be careful not to be swayed by the philosophies of religious men, disguised as Christianity.

Steve Lumbley at Apostasy Watch recently wrote an insightful and powerful commentary on the state of Christianity today. Entitled "God Will Build His Temple," he states that the visible, organized church will suppress the revival of God's Word among the true body of Christ, much like the religious leaders of the day opposed Jesus 2,000 years ago.

There are several dangerous threads in the church today that will rob believers of righteousness in Christ (their storehouse of oil). These threads, which are all very close in nature, threaten to entangle believers and suffocate the life right out of them.

Apostasy: As Mr. Lumbley points out in his article, there is a false revival sweeping through churches today. It comes in many guises and with different labels: purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, ecumenical, and so on. These movements have at least one thing in common. They gratify man's desire for self-righteousness and self-tolerance -- most especially self-justification of his sinful nature. The purpose-driven paradigm generally appeals to a more conservative and evangelical base while ecumenicalism has roots in liberal religious humanism. These differences are superficial since neither appeal to God's Word but rather our predisposed natures.

In the last century, there has been an explosion of cults and impostors, as Jesus warned there would be in the last days. It should be no surprise that Christianity has been stretched like a rubber band to appeal to all manner of man's fleshly desires, for it is Christianity that the enemy is so eager to distort. Consequently, is there any doubt why Christianity has been so relentlessly mutated and syncretized and diluted and deliberately misinterpreted for 2,000 years and that its truth has been so recklessly misrepresented and maligned more than any other with claims to divine inspiration?

Worldliness: More than any other time in the earth's history since the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), the world is reaching a unity in purpose -- one that is in defiance of God's law. We live in a time of worldwide communication and shared popular culture. The values of natural man, the spirit of this world (1 Corinthians 2:12), are pervasive and invasive. Many Christians are ignoring the Biblical principle of separation and are seeking identification (i.e. justification) with the world. They are seeking acceptance in a world that hates their values, and so they gradually abandon those values. The elevation of the flesh (intellect/body) over the spirit is the tragic result. A believer's position with respect to the spirit of the world, or Babylon, is thus referenced in Scripture: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins." (Revelation 18:4)

Materialism: It is not so much the possession of material goods but the love of them that shipwrecks faith. Yet, it is material comfort and possession that causes many to take their eyes off God. In countries where these kinds of blessings are plentiful, people have come to believe that they deserve it (entitlement). Because people feel entitled to these luxuries, they believe material goods are necessary for happiness and fulfillment. While Christians in these countries may be appreciative and "count their blessings," oftentimes they are more appreciative of the gifts than the Giver.

Over at Blogging Truth, there is a very good article on the effects of materialism on the believer. Possessions can definitely weigh down the spirit of believers, particularly when those possessions become an avocation. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 6:
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Pragmatism: In essence, pragmatism espouses that "the end justifies the means." It should not be confused with practicalness or realism, though they often converge. Paul Proctor squares off against pragmatism in the church in his excellent article titled "Blessed Subtractions."

While it is in direct conflict with God's Word, pragmatic thinking is nonetheless prevalent among Christians today. The current election year in the United States highlights an example of this. Many American evangelicals are planning to cast their vote for incumbent President George W. Bush this fall. It is a vote for the principles of the man rather than a vote for the platform of his party, which has time and again rebuffed evangelicals in favor of secular moderation. The thinking is, the alternative is much worse; thus their vote is for the lesser of two evils.

To vote for the leader who more closely shares the values of believers does seem righteous, not pragmatic. Yet, in the context of a political machinery (a now mostly indistinguishable two-party system) that is greater than any one man, this kind of vote may only delay the inevitable. For American Christians, there might be alternatives (consider, for example, the platform of the Constitution Party). There is, however, the danger of falling into escapism, the polar extreme of pragmatism. And that hasn't solved anything. Since pragmatism is inherently motivational, it is difficult to detect, and indeed, only the Lord can know an individual's heart (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Hedonism: Craig W. Booth writes about Christian hedonism at The Faithful Word. More often than not, hedonism in the church is not so much a definitive movement as it is simply recidivism. Unfortunately, Paul's words in Philippians 4:8 to think on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable" have been misconstrued and abused to qualify the pursuit of pleasure. Paul defines these terms, not through the distorted lens of man's protean sensibilities, but in the context of righteousness in Christ. The appreciation of arts, sports, learning, sensuality, and so on can quickly develop into idolatry in the absence/ignorance of God's Word. We end up justifying men rather than defending God. Rather, Paul is imploring us to seek out that which glorifies God, not simply that which is part of His creation. Hedonism subverts the subordination of the created to the Creator and wrongly implies that appreciation of the creation is appreciation of the Creator.

The end result of these subversive threads in the church is apathy. It is apathy that leaves the five foolish virgins unprepared. Their faith is dissolute. Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ should be awaiting the return of the Lord -- eagerly, earnestly, and unashamedly.

In 1 Peter Chapter One, the apostle Peter wrote to believers concerning Christ's return:
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
9 For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

For His Purpose


In the life of the believer, there will most certainly be moments of godly sorrow, reflections upon grieving the Holy Spirit. One ponders the time and energy wasted on useless detours and sin-driven pursuit -- time and energy that could have been used for righteousness in Christ. This kind of sorrow leads to repentance, as it did for the prodigal son.

Perhaps you've heard the phrase "a life without regret is a life not lived." It has some resonance in the lives of believers. Consider Solomon and his reflections on spiritual dissolution in Ecclesiastes. If we can accept that we are unworthy of God's blessings, which we are, then we can accept that God uses the mistakes we have made in our life to guide us to a greater righteousness in Christ. The devil, however, wishes to drive a wedge between believers and God by suggesting the opposite: that they can be worthy of God's blessings and that their mistakes can and will push God away. It is a deadly trap that focuses man upon Self, resulting in lifeless legalism or despondent licentiousness. Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote that God "has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." (2 Timothy 1:8)

In the verse from 2 Timothy, Paul spoke not only of God's grace but of His purpose. God's purpose calls the believer to a holy life. Not our purpose. While we may have a purpose for holiness that is indeed genuine, it still won't be God's purpose for our holy life -- one that He specifically designed for each of us to glorify Him. In Psalm 23, King David wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd....your rod and your staff, they comfort me." God can give us direction (the staff) through His discipline (the rod). Sometimes this means allowing us to suffer from our follies. "Do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3:11-12) God's purpose fulfills His Law, which is constant and immutable.

Do we pray to be righteous, or do we pray to listen to God's righteous plan for us? Choose the former and love the flesh. Choose the latter and love God. Would a father kill his own son? No. A man who is spiritual and righteous before men would do no such thing. Even the most hardened and worldly of men would recoil at the thought. Yet Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac for the Lord. Because Abraham was righteous unto the Lord, he passed the test. At the sacrificial altar, God said to Abraham, "Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Genesis 22:12)

Contrast the godly righteousness of Abraham with the self-righteousness of King Saul from 1 Samuel, Chapter 13. At Gilgal, Saul made a burnt offering to the Lord, choosing not to wait for Samuel's arrival -- contrary to God's command. Saul believed that by doing a service for the Lord, he was acting righteously. However, he did not act righteously for God. His words betrayed him: "I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13:12) By ignoring God's timing (purpose), Saul chose to gratify his own fleshly righteousness.

What can keep a believer from growing in Christ is their refusal to let go of Self, keeping the satisfying or unpleasant aspects of their life locked away from God. The believer who makes precious their personal righteousness is one still beholden to the Self, the flesh. In this sense, the legalist and the licentious man have something in common. But the same kind of bitter disillusionment greets both of them at the end of their journeys. A life lived for the stifling quest of personal holiness is a life lived without the inner joy that God gives believers who live for His purpose. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

If there be regret in our life, may it be for God's purpose so that His discipline (the rod) may direct us to righteousness. If there be righteousness in our life, may we not forget it is for God's purpose, not ours, and that these blessings of righteousness are bestowed upon us in spite of our unworthiness. Then we will be humbled, not because it seems spiritual or right, but because that can be our only possible action once in the presence of our Lord.

Authenticating the Faith


In the parable of the sower (Matthew Chapter 13), Jesus told the story of a farmer sowing seeds to illustrate the types of faith among believers. Some of these seeds "fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." (Mt 13:5-6). A few verses later, Jesus explained the metaphor:

20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.
21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
Syndicated Christian radio talk show host Paul McGuire often refers to this type of believer as someone who's had a "Jesus experience," yet gradually falls away from the faith because they lack a solid Biblical world view. Jesus said that believers are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, "it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." (Mt 5:13). We have all seen the mistakes and missteps of public Christians mercilessly laid bare by unbelievers just waiting for that to happen.

Faith is two-fold: belief in and submission to Christ. For example, faith is strengthened when temptation (or the worldly) is rejected. But only through complete trust in the Lord can temptation be rejected on a consistent basis. Jesus responded to the devil's temptations in the desert with these words: "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (Mt 4:10) Faith is weakened, however, when we focus on some hapless self-centered battle to suppress sinful urges, rather than focusing on what God wants for us in our lives. Authentic faith means placing the old nature at the Cross on a daily basis. For the mature believer, the rejection of the worldly arises from conscious obedience to God's word, which goes against all inclinations of the sinful nature. In other words, it won't always be easy and it can only be accomplished by submitting one's will entirely to Christ. The quest for personal perfection and holiness is frequently the tempting alternative because its only real function is to gratify the flesh. (And it seems more spiritual in man's eyes.)

Because believers are called to "not conform any longer to the pattern of this world," (Rom 12:2), they will sometimes think that means to live in a bubble rather than face the real world. But a sheltered individual may not recognize the deception of the enemy until it is too late. In general, the world is bad not because it likes being bad, but because it is deceived. By nature, sinful man is deceived. Man can take his sinful self out of the world, but he cannot take the world out of him. Only Jesus can.

Enclaves of religiosity have had a history of dissolution and error. The praise of men, even righteous ones, within these man-made oases becomes confused with righteousness in Christ. This is the same trap that many churches today face. In his article "Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse and Neo-Evangelicalism," Miles J. Stanford discussed a recent example of this kind of doctrinal drift within the organized church. Indeed, believers are to practice separation from the world ("Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins," Rev 18:4), but that separation is first and foremost a spiritual one. And mustn't this separation conform with the Great Commission commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20? For believers to be a witness for Christ, they must be spiritually separated and function in the real world. In the parable of the sower, faith is authenticated by trouble and persecution. Trouble and persecution do not occur when the believer runs away from the world.

The retreat of Bible-believing Christians from the world today has not increased their spirituality; rather, it has only increased the numbers of unsaved. That does not sound like fulfillment of the Great Commission. We still live in the church age. Until the day Jesus returns to rule the Millennial Kingdom, authentic faith, lived by believers in the world, is the witness to Christ's message of salvation. Instead, the most visible Christians these days are the ones trying to water down the message of the Gospel in a vain attempt to please the world. By rejecting the godly to avoid appearing supra-spiritual, these Christians risk falling into a snare of inescapable temptation. By placing the cart before the horse, they become indistinguishable from the world at large. However, the believer who places their complete trust in Lord can avoid both the traps of loving the world and running away from the world.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians Chapter 10:
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
The question then is, will we be able to recognize the Lord when He extends a hand to help us out of trouble (the "way out" as Paul describes above)? We are ready when we are trusting in the Lord. If an individual puts worldly possessions, worldly attachments, and worldly truths at the center of their life, they will not be able to see the way out provided by God. If faith is in name only, if it is merely a label, it becomes simply a human psychosis. If faith is built solely upon friendships, vague memories, and emotions, it will blow away in the first strong winds. We must keep the essentials (God's Word) and jettison the spiritual fat -- spiritual fat we create out of the apathy or wantonness of our sinful natures. In its place, we must build up the spiritual muscle that comes from complete obedience to the Lord.

Faith is authenticated by its steadfastness in the face of challenges. These challenges occur naturally during the course of a believer's life. "Naturally" is the operative word; it is risking disaster to prove one's faith outside of God's Will (i.e. to gratify oneself). As Jesus said to the devil in the desert, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" In God's time, we are drawn out of the world by our faith in and love of the Lord. And just as we must be ready to recognize when He provides us a way out of trouble, we must ready to recognize when He challenges us to leave our comfort zones.

David wrote in Psalm 23:
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

In love with love


The subversion of Holy Scripture continues to proliferate in these tempestuous times as demagogues hijack Bible verses and principles to suit their human-centered agendas. Currently entrenched political divisions in the United States and elsewhere serve as prophetic, albeit secular, signposts to a rapidly approaching future where divisions will be much more pronounced and where the facade of politics will have dropped away, leaving extreme moral and spiritual differences. "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child." (Mark 12:12) Notably, there has been, in the ranks of the secular mainstream media, much more public analysis of the core principles of Christianity. The so-called zeitgeist film, "The Passion of the Christ," which was released earlier this year, stirred the percolating but still latent last-days type of spiritual division. Partly because of the aforementioned film, partly because it is a presidential election year in the U.S. and George W. Bush, the incumbent president, has stated his born-again Christianity, partly because the spotlight of the world stage is on the Islamic terrorists, and partly because of controversies swirling around homosexual marriage, abortion, and the Ten Commandments, there has been a definite, if not authentic or sincere, resurgence of interest in Christianity.

As a result, this year has seen a peculiar trend by the typically secular and irreligious segments of society to try to claim Christianity for themselves. Well-known personalities are speaking out on Christianity. On the subject of Bush and his Christian convictions, Meryl Streep chafed at what she perceived as Bush's hypocrisy by going to war and not heeding Jesus' command to "turn the other cheek." Movie actor Alec Baldwin was rather more direct when he recently dismissed the "religious" (read: Bible-believing Christians) right as "fundamentalist wackos." Even more extreme were former labor secretary Robert Reich's comments that people who believe in a divine power with authority over man were more dangerous than terrorists. On a higher profile level, there are these words from John Kerry's acceptance speech at the recent Democratic National Convention: "We welcome people of faith....As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side."

The arguments are meant only to prop up a universalist and syncretized view of Christianity, one that blends other world views, religious beliefs, and humanist relativism. Most egregious and spurious are their obvious attempts to twist Scripture to justify human error -- sin. One common method is to blur the lines between what the Bible defines as love and what man wants love to mean. This reductive understanding of Biblically based, Godly love (agape love) has led to the contemporary morass of confusion, error, and wickedness.

Jesus said that love, indeed, is the greatest commandment. But note His distinction in Matthew Chapter 22:

37 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Therefore, to love the Lord is to obey Him. The Apostle Paul defines love in 1 Corinthians Chapter 14:
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Thus, Bible-based love abjures wickedness and leads to repentance. Paul states in 1 Corinthians Chapter 6:
9 Do you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
10 Nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The hoary Biblical paraphrase "love the sinner, but hate the sin" has been used and abused, and mostly abused. First and foremost, believers are told to flee sin; to resist the devil, not engage him. Because man is a fallen creature, "hate the sin" carries with it a Biblical warning. Paul implores believers to tread carefully when condemning sin: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." (Galatians 6:1) When caution is not exercised in this area, this famous line from Shakespeare's Hamlet often comes to mind: "[She] doth protest too much, methinks." Most importantly, "love thy neighbor" is adjunct to loving the Lord, thus inferring subordinance. The predication and order of these two commandments does not logically lead to contemporary relativism, i.e. "anything goes as long as you're happy and you're not hurting anybody else."

The impulse to redefine Godly love is as old as time. But as erstwhile Christian nations stray further from God's Word, the understanding of Biblically based love has become muddled. Love has been appropriated solely by human emotion and experience -- a love without God-given definition, limits, or understanding. It has come to the point now that the physical (sexual) defines love and the parameters of love. Humanist proponents seek to nullify the effect of God's Truth by reinserting their postmodern relativistic definition of love into a Biblical context. When they say "God is love," religious humanists mean not only to reduce God to the level of human emotion, but to imply reversal: that love is God. The conflation of man's (usually self-centered) love with God's love is the tragic result. God calls His children to model Godly love, not the love that man easily falls into, out of, confuses with lust, or manipulates for self-gain, pleasure, gratification, and so on.

At the very center of the moral quagmire is a reliance on human knowledge, experience, and emotion to define truth. That genuine, real, loving emotion and humane empathy can and does compel what the Bible defines as sins of the flesh, there is no denying. But that is the point: humanist love (and its manifestations) is much like the snake eating its own tail. Man fools himself by modeling selflessness on the outside to achieve godliness on the inside. The Christian model of sexuality -- marriage between man and woman -- requires love of and obedience to God at its center, without which it would dissolve into the cesspool of human knowledge, experience, and emotion. Sexuality is a function, not a driving force. It serves a divine plan; it isn't a divine plan. God designed the love and emotional experience between a husband and wife to be sustained by Godly obedience; again, as functions rather than driving forces. Beautiful functions and beautiful creations, but creations all the same. As subordinate creations, romantic love and sexuality cannot take the place of, nor act as substitutes for, Biblically based Godly love. They are subject to divine rules and limitations.

In today's society, many people are in love with "love" -- a love that reflects man. In essence, they are in love with themselves. A truth defined by man, beyond being merely pagan, leads to the antithesis of Biblical principles, where good is evil and evil is called good (cf. Isaiah 5:20). Biblical love calls for love of God over Self, not other men over Self, not society or the environment over Self, and certainly not the love of Self supreme. Man's ways lead to death (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25); they already have. And as Fallen Man must die, so must his so-called truths.

Conformed to Christ


When believers receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are His, not the world's. As fallen creatures, all men and women are spiritual orphans, cast out of God's presence (the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:23). When a person believes in the Son and receives His free gift of salvation, that person is returned to the presence of the Father. An orphan no more.

Jesus said in John Chapter 12:

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.
The believer is delivered from Fallen Man's condition of spiritual abandonment and is adopted as a son or daughter into the Kingdom of God. One of the most oft-quoted passages in the Bible is Jesus' parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31). A young man leaves his father for a far away land, whereupon he squanders his inheritance. He regrets his decision and resolves to return home. To his great surprise, the son is welcomed home by his father with open arms. The parable of the lost son neither suggests so-called "free grace" (or antinomianism) nor denies the plenary guarantee of eternal salvation. Rather, it illustrates the believer's justification by grace through faith. The key point is that the prodigal son repented: he "came to his senses" (Luke 13:17), turned around, and came back home. Repentance (from the Greek metanoeo, meaning "to turn back") is the action that brings the lost son back into the loving arms of his father. His inheritance remains. The gift of salvation is God's to give, but the believer's stewardship of that gift has very high stakes indeed. Had not the son repented, he would've been lost forever.

Christian stewardship involves making choices that fly against the natural tendencies of sinful man. The Apostle Paul wrote most pointedly, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin." (Romans 7:14) Lot from Genesis Chapter 19 was an example of the carnal believer, very much attached to his city but nonetheless righteous before the Lord (2 Peter 7-8). Though God delivers Lot from destruction, He does not spare the man the horrifying consequences of his worldly life (Genesis 19:26, 33). A repentant King David suffers great personal loss as a result of his sinful episode with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12), but the Lord keeps His promise of securing the throne in the line of David. Because of passages like these and the story of the prodigal son, the following question frequently arises: can the believer stray willy-nilly from God, then come back whenever he pleases and still freely receive salvation? It's a leading question. Although pretending otherwise, it expects an answer which presupposes that man is party to his salvation and that there exists an insecurity, however small, to the Lord's eternally secured plan for believers. Man has tried for centuries to reformulate or change Bible-based Christian soteriology.

Paul wrote in Philippians Chapter 3:
9 And be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.
To be found in Christ -- that is is the goal of the believer. Or: to glorify God, to walk with the Lord, to be conformed to His image. In the preceding verse, Paul specifically states that this goal is achieved not from self-righteousness but from faith in Christ. Paul is not talking about any old kind of faith. Fallen man waxes poetic about "faith" all the time, yet he has no capacity for true faith. Sure, he has faith in himself, in fellow man, in the works of man -- but not faith in God. Upon receiving Christ as Lord and Savior, the believer receives the imprimatur of Christ, the Holy Counselor (Holy Spirit). Jesus refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in John 15:26: "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." The capacity for true faith, that is, submission to Christ, cannot exist without the Holy Spirit.

God substantiates faith. Man must believe, but he is led to faith by the Holy Spirit. Man must submit his will to Christ, but he is called by the Holy Spirit. The believer may leave the house of the Father, but the Father does not ever leave the believer. The believer must return to claim his inheritance, but he would not return were God's Truth not written in his heart (Jeremiah 31:33). That is the "grace" component of justification by grace through faith. Grace is not for man to gain or lose; it is for the Lord to give. God calls his children home, as the "hen gathers her chicks" (Matthew 23:37) If an individual is willing to submit to Christ, he will hear the call, and that is the "faith" component. That kind of faith (in and from God) will lead to righteousness, but righteousness in and of itself cannot lead to faith. Consequently, authentic good works are always an expression of faith rather than a working toward faith.

On the subject of believers, Paul wrote in Romans Chapter 8:
28 And we know that in all good things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Faith conforms the believer to Christ's image. Every individual is faced with dozens of choices each day, many small but of no less importance than the big ones. That is because making a choice can be boiled down to whether one puts their faith in Christ...or puts their faith in something else. And because faith can often be expressed in small, less visible ways or in ways not appreciated by man ("The Lord does not look at the things man looks at," 1 Samuel 16:7), we are instructed to not judge other men's hearts, no matter how desperately we may want to. (Judging action is a far different thing, though even there, Christians must remember that motive is far more indicative of faith than the action itself.) Christ daily conforms the believer via these many life moments and decisions; hence, Christians often refer to themselves as "works in progress." Family, friends, even strangers each play a part (willed by God) in setting a believer on his or her way, at different moments in life. The rate and manner of every believer's progress will vary; so long as we put our complete trust in Christ, the goal will be achieved.

Inherent in questions regarding carnal believers, the security of salvation, and "whether they can or cannot get away with it" is a perceptible, if slight, crisis of faith. To believe upon the Lord is to believe in His total power alone to change men. And it happens in His time as He sees fit. Overnight change is uncommon because there is a spiritual war going on in every believer's heart. A believer has two natures: the Holy Spirit and the sinful nature. The Lord draws us near Him as we reject the sinful nature. But when we lock things away from Him -- anything, including our own sense of righteousness or good works -- we are refusing to submit that part of ourselves to Christ. Even the most lily-white thing we possess in nature or action, we must let go of for Christ. Only He can give us a true eternal righteousness. We stray, but He fights for us more than we fight for Him. And that unconditional love is what should turn us around (as with the prodigal son) before it is too late and death closes in on us (we don't know when) and we are truly lost. We must make choices like that, to varying degrees, each day as we live our lives (2 Corinthians 7:10). The gift of salvation is freely given, but not without heavy accountability on the part of the believer.

Referring to Christ in John Chapter 3 (KJV), John the Baptist said:
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.