Identifying Fake Christians: Teachers of Dreams

spy blogSatanic spies have infiltrated the church, intent on wrecking the peace, unity, and doctrines of God’s people. While Bunyan’s Christian saw Formalist and Hypocrisy jump over the wall of salvation onto the narrow way, the average Christian seldom encounters such open hostility to the kingdom of God. Those who enter the church without passing through the hill of calvary at first appear to be as devoted to God as those who entered by the narrow gate.
Aware of this troubling reality, Jude tells Christians how to discern between true and disingenuous faith. Those who serve Satan reveal their true character by appealing to dreams to encourage sexual immorality, to deny the authority of Jesus, and to blaspheme angels.
Though most modern Christian would look crossed at anyone who said they slept with their Bible under their pillow and awoke the next morning with a special message from God, dreams remained a valid means of divine communication in the biblical era. God communicated to Joseph and the wisemen through dreams. Daniel and Joseph also received communications from God while sleeping. The satanic spies of Jude’s day did not dance off into imaginary land when they spoke of dreams. They erred not in claiming to have access to God’s word. They erred because they misrepresented God’s word. They took God’s clear commands about purity and obedience and twisted them into stating the opposite. Sexual sin was now licensed, encouraged, and permitted. The deity of Jesus was doubted. Feelings, human experience, and internal emotion became the defining marks of the false teachers. They prefaced their statements with, “Thus said the Lord” and then proceed to devote to deny the clear revelation of the Scriptures. Jeremiah laments

How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. (Jer. 23:26-27).

Not all who claim to know God’s word truly know it. Not ever pastor, parachurch leader, and professor who proclaims to speak for Jesus speaks for Jesus. Many claim to be speaking for him while allowing young men and women to engage in sexual sin. They say God would not give us urges if he did not want us to exercise them. They give license to divorce, abortion, and homosexuality as well. The false teachers must license and encourage sexual sin for “sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality” are the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19). They lack the power of God found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ to overcome their own sin. Thus, they indulge in sexual sin and encourage others to do so for they know nothing else.
When they deny God’s sexual ethic, they also undermine the whole gospel. Jesus restricted sexual expression to the marriage bed stating,

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matt 19:4-6).

If Jesus misunderstood God’s sexual ethic, humanity has little reason to trust Jesus salvific teachings. He ceases to be the God, man who holds the universe together. He becomes a inspiring but somewhat antiquated religious sage. The false teachers destroy the authority of the Gospel, proclaiming God to be evolving.
Such denials feed upon logical insecurity. The Christian faith does not evolve from age to age. Jude encourages men and women to contend for the faith because it was “once for all delivered to the saints.” Any message from God will align with all of the earlier messages from God. John 15:26-27 reminds its readers that,

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

God works in unison with himself. The Father, the Son, and Spirit all promote the same message. To pit one against the other in the name of relevance, culture revolution, or love is to defame the very word of God. Those who say “Thus says the Lord” and then proceed to deny the content of the Bible have never walked up the hill of Calvary and repented of their sins.

Have you entered by the narrow gate? What comes after, “Thus says the Lord?”

Why You Got David and Goliath Wrong

David-and-Goliath

We love the story of David and Goliath. But,we do not understand the story. We see the narrative as a great example of how we can save ourselves from the giants of adversity through good analysis, elbow-grease, and ingenuity. The famous columnist Malcolm Gladwell said the story of David and Goliath reveals that the underdog status empowers people to realize that “Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.” For example, Goliath’s size which appeared unconquerable ended up being his undoing because he could not dodge a little stone. We all want to be David and craft our story of “greatness and beauty” overcoming our Goliaths of depression, bad bosses, anxiety, disease, and divorce.

But the author of 1 Samuel never intended for us to identify with David. He wanted us to see ourselves as the nation of Israel. Goliath did not challenge David. He challenged the armies of Israel. The text of 1 Samuel 17:10-11 reports that Goliath said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day.” And in verse 25, the army of Israel understood that Goliath has challenged them. They reported that Goliath, “has come up to defy Israel.” Goliath was picking on the army, an army that did not include David. He was simply visiting his brothers for the weekend.  If we have a Goliath in our life defying our God, we are not David, we are the nation of Israel. Goliath is not David’s giant; he is our giant.

When David began to take an interest in fighting Goliath, he understood that Goliath was not his problem. In verses 26 and 36, he clearly stated that the uncircumcised Philistine was defying the “armies of the living God.” David did not have a personal beef with Goliath. The Philistine warrior was not mocking David or his daddy. This fight was not indicative a David overcoming, his pride, depression, or unemployment. As Andrew Willet noted, “it was the honor of God and the reproach of the people of God that moved David to act.” David is overcoming someoneelse’s giant; David is overcoming our giant. David is not a type of you and me. He is a type of Christ, a type of savior. David is not a picture of you and I overcoming the obstacles in our life. He is a picture of “Christ (the true David)” who conquered the greatest giant of all, sin and death.

The point of David and Goliath was not that we turn the impossible odds of our puny lives into spectacular triumphs. The point of David and Goliath is that the savior will save all who trust him. We are not called to fight the giant. We should not run get some stones of personal improvement. We are called to trust our great shield and defender who has already conquered death for us.

The next time we face a giant who wears the armor of insecurity, poverty, depression, broken relationships, and hate, we are to lean into Christ. We are to remember that God has already cut off the head of the snake by living the perfect life we were supposed to live, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead on the third day (Col 2:9-14).

He disarmed the rules and authorities and put them to open shame, triumphing over them in him (Col. 2:15).

We cry out to the savior because he promised that the same power that raised Christ will give us victory in this life (Col 2:12). We stop working to overcome our giants because we know, “that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14b-15).”

God saves those who cannot save themselves. This was the point of David and Goliath. This is the beauty of the gospel. This uss the hope of those who face giants. 

Are you ready to give up your savior complex? Are you ready to embrace the story of David and Goliath for what it really is? Are you ready to stop pretending that you are David?

The Faith That Moves Mountains: Do You Have It?

faith-mountainsDo you have faith? Do you have life changing, mountain moving faith?

When Jan Crouch was twelve years old, her pet chicken was run over by a car. She and her friend prayed for the little bird in Jesus name, and the bird was resurrected. The famous teacher and healer, Benny Hinn, told people on October 19, 1999 that he would raise their loved ones from the dead if they would roll their loved ones’ caskets infront to a T.V.

The saga continues. Everywhere we go, we hear that our problems can be solved by having more faith. If we have the faith to move mountains, then we can be certain will we get our dream home, our spouse will return, and we will overcome our cancer. We can do all this and more if we have the mountain moving faith that Jesus talks about in Mark 11:20-25. Jesus told us in Mark 11:23 “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” This is an incredible faith. This is a faith we should all long to have. But if we do not have this great faith, this faith that can bring chickens back to life, we must ask, “how do we get it?

But before we answer that question, we must answer another more pressing question. What is our faith in? What are we to believe in? The text tells us in back in verse 22: “Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.” The object of our faith and the power behind this mountain moving faith is God. It is not us, but God.

Often we misunderstand this fundamental nature of faith. Instead of placing our faith in God and his work on the cross, we place our faith in ourselves. We trust in our ability to manipulate God. We think that great faith equals some sort of mental disposition often expressed through prayer that will force God to work. We trust in our ability to persuade God to give us a new home, an awesome spouse, or a miraculous healing. We view this great faith like the hit-bell game found at state fairs. We grab the black harmer of faith and slam it down on the metal platform sending the little ball flying upwards to the bell. If we do not hit the bell, we swing again and again. We may take a brief break to go to one of the religious conferences held in the main pavilion on positive thinking or prayer in an effort to exercise our faith muscles. Then we come back and start swinging until that metal balls finally zips upward with enough speed to ring the bell for the world to hear. We ultimately believe that if we have enough faith in ourselves to force God to work, he will work.

To put it another way, we keep putting quarter after quarter into the vending machine believing that our efforts will eventually cause the machine to give us an ice, cold Coke. In both instances, the object of our faith is not God. The object of our faith is our ability and our works.

But Christ is not talking about such man centered faith.  He is not talking about raising chickens or about showing revivals in mortuaries. The faith to move mountains is not based upon us and our works but upon Christ.

What does the faith to move mountains truly look like? What does trusting in Christ look like? Those who have the faith to move mountains believe God’s words are true and regularly forgive others.

The whole conversation about faith is set against the back drop of Jesus’ words coming true. Jesus curses a fig tree in Mark 11:14 and Peter remarks that the fig tree is dead in verse 21. The remark about Jesus’ word coming true causes Jesus to launch into a discourse on faith. Jesus is placing mountain moving faith within the context of his word coming true. Jesus is not promising us that we will get everything we selfishly desire (new car, dream home, great health, kind spouse, beautiful kids) if we have enough faith. This is not his point at all. He is saying that if we trust in him, his word will come true.

Given a predisposition to charismatic thought, we tend to think that claiming God’s Word can be still be a name-it and claim-it endeavor. We can claim our mountains and have faith in God that he will throw them into the Sea.

Again this is not what Jesus is telling his disciples. He is speaking hyperbolically. Though there is some debate about which mountain Jesus is referring, the text seems to indicate that he is speaking about the temple mount. He was walking into Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives. The temple mount would have clearly been in view. He is saying that the temple could be tossed into the sea if we have faith. Jesus is not speaking literally. Jesus could have tossed the temple mountain into the Sea. He created the world and sustains the world. All of nature obeys him (Col 1:16-18). Every bird, mountain, and star awaits his command. But Jesus never tossed any mountain into any sea or ocean during his lifetime. Jesus is not telling us to command literal mountains, illness, or people by faith.

Jesus is commanding us to trust his Word. He is saying that believing in his Word trumps the sacrificial system. The temple is no longer needed and can be cast into the sea because God reigns and lives. God’s Word comes true.

True faith consist in believing the words of God up to the point where we know they will come true. True faith is the porn addict trusting God for purity and receiving it. True faith is the worry wart trusting God for all her needs and receiving confidence in the character of God. True faith is the liar trusting Christ for the power to speak truth and becoming truthful. Truth faith that moves mountains results in men and women becoming more like Christ.

We can recover from cancer without Christ working miraculously. We can manipulate our spouse into coming home without Christ doing a work in our heart. And, we can get the promotion at work without faith in God’s sovereignty.

But we cannot grow in our faith without Christ. We cannot grow in our love without Christ. We cannot get victory over our pride without Christ. We cannot become new creatures without the help of Christ. True faith is a faith that trust Christ to makes us into his image. True faith is a faith based upon the work of God that is defined by a confidence that God’s Word will come true.

And true faith lacks doubt. The word to doubt in verse 23 meanings to weigh or measure. To doubt means we are still analyzing God’s Word comparing it to Dr. Phil, Buddha, humanism, and the spiritual advice of our coworker who is really into yoga these days. Doubting means we give God a chance, but we are not sure if his word will come true. We are not sure if God really can help us overcome our drug addiction and our poor money management skills. We doubt that God’s Word will come true. We doubt that the power to change, the power to move the mountains in our life rest in Christ. We doubt, we second guess, and we are quick to mix in all kinds of worldly ideas into our quest because we do not trust God.

We are not supposed to doubt. We are supposed to believe. And we believe on the finished work of Christ. The fig tree is dead. Christ died for our sins and is alive. His word has come true. We should believe it without doubting. And when we do, we have all that we ask. “It will be done for him.” Christ will accomplish his word. He will change us. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”(vs. 24).

He may not remove our cancer, but he will give us the patience to walk through the trial well. God make not change our spouse, but he will grow our love. Christ may not give us more money, but he will grow our contentment in him. He will do the impossible. He will makes us more into his image.

To have the faith that moves mountains is to have the faith that believes God’s Word will comes to pass.

But our faith will not have just a vertical dimension. True faith has a horizontal element; it effects how we interact with our friends and neighbors. Those who have the faith to move mountains are quick to forgive. Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (vs.25). The presence of the faith that moves mountains is not found in how many Chickens you bring back to life. The faith is evidence by Christ radically changing your life and in your radically choosing to forgive those who sin against you.

If you have the faith to move mountains, you will be quick to forgive others. When we forgive others, we are not saying we have not been hurt. We are not saying that harsh words, that infidelity, that betrayed trust, that stolen money, and dashed hopes do not hurt. We legitimately have been hurt. We have something against the one who has offended us.

Rather, we forgive in spite of the hurt because we desire to be right with God. We forgive because we have been forgiven much and because we desperately want God to continue to forgive us. We forgive because we realize that we (like the people who have sinned against us) our sinners. We realize that we are not morally superior than those who have hurt us. Like our enemies, we daily sin. We daily offend God and others. We daily need forgiveness. Those who have been redeemed understand this reality. They understand that their best thoughts and works apart from Christ are filthily rags. They understand that they are sinners who daily need and experience grace. And because God has forgiven them, they forgive others. They have seen God forgive them and radically change their lives. They know that God must continue to work in their hearts for them to have growth.

Thus, they forgive others because they daily need the grace of God.

Truth faith is not measured by the number of cancer patients we cure. The faith that moves mountains is not measured by our ability to attain money, health, or success. The faith that moves mountains is based upon Christ. This faith is a faith that believes that God’s Word will come true in our life. It is marked by spiritual mountains being moved and by us having forgiveness. This is the faith to move mountains.

Do you have it? Is God’s Word at work in your life and are you forgiving others?