April 12, 2016

For Whom Shall Christians Vote?

“Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.  And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.  And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

“And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord suffer me first to go and bury my father.  But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.  And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.  And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.  And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.  And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?  Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”
(Matthew 8:18-26)
Dr. Rick Flanders

The election year of 2016 has presented Christian voters with unusual challenges and dilemmas. At the beginning of the primary season, a surprising number of the candidates running for their party’s nomination for the office of President were individuals with credible professions of personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Not that people who have been born again must vote only for other born-gain Christians, but candidates who give a testimony of salvation certainly attract the attention of other believers.  But now most of these Christian candidates have fallen by the wayside in the political process, and the candidates that are left trouble us with dirty jokes, gutter-level profanity, harsh insults, unethical tactics, and obvious dishonesty.  Some of them are very vocal on the wrong side of issues that necessarily matter to believers, such as religious liberty, human life, the family, private property, the legalization of drug abuse, the public recognition of God, and religion-based terrorism.  Not many months ago a leading candidate made the statement that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed” in order that the progressive agenda be fulfilled.  In many ways, the Christian element in society, which at one time supported the undergirding values of our culture, feels threatened by the political scene, and the actors on the political stage.  When Election Day comes, should they vote their conscience, or for the lesser of two or more evils, or shall they stay home and let the devil have the country?  This year confronts us with facts that press us to re-consider our most important commitment.
My suggestion is that, at this pivotal time in the life of our republic, every Christian cast their vote for Jesus Christ!  A fundamental problem in America is that the people who are the light of the world have let their light grow dim.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared that His would-be followers are “the light of the world,” and He urged us to let our light shine (Matthew 5:14-16).  He also warned us that when we lose our focus on the Kingdom, our light darkens (get the point of Matthew 6:19-34), and remarked, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”  Shallow discipleship, and lack of focus on the Kingdom in the Christians has left our once-Christian society open to moral and spiritual decadence, and the moral decline has produced our cultural, societal, and political problems.  This year, the big need is for believers in Jesus Christ to forsake all and follow Him.
Christian discipleship is a prominent theme of the book of Matthew from the beginning to the last chapter.  And chapter 8 tells the story of some men whose commitment to follow Jesus was tested.  In verse 8 we find Jesus commanding His followers to get into a boat and ride with Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  In verse 19 we are introduced to “a certain scribe” who said to Jesus, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”  The Lord answered him (in verse 20) by explaining that He and His followers have no certain lodging night after night.  Then “another of his disciples” is introduced who said, “Lord, suffer [allow] me first to go and bury my father.”  In other words, he would follow Jesus after his father died because of responsibilities that event would bring to him.  Jesus responded by saying bluntly, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (verses 21-22).  In other words, the true disciple must not put anything ahead of following Him.  The narrative continues with Jesus getting into the boat, and His disciples following him and taking their places in that boat.  As they travel across the lake, a storm comes and threatens to capsize the vessel and drown all of them.  The followers of Jesus are recorded as crying out at this point, “Lord save us: we perish.”  But then Jesus said to them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (verses 23-26).  He had told them at the first that they would go “to the other side,” and if they had taken His words seriously they would not have doubted that their journey would be successful in spite of the storm in the middle.  Of course, the situation turned out right, and everybody learned another lesson about Jesus and what it takes to follow him (see verse 27).
The shallow commitment of these would-be disciples of Jesus speaks loudly to the problems His followers in our country seem to have today.  Many think they are following Jesus but are still insisting on a certain level of comfort in the experience.  Others insist on putting something else, perhaps something personal, first and ahead of what the Lord might call them to do.  Very many who get a relatively good start in following Jesus give up when they run into trouble along the path of faith.  The problem with America is not really with the Republicans (although they do have obvious problems) or with the Democrats (although they have created some serious problems) or with the rich (who nevertheless have often been characterized by unethical conduct) or with the working class (although many of them have been fooled by various radical versions of atheistic socialism); it is with the Christians who give so little of their lives to Christ.  The country would be affected by a change in who runs the government, but certainly not nearly as much as it would if believers in Christ would experience a revival.  And any believer can experience revival, as well as influence others to revival, by just choosing (voting) to deepen their commitment.  There is something that you can do to turn this upside down world right-side up, and a true Christian probably knows what it is.  Decide the issue that stands in the way of full fellowship with Christ, and decide it on His side.  Vote for Jesus Christ this year.  Cast your vote in favor of taking up your cross!
And there are ways that the shallow Christian can move in the right direction on this very day:
1.       If you get up early tomorrow to pray, you are voting for Jesus Christ.

2.       If you take Gospel tracts with you as you leave home, planning to distribute them, you are voting for Jesus Christ.

3.       If you will humble yourself in order to ask a family-member for forgiveness, you will be voting for Jesus Christ.

4.       If you finally deal with the sin-issue today that has ruined your spiritual life for weeks or years, you will be voting for Jesus Christ.

5.       If you stop right now, get on your knees and surrender your life without reservation to the Lord, resolving to do His bidding no matter what, in a significant way you will vote for Jesus Christ.
So let me suggest that it is time for Christians in this country today to go to the polls and vote for their Lord and Saviour, intending to carry out His agenda and let Him heal their land.  Leave your complacency, lukewarmness, and comfort to join the revival movement on this day.
Dr. Rick Flanders

April 4, 2016

A Nation of Fools

In April of last year, I greeted you with the words “Unhappy Atheist’s Day.” Atheists do have their day to be recognized, and that would be…April Fool’s Day! We are warned in scripture not to call someone a fool in a light manner. In this case, however, we are only repeating what the Sovereign Creator has recorded in Psalm 14:1 - The fool hath said in his heart, (there is) no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

In the current national election discussion, voters give clear evidence that they have chosen to be identified as fools. This (possibly) majority vote gives new meaning to the term “a nation of fools.” I doubt if a majority of those voters would actually call themselves atheists, but some of them are willing to do so. They are the stated fools, who admit - by God’s definition - that they belong to a nation of fools. The remaining part of that voting bloc admits to being fools only by the way they speak and live. They are the demonstrated fools, who live as if there is no God who is the final authority on all things.

This discussion is not about our nation having originally been a Christian nation; I will let others debate that. On the other hand, though, how could anyone possibly think that we are a Christian nation at this point in time? Some would argue that we are a secular nation, but that is not true, either. Everything that is being advanced by this nation of fools today is really based on what they believe. Their belief system is actually their religion, and it is not difficult to identify. While the goal of Islam is to be a majority and to extend its cruel rule over all the earth, Muslims are not yet the majority in our nation. The religion of fools that now has a majority has one common god, and that is man himself. Man has, for them, become autonomous; he doesn’t need, nor does he want, the God of the universe.

FOOLS LEADING FOOLS

A majority of fools has placed foolish leaders in charge, but this elite group is demonstrating every day that, through their new oligarchy, they will press their folly on the entire nation. This is true in every phase of government. The majority of our Supreme Court members have chosen to mock the one true God with most of their decisions, the most recent trend of approving sodomy being only one of the most egregious. For years, they have been closing the public sector to God, at least from their point of view. Instead of having a court jester, as in olden days, they have become an entire court of fools, according to God’s definition.

The present administration has morphed from its former false claim of support for Christianity to ignoring it, and now even to open hostility against it. While it openly and without apology has given honor to Islam, it now pushes the agenda of that movement, which is based on violence and hate. At the same time, it is criticizing and condemning biblical Christianity, the very heart of a peaceful society.

Our Congress, for the most part, has joined the massive movement that has led us to become a nation of fools. Like other leaders in government who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, they have run roughshod over the founding elements of this nation that were put in place in order to protect good citizens. The very people who were chosen to protect all citizens - including people of faith - have marginalized and maligned those very people. This folly on the part of our leaders is the reason why this nation is now so deeply divided.

At this point, some moderate evangelicals are going to brand these thoughts as anti-government rhetoric. I warn you not to go there. It is nearing the time when your support of fools, by God’s definition, is going to return to bite you as well. Your affinity to this failure is why the government has become the god of our beloved land. Who needs the true God, anyway, when we have a government that can solve any problem and will take care of us from the cradle to the grave? The problem with this setup is that the only way government can play god is to make slaves out of the rest of us; and a fool is really a slave, even if he thinks he is in charge.

THE SOURCE OF THE FOOL’S FOLLY

Any Bible student should be able to recognize this failure of leaders in the history of the nation of Israel. The people became evil because the leaders became evil. In every case, the Old Testament declares that the nation was judged by God, and in time some were sent into exile for their rejection of God’s leadership and law.

With this in mind, it is worth asking when God will bring His judgment on our country. Perhaps it has already begun, and we are simply unwilling to recognize it. How could any serious student of the scriptures think that the murder of millions of infants and the accommodation of sodomy will be ignored by God? At all levels of society, morality has reached the level of a junkyard dog’s.

We might begin by asking what made it possible for such a nation, founded on biblical law and principles, to sink so low. One of the answers is education. Like it or not, fools are in charge of today’s educational system. Intellectual fools, perhaps, but nevertheless having dictated “no god but man.” The terrible truth is that believers have supported these fools and paid them to destroy the morality of our youth, who now have become the fools in charge.

NOT EVERYONE IS A FOOL

At every level of society, there is a light. Thank God, there are still true believers, as identified in the book of 1 John. These saints have “kept the faith;” they have “fought a good fight,” and they will be “faithful unto death.” This week I was asked, “How long do you think it will be before true believers may have to go underground?” At the present rate of the advancement of the evil led by the elite fools, I doubt if we will have ten years. Because I am in the evening of my life, I may not see that day; but I think of our children and grandchildren and what we must teach them.

Peter has the answer to this question, and it begins with perspective. We shouldn’t be surprised. “Beloved, think it not strange considering the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” (I Peter 4:12) We should find joy in the fact that we will suffer for Christ. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Peter 4:13)

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or the Shepherd Staff

Consider reading The Coming Conflict: The Separation of Church and State by Clay Nuttall.

March 14, 2016

Prayer Meeting Dynamics by Dr. Rick Flanders

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 
(Matthew 18:18-20)

The remarkable eighteenth chapter of the book of Matthew deals with many important subjects, and should be studied thoroughly by every serious Christian. In this passage we find teaching by the Lord Jesus regarding such matters as the kingdom, ministry to children, offenses, hell fire, the church, and forgiveness. Verses 15 through 20 present a section of scripture commonly cited in the matter of “church discipline,” but the passage is really about something else: prayer meetings. Yes, verses 15 and 16 tell Christians what to do when we are wronged by a brother, and give usthe command to confront offenders and restore them. (In verses 21-35 we are taught to forgive each other and reconcile.)Verse 17 is indeed an important verse describing church discipline. Then verse 18 repeats the remarkable promise associated with “the keys of the kingdom” in Matthew 16:19. But the words of Jesus in verse 19 make clear what the main subject is. We are told that if “two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done”—two agree about what to ask. “Two” makes it a meeting, and “ask” makes it a prayer meeting. This great passage with its phenomenal promises ties the purification and unification of the church to its use of the keys of the kingdom in a prayer meeting. Read verses 15 through 20 again! Here we find our Lord’s teaching on how to conduct church prayer meetings.

Prayer meetings are making a come-back these days, and we can be glad for it. With renewed interest in revival has come a renewal of the practice of corporate prayer, and the effects are truly wonderful. Prayer meetings, that is, meetings of Christians called for the purpose of praying, bring with them some new challenges and questions for congregations that engage in them, and it will be beneficial to get some scriptural help on the subject. The midweek services held by evangelical churches since the Second Great Awakening, although traditionally called “prayer meetings,” have mostly degenerated into something much less than actual prayer meetings. However the God-given burden for revival in these days is bringing people together more often in true meetings for prayer. As we hold prayer meetings, we ought to keep in mind a few things that are often forgotten.

1. PRAYER MEETINGS ARE ABOUT GETTING THINGS DONE.

Why shall we have prayer meetings? It seems appropriate to call “cottage prayer meetings,” as well as other prayer meetings, in connection with revival campaigns, but is propriety the main reason for them? Some say they feel good in a prayer meeting, but is the good feeling the reason we are to have them? The answer is “No” to both of those questions. Actually prayer meetings are called in order to get things done. Notice what Jesus promised in Matthew 18:19, that certain things would “be done” in response to the prayers. In John 14:13-14, Jesus promises to “do” what we ask, and in John 15:7, we are told that whatever we ask, “it shall be done.” The idea is that we can get things done, cause things actually to happen, by means of prayer meetings. Throughout the New Testament, the results of effective praying, and effective prayer meetings, are things that get done in answer to prayer (look up Matthew 7:7-11, Acts 12:5 and 7, and James 5:15-18). Prayer meetings are called to convict sinners, to supply needs, to solve problems, to change history, to revive the saints, to find direction, obtain boldness and power in evangelism, to get things done. We should expect things to happen in answer to our prayers, and we ought to come together to pray with this purpose in mind primarily.

2. AGREEMENT IN PRAYER IS EVIDENCE OF THE SPIRIT’S MINISTRY.

Matthew 18:19 is one of the most stunning promises in the Bible, and we must learn its meaning. As we have seen, it is about meeting for prayer.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”
It states plainly that when the condition of agreement is met, the prayer will be answered: “it shall be done for them of my Father.”  But what exactly is this agreeing, and why is it effective in getting the answer to a prayer?  The word in the original Greek of Matthew that is rendered “agree” in the English Bible is sumphonesosin, which looks like our word “symphony.”  It indeed has the idea of harmony.  It implies more than just making an agreement.  The promise of Jesus here means that when people in a prayer meeting come to the point of fullunity in asking for something, when thereis union of heart and soul as well as mind and language, they can expect a direct and positive answer to their request.  The truth is that onereason for having a prayer meeting and looking for unity in the praying has to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus taught His disciples the night before He died that, after He would go away, He would send them the Holy Spirit as “another Comforter” Who would remain within them forever (be sure to study John 14:12-17 and John 16:5-15 in this regard).  The word translated “Comforter” in this important passage means more than One Who consoles us when we are sad.  It literally means that the Spirit is our great Helper.  He helps us succeed in every aspect of the Christian life!  We cannot live the abundant life without His supernatural help.

The New Testament scriptures teach that Christians can have the help of the Spirit in the business of praying. Find this amazing truth in Romans 8:26-27, Ephesians 6:18, and Jude 20-21. He will even help us know what to ask. He can make our praying effective by helping it to be informed. In other words, the Spirit can give us insight into the will of the Father in the matter about which we are praying so that we can ask for the right thing. When praying alone, the witness of the Spirit will on occasionhave some competition in our minds. Our own strong wishes often compete with the ministry of the Spirit to provide the contents of our requests. We can find ourselves unsure if the sense that we should ask for a certain thing comes from the Spirit or from our own hearts, especially when we feel strongly about a certain issue. However, in a prayer meeting, the union of yielded hearts in supplication for a particular petition can be evidence that the burden or desire is really coming from God, since so many are sensing it. How often Christians united in prayer and yielded to the Spirit experience such powerful agreement! It is a real indication that the group is asking for something that the Father will be pleased to grant.

The fact is that the wording of Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:18, as well as Matthew 18:19 indicates that the things bound and loosed were already bound and loosed in heaven before they were requested from the earth. God already purposed to accomplish certain things, but He waits for His people to exercise faith in asking for them before actually doing them. This idea that God wills to do things that He won’t do unless we ask Him is actually taught throughout the Bible, and can regarded as the great mystery behind effectual prayer. Usually it is the written Word of God that reveals to us what the Lord really wants to do in a situation, and will do if we believe Him. This truth is behind the promise of John 15:7. But then also it is the Spirit Who applies the Word of God to our situation and shows us how to pray according to the Father’s will. . Study, when you can, such passages as Second Kings 13:14-19, Daniel 9:2-19, Matthew 6:8, and James 4:2, to see that God will have us ask for things He already wants to do give us. Study First John 5:14-15, and notice that the promise here gives us “confidence” in prayer. Asking “according to his will” is a matter of confidence and assurance, and not a form of resignation to whatever happens, as we have been taught sometimes. When we know the Father’s will, we should ask that it be done, and trust that He will do it. In a prayer meeting the ministry of the Spirit can help us see clearly what the Father wills, and how to pray.

3. HOW MANY ATTEND THE PRAYER MEETING MATTERS, AND YET IT DOESN’T.

Verse 19 says that two can attend a prayer meeting and expect great results. Verse 20 (of Matthew 18) says that two or three can attend the prayer meeting and expect Jesus to be there. Clearly a small number can have big things happen. However, in the book of Acts where we see what the early churches actually did, there is some emphasis on attendance at the prayer meetings. Acts 2:1 says that the congregation of 120 “were all with one accord in one place,” when the great prayer was answered. Later in the same chapter we are told that the expanded congregation at Jerusalem “continued” together “in prayers” (verses 41-42). Generally speaking, it was the whole congregation, now amounting to more than three thousand, kept on meeting after the day of Pentecost. The prayer meeting in chapter 4 that brought revival to the congregation seems also to have been attended by everybody. In chapter 6, “the multitude of the disciples” had been called together for a meeting that concluded as a prayer meeting, which produced a powerful resurgence of evangelism in the city. We get the idea that it mattered if everybody was there. Two or three can use the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 18:18-20), but the congregation as a whole ought to be well represented when coming as a body to present a petition. Revivalists of the past seemed to think that God’s impression of our earnestness matters and that attendance at a prayer meeting can be an indication of that earnestness. The number of folks who come to prayer meetings often indicates the spiritual level of the church. One old-time evangelist asserted that a “prayer meeting is an index to the state of religion [spiritual condition] of a church. If the church neglect the prayer meetings, or come and have not the spirit of prayer [a humble and believing spirit created by the Holy Spirit], you know of course that the religion is low. Let me go into the prayer meeting, and I can always see the state of religion there.” Certainly here we are looking at two sides of a coin, but must be strongly convinced that it is important for believers to attend prayer meetings when they are called. However, poor attendance should not discourage those who do attend in regard to the possibilities of their seeing great things happen in answer to their prayers.

4. PRAYER MEETINGS HAVE A LOT TO DO WITH REVIVAL.

Acts 4:31 records that the revival of the church in that chapter came in direct answer to the prayers offered at a prayer meeting.
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken there they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
Revival is the work of God by which He lifts His people up to the place where He can bless them (read James 4:8-10). He does this in answer to beseeching prayer. This truth is taught both in the Old and in the New Testament scriptures. When Israel needed revival, they gathered for prayer (read First Samuel 7, Second Chronicles 30, Nehemiah 9, and Joel 2). When the New Testament churches needed a new filling of the Spirit of God, they gathered to pray (Acts 2, 4, 8, and 19). So if a church needs and wants revival, they should have prayer meetings. Find in the Bible the revivals that happened after prayer meetings. Find in history the role prayer meetings always have in revival. When believers wither in defeat, sorrow, sin, and retreat, they ought to call a revival prayer meeting as soon as possible.

5. PRAYER MEETINGS ARE SOMETIMES INVADED AND ATTACKED BY THE ENEMY.

When Christians pray together and seek to be led by the Holy Spirit, sometimes they must deal with other spirits. This is why First John 4:1-6 was put in the Bible. It admonishes us to “try the spirits whether they are of God,” and gives us instruction about how to do this. We find in this very important passage that evil spirits are often represented by imposters who represent themselves as speaking for God, but the praying Christians are really dealing with spirits, rather than just with flesh and blood (do study again Ephesians 6:10-20). Some, we are told in First Corinthians 12, will receive a gift of “discerning of spirits.” The leaders of a prayer meeting must be watchful to spot the involvement of evil influences, and bold to squash them. Sometimes good prayer meetings are hindered by prayers that preach rather than petition, insert inappropriate subject matter, by individuals inappropriately dominating the meeting, by the articulation of doctrine and ideas, and by other obvious distractions that come from the enemy. Under the guidance of God, a leader must silence a problem pray-er kindly but boldly. The one causing the problem may be sincere but misguided, but the bad influence must still be challenged. Wisdom is required, but wisdom is promised in James 1:5. We must learn spiritual warfare in the conducting of prayer meetings.

6. PRAYER MEETINGS ARE THE BIBLE WAY OF MEETING CHALLENGES AND SOLVING PROBLEMS.

Notice how they were used in the Jerusalem church: to prepare to evangelize the world (Acts 1), to keep a revival going (Acts 2), to obtain boldness to continue in the work in the face of opposition (Acts 4), to heal discord and re-start the work (Acts 6), and to get a preacher out of jail (Acts 12)! Jesus taught the apostles how to have prayer meetings, and they led the church to have them often. This is a new route for many of us to take, but the prayer-meeting method is the Bible way to meet the needs of the church and to take the cause of the Gospel forward.

7. PRAYER MEETINGS LED BY THE SPIRIT WILL PROMOTE HARMONY IN THE CHURCH.

When the Christians united in asking for revival, the church could expect to experience it. See this vividly in Acts 1:12-2:4, and then again in Acts 4:23-31. One requirement for corporate revival, we might conclude, is unity of purpose in prayer, and in the prayer meetings. However, after revival came, there was another deeper kind of unity in the body. This was unity of heart. Acts 2:46 says that there was “gladness and singleness of heart” in the Spirit-filled Jerusalem church. Acts 4:32 says that after the revival that resulted from the prayer meeting that was called because of threats made against the evangelizing church (read the whole chapter), “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” The unity that results from revival is a unity of heart generated by union with God (read how Jesus described it in John 17:18-21). Certainly a byproduct of Spirit-filled prayer meetings is harmony. Whatever disrupts harmony among believers also hinders the effectiveness of their prayers (remember Matthew 5:23-24 and 6:9-15, and also Mark 11:22-26). Whenever such hindrances are taken away by humble deference to others, real unity can come. And the presence of the Holy Spirit within us makes us truly one Body (meditate upon Ephesians 2:14-22 and 4:1-16). Let’s follow the leadership of God in these critical days, and gather often for real prayer meetings! May we join the Lord as He guides us down the revival road!

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

March 3, 2016

Who is a Conservative?

These days, designations and tags are flying around like bumblebees. The problem is that these categories only represent the user’s point of view. “A conservative is someone who agrees with me!” There is no static view in any of them. Conservatives come in many colors. Because of this, all of these groups change meaning over the years. Designations alone are like trying to pick up mercury.

The only way to get to the root of this problem is to ask, “How did they come to that conclusion?” rather than “What is their conclusion?” Your mindset, your system of thinking is really the issue, because that is where your conclusions, points of view, and beliefs come from. We face this every day in theology. It is why people contentiously debate doctrinal positions. One needs to ask, “How did you come to that belief; what system did you use?” The reason there are so many differing doctrines is that people use different systems of thinking. If they all faithfully used the same system with its rules, they could readily come to the same conclusions.

In the early days of American education, there was a strong emphasis on “critical and analytical thinking.” This can be demonstrated in the founding documents of our nation, and it is the reason why certain people are trying to destroy them. What we have in state education today is not “critical and analytical thinking,” even though they claim that it is. What is going on in this rapidly deteriorating system is “brain washing and indoctrination.” Sadly, this same approach has sunk its teeth deep into what is called Christian education. That is why we look, think, act, and smell like the American education failure.

AN OBSERVATION

To illustrate this problem, I am forced to use some current designations; but hang on - I will explain later. We seem to be dealing with “liberals, moderates, and conservatives.” I know there are other fringe tags, but I will let you have that discussion among yourselves. Liberalism has a hundred threads, and they are not necessarily similar. What is common about all those tangents is that they use the same system of thinking. Human reason is their authority, and they have a disdain for truth. In fact, many of them do not even believe there is such a thing as truth. Their final authority is man, culture, intellect, etc. No matter how illogical their conclusions may be, they will defend them to “your” death. Liberalism is not wrong about everything; but as I often say, “It doesn’t have answers, but only creates problems and then blames them on someone else”. So liberalism (as an illustration) is about how they think and not so much what they think.

Conservatism (bear with me here) at its heart is interested in truth that can be demonstrated, unlike the so-called science of liberalism that is based on faith or what one believes based on man's authority. Early conservatism leaned heavily on “analytical and critical thinking.” Sad to say, most people we know in this category love to argue but are not able to answer the “why” of their position. In these days, I fear that thinkers are in the minority. We must remember, however, that even in this group the views are not unanimous.

When people declare a position, or the importance of that position, they create questions that allow us to discover their systems of thinking. That is why you have conservatives championing liberal positions. The left might hold views that the right holds, and vise-versa. That is where moderates come in. They are neither one nor the other, but the problem is that moderates always move left and not right.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

So in this present atmosphere, we ask “How can you tell who is what?” It is not about what they say, but how they arrived at what they say. If one thinks like a liberal, he divides things up; he is a moral conservative, a liberal in economics, and so on. That is the problem. This is not about the leaves; it is about the root. It is how they think, and so many people who claim to be conservative simply tend to think like liberals. How you think determines what you believe and what you are.

Perhaps you can explain why I have never met a person who is liberal in politics who is not also liberal in religion. This is not about whether they got something right; it is a system of thinking as to how they view everything in life. So, if you are thinking about who is a conservative, you should be asking how that person thinks.

There are some positions that quickly identify with liberal thinking. Abortion and sodomy are two of them, and you have to think like a liberal to support such heinous acts. These, though, only allow you to ask the right questions. Any person who is soft on any major issue of any kind is giving you a message. As believers, we should be reminded that for us there is no such thing as a separation of the religious and the secular. The Bible is clear; every thought, deed, and position is subject to the will of God.

LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL

Since we are on the subject, consider pulling out the rifle and looking down the barrel. Let me talk about “us” - those who claim to be conservative and profess salvation. In theology, you have all three of these categories. Call them what you wish; it is right, middle, and left. There are those who are completely committed to the Word and will of God. We may not always practice it right, but we trust a Holy God and believe the Book is God’s Word.

Then how did we get to the “theological error of the month?” It is because we have been taught to think like liberals. Look at how quickly our “professed” fundamental friends run to defend and buddy up to the moderates. By their very nature, moderates think with a liberal mind-set; so the truth is that our own brothers have been duped by that humanistic way of thinking.

I want you to remember this: “Moderates, those in the middle, are far more dangerous than the worst heretic among liberals.”

That is where we are today. In the present atmosphere, our own brothers and sisters are running to cast their lots with a system of thinking that opposes God at every step. That system of thinking is not conservative, and neither are they. Just saying!


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min. A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdsstaff2@juno.com or Shepherd Staff

February 15, 2016

Protecting the Pastorate, Clay Nuttall

The scriptures are clear concerning the man who is pastor, shepherd, elder, bishop, and overseer. His qualifications, role, responsibility, and limitation are plainly stated. In my book, “The Weeping Church; Confronting the Crisis of Church Polity,” all of this is carefully outlined. The book has been in constant publication since 1985. I am amazed at how often people take the liberty of ignoring or rewriting the Bible text, particularly on this subject. Almost every local church problem goes back to this issue. Of course, the roots of those problems are sin and pride; but God blesses only what He orders. If a church is organized in such a way as to create and feed conflict, one should not be surprised when it breaks out. Everything man touches is flawed, but the closer we can stay to the plain, clear statements of the Word, the more likely we are to have peace. Right now in our country we are living out the tragedy of this kind of ignorance. Creditable historians know that this country is a republic, not a democracy. Democracies always end in tragedy, and there are clear historical reasons as to why that is true. A republic has the rule of law, and people are meant to be treated in that way. So I have often asked, “Where did the concept of democracy in a local church come from?”  If you found it in the text, it is only because you inserted it there.

BEGININNG AT THE BEGINNING

God always makes things simple for us; we are the ones who make them complicated. We often do that on purpose in order to confuse people so that we can get away with making the Bible agree with us. This is the problem with the average concept of the pastor in our churches. Pastors are often installed in local churches as errand boys or merely someone to fill the pulpit. A local church is a flock, and it needs a qualified under-shepherd. Christ is the Chief Shepherd, and He is the one who appoints these under-shepherds. The prayerful task of the local church is to find out who Christ has appointed for them. The church should be seeking the will of God rather than the will of the people or a flawed majority. Churches languish because, in the flesh, they think they have a better idea. The selection process of a congregation often follows the pattern of the nation of Israel in its choice of King Saul. They thought they needed a man who was tall, dark, and handsome. Who cares about the heart of the man, let alone what is in his mind? That is why people are so easily fooled - you don’t always get exactly what you see. Sad to say, candidates are not always truthful. More than one prospect has hidden his questionable theology; then, when his error comes to the surface, he is so firmly settled in that the people are not willing to stand up and be counted. On the other hand, they would fight over the color of the carpet at the drop of a hat! What percentage of local churches has leaders with enough knowledge of the scripture to ask the kinds of questions that would smoke out a theological “wolf in sheep’s clothing?”  That’s the problem: they only think they do. We would have to add to this mix the intention of a candidate to change the flavor and format of church function. All these changes may not actually be a biblical question, but hiding the intent to do so is. If the prospect had been honest and had outlined his prospective changes that would scatter the sheep, the door would have closed - and he knows that. Christ is fully aware of, and has not forgotten, these questionable and sinful assaults on the local church.

NON-ANSWERS TO THE PROBLEM

On the other hand, the local church often practices bad habits in order to control conflict and protect itself. The clear answers to unrest in church polity are clearly stated in God’s Word, and they are the only way a church can solve difficulty in its fellowship. Some have chosen simply to do away with the real shepherd of the sheep. If you don’t have a pastor, then fifty percent of your problem is gone - right? They forget this: But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36) A flock without a true shepherd will falter and eventually be destroyed. The function of a shepherd cannot be fulfilled by a false shepherd or a hireling. (John 10:12) Only the qualified (I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-10), a Christ-appointed shepherd (I Peter 5:1-4), can fully carry out that ministry of the pastor, elder, and bishop. The Chief Shepherd appoints, qualifies, empowers, and approves true shepherds. Be careful with your human response to this, but if a man does some shepherding, it does not mean he is a shepherd. This is a simple concept. When my wife was in the hospital, I had to do some mothering; but that didn’t make me a mother. Humans can put any title they wish on a man, but only Christ can designate one of His under-shepherds. Then there is the “Hagar Syndrome.”  They think they can solve the problem by multiplying the number of men they choose as pastor, elder. The text clearly states that churches had, and have, multiple pastors; and that is true if they are appointed by the Chief Shepherd. Often this is used as a smoke screen to build an oligarchy. This concept is in direct conflict with nature and the Bible standard. Leadership and headship are always singular.

GOD’S PLAN OF ORDER

So why are churches so quick to join theological bandwagons when they know that the wheels are coming off? Basically, it has to do with the humanly devised hermeneutic that is raging in the new church culture. Intellectuals have provided a plan whereby churches can “have it their way.”  Churches follow unbiblical polity because there is so little knowledge of the Bible. They know about the Bible, but have found a way to “fill in the blanks" in order to get their own way. This is often done by means of the abuse of language, the ignoring of context, or the twisting of historical information. Theological smart-alecks may have lot of information, but they are short on wisdom. Intellectualism draws young novices because it is important for them to “run with the big boys.”  They fall into error willingly, but seldom find their way out of the theological slime pit. The wise man will let the text speak for itself. The strong man will be willing to stand up for truth even where error has been practiced for generations. A holy God will bless what He orders, and that is how we protect the biblical pastorate.


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address Shepherdstaff2@juno.com 

February 1, 2016

Words Have Meaning

STOP IT; KNOCK IT OFF! Stop supporting evil, that is. We may not have meant to do it, but when our words give credence to wickedness, we need to stop using them. Let me give you an example. Why do intelligent, spiritual persons use the term “same-sex marriage?” There is no such thing. The only marriage that exists is the one that God instituted and which He controls. The term “same-sex marriage” is a lie. Every time it is used, it gives credibility to something that God has judged and condemned. To give encouragement to anything so heinous is an offence to a Holy God.

The offence grows more egregious when politically correct Evangelicals try to defend the use of nice words to describe bad things. It is moral insanity to argue that we must say nice things about sin in order not to offend sinners. To ignore sin of any kind is not being a “friend of sinners.” No one ever comes to Christ for salvation without first dealing with his or her sin. Those who practice “sloppy agape” argue that we all sin and that we need to deal with gossip, etc., before we deal with sodomy. We do need to deal with all our sin, but covering the sin of others is particularly offensive. The biblical doctrine of God’s holiness has all but disappeared in today’s culture-driven church, and God has written “Ichabod” over all those churches. The Word of God is nothing more than a fetish in the emerging/emergent church, and it continues to find ways to ignore the plain, clear teaching of scripture. When sin is a forbidden teaching, it provides a hothouse for the very thing that God commands us to forsake.

SWEARING

When I was a small child, the word “darn” would get a bar of soap put into my mouth, and I had to bite down on it. “Christianity astray” would consider that to be cruel punishment, but today’s practice of letting Christian teens run free with foul mouths is real cruelty. Those who love to defend sin would say my mother was a legalist. What they do not know is that my mother was a spiritual giant beside those spiritual pigmies who misuse the word “legalism.” It appears that the majority of people who use the term have no idea what it means. To them it is just another way to make man comfortable about sin.

Normally people would limit swearing to “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” Even that has become acceptable verbiage among professing Christians. Posts on social media as a habit include vulgar words and gutter talk. The sad thing is that no one says anything about it. This is not just a teen thing; adults who ought to know better spit out crude and vile words in their posts as well. They would be wise not to claim relationship to Christ, since unsaved people see no difference between their conversations and those of any worldling. Who needs a Christianity that sounds like a conversation from the damned?

MURDER

This is the month that the abortion holocaust is remembered. Even now we have become numb to the brutal way unborn children are being dismembered every day. The silence in the midst of this terrible practice reminds us of the reason why people were silent while the Nazis slaughtered thousands of people daily. Fear was the main reason for a lack of response, but most of the Germans felt that there was nothing they could do. After all, it was the government, and so it was legal. In our guilt, we’ve had to find nice words for the killing of babies in the womb, so the real word “murder” is unacceptable.

Let me remind you that a thing is not legal if God has condemned it. Then why do professed believers line up to defend heinous practices? If we obey God and speak clearly to identify such evil, those who claim Christ line up to defend the crime. To speak strongly about some pseudo-law is viewed as being anti-government; but to side with the others and use nice words about evil is in fact anti-God.

It is no wonder that a holy God is obligated to judge any nation that embraces the murder of children. It is mind-boggling to know that people who claim to be Christians side with those who hate God. Words have meaning, and words need to reflect the view of a God who hates and always judges all sin.

GOD HATES ALL SIN

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imagination, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

If God hates all sins and prescribes capital punishment for some, why do some people spend so much time opposing what God has said? Why such effort to prove God wrong? Holiness is meant to be an affront to those who love sin. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18)

It appears that some folks don’t want to offend those who sin, but they don’t mind offending God. We need to be careful about deliberate personal offence to others. There is far too much meanness in our own circles, but it isn’t mean to make sin clear to the sinner. The truth is that real meanness is failing to tell the truth about sin, thus letting people plunge into hell or stand empty-handed at the Judgment Seat. It is dreadful to allow people to feel good here about sin and then let them discover in eternity that you really didn’t care.

JUDGING

It would help if people would take time to study the entire Bible on any subject, but then perhaps they don’t really want to know what God has said. One of the favorite mantras used by today’s “sin protectors” is to say that what God has said about sin is “judging.” It is obvious that they don’t want someone else asking questions about the sin in their own lives. Another defense is “love,” but love does not hide the truth from people. If there is danger, the loving person will say so. If that attack doesn’t work, then any old proof text will do. “Judge not lest ye be judged” is a favorite parley. Ignorance of Scripture is little different from deliberately denying what is the “plain, clear statement of the Bible text.” Remember this: a proof text without a context is a pretext.

Words do have meaning, and that meaning had better be what God has said and not what you have inserted into the text!


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or Shepherdstaff

January 21, 2016

Archival Series: Do Fundamentalists & Evangelicals, “Believe, Preach and Defend the [Same] Gospel?”

Many of you are aware of a long running series by Dr. Kevin Bauder titled Now, About Those Differences. He is publishing this series to clear up what he alleges to be misunderstandings surrounding his incendiary article Let’s Get Clear on This. In the opinion of a number of readers the Differences series has frequently reiterated his lavish praise of Evangelicalism and continues to redefine and/or castigate Fundamentalism just as he did with both movements in the Let’s Get Clear on This article. Nevertheless, the current installment, Part 12 subtitled Together (Only?) for the Gospel contains an element that is highly disconcerting, bordering on a deliberate misrepresentation of a known fact, which is the subject of this article. Dr. Bauder wrote,

Most fundamentally (the word is deliberate), both groups are united in their affirmation and exaltation of the gospel. None of the differences that we have examined to this point results in a denial of the gospel. Both fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals believe the gospel, preach the gospel, and defend the gospel.”
For any objective commentator it is widely known and irrefutable that Calvinistic soteriology in the form of the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel is the Gospel message of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals.

Is it possible that Kevin Bauder refuses to disclose the vast chasm, disagreement and debate in Fundamentalism over what is the true nature of saving faith; what is the Gospel?

His statement above is at best an avoidance of the truth and at worst a deliberate attempt to conceal the disagreement that exists among men in Fundamentalism on the nature of the one true Gospel.

There is wide spread disagreement in Fundamentalism over Calvinism, but for many on both sides of that debate Calvinism does not necessarily mandate a split. Lordship Salvation, however, is an entirely different point of sharp contention in and around Fundamentalism.1 John MacArthur defined the core of Lordship Salvation (LS) when in TGATJ he wrote, “Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.”2 Statements such as that are the focal point of controversy and many fundamentalists consider that to be a defining mark of a works salvation.

Bauder also wrote,
This mutuality in the gospel leads to a question. Since conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists are united in their allegiance to the gospel, should they not be able to cooperate at the level of the gospel? To put it positively, should fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals get together for the gospel?”
There is no universal “mutuality in the gospel” among evangelicals and fundamentalists. “Evangelicals and fundamentalists are [NOT] united in their allegiance to the gospel,” because there is a vast difference between what evangelicals and non-Calvinists in Fundamentalism believe to be the one true Gospel. It is irrefutable, and Kevin Bauder is well aware, that many men in Fundamentalism reject Calvinistic soteriology in the form of LS as a false, works based Gospel. It is, furthermore, indisputable that virtually every man in “conservative” evangelicalism is a passionate advocate for Lordship Salvation, which Bauder is also well aware of. Men in Fundamentalism who reject Lordship Salvation as a false works-based message are as aware as Bauder is that evangelicals are almost universal in agreement on Lordship Salvation as John MacArthur defines it. It is, therefore, impossible for fundamentalists who reject LS to have any kind of fellowship, unity or cooperation with the evangelicals because of their advocacy of Lordship Salvation.

To be honest with his readers Kevin Bauder must add a qualifier, a clarification. The qualifier would be along these lines, “Since [Calvinistic] conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists are united in their allegiance to the gospel…” It is the Calvinistic Lordship Salvation message that Calvinists in fundamental circles are choosing to unite around with their Calvinistic counter-parts in Evangelicalism. This is irrefutable! Dr. Bauder also wrote,
Is it really believable that they [T4G] cannot find a place for Christian statesmen like Charles Ryrie or John C. Whitcomb?
Of course it is believable. Frankly, this is a question any casual observer could answer. T4G is Together for the LS Gospel.3 Then there is the alternating year sister conference The LS Gospel Coalition. Lordship Salvation is the interpretation of the Gospel that they gather around. How could Bauder not grasp that T4G will never have Dr. Ryrie on their platform when he surely knows that Dr. Ryrie in, So Great Salvation rejects John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation as a false interpretation of the Gospel? The very LS Gospel, which virtually all of MacArthur’s contemporaries across Evangelicalism embrace.

What the apologists for unity with Evangelicalism who join Kevin Bauder at sites such as the pseudo- fundamentalist Sharper Iron do not fully disclose, try to negate and blur is that Bauder’s so-called “pure gospel” rallying point is Calvinistic soteriology in the form of the Lordship Salvation. This is exactly why no man who rejects Lordship Salvation will ever be invited to the platform of events like T4G and The Gospel Coalition.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the sole test for fellowship with the evangelicals is whether or not they can agree on a Calvinistic soteriology. Kevin Bauder is willing to find agreement and base fellowship with evangelicals solely on Calvinistic soteriology, which is undeniably the LS interpretation of the Gospel. This “pure gospel,” as we may examine in future articles, has become the sole test for fellowship in Bauder’s approach to them. Virtually all other considerations among the evangelicals such as ecumenical compromise, worldliness and aberrant doctrine have been tolerated, ignored, negated or excused. [A pattern that continues at time of this republishing, 01/2016]

Kevin Bauder acts irresponsibly when he attempts to portray Fundamentalism as though all fundamentalists accept and agree with the evangelicals interpretation of the Gospel. This is an inappropriate caricature of the whole of Fundamentalism. According to Kevin Bauder,
Both fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals believe the gospel, preach the gospel, and defend the gospel.”
The truth is that many men in Fundamentalism do NOT “believe, preach or defend” the Lordship Salvation Gospel of the evangelicals. Instead they reject LS because it “corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3) “frustrates grace” (Gal. 2:21). They biblically resist the spread of Lordship Salvation as fervently as they would Roman Catholicism’s sacramental system because both are works based, non-saving interpretations of the Gospel.

IMO it is disingenuous and irresponsible for Kevin Bauder to speak of the Gospel in his article as if there is wide spread unanimity in all of Fundamentalism for agreement with evangelicals on what constitutes the Gospel, the nature of saving faith. His failure to disclose the well-known, demonstrable division in Fundamentalism over the LS interpretation of the Gospel, the open rejection of the LS gospel of the evangelicals, is in fact the practice censorship by omission. I am calling on Kevin Bauder to be honest with his readers. To publicly recognize that many men in Fundamentalism reject Calvinistic soteriology and especially the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel, which the evangelicals “believe, preach and defend.”

Close on a Personal Admonition to Kevin Bauder:
Brother Bauder you do not speak on behalf of and are no more the voice of Fundamentalism than I am.

As I have documented in this article you are perpetuating a fallacy on unity in the Gospel. It is intellectually dishonest to declare, without qualification, there is unanimity on the Gospel between fundamentalists and evangelicals. It is an egregious misrepresentation. Scores of fundamentalist pastors, teachers and evangelists reject Evangelicalism’s Lordship Salvation as a false interpretation of the Gospel and you know this to be true. To reiterate, you do not speak for Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists speak for themselves and many of them passionately reject Lordship Salvation and would have every right to be offended by your suggesting Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism believe, preach and defend the [same] Gospel.

I am calling on you to immediately publish a correction of this misrepresentation. Be honest with your readers. Tell them that a select group of Calvinists in Fundamentalism agree with evangelicals on Calvinistic soteriology in the form of the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel. Tell your readers that Calvinistic soteriology is the “pure gospel” you speak of and around which you are trying to influence others toward unity in the Evangelical and Fundamentalist camps.


LM
Originally published August 24, 2010

1) What is the Fault Line for Fracture in Fundamentalism?
How can there be unity within a fellowship when two polar opposite interpretations of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ are accepted as legitimate? Reasonable men can get along over differences of opinion over Reformed theology. Many men who reject Calvinism have cordial personal friendships with IFB men who are Calvinistic in their theology. There is the desire to work in cooperative efforts and I understand that desire. It is, however, antithetical to the Scriptures to call for unity in any fellowship at the expense of compromise with Lordship’s message, which has changed the terms of the Gospel.
2) For a brief definition of Lordship Salvation by Dr. John MacArthur see, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page

3) Let’s Get “CRYSTAL” Clear on This: A Response to Kevin Bauder’s “Cannonball” Cogitations: “Foremost Defenders of the Gospel Today?”

Please continue to Cogitations Stemming From the Central/Bauder Ethos Statement

January 12, 2016

Now Ye Are Clean

Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” 
(John 15:3-5) 

Many of those who are seeking spiritual revival today have been touched by revival fires in the past.
Dr. Rick Flanders
Our experience, for the better or for the worse, seems to affect the Christian’s attitudes about revival. Some are motivated and others perplexed by powerful spiritual events which they have experienced in a corporate way that seem connected to real revival. We talk about prayer meetings that lasted long into the night, about public confessions of sins, about deep emotion in meetings, and about planned sets of services that were extended beyond the original plans for many days. What actually were these experiences? Do we have light from the Bible about them? Were they real revivals, and if so, why have they not been repeated in some cases? What’s the real story here?

We can be grateful that we do have extensive light on revival matters from the words of the Lord Jesus Himself. The night before He died, He met with His disciples (at least the apostles and probably some more of His followers), first in the Upper Room and then on the walk to Gethsemane, and talked with them (and us) about life under the New Covenant. These exquisite and important words from our Lord are recorded in the book of John, chapters 13 through 17. And in them we find the answers to our questions.

In chapter 15, Jesus boils down what He was saying about the abundant life (the real Christian life, which is His gift to us) by giving us the metaphor of the vine and the branches. The key to that life from our perspective is to “abide” (“continue,” “remain”—verses 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11) in Him as a productive branch must stay connected to the life-giving vine. The “abide in Me” life is described as a life of continual dependence (verse 5) and absolute commitment (verses 9-10). Such a life is called friendship with Jesus (verses 13-16), and promises the experience of peace, love, joy, victory, and productivity. It is appropriately described by the Lord back in John 10:10 as having life “more abundantly” (beyond measure).

In verses 2 through 5 we find Jesus describing the processes by which a believer is brought into and up to such a productive life. He is purged in order to bring forth more fruit. Having been purged (the word for “clean” in verse 3 comes from the root of the word translated “purgeth” in verse 2), he is ready to “abide in Me” for the abundant life. This is the process we often see working in revivals. The Father purges branches of the Vine in order to bring them to a new level of productivity. Once purged (the Greek word means “cleansed”) they are “clean through the word” and are prepared to abide in Christ and bear His fruit. Often in revival efforts, the Word of God is preached to the saints, and purging happens (remember what we read in John 13:1-11 and Ephesians 5:25-27). Then they are ready to surrender for service and reproduction (it is clear from verse 16 that the “fruit” of John 15 is not the fruit of repentance, nor the fruit of the Spirit, nor the fruit of the heart, but rather the fruit of the Christian, as in John 4:34-36, Romans 1:13-15, and Philippians 4:15-17: others becoming Christians through our Spirit-empowered witness). What is going on among Christians in revival is purging and then abiding.

REVIVAL BEGINS WITH PURGING
There aren’t a lot of significant spiritual victories happening in Bible-believing churches today, and when anything does happen, we tend to think it is full-blown revival! Revival in scripture is the work of God in which He lifts His people up to the level of faith and commitment where He can bless them as He promised He would (James 4:8-10). In some sense therefore, any part of the revival process can be called “revival.” Reviving someone is a process, and therefore the term is relative. But God is going somewhere with us, and is taking us somewhere. When powerful things happen to start the process, it doesn’t mean that we “have arrived.” And God starts with purging.

This is true about revival, both personal and corporate, everywhere in the Bible. Take a look at Second Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 51:7-15, Malachi 3:1-3, Mark 1:1-8, and James 4:8-10. God’s people are confronted by God’s Word with their many sins. When they respond by repenting, they are purged. But it’s only the beginning! When a group of believers in a church or at a conference or in a youth rally or at a camp cooperate with the Spirit of God by turning from their sins, there is a significant and powerful and often public purging. However wonderful (and unusual) such a thing is, it is a means to a more wonderful end. The goal is the miraculous harvesting found in the book of Acts, which is the need of the world, and the goal of revival.

We can’t be filled with the Spirt until we deal with our sins. Purging is indeed Step #1, but it is not the final destination for seeking believers. Those great experiences of the past may well have been the beginning of greater things, and the fuller victory may have been somehow thwarted. One way revival is derailed is by Christians being content with the progress so far.

THE MAN WHO IS PURGED IS CLEAN
It is a sad fact that many and perhaps most Christians never really feel “clean.” But that night, Jesus made it clear that he wants His followers to get fully clean, and then to consider themselves clean. The words He used earlier were “clean every whit” (read John 13:4-11). The talk began with a visual lesson taught in the washing of the disciples’ feet. As He washed their feet, He told Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” Partnership with Jesus (later called abiding in Him) must be preceded by purging. Then He assured them that a believer (one who has legal forgiveness before the justice of God by faith in the Lord Jesus) who confesses his sins (obtaining practical forgiveness before a holy God by the thorough confession according to First John 1) will be “clean every whit,” and ready to labor with Christ.

This is why He assured them in chapter 15 that they were “clean through the word.” He wants us to know that confession can “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (First John 1:9). Contrite King David found that when he confessed his sins, he was made “whiter than snow” and had “a clean heart” before God (read Psalm 52 again). He wants you to feel clean. And the work of confessing your sins can bring any believer the cleansing he wants and needs.

PURGING MUST BE FOLLOWED BY ABIDING
But we must learn that purging, as we said, is Step #1 in the reviving of a saint or a church. After John 15:3, where the believer is told he is clean, the imperative verb is used in verse 4 to command him to abide in Christ. The truth is that the cleansed Christian will fall back into the same problems unless he learns to abide in Christ. The reason we sin at all is that we fail to abide in Christ. Study the words of First John 2:28 through the startling statement in 3:6. The way we receive eternal life is by coming to Jesus (John 6:35-37). Then the way we live for Him after we are saved is by abiding in Him (John 15:1-8). It is only a life of partnership with Jesus Christ, committed to doing His bidding and depending on Him for the power we need, that will give the Christian victory over himself and his sin. And if you just admit your failure and get clean, but go back to living a life of self-dependence, you will also go back to failure. So every purged believer must be taught to commit his life to follow Christ and depend on Him for victory, day after day.

Do not separate purging from abiding. This is also a truth for corporate revivals. When a group has come through a season (long or short, intense or less emotional) of thorough purging, they need immediately to enter the phase of Step #2. Now it is time for surrender and filling. Now we need, as the Jerusalem believers on the day of Pentecost, to partner with God for the work of evangelism. We must pray and we must begin to speak (review Acts 2:1-4, and then compare the revival at Pentecost with the next one recorded in Acts 4:29-33). Let the Lord fulfill in us His stated program of Acts 1:8, revival and evangelism. Abide in Him, and bear His fruit. Go all the way, and don’t get stuck in the process. Let Him cleanse you thoroughly and then unite with Him to reach the world!


Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

January 3, 2016

The Bible on Crime & Punishment

The Bible speaks to everything in one way or another. Where it does speak directly, it is correct even if the pagan culture in which we live disagrees or thinks that God’s way is too simplistic or idealistic. The criminal justice system in our country is seriously flawed and corrupt, and this is because the system does not represent the basic model presented in God’s Word.

The fact is that during the establishment of our nation much of the foundational law represented the Judeo-Christian principles. It wasn’t perfect, but the years of judicial, administrative, and legislative adjustments have stripped our law of its value. A majority of these changes were in violation of the original documents, without the permission of the people.

The end result of pagan intellectualism has given us a prison system that multiplies the criminal element and moral perversity. The present practice celebrates and rewards the violator and punishes the victims, who are the core of our society. The rejection of capital punishment mocks a holy God and encourages murderers, rapists, and other evildoers to continue committing their crimes. The unequal application of the law ends up punishing the little guy while the elite go free and even run for high office. In the courtroom, the defense is expected to get the guilty off. While the family of the victim lives with the grief of the crime, our legal system bankrupts a nation, encouraging a violent society.

The end of this spiral comes when those in charge do away with real punishment because they say that “the system is flawed,” but then go on spreading evil by moving further away from the answer God has given. This pagan philosophy is based on folly – the idea that man is basically good and society has the power to change the criminal into a good citizen through re-education. How has that worked out? The bottom line is that evil things are made good and good things are made evil. This nonsensical system murders the innocent child in the womb, but rewards those who are guilty and sets them free.

GODS WAY ALWAYS WORKS

God’s plan is clear and simple. Cities of refuge and temporary confinement were only for the purpose of making sure that judgment was served honestly and with alacrity. The goals were restitution and retribution. For the criminal, there was always an end to the dealing with evil. The pagan mind tells us that capital punishment doesn’t work, but the truth is that no murderer who died for his crime has ever murdered again. The liberal mind complains that capital punishment is “cruel and unusual punishment”. The record, however, makes it clear that prison is a cruel and unusual punishment, while execution is actually merciful and quick. God’s plan shuts the door on the manufacture of the criminal element. The growth and respectability given to sodomy at this hour is a by-product of a useless prison system. The answer to crime from frustrated leaders is simply to make things legal, no matter how evil the practice is in God’s sight. The problem is that making things legal doesn’t make them right, but it does reveal the serious lack of wisdom in the present system. Pagan philosophy counters with the argument that moral people want to establish a “theocracy.”  The truth is that God’s plan works; it is what is needed, no matter what you may choose to call it.

INSULT TO INJURY

The saddest point in all of this is that some of those who name the name of Christ are siding with the seared mind of the unregenerate. There are several reasons for this. One reason is the philosophy of the state educational system in our nation, which has been adopted by so-called Christian institutions. The liberal mindset has no valid authority base. That mindset has taught a whole generation to use human reason as the highest authority. God gave us the ability to reason, and that ability, when properly used, will end up in agreement with God’s wisdom. Man’s wisdom ends up working full-time to prove that God is wrong.

EXAMPLE

Yesterday a friend of mine was sentenced to jail time for lying to the IRS. None of us would approve of any deliberate and clear violation of the law. In this case, however, he did not owe anyone anything, so restitution had taken place and there was no evidence of deliberate violation. It was not a capital crime, so retribution was not an issue. In God’s plan, the issue was settled. So, what is going on here with the imposition of jail time? Most of us have taken deductions that were disallowed, and many have not included so-called income that was questionable. It would be very easy for the current vacillating system to put us behind bars; in fact, this system has been used many times by a vengeful administration to punish those who disagree with them.

CORRUPT

Corruption is a very strong word, but it is true and is the point of this discussion. When the little guy is punished for something, he is judged harshly. At the same time, those at the top use power and money to avoid justice. Some of the most public figures owe huge amounts of taxes and have avoided paying them. This is corruption. If lying to the IRS is a crime - and it is - then why are major leaders so often shielded from responsibility? If lying is a crime, then half of Washington should be indicted given the fact that liberalism lives on lies.

The argument used to protect the elite is that nothing has been proven, and they are innocent until proven guilty. That may be true of the court, but it isn’t true in the real world. If someone murders and a corrupt defense attorney gets them off, they are still guilty. It seems, however, that if you have enough power, influence, and money, you can get away with murder. It may all be legal, but it still is corrupt. So, while the average citizen has no “real” protection, he can be incarcerated for questionable charges. Meanwhile, the guilty run for the highest offices in the land and may never even be charged even if their crime was treasonable, such as rewriting the founding documents of our nation!

CONCLUSION

This is the real story of flawed justice. In the end, it doesn’t work because it flies in the face of what the sovereign creator God has given us. His way is perfect and always works. Man’s way is flawed and produces injustice. So who should be behind bars?


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

SHEPHERD’S STAFF – December, 2015 A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or Shepherd's Staff.

December 7, 2015

Facing the Challenge: Now What?

Maybe we have had enough time now to get used to the idea that the Supreme Court has changed our country’s official definition of marriage. Certainly Christian people in the United States ought to draw conclusions and make decisions about what they will do about the new situation. Here are seven things we surely ought to do.

1. PULL THE KIDS OUT
Without a doubt, it is time for Christian families to take their children out of the public schools. Public education has been wrong and dangerous for Bible-believing families for many years, but it is even more so now with the new marriage mandate. It will not be permissible for state-sponsored schools to present traditional marriage as the norm any more. Since same-sex “marriages” are as legal as traditional marriages, they will be presented as equally normal and acceptable. It will not be allowed for teachers speak of daddy-and-mommy homes as the standard, nor two-mommy or two-daddy homes as anomalies. A child’s whole view of family and marriage will be perverted, and his life will likely be ruined. We cannot afford to leave the kids in public education. It is now absolutely necessary that Christian families choose a Christian option for the schooling of their children. Some may worry that if there were a mass exodus from the public school districts there could be real damage done. Yet, if you think about it, the widespread abandonment of the school system could be the best and most powerful wake-up call of the people in response to the cultural collapse that is now happening. Hardly anything would do this country more good than a wholesale withdrawal of students from the public schools. Every other response would be weak in comparison. Now the disaster of the court ruling is being met with barely a whimper of protest. Pulling our kids out would do a lot of good for society as well as for our families and the next generation.

2. JOIN THE PUSH-BACK
It is time to take a stand against the new definition of marriage. We will have to take our stand in order to stay true to our faith in the Word of God. In 2016, just a few politicians running for office will openly oppose the court decision, and propose constitutional steps to undo it. Christians should openly support those who do. Everybody running for any office this coming year should know about the millions who reject “gay marriage,” and should fear us to some degree. We must not be silent. Both Republicans and Democrats should expect to pay a political price for compromising with the immoral, illegal, untraditional, irrational, and unnatural concept of homosexual “marriage.” Some Christians ought (as the Lord directs them) to run for office this year, and the rest of us must consider supporting them.

3. MAKE SURE TO THINK RIGHT
Get your nose in the Bible, and renew your mind for these confusing days. Study the Word and learn what it says about marriage, sex, and homosexuality. Don’t just repeat slogans or follow your gut feelings about this emotional issue. Study it out from the viewpoint of scripture. Ask your pastor to preach sermons and teach lessons on these subjects. Know the facts, and think along with the Lord about this whole thing. Make scriptural and reasonable statements about the issue to those you can influence.

4. HAVE COMPASSION ON HOMOSEXUALS
Love those who have “come out” as living the homosexual way, and seek to win them to Christ. Recognize that “homosexual” is not a word that describes what someone is, but rather identifies something that he or she does. See the person trapped in this lifestyle as a person, and not as an object of scorn. Approach them with the Gospel, and not first with condemnation for this particular sin. In other words, seek to win them to Christ in the same way that you witness to other sinners. Remember that you are a sinner, too, and that Christ came to save sinners (First Timothy 1:15). Of course you should be ready to answer questions that they may have, just as you should be prepared to answer the questions of others with special hindrances to coming to Christ. Treat them all as human beings, and let God break your heart for their predicament (Matthew 9:36-38). The Gospel is the solution to their bondage and misery (read again Romans 1). Have compassion on them all, and tell them the Good News.

5. REFUSE TO RECOGNIZE THE “MARRIAGES.”
“Gay marriages,” although recognized by the state, are not marriages by any rational, natural, traditional, or scriptural definition of the term. So we must not recognize them as such. Christians must be ready to lose their money, respect, and even their freedom, as a consequence of standing for and telling the truth. It isn’t love that would motivate us to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. It is the fear of reprisals. It is a lie to describe them as marriages, and the consequences to the partners are many and dire. The homosexual lifestyle is the most degrading, disease-producing, and depressing way of life known to man. The statistics prove it. Don’t be rude but don’t treat the weddings as weddings or the marriages as marriages, and don’t treat homosexuality as normal and healthy.

6. PROMOTE GENDER DISTINCTION AT HOME
Homosexual people are not “born that way.” Science contradicts the popular notion that the homosexual orientation is genetic. Other factors lead to it, as counsellors have recognized for years. The current idea that people discover their sexuality as they grow up, and that gender cannot by determined by anatomical factors, will draw many more of the young and impressionable into the homosexual life. This is a reason to keep kids out of the public schools, away from the popular media, and from influences that blur correct gender distinctions and roles. Bring up little girls as girls, and little boys as boys, and dress them appropriately. The Bible makes a distinction in gender appearances and activities (Genesis 1:27, Deuteronomy 22:5, First Corinthians 11:4-15), and Christian families should do so also.

7. WORK AND PRAY FOR REVIVAL
The answer to society’s ills and insanities is the answer to mankind’s plight: His name is Jesus Christ. Sins and every perversion of God’s original and ideal plan for mankind have resulted from Adam’s original rebellion. The answer to all of these evils has been provided by the Second Adam, Jesus (see Romans 5:10-15 and First Corinthians 15:20-49). Those who have believed in Him for their personal salvation are charged with taking the message of His love and redemption to every person in the world. The reason our world has become so dark is the failure of Christians to keep the Gospel charge. And revival is the work God does in which He brings His people back to the place they ought to be. The great American revivals transformed our society by making the Christians what they are intended by their Lord to be: the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and empowered witnesses for the Savior. Our nation needs another “great awakening,” and we can have one, if believers will forsake their sins, humble their hearts, and seek the Lord (see James 4:1-10). The homosexual crisis is upon us because God’s servants have failed to be revived, and the Gospel has not gone forward as it should. Our primary responsibility today is to draw near to God for the revival we need. In every community, we should gather for revival prayer meetings, for preaching aimed at revival, and for efforts to spread the Gospel everywhere. The disintegration of society has resulted from the failure of Christians to take their place in the world. We must step up to the plate, and show the world that Jesus is the Way to peace and to deliverance.


Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries