20 Jan 1/20/19 “A Call to Defend”
The message this morning is “A Call to Defend.” I was going to go through the book of Jude on Wednesdays, but I feel it’s very impactful for Sundays as well. We need it mainly for the congregation on Sundays, so we switched that recently. So, “A Call to Defend.”
The book of Jude you’ll find in the New Testament, obviously, and it doesn’t make for easy reading. I love the book, but those who are carnal, those who are false prophets, false teachers, won’t even avoid it—they’ll get the scissors out on that one, because it’s just calling it out. And sometimes it’s good to do that. We have this impression in the church that we’re just supposed to be doormats. You know, just love them in their sin, never confront the sin, no, no, no. How dare we. Just love them. And we do have to have love as our underlying, undergirding umbrella motive. Of course, it all has to come from love, but there is a time to defend the truth and stand up for the truth and for things that are right, especially in the church and in our country.
When I’m talking about all these things, remember that God has given us different callings. So for me to defend the truth is going to look a lot different than you defending it sometimes. You might just be witnessing to your neighbor, to your friends, and that is the same as what I am doing. Sometimes we think, oh, what you’re doing is so much bigger and better. No, it’s not. It’s just calling. It’s gifting. What God has called the single mom to do and her sphere of influence is no different than what I’m doing this morning because we have different giftings, different callings. You can defend the faith and stand up for the faith in your community and with your friends. I’ve seen so many people who will say, “That’s your job, Shane. That’s what you’re supposed to do.” Well, we’re all supposed to defend the faith to some degree.
So keep that in mind as we look at the book of Jude. Verse 1:
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called,
meaning, to those who are believers. This was a specific letter to those who are called of God, the believers.
sanctified by God the Father,
meaning they’ve been changed, they’ve been transformed by God.
and preserved in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ holds us; He holds our faith together.
Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
So let me just stop there for a minute. Most scholars identify the writer as Jude, the half-brother of Jesus. So he might know a little bit about what he’s talking about, I’m thinking. He came to know Christ as Redeemer and Savior later on in his life. Obviously, his family members at first didn’t believe. And what he’s doing is writing a plea, a plea to defend the faith. And many times, when you plea, you turn up the volume. If I’m pleading with you, it’s probably not going to be like this: [in a quiet voice] “Ok, guys, next week, we’re going to try to be here, try to defend the faith.” No, pleading has some volume in it. It’s got some edge to it, a knife. It’s a pleading, a slap in the face. That’s what Jude does. He slaps us in the face. It’s a hard book, but it’s very good.
And the irony is, I something learned this week, when he talks about “mercy, peace, and love will be multiplied to you.” Do any of you want that this morning? Do you want mercy? Do you want peace in your life? Do you want the love of God in your life? It often follows those who contend for the faith because when we don’t contend—what’s the opposite of contending? Cowardly, closet Christianity.
I’ll never forget. I worked in construction, some of you know, many years ago. There’s a water district here in town; I ran heavy equipment. It was a very stressful job, crossing gas mains and water mains and different things. But I worked with two guys separately. I talked to this one guy about faith. He went forward at a Billy Graham crusade, loved the Lord—at least, he said it—and we talked all the time about it. Then there was this other guy, his name was Heath; I won’t mention last names. And I loved this guy, a younger kid. I’m trying to get him back on track. He’s going to church here locally. We’d talk about God a lot. One day we all worked together. Now these guys had been working together at that point about three months. And so now we’re all working together, somehow the topic of God came up, and they said to each other, “I didn’t know you were a Christian.” “Well, I didn’t know you were either.” Like, you guys have been working together for three months. Closet Christianity. They’ll talk about alcohol and the game, pornography, but not God. Now they’re either not saved, or they’re very carnal in their walk, they’re not filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
So they will not experience mercy, peace, and love because that boldness of the Holy Spirit is not there. They’re not contending, they’re not living like God has called us to live. So be encouraged in this. When you step out in boldness and contend, these things will follow you. You will have love and peace. Maybe that’s what some of you are missing this morning. If God feels distant, you don’t have the love of God that you used to, there’s not a lot of peace, there’s a lot of turmoil, and you’re avoiding controversy—you’re not talking about God much, if at all. There’s not a lot of peace in that because that’s not what you were called to do.
Just like when it comes in, like up at the High Sierras (I’ve talked about this before), that beautiful river out of the June Lake Loop and Rush Creek, and it runs right into Grant Lake, and out of Grant Lake out into Mono Lake. Ugh. It’s dead, it smells. I think brine shrimp is the only thing living there. But this beautiful water is coming in, but nothing is going out. There has to be an outlet. So, as we’re getting fed, we go out. That’s where the health comes from. Healthy heart, mercy, love.
And that’s one of the reasons why we promote the hospital homes. We have hospital homes. Every Sunday people will leave here, and they will go out and minister to people. And often I hear this, and I love it; I don’t get upset: “That was better than going to church!” I’m happy when they say that. “Shane, you wouldn’t believe it. I encouraged this person. I went to Walmart and bought them socks. I put them in connection with their family again. I prayed with them.”
See that’s what we’re supposed to do. And I’ve been there myself. We sit in the pew, we get fed, and that’s about it. And that’s why often there’s not a lot of peace and love in our lives. We’re not doing things for God. If we were to take a survey, I would think that many of you in this room would want to do a lot more for God than you are right now. I go through those seasons. I feel that way sometimes too. And a lot of it is because I’m not giving. Fortunately, I get to give right now, give of what God’s put on my heart. But that doesn’t take the place of giving outside of the church.
Another big misconception is that the church is just where we come, like a pep rally. We worship God, we get built up, we equip the saints to go out and do the work. But what’s happened a lot of times is we don’t go out and do anything. We just come here locally and get fed.
A coward has little fellowship with God; they miss out on His powerful presence. And I’m not using that word coward to poke fun. I have to go back and forth with this word too. Sometimes I cower back from things and should be bolder. I should be more lovingly aggressive. What I mean is pursuing people when they lack faith and go out and talk to them. This is a struggle we all have but I think Jude makes it clear that we need to defend the faith. He goes on here in verse 3:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
It’s kind of this change here: “I’m writing here about the common salvation, however, there’s a call that needs to go out exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith.”
Has anybody been kind of curious or upset about what’s going on in our nation, or is it just me? I better stay out of that for a little while. But the problem is many people don’t contend. We don’t say a lot. We don’t challenge in love. But it has to be inspired, motivated, and ultimately driven by the Holy Spirit, or it won’t go anywhere. Because if all I’m doing is contending, and the cheerleaders are being encouraged, and I’m upsetting everybody, and nobody in the middle is being changed, that doesn’t accomplish a lot. Politics won’t save us, but prayer will. Protesting won’t save us, even though it’s a good idea sometimes, but prayer will, and the power and moving of the Holy Spirit.
And often He changes things through bold contending for the faith. What are we celebrating Monday? What happened? [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] It ruffled some feathers. The abolition of slavery even before that ruffled some feathers. The big movement now, trying to stop the murdering of innocent children in the womb. When you contend, it gets interesting. I heard a video, I think it was Ben Shapiro speaking at Right to Life. I was kind of bummed; I was asked to speak at one of their gatherings a couple years ago, and I wasn’t able to. I’ve always regretted that. But anyway, he said something, not along these lines, but I thought, I want to share that with you, and I’m going to paraphrase here. But the position sometimes we take, what I take, especially from this church, what you take—that’s why you’re here—is we’re labelled sometimes as extreme. And you have to get to the point to say, “You know what, you’re absolutely right. We are living in extremely critical times. This is not time for passivity. This is a time to be extreme.” Not violent, extreme. Fasting, prayer, seeking God, worshiping, contending—“God, pull down heaven. Change our churches. Change our nation.”
He’s saying here, “Don’t wear out. Don’t wear out. I’m exhorting you. I’m encouraging you to still contend earnestly for the faith. Contend for the things that are right. Contend for the things that are righteous.” I will tell you upfront that any time you contend for what is right and contend for what is righteous, you will be mocked. You will be ridiculed. There is a battle. There is a fight. You’re not going to stand up for the truth of God’s Word, and everybody’s going to like you in your school district or in the governmental offices. I’m not talking about going out and getting fired. I think we should be the best example of an employee wherever we are at. Gracious and loving and understanding. But there’s a boldness there.
So however you do that—write, speak, blog, pray, contend somehow. And if you don’t know what to do, here’s a good prayer. I’ve prayed this prayer before, eighteen, nineteen years ago, and I had no idea how God would answer it: “God, help me. Show me how You want me to contend. What have You called me to do? Lord, show me.” That’s how some of you should pray this morning. “How should I contend?” And contend doesn’t mean fighting all the time. It just means standing up for what is right. We’re contending, we’re holding the ground. You can be loving, you can be firm, you can be gentle.
Some of you have it in your hands. If not, it’s on our website or at ShaneIdleman.com. A lot of news organizations picked it up the last few days, and a few more are picking it up this week. Interestingly, I got an email from the lady who did my last Fox News interview, and she’s interested in possibly me talking about this with somebody on the other side on a podcast. I don’t know if that will go anywhere. But the title is “An Open Letter to the United States of America”:
The atrocious demeanor of our elected officials must stop—from F-bombs and death threats toward our president to the total lack of humility in governmental offices. Our arrogance has reached a new level—calling evil good, and good evil. We turn a blind eye to sexual sin and wink at pedophilia. Recently, a photo posted to Instagram showed a 10-year-old transgender posing next to a naked man who was the most recent winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Where is the outrage? America, your silence is deafening! Yet we have a mental breakdown when a border wall is being considered. [And I don’t mind different views on this, but my Lord, put things in perspective.] We protect LGBT rights [and I love those people] but murder innocent babies in the womb. We encourage children to switch genders, but not to turn to God—the only true source of hope for our nation. Our schools resemble battlegrounds, and our families remain shattered while churches stay silent. It appears that pastors would rather cave in than fight, tickle the ear rather than challenge the heart. Our pride will be our downfall. Are we striving to be pleasers of men or men of God?
What kind of nation do we live in where a newly elected congresswoman can Tweet “Impeach the *****” about our president? [Any president, Obama, Clinton, Bush, our current president. Where in God’s green earth do we live where that is allowed?] To say that I, and countless Americans, ARE embarrassed is an understatement. Many of our leaders need to look in the mirror and repent or resign.
And that is a portion of contending for the faith. It’s a platform God’s given me. Not everyone. I don’t like this platform. I wrote this whole article down in five minutes, and then I had some editors work on it. But it needs to be said. When God gives us that burning fire.
And Jude is also a call to passive believers. Silence is not always an option. When we are filled with the world, we are not bold. I think that can be the problem with some of you listening to this right now. When you are filled with the world, when I am filled with the world, I am not bold. What am I bold with? I am bold with the things of the world. But the more you read God’s Word—just spend some time in the Psalms—when you spend time in that Word, this boldness comes out of you. I like what Vance Havner said, “The tragedy today is that the times are desperate, but the saints are not.”
So contend here means earnestly, sincerely, there’s an intense conviction. And if you say, “But, Shane, I just don’t have that,” you will not have that without the empowerment and filling of the Holy Spirit. You won’t. I won’t. Nobody’s going to contend for the faith without that. So you have to ask for the filling, that mighty empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
And he says here, “Once and for all.” There is a finality. There is one gospel, one truth, one God. There’s a finality. There are not many different gospels. He says, “Once for all delivered to the saints.” What was delivered is it. So here’s the key we can take from this. Don’t be a closet Christian. Step out in faith. Begin to witness. But, Shane, I don’t know what to do. Do you have friends? Do you have family members? Just say, “Hey, have you thought about God? Do you know where you’ll spend eternity?” and you can open some good dialogue and begin to contend for the faith.
Or, and this a different call, don’t hide behind a judgmental attitude with the words “I’m defending the faith.” See, on the flip side of this it’s really ugly. You’re the passive side [motioning to the people in the audience], okay, and it’s called not to be passive, but this side is equally dangerous, and this is the person who yells and is mean and nasty and they say, “But I’m defending the faith.” They put down everybody online. They’re a modern-day Pharisee. They’re not defending the faith. They’re pulling down everybody and everything.
So we have to find that balance because most people will gravitate to one side or the other. Right? Type As over here—type A personality, judgmental, just tell them like it is, there’s no gray, it’s black and white, “I’m going to defend the faith,” and you have these heresy hunters who are looking for sin in everybody’s life. We get those emails too: “I can’t believe you played some of those songs. I thought you were a solid church.” What songs are you talking about? Because they don’t meet your criteria? You don’t like emotional songs, so you’re going to put down things? You misquoted Proverbs. Yeah, and I might misquote a Scripture today.
We’re imperfect people talking about a perfect God. See, modern-day Pharisees are dangerous. They love this verse. They’ll use all capital letters and exclamation points, two or three of them. They don’t know grammar rules—just one is fine. I’M CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH!!! No, you are an arrogant Pharisee. And often it’s conservatives bashing charismatics or those who embrace the work of the Spirit. That’s where a lot of this comes from.
I don’t know if I should go here, but I will. I saw a video, I’m not going to name names, of some people critiquing Beth Moore because she believed God spoke to her and told her to do something. I’m sitting there thinking, what’s wrong with that? As long as it lines up with Scripture, it’s edifying others, it’s building up others, it’s encouraging others. God does lead sometimes through things we’re not quite clear with. I think she felt God told her to go and comb this guy’s hair at the airport. He looked like he had just gotten out of the hospital or something. They were mocking her, going, “Oh no, God would never tell you that. He’s just going to tell you to go preach the gospel.”
Yeah, that’s going to happen. That’s coming. But you might have to step out in love first. Arrogant Pharisees. Arrogant Pharisees who think they’re defending the truth, and they are actually quenching the work of the Holy Spirit. They’ll bash anybody. Matt Chandler has a dream that he believes God gave to him. Oh, that must be heretical. No, it’s biblical. Joseph? Mary? You might want to go a different direction. The wise men? Herod’s going to kill you. You might want to go a different direction. Jacob? I don’t understand it. I don’t embrace it. I’m not this guy caught up in dreams. But I know God can do whatever He wants. He can warn somebody throughout a dream. If it lines up with Scripture and it edifies and it builds you up. But what do they say? We’re contending for the faith. We’ve got to pull these people down. No, you’re not. You’re an arrogant Pharisee, and it needs to stop. You have sound doctrine, but you don’t have a right heart. [Clapping] I could stay there awhile.
The irony is here’s the truth: [our church] is just not well known enough to be on their hit list. I guarantee they would tear me apart just like they tear them apart. If you embrace the work of the Holy Spirit, conservative Christians will mock you because they’ve never experienced that move of God. I think many times they’re prideful, they’re jealous, they’ve never experienced that, so it can’t be true. I’ve got a master’s degree in divinity. Yeah, but does the Master have your heart?
So be careful in this area. And I’m not in any way, shape, or form throwing bad doctrine underneath, you know, let’s hide it, let’s just get crazy, let’s get odd, let’s get weird. No, let’s hold the sound doctrine, contend for absolute truth in a postmodern culture. We love the truth. We put everything through the filter of truth, but let’s not put God in a box and then pull apart those who seem to meet God at a deep level. These same churches would mock a church where there are people at the altar weeping. Oh, that’s emotionalism. No, that’s people experiencing God. Straight up. I came to shoot you straight this morning because I’m tired of some of these Pharisees and heresy hunters.
So here’s a little illustration that might help. People say, “Okay, Shane, I understand,”—and I saw this on Facebook; I told her I might use these—“but I don’t know what to say.” Amen? Can you relate to that one? I can sometimes. I get a little tongue-tied. You might find this funny. My wife and I were out of town just for a few days, and we’re talking to this guy, who seemed so nice. You know, he knew God’s Word, Scripture, he was living it, and we come to find out he was a Mormon. I’m sitting there, we’re having lunch, and I’m like, oh, uh. Do I listen for a little while? Do I say anything? He goes, “Oh, you’re a nondenominational church? My friend is, and he tells me I’m going to hell.” “Well, that’s interesting,” and I listen. “What do you trust in?” It caught me off guard because I wasn’t prepared for that.
So, what do you say? Fortunately, I gave him a book and said, “Here. Contact me if you have some questions. I want to talk to you a little bit more,” but it wasn’t the right setting. Also, how do you say it? How do I say it? Or, they’ll take it the wrong way. What about this one: But I’m not a good example. I’m not a perfect example. They see my life. Well, let’s talk about these briefly.
I don’t know what to say. Well, what I recommend is to learn a few things. Learn a few things about your faith, just bullet points that you can grow in and learn. Do you know what Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses believe? Or other cults? Fortunately, you don’t have to have a whole list. You ask them, “What do you do with Jesus Christ?” because most of them will add to the work on the cross. Yeah, we believe in Jesus, too, but you have to be a member of our church. We believe in Jesus, too, but you have to worship on Saturday. We believe in Jesus, too, but you have to go door to door and do good things.
And see, you can isolate it. Have some Scriptures handy—not by works, by faith alone, and He’s the only way, the only truth, the only life. Just be prepared. Don’t just try to wing it. Do a little bit of studying. Contend for the faith. Study yourself to be approved, rightly dividing the word of truth. And also, watch Ray Comfort sometimes. His videos are funny. Dave told me he spoke here, right here, fifteen years ago. So that’s what I do. I watch a lot of videos, I read a lot of books, and I read the Bible, of course. And just have a better understanding of what your friends believe.
How do you say it? Well, that’s pretty easy. Say it with love. Seek to listen. You never want to go into this like, I’m going to win this argument. No, no, no. You enter with love. Listen to them. With the person I was talking to, I would listen and say, “Have you thought about this? Because either Jesus Christ is right, or Joseph Smith is right. You can’t have them both.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, did you know that Jesus said that God is not human, He’s spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth? And God was from creation. God’s always been. Joseph Smith said that God was once like us. God was once like us, me, and someday I’ll be like God. Did you know that God calls that blasphemy?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we’re not like God, and God’s not like us.”
And you give them things to think about. Remember, you’re not trying to win an argument; you’re just planting seeds.
They’ll take it the wrong way. Yeah, they might. They may take it the wrong way, but if it comes from love, you’ve planted seeds. I’ve had a lot of discussions, which I’m sure a lot of you have had with atheists or Mormons or different groups, and often, I’d say nine times out of ten, it ends fine. LGBT and those who struggle with homosexuality, I look at them as anyone who struggles with any other sin. We love them, we point them to the cross, we point them to Jesus Christ, the hope. And they can listen to you and hear you and hear your heart if you’re not arguing and your tone is respectful: “Have you considered this? Well, I really appreciate your heart. Boy, you really seem to have a sincere faith in what you’re believing, but we can be sincerely wrong, too. Want me to show you [some Scriptures]?” It’s often not what you say, but how you say it. But ultimately, yes, you will ruffle some feathers. The gospel ruffles feathers, and we have to remember that.
But I’m not a perfect example. Well, for me, not being a perfect example is a great opportunity to share why we need Jesus. And you can even tell the person, “Hey, you’ve seen me before. You’ve seen me get angry and upset, and I apologize for that. You’ve seen me do this and hold in unforgiveness, and I’ve apologized for that. You’ve seen this is me, and that’s why I need Jesus. We’re not perfect.” See, that’s a big misconception out there.
A friend of mine was struggling on Facebook, and I was going to respond, but I didn’t. Somebody I’m kind of helping with, I’ve known for a long time, who’s struggling with alcohol and keeps falling into it, and he’s posting things like “I’m a hypocrite, I can’t do this,” and I want to remind him, “You’re struggling.” A hypocrite is someone who intentionally deceives you. It’s a Greek word that comes from putting on a mask. I’m this today, I’m this tomorrow.
So there’s not a lot of hypocrites in the church? There are, coming in to intentionally deceive. Oh, praise you, brother. Knowing they’re going to leave here and just be as mean and nasty as ever. They’re a hypocrite. But somebody’s who’s struggling in sin is not a hypocrite. If there’s anybody in this room who is not struggling with sin, I would love to meet you after the service. Tell me how do you accomplish that? How do you keep that tongue in your mouth and that anger, lashing out at people? How do you stumble or fumble here and there?
We have to encourage people, and it’s a perfect example. When I was in construction, I was not a good example sometimes. They knew I didn’t drink. They knew I didn’t do some of these things, but boy, I almost beat the tar out of this one guy. It wasn’t good, and I had to go back and apologize. I said, “It wasn’t right of me,” and I apologized, but I said, “If you open your mouth again like that, I’m going to pop you.” But joking with him, you know. And so I had to ask for forgiveness a few different times. But people see that. When you do that, people see that it’s genuine. Okay, it’s real. I like this person. They see it anyway, we might as well admit it.
But here’s how many people get out of contending. We say, “I’m not their judge, and I’m not their jury.” I see these mega-pastors on The Today Show and Oprah and different places, and the question often comes up, “Well, what do you think about…gay marriage?”
“Well, I’m not the judge. I’m not their jury.”
“What do you think about Mormonism?”
“I’m not their judge. I’m not their jury. I’m just called, Oprah, to love people.”
No, you’re a coward. You’ve just been given an opportunity to tell millions of people the truth that “hey, I love all these people. We struggle with sin, but I would tell them that this is not right according to God’s Word. The Bible is clear on this issue.” That’s contending for the faith. But they say, “I’m not their judge. I’m not their jury. It’s not up to me.” But you’re a proclaimer of truth, you’re a defender of faith, you’re a broadcaster of righteousness. How can you remain silent?
And here’s what I’ve learned. You’re either turning toward God or turning away from Him. Galatians 1:6–9:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Now this is important. You need to learn this Scripture. You even need to show people. I believe the Mormons will even have this in their Bible, this famous verse:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Let him be accursed if we preach any other gospel. What is the gospel? Well, the gospel most of you know, praise God, but not everybody knows, the main thrust of the gospel means good news. I was dead in my sin and trespasses. I was under the wrath and condemnation of God. That’s not very popular. That’s not very popular, but it’s the truth. But God rescued me and you and those who believe through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. That’s the good news. So you can’t add anything to that.
I’ve told you before, when I talked to that priest of a large Catholic church, I said, “Why do you promote purgatory?” “Well, we have to be purged for our sins and guilt.” No, no, no, no! That’s the point of the cross! If that’s not what the cross is for, did Jesus go up and do an incomplete work, a partial work? I almost got it for you, guys, now if you could just finish it. See, that’s blasphemy. That is heretical. That is a heretical teaching. “Shane, why do you use that word?” Heresy just means a self-willed opinion that opposes the truth. To say we have to go somewhere and be punished for our shame and guilt and sin after we’ve already acknowledged Christ and we are believers is not correct. It’s adding to the gospel. That’s another gospel. That’s another truth. That is not taught in Scripture.
So maybe you need the gospel this morning. You need the good news. Have you repented of your sin and believed? Have you repented? It’s that simple. Oh, the simple gospel. We sing that song. The simple gospel.
Next week I’m going to talk about the trademarks of a false prophet, but here’s what I want to talk about. It’s going to be a long ending, so I don’t know when I’ll leave, maybe five or ten more minutes. Or fifteen. So, here’s the key. Is Jesus the central, the main, the chief, the fundamental, the core focus? That’s how you determine something is true or not.
Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 John 4:2)
It’s really that simple. What do you do with Jesus? Here’s the definition of a cult. You hear the word cult, right? A cult is a group of people who deviate from the central, essential, scriptural truths. They deviate from it. So that guy, David Koresh and Waco or drinking Kool-Aid. Somebody just told me on Facebook, “Hey, you’re drinking Kool-Aid.” I said, “I’m drinking the truth. You’re drinking Kool-Aid.” Remember the Kool-Aid guy, and they had these people poison themselves—Jonestown. Cultish.
A lot of other groups are cultish, meaning they deny the main truth that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life. He is the Son of God. End of story. The essentials of the Christian faith. Now, when they deviate from that, they’re called a cult. Often, the irony is, for example, the Roman Catholic Church, when I talked to that priest he told me that one of the problems they have with denominations is “you have so many denominations, but see, we are the one, true Church,” and I wanted to remind them that no, when you look the same, taste the same, smell the same, everywhere you go, that’s a reflection of a cult. In a denomination there’s freedom in Christ. There are differences in their distinctions, but they all have the essentials of the Christian faith. The all agree to the essentials.
But if you go somewhere and it’s the same thing, the same room, the same building, the same setup, that is control, and that is a cult. That’s a cult-like thing. Now Calvary Chapels have Calvary Chapel distinctives. The Foursquare, Vineyard, Reformed churches all have certain distinctions within their denominations. That’s different. In denominations there is a lot of freedom. [Our church] is just nondenominational because we just don’t line up with a certain denomination. We take the good from all of them. I don’t know who we would line up with if we did.
But a lot of churches are nondenominational, not because they think they’re special but just because, for example, Pentecostals believe that the evidence of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues only. I wouldn’t agree with that. The Reformed denomination follows that of the Reformation, the five points of TULIP, John Calvin. I don’t quite subscribe to that. Calvary Chapel, part of their distinctives, the way they believe the rapture, you have to believe that a person can possibly walk away from their faith. Their form of church government is one person leading, where we have a plurality of elders. So you have differences, but it’s not over the essentials. And then this groups breaks off from this group, this group breaks off from this group, but they’re all still focused on the essentials.
Cults often look the same, act the same way. You go to one in Wisconsin, you go to one in Las Vegas, you go to one in L.A., it’s the same type of structure, same type of control. And a lot of times they want to control your money.
So let’s just read this from a website, and I’ll tell you who it is afterwards:
Yes. We believe in Jesus, who said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) We have faith that Jesus came to earth from heaven and gave his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice. We also believe that Jesus is now ruling as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, which will soon bring peace to the entire earth. (Revelation 11:15) However, we take Jesus at his word when he said: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) So we do not worship Jesus, [Let me circle that one for the next service. make sure I don’t forget that.] as we do not believe that he is Almighty God.
Whew. Let me just stand back. JW.org. I pulled it right from the Jehovah Witness website. You want to know what to say when they knock on your door, just show them this. But see, here’s where they make the mistake. Here’s the scary part, why I feel for this group—they don’t have certainty of salvation. We don’t know until the end, until we make sure we’re good enough and did the right things. Can you imagine living like that?
They get confused on one verse. When Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I am,” they forgot about the doctrine of incarnation. The Bible says that Jesus became less than the angels, taking on the form of a man. He became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Jesus humbled Himself—again, the doctrine of incarnation—He humbled Himself, took on the form of man, fully God and fully man. Try to get your head around that one. But we know it’s the truth.
He lowered Himself. He humbled Himself. In Philippians, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but He made Himself of no reputation.” So as He humbles Himself, He can say, “The Father is greater than I.” You have that one verse. I could have read a dozen verses, but I’m just going to read you two:
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)
“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:33)
And we could keep going over these. The reason is, why would they say that? Because it’s a cult. They also don’t like the concept of hell, so they remove that.
This is what cracks me up about this topic. What I’m talking to you about is not going to sit well with some people. Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons or even Roman Catholics. All I’m doing is reading what they said, what they teach, and what the Bible says. So if you’re mad, be upset at the Bible. I’m just reading what each teaches. That’s it. But see, something you always have to remember. When you have the truth of God’s Word, it invites scrutiny. It says, “Come on. I invite your scrutiny.” When you have error, you run from it.
I’ve asked the church down the street a half-dozen times. I have one of the elders’ numbers; when we have a memorial service, I let them know what’s going on. When can we sit down and talk about the differences? Unless an act from Almighty God, that is not going to happen. Why? I want to see what the Bible says. Let’s sit down and look at the truth. Uh uh. No, let’s not. But he suggests we can do a community event together. Okay, if we can talk later about the differences.
Or I’ll sit down with the guys knocking on my door: “Hey, let’s open the Bible. Let’s talk about…” “Oh, no, no. Let me go get my elders.” Wait, you’re knocking on my door trying to win me to your faith. Don’t go get your elders. You better know what you know what you know. Let’s talk about these things.
I’ve got family members: “Can we sit down? Can I show you…” “No, I don’t want to talk about it.” Why? Because it’s a cult, it’s demonic. When you talk about the Son of God and the truth of God’s Word, who in the world is going to want to sit down and talk about that? Because the demons will even flee at the mention of God’s truth. They don’t want to hear God’s truth, that He’s going to <show them the light?>.” That’s impossible.
I remember I was at a Mormon bishop’s house many years ago, when we first started the church, and after an hour of giving us his spiel, I finally read this Scripture: “Though an angel from preaches any other gospel, let him be accursed.” He got up, “Are you telling me this book of Mormon is of the devil?” I said, “I think so.” And that was it. “Get your shoes, out. Out of my house. Go.” Why are you so mad? If you have the truth, share it with me. For the love of God, if you have the truth, share it with me. If I’m dying, if I’m on my way to hell, share the truth with me. Why can’t you share the truth with me? Let me tell you, let me show you my truth. Let’s have a dialogue. No!
Because the Word of God supersedes all other—there’s no other truth. It is above everything. The name of Christ is above every other name. So when you go in with the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit and the name of Christ, you already have authority and dominion. That in and of itself is the strength you need. And that’s all you need.
But Shane, they won’t listen. They’re getting upset. Who cares? It’s the truth. Remember that. Truth invites scrutiny. I’ll sit down with any group and share what the Bible says. There’s a local atheist’s group. I’ve told them three or four times, “Hey, I’d love to come to your group.” I might bring some bodyguards, but, “I’d love to come to your group. Let’s sit down. Let’s talk about it. If I’m so deceived, I’m naïve, I’m stupid, and I’m an idiot for believing there’s a God, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about it.” Nobody jumps at that opportunity. Why? Because you’re coming with Almighty God. They have nothing but a lie and deception.
Mormons believe that all men and women ever to be born, including Jesus Christ, lived with God as His spirit children. See, right there—wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. That’s not correct. That’s so out there. Maybe it’s just me, but the Bible is clear. And then you have this teaching that says you will be like God someday, you will be married to your spirit wife and have celestial sex and have spirit children and rule planets? Am I in the Twilight Zone? I mean, again, I’m not trying to mock, because I know somebody’s going to say, “Oh, you’re mocking.” No, I’m not. I’m telling you what they believe, and it’s blasphemous. If you believe this, you’re on the highway to hell. That’s not an AC/DC song, that’s a reality. My Lord, this is serious stuff. They believe that God was once like us and lived on earth. He was “resurrected, glorified, and grew into his deified status.” (According to Joseph Smith.) And I could read more and more and more.
For example, they believe that you’ll be married in heaven. That’s why their marriage ceremonies are sealed in the temple, secretive. Just whisper to them, “Jesus said there’s no marriage in heaven. You’ll be like the angels. So who’s right? Joseph Smith or Jesus Christ?” Joseph Smith said he found some tablets. We don’t know where they’re at anymore. And guess what? Some special glasses to read the tablets. And this angel told him that all churches for the last 1,850 years have been wrong, and God’s going to give him the restored gospel. So that means Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, the Church Fathers, all the early beliefs and teachings were all wrong, but now this man has got the revealed truth by special spectacles and tablets. But nobody will let me tell them that because they don’t want to talk about it. And they’ve been warned “Oh, no, no. Christians are brainwashed. They’re going to try to tell you things. Don’t go there with them.”
But folks, we have to pray that spiritual blindness is taken away. We have to pray that. Let’s pray that after the service because God has to take away that spiritual blindness. They say, “Well, we believe in the Bible as much as it’s transcribed correctly. We believe it, but we put these other books above it.” You have a Bible, where you can go find where Jesus walked, you can go confirm it with Roman historians, Jewish historians, Josephus and other historians. It’s in the Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s all documented. It’s all there. The kings, the kingdom, the coins, the tools. Everything is there. But when you get to the Book of Mormon, nothing can be found. Nothing. So you’re building your life, you’re drifting from God because some guy found tablets, an angel spoke to him. If we or an angel above speaks to you any other gospel, let him be accursed. Watch out for Satan because he comes as an angel of light. How many false religions started because somebody, an angel, spoke to them?
Here’s what happens. We drift from God when we are not anchored. We drift when the force pulling us away is greater than the desire pulling us back. So if you’re drifting, that’s probably what’s happening. Something is pulling you away from God, and that pull is stronger than your desire to return. That’s what drifting is. Drifting from the truth. So this church was drifting from the truth, and Jude said, “No, come back. Contend for the faith.” And we drift when we have lost our motivation and our desire to serve God.
So I want to leave you with this thought this morning. Return to your first love. If you know Christ and you’ve drifted, just return to your first love. If you don’t know Him, repent and believe. Repent. Say, “I see sin as God sees it. I’m repenting. I’m turning from that.”
There was such a good testimony that came in. I have to share this with you. It’s on our Facebook page. I might share it in the bulletin too. There’s a lady by the name of Liz. She actually transcribes every word I’m saying right now into sermon notes, so if you ever want those, they are available under our audio section, and she really cleans them up. Praise God. I’m glad she doesn’t put every word. She was working on one I did a while back on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And I didn’t know where she was going to stand on that, but I found out we’re on the same page. So I said, “Tell me your story.” And I want you to listen. Staff, ushers, media, sound, children’s ministry, whoever’s listening, listen to this because I believe this is for many of you in this room, staff, members, all of us:
My Christianity went from a dead-fish hypocrite to on fire, loving the Word, loving prayer, loving people.
I was saved in 1997 and looked like your typical Christian homeschooling mom (with maybe a few more kids than the average family), active at church. But we never opened the Bible until church on Sunday. I taught with Christian materials, but we didn’t have family devotions. And worst of all, I didn’t have love for people.
That’s the key. That’s the key. If you do not have a love for people. And she went on to say:
I yelled at my kids a lot. [Anger was a mark of her.] In the spring of 2011, I was looking over our new curriculum for the kids (called My Father’s World), [some of you know what that is] which contained a set of missionary biographies, which I started to read. I read one book after another and thought to myself, these people are willing to die for Christ. Why am I not like that? What do they have that I don’t?
At the same time that was happening, the Holy Spirit was convicting me about my anger and my yelling at my kids. And I was doubting my faith, living a double life. It seemed that Jesus wasn’t even real. Maybe all this was just made up. Maybe I got suckered into believing this.
One day my husband had to go out of town. I put the kids to bed and then had this talk with God. I was crying and thinking over all these things that had been happening, and I specifically remember asking myself, am I even a Christian? I sort of had it out with God that night [And that’s a good thing. I would encourage you to do that. Because He will win.], but nothing “extraordinary” happened, and I fell asleep. Except that the next day I was a totally different person. The yelling stopped almost immediately. I was so full of love for people and so hungry for the Word of God and for prayer. We started a prayer meeting in our home too. Born again became a literal thing to me, not just a Christian term. I knew what it meant.
Other things began to change as well. Earlier, my choice of movies and TV shows to watch was rather like “pushing the envelope,” but afterward, I wasn’t interested in worldly things anymore. What grieved the Father, grieved me, and what interested God, interested me.
For a long time, I thought that I was saved at that time and not years earlier because people told me there’s no such thing as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Call it what you want, but I know that in 1997 I felt a real, physical burden being lifted when I believed, and then something different happened fourteen years later.
I’ve been telling you guys this for eight years. I believe you have all of the Holy Spirit at conversion, but does He have all of you? No, in the case of many people. He doesn’t. That’s why God seems distant. That’s why you hear me talk about these missionaries who are dying for Christ. It’s the last thing you want to do. And I’m just telling you this because I love you. I love you enough to tell you the truth that many people are not filled with the Holy Spirit. The very thing they need is the very thing they’re running from. What she experienced is the fully surrendered life. She got to the end of herself. See, she was following all the rules—homeschooling mom, the Bible, Christian, but that’s not enough. That’s not enough. The heart has to break.
So maybe this would be a good opportunity this morning during worship, to say like what she said, wrestle it out with God and say, “God, I’m surrendering my life to You. I’m surrendering everything to You.”
“Rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness and relenting of evil. (Joel 2:13)
Go and proclaim these words toward the north.
Jeremiah is proclaiming. He’s in Judah, he’s in the south, and he’s proclaiming these words to the north, possibly even Israel. What’s he proclaiming?
“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the LORD; “I will not look upon you in anger For I am gracious,” declares the LORD; “I will not be angry forever.” (Jeremiah 3:12)
There’s always this call that goes out. Return to God with prayer and brokenness and humility, fully surrendering your life. What type of Christian only gives God a portion? That type of Christian is miserable, when we don’t give God everything. And of course, it comes up, when I talk about this, “Well, I could never do that. That’s impossible to be perfect.” You’re right. I haven’t given God everything. I’ll freely admit that to you. The sin is there, the flesh is there. It fights every step of the way. But what you do is you say, “God, I’m giving you everything this morning. My finances, my addictions, my friends, my time with You. I don’t know You like I should. Worship is boring. I can’t wait to get out of here. I’m hungry. I want this Christianity that Shane talks about. I want it, but what’s wrong with me?”
God says, “That’s all I need. That’s all I need. A humble, broken person to admit it.” Because most of us don’t admit it, do we? We do this: I’ve been a Christian thirty years. I’m through that Bible once a year. My grandpapa was a pastor. My whole family is Christian. I am a Christian.
No, but does God have your heart? That’s a good test. Do you truly love people? Do you truly love people, or are you ticked off at people? Critical spirit, angry, don’t want to deal with people? Or do you truly love them? Because when you fully surrender your life, God will give you that love. And then you will contend for the faith because it comes out of you. What comes out of you is already what’s inside of you.
So this whole message on contending for the faith, if you’re just going to try to wing it—Yeah, that sounds good; let me try that out—it’s not going to work. Because whatever is inside comes out. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. So get right with God, fully surrender your life, and watch what God does.
I’m sure many people are going to say, “Shane, you talk about this a lot. How long are you going to do that?” When everybody fully surrenders their life in this church, I will stop. I will stop. Is that a deal? When I come here and go, “My Lord, this church is broken, they’re humbled before God. They don’t want to leave. The services are flowing into the next. The altar’s full. People are crying out to God. God is delivering. He’s setting free. People are broken and worshiping God. They can’t get enough of God. I better switch my subject matter now.” But until we get there, we are going to contend for this truth, because I believe God can show us, piece by piece, areas that are lacking. God wants everything, and you can experience what Liz experienced. What I just read is the abundant, victorious Christian life. That’s what it is. The Spirit-filled life. The abundant life.