October 23, 2016

          If you have been watching the presidential debates lately, then I am quite certain that, like me, you have also had some restless nights, and hopefully said some earnest prayers as well.  One of those nights, my heavy heart pleading with God in prayer, I asked the Lord what I should say to you in regards to this burden I was bearing for our nation.  I was called to preach the gospel, never liked politics, and wondered if I should even mention it at all.  But it didn't seem right to just ignore the white elephant standing among us.  That morning I woke from a dream in which I was singing "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus".  As you can see I immediately chose that as our closing hymn.  Then, as I began to contemplate the message to go with it, I remembered how a couple of years ago I had led a Bible study based on the prophecies of General William Booth, and I knew in my heart  this was something that needed to be shared again at this crucial time in US history.

          Do you know who General William Booth is?  I will give you some clues¦  He lived from 1829 to 1912.  He was a Methodist pastor who left his church to minister on the streets to the poor, because he was upset that the local churches of the time refused to allow the poor into their ornate buildings.  What he started as The Christian Revival Society in the slums of East London went on to become a very well-known organization, and it expanded into 58 countries by 1912.   I am sure you are very familiar with this organization, especially at Christmastime, when you might see some of its volunteers standing outside in the cold, ringing a bell, and holding a red bucket to gather donations.  Now have you guessed?  Yes, he formed The Salvation Army!

          What you probably don't know is that before his passing he received a vision of what was to come.  When asked what he saw as the greatest dangers in the next one hundred years, he warned us about 6 things that are very relevant for the church today. 

Warning Number 1 - Religion without the Holy Spirit

          The apostle Paul gave a similar prophecy in 2 Timothy 3:5 (which was part of our Epistle reading for today), saying that in the last days men would have a form of godliness, but deny its power.  'Religion' without the Holy Spirit is dry, formal, and boring.  If the Holy Spirit's presence simply departed from all of the Christian churches, how many do you think would still continue with the same music, teaching, and preaching unhindered?  How many of the congregants would actually miss His presence, as long as things just continued as 'normal' and the monthly expenses were paid?

          General Booth's wife, Catherine, said in one of her sermons: "What can we do without it?  This is the reason of the weakness of so much professed Christianity; there is no Holy Ghost in it.  It is all rotten.  It is like a very pretty corpse¦ it is a perfect form, but dead.  It is like a good galvanic battery.  It is all right - perfect in all its parts - but, when you touch it there is no effect - there is no fire or shock.  What is the matter?  It only wants the fire - the power.  Oh friends, we want the power that we may be able to go and stretch ourselves upon the dead in trespasses and sins, and breathe into them the breath of spiritual life.  We want to go and touch his eyes that he may see, and speak to the dead and deaf with the voice of God and make them hear.  This is what we want - POWER."

          Yes, we as Christians have the power of Almighty God within us, and yet we so often just meekly sit and watch the world go to hell on a handcart, so to speak. 

          Stand up for Jesus and unleash the power of the Holy Spirit!

Warning Number 2 - Christianity without Christ

          We are living in the age of political correctness.  In an effort to not offend anyone, including those of other religions, too many churches these days hesitate to preach that Christ is the only way into heaven, even though the Bible makes this perfectly clear (John 14:6, John 3:16-18 and many other verses).  And yet, what are we doing if we do not stress the fact that without faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ a person is lost?  Or worse, if we assure someone that their 'other' religion is just as valid?  We are pointing them straight to hell!  Ezekiel 3:17-19 is very clear about our responsibility to warn people.  How would you like to have to answer to Jesus someday, if He tells you that someone you know came to you (or your church) looking for the truth, and now they are in hell because you did not share it with them? 

          Stand up for Jesus, for salvation if found in no other name under heaven (Acts 4:12)!

Warning Number 3 - Forgiveness without Repentance

          Does it seem odd that the word 'repent' is seldom heard in churches anymore?  And yet, General Booth saw this trend coming.  When we think of John the Baptist, we immediately think of his call to repentance as the prelude to receiving Christ.  Repentance is a requirement to inherit eternal life (Luke 13:3-5).  But how many today even know what repentance actually means?  (To be regretful for your evil or carnal thoughts and actions, changing your mind and direction completely, and turning to Christ as your Savior and Lord).  If you think that just mumbling a prayer, or coming to church on Sunday, is enough to gain you entrance into heaven, you are mistaken.  If you are still living exactly as you did before coming to Christ, if your mind-set hasn't changed, and if your heart is still full of selfishness and sin - you might be in for a sad surprise come judgment day.   And as a church, let us not fall into the trap of some of the modern churches who by-pass repentance in an effort to attract more numbers, but will be held accountable for the souls that perish because they didn't hear of their need for repentance.  Instead, let us be like the original disciples... 

"So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God."  Mark 6:12

          Stand up for Jesus by praying that the people of our country would repent so God would continue to bless us as One Nation Under God.

Warning Number 4 - Salvation without Regeneration

          General Booth saw the day coming when salvation was more equated with church membership than with being 'born again' (John 3:3).  Being listed on the church membership roster is not the same thing as being listed in the Lamb's Book of Life (Revelation 20:15).  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"  Salvation is indeed by grace alone, and not by our works. (Ephesians 2:8,9), BUT if your lifestyle rivals that of the unsaved, and you have no desire whatsoever to cease from sin - you are either quenching the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19, Ephesians 4:30) or never received Him to begin with.   Remember, the Bible says, "Not everyone who says to me, ˜Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?'  Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.'"  Matthew 7:21-23

          Stand up for Jesus by living a holy life!

          This next one especially makes it clear why the Lord wanted this message preached today¦

Warning Number 5 - Politics without God

          The Russian Revolution produced the first government without God in 1917, five years after General Booth's death.  This new regime emphasized atheism and the persecution of Christians. According to the University of Cambridge, historically, the "most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution".  And while some nations are not 'without a god', they are without the TRUE God; and their terrorism, violence, and hatred reveal who they really honor.

          Sadly, it has been estimated that over 50% of professing Christians are either not registered to vote, or have never voted.  Most of today's politicians are not too concerned about the Christian vote, and while some may profess to be Christian, few actually attend church regularly, and often claim they do not "wear their religion on their shirtsleeves".  Is "In God we trust" still our nation's motto?  Do we as a whole still follow Biblical principles?  How much further away from Him will God let our country fall?  Can we still say as Isaiah did, "The LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king."   Isaiah 33:22

          Stand up for Jesus by voting in the upcoming election, and praying for guidance before you do!

And our last one is...  

Warning Number 6 - Heaven without Hell

          General Booth's final prophecy was that preaching would include heaven, but without any mention of hell.  That one has truly come to pass, as a new wave of ministers are exempting themselves from the troubling and frightening teaching of eternal punishment (separation from God).  And incredibly there are some very well-known evangelists today that preach that a loving God would never send ANYONE to a place called hell.    For instance, Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" caused a major controversy within the evangelical community, which was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story and a featured article in the New York Times.  This controversial belief is called "universal reconciliation" (also known as universalism).  This is a dangerous and deceptive teaching, that if believed, could destroy countless souls for eternity.

          Indeed, no one warned people about hell more than Jesus Christ!  (Read Matthew 5:22-30; 10:28).  And we also, out of our love for the lost, must warn people that there is indeed a hell; but one only goes there by their own choosing, by willfully rejecting the message of the true Gospel.

          Stand up for Jesus by sharing the Gospel with those who have not yet heard the Good News, and pray for those who have rejected it.  Love means sharing the truth, even if people would rather be lied to.  I only wish our politicians would remember that!  Amen.

          Adapted in part from the book by Perry Stone, "Deciphering End-Time Prophetic Codes


If someone picked on your brother or sister, would you stand up for them?

What if someone said something bad or untrue about Jesus?

When Jesus was on the cross, there was a criminal being crucified on either side of Him.  One made fun of Him, and said to Him that if He was really the Son of God, He should get down off that cross and save Himself, and him, too.  The other criminal simply asked that Jesus remember him when He came into His kingdom.  He believed Jesus was really the Son of God, and that He was going back to heaven.  Which one do you think went to heaven when He died?

Let's pray that we all have the courage to stand up for Jesus!