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ARE YOU READY?

Curtis Pugh

Poteau, Oklahoma

 

            Religious groups and their schools of all sorts - from the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) to the Southern Baptist Convention to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Erskine College (and others) are promoting taking a stand – some more and some less. Their stand is that lesbian and homosexual behavior is a sin according to the Bible. Their stand is that marriage is between one man and one woman. A brief perusal of individual church websites shows that a considerable number of congregations are including statements in their confessions of faith about what biblical marriage is. At least one U. S. Christian law association is providing suggested wording and model resolutions as guidelines for churches who want to legally safeguard themselves. Safeguard themselves from what? Why from both lawsuits and the forced incorporation of homosexual men and women as members and or employees. The Southern Baptist Convention has had information online for some time – information to  help their congregations protect themselves from legal actions against them for refusing to receive homosexuals and lesbians as members. At this moment in our history, it seems that U. S. churches and religious institutions have the right to include such articles in their organizational papers. But for how long?

            We ask the question in our title, “Are You Ready?” The reason we do so is this: at this moment in time the highly organized and well funded lesbian and homosexual groups are lambasting those who do not approve of their sinful behavior as being “hateful” and “bigoted.” Three hundred and seventy nine American businesses have come out in favor of same-sex “marriage” as they call it. They have joined together asking the Supreme Court to support same-sex “marriage.” The name calling of those who oppose such sin will probably get worse. Polls show that most Americans – well over fifty percent – approve of what they call “gay marriage.” As an example of religious groups favoring the homosexual/lesbian agenda, the Nashville, Tennessee American Baptist College leadership has recently invited three active proponents of same-sex “marriage” to speak and lead worship at upcoming annual lectures as well as to preach at worship services there. One of those invited is United Church of Christ Bishop Yvette Flunder, who is legally married to another woman. A group of pastors in the largely Black National Baptist Convention are opposing the school's plans, but at this writing the group has not succeeded in stopping the move by their college. Other so-called Christian religious schools and groups favor and even ordain practicing homosexuals and lesbians. One Reformed Jewish organization has installed a lesbian as president of their group. Can things get worse? We think they can and will. 

            God's elect people are going to be hated. Jesus Himself said so: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you,” (John 15:18-19). Here we are told that God's election to salvation of some is enough to make the enemies of Christ hate those so elected. Why? Because following election comes salvation – all that God does in conforming His children to the image of Christ and thus making them different from the world. Salvation includes working in His children so that they love and stand for the truth of the Bible. And the Bible condemns sexual activity outside of marriage and also teaches that same-sex intimacy and unions (falsely called marriages) are wicked sins. As Paul wrote in Galatians 4:29: “But as then he [Esau] that was born after the flesh persecuted him [Isaac] that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” These United States and a few other places have been unique in that old-time laws still on the books have kept down overt persecution of the saints, but that is changing and changing fast. The various levels of government in this country are taking the stand that you can believe whatever you want to believe, but you cannot practice your religion, if for instance, you might hurt the feelings of those who disagree. This has already been seen in the case of at least one bakery and one florist on the west coast. In these two instances if you own a small business you must bake for same-sex “marriages” and you must prepare flowers for their ungodly “weddings.” If you do not approve of same-sex-sin you must keep quiet about it and cannot operate your business according to your faith.

            The Lord Jesus in praying to His Father said of His disciples: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.   Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me,” (John 17:14-21). Jesus prayed not only for those of His disciples who were alive back then, but for us also. The true “latter day saints” shall be hated as were Christ's “early day saints” because they are one in faith and practice with them. Holiness is always hated by the unholy. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” (2 Timothy 3:12).

            In John 15:20 the words of the Lord are these: “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” And Paul, in Romans 12:14 wrote, “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” We are in what began in the days days of our Lord's sojourn on earth. He called these days the “beginning of sorrows,” in Matthew 24:8. The word translated “sorrows” there is the word also translated “travail” and means birth pains. This world, like a woman in labor, is going down into the valley of death as it were, not knowing what it shall bring forth. But we know! This world is facing a birth – the establishment of Christ's earthly millennial kingdom in which He shall rule the gentiles with a “rod of iron,” (Revelation 2:7; 12:5; 19:15). But before that time will come, first will come the time of “Jacob's trouble” when Israel shall suffer great tribulation, (Jeremiah 30:7). We pre-tribulation rapturists do not believe that the Lord's people of this church-age shall even enter that time of Jewish suffering. But leading up to that terrible time is this present day in which we find ourselves. Days of “sorrows” for the Lord's followers. Days of labor pains! And while we oppose much of that goes on in this world, we are to bless those who persecute us for Christ's sake.

            And so we ask “Are You Ready?” Ready to be called a hate-monger? Ready to be accused of hate crimes? Ready for a time when great courage will be required to say what the Bible says about marriage and the sins of practicing lesbians and homosexuals? Ready to have your church and pastor investigated? Are you ready to have your church's name smeared in the press as an identifiable hate group? If not, maybe you ought to move your membership immediately! Ready to have your relatives – perhaps your own children and grandchildren - turn against you if they choose to practice homosexual and lesbian sins and you speak against such things? Do not think it cannot happen to your family! Satan and this world are engaging in the biggest “evangelistic effort” ever seen: an evangelistic effort to convert men and women to homosexual practices or at least to the approval of  such sins. And, left unchecked, rotten human nature – the “flesh” - falls right in line with the devil and his crowd. The homosexual/lesbian agenda is making use of the public school system to set forward their sinful acts, calling them an “alternate lifestyle.” With media, business, academic, political and government support, the homosexual/lesbian agenda is galloping ahead.

            Remember our Lord forewarned us, saying, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law,” (Luke 12:51-53). This is not an endorsement of hatred or wrong treatment of those who have made themselves enemies of Christians and of the Bible. They are our enemies, but we are not theirs. We do not wish them harm. We wish for them a real work of God in them and in their lives. We do not endorse mistreatment of them. We are becoming more and more aware that we live in difficult times unless... unless you compromise by saying nothing against sins such as are now approved by the majority of Americans. If you will just keep quiet and go with the flow – even a dead fish can float downstream – if you will do this, you may, perhaps, escape persecution. If you choose your friends, church affiliation and words and actions carefully enough – just maybe... maybe you will not suffer. But do you really want to escape by being on the world's side? Are you that far gone?

            Things have changed. This preacher cannot find evidence that these United States were ever a Christian nation. But our country was founded as being based upon, at least in part, those Jewish-Christian teachings and morals found in the Bible. Now we face the lawlessness of unbridled sexual immorality on the one hand and the prospect of Islamic Sharia law on the other. Both these extremes are against biblical Christianity and those Christians who believe in and stand for Bible truth.

            No doubt you are familiar with the saying “forewarned is fore-armed.” Paul wrote reminding the saints in Thessalonica that he had forewarned them saying, “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know,” (1 Thessalonians 3:4). In this text Paul wrote “we told you before that we should suffer tribulation.” And we, too, like them should be forewarned and thus forearm ourselves. We here in the U. S. have lived in unusual circumstances for many years because of the biblical heritage of this government. In the past, professing Christians with some modicum of morality have been in the majority. That is fast changing before our eyes. No, it has already changed! The world, and these United States, are not the same as those into which this preacher was born. The Bible, biblical Christianity and the true Children of God are regarded as irrelevant, out of step, narrow, ignorant, haters of that which the world accepts and consists. And the current view is that whatever the majority thinks is right must be right. The true children of God are on the opposite side of the fence from those whose whole realm of existence is this present evil world. That phrase, “present evil world” is a biblical one. Paul wrote of it in Galatians 1:4. He penned these Words speaking of Christ: “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” Are you feeling at home in this world? Feeling at home with evil? Look again at that last quotation. How can you feel comfortable with this world and know Christ as savior? The one who has delivered His people and is delivering them from this present evil world. How can a true child of God take sides with the world and be living “according to the will of God and our Father?” How can a child of God look, dress, talk and act like the world without being a traitor to the Lord's cause? Are you ready – to be different? Are you ready to be persecuted? Are you ready to be slandered? Are you ready to be mocked? Are you ready to speak out against sin? Are you ready to have friends and family members turn against you? Are you ready to be harassed by your own government? Are you ready for so-called Christian leaders and the media to speak of you as a religious fanatic and worse?

            Only the grace of God can and will sustain the Lord's people and the Lord's churches in these days and in future ones as things progressively worsen. “Will they worsen?” someone asks. Yes, the Bible specifically says that very thing: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived,” (2 Timothy 3:12-13). Think of those who have walked this way before us: think of those mentioned in Hebrews 12:36-13:6  There we read: “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Brethren, we need chastening and scourging! Standing in the ranks with those mentioned in this last text are those “anabaptist” forefathers – the successors of the first century churches – and our ancestors if we stand connected by that chain link succession of churches to them. (There cannot be a succession or a perpetuity of churches if there are no links!) They, too, suffered for their faith – the faith – our faith. Why should we not likewise partake in such sufferings? Are we better than they?

            Those faithful men and women in the last biblical text quoted shall not “be made perfect” without us! That last text says that God has “provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” or complete. The suffering that is coming is a purifying or chastening kind of suffering. Suffering saints are pure-living saints. Suffering congregations are pure congregations. With ease and plenty comes complacency, compromise and sin. The gross sins of Sodom were brought about at least in part by ease and plenty. The Bible says so and condemns those things that produced their homosexual sins. Ezekiel 16:49 says: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” You would think that God would have listed the gross sins of the citizens of Sodom, but He spoke of “pride, fulness of bread and abundance of idleness.” The citizens of Sodom and her daughter cities ran to excessive and gross sins because they were soft, had plenty, and a great deal of idle time. In their pride they thought that whatever their town majority allowed as acceptable behavior was indeed right. And they cared nothing for the needy among them. Our government throws millions of financial bones at the poor, but does not strengthen their hands enabling them to make their own way. Can you not see that these same things have happened right here in these United States? Americans, including her professing Christians, have grown soft and accustomed to ease. That is why most professing Christians in these United States look, live, talk and think like the world, for the most part – Oh perhaps they are a tad behind the world, but follow the same broad way that leads to destruction.

            Consider our Redeemer, our Shepherd, our Savior. The text above says, “consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Keep Christ foremost in your minds! It is our minds that must be fortified. Being forewarned in our minds forearms the child of God. Are you ready? Are you forewarned? Are you forearmed? Peter wrote: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:13-16). In biblical times a man would gather up the skirts of his robe and bind them in his belt or sash. In this way his garment did not get in his way as he labored or battled. Peter here speaks of gathering up the loose ends of our minds: of preparing our minds for labor and battle ahead of time. Are you ready? Have you got a single mind? Is your purpose pleasing God by living for Him or are you partying with the world? Oh, this preacher has heard it all before. We must be like the world in order to win the world. We must join in clubs and associations with them in order to witness to them. Most American Christians have succumbed to “Country-Club-itis.” We must allow our children to socialize with worldlings in sports, music, school, etc. so as not to be too different. Too different? Hogwash! Where did you ever read in the Bible a warning about being too different from the world? That is not where the battle is! God never called His people to be like the world! We are in the world, but not of the world! A light in a dark place is not of the darkness. It is not like the darkness. It is at odds with the darkness. It reveals what is hidden in the darkness without being a part of the darkness. And God has called us to be light in this world, regardless of the consequences. To efficiently chop wood you must “let the chips fall where they may.” Be busy chopping wood, so to speak, and not be busy worrying about the chips. So it is with following the Lord and standing as a light in this dark world. Let the rays of light shine where they may. Let them reveal what God wills without regard to consequences. Let the oil God has put into our lamps of clay shine forth even as the oil is consumed. Are you ready? Do you hear and do you understand?

            The prophet Jeremiah penned one of the most appropriate of verses for our times although it was doubtless aimed at his own people in his own time. Jeremiah 12:5 says: “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Christian friend, have you compromised and remained silently complicit rather than bring down criticism and opposition upon your head? We, here in these United States, have had it easy as Christians in bygone years. Baptists have been buttered up by the world. Colonial Baptists were considered the off-scouring of the world just like Baptists in biblical days. But now Baptists are “respectable.” But no more shall it be that way if we take a stand. And if we have not been able to keep up with foot soldiers (as our last quote says) what shall we do when we must contend with enemy fighters on horseback? We have lived “in the land of peace” and been overcome. What shall we do when Jordan overflows her three sets of banks? Some think that the “swelling of Jordan” refers to the seasonal flooding of the three different sets of banks of that river. When the waters reach the level of the trees and brush along the higher banks it drives out the lions and other predators. What shall we do when the flood fully comes upon us? What shall we do when the waters rise and the predators walk our streets and sit in high places of government? Are some of them not already prowling about our towns and cities? Are not the enemies of biblical Christianity already in the halls of government? But Jordan has not yet reached her highest and third set of banks! When this world's lions are free to prowl among the followers of the Lamb because they hate our strict lives and our teaching and preaching of God's Word, how shall we stand? Are you ready? Prepare your minds! Settle it: you will serve God regardless. Remember our Lord's words to the congregation in Smyrna: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” (Revelation 2:10). Those words were addressed to a church in this present church-age. Can we expect less? Let us be faithful even unto times of government harassment, prosecution, slander, gossip, imprisonment and death if necessary. Amen.


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