The Christian’s Real and Certain Hope: The New Creation

1 Peter 1:13-16, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (14) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, (15) but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (16) since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

We are all way too attached to this earth.  Every Christian will admit it.  We know we should be keeping the eyes of our minds set upon Christ where our real life is, not on things down here.  We are to set our hope fully on the grace that is coming when Christ comes for us.  Peter goes on in verse 17 to say, “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.”  Our redemption at the resurrection is certain.  The Father would never have redeemed us at the cost of the precious blood of the unblemished Lamb if it were not so.

We are all working to deal with our issues in this life.  We are helping one another to understand abusers and how they have impacted our lives.  We are trying to help our children overcome these things as well.  We all want to heal and to grow in the Lord.  But….

What is our ultimate hope?  Where does our real life truly begin?  What should our thoughts and hopes be fixed upon?  Peter hints at it when he refers to our earthly lives as “the time of our stay on earth.”  Scripture even refers to our present bodies as “tents.” They are temporary and are destined to be changed into immortal buildings, the resurrection body.

Therefore, if we are going to help one another along, we must point to the finish line.  We cannot guarantee to anyone that their circumstances in this world are going to radically be changed for the better if they follow Christ.  This life is not like a Dickens novel in which, in the end, the pauper is found out to be heir of a fortune and all live happily ever after.  This life isn’t like that, but guess what we CAN promise everyone who places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ?  Ultimately, life DOES end like that:)  Because in Christ, it turns out that paupers like us, with no hope and without God in the world, have in fact become heirs.  Heirs to a fortune and a home and estate that literally, no human being could dream up if they tried.

If you would like some very, very practical help in becoming more heavenly minded, I would highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s book to you – Heaven [*affiliate link].   If you are like most Christians, you are not really that excited to get to heaven.  Why?  Because your thoughts about it are wrong.  What if what you have been calling “heaven” (a term I now try to avoid because it conveys too much of the vapory in our minds), what if this heaven turned out to be Eden restored?  A pre-fall earth and heavens brought back to its original glory?  What if Christ’s redemption is more than just forgiving our sins so we don’t have to go to hell?  What if…. what if “heaven” is a place where we will have real bodies that never hurt, real rivers, trees, animals, homes, neighbors, libraries, and more?  What if death for the Christian is just a transition into what is far more real than what we have now?  And what if I asked you again now in light of these things …. are you ready to go there?

You get the point.  If heaven to you is a place that is probably pretty nice, but no way are you ready to go there right now, then you probably have some corrections to make in your thinking.  Be done with the angel wings, clouds, and harps.  You say that’s not exciting?  Of course it isn’t.  That is not the kind of world the Lord made you for in the first place.

*Amazon Affiliate link

You Are God’s Temple – Guard Yourself

2Co 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (15) What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

We could say very accurately that the master theme of the Bible is God dwelling with His people. That fellowship was, of course, broken by Adam’s sin. God no longer came and walked with man. But in His great mercy, He set out to provide a way by which we could once again be restored to Eden. A way that would once again effect God dwelling with His people. That way of course, is Christ.

Where God dwells is his temple. As you go through the Bible you will find this theme of the temple advancing to fullness until, in the new creation the entire universe will be His temple. Perfect fellowship between God and His people. Paul writes about this subject quite often, reminding us that in Christ WE are God’s temple:

1Co 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (17) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1Co 6:18-19 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (19) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,

I particularly want us to consider the passage quoted at the beginning of this article – 2 Cor 6 –

2Co 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Now of course this verse is quoted over and over in regard to a Christian marrying only a Christian. It is applied chiefly in other words, to marriage. And there is application there. I have written before however about how this principle is regularly twisted and misused in the churches today (link here). But what I want to talk about in this article is what is actually the overall and chief subject Paul is getting at. Look at it again:

2Co 6:16-17 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,

The Corinthians apparently lived in (and had come out of) a culture infested with idolatry. It permeated their society. Paul saw it at Athens, you remember – idol images on every street corner. If you broke with these systems, you would pay a price – economically, socially, and in many other ways. You could probably kiss your career goodbye in some cases. Family could ostracize you. It would be similar to being, let’s say, a professor in a university nowadays and being a genuine Christian.

When it comes to following Christ, to being the temple of the living God by His Spirit in us, there are some serious considerations to think about. And one chief one is this: Therefore, go out from their midst and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you….”. Most of the time when these words are addressed in sermons and other church settings, they are applied to the Christian separating from the world. And that is true. We are to be holy and to live in light of the fact that God dwells in us. There are many activities and occupations for instance that a Christian just cannot participate in.

But I want to suggest to you that Paul is dealing fundamentally here with false religion. And that brings us right back around to the subject I always return to – abuse in the churches. I can say without flinching that most local churches have become idol temples. They worship a false god. They preach a false gospel. They present “another Jesus” as Paul puts it (see Gal 1). Their god is one who loves everyone and who is quite non-judgmental. They oppress the oppressed because…well, because to effect justice for the oppressed would require confronting evil. It would require a radical re-examination of their theology that insists like a gyroscope always returning to a level no matter how it is tipped – that God loves everyone, including the oppressor/abuser and that the oppressed are sinners just like the oppressor. You’ve all hear that same old record playing over and over and over, right?

This is idolatry. It is a false church filled with false saints, led by false shepherds looking out for their own little kingdomes. And what the Apostle Paul is telling us here is get out of those places! Separate from them. You are God’s temple. You have nothing in common with idolaters. Nothing.

Paul’s question put to us is rhetorical (a statement in question form that is answered with “duh!”) – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? The answer is, none. None! There is a separation at the very starting line – with who God is. Everything else will flow from how that question is answered. That means that the false churches of our day, because they worship a false god disguised as the God of the Bible, are in fact idol temples. Maybe at one time in their history they were true churches, but then along came the wolf and destroyed them so that Christ departed from them. Paul’s pronounces such wolves damned by God (Galatians 1) because they destroy the temple of God.

So, what agreement has the temple of God (YOU) with idols? None. And Paul goes on to tell us to depart from such a place. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, He says. Understand? So many real Christians are looking for Christ in all the wrong places. He is to be found outside the camp:

Heb 13:12-13 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. (13) Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

When Jesus healed the blind man (John 9) this is what happened after-

Joh 9:34-35 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (35) Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

See it? The man was put out of the temple, but outside the camp he found the real Temple. Or rather, was found by Him.

And that is how it is today. We are to depart from the idol temple/false churches that make up a large portion (most?) of the visible church now and guess what God’s promise is to us when we do? It is this:

2Co 6:17-18 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

 

THAT is a wonderful promise and it is the truth. Think about it very carefully. The thing is ironic and soooo opposed to what we have been told for so long. Going out is when you find Christ. Staying in the false church is to continue to look and look and be lied to and abused and used.

This is the chief reason we started our online church outreach. Not to be trendy. Not to cater to people who just want to be lazy. But to provide real fellowship in Christ to the many genuine Christians all around the world who increasingly have no true church available to them.

 

An Appearance of Godliness (Pt 24) -The Lord is Winnowing His Harvest

Mat 3:8-12 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (9) And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (10) Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (11) “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (12) His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

John the Baptist is here declaring an often repeated theme in Scripture. Namely, that the Lord Jesus is and ultimately complete will, cast all wicked counterfeits who presently dare to infect His church into unquenchable fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand. Even now He is separating the wheat from the chaff.

In this series we have considered many case studies from real life about people the Apostle Paul warned Timothy about:

2Ti 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Such people obviously are going to be found in the visible, local church. They put on their disguise of godliness, but it is just a sham. They are not born again and have no desire to be. Their “christianity” is a religion of a false gospel, a hypocrisy of the Pharisees who outwardly look white and impressive but inwardly have souls that reak of death.

Here then is a sobering question – why are we not seeing Christ’s winnowing happening in the majority of local churches? In fact, why is this winnowing separation of wheat from chaff being denied? I can assure you that where the gospel is faithfully preached and practices, where Christ’s people gather and love His Word, chaff is going to be separated from the wheat.

1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

See it? The norm that the Lord presents to us in His Word is that there is going to be separation even now in this present world in the visible church. We should be encouraged when we see it. But why isn’t it happening except rarely? I can tell you. Because a false ear-tickling handling of Scripture is being preached.

Every single one of the cases of an appearance of godliness that I have presented to you in this series ended with – they went out from us. They hated us. The chaff was separated from the wheat. And yet I can confidently tell you that most seminaries, church growth types, pastors and other “christian” organizations would count this as a failure on our part. If the numbers aren’t increasing, you are a failfure.

God’s Word is fire and hammer. It is food for the souls of His people – green pasture beside still water. But it is a stench of death to the counterfeit:

2Co 2:15-17 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, (16) to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (17) For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

This is a fundamental mark of a true church – this winnowing. In Scripture the pattern that we see is more people leave the church than enter it. And yet I heard a typical statement from a rather self-serving pastor once that went like this:

It should be very easy to enter the church and very hard to leave it.

Would you not agree that this is precisely backward from what God’s Word says? The only door is Christ and to enter His kingdom we must be born again. It is a radical door that is entirely of Christ’s making, not ours. It is in that sense, difficult to enter – indeed, it is impossible apart from the miraculous, creative work of Christ in us. And it is NOT hard to leave the church! Many have done so all these years of church history. MOST people leave:

Joh 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Christ is winnowing His church right now. If you do not see that winnowing process happening in a church, you can be assured that Christ is not there.