This succinctly summarizes the root of all sin. At the bottom of the sewer pit of sin we find the culprit of unbelief and its composition is a lie about God and self. All unbelief in the human heart believes two lies: God is not as good as He says, and I’m better than I am. Almost 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul said that mankind’s depravity owes itself to the fact that humanity has “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:25).
To believe a lie about God is also believing a lie about one’s self. This is Paul’s assertion. The moment you stop believing something that is true about the Creator, you start believing something that is false about the creation. To worship the creature is to believe that the creation is worthy of such, and that assumes God alone is not worthy. And whatever you worship you will serve.
This gets to the heart of all temptation—unbelief. When you pay close attention to Satan’s strategy in the temptation of Eve, you will note the same strategy used against us all. His plan rested on one thing—getting Eve to stop believing the truth about God and believe a lie about her Maker.
Some have conjectured that the devil misquoted God to register in Eve’s mind doubt that God had given a prohibition of eating from the tree of good and evil. But that is not the strategy of the enemy. The Lord told Adam that he could eat from every tree in the garden, except one.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” -Genesis 2:16-17
Satan’s question turns the positive permission of God to eat of every tree into a negative. He insinuates that God is a restrictive killjoy not allowing the first couple to enjoy the excellent fruit of every tree.
Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” -Genesis 3:1
Secondly, the devil lies and contradicts God’s word, “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die’” (Genesis 3:4). Again, he strikes the same note that God cannot be trusted. He then opens Eve’s mind to the possibility that she is suffering the loss of something good because God is unkind, and wants everything for Himself. He lies again, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The whole lie spins around the assertion that God is not good. He doesn’t want you to determine good and evil for yourself because then you will not be dependent upon Him. You will be your own god; you will be like Him.
This is the exchange of the truth of God for the lie. What is the result? The worship and service of self rather than the Lord God.
Thus, it is now evident why idolatry is the constant nemesis of man and God. Wherever unbelief exists, idolatry lives. It is not coincidental that the first two of the 10 Commandments deal with the sin of idolatry. It was the continual sin of Israel that led to its judgment. In the New Testament, the warning against idolatry is repeatedly trumpeted.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites. -1 Corinthians 6:9
And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” -1 Corinthians 10:7
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. -1 Corinthians 10:14
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. -Colossians 3:5
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. -1 John 5:21
The Apostle Paul knew well that if a person ceases to believe the truth about God, he or she is ruled by one or more idols. This is why he said that men “worshiped and served the creature.” Idolatry is more than the bowing down before a crafted statute representing a deity. It is the belief that something or someone can care, help, or provide for you better than the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the fuel of every sin and the lie about God that becomes the foundation of unbelief.
This is manifested not only in the ruthless and horrid crimes plastered on the front pages of newspapers but also in the niceties of religion publicized in the same newspapers and in our own churches.
So much of evangelical Christianity is our idolatrous attempt to serve man-made gods promising a better experience. God is no longer believed to give us what we need. He is no longer worthy of waiting upon until He acts. Instead man acts, man works, man does so that man is praised. Therein, is the idolatry—man demands the glory.
He is the Gospel, the good news, of His Father. There is no Gospel apart from the Lord Jesus, He is the sum of all God has done to redeem sinners. But mankind with supernatural help has reduced the Gospel to a few simple facts about Jesus and mental assent to those facts. I say supernatural because I believe the enemy of our souls, Apollyon, the devil, has his malevolent hand in the corruption of men’s understanding of the Gospel.
The Gospel is larger than the doctrine of justification by faith or how to gain eternal life when you die. It is about possessing eternal life now; it is about entrance into a kingdom, the kingdom of God’s dear Son. When Jesus came on the scene preaching, His message was not a Reader’s Digest condensed version about the forgiveness of sins. It included that but was much more. The Scripture says of our Lord’s first preaching, “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).
The hors d’oeuvres may be wonderful but they are designed to increase the longing and desire for the meal to come. You don’t make a meal out of spinach dip and crackers. Yet many pastors proclaim a gospel that focuses on what I call the fringe benefits of the Gospel. They are as follows: cancelling our sin debt and getting heaven when we die. Like the appetizers, the benefits of this Gospel are superb, but there is something even better than these. At the heart and soul of the Gospel is reconciliation with God Himself; being united in communion with the Lord Jesus.
Jesus did not think in narrow terms of salvation as we do; He saw the good news encompassing a great deal more. It was the announcement of a kingdom come, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35). The Lord said the end would not come until “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
They said their preaching was about God’s kingdom. In Acts 8:12 it said of the ministry of Philip, “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” Luke describes the preaching of the Apostle Paul as, “reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).
The evangel of our preaching is not only the assurance of the kingdom of God when you die but entrance into the kingdom when you believe upon God’s only begotten Son. The Gospel is not about preparing people to die as much as it is preparing them to live, and live now.
The genre of the New Testament doctrine of salvation is entrance into a kingdom now but not yet. In other words, the kingdom of God is current and it is here. It is a spiritual realm we enter presently by faith, but the kingdom it is not yet a physical reality. One day it will manifest itself in the material realm. The good news that Christ and His apostles gladly proclaimed was that the poor and broken could enter into that kingdom now before it has materialized on the earth. This is why Jesus began His great Sermon on the Mount (a sermon about how the subjects of the kingdom live), “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It is theirs now; they have entered it, that is, if they believe that Christ has opened the kingdom to them by His redemptive life and death.
Jesus was not preaching that if Nicodemus would believe and be born again that when he died he would see and enter the kingdom. No, Jesus was explaining that it is by the new birth that a man can see and enter now.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” -John 3:3,5
She insisted that she only wanted to play with it and would return it when finished, but with every petition she heard the same answer: “No!”
All parents have witnessed this scene with their children. Even if they have only one child, they’ve seen his or her exercise of dominion. The unwillingness to share is more than the symptom of the fall; it’s also a demonstration of a child’s innate understanding of a kingdom.
This is perhaps the best way for Westerners who know nothing about monarchies to understand what a kingdom is; it is the effective exertion of will. It is the realm in which a person can enforce his or her desire. Geo-politically, a kingdom is the dominion of a monarch’s ability to impose resolve and execute decisions. His territory extends as far as implementation of his will extends.
Therefore, when Tommy exerts his will over his sister’s, it is an example of his kingdom, albeit a small one. That is perhaps why a child’s favorite word is no; we enjoy the wielding of power, even though the power has little consequence. “No” gives the child the sense of control within his juvenile realm.
The extent to which a person can impose his will is to the borders of his empire. Even the poor peasant that was subject to the king had a mini-kingdom where he had limited authority.
When Jesus came on the scene of His generation, the Apostle Matthew says that “Jesus went about all Galilee . . . preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23). He was declaring the good news about a kingdom—the kingdom of God.
What is the kingdom of God and what does it mean when the Bible speaks of the Gospel of the kingdom? These are some of the most important questions we can ask.
He said men would be, “unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving.” At Thanksgiving, we pause busy lives and schedules to return thanks to the Almighty God who has lavished His many blessings on us.
Presidents have issued proclamations of thanksgiving starting with our first president, George Washington. We have known as a nation what it means to be grateful to a good God who has and is kind to the undeserving. But what do we know of ingratitude? Are we sure it is as venomous as other sins? Are we convinced that among all that is deemed wrong there is none worse than unthankfulness? Do we fear an ungrateful heart as much as a heart of unbelief? I think not.
Ingratitude is not seen as a major thing except when others display ingratitude towards us. Then we believe it to be a great evil. Why is ingratitude in us not thought to be a serious sin, if not a cardinal sin?
The answer to that is also the answer as to why unthankfulness is so deadly.
If God showers blessings rather than curses we may express a modicum of thankfulness but internally we are most grateful to ourselves. We self-congratulate, “I’m a good person and I live in such a way God can bless me.”
This spirit prompted the disciples to ask our Lord in John 9 about a man born blind, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). We’re right where the disciples were—we believe bad and good happens for the most part because people deserve it.
Ingratitude is a by-product of a self-righteousness that believes good, success, and prosperity is earned. And so, instead of being thankful to a merciful God who has blessed me far more than I deserve, I want to take some (if not most) of the credit for my blessings. We become glory-robbers. We steal what does not belong to us—thankfulness.
Wherever the sin of ingratitude lingers, unbelief is present. The Bible says this is so.
“…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” -Romans 1:21
Eve was led to believe by the deceiver not to see how good the Lord was to her and her husband, but how He was withholding something good from her. A spirit of ingratitude roused in her. She couldn’t see how gracious her Creator had been. She couldn’t utter thanksgiving for all the fruit trees she could eat from, all she could see was the one withheld from her. Ingratitude.
It works the same way in our hearts. Instead of counting the many acts of God’s kindness to us, all we can count are the things we think we deserve but do not have. Thus, the spirit of ingratitude breeds murmuring and complaining. The heart is choked and the soul withers. Bitterness fills up where thanksgiving ought to exist. All because we believe the lie that we deserve better than we have and that God is not as good as He claims.
Ingratitude played a huge part in the first temptation and first sin, and it plays a no less role in our temptations, and—God forbid—our sins. The sin of unthankfulness is much larger than not saying grace over our food or not singing a hymn of praise; it has much to do with the state of our souls before a holy God.
Where ingratitude reigns, unbelief is allowed to control. The unthankful person will never believe in a good God of grace but will deem Him to be critical, censorious, and condemning. There can be no peace between the ungrateful and God.
But let the joyful sound of the Gospel make melody in a thankless heart and something changes. The person sees how undeserving they truly have been all along. Bitterness for the hard times is replaced by a thankfulness that God was there and didn’t forsake them. And when that person has been brought to faith in God, what is the first thing that comes pouring out of the mouth? Isn’t it thanksgiving? Yes, a grateful heart sings:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.”
“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, how great Thou art!”
“My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
Where the Gospel light has shone, the result is thanksgiving. To the degree you see how unworthy you are of His matchless grace, you will give thanks. Your thanksgiving is in proportion to your understanding of your undeserving.
We are a saved people, a redeemed people, a people who did not deserve the mighty Prince of heaven to come and ransom us. His mission was not with a sword to slay us but a cross to save us. We have a new name, the redeemed. Our adoption is sealed, His blood has removed the curse, we are loved by the Father, shepherd by the Son, and have communion with the Holy Spirit. Every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies is ours. The broken have been made complete in Him. Our cups are full, our barns have plenty, and our houses are warm.
We are not alone. We have the God of the Trinity to fellowship with us, and we have His church, joined to a brotherhood that lasts beyond the grave. All of His amazing grace has been given to us for the Bible says, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Whenever we think we do not possess but lack, we need only remember that within one of His promises is all the power we should need. He has said, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
And should that not be enough, He has promised an innumerable number of promises for every situation we face, “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).
May we hate the terrible sin of ingratitude and fight its every attempt to steal our joy. From this moment on, do not forget that a small heart praises small, but a heart enlarged with His love and blessings praises large. And should you feel little thankfulness, please beware that the tempter lies close to your door. Give him no lodging or comfort. Remember the Gospel and your rightful place as one who sits at the King’s table unworthily and without merit. Once a rebel but now a friend; once outside but now within the house of your Father. Not a prodigal but a prince or princess ruling in a Kingdom that is eternal and exceeds the heavens.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” -Colossians 3:15
Yesterday, I informed Oak Grove Baptist Church, having pastored them for 23 years, that the Lord was leading me into full-time itinerant ministry. And I want to share this with you as a supporter of Real Truth Matters Ministry.
My last day as senior pastor will be January 29, 2017. After this, I will be available to preach and minister where God leads. For over a year the Lord has increasingly burdened my heart toward an evangelistic and revival ministry.
Below you will find the audio and video of my message to our church. In it, I shared this news with them, and in detail explained the process that led to this decision.
As far as Real Truth Matters, it will not be affected by this change. RTM is built around my preaching and writing ministry. We will continue to give you the same quality you have come to expect. The sermons, videos, and RTM magazine will proceed as if nothing has changed.
I ask that you will pray for both Oak Grove and me during the transition and our new ministry after the transition. I have no idea what the future will hold, but I am convinced in my spirit that the Lord, who is my Shepherd is leading me. With His divine help I cannot fail, without it, I cannot succeed.
It would seem more people are becoming sociable. But such numbers are giving experts concern that the depth of connectedness is superficial at best, and that we, as a society, are losing the art of true communication and relationship building. Too much time is dedicated to texting or tweeting or messaging, leaving little time to cultivate richer real-life relationships.
Larry Rosen stated in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal:
As a research psychologist, I have studied the impact of technology for 30 years among 50,000 children, teens and adults in the U.S. and 24 other countries.
In that time, three major game-changers have entered our world: portable computers, social communication and smartphones. The total effect has been to allow us to connect more with the people in our virtual world—but communicate less with those who are in our real world.
Our real and virtual worlds certainly overlap, as many of our virtual friends are also our real friends. But the time and effort we put into our virtual worlds limit the time to connect and especially to communicate on a deeper level in our real world. With smartphone in hand, we face a constant barrage of alerts, notifications, vibrations and beeps warning us that something seemingly important has happened and we must pay attention. We tap out brief missives and believe that we are being sociable, but as psychologist Sherry Turkle has so aptly said, we are only getting “sips” of connection, not real communication. ¹
Do we take time to cultivate relationship with the living Creator? Sadly, many Christians in developed countries spend more time on Facebook than they do in the Bible and chat more on Instagram than converse with the God of the universe.
How do you develop relationship with God?
So many Christians wrongly assume that since they are Christians, they have a relationship with God and that is all there is to it. It is true we have relationship with the Lord through Jesus, but like any relationship a process of cultivation must begin for that relationship to grow. I know of no husband wanting a deeper relationship with his wife who thinks that the wedding day is all there is to it. Why then do we believe that making a commitment to Christ the day we were converted is all there is to intimacy with Christ? It isn’t!
If you are to experience a vibrant relationship with the One who loves you most, you are going to have to spend time with Him. You should study Him as you would the features of your spouse’s face. Have you not cultivated friendship with someone outside of his or her profile on social media? How did you do so? Not without time and expense of energy. Relationships that are enduring build on the expenditure of self. Jesus did that on the cross. He spent Himself to make it possible for you to know Him intimately, not just intellectually. And He continues to spend Himself in loving care and caressing of your soul.
What have you spent to love Christ? And is the outlay still happening? Do you longingly look forward to time with God in prayer? Do you joyfully gaze on the attributes of the King as described in the Sacred Record? Or do you consider such an inappropriate management of your time?
Relationships are designed in the heart but forged in time. The soul’s affection for another will make its way into the open. We may not be able to see someone’s heart, but we can see what the heart treasures by what it pursues. God’s heart was manifested long ago with the words, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” His heart is still manifest, and it says the same, “And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” God is willing to come and meet with you. Are ready to show up and meet with Him?
For the rest of the article, as well as access to other articles and content about relationships, can be found in the September/October RTM Magazine.
You have shut fast the door to heaven for me. If the Holy Spirit is the only One who changes me, I have no hope unless He chooses to do so. This gives me no comfort.
That is the charge many make against the doctrine of a sovereign God and His sovereign grace. They say our view of sovereignty bars the doors of heaven and makes them closed but I say to you, that is not true. It is sin that shuts the doors closed and fast! It is your sin, not God’s sovereignty that closes heaven to you. This God that can do whatever He pleases and rules over all things, so pleases to show mercy to sinners. Are you listening? God is so delighted to save you that it provoked Him to give His only Son over to cruel mockers and tormenters. He chose of His own free will to punish Jesus for our sins.
The only free will you need to be concerned with is God’s. Let me tell you about God’s free will, He freely gave His Son. Nobody forced Him to do it. Nobody put any kind of weapon to His head and said “Do it or else…” No, friend. He did it willingly and lovingly. The Bible states that God has opened the doors of His Kingdom and He bids all to come, every last one of you.
If you’re not a Christian today it is not God’s fault, it’s your fault.
Each Christian is a part of a collection of connected parts that Christ has joined together to make His body. Life was designed to live with others in deeply formed relationships. But several factors resist relationship building, not only in the church, but also in marriage, parents and children, neighbors, etc.
Our very culture opposes serious commitment to relationships because it does not allow the time required to cultivate real-life associations. Therefore, you have to swim against the current of your environment to experience the power of genuine relationships. You have to put forth effort in spite of the resistance.
That is why we have committed the September/October edition of the RTM Magazine to the subject of relationships. We are especially delighted to bring to you an interview with Ray and Jani Ortlund discussing their marriage. The Ortlund name is well-known in the evangelical world starting with Ray Ortlund Sr. His son, Ray, is Pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tenn. He also serves as President of Renewal Ministries, Regional Director in the Acts 29 Network, and Council Member of The Gospel Coalition. You will be extremely helped by this interview.
Although, we do not personally know the many who read this magazine, we nonetheless feel a connection. We want to invest in our relationship with you by giving you biblically sound and edifying material. How can you invest in us? By praying for us; by lifting this ministry to God in prayer. Your prayers for us are not superficial but instrumental for the execution of the will of God in us. Thank you for your commitment to this ministry.
My dad told me on more than one occasion that if I got in trouble at school and received a “paddling,” then I could also expect one when I got home. Dad was true to his word, and that’s all I will say about that.
At one time, respect for leadership of all kinds existed in society and the church. But now a different spirit prevails over American culture and the West. An anti-authoritarianism has settled upon us like a noxious, invisible gas. Young people are not taught to respect authority but to disrespect it, to question anyone in a position of power, to doubt and not trust leadership.
There have always been generational gaps. For thousands of years, parents have felt some disconnect with teenage children. This is the natural process of human development and a child becoming an adult, out from under the shadow of parents. Each successive generation finds ways to express themselves a little different than their parents.
But the collapse of honoring authority is a phenomenon created by existential and postmodern philosophers who dispute the traditional patterns of truth and power. This influence became observable during the 1960s with the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War. By the end of the turbulent ’60s, with political assassinations and an unpopular war, younger generations lost faith in leadership. With the revelation of the Nixon Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, whatever trust in political power that had survived the previous decade disappeared.
Both political and religious authorities were dismissed, proven unreliable. The financial powers have not weathered well either. Many see Wall Street as a public enemy filled with corporate greed, keeping the little guy down.
This distrust of authority has also crept into the church. It’s not that pastors, teachers, and church leaders aren’t respected at all; the problem is that the church member has working within him or her a spirit of autonomy. Submission to pastoral authority is dismissed as being oligarchical or for people who can’t stand on their own two spiritual feet. For churches where only one pastor serves, the idea of submitting to the pastor sounds too much like a dictatorship and must be avoided. For Baptists, we have so emphasized the priesthood of the believer until we have moved the individual believer from being a priest before the Lord, needing no other mediator but Jesus, to becoming his or her own and only shepherd. This is not biblical. It is a spirit of anti-authoritarianism.
The Bible commands the local church to come under the canopy of God’s protection. There is a realm of blessing that God has promised to those who obey His commands. He administers His commands through different levels of representative authorities.
For the rest of the article and for more interactive content and resources like this, download the free July/August RTM Magazine.