Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"I am not ashamed of the Gospel ..."

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" -  Romans 1:16-17

This week, as many around the world celebrate what is called the "Christian Holy Week," I wonder how many people could explain what Jesus did on the cross and the significance of His resurrection and ascension for all who believe.  We use the word "gospel" a lot in the church.  Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).  But what IS the Gospel?

A quote from long ago says something like this:  "Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words."  That fits with today's definition of the gospel:  that it is good news of the kingdom of God, the reign of God, and as such it invades our world and overcomes the effects of sin and evil.  Doing good deeds in the name of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit guides and empowers those who are followers of Jesus, is what the "social gospel" is all about.  The Bible talks about the importance of doing good deeds.  Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  But is THIS the Gospel?  Can the Gospel, whatever it is, really be "preached" without speaking?  What is this "gospel" that must be proclaimed as a testimony to all nations?

One need not look too far to find the answer.  Jesus said, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus said, "This is what is written:  The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just ANY proclamation of God or of some spiritual kingdom.  Those who declare that they preach the "full gospel," then point to speaking in tongues and miracles and healing as the "full gospel" misunderstand at best, and misrepresent at worst, what the GOSPEL really is.  Does God do miracles? Yes!  Do you have to "sow a financial seed to prove your faith" first? No!  God hears His children when they pray and answers according to His will, in the way that will bring Him the most glory ... sometimes bringing healing through various means, sometimes giving strength to endure and to testify to His faithfulness to those in need.  God may also, at times, give people a supernatural ability to speak another language in order to communicate the Gospel.  But none of these IS the Gospel - certainly not the "full gospel."  In fact, they may be and are oftentimes a distraction from the real Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote:  "I am not ashamed of the Gospel ..."  Why did he say that?  If the Gospel is doing good deeds, or even doing a miracle, you certainly wouldn't be ashamed of that, so why did Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God, feel the need to say, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel?"

It was because the MESSAGE of the Gospel contradicted what Paul had been proclaiming as a Pharisee, as a religious teacher of the Jews.  He had taught that the way to approach God was through a rigid obedience to the law.  One could only be justified, declared righteous before God, be GOOD ENOUGH to earn eternal life, through good works.  The Pharisees believed their own righteousness was a model for the people to follow and that they were righteous in the sight of God.  This is why Jesus made them angry when He told them that their righteousness was not enough.  "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).

The message Paul preached, the true Gospel, was a new message, a different message - a message that stood opposed, contrary to the message of the Pharisees and of every religion known to mankind.  As it turned out, the Pharisees had misunderstood the message of the Old Testament.  The Law of God was never intended to produce a righteousness that could stand before God.  Rather, through the law came the knowledge of sin and the need for a Savior.  "Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin" (Romans 3:20).  "The law was 'put in charge' to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

The Gospel, then, has to do with righteousness.  The good news is "first for the Jew and then for the Gentile" (Romans 1:16).  Everyone needs the same thing:  "In the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1:17, Habakkuk 2:4).

How can this be?  How do those who believe in Jesus become "righteous by faith"?  Paul uses the example of Abraham in Romans 4:3-16, pointing back to Genesis 15:6:  "Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  The Gospel has to do with righteousness - a righteousness that can stand before the judgment seat of God!  God provided a substitute for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  Paul would say to the Corinthians, "I preached Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 1:23, 2:2).  He explained further in his second letter, "He became sin, who knew no sin, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Corinthians 5:21).  And to the Galatians, "We ... know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Christ" (Galatians 2:16).

Paul said of his fellow Israelites:  "I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to GOD's righteousness.  CHRIST is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes"  (Romans 10:2-4).

THIS is why Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel," and why he devoted his life to proclaiming this gospel to the whole world.  By faith in Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross those who believe are righteous before God and heirs of eternal life!  The perfect righteousness of Jesus is "credited" to those who believe.  Amazing grace!!  Believers are the "children of Abraham," grafted into the root, saved by grace through faith.

This, then, is the Gospel that must be proclaimed to the world.  While the Holy Spirit produces good deeds in God's children through His Word and Spirit, these are a response to God's love and grace in Christ, not the way to earn a righteousness of our own that will stand before God.  This Gospel is good news because it produces a sure and certain hope based on God's promise to save all who believe and to complete the work He has begun in them.

Do YOU believe THIS Gospel?  Are you proclaiming it to the world, offering forgiveness and life to all who believe in Jesus?  This week we thank God for the sacrifice of His Son in our place and we celebrate His resurrection and rejoice in His reign from His throne in heaven, even as we anticipate His return.  I am not ashamed of the Gospel ... and I pray that you can say the same!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"What IS 'FAITH'?"

"Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints."  - Jude 3

When you or someone you know says, "Have faith; everything will work out!" what does that mean?  What IS "faith?"  Where do you GET "faith?"  Is some "faith" better than other "faith?"  I hear pastors and Christians and leaders of other religions all talking about "faith" and using the same word and I know that many people are totally confused as to what this word means!  And because they are confused, many "lose their faith" and crumble when faced with trials and suffering.  They are easy prey for false teachers who tell them that they can control their emotions by putting "faith" into action.

I want to remind you that Satan likes to deceive people.  He even uses the same words the Bible uses - in fact, he is not opposed to quoting the Bible ... out of context, so long as it leads people AWAY from the truth that faith in Jesus Christ is the ONLY "faith" that is able to bring lasting and certain hope, peace and joy.  There is a lot of "counterfeit faith" being dispensed today that ultimately leaves people questioning the "god" they have been led to believe in.  Exercising "faith" is supposed to "work," it is supposed to get me out of the jam I'm in and get rid of my problems!!

But you see, the "faith" the Bible talks about is not the same "faith" that is being peddled by so many today.  FAITH must have an object.  You must have faith "IN" something or someone.  Just having "faith" might just mean being an optimist.  "I have faith that things will work out," someone might say.  Good for you; now can you explain what you mean by "working out?"  Would that be working out according to YOUR plan or some mysterious "bigger plan?"  You see what I mean?  People use these words and don't have a clue what they are saying most of the time!  So when religious leaders or others talk about "faith," don't assume they are talking about biblical "faith."

According to the Bible, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).  In other places "faith" is described as the instrument by which we are saved from the deceitfulness of sin and evil.  As such, "faith" must be and is always based on TRUTH!  Faith must have as its object, knowledge, and that knowledge must be absolute ... it must be unequivocally, totally, completely true at all times and for all people - whether they accept it or not.  According to the Bible, "faith" begins with knowledge and ends with TRUST, thus leading to a sure and certain hope.

Too many people today base their hope on how they are FEELING.  I might have hope and the assurance that God is with me today, but lose that "feeling" tomorrow because of the changing circumstances of my life and the world around me.  But true "faith" does not waver because the knowledge it is based upon never changes.  God's Word is truth and it tells me who God is, what He has done in Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for my sin and to reconcile me to Him, to give me eternal life in His presence and to give me strength and purpose for today.  "True faith" knows these things, accepts these things, believes these things, embraces these things and therefore TRUSTS GOD ... no matter what!

This is the "faith" the early believers had and this is how they weathered the storms of trials, suffering and persecution.  Read Hebrews 11.  I love the verse of the old hymn, "Faith of Our Fathers," when it says, "Faith of our fathers, living still ... in spite of dungeon, fire and sword; o how our hearts beat high with joy, whene'er we hear Thy glorious Word"  ... and "How sweet would be their children's fate, if we like them, should die for Thee!"  Paul wrote to the Romans that "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).  There is no "faith," no certain knowledge and therefore nothing to trust in, without the Word of God.

A "code word" for those today who want to act "spiritual" and claim to be followers of Jesus is "mystery."  They present what we believe in by faith as a mystery, something that cannot be understood, but which must be embraced and felt.  They say that those of us who think that there is absolute truth upon which to base our "faith" are too "dogmatic," too narrow-minded, too "rigid" and so, too intolerant.  Of course, what they don't realize is that they are being tolerant of everything BUT truth!  To these, I say that their supposed "faith" is a farce ... in fact, that it is irrational.  To say that there is no absolute truth is to claim that the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth.  Therefore, by that definition, what you have just said, "There is no absolute truth," might be wrong.  Do you see the absurdity of that statement??!!!

The "faith" that Jude told the believers, the "saints" (those declared to be holy in God's sight through FAITH in Jesus Christ - Hebrews 10:14), in Jude 3 to defend, to fight for, was and is the one true Gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ paid our debt on the cross and that all who confess Him as Savior and Lord, being born again by His Spirit, are forgiven and receive, as a gift, eternal life.  If there is no true knowledge of who Jesus is and what He did on the cross, there is no true faith ... period.

As I hear people talking about the "Catholic faith" or the "Reformed faith" or the "Lutheran faith," I cringe.  What are they saying?  Ephesians 4:5 says there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism ..."  We read in I Corinthians 12:13 that all believers "were baptized by one Spirit into one body."  There is ONE "faith" that has once for all been entrusted to the saints to proclaim, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  All who believe are "saints," ... "holy ones" ... in God's sight.  We are "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that 'we' may declare the praises of Him who called 'us' out of darkness into His wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9).

To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:3-6).

Do not let anyone deceive you because they use the word "faith" and encourage you to believe "something" ... "anything" ... "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).  To you who believe, contend earnestly for THIS Gospel, because it is being perverted and attacked by many even within the visible church today who in the name of "tolerance" and "unity" proclaim a different gospel, that is really no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-8).  With the Apostle Paul, declare that you are "not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!" (Romans 1:16).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"BEWARE!! False Teachers and False Teaching Have Consequences!"

"Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard!"
                                                                                                                              - Acts 2:28-31

"There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute."  - II Peter 2:1-2

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."   - II Timothy 4:3-4

So Rob Bell is back in Grand Rapids, the Cardinals are electing a new Pope to head the Church of Rome and the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, pastors like Joel Osteen and others are teaching people that all is well and that God wants to give you everything you want because He is on your side, and the United Nations and the World Council of Religions, including many "Christian" leaders around the world, are seeking to unite all religions together under one head, who will be the "False Prophet" of Revelation, who works alongside the Antichrist to build the kingdom of man rather than the Kingdom of God.

And while all of that is happening, most of the rest of the visible church goes on about their business, ignoring God's warnings of false teachers and the consequences of following them!  All of the references in the above passages that point to these things happening in the FUTURE point to TODAY.  We are living in the time of the fulfillment of these prophecies.  Teachers within the visible church ARE distorting the truth, and many are listening, rejecting sound doctrine and gathering teachers who will tell them what they want to hear - that everyone is basically good and that eventually everyone will get to "heaven."

Listen to the latest ramblings of Rob Bell, whose previous book, "Love Wins," declared that God's love for mankind (for ALL people - for EVERY person) demands that everyone be saved in the end.  In talking about his latest book (which I am not recommending!), "What We Talk ABout When We Talk About God," Bell says, "The truth is there are millions and millions of people who simply can't connect with religion in its current forms and expressions. ... I was never interested in having a street fight with very, very dogmatic Christians.  I find many of those discussions mind-numbingly boring."

Bell and others often speak of "religion" as the straw man that they are trying to knock down with their supposed wisdom about deep insights into "truth," which is really NOT truth because they declare that no one really knows what is true for someone else.  (I know - THAT is mind-numbing!)  Listen to this description of Bell's latest book:  "This is a book for people who can't buy the traditional concept of a judgmental, thumbs-up-or-down God, or the new atheism that says the world you see is all there is.  It's for people who want to believe in a God they can believe in." 

What does that even mean?  Bell goes on to say, "We have a growing number of people in our world who have a sense that there's something more going on here.  But the God they generally encounter is behind, angry, not any sort of being they can connect with."  The good news according to Bell:  God is not angry.  He's on YOUR side - and everyone else's.  "I believe God is for every single one of us, regardless of our beliefs or perspectives or failures or mistakes."  All of this is false teaching with no foundation in the Bible.  This is Rob Bell's gospel, or Oprah Winfrey's gospel ... and it is a false gospel.

One more quote from Mr. Bell, "For a lot of people, any talk of God in our culture comes back to doctrine and dogmas and you have to believe the right thing.  Jesus talked about seeing that which has been right in front of you the whole time."  Perhaps he is more right than he imagines.  Listen to one of the inspired writers of Scripture, the Apostle Paul, as he writes God's Word to the early Church in Rome:  "The wrath of God (must be the "judgmental God" that Bell and others reject) is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse"  (Romans 1:18-20).

Yes, there IS a true God - ONE true God, who has revealed Himself in His creation, in His Word and finally in His Son, Jesus Christ.  "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe" (Hebrews 1:1-2).  JESUS said that whoever does not believe in Him stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son (John 3:18).

Which brings me to choosing a world-wide leader for what is said to be "Christ's" Church.  There is ONE true Church, made up of everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ, believing that He paid the penalty for their sin on the cross and overcame death by rising again.  "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life" (I John 5:13).  In verses 11-12, John writes, "This is the testimony (which every true believer will have in their heart) ... God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."  That is the Gospel.  Jesus is the one HEAD of the Church (Colossians 1:18); the Church needs no other head.  Jesus is our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The Church needs no other priest to act as a "go-between" between God and man.  "For there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).

As I wrote in my previous blog, there is ONE Church and it is not the Catholic Church or the Methodist Church or the Reformed Church or any other church, by whatever name.  The ONE Church has ONE Gospel:  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).  To the Galatians Paul wrote, "Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"  (Galatians 1:8).  There is one gospel that is good news and there are many false teachers within the visible church today and on radio and television preaching a false gospel that has no power to save.  It tells people they can save themselves, or that they are already saved, whether they believe or not, or that only through the rituals of a religious organization can they hope to get to heaven.  The true Church proclaims the truth revealed in God's Word.  The main reason to "go to church" is to be taught the Word of God and equipped to share that Word with others as you live out the life God offers to those who believe, as His Spirit works within you.  Apart from that, it's just all a foolish game that leads to misery and eternal death, facing the judgment of the God people apparently don't want to believe in because He is too "judgmental."

There is MUCH more I could write, but I will stop for now.  If you have questions, comments, concerns ... email me at pastorsteve@lighthouse-ministries.org.  I spoke with a dear brother from Pakistan today, where people are being persecuted and their homes burned because they believe in Jesus Christ.  And here in America people are rejecting the true Gospel because it is too hard to believe and they want something easier, something "nicer," something to "tickle their ears."  That message leads to destruction, to eternal death.  The true Gospel brings life because it brings dead people to Jesus Christ, the Giver of Life.

BEWARE!  There are false teachers masquerading as angels of light.  The consequences of listening to them are serious - eternal!  Do not be "blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  INSTEAD, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15).  May you be found loving the truth and following Christ and proclaiming HIM to the world - until He comes!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"It's time to get SERIOUS! What is your heritage?"

If you are a parent or grandparent, or even if you aren't, but you have people that you love and care about, what do you want for them - more than anything else?  If you could give them ONE thing, what would it be?  There are probably a lot of answers to that question, but there is only one right one!

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."  - I Peter 1:3-5

When Lighthouse Community Church left the denomination of which it had been a part for 95 years there was a lot of talk about our "heritage."  Some thought we were leaving that heritage behind, that we had lost something by adopting a new name several years earlier, and that we were now turning our backs on our heritage.  One person even told me that they would not be coming with us because they wanted to raise their children in that certain denomination.  I bring this up now because in our community, as in most communities around our nation, as well as in other parts of the world, many people have been misled and deluded into thinking that the heritage they are called to pass on to their children is a denominational name or a particular style of worship or some other tradition, rather than our true heritage in Christ Jesus!  Many find it more important to say they are Reformed, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc., than to be called a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of this, some are calling for "unity"... for those who have taken another name on them to declare their unity in Jesus Christ.  While that sounds good, so long as brothers and sisters in Christ cannot or will not sit down with each other around God's Word and discuss their differences, whether in theology or customs or traditions, there is no true "unity," no biblical "oneness," which is what Jesus prayed for in John 17 (as you have heard me talk about many times before).  The reason I say that it is "time to get SERIOUS" is because the signs pointing to the soon return of Jesus Christ are becoming clearer every day and God warns that in these days MANY will fall away and perish because they do not know or love the truth!

Jesus came to build ONE Church, and it is NOT the Reformed Church, the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church or any other Church ... it is HIS Church!  When people consider it more important to be called Catholic or Lutheran or Baptist or Reformed or Presbyterian or Orthodox or Pentecostal than it is to be called a disciple of Jesus Christ, you know something is wrong!  When people don't know that the Mormons (including the Latter Day Saints version) and Jehovah's Witnesses do not proclaim Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God, we have a problem.  When even those who are "Christian Reformed" can't get together with those who are "Reformed," we have a problem.

It's not that all denominations should get together, as some would like to do, or that all the denominations should get back together with the Roman Catholic Church, which some are trying to do ... none of this lets the world know that Jesus came to establish ONE Church and that the heritage of this one Church is what Peter describes:  "In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."  This is the Gospel!  ANY other heritage is based upon man's desire to be or do what WE want, rather than what GOD wants.

When the early Church in Jerusalem was being persecuted the people were scattered and they went about proclaiming the word wherever they went.  What was the "word?"  It was the Gospel!  They went about talking about Jesus; about His death and resurrection, and about repentance and forgiveness through faith in Jesus.  What divides the one Church in communities like ours is denominations - names and labels that describe a certain "kind" of Christianity.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians:  "Make every effort to KEEP the unity of the SPIRIT through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (believers)" (Ephesians 4:3-6).

As the Catholic Church begins the process of choosing a new Pope, and a commercial, aired during the new series on the Bible on the History channel, claims more than one billion "Catholics" around the world, what is left out is the message of the Gospel.  Jesus did NOT found His Church upon Peter, but rather upon his confession that "Jesus is the Christ!"  Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Savior of all who believe in Him.  Today the leaders of various denominations, including the Pope, ignore the heart of the Gospel - the cross!  The Gospel message is that there is forgiveness to those who are born again by the Spirit of God, the evidence of which is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone.  The true Church proclaims this message without compromise.  The true Church holds no other title than "CHURCH!"  And those who believe hold no other label than "Christian."  The problem is that both of these words have come to mean nothing because of the abuse of those who claim to be Christians because they believe in "God" and who claim to be part of the Church because they go to a building called a church.

It's time to get serious!  Our heritage is not a denominational title, be it any of those listed above.  If it is more important to you to be Reformed or Catholic or Lutheran or Baptist or Presbyterian or Pentecostal or Orthodox or any other such title than to be numbered among those who are zealous followers of Jesus Christ, then you may not yet know Jesus Christ and you may be numbered among those who on that day when you stand before Jesus, He says, "Depart from Me, I never knew you!"  (Matthew 7:23).  What are you passing on to your children and grandchildren, to those you know and love?  What message are you proclaiming to those around you who know nothing of the true Church, or who know nothing of who Jesus is and what He accomplished on the cross?

Our vision/mission statement says, "We exist to proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ over all things; glorifying and enjoying God, now and forever!"  What else is there?  What other heritage really matters??  After Peter states that we have "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," and "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven" ... he goes on to say, "In THIS you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (I Peter 1:6-9).

Does that describe YOU?!  I pray that it does.  It's time to get serious because we need each other.  The time has come when many have gathered for themselves teachers to tell them what they want to hear ... that God will give them whatever they want and do for them whatever they want Him to do for them.  These teachers talk about a god that is unknown to the Scriptures and to the early believers, for he is a generic god who accepts whatever half-hearted devotion people may want to offer.  This god doesn't exist.  He is the figment of man's vain imagination.  There is ONE true God and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  There is ONE true "faith," and that is the faith that is the gift of God through His Word and Spirit that moves men and women, boys and girls, to trust in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness and life and to serve Him with love and zeal until we go to be with Him or He comes to reign upon this earth.  Any other "faith" is a false faith, a counterfeit faith, a religious faith, a DEAD faith - no matter how good or holy or precious it may appear to be or feel.

It's time to get serious and to follow Jesus Christ - even to death if necessary.  With Paul we can say, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).  May you be encouraged today as a disciple of Jesus if this describes you; but if it doesn't, I urge you to lay down any other labels or titles, and to claim this one alone:  "Christian - follower of Christ."  THIS is the heritage of those who know the true God. As parents and grandparents, if we give our children THIS, they have ALL they need, for this world, and for the next!!