Monday, June 3, 2013

"The Remnant Church ... How to know if you're part of it!"

"When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"  - Luke 18:8

This is one of those verses that upon reading stops you in your tracks and forces you to examine your own faith in God.  There are other such passages.  In His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, verses 21-23, Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!'"

Jesus then goes on to talk about the wise man who built his house on the ROCK, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand.  Both "houses" faced the storms of life, but only the one built on the rock stood.  The difference:  the wise man not only heard Jesus' words, but put them into practice.

As he wrote to those who claimed to know Christ in Corinth, Paul said, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless of course, you fail the test?" (II Corinthians 13:5).  He goes on to say, "We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  ... our prayer is for your perfection" (II Corinthians 13:8-9).  Believers are not yet perfect, but they have believed the truth of WHO Jesus is and what He has done on the cross to pay the penalty for sin and now the Spirit is within them giving them the DESIRE to be like Christ.  Where there is no desire to be like Jesus, the Spirit of God is not at work!

Many people today choose to believe that faith in "God" gets you into heaven.  There are even those who believe that ALL people will eventually enter into eternal life - whatever that is.  Millions all over the world today claim to believe in God and even to be Christians.  Yet Jesus says that in the last days, as the Antichrist persecutes the Church, "many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of MOST will grow cold, BUT, he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:10-13).

The Apostle Paul speaks of this "apostasy" in II Thessalonians 2:1-3:  "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.  Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come UNTIL the apostasy (rebellion) occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction."

I know that many believe the Church will be raptured BEFORE the time of tribulation under the Antichrist, but Scripture says otherwise.  According to Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15 and II Thessalonians 2 the Antichrist will be "revealed" in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (the final 7 years), as he sets himself up in the temple and proclaims himself to BE God!  It is this period of time that John writes about in Revelation 12, when God protects Israel ( the "woman") in the desert for 1260 days and then the "dragon" (Satan) goes off "to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17).

During this time many who are part of the "visible church" will fall away, revealing that they never truly knew Christ.  Paul says, "They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved" (II Thessalonians 2:10).  Jesus spoke about such people in His "Parable of the Sower," as He explained that some of the seed of the Word of God would be sown among the rocks and the thorns and would APPEAR to begin to bear fruit, but then trouble, persecution, the worries of life and the deceitfulness of riches make the seed unfruitful.  Not all those who CLAIM to be Christians are "IN Christ."

The writer of Hebrews also encourages those who say they are "in Christ,"  and that they have true faith to move on toward maturity, to feed on "solid food."  He says, "Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14).  Then he issues this warning:  "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.  Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in range of being burned!"  (Hebrews 6:4-8).

That is a scary passage!  And placed alongside the rest causes us to ask some very important questions: How can I KNOW that I'm part of the remnant Church, that body of true believers that will endure through all the storms of life and finally arrive before the throne of Almighty God clothed in the righteousness of Christ that comes through true faith??  How can I KNOW for sure?  Or can I??

The first step is, quite simply, taking these warnings seriously.  For so many today Christianity is just one of many religions and being a Christian simply means saying you believe in God, and in someone named, Jesus.  That's about it.  The Bible says otherwise.  Being a Christian means that you have been born again by the Spirit of God (John 1:12-13, 3:3-5, I Corinthians 12:13) and that you are now united to Jesus Christ because His Spirit LIVES within you!  Your mind and your heart are now set on loving God and serving God in the name of Jesus Christ, your Savior and your Lord, and by the power of His Spirit living within you.

Someone once asked Jesus, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"  Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this:  to believe in the One He has sent" (John 6:28-29).  True faith begins by believing the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ - believing that He IS God in the flesh and that He suffered the wrath of God against your sins on the cross and then rose again and ascended into heaven. It is believing that you are now redeemed (purchased) by the blood of Christ, that your sins are forgiven and that you HAVE eternal life.  You are now called, equipped and sent to live out the life God has placed within you and your heart and mind are set on pleasing God, not to earn your forgiveness or eternal life, but out of thanksgiving because God has GIVEN you eternal life!

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say in Hebrews 6:9-12:  "Even though we speak like this (verses 4-8 above), dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case - things that accompany salvation.  God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

"Things that accompany salvation ..."   We are saved by grace through faith, apart from works.  Yet, the evidence of faith is a life lived for God.  All the good deeds in the world cannot and will not save you (remember Matthew 7:21-23), but if you are living a selfish life, not caring about loving God and your neighbor as yourself, if you want nothing to do with the body of Christ in worship, fellowship and service, and you are always wanting more from God and questioning Him when trials or troubles of any kind come, then you don't know Him and you are NOT "in Christ"!

Those who "fall away" from the visible church were never truly part of the true Church, as John says in I John 2:19:  "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."  There were many who left the Church when persecution came in the first century.  There will be many, perhaps millions, who will follow false teachings and even the Antichrist before the rapture, before Jesus returns.  The Bible says it will be so.  It does no good to pretend.  God sees your heart and He knows your thoughts.

Are you part of the remnant Church, the REAL Church?  Last week something very important happened:  "REAL REMNANT RADIO" began broadcasting over the internet ...  This is a work of love for God and for Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church.  It is a work of the Spirit of God to reach out across the globe to those who are standing firm in their faith in Jesus Christ, building their house upon the ROCK that cannot be moved.  All over the world God has His faithful ones; those who are willing to endure persecution and trials for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are called to encourage one another and through this ministry we will be able to be connected with brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.

John writes, "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his HEART.  Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because He has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son.  And this is the testimony:  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.  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 5:10-13).

You CAN KNOW that you are part of the remnant Church as you live with Christ and for Christ.  Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).  Does that describe you?  If not, I urge you to repent of your sin and of your pretense and bow before the Lord Jesus Christ, asking Him to forgive you and trusting now in His finished work on the cross once for all.  As you do that the Spirit of God will begin to transform your heart and your mind and you will find joy in serving Jesus, knowing that your Father in heaven loves you and is with you and will NEVER leave you.

To those of you who rejoice in God's love in Jesus Christ and who desire to live in obedience to His Word, giving thanks for His grace every day and trusting in Jesus alone for forgiveness and life, "stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain!"  (I Corinthians 15:58).  We will overcome, "by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!" (Revelation 12:11).

To GOD be the glory!!

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