Dear Esther
If you are having a challenging day or burdened with some personal problems, then you can be sure others are too. Write to Esther and she will have some good sound biblical advice and answers for you. You will be helping others by sharing your need or concern. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).


You can email your question to Esther at:
dearesther1@yahoo.com


Prior Letters



July 28, 2014

Dear Esther

I have been studying my Bible more consistently lately thanks to your reminders in your responses about the importance of studying the Bible, and not being glued to TV and other worldly distractions. I am wondering if you can help me with Psalm 1. You mentioned it recently.

It seems to touch on so many aspects of life. The part about being prosperous is a bit unclear to me, and also the part about not standing in the way of sinners or in the seat of the scornful. Any feedback you can give me would be great. I really enjoy reading your articles every week. I always learn something interesting and new. God is using you in a great way.

Thank you,

Zach


Dear Zach,

Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. I have written a bit on this topic before, but it is always good to revisit and discuss Scripture. The first psalm is one that essentially speaks to being happy, successful, joyful and prosperous. The word “prosperous” has almost become a derogatory word among Christians because of the way the prosperity gospel shysters have twisted the Scriptures to suit their personal agenda of selfish-gain. Let’s start with reading the entire psalm:

Psalm 1: The Way of the Righteous and the End of the Ungodly

“Blessed the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

The word “blessed” could be translated “happy” or “joyful.” The way to be happy and joyful is plainly seen in Psalm1. The psalmist makes it clear that we can have a happy, joyful, prosperous Christian life by not doing three things:

1.When we do not accept the counsel of the ungodly; that is, the humanistic society of today’s culture and live by godly principles as detailed in the Scriptures. We should only take counsel from those who consider God in every activity of their lives. James said it like this:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’”

These verses show us that the happy, faithful man will steer clear of the humanistic and behavioristic philosophies of the current culture, such as: “Do your own thing “ or “If it feels good, do it.”

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

2. The blessed or happy, joyful person does not stand in the way of sinners. That is, he does not do what sinners do. He or she realizes that there are two levels on which a person lives: The fleshly level and the spiritual level. A born-again believer will seek to live on the spiritual level and not get caught-up in the ways of the world.

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5: 19-21.

In the next verse Paul shows that there is a much higher level by which to live—the happy, joyful, prosperous manner which the born-again Christian will seek to live:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Paul’s disciplined living is seen in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

3. Now regarding scoffers, a believer will never sit in the seat of scoffers. The scoffer is one who casts aspersion on the veracity and truthfulness of God’s Word. The scoffer or scorner is one who makes a myth out of the early chapters of the book of Genesis, and any other part of the Bible that he or she wants to condemn. Scoffers laugh at the idea that the universe and mankind came to be as a direct creation of God Almighty. Scoffers cannot accept the miracles of the Bible.

So the person who lives the happy, joyful Christian life will be one who readily accepts and believes the entire Bible—the revealed Word of God, and has no trouble whatsoever accepting it as the very Word of God. The psalmist goes on in the next verse (v. 2) to show what believers must do to strengthen their walk with the Lord:

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:2).”

It is by meditating (studying, contemplating) on the Word of God that we renew our minds. Meditation in this sense does not mean the type of meditation that is so often emphasized by various cults, religions and philosophies that practice the emptying of the mind—which is a very dangerous process where deceptive unclean spirits can enter into a person. Jesus described this danger in Matthew 12:43-46:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

The passive meditation of the unsaved in emptying their minds is very dangerous. The meditation described in God’s Word is exactly the opposite. It is setting one’s mind on the truth of the Word of God.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

When we have the mind of Christ we are at peace with joy in our hearts regardless of our circumstance, knowing full-well that our eternal futures are sealed and our victory in Christ is assured. We are prosperous spiritually because we are steadily growing in the Lord. When we are grounded in the Lord wisely navigating throughout each day, we reap many blessings. The Lord promises He will provide for all our needs; we may not become very rich by worldly standards in this life—but we will live balanced contented lives.

The psalmist says: “Blessed [happy] is the man who meditates on the law day and night.” And Paul says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The way to renew our minds is by consistently reading and studying the Bible, having a steady prayer life and interacting with other true born-again believers, sharing the Scriptures and worshipping the Lord.

What David emphasizes in Psalm 1 is so clearly brought out in Romans 12 where God, first of all, tells us to offer our bodies:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

God wants all of us. By giving our bodies we give Him our minds, our emotions, our ambitions, all of who and what we are. We are not to be fashioned according to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The renewing of our minds is imperative in order to be happy, joyful and prosperous in the Lord.

Zach, it sound like that is what you are doing. By practicing these godly principles we raise ourselves to accomplishing higher levels of God’s will, which includes obtaining a servant’s heart. The more we take in of God’s Word, the more balanced and useful we become as God’s servants. This way of living is true prosperity.

When we place our focus first on the Lord our lives come together in a poignant way. True riches (prosperity) come from glorifying God. In His grace and mercy our needs are met and He blesses us in ways that cannot be measured. All of this is a preparation for our true heavenly home. Keep doing what you are doing Zach, and you will reap God’s benefits in this life and the one to come. He has sovereignly planned what will come to pass and He sovereignly carries out His plans. Our job is to be obedient by being faithful and honoring His commands.

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand ,and I will do all My pleasure, ’Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11).

Thank you for your letter Zach and God bless you as you continue to walk with the Lord.

In God’s love,

Esther

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).


July 21, 2014

Dear Esther,

Hi my name is Shannon. I am a born-again Christian. I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 12 years old. I’m now in my mid 20s. I’m coming to you with a heavy heart today. My issue is that I know I am a homosexual. Please do not jump right to conclusions. Upon studying God’s Holy Word, I feel a bit confused.

I have read different versions of the Bible and I find a particular verse to be speaking to me. This verse is Leviticus 18:22. I want to quote the Wycliff verse: 22 “Thou shalt not be meddled, [(or) mingled,] with a man, by lechery of a woman, for it is abomination.” Now, as I’m sure you know the King James Version of this same verse is: 22 “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

I would love some clarification from you. I feel truly in my heart that God has told me it doesn’t matter who I love and fulfill a healthy, loving relationship with as long as I love with God on my side. It seems to me that when the King James Version was written, the author’s personal preferences were written into this new version. Any advice or clarification you can give me I would greatly appreciate.

Thanks so much,

Shannon


Dear Shannon,

I have prayed and pondered about your letter. I will do my best to give you the clarification you are asking for. I feel very badly for you, for the confusion you are feeling. The most reliable answer to your situation is to read Scripture taken from translations that are as close to the original tongues as possible. I prefer to use the American Standard 1901 version of the Bible which is translated from the original tongues or the New American Standard Version.

It is hermeneutically incorrect to take only one Scripture and apply it to a situation when there are other Scriptures relating to the same topic. On the topic of same sex involvement, let’s examine the following Scriptures:

Romans 1:26-28 American Standard Version (ASV)

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”

Romans 1:26-28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper”

And here is your choice, the Wycliffe Bible:

Romans 1:26-27 Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

“Therefore God betook them into passions of shame [Therefore God betook them into passions of evil fame, or shame]. For the women of them changed the natural use into that use that is against kind.

“Also the men [the males, or men,] forsook the natural use of woman, and burned in their desires together, and men into men wrought filthhood, and received into themselves the meed that behooved of their error [males into males working filthhood, and receiving in themselves the meed, or hire, that behooved of their error]. And as they proved that they had not God in knowing [And as they proved not to have God in knowing], God betook them into a reprovable wit, that they do those things that be not suitable.”

As you have read here, the Scriptures are quite clear on the error of same-sex involvements. (including women with women). BUT. That does not mean what you are feeling is not genuine to you. Shannon, I can tell you are a very dear person and it must be very hard to feel so confused. How can we feel something so strongly and yet look at Scripture and be told otherwise? The answer to that question is complex and may never be fully answered. The better question would be this: Do I accept the Holy Scriptures or not?”

So you have a choice to abide by the Scriptures or go into denial and risk an eternity of never-ending separation from God. As you have just read, there came a point where God “gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

In other words, God removed His blessing and let those who reject his teaching believe their own distorted views.

Shannon, after carefully thinking about you, the best suggestion I can come up with is regardless of your identity, refrain from any type of sexual involvement (sexual immorality) unless you are in a man/woman marriage. You may feel love for another woman in a way that cannot be biblically unsupported, but if you do not act on those feelings that would show you are honoring the Lord and His Word.

Also, I suggest getting deeply involved in Bible study on your own and with a good group of true believers. The more you focus on the Lord the less you will feel drawn to engage in relations that will separate you from Him. If you hang-out with others who are not biblically in-tune, I think you may have a hard time staying true to the Lord.

Many people talk about the Bible and God, but that does not mean they are true Christians or that they understand the Scriptures. We live at a time when many people like to create their own doctrines and spin Scripture to try to support their personal agendas and desires.

Ask the Lord to strengthen you and please keep in mind that eternity is a very, very long time. Once we take our last breath, the choice we make in this life to either serve the Lord or our flesh, will determine our eternal fate. Hell is a very real place and nothing in this world is worth risking an eternity in hell, and eternal separation from God.

This world is so temporary and corrupt. Deception and moral depravity on so many levels have become the “norm.” But as believers we are not to partake in the ways of the world. If we can keep our focus on heaven and the Lord, the distractions and temptations of this life will not have such a stronghold on us. Perhaps it would also be a good idea to recommit yourself to the Lord once you carefully think through your position. We should all periodically examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. You could publicly show your re-commitment to Him by getting baptized -- even if you were baptized as a child.

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Who we spend time with affects us more than we might think. Choose your friends wisely, those who are Christian in action and deed and not only in words. And also keep in mind that we are all in the midst of a spiritual battle. Satan is literally hell bent on destroying us. We can even fall into deceptive thinking and feelings, especially when we may have been disappointed by people in our lives (men and women). Our emotions can rule us if we are not solidly grounded in God’s Word.

Please be mindful of how your past relationships may have taken you to the point where you are today. In this world it is often very hard to feel safe in relationships. When we are abused, neglected or abandoned by those we once held very dear, it can be quite devastating. Neglect is a form of abuse and is one of the major components in dysfunctional relationships that can lead to unorthodox behavior if we are not grounded in God’s Word.

When we place our trust in others and they betray us, of course that can be very painful. If men have betrayed and abused you, that may have caused you to feel safer around women. I have observed that some women because of past abuse from men no longer want to be in heterosexual relationships.

But this is all part of the fallen condition of this world. Sometimes some people don’t realize how much they hurt others with their bad behavior. If you have ever experienced great disappointment and loss in a relationship, you may be gun shy to trust men, and may feel safer around women.

But Shannon, the only Person we can really count on is the Lord Jesus. People will almost always let us down, but God never will. He sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). I believe you when you say you are gay. My concern for you is that somehow you have come to that conclusion outside of the Holy Scriptures, and that is not in keeping with being a Christian. Feelings do not equal biblical truth.

In fact, according to the Bible we cannot always trust our “feelings.” Remember, Saul before he became Paul, how he persecuted Christians? Just because his conscience did not tell him he was wrong, does not mean he was right (obviously). It is the same for us. Sometimes when we think it is all right to do something but the Scriptures say otherwise, then we must abide by want God says, not our personal feelings. The Holy Spirit will not “tell us” something is okay when it contradicts Scripture.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

From reading your letter, it seems to me that you understand that Scripture teaches that men are not to have relations with other men. Have you ever considered how those men think they are doing what is right and feel just fine about it?

And how about those involved in false religions? They also think they are right. Those caught-up in the teachings of the New Age/New Spirituality movement reject the Bible’s literal meanings. I can tell you that most of those folks think they are living blissful lives on a path to some kind of self-empowerment, and are very comfortable with themselves. But they are deceived by the god of this world.

A person’s conviction to do something or live a particular lifestyle that is not supported by Scripture—cannot be a message from God. This type of thinking is a self-induced message or one that comes from other sources including internal and external conditioning. For example, advertising and social media are filled with hidden messages saying it is okay to do a lot of things that totally contradict Scripture. Our culture is filled with all types of godless activity supported by the liberal media everywhere we turn.

Subliminal conditioning is everywhere, and it can go so far as to form a person’s (unbiblical) opinions about life. That is why it is imperative to stay close to Jesus, read and STUDY the Bible daily and not be fooled and taken in by the ungodly influences of the world.

I wish I could say, “Go ahead, do what feels right to you,” but I cannot ignore the Scriptures that tell us that having an intimate relationship with someone of the same sex is not condoned by the God of the Bible. If I encouraged you to live a lifestyle that the Lord is against, I would not be acting in your best interest.

That does not mean I don’t genuinely care about you as a person or that I am personally judging you. I am simply the messenger. I am showing you the Scriptures that cannot be denied. What you chose to do with them is up to you.

Also, consider this point: If you were born gay, then why would the God of Creation place into His Holy Book that say same-sex relations are off limits? Wouldn’t that be cruel? And why did He destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if being gay is all right? My prayer for you, Shannon, is that you will be freed from the confusion you are having. You may even have to make all new friends. Do whatever it takes to stay true to the Lord. It is in your best interest to do so. He can change your desires to His desires—that is a big part what being born-again is all about.

You will find many liberal churches that have strayed from biblical truth. They water down the gospel message and support many lifestyles that are not godly. False teachers reinvent God’s Word and lead many good people astray. The apostle Paul gave us a strong warning to beware of those who disguise themselves as servants of righteousness:

“No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (1 Titus 1:16).

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,)unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Shannon, please do not take the counsel of men who compromise Christ’s teachings. God is a God of love and we are to love one another but not in ways that clearly contradict His Word.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1).

The Scriptures tell us that love: “...does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

The Word of God is the truth and anything apart from it is not from the Lord. Whenever I read the following Scripture I get a little bit of a jolt. We have been so conditioned by the world to believe if something is from the heart, it is right. But this is what the Bible says:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Please think carefully and realize that God does not send confusing and conflicting messages.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

A true born-again believer cannot have peace when operating outside of the teachings of Scripture. We can find God’s will for our lives in the Scriptures. Please think through all the points made here and choose carefully whom you will serve. Change can seem overwhelming at times but with God’s strength we can overcome many challenges.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

I very much want the very best for you.

With much love and compassion,

Esther

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4: 6-8).


July 14, 2014

Dear Esther,

I had a bit of a shock over the 4th of July weekend. I had some friends over and got into a conversation with one of the women about the Rapture. This is someone who has been going to church every Sunday since primary school. She started telling me that she did not think we should be looking for signs for the Rapture but instead living responsible lives to help bring peace on earth so Jesus can return. She said she thinks I am too obsessed with the Rapture and I should spend more time doing things to make the world a better place.

I thought we were supposed to watch for the Rapture and be on the alert. By the time she left I felt like I had been visited by someone who never knew the Lord, and all this time I thought she was a Christian. I do live a responsible life but I also think we are living in the last days. Do you have any advice on what I should do? Isn’t it true that we are to watch and warn others?

Confused and bewildered,

Annie


Dear Annie,

What you encountered is a sad testimony of many professing Christians today—most often those who are involved in liberal churches and make the mistake of thinking that Christians can work to usher in a new and improved world. But that is not what Scripture teaches. This is a Kingdom Now/Dominionist false teaching which has been embraced by various “Christians” and churches that do not hold to the literal interpretation of the Bible.

Christians are commanded to “watch,” to be “alert” and to be spiritually “awake” for the Rapture as stated in the Scriptures by Jesus, Paul and Peter. They said this to motivate Christians to “watch” for the warning signs of His return.

Jesus gave a few commands to His disciples and to all Christians of the Church Age, to be alert and ready when He returns. A command by Jesus to “watch” and to be “ready” was given at the conclusion of the Olivet Discourse:

“Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:42-44).

This command was given to all Christians, but it has greater meaning to those of us who are living in the last days of the end times. We must “watch” the warning signs to know approximately when Christ will return so we are not caught by surprise as Jesus commanded. How can we be “ready?” There are only two things we can do – live holy lives and “watch” for the warning signs that precede the return of Christ.

Jesus told two parables in the Olivet Discourse after giving a detailed description of what would take place before and during the Tribulation. The first was the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-12). Five of the virgins were waiting and ready when the bridegroom returned, and five were not. The virgins who were not ready were not allowed into the wedding feast. At the conclusion of the parable He warned:“Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.”

The bridegroom was delaying his return; that is why all of the virgins fell asleep. The question of how long the delay will be is obvious. It will be nearly 2000 years, because He has not yet returned. All of the virgins fell asleep, but five were prepared when the bridegroom returned. They had oil in their lamps. Christians today who “watch” the warning signs are prepared for the return of Christ. Those who are not “watching” the warning signs are not prepared for His return.

The second parable concerns a man who goes on a journey and gives his servants money to invest while he is gone (Matthew 25:14-30). He was away for a long time (Matthew 25:19). We know that the duration between the ascension of Jesus and His return will be about 2000 years.

We are to watch and pray as recorded in Mark:

“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. It is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded also the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:33-37).

Jesus gave a similar command earlier in His ministry, after admonishing His followers to seek the kingdom of God rather than the riches of the world (Luke 12:35 39). He concluded by saying:

“Be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Luke 12:40).

The commands to believers to be “ready” and to eagerly “wait” for the return of Jesus were given for the “generation” living in the “last days” and also given in a general manner for all generations to keep their minds on the things above rather than the things on earth:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Christians who “watch” for the warning signs of the return of Christ, rather than seek after the riches and the pleasures of this sinful world, are the obedient and faithful servants.

Christ will return when those who are not “watching” do not think He will return. Those who are “watching” the warning signs will know the approximate time of His return [not the day or the hour but the season]. (1 Thessalonians 5:4).

Paul gave several admonishments to the churches that he founded to “wait” for the return of Jesus Christ. He gave this admonishment to the church in Corinth to wait for the return of the Lord.

“So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8).

The verses admonishing the believer to “wait” and “watch” are given specifically for those living in the “end times” and generally to all believers throughout the Church Age, just as the commands by Jesus were given. If Christians keep their eyes on Jesus each and every day, they are less likely to be carried away by the temptations of the world.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul stated that all believers are to “wait” for the return of Christ:

“For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Prior to this statement Paul exhorted his readers to press on toward the goal, be complete, live by the same standard he does and to follow his example (Philippians 3:14 17). He also warned them that there were some people who claimed to be saved, yet they were “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).

In this admonishment, Paul was reminding all believers throughout the Church Age to remember that our home is heaven, and that they should “wait” for their Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul praised them for turning from idols to the living and true God. He then told them to “wait” for His Son Jesus, who will come from heaven to deliver them from the wrath (Tribulation) to come:

“For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

This command was given to newly-born believers who had turned away from “idols” to live holy lives. He added to that command the admonishment to “wait” for the return of Jesus. The context of this passage is holiness, and Paul added the promise that Jesus would return someday and keep Christians from going through the Tribulation. The “wrath to come” is the Tribulation. When one lives a holy life he will patiently “wait” for the return of Christ by “watching” the warning signs.

All believers from the apostles to the last generation are commanded to “wait” for the return of Christ. When one considers the parables of Jesus (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27), where He made it explicitly clear that He would be gone a “long time” (Matthew 2:19), so one must be “patient,” as James wrote (5:7-8), and “wait” for His return by “looking” for the warning signs.

Later, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gave another warning for them to “watch” for the return of Christ. He described the Rapture (4:13-17), and then commanded them to “comfort one another with these words” (v.18).

“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. When they are saying, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Paul then warned his readers in verses 4-9 to be spiritually alert and sober:

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep in the night: and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God appointed us not into wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In verse one, Paul summarized that the Rapture/Tribulation will catch the unsaved by surprise, as a “thief” does when he comes to steal in the dead of night. They will be cheering when there is a time of so-called “peace and safety” in the world. The lost will be caught by surprise, but believers who are awake will not be completely caught by surprise by the return of Christ.

The late Dr. John Walvoord made the following statement:

“When the day of grace ends with the translation of the church, the Day of the Lord [the Tribulation] begins at once.” (The Rapture Question, page.162)

In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul also exhorted Titus to warn his flock to live holy lives by looking for the return of Christ:

“For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

This is an exhortation to live a holy life. All Christians should be “looking for the blessed hope and appearing” of Christ. It is holy living that leads a person to look for the return of Jesus Christ by watching for signs. Peter also warned to be “looking” for the return of Jesus Christ. Peter wrote this after saying that the world would be destroyed by fire (Jesus will rejuvenate the earth for the millennial kingdom):

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:10-12).

The context of this passage is holiness. Peter explains that, because this present world and universe will be destroyed by fire some day, Christians should live holy lives. While a believer is living a holy life he should be “looking” for the Rapture. Again, holiness precedes “looking” for the return of Christ. If one is living a holy life, he will then “watch” for Christ’s return.

The context of the commands and warnings by Jesus, Paul and Peter to be “alert” is holiness. Christians are commanded to live holy lives, and “looking” for the return of Christ is an important aspect of holy living. None of the verses regarding Christ’s return tell us that Christians will make the world such a great place that will then cause Him to return. The Scriptures tell us the world will get worse and worse prior to His return despite the holiness of true Christians.

Christians who believe in Preterism, Amillennialism, Postmillennialism and Dominion Theology are not obeying the commands of Jesus to “watch” for His return by actively “looking” for prophecies to be fulfilled before that blessed event.

Annie, your friend may very well be confused by any one of those false teachings.

One radio talk show host has said that Christians are to “wait for the Second Coming, but not to look for prophecies to be fulfilled beforehand because there are none” (Bible Answer Man program, 6.22.2009). How wrong he is! This is a perfect example why so many “Christians” are confused. We must always do as Acts 17:11 states:

“Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.”

Annie, I suggest sharing the Bible verses I have cited with your friend, and explain to her that many false teachings exist today. She obviously does not understand the Scriptures. Pray for her and be patient with her. If you go to a good Bible teaching church invite her to come with you. Or try to meet with her in private or with other believers who understand the biblical teachings of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Once you have shared the truth and if she rejects it, it is better to just let her go.

“And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14).

Continue to pray for your friend but don’t get caught-up in an unproductive and dysfunctional relationship.

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Annie, I wish you the very best and keep watching. Jesus is coming soon!

God bless you,

Esther

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).


July 7, 2014

Dear Esther,

We’ve communicated a little bit in the past regarding my struggles with certain sin issues and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the basis for salvation from sins. I do have a question regarding C.S. Lewis. Should I be reading his works? Do you think he has good insight into understanding the Christian faith? Just wondering your opinion/advice.

Thank you,

Donny


Hi Donny,

No doubt, C.S. Lewis gained a huge following and is still very popular today. The danger with his work is some truth can be found intertwined with many unbiblical ideas. I call this a “hook.” A hook is some truth to get you to read more, to the point where false teachings emerge. Cults are very good at using this technique to pull people into their way of thinking. However, this is not always done deliberately. I think C.S. Lewis was a very confused man. Upon careful analysis too many problems exist in his work, which I find antithetical to the Holy Scriptures.

I am going to list a number of problems with his work, which you can then contemplate on and decide for yourself if reading his books is going to draw you closer to the Lord or further away into a realm of confusion.

C.S. Lewis espoused Darwin’s theory of human biology forcing a different view of some parts of the Bible than the historic orthodox accepted evangelical viewpoint. In the matter of God’s creation, Lewis had no difficulty in being committed to theistic evolution. Lewis called man “the highest of the animals.” He also acknowledged: “If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection.” Elsewhere he said: “What difficulties I have about evolution are not religious….”

Lewis believed in theistic evolution. In his book, The Problem of Pain he wrote:

“If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objections…. For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumbs could be applied to each of its fingers, and jaws and teeth and the throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man…. We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state.”

An analyst of Lewis’s writings, Richard Cunningham, deduced: “Lewis did not believe in the infallibility or the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.”

Concerning the doctrine of “total depravity,” Lewis wrote in The Problem with Pain: “I disbelieve that doctrine.” Though Lewis believed that “men are sinners” – he didn't believe in the doctrine of original sin. He said this is partly on the logical ground that if our depravity were total we should not know ourselves to be depraved and partly because experience shows us much good in human nature.”

Lewis, of course, misunderstands what theologians mean when they use this term. Total depravity does not mean that mankind is as bad as it could be nor that unredeemed individuals can do nothing but evil. The unsaved are capable of great acts of kindness and love as well as recognition of both good and evil (in themselves and others). They are capable of comprehending that a creator God exists (Romans 1:18).

What total depravity means is that every aspect of our being is depraved, or corrupted, by sin: our minds, our hearts, our words, our emotions, etc. (Romans 3:10-18). It also means, unaided by the power of the Holy Spirit, no one would ever choose to turn to God (2 Corinthians 3:15-4:6; John 6:37, 44). Lewis had an unbalanced view of the capabilities and free will of the unbeliever.

This deduction is evident throughout the writings of Lewis and hardly needs to be proof-texted, but one important statement found in Miracles would be helpful Lewis wrote:

“My present view… would be that just as, on the factual side, a long preparation culminates in God’s becoming incarnate as Man, so, on the documentary side, the truth first appears in mythical form and then by a long process of condensing or focusing finally becomes incarnate as History. This involves the belief that Myth in general is… at its best, a real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination.”

The Hebrews, like other peoples, had mythology: but as they were the chosen people so their mythology was the chosen mythology – the mythology chosen by God to be the vehicle of the earliest sacred truths, the first step in that process which ends in the New Testament where truth has become completely historical. Whether we can ever say with certainty where, in this process of crystallization, any particular Old Testament story falls, is another matter. I take it that the memoirs of David’s court come at one end of the scale and are scarcely less historical than St. Mark or Acts; and that the book of Jonah is at the opposite end.”

It becomes obvious that Lewis’s love for mythology seriously clouded his understanding of biblical truth. He is playing a dangerous game here—deciding which parts of Scripture are historically true and which parts are “true myths.” Lewis comes down on the side that the New Testament is largely factual, including the stories of Jesus. But how can he make that determination?

If God revealed to us vast amounts of information, all of which He claimed to be true (but were really myths), how are we to know with any certainty that anything in Scripture is more than myth? How can we, with Lewis, arbitrarily decide that the story of Jonah was a myth but Jesus was not? The manipulation of Scripture in this manner leaves the door open for rejection of any or all that it contains—determined only by our presuppositions and personal desires. Lewis’s perception of Scripture is a serious flaw in his thinking.

J. I. Packer spoke of Lewis’s “failure ever to mention justification by faith when speaking of the forgiveness of sins, and his apparent hospitality to baptismal regeneration….”

Lewis expected that some non-Christians would be saved. This is most troubling when he said:

“Though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that He cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted Him in this life.” On the radio he announced: “We do know that no [one] can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” Inclusivism and heresy are the problems here. He also held to the skewed doctrine of Purgatory.

Lewis was an inclusivist believing that some moral non-Christians would be saved: “Though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that He cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted Him in this life.” (The Screwtape Letters, p.11)

In the Last Battle, the final volume in the Narnia series, Aslan (the Christ figure) accepts the service of a follower of the god Tash: “Son, thou art welcome,” Aslan says to this individual. Emeth (the Tash-server) protests, “I am no son of Thine but a servant of Tash.” But Aslan (the Christ figure) insists, “All the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me,” and accepts a follower of another god!

Even more clear, and more shocking, are these statements that Lewis made:

“There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.

For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position.” (Mere Christianity, pp. 176-177)

Lewis also said: “I couldn't believe that 999 religions were completely false and the remaining one true.” Similarly he stated: “We are not pronouncing all other religions to be totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all religions is consummated and perfected.”

As a member in good standing of the Anglican Church, Lewis accepted an Anglican position on purgatory and prayers for the dead, as well as practicing auricular confession of sins. He believed in a substantive reality to heaven and hell but was agnostic about matters such as the precise dimension and duration of hell.”

In Mere Christianity, Lewis attempted to identify the essential doctrines that would define all Christians of whatever stripe. He claimed to accept the major creeds such as Nicene and Athanasian, yet he championed many unorthodox theological views.

He was heavily influenced by Roman Catholics such as J. R. R. Tolkien and G. K. Chesterton and so closely aligned with Catholic theology that “many who read Lewis’ first book, The Pilgrim’s Regress, assumed he was a Catholic, and, in fact, the second edition was published by a Catholic publisher. Today he continues to be accepted by Rome as much as he is by evangelicals, while he was sympathetic toward Catholicism.

Of course such a view will have an influence on one’s understanding of the Fall. Lewis does not believe in the literal accuracy of Adam and Eve sinning in the Garden. In reference to the Fall he says, “I have the deepest respect even for Pagan myths, still more for myths in Holy Scripture…. What exactly happened when Man fell, we do not know; but if it is legitimate to guess, I offer the following picture – a ‘myth’ in the Socratic sense, a not unlikely tale.” (The Problem with Pain, pp.71, 77)

Lewis believed the events found in the first three chapters of Genesis as “true myths” (stories that are not literally factual but teach some truth, a view usually held by theological liberals but sadly, also increasingly accepted by some “evangelicals”). As far back as 1963 Martyn Lloyd-Jones warned that C. S. Lewis had a defective view of salvation and with good reason. Let’s take a look at several soteriological errors in Lewis’s theology.

In Mere Christianity Lewis was clear that he rejected the substitutionary atonement:

“Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying [Christ’s] was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to…. Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works.”

While Lewis reframes this doctrine to make it sound a bit ridiculous and a bit more believable than he one thought, he is nevertheless clear that he is not a fan of what is considered one of the fundamentals of the faith— that Christ died in our place, taking upon Himself our sin and satisfying the righteous wrath of God is not an “immoral” or “silly” theory – it is the very heart of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In an article in Christianity Today admits, “Though he (Lewis) shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn’t subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration.”

Lewis’s attraction to evangelicals may have been because of his evangelical-like “conversion” – “He had an evangelical experience, this personal encounter with the God of the universe.” His works actually fell out of fashion in the 1960s only to come roaring back more recently. In fact, sales of his books have increased 125% since 2001 and, since his Narnia series were made into movies, so his star will continue to rise for some time to come. (Bob Smietana, “C.S. Lewis Superstar,” Christianity Today, December 2005, p. 29)

C.S. Lewis showed worldly compromise and a preference for Ecumenism.

In 1993, Christianity Today explained why C.S. Lewis has been so popular among Evangelicals:

“Lewis’s … concentration on the main doctrines of the church coincided with evangelicals’ concern to avoid ecclesiastical separatism.” (Christianity Today, 10/25/93)

Christianity Today magazine admits that C.S. Lewis is popular to Evangelicals today because, like then, he despised biblical separation. Like it or not, the Bible teaches that Christians are to separate from the unsaved (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; and from other professed “Christians” who live in unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 5:11).

So how should we view C.S. Lewis? His ability to cut through the intellectual clouds and offer insightful analysis of human nature and our relationship with God is unique. Most of us have gained much because of the writings of C. S. Lewis. On the other hand, he was not an evangelical. His theology is deficient at best in the key areas of Scripture and salvation. He believed in neither sola fide nor sola scriptura, the two battle cries of the Reformation.

Those who read him must keep these things in mind, filter his teaching through the grid of Scripture and hold him to the same standards that we are to hold all others. Because Lewis was a man with an incredible ability to package his insights in thought-provoking ways does not mean that what he writes always aligns with God’s Word. He was a man who had keen analytical abilities and incredible writing gifts. But he was a man who rejected or minimized many of the most important truths given to us by God.

Donny, thank you for bringing this topic to our readers. C.S. Lewis was a talented man, but as you have just read, he had some very serious problems staying true to Scripture.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

In God’s love,

Esther

“Whoever transgresses[and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 1:10).

Notes
1.http://www.svchapel.org/


June 30, 2014

Dear Esther,

I was reading your column today, June 23rd, and I was astonished to see that you agreed that it was okay for someone NOT to attend church in a church building, for lack of a better description. Is it really okay not to go into a church building?

This is what you said in response to Michael:

“As far as not getting involved in a church, that is understandable. I do recommend that some people do so because there are those who need that kind of interaction. And then there are those who do not. It is wonderful that you are leading your family and taking your faith seriously. Keep up the good work and stay close to Jesus as this world continues to implode.”

From what I can see, the way we do church these days is not at all the way it was done in Acts.

Also, now that we have the Internet where sermons, Bible studies, and discussion boards are at our fingertips 24/7, do we really need to go sit in a building for an hour or two on Sunday mornings, going through the weekly routine?

My husband and I are members of a very small independent Baptist church where the pastor is sound, and we enjoy attending. However, I find I can “feed” myself just as well without being in church on Sunday-- but I’ve been feeling guilty that I’ve felt this way, and haven’t wanted to sin by dropping out completely.

Then there’s the verse about us “not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” What do we do with that?

My husband is an extrovert who would probably miss the interaction with everybody if we didn't go to church, but I’m an introvert who loves to read, study, and listen to sermons by myself.

My pastor would say, “Oh, you NEED to be in church on Sunday so that you don’t miss the fellowship of other believers.”

How did you come to the conclusion that some people need to be in church every week, and some do not? Do you feel it’s okay for anyone who wants to, to leave formal church, or only those who are in unsound churches?


Dear Becky,

How many times did Jesus preach out in the open air?

Did Jesus and His disciples stay within four walls?

Or did Jesus tell His disciples to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth?

Today we have many churches with four walls where throngs of people elevate pastors into very elaborate lifestyles. And some churches are more modest. We are to serve each other and keep our motives pure and focused on the Lord. It is true some churches have mission programs and local outreach programs to reach the lost and the needy. But where is the true fellowship? And how many churches have true biblical teaching? Are the pastors really serving the congregation or going through the motions? Are they wanting to grow the numbers in that church building to gain more money and power or truly serve others?

The true church is not a series of buildings and ceremonies rooted in ancient tradition. Instead, the church is the body of true believers. The true church consists of those who are regenerate; that is, it consists of those who are “the called” the true Christians.

• Romans1:6: “among whom you also are the called (klaytos) of Jesus Christ.”
• 1 Corinthians 1:24: “but to those who are the called (klaytos), both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
• Jude 1: “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called (klaytos), beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”
• Revelation 17:14: “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called (klaytos) and chosen (eklektos) and faithful.”

The Greek word “klaytos” means “call, invited, divinely selected and appointed.” 1.The Greek word for “church” is ekklesia and is formed from a compound of the word “ek” (out of) and “kaleo” (call).

Therefore, the church is the “called out ones.”

“Eklektos” in Revelation 17:14 above means simply means “chosen” and comes from the verb “eklegomai” which means to choose, to choose out.

Therefore, the church, the ekklesia, is the “called out ones.” [1]

Some need the church “family” in a designated building and what that environment provides. The problem is that this can sometimes serve to constrict, rather than enlarge our parameters in how we serve the Lord.

The voice listened to is a man’s and that is how the congregation gets their guidance and spiritual sustenance. If they are okay with it, then that’s where they need to be and remain until the Lord shows them otherwise. The focus in the church with four walls is often on church activities rather than growing in personal relationships with the Lord and effectively reaching others for Christ.

If we are involved in a local church we should support it with our time and finances, but not made to feel we must adhere to one man’s ideas or expectations. The mission of each church should be evangelism and discipleship and not a place that functions like a fraternity or club that is much like secular organizations.

Those who follow the Holy Spirit’s direct leading are where they need to be. Some have been called out of “her” because the church with the four walls environment hinders them instead of helping their walk with the Lord.

As believers we are not limited to any little segmented piece of Christianity because discernment is sharply tuned to the BELIEVER’S walk with the Lord, not as Baptists, or Methodists, or Pentecostals, or any such splinters of Christianity. We are directly led by His Spirit without the filtering of so many other voices. We, the sheep, hear His voice.

This is not a matter of for or against meeting in a church building. It is deciding to be led strictly by the Lord without the physical ornamentation of a building and the props so many rely on to “follow” Him. Some people need to be around groups of people constantly, and others serve the Lord more effectively at various stages of their lives by being more independent.

Unity in the body of Christ (the Christian church) is very important. But it does not mean total conformity (agreement) and uniformity (sameness). Although maintaining unity in the body is essential, it is also necessary to value the separate and distinctive qualities that make each of us an individual “part” of the body. Both aspects, unity and individuality, deserve emphasis and insightful appreciation. This makes for a healthy church body, when we acknowledge that it is Christ who binds us together and makes us one.

Now Becky, to answer your concern about fellowship, I hope you understand that Michael has regular fellowship with the people he works with and at his home church. From the many letters and concerns I have received from others with their frustrations and disappointments with churches across America, far too many of these churches are a huge disappointment.

Today, many churches exude territorial attitudes which only serve to distance newcomers as well as faithful attendees. These attitudes places a wedge between the leadership and the flock. Some pastors and church members have a judgmental attitude toward those who do not regularly participate in their particular church building. This is a very prevalent problem.

We must also remember that in vast numbers of churches in America, there is little or no true fellowship. Sitting in a Bible study and worship service is not fellowship. Chatting about the latest ball game, movie, politics, etc. for ten minutes after a church service is NOT fellowship. Church going is often a very impersonal experience leaving the believer hungry for genuine fellowship and spiritual growth opportunities.

True fellowship is sharing with others about spiritual matters, praying for each other, studying the Bible (interacting together, not just sitting in a room listening only to one person without being able to speak out). We are to exhort one another, dig in deeply into the Scriptures and apply the teachings to our everyday lives.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

The Scriptures are clear that believers are to fellowship with each other. But that does not mean believers are confined to a “church building” to do so. It is living a daily lifestyle devoted to the Lord and His teachings that comprise true fellowship when interacting with other believers. We are to serve one another and bear one another’s burdens and not get caught-up in shallow matters that are not spiritually edifying.

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-27).

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Daily prayer, Bible study and fellowship is vital to keep a believer from straying from the Lord as explained in Hebrews 3:12-13. Going to a church building once or twice a week to remember God is too limiting. It is up to each one of us to have personal Bible study and prayer time, and find ways to fellowship with other believers on a daily basis.

Most churches do not have home Bible studies and prayer meetings. Some pastors have fallen short in their duty to provide for the spiritual needs of the flock. That is why many devoted believers have opted for home churches and Bible studies as Michael and his family have. Many Christians gather together in unconventional ways today for various reasons, some which I have already addressed.

We can take all of this one step further. What is at the core reason for attending a church building? Is it to grow in the Lord, to cultivate and tend to a true personal relationship with Him? Is it to serve others? Is it to honor the Lord? Without a personal born-again relationship, going to church buildings is nothing more than making appearances with a group of people who are also going through the motions of “Christianity” without much substance.

A person’s motives and heart attitude must reflect a redeemed spirit of authenticity when sitting in a church building as well as when going through one’s day (when no one but the Lord can see what he or she is doing). Some people use church and ministry work to try to show themselves to be honorable and true believers when in fact they are deceitful slanderers and carry malice in their hearts. We are living in a time when deception is prevalent and we must guard our hearts.

A number of people have written to me saying too many of the churches they have attended are nothing more than social clubs with backbiting, gossip and weak shallow “sermons.” Some unscrupulous people have infiltrated the church causing dissention. This makes finding a church more challenging. So many are desperately trying to find an authentic Bible believing church—where Bible study and discipleship are the pivotal points of the church, and where true fellowship thrives.

Sadly, this is true not only for many believers but also some good pastors who have been abused by the church system that they trusted. The apostle Paul warned of perilous times and perilous men. Is the Lord truly glorified in the church building or is it a man who has his own hidden agenda leading the flock? We must be discerning and wise to always place our allegiance with God and not men who may or may not have godly motives.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:3-5).

And Jesus spoke of those with dark deceptive hidden motives:

“Therefore the Lord said: Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?”

This is why so many believers today are involved in home church groups for spiritual growth and fellowship. I have frequently suggested getting involved in a good church (when one can be found). But those who cannot find an authentic Bible-based church in a church “building” are encouraged to get involved in home church groups where the Bible is studied, the Lord is worshipped and fellowship with others is taken to a more personal and meaningful level.

In your case, it sounds like you are benefiting from attending your local church and you also enjoy doing some independent study. That is wonderful. You and your husband have each other to fellowship with when you are not at your church. It is blessing that you and your husband go together, and that you have what you feel is a “sound” church. Regardless, every man should lead his family in daily devotions. If the husband is unsaved then the wife and mother should do her best to spiritually guide the children.

We need not be rigid about worshipping the Lord in a church building. Our motives and dedication to the Lord determine our authenticity and how we grow as believers. The Lord may lead someone to leave a particular (formal) church regardless of how great the teaching is, perhaps only for a season—to serve the Lord in different ways. Once again, our walk with the Lord is a personal one and sometimes we are “called out” to worship and fellowship in other ways.

However, if someone is simply walking away from a good solid Bible teaching church to pursue a personal selfish lifestyle where God takes the back seat, then that is a grave mistake. We are all at different stages of our walk with the Lord. Some people need a lot of interaction with large groups in a church building and some do better having some distance from a formal organization at different seasons of their lives.

Attending a church where the pastor and other leaders are totally sold-out for Jesus and not for selfish gain or questionable personal agendas is a prerequisite for a healthy church. Otherwise the church becomes tainted with undercurrents that keep the congregation from growing spiritually, and in turn, cause fellowship to remain on a superficial level.

Unfortunately weak leadership is far too prevalent today, that is why more and more believers are seeking alternative avenues of worship. Serious reorganization needs to take place in many of today’s churches to truly meet the needs of the congregation and become a beacon of Christ’s light in a world that is getting darker with each passing day.

Becky, you stated: “But I’ve been feeling guilty that I’ve felt this way, and haven’t wanted to sin by dropping out completely.” I hope after reading this response to your letter you will understand that it is not a sin to stop attending a church that meets in church building. But it sounds like you are happy with your local church, and your husband especially likes attending, so leaving should not be an issue for you unless you feel the Lord calling you to take a different direction.

Participate as you feel the Lord leading you and be grateful you have a place to go to where you are blessed and can bless others.

God bless you for your heartfelt thoughts and desire to be obedient to the Lord.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Endnotes
[1] http://carm.org/


 June 23, 2013

Hello Esther,

My wife and I still read your advice articles and always appreciate them even though they may not apply to us at the moment. I find that all advice given from a biblical point of view applies at some point.

We are still doing home church. My wife baptized me in the bathtub at home after we were studying Acts on my 40th birthday. I noticed the Pharisees that didn’t get baptized in water by John for the remission of sins were kind of like many people I work with. They have a good position and are self-pronounced experts on the Bible and all things concerning theology; Jesus, love and what not...

I think the Lord has kept us out of churches to keep us from becoming spiritually blind. I can only deduce that because when I first realized that Jesus is the only way, I started reaching out to people and the ones that I reached out to were (as I see it now), the wrong people. With the exception of reaching out to you of course (I’m so thankful for you by the way).

From Presbyterian, to Church of Christ, to Baptists I’ve reconciled that what some of these well-intentioned people believe—compared to what the Bible and Jesus teach that people are mostly believing lies over truth.

A friend from work (an Ammillennialist by the way) and I began a Bible study during lunch, one day a week. We read the Bible for about 10 minutes and then we talk for 10 minutes and then we pray for 10 minutes around the room. It has been good most of the time. As the Bible study has become more popular it has begun to be dominated somewhat by a few that only point out how much God loves us, leaving out the fact that He is also holy and righteous.

When I bring this up in the room there is typically just silence. Same when I bring up repentance or not living in sin or studying prophecy. I’m not saying all are spiritually blind, but the ones with the loudest and most frequent comments are the ones saying the wrong things, usually.

Also, during the recent sessions, I’ve noticed that less of the Bible is being read, less prayer and more liberal opinions are going around the room. It is being corrupted.

I know some of the men fairly well and we’ve shared our struggles and sins that we know are wrong. After I was baptized in water I did experience the remission of sins. Baptism was referred to in the gospels and in Acts as providing for the remission of sins so I felt the need to obey that call to baptism and with good results.

I see people that love Jesus, but are still spiritually blind possibly changing who Jesus is to fit their beliefs. Although this confuses me it does not surprise me at this point. My question is, why would someone choose to ignore the sin in his or her life over being right with the Lord?

Joining an organized church denomination is not something I ever plan to do. Anyway, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you and let you know that we are doing well. Prayers are being answered and powerful things are happening. I think there isn't much time, but even if there is way more time than I think before the Rapture, I want to get as many people the truth as possible and let the Holy Spirit work on people in hopes that they might be saved too. I just want to serve Him out of gratitude for what He has given me.

Take care,

Michael


Dear Michael,

Thank you for updating me on your life. I remember our past email correspondence. I am grateful for your words of appreciation and that you find the work here beneficial. I am glad you and your wife are doing well.

It is blessing that you can have a regular Bible study/gathering at your workplace. I would say that is highly unusual these days unless your work for a Christian organization. Even though you point out problems, a lot of good can come out of the meetings. I suggest being patient with the group.

A lot of people come from biblically anemic situations or are products of what they have been told by others without ever studying their Bibles to verify what they have been taught truly corresponds with the Scriptures. The Ammillennialist  believer is a perfect example. He cannot talk about prophecy because sadly, it is out of his comfort zone.

It sounds like you are trying to pack a lot into about thirty minutes. The group needs one leader to guide the meeting with a particular objective each time and to keep a sense of order. Meeting together and randomly choosing what to read and discuss each time may be contributing to your complaint:

“I’ve noticed that less of the Bible is being read, less prayer and more liberal opinions are going around the room. It is being corrupted.”

Since the time you meet with your group is so short and only once a week, make an effort to have either a topic of discussion or choose one or a few specific Scriptures to study and discuss. The same Scripture(s) or topic could continue over a period of several weeks if need be. For example, you could choose Scripture such as this one, which deals with the moral depravity in the world today:

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

Or you could discuss the importance of studying all the Scriptures, which would of course include prophecy:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

You could make the following Scriptures as part of the group study, which clearly deal with the future:

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:30-31).

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (Peter 1:19-21).

Little by little as you expose the group to Scriptures they may not even have been aware of, they might start to think about them. Always pray before you begin the meetings and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and give you wisdom.

Since you already home church your family, consider inviting some of the people who attend the lunch Bible study/meeting to an evening Bible study at your home or perhaps take turns and meet at each other’s homes. The lunch hour meetings could spill over into longer evening or weekend meetings where you could get into more in-depth study and fellowship.

To answer your question, “Why would someone choose to ignore the sin in his or her life over being right with the Lord?”can be answered from many perspectives.

As far as not wanting to address sin and the matters of accountability for an individual’s actions (sin) in relation to the Scriptures, that is a problem throughout much of the church. Consider the milquetoast “feel good” teachings that have dominated Christian media.

Jesus want us to “feel good’ because we are having an authentic relationship with Him, trusting Him for our best, not because we are using New Age style affirmations hoping to create our own reality, keep sin alive and simply give Him an nod of acknowledgment here and there.

We live at a time when many professing Christians want to escape the label of intolerance and narrow mindedness. They want to please Man instead of God. It will do no good to try to get into a verbal battle with such folks telling them that they fall short and are not living up to God’s commands. The best thing to do is carefully plan and choose pertinent Scriptures and make them part of the group’s Bible study. Let God’s Word speak for itself.

It might take some time for some of your co-workers to really listen and start thinking about what they are reading and hearing, but if they are sincere believers, they will not be able to ignore the truth. Some may still not apply the truth to their lives but at least they will be aware of Scriptures that address God’s command for holy living.

In any group you will always find a few dominating personalities and even those who prop themselves up as self-appointed experts. The best way to deal with them is to let the Word of God expose them for what they are or are not. It will take time, but place your trust in the Lord that He will deal with those who are puffed up with their own self-importance.

As far as not getting involved in a church, that is understandable. I do recommend that some people do so because there are those who need that kind of interaction. And then there are those who do not. It is wonderful that you are leading your family and taking your faith seriously. Keep up the good work and stay close to Jesus as this world continues to implode.

You have the right attitude desiring to reach others for Christ, as the Holy Spirit does the necessary work on individuals you witness to. Another topic you could bring to your group if you expand to evening or weekend gatherings is the topic of Discipleship. This is very important and something few churches get into.

I am going to leave you with some topic suggestions and a few corresponding Scriptures which you can incorporate into your group Bible Studies:

Anxiety: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7.

Anger: Psalm 7:11; Mark 3:5; Proverbs 14;17; James 1:19-20; : Proverbs 12:16.

Bitterness, Resentment, Hate: Ephesians 4:31; Galatians 5:15; Hebrews 12:15.

God’s Warnings and Call to Obedience: Matthew 7:13-14; 71-23; 24-27, Proverbs Hebrews 10:26-31.

Repentance: 2 Corinthians 7:10-11; 2 Chronicles 7;14 ; Isaiah 55:6-7.

Serving Others: 1 Peter 4:9-10; Philippians 2:3-5; 1 Peter 4:10-11.

Forgiving Others: Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:31-32; Mark 11:25.

Prayer (Waiting on the Lord): Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; James 5:16.

Priorities: Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:15; Philippians 4:11-13.

Trials: James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3; 8:18; James 1:12.

Michael, this is only a short list of topics and examples on how you can better organize your meetings, and hopefully cut-down on wasted time when others spout off their liberal opinions. Ask the Lord to transform the group so those who are truly interested in growing in the Lord will become active participants and those who are there to just sound off their own “stuff” would either start listening or go away.

Let me know how things progress for you and may the Lord bless you for your wonderful efforts.

In God’s love,

Esther

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:5-7).


June 16, 2014

Dear Esther,

I am afraid the world is ending, and I don’t want it to. I like to play video games, listen to music, and draw stuff. I believe in God a lot even though I get thoughts that He doesn’t exist or that He is not real. I am just wondering if it is wrong to listen to the music I listen to, and play the games I play. I listen to a lot of electronic music that is instrumental, and I thank God every morning for waking me up, but I am afraid that I will burn. I am scared.

When I listen to the music I put lyrics about thanking Jesus, and God for waking me up each morning. I also have a problem with ADHD, Aspergers and I take my medications. I am on my way to kicking my porn addiction it has been a day and counting. I pray for everyone I know, and I pray for the world to get better. I also am trying to not lust, but it is hard. I need help. I been having problems missing people.

I pray to find out if a man who my mom didn’t think was my father for 20 years, is my father. I also help people the best I can. I need help. I am scared that I will never get married. I went into depression for about six months because I forgot about God. I will still keep my one value that I will not have sex until I am married. I pray every day, and I believe Jesus died to save me from my sin, but what can I do? Please help.

Worried Serious


Dear Worried Serious,

I’m sorry to hear you are having so many problems. It sounds like you need to take one-step at a time to work through these issues. The Lord loves you very much and your life can get better. He says so in His Word. It is wonderful that you are praying a lot. Prayer is so important; it is our lifeline to the Lord. Reading and studying the Bible will strengthen you and renew your mind and emotions.

When Christ returns at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, He will put an end to the chaos in this world. He will rejuvenate the earth and the millennial kingdom will begin. That is when there will be real peace on earth. Jesus the Messiah will rule and reign on earth with all true born-again believers for 1000 years. So as far as not wanting the world to end, be encouraged. Jesus is coming back to clean-up this mess.

God is in control and everything that is happening now is leading toward a glorious climax when the evil manipulations of mankind will be put to a stop by Jesus Christ Himself—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That is something to look forward to. He promises to remove all true Christians in the Rapture before the Tribulation begins.

Knowing these biblical facts should help you understand that the “end” of this world as we know it, will be the time when everything you are concerned about will no longer be an issue (as long as you are saved from above). We should rejoice, and realize that our earthly lives in our earthly bodies is very temporary. God has more exciting plans for His children.

During the Millennium the day-to-day heartaches of this life will be gone forever and all born-again believers will be reigning and ruling with Jesus the Messiah. What could possibly be better than that? In your situation, so many things are uncertain but the one thing that is certain is Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal life. Our focus must be on Jesus and not on the worldly conditioning that falsely teaches that we must gratify the flesh.

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).

From Suffering to Glory

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-21).

Each day we can find reports in the news that are very disturbing. But many of these things were forewarned by Jesus Himself as signs of the last days. Once you can get this in perspective many of your concerns will become much less overwhelming. Easier said than done sometimes, but that is what is needed in this fallen corrupt world. Jesus is our blessed hope. He is the one we can count on. We must rely on Him for our inner peace and well being.

Please find some good Christian online ministries where you can listen to or watch good sermons every day. In order to be free of your afflictions you must take Jesus and His teachings very seriously. Listen to soothing hymns that exalt the Lord and feed your soul. Your overall demeanor will be strengthened as you make these changes.

You may feel alone but you are really not alone. You may never know the identity of your earthly father, but you have you Heavenly Father. You can always count on Him. Cry out to Him for comfort.

Be sure you have made a sincere profession of faith and that you are truly born-again by the Spirit of God. And I implore you to get involved with a good Bible-based Christian ministry for some for moral support. Resolve not to allow yourself to do things that you know would grieve Lord. Stay away from those who are living a life of compromise, involved in the ways of the world. Find friends who love the Lord and are strong in their faith.

Instead of focusing on what is missing in our lives, a better strategy is to prepare for our eternal lives. Nothing we do in this world—unless it is for God’s kingdom—will really matter when it is all said and done. The ways of the world take us a away from God. Our daily endeavors should be geared toward growing closer to the Lord and reaching others for Him. As long as we keep the focus primarily on ourselves we will not be able to partake in the joy of the Lord.

It is good that you are praying but are you really willing to let go of your own fleshly desires that you know are wrong?

Until you surrender fully to the Lord, you will be torn and continue to struggle. As long as you are watching pornography and partaking in other godless “entertainment” you are placing a wedge between yourself and God. Playing too many secular video games can numb the mind and take a person to a place that is far away from the Lord. These bad habits can break a person down morally, psychologically and emotionally. They keep us from having an authentic relationship with the Lord.

Some secular music is okay, classical music for example is generally fine. But a lot of the secular music (lyrics) as well as their rhythms have sexually immoral and dark overtones which should be avoided. Even instrumental music can be a problem, depending on the beat of the music. Music can incite anger, depression, rebellion; or a state of serenity, love, happiness and joy. We must be careful what we listen to; music can powerfully effect an individual in a positive or negative way.

I am not sure what kind of instrumental music you are listening to but it would be best if you would listen to spiritual hymns and Christian praise and worship music.

Without a firm foundation in Christ and His Word, you are going to flounder. Resolve to live for Christ and not by the ways of the world. There are many FAQ articles on Rapture Ready that you can read to help you grow in your faith and your understanding of the Bible, and the world in which we live. But only use the sources on the site as a compliment to daily Bible study.

All the things I have addressed comprise my answer to your question, “What should I do?” I also suggest in addition to what I have already said (not instead of), that you should seek out Christian counseling, where you can sit down with someone in person on a regular basis. I can encourage and guide you but I think meeting with a strong Christian face-to-face, someone who and has a solid foundation in Christ could be a great help.

You need some consistency in your life and step-by-step things will get better. Considering the complex array of problems that you have, and the fact that you are on medication leaves me to believe that not isolating yourself is important.

Please ask your doctor about the medication you are taking and if it may have contributed to the depression you went through. If so, ask him to modify your dosage or give you something else. The best medicine is God’s Word. But sometimes we do need to be under a good doctor’s care, too.

I also suggest finding a strong Christian support group where you can openly share with each other; true Christians, not a secular group. Please get involved in a good solid Bible teaching church in your area and let go of anything you know is not pleasing to the Lord. 

As far as marriage, you are doing the right thing abstaining from intimate relations while you are single. If the Lord wants you to get married he will bring the right person into your life. He knows what is best for you. The closer you get to the Lord, the more clearly you will be able to discern His will for your life and conduct your life in a manner that is pleasing to Him.

The Bible teaches fear is not of the Lord, but it is easy to let ourselves become afraid when we are confused. Please get into the Word of God and read His promises. Trust Him with all your heart.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him. The LORD is their strength, and He is a saving defense to His anointed” (Psalm 28-7-8).

Your healing will come from a combination of the things I have suggested. But the greatest healing is by consistently reading the Bible, praying and fellowshipping with other Christians who are dedicated to the Lord in spirit and in truth. It is by integrating His Word into your daily life that you will be strengthened. The more knowledge of Jesus you have, the more of God’s grace and peace will rest on you.

Your overall well being hinges on the strength of your relationship with Christ. He wants us to grow, to have an abiding relationship with Him. In this life there will be tribulation (John 16:33), but when we have a solid foundation in Christ we can better navigate through the challenges of our daily lives.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 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, 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).

I wish you the very best. With God’s help and your obedience to Him, your life can take on a much clearer and more joyful reality.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:10-14).


June 9, 2014

Good Morning Esther,

I just started reading your column and am enjoying it. I have a question for you.

Last September I asked my daughter if she would like to attend a revival with me and to my surprise she said, “Yes,” as she was not a Christ follower. She attended three nights and on the third night she went up to accept the Lord, which I was elated over.

She had been attending a community college and wants to become a substance abuse counselor, as she can relate to that life since she, too, is an abuser of alcohol. She commented to me that they were talking about evolution and she knows from her upbringing that evolution is not of God so she was disillusioned with attending this college.

After the meeting she had the strong desire to attend their Bible college, so I told her I’d lend her the money to attend and that's what she did from November to May of this year. What bothers me is that she has had no outward appearance of change. She still hangs around with her unbelieving friends, which is not so bad, but she then still drinks until she’s drunk and still smokes, and swears. I know I sound judgmental, but that's my question.

Do you think she really had a conversion or was it just “lip service?”

I tried explaining to her that we are known by our fruit, but she said they tell her in her school not to be judgmental, but I’m very concerned that she just wants to go to this school to get a job in a Christian environment and not in an AA environment. I know only God knows our hearts and I don’t want to be judgmental, but are we not supposed to say anything and just let people “think” they are saved?

I’m very concerned that she’s being fooled by the devil. It’s actually harder to talk to her now that she has professed to be a Christian, than it was before. Please tell me what to say to her to get her to understand that the devil is working overtime on her to keep her.

Thank you for any comments and God bless you in your service to Him.

Char


Dear Char,

I feel for you. Your situation is very challenging. No, you don’t sound judgmental at all. You sound like a concerned mother who sees her daughter living a very unhealthy self-destructive lifestyle. I don’t know which Christian college your daughter attends but it sounds like it is a very liberal school. The term not to “judge others” has been sorely misunderstood. It is one thing to unfairly make unfounded accusations of others but another thing to call out unbiblical practices and lifestyles. I too, am concerned with you. The fact that she is even harder to reach since she has attended this school is disturbing.

However, the change in a new believer is not always apparent outwardly for some time. Change comes about from within, where the Holy Spirit works on the believer’s earthly nature to bring about the changes, denoting they are truly saved. It takes place within the heart and the spirit where slowly but surely the changes will become evident to others.

It may be too early to see the expected “fruit.” Not every conversion is alike. Your daughter is young and it will take some time for her to reach the place where she will know that the lifestyle she is living has to stop. As her mother, your concern is understandable but it is the Lord’s work, not ours, that will ultimately take her from where she is now to where He wants her to be.

You entrusted your daughter’s salvation to God, now you have to gently step aside and let God work in her life, and not necessarily according to your expectations of how she is supposed to be producing fruit. Your daughter may have to go through a few tough situations before she fully grasps what it means to live for Christ and to separate herself from the ways of the world.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

I am concerned about your daughter’s continued use of alcohol, smoking and her profane language. I pray in time instead of using alcohol as an escape she will fully turn to the Lord. Pummeling your daughter with words of disappointment will most likely work against you, so be careful. I am not saying you should condone her crude behavior, but rather find a way to help her deal with her drinking problem. This is one area where you should not step aside.

I hope your daughter realizes that she could never be a substance abuse counselor unless she herself is no longer indulging. You mention AA in your letter. I do not recommend Alcoholics Anonymous. This is why not:

On the onset, if you quickly look at the credo of Alcoholics Anonymous, their 12-step “recovery program” one might conclude that the program could be compatible with Christianity. But when you carefully read it, a biblically void Pandora’s box emerges. Notice the problems with the AA creed which I have emboldened below:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

As wonderful as it is to bring people together to strengthen each other to recover from serious problems, the A.A. approach to healing and recovery is racked with New Age liberalism that accepts any false god and the unbiblical doctrines attached to that entity. Alcoholics Anonymous does nothing to get to the root of the drinking problem, which is sin and they fail to understand that there is an absolute disconnect from the true biblical God, which ultimately feeds the progression of any addictive habit. This type of therapy takes a person away from the true God of the Bible opening a wide door to false religious practices.

Any addiction is a form of sin, and yes people can get very physically, emotionally and psychologically dependent upon alcohol and create massive problems and tragedies for themselves and countless others. But until alcoholics come to truly know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and surrender their lives to the Holy Spirit, they will always be in bondage. Man made rules (recovery programs not based on Christ) cannot cure a person’s sin problem or addiction problem. Right believing produces right living.

Alcoholics Anonymous means well, but the organization’s program for recovery is based on a faulty premise elevating false gods to depend on for the hope of sobriety. Only Jesus Christ can truly free anyone from the bondage of substance abuse and addictions of any kind. Countless stories have been told how participants of A.A. continue to drink even though they go to meetings again and again. The recovery rate is very low.

I think the situation with your daughter would be dealt with effectively by getting involved in a Bible-based Christian recovery program. You could call Calvary Ranch which is located in California but they might also have some suggestions where they have affiliates in other states. If you call and speak to someone some of your questions and concerns will be addressed: 1-800-404-2258, http://www.calvaryranch.org/ .

It is important for your daughter to continue her education, but at the moment it is more important that she gets treatment for here alcoholism. Until that is dealt with life is going to be a rollercoaster ride for her and those who love and care about her. Do whatever it takes to get her into treatment.

The people at Calvary Ranch or another good Christian facility can guide you as to how to get her to participate. She probably won’t want to go at first, but once she gets involved with others who are recovering/recovered alcoholics, they will be able to deal with her and relate to her from a spirit of tough love and self-responsibility.

An intervention is necessary. Professionals at a rehabilitation center can help facilitate an intervention to get her into treatment. If she was laying on the street bleeding, would you do everything possible to get her help? Of course you would. Well, your daughter is bleeding profusely emotionally and reasoning with her at this stage is very difficult. I strongly recommend she gets into a good Christian treatment program.

To recap what I have said, your daughter’s spiritual growth and the fruit that shows her sincerity is going to take time. There is an elephant in the room—her drinking problem. Your best method of help is to become a prayer warrior for her. And getting her into a Bible-based treatment situation for her addiction must be a priority. I don’t think there is a perfect treatment facility, but a good Christian one such as the one I suggest could help your daughter face herself and begin the necessary changes. Then she will be better equipped to grow as a believer.

Your daughter’s profession of faith was probably sincere but until she gets the help she needs for her drinking problem, she is not going to make good choices for her life. It is true some people will receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and they can immediately change and stop doing things that are self-destructive— but not always.

Char, it is natural to be frustrated by this situation and of course you would like your daughter to show more evidence of her commitment to the Lord. But as I have stressed, she needs to deal with the substance abuse issue and then the rest of her life will take on a new positive direction. Her thinking is impaired and I can guarantee she is hurting inside.

A battle is raging inside her and reasoning with her right now is not easy. Please do everything possible to get her into a strong Bible-based Christian recovery program. It is from the Word of God and God’s grace that her healing and recovery will come but she needs others who have been where she is to work with her. Trying to talk sense into an addict is like talking to a brick wall. Denial is huge part of her problem.

A strategy to think about to get your daughter into treatment is to point out to her if she is serious about eventually wanting to become a substance abuse counselor, going through a recovery program like the one I mentioned would be a good experience for her.

But it is best if you get advice from a person at the rehab center on how to get her in there. She probably doesn’t want to stop drinking and it may take an intervention to get her into rehab. Getting the help your daughter needs is imperative. All the money spent on her college education could go to waste if she does not deal with her drinking problem. Consider any money spent on her recovery as a necessity. Better to take one semester off from college to deal with her problems than have a repeat of how things of how things have been going.

One more issue: You say hanging out with her unbelieving friends “is not so bad.”

An occasional interaction would be all right but if she is “hanging out” with these people regularly they will most likely draw her away from the Lord. As believers our closest friends should be genuine Christians. The book of Proverbs has some words of wisdom regarding believers choosing friends carefully:

“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (12:26).

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

“Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Char, spiritual growth takes time. Some grow faster than others. But the people we spend time with are either going to bring us closer to the Lord or pull us away from Him.

There is still much hope for your daughter. Your prayers are of utmost importance. Please let me know how things are going. And be sure to realize and understand that she will need follow-up after she leaves the rehab facility. The counselors there will be able to guide her in how to live out in the world and connect with some local Christian support groups.

It would also be beneficial for you to get involved in a good woman’s Bible study. That is something you could do with your daughter at some point. Sharing and studying the Word of God together on a regular basis would bring an important dimension into your relationship.

Char, please reach out to those who can best help your daughter. At least call Calvary Ranch and see what they can offer. At this time, in conjunction with your prayers, that is the best thing you can do for your daughter. Get her on a road to recovery. Pray that she will take the program seriously. Yes, there are many stories you may hear about an addict who goes through treatment and then relapses. But this is where your prayers and faith in God can do work to keep that from happening.

Place your daughter in God’s hands and never stop praying. He is a God of restoration. He is our blessed hope in a world gone mad.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).



June 2, 2014

Dear Esther,

I am 18 years old and about to graduate from high school, and ready to start my first year of college this coming fall. I planned to live at home with my parents for this next year until I can earn enough money to live on my own.

I also became a born-again Christian last January when I attended a church outreach with a good friend of mine from school. He had been talking to me about the Lord and the great church he goes to. I was raised in a Jewish household. My parents are not very religious -- but they are not in favor of my new found faith in Christ, especially my dad.

He thinks I have gone off the deep end. He has even accused me of taking drugs causing me to have a distorted mind. I don’t take any drugs. I am into jogging and health foods, not into being stupid and self-destructive. I keep my grades up and try to take some responsibility for my own life. I am not looking for hand-outs. I work 30 hours a week after school and on weekends. My dad is angry but my mom did say to me she knows some people who attend a Messianic congregation and maybe they understand something she does not.

Things have been very tense around here at home since I accepted Christ as my Savior. I don’t know how bad things will get while I am living here, but whatever happens I cannot and will not renounce Jesus. I hide my Bible and my Christian books so my dad won’t get upset, and I feel like I have to live a double-life. I want to shout the salvation message from the rooftops, yet I feel like a am being muzzled right here in my own home.

Can you offer any suggestions on how to handle my situation?

And thank you for all the great letters you have every week. I have learned a lot from reading them.

In Christ,

Barry


Dear Barry,

I am glad you find this column helpful, and a support for you, thank you. You sound like a fine, outstanding young man with a good head on your shoulders. As bleak as things look right now with your family, life can get much better.

I know of a gentleman who was in a similar situation, but even worse. He was raised in a strict orthodox Jewish home. At age 16 he came to faith in Christ and both his parents were so upset, they told him he would have to immediately renounce his faith or leave home. He could not renounce his faith so he left home. At the time he was extremely devastated. But God took good care of Him, brought the right people into his life and he was able to get a fine education. Later he raised a wonderful family of his own and became a popular evangelical speaker.

I am not suggesting in the least that you leave home before you are ready. Your education is important and living at home for now, makes sense. I only share with you about how another young man was essentially disowned by his family—to show you—that God took care of him under intense pressure. He became even stronger in his faith and his resolve to serve the Lord. So the important thing to remember is that you must trust the Lord completely.

In your case, the fact that your mother even mentioned she has friends who attend a Messianic congregation should be taken as a glimmer of hope. Although your dad is very opposed to your faith, it is my prayer that he will not aggressively forbid you to stop. Be as respectful and kind to him as you can and realize he has lived his entire life without the knowledge of the Scriptures and the truth of Jesus. We don’t know how the Lord is working in his life and once again, this is where trust comes in.

Any number of wonderful things can happen over the next many months and years as you grow in the Lord. We don’t know what doors God will open for you. Have you considered asking your mom if she would be willing to get together with her Messianic friends? Perhaps you can all meet for lunch or better yet, attend a service at the Messianic church.

Explain to your mother that your faith in Christ is not a whim for you but a reality that you are strongly committed to. Tell her how much you love her and how much she means to you. Thank her for all she has done to raise you to be a person of integrity and responsibility. Tell her that the last thing you want to do is hurt her and your dad, but that you must be true to your convictions and the commitment you made to the Lord.

You may be the one to help your mom come to a saving grace in Christ. And perhaps somewhere down the road, your father, who is very upset right now may have a change of heart. Never, ever underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Longsuffering is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Think of your situation in that way. Yes, it is frustrating that you cannot fully express your love for the Lord at home as you wish, but it is through patience and a loving spirit that we must persevere in our faith. God will bless you for your faithfulness. It is also very important that you place your attention on God’s promises and not the outward circumstances at home.

Pray for an opportunity to tell your father that you appreciate everything he has done for you throughout your life, and although you don’t agree on some things, that you love him and respect him and care very much about him. Especially with Father’s Day coming up very soon, try to find a way to express your love and respect for him.

By coming from a place of maturity and kindness you will be showing him Christian love. He might still scoff at you but give him time. Right now he is in shock. He may not be a religious Jew, but he is still a Jew and until he understands that Jesus is his Messiah, he will feel betrayed. This has nothing to do with you. It is his conditioning.

You are the one who is going to have to be strong here. We don’t know how the Lord is going to work out any of this but the last thing you should do is get abrasive and angry with him. Even if he starts to press you and insult you. Say as little as possible and don’t get into a back and forth heated exchange with him. It will only make things worse.

You might not get the loving support you need from your father, but try to understand how he sees things. If he lashes out at you, keep praying for him (even silently) as he delivers his complaints. And remember, you have your Heavenly Father who is there for you at every moment. Pray that He will bring about a happy ending and heal the divisions in your family. Pray for peace in your household.

Barry, from my perspective, I think the Lord has given you a great deal of responsibility, and that means He thinks highly of you and knows you can handle it. Not every 18-year-old is as mature and well-grounded as you are, and in time the Lord will lead you to His best for you. At the moment you are suffering the loss of your father’s approval, but you have gained eternal life and your name is written in the Book of Life.

You have done the right thing. You have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior which is huge. You have come to a place in your life at a very young age where you can serve the Lord and use your time here on earth constructively and wisely. Whenever you feel alone and discouraged due to the disconnect with your family, get deep into the Scriptures. God will give you the grace you need to deal with whatever comes your way:

“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.”

When we are disappointed and hurting from the negative reactions of loved ones, it is best to try to realize that most people are doing the best they can with the awareness that they have at the time. The best remedy is to keep giving it all over to the Lord and let Him work out the details. Our responsibility is to be faithful to our individual callings and come from a place of kindness and goodness. The moment we let resentment get into our lives nothing good can come from it.

Paul had a thorn in his flesh. This is how he dealt with it:

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 9-10).

The Lord directs all things by His infinite wisdom. Always cast all your concerns on Him, and He will comfort and support you:

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

Barry, although you have this dilemma at home, use every moment you can to grow in the Lord. The day may very well come when your parents will look to you for answers. This world is on a major collision course with God. I think it would be helpful if you spent some time learning as much about Bible prophecy as you can, and how your Jewish roots tie in with your faith. Always be ready to give an answer for your faith, which comes about by diligently studying the Scriptures.

If you email me I can send you contact information to some ministries that I think would be helpful to you for moral support—others who have Jewish backgrounds. They also offer some good Bible-based material that will bless you as you study God’s Word. Reach out to others who will support you in your faith and don’t look back. Keep reaching forward:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).

It sounds like your friend who invited you to his church is someone you can continue to fellowship with. Try to count all your blessings and know that God has a special plan for your life. Serving Him—is that special plan, and how He calls you to do that will become evident as time goes on.

The enemy would love to see you miserable and distract you so you are rendered useless to do the Lord’s work. But I know you won’t let that happen. Think about this: You are graduating from high school, and you are already sold-out for the Lord. What a great way to start your college years. Be very careful who you spend time with, and how you spend your time when you are out in the world. Be sure those you are closest to are strong in the Lord. Choose your friends wisely.

It would be a good idea to get involved in some serious well-grounded Bible studies with others you can speak to about the Lord. And when you are at home, use the time you have in your own room to pray, worship, and study the Scriptures with a grateful heart. Pray that your father’s stubbornness will be broken and that your mother will at least be approachable and even participate with you in exploring the Messianic ministry. Pray for their salvation and for God to create a situation where your parents will begin to at least be willing to listen to the truth.

Resolve to be a godly example even when others are living compromised lives. Refuse to be driven and tossed about by all the adverse circumstances of life or by the opposition from evil that we fight against every day. Instead, ask the Lord to make you increasingly more like Christ in your thoughts, words and deeds. Barry, continue to work and study hard this next year. Make Jesus number one in your life and I would not be surprised to hear from you one day with all kinds of exciting news.

May the Lord comfort you and encourage you as you finish your last year of high school and enter into a new and exciting phase of your life. He will carry you when everything seems to be overwhelming. Keep giving all your cares over to the Lord again and again, for He will never leave you. He is your greatest advocate and can open the right doors and close the wrong ones. God is not going to abandon you as you move toward your spiritual destiny.

“For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Be sure to get back to me and let me know how things are going for you. Whatever happens, continue to place your hope in the Lord and His infinite wisdom. Hope produces endurance and perseverance. God is able to do much more than we ask or imagine. Stay close to Jesus and walk boldly into your future knowing that He is with you and wants His best for you.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).



May 26, 2014

Dear Esther,

My name is Bethany and I just want to say that I truly enjoy reading your work. I do have a question, and its if you believe that once you’re saved nothing you can do can make you unsaved? Sometimes when I read some of your answers I find myself wondering if you believe in eternal salvation. I’m not sure if you will even read this much less answer me but I thank you for all that you do and the help you have provided me simply by helping others.

God Bless,

Bethany


Dear Bethany,

Thank you for your letter and your kind words of appreciation. To answer your question, the first thing that comes to mind is this Scripture:

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:9).

The previous Scripture is speaking of those who abandon biblical truth in favor of error. Such folks were never saved to begin with: “they all are not of us.” Many people make a profession of faith, spend year after year going to church, talking about the Lord and involved in church activities, yet are not saved. Worldliness greatly influences those who are not really committed to Christ and His ways. Some eventually leave the faith all together or get involved in very liberal churches where there is no accountability to true biblical standards.

The conduct and lifestyle of some professing Christians are not in keeping with God’s ways:

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God” (Philippians 1:27-28).

Some say Christians should be more tolerant and are accused of being self-righteous when all they are really doing is not compromising their faith. To tolerate behavior that is ungodly would compromise the truth. We must keep in mind that a person who is truly born from above is a changed individual. One’s thoughts will change from sinful ones to holy ones.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In these last days there is an abundance of lukewarm professing Christians who blend right in with the world because their behavior is no better than those who have no profession of faith; sometimes much worse. Do these people have eternal salvation? No, not if they are not saved to begin with. The heart intent of a person must be fully committed to Christ in spirit and in truth. Unless a person is truly born-again, they are not redeemed and covered by the blood of Christ.

We know we are saved by faith through grace and we cannot earn our way into heaven. Nothing we can do will ever pay our way into heaven. Only Christ’s blood sacrifice can account for our sins. But making a profession of faith and showing little or zero desire to walk with Christ and surrender the old self to the new does not a add up to being a born-again believer. It is only lip-service.

This is where the issue of eternal security gets skewed. We cannot be eternally saved if we are not truly born-again by the Spirit of God. We are either saved or we are not. When a person comes to know Christ as his or her Savior, they are brought into a relationship with the Lord which offers eternal salvation.

Jesus stated:

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28-28).

The Scripture is clear, that if a person were to be promised eternal life, but then have it taken away, it was never “eternal” to begin with. If eternal security is not true, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in false.

“That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:15-16).

The mindset of true believers must be complimentary to the Scriptures and we should understand that Christians operating with corrupt standards demoralizing the entire body of Christ and not bearing good fruit for God’s kingdom, cannot be considered truly born-again by the Spirit of God. In order to be a genuine Christian, one must heed Paul’s admonition to the brethren:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

The mind of Christ denies self and is giving; it wants to please Him.

[Jesus said,] “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Our precious Lord and Savior stepped out of eternity to obey God the Father. Jesus suffered an agonizing death so we could be saved. Our minds must be in the process of renewal not in a continuous state of deceptive corruption and moral depravity:

“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:2-24).

A Christian should have a new mind, not the former corrupt, sinful mind dwelling on ungodly traps this world offers:

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

How willing are we to have a compliant mind? The rebellious, defiant, and resistant refuse to conform to God’s will. How willing are we to let go of the things that are clearly out of God’s will for our lives?

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

As believers, Scripture teaches we should work on the disciplined renewing of our minds daily, growing in the Lord, committed to getting a better understanding of God’s true will for our lives. Sometimes we can be so busy doing things we think we are doing for the Lord, but miss His best for us.

An example of this would be not studying and comparing teachings in the light of Scripture, but instead one might function in complacency—on autopilot, never delving deeply into some important issues of doctrine. Or attending church on Sunday, but the rest of the week spending more time on social events and the selfish pursuit of personal projects that far outweigh the time given to the Lord, things that have nothing or very little to do with renewing one’s mind and growing as a believer.

A true believer will never be without sin, but our efforts and intentions must be honorable. We all struggle with sin as the Bible says:

“For the flesh desires against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these things are opposed to one another that you should not do the things that you want to do” (Galatians 5:17).

Yet we will have a strong desire to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and to live a holy life:

“But according as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it has been written, “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

During our long, spiritual journey there will be peaks and valleys and there may be times when we wander away from the Lord for a season. Yet if we are truly born from above we will always come back as the prodigal son did (Luke 15:11-32). If someone is a habitual prodigal son straying away and then coming back over and over, again and again—something is wrong. It is strong evidence that he or she may not be born-again.

The only way anyone can have full assurance of one’s salvation is to see consistent spiritual growth with an attitude of humility and faithful devotion to the Lord. A true child of God will see spiritual growth, and develop strong spiritual habits. He or she will not have a love for the fleshly distractions of the world or function with hidden agendas designed to hurt and undermine others.

Also, keep in mind the statement by James concerning our faith:

“So also faith, if it has not works is dead, being alone. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works’” (James 2:17-18).

Some believers think they have faith greater than the Apostles, but if that faith does not also produce good deeds (fruit) it is useless.

After we are saved, it can take some time to really begin to surrender to the Holy Spirit and consciously start the process of transforming and the renewing of the mind. But the commitment must be serious. Growing in the Lord is a never-ending, ongoing process. Salvation should not be the only goal in knowing God. We are saved by faith and faith alone, but we should want to learn how to live our lives to please the Lord and follow His teachings—as expressed in Colossians 1:10:

“That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

The salvation message is a revelation of the Holy Spirit that makes known the mind of Christ. We can all become vulnerable to falling into personal lifestyle comfort zones, and not regularly reexamining the meaning of the Scriptures. When the Lord commanded us to not be conformed to this world, but to be “transformed by the renewing” of our minds, He was sending us a very important message.

Every person is individually accountable to God. Perhaps we won’t always be popular when we take a strong stand for biblical truth, but at least we will not become part of the “lukewarm” church. Safety in numbers has been proven to be a myth.

Selective acceptance and application of only some of the teachings the Lord left us in His Scriptures is guaranteed to keep us from experiencing a close, personal relationship with Him. Messiah Jesus spoke strongly against continuing to live in a manner that would show little commitment to Him, Revelation 3:15-16:

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

Anyone can make a “profession of faith.” But not everyone who makes a profession of faith follows through with a repentant heartfelt commitment, lifestyle and attitude change. Are they truly saved one might ask?

It is true that some professing “believers” are simply social “pew-sitters” with little or no interest in examining the Scriptures, much less applying the teachings of the Bible to their daily lives. But Christ asks more of us. We are commanded to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).

If we are sincere in our professions of faith believing God and accepting His teachings in the Bible, then loving the Lord and serving Him should be at the top of our itinerary each day; studying our Bibles, spending time in prayer, communicating with fellow believers, and sharing the salvation message with others. Our love for the Lord will spill over into all areas of our lives and life will be a blessing and a joy.

Our minds should be set on heaven:

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians3:2).

Are the “pleasures” of this world keeping us from having an authentic relationship with the Lord? Those who care more about social trends, worldly esteem, vain glory, or whatever fleeting thrills this world might have to offer have “gone out from us,” and we can without hesitation say, “They were not of us.”

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).

A born-again Christian does not love the world or the things of the world. Paul warned that we should not be led astray. A repentant heart operates within the individual guided by the Holy Spirit.

“Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Colossians 2:18).

Those who “are not of us,” become evident in time:

“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16-20).

Eternal salvation applies to those who are truly saved, but not to those who are playing games with God, and living a life of continuous rebellion. That does not mean we will not sin, it means that we do not live a life of deception day after day in deliberate rebellion knowing full-well that our behavior and lifestyle choices are ungodly. That is why we are urged to take personal inventory:

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The Lord calls us ALL to repentance:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Recently this is what I shared with someone via an email response regarding repentance:

Scripture tells us that we must make a full honest commitment to the Lord, not a partial one where we continue to give in to our lusts day after day. Nowhere in Scripture does it say to partially repent.

Jesus wants to enjoy our lives, but not live irresponsibly by carelessly hurting others or getting into trouble and live immorally. Once we are saved we must all be careful not to use God’s grace as an excuse to continue deliberately living in sin.

Christ did not die so we could habitually break basic moral guidelines. Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf is not a permit to party recklessly the same way much of the unsaved world does. He wants us to be set-apart and behave with thoughtfulness and kindness, and not get caught-up with the wicked things that go on in the world. We live in a world filled with deception at every turn. What is wrong is promoted as right. What is right is much too often said to be wrong.

Definition of repentance:

To turn away from: real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life. Repentance is a change in heart and mind which results in a change in outward actions.

Some people associate repentance with emotions, like shedding tears and feeling sorry for wrong actions and thoughts. Repentance is not emotion. It is a decision. Emotions sometimes accompany true repentance. But it is possible for a person to feel great emotion and to shed many tears, but to never truly repent. Likewise it is possible that a person may not shed many tears, but truly makes a lasting deep decision in the heart to turn from their ways and toward God.

Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God. Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.

The apostle Paul struggled very much with sin, yet this is what he had to say:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

The blood of Jesus covers our sins, and yes we will all sin to some degree until the day we die but that does not mean we can recklessly live like the heathen and think there will not be eternal consequences. If you are making a REAL and sincere effort to let go of the flesh and live in a godly manner, and slip-up on occasion then that is one thing. But if you are using grace as an excuse to continue participating in chronic sins, then I would ask you to re-evaluate your commitment to the Lord.

So there you are, that is what I shared with a young man who was struggling with sin.

The strongest argument for eternal salvation for those who are truly saved is found in Romans 8:38-39:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Bethany, I hope the many points I have made here have helped answer your question. A true born-again believer has eternal salvation, but a phony Christian is facing a very, very tough eternal destiny.

God bless you,

Esther

“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21).


May 19, 2014

Dear Esther,

I became a born-again Christian nearly twenty years ago. I have always strived to keep my relationship strong with God. I have even been in situations where (I know for certain that God saved me from trouble). And I once experienced a few minutes of pure love where I felt as if God wrapped a blanket around me and held me tightly. I do not know why it happened, I wasn’t praying, or struggling at that moment...it just happened and it was the best three minutes of my life and that took place a few years ago.

Now, I am having a serious crisis of faith...nothing like anything I have ever experienced. The road ahead of me seems to be coming to a dark dead-end, and I don’t know what to do.

My crisis of faith was not started by hard times in life or pain of a loved one. It started when I began to analyze religions in general.

I began to notice contradictions in Christianity, specifically around Jesus and his disciples, and I began to find contradictions in the Bible itself.

I kept finding more and more, and it just fell apart. I have no doubt that God exists, I am just beginning to believe that Man has never been approached by God in any way shape or form. Since the time of Abraham, religion seems to fall on the current culture of the day...ever evolving and ever changing...a trait of Man not God—who is and always has been perfect and steadfast.

The Bible teaches us that Man has free will, granted from God. It teaches us that only God is infallible...men are easily corrupted. Even religious leaders in the Bible have been shown to become corrupt. But some religions claim, for example, Catholicism, that their holy leaders our infallible, which I know is false because Man is imperfect. Saying that a man is infallible is like putting him on the same level is God, which is wrong.

Men can choose to rely God’s message or destroy it. Then I began to look at Christianity in general; the virgin Mary, who is praised as a virgin, I discovered she was only 12 years old at the time...not that impressive.

Putting my thoughts on Joseph and Mary aside, I also researched Jesus and His disciples, as well as John the Baptist, who was thought to be a member of a new religious faction believing that an individual sins can be cleansed by water, hence the name. John the Baptist was a radical in his day, who taught Jesus and a few of His disciples this new idea.

Common sense would dictate that Jesus simply added on to these new ideas and started a new movement all together, which infuriated local Jewish leadership. This would have led to his crucifixion; not doubting the fact that Jesus was extremely charismatic and a good person, His disciples would have wanted to continue his message. Now, knowing that the Jews would not listen due to Jesus simply being a man, they turned him into the Son of God, so the Jews would convert. After all, people who think they are doing someone else some good, by simply adding a little fib here and there happens every day.

Political, religious leaders, even parents have done this for years. So, now everything is falling apart for me...I feel like I have been born into a cesspool of liars and manipulators. I feel like there is no real good here in men...only some good intentions. I feel so alone!

I have prayed and prayed and prayed...My faith in God never fading, but my faith in the word of men is gone (religions and the Bible). I feel like people are genuinely aware of God, but they don’t understand why he doesn’t speak to us, so they make it all up to make themselves feel not so alone. Is there anything I should research or consider? Any words or advice that may renew my faith? Or is it possible I have simply found the real truth?

I will truly appreciate any help you can give me. I am really desperate for help, as I'm sure you guessed by this email.

Jeff


Dear Jeff,

Skeptics have had 2,000 years to come up with numerous arguments to refute the claims of Jesus and His disciples. Plenty of naysayers work tirelessly to try to condemn the Bible and deny the truth of Christ. The apostle Paul warned against being deceived by listening to the “wisdom” of men:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:1-7).

The Bible teaches we are all individually accountable to God to either reject or accept a true born-again personal relationship with Christ and God’s Holy Word. Religion and other man-made doctrines are Satan’s greatest methods to confuse and distort the gospel truth. Jeff, please be careful what you read and what you listen to, and who you spend time with.

Religion is the perfect platform for men to pervert the gospel and add their own warped spin to the Scriptures. A good book to read which may help you understand the alleged contradictions in the Bible is titled: Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible by John W. Haley.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan is the mastermind behind inflicting doubt about the Word of God. Don’t let him outsmart you. When it comes to Jesus and the Bible, the best way to determine if Jesus is the Son of God and that the Bible is the Word of God, is to consider key concepts.

If you do not believe the Bible is an accurate historical record there is not much I can say that will help you. If you believe the apostles and others wrote these things on their own to start a religion, nothing in the Bible will help you. Yet if you believe the Bible is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then these statements of truth should strengthen your faith:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

God said Jesus is His Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

Jesus said He is the Son of God (Matthew 26:63-66; 27:43; Luke 22:67-70; John 10:36; 11:4).

Jesus called God His Father (Matthew 7:21; 10:32-33; 11:27; 12:50; 15:13; 16:17; 18:10, 19; Luke 2:49; 10:22; 24:49; John 2:16; 5:17, 43; 6:32, 40; 8:19, 38, 49, 54; 10:18, 25, 29, 37; 14:2, 7, 20-23; 15:1, 8, 10, 15, 23-24; 20:17).

Jesus said He and the Father are one (John 10:30). Jesus said He is the same as God (John 14:9). Jesus said God is in Him and He is in God (John 14:10). Jesus said He is eternal (John 8:58).

The works of Jesus proved He is the Son of God (John 5:36).

The Holy Spirit testified that Jesus is the Son of God (John 15:29).

The Old Testament testified that Jesus is the Son of God (John 5:39).

The angel Gabriel testified that Jesus is the Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35).

John the Baptist said Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36) and the Son of God (John 1:34).

The disciples of Jesus declared that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; John 1:1-2; 1.49; 20:31; Acts 9.20; Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Galatians 2:20; 4:4, 6; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 1:8; 4:14; 1 John 3:8; 4:9, 15; 5:5, 9-13, 20; 2 John 3, 9; Revelation 2:18).

John said Jesus is the true God (1 John 5:20).

The Roman centurion said Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39).

The Jewish religious leaders said they heard Jesus call Himself the Son of God (John 19:7).

Even demons testified that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; 3:11; 5:7; Luke 4:41; 8:28).

Listening to skeptics will only weaken your faith. If you do not know of a good pastor to study under, study the Bible on your own. (That is something all Christians should do even if they are blessed to have good biblical leadership.) It is Scripture that sanctifies (makes holy) believers:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25b-27).

Consider these fulfilled prophecies and points; extracted from: A Better World Is Coming Soon - Don’t Miss it:

Matthew 1:18-25

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ [Yeshua Ha Mashiach] was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus [Yeshua] for it is He who will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Isaiah] might be fulfilled, saying,

“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated, means: “GOD WITH US.”

And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus [Yeshua].”

Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38 show that Yeshua was brought up by Jewish parents who were both from the lineage of King David and from the tribe of Judah making Him a legitimate successor to the throne of King David.

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

Yeshua’s birthplace was in Bethlehem, the town King David was from. In the Tanakh, the prophet Micah, prophesied that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem and be the future ruler. Here is the supporting Scripture:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).

Yeshua was born during the time frame when the prophet Daniel said the Messiah must be present and be killed (cut off). He described a time when the Anointed One—the Messiah, would be killed as a ransom for many. His atoning death was a prerequisite to bring future lasting peace to the world. We are still waiting for that peace to come. It is a future event when Yeshua returns. Messiah rose from the dead and is destined to return, to take the throne of David to rule and reign.

“And He [Yeshua] began to teach them that the Son of Man [Yeshua] must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and must be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

Isaiah the prophet recorded that Messiah would suffer and die to atone for the sins of His people, the nation of Israel—spoken of in Isaiah 53. This had to happen before the Messiah could return and bring true peace to the world. If Messiah was destined to die, and if “peace” is still a future prophecy yet to be fulfilled, then the Messiah of Israel had to come back from the dead, just as we are told in Scripture: “after three days rise again.” His eternal fate is to take the throne of David, to rule and reign over this earth, bringing in true, everlasting peace, fulfilling prophecy.

Yeshua was absolutely without sin and fulfilled the law without blemish. He kept the Torah and was totally Jewish. Not even the most prestigious rabbis could say He was with sin. They had to fabricate indictments against Him to pave the way for the Romans to execute Him. There is an undeniable connection between the promises of David and Abraham, the land of Israel, and the role of Yeshua in the promised future redemption of the world. The prophets of the Bible are consistent in their support for this view.

HUNDREDS of prophecies from the Old Testament have been literally fulfilled by Jesus. There is no denying that Messiah Jesus is the only One who could fulfill all these prophecies. No other “prophet” or “spiritual” teacher can make a claim like this and back it up historically. [1]

To help you regain your faith, Jeff, please set-up a prayer, Bible reading, Bible study and memorization program. Give this as much effort as you would anything else that you love to do. Pray in the morning and before you fall asleep and several times throughout the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

The key to growing in faith is to spend as much time in the Word and in prayer as you can. If you have dedicated brothers spend time with them in fellowship. The old saying, “What goes in is what goes out” is true in the spiritual realm. If you feed your soul with skepticism and philosophies of the world -- you will abandon your faith. If you feed your soul on the Holy Word of God, you will grow in faith:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

Jeff, please take some time away from your usual routines and get alone with the Lord and your Bible. Carefully review and reflect upon everything in this letter. I urge you to open your heart again to the Word of God. Don’t let this demonic trap of doubt ruin your life; your eternal destiny is at stake. Remember your past confidence and faith in Him and His Word.

Your faith will strengthen when you meditate upon the Scriptures which I have shared, and when you get engrossed in the rest of your Bible. Sometimes we take a detour on our way to God’s best for us. I pray that is what you have done and that you will come back stronger than ever.

Your Heavenly Father is waiting with open arms. He understands what a perilous world we live in. He knows the enemy works relentlessly to confuse even the strongest believer. You have the Holy Spirit in you. Rely upon Him to guide you out of the treacherous territory you are navigating.

Our great hope is God’s promises of an eternal future so great no earthly words can describe it. Stand with Jesus and He will carry you through this time of confusion to the clarity of His enduring eternal love.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Please keep in touch with me, let me know how you are doing and please get back to reading your Bible, and stay away from the philosophies of men.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

In God’s love,

Esther

“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done” (Matthew 21:21).

Endnotes
A Better World Is Coming Soon - Don’t Miss It, Olsen, Kit, pp.263-264, 266, World Bible Society, 2013.


May 12, 2014

Dear Esther,

My name is Eugene and I am from South Africa. I have a problem of lust and I sometimes fight it by praying, and I always ask the Lord Jesus to forgive me. I know God forgives me but then I keep on doing the same sin over and over. I am a Christian and I really want to stop with this sin of lust. Please give me good sound advice as I do not want to sin and be disobedient anymore. I want to serve the Lord Jesus with all my heart soul and strength. And is my salvation still secure?

I got saved while I was in prison in the year 2002 by the Word of God which states, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I, by faith accepted the Lord Jesus in my heart and I also was baptized while still in prison in 2006 as stated according to Matthew 28:19.

I do attend church every Sunday and also go to prayer meetings on Thursday nights. I do read my Bible every morning and night and sometimes during the day as well. I also do the same with praying morning, night and sometimes during the day. It has become my daily routine. I actually do not have friends at the moment, and the people I usually visit are the ones I attend prayer meetings with and they are born-again Christians as well.

We do have Bible study on Thursday nights as well before we start praying. My mother and one of my brothers also gave their lives to Jesus and I praise the Lord for saving them from eternal death, hallelujah! I am still praying for my little brother’s salvation and will again talk to him.

 As we know that the Rapture is near and our Lord Jesus Christ is coming very ,very soon. Do you think I am Rapture Ready or is there still work to be done on me to be ready as I am repenting daily of my sins?

I thank you for the time you put in to encourage me and giving me good and sound understanding concerning my questions in my letter to you.

With much love here in South Africa.

Your brother in Christ,

Eugene


Dear Eugene,

We all struggle with sin. We will until the day we die or the day we are taken home in the Rapture. Some of us struggle more than others. From what I have read, you certainly have had some serious issues. One will hear stories about people getting saved in prison, when everything they had in life (big or small) has been removed. When we are faced only with with our own short comings and genuinely take responsibility for them, then we have a chance at truly living a Christian life. Not by making outward motions (church, prayer meetings, etc.) but a real committed personal relationship with the Lord.

I am not in the least saying that going to church, prayer meetings or any type of Christian gathering is not important. But what I am saying is how we approach such things is what helps us and others to benefit from these interactions. It is good to meet with other believers as often as you can. But what goes on behind closed doors, those things that only you and the Lord know about, that is what really separates the authentically committed from the quasi committed.

Nothing is impossible with the Lord. However, only you can decide to make the changes that need to be made. In God’s strength you can overcome anything (Philippians 4:13).You have tried in your own strength. Now you must give it all over to the Lord. Yes, I do believe you are very sincere in your faith and that you want to move beyond the sin of lust that is overpowering your life. Dear man, please understand: We cannot have one foot in the world and the other walking with Christ and expect to live in peace.

What happens when we only have one foot to walk? We stumble and fall. We sprain an ankle, or break a leg. You can avoid any more self-induced painful consequences by making God-pleasing choices. You must die to the flesh and live by the Spirit. Please heed these Scriptures:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8).

Notice the last words of the Scripture you just read: “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” So, to answer your question: “Do you think I am Rapture ready or is there still work to be done on me to be ready as I am repenting daily of my sins?”

I think you can answer that question yourself. When we habitually sin, then we must step back and assess what we are doing. You already know living in the flesh is unpleasing to the Lord; Christ came to save us from lust and evil desires. You need not fall into the devil’s snare over and over, again and again:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

It is the grace of God that keeps us from conforming to evil desires and living a holy life:

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’”

This is a very important verse. As obedient children of the Most High we are NOT to be conformed to the former lusts. Repeating the same lustful sin over again, day after day and then also daily repenting is, as the old saying goes, “Wanting to have our cake and eat it too.” God is not mocked.

We are to be NEW creatures in Christ and not ruled by our sinful nature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:22).

Millions of people attend church, Bible studies and prayer meetings but don’t have a true born-again relationship with the living God. They might think they do because they made a profession of faith once, and go through many outward motions of “Christianity.” But when it comes to showing signs of living and behaving like true Christians (pleasing unto the Lord) the same old sin nature is operating in them. And it is not a pretty sight.

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

When our heart intent is to please the Lord and not give into worldly ways, then we have a chance to grow into a deep, authentic relationship with the Lord. We should not think about how to gratify the sinful nature, but rather how we can please Him:

“Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

The Lord admonishes us to say no to ungodly passions:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

You mention that you have no friends, but that part of your family is saved. Spend as much time with them as possible. Perhaps you can seek out some friends at your Bible study or prayer group. But more important, realize that it is imperative to make the Lord number one in your life. The closer you get the Lord, the less you will want to give into lustful temptations.

And choose your friends very carefully. Stay away from people who would be a bad influence on you, including those who are Christians in name only. Never assume someone is a true believer just because they say so:

“Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20).

Lust covers a large variety of sins. Take personal inventory and see where you need to clean house. Nothing in this world is worth grieving the Holy Spirit. We must be overcome with intense gratitude and thankfulness for what Christ did for us on the cross. The least we can do is walk away from anything that will bring shame to His holy name.

If you find yourself falling into lustful sin, stop, and ask yourself if Jesus appeared next to you how would you feel? Could you face Him and not be ashamed? Just because you can’t see Him, does not mean He is not hurting just as much as if He were sitting right next to you (when you partake in whatever it is that separates you from Him). We need to feed our desires with the Word of God and His righteousness, not worldly passions.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

We don’t know when the Rapture will happen, but the one thing you can be absolutely sure of—death could happen at any time. Anyone of us could take our last breath without a moment’s notice. Reach out now to the Lord, Eugene and fully repent. Take a final step away from godless self-destruction and become the man of God that He created you to be. Set an example for your family members and community members. Get involved in an outreach ministry where you serve others and take the focus away from yourself.

Please stop wasting your time on the foolish things of this world and move forward to a place where you will reach others for Christ (while there is still time). I know you can do it. Please stop playing games with yourself and with God. If your intention is to truly serve the Lord, then place all your focus on Him and stay away from godless situations.

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 2:24).

I wish you the very best as you make a life-changing decision not to compromise your walk with Christ anymore. Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you NEW life in Christ is progressing.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).




May 5, 2014

Dear Esther,

I’ve met so many people who unknowingly need God’s help, but then there are also those who are in certain Christian sects (I’ll call them cults).

My friend is a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA), and I once talked to her about how their founding father, a Mr. Miller was a false prophet (and I said this with very few, mixed up details and sources). I’m glad that she told me what I was wrong about (I suppose she thought that that would show me that my sources were wrong, but it was I, who tried to recall it all from memory.)

For a while, in the beginning, after I was saved I tried to “force” people to accept Christ in witnessing sessions, with a sort of “accept Him right now” attitude by overwhelming them with information. I had good intentions, but I’m not God, who really converts people

By the way, that’s the deal with two other friends I had who supposedly accepted Christ, but it wasn’t real belief. But anyway, I have now studied a lot from the SDA’s website, ex-SDAs, as well as from people who were exposing them and am sure that she is trapped in a cult. They have strange beliefs on refraining from meat, how hell supposedly does not exist, the Saturday Sabbath, etc.

But she is such a nice person! She is one of the nicest students I’ve ever met. The other really nice person I ever met is a Mormon. I see that it’s part of their good works dogma, even though they say they have faith. But, I had talked to her a lot about the Bible, since I thought, “Oh, she reads the Bible, so I’m sure we could connect.”

I’d say she is my closest high school friend, or any other friend (not counting the Lord Jesus of course!). I was starting to think that being this “close” to a cult member was probably dangerous, when, just today, she gave me a devotional from her church. I skimmed over it and could’ve seen some validity if they didn’t stem their doctrines from the real false prophet that they have, Ellen White.

I’m starting to feel that if I witness to her, I’ll be betraying her! She even told me today to give an appropriate Scripture when she is having an issue (worrying, etc). I was constructing a tract, but now I am feeling so wrong for having gotten so close that she would talk to me about stuff, and then trying to tell her about this. Even her devotional asks the reader how to defend their faith when questioned (I guess that I could sort of work backwards and make an answer to counter their counter...)

Esther, what should I do? She is such nice person. Is it wrong to attack such a person's beliefs? But I guess a lot of people think that the pope is a great person...

Thank you,

Julian

Dear Julian,

After you wrote your initial recent email you soon followed-up with a second one, and I am so proud of you for coming to the conclusion that you did—as described below. Other teenagers (and adults) should follow your example. We’ll share your next communication with our readers:

Dear Esther,

Please disregard the previous letter about my friend in the cult! I had been too hasty going immediately straight to you, instead of talking to God about it. By reading Proverbs 29:20, I see that I had been hasty; now I want to send you an ADDITIONAL email to that other one, when the majority of that could be solved by me going to the Lord instead of having to make you read this after you had probably read and thought on the first letter.

The Lord has no respect of persons concerning these things...why should I? Besides, I was afraid of what she might say, but we aren’t given a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and a sound mind..I hadn’t been thinking when I spoke quickly..But you know all these things already. I need to get back on track with God, since I SHOULD HAVE gone to Him before going to you. I apologize.

If I could answer my own inquiry, I’d say that, as her friend, I need to walk in love in that inevitable encounter, as 1 Corinthians 13 tells us. I become her enemy because I tell her the truth, so be it...I need to care more about her eternal salvation than her opinion of me or what she says. But of course, any advice that you would have for me is greatly welcomed!

Thanks again,

Julian


Dear Julian,

I am so delighted that you are deeply concerned about others, and have taken the time to search the Scriptures as the Lord commands us to, regarding your concerns about witnessing to your friend (s). When dealing with cults and religions it is always a huge challenge. We cannot be careful enough to be as well-equipped as possible before attempting to witness to such folks.

An important aspect to keep in mind when witnessing to anyone, is to come from a place of kindness and love as you mention. It is not up to us to browbeat anyone into submission (like many cultists try to do). When we pray and clearly preach the gospel, the Holy Spirit convicts and draws lost sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. Our job is to deliver the message.

Your obedience is admirable and should be emulated by others. Many Christians who love the Lord have a tough time actually sharing the Good News. They are afraid of any backlash and falling out of favor with friends and family. Walking with the Lord can at times seem like an isolated experience because so many people we know do not want to accept the truth.

I recall from some of your earlier correspondence that you have been saved a relatively short time, yet you are very strong in your faith and commitment doing just as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

You were wise to research what the Seventh Day Adventists believe. It is true that some of the folks in various religious groups and cults can be very nice. In fact much nicer that some professing Christians (which is very hard to take sometimes), causing one to wonder just who is authentic in his or her faith and who is not.

There are some very scary Scriptures that we must not ignore; the narrow and wide gate verses:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

And then Jesus continued to warn:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 15-18).

This warning has a deep meaning. How do we determine what is good fruit? The answer is blaringly obvious when a professing believer is a troublemaker and lives a hypocritical life. But what of those who are unsaved, yet are so nice, as some of the people you have encountered such as the Mormon friend you mention and the Seventh Day Adventist.

Their fruit seems to be very fragrant and pleasant at first glance. But their doctrine is frighteningly off. Therefore, their fruit is rotten to the core and we should always proceed with caution until we know what we interpret to be “good fruit” is grounded in biblical truth.

When we meet people who are involved in religious works-based organizations and cults, we must remember that they have been sold a bill of goods so convincing that they swallowed the poisonous bait dangled before them. Some people would go as far as calling this brainwashing, and to some degree it is.

Julian, consider it a huge blessing that so early in your walk with the Lord and at the age of 17, you have rubbed shoulders with those who are entrenched in cults. Although we are not to make unbelievers our close friends, we can be cordial and deliver the truth in a way which lets them know where we stand.

Most of these people have never read and studied the Bible before they were pulled into their particular cult. When we share the gospel truth we might think it has been totally rejected, but we have sown seeds that can grow and blossom in time. Once we start praying for the lost that the Holy Spirit will intervene in their lives; we must trust that our efforts are not wasted.

Everything the religiously obsessed and cultists believe has been spoon fed to them by well-trained religious or cult leaders. And notice that whenever they actually go out to try to convert people they often go in pairs—so they can be strong together when trying indoctrinate and convert others. I call this a: Demonic Set-Up.

And we have some more frightening Scriptures, the “I never knew you” passages:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Who is the Lord talking about here? Not only cultists outside of the church but also those who consider themselves part of the Christian church—those who have infiltrated the church for their own selfish gain with hidden agendas, and have distorted the Scriptures. We are surrounded by imposters.

Jesus warned that in the last days this type of condition will prevail and worsen. Many wolves in sheep’s clothing exist within the church. That is why it is imperative that every believer should obey the Lord’s admonition to search the Scriptures daily:

“Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

I have said this many times; the devil’s greatest recruiting method is through false religions that take the Scriptures, convolute and twist them. This can be readily found when investigating the many false religions and cults. God’s Holy Word is watered down and changed. Today more than ever we must study the Word of God so we can identify false teaching:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Our Christian faith is based on faith. The cults and religious organizations reject that (although they might say they have faith). They are generally works-based as you have already mentioned in your letter. Without faith we cannot be true Christians, and I don’t mean faith in some convoluted gospel, but in the inherent Word of God—the Bible.

 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

“And everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b).

Cultists do not operate in faith, they create new doctrines which are always works-based. They tag on their own ideas changing the true meaning of Scripture, spreading unbiblical teachings that place the participants in grave spiritual danger. Instead of following God they follow the musings of men (and doctrines of demons).

Never assume just because someone mingles and fellowships with genuine Christians that he or she is not following a perverted gospel. Sometimes it takes time to identify those who twist the Scriptures. It is always good to give the benefit of the doubt to people, but we should always be on guard because we know that the devil uses people to try to undermine us. And entrap us into false teachings to take us away from the Lord.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8.)

One of the tragedies with some very nice people who are in cults, is that they simply do not know better. I met a very nice man and his family many months ago who own a nice restaurant. The restaurant owner (the dad) and I started to chat a bit. Somehow I managed to bring up some current events and said it was all in keeping with Bible prophecy.

I then came right out and asked him what his religious beliefs are. He told me that he is a Christian. I tried to believe him, but something did not seem quite right. I can tell you this man is about as decent and kind as you would ever hope for; a real gentleman. I began to pray for him and his family from that day on.

The next time I went to the restaurant I saw some tracts on the front counter promoting the Mormon religion. My heart sank. This wonderful man and his family are very deceived. I prayed for guidance for quite some time on how to approach the dad with the gospel. I prayed that the Lord would give me an opening to share the truth.

On one occasion I asked him directly on how his Mormon religion differs from my Christian faith. He very nicely and sincerely answered that he didn’t think there is any difference, that they are the same. I knew then that this man was in deep trouble. He thinks he is a Christian.

It was a busy time at the restaurant that day so I did not say anything more. But I kept praying. The next time I went there to have a meal, God gave a me a good opening. It wasn’t busy and we began to chat. I realized that he liked to talk about current events, and how the politics of our day are affecting our lives. He also happens to be a banker (high end loans) and is very disturbed by the increasing government regulations that he has to deal with.

I pointed out some relevant Scriptures to him which I knew by heart and then asked him if the Mormon church ever talks about the Rapture. He shook his head and gave me a puzzled look. And from that point on I felt the opportunity to go right into the gospel message and distinguish his and other religions from true Christianity. I shared some of my personal testimony with him and he was amazed by all this “new” information.

I told him that I have been praying for him and his family and that God had put them on my heart in a big way. I explained the Tribulation to him and told him there is a way out and that he and his family did not have to stay and suffer. I mentioned to him that I know that Mormons have all kinds of emergency goods put away but those things would not save him and his family. I could tell he was really listening and some of it was sinking in. I stood right at the counter in front of those demonic Mormon tracts and did not waiver in telling the gospel truth, etc.

I believe he was somewhat bowled over because he was hearing things he had never heard before and the Holy Spirit was really guiding me in a way that I was not going to back down. I had been praying every day for months for guidance on this matter and praying for the family’s salvation. Without a doubt he knew I was coming from a loving place of real concern for him and his family.

The restaurant started to get busy again so I gave him copy of a good Christian prophecy/ witnessing book and told him that we would talk some more in the future. I pointed out that my email address is in the book so he could contact me.

I think for the first time ever, this man may have gone home that night questioning his “religion.” I continue to pray that he will realize the gospel truth of the true Jesus Christ and that his religion is a blasphemous abomination. I could sense the Holy Spirit working on him as I was given the courage by the Lord to express the things he needed to hear. The timing was right.

A month or two earlier, I had not gotten a nudge from the Holy Spirit to share so much information. but when I finally did sense it was time, I strongly connected with this man. It was as if the Holy Spirit took over and I was merely an appendage delivering the message.

So the point of my story is this: We must always be prepared to share the gospel and pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit before reaching out to others. God knows the best timing and it is up to us to listen carefully and be in tune with Him.

And we must to let go and let God work in such situations and not try to force the results. Once we deliver the gospel message our intercessory prayers can do far more than trying to push for a positive result by being overbearing.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Another matter to be aware of is that some cult members are very devious. They might speak nicely to you at first. But when you don’t buy what they are trying to sell, they can get very angry and vindictive. Their egocentric fleshly lost-condition rules their abrasive behavior.

The best thing to do in this type of situation is not to get caught-up in a back and forth debate. When you see that the antagonist is not listening but only wanting to irritate you and push his or her perverted doctrine on you—detach yourself from the situation.

Many spiritually unhealthy people have an ax to grind and are looking for ways to attack others. Many of these cultists think that only they have the “truth” and others (who really are true Christians) are going to hell because they reject their demonically-inspired doctrines. The best way to handle people like this is to cordially walk away.

Some of these hardcore cultists are looking for those whom they think they can confuse and belittle. The devil is behind all of it. These cultists think everyone but their own sect is going to hell. Let such deviants think what they will if they refuse to listen. They are more attached to their own perverted gospel than accepting sound biblical truth. Be careful because they will always try to convince you what they are pushing is “Scriptural” and falsely teach that the Bible is not the final Word on matters.

When these lost souls face the Lord one day, tragically, the surprise will be on them. They are choosing the doctrines of demons over the inherent Word of God. They even mock the Word of God by instead relying on unbiblical “experiences” that they try to pass off as biblical truth. We must pray for these people but not allow them to bully us.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Rapture Ready has some good articles on cults and false religions. If you type the word “cults” into the search box on the homepage you will find pages of information to study. You can also type in “false religions” for more material to read.

Julian, your enthusiasm and commitment to serve the Lord is very heartening. You have a great future ahead of you. One last thing I want to leave you with is this: It is great to research for information on the Internet but always do it in conjunction with your Bible. Be sure to check the information you are gathering against Scripture. Never take any teaching or person at face-value. Keep up the good work and be sure to keep in touch with me.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).


March 28, 2014

Hi Esther,

I was saved when I was about 9-years-old but not raised in church, and therefore did not grow as a Christian. I was raised in an alcoholic environment and watching my mom being beaten about half the time and I was molested by my step dad and other attempts by drunken family members.

I now live with a man I have been married to for thirty years who is sick with a genetic mental/muscle disease who appears to be unsaved (although he says he is) and curses and watches vampire stuff and other shows continuously and will not listen when I try to tell him about Jesus and signs of the times. In 1993, I came to God on my knees asking Him to forgive me and to come into my heart and save me. I believe He did. Thus I am deeply ashamed to send this email, but I am at my wits' end.

Since that time there have been many ups and downs in my walk. I have three primary sins that I struggle with, one on a daily basis that I have begged God to help me overcome. I have demanded Satan to leave me be in the name of Jesus, and I have tried on my own, yet it always comes back. That particular sin is cursing. Although I am not blaming anyone, I have been around cursing all my life.

Where I work, every day, strong cursing abounds most of the time and at home my husband curses strongly as do most of my family. I believe that what goes in will come out and I do believe that hearing it every day like I do puts me at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, only I am responsible for my issues – no one makes me curse but it is so ingrained in me that I say things before I even realize it.

I hate this sin and I hate even worse asking God to forgive me every single day! Why is this happening and why can’t I overcome it? How can I be a positive influence in my family’s life when they cannot see Christ in me because of my mouth?

My second sin is lying. Again, been around it and done it my whole life. I realized the other day that sometimes I even lie without realizing it and for no real reason. I hate myself afterwards, I beg God to help me, but again, I still lie especially when I made a bad decision and am trying to justify my actions—sort of self-preservation I guess.

Finally, my third sin which I am gaining control over, is management of my finances and being deceitful and even stealing at times to help make up for my poor judgment in spending.

After reading this you undoubtedly think I am unsaved. I wonder at times myself. Why do I believe I am saved outside of the fact that I asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me? Well, when I was a small girl, I was outside playing and I looked up and saw Jesus’ face in the sky – like the image we see in pictures. It was only there for a moment but I will never forget that special vision.

Years later, I became friends with a woman who was into the Indian “higher power” stuff like keeping a crystal in your pocket for energy, etc… I was really getting into this. One night, on our way home, I was thinking about what she and I had talked about and suddenly, something came over me, a chilling, goose bump like whisper, (I believe the Holy Spirit) and then just as suddenly I knew that what this woman had been teaching me was wrong and the only way to heaven was through the blood of Jesus Christ like I had always known, but apparently walked away from.

There have been other instances when I felt God’s presence in my life in so many ways…so many things He has helped me with, protected me, and blessed me. I have no doubt in my mind these things are all from God. I have witnessed some amazing things, miracles really, that I know were from God. I fully believe the Bible is the inherent Word of God and I am so excited about the coming Rapture of the church and so ready to receive an all-encompassing peace-filled hug from my Savior, and to leave this wicked and sinful world behind and be with Jesus forevermore.

Two things I know would help me. One is to read the Bible more. I am an avid reader and have been trying to read only Christian based novels but I need to read the Word more. I do read a little every day on my lunch but I don’t think it is enough. Secondly, I believe I need to get back into church. I have not lived in this area but four years and I have tried about ten different churches. However, none are anything like my church back home and so I am disappointed each time I go. But I am going to have to settle for one regardless and be influenced by God’s people.

Even knowing all that God has done for me, I still doubt my salvation at times because of my sins. I know works will not get me to heaven but I want to please my Savior…I want Him to say to me “Well done good and faithful servant.” The most dreaded words that I can imagine, mind shattering, terrifying words that I pray I never ever hear are “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”

I very much want to bear more fruit…I want to do whatever God asks of me. (I do produce fruit, but not nearly enough in my opinion.) A true Christian would not sin like this. A true Christian will sin, of that I have no doubt, but continuously? I cannot imagine. The absolute most important thing to me is to be saved and assured of my place with Jesus someday soon. Why can I not stop cursing, especially? Can you advise me?

Worried


Dear Worried,

What a struggle! I am so sorry for your situation. But you are willing to take responsibility for your part and that is very important. If you were not concerned about your shortcomings and going through life not questioning how all of this affects your relationship with God, then I would say you have little hope.

Scripture is very strong regarding our associations with others. It sounds like you are around ungodly people constantly who don’t think twice about using offensive crass words or filling their minds with worldly decadence. And you know that Satan is the entity behind all of it (the prince and power of the air).

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Please be sure you do not get into conversations with the devil. Not even Jesus did that. He quoted Scripture to deal with him. You are in the midst of a spiritual battle and it is not for you to do battle for yourself. Our God is one of deliverance who can set anyone free (1 John 3:8). Submit totally to God and join Christ in His victory:

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

I can see you are trying to find a way to get into a daily routine to make God first in your life. It is very sad to hear that you cannot find a good church in your area. This is a common problem for many believers. But with God, there is always a way to solve our problems, so don’t give-up trying to meet other believers who are also looking for a good church, and real Christian fellowship. It only takes one or two dedicated Christians to start a support group to study the Bible and worship the Lord together.

Out of the many churches you have attended in your town perhaps there is one that you could get involved in. Ask where you could be of service. In time you might be able to start a ministry within that church to help out and spend time with other congregants. When we can’t find what we want or need, God might be nudging us to find a way to help others. It is in giving of ourselves with a sincere heart-motive that we can best serve the Lord and find our own healing.

It all begins with one step in the right direction. You could be the very one to bring glory to God by helping to create some in-church-ministries that are lacking. Little by little as time passes you might find yourself connected with other genuine believers and work together to reach others—all to God’s glory.

Or you can attend one of the churches and see if you can connect with one or two people whom you could start a small ministry with from your homes. It does not sound like your home is a place to bring people to for fellowship considering what you have shared. But ask God to guide you and see if anything opens up to meet elsewhere. The important thing is to pray and ask the Lord to guide you.

You mention not being raised in a church and you feel that caused you not to grow in the Lord. Many people go to churches every week and don’t grow in the Lord. A relationship with Christ is not about going to church, it is about a real, one-on-one personal relationship with Him; a personal commitment to the Lord Himself. It is up to each one of us individually to study our Bibles and pray daily. It is about self-responsibility. But getting involved with other genuine believers is very important. Especially for you, considering your surroundings.

When you asked the Lord for forgiveness and to save you in 1993 it sounds like you were sincere. We can be sincere but unless we make a conscious effort, a decision to grow in the Lord, nothing changes (for the better). Remember it is by getting deeply into God’s Word and developing a consistent prayer life that strengthens us. And prayers that are not only confessional prayers, but prayers that are in the spirit of worship unto the Lord.

In your case you have a huge number of obstacles that interfere with your walk with the Lord. At the moment it all seems too much but even with all the difficulties your life can get better. I strongly suggest you find another job to at least get you out of the all-day-environment of cursing.

The strongest Christian would find it very tough NOT to be affected as you are. Unless you find a way to remove yourself from your current job and find work where the atmosphere is at least somewhat respectful and civil, you will continue to suffer. I know that the job market can be rough right now but with God all things are possible. He can and will open the right doors. Pray to that end.

You have had a long marriage and if your husband is foolish enough to watch movies that focus on spiritual darkness, then you have a challenge ahead of you to get them out of your lives. It is imperative that you get anything to do with the occult out of your home. You say your husband has a muscular/mental illness, which leads me to believe that he cannot make sound decisions for himself.

Have you considered speaking to his doctors about how he is filling his mind with such negativity and darkness? See if you can get those who treat his condition to explain to him that filling his mind with such gore is detrimental to his overall health. It would be good if you could get someone who deals with your husband to back you up.

Replace his movies with Christian ones if at all possible, but do it in a loving manner and not an angry one. Remember, he is very lost. If it turns into a battle with him, then you must find a way to distance yourself as much as possible from his “stuff.” Keep praying that the Lord will deliver your husband from his crude behavior and his unsaved condition.

Anything to do with the occult puts people under bondage and oppression of the devil and evil spirits. The occult opens a door for evil to enter a person’s spirit and it gives the devil a foothold and a stronghold (Ephesians 4:27).

Your sincerity to please the Lord comes through in your letter. You are in a very tough situation trying to jump over obstacles designed to hurt your entire being. Please find a place in your home where you can get away from the dark influences. Spend as much time as you can in a “safe” peaceful part of the house.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Try to remove anything and everything you have around that relates to the occult. Create a place where you can regularly study your Bible and spend quiet time with the Lord in prayer. You must do this. Chase out the darkness by bringing in the light of Christ. In addition to, and not as a substitute for reading the Bible, try bringing Christian DVDs and music into the house even if your husband won’t partake.

You can benefit from them and perhaps in time he will also. Try changing the environment in the house with Christian-related material. Keep your Bible(s) very visible. Many DVD titles exist that might spark your husband’s interest. Pray that God will convict him of his obsession with satanically-inspired “entertainment.” Set-up an area where you can bring Christian media into the home and make it part of your daily life.

And stay as far away as possible from the room where he watches all of that mind-altering demonic rubbish. Unless you have to be physically close to him because of his medical condition, I also suggest sleeping in another room where there are no traces of anything to do with the occult if the TV is in your bedroom.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Your situation seems impossible but God will not forsake you. He will make a way for you to thrive. Decide to make this a time for change. Even in the midst of difficulty you can have a life totally dedicated to the Lord. It is by integrating Christ into our daily lives 24/7 that we can overcome and endure the things that are trying to crush us. Realize that you must stay connected to the Lord all-day-long. Keep your heart and mind focused on Him and not your outward circumstances.

You are in a very trying situation but you do not have to be like the heathen. A marriage of thirty years is a long time. But it is never too late to make some changes. Prayer is our best method for making change. Prayer really can change things. Faithfully pray for your husband’s deliverance, and this would also be a good time for you to rededicate your life to the Lord. Cry out to Him like never before.

Change your daily routine to one where you are determined to let go of how you have functioned in the past. Today is a new day. You can walk in a new direction even with the obstacles around you because you have Christ to carry you. It is in His strength that we can overcome the assaults of darkness. Keep a running dialogue with the Lord making a conscientious effort to stay close to Him in all you do, and this will keep you from doing things you know are wrong.

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Pray for guidance each day and listen carefully to how the Holy Spirit is leading you. You need not get caught-up in the ways of the world. Your situation at home and at a work is extremely unpleasant, but know that with God this can change. If not outwardly in every way, it can change inwardly for you. But your focus must be fully on the Lord.

Trust Him to bring about positive changes in your life. Step out and look for a better work environment and do what you can to improve your environment at home. Make up your mind that you will no longer be a victim of your circumstances and yield fully to the love and leading of the Lord. It has to be absolute surrender to the Lord. Little by little, step-by-step your life will get better. It is through your fervent prayers that change will come about.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones (Isaiah 49:13). His unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor will His covenant of peace be removed, the Lord has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10).

Paul, Titus and others were set free from the power of sin. God gave them victory through the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-7). You can be set free too.

In God’s love,

Esther

“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:20-24).


April 21, 2014

Dear Esther,

First I want to thank you for your site. It has been a huge blessing in my life, and I look forward to every Monday, as I really enjoy reading the weekly commentaries and “Dear Esther.”

I have been a Christian since I was very young, baptized at age 8, and my life has not been without trials, most of which were brought on by poor choices on my part. This seems to be something I struggle with due to co-dependency issues.

In 2006, I married a man who claimed to be a Christian, and I did see signs of issues, but chose to ignore them. He had a drinking problem, but at first it seemed manageable, but over time, it became increasingly worse. I had the great idea to get him some help and sent him to the doctor to get on meds to help him quit drinking.

In hindsight, that was a really bad idea, because not only was he drinking, he was now taking pills. He has been arrested several times for DUI, we spent approximately four years of our marriage separated, as he went headlong into his addiction, but he was offered a second chance through a court drug program. He had committed to straighten up, so I came back. He is not a convicted felon on unsupervised probation.

He graduated from drug court on March 19. I don’t think we made it home from court before he had downed some valium, and I noticed he was getting really drowsy and not quite there. My heart sank. From there it only got worse, and he spent the next five days in a drug induced stupor until I found the pills and flushed them down the toilet.

In the process, he soiled the bed, made a mess on the carpet, broke my washer, and lost about $1200, which was our rent money. He swore up and down it was not his intent, it just happened. He just wanted to take the edge off of the diet pills he was taking, and he lost control. I forgave him, and tried to move on.

Last weekend, he decided to go to a casino with his daughter. She texted me yesterday and said she was bringing her dad home, because he was completely messed up. I am to the point where I just cannot handle this anymore, but keep feeling like I am supposed to keep forgiving him. Can I forgive him without staying with him?

This is a huge struggle I have. I want to do what is right in God’s eyes by not divorcing my husband, but I am not sure I can mentally deal with the psychological torment of living with a man whose mistress comes in the form of a pill. I could really use some prayer and sound advice from a scriptural standpoint.

We do not have any children together and my children are all grown. I have been blessed to have a job which pays well enough for me to manage things on my own, and I have little to no debt. My husband also likes to play craps (another addiction?). He says he prays every day that God will take away his desire to use drugs. He says he is so restless, and discontent, it is the only thing that takes the edge off. Otherwise he is miserable and angry all the time. I fear he is going to kill himself one of these days.

YSIC

Cherri


Dear Cherri,

Thank you for your kind words. I am glad the site is edifying and helps bring some solace into your life. I receive so many letters from those who are involved in marriages where substance abuse is a major problem. If not substance abuse then some other “addiction” or personality disorder. If alcohol and drugs are not part of the problem, very often the problem is downright selfishness, greed and little or no concern for the family. (Just as Jesus said it would be in these last days):

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

When a person is suddenly awakened to the depth of destructive issues in a relationship, it can be a huge shock. Especially when benefit of the doubt was given to partner (whose faith was questionable) when agreeing to make a commitment to the relationship (marriage). Many convincing words of love, admiration and devotion may have been spoken while in the courtship phase of the relationship. Yes, a few signs that it might not be smooth sailing were noticed, but a desire and hope to be in a loving supportive relationship can blur the reality of a situation.

The lack of strong leadership in biblical instruction has left many sincere believers making unwise decisions. Each Christian church should have classes in Discipleship and Bible studies teaching the importance of not being unequally yoked and making Christ the center of our lives and not the agonizing dysfunctions of self-centered loved ones. A missionary marriage in the hope of bringing the unsaved partner to a saving faith in Christ is not at all what Scripture teaches.

Difficulties also arise if one partner is saved after the marriage vows have been taken and the other is not (and does not want to be).Unless we are strongly grounded in the Word of God we are opening ourselves up for all kinds of disappointments and heartaches. When we have the best of intentions, and do things because want to have someone we can count on—it is easy to fall into a troublesome situation if we are not carefully versed in the Scriptures.

The overwhelming moral decay in people today goes back to how the world in which we live has been on a downward spiral for a very long time. The lack of real godly leadership from parents and leaders in the church has greatly contributed to failing marriages and relationships. So many children grow up in godless, loveless and dysfunctional households. By the time they meet that special “someone” there is so much baggage that the cycle of trouble continues and often to a breaking point. People are love starved and some cannot cope and some cope but make choices that are not the best in the long run. And the bottom line is not having a real born-again relationship with Christ is at the crux of society’s problems in all areas.

The liberal influences over the past many years have taken a toll on the family. I think men, especially, have been the targets of the enemy as they are God’s appointed leaders. It is astounding how rampant troubled relationships are, and the common thread is that one partner is saved and desiring a deep relationship with the Lord, while the other is not interested in a relationship with God and living by godly principle—leaving the other partner confused and abused. When one person in the relationship is strongly committed to the Lord and the other is not, then we know there can be no in-depth intimacy on the level that the Lord would want for us.

When alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling and any other number of addictions and obsessions enter a relationship then a third party is introduced into the relationship. You say it well, Cherri: “Can I forgive him without staying with him? This is a huge struggle I have. I want to do what is right in God’s eyes by not divorcing my husband, but I am not sure I can mentally deal with the psychological torment of living with a man whose mistress comes in the form of a pill.”

To answer your question, yes, you can forgive him without staying with him. He made a public commitment to you, and others, that he would straighten up. Yet he is only thinking of himself. Often without meaning to, we can enable an addict by not taking a stand. Forgiveness does not equal martyrdom. Your own health is at risk. Dealing with an abusive situation day after day can cause not only emotional and psychological problems, but your physical health can be adversely affected.

One thing I can tell you is that you cannot compete with pills, drugs, or whatever the addiction is. In your situation you have given your husband another chance after a long four-year separation. He showed you very quickly that he has not changed. In fact it seems that he has gotten worse. Recovery programs only work when the addict wants to change and take responsibility for his or her own behavior. Some encouraging testimonies do exist where some people actually are delivered, never to fall back into their addiction again. But it is rare.

A number of weeks ago in a response to Mary, I outlined the meaning of the word adultery. I will share it again here:

"To get directly to your question, “What counts as adultery?” The obvious answer of course would be sexual relations outside of a marriage. But adultery takes sin into a broader range: The idea consistent throughout Scripture is that “adultery” is unfaithfulness to a covenant relationship; an unfaithfulness that may manifest itself in any number of ways, but which inevitably leads, if not corrected, to the breakdown of that relationship.

You, dear Mary, are in a situation where there is a tremendous breakdown in your marriage covenant and as you have already mentioned, it takes two to make a marriage and that your husband has not shown any interest in the least—to work things out and repent from his abusive behavior and adulterous lifestyle.

Early Bible translators (both the Hebrew and Greek words), at times even translated the terms to reflect their meaning of adultery as the: “breakdown of covenantal relationships.” The King James Version, for example, translates the Hebrew word for “adultery” (which is na’aph) as “break wedlock” in Ezekiel 16:38.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible also translates this Hebrew term this way: “adulterer; woman that breaketh wedlock.” William Tyndale (1494-1536) translated the Greek as “breaketh wedlock” in Matthew 19:9.

Therefore, when it is stated that “adultery” has occurred, this may well be far more than the fact that two people have engaged in an illicit sex act. It is really stating that a covenant relationship has been broken, which may have been caused by any number of things (including an illicit sex act). This point is strongly given in the following statement found in Malachi 2:14:

“The Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”

Those who deal treacherously with their spouse are guilty of breaking a covenant relationship. This is also “adultery.”

Cherrie, you are not obligated to stay in a situation that is abusive and toxic. Your husband is doing nothing to take care of you. He abandoned you years ago by neglecting you and your needs and placing you in a position of being surrounded by spiritual darkness. He broke the marriage covenant and treats you “treacherously.” He is rebellious, self-centered and immature focusing on satisfying his addictions—while running over you or anyone else who gets in his way. If he has a death wish you are not responsible for that. I am sure you have pleaded with him many times to change but obviously it has not helped.

Yes, you made a serious lifelong commitment to him but he has broken the marriage covenant by choosing a lifestyle of reckless abusive behavior. You have already come back to him to give him that second chance. I understand that he went through a court-appointed treatment for his substance abuse problems but until he hits bottom and has NOWHERE to turn he might finally turn to the only One who can help him. He desperately needs deliverance. Unless he comes to salvation in Christ his life will continue to fall apart.

If you can get this man involved in a good local church where he starts hearing the Word of God on a regular basis that might make a difference. Your prayers for his salvation can continue no matter where you are. It sounds like you may have to separate from him again unless he is willing to totally stop his substance abuse. I feel very badly for you. We cannot change people but prayer is the most powerful method of bringing positive change into our lives and the lives of others.

As long as he thinks he can do what he is doing and you will be right there with him, he will continue to serve himself; not you and not the Lord. Considering his track record and his immediate return to his pattern of substance abuse and gambling, it may be time to separate. I would not run and file for divorce right away. Tell him if he comes to church with you and gets into a Bible-based recovery program the relationship still has a chance. If he is sincere and serious is in his “prayers to God” to take away his desire to use drugs, then his outward actions should be moving toward developing a serious relationship with the Lord.

If he is unwilling to get serious about the gospel message and get involved in Bible study, and making the Word of God a daily consistent ongoing part of his life, then he is only talking. Remember, by their fruits we will know them (Matthew 7:16). Healing comes by immersing ourselves in God’s Word. If he wants healing, the Bible and Christian ministries are there for him to take seriously.

Without radical changes to move toward true repentance you do not have to live under the same roof. The daily stress brought about by your husband’s behavior is not something you need to live with 24/7. If you still love this man, tell him so, but stand your ground. Tell him that you gave him his second chance and so far it has been a disaster. Remind him that you too, have needs and cannot be a placed in a position that is continuously detrimental to you.

As I expressed to another dear lady via email just yesterday, thank God for the blessings you do have. You have a good job, you are not financially strapped and you do have a way out. You also do not have children together which would complicate things even more. Please pray about this and when you feel the leading of the Lord to make a decision on how best to move forward with your life, then do so.

We are called to serve the Lord and when those who are not willing to accept the truth, we must let them go when it can be scripturally justified. We can still love them and pray for them and it is imperative that we forgive them, but we need not be held hostage to a very tumultuous situation. Have you ever considered that this man is lessening your ability to reach others for the Lord because he wears you out?

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Please think through your options carefully and ask God to guide you and protect you. In this life we may never have that one person we can count on, but we can always count on the Lord Jesus. I don’t know how involved you are in any Christian ministries, but please find some like-minded believers you can spend time with. Perhaps a home-based group where the Bible is seriously studied and strong friendships can be cultivated.

Spend as much time as you can growing stronger in your own Bible studies, and communicating with the Lord in prayer. When we keep our attention on the Lord and His great promises for our future, the problems and disappointments of this life take on a more manageable perspective.

Perhaps it is time to reevaluate how you might best serve the Lord in these last days and keep your focus on your eternal future. When you face Him you will be so glad you did. I am only an email away, although because of the high-volume of letters I cannot always write back as fast as I would like.

I have confidence in your ability to make some good decisions. And the co-dependency issue you mention in your letter is a very worldly view that is bantered about in secular recovery programs. You need not buy into the “co-dependent” mantra. You have Jesus and you can be free of entanglements that pull you down.

We are new creatures in Christ and God’s ways are not the world’s ways. Let go of allowing labels to be placed on you which only serve to entrap you in a never-ending cycle of self-blame and hopelessness.

Please let me know how you are doing, Cherrie, and never stop praying for the salvation of all those who don’t know our blessed Lord (including the man you married). God bless you and strengthen you.

In God’s love,

Esther

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).


April 14, 2014

Dear Esther,

I was gloriously saved about three years ago as evidenced by a drastic, literally overnight change in personality, an insatiable hunger for the Word of God, a profound, inexplicable love for God and my fellow man, and a palpable sense of the presence of God (that sometimes made the hairs on my arm stand up) especially when I prayed.

Most of my sins fell away immediately; I failed to crucify sexual sins in my life and get rid of a then-brand new TV that I truly believe God wanted me to get rid of, because I believe He said it was an idol to me. I made excuses and backslid horribly back into the world, into deep addiction to pornography, depravity and sinful bondage.

Even in my backsliding state, I witnessed for Christ at my work place and prayed for His intervention because I was grossly and deeply ensnared in my sins; a newsletter from David Wilkerson called, “The Awful Consequences of Backsliding” convicted me and I asked God to chasten me because it was the only way I could be freed from my wickedness.

God answered! A horrible set of circumstances directly related to my sins all but destroyed my life. Still, I failed to repent. One night while reading the Word, I came across Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-31, and Hebrews 12:14-17.

Convinced that I blasphemed the Holy Spirit, I fell into a black vortex of utter dread and suicidal despair, complete with a vision of the holiness of God sent me to the hospital for 4 days! I struggled for 8 months, reading everything I could, listening to sermons all day long and attending service after service, crying daily, desperately trying to be reconciled with God.

I’m slowly recovering, struggling desperately to believe and accept God’s love and ease my stinging conscience. By the grace of God, I have had some success over my sin, putting away pornography, pulled away from the world and living in obedience as best as I can with regular intense prayer and Bible reading. I still have the TV but I don’t watch it. I still struggle with intense bodily urges to lust but God has been faithful in delivering me from my sins.

Things however aren’t quite the same. I’m trusting the Lord to restore me fully but thoughts of having possibly committed the unpardonable sin linger and rail against my conscience. Is there ANY unequivocal way of determining whether I’ve quenched the Spirit completely out of my life and am hopeless?

Is there a biblical precedence I can take hold of for hope? Both David and Saul were told by prophets of the results of their disobedience; one by Samuel unto destruction (“God has rejected you”) and other by Nathan unto life (“You shall not die”)…can I expect the same?

I’m tormented with doubt, guilt and pain. Nine months I’ve struggled to return to the Lord. Have I repented enough? How can I know I’m saved? Am I even elect? How can I know for sure? Why is my heart cold? Have I been rejected like Esau? I am often crushed by guilt and despair, cry DAILY, several times a day and considered suicide, surrendering my faith.

I feel myself giving up and simply not caring any more. Please, please pray that God will break my stubborn self-will and unbelief. He PROMISED that He would not cast me away if I come to Him. I NEED A NEW HEART and I feel so alone, ugly and unloved! Please help.

Christopher


Dear Christopher,

Please stop beating yourself up. If you have genuinely repented, you are saved and the Lord sees you as righteous in His eyes. Your heart intent is what matters the most. You don’t need a new heart; you need a new outlook on your life. It is evident to me from what you have said that you are very remorseful of your past.

This is the time to call on the promises of the Lord. Please read and study Psalm 91. If it makes you feel any better, many others have been through what you are going through and have recovered from their own self-guilt. Do NOT allow the enemies of God to try to keep you from living a full-life in Christ for Christ.

Try to calm down and rest in HIS love. Place all your burdens upon Him and He will carry you through this (Matthew 11:28-30). Please do not look back. All that will do is slow you down.

I suggest you get into a ministry or church where you can do something fruitful for the Lord and interact with other true believers. Taking the focus off, ourselves and ministering to others is a great healer. I don’t know how long you have been reading my column but I would encourage you to read through many of the previous letters, and you will find much hope in the advice given to others.

The doubt you are feeling can be overcome by casting all your anxiety on the Lord. And take it one day at a time, and don’t borrow trouble:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

You can discover the secret to tranquility by studying these passages:

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass” (Psalm 37:3-7).

When we ask for forgiveness of our sins and truly repent, our salvation is assured. Please read and study the following Scriptures:

“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:13-16).

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 3-5).

Sometimes just before a person makes a deeper commitment to the Lord it can feel like nothing we ever did for Him matters and all we can see, is our weaknesses. I think you are closer to totally walking away from the ways of the world than you think. But you must stop panicking. You need not be a slave to fear:

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

You need not be afraid as God is your helper: God has said, He will never leave you or forsake you:

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

David was very depressed until he repented and was forgiven:

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah” (Psalm 32:3-4).

God immediately forgave David when he repented and confessed his sin:

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

David’s confession of sin and his cry for forgiveness occurred only by God’s grace. His prayer for repentance is cited in Psalm 51:1-17.

Peter, who denied Jesus, was forgiven and restored (John 21:15-19). Jesus even entrusted Peter with His beloved people for whom he died on the cross. Jesus said: “Feed my lambs, “Take care of my sheep.”

Jesus forgave the murdered on the cross (a strong example of saved by grace alone):

“And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

We must always remember that God has compassion:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

God’s forgiveness is awesome and great:

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12).

True believers (that’s you, Christopher) are rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Lord’s eternal kingdom and are forgiven of ALL sins:

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood] the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

God has bestowed His grace upon us, choosing us, forgiving us of ALL our sins through Christ’s blood sacrifice (Ephesians 1:3-10).

God sweeps away our sins and wants us to sing for joy!

“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel” (Isaiah 44:22-23)

Christopher, it is going to be all right.

We are cleared (justified) of all guilt by faith in Jesus and find peace in Him:

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-15).

Christopher, a lot of professing Christians don’t think twice about whether they are pleasing the Lord or not, they are too busy pleasing themselves. The fact that you are deeply concerned about all of this tells me you love the Lord and you that belong to Him.

You are not alone. You belong to the King and He is coming back soon to take us to our true home.

The Word of God is always available to you. Believe the Scriptures when your read them. They are God’s messages and promises written to encourage and strengthen us. When we try to overanalyze every human weakness within ourselves we will never be free in Christ. Let go of the need to be perfect in your own strength and allow the Lord to reign in your life.

It is only through Christ that we are made righteous. We can never do enough to earn acceptance by our Holy Creator. Don’t fall into a “works” pattern to try to prove your standing before God. It is by fully accepting what He says in His Word that we can find peace and live a productive life for Him.

Christ’s last words were: “It is finished.” In the Gospel of John, the Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.” Christopher, when those voices of doubt try to ruin your walk with the Lord remember: “It is finished!”

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Please keep in touch with me and never hesitate to reach out. Print out this letter, study it and keep the message close to your heart. You are someone who can encourage others tremendously because of your wilderness experience.

God promises to guide us, always:

“The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Psalm 32:8).

God has not abandoned you. He is holding out His loving arms to comfort you. Resolve to no longer fall into the trap of negativity and doubt. March forward in Christ’s righteousness which covers you, always carrying the shield of faith.

“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16).

In God’s love,

Esther

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).


April 7, 2014

Dear Esther,

I’m not sure how to get my thoughts into email form, but I’ll try my best. I’ve been alone most of my life. My mother abandoned me, and shortly after, my father married my stepmother. He left me, too. My grandparents raised me and I do thank God for that. My battle now is that I have a mind like a 40-year-old in a 26-year-old body. It’s a blessing, but also a curse. The curse is finding friends and people to connect with on the same level as myself.

I am married and have a beautiful son. However, my husband works a lot and I don’t see him often. When he is off work he is always: very stressed, tense and just wants to be left alone. God found me while I was young, and I have been thankful to have the Lord. But, sometimes having no tangible friends (that are not 4 years old) makes me feel alone. Why is it so hard to find people to hold onto as tight as I try to; I mean friends as well as my husband. I have no one around that has that passion and desire like I have for the Lord.

The friends my age that I’ve known since K-12 are living wild lives partying or are deep in sin. I’ve tried to be close to them, but their lifestyles and mine clash. I don’t find bars fun and I don’t want to sit around listening to them complain about other people either. I was bullied in school so I only have two “friends” the rest are on a name only basis.

It’s hard for me to muster up the courage to get close to people. I’ve ALWAYS been abandoned. God has been the only consistent Person in my life. Why is it so hard to find people that hold on tight like I try to? I mean, people aren’t perfect but it doesn’t seem like true friends can be found.

My husband says he’s saved but I don’t see much evidence. I go to a good Bible church and I’m involved. My husband has gone a few times gone but isn’t involved. He is also very angry when I am involved in different activities. His excuse is because it takes time away from him; which his idea of quality time is my sitting around doing nothing while he’s on different tech devices. I hold onto God tightly but he doesn’t, and tries to come between my relationship with Him.

My husband acts jealous. I spend a lot of time reading my Bible. I do so when he chooses to play video games or watch TV. But still he acts like I need to give it up for him. When we met seven years ago he went to church every Sunday. He told me he was a born-again Christian and from everything I saw it seemed true. We were married in his mother’s church. He is a few years older. He’s 31, I’m 26.

I read my Bible often but he always tells me that my wanting to do things like that together is pushing him too much or like shoving it down his throat. We do pray with our son together before he goes down for his nap. I’m involved in the worship team and a group called “Awakening” which is like an interpreting dance group. I have a study group on Wednesday nights. But, he hates when I go practice or am away.

He says it’s because he thinks I should be spending time with the family. However, sitting and watching him play video games for three hours just feels like I’m wasting my life. To be honest, I feel like I am more of a roommate more than a wife cleaning, cooking and staying at home. I never had many friends because I was very shy and bullied. When my husband and I met everything was so different. He was spiritual and had everything on my list. I was picky when it came to guys because of being abused. Somehow I feel like I was fooled.

I know God is good and when frustrated I try to remind myself that the devil will use any means possible to try and destroy God’s people. It’s just lonely sometimes. Thank you for your prayers. I love my son and do what I can but I hope he doesn’t take his father’s habits when he grows. I read your article every week. Thanks in advance for the advice.

Elaine


Dear Elaine,

I am glad you wrote. Your life story is filled with many issues that must be placed in a perspective that will best help you cope and thrive. I can see why you would feel alone and abandoned, especially considering you were abandoned by your mother, and then your father.

Only Jesus can heal wounds like this, and as you say, He found you early. You have a concern shared by many other Christians who, like you, find it very hard to find friends and people they can connect with. In your case, it is even more hurtful because of the abandonment issues.

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10).

We are living in the last days when people are getting more and more self-centered. The majority of the population is very self-seeking and only concerned about their own personal little world. The Lord shows us those who belong to Him and who we are to stay away from. He is letting you see what people are really like so you can make sound spiritual choices.

It is unfortunate that this also applies to many of the people we find in our churches. It is even more complicated when it comes to the person we chose to marry; especially if once interested in the Lord and then later falls away.

Your frustration to find others who have the same passion for the Lord is understandable. A lot of people can rattle off Christian buzz words, and try to give the appearance that they are deeply devoted to the Lord but sadly, too many are using Christianity and the outward motions of going to church, etc. as just another social activity or as a money-making business.

But I am glad to hear you are involved in a church. If others around you are more on a superficial level, it may be you whom the Lord is using to try to awaken them to get more serious about their faith. It sounds like your husband is backslidden. From the way you describe the situation he seems very different from the man you dated and married.

I know it is not easy to get some people to open up. Have you tried talking to his mother to see what she thinks about all of this? Perhaps she can offer some answers to why he has changed so much from the man you thought he was when you married him. I can see why you would feel like he fooled you.

It sounds like your husband has fallen into a rut. And his behavior is symptomatic of something deeper that is hard to discern; he wants you near yet he is not willing to give of himself.

I can see why you would feel like you are simply a prop or a security blanket of some sort, and find it disturbing that he feels threatened when you want him to participate in reading the Bible, or anything to do with the Lord (except for the one prayer at your little son’s nap time). At least that is something. Ask the Lord in prayer for your husband’s spiritual growth and to help him realize that you too, have needs.

Your marital situation is one many Christian women can relate to. Sometimes a husband tends to become very proprietorial (someone who has an exclusive right to something or someone) and does not like anyone or anything competing for his wife’s attention. This shows a lack of spiritual and emotional maturity.

It sounds like he has a tough job and when he is home he may not be thinking clearly that you, too, have needs. While he is insisting you hang around him, he absurdly ignores and neglects you in a way that is only going to create a wider rift between the two of you. This is very selfish behavior, not at all the way the Lord asks husbands to behave.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 22:25-27).

Try everything you can to let him know how you feel; he may not know how you really feel and it may come across that he is taking you for granted. Or it may be that his jealousy wants you where he can see you. This all sounds like insecurity on his part. You have a little child together and I urge you to find a way to get to a point where you can both contribute to the relationship in a way that will keep peace in your home, especially for the sake of your little boy.

Once you calmly let him know it is not fair that he makes demands that even pull you away from the Lord, and the things that are important to you, ask if he will go to Christian counseling with you. If he refuses then tell him lovingly that it takes two to have a relationship and without him participating in your life too, then the relationship is headed for trouble.

It sounds like he wants assurance of your love and devotion. But he must understand that you need that same assurance. And by trying to keep you from the Lord and your involvement at church he is damaging the relationship. Tell him how much you miss the times when you shared life, together; especially when you shared Jesus, but first point out all his positive attributes.

Let him know you have your own interests also and it is not fair that you should be expected to put aside even the Lord so you can sit and watch him while he is involved in his video games and television shows; that you are at a point in your walk with the Lord where you cannot sit idly by filling your mind with secular minutia.

Be sure to tell him you love him and are there for him, but intimacy comes when two people can openly share what is important to both of them. When there is no joy in a marriage it is very hard to smile and get excited about anything.

Ask him what happened to his interest in the Lord. Remind him that was what drew you to him, and you are extremely perplexed why he is no longer walking with the Lord together with you—as he once did. And tell him that it is not fair for him to expect you to decrease your commitment to the Lord even if he has.

You are right in your assessment that true friends are hard to find. People have all kinds of expectations when making friends. The best way to make friends is to not have any expectations and let the friendships develop on their own. I know this might sound a bit harsh, but perhaps you are better off not having too many friends. In fact that is what Scripture teaches:

“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

This world is so fallen that we may never have the friends we hope for to a large degree. Back biting and deceit exist everywhere, and sadly even amongst so-called Christians. But the Lord will bring special people into your life as you continue to pray that He opens the door to sharing Him with the right people, and closes the door to those who are self-seeking phonies.

It is very hard to trust anyone. Jesus said it would be this way (2 Timothy 3:2). Some people will even tell you they are praying for you but your discerning spirit says not to get involved or trust them. Pay attention to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. And always remember we are living in enemy territory and rethink what your needs in this world really are, and what the Lord is calling you to do.

I understand that you read your Bible and are involved in your church; that is very good. But please rethink how you view yourself in relation to these last days and how much energy you want to spend trying to make earthly relationships flourish—considering the time we have left here—may not be very long. Sharing the gospel should be our number one priority (Matthew 28:19).

Being a mother is a full-time job. Nurture and love your son the best you can. He is your gift from God and his young years are so precious. They pass so quickly; enjoy them and have fun with him. When he is older you will miss that delightful little 4-year-old who is so dependent upon you, now.

I have already made some suggestions about how to improve your marriage but it takes two to make the improvements. If all the compromising must come mostly from one person (you) than you have an uphill battle. And from what you have shared, that may well be the case. If so, then you will have to find a way to look at your life in a different way.

Expectations almost always let us down. The major disconnect is that your husband has left the Lord behind in a demonstrative way, and the spiritual bond that you had together is no longer shared in your relationship as it once was.

Does your husband understand Bible prophecy? One approach you might try is to ask him if the two of you could start studying Bible prophecy together. Point out some things to him that might peak his interest and above all keep praying for him. Do it in a way which brings current events into the discussion so you are not “shoving” the Lord and His Scriptures down his throat. We cannot change people but God can.

Try to focus on all the blessings you do have. Being a stay-at-home mom is a huge blessing. Find creative ways to make the most of your time at home. You may never find the type of deep interaction with others in this life that you crave, but you can be a shining example for the Lord by your loving approach to things.

The Lord has a way of turning our disappointments into joy, but we must let go of idealism and realize everything that happens to a Christians is an opportunity for spiritual growth and to prepare for our eternal future with Him.

I can tell you that most people do not have the relationship with a spouse that they envision for themselves. Instead of being sorrowful, we must make the most of the situation. Be as cheerful as you can toward your husband, although you are not getting what you need, and trust that the Lord is working on him. In time, the relationship still has a great chance of improving. And be glad that he is a hard worker and is providing for the family.

Keep fellowshipping with the Lord and He will sustain you.

The Lord asks us to give thanks in all things. Now that sounds like an impossible feat at times. But we must trust Him. He understands your heartaches and has been there for you. He warned us that we would have tribulation in this life, so we must not get overly exhausted about the trials and disappointments we face. This is not our true home. Keep remembering that when you feel disconnected from others.

And take great joy in knowing all of the misery we have had to endure because of this fallen world is a temporary state of affairs. As true believers, we are only passing through. Often it is a good idea to think, I am on a journey, I don’t like the rough and lonely road, but thank God, this is not my true home.

Elaine, there is a very happy ending to all of this, to the trials of this life, but it may not be until we are face-to-face with the Lord. That is when we will be free of the entanglements and heartaches of this broken world. In the meantime do your best to act as an ambassador for Christ, and that alone will reap many blessings as you sow seeds to bring others to His saving grace.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Consider yourself blessed, Elaine. See if you can find ways to meet other mothers who do know the Lord, even the two friends you do have should be counted as a blessing. And your involvement at your church should be a support for you to some degree, anyway. Many people cannot even find a good church.

Keep thanking God for your husband’s positive traits, and for your beautiful little boy and all the good in your life. In this life, the people we meet, even close family members may disappoint us, but Jesus will never let us down. And your amazing future with Him is guaranteed. Please focus on all the positive blessings you have and you will begin to feel less victimized and alone.

When we are on the disappointed end, we must change our attitudes to better deal with the given circumstance. It sounds like your husband loves you very much (in his own way), but has taken the wrong road (a detour) that has broken the bond you so crave.

Focusing his time and mind on videos, etc. has skewed his ability to see things for what they are. If he was once strong in his faith, he can be again. He is using these things as an escape, to tune out for the daily grind of life—like so many others do.

Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. I think there is still great hope for your marriage. Give it all over to the Lord. Keep praying for him and your relationship. God can work miracles to change your husband’s heart and attitude (although it doesn’t look that way right now to you).

Be loving and patient and always keep in mind that from a prophetic perspective—we are going home soon. And all of these earthly matters will soon be long gone.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).


March 31, 2014

Dear Esther,

It has been a blessing to read all the emails from other brethren and the sound biblical counsel that you give them. I want to share my testimony/struggle with you and maybe help another believer that may have this same struggle!

I have been a born-again believer since I was 16 years old. I am 50 years old now. The Lord Jesus saved me in March 1980 when I was living a life of fornication, lying and deception. I was so excited about my faith and my new relationship with the Lord Jesus.

I started sharing with my family and friends, of my new found faith, but I had a secret of still indulging in sexual sin with my boyfriend because I didn’t know God’s Word on fornication (since my parents lived together and were not married).

I knew a little bit about God’s Word from occasionally going to church, but I didn’t know the depth and seriousness of it. I was mentored later in my relationship with Christ by three mature believers and they helped me to understand what it truly meant to walk in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus, and what His Word required of me as a new believer.

I have been walking in love and obedience to Him since that time. Not perfectly, but by His grace and mercy.

I met some other believers and we moved to a place in Philadelphia, which I thought was a church of born-again believers who loved Jesus. Unfortunately it turned out to be a CULT and I was taught the Word of God, but there was a lot of Scripture-twisting and the most damaging of the experience was a works-salvation gospel, which I was taught instead of the true grace-salvation gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The greatest part I will say of the whole experience is that I have made some great lifelong friendships with sisters who were there and have since left, and are now living for the Lord.

Today, not very often, but at times I’m bombarded in my mind and I struggle with thinking that the Lord is displeased with me—if I’m not doing some kind of work. We had a chart of works/activities that we had to fulfill every day before 12 midnight. We were working 24/7 trying to make sure we were doing some religious activity (otherwise the LORD would not be pleased with us).

If I’m not reading my Bible or something spiritual, I feel harassed and out of the will of God. My desire is to read the Bible every day so I can fellowship with my Father and know His will and commune with Him. I delight in serving Him with the gifts He has given me. It’s not a chore or “have to” mentality.

I just get overwhelmed with all of this sometimes. I continually give it to the Lord and ask Him to take this from me. I know His finished work on Calvary paid my sin debt in FULL. I know I’m saved by grace and faith alone. I just get overwhelmed with this in my mind sometimes and I’m praying for it to be removed.

I feel assured right now as I’m writing you and confident in God’s Word (no matter what my feelings say), I know they are feelings and attacks from the enemy. Would you please share some biblical counsel and suggestions?

God bless you and may the Lord continue to use you and shine upon you!!!

We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

RP


Dear RP,

Thank you for your very kind and thoughtful words. You are obviously dedicated to the Lord. He has brought you through some rough territory. The enemy is an expert at portraying himself as an angel of light, as you well know.

Too few Christians are aware of how Satan does this through other so-called Christian ministries; especially, when the approach is to lure in unsuspecting people who are genuinely seeking biblical truth. But what the devil means for harm, the Lord counters with blessings and goodness. You are a living testimony to that, today.

False religions and false teachings are Satan’s greatest method of deceiving people. You are not alone in getting caught-up in a group that may look godly initially—but then the Scripture twisting and blasphemous doctrines emerge. One of the greatest after-effects from being involved in a cult is the brainwashing, the mind-bending indoctrination that haunts a person long after renouncing anything to do with the cult.

Many years ago I met someone whose job was to rescue people from cults. He was hired by family members who had lost a son or daughter to a cult. This man’s job was to deprogram victims who had been emotionally and mentally abused by the cult. He was strongly grounded in the Word of God and understood the subtle tactics used by cult leaders—to confuse and indoctrinate the “flock.” The after-effects can linger on for a very, very long time. I think that is what you are dealing with (to a small degree).

The keeping busy for God tactic is a common theme in cults; works, works, and more works is a way to make a person feel like they are unworthy no matter what they do. At what point are our works enough? Never; so this is a way to control and confuse people. This slavery that you were subjected to has a way of breaking the spirit of a person—if it were not for the Lord Jesus’ intervention at some point.

You are already doing everything a believer is asked to do. Continue to pray throughout each day as we are commanded (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17), read, study, memorize and meditate on Scripture. It is up to the Lord to open the door for us to do more. We serve Him by being available 24/7, as certainly you are, but as you already know that does not mean your life must evolve around any particular strict spiritual routine of trying to earn God’s love and favor.

If a church member or a neighbor needs help, we help them. When the pastor needs someone to do something in the church and we have the gift to do it, we do it. This is all we can do. God is never displeased with us if we are not doing things in the church 16 hours a day. He wants you to spend most of your time with Him in prayer and in the Word. It sounds like you are doing that, already.

The thoughts you are having that God is displeased with you, as I said before, is part of the mind bending tactics by the cult. It is not always easy to ignore the accusatory voices, but you can, with the Lord’s help. As long as you are praying throughout each day, spending time in the Word every day and are available to serve God—that is all you can do. Consider all the nice people who are unsaved but are very religious. Day after day they toil to please the Lord. But they are in bondage to their religion (as you once were, although you were saved).

In Christ we are made free, and that is what we must remember and think about. When those voices of condemnation start working on you, the best thing to do is start quoting Scripture out loud, and start praising and thanking God for His greatness. Not silently, but out loud. There is power in the Word of God and we are strengthened when we actually hear it. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John1:1-4).

It is also a good idea to find a good audio version of the Bible and play it while you are driving your car, and at home. Fill your mind with God’s Scriptures at every opportunity. But don’t use Christian media as a substitute for reading, studying and speaking the Word of God. Use Christian media resources only as an addition to worshipping the Lord and studying His Word.

From reading your letter, it is evident that you are a mature and serious believer, and a great blessing to the cause of Christ. Your involvement with the cult has given you a perspective that many Christians don’t have. Your effectiveness in reaching others is strengthened because of your experience. You bring a type of depth to your faith that can only serve to benefit others.

You are in a position to discern problematic teachings; you have developed spiritual radar that can detect so-called biblical teachings that are amiss. You have also developed a sense of identifying phony Christians with hidden agendas. You are blessed in ways that can help you minister to others—who are confused about their faith and counsel them in what constitutes authentic Christianity.

Because you have the Holy Spirit living within you, coupled with your experiences with false Christianity, you can overcome any doubts about the Lord being pleased with you. After all He died for you! He loved you long before you were saved. He knew you before you were born. His love for us is incomprehensible. That is what you should focus your thoughts on.

Christ deliberately placed Himself in a position where He willingly suffered—tremendously—to bring us to a point of reconciliation and redemption. God is our abiding companion in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Our heavenly Father wants us to pour our hearts out to Him when we are shaken by the cruel and vicious dynamics in this fallen and corrupt world. He is ever-present in our time of need. We are never alone. Lean on your Heavenly Father for comfort. Realize your great worth in the Lord’s eyes.

“For as many who are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:14-18).

The more you read the Scriptures that speak of the Lord’s love for you, the doubts about your good standing with Him will diminish. Healing from the type of abuse you endured comes through worshipping and praising the Lord. It is a miracle in some ways that you were able to get away from the cult.

Praise God in all things and communicate with Him all day long. Aknowledge Him in all you do as you navigate through your day. Trust in Him completely, in His Word. We are to live by faith, and that means we TRUST Him. I know you already know all of this, but it is good to be reminded and encouraged—to keep our focus on God’s lovingkindness.

By praising the Lord and offering Him a joyful heart, the accusatory voices that are causing you to doubt, will subside. You are already a champion for Christ. You have victory in Him. All the glory goes to God, and you are a benefactor of His tremendous grace. Whenever those accusatory voices fill your mind, quote Scripture and thank God for all the blessings in your life, and particularly for saving you from going down the road of destruction.

I have said this many times: When the devil knows we belong to the Lord, he is fully aware he has lost the battle for our souls. But he will do whatever possible to make us think that God does not love us, that He is disappointed with us and that we are useless to Him. Satan will try to keep us from living a productive life so we can’t reach others for Christ.

But we know greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world, and nothing can keep us from the love of God. Be encouraged. The Lord loves you deeply and sees you as a redeemed child of God, not a failed one. The failed one is the individual who foolishly rebels against Him never admitting a need for the Savior. People like this are often hopelessly lost and tragically condemned for all eternity, because of their foolish pride.

Surely you bless many because of the wisdom you have gained. Through your struggles to get clarification regarding your faith about true Christianity, you have come out on the winning side. I leave you with one very important Scripture that I hope you will meditate on every day:

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Rejoice, RP, you are in a position to minister to others from a unique perspective. Spiritual deception is running rampant, and you have gained spiritual discernment to alert others to this growing epidemic in these last days. Use all of what you have been through to God’s glory. Can you see how God has given you much to work with to help others gain a genuine walk with the Lord? Surely you are very special in His eyes.

On that day glorious when you finally see Him face to face, rest assured that He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21b).

In God’s love,

Esther

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:22-14).