A Matter of Life or Death
By Berit Kjos - January 2012
“...our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against . . . the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, wrote,
Do we love God enough to treasure His costly grace? Are we willing to "share His suffering" rather than compromise with a world system that delights in cheap grace with its elastic adaptability ?
In the context of earthly time, that cost has been spiraling the last century -- especially through the recent decades. We can look back to the sixties and see the mounting boundaries set by today's secular world system. Year after year, new bans were announced and freedom choked: No prayer in school,
As parents became Conc
Last week, a friend asked me to explain these verses:
Her main concern dealt with "the aroma of death leading to death." Who or what would face such death?
That's an important question. Let's look for clues in a few other verses. Notice that in each verse below there is a division between
America's Compromised "Gospel"
There is little risk in simply stating that "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." No costs, no conditions, no confessions, no conversions.
Most people would be pleased to know that there is a God [however they perceive Him] who loves us and is there to help us. They may ignore His Word and follow their own inclinations, but they like the notion of some kind of powerful deity. That's why there are countless religions in the world.
For the most part, those gods are worshipped because of their supposed power to a victim and punish an enemy. The follower's main focus is not on God and His Word, but on themselves. They want comfort, inner peace and cheap love -- not God's lessons in endurance, strength to resist temptations, nor the watchful nearness of God and with His unpopular Biblical boundaries. Rather than separation from the world, they want acceptance and popularity in the world.
Many of today's so-called Christians have found that acceptance by adapting the Bible to the world-system. That spiritual melting pot, welcomes today's popular version of Christianity. It's not surprising that Rick Warren has announced that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be "one of the big enemies of the 21st century." 8
What, then, does Warren mean by Fundamentalism? In a May 2005 interview the Pew Forum on Religion, Rick Warren stated:
I'm not surprised. Jesus told His disciples that, unlike the compromised church culture, His way would be narrow, difficult and unpopular:
But for those who walk with Him, there's abundant strength in Christ for all the challenges ahead! This promise is for us today:
here's a celebrated couplet by the poet William Blake that sums up for me much that is disturbing about exclusionary versions of Christianity:
In light of this spiritual melting pot, it's not surprising that Rick Warren has announced that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be "one of the big enemies of the 21st century." 8 What, then, does Warren mean by Fundamentalism? In a May 2005 interview the Pew Forum on Religion, Warren stated: "Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left; I don't know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren't that many Fundamentalists left in America.... Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity." 9 Actually, Jesus told His disciples that His way would be narrow and difficult. "There are few who find it," he said. But "wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it." [Matthew 7:13-14] But for those who walk with Him, there's abundant strength in Christ for all the challenges ahead! This promise is for us today: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9 See also How mysticism& the occult are changing ...
... )... through Transformational Leadership See also Transformation The Changing Church The Postmodern Church Comments Rockbridge University- A purpose-driven seminary for the 21st century church Home December 2008 Rick Warren: "Annoyed" with Critics Serving Two Masters Not Working: "Warren's distaste for fundamentalist Christianity was revealed in January 2006, when a Philadelphia reporter, attending a Saddleback service, stated: 'Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be 'one of the big enemies of the 21st century.'... 'Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism- they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other." In 2005, at the Pew Forum of Religion, Warren told the mostly liberal audience: 'Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left.... Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity." See Fundamentalism and God's eternal, unchanging Word 3-Legged Stool Teetering in Rwanda: "Rwanda is the first 'purpose-driven nation' on Earth, an experiment in the 3-legged stool concept developed and promulgated by the late management guru Peter Drucker. Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan has been using Rwanda as a template for Dominionism. Working hand-in-hand with NGOs, the United Nations, charitable foundations, multinational corporations, and churches, Warren has been trumpeting his 'transformation' of the nation of Rwanda.... [But] 'the evidence seems to be growing that Rwanda is meddling again in Congo's troubles." See Warren's P.E.A.C.E. Plan& UN ...
... Or if wealth be not the trial, worldly care is quite as mischievous. If we cannot be torn in pieces by the roaring lion, we may be hugged to death by the bear. The devil little cares which it is, so long as he destroys our love to Christ, and our confidence in him. "I fear me that the Christian church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days [well, they are not quite so silken anymore] than in those rough awake now, for... we are most likely to fall asleep to our own undoing, unless our faith in Jesus be a reality, and our love to Jesus a vehement flame." See Watch A new religion masquerading as Christianity: "Liberal 'Christians' abhor 'fundamentalist' Christianity, so they cast it aside and adopt their own set of religious beliefs and values. Times have changed, after all, so they feel it's incumbent upon them to bring Christianity out of the Dark Ages into our postmodern world. Christianity must shed its traditional, orthodox beliefs to blend in with the popular culture.... "Before I came to know Christ in a saving way I was a liberal 'Christian.' (That was before the liberals coined the term 'progressive Christian.') As all liberals do, I molded Christianity into my worldview. Problem was I kept running into a road block — the Bible. I rarely read the Bible but when I did I'd invariably stumble on a passage that contradicted what, at the time, was 'true for me ...
... , it suggests a concern for labels and public perception that is not attractive in Christians." Whose Evangelical Manifesto?" ...a group of evangelical leaders --including the Rev. Rick Warren... and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals-- will publish a document to be called 'An Evangelical Manifesto: The Washington Declaration of Identity and Public Commitment.'... Os Guinness, one of the 'Manifesto's' primary authors, told me that a 'representative group' has been asked to sign it, and that 'scores of people have given input.'" April 2008 Liberal, Evangelical, or Fundamentalist?" ...whatever definition of the term 'evangelical' one uses, few would deny that it has historically identified a group unwilling to be labeled either 'liberal' or 'fundamentalist.' The pejorative use of these two terms from the poles of the Christian community spectrum necessitated the 'middle ground.'... the 'middle ground' is shifting, or more accurately, widening....We have attached the word 'legalism' to efforts mounted to stay the influence of the world on the church. It reminds me of the little old lady who prayed, 'Lord, forgive me. I do so many things I used to call sin.'..." ...we have chosen to pressure the church into accepting both doctrines and lifestyle practices as normative that were soundly rejected by the previous generation. In the interest of 'personal freedom' we have torn down fences before we learned exactly why they were built...." ...in the minds of ...
... of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rick Warren says Christian fundamentalism will be an enemy of the 21st century. Excerpt from article: "Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be 'one of the big enemies of the 21st century.'... 'Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism- they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other.'" [" The purpose-driven pastor "] What does Rick Warren define Christian Fundamentalism to be? In a May 2005 interview between Rick Warren and the Pew Forum on Religion, Warren stated: "Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left; I don't know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren't that many Fundamentalists left in America... Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity." Quote by Rick Warren, May 2005 What are those Five Fundamentals of the Faith? [From www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/pewreligion.htm#fundamentals] 1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-9). 2. The Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27). 3. The Blood Atonement (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14). 4. The Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36-46; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ...
Verses 12-17 p 1829 Matthew Henry Commentary
II. His success in his work, v. 12. God made manifest the savor of His of his knowledge by Him in every place where he came. Theapostle speaks of this as a matter of thankfulness to God. In ourselves we are weak, and have neither joy nor victory; but in Christ we mav reioice and triumph.
1. The success is different; for some are saved by it, while others perish under it. (l) Unto some, it is a savor of death unto death, as men dislike an ill savor,, and therefore they are blinded and hardened by it. They reject the gospel, to their ruin, even to spiritual death. (2) Unto others the gospel is a savor of life unto life. To humble and gracious souls the piercing of the word is most delightful and profitable. As it quickened them at first, when they vere dead in trespasses and slns, so it will end in eternal life.
2. The awful impressions this matter made upon the apostle, v. 16. Who is worthy to be employed in such weighty work? Who is able to perform such a difficult work? The work is great and our strength is small; all our sufficiency is of God.
3. The comfort which the apostle had. (1) Because faithful ministers shall be accepted of God, whatever their success be (v. 15), in those who are saved and in those also who perish. Ministers shall be accepted, and recompensed, not according to their success, but according to their fidelity. (2) Because his conscience witnessed to his faithfulness, r,. 17. Though many corrupt the word of God, yet the apostle's conscience witnessed to his fidelity. His aim was to approve himself to God; he therefore spoke and acted always as in the sight of God...
In constrast, many are persuaded by human logic and feel-good promises without actually being changed by the Spirit (which is God's work, not ours):
"Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
"... turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:26
"Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit....” Acts 2:38
Not all will accept God's gifts and promise. In fact, most of the people in the "Christized" western world will reject His wonderful, life-changing truths! For centuries, Christian parents have been free to train their children to follow God's ways, but that freedom is fading fast. Schools, popular books, television and computer games all present a contrary message:
- The Biblical God is just another myth!
- His teaching is obsolete.
- It conflicts with today's moral freedom and self-esteem
- It creates division and hinders unity...
The list goes on and on. And our children and grandchildren are immersed in this increasingly corrupt world.
Notice the VISIBLE foes in this North Korean drama. They were the blinded puppets of Communism -- indoctrinated in atheism and trained to hate God and His people.
Meanwhile, the INVISIBLE foes were the "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). Dedicated to the destruction of Biblical faith, they are now generally ignored in our post-modern culture. But their deadly schemes were all too familiar to the persecuted Christians in Marxist and other anti-Christian nations. As Pastor Richard Wurmbrand wrote in Tortured For Christ (1967),
“...there are no nominal, halfhearted, lukewarm Christians in Russia or China. The price Christians pay is far too great.... Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands.”
Job, too, had to face a crushing confrontation but not because of any visible foe. His assailant was Satan himself! And in this first episode, Job didn't see the human instruments used in the battle to destroy his faith and family. Nor did he have the encouragement of God's written Word, since his torturous test happened long before the days of Moses and the victory of the cross.
Job apparently lived slightly before (or during) the days of Abraham. His misery brings to mind the familiar questions: Why do good people suffer? Why would a loving, all-powerful God allow such pain? Job was a "righteous" man, yet he had to endure a massive loss, agonizing grief, excruciating pain, andmerciless accusations from his wife and friends. Why?
We see a partial answer in the first chapter, where we meet Job and his precious family:
"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.
"And his sons would go and feast in their houses.... So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, 'It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did regularly." Job 1:1-5
God saw Job's faithfulness. While paganism flourished in most of the visible inhabited world, God had communicated His truth to the hearts of those who would listen. Then, during an invisible heavenly gathering of angelic beings -- both good and evil -- our sovereign, all-powerful God calls attention to Job:
"...there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.... Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'"
Satan -- who would love to destroy this uncompromising believer -- can do nothing to Job as long as God protects him. So he challenges God to an amazing test:
"'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!'
"And the Lord said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.' So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord." Job 1:10-12
In other words, God gave Satan permission to tempt and test (and later torture) His servant Job. And Satan didn't waste any time. A string of tragedies would soon break Job's heart:
"Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; and a messenger came to Job and said, 'The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away — indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!'
"While he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants... and I alone have escaped to tell you!'
"While he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!'
"While he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!'
"Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'
"In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong." Job 1: 20-22
God triumphed, and Satan was proven wrong! Job didn't curse God! Nor did his faith weaken. Instead he worshipped God in the midst of his heartbreaking agony!
But Job's trials and Satan's assaults didn't end here. In fact, Job was about to face a more subtle satanic scheme -- one that sounds very similar to the assaults on Jesus two thousand years later. As Luke's gospel tells us, "when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time." (Luke 4:13) For Job, that "opportune time" was to be just around the corner.
Keep in mind, none of these plots surprise our sovereign God! Now as then, He uses Satan to fulfill His purpose: to demonstrate the victory of a righteous person who lives by faith in God and anticipates His promised eternity! History is full of such hope-filled believers! Some are listed in Hebrews 11, God's special hall of fame:
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac... By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible....
"...the time would fail me to tell of ... David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions... out of weakness were made strong....
"Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy...." Hebrews 11:17-38
This message continues in the next chapter, Hebrews 12. It reminds us that the lives of these faithful men and women continue to shine as testimonies to God's overcoming strength for us today. God's righteous disciples, servants and martyrs of the past have demonstrated the kind of faith and endurance that we need now in order to follow His way and reach His goal:
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross..." Hebrews 12:1-2
Don't expect the battles ahead to be easy. God trains His children through challenges that we can't possibly meet apart from His Word and His strength. Evil will continue to flourish, but God can use it for ultimate good. And as we trust and follow Him, He may even use us as witnesses who demonstrate His grace and strength among broken people who long for His peace. For,
"...we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:35-37
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
Our two centuries of peace, freedom, and relative comfort in America may soon come to an end. But God invites us to train our minds with His Truth and our hearts to follow Him in the hard times ahead. Only by trusting Him and walking by His strength can we share in His victory. So let's pray that He will encourage and equip us for the times ahead.
Lord, give me love like this
Many crowd the Savior's Kingdom, few receive His Cross,
Many seek His consolation, few will suffer loss
For the dear sake of the Master, counting all but dross.
Other poems by this special missionary to India's children: My Prayer,
me love like this,
Flame Of God
1. The execution was reported in the North Korean press as an act of suppressing superstition. Various versions of this story are posted on numerous websites (without any copyright reference). Two slightly different accounts are quoted in Extreme Devotion (Voice of the Martyrs), p. 99 and Jesus Freaks (Voice of the Martyrs), p. 125. The most detailed version can be found here. A similar but more recent episode involving a steamroller is described in this article: Korean Reds Targeting Christians.
2. The first five chapters of the Bible were apparently organized and written as a cohesive manuscript by Moses. But archeologists have found written records that are over 4,000 years old. In 1975, Dr. Paolo Matthiae, Director of the Italian Archeological Mission in Syria, discovered "the greatest third-millennium [B.C.] archive ever unearthed." It included "more than 15,000 cuneiform tablets and fragments" and unveiled a Semitic empire that dominated the Middle East more than four thousand years ago. Its hub was Ebla, where educated scribes filled ancient libraries with written records of history, people, places and commerce. See Archeological and historical evidence of Biblical accuracy.
3. Uz was in the area later called Edom, south of what was called Caanan. It was probably renamed when Esau and his descendant settled in Edom. When Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Edomites refused to let them pass through their land. In Lamentations 4:21, we read this judgment against Edom: "O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz! The cup shall also pass over to you, and you shall become drunk..." (Lamentations 4:21)
4. Satan who was given limited power to manipulate the forces of nature, was called the "prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2:2. During Job's testing, he had permission to raise up "a great wind" (perhaps a tornado or hurricane) and "fire of God" (see Revelation 13:11-14.) He also provoked the deadly assaults by the Sabeans (apparently a nomadic tribe in Arabia, south of Uz) and the Chaldeans (east of Uz, near the Euphrates river).