Month: April 2016

What Does it Mean to Have a Darkened Mind?

Man was created in the image of his Creator, Almighty God. Man was made perfect and complete, but a “little lower than the angels” and below, certainly, God Himself. He was made to have and to enjoy the privilege of being in the presence of His Maker all the time. God is the Ruler and Judge of the entire universe, visible and invisible. Adam, the first man, and his wife, Eve, were the only humans who were initially “born” with no sin. Transgression entered the world, and forever changed it, when Eve and her own disobedience, prodded by satan, chose to make a decision that was out of line with the Almighty’s perfectly- and lovingly-set boundaries. This act broke her fellowship- her close and intimate companionship- with the Lord God. Adam did likewise and both of them willingly defied Jehovah by eating fruit from the one tree in all of the garden in which they were told not to partake. This act put a wedge in that relationship forever, and that sin nature was inherited by each and every man and woman who has been born since.

At that point, there was no longer that inseparable bond between Creator and created. The perfect unity was gone. Man no longer had the desires of God. Man no longer bore the perfect image of God. And the rift would only grow with the passage of time and the perpetuity of sin throughout each subsequent generation. Jesus refers to the Father in Heaven as good, and the Bible refers to every one born with the sinful nature as- not bad, but- wicked and evil. Why such strong opposites? Because the word translated as “good” in referring to God means morally upright, virtuous, excellent and pure. We (our ancestors Adam and Eve) once had a mind like God’s. Their thoughts and the motives of their hearts were like God’s. They were unselfish, they knew that they were not superior or authoritative in the created order, they wanted to obey and to please God, and they loved Him as He loved them and were fully satisfied. Today we search for all manner of things to fulfill us to our disappointment and detriment because only in Yahweh can we truly be content and joyful.

When man is separated from God due to the severity of his iniquities and/ or his repeated choices not to turn back to Him to be forgiven, his heart hardens, he enjoys the things of this world where he is rather than the things of Heaven where God’s throne and dwelling are. Also, because we are surrounded by others who are in bondage to sin, our disobedience is common and shared and reinforced. And due to satan’s rule over this earthly realm- brought on by our transgression of God’s laws, precepts and statutes- his lure and deception attract our godless natures. God is Light and without Him there is only darkness. Satan is called the prince of darkness by Jesus Himself because there is no light in him. This world is shrouded in darkness.

Through God’s Word (the Bible), His prophets and His Church He has communicated to us His message of totally undeserved love and reconciliation through the blood-bought forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is God, willingly allowed Himself to be born by the power of the Holy Spirit and took on the form of a man. He died willingly in our place for the payment of sin. The love of God is immense, unconditional, substitutionary and undue. He is patient and long-suffering. But sin is such a devastating agent in the lives of men, in God’s creation and His relationship to man, in addition to its being a horrid stench in the nostrils of a blameless, righteous and Holy God that it must be dealt with. A true and just judge cannot let a crime go unpunished.

In the book of Romans chapter one the Bible has this to say (verses 18-32), “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (When you read the phrase “God gave them up” or “God gave them over,” it means His hand of grace over their lives has been removed because of the full measure of their sin. It is not for God to be blamed.)

Those verses are very powerful, very direct, very convicting and very true. We often do not at all like to hear these things, let alone entertain them as true. In much the same way we deny our guilt and responsibility when confronted with our sin, we also close our hearts to the truth which, if we confess it and repent, can save our souls. We see repeated in the passage two important words or phrases. The first is “full” or “filled.” What does the Word of God say in connection with these words? It says we are filled with all kinds of evil (unrighteousness) and lists many examples. The next equally gripping phrase is “gave up” or “gave over.” The unbeliever may hasten to deny his or her own guilt and attempt to place the blame on the Creator, since the Word says it is God who gives them up/ over to their sin. This assumption and assertion is totally false in that it blasphemously puts the blame on our Holy God who is forever without fault from beginning to end, and everlasting to everlasting. In fact, people will many times seek to accuse the devil. This is wrong, too. It is true that satan and his demons can and do tempt us, but the book of James 1:14-15 convincingly reminds us that “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire, then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” So it is the sin nature or essence already in us that, when practiced and rebelliously lived out repetitively and purposefully, results in the Lord removing His hand of grace over us, which is the only thing keeping us from falling headlong into death. Our rejection of His mercy, the darkening of our hearts and minds, and our love for sin rather than forgiveness and righteousness, submerges us.

Some other relevant and key phrases from scriptures include:
• We are “ALIENATED from the life of God” and “darkened in our understanding” (Ephesians 4:18)
• That our “hearts (are) growing dull” (Matthew 13:14-17, Isaiah 6:9-10)
• That we call “evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20)
• We “neither glorify God nor thank Him” (Romans 1:21)
• We have “closed our hearts to understanding” (Job 17:4)
• That “Jesus has to open our minds” (Luke 24:45)
• We have “let our eyes become darkened” (Romans 11:10-12)
• That “the land was darkened; darkness covered the face of the land” (Exodus 10:15)
• We are “futile in our thinking” (Romans 1:21)
• We are part of “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11)
• We are a “people who walk in darkness” (Isaiah 9:2)

Many argue against or ignore absolutes (truths), revealing their ignorance. I need only look back to the early 1980’s to recall how shameful and unspoken such acts as homosexuality and unwed pregnancies were. These sins, among others, have not undergone a change in their moral and spiritual illegality; what they once were they still are and always will be. God has not changed. He is still holy. He is still immutable. He is still just. In fact, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). What has changed is the pendulum swing of human opinion regarding God’s laws and their own rebellion towards Him. Things which are blameless and true will remain blameless and true because they are of God. Things which are unrighteous and false will always be this way because they are not of God. The younger generations see these acts as acceptable because their parents, in most cases, did not bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they (the children) do not know God or His Word, nor do they go to church or seek after God. They were born, were brought up and now live in darkness. They have not known any other way. Yet, they are not guiltless because they are also the most technologically- driven and -influenced and -proficient of all. They have God’s Word and Truth widely and profusely available anytime, anywhere and in the palms of their hands. They have 24/7 access to the Bible, sermons, podcasts, MP3s, e-books and more. And the physical world is still full of CD’s, DVDs, books, magazines, church buildings and the person-hood of the saints. So, they too, are without excuse.

So where does the darkening, hardening, giving over, alienation, dullness, futility, closing to understanding and unfruitfulness lead and why is it important? It is because, among other things and especially in America, it leads to the manifestation of darkness which arises from a mind and heart which are opposed, and separated from, Almighty God. Among the tangible, destructive, observable, perverse and immoral fruit in today’s world are: families with only one parent (due to divorce or one spouse leaving) or two of the same sex, unions and relationships based mostly or solely on sexual gratification (both hetero and homosexual), gender confusion (despite biological characteristics), allowing men to use women’s bathrooms and vice-versa (and laws protecting such), the weakening of a country’s military and sovereign protection system (by means of the forced introduction of unsafe practices and expectations leading to low morale, confusion, suicide, ill-effectiveness, a diminished budget and resources, etc.), lawsuits leveled against people and businesses whose actions and practices have heretofore been established as right and common-sense, the eroding of an individual’s right to arm and protect himself in an ever-increasing dangerous and vulnerable world, corruption of all kinds at all levels of business and government from the least to the greatest, media and entertainment which condone and glorify sex, violence, lawlessness and self-gratification, an almost total and complete lack of respect for authority in all its forms (parents, teachers, clergy, police), lack of parental oversight (supervision), judgment, presence and discipline in the lives of their children, massive and decades-long acceptance of murder in the form of what is wrongfully and deceptively called “abortion,” a lack of personal integrity, character, work ethic, responsibility, personal appearance (grooming and hygiene in some instances), gratitude, manners, a lack of self-control and patience concerning spending and saving, giving and debt repayment, a willingness to do unthinkable things (shameful texting, bullying on a grand scale, fighting for a known national enemy), legalization of longtime illegal drugs (did what has always been wrong suddenly become right?), the allowance and safe harbor of known illegals from other countries with no prosecution and impunity, a staggering amount of national debt whose numerical delineation was once unheard of and unimaginable in daily language and terms, the introduction of an indoctrination of disturbing curricula in our public schools, the allowing of an evil, wicked, critically harsh, inhumane, ungodly and foreign code of law to creep in and begin to supersede our own country’s legal system (Shariah “law”) and the list goes on.

A little earlier we referenced Romans chapter one where we saw the word “debased.” This word is used in several Bible translations including the ESV (English Standard Version), the MEV (Modern English Version), the NKJV (New King James Version) and the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version). In a secular dictionary it means “lowered in value or dignity.” This is NOT what God created you to be.

The KJV (King James Version) uses the word “reprobate” which is said to mean unprincipled or depraved. The HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) says “worthless,” meaning without worth or merit, useless, futile. And both the NASB (New American Standard Bible), the NIV (New International Version) employ the term “depraved,” describing that which is morally bad, crooked and corrupt. Finally, the AMP (Amplified Bible) uses “base and condemned” and states that which is mean, to have a penalty inflicted upon, ignoble, menial, unfit for use, poor in quality, low in worth and declared guilty. I do not ever want to be described or thought of in any of these terms. Yet the truth is that without forgiveness, a new heart, the impartation of righteousness, and justification (a right standing) before Almighty God and the sacrifice and free gift of Jesus Christ that is exactly what I am.

In addition to our hearts and minds being darkened due to our self-imposed prisons of sin and rebellion (born into and sustained by wrong choices we alone have made and are accountable for at the Judgment) is that, in many cases, the Bible reveals to us in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that in your case, “the god of this world (satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In fact, just a few verses earlier in chapter 3 and verses 14 through 16, the truth is displayed, “but (your) minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read (the Word), that same veil remains unlifted, BECAUSE ONLY THROUGH CHRIST IS IT TAKEN AWAY. Yes, to this day whenever (the Word) is read a veil lies over their hearts. But WHEN ONE TURNS TO THE LORD, THE VEIL IS REMOVED.”

The terrors, societal ills, lawlessness, plots, schemes, protests, illegalities, murders—these are not due to psychological issues and mental illnesses as we understand them or think about them. They are brought about because of darkened hearts and minds, resulting from the fact that we would rather follow after sin than submit to and follow after the Lord Jesus Christ. It is what is perfectly related in James 1:14-15, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” What can be done about this? Who provides the answer? The apostle Paul, the greatest missionary and evangelist of all time, had this to proclaim in Romans 7:24-25, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …” Hebrews 3:15 has this exhortation, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts as at the rebellion…” And if you would respond to that voice while there is still time, 2 Corinthians 6:2 pleas “For He says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, NOW is the favorable time; behold NOW is the day of salvation.” Peace and wisdom be upon you!

Herod vs. Jesus Christ: The Political & the Providential

During my quiet time with the Father this morning, I heard Him direct me to Matthew chapter two. As I began to read, listen, watch and ask I wondered if “Herod” was a name or a title. The reason is that verses one and three both write “Herod the King.” In this case, King was the title so I figured that Herod was a name. References in verses 7, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19 and 22 did nothing to change that perception.

Verse 22 also mentions for the first time Herod’s son by the name of Archelaus. When I googled his name I found out it refers to him being a king over several areas as well, and this was confirmed in my reference and study books. However, in the etymology of the name Herod we find that he was a Roman political figure who was appointed to rule over a class or tribe of people- in this case, the Jews. He, politically, professionally and practically was actually known as ‘The King of the Jews.”

Knowing and understanding this now, we can better understand why verse three says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…” Heard what? That the wise men who had come to Jerusalem to worship the newborn, incarnate God asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Herod was disturbed because this was a direct threat to his authority, position, influence and livelihood. The Jews were concerned, perhaps, because they were only cultural Jews who had no heart for God and because they feared a not-so-distant change in the leadership that would bring unknown, uncertain and unwelcome change to their day-to-day lives.

So here we have two men laying claim to the title “King of the Jews.” One received the title by the Roman Empire here on earth; the other received the title by Almighty God, and from everlasting to everlasting. One is a false claim and one is a true claim. One was a temporary claim and one is an eternal claim. One didn’t care at all for the people he had charge over. The other cared so much for them that He laid down His life willingly for them, and then took it up again. So why is it that a people would later rather have a murderer released to them and wish for the King to be crucified? Is it because this King, in His mercy and love and forgiveness and reconciliation, requires something of those He rules over? Is it because we would rather live our lives under government authority no matter how harsh, oppressive or unjust the laws as long as we can have the “freedom” to sin? Remember the Lord’s omniscient judgment stated in John 3:19, “The Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil.”

Those of us who are believers (but not Jewish, unless Messianic) must remember that we have been “grafted in” (see Romans 11:11-31). We received salvation because of God’s kindness and Israel’s unbelief. We have exercised our freedom to choose. We have chosen Jesus and refused Barabbas. We have submitted ourselves to the eternal lordship of Jesus Christ, rather than the temporal and limited authority of Herod. Herod’s tomb does not read “The King of the Jews,” but Christ’s cross does! What the chief priests argued about and what Pilate dismissed as trivial, God Almighty revealed and let stand as truth.

If we are believers, under what circumstances did we profess Christ? What did we understand His Gospel to mean? Did we simply agree to a set of rules and beliefs or, perhaps, even agree to live by them? Or did we make Him our Lord, our personal King—because that is what it truly means to be Christian. God’s Word refers to Him as Lord, Master, Rabbi (teacher). These designations all carry in them the implicit and presumptive characteristic of authority. And if you claim to believe in God apart from Jesus Christ, and trust in that for your entrance into the kingdom of Heaven, the Word says, “All authority in Heaven and earth has been given to Me (Jesus).” And again, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.” Without Him there is no way to the Father, for God has given no other way to man by which he may be saved. Hallelujah to the true “King of the Jews!”

Therefore, no Republican or Democrat, no Trump or Cruz or Clinton or Sanders, and no Obama are King. We must put our trust in no man. No career politician today or in Herod’s time, and no “outsider” or “non-establishment” person can even begin to rule a nation and its people, especially without Almighty God. Our nation is where it is and where it is worse headed because we trust, follow, elect and place ourselves under a modern-day Herod. We must serve, submit to and obey the past, present, future and eternal King—the LORD Jesus Christ. Please, please read John 3:16-18. God bless you as you seek Him with ALL your hearts.