Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THE FIERCE SOCIETY

This article is meant to be a discussion of current times, not end times. I don’t want to get into theological debates around eschatology. Some emphasize the great falling away while others argue that the Gospel will conquer. There is often an element of paradox in spiritual truth. The Bible speaks of great evil and darkness while also speaking of the glory of God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of a person’s perspective on end times, it is indisputable that we are currently in a time of world-wide intensity, as seen in nature, politics, economics and sociological dynamics. Nations are filled with conflict and distress. Those that seem to be at peace are better described as being in a malaise (that vague sense of ill-being and debility that accompanies the onset of an illness). Even people who lack spiritual perception can sense the urgency of the times.
We are moving into an era of troubled people and troubled times, a time when the devil will be active and angry, but also a time when the glory of God will be upon His people. In the days that are coming, Christians should be spiritually alert, in prayer, and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  –Billy Long

The Fierce Society
By laying aside God, the Bible, and Judeo-Christian values our society is deliberately or unwittingly destroying the under-girding foundation necessary for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous society, and in turn is laying the grounds for an intellectually inferior, undisciplined, morally depraved, lawless, and fierce society.

2 Timothy 3: 1-3, and Romans 1: 28-32 describe the ultimate characteristics of a culture that rejects God and which is "given over" to itself and its sin. Paul says that the times will be “perilous.”   The Greek word is also translated “fierce” and is the same word used to describe the demoniac (Matthew 8:28) out of whom Jesus cast a legion of demons. This man was exceedingly “fierce,” living among the tombs, naked, cutting himself, breaking chains used to bind him, and producing fear in all who came near. It is quite disturbing that the word used to describe this man is also used to describe times and the people that “will come.”

“This Generation”
Jesus, grieved at the society around him, gave three descriptions of “this generation.”  In Matthew 11: 16-19 He refers to “this generation” as sitting in the “marketplace” of reality, irrelevant and playing games while the real issues of the day transpire all around them. It is a picture of the church sitting inside its four walls and failing in its responsibility to be salt and light in the world.

In Matthew 11:20-24 he speaks of “this generation” that had access to grace, truth, and the presence of God like no other generation and yet rejected it.

In Matthew 12: 38-42 He speaks of “this generation” that wanted proof but rejected the very proof that was standing right in front of them.

In Matthew 12: 43-45 He warns us of “this generation” that knew God, like the man who was freed from the demon, but failed to follow-through in his walk with God. The demon came back with seven other demons more wicked than himself, and entered the man causing the last state of the man to be worse than the first. Jesus said, “So shall it be with ‘this wicked generation.’”

Serious Consequences
We should not take lightly the moral and social issues of the day and their consequences on our society. We should not think that the laws of the land are set apart into some neutral territory for which God is not concerned. More and more as we move into the ends of the age we will see an intensification in the spiritual warfare in the heavens. And it will affect our daily lives. Government will not just simply be the benevolent force that facilitates peace and order, but will become an instrument of godlessness that tries to control our lives and take away our prosperity and freedom, and at some point persecute those who follow Jesus and the God of the Bible. As we remove Judeo-Christian values from our laws, institutions, and daily lives, we will experience more and more troubles. A society that forgets God and turns to its various idols will become the “fierce” society that the Apostle Paul describes, a disintegrating society filled with selfishness, violence, immorality, unrest, and conflict.

A Fierce People
In the two paragraphs quoted below, we see the Apostle Paul’s description of a culture that turns its back on God, a society which God has “given over” to itself. He describes what we can look forward to if our nation continues its move away from God and His word.

“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 turn away…[they are] always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” -(2 Timothy 3: 1-5).

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife deceit, evil-mindedness, they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. - (Romans 1:28-32).

“Arise, cry out in the night.”
Regardless of a person’s eschatology (study of end times) it is not difficult to see that our nation and the world are entering difficult times. Christians will agree, regardless of their theological perspective, that it is time to call on God.
It must start with the individual, with each one of us. The challenges of today also bring great opportunity for God's people to know Him and touch Him as they never have before. Christians may have been comfortable being lukewarm and complacent in the past. But I don't think that is an option for us in the days ahead. Peter, James, and John slept in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus agonized in prayer. They did not realize the hour that was approaching. I believe that we are facing an hour in which we must prepare ourselves by genuine commitment to the Lord, and by calling on the Lord. One of my prayers these days is that the Lord will prepare me and my household for the days that are coming. I also pray this for my neighbors.
There are many who are praying for and believing for revival to sweep our nation. A revival that captures the entire nation could bring about a wonderful kingdom of God peace that thoroughly saturates the culture. We can pray for that, but we must also prepare for what the first Christians experienced. They saw a great visitation of God through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with multitudes being saved, healed, and delivered from the power of darkness. Whole cities were converted. But they also experienced great  persecution. We must pray and intercede for a thorough societal transformation, but also be prepared for persecution and trials similar to those of the early church in the book of Acts. 

 “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children…” (Lamentations 2:19).


“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).


“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.”  (Isaiah 60: 1-2).



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A PERSPECTIVE ON GRACE, FAITH, WORK, TRAVAIL, OBEDIENCE, REPENTANCE


GRACE, FAITH, WORK, TRAVAIL, OBEDIENCE, REPENTANCE:
TERMS THAT STAND IN CONTRAST BUT NOT IN CONTRADICTION

A CHALLENGE FROM FRIENDS
I had four separate conversations with friends that caused me to have concern with some of the doctrinal trends that have been developing in the church over recent years.

One friend was telling me that, under the New Covenant, Christians do not have to repent. Grace has brought forgiveness and a believer does not have to “repent” of sins.

A second friend was telling me that the terms “obey” and “obedience” were part of the Old Testament Law, and therefore, not appropriate for the New Testament Christian.

A third friend expressed concern over my sermon entitled “The Blessing is Beyond Obedience” and that this message undermined faith.

On a fourth occasion a friend expressed a mild disapproval at my teaching on “travail and labor in Intercession.” His implication was that travail seemed to suggest “works” rather than faith.

The error in my friends’ approaches is that their positions rested on one facet of a Biblical truth overemphasized to the exclusion of other legitimate aspects. In formulating any Biblical doctrine, one should look at all the scripture verses related to the subject, those you like and those you don’t like, and then formulate a doctrine that draws a circle inclusive of all those verses. The whole Bible must be our foundation, not just one pet principle. Neither should it be only one facet of any one truth.

FAITH AND TRAVAIL
The following terms are inter-related: Grace, Faith, Work, Travail, Obedience, Repentance.
We are looking here at Biblical concepts that work together in harmony. These virtues are foundational aspects of Christian character and effectiveness.  They are perfectly compatible with each other and work harmoniously together. They may stand in contrast, but they do not stand in contradiction or opposition.
For instance, “laboring in prayer” does not contradict “faith in prayer.” The Apostle Paul speaks of praying with “all prayer.” This means there are many patterns in prayer. It can sometimes be a simple word of faith, ask and believe, or sometimes a more protracted supplication, or even intense labor and travail. All are done in faith; and we see all in the life of Jesus. He sometimes simply spoke a word of faith to get something accomplished. But then he also “offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears.” There is a place for both. Paul said that Epaphras “labored in fervently prayer.” The disciples could usually cast out demons with a word, but also encountered situations in which the demons came out ”only by prayer and fasting.”
Situations that require patience do not indicate a lack of faith. Hebrews speaks of “faith and patience,” (Hebrews 6:12). They work together.
Obedience does not mean salvation by works. By the same token, salvation by grace does not remove our need to obey, and salvation by faith does not remove our need to work. “Laboring in prayer” does not mean a works/merit mentality. Laborers are called into the harvest.  We labor, travail, fight in prayers in the same way as we labor in the harvest (Matthew 9: 38, John 4:38, Col.4:12).
Labor itself is not contrary to grace. Paul said that grace labors (1 Cor 15:10). We labor and work, even as Jesus did. It is part of our service. But we do not work to earn salvation, which is by grace through faith, and not of works.

OBEDIENCE
Grace does not remove obedience as part of the Christian’s life. Obedience is not just associated with law and rules, but in the Christian life obedience is a dynamic of relationship. Even in the New Testament we obey God, our Master and Lord. We obey Him and keep His word.  Obedience is an element of “relationship,” a vital expression of our walk with Jesus Christ.

Obedience existed before the law. While obedience is also associated with law, it exists apart from law. Obedience was a living and vital part of “relationship” long before there was the law. In our relationship with the Lord we obey Him, we obey His voice.
Adam “disobeyed” (Rom 5:19) before there was ever a “law.” He disobeyed the Father.
Abraham obeyed long before there was “the law.”  His obedience in offering Isaac was not to a law, but to a command or word arising in his relationship and communication with God.  Hebrews 11:8, 17.
The rich young ruler’s disobedience was not to law but was a refusal to obey a word arising in his relationship with Jesus. It is interesting that in this case it was easier for the young man to obey the law than to obey the voice of Jesus. The lesson is that in your relationship with Jesus, He might ask you a hard thing.

Jesus obeyed the Father. He was obeying His Father’s voice.  Hebrews 5: 8, John 8:55. (He was not “under law,” but nevertheless, His actions never broke His Father’s law). Like Jesus, we obey the Father and the Holy Spirit. Being led by the Spirit we fulfill the law, we do not destroy it.
.Hebrews 5:8-9.  “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which he suffered. And being made perfect He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.”

Philip 2:8. “He became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.”
He was obeying the Father…not a law. Although the scripture prophesied that HE would go to the cross, yet there was no law that commanded Him to do this. He was obeying the Father, not a rule. Sometimes the voice of the Father asks us “to do” a hard thing, sometimes something more difficult than anything in the law.
Luke 18: 18-30.
The law did not tell the rich young ruler to sell everything and follow Jesus. But the voice of Jesus told him to do that. The young man testified that he had “kept the law.” But now was unwilling to obey the voice.
The law did not tell Abraham to offer up his son, but the voice of the Father did tell him. (The voice also stopped him). He obeyed the voice, that sometimes tells us to do “a hard thing.” To say “we are not under the law” does not relieve us of our responsibility to obey the voice of God. That voice will not allow us to do evil, and it will not always lead us into soft places and comfort.
The New testament is filled with verses using the word “obedience” and “command.” Peter’s writings alone include 10 sections of scripture using the word “obey” or “obedience” or “obedient.” The New Testament has commands and we are told to obey His Word.

REPENTANCE
Grace does not remove the need for repentance. The great commission commands repentance. Even Christians are commanded to repent when there is sin in their lives. I have a list of eighteen New Testament verses of scripture which speak of repentance. I list here only a few of them.
Jesus in the great commission told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel “Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:20.
In Luke 24:47 He commanded that “repentance….should be preached in His name to all nations.”
In Jesus’ message to the seven churches in the first three chapters of Revelation he commanded them saying, “Repent, or I will remove your candlestick.”
The apostle Paul in his message to Athens said that God now “commands all men everywhere to repent.”

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect Law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:22-25


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

MY BOOK

If you are hungry to know more about how the Holy Spirit worked in the early Christian church, and if you are hungry to understand and experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you should order my book SPIRITUAL POWER FOR EVERYDAY LIVING. 
Go to my website at the link shown below to order your copy.

https://www.billylongministries.com/

The book clarifies many misconceptions and contains practical teaching with many examples and testimonies of the gifts at work. It is an excellent tool for teaching others about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. ---Billy Long

A SWORD SHALL PIERCE YOUR SOUL

GOOD CHEER AND TRIBULATION

“You are highly favored…the Lord is with you.” Like 1: 28-30
"And a sword shall pierce your soul." -Luke 2: 35

A supernatural word from God does not mean your life will henceforth be easy and free of grief and pain. Sometimes, to the contrary, it may mean the suffering, hardship and tribulation involved in entering the kingdom of God and extending it into a hostile world system. The Apostle Paul’s commissioning word from God included the phrase, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My sake.”
The angel Gabriel visited Mary telling her that she would be the earthly mother of Jesus. We celebrate these words at Christmas as we sing about the joy and wonder of it all, while often failing to recognize the perplexities that accompanied the fulfillment of that revelation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song inspired by the subsequent word given to Mary by the elderly prophet who warned her of the grief she would someday suffer at Jesus’ crucifixion. “A sword shall pierce through your soul.”

Then later Mary must have wept with tremendous inner grief when she realized the price paid by those mothers in Ramah who lost their babies when Herod, overcome by the fear of One being born who might be a potential threat to his position, had all the male children two years old and younger put to death by the sword? What thoughts must have been going through Mary’s mind at that time? It was her child they were trying to kill. She pondered these things in her heart as she trusted God to answer the thoughts of those who lost their children.

Jameson, Faucet, and Brown in their commentary on Matthew 2:16-18 say eloquently what must have been God’s answer to these mothers: “O ye mothers of Bethlehem! methinks I hear you asking why your innocent babes should be the ram caught in the thicket, while Isaac escapes. I cannot tell you, but one thing I know, that ye shall, some of you, live to see a day when that Babe of Bethlehem shall be Himself the Ram, caught in another sort of thicket, in order that your babes may escape a worse doom than they now endure. And if these babes of yours be now in glory, through the dear might of that blessed Babe, will they not deem it their honor that the tyrant's rage was exhausted upon themselves instead of their infant Lord?”
Jesus died and gave His life that the Kingdom of God may come. And one day righteousness, peace, and joy will reign on this earth and the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The lion will lay down with the lamb. The child will play near the snake, and there will be no hurt or sorrow. There will be no breaking in or breaking out, and no outcry in the streets. But meanwhile, as we proclaim the joy and salvation that is in Christ Jesus, we must be prepared for the spiritual warfare that is necessary in proclaiming God’s kingdom and seeing it extended into the lives of people in this present age. The apostle Paul who preached in the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit, returned to the new Christian communities strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and reminding them that we through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Jesus said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”(John 16: 33

Saturday, March 31, 2018

GREETINGS TO READERS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES

I am blessed that so many people from around the world have been reading my blog posts. I do appreciate your visits. 
There are many readers from South Korea, Europe, and other nations. Please send me an email and introduce yourself if you have enjoyed these posts. 

Write to me at broblong@gmail.com

Thanks so much. 
Billy Long

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

TRUE COMMUNITY VERSUS CULT COMMUNITY


True Community versus Cult Community
Laurel and I ate dinner in downtown Asheville a few years ago. There was a European atmosphere. The restaurants around that intersection had outdoor dining and all the tables were full. A very pleasant atmosphere.
There was a group of people performing outside in the square at the intersection. The performers were part of a cult who called themselves “The Twelve Tribes.” According to one of their members, they do not use the name Christian, but revert back to the Hebrew name for “Jesus” which is “Jeshua.” They do not recognize Christianity as being of God, and they do not preach the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ and His atoning death on the cross. Their passion is “the community.” They hold all things in common, and their testimony is about the group and its New Testament lifestyle. (I found it ironic that they do not preach the New Testament gospel, but yet claim to live by its lifestyle).

Laurel and I spoke to one of their members, a 21-year old girl from Conway, SC, which is about 20 miles from our home near North Myrtle Beach. Her passion was about the community, the relationships, the commitment of the people to one another, and the fact they had given up everything for the group. Their message was the group and its lifestyle.

This young girl had found what she perceived to be truth in what was actually pseudo-biblical relationships. I was impressed by the hunger demonstrated in this young girl. Her misguided solution, however, was a deception that on the surface appeared to satisfy, but which will eventually leave her disillusioned and empty.

It is sad that so many churches, although preaching the gospel, have failed so badly in the area of relationships and community. People end up going to cult groups and masonic lodges to find friendship, relationships, and a sense of belonging that should have been available in the church and real Christianity.

Listening to this young girl I realized that there is a generation out there searching for what many of us have tasted in real kingdom relationships under the Lordship of Jesus. The real hunger in our hearts is to be joined together in Christian community in loving and committed relationships under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to experience the reality of His presence through the Holy Spirit.

There are two foundational absolutes that must be met in real Christianity: The person and work of Jesus Christ and the truth of His written word, the Bible. These are foundations for true Christian community. All else is built on “sand.”   ---Billy Long

Addendum: 
Below is a comment from Beth. Her statement and questions represent the cry of many Christians today. This is an issue that pastors and church leaders should take seriously and pray earnestly for real and genuine leading of the Holy Spirit in finding the answer.


Hi Billy! I've been feeling this absence of community in the church acutely for many many years. What is the solution? How does one go about finding true community...not just empty fakeness... but true, messy, honest community?

Most of the time I feel that community with nonbelievers is more enriching and soul refreshing than the pseudo churchy community. Nonbelievers are permitted to have a crappy day, lose their, composure, go on a alcohol binge, etc...everyone knows their dirt and still accepts them and will just be with them without judgement. When things get messy they get real and draw closer together.

Where is that in the church? We are all so broken and yet we are not allowed to let it show because if it shows then we must not be "abiding" , we aren't staying close to Jesus, we are "in sin", etc, etc,etc....so much judgement and so little love! I hear this from young people all the time who have fallen away from Father for this very reason. It is so heartbreaking!
What are your thoughts about this? ---Beth Tuggy




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thank You To My Friends

Thanks to all my friends who read my blog. I also invite you to visit my website to order my book. It is an excellent tool for understanding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I recommend it highly for personal reading, and for use in small groups or classes. It is also very good for laying a foundation in understanding the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.   ---Billy Long

My website:
Billy Long Ministries

My Other Blogs:
https://blongandfriends.blogspot.com
His Presence With Us