SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD

“For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Isa.66:24

My first encounter with Jonathan Edwards was in my tenth grade English class, Edwards’ classic sermon “Sinners” was required reading, even in public school. I didn’t think much of it at the time, just another irrelevant, ranting preacher is all he was to me. After years went by, many years, I began to read the writings of Edwards once again. This time I was introduced to him in the framework of revival, his work was at the epicenter of the Great Awakening that had a profound effect on the birth of our nation. Edwards’ writings provided a foundation for me, historic, orthodox Christianity became more and more appealing to me in this modern world of the get rich quick, have it all now, relevant, purpose driven, modern christian world. I needed something with some teeth. Recently this modern, relevant theological experiment has begun to question the foundational teaching on eternity, Edwards has plenty to say about that. Listen to a short exerpt from the historic sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

“Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you…”

This is probably Edwards best known work today, but in his world, he was known more for his preaching on the born again experience. His most famous sermon in his lifetime was “A Divine and Supernatural Light”. I think this generation is crying out for a Christianity with substance, a longing to return to the faith of our fathers. How is it with your soul today? Have you seen that “Divine and Supernatural Light” or are you still dangling by the web of the spider over the flaming gorge of hell. Maybe you are longing for a faith with some “teeth”. If so, open the Bible again, I’ve heard that Jesus still walks through the pages of that old trusted book.

HARE KRISHNA DEVOTEE

I once was a Hara Krishna devotee!
Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

“For we ourselves were sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Titus 3:3

It is quite odd to write those words, remembering it is even more painful! Even to this day, the Krishna house is still on Esplanade Ave. in New Orleans. In 1973, I found myself chanting the Krishna prayer, holding some beads, and reading the Bhagavad Gita about Krishna and Arjuna. Some of the teaching of this Hindu sect was that Frank and I were to slowly “evolve”, so to speak, by taking cold showers, eat vegetarian food, and sleep no more than 4 hours a day. I will spare you the long story and just say that it didn’t work. The one thing I remember is the guilty feeling I felt going into the “temple” and the guilty feeling I felt leaving the “temple”. To make the story even worse, Frank and I had devised a plan in which I was to run away with him to spend the rest of our lives living at their farm in Virginia, chanting our life away. We had saved up $700 for the trip and put in our two-week notice. Everything was going as planned. It was a Friday and Frank and I decided to take the drive into New Orleans to see the movie “Jesus Christ Superstar”, after all, he too was a prophet. At the end of the movie, while they were showing scenes of the crucifixion, we both started crying. Frank turned to me and said, “Didn’t Jesus say, I am the way and the truth and the life?”(I was not raised in church had no idea what Jesus said or didn’t say) After the movie, we decided to drive out to the lakefront of New Orleans seeing that’s where a lot of young people always hung out. That night we ran into some young people singing and sharing their faith. A couple of them approached us and said, “JESUS LOVES YOU AND HAS A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE”.
It’s funny how your life can take on a sudden change. Needless to say, we never made it to Virginia. (Thank you almighty God!) Instead, we gave our lives to Jesus Christ, got married and went to a bible school in California. All the feelings of guilt, shame and lonliness left me. He found me and I was changed, born again, and a new nature was put inside of me.
The verse above described me to a tee. I who was once so very foolish, serving divers lusts. Or another translation puts it bluntly, “serving my glands”! Maybe you can’t remember that lost feeling but I certainly do. I think what best describes me is some wild animal that was led by anything that happened to come along.
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared.” I thank God the “after that” came to me, after the heartbreak of sin, after following my divers lusts and after the chasing after the leftover scraps- God came to me.
Yes, I was born again. Yes, I was delivered from the fires of hell. Yes, I received power to become a child of God. He truly is the way, the truth and the life! Are you born-again?

ALL THE BLESSINGS OF THE SPIRIT

ALL THE BLESSINGS OF THE SPIRIT

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Eph.1:3

I love this verse of scripture. What does Paul mean by “every spiritual blessing”? Actually he is talking about all of the benefits that begin to flood into our lives when we receive the Holy Spirit. A.B. Simpson was a pastor in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. He was touched mightily by the Pentecostal outpouring that happened about that time and became a leading teacher in that movement. Listen to his take on this passage.

” • This epistle is an unfolding of “all the blessings of the Spirit.” This is the true translation of this passage.
• There is a great difference between the blessings of the Spirit and spiritual blessings. This is a case where a single noun is worth a hundred adjectives. The person of the Holy Ghost is worth more than all His gifts.
• The apostle’s theme, in this sublime epistle, is the higher blessings of the Holy Ghost, which He makes known to those who enter into the fullness of Christ, May the Holy Spirit Himself enable us to see and enter into all the blessings of the Spirit!”

This understanding of this verse of scripture can change everything for us. We are no longer looking for various blessings from the Lord, we are after God Himself. All of the blessings; healing, provision, changed life and lifestyle, flow out of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. When He comes into our lives, He doesn’t come alone, He brings all of the “blessings of the Spirit” with Him. I love what Simpson said about the results of receiving the Spirit, “the person of the Holy Ghost is worth more than all His gifts”. Simpson had discovered the true gift of Pentecost. It was not the receiving of a new formula or the secret to success in life, but the reception of a new person. The Lord is offering us more than wonderful gifts, He is offering us Himself. Actually, that is the greatest expression of love. We are not so much interested in gifts from our loved ones, we are interested in the loved ones themselves. The gift of the Spirit is God’s greatest expression of love, His best gift. What is that gift, it is God Himself. When you receive this gift of love, you may just receive more than you ever imagined, you might just step into “all the blessings of the Spirit.”

LOOKING FOR JOY

LOOKING FOR JOY

They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
Ps.36:8

All we really want in life is to be happy, is that too much to ask? From the day we are born, we are looking for some joy. The baby looks for it in his bottle, the little girl in her “Barbie doll” and the little boy in his cars and trucks. As we get older not much changes. The “bottle” just has a different beverage, the little girl has become her version of “Barbie” and the little man has become a big boy with bigger cars and trucks. They have all been looking for the same thing since they were born, all we want is a liitle happiness. We were all created by God in His image with a huge desire for pleasure, the problem started when man fell into sin. This God instilled, huge appetite for happiness was corrupted at the fall, instead of the incredible pleasure found in our relationship with our Creator, we were alienated from Him and began our search. We have been looking for happiness which can never be found in this created world, after all, we have eternity in our hearts. Jonathan Edwards was consumed with this pursuit of pleasure, he had found the fountain head of this pleasure in Christ Himself, this is something of what Edwards had to say about the pleasures of God.
“The sum of all spiritual good which the saints have in this world, is that spring of living water within them which we read of, (John 4:10;) and those rivers of living waters flowing from within them which we read of, (John 7:38,39,) which we are there told is the Holy Spirit. And the sum of all happiness in the other world, is that river of living water which flows from the throne of God and the Lamb, which is the river of God’s pleasures, and is the Holy Spirit, which is often compared in Sacred Scripture to water, to the rain and dew, and rivers and floods of waters, (Isa. 44:3; 32:15; 41:17,18, compared with John 4:14; Isa. 35:6,7; 43:19,20.)”
Edwards had experienced this “joy unspeakable” when the Holy Spirit first fell in his church in 1734. From that day on nothing else could ever satisfy him in his pursuit. Have you experienced this heavenly joy, if not, “joy unspeakable” is waiting for you. Drink the living water, and when you do, you also will taste of the pleasures of God that will last for eternity.

ETERNAL HELL FIRE

ETERNAL HELL FIRE

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Matt.25:41

Is hell a real place, or just the archaic threats of irrelevant, ranting preachers. Our sanitized culture recoils at the thought of a place of eternal torment, especially the eternal fires of hell. The problem we have is the source of much of our teaching on hell, it is Jesus Christ Himself. Most of the criticism aimed at Him during His time on earth was not His teaching on hell, He was condemned for the love He showed to the common sinners of His day. It is hard to condemn Christ as a narrow minded preacher, devoid of mercy. He is the very incarnation of the mercy of God, yet His warnings about hell remain.
In 1999 we began performing a play at Victory Fellowship called Beyond the Grave. In this production we see the untimely deaths of several teens, the victims of a troubled young man gone out of control. The tragedy portrayed in this production was not just the premature deaths of these precious young people, but the horrors that followed for those unprepared for life beyond the grave. The impact of this play has been quite stunning, several hundred thousand people have attended performances of Beyond the Grave, and an untold number have had true conversion experiences. It seems eternity is in our hearts, man knows in the bottom of his being that there is life beyond the grave.
Why would man be condemned in this place of darkness for eternity? How could a loving God cast such a harsh judgement on so many people? Those answers are clearly taught in the Bible. The Bible begins with man’s rebellion against His creator. The ramifications of our rebellion against an infinitely, holy God are quite staggering. The Bible shows man headed down a path of utter destruction in his march toward eternity in his defiance of God and His kingdom. The mercy and kindness of God were revealed in the coming of our
Savior, Jesus Christ. His sacrificial death on the cross is God’s plan of rescue from the total destruction of mankind. Have you made your peace with our offended, holy God, or have you rejected His incredible offer of reconciliation made available by the death of His Son? What is at stake, only your eternal destiny.

IS HELL REAL?

IS HELL REAL?

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Matt.13:41-43

No one wants to think about hell or eternal suffering, it is not a topic at church, funerals, or seldom comes up in our daily conversations. To bring up the subject, or even worse, tell someone you think it is real, can cause tension, anger, and rejection. You will be labeled as narrow minded, religious, and void of love. That is quite strange in light of the One whose words I quoted in today’s verse. Jesus is the embodiment of the Father’s love, He displayed His love for sinners by His death on the cross. He believed in eternal suffering in hell and took great measures to warn us about it. What determines the measure of our crimes against God and what kind of suffering does justice demand? Our punishment is correctly estimated by the value of the person we have sinned against and the great depths we have plummeted to in violating this great and holy God. Jonathan Edwards preached a message about the justice of God revealed by hell, listen to his words.

“But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honorable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honorable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him.
So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.- Nothing is more agreeable to the common sense of mankind, than that sins committed against any one, must be proportionably heinous to the dignity of the being offended …”

The good news is that there is another way to satisfy the justice of God. Christ became man, represented us as a people, and took the wrath of God aimed at our sins by His death on the cross. God’s justice was satisfied and His mercy extended to all who will believe on Him. The decision is yours, accept His offer or spend eternity fulfilling the justice of sins against an infinitely, holy God.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Jn.3:36

THE SMELLS OF HEAVEN

THE SMELLS OF HEAVEN

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Eph.1:13,14

It was Saturday afternoon and my house was filled with the delicious smell of roasted pork. Parris wasn’t home, but dinner was obviously cooking in the oven. The smells were almost irresistible. I was hungry and the aroma was driving me crazy. I was waiting for dinner, but I already had a good idea of what the delicious meal would be like, the smells had given me a clear indication of what was to come. That is exactly what Paul was describing in today’s verses. Inside of all of us is a longing, it could be described as a hunger, to be in heaven with the Lord. The outpourings of the Spirit provide a fragrance or even a foretaste of the pleasures we will experience in His presence. This joy is not only promised, but the measure of His presence that we receive in this life is a clear indication of the “pleasures evermore” that we are about to step into. Jonathan Edwards spoke often of the attraction of the Spirit. His church had been deeply impacted by outpourings that had begun in his church in 1734. Listen to his take on the earnest or down payment of our inheritance.

“The Holy Spirit is the purchased possession and inheritance of the saints, as appears, because that little of it which the saints have in this world is said to be the earnest of that purchased inheritance, (Eph. 1:13,14; 2 Cor. 1:22, v.5.) ‘Tis an earnest of that which we are to have a fulness of hereafter. The Holy Ghost is the great subject of all gospel promises, and therefore is called the Spirit of promise, (Eph.1:13.) He is called the promise of the Father, (Luke 24:49.)”

The Holy Spirit is the great subject of all gospel promises, I love that. God Himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is the fulfillment of all God’s promises given to us in Christ. What could be better, what could He give us more valuable than Himself? He is the foretaste of the joy of heaven. Do you smell that heavenly fragrance? I think the gospel feast is almost ready. If the heavenly banquet is anything like these smells, heaven is going to be quite a place.

WHO IS JESUS?

REVELATION OF CHRIST

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Matt.16:13-16

Who is Jesus Christ to you? This is the most important question you will ever answer. To some, He is a way out of trouble, to others a ticket to heaven, and to many people today, He is the way to a “better life now”. The question remains, who do you say Jesus is?
To Adam and Eve He was the promised seed, to Noah He was the ark of protection. For Abraham, Christ was Melchizedek, our heavenly high priest, for Moses the Prophet yet to come. David saw Him as the promised Son, and for Isaiah, He was the suffering servant. Jeremiah glimpsed the righteous branch and Ezekiel was caught up in Him as the wheel in the middle of a wheel. Daniel’s friends saw Jesus Christ as the fourth man in the fire, and for Daniel, He was the Ancient of Days. Micah spoke of the one whose goings forth were from the days of eternity, Zechariah saw Him as the finishing stone in the Holy Temple. Malachi prophesied of the Son of Righteousness who would arise with healing in His beams. Lazarus embraced Him who was the Resurrection and the Life, the blind man “saw” Him as the Light of the world. John the Baptist proclaimed the arrival of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and He who baptizes in The Holy Spirit. Paul followed the One who was a light shining to the nations of the world, Peter built his life on Christ the cornerstone of the house of God. The Apostle John was struck with the Light of His Glory as he fell at the feet of the One who is the Alpha and the Omega.
For all of us, the question still remains, “Who do men say, that I, the Son of Man am?” Even more importantly, who do you say He is. The world we live in can be quite confusing, especially for those who have never experienced the love of Christ for themselves. Does He take all of the problems away, absolutely not. Is He enough to keep you in the midst of a troubled world, definitely. Who is Christ to me? He is the pearl of great price, He is the treasure hidden in a field, He is my portion, and my faithful friend and counselor. He sustains, satisfies, empowers, and keeps me. Is He enough? He is more than I ever imagined.

THE LAVER OF REGENERATION

The Laver of Regeneration

Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should becomes heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

There is a church that rings its bells for service near my house. In fact, many times, while I work in my garden, it is not unusual to hear chimes or the bell’s ringing during certain times of the day. When I first moved back to NOLA I was quite surprised to hear these bells in a rather large city and it made me understand where the word “parish” came from.
In my daily walks with our dogs I find myself walking over to the seminary where there is a beautiful fountain depicting Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. The artist did a beautiful job depicting the posture of Jesus communicating with the women. I usually pause and think about Jesus explaining to the women that if she drinks of him she shall never thirst. I also wonder about the many people that walk by this fountain and pause like I do, or hear the bells and walk to their “parish church” and yet do not understand the work of “regeneration”. Jesus describes this word when he spoke to Nicodemus about being born again and with the woman at the well. For the laver of regeneration represents the work of the divine Spirit in quickening the soul that is dead in sin, and bringing it back into the life of God. Spurgeon says “Regeneration is making the old things new, it is infusing a new nature into man. The new birth is not a mere reformation, but an entire renovation and revolution. It is making the man a new creation in Christ Jesus.”
Paul in the book of Titus also uses the word renewing after regeneration. This is what the Holy Spirit does in us daily after we have been regenerated or born-again. Just as a baby isn’t in control of his birth nor are we in control of ours. But it’s in the renewal of the Holy Spirit that we can gain control. We are living day by day gradually being restored back to the divine image of what he made us to be. We actually become a fellow worker with God, allowing him to finish what he started in us, whereas the world and all that it contains is slowing decaying. So no matter how often the bells toll and man erects religious fountains and call communities their “parish”, we must be regenerated from the inside. (Born again- again)
Another translation of Titus reads like this: “So stop masquerading in the habiliments of the world and instead yield themselves to the ministry of the Holy Spirit who will gradually produce in you the mind of Christ Jesus.”

FOUNDATIONS

FOUNDATIONS

If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
Ps.11:3

Have you ever seen a house without a good foundation, or better yet, have you seen a house in Southeast Louisiana without pilings under the foundation? It is not a pretty picture. It is often tilted dramatically until, many times, the foundation cracks. Not the kind of problem you want to have. Many times your house is your greatest investment, a faulty foundation can be catastrophic.
The verse for today is describing an even greater problem. David is describing a person, or a people, without a spiritual foundation to support them. David’s implication is that if your foundation is destroyed, all hope is lost.
How does this relate to us today? It is speaking to us about the very essence of our lives, our spiritual foundation. The first piling that supports our foundation is our revelation of Jesus Christ. This is the beginning of our life of faith, and the very foundation of all that we know and believe. Second, is our understanding of the word of God. This is the soul food of our existence, without it we are cast adrift in the storms of life. God’s word is our main connection with God Himself, it is our haven of safety against the traps of doctrinal and secular deceptions that can ensnare our souls. Next, is our connection to the local church. This is the place on earth that the Lord has chosen to dwell. Here is where we meet Him and have fellowship with those of like and precious faith. Finally, there is the constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit, He makes the things of God alive and precious to us. Without Him, we can easily fall into an outward form of religious practise with no substance.
These are some of the pilings that support our spiritual foundation, our application of these realities in our daily lives will prove the verity of our faith. These truths will undergird our marriage and our family, Christ Himself will enhance these special relationships in our lives. They also will bring fruitfulness and reward to our business and ministry life. Because of the spritual realities that undergird our lives, we will be more productive and happier in our work.
David continued his psalm with a bold declaration of faith. “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” The foundation is sure under His church, God is surely in His holy temple.