Consolations for Overcomers, Part 1

The consolations of God - Tenth in a series

In The Revelation, the Bible's last book, John saw in his first vision seven golden candlesticks and in their midst, Jesus Christ, "the first and the last" with seven stars in his right hand. (Rev 1:16-17)

The Lord then explained to him, The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. (vs 20) Therefore, uppermost in the Lord's heart before he showed John all that would precede and accompany the great tribulation, was his church, represented in seven congregations in Asia.

Some have said that the churches of Revelation 2 and 3 may be viewed as types of churches throughout the ages. We could also view each one as representing tendencies of believers, so we may see ourselves in their witness, for Christ ends each message with, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."

Christ’s messages were carefully worded to uphold and encourage the individual churches and Christians, and included consoling promises of rewards for OVERCOMERS.

In the next post we will consider the Lord’s exhortations and promises. Perhaps you will find your own church and a special message for your own heart.

The Consoling Personal Word

The consolations of God - Ninth in a series

The entire word of God is consoling. Even its rebukes are life-giving to the one who has ears. In addition, at times the Lord imparts a special word to a believer.

The special word I refer to is not a "rhema" as some Christian teachers have suggested. In the New Testament, God's word is sometimes defined as "logos" and others times as "rhema." Some examples in Scripture of each are:

  • In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God. (John 1:1)
  • Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word [logos] of truth.(II Timothy 2:15)
  • And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [rhema] of God (Ephesians 6:17)
  • If ye abide in me, and my words [rhema] abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)

By definition, "rhema" is God's speech or discourse and "logos" denotes doctrine or divine reason or plan.

God often speaks through the Bible to us by causing certain passages to stand out that have specific application to our lives. Some say this is God's special word or "rhema" to us. So, perhaps at times the logos becomes the rhema?

The special word to comfort or guide us that I refer to may echo a Bible passage, or may not. My dad told me that after he had learned of mom's terminal illness and was in deep distress, God spoke his name and then said, "Everything will be all right." Dad was driving, and not expecting any revelation. He was extremely practical. This private word did not mean that mom would get well, but it was such a definite counsel, expression and impression that, after hearing it, Dad gained strength and peace to cope. And he continued to love and serve God after mom's death.

Some would say, "Well, couldn't he have known that simply by reading the Word of God?" Yes, certainly, but that would not have worked the same result.

Anyone who faithfully reads the Bible will hear the voice of God and be guided to apply his wisdom to their circumstances, and anyone may also receive a special word. Yet, to make a point of seeking that personal word can be a devastating practice.

Seeking a word from God apart from his canon, the Bible, is a dangerous pursuit and ought not to be encouraged. For that reason, in this post I will also warn against certain charismatic practices that may engender counterfeits of the special, personal word.

An excellent book, War on the Saints, by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts, published in 1912, and now online, free, addresses this topic.

Here is a somewhat difficult-to-read excerpt from the foreword in my print copy of the book, that addresses how saints become susceptible to Satan's counterfeits of God's special words and why the book was written:

The adventists of Thessalonica, who refused their normal obligations in the interest of a complete self-preparation for the Lord's Coming, have had their representatives in many strange sects in Europe and America, who have been carried into amazing extravagancies of creed and conduct. St. Paul's brusque judgment, 'If a man will not work, neither let him eat' (2 Th 3:10) applies to them all. The ascetics of Colossæ whose punctilious rigorism co-existed with a perilous moral laxity, have had their successors in every Christian generation. Medieval monks and modern sectaries come together here. Both illustrate, in varying ways, the same spiritual malady. Such total prostration of the individual before the mandates of the Divine Spirit seems to argue a genuine humility, but the implied assumption of plenary and direct personal inspiration discloses and fosters a spiritual arrogance none the less morally disintegrating because it is unsuspected. Experience has ever endorsed the great Apostle's verdict. Over the whole woeful pageant of self-willed pietism with its eccentric, arbitrary, even monstrous demands on its victims, the words may be written: 'which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.' (Col 2:23)

An aftermath of the Welsh Revival at the dawn of the present [20th] century was the rise of a number of extreme cults, often stressing a return to "pentecostal" practices. Mrs. Penn-Lewis, who had witnessed much of the Revival as the representative of The Life of Faith, saw clearly the peril of these fanatical teachings, and in collaboration with Mr. Evan Roberts, who played so prominent a part in the Revival, wrote a book, War on the Saints. In this book these extreme and overbalanced beliefs and practices are categorically branded as the work of an invading host of evil spirits. The word "deception" might be said to be the key word of the book…”

War on the Saints made a great impression on me when I read it many years ago. I wrote down a number of its insights, and here are three that teach us, yes, honest souls CAN BE DECEIVED (the point of the book):

  1. Deception has to do with the mind, and it means a wrong thought admitted to the mind, under the deception that it is truth.
  2. The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a Deception because it throws a person off guard, and ignores that there are conditions on the part of the believer which must be fulfilled for God's working.
  3. Heresies in the Church often have begun with a great crisis in which a man is brought to give himself up in full abandonment to the Holy Spirit, thus opening himself to the supernatural powers of the invisible world.

Beware of any personal word from the Lord that follows from a meditative state, irrational exuberance or other upset. Nevertheless, the Lord may impart a special word. As well, he is not limited to consolation in this practice.

Peter and Jude

Jude - Eleventh in a series

There are similarities between Jude's letter and the second chapter of II Peter, but also differences. We will take a look.

First, Peter speaks of false teachers that "shall be… among you" not that already were, though as he continues, he seems to know these men as imminent troublers of the faithful. Jude warns that the evil men were in their midst.

Both Peter and Jude expose the charlatans, but Peter characterizes them more as false teachers (2 Pet 2:1) while Jude sees them as mockers (Jude 1:18). Both describe them as

  • entering the body by stealth
  • "spots" in the communion meals
  • sexually perverse and licentious
  • deniers of Christ, and as
  • condemned already.

Jude brings to remembrance the rebellious Hebrews under Moses, the angels who left their first estate, and Sodom and Gomorrha as three examples of those destroyed or expertly managed by God to exclude them from further rebellion; Peter points to "the angels that sinned," the old world of Noah's day, and Sodom and Gomorrha, as examples of God's dexterity in punishing evil while sparing the righteous, namely Noah, Lot and their family members.

Thus, Peter's emphasis is on God's power to save the righteous in the midst of catasrophe, (2 Pet 2:4-7) and Jude focuses on God's determination to punish rebellion as demonstrated throughout history. (Jude 1:5-7)

Both Peter and Jude write about Michael the archangel: Peter alludes to him (2 Pet 2:10, 11) but Jude cites an incident between Michael and Satan. (Jude 1:10)

In both cases it is pointed out that angels have sense and discernment enough not to spar with the devil, but the false brethren lack good judgment and are not afraid to "speak evil of dignities" (2 Peter 2:10; Jude 1:8), with Peter noting their presumptuous and self-willed nature, and Jude stating that they despise dominion and are slaves to their lower nature.

For mere men to rail against evil or even wonderful principalities shows complete lack of judgment that proper education and preaching might have corrected, unless the offender were without conscience (see previous post).

Jude's analogies of the offenders to natural phenomena include those that are lifeless and without dynamism and those with terrible force, driving and fierce. The apostates are intensely powerful while inwardly dead.

Four scenes describe the apostates: clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. (Jude 1:12,13) Peter likewise sees their emptiness and contradictory wild motion and force (2 Pet 2:17).

In five descriptors, Jude sums up the personality of the ungodly deceiver: These are (a) murmurers, (b) complainers, (c) walking after their own lusts (fleshly); and (d) their mouth speaketh great swelling words (boastful, arrogant), (e) having men's persons in admiration because of advantage (flatterers, controlling types). (Jude 1:16)

Peter also notes the trait of boastfulness (2 Pet 2:18) but dwells more on their lustful behavior and wanton alluring of weak believers who had recently been saved from such lifestyles. He warns that should they return to their former selves after having come clean by the knowledge of the Lord; it would have been better never to have known the new way of righteousness (2 Pet 2:20-22). Jude, in contrast, commands the strong to save the weak. (Jude 1:22, 23)

Jude's letter is reminiscent of Peter's, or vice versa, but a careful reading brings out differences. Yet, there are enough similarities to make plain there was a cult that affected many churches.

We also wonder if Jude had read Peter's letter or vice versa, and chose to repeat certain phrases and points as a way of enforcing the views.

Since Peter states in his second letter that he knows his death is near (2 Pet 1:14), Jude may have upheld and promoted Peter's words as a memorial, a needed exhortation, and as a method of confirming his insights.(Jude 1:17)

Paul also foretold that ungodly deceivers would strive to ruin the church, and John corroborated all these warnings. (Acts 20:29; 1 Tim 4:1, 2; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 1:7-11; 3 John 1:9-11)

Thus we have in the Bible two thorough warnings against such men and shorter ones in other letters.

By the testimony of two or three witnesses the truth is upheld.(Deut 19:15)

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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