The Beauty of God’s Church

By Pastor Charlie Parish

When you think of church, what is it that immediately comes to mind? Do you begin to think of a Sunday morning duty that must be checked off, watching the clock and counting down the seconds until the preacher finishes? Is it just something you do so that you can in some way justify calling yourself a Christian?

Maybe thats not your idea of church at all. Maybe to you, church is the place of a majority of your weekly activity. Maybe you are involved in a multitude of ministries and functions within the body life of the church. Although intentions are good, church is more or less a place to submerge yourself in activities in hopes that your works in some way justify your claim to being a follower of Christ.

To some, church is a place of refuge. A place to have their personal needs met and to find escape from the painful circumstances of their lives. To others, the church is the reason they do not follow Christ, having been hurt at some point in their past by an harshly judgemental congregationalist or led astray with a false gospel by a preacher who was more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing than a true Shepard.

It goes without saying that the church is not viewed by everyone in the same way. Through the years, the church has taken on many different identities. But Biblically, the true church of Jesus Christ only has one identity. Jesus gives us some character traits of what the church should look like in the book of Matthew.

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16.

So much wisdom and direction is given here by Jesus as a blueprint to how his people…his church, are to be viewed. Jesus begins by stating that we as followers of Christ are to be the salt of the earth, and then asks the questions if salt loses its flavor how can that flavor be restored. True salt cannot lose its flavor. Salt is always salt, hence the salty flavor it carries.

I remember when I was a kid my parents sprinkling salt on their food. I was extremely picky and didnt branch out and try new things when it came to eating. I recall seeing my mom sprinkle salt on some vegetables while preparing my plate before dinner and I thought that by doing this, she had ruined a completely good meal! The green beans that I loved were now contaminated, or so I thought. Hesitantly I took a bite of the salt sprinkled green beans expecting to gag, and to my surprise I noticed that the salt had added so much more flavor to my meal!

To many ‘churches’ live bland spiritual lives, forgetting that they have been called to be salt, adding flavor to the world! We are to be different from the world. The church should be intriguing to the lost world. As they look at the church, maybe thinking that following Christ would ruin their meal of being fulfilled and happy, but once they try Jesus, realizing how very bland their life had been without him, and how great a joy knowing him brings to the soul!

Jesus further expounds on his exposition of what His church is to look like, saying that we are to be the light of the world, like a town built on a hill. That is to be a city that is set apart, that all the other pagan cities would look to as a light. Far to many churches today fall into the trap of feeling like they must relocate from being the town on the hill and move in with the pagan villages in the valley.

They think that in order to contextualize the gospel and make it relevant, they must become less like Christ and more like the world. But if we begin to set the example that you can continue to look and act like the world while following Christ, we in turn water down the life blood of the gospel message making it no gospel at all. We are to be an uncompromising city on a hill. A beacon of light that cannot be put out by persecution or pressure to be more palatable and relevant to culture.

In these few verses in Matthew, Jesus just gave a description of what a healthy church should look like. But what does an unhealthy church look like? An unhealthy church is one marked by sermons the are very cliche. The preaching of the word in an unhealthy church is very moralistic and me-centered and are often described as ‘spiritual self help seminars.’

They preach on “what can Jesus do for me” instead of preaching “what Jesus has already done for me and because of that, what I now can do for Him.” The gospel is to be Christocentric in nature, not a man centered pep talk. It is to realize that Christ was and is the light of the world, and to be pierced to the heart by the price Jesus paid at Calvery so that we could have fellowship with Him! A healthy church is one where the gospel of Jesus Christ is radically proclaimed.

There is no need to water down the word, because it is through the preaching of God’s word that God supernaturally invades hearts and begins to change them.

“Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:9.

To often preachers think that they have to get people saved. But that is a task that a mere man is no more qualified to do than Ezekiel was to put together the dry bones in the desert all by himself. It was Ezekiels speaking the words of God to the bones that God ressurected those bones and brought life to them. Preachers are to preach boldly the word of God with a fire and passion faithfully, and God will bring what was once dead to life. Churches forget that the power of Christ doesnt lie in having a thousand different activities, but the power lies in preaching the word.

Another mark of a healthy church is a by product of expositioal preaching. It is personal evangelism. Unlike spiritual gifts, the chore of evanglisim was not given to certian individuals in the church, but to every person who is a true follower of Christ. Evangelism is simply speaking words. It is to proclaim the gospel in our communities, and to the people that God has providentally placed in our everyday lives. It is to share the news of Jesus Christ and his death, burial and ressurection to the masses.

In the Exodus account, Moses argued with God when the Lord ordered him to go into Egypt and confront Pharoah, saying basically that he wasnt good at talking! But God didnt let Moses off the hook! He didnt excuse him from speaking the words of the Lord to the pagan Pharoah. In fact, God made Moses into arguably one of the greatest leaders in history, in spite of Moses fears and shortcomings.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes that we are to persuade others, even pleading with them in our everyday lives in all things pertaining to the Gospel of Christ, because we know the importance of knowing Him.

“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:11.

The great preacher of the mid 1800’s Charles Spurgeon said this of the church;

“Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us… All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world!

As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers. The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.”  -C.H. Spurgeon

Did you catch how Spurgeon began this quote? He started out by acknowledging that the church had flaws! He acknowledged that the church wasnt perfect! How often do we complain about others in the church and get chips on our shoulders because things are not going ‘our way?’

To many seekers will come to church expecting it to accomidate and cater to their every need. Their musical preference, their worship style, their accomidations.

But all along, the gospel call is for the children of God to die to themselves and put others before themselves, even at the risk of suffering, a trait that was exemplified in the life of Paul. But despite the church being imperfect, Spurgeon calls the church, “…the dearest place on earth.”

So again I ask, what is the church to you? Is the church the dearest place on earth to you? Not because of what it gives you, but because of what Christ has already given. Is it a place you come to serve or a place you expect to be served. Is the church a place where you come with a list of mental demands that need to be met? If so, then I would venture to say that you have a history of church hopping.

As Spurgeon said, “…the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers.”  

The church was never intended to be a country club. The church of Jesus Christ a launching pad to the mission of Christ. Dont ask what can God do for me through church. Ask within the church, how can you be that city of a hill? How can I make his name glorified? Church is not about us. Its about Him! As John the Baptist said, “He must become more as I become less.”

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19.


The Lie of the Prosperity Gospel

By Pastor Charlie Parish

Last week I was driving along the interstate when all the sudden, I saw police and ambulance lights flashing up ahead on the side of the road. It was apparent that there had been a horrible car accident. Immediately a sense of sorrow for those involved washed over me. As I drew closer to the accident, my knee jerk reaction was to slow down and at least try to assess what had happened, and what was going on.

I knew I probably should have just kept driving. I knew I shouldn’t have slowed down to look at the tragedy. But I just couldn’t help myself. Have you ever felt like this? You see something horrible as you drive along the highway and know that you should keep your gaze in front of you. But something in you just cannot resist to slow down and check it out.

Something similar to this happened to me this morning . I woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. I got out of bed, grabbed my coffee, and clicked on the television. As I flipped through the channels, I came across a televangelist preaching to a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands of people.

I knew better. I knew that there was nothing profitable to be seen here. I knew that this program was nothing short of a tragedy. But that car wreck syndrome took over. I couldn’t help myself. So I slowed down, in order to get a look at what I knew would be a complete train wreck.

The program was a show called The Camp Meeting. And the preacher was a man named David Martin. It was immediately apparent that David Martin was an excellent speaker with a natural gift for captivating an audience and holding their attention. His voice was strong and commanding, and he was very comfortable in front of this large crowd.

He then began to tell a story. He said that he and his wife were sitting in a church service and the tithe was about to be collected. He went on to say that he felt God telling him to give one hundred and eleven dollars to the tithe.

Reluctantly he stated that he began to make the check out when God supposedly spoke again, telling him to write another check for the same amount for a blessing to cover his family. And then a to write a third check for the same amount so that God’s favor would be on his business.

Three separate checks, each for one hundred and eleven dollars. He then “felt” God tell him to look down to the first scripture he saw in his Bible. As the story goes, David Martin looked down and saw the verse Deuteronomy 1:11.

“May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you!” Deuteronomy 1:11.

Wouldn’t you like to have God bless your life a thousand times over in your family life and your business?” this pastor said.  And so he went on to mangle this verse and rip it completely from its original context, stating that God was waiting to bless everyone in the congregation a thousand times over.

All they had to do was write a check in faith. Only the check couldn’t be for just any amount. David Martin asked his congregation to write three separate checks of one hundred and eleven dollars. One for themselves, one for their family, and one for their business. A sum total of three hundred and thirty three dollars from each family of which there were hundreds in attendance.

But the car wreck wasn’t over yet. This pastor then went on to look directly into the camera and present the same offer to everyone watching at home. He said that even I could receive God’s favor upon myself, my family, and my business for three separate checks of one hundred and eleven dollars written in faith to receive the favor of God upon my life.

As I watched this man preach I felt angry at how he was using God’s Word in order to fatten his bank account. I was greatly saddened at the sight of the hundreds of people in the congregation that were raising their hands and shaking their heads in agreement to his heretical request. And I was horrified that he had used Deuteronomy 1:11 in order to mislead so many people.

As he gave the closing prayer, this charlatan David Martin stood before hundreds and said, “The greatest thing that God could ever give you is his favor in blessing your life.” Seriously? What about salvation? What about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What about the Lord opening our minds and hearts to know Him more deeply?

David Martin is a false teacher. He preaches a perverted, false Gospel know as the Prosperity Gospel. And countless people are deceived as a result of this movement. This travesty could have been avoided had this quasi preached utilized expositional preaching in order to expound Deuteronomy 1:11. Instead of going to this text in search of its original meaning, David Martin went to the verse with his own agenda and made the verse say what he wanted it to say.

I’ve used this example many times. Imagine that you had never seen the movie Rocky before. Rocky is a classic movie about an amateur boxer who lives in the city of Philadelphia and is training to fight the heavyweight champ of the world. But again, for the sake of our example, you don’t know this going into the movie.

We are late to the movie, and actually make our way into the theater midway through the film. As we sit down, we see the main character Rocky walking through the streets of Philly, tossing a little ball into the air, dressed like thug. Immediately after seeing this scene where Rocky just walks around the streets of Philadelphia, we exit the theater not waiting to see the rest of the movie.

As we exit the theater, I then use that short scene to craft my own interpretation of the movie by telling you that the movie was about a street thug who lived in Philadelphia and he had a passion to play hand ball. If you have never seen the beginning or the end of the movie, then its very easy to believe the lie that I have told you.

In the same way, when we approach the Bible with our own preconceived notions in mind without knowing the proper context of which they were written, we end up missing the true meaning of the scriptures we read.

This false teacher did not expound on the background of the book of Deuteronomy. He didn’t tell his hearers of its historical context. And he didn’t shed light on the beginning verses of the book. He merely went straight to a verse where Moses spoke of God blessing His people, and made the verse mean what he wanted it to in order to attain his desired reaction from the crowd.

The book of Deuteronomy was written approximately forty years after the exodus of Israel took place. The Lord had used Moses to free His people from their enslavement to Pharaoh of Egypt, and now they were making the long journey to the land that God had promised them.

They had received the Ten Commandments in Exodus and are almost ready to enter into the promised land after forty years of wandering in the desert. The book of Deuteronomy is the final words of Moses to the nation of Israel before the enter into the promise land.

In chapters 1-11 of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to Israel in a harsh tone as he chastises them for their former rebellion against God. But there is also a charge given to the nation of Israel in these chapters. Moses tells the new generation of Israelites who are about to enter the land to be different from their ancestors who had ignored the commands of God, and to respond to the Lord’s grace with love and obedience. Moses reminds the nation of the Ten Commandments, because he knows that when Israel enters into the promised land there will be many in the new land who worshipped false Gods.

However, Moses was prohibited by God to enter into the promised land with Israel due to disobeying the Lord (Numbers 20:12). In the opening chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the nation of God’s original promise made to Abraham concerning Israel. He does this in the verse right before  Deuteronomy 1:11.

“The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.” Deuteronomy 1:10.

Moses is referring back to the original promise that God had made to Abraham in Genesis.

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,” Genesis 22:17.

Abraham and his wife Sarah were older in age and past child bearing years. Not to mention Sarah was barren and unable to have children. But the Lord gave this promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17, that from the seed of Abraham would come a nation that outnumbered the sands of the sea and stars in the sky. The Lord opened the womb of Sarah she gave birth to Isaac, from who the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, came from.

Back to Deuteronomy. After Moses had reminded the nation of God’s original promise to Abraham, he then says this is Deuteronomy 1:11.

” May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you!” Deuteronomy 1:11.

Is this thousand time over blessing referring to wealth and material possessions as the charlatan David Martin preached on television? Absolutely not. This favor of God refers to the continuation of the line of Israel, that they would continue to multiply. The blessing is that God had shown any favor at all to Israel and had called this rebellious people His chosen people. Not for anything they had done or given to earn this favor, but simply because God had chosen to set His love upon them.

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,” Deuteronomy 7:7.

As I watched the closing of David Martin’s sermon where he wrongly used the promise of Deuteronomy 1:11 in order to get people to write him checks for one hundred and eleven dollars, they closed out the program with the worship team leading the congregation in a song with lyrics that emphasized the Holiness of God. As the credits began to roll, hundreds stood to their feet singing, “God, you are HOLY!” This made my stomach turn.

The whole program was an infomercial prompting people to believe that God was just like us. That the Lord is materialistic and His greatest desire is that we would have more wealth. And then they close out the service by singing of the Holiness, which is the separateness of God. So which is it? Is God materialistic like us or is He Holy?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8.

“When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you.” Psalm 50:21.

I pray that David Martin is brought under great conviction. I pray that the Lord would open his eyes to the truth of the Gospel. If not, then he along with many that have bought into his perversion of Deuteronomy will hear the words of Psalm 50:21 ringing in their ears as they stand before the Lord. “You thought that I was like you, concerned with worldly treasures. But now I set my accusations before you.”  

This morning I witnessed hundreds of people who worshipped God in hopes of receiving worldly possessions from Him. They did not love Him for the Gospel truth that. They did not worship Him because they saw themselves as guilty, desperate sinners who deserved eternal separation from God. And they did not worship Him because of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that the Lord extended through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. They did not worship Jesus as Lord, for dying in our place and for our sins.

They worshipped an imaginary genie in a bottle. As Paul Washer once said, “Isn’t salvation enough?”If God had taken away all of our earthly treasures such as family, health, and wealth, would we as Job be able to say that the  Lord gives and the Lord takes away, BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD? God owes us nothing. His desire is not to make us wealthy, it is to make us Holy. And when we hear messages that promote worshipping the stuff He gives over the salvation He offers, it is a completely different Gospel.


For the life of me I cannot understand why television stations that profess to be Christians continue to allow false ministries like David Martin International to be broadcast. He is a false teacher, a charlatan, and a thief. The greatest blessing is not the stuff God gives, but the salvation He has given.

The lie of the prosperity Gospel is that is promotes worshipping the gifts and common graces God gives over worshipping the Lord Himself simply for who He is and what He has already done in and through the cross of Christ.
Deuteronomy 1:11 reminds us today of the promise of God given to Abraham to multiply His people in spite of their unworthy state before Him. And it is a reminder of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and His amazing grace towards sinners like us.


The Beauty of a Christ Centered Marriage

By Charlie Parish

Octavius Winslow once said that of all the idols, man finds the worship of himself the hardest one to abandon. Marriages are under extreme attack in our world today. And the root problem is two fold. First, there is a wide spread lack of the understanding of the holiness of our Lord. And secondly, we prize our selfish desires far above our friends, family, and God. The heart of man is by default so wicked and self centered that in his sin nature, he cares not who is hurt by his sin, so long as he get what he wants.

This is seen most clearly in the low value our society places on marriage, even among professing Christians. Within the past two months, five couples whom my wife and I are close with have decided to call it quits on their marriage. We love these couples dearly. And because we love them, our hearts break with them.

Some of these couples say the reason is that they never really loved the other. Others say that they are not treated like they want to be treated. Still others claim that they have been unhappy for way too long. But all of these claims are merely ways of skimming the surface without addressing the painful truth.

All of these statements could be wrapped up in a more truthful statement. In essence, they are basically saying, “I am the center of my own universe, and you are not meeting the expectations of my universe.” Not only is the marriage destroyed, but so are the lives of potential children and family members. Divorce leaves a trail of heart ache that spans generations. It creates a ripple effect of destruction.

Divorce exists because a proper knowledge of God and the Gospel does not.

The Apostle Paul paints a breath taking birds eye view of God’s intentions when He created marriage. In Ephesians chapter 5, Paul says that wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. In like manner, the husbands are charged to love their wives as Christ loves the church.

Suddenly, we begin to see that the union of marriage has much bigger ramifications that merely being about the happiness of two individuals. Marriage is not about our happiness. Marriage is not about our satisfaction. It never was. Marriage is a living portrait. It is a three dimensional sketch of Jesus Christ and His church.

What did Christ do for His bride, the church? He died for her. While she was in her worst state. While she was unattractive. While she was undeserving. He kept no score card, and He took not into account how He was being treated by her. Putting the good of His bride before Himself, Jesus gave His life for her.

On that final day, at the wedding supper of the Lamb, how will the church respond to the sacrifice of her husband? In glad submission that has been birthed from a heart that is overwhelmed with His love for her despite the hideous way she had treated Him. This is not a forced submission.

As Christians, are the church. We are collectively His bride. We have no doubt been unfaithful. We have served other Gods and worshipped mortal idols, mainly ourselves. And Christ took our place, and instead of rejection offered instead mercy and grace.

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8.

Marriage is a radiant picture of the Gospel. It is the very image of this mysterious union between God and the church. It is a portrait of very lengths that Christ went to in order to secure and love His bride. The word ‘Christian’ literally means “little Christ’s.” And God takes marriage and divorce extremely seriously. Because to destroy the union of marriage is to quite literally spit on the cross of Christ.

If we truly understand and have been pierced by what Christ has done for us through the cross, then we will view our marriage very differently.

Selfishness will be unheard of, because we understand His grace.

Falling out of love would not be a question, because we understand that His love was not a feeling, but a choice.

Hardships in marriage would not warrant abandonment of giving up, because He forgave us.

The feeling of entitlement would be abolished. Because we understand He gave up everything to die for us.

So in the trials and imperfections of marriage, we begin to be molded into the very image of this God we worship. We learn to forgive, as He has forgiven. We learn to show grace and mercy, as Christ has show it to us. Through marriage, we learn how to die to self in favor of our spouse, and thus we become like Jesus Christ! The point of marriage is to conform us to the image of Christ.

The reason divorce exists is because we no longer have a proper understanding of the Gospel. The reason divorce exists is due to self worship. We look down upon the Israelites when we hear the story in Exodus of them making a golden calf to worship in place of God. But we do the very same thing today. Only we place our own feelings and fleeting emotions in place of the golden calf. It is self that we worship. And it is this perverted worship of self that the forces of darkness use to destroy the beautiful image of the Gospel.

For those couples who are going through hardships, Satan will plead with you to put your feelings center stage. The Gospel says take your eyes off of yourself and place them on Christ. Gaze upon the bloody cross, and the price that was paid by the Savior, knowing that it was we who should have been hanging there. Choose to mirror Jesus. Choose to love when love is not deserved. Choose to serve when you are not being served.

For those couples who are considering divorce, do not buy into the lie. It is the same lie Satan placed before Adam and Eve in the garden. It is the lie that happiness will be found outside of the will of God. Instead, place your eyes upon Jesus. John Piper once said that the one way to know if you married the right person was to look at the marriage certificate. God does not make mistakes.

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:9.

And when you are rejected or hurt, know that this is an image of how you have treated Christ. Yet His choice to love His bride never wavered. That is the example folks. That is the mystery of marriage. And when you have a husband and a wife who are both looking to Christ as to how they should treat one another, divorce would be an impossibility. Before you cast stones at your marriage, look to the glorious Gospel. He can make all things new. Don’t give up.


Pastor Charlie’s Story

By Pastor Charlie Parish

Everyone has a story to tell. One that is passed down from generation to generation. One that is told numerous times by the story teller, at times to the exhaustion of his hearers. But when the story is life altering, the story teller could care less. He loves, I dare say, lives to tell his story. This is my story. My testimony of the grace of God upon my life. It is a brief account of how God called me by His Word from darkness into newness of life. And by God’s grace, it may be your story as well.

I grew up very involved in church from a very early age. From the time I was an infant, my parents were instrumental in modeling how the church should be priority in our lives. I was surrounded by people like my parents and church family who loved the Lord. And our family was usually among the first people to enter the church building and one of the last to leave.

I was morally a good kid. And when it came to the youth group, I was present every Wednesday night for Bible Study as well as in attendance for each yearly youth related camp. I memorized weekly Bible verses, was baptized at age thirteen, and professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

But it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I realized I wasn’t saved, and that if I had died I would have spent an eternity in Hell, separated from God. I had religion. I had morality. I had church attendance. I had walked the aisle, said the prayer, and had been baptized. But I was no more saved than if I’d been an atheist.

Truth be told, my religious check list was pristine. In fact, if you would have asked me how I knew that I was saved, I would have pointed to my morality, my baptism, and my involvement in the church. I would have told you that I knew I was saved because when I was thirteen years old I said a sinners prayer asking Jesus into my heart, and I was baptized.

In my mind I was saved. There was no love for the Word of God within my soul. I had no true repentance in my heart. And my knowledge of God was not much deeper than the watered down Bible stories we read our children. I had no understanding of divine atonement or propitiation. I had no understanding of the attributes of God such as His Sovereignty, His Holiness, His Immutability, or His providential governing.

In short, I was a modern day, living picture of the man that Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 7.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23.

I heard a sermon preached on this passage of scripture in my mid thirties. And the preacher’s exposition of this text haunted me for weeks after hearing. The man in the text of Matthew 7 that Jesus spoke of was one who would have boasted of his religious checklist as his justification to why he thought he was saved. He was a man who would have emphatically professed Jesus Christ as his Lord.

In a more modern day context, this man in Matthew 7 was one who would have been seen regularly in church, he would have been know around town as a very moral person, and he would have had the date of his baptism written in the back of his Bible.

On his death bed, he would have been self assured that he would enter the Kingdom of Heaven based on how stellar track record. However, upon breathing his last breath, he enters into the presence of God. Even standing before the Lord, he confidently begins to recount the many religious things he did during his life.

But the response from Jesus was shocking. The Lord responded to this self righteous man, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”

Reading the description of this man was as if I was looking at my own reflection in a mirror. All of my years of church activity and attempts at morality were as the prophet Isaiah said, “Filthy rags before God.” Isaiah 64:6.

I became broken over my sins. But this time, my brokenness was heartfelt. For the first time, I was disgusted by my past self righteousness and desired more than anything to live my life chasing the knowledge of Christ, and to serve Him on mission.

Something was different. My desires had changed. I wanted to know Him. My salvation resulted in an insatiable craving for the knowledge of God. And the more that I saw of His beauty through scriptures, the more this hunger grew.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3.

This is but a glimpse of my testimony. I often look at the salvation that the Lord has given and marvel at His grace towards such an undeserving person as myself. The Lord used many factors in His great providence to lead me out of spiritual darkness and into His light.
First and foremost, it was the preaching of the Word of God that led me to the knowledge of the truth. It was the faithful exposition of Matthew chapter 7 that the Lord used to awaken my dead soul. It was not the eloquence of the preacher nor the charisma of a man, but strictly the reading of the Word of God.

I didn’t walk down an aisle nor did I repeat a canned “sinners prayer.” I didn’t sign a card and neither did I respond to an altar call. It wasn’t the emotional music played at the end of the sermon nor the passionate plea of the pastor that drew me to God. And I didn’t invite Jesus into my heart as if He needed an invitation from a former enemy of God such as myself. I followed none of these man centered tactics that are so very popular today.

It was God and God alone through the speaking of His Word that breathed new life into my soul. It was the preaching of the Word that led to salvation.

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17.

Some may ask why do I share this portion of my testimony? My reason is two fold. First, as the old hymn goes, I love to tell the story. I believe that is one of the telling marks of someone who has truly encountered Christ. Once you have truly tasted the grace of God, you never get over it. You can’t stop talking about it.

You own salvation is the most amazing thing to you. Consider the disciples of Christ. They had their flaws for sure. But once they saw the risen Christ, they spent the rest of their earthly lives telling others about it.

After the conversion of the Apostle Paul, he retold his own testimony more than once throughout the scriptures. Paul pointed to his own fallacy of believing in His own religious works and morality.

“I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.” Philippians 3:5-9.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he did not hold back from sharing the most shameful of his sins with them. He considered himself to be the worst of sinners, undeserving of the grace that had been given to him.

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:9.

But Paul was not ashamed of His past, because his former weaknesses only served to magnify the power of the saving grace of God to bring the spiritually dead back to life.

“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

It is the same with us today. When God turns a heart of stone to flesh, it is all the more reason for the person who is a new creation in Christ to have a deep desire to testify to the greatness of God, boasting only of their weakness and bringing full glory to God.

And secondly, the reason for sharing this testimony is so that God may use it to lead others to the knowledge of Himself. As I began to grow in sanctification and listen to many sermons, I began to notice a difference between preachers.

There were many popular preachers that I heard that were very captivating and even entertaining to listen to. But there was little to no depth. And there were other preachers who seem to have a seriousness to their message. There was an urgency in their voice. As if they were preaching fervently to men who were teetering on the edge of eternity. I was immediately drawn to such preaching.

Their message was not jovial nor did they employ cute Christian games in order to try and keep the attention of their audiences. It was apparent that the message they spoke was delivered as being life or death. It was no laughing matter. The demeanor of preachers who hold a high view of God and approached their exegesis with a serious tone exemplify the reality of the Gospel.

As one preacher rightly said, Jesus must be everything, or He is nothing. The supernatural salvation of the Lord produces in the new man an urgency and a seriousness when it comes to matters of God. It is not a Christianity molded by the opinions of men nor one that is cautious of withholding certain Biblical truths for fear of hurting someones feelings. Spurgeon once said that the person who loves you the most is the one who will tell you the truth, even if it is offensive. This is the Gospel.

Have you truly been saved? Or are you as I once was, lost in a sea of your own self professed morality and religiosity? Do you have a untamed passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a seriousness to the message that you proclaim? Are you growing in Holiness and the knowledge of Christ? Or does you quest to know Him consist only of Sunday morning in the pew?

Do you know Jesus? Better yet, does Jesus know you? According to Matthew Chapter 7, that will be the question to be answered when you stand before the Lord. The lost man will passionately proclaim “Lord, Lord, I know you!” And Christ will respond to many, “But I didn’t know you.”

Seek Him, while He may be found. And know that if you sincerely do begin to seek the Lord, you did not do this in and through your own power. There is only one seeker, and that is God. Because in our flesh and sins we want nothing to do with God (Romans 3). That is until He breathes new life into us. You see even in the seeking of Christ we deserve no credit for that. Because the only reason man seeks God is because God has first regenerated His heart and given Him new desires.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:9.

Do you have a new passion for Him? If there has been no evident change wherein you begin to hate the sins you once loved and love the righteousness of Christ you once despised, then there has been no salvation. Church attendance cannot save, nor can Baptism. You must be born again, where you believe the Gospel and spend the rest of your life repenting of you sins and proclaiming the glorious Gospel.

My story began with brokenness. There was nothing in my deeds nor my past track record of religious activities that merited favor with God. I was, and still consider myself to be as Paul said, the least deserving of grace. My story begins with a resurrection. The moment my eyes did open and I couldn’t look upon myself for worth of any kind, but only to Christ. And my story is one that is only beginning, and will go on into eternity never ceasing to be amazed by the majesty of Christ our Lord.

Truth be told, this is God’s story. One of many stories about His grace and saving power. I just happen to be mentioned in this account as a means to magnify His glory through the telling of His redemption of sinners such as I. Every story is either a story of His mercy or His justice. But all stories, in some way, serve to point to Jesus. Even yours.

I pray that Jesus is that treasure in your field this day, and that like Paul, all external efforts at salvation are as garbage to you. This day, if you do know Him, take a moment to stand in awe of the miraculous work that is your own salvation. And let that reality spur you on towards living radically for Christ. Salvation is by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the Gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation.