Character Reloaded

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2

We were locked down in Honduras when I wrote the original version of this blog. COVID cases had begun to double daily. The borders and airports were closed. No one could leave the country.  There was a 6-month to 2-year jail sentence awaiting anyone who violated the lockdown. Ironically it had been just two months since I’d presented a teaching based on the book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy-What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. By William Straus and Neil Howe. I had no idea at the time how prophetic it was. My audience was comprised of Millennials and Gen Z-ers who were learning how to be missionaries.  My message was not well received. You can read the book or better yet, its sequel The Fourth Turning is Here,. You can also view my original post for a quick synopsis. Suffice it to say that we are in what Straus and Howe called The Fourth Turning otherwise known as

“The Crisis”

Today we find the globe moving deeper into the Fourth Turning that is scheduled to peak sometime between 2025 and 2030. If the cycle simply repeats it will usher in another First Turn “High”. Just to give you some context, the previous High was 1945 -1965 and gave birth to “The Boomer Generation” and the proverbial “American  Dream”. That the cycles of history repeat is as unavoidable as it is undeniable. The key to surviving and thriving is rooted in recognizing the season and responding correctly. One of the most common errors people make during Fourth Turns is to mistake them for a First.

For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time when it suddenly falls upon them.
Ecc 9:12

The Root of Crisis

Judge and judgment are among the most contentious words these days. This is especially true in the context of Christianity where “judgment” has become a pejorative. The WOKE especially like to cite Jesus in Mat 7:1-3 “judge not lest ye be judged” usually in response to any mention of sin. Today love is increasingly defined as tolerance of sin. Conviction is hate. The Greek word for judge in Mat 7 is krínō, meaning to “condemn or pronounce sentence upon”. The absurdity of one person judging another for judging them aside, we agree that no man should krínō another.

There is more than one word for judgment in the Bible.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” 1 Cor 2:14-15 “judge” is Anakrínō – to discern.

I Anakrínō right from wrong – truth from lies etc. In practice Anakrínō looks like intuition or “gut instinct”. Yet it is a knowing in one’s spirit that can be later verified with God’s word.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgmentPhilippians 1:9

Judgment here is Aísthēsisperception by the intellect as well as the senses, discernment, Cognition, moral discernment in ethical matters.

Among other things, Aísthēsis is the bedrock of a 1 Peter 3:15 Apologia, a defense for the hope that is in us.

Still, there is one other word for judgement.

That word is Krísis, the word from which the English word “crisis” is derived.

Krísis is God’s judgment.

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17

Discussions of God’s judgment may trigger charismatic believers. We may encounter a similar emotional response is when discussing spiritual gifts with reformed cessationists. Theological paradigms get rattled and arguments are formed as we debate whether or not God really is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yet almost no one would dispute that God can not be mocked. We reap what we sow. There is a point on the path of sin where God turns his head and gives those who remain in it over to do that which ought not to be done. Rom 1:18-32 This turning over is for the destruction of their flesh in the hope that their soul might be saved. At the end of the day, the wages of sin is death. God does not cause us to sin. He allows us to sin. It is not God’s desire that crisis falls upon us. He desires that we wake up and rise from the dead. Yet all are without excuse. Rom 1: 18-32. Therefore God does not change the consequences of our chosen rebellion. Does the devil play a role? Certainly! In fact he thinks he is winning. Little does he know that he is God’s stool pigeon. The pressure (Thlipsis- tribulation) that Satan is allowed to impose on us is used by God to conform us to the image of His son Rom 8:29 and remove the spots and wrinkles from His bride. Eph 5:27 Imagine what might happen if we took responsibility for our collective sin and resulting Krísis like Daniel did in Dan 9 instead of assigning power to the devil and deferring blame upon Him.

Consider how that might shape our prayers.

While the scandal at IHOP at least partially inspires this post, the allegations against Mike remain as yet unconfirmed. Please don’t get lost in speculation regarding his innocence or guilt. Rather I hope that you will consider the Krísis that has been brought to light within the body of Christ.

Having attended Ravi Zacharias’ School of Apologetics, I was devastated when his lifelong sexual sin was exposed immediately following his death in 2021. No man has impacted my theology and faith more than he. If I have ever placed a man on a pedestal Ravi was it. I cried when his ministry, life’s work, and legacy collapsed. Yet Ravi’s sin was not the root cause of his ministry’s implosion. It was the leadership team who knew about Ravi’s sin and covered it up to protect the ministry that detonated its demise. Despite the title, the video below is not about Mike Bickle per se. It is Lew Engle’s public confession of his porn addiction at a One Thing Conference in 2018. I think we were in Ecuador on the Amazon at the time and had no idea this had happened. The current scandal at IHOP is the only reason I – and maybe you – have become aware of it now.

Clearly, there is a crisis in the body of Christ.

How did we get here? As Ray Comfort says, “God comes to us with a subpoena in one hand and a pardon in the other.”  Today we love to tell people about the loving pardon. The subpoena…not so much. We emphasize grace and joy and downplay God’s justice. We thank Him for His goodness and redact His severity and Holiness. In a word, there is no fear of God. Instead, we fear man and man’s rejection. We redact the truth in the hope that we will be accepted.

All who live Godly will be persecuted.

Praise God for Lew’s courage and transparency even if it took him fifty years to get there. I’m not being snarky. It’s just a fact. He has ministered to at least two generations of new believers all the while being double-minded and therefore unstable in all his ways. Sexual sin’s portal is a man’s eyes. It is the number one sin that threatens to beset all men. No man is immune. If you think you are then take heed lest you fall. One reason I don’t have a porn problem today is because I know that I could. The other reason is that I understand how real the battle is and how it is fought.

Lew mentioned years of futile prayer and fasting against his compulsion. That makes perfect sense. The Bible tells us to flee youthful lusts. Prayer and fasting is for unbelief. Those who fail to heed the warning to flee soon find themselves caught in the snare of addiction. Now they must expose it Eph 5:11 before they can hope to flee it. Exposure is what many people fear most because the required vulnerability produces suffering. This suffering may be the result of shame, the loss of the esteem of men, position, and or material consequences like the loss of a career or even one’s freedom. Fear of exposure keeps us stuck in our sin. As the 12 Step adage goes,

“We are as sick as our secrets.”

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. 

What I found most perplexing about the video is that Mike Bickle seemed embarrassed by Lew’s transparency. The words he chose were anything but supportive of accountability. Mike seemed quite familiar with Lew’s struggle as he attempted to minimize and rationalize the sin. Thankfully Lew Engle wasn’t having any of it. The fear of God was on him and he quaked in his boots as he publicly repented.

But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 1 Cor 11:31

The reason for God’s judgment on the house of God and global society is that we have avoided addressing the subject of sin for so long that today we increasingly call good evil and evil good.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this, they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. 1 Pet 4:1-6

Arm yourself with the same way of thinking… is similar to gird up the loins of your mind and having done all to stand, stand therefore… Could any true believer engage in a besetting sin if they were present at Jesus’ crucifixion? Peter is calling us to Jesus’ battle. It is a call to be ready to suffer like Jesus amid a reprobate society. It is the act of resolving to lose one’s life to save it,to overcome by the blood of the lamb, the word of our testimony and to NOT love our lives onto death. Mind you it is not a call to pursue suffering or martyrdom but a willingness to embrace it if necessary. Still, the question remains;

Suffer for what?

Paul calls it persevering. Once again, tribulation is Thlipsis (pressure) and specifically refers to a form of Roman execution where a large bolder was placed on the victim’s chest and slowly crushed the life out of him. In this context, pressure could be iniquity which includes the pressure to sin. We refer to this pressure as temptation. Yet iniquity left unaddressed becomes generational. The longer we remain isolated in secret sin the greater the iniquity and the more fragmented we become. Fragmentation is the opposite of integrity. Both fragmentation and integrity are opposing expressions of character. Our character is what God seeks to transform and conform to the image of His son. Persevering under pressure is God’s formula for transformation that produces hope.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Rom 5:3-5

One thing seems certain Krísis reveals character. While it is often misconstrued as wrath to which believers are not appointed, it is in fact, the discipline of a loving Father and a catalyst for transformation. The pressure increases according to our resistance until we surrender and repent or ends in death. The choice is ours. The final outcome is determined by our response. How silly we must look to the principalities to whom we are called to make the manifest wisdom of God known any time we pray against God’s Krísis in Jesus’ name. This is one way many have and will be caught in the aforementioned snare. Everything will be shaken. Only what can’t be shaken will remain…our God is a consuming fire.  Who we are and what we do “will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.”  Only that which is of God will survive. Therefore arm yourself with the mind and character of Jesus. If we suffer with Him we will be glorified with Him.

One thing seems certain. Hard times and big challenges lie ahead. More and more we will see true character exposed both in and out of the church. I understand the importance of the honor that so characterizes my own faith stream. It’s true context applies to missions and becoming all things to all men in order to save a few. We honored Muslims in Africa to earn credibility and the right to be heard by them. Honor was never intended to be a perversion of do not touch God’s anointed – a proverbial bunker in which leaders avoid accountability. God is not having it. My prayer is for wisdom and courage for all of us to judge ourselves and that we allow the transformation of our character wherever needed so that we can faithfully fulfill what God has called us to in these last days.

Every outcome will ultimately be determined by our character.


Intimacy and Holy Fear

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Pet 1:17-19

In his first apology (defense) of Christianity, Justin Maryter offered theological arguments and cited the superior moral conduct of Christians to convince the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius to cease from persecuting the Church.  Of course, he and several of his students were beheaded in 166 AD. The point is that in times past the conduct of the church was regarded as proof of God’s truth. James 1:22-25

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly, you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. 2 Cor 3:2-3

The early church lived in the reality of Rev 12:11 to which many are and will be called to walk out today.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,

and they did not love their lives to the death.

Our Pakistani friends Pastors Ammir and Tariq in Pakistan awaken each day with a resolve to continue preaching “even if they cut (off) our heads”. Meanwhile, a lot of us can’t even resolve to cut off the TV.

The Holiness to which we are called beginning in 1 Pet1:15 is not an emotion-based call to conform to a cultural consensus but rather to be cultural nonconformists Rom 12:1-2 conformed to the image of His son. Rom 8:29  Still, many will quote Paul in 1 Cor 9 I became all things to all men… (vs.21) as a means of justifying their conformity to culture. Becoming all things to all men does not mean we compromise. It means we empathize. We do so in the context of anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Cor 10:12 Paul’s conclusion clarifies the context for his previous statements.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

So often we become all things to all men as a result of our fear of man. Is it because we want to avoid the responsibility of confronting sin? Eph 5:11 Are we afraid of offending others? 1 Pet 2:7-8   Are we afraid of being judged as being judgemental? 1 Cor 2:15   Are we afraid of persecution? 1 Tim 3:22 We may accomplish it “by speaking in Love”. Is all of this just code and a cover for “I need people to like me”?

The only way to pursue Holiness is to fear God more than man.

Hence Peter exhorts us to conduct (ourselves) with fear throughout the time of (our) exile… FEAR is phóbos, the Greek word from which the English word Phobia is derived. It means fear, dread, terror, that which strikes terror. It also means reverence for one’s husband. Our favorite analogy is the fear of the ocean that we learned in Hawaii. On one hand, the sea is a source of life without which there would be no life on Earth. Yet it will kill you deader than a hammer if you don’t fear its power. I’m not talking about the watered-down fear that we call awe. I’m talking about the sheer terror that comes with getting caught in a rip current in six-foot surf.

It is impossible to comprehend Holiness – hágios and qodesh apart from Heb 12:28-29 and Rev 19:12-16. Jesus is not a mushy-gushy Jesus who died for our soulish emotions to align with our contemporary definitions of love. He is the strongest toughest most long-suffering Son of God who loves us and died for us in spite of us Eph 2:1-10. He saved us from the wrath of the Father that we deserved. Eph 2:3  Not because we were wonderful and, cuddly. We were dead. Eph 2:1 God saved us because of who He is, because – He could not violate HIS own character and nature. One day He will return to wreak eternal havoc upon all who deny Him. 1 Pet:4:18-19, Isa 24, 2 Pet 3 If we fail to understand this and insist on putting the proverbial “cart before the horse” and make His salvation Psalm 51 more about us than Him we will soon find ourselves drowning in a sea of narcissism otherwise known as the contemporary culture of those striving to be seen, heard and loved. Why do we so need to be seen, heard, loved, and affirmed by others if indeed,

Jesus is enough?

That said, there are several ways we can deny Him. 1 Tim 2:12, Mark 16:16, Gal 1:8-9, Mat 7:21-23. I realize there are “fire and brimstone” denominations at which we charismatics shudder, cringe and are offended because they allegedly negate the power of Holy Spirit. At best they give lip service to the compassionate, gentle miracle-working, power of our Savior. This is not a legalistic call to obsess over hell.  Even so, many charismatic believers reject the Holy whip-making, temple-clearing, sword-wielding “consuming fire” God who demands sobriety, obedience, and holiness manifested in the transformation of our characters. God couldn’t care less about raised hands and loud exclamations during corporate worship when our daily conduct is corrupt. Isa 29, Mark 7  I am mentioning it here because personal holiness is impossible apart from beholding both the kindness and severity of God. Rom 11:22

This is the fear of God that produces Holiness. 2 Cor 7:1

There is a profound and deeply disturbing misunderstanding in the contemporary charismatic church that intimacy with God is produced by emotion – that if we are emotional with God He will know us. Mat 7:21-23  It’s not that God doesn’t care how we feel. Psalm 51:17 However, true intimacy with the Lord is only found in our abiding in Him. Abiding looks like obedience. John 15 

We learn to obey by pursuing Holiness.

1 Samuel 15 is one of the most poignant chapters in the Bible. It is a clear type and shadow of our problem with Holiness today.

God orders King Saul to destroy the Amalekites.

Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey…But Saul and the people spared (King) Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.

Like so many today, Saul rationalized His disobedience with the excuse that he intended to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. To which Samuel replies, obedience is better than sacrifice and listening better than the fat of rams. He equates rebellion with the sin of witchcraft and presumption with idolatry.

Then God rejects Saul

At the end of the chapter, we find Saul admitting his sin. Yet his primary concern is that Samuel returns with him to honor him before people.

And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me,

that I may bow before the Lord YOUR God.” 

Can you think of a time when you sought to please man instead of God?

When was the last time that another believer made a declaration or a truth claim that is nowhere to be found in scripture, or worse, blatantly contradicts God’s Word and we said nothing? When was the last time we witnessed blatant sin in the church and said nothing? 1 Pet 4:17 When was the last time we saw a brother or a sister heading for a proverbial cliff and we failed to warn them?

How often is our “speaking in love” just a cover for the fear of man?

Fear of man always enables or produces sin.

Fear of God produces holiness, and holiness – Intimacy.

The pursuit of intimacy apart from obedience and holiness is of the flesh and mocks God. Gal 6:7-8

Therefore conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile here on earth. You are a sojourner – a stranger here. Heb 11:13  For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14