The Ultimate State of Mind

The Ultimate State of Mind

Robert Wurtz II

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:21–24 NKJV)

 

“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8 ESV)

 

“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”  (2 Timothy 4:8 ESV)

I have selected three passages in Paul’s writings to demonstrate a pattern of what I call, “The Ultimate State of Mind.” That is to stay, it is the best possible state of mind and cannot be improved upon. Paul’s ultimate desire and focus were on Jesus Christ. He said it most succinctly when he stated, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” It was not death that Paul sought it was being with Christ in the literal and final sense. Matthew Henry once said that “death is a great loss to a carnal worldly man; for he loses all his comforts and all his hopes: but to a good Christian it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery and the perfection of his comforts and accomplishment of his hopes; it delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to the possession of the chief good.”

 

The “chief good” is that Eternal Life — to know Christ in His very presence. Since the Garden of Eden man has been estranged from God. The Gospel makes it possible to be reconciled to God and to return to know His manifest presence. It is our final and most blessed inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (2 Cor 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:14). In modern language we would say that receiving the Holy Spirit is the down payment or deposit; it is to secure an eventuality: when “we shall see Him as He is” or in Paul’s words to be “at home with the Lord.” 

For me, the true test of my spiritual state is the strength of my longing to be with Christ. Do I love the Lord enough to long to be with Him? This is more than being loving a doctrine or concept. Most believers seem content to express their faith along these lines. But do we love His appearing? That’s the question. I have preached along these lines before and have wondered if the hearers grasped what I said. It is unnatural to want to leave this earth. I get that. But at the same time, it ought to be our deep-seated desire — our constant longing — to be with Christ. How do we know that? Because Paul implied as much when he spoke of receiving a crown of righteousness as a consequence of “loving Christ’s appearing.” The Greek tense demonstrates that the crown of righteousness is for those who love, who have loved and still love his second coming (A. T. Robertson). 

 

If we consider that 2 Corinthians was written in 58 CE and 2 Timothy in 66 CE then we know that Paul felt this way at a minimum of eight solid years. In fact, prior to going to Jerusalem, he gave this testimony… “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22–24 KJV). Nothing moved Paul because he knew that the worst that could happen to him was that he die: and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 

 

How do you frighten a man like Paul? He can’t wait to get to Jesus. Again, he stated, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy. Generally, modern translations omit the word joy (charas). Commentators rarely pass comment on it. I suspect that it’s because they can’t see how it fits into Paul’s remarks. Yet it’s clear that he was simply saying that if he was worried about dying all the time, how could fulfill his ministry joyfully? Fear of death has a way of hindering our joy. But Paul didn’t fear death. He longed to be with Jesus and in that state of mind he could face anything with joy. He could look physical death in the face as if to say, “Death, don’t do me any favors because I can’t wait to get to Jesus.”   

Identity Crisis

Robert Wurtz II


See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25–29 NKJV)

The book of Hebrews was written at a time when Israel was about to go through the greatest shaking in its history. Everything the Jews had known was about to be shaken; their religion, their way of life, their security, their personal peace, their occupations, etc.. We might say that they were in an identity crisis. In fact, the Romans were about to destroy Jerusalem completely. Not even the Temple, the place where Jews journeyed from around the world to worship God will be spared. Moreover, after destroying Jerusalem, the Romans carved a menorah into one of their gates as a reminder of how they completely annihilated Herod’s Temple. Once they threw it down and burned everything that was flammable, the soldiers plowed the Temple Mount like a farmer tills his field. 


The Romans left no continuity between the Jews former way of life and their future life. We know this event as the first Jewish revolt of 70 A.D. For most Jews their lives were already in a state of flux. Jesus Christ came on the scene around 30 A.D. challenging their sincerely held religious beliefs. Prior to that time, a new order within Judaism known as the Zealots began terrorizing the Romans and strong-arming the people. They held to the “sole rule of God” doctrine. While trying to throw off Roman rule, they caused so much trouble that Vespasian was ordered to Jerusalem to subdue them. When the people refused to cooperate, the Romans besieged the city as we have already discussed.


I have often wondered how the believing Jews went forward in their faith. Everything was changing (shaking), to the point that many lost everything (family, friends, possessions, careers, reputation, etc.). When it was all said and done, some Christians fell away. These times tested peoples’ faith and experience in God. Some frauds (fake believers) were discovered. They went out from the assembly because they were not of the assembly. This is what John tells us. They went out that it might be revealed that they were not all of us.

A Present Time of Trouble


Sometimes when I wake up and see the news, I ask myself if this whole world has missed the rapture. Evil is prevailing in ways that are unconscionable. The masses are as blind to spiritual things and are as immoral as we have read about in recorded history. Even “Christians” defending everything from homosexuality to political correctness. People walk around like zombies under control of the devil. Boys are being shamed into undressing in front of girls in the school locker rooms; men are competing as women in sporting events; grown men can walk in and use a women’s public restroom at Target Stores; while Canada just passed a law making it illegal to speak against Islam. A moral Vespasian has besieged our culture and we are at risk of losing our identity and culture completely.


The time would fail to tell of Christians being fined and sued because they won’t bake same-sex wedding cakes (pardon the gross expression) to Islamic terrorists running people down and stabbing them on the streets of London! These are streets that I have personally walked on. All the while blindness and diabolic political correctness rules the day. If I did not know better I would think that many people (especially reporters and politicians) in the world are encouraging and enjoying all of these dreadful acts — including the violence! What does the scripture say? 

Being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:29–32 NKJV)

A Shaking That Challenges Our Identity


Saints, a great shaking is coming. A shaking like has not been seen or known in recorded history. It is already happening in places like North Korea, Hindu areas, and Islamic nations. It is only a matter of time until it is open season on Christians who practice the Biblical faith in the Western World. Not the nominal Christians who ebb and flow with the culture; they will join the sinners against the Saints. Mark it down. In ancient times they did this very thing and were known technically as Tradutors (a “Christian” who turns genuine Christians over to the authorities). Shallow conversion experiences have loaded the churches with nominal Christians who are still of a carnal mind. The shaking will reveal them.  


In the 21st century, we are experiencing a shaking even now. We have it on a global, national, and local level. Families are being shaken; churches are being shaken, and Christians are being shaken. Why? That the things which cannot be shaken may remain. The shaking reveals what cannot be shaken. It also reveals who cannot be shaken. I’m reminded of a comment I heard a man say once, “Now we’re going to see what they are made of — because we have heard a lot of jargon!” 



Compromise Leads to an Identity Crisis


On a Sunday afternoon in the middle 1990s, I was doing research on the Deluge and other historical events at the local library when I happened upon a man, sitting at the table, and marking up some poster-sized printed pages. Being curious I stepped closer and because the text was so large I could read it at a distance. I was struck by the fact that at the bottom the copyright was dated for the following year. The man was circling text and writing notes with a red pen. I sat down at the table and eventually asked him, “Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing?” He responded, “I am editing a high school science book for Rinehart and Winston. I teach at a local college part time, and since I retired from 25 years as a High School Science teacher… I also edit science books.” 


I then stepped to a large window that overlooked the plush landscape and asked the gentleman, “Do believe that all of this got here by accident.” “No!” He replied. “I believe God created it all. I just don’t know how he did it. In fact, I was just in church this morning.” Stunned by this information, I’m sure I made some strange facial expressions. I don’t recall asking anything else — I went and got another book and came to sit back down. Much to my surprise the gentleman and all of his paperwork were gone when I returned. Apparently, he wasn’t in the mood for any more questions. But as I sat there it dawned on me. Here this man has spent 25 years teaching macro-evolution as the origin of life to high school children and is now setting the next generation up for more of the same. All the while attending church on Sunday morning and believing that God was the actual cause of the Universe. I immediately realized that I could never compensate for the damage this man’s teachings had caused — even if I lived three lifetimes. 


What happened? A time of testing came and rather than view the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God he compromised. I have no idea what excuses he used or what rationale he was moving in. I only know the results of his decisions. Sadly, this type of behavior is more prevalent than we know. It contributes to the shaking we are dealing with today as Christians in the West. People like this continue to go to church on Sunday — but they are using their bodies to spread lies Monday through Friday. They identify as “Christian” but do not recognize the authority of God’s word. How can this be? Look around. Scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed and observe all the “Christians” who don’t take God’s word seriously. Pay particular attention to people who defend compromise. They will likely be the Tradutors when the shaking gets bad. If they can’t serve God in front of their friends and colleagues on social media or in the workplace — they will probably turn you in when Christian persecution becomes like it is in North Korea and Iraq. 


Consider our passage:          


Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.


Some people believe they are doing a work for God because they are merely “present” someplace. Not true. We are to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Unless we are affecting the moral and spiritual climate of our environment we are merely salt that has lost its saltiness. How does it happen? Fear, plain and simple. Fear of being criticized. Fear of rejection. Fear of being shamed. Fear of conflict. Fear of being fired (sacked) from the job. Ad infinitum. It could also be the fact that the person loves the world but wants to identify as “Christian.” This is not to say that we walk around waving a Christian banner and beating people over the head with a Bible (a typical strawman argument for not being salt and light), but there are times that we must take a stand. 

Serving Acceptably During the Shaking


Most Christians in the West have believed for over 70 years that the Saints will not see persecution. It is the attitude of the world that says, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.” (Revelation 18:7b KJV) But it is a purely Westernized Christianity (to put it one way). This belief has left multitudes ill-prepared for the days, weeks, months, and years to come should the Lord tarry. Christians are being beheaded and burned to death in many parts of the world right now. In the West, we are surrounded by an arrogant and militant atheism — while Islam threatens to baptize us with fire and blood. Instead of preparing for persecution, many churches are turning their foyers into coffee shops and their sanctuaries into nightclubs (at least that’s the motif they are following). Their leaders are trying to climb the political ladder at the expense of everyone and everything in the way. They are wildly out-of-touch with what is going on in the world.  


Beloved, we (the Saints) need to prepare ourselves now for what is to come. The years of religious privilege (freedom), unknown in many parts of the World (that we have experienced in the West), will draw to a close unless the Lord undertakes. As our passage says in Hebrews 12 we need grace if we are to ever serve God acceptably under conditions that we never expected to be in. What can we do? Let us have grace. Only God can empower us to continue in His will in a way that is well-pleasing to Him — when everything around us seems to have shaken apart. God has a very special grace that is tailor-made for our situation. We will need this grace as spiritual and moral darkness overtakes our lands. 

Where Judgment Begins

Robert Wurtz II


For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:17–19 ESV)

When Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous speech at Lyceum in 1838, the United States were marching towards the greatest bloodbath in our nation’s history. Men would face each other in battles so horrific that at times they would place their guns in each other’s faces and pull the trigger. The event that I’m referring to is the Civil War — a conflict that changed the way Americans thought of this nation. Perhaps you presumed it was a slip of the pen to write, “The United States were…” Not so. Prior to the Civil War America was thought of as individual states and were thus referred to in the present tense as are (plural). One hundred and fifty years later we say the United Stated is (singular). As one Civil War historian pointed out, the Civil War made “us an is.” 


Abraham Lincoln’s speech fell on deaf ears. The people were bent on their own ideas and unwilling to hearken to the voice of reason. He could hear the faint sounds of war drums long before they reached that deafening roar on April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. If words alone could have sobered the minds of a nation we might have expected the following paragraph to have done so. 


“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” (Abraham Lincoln, Lyceum 1838)


When I read Lincoln’s words I cannot help but think of the Church. Although written about the United States, I suggest that we take heed to these words when he asked, At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. The enemy cannot destroy the Church. Satan and his demons have been waging war against the Church from the beginning. If destruction comes to the churches of God it must come from within — as a consequence of refusing to give heed to Christ’s real time direction and eternal instruction.  


God will not allow His Church to be destroyed. He will take measures to ensure that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. This brings us again to our passage in 1 Peter. Understand that it’s not uncommon for Christians to assume that people who live like the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah are going to suffer the judgment of God. Yet our passage from 1 Peter 4:17-19 is a surprising and sobering reminder of exactly where judgment begins.



In Amos 3:2 God speaks to the children of Isreal these chilling words, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2 NKJV) He was telling them that with revelation comes responsibility. Perhaps we should ask ourselves, “Why would God bring correction to sinners if the household of God needs set in order?” The method of correction and purging (judgment) that Peter was speaking of was likely the vicious persecution that Christians came under and continued to endure until Constantine. This trial by fire had many effects — not the least of which was discouraging nominal membership. 


In the absence of persecution, many things get out of control in the churches. It begins with leadership. Leonard Ravenhill used to say that a stream will never flow any greater than its source. If leaders are cold and flippant then the people are likely to follow. The old time preachers used to preach against the evils of entertainment. What would they say to a generation that had made serving God a form of entertainment? Moreover, what happens when ministers can’t get serious? A common saying in the 1800s was, “God never uses a jester to search consciences.” Is there any wonder that sinners are merely becoming nominal Christians when there is such flippancy in ministry? If our passage in 1 Peter 4:17-19 means anything, we can expect judgment to begin here first. These thoughts ought to greatly sober our minds in this crisis hour. 


And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”


I was in a CVS store this week and overheard off in the distance a man witnessing to his coworker. They were being unusually loud. He told the person that he would pray for them, but the coworker laughed and said it wouldn’t do any good. In fact, the worker told the man that they already knew they were “going to hell anyway.” I’m reminded of the times I have been at the bedside of people who had only days to live and yet they got hostile as I tried to point them to Christ. What a dreadful attitude to have towards ones own soul.


Have you ever pondered the words, “If the righteous is scarcely saved…”? This is a reference to Proverbs 11:31, “If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, How much more the ungodly and the sinner.” (Proverbs 11:31 NKJV) Salvation for the righteous comes as a fight of faith. God gives us grace, but we have to walk it out. The warnings against apostasy in the NT are far too numerous to dismiss. This leaves a final question, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” This sentence is designed to provoke serious reflection. The answer is obvious. 


It’s a rare thing for a person to be witnessed to one-on-one about Christ. Can you imagine the recklessness of a person who would laugh and respond, “I’m going to hell anyway.” I’m reminded of Solomon’s words, “For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool.” (Ecclesiastes 7:6 NKJV) If there is anything inside a person telling them that they need to turn to God — they need to respond. Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart. 


For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:17–19 ESV)