Jesus said Come, Follow Me!
Chapter 7 Ė Except the Lord Build the House
Psalm 127:1, Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build itÖ" Let us examine some of the facts concerning those things Jesus had to say about the religious of his day and consider if these things just might have application to our lives and circumstances today. The wise and humble will consider and make necessary corrections on bended knees before God. The religious are those who try to reach and serve God manís way through Manís devices. There may be similarities in form and function, but there are distinct definable differences. The true body will be led individually and corporately by the Spirit with Christ as the head.
The Jewish people had a well established religious system in place at the time of Christ. This system can best be described as follows: There was one Temple (headquarters) and numerous synagogues (church buildings) with at least one in every city (Acts 15:21). The synagogues were meeting places where the scriptures were read and expounded upon. Each synagogue had a chief ruler(s) (pastor, Acts 18:8, 17, Mk 5:22), elders, and scribes. The scribes interpreted the Law of Moses and occupied the chief seats (Mt 23:6). There were many religious parties (denominations/divisions) such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots and Scribes.
The Jews evangelized and made proselytes. Proselytes were gentile converts to Judaism. The proselytes either observed the whole law with full rights or just the moral and perhaps dietary codes. The Jews and their converts made long prayers, tithed & gave gifts, read the scriptures, fasted, had well defined doctrines, had synagogue traditions, evangelized, held titles (including PhDs, Acts 5:34) and positions of authority, sang hymns (Mk 14:26), wore religious garments, performed ceremonies, celebrated Holy Days (holidays) & feasts, had religious schools (Seminaries, Acts 22:3), appeared very righteous on the outside, had rules of membership (Jn 9:22), contended for their faith (Acts 22:3), had hours of prayer (Acts 3:1) and believed the Torah (Law of Moses) was Godís infallible law Ė the scripture cannot be broken (Jn 10:35 is true forever). These religious Jews were also political and were seeking a return to self government (Acts 1:6) so they could have a religious state and enforce their own religious doctrines and traditions on everyone (legislate morality). Some reading this may be rightly thinking that this sounds just like the religious institution they are a member of.
What did Jesus say about all this? Matthew 5:20, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." Jesus also said of these highly esteemed religious men, Matthew 23:33, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" Understanding why Christ said this will be the key to our comprehension of what God truly expects from us. The religious superstructure does not save and those who put faith and trust in it to save them will be lacking! Jesus alone is the door we must enter (Jn 10:9, not organizations, religious attendance, ceremonies, rituals, personable leaders, etc.). What about the religious institutions of man? Matthew 15:13, "But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." If the religious organization is not being led of the Holy Spirit then it is being led of men and will be rooted up. What about all their good works? Matthew 15:14, "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." These men were blind guides (Mt 23:24, Lk 6:39)! Unless we are truly seeking God and His purposes then we are given to spiritual blindness and total misdirection (Is 9:16). Manís way seems so right to man (Pv 14:12) and God will answer man according to the multitude of his idolatry. The religious thought they were seeing God clearly, but those who think they see are often blind (Jn 9:39-41). Jesus said they were children of the devil (Jn 8:44).
Jesus further said to these religious men: John 5:42, "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." Wow! It is possible to be very religious, even a religious leader, and yet totally miss God. These men had a tremendous religious system, but not the love of God (Lk 11:42). The implication here is that all the religious things are not what saves. Stephen, through the Holy Ghost added: Acts 7:51, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." This is what it all boils down to. Man seeks his own will through the flesh, rather than Godís will through the Spirit (Php 3:3). We must look beyond the flesh and find ourselves in Christ and develop the relationship that He desires to have. Until we can see the depravity of our own sin and our tremendous need for Christ, then we cannot perceive the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3). We approach Jesus unconditionally and fall upon His grace and He creates a heart in us with correct attitude toward God. Man twists things and has God accepting him unconditionally, yet we know there are conditions because hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure (Is 5:14). Hell will come to meet those who are rebellious (in actions, not profession) to God (Is 14:9). The devil said that you could sin and not die (Gen 3:3-4). This equates to "unconditional." This is the lie manís flesh accepted in Eden. This is the lie that man accepted to pursue the flesh. The religious of today mostly follow an "unconditional love god" (of the flesh).
Jesus also stated: John 17:25, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known theeÖ" This statement was directed at the Jewish religious system, but applied to all of manís religions. The Jews were the only ones who corporately sought the one true God (the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), yet never knew Him. Jesus came to tell them of the Father and spoke only the Fatherís Words, but was totally rejected in doing so (Jn 8:26, 28, 38, 12:49, 50, 14:10, 16:25). We must realize that the religious system in place when Jesus walked the earth is very representative of all of manís religious attempts to reach and serve God apart from the Spirit. Man tries to serve God through the flesh, yet the flesh is opposed to God (Gal 5:17). God is a Spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Jesus said: John 6:63, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
Nothing New Under the Sun
This book maintains that much of the institutionalized (organized) religious system of today, known as "the church" and all the various denominations (divisions/factions) is much the same (no different) as the religious system that was in place at the time Jesus Christ walked the earth. The chief difference is that Christ is "professed" (even if in name only). In many cases "another Jesus" is worshipped, "another Spirit" is followed and "another gospel" is preached. Those deceitful workers who wanted to assert themselves started infiltrating the church even in Paulís time. The apostle Paul feared these evil workers would come and beguile the believers and they would be led astray. 2 Corinthians 11:4, "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." Whenever Christís gospel is misrepresented, "another Jesus" is followed. This was a constant concern to Paul. Acts 20:28-31, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." The elders were men who were mature in the Lord who were to serve others in love and exhort, encourage and teach them until they became rooted and grounded in the faith through the Spirit (Eph 3:17). This was not a lording over or priesthood (1 Pt 5:3)! Paul further stated: Galatians 1:6-7, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." This perverting of the gospel has been furthered by so many who claim to represent Christ. The apostle John had a similar problem: 3 John 1:9-10, "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church." Casting one out of the synagogue was a favorite tactic of the Jews to usurp control over the people (Jn 16:2). Some, like Diotrephes, sought the same control in Christís body.
The purpose of this book is not to slam or belittle the religious and their system, but to point out the vast difference between manís religious works and Godís expectations of a loving obedient living relationship. To show the truth and merit of relationship, we will examine the failings and incorrectness of religion. We (as individuals and corporately) must be careful that we do not become as the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees in thought, manner and deed. Many are proud and have professed: "If we had been in Eden, we would not have sinned like Adam did" and "We would never have crucified Christ," yet they do both daily and spiritual blindness covers these facts. Adamís great sin was disobeying God and choosing his own will over Godís; AND Christ was nailed to a cross due to manís resultant sinfulness. This is what the Jews said: Matthew 23:30, "And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets." Yet their fathers killed the prophets (Mt 23:31, Lk 11:47-51) and they killed Godís own Son because in all cases they could not stand to hear the truth from God much less live it (Jn 8:40, 45-47). John 8:45-47, "And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." How many pastors today will not speak the truth of Godís Word for fear of offending man (Lk 12:5) and losing members? Conversely, how many members have itchy ears (2 Tim 4:3) and: Isaiah 30:10, "Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." The scriptures reveal much about some who claim to profess Christ: Jude 1:18, "How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts."
Jesus wasnít establishing a religious system, thatís what killed Him. Man through his attempts, can never please God or atone for sin. Many will say: "there is no way all these religious denominations could be wrong, look at all the members and church buildings they have, look at all their good works" OR "my denomination/organization/pastor (who would never mislead me) says..." "Hey this theologian/big name personality has twenty best seller books and a line of videos (Jn 2:15-16)." The sad fact is that statements like these show a reliance and dependence upon man and the things of man. The whole (entire) world was once wrong and only one man was correct Ė Noah. Many put their trust and faith in these visible things of man rather than living the truth of Godís Word. Psalm 118:8, "It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man." Who are you following God or man? John 2:24-25, "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." Jesus did however, totally commit Himself to God: John 6:38, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." John 8:29, "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." When Jesus walked the earth, the religious told their members that if they believed on Him as the Christ, they would be put out of the synagogues (Jn 9:22, 12:42). This is a big disconnect and for obvious reasons. If Jesus truly becomes our head, then all the religious things of man become unimportant.
If you are following God, then you should not feel the slightest bit defensive about comparing the organizations you have put faith and trust in with the truth of Godís Word. The truth of the matter is that the majority of people have always traveled the broad road that leads to destruction: Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. The audience was religious people and Jesus said of them: Matthew 7:21-23, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Notice that they used Jesusí name and did many "religious works" yet Jesus did not know them (must have relationship Ė abiding faith). Matthew 22:14, "For many are called, but few are chosen." This is so important to understand. The works of men are as filthy rags (Is 64:6). Man through his own devices will never please God nor glory in His presence (1 Cor 1:29). Only by abiding in Christ and being led of His Spirit can you produce acceptable works to God (fruit, Jn 15:2, 5, 8). To abide is to continue, dwell, endure, stand with, be in relation, remain, and be present with (Heb 3:6, 14). Colossians 3:3, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Please understand that Jesus is talking to "religious" people when He says, MANY are on the wrong path, and MANY will not be known of Him despite their profession and religious works, and MANY were called, but few chosen. Luke 13:24 adds that MANY will seek to enter in and not be able. These religious folks are clearly caught by surprise. Christ does not acknowledge everyone who makes a profession or seeks to identify with Him (Lk 13:25-26). I do not say this to discourage you, but to reveal that being "religious" is not sufficient. Jesus said, "he that doeth the will of my Father." What has Godís will been all along? To yield to him with all your heart in humble obedience known as faith (Josh 22:5). This must be your life, not your religious appearance. The straight gate is of righteousness: Psalms 118:19-20, "Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter." Having an association with Christ is not enough. The children of Israel were associated with God in the wilderness, but many did not enter into the promised land Ė God was not well pleased with them (1 Cor 10:2-12). Pray that you may be accounted worthy (Lk 20:35, 21:36).
The truth of the gospel is that we are to die to our will and then absolutely live for Godís will with all love, obedience and devotion known as faith. Christ led the way and then said "come, follow me." The great condemnation is that men loved the darkness and they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved (Jn 3:19, 2 Thess 2:10). Religious man will often follow another gospel that allows for the flesh (which opposes the Spirit Ė Gal 5:17) and God (Rm 8:1). Generally, God is put in the place of serving the flesh through manís desire for blessings or selfish prayers. Those who take pleasure in the things of this world and the flesh (unrighteousness) are damned because they believed not the truth Ė they just canít except it (2 Thess 2:12, 1 Jn 2:15, Rm 8:5, 9). These want to do what they want to do when they want to do it, known as rebellion. They will turn from the truth and accept fables to appease the flesh (2 Tm 4:4, 7). The truth seeks godliness (Ti 1:1, 1 Tm 6:3-5). Godliness is love and reverence for God and His will. We must become humble and mourn over our condition. We must be denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and be living soberly, righteously, and godly (Ti 2:12).
Jesus spoke to a group of Jews who believed on Him (Jn 8:31) and through the course of the conversation, Christ revealed to them that they could not see their own sin and depravity and thus their great need for the deliverance that He alone brings (Jn 8:32-45). When you seek the lusts of the flesh, Christís Words find no place in you (Jn 8:37) such that you cannot hear or understand them (Jn 8:43, 14:17). Those who seek the flesh cannot understand a gospel that does not accommodate the flesh, but rather denies it. Jesus said, John 18:37, "ÖEvery one that is of the truth heareth my voice." This still applies today. Do we hear Godís truth or purposefully twist it to suit our flesh? Do we live Christís truth or just abstractly identify with it? Many may say: what is truth? (John 18:38) as they seek to establish their own to suit their desires. Job 21:14, "Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Jesus told them that they do the things of their father, the devil (Jn 8:38) and this is the fruit of the unconverted. Christ said: John 8:44, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." In other words, they had Satanís nature and did the devilís will rather than Godís will Ė yet they could not see this. Men naturally seek that which pleases self Ė their lusts. This is displeasing to God and our desire must be to be delivered from it. This is the deliverance Christ brings. Jesus made it clear that we must do the will of God to inherit the kingdom of heaven (Mt 6:10, 7:21, 12:50, Mk 3:35, Lk 6:47-48, 11:2, 22:42, Jn 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 7:17, 9:31, 14:23, 15:14). To conform to Godís will means that you must die to your will. You cannot have dual "wills" or dual "natures." When we see our great need and desire to come under Godís authority, He gives us His nature such that we will desire to do His will. We accomplish this by being led of His Spirit rather than our flesh. Jesus told these men: John 8:45, "And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not." They defend their carnal nature and this is to their own condemnation. Jesus told them if they were of God they would receive His Words (v. 47). These men then accused Jesus of having a devil (John 8:48). When the flesh is denied it lashes out with a vengeance (Jn 15:23). Christ says: John 8:51, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying (do my will), he shall never see death." Whose will do you prefer? Jesus revealed the thoughts of many hearts Ė and still does (Lk 2:35). When the darkness in your life is revealed, your thoughts will be known as you seek to defend it or fall on your knees and repent of it. Our actions will reveal our hearts (Example: Lk 4:16-30). When your heart is revealed do you lash out?
There are religious organizations and buildings everywhere - their parking lots are full. How can this country be so far from God? Consider all the abortions, juvenile delinquents and teen promiscuity, rape and crime, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, sexual perversion, violence, and open witchcraft that have become the norm in life and entertainment, the relentless pursuit after money and possessions, and the seeking of self. Much of this is done by those who actually attend religious institutions. We do not need anymore religion, we need Jesus Christ! This proud country demands Godís blessings! Why will He not bless (2 Chr 7:14)? Could it be that those who profess His name are not living their faith, teaching their children or impacting those around them? Perhaps these are attempting to conform God to their image as they have conformed to the world, rather than dying to self and allowing the Holy Spirit to conform them to Christís image. Many that call themselves "Christians" are living and not dying Ė this is the problem. Jesus said: Luke 18:8, "ÖNevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" With all the religious institutions, why would Christ make such a statement?
Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." The Lord intentionally does things to confound our flesh Ė we will not glory before God. Let us consider why. Man has a fallen nature that is self seeking and rebellious toward God. Therefore man by his very nature does not think or see things Godís way (Is 55:9). Man actually sees things more like the devil does. Man is rebellious and opposite toward God, always seeking his way, which is the way of the flesh (Lk 19:14, 27). Just as the devil is opposed to God, so is unconverted man. The flesh seeks its own and we must subdue the flesh. God converts us and makes us partakers of His divine nature, but only after escaping the corruption of the world (2 Pt 1:4). Christ has given us His Holy Spirit, who works on us to conform us to His image so that we can partake of this divine nature. When man seeks God apart from the Spirit, he puts on a religious faÁade (outward show, Lk 11:39). Matthew 23:28, "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Man is still seeking his way, only with an air of religiosity Ė a form of godliness (2 Tm 3:5). We must die to our way and seek Godís will and purposes. Religious man does not please God. He claims to represent God, but is mostly self-seeking. The religious presume to be Godís authority, yet do not know Him or discern His will. Whenever there is a legitimate sovereign move of God, religious men eventually get involved and institutionalize it and make it their own. They name it, denominationalize it, buy a building and set up shop. What once was very real, vibrant and living becomes dead and religious. Soon relationship is replaced with icons, ceremonies, procedures, doctrines, traditions, pomp, authorities, methodologies, etc. They rejoice in the works of their own hands (Acts 7:41). Godís precious Spirit is gone. God help us all to see this. What does God say about rebellious man? Isaiah 65:2, "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts." These continually provoke God and are a smoke in His nose that burneth all the day long (Is 65:3, 5). By their very nature they do not do what God delights in (Is 65:12).
Thereís just no doubt from a biblical perspective that God hates pride (Pv 16:5, 18, 2 Sam 22:28, Mal 4:1, Js 4:6, 1 Pt 5:5). God resists the proud and loves the humble (Js 4:6). Luke 1:51-52, "He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree." John the Baptist was a prophet sent to prepare (Jn 3:28) the people for Jesusí arrival: Matthew 3:1-2, 6, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And (many) were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." John was sent to provide knowledge of salvation (Lk 1:77) Ė to guide those in darkness (Lk 1:79). That knowledge is to repent (forsake your wickedness and come under Godís authority). Confessing of oneís sins is the realization (comprehension, awareness, recognition) acknowledgment (admission, acceptance) and accountability (liability) of oneís transgressions against God. Baptism is recognizing the need for forgiveness and forsaking of those sins. The Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees were very self-righteous and did not feel any guilt that they should hear or need John the Baptistís baptism of repentance (Mk 1:4). They were very proud and could not admit fault, particularly for all to see (Pv 16:18). Luke 7:29-30, "And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him." These men just could not see their depravity and great need for God. Some of these same leaders who openly rejected Christ would later come to Jesus at night in the cloak of darkness, due to pride or fear of man (Jn 3:1-2 & 12:42). These would not openly confess Jesus in their lives (Mk 8:38, Lk 9:26, Jn 7:13). The Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees were very concerned because the people loved John and held him as a prophet. The religious had no control over John the Baptist and this greatly troubled them. They couldnít put him out of the synagogue (church) or bribe him, because he didnít belong to the synagogue (Lk 1:80) and lived in the wilderness and his raiment was of camelís hair, and a leathern girdle; and his meat was locusts and wild honey (Mt 3:3-4, Mk 1:6). How do you control such a man? John was answerable to God alone and not man (religious). This is a very important point to consider for those whom God calls. Due to Johnís acceptance by the common man (poor in spirit), the religious felt very threatened. When the religious came out to spy, John did not have good things to say about them (Jn 1:19, 24-25): Matthew 3:7-8, "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? They were further told: Luke 3:8, "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance (evidences in your life), and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." In other words, God was looking at hearts and not genealogies. The religious questioned him: John 1:19-21, "And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No." John displayed true humbleness and meekness. John was the greatest prophet to arise in the earth, but sought no personal glory (Lk 7:28). He just did that which he was sent to do.
It is important to note that John the Baptist came with a specific mission and purpose from God (Sent from God Ė Jn 1:6). This was to prepare the peopleís hearts through repentance (of sin) for the arrival of Christ (Lk 1:76-79, 7:27, Jn 1:7-8, 23, 29-30, 32-33, 5:33). If anyone should have understood this, it should have been the religious authorities. Through their much learning and religious structures, they sought manís way to such an extent that Godís way became foreign to them. 2 Timothy 3:7, "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." One can only know God as taught through His Spirit. John was the greatest prophet ever to be sent from God. Matthew 11:11, "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." The religious totally rejected him out of envy and jealousy and because he did not conform to their (manís) ideas. Johnís message was that self had to die, and this was not comforting to the flesh. The religious had been awaiting the prophetic arrival of Elias (Elijah). John came and operated in the spirit of Elijah and actually was the one they were looking for (Mt 17:10-13, Lk 1:17, Mal 4:5). Those that claimed to represent God actually opposed Him in every way Ė they did unto him whatsoever they listed (Mk 9:13, Jn 8:42). Likewise today, many a man sent from God will be rejected by the religious and a system largely built by man. Those with a true God given calling will be suppressed, hindered and attacked by those envious ones who wish to control and dominate (such as the afore mentioned Diotrephes).
Seems these religious felt they were justified before God simply by being descendants of Abraham (heirs to the promise, Rm 4:14), yet lost sight of why Abraham was justified before God. Abraham had demonstrated his faith through obedience and love to God (Heb 11:8). Abraham performed Godís Words (Neh 9:7-8). This was even done prior to the covenant of circumcision and certainly not by works of the law (Rm 4:1-13). Abraham also brought forth fruits meet for repentance, meaning he was justified by his works yielded through love and devotion to God which made his faith perfect (Js 2:21-23). Jesus later told these religious: "Do the works of Abraham" (Jn 8:39). Similarly, we must be careful that we do lose sight of why we are justified in Christ - living a life that is pleasing to our "first love" (Rev 2:4) which produces fruits (evidences Ė John Chap 15) worthy of our repentance (and conversion) to perfect our faith. To say: "I am resting (no responsibility) on the finished work of Christ," or having once had a profession of belief with no real ongoing life totally misses Godís will as revealed in scripture and such will "be lacking." God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7, 1 Kg 8:39).
Jesus later addressed these religious menís rejection of the baptism of repentance. The chief priests and the elders wanted to know by what authority Jesus taught (Mt 21:23). Jesus said He would tell them if they answered whether the baptism of John was from heaven or men (Mt 21:24-25). They couldnít say from heaven because they had rejected Godís method of changing hearts in favor of their own doctrines and traditions (manís way). They couldnít say from men because all the common people loved John and considered him a prophet, and this would make them unpopular (and possibly get them stoned/killed), for they always sought the praise of men (Mt 21:25-27, Lk 20:3-7). Therefore they lied and said they didnít know. So, Jesus said, Matthew 21:28-31, "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." The first son did not initially do the will of the Father. Then this son had a change of heart, humbled himself, repented and performed the Fatherís will (did his work). The second son made a "profession," but then his life (actions) did not live up to that profession and the Fatherís work did not get done. He professed with his lips, but his heart was not really toward doing the Fatherís will (Mt 15:8). Perhaps this son felt his "profession" was all that was important even if he had his own desires to fulfill (self). Many ask, whatís in it for me? These religious men correctly discerned that the first son did the will (actually performed the work) of the Father, and this was to their own condemnation. The religious are actually like the second son. God wants us to humble ourselves in true repentance and then go and perform (actually do) His will (Mt 12:50, Mk 3:35). The religious man will make great "profession," and claim to represent God, but seeks to approach the Father his way and for his purposes. Maybe they donít want to go to hell or someday hope for great rewards. Where is the love toward God? Jesus said that the publicans and harlots, whom the religious despised, would enter heaven before them. The reason is that they do not claim to represent God or to be the path to God (middleman), they just acknowledge their guilt and great need for Him and then go on to do Godís will. The publicans and sinners "followed" Jesus and received His message of repentance (Mk 2:15-17) Ė its about seeing your need. Jesus concludes by saying: Matthew 21:32, "For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." God sent a man to the people with a message, the humble and poor in Spirit received the message (Is 61:1-3, Mt 11:5, Lk 4:18-19). The religious did not receive the message because of their self righteousness, doctrines and traditions of men. They clearly rejected Godís message in favor of their own way. Is it any different today? Does your "opinion" exalt itself above Godís eternal unchanging Word? Perhaps your opinions are what are really manifested in your daily actions. The Bible reveals: Psalm 119:89, "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." Some think this not to be the case on earth given their opinions (Is 5:21) Ėand they are pertinacious about it. We will fall on our knees and cry out to God in all humbleness with due repentance or we will not find Him. The way to God is the way of righteousness. If you are not headed in that direction then you are on the wrong path!
When Jesus came forth, John knew his time was over. John was sent to prepare the way and bear witness and he had accomplished his purpose (Acts 13:25). Christís disciples were baptizing people near the place where John the Baptist was baptizing (Jn 3:22). Johnís followers were concerned about this perceived competition Ė all men were coming to Jesus (Jn 3:23-26). Jesusí disciples baptized more than John (Jn 4:1-2). John 3:27-30, "John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." John knew his place and purpose. John humbly stepped aside to allow Jesus place Ė Johnís life on earth was coming to a close. John knew the will of God and submitted to it. What about the religious (Sadducees and Pharisees)? How did they react to Jesusí presence? As discussed in Chapter 2, they were envious, jealous, defensive (of their institution) and undermined Christ everyway they could.
In conclusion, Jesus made a startling prophecy: Matthew 17:12-13, "But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist." John and Jesus were both sent of God and both came with a message of repentance. One was the greatest of all prophets and the other Godís only begotten Son (Lk 20:9-16). Religious man had been looking for their arrival as previously prophesied (but as per manís opinions). When they came, their messages did not agree with manís religious doctrines or methods. Jesus did not follow their beloved doctrines of the Sabbath as they thought He should. Jesus did not hold to the ceremonial hand washing traditions (Mt 15:2). Christ even pointed out their errors Ė judging righteously (Mt 15:3). It soon became clear that Godís purposes were not that of manís desires. God required man to humble himself, put aside his will and perform Godís will. Religious man chose his will over Godís and killed Godís messenger and Son Ė and rejoiced over it (Jn 16:20)! Man has been rejecting Godís will in favor of his own since Eden. Oh man, Is it really any different today? If a man of God came into your religious institution with a convicting message of God that differed from your pet (favorite) doctrines of man, would he be received? Would there be repentance or disdain (despise, condemn)? Followers of Christ must realize that when we do not do what the religious men (institutions, denominations, organizations) of today bid us, then we will be equally contemptible to them. Just as the religious told Christ that He must do things their way, the same will be true toward Jesusí followers. They will say we must assemble with them and worship God through them and their methods/institutions.
What made John the Baptist so great as to warrant Christís proclamation of him (Mt 11:11, Lk 7:28)? John was totally devoted to God and never sought his own. There is nothing in scripture to indicate that John sought himself in any way (Lk 1:80, 7:25-26). John spoke Godís Words and lived in total obedience to perform Godís purposes (Mt 3:1, Lk 3:2-3). He was ridiculed by the religious in doing Godís will (Mt 21:25, Lk 7:33, Jn 1:22-25). John was humble and God-centered (Jn 3:26-30) and was a burning witness for God (Jn 5:35). He was killed for speaking the truth (Mk 6:17-29, Lk 3:19). Now consider: John mightily preached and led many to God (through repentance), but he had no religious building or title (of man). He was zealously devoted to Godís purpose in his life, yet received no wages. Johnís messages were from God, yet he did not fit-in with the religious folks or their doctrines and traditions (outside the box). He was a voice crying in the wilderness (minority view, lone voice), yet he prepared the way for, bore witness and baptized Jesus Christ Ė Godís own Son (bore witness- Jn 1:6-7, 15, 29-30, 32, 34, 5:32-33). From manís perspective, John was an odd ball Ė someone to be watched. From Godís perspective, John was the greatest man born of woman. These same attributes can be said of Christ, but on a higher level.
Something is just not Right
Have you ever noticed that there seems to be something dreadfully wrong within much of the religious institutions and organizations that you just canít adequately describe? Much of what is done has Christian overtones, but seems to be fleshly with little or no spiritual depth and vitality. Many are talking the Christian lingo, but what about the walk? Most of the members seem to be decent somewhat moral people and are nice enough, but also seem to lack real compassion, zeal and commitment in their lives. Relationships tend to center on small talk of worldly topics such as television programs, the latest movies, items in the secular news media, careers, and popular books. Ladies wear the latest fashions, jewelry, and hairdos (1 Tm 2:9, 1 Pt 3:3-4). The young ladies dress hip to draw attention to themselves (with their parentís knowledge), which tends to be provocative and unseemly (Job 31:1, Mt 5:27-28). The young men present themselves as rebellious with perhaps an earring, gaudy necklace or strange haircut or attire. There seems to be no personal sacrifice and shunning of the things of the world. We should be worshipping God and not drawing attention to SELF. The simple selfless life that Jesus lived and the example He left for us does not seem to fit in well with the modern religious empires, many with big comfortable multimedia type auditoriums, gymnasiums, and convention style banquet facilities/fellowship halls. Jesus taught selfless love and yet the religious institutions have fractured into hundreds of denominations as man leads rather than Godís Spirit (1 Cor 1:10). Where is the Spirit led church as per the biblical model (love, devotion, obedience, encouragement, exhortation, etc.)? This list could go on and on.
So many things that are done in the name of Christ actually violate the scriptures that the religious claim to accept and revere. To question the institution is like questioning God Himself. Those that do are usually given vague reasoning that leaves one even more in doubt. Manís religious structures seem to be conformed to the world, yet the Ekklesia (called out ones) are suppose to be transformed to the image of Christ, not that of the world (Rm 12:2). We must ask ourselves, "Am I a mirror of the world or of Christ." What makes you any different from an unbeliever? A mere mental profession/association with Christ; a slightly better morality; or perhaps following a list of religious doctrines that you hope will save you; these will all fall short. A loving and living abiding faith that is transforming you daily into the image of Christ will meet Godís purposes. God wants a relationship of love and obedience. Loving and serving God with your heart will manifest in your outward actions. It may surprise many to know that Satanís workers are in the religious institutions (2 Cor 11:13-15). This is because most are deceived of the devilís workings. The devil is not on the outside looking in. He was invited in long ago and has established much of the structure of manís attempts to reach God apart from Godís Spirit. Religion is just fine with the devil as long as it is devoid of Godís Spirit. The more error the devil introduces the more an abomination and confused it becomes, and thus the more to his liking. To truly find God, you must be prepared to lose everything - everything that you hold dearer than Him. The five sins Jesus hates most are: hypocrisy, spiritual pride, impurity, indifference to human need, and unbelief. Would you be comfortable if Jesus physically came into your home one evening? Now consider the fact that God sees all anyway - Proverb 15:3.
The author does not intend to propose solutions to repair this religious system of man. These structures of man would have to be totally torn down rather than be restored. Jesus leads us out of this system of man, but we must understand why (Ex 33:7, Jn 10:3-4, 27, 2 Cor 6:17). The intent of this book is to present the truth of the gospel and believe that the Holy Spirit will convict the readerís heart such that one life will be changed, not an institution. The Lordís purposes will be accomplished one individual at a time, each being loved and important. Christís true church will be built with these living stones Ė perhaps having been rejected by the religious (1 Pt 2:3-5). In Christ are all the solutions that we struggle to find. The authorís prayer is that eyes will be opened to see that God never desired a religion, but a relationship whereby individuals and the corporate body love, worship and look to Him, in and through all things. Many will look to the religious institutions to save them and will be very disappointed. Manís attempts to reach God are man-centered. We must become God-centered and be transformed, renewed, and converted. Christ must be the head of the body in all things. If the Spirit is not leading a particular assembly, then the Spirit is absent and man is leading. If men are leading then they will certainly be overcome by Satan. Recall from Chapter One, man chose his will (way) over Godís from the beginning. If a manís nature has not been changed, then Christ will not be his focus and he will not willfully submit to the Spirit. When a man humbles himself (poor in Spirit), then he can be changed. If a man is exalted, he will not desire to be changed Ė he will want to do the changing.
The religious Jews had Godís law and were suppose to live it in such a way as to bring glory to God and be a witness to all the nations of the earth (Gen 18:18 & 26:4, Gal 3:8). God intended for the children of Israel to obey the law out of love for Him Ė to cleave to Him for their every need (Deut 11:22). After all, God had provided them deliverance from their Egyptian bondage; food and water in the desert; a Promised Land in which to live; He fought all their battles for them; and blessed them abundantly. The Jews eventually twisted Godís desire and believed that if they just kept the law, then they would be saved. The law became their salvation rather than God, and they served it. They could have an outward righteous appearance yet be full of all manner of wickedness on the inside with a heart that was far from God. Jesus demonstrated this when He said, Matthew 5:21-22, "Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Jesus further illustrated the point in saying: Matthew 5:27-28, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Those who partake of pornography (and much of whatís on television or in magazines) or have unseemly thoughts (gawking, evil eye) of others should pay particular attention to this! This is why Jesus said, Matthew 23:27, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." A religious observance means nothing if you do not love God with your whole heart.
Here is the paradox: The law does not save. This only becomes a religion of man. Having a heart toward God (through Christ) with love and desire to do His will is what saves. This is relationship with God. In doing this, the law is kept through the Spirit. Romans 3:31, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Faith is looking to God alone (through Jesus) for our salvation and as such obeying Him from our heart. John 15:10, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." The Jews also took Godís law and through their scribes they expand it significantly. They served the law and not God. Their hearts were far from God. Some used it for the purposes of bringing glory and honor to themselves, while manipulating and using others.
The Law or Faith
Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law was added because of transgressions and reveals Godís will for us and our fallen state (Rm 7:7, Gal 3:19, 24). To keep the law with no faith, love, willingness and devotion toward God is pointless. You simply become a servant to the law itself (dead works Ė Heb 9:14). The law will not justify you Ė only Christ (Acts 13:39, Rm 10:4). This is trying to earn your own justification apart from God, and make God a debtor to you (Rm 4:4). We are in fact greatly indebted to God and have no means to pay. Romans 3:24-25, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." No man will be justified before God through his own works. We must not have our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ and have the righteousness of God by faith (Php 3:9, Rm 10:3). If there had been a law given that would have given life then it would be required of us (Gal 3:21). The law compels one to serve Ė grudgingly. This is not the faith God desires. We must keep the spirit of the law through our love, devotion and obedience to God. If we desire Godís will on our inside (in heart) then the spirit of the law will be manifested on our outside (actions) as we are conformed to Christís image as led by His Spirit. Galatians 5:18, "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." Romans 3:27, "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith." We must abide in Christ through faith and love Ė not by obeying the law under human effort (Gal 2:21). Galatians 2:16, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." This was the problem of the religious Jews: Romans 9:32-33, "Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." Those that seek only to obey rules or laws apart from love and devotion to God will be expected to absolutely live in them (Gal 3:12). Romans 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." We must cease from our religious works and submit ourselves to God and His direction (purposes) Ė then perform His works as obedient to the Spirit and the Word. When we stop trying to reach God our way and submit ourselves to His way, we enter into His rest. Heb 4:10, "For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." This is truly a rest and a lifted burden. We no longer are beholding to man or his religious systems. We walk and live in faith to God alone through Jesus. We abide in Christ in faith and hope daily. Jesus said, Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." When we release all that is of man and simply serve Christ, we find this to be so true. Life becomes a joy! Therefore: John 1:17, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Grace enables us to live a life of faith in Christís truth with a heart to serve.
Faith by-passes the flesh. Faith requires us to reach beyond SELF. God must be approached through faith (Heb 11:6). We cannot approach God through the flesh, meaning our works, abilities, strengths, resources, intellec, influence, accomplishments, etc. To be strong in the flesh is to be weak in the Spirit. God grants mercy and grace when we approach Him His way (faith) and not through manís way (flesh) Ė Exodus 20:6. Examine your religiosity Ė do you approach God through the flesh in any way or do you look to Him for all things? When we die to our will and submit/yield/humble ourselves before God, then we have put the flesh aside.
Godís Intended Law
The law (ten commandments) was given in two tables of stone (Ex 24:12, 32:15). The first set of commandments (table) dealt with manís relationship to God (Ex 20:1-11) and the second set (table) dealt with manís relationship with each other (Ex 20:12-17). When our relationship is right with God, then we should see that manifested in our relationship with each other. This is why Jesus summed up the law as first, love for God (Mt 22:36-38, Mk 12:30) and then love for each other (Mt 22:39, Mk 12:31). This is why Jesus could say: Matthew 22:40, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." These are relationships that are lived out daily and are based upon love (sacrifice). This is what God requires of us. First we love and obey God with all our hearts and cleave to Him (Deut 10:20, 11:22, 13:4, 30:20, Josh 22:5). Secondly we relate to each other based upon this great love and new nature we have from God Ė forgiving as God forgave. Romans 13:10, "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." These relationships are not religious observances of rituals, ceremonies, liturgies, and sacraments. God writes His laws in our hearts: 2 Corinthians 3:3, "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."
Man is always confident and sure that God will be pleased with his way of serving Him. God gave King Saul a task (via Samuel the prophet): 1 Samuel 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. The Amalek had done evil to Israel when they came up from Egypt (Ex 17:8. 14-16, Num 24:20, 25:17-19). The Amalekites were the descendants of Esau. Esau had a birthright to the blessings of Abraham and Issac, but sought the flesh (his wants) rather than God. The children of the flesh are not the children of God (Rm 9:8). We must destroy everything of the flesh (Amalekite) and seek Godís purposes. In the day of the Lord all of Esau (those of the flesh) shall be destroyed Ė none remaining (Oba 1:18). The Amalekites lived for the flesh and did vile and evil things. King Saulís task was understood and the victory was assured (by God Himself). Saul smote the Amalekites and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 1 Samuel 15:9, "But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly." Notice that Saul only destroyed those things that were of no use. The things the flesh desires, he saved alive. Man seeks the things that please the flesh in his worship of God. Does this not describe much of manís religion today? There was no denial of self (sacrifice) in performing Godís will, but rather an exaltation and selfish gain in seeking manís will. God told Samuel He was very displeased with Saulís disobedience. Samuel went up to see Saul. 1 Samuel 15:13, "And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD." Saul had done the task his way rather than the Lordís way, but didnít see a problem. 1 Samuel 15:14-15, "And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed." God didnít ask for animal sacrifices. This was manís idea with a religious component such that man could fulfill his motives. Saul justified his way by saying that he did it for the Lord. He surely thought his way would be better than Godís. This "doing it for the Lord" should sound familiar to the religious of today. How many times have religious institutions done whatever for the Lord or to win the lost? Man has made all sorts of extra biblical improvements since Christís resurrection. So many things are justified by saying that they are done for the Lord. They seem so right in manís eyes. We will discuss many of them in this chapter such as unauthorized holiday celebrations, worldly praise bands, vast religious structures, and entertaining childrenís activities. After all, these improvements are unto the Lord, not for us. Saul wanted to serve the Lord his way through these great sacrifices, but God wanted his obedience. The Lord said, 1 Samuel 15:23, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king." The religious often reject the word of the Lord (clearly detailed in the Bible) in favor of their own ways. Saul loved not the Word. He partially obeyed the Lord. Saulís partial obedience was justification in his own mind, but his actions told a much different story. Saul couldnít separate obedience from the flesh. It is also interesting to note that Saul died at the hands of an Amalekite (2 Sam 1:5-10). Many will profess Christ in partial obedience, but their actions will reveal the true story. Turns out that partial obedience is not acceptable with our Lord and He will only accept unconditional surrender unto His total will. Many will partially obey the Lord, but thatís not what God is looking for. Some will obey the parts of Godís Word that do not come against their will. This is a judgment on God and His Word. This is conforming Christ to your fleshly will.
Then finally Saul admits part of the root of the problem. 1 Samuel 15:24, "And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice." Saul feared offending the people so he gave in to what they wanted rather than obey God. This is exactly what we see in most of the religious world today. The people want to be entertained so gymnasiums are erected and bands are assembled. Smooth speakers are hired that can really play to the crowd. The celebrations of the world are observed even if they have to be somewhat Christianized. Its not that the religious want to do such things, they just want to attract people to the Lord so they can win them to Christ. If they can coax them into saying a prayer then it will have all been worthwhile. The Lord sought a replacement for Saul after that day. This is what the Lordís criteria is: 1 Samuel 16:7, "But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." The Lord wants obedient hearts to serve Him in faith. The Lord is not after looks or a big religious show, just devotion. The Lord has rejected much of the world (crowds) in favor of a faithful remnant (Joel 2:32). It is interesting to note that an Amalekite ultimately kills Saul in battle (2 Sam 1:2-15).
The scripture is clear, we ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Psalm 56:11, "In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." Man will always seek to exalt his will at the expense of obedience to God. A follower of Christ must have faith and trust in God alone. Hebrews 13:6, "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." Compromise is often the vehicle used as one justifies oneís lusts or desires. Sometimes it can be very intimidating standing for God alone when all others are against you (Ps 9:9-10). Peer pressure can be a powerful tool for failure. If we truly seek to do Godís will, then He will be our strength in such battles. Isaiah 41:10, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
Saul did not obey the intent of Godís purposes and thus God found a replacement. Acts 13:22, "And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will." Notice what God was looking for in a leader: one that would obey and accomplish His will. We must all take careful note of this, particularly if you are in a leadership position..
Rely on Man or God?
In 1 Samuel Chapter 17 we learn that Goliath was a giant and the champion of the Philistines. He was a warrior from his very youth and greatly accomplished in battle. His success was attributed to his great size, training and fighting ability (skill). All Israel feared him. David was a Shepherd with no military training. When David heard him curse Israel, he decided to meet the challenge that all the others had feared. Saul agreed to send David, but wanted him to fight the battle manís way. 1 Samuel 17:38-39, "And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him." The weapons and armor were the things of man, David chose reliance upon God. Goliath came out to meet David with all the strength, ability and weapons of man. 1 Samuel 17:45, "Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied." Do you see the difference between the two? David said the Lord would give him the victory. 1 Samuel 17:47, "And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands." The victory was assured and came to be. We must stop relying on the things and ways of man and start looking to God. Davidís faith in God was evidenced through his actions. David literally put his life on the line for his belief in God.
Everyone builds their life upon some foundation of belief. Certain foundations may seem stable, but then a tribulation or catastrophe comes along and test the foundation. Jesus said, Luke 6:47-48, "Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock." God honors His Word, for it is true, eternal and never changing (Mt 24:35, Is 40:8). Our foundation must be in Christ (1 Cor 3:11). We must recognize the source (Christ), understand the application, and then live the truth, and this God honors. Isaiah 28:16, "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." The same cannot be said concerning the foundations of men. Many build foundations (their understanding of God) on menís religious efforts to reach God rather than on Jesus Himself. Many may build upon a strong religious personality (charismatic leader), religious denomination and associated pet doctrines, or local church facility. Men are subject to failure and will ultimately disappoint. Religious denominations are always changing interpretations or practices based upon majority popular opinion. These changes tend to even further erode and already shaky foundation of religious works. God cannot be contained within a specific doctrinal box. Members of local church facilities split over religious issues or human emotions all the time. Jesus Christ must be all things in our life. Some may align themselves with certain religious organizations, but their true foundation is themselves and what they desire. Our strength, determination, and abilities will fail when put to the test. We must build our lives upon Christís Word and truly seek His Spirit to understand and live this Word. Christ will never disappoint during time of need.
Just prior to His discussion of laying the proper foundation by doing His will, Jesus said that not all who call Him Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21-23). The only ones who enter the kingdom are those who do the Fatherís will. Christís will and the Fatherís are one in the same. John 6:38, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." Now we follow in Christís steps (For Jesus is the Word of God). Some came to Jesus with religious works but were denied (v. 22), for they still worked iniquity (v. 23). That meant they were still not totally converted and were living for self in sin (still rebellious Ė not reconciled). Many in the religious world believe Godís mercy and grace gives them license. These have done despite the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). The issue is love and devotion toward God; that is a pure heart and sincere desire to die to self and live for Him. 2 Timothy 2:11, "It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him." Godís mercy is for those who fear Him (Lk 1:50).
Truly a Work of Man
God directed Moses to build a tabernacle (tent) such that He could dwell among His people (2 Chr 6:18). God specified every detail of how tabernacle was to be made and furnished (Ex 25:9). Moses was not to deviate from Godís pattern (Acts 7:44). Exodus 25:40, "And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount." This pattern was an example and shadow of heavenly things (Heb 8:5) Ė not to be altered by man! King David later had in mind to build God a temple (2 Sam 7:2). Isaiah 66:1, "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?" God did not allow David to build the temple because he had shed too much blood from wars round about (1 Chr 22:8, 28:3). God did allow Davidís son, Solomon, to build Him an elaborate temple based upon heavenly patterns given to David (2 Sam 7:13, 1 Chr 28:11, 19). This pattern was given to David by the Spirit (1 Chr 28:12) and he was made to understand it in writing by Godís hand that was upon him (1 Chr 28:19). God gave the pattern and it was to be followed exactly. Man was to obey! Now the children of Israel had the Law of Moses and the temple of God. From this foundation, they proceeded to build an elaborate religious system of man.
When Jesus set about to minister on the earth, the Jews had an extensive religious system in place. This system was full of ceremony, doctrines and traditions of men. Jesus would later state, Matthew 15:9, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Jesus further stated, Mark 7:9, "And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." They religiously observed the law and their traditions, though they were ritual, heartless and uncompassionate. Godís own Son came to them but they received Him not (Jn 1:11). Jesus words found no place in them, John 8:37, "I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you." Their hearts were so far from God: John 5:42, "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." Oh religious man do you think it is any different today? To "receive Christ" is to take His Words to heart and live them daily (see Chapter Seven Ė The Sinnerís Prayer).
John 8:3-9, "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." The religious again showed how far their hearts were from God. They had no compassion or regard for the women, they just wanted to entrap Jesus. Some have speculated that Jesus was actually writing down the sins of the accusers. In any case, they were convicted in the hearts when Christ shined His light upon their own transgressions (darkness) and hypocrisy. When we come to the place that we can see our own sin, none of us will be able to cast that first stone. Our own self-righteousness will condemn us. We must have love for the person and hate the sin or behavior. We are to not to condone evil, but rather point the way to Christ. John 8:10-11, "When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." Jesus forgave the women but told her to sin no more. Many religious folks will gladly receive Christís forgiveness, but what about the "sin no more?" If Jesus tells you to do something, you can be sure that it is within your ability through Him. Jesus gives us the ability to overcome. Had this not been possible, then Jesus would have been misleading her with falsehoods and this would have been sin. Christ never sinned! Jesus came to redeem us from sin Ė not to give license (2 Tm 2:19, Ti 2:14, Acts 3:26). 1 Thessalonians 4:7, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." Christ didnít condemn this woman, but also did not justify her actions. Jesus was telling her to stop serving the flesh and the world, but rather come under Godís authority (the will of God). You cannot be under Godís authority if you are still walking in your own.
Jesus did not condemn the woman, but neither did He excuse her behavior. Christ pardoned her (showed mercy) and told her to "sin no more." You cannot be forgiven to go away and continue in that transgression (sin) from which you were forgiven, otherwise forgiveness has no meaning (Pv 28:13). Those pardoned of a crime cannot expect to go and continue in crime. Forgiveness and pardon require repentance Ė the changing of the heart and direction. Christ came to call sinners to repentance (Lk 5:32, Mt 9:13, Mk 2:17). Consider: Acts 3:19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." We first truly repent and then receive the forgiveness. Does being forgiven to continue in sin make any sense? Repentance which does not produce change is meaningless (hollow)! Those who wish to continue in sin (love the darkness) have no need of (or use for) forgiveness (Jn 3:19-20). Forgiveness only has value to one who understands his transgressions and desires to forsake them (and be delivered). Those who realize their great need (those who mourn) will see the beauty in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and will understand His great sacrifice. Those who love the darkness (trivialize sinfulness) only seek forgiveness and pardon from the penalty of their transgressions (sin) Ė that being eternal punishment. They committ transgression and do not even blush (no grief). They make a mock of sin (Pv 14:9). They have accepted their sin (or a measure thereof) and may have ceased to fight the flesh. The fear of God is not before their eyes (Rm 3:18). These oppose the deliverance that Christ offers and do not understand the gospel Ė following, obeying, overcoming, sacrifice, enduring. They have turned the gospel into one of the flesh which soothes the will of man. The desire for deliverance from sin is a great point of distinction between those who walk in the light and those who walk in the darkness (Rm 13:12, Eph 5:8, 1 Jn 1:5, 3:10). The righteous "followers" keep His commandments, do no iniquity, and walk in His ways (Ps 119:1-3, 128:1).
The Modern Church Facilities
Matthew 24:1-2, "And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Acts 7:48-50, "Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?" I guess Jesus was not too impressed with manís attempt to be righteous in Godís eyes. They looked to manís works (accomplishments), yet God wanted them to look to Him. The point of the temple was for God to dwell among His people. Itís not about the temple, but rather the One who occupies the temple. Manís works will be thrown down, but Godís will shall abide forever. Jesus once said he was greater than the temple: Matthew 12:6, "But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple." He is also greater than the modern day mega-church complexes or denominational headquarters. The religious build large structures (and then serve them) for their comfort that they attribute as being for the Lordís work. These have gone well beyond meeting places. Many now boast of separate youth buildings/ complexes, gymnasiums, banquet halls with full service convention style kitchens and/or dinner theaters, book stores, libraries, prayer gardens, etc. If you look nearby, you may find a church run thrift store that maximizes profits in converting non-cash donations into MAMMON. There may be state of the art sound systems and projected messages or praise verses on walls and screens. Praise should not be recited but should emanate from oneís heart. This shows what happens when man decides the pattern rather than God. Here is something to consider: In these modern fellowship halls with their full service kitchens, do you think the meal of bread and fish that Jesus offered would even be the least bit appreciated (Mt 14:16-21, 15:32-38, Mk 6:34-44, 8:1-9, Lk 9:12-17, Jn 6:5-13)? Ė Be honest! The children of Israel sure didnít appreciate the manna from heaven (Num 11:6)!
In order to build these vast projects, the religious go to the world (banks) for financing. The worldís financial system could best be described as legalized robbery, which puts people in bondage and essentially makes slaves of them (servants) through debt. Proverb 22:7, "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." There are no chains so it doesnít seem as such. The religious man will say that this is just the way things are. No; this is the way of the world and of those who seek the things of the world. The antichrist will use this worldly system to control the world one day (Rv 13:7). In the scriptures, Godís blessings meant that one would not have to borrow: Deuteronomy 15:6, "For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee. Godís curse was to be on the other side of that equation: Deuteronomy 28:44, "He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail." So, why do these religious organizations of man seek the things of the world and thereby make themselves servants of the world thus revealing that Godís curse is upon them? They are the tail and the godless financial institutes have become the head. The religious are in debt to the world Ė seems strange doesnít it? Ė an anomoly! Good stewards? The religious build big structures and then serve them (facilities burden) and the world. Why donít the loyal church members and the aspiring ambitious leadership, or building committees fund their own fleshly projects? Because then they wouldnít happen! Let the wise consider. They will say that these facilities are for the Lordís work (where is this in scripture?), just as Saul justified his bleating sheep as sacrifices for the Lord. If the religious truly sought God and were led of His Spirit, then meeting places would be simple, but they would not be in bondage to (and serving) the world. Christ would be the focus and not the flesh. Israel sought after the things of the nations (world) around her (harlotry) and God gave Israel over to her lovers (Ezekiel Chap 23).
What did Jesus think about some of the temple activities? Matthew 21:12-13, "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." The religious were taking advantage of sincere worshippers of God and profiting off of them. Just after this event: And the blind and the lame came to him (Jesus) in the temple; and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying (praising) in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased (Matt 21:14-15). Notice that Jesus had a good heart of love and compassion. The religious had a bad heart and were envious, self indulgent and greedy. Christ was cutting into their monopoly and profits and taking their glory. Jesus would no doubt be turning over cassette, CD, book, and trinket tables in churches today. Jesus absolutely MUST be the FOCUS of all activities by the body of Christ! Serving Christ must be from the heart with the intent to do Godís will (Ps 40:8). Godís will can be known by those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6), rather than casually reading the latest theologianís book. Notice that Jesus healed the blind and the lame. The blind are those whose eyes are spiritually opened and the lame are those who require Christís strength.
Todayís church is a bee hive of community activity. One may encounter Christianized karate and aerobics classes, health and wealth seminars, sports teams, theatrical/drama productions (including secular), rock and roll praise bands w/concerts, cantatas, holiday galas, patriotic celebrations, graduation ceremonies, coffee shops, banquets, political voting, thrift stores, etc. Most if not all are of the flesh and have no place in the worship of God. These are nothing more than worldly distractions that quench the Spirit and hinder the purposes of God (1 Thess 5:19). There seems to be little or no discernment today to know right from wrong. This author thought he had seen it all and then just prior to the release of this book, saw a Christian fireworks stand. The sign out front said all proceeds go to missions. The stand was being run by a nearby religious denomination. This reminds me of the church pumpkin stands which endorse the satanic celebration of Halloween in their quest to raise funds and be popular in the community (that they are suppose to be examples to). My heart truly grieves. I guess itís all about money, supposed good works and generating new members. Many will find nothing wrong with these things because the world loves its own. Let us not dishonor God for the entire world to see. We are not to be as the world nor joined to it.
Jesus must be the absolute love of our lives and His body must focus on Him. Revelation 2:4-5, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Jesus must be our motivation in love in all things (daily life and fellowship). Otherwise everything degenerates into a dry routine. Youíre still going to the meetings, reading your Bible and praying, but it has all become a ritual or a routine." Many organized religious have totally lost focus and left their first love. They have entertaining (fleshly) rock and roll praise bands; career motivational speakers (high paid pastors) that inspire through manís wisdom; gymnasiums with church sports teams and other activities; entertaining childrenís programs with puppets, crafts, and prize give-a-ways; benevolence committees that carefully screen the needy; democratic church government rather than Spirit filled and led elders that do not lord over the people, and doctrines that are opposed to Godís Word. Just where is the focus? They would say on Christ, others would say SELF. One thing is sure, God does not use entertaining worldly things to accomplish His purposes Ė He warned us about such things: 1 John 2:15-17, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." Notice, he that does Godís will abides eternally!
But They Wonít Come to our Church Any Other Way
Jesus said: Matthew 26:41, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." So what do you suppose happens to the spirit when one constantly feeds the flesh (Rm 8:13)? Many churches are now focused on entertaining and pleasing the flesh Ė they feel they must make the Gospel enjoyable and entertaining (human psychology), otherwise the lukewarm, hypocritical, and pharisaical may take their memberships elsewhere. The truth is that most churches are focused on church growth (membership) and not Christ. Consider this verse: Galatians 5:24, "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections (emotions) and lusts (desires)." Notice the verse says "they that are Christís" Ė this does not bode well for fleshly/worldly religious organizations or individuals. We must examine ourselves and determine if these affections of the flesh have been crucified (Ps 26:2). If not, we may be led into more vile ones (Rm 1:24-28). We must seek those things above (Col 3:1-3).
Now many will say: "You will never find the perfect church because we are all only human." This is why the church (body of Christ) must be submitted to the Holy Spirit and not man. The transgression of Ananias and Sapphira would be considered tame by most (particularly today), but the Holy Spirit didnít think so (Acts chapter 5). So, if youíre religious organization has many such errors (particularly uncorrected ones) then it must be led of man. The religious will say that doing these fleshly things is OK if it is for the purpose of winning souls for Christ. So how does one violate Godís will/word (read Romans Chapter 8) for the purpose of accomplishing Godís will (Rm 3:8)? What are these converts being won to (Mt 23:15)? Some will say: "We must make church services entertaining for the youth to keep their attention or they will reject it as dull/boring compared to the things of the world." The problem here is that parents (who profess Christ) have given children such choices to begin with. The world will always appeal to the flesh. When the church becomes as the world it is no longer the church.
Once a body of believers is institutionalized and comes under the doctrines and traditions of men, and is no longer led by the Spirit, they cease to become the church! They just become religious! There is a religious observance in form and practice, but the life and power of God is removed. 2 Timothy 3:5, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." There is a carnal desire for the eternal security Christ offers, but this desire is self-centered and legalistic Ė religious. Their only power is in themselves, not God and His Spirit. The real power is the working of the Holy Spirit in your life to transform you into the image of Christ. This is lived out daily not orchestrated at a religious facility once or twice a week. Matthew 15:8, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." The power of sin has not been broken and they live in the old life (old man). Titus 1:16, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." When you are not truly seeking God and actively living your faith, you can easily become just religious. For example, one could be worshipping God on one day of the week and then enjoy watching television programming throughout the rest of the week that depicts the very sins that nailed Jesus to the cross (pleasure in unrighteousness, 2 Thess 2:12) Ė yet never see the hypocrisy or wrongfulness (see Chapter Three, A Tremendous Idol). One could be praising God one moment and then cursing or using the Lordís name in vain in a difficult situation later - James 3:9-10, "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." Perhaps you might even attempt to use Godís grace as a covering for youíre own lasciviousness (Jude 1:4). Galatians 2:17, "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid." The problem is that the religious tend to compartmentalize things. One morning is for God (assuming things donít go over normal time); the remainder of the week is for ME. Everyday must be for God and other things will be worked in if God allows.
The Rock and Roll Praise Band
So whatís wrong with the music? Secular rock & roll was born out of rebellion and sensual delight and thatís just what it produces. It appeals to the flesh and the words mock God and glorify sin. The musicians themselves referred to it as the devilís music (Rm 1:29-32). The driving beat and chants are no different from what the heathens do in the deepest part of Africa (to summon demons). Consider the foul (filthy/vile) language and bawdy (course, vulgar, rude, lewd) messages of the popular rap music style. Todayís popular music is a multi-billion dollar global industry. Many who came into the religious organizations did not forsake their old sinful lives and brought the things they enjoyed with them. They Christianized the things of the world and called it Godly. Many congregations now rock & sway to praise bands and say they are glorifying God, but they are really just entertaining themselves. Ask preachers if it doesnít draw in the crowds. True worship is from the heart not projected on the wall as sing along or a multi-media audio/video presentation. It shouldnít make your flesh want to move to the beat. It is a melody sung to God for His glory.
There is one easy way to tell if you are in the flesh or in the Spirit. If you are participating in these so-called rock and roll praise services and your body has an instinctive urge to move to the beat, your in the flesh. You might even find it hard to resists once you become consciously aware of it. This is the flesh and not the Spirit. Try praying in the midst of this commotion or attempt to sing a melody within your heart and see if it is even possible. All of this detracts from Christ, who is the head of the body. Perhaps this is your favorite part of religious services (maybe your seeking self)? I was once in a religious service where they put the songs, "How Great Thou Art" and "Amazing Grace" to a drum beat and folks were moving to the beat. The religious institutions know what draws the crowds; the numbers do not lie or do they? Maybe if religious services become just as entertaining as the world then the youth would be won. The only problem is that the religious organization will have then conformed to the world rather that Christ and the youth will be lost to the world anyway. This is what the youth and lost (non-believers) are being won to Ė a worldly religious experience devoid of the Spirit Ė seeking God, manís way.
Men of God once braved (hazarded their lives) the great "darkness" in remote areas such as Africa to bring the "light" (Christís gospel) and quell (subdue, squash, put down) the drum beats of heathen men who worshipped false gods. These pagan drum beats summoned all manner of evil (spirits) as the people swayed about (perhaps clapping their hands). These men of God showed true love in laying their lives down for others (those seemingly non-deserving). Today, religious men have brought those "dark" forceful and repetitive drum-beats into their worldly worship services Ė such a paradox! The people sway and feel the tingling in their flesh Ė such an experience. Men of the true God, it is time to come forth again Ė the fields are white.
The author grew up in the midst of rock and roll during the sixties and seventies and absolutely understands from personal experience (past devotion and failures) the effects of this music style. Not all music is bad, but this style and those similar are (country, rap, blues, etc.). It creates rebellion, lowers inhibitions, opens one up to demonic realms and clearly manifests the fruits of the flesh. You can put whatever words you like to it, but you will still be in the flesh. Religious words or not, you cannot worship God through the flesh, only the Spirit (Jn 4:24). The fruit will be outwardly visible through attitudes and actions. Look at the lives of all the "professed" Christian performers. They seek the same things as the world: money, fame, being cool, and rebellion (our generation does things differently). They reap the same rewards: divorce, adultery, substance abuse (drugs), covetousness, and pride. The performers dress cool and have kids that idolizing them Ė and they love to have it so. They honor themselves with award ceremonies (dove? Where is the Spirit?). Look at the motivation of the industry (money) and who owns it. Christ is a by-line buried within the lyrics and drowned by the beat. They even tone down the message of Christ (if there is one) to sell more CDs. However this is not the point. The religious use the things of the flesh and expect to derive a spiritual benefit, yet the two are contrary to one another (Gal 5:17). The Christianized rock (contemporary) will lead children to the secular rock, not that there is much difference at all. Children arenít being won to Christ; they are being lost to the world. Please understand that Satan understands music and uses it to take focus from Christ and put it on self (the flesh). Ezekiel 28:13, "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created." The devil has pipes and he will be that pied piper that will lead your children away from God. Music influences attitudes, mannerisms, fashion, and forms of language. Many religious are offended by the blatant foul language and satanic themes of rap music, but this type of music is a derivation of rock music just as Christianized rock music is. Its all linked together, yet tailored to your taste Ė the devil accomodates to further the rebellion. The Christian radio stations are worldly businesses just like the secular ones. They air commercials, worldly news (AP, UPI), act worldly cool, have non-offensive feel good messages, have prize give-aways and always look at the bottom line (money, ratings, audience, etc.). We once attended a religious institution where the youth minister wanted to be hip and cool with the kids. They planned trips to see Christianized rock groups. My son really didnít care for that sort of thing, but they tried to pressure him into going (peer pressure) and would send flyers home with him. The student Christian group at his school had a battle of the bands. This is the type of secular thing (with rock and roll music) that was going on when the author grew up and was leading kids to smoking, drinking, fornication, and drugs. We need youth ministers that will stand up for Christ against the world and protect these childrenís precious souls Ė oh how grievous!
Consider this: Rock music was developed by the "Me" generation Ė "If it feels good, do it." Rebellion against parents and society was strongly encouraged by the majority of that generation (baby boomers). The encyclopedia characterizes the sixties (when rock came of age) as a time of social protest. There was a civil rights movement, womenís movement (feminism, gender roles, legalized abortion, introduction of the birth control pill), youth movement, gay rights movement (gain acceptance and influence), free speech movement, and environmental movement. These created a climate of rebellion, confrontation, separation and upheaval. Pride (exhaltation of self) and rebellion is the nature of the devil Ė and his followers. The youth were trying to change American society through demonstrations, marches, rallies, protests, sit-ins, and teach-ins. Rebellion, rock music, drug use (exploded exponentially), illicit sex (fornication/adultery/sodomy), abortion and free expression (do what is right in your own eyes) went hand-in-hand. All this was shaped by a powerful mass media (see Chapter 3 Ė A Tremendous Idol). God says: Ephesians 6:2-3, "Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth (also see Col 3:20)." Do you see how the devil operates? He encourages children to disobey God and their parents, take on his nature and thus decrease their life expectancy such that they are eternally separated sooner (less time to consider repentance) into eternal damnation (Pv 20:20, 30:11, 17). He comes to steal and destroy. The devil will change society through the youth (and bring about his son). The Beatles rock group is credited with popularizing this trendy music style. They once pridefully and arrogantly stated that they were more popular than Jesus Christ. This music style is of the flesh and Christianizing it doesnít change things Ė it still mimicks the world! Ė so do the concerts, marketing, CDs, lust for money and fame, dress, and paraphenalia. It should be noted that the majority of Americans did not support the aforementioned protest movements when they initially started. Over time through the efforts of mass media indoctrination (desensitization and positive portrayals), adherants coming of age and in confrontational in-your-face tactics, much of this rebellion has now been accepted or embraced by the public (converted) at large Ė or their children. Peer pressure has changed direction - Isaiah 5:20, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Worse is on the way.
How should we give musical praise to the Lord? Ephesians 5:19, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Praise is not about being loud, emotional or entertaining. Praise to God is from the heart of those who desire Godís will and are sincerely trying to live it. Itís a melody and not a driving beat. The content and truthfulness of the words is the emphasis (Js 5:13). Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Do we sing about Godís will, but actually live a life opposed to it? Think of it as a prayer of praise put to soft music - thanksgiving. If we truly love the Lord with our heart, then we will not want to see Him dishonored by turning praise into an imitation of the worldís entertainment which is undoubtedly rebellious and lascivious. If we are seeking our will and the flesh, then perhaps it wonít matter. Many have conformed Christ to their image and this is just part of it Ė Jesus must certainly like what they like. How did Jesus musically praise God? Mark 14:26, "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives (Also Mt 26:30)."
Many will disagree with the conclusions drawn concerning worldly Christianized music and probably be quite angry. Perhaps you envision Jesus moving to the beat with hip clothing and an earring? Do you base your disagreement on the way the music makes you feel, arouses your emotions, and electrifies the auditorium atmosphere? Be honest with yourself. If any of these, then I would suggest that the praise and entertainment is directed at self and your emotions (flesh) and not God. The body cannot exalt itself as the head. When you examine/relate service to God as how you feel, then you are serving the flesh and not God. Itís not that complicated to understand, but a blind man canít see. Pray for eye salve (Rev 3:18).
Many will just be too blind to see and comprehend the fallacy of Christianizing the things of the world (such as rock music) by assuming that this makes these things godly. Therefore, another example will be offered that will hopefully clarify the point. This example is purely fiction, and somewhat absurd (feigned Ė to assert as if true), and to the authorís knowledge has not happened (yet); at least not just this way, but read-on. Gambling is a sinful and fleshly vice and the motivation is lust, greed and covetousness (Lk 12:15, Js 4:3-4). This is a seeking of the dainties of the world (Mk 4:18-19, 1 Jn 2:16). In many ways the following example is fă-cē-tious (playfully joking with what would be an inappropriate condition if it were true) parody (satirical imitation, sarcasm used to expose vice or folly), using common errors, to prove a very real point Ė a sort of fable or allegory. Suppose a religious denomination were to buy a casino and Christianize it such that their members would not miss out on any of this fleshly entertaining experience (and to fulfill their desire to create new members). Perhaps they would call it a religious retreat Ė sort of like a church camp for adults. There would be a large "image" of a cross out front. The placard (billboard) would say ten percent of all revenues go to feed the poor (which they help create) and to spread the gospel. A seminary trained pastor would be the manager and the board would be composed of reputable denominational religious authorities. The slot machines would not have symbols of fruit on their dials, but rather "images" of crosses, lambs, and fish. The tokens would have "images" of Christ on them Ė one side would say render unto Caesar, and the other side would say render unto the Lord via the religious denomination. There would be a sign with a Christianized worldly logo over the dice table that says, "Got Faith!" The attendant might say, "roleíem strait and narrow, and keepíem on the table boys." Perhaps another sign would say, "Be a good steward and increase your talents by ten fold." Black Jack might be renamed white prince. The waitresses (wearing the latest fashions with plaited/broided hair and gold jewels and pearls Ė 1 Tm 2:9, 1 Pt 3:3) would bring complimentary non-alcoholic fruit drinks to the players. There would be a chapel for prayer (for lots of winnings and blessings) and preaching of denominational doctrines. When reporting taxable income from your winnings, there would be a place on the form to donate a tax deductible contribution to the religious organization. Psychologist (oops, I mean Christian counselors) would be provided as a service (cost deferred, debt incurred Ė take a pledge of the poor, Job 24:9) for those who lost their monetary means of providing for their families (1 Tm 5:8). The atmosphere would be festive like childrenís church at some religious institutions (i.e. churches) with disco balls and colored lights and religious paintings on the walls. Outside there would be various statues (images) of men that had great faith (to inspire patrons in their ignorance to name-it and claim-it) such as Moses with an eternal burning bush (natural gas in this case). There might even be a "holy roller" coaster. Carefully selected (screened) scriptures would be displayed and emphasized throughout the facility. There would be loud Christianized rock and roll (oops, I mean contemporary) music played throughout the facility. There would be a stage where religious cantatas (composition of choruses, solos, and recitatives) are performed; and Christian music rock idols (oops, I mean contemporary performers) play concerts. There would be a gift store offering the latest self-help psycho-gospel books and Christianized trinkets. Each hotel room would have a talking idol (oops, I mean television). Big contributors would stay free. We are talking a virtual Christian "wonderland" here that points to a Christ (another/different one) and the denominationís version of the gospel (2 Cor 11:4). To some this would be paradise Ė their version of heaven on earth. No one would feel bad about participating because of all the "good works" and feigned religious talk of Jesus. After all, the ends justify the means Ė right? What could possibly be wrong? There would be huge crowds, good works and a smooth messages! People would be saying sinnerís prayers as they hit rock bottom after losing all (at the slots). Well, I will now burst this sacrilegious bubble by informing you that the very core (foundation) evil was never changed by Christianizing our ficticious (in this case) example (which only added additional wickedness, blasphemy, rebellion and deception) and this would be totally incompatible with the true gospel. The motivation would still have been "the flesh" Ė and a total giving over to it Ė overcome. The drivers (initiative) would be lust, greed, covetousness, and worldliness. The results would be loss, bondage, misrepresentation, blasphemy, and sacrilege (theft of something sacred, desecration). Most would say this fictional example is totally unrealistic. Perhaps, however, the author once drove through Louisiana and Mississippi and saw whole large cities totally given over to gambling (consumed in). There were huge towering modern glitzy casinos. Right down the road there were huge towering modern glitzy religious buildings. One must have envied the other and both represented the glory of the world. The casinos and religious institutions seemed to be prospering, yet there was poverty all around Ė so sad. Some of the religious buildings apparently predated the casinos, yet obviously didnít have ANY impact in keeping the casinos and their corruption away. One could only wonder if some of the good religious folk might also work in the casinos; and if so, would anything be said about it in the religious institutions (1 Cor 6:4-5). You can Christianize "whatever" worldly delight to seek the flesh (entertain), but the core will still be rotten (Mt 23:23-27, Lk 11:39). Many of the American States have passed lottery legislation. Those States that havenít look at those that have with envy. All the interstate highway billboards read, "Play Lotto." Its for a good cause they say Ė for the schools; for the children! What about those who disagree and are forced to now sell tickets in grocery and convenience stores? Many a religious man must have voted "yes" for this to happen in so many States. America is indeed a great mission field Ė people need the truth. Many ignorantly assume good shall result (seemingly on the surface as seen through the flesh) Ė as they also consider the entertainment and possible fortunes one could reap (fantasy). The author has witnessed many dry counties (no alcoholic beverage sales) change to wet counties (alcoholic beverage sales) in the area he lives having applied similar logic and reasoning. Lastly, many a religious man will psuedo-gamble (in the heart) at home through home computer casino style video games. Whats the difference? So! Is this an absurd example? Maybe not! Think about these things and seek Godís Spirit.
Titles, Robes and Privilege
1 Peter 5:2-3, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. Let us consider:
Many will say they feel Godís calling on their lives and enter into "the ministry." They mostly accomplish this through the precepts of men (Is 29:13). They seek religious schooling through the wisdom of man in order to be certified and approved by man. One is not considered legitimate without such credentials (degrees, certificates). In days of old, a heathen man could become a priest by consecrating himself with a young bullock and seven rams (2 Chr 13:9). Today one can make himself a priest with the cost of religious tuition (teaching, schooling, training, education) Ė itís just that simple. Many will entrust their very souls to such men. Those without such training need not apply for employment(? - hire) at the institutions of man. Isaiah 40:13, "Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?" Godís greatest prophet (John the Baptist) and only begotten Son were soundly rejected by the religious systems of man. Doesnít God equip and teach whom He calls? Do we not have Godís Word and Spirit? So what are Godís requirements? Ė Child like faith (Mt 18:4, Mk 10:15, Lk 18:17) - obedience to speak His truth (so hard for the flesh). God withholds His understanding from the wise and prudent (religiously educated), but reveals it unto babes (humble, God seeking, obedient Ė Lk 10:21). Paul is accepted as a tremendous minister of Godís truth Ė what did he say? Galatians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)" Paul came as Jesus did, speaking Godís Words and not those of men (Gal 1:11-12, 16). Paul was justified in Christ alone. So did Paul set out to please men or God? Galatians 1:10, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Our faith does not stand in the wisdom of men (1 Cor 1:5). We do not follow menís wisdom, but rather the Holy Ghost (1 Cor 2:13). Consider: Romans 10:15, "And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Sent by who? God. With what message? Godís Words (through the Holy Spirit, not manís wisdom). The dispensation (privilege, allowance, God giving knowledge and purpose) comes from God, not man (Col 1:25).
Matthew 23:5-12, "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi (Reverend, Doctor, Priest Father, Honorable, Distinguished): for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." These verses make it very clear that we have one Lord and that is Christ (not man or organization). We are to serve one another in love. Titles and distinctions separate rather than unify. I dare say that the more titles and distinctions a preacher adds to their name only reveals how far from any dependence on God they actually are. This only reveals a reliance on self and the things of man. Recall from Chapter One (Godís Order) that to be great in Godís kingdom one must be submitted (a servant Ė opposite of what the world teaches us) Ė not exalted. Mark 12:38-39, "And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts." One will encounter one or more (possibly all) of these very negative traits in almost all religious institutes Ė religious clothing, special seats on stage, love of praise, titles, distinctions (clergy/laity), honors (educational certificates), etc. Some Lord over the people supposing that they have superior education which gives extraordinary insight into Godís Word. They exalt themselves! 2 Timothy 3:7, "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Truth is only found in God as revealed by His Spirit. Perhaps these distinguished men would have you call them doctor or reverend to show your respect for their high position (Job 32:22). A servant operates in love, not for control or personal glory. A servant seeks to please his Lord (Christ), loves others, is not self-serving, but rather self-sacrificing. Servants encourage and disciple others to become mature in the Lord and are not threatened when others exercise their spiritual gifts within the body. Servants live by example.
Some beat their fellow servants possibly through laying on guilt (manipulation) or obligation (Lk 12:45). Mark 9:35, "And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." The only servants in the religious institutions appear to be the ones that are being lorded over. The clergy would say they are serving through their careers, but that is what these hirelings have been paid to do. Matthew 20:27, "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:" Those that are faithful in the small things and obey the Lord in what He (not clergy) has called them to do are blessed. Matthew 23:11, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Surrender, submit, and serve; and God will exalt in due time in accordance with His purposes.
Believe it or not, many of the biblical scholars (PhDs), theologians, and seminary graduates may be of little or no use to God. Why? Because they tend to rely on their own wisdom or that of man rather than God (following His Spirit). Our sufficiency is not in ourselves, but is from God (2 Cor 3:5). 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence (also Job 37:24)." Where are the poor uneducated fishermen these days? So all these men with their degrees, certificates, accomplishments will not boast before God. This only reveals reliance upon man and human reasoning & achievement. Psalm 94:11, "The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity." The Holy Ghost is shut out Ė not desired. A true man of God will come with Godís message and not be beholding to influential church folk. His message will in no way appeal to the flesh. Most religious theologians will surely reject, shun and discredit such a person. Paul said he preached the gospel not with wisdom of words, nor with excellency of speech lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect (1 Cor 1:17, 2:1). Our faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God Ė per the Holy Ghost (1 Cor 2:5, 13)!
The author once had a dream in which he had possession of some animal horns Ė the type that a hunter would desire. I said to myself, "I will display these horns for all to see." Then I immediately heard the voice of the Lord say, "Will you make an altar to SELF." It then suddenly occurred to me that all the trophies, certificates, diplomas, achievements, and awards that we so proudly display are no more than idols to ourselves. This is not the humble attitude one should have who truly relies on the Lord for everything. We must seek to find our importance and acceptance in God. Our acceptance is relational to our surrender. All these other things of man are worldly and temporal and will quickly burn away when put to the flame of Godís testing/judgment.
Jesus went up and taught the religious in their temple, John 7:15-16, "And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." They had spent their whole life learning and Jesus who had never learned put them to shame. Their wisdom came from man, but Christís came from God. What a difference! These men did not take this very well; they were jealous, envious, offended and felt threatened. Jesus put them to shame in their own territory and on a topic (Sabbath) they thoroughly studied and was so dear to their heart (Jn 7:21-24). How many doctorate theologians today would take offense at being corrected by an unlearned man who is just following the Spirit? Jesus prayed (Lk 6:12-13) & chose common unlearned men (fishermen) or those that society despised (tax collector) as he looked at hearts that would be pliable to God - fit for Godís use. Manís religious system demands highly educated theologians (instructed in a particular denominationís doctrines) Ė fishermen need not apply. The highly educated Pharisees looked down upon Jesus as unlearned (Jn 7:15) as did they to His disciples (Acts 4:13). They were humble in manís eyes, yet God exalted them through the miracles they did and words they spoke Ė all were amazed and marveled. They truly changed the world. God wants those who will depend solely upon Him not themselves or others.
Paul was a very educated Pharisee (Acts 22:3, Gal 1:14, Php 3:5-6) and highly qualified to reach the Jewish leadership with the gospel, yet God saw that as no value and sent him to teach the Gentiles. In this position, Paul was forced to rely upon God rather than his own understanding. Paul was given a ministry by God: Galatians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)." Paul was not sent of men or answerable to men. Paul stated: Galatians 1:11-12, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Paulís religious training would put any modern seminary graduate to shame, yet the gospel he preached came from God. All his prior training from man was useless in Godís purposes. Paul said he counted it as loss and dung that he may win Christ (Php 3:8-9). Some religious readers need to take note of all this! Religious institutes today train men (and women? 1 Tm 2:12) for the priesthood, yet there is no more priesthood (as such) Ė Christ alone is our High Priest (Heb 8:1)! Whom God calls, God will equip, quite independent of man (ex. Peter/Paul/John Ė Acts 4:13, also Amos 7:14-16). Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" These are giftings of the Spirit for those filled and led of the Spirit. Paul said: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of manís wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. -ALSO- 1 Thessalonians 1:5, "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake." God doesnít desire any entertaining motivational speakers (1 Cor 1:17). Tell a few jokes or stories, sell a product (church growth), and raise money. God is not looking for politicians to be popular and tell everyone what they want to hear. God is looking for vessels that will submit to Him and speak His truth (as directed) and demonstrate His power (as directed). Rest assured that Godís message will condemn the flesh (crucify).
Moses was a man much beloved of God. Deuteronomy 34:10, "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face (also Ex 33:11, Num 12:6-8)." What were his qualifications (learning, degrees)? Exodus 4:10-12, "And Moses said unto the LORD, O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say (also Ex 6:12, 29-30, 7:1-2)." Moses would have been disqualified by religious man given his poor public speaking skills. God was looking at Moses heart and meekness Ė for he was meek above all men (Num 12:3). God doesnít choose us for our intellect or fleshly strengths/skills Ė thatís are a hindrance to the obedience God desires. Notice that God said He would teach Moses what to say. All men sent of God will speak Godís Words and be led of His Spirit. God was planning to use Moses and his brother Aaron for His purposes: Exodus 4:15, "And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do." The Lord gives us His Word and we speak it in obedience (Ex 7:6). Dear Lord, teach us what to say that we do not speak forth that which is of man.
The Problem with Man
When man is not submitted to God, he is not listening and being taught of His Spirit. A prime example of this would be one believing that it is absolutely necessary to attend some sort of religious school or seminary to get a certificate to be able to minister the Word of God. Religious institutions are in great error in advancing this notion and requiring such degrees. Galatians 1:10, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Most are out to please man Ė whom God calls, God will equip (Acts 4:13). We will either jump through menís hoops or follow the Holy Spirit. Man attempts to approach God through the flesh. God says you will approach Him through the Spirit (Jn 4:24). When God is sought through the flesh, then His Word is looked at with fleshly eyes and prayers are offered with fleshly intent. Doctrines (teachings) start to emerge that sooth the flesh because man is placing his will above Godís in seeking after self. Galatians 1:6-7, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." This perverting of the gospel is the inevitable result of seeking the flesh and not the Spirit. An example of this would be the doctrine of "once saved always saved." This doctrine sooths the flesh because it proposes the notion that once one makes a profession of faith, then one cannot loose salvation due to any effort of their own (Pv 11:6, 19-20, 23, 13:6, 14:2, 17:15, 24:24, 28:10, Is 5:23, Ez 13:22, 18:24, 26, 33:13, Mal 2:17, 3:18) Ė you are justifying the wicked. Often these will tell us we are justified "as is" Ė no deliverance (freedom) required. God in no way will justify the wicked (Ex 23:7, 34:7, Num 14:18, Deut 25:1, Is 5:23, Nahum 1:3), but religious man will say the wickedness is justified by the grace of God. This is a perverting of the gospel and becomes "another gospel" altogether Ė one of the flesh. This elevates the flesh to partake of all its desires and still offers eternal security (Col 3:25). This is a perverting of the gospel (Pv 24:24, Is 9:16)! Beware! These religious doctrines and traditions make the Word of God of none effect (nullify) by allowing one to live in the flesh and not seek Godís righteousness and holiness (Mk 7:6-13). We must abide in Godís goodness or be cut off (rejected, Rm 11:22). Godís desire is that we deny our will and seek His purposes. We conform to the image of Christ through the Spirit. The Spirit will never be leading to placate the flesh. Examine Christís life as discussed in Chapter Two. Do not our works (deeds/fruit) give an indication of our nature (Jn 14:12)? Jesus said of Himself: John 10:37-38, "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." Christ was saying, look at My fruit (Jn 14:11). If we love Jesus, we will obey (Jn 14:23, 15:10) Ė that is the fruit. Jesus loved the Father and obeyed (Jn 14:31, also see Chapter Two). The fruit of this "once saved" teaching is all manner of evil as one lives for self yet maintains a religious profession or observance. Woe to them who say that those who do evil are good and the Lord delights in them (Mal 2:17). Another example would be the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture. The Bible clearly states that Christ will not return until after the tribulation (Mt 24:29-31, Mk 13:24-26). Throughout the Bible we are told to expect persecution, tribulation, suffering, and even martyrdom. The pre-tribulation rapture appeals to the flesh because there is no self denial or sacrifice. This topic is covered more extensively in the last chapter of this book.
If you are a minister or pastor, God can certainly use you if you will seek Him through His Spirit for the purpose of doing His will (speaking Godís Words however unpopular). You must examine your heart and determine if you have been seeking God through the flesh, relying on man or pleasing man. If so, then you must repent and turn your heart to God and be led of His Spirit. This will require a dying to your old life and a new life devoted to Godís will. You may have to die to all your religious education and surrender to the Spiritís leading. Be advised that preaching the truth of the gospel will reduce your membership and most likely cost you your position within the religious institution.
John 10:11-13, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep." A hireling does not truly care for the sheep, they have a personal stake and derive a living (career) from their position. Caring for the sheep is to tell them the whole counsel of God even though it may be unpopular, not appeal to the flesh and many may take offense. They are hired (most likely seminary trained, Jer 8:9) professionals. They are full of the wisdom of men and have their denominational doctrinal emphasis blinders own. Most religious institutions employ and are staffed with such men. Usually these men are answerable to boards or committees, which pay their salary and determine their continued employment (arrangement). As with the world, they are told what will be expected of them and perks are negotiated. One should always remember that the one who pays the piper also calls the tune. The hireling does not warn (speak truth) the sheep because it may scare them (offend) and thus the wolf comes (those things allowed into the church that oppose Godís will) and catcheth (damages or kills the faith of some) and scattereth (brings division/denominations and wounds the faith of others). If things are not going well the hireling leaveth or fleeth (goes to another religious organization). Can you see how religion has deviated from Godís plan? Whom God calls should be answerable to God alone and not to man. What man controls, man corrupts. One who is led by the Spirit of God is following the will of God and answerable to Him. This individual speaks Godís Words and not what man wants to hear (Mt 10:20). This individual does not always have the threat of the loss of livelihood should some influential person become offended at Godís Word or the Spiritís direction. In Israel, the priesthood had become corrupted and God sent prophets (those not beholding to the priesthood). The words of the prophets were always rejected by the priesthood to the point that they killed and imprisoned/mistreated the prophets (2 Chr 36:16). It should also be noted that Godís prophets were always vastly outnumbered by the false prophets.
When a pastor or teacher becomes concerned about their reputation or financial security (career, 1 Cor 7:10), they are easily kept from teaching the parts of the Bible that conform the congregation to godliness (1 Tm 4:8) Ė their heart is on the hire (personal benefit). Since he needs the approval of the congregation to fulfill his selfish ambition, he will not deal with certain parts of the Bible which will offend their flesh. They will not consistently or seriously preach about the need for repentance, abstaining from worldliness, Godís judgment upon sin, nor will they seriously and consistently preach against sin. Righteousness and holiness will be downplayed. Such messages offend the flesh and will keep them from receiving glory from men. The whole Gospel will tell the flesh it has to die. This is not a popular message and will not please men, but it is what Godís men will preach as they seek the approval of God rather than of men. The prophets of old paid a heavy price for such a message as will the true man of God today. Messages that deny the flesh are absolutely excluded from all the church growth formulas in the modern religious world. Jeremiah 5:31, "The prophets prophesy falsely (feel good messages, flattery), and the priests bear rule by their means (lord it over, clergy/laity); and my people love to have it so (content/spiritually lazy): and what will ye do in the end thereof?" The facts are that a false prophet/teacher is always popular Ė very likeable. Their messages appeal to the majority (flesh nature). Members are placated and assured that all is well (peace, peace). God will love us and accept us regardless as if God were answerable to man Ė how presumptuous and arrogant (Jer 23:32). Jeremiah 23:17, "They say still unto them that despise me (love the darkness, not the truth), The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you." The false prophet will speak according to their own ideas and then say "thus saith the Lord" (Ez 13:2-3, Jer 23:25-26). God says woe to these foolish prophets - liars! - He is against them (Ez 13:8, Jer 23:30-32). A true prophet is despised by those living in the flesh. Their messages require sacrifice or obedience to God. They will always seem fanatical or extreme to one whose eyes are on the world and not God. The flesh wants to rule, but God says it must die. The hireling has a great conflict of interest in truly serving God. God required Judges to be honest, fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness and not taking bribes or perverting justice (Ex 18:21, 2 Chr 19:6-7). God surely requires His teachers not to take bribes (derive an entire livelihood and subsistence) and pervert truth (Is 33:14-15). Micah 3:11, "The heads thereof judge for reward (Christian counseling), and the priests thereof teach for hire (paid salary, career), and the prophets thereof divine for money (write and sell books, videos, and trinkets): yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us (we are serving God and not ourselves)? none evil can come upon us." Any offerings a man of God receives must come with no strings or expectations nor should they be a continual stipend. Career Clergy are paid by man, focused on man, answerable to man and as they relate to God there is a conflict of interest with man. Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul had no such conflicts. Their eyes were on God, not man, and God provided. Of course the true prophet will not seek the things of the flesh and will live simply as God provides.
These career men (who may have felt the call) who feed themselves at the expense of their congregations (meaning they live off of them, yet they do not teach true godliness Ė repentance, obedience to God, righteousness, serving the Spirit and not the flesh, etc.) are warned of God, even though many will never consider these verses as applying to themselves: Ezekiel 34:8-10, "As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." These may say that they were just following what their religious denominational bosses (men) told them to do. Well they should have been following the Holy Spirit and speaking Godís Words. There is good news for the real sheep (God will separate between the rams and the sheep Ė Ez 34:17): Ezekiel 34:11-12, "For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day." The author was one of these sheep that the Lord found Ė Praise you Jesus, thank you for your great and undeserved mercy. The Lord says: Ezekiel 34:15, "I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD." Thatís just what He does when you are led of His Spirit! Glory to God! The Lord will also heal those who have been damaged by these supposed shepherds: Ezekiel 34:16, "I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment." If your preacher/pastor is not absolutely directing you to Jesus in all holiness and righteousness then you are being consumed by him. Take heed and beware!
How do we Know if One is a Man of God or a Hireling?
Things have become so confusing, how will we know if a preacher is a hireling? Jeremiah 23:21-22, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings." Anyone who comes for any other reason than to help you see your iniquity (depravity, sin) such that you forsake (turn from, Pv 28:13) your evil way and submit totally to Jesus Christ, is a hireling (Ez 13:22). In other words, their preaching must be turning you from sin and the things of this world (your will - darkness) to God to perform His will (His light). The truth of the Word Ė the whole gospel will convict the heart. This is not constructing buildings, increasing memberships, positive motivation, etc. This is being a faithful Shepherd over Godís people to direct them toward living faithfully for Christ. The hireling will be appeasing the people in their sin, always speaking of Godís love and gaining the favor of all (God loves you no matter what Ė Mal 2:17). The hireling will not speak of death to the flesh in any real sense, overcoming sin, or forsaking the things of the world. They canít speak such a message, because it will not gain them employment or popularity. We will either be hearing the doctrine of the man (or institution) or in the case of the true man of God, the doctrine of the One who sent him. The flesh hates sacrifice and you can be sure that such a messenger is not appeasing you, for he has nothing to gain except the pleasure of His Lord.
A true man of God will feed the flock with truth (which always opposes the flesh) out of love and devotion and will live what he preaches. 1 Peter 5:2-3, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over Godís heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." Hirelings serve from compulsion, seek money and position (authority). Notice that pastors are not to "lord over," but rather set an example. God gives pastors which lead His people to knowledge and understanding (Jer 3:15).
Have you read the latest book by so and so Ė you know, he is a Christian. Our pastor says such and such Ė and he is such a wonderful Christian man. Oh, we love the President Ė and you you know he is a Christian. I just read the best selling Christian book and you know it must be true because it is so popular. So many people come in the name of Christ and promote their messages as godly. Are we to be so naÔve and gullible (easy to fool or mislead) as to assume that a profession of Christ is Godís seal of approval for what is being said or promoted? We do not have to judge the individual, Jesus said we are to examine their fruit. Matthew 7:20, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." People say lots of things in the name of Christ. We are to look at their actions and messages in the light of Christís Word. Many claim to know and represent Christ, but are actually far from Him. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." Perhaps these verses have garnered your attention. The statement "according to their works" is the same as "knowing them by their fruits." This is what it all comes down to: They will be leading you toward God in all righteousness, holiness and self denial through the Spirit or they will be leading you away from God in things of the flesh. Those leading in the things of the flesh will overemphasize Godís love at the expense of living soberly, godly and righteously. They will trivialize sin and overplay acceptance without the condition of repentance. They will issue license to live fleshly and worldly and tie this to Jesusí forgiveness. Those deceitful ones are very crafty because their authority (devil) is the master of all subtilty (trickery, cunning, craftiness). They will weave their poison amidst truth. They will gain your confidence and slowly lead you opposite from God. Your defense is to stay in the Word of God and be directed by His Spirit daily. Man thinks he knows it all and cannot be deceived. Manís pride is the very weapon that will be used to misdirect. When we humble ourselves and allow God to lead, then we will stay on the path He has set forth. This path is very narrow and the human will does like to wander Ė beware! Many will say that their respected leader or authority (note: should be Jesus) would never do such things. These may or may not be doing this intentionally. Most deceitful workers are deceived themselves and assume their authority is God. They always assume God approves and endorses their messages.
The One Man Show
Perhaps you have encountered the one-man show. Years ago we attended a church where the pastor was very controlling of all things (not a godly trait, like Diotrephes). One night he was absent and my young son asked me where Jesus was. Through the course of our conversation I realized that he thought the pastor was Jesus. This was a real eye opener. Donít discount the thoughts of a child. Jesus said: Matthew 18:3, "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Also Matt 19:14). Had this pastor elevated himself to the place of Christ? One child thought so! Woe, Woe, Woe!
No More Priests?
Israel was structured under a Levitical priesthood that required priests to offer sacrifices and approach God for the people (Ex 28:29-30, 38). The High Priest entered the temple once a year into the holy place and then through a thick veil (curtain - Ex 26:33) into the most Holy Place where God dwelt between the cherubims to offer sacrifice for the people. Hebrews 9:7, "But into the second (most Holy) went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:" When Jesus (of the Melchisedec priesthood) died on the cross the old covenant (Levitical priesthood) was ended and the new covenant was established: Hebrews 8:13, "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." When Jesus died: Mark 15:38, "And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." This meant that we (followers of Christ) can directly approach God through Jesus Ė no more veils and no men or things in between! That veil was Christís flesh (Heb 10:20). Hebrews 10:9-10, 13, "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews 10:19-20, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;" Jesus is our high priest: Hebrews 8:1, "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;" Unfortunately, men who are not servants and religious organizations put themselves between God and the people. Their doctrines and traditions have boxed them in from the truth of Godís Word. Their concern has become pleasing men (membership), influence, control and maintaining the institution.
Layers of authority have been established Ė perhaps you have heard of the clergy/laity? Jesus referred to those who desired to rule the people as Nicolaitans (Rev 2:15-16) whom he hated. Usually those that want to rule seek control, perhaps through doctrine, fear, by-laws, peer pressure, etc. Desiring position, power, or rule over others is fleshly and not of the Spirit. You as a believer have the responsibility for your relationship with Christ. Do not seek God through men or institutions. Many true disciples were labeled heretics and were martyred over the years for refusing to serve such theocracies and prophecy tells us this will soon happen again (great tribulation). The true eldership edifies (Rm 12:4-5) the body through their spiritual gifts (Eph 4:11-13). The true church (body) encourages and edifies one another in love: Ephesians 4: 15-17, "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity (pride) of their mind." True men of God will teach the truth of His Word, but our eyes must always be on Christ.
Paul had set forth rules for elders (more than one) that were to oversee each local body in love, meekness, and humility Ė being servants to all. These were basically the pastors. They were to be blameless (just/holy), not self-willed (temperate), not soon angry, not given to wine (sober), no striker (not a brawler), not given to filthy lucre (not covetous or greedy); the husband of one wife (not divorced), vigilant, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; patient; and one that ruleth well his own house, not being a novice (mature in faith, 1 Tm 3:3-6). Their children must not be riotous or unruly. Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers (Ti 1:6-9). The elders in the religious institutes of today do not even perform the same functions and I dare say most do not meet the eligibility. The requirement for not being a novice is concerning an established relationship with the Lord (spiritual life, faith) and demonstrated maturity as taught and led by the Spirit. This is not referring to some religious schooling whereby one is taught the precepts of man.
Woman as Head of Man?
The Lord has clearly set an order of authority in His Word. 1 Corinthians 11:3, "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." The man is the image and glory of God and the woman is the glory of man (1 Cor 11:7). Man is to take a leadership role, subject to Christís authority and will be held accountable. 1 Timothy 2:11-14, "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." These verses are so clear that there should be no room for doubt, only our obedience to them. When we step outside the roles God has placed us in, then we rebel against Godís order and judge it as unworthy of our obedience - Woe! God has made distinct differences between males and females. These differences compliment one another. Women due to their make-up tend to be more prone to deception. Woman was taken out of man to be a helpmate. Genesis 2:18, "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, "For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." This does not mean that woman is inferior to man or less loved by God. 1 Corinthians 1:11, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." The man is clearly meant to be the covering for woman. 1 Corinthians 11:7, "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man." The man is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Ephesians 5:23-25, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." This clearly places all lines of authority and responsibility under the commandment of "love." There is absolutely no room for abuse or domineering in complying with Godís line of authority (Eph 5:23:25). Those who do so are following the flesh and not the Spirit. Each designated role of authority must be followed by the bounds set in the Word otherwise you become a transgressor. Wives, if you do not submit to your husbandís God given authority as your head, then the verse says that you have also denied Christ as your Savior. Please understand, Christ submitted to the Father and this was to His glory. Similarly, woman submits to man (in Godís order) and this is to her glory. Christ did not usurp the Fatherís authority, neither should the woman usurp the manís. Pride is a great abomination, we must be humble.
Satan plays opposites with the things of God due to his absolute rebellious nature. If God would have man lead the woman, then the devilís purposes would be to exalt the woman over the man. Mankind in his rebellion has followed suit. Ambitious imperious (commanding/domineering) women have long sought equality and/or dominance over men through the political process and various movements. These activities were certainly demonically inspired by those seeking self rather than God. Our culture has bought into this lie and it has been taught to our children. Now Godís Word on this matter seems foreign, archaic, antiquated (behind the times) and out of place to most. This only shows that the flesh has accepted the devilís message and is in agreement with his rebellion. Many religious individuals have judged Godís Word as void as they seek to recreate Godís Word in their own image. They presume to update Godís very Words according to the majority popular opinion (culture) of man Ė "Oh that was for back then due to their culture." All such rulings are based upon human reasoning, not the Word of God! Women who follow suit are rebelling against Godís curse placed upon woman in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:16). The curse says that man will rule over thee. Just as surely as the pain of child bearing continues to this day, and the fact that man lives by the sweat of his brow (Gen 3:17-19), so does the fact that the husband shall rule over the wife in Godís order (Gen 3:16). When women manipulate men to get their way, they are not being biblically submissive and are exalting themselves above the curse. By exalting themselves above man, they are telling God that His punishment is unfair and they exalt their own will above Godís Ė they judge God. As a result confusion reigns between the genders. We are all to yield and be submissive before God. The women is also to further submit to her husband. We are blessed and content when our lives are lived within Godís directions.
Women assuming leadership is now blatantly seen in the religious organizations. Many a religious man has attempted to explain away Godís line of authority and make it null and void. Because the religious read Godís Word through the flesh and not the Spirit, they will contort it to their views and liking. This is pure rebellion to Godís purposes Ė man exalting his will. This is manís judgment against Godís purposes. Many religious denominations now place women in authority over men. Women rule over them (Is 3:12)! They ordain women as clergy and assign them leadership over their temples or put them on their committees. This clearly violates scripture. Religious denominations are caving on this issue of allowing women to lead because they are tied to the world. What is popular in the world must be accepted by their organizations or they will lose the thing they seek most Ė members and church growth. Just like the world, there is a competition for market share. The perks must match or exceed the other players in the field or the customer base will be lost to another more tolerant and fleshly religious denomination. Also there is the consideration of public opinion (negative advertising). The flesh seeks praise and not rebuke. Feminism is popular in society (due to electronic and printed media), so the religious must go along or face persecution for living godly in Christ (2 Tm 3:12). When man seeks God manís way through his religious efforts apart from the Spirit, there is confusion, disorder and failure. Compromising on this issue is doing that which is expedient to the flesh. Jesus chose twelve apostles. These were all men and this was intentional Ė God does not violate His own Word as men do. Had Jesus chosen a woman apostle, then He would have sinned (violated scripture) and thus have been blemished and unworthy as the sacrificial lamb of God.
In many cases there is also another consideration. What is the responsibility of these women religious leaders in raising their own children? What is their responsibility to their husbands (Ti 2:3-5)? 1 Timothy 5:14, "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully." Did God intend for others to raise our children? Ė the ones He entrusted to us (is this being faithful stewards?). The modern woman has been taught that nurturing and teaching/raising their children is not redeeming or important. The world says that self must come first (careers, wants/needs of the individual). Is it any wonder that women seeking religious position/authority would look down upon (lessen the importance) guiding the house and raising children (1 Tm 2:15)?
Note: It doesnít matter how capable (demonstrated and proven) women are in leadership positions nor of man voluntarily abdicating his authority (desiring Jezebel dominance). This is not the issue. The issue is obedience to Godís Word! You either accept Godís Word and live within it or you reject it and justify your alternative.
Some religious folks will contend that there are examples in scripture of women in leadership positions. The issue is not that God uses women, but of women taking authority over man. One such example would be Deborah the Prophetess. If one will read the account in the book of Judges (chapters four and five), you will find that at the time, the children of Israel were wholly given over to idolatry and rebellion against Godís purposes. Israel was far from God and this always brings confusion - A woman reigning over a man is a great dishonor (Jer 31:22). Isaiah 3:12, "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Even Barak who was called by God through Deborah to lead Israel against the Canaanites (Sisera, Jabin) wanted to be led of a woman and this was to his dishonor. Judges 4:9, "And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh." A woman named Jael killed Sisera rather than Barak (Jdg 4:17-22, 5:24-27). One other such example would be Huldah the prophetess (2 Kgs 22:14). During her time the children of Israel did great evil before the Lord (2 Kgs 21:9). Manasseh and later his son Amon had been kings and were exceedingly wicked before the Lord (for fifty four years). Through their leadership such evil had been done that even a graven image and grove had been set up in the Lordís own house (2 Kgs 21:7). God said that as a result He would bring such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of those who heard would tingle (2 Kgs 21:12, God spared new king, Josiah, because of his humbleness of heart). Consider the specific evil done as detailed in 2 Kings Chapter Twenty Three. Things were definitely not being done as God would have them Ė this is great confusion which manifested in the religious leadership. Neither the king (now Josiah) nor the religious leadership (no doubt including Huldah and Hilkiah the High Priest) had been following the Lord Ė this was only evident after Hilkiah found the book of the law while repairing the temple (2 Kgs 22:8, 10-13). Hilkiah the high priest had been participant in setting up idols in the Lordís house and must not have known Godís law. The things written in the book of the law surprised Josiah and Hilkiah Ė they had been in violation (2 Kgs 22:11-13). The city of Jerusalem and all of Judah and Israel was given over to idolatry. Josiah humbled himself and sought answers from God. God spoke through Huldah. We do not know how Huldahís heart was toward God, but we do know God will speak through those who oppose (are in error) Him Ė consider Balaam whom God used to bless Israel (Numbers Chapters Twenty Two through Twenty Four).
Symbology of Marriage
Ephesians 5:31-32, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." A man and a woman come together as one flesh Ė perfect closeness and unity. How is this accomplished? The answer is submission (See Chapter One, "Godís Order"). Can two be united if they have dual wills (Amos 3:3)? Not as one flesh. One must submit to the other Ė to love, honor and obey! In good times and in bad. In marriage, God has the woman submit to the man Ė His order. Colossians 3:18, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord." AND Ephesians 5:24, "Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing (1 Pt 3:1)." The man loves the woman as himself (his flesh) and as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25, 28). Ephesians 5:29-30, "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Each has a role and a responsibility. The head is leadership, love and care. Notice the symbology: The man is the head of the woman (body Ė the two as one flesh). Christ is the head of the church (body Ė the two as one). The woman submits to the man to become one. The church (body) submits to Jesus to become one. Submission is loving, honoring and obeying another. The key is that this is done willingly from the heart. When one does not submit in their role (or role switching), they are in rebellion Ė out of Godís order and His will. Rebellion brings separation and is the opposite of unity and closeness Ė i.e. not one flesh. Does anyone suppose that Christ is coming back for a bride (church) that has her own mind and will? - A bride that desires a hyphen (maiden name hyphen married name). Will Christ sign a marriage agreement (faithless arrangement) with His bride? Does Jesus desire to just give the marriage a try? Will God spend eternity pleading for subjection to His will? Scriptures reveal a great separation Ė those who submit and those who do not. Satan did not submit and neither will his followers. These are destined for separation - eternally.
Man always wants to reach God his way rather than Godís way. Romans 10:3, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." Often the religious systems that man sets up to reach God are no more than establishing manís own righteousness. God desires that we come to Him through Christ in faith. This is how we are to absolutely live our lives. We do not come to God through man, religion, ceremony, ritual, attendance, tithing, or anything else other than a heart full of love, faith and devotion to Him Ė seeking His will. What did Jesus say about the doctrines and traditions of men during His time on earth (Mt 15:3, 9, Mk 7:7-8)? Matthew 16:6, 12, "Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." Their doctrines were far from a humble and repentant heart seeking God in sincere love and faith to perform His will. Jesusí doctrine was not His, but the Fathers (Jn 7:16). The same can be said of John the Baptist and all the prophets. Religious man often forms doctrines throught the eyes of the flesh and they are of man Ė without life.
Whenever Christ ceases to become the sole impetus of the church and the Holy Spirit is quenched (1 Thess 5:19), then self-sufficient man takes over (think of all manís improvements that entertain the flesh). The scriptural pattern is demonstrably unworkable apart from the Spirit. Whenever humble reliance upon Christ slackens, the leadership degenerates into no more than a committee. Often a few strong personalities will dominate. The problem is that God must often be sought through intense prayer, self sacrifice, and scriptural study, a constant subjection to the will of God as lived out daily. The natural way (manís) is always easier to the flesh than the way of the Spirit. People tend to take the most expedient approach. The religious institutions run by man, soon find themselves to actually be an opponent of Christ (not in their eyes), because they confirm their own doctrines (denominationís) by ascribing them to be infallible. Many will consider their doctrines (such as Calvinism-eternal security, pre-tribulation rapture, female leadership, creeds, etc.) to be untouchable. Those that do will face the wrath of the institution. 1 Peter 2:8, "And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." Often the religious organizations put more of an emphasis to the understanding or assent to certain denominational truths (doctrines) than dedication and love to the Lord. There most likely will be an agreed litmus test for membership to their club. Mark 7:7, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Man through his doctrines (statements of faith) attempts to control the outward actions of a man, but can do nothing with inward thoughts and motives. Jesus said the Pharisees appeared righteous on the outside but inside were full of hypocrisy and sin (Mt 23:28). This is why the Holy Ghost must be directing the body. The Spirit works to clean the inside of a man. ONLY God can change the inside of a man! This will result in a truly outward righteousness and a living walking statement of faith. Jesus didnít follow the Pharisees traditions, are you so confident that He will follow yours? Do you follow them?
Jesus once corrected the Sadduceeís untouchable doctrine that they considered to be infallible. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. So they came to Jesus with one of their best arguments using a scenario that seemed to prove their point (from a human perspective). They said there was a man who married a wife and then died. His brother then marries the widow and he also dies. This goes on through seven brothers. Their question was whose wife would she be in the resurrection? Seems like a pretty witty argument. Mark 12:24-27, "And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err." Ė and these live unto God (Lk 20:38). We know from scripture (Acts 23:8) that the Sadducees did not heed Jesusí advice. How often do the religious admit fault concerning one of their doctrines?
Similarly today many put forth witty arguments like this one: "You are a parent who loves your children. If your children did some bad things, you would not send them to hell for an eternity. So why do you think a loving God would do that?" This argument is used to suggest that there is no hell or that once you are saved, you can never lose your salvation (Lk 8:13) Ė depends on your doctrinal twist. However, both positions err because those who espouse them know not the scriptures. There may be some scriptures that seem to support their notions (out of context), but there are many more that absolutely conflict and such cannot be the case if their position is correct. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Many will view God through human emotions. They will say, "how can I enjoy heaven if I know a loved one is suffering in hell?" This is thinking in terms of self and not Godís purposes and judges Godís will as well as placing yours above His. We do not have full understanding (Deut 29:29). Those who do not "enjoy" being with God will be separated from Him and placed in hell. The hearts of unsaved (they assume they are) church members in multitudes blindly trust their church doctrines and programs, which have become their idols (golden calves), to lead them to heaven. These are not interested in righteousness, holiness and brokenness before God. By so doing they have blinded themselves to many of the truths of Godís Word. Paul said: Acts 20:27, "For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God (not part)." Those that will not submit (be led) by the Spirit and uphold the whole truth of Godís Word because of unbelief, fear of man, or simply a desire to increase organizational membership, fill the churches with Pharisees and hypocrites. These majorities soon dictate church doctrine based upon popular culture (ex. Sodomites, feminism, humanism, psychology, worldliness). A body of believers should be measured by the holy lives that they live, demonstrated and broken before God, constantly with a sense of our own need, because we have a great and intense longing to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). The question is whether Pharisees and hypocrites can live comfortably in these organizations or whether they are exposed and get offended and leave.
They all cannot be Right
Many sincere individuals believe that they are hearing from God on all manner of issues. The problem is that when you assemble any number of these doctrines, many just plain contradict one another. This cannot be the case regarding Godís eternal truth. Some are totally opposing others. Similarly, Religious institutions are sure that they are hearing from God and that their existing doctrines are constantly being affirmed and any changes are confirmed. However the different religious denominations differ greatly on so many things, yet each is sure that God endorses their distinct beliefs. How can this be? As discussed in Chapter 6 (Knowing the Truth of Godís Word), when one approaches God, one must be seeking to know His truth and desire to do His will. This must hold true even if God tells you to sacrifice your only son (or favorite doctrine) or sell all you have and give to the poor (die to your flesh/control, Gen 22:1-2, Lk 18:22). Most are seeking their will and not necessarily Godís (Rm 1:18). They come seeking affirmation or justification of existing beliefs and doctrines. They want Godís endorsement of their own ideas (views, doctrines, traditions, idols, etc.). They love not the truth. They set up idols in their hearts (doctrines, beliefs) and God simply confirms their own idols back to them because they love not the truth (Ezekiel 14:3-5, 9). This is what they want to hear. Their own idols become their stumbling blocks. Their darkness becomes the blindness God puts upon them which hardens their hearts (Jn 12:40). Religious people have always taken prior error and built upon it and then wanted God to endorse these doctrines. This has been going on for two thousand years. For instance many will say they follow Calvinís doctrines or those of John Wesley. These had better start seeking the truth of Jesus Word as revealed and taught by the Holy Spirit. Many are raised and taught certain doctrines in religious denominations. These are their foundation and not Christ. To question these doctrines is to question God Himself and the very essence of their own being - to betray their own family. Let us examine what our lives are built upon!
When Man Prevails
Luke 11:46, "And he (Jesus) said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers (Mosaic experts)! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." We must be careful to obey Christ in the Spirit (led) as revealed (affirmed) by the Word (2 Tim 3:15-16). Jesus came to lessen our burden and we must be careful not to increase it on ourselves or upon others. The religious system of the time, through the Scribes and lawyers had taken the original Ten Commandments and through their interpretations had increased them to over 600 major new commandments. They called these traditions and actually held them in higher regard than scripture. These didnít even capture what was important (love). This is what happens when man and not the Spirit governs the body. When asked what the greatest commandment was: Mark 12:29-31, "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." Jesus had taken the original Ten Commandments and reduced them down to two. These two commandments of love revealed Godís desire for us. Jesus said: Mark 7:7-9, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups (cares of this life): and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." They were so entrenched in their doctrines and religious structure that they had no place in their hearts for the words that Jesus spoke (Jn 8:37). Jesus didnít fit in with the religious system! Ė Woe! The religious look to a myriad of doís and doníts to save them. This may take the form of church attendance, tithing, getting involved, obeying the denomination, and attending Sunday school. God says you are to look to Him in love with all that is within you. God is your salvation and His Spirit will conform you to His expectations through your obedient faith. The issue is not the doís and doníts, but the thoughts and intents of the heart Ė the attitude toward God Ė why you do or donít.
Ceremony or Practice?
Some religious groups major on one doctrine to such a degree that they become known by it. Water baptism is symbolic of dying to the old sinful man and becoming a new creature (conversion, born again) in Christ Jesus. The water represents the washing or purification by the Word (Eph 5:26). Water baptism is performed after one has truly submitted to God as was described in Chapter Three concerning the beatitudes. In other words, you are publicly professing before God and man the work that Christ has already done in your life. Water baptism is symbolic of repentance (unto, Mt 3:11). Everyone should be water baptized at the first opportunity because our Lord said for us to do so (Mt 28:19). Intentionally refusing to be water baptized shows nothing more than an unconverted rebellious heart that says "I know better than God" and judges His purposes. Some groups have elevated the very act of water baptism to being salvation itself. They will say that you are not actually saved until you are water baptized. This of course denies the fact that God looks at the heart and judges righteously (1 Kg 8:39). They will take this doctrine so far as to say that if you are on your way to get water baptized and die in an accident, that you will go straight to hell. So they have elevated the very act (ceremony, ritual) to be of more importance than the brokenness and repentance before God and subsequent changed heart (spiritual life) Ė which I might add that only God can do in the first place. The sad thing is that most of these same ones do not put into practice what water baptism is suppose to represent, that being death to sin and worldliness and a life devoted to God. They will give the lost a run for their money on partaking of all the world has to offer. The evidence for new life in Christ is not a wet head but: Ephesians 4:24, "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Only God can change your heart and give you the desire (free will, voluntary) to live righteously and holy. These same ones also deny baptism of the Holy Ghost which Jesus said you must have or you are none of His (Mt 3:11, Lk 3:16). Romans 8:9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." 1 Jn 4:13, "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. We must seek Godís Spirit (Lk 11:13).
Another group will point a finger and cry foul saying, "we practice water baptism, but it is our faith that saves us." Then they will major on a doctrine of Calvinism that says they donít actually have to practice their faith because once saved, always saved. Similarly they will deny that receiving the Holy Ghost is anything more than a part of water baptism. Some members of this group will practice all the doctrines of Calvinism (most pick and choose) and say, they are predestined to go to either heaven or hell and that it is completely out of manís hands or free will. If this were the case, why would God give man choices to begin with (e.g. trees in Eden)? When confronted with the fact that they are telling those who practice wickedness that they are right before God (calling evil good - in this once saved doctrine), the religious will say that those who live in sin were not saved to begin with (this causes problems with their sinnerís prayer formula). However, their religious institutions are filled with such people and this does not bode well for their organization. A truly saved person will not desire to do wickedly, but we all must take heed, lest we fall and come short (1 Cor 10:12, Heb 3:6, 14, 4:1, 2 Pt 3:17, 1 Tm 1:19).
Many elevate rituals, ceremonies, sacraments, objects, methods, works, doctrines (beliefs), traditions, liturgies, and earthly authorities as the means to manís salvation. They place these things in Christís rightful place Ė Oh how grievous. Usually these same ones do not think they are necessarily doing this. Some have taken a different extreme and say that a one line repeated profession of faith will eternally save you and that all these other religious things are just done to make God happy. The truth is that living our faith daily before God as abiding in Christ and being led of His Spirit is what saves us. Jesus is our hope. This hope is demonstrated by how we live our lives in conforming to His image. We follow His steps and He gives us strength and power (grace) through His Spirit to do all things. We die to our will (self) and this world and say, "thy will be done" in our lives. As we obey, the Spirit works and transforms us into Christís image. God does the work as we comply in love. Otherwise we are being forced or manipulated (witchcraft) and this is not Godís desire or in keeping with His character.
Man Has and will Invent Religions to Reach God
Man has invented much of his religion to suit self, yet becomes deluded that he is also serving God and succeeding generations know no better. Because of Solomonís idolatry, God separated (split) the Jewish people in the nation of Judah (House of David) and the nation of Israel (other tribes). Jeroboam, son of Nebat became the first king of Israel. 1 Kings 12:26-33, "And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense." Jeroboam just created his own religion and based it upon the Hebrew religion. Notice that this was for his own purposes (self). He appointed his own priestly class and invented holidays (and dates) out of thin air. 2 Chronicles 13:9, "Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods." Jeroboam had cast out the priests God had appointed (those who answered to God, 2 Chr 11:13-14). He then appointed priests called of man who were answerable to man. There may have been similarities to the Jewish worship of God, but there were also many differences. Those who sought the true God had to come out of Israel (2 Chr 13:8-9). Jeroboam also set up high places (sanctuaries) for the golden calves which were devils (2 Chr 11:15). Jeroboam also prevented the people from returning to Judah at set times to worship the true God. Man often puts himself or his systems between the people and God to hold them captive. All the kings of Israel that followed Jeroboam did evil in the sight of God. They were said to have followed in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, namely worship of his golden calves religion (1 Kg 15:34, 16:2, 19, 26, 22:52, 2 Kg 3:3, 10:29, 31, 13:2, 6, 11, 15:8-9, 17-18, 23-24, 27-28). This is why God ultimately gave Israel over to their enemies (1 Kg 14:16). 2 Kings 17:21-23, "For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day." God later sent Josiah, king of Judah, to destroy Jeroboamís idol at Bethel (2 Kg 23:15). Deep seated tradition is very hard to break free from.
There are many similar such examples today. For instance the doctrines and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church is mostly a creation of man with some similarities to the true biblical worship of God. They have invented feasts (Holy Days) and assigned dates such as Christmas and All Saints Day (Halloween). They have appointed their own priestly class. They have many religious icons and statues of saints (Idols) and pray to them. They have many extra-biblical doctrines and traditions. They have elevated Jesusí earthly mother to a goddess status and pray to her Ė and seek forgiveness through her. They have all sorts of rituals such as lighting candles and burning incense. They claim to speak for God (Pope) and to be the only true church and try everything to keep the people in their hold (captive). Other examples would be Mormonism, Orthodoxy, Protest-ants (and their denominations) and Jehovahís Witnesses. Many have cast God out in favor of their own religious methodologies. Almost all religious groups (such as Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Assembly of God, etc.) appoint their own priests, clergy, pastors, preachers, bishops or whatever name they assign to them. Whom God calls is answerable to God (led of His Spirit) and whom man calls is answerable to man (denominations, boards, committees, doctrinal statements, creeds, religious training, church rules and votes, influencial church folk, financial institutions, etc.). The religious world has set up schools of indoctrination whereby their religious leaders are trained and certified to their particular doctrine to preach in their various franchises. These are vastly led of man and not the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not be subjugated to manís doctrines or denominational demands. So you see there is an immediate conflict. Many of these men simply could not yield in obedience to the Spirit without violating pre-established religious rules, doctrines and traditions of man. God requires obedience, but so does religious man. Please do not err in thinking that obeying religious man is essentially the same as obeying God. There is a definite conflict of interest here involving the flesh and authority. To reject the Spirit is to reject truth and vice versa (Jn 14:17, 15:26).
In the book of Judges (Chap. 17) we read of a man named Micah who started his own religion. First he had a graven image made and then a molten image. He set them up as a house of Gods. Micah then made an ephod (breastplate for a priest) and teraphim (images) and hired himself a priest of the Levites. The priest was hired for a set salary per year (money, shelter, clothing, provisions) and was answerable to Micah. Micahís motive was for self-seeking blessings from God (Jdg 17:13). We read later (Judges, Chap. 18) that a migrating tribe of Israel (Dan) takes Micahís idols and persuades his priest to go with them and they set them up and worship them (Jdg 18:30-31). Today the religious institutions also hire priests (pastors, preachers). Religious committees screen candidates to make sure they are going to get the kind of priest they want (agree with their doctrines and instructions). True men of God are answerable to God and not man. They will speak Godís Word which will certainly not be appealing to the flesh or any religious criteria for that matter Ė but will line up with Godís Word. The religious institutions pick men that are answerable to them and they come to an arrangement (salary, shelter, provisions, and benefits). They want a man to tell them what they want to hear. Is this not what the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and scribes were also looking for in a Messiah? Jesus didnít fit the criteria and was done away with. You would also have to include John the Baptist and all the other prophets (Lk 11:49-51). This is why local church (called out ones) or assembly of believers should be led by the Spirit and have local established (mature) men of faith (elders) who act as servants to all.
Through Religion, Man will Disannul the Word of God
God sent a prophet with a message to Jeroboam king of Israel concerning his idolatry (1 Kg 13:1-7). This prophet was to deliver Godís message and then return to Judah by a different way, not eating nor drinking in Israel (1 Kg 13:8-9). The prophet was obeying when another man claiming to be from God changed Godís Word and deceived him (1 Kg 13:15-18). The prophet then went to the false prophetís house and ate and drank (1 Kg 13:19-21). God was very displeased and slew the prophet (1 Kg 13:22-24). Many will come in the name of the Lord and say, Thus saith God. We must be careful to follow Godís Word and direction. God may test us through others (1 Kg 13:26). When God speaks, we must obey regardless of what man says Ė even religious man. These religious men will say, Alas my brother! - when their damage is done (1 Kg 13:30). Be responsible to God. Responsibility starts with knowing God and not just being told of Him.
The Sinnerís Prayer
The religious message of today says that God accepts us as we are. This cannot be the case because there is an eternal place of punishment reserved for those rebellious ones (lake of fire, hades, hell). The religious man will quickly add that you must accept Christ. What does this mean? The religious man will say that you must say "the sinnerís prayer." This is the tremendous deception of the modern religious man who seeks God on his terms. This is what this section will examine in some depth. The following verse was discussed at the start of this chapter: Matthew 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Saying Lord, Lord is the equivalent of the modern day sinnerís prayer. This does not qualify you for the kingdom of heaven (Mt 22-23)! How could it? Are we not saved by faith? Notice what the verse says concerning who will enter the kingdom of heaven, "he that doeth the will of my Father" (also Mt 12:50). Now this is faith and it is lived daily and steadfastly (persistently, consistently, with conviction, unwavering), enduring (continuing, lasting, long-term) until the end. This is mixing the hearing of Godís Word with faith as applied to your life (Heb 4:2). We are not to just say, but also to do (Lk 8:15, 21-22). Consider this verse: Luke 6:46, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" What this verse is essentially saying is, "why do you say a prayer acknowledging Me as your Lord and then do not obey me in your daily life?" Do not suppose that repeating a very quick little prayer formula will reserve you a place in glory. What did Jesus say concerning the seeds? Ė Mark 4:16-17 & 4:18-19. What is Godís will? Those who seek Him through His Spirit will know (Chapter Six, Knowing the Truth of Godís Word).
Romans 3:11, "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." Because of manís fallen nature there is no reason that man would desire to seek God and submit to Him totally on his own. Man desires his old nature and does not seek the nature of God (Jn 6:65). John 1:12-13, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Notice that conversion comes from God (Is 48:17) and "not the will of man (also Jn 15:16)." This is further stressed in scripture as follows: John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." AND John 6:65, "And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." God draws us out of the darkness into His marvelous light and grants mercy (1 Pt 2:9-10). God calls as many as He will (Acts 2:39). This is a hard thing for man to understand, but scriptures are clear: Romans 9:15-16, "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." So God calls and God adds to the church such as should be saved (Acts 2:39, 47, 13:48). When God calls, how do you respond? God convicts hearts, but gives man the freedom to choose Ė you must have ears to hear. Many will reject Godís call: Proverbs 1:24-25, "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof." Christ came but man mostly did not RECEIVE Him (Jn 5:43, Lk 9:48). We (the church) are to be used of God as willing vessels to witness and pray for the lost and present the gospel to them (teach). We are witnesses and vessels for God to operate through - for we are labourers together with God (1 Cor 3:9). 1 Corinthians 3:7, "So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." God is all in all (Col 3:11). God calls us according to His own purposes and grace out of darkness into His marvellous light (2 Tm 1:9, 1 Pt 2:9). We present ourselves as vessels to be used of God to reach others, but God is sovereign. Only God can change the heart (Deut 30:6).
In the religious institutions, self sufficient man has taken over. The religious want to plant, water, and bring the increase, and instantly! To them conversion is as simple as a quick little prayer formula which they term the sinnerís prayer (Lam 3:24-26). This is a quick little vow (not a magic formula) that one is suppose to repeat to gain instant salvation with no obligation to substantially change your life and live completely for Christ. They have searched the scriptures and pulled out what they deem as the necessary information (Romans road to salvation, etc.). The word "believe" is used in the sense of mental acknowledgement or acceptance. The problem is that it is presented in such a way that you are doing God a favor by letting Jesus be your Savior, but not necessarily your Lord (Mt 23:10, Jn 13:13). There is no brokenness before God and repentance is generally left out altogether. I dare say that often the lost individual has a greater sense of the commitment involved than the one attempting to proselytize him. Thus the sinner through his limited knowledge has attempted to count the cost and may be reluctant because he is not ready or willing Ė has not seen the need. They think if they can just persuade (manipulate?) one into saying the prayer, that he will be instantly saved. Salvation cannot be forced or coerced. If oneís heart and motives are not right, then for what purpose is this ritual? If one does not understand his sin or desire to forsake it, then what is the point?
The Jews also tried to save their way and Jesus said of them: Matthew 23:15, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." This is important to understand because these religious ones had hearts that were far from God Ė and thus their converts did also. How can this be? Jesus then refers to many of these religious as serpents and vipers (Mt 23:33). The devil came as a serpent! A serpent injects his venom (poison) into the blood of the victim. God defines the life of one to be in the blood (Lv 17:11). This poison corrupts the blood or life of the victim Ė the inner man. This is what these doctrines were doing. Jesus said, Matthew 15:14, "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." Man often uses fear or emotion to lead one to Christ. Within a religious setting, a stirring emotional sermon may be presented coupled with music which rouses the senses. Everyone may be told to close their eyes and bow their heads (in shame?) while the pastor makes many appeals for the lost to come forward. Some may commit on an emotional high or sudden feeling of guilt, but it is seldom that you see brokenness over sin and true heart repentance in those who come forward. We are not to trust our emotions (flesh), they are very deceptive! Another tactic is to tell the lost individual that he will suffer forever in hell or he could say this quick little sinnerís prayer and be set for eternity. Who would not choose the latter? Does this produce a committed individual that loves God with all his heart (has Godís nature) and hates the sin in his life to the extent that he will forsake all, totally yield to God and follow? I think not. What it does produce is a very deceived person who usually goes on to live as the world with minimal commitment to God, yet is perfectly at home in the religious setting. It is just presumed that devotion and a changed life will follow later. Thus - one more member for the religious institution and one more decision for the yearís tally - success. Since much of the religious community is living very worldly, the bar has been set very low for a life of true "living faith" with almost no real encouragement to truly live righteously. Many are deceiving and being deceived (2 Tm 3:13). This is the leaven that has worked its way through the religious systems of man and is very corrupting. This is why we are like the days of Noah in this end of the age. Unless one humbly approaches God with his full heart (not emotion) with brokenness, godly sorrow and grief over his sinful condition (known as repentance), then there can be no conversion. Ecclesiastes 7:29, "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." This was Israelís problem, they sinned greatly yet said, "I have not sinned" and they refused to be ashamed (Jer 2:35, 3:3). We must acknowledge our iniquity and turn from it (Jer 3:12-13). Man wants a salvation that is quick, permanent and allows one to continue in the flesh with no sacrifice and minimal commitment. Man wants to "have it his way." Please note: One can absolutely be saved apart from walking the isle in a religious institution. This is ritualistic and controlling. People are drawn to God when they genuinely cry out to Him (as He convicts) in whatever setting they are in.
Most of the sinnerís prayers Iíve seen do not give a complete scriptural portrayal/ message of salvation (dying to self Ė new creature in Christ, genuine repentance & forsaking all sin, not conforming to the world, denying oneself for Christ, obeying Christís commandments, being led of the Spirit, righteous life, endurance, making God the priority of your life, etc.). This is probably because most of the adherents do not believe these things to be necessary for salvation, thus the worldly condition of many churches. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance and this is so significant to understand (Mt 9:13, Lk 5:32). Many may recite yet have little understanding of what is required and rarely a truly changed life. These folks didnít sign-up for a commitment and thus they are worldly, unchanged and uncommitted. Many are willing to say the prayer but few are willing to walk the walk (Col 2:6, 1 Jn 2:6). Being a Christian simply becomes a part of their life rather than being their life (Col 3:3-4)! Abstract agreement is quickly overridden (dominated) by the flesh. Biblical faith demands and produces costly and radical changes in one's life. Its essence is supreme commitment to Christ. Many will say a prayer and make promises in a desperate or life threatening situation only to return to their old lives once things return to normal.
It is understood that all must come to a decision point in life regarding Christ. Our true decision is manifested in the way we live our lives. This begins by seeking the Lord (understanding who He is Ė Deut 4:29); knowing your sinful condition and need for Him (great heartfelt sorrow); and counting the costs (are you willing to commit? Lk 14:28-33). Crying out to God should be from the heart not a formula. To say that we must expeditiously facilitate the process denies the individual of the truly necessary process of seeking God and realizing their need for Him. The Holy Spirit moves upon the hearts of men. Salvation is truly a personal thing between the individual and God and is the result of giving your life to Him. This cannot be effectively pushed or pressured to facilitate a "quick" conversion. If pastors would teach/preach the truth, God would convict hearts and draw men unto Him, as He will (1 Cor 1:21). When Jesus referred to creating two fold more the child of hell, He was referring to disciples that were unchanged and deceived of their condition. They show no real spiritual life. This is what many, some well meaning, religious of today are doing. In other words, the true love and devotion to God are missing. The desire to be conformed to Christís image is lacking. Religious institutes should be most concerned with changed lives but this does not seem to be the case. They are much more concerned with church growth and numbers. They equate religious meeting attendance with correct standing before God. I truly grieve over this as we all should. Much bondage in life is of a religious nature. The devil is also religious, he wants worship of men and will obtain it through deception if necessary.
The author was once involved in a local Jail Ministry. Most of the inmates that would participate in the Bible studies seemed very knowledgeable in the Word. However, knowledge without devotion and correct attitude (devoid of Spirit) is insufficient and lacking. Often these men would recite a sinnerís prayer (make commitment) at the end of the study. There was one individual that was representative of what I often witnessed. This individual seemed genuinely sincere and repeated the prayer. Within a few days he was released from jail and immediately intoxicated himself and committed a grievous crime only to return to jail again. The author didnít understand this and the Lord later spoke to my heart concerning the matter. Although the individual was under conviction during the Bible study and did not want to incur the penalty or consequence of sin (hell), he also had no desire to truly repent and forsake his old life Ė he had no desire to be saved from the wretched, evil nature of his heart. This man was already pondering evil in his heart concerning his upcoming release. God looks at oneís heart and intent (1 Kg 8:39). Godís desire is that all men come to repentance (2 Pt 3:9). God said what He meant and meant what He said (Ez 33:11). Repentance is turning from self-will (forsaking) to obedience to Godís will. No man can be converted until he truly forsakes his rebellion against God, "sinnerís prayer" or not. This is not an assembly line procedure with God, nor is the assembly line a religious institution.
Please Understand This
John 1:12-13, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." We must receive Jesus as He is (His truth, which He was full of Ė Jn 1:14) and not as we desire Him to be (our opinions of His truth). Notice that we cannot become a son of God by the will of the flesh. You cannot just decide that you will be born again apart from Godís intervention and method. I may decide (will of the flesh) to say the sinnerís prayer because I do not want to go to hell. Is this understanding my need, dying to my will, repenting of transgressions and placing myself under Godís authority? The religious can get the sinnerís prayer down to one line. They can put it on their internet sites, and in their tracts and books. They can give altar calls. They can have drive-in salvation booths (and probably will). Repeating an oath (formula), joining a church (denomination), performing a ritual, doing religious works, etc. DOES NOT SAVE. The only way anyone will be saved is to personally recognize their depravity and sinfulness (their great need), grieve over it with godly sorrow, fall on their knees (real or symbolically - yield) and cry out to God (believing in Christ) in all due humbleness, having a contrite (repentant) spirit (Ez 18:21-23, 27-28, 30-32, 2 Cor 7:10) and living a life of abiding (in Christ) faith. Then they must forsake their sin and worldliness thereby bringing forth fruits meet for repentance (2 Cor 7:1, Ez 33:14-16, 19-20, Acts 26:20) as led by the Holy Spirit. Is this not what we see in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32)? How do the religious present Christís salvation to a sinner? They will plead with them saying, wonít you just ask Jesus into your heart Ė Heís just waiting on you. They present Christ as a beggar in need of followers, but we are to be the beggars in need of a Lord and Savior (poor in spirit, mourning). It is true that Christ knocks on the door of your heart, but not to be accepted on your terms (Rev 3:20). There is a big difference here Ė one is manís way (will of the flesh or man) and the other is Godís way. Notice in the verse that salvation is not by the will of man. Romans 9:16, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." All these administering the sinnerís prayers will not affect anything if they are not presenting the full gospel and the heart of the person being proselytized is not ready to receive it or willing to be right before God. What does the verse say? They believed on His name, but were born by the will of God. Itís all in Godís hands - God shows mercy or He doesnít (Rm 9:18). What happens to one who comes to God by the will of the flesh? John 3:6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." They are the same as they were; born of the flesh and fleshly. Man has no control of those born of the Spirit (Jn 3:8). They may profess Christ, but their lives will still be full of sin and worldliness as lived out by their will Ė theyíll just claim forgiveness and grace as a covering rather than being delivered from it. They still have their old nature Ė they believe in vain (1 Cor 15:1-2). Nothing has changed because they never understood their need nor were they ever truly willing to forsake the old way of life. The religious institutions are filled with tares (fleshly). The few wheat (spiritual) will grieve over the sinfulness and worldliness around them. The tares are just oblivious, participant or complacent to it all Ė theirs and otherís (Pv 14:9). The Lord said that many would draw near with their lips, but their hearts would be far from Him. These were taught by the precept of men (Is 29:13). What is the evidence of true conversion? One who is willing to live totally for God and serves Him (in practice) unconditionally no matter what one has to suffer Ė even to oneís own detriment (Job 13:15)! God receives glory not us.
Jesus left instructions that His body is to be His witnesses on this earth (Lk 24:48, Mk 16:15, Acts 1:8). We are to teach and observe (do, perform, apply, live) ALL the things Christ commanded (Mt 28:20). Jesus lived by example the very things He taught and we have record of all things in His Word. This is a life of living faith in obedience to the will of God (under Godís authority). Christ specifically said repentance and remission of sins were to be taught in His name (Lk 24:47) Ė this is what He taught (Mt 4:17). When we teach the truth, God moves sovereignly (as He will) on the hearts of men to draw them to Christ (Jn 6:44, 65). Those who receive the truth and live in faith will be saved and those who reject this truth will be damned (Mk 16:16). Believing a partial gospel or tailoring your own is not sufficient. God has given you a lifetime, His Word, circumstances, and the Holy Spirit to teach. You must be responsible to go before God and work out your own salvation (Php 2:12) such that you understand the gospel and apply it to your life accordingly. Are you redeeming your time effectively? Many will live in religious error rather than having a mind to perform Godís will and seeking Him for truth. Teaching the whole truth of Christís gospel will distinguish us between a hireling or false prophet (Ez Chap 34) and one who is truly sent of God. The fruit will be evident. Glory to God or glory to the flesh?
Twisting the Gospel?
We must understand Godís Word in the context that it was written and taken as a whole. The Word of God is multi-faceted and the meaning is spiritually unfolded. This is only accomplished through the Holy Ghost (Jn 14:26). When men interpret the Word through the flesh it often takes on other meanings. Men will often pick certain scriptures and string them together to form their understanding of a plan for salvation. One example of this is what has been termed the "Romans road to salvation." These are hand picked verses out of the book of Romans that are said to sum up the gospel Ė Godís expectations of man. A "sinnerís prayer" may be a derivation of this (often is). Man in his methodologies loses the very life that is found in Christ as lived out daily through the Spiritís leading (2 Cor 4:10-11, 16, 5:15). We do not glory in appearance, but in heart (2 Cor 5:12)! The author is going to use an example from the book of 1 John (hopefully, easy to follow) to try and convey the error of this condensed gospel. Suppose the author states the following verse: 1 John 4:15, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." This verse is absolutely true, yet does not stand completely alone Ė not totally comprehensive of the gospel (unless you consider the deeper meaning of "confess"). One might read this verse and conclude that all one must do is verbally (mental reasoning) confess Christ and is thereby secure in God. HOWEVER, the same book (1 John) also includes these verses: 1 John 2:9, 3:15, "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (also 1 Jn 2:11, 4:20)." The author knows several people who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, yet have hatred for another. Obviously the word "confess" has a deeper meaning. So we can conclude that you cannot confess Jesus is the Son of God and also hate your brother and be in good standing before God. In similar manner we must consider the whole gospel as taught by the Spirit. Also consider this verse from the same book (1 John): 1 John 5:4, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." The author knows many people who confess that Jesus is the Christ, but have been overcome by the world (known by their fruit) and the things therein. Similarly, 1 John 2:5, "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." How many profess that Jesus is the Son of God, yet do not keep His Word (Lk 6:46)? Keeping Christís Word is how we know we are in him Ė compare to the lead-in verse (1 Jn 4:15). Many will also confess Christ and mislead others out of Godís will as revealed in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 and Galatians 1:7-9. The flesh wants things easy Ė a quick confession and no real obligation (other than all the religiosity of man). Faith will seat Christ as absolute head and will yield daily Ė To Follow (Mt 16:24). Note: Jesus summed up the gospel in the law of love Ė read Mark 12:30-31. This is a true summation (Mt 7:12, 22:40, Rm 13:10) Ė consider the ramifications of these verses.
A Familiar Verse
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This is a wonderful verse and is Godís desire for all of us. This verse may be the most recognized/ memorized one and has also been most used to lead many to Christ. Did you know this verse was just a part of Jesusí full response concerning being "born again?" If one were to correctly include the full text of Christís words there is a stumbling block for many in verses 19-21: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." Why the stumbling block? Because many have actually used the grace and mercy of God (forgiveness) to justify their continued wickedness or love of darkness. They have made Christ a minister of sin (Gal 2:17). To love darkness is to practice sin (to be comfortable in it) and to continue in your own will (rebellion, Lk19:14) rather than totally submit to Godís will (Pv 5:22). Many seem to think that Christ came to justify sin (Is 11:4, 1 Jn 2:29, 3:8). Job 35:3, "For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin?" Ask yourself honestly: What concord (agreement) hath Christ with Belial (sin/rebellion) Ė 2 Cor 6:15? If you are not daily conscious of your need for Christ, then perhaps you are comfortable in sin. Nothing stirs up hatred and justification of evil more than the light of Christ shining and revealing wickedness and hypocrisy in oneís heart (Eph 5:13). When the light shines, we will either run to it or away from it (some will attempt to put the light out). Those who walk in darkness, know not where they go (Jn 12:35-36). They have not the Holy Spirit to lead them (Jn 14:16-17, 26, 15:26, 16:7-8, 13-14). These certainly canít instruct others in "The Way." Who does salvation apply to? Jesus said salvation applies only to those that do the will of the Father who art in heaven. Matthew 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Jesus also said: John 5:39-40, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Notice the condemnation to the religious (His audience), "ye will not come to me." Why? Because they love the darkness Ė itís a question of the will. They knew the scriptures and believed in God, but something vital was missing. That was a relationship with Jesus. This relationship would be akin to Abrahamís whereby he died to his will (no longer loving the darkness) and lovingly obeyed Godís will. Only through this faith in Christ is there life. We are to search the scriptures for they testify of Christ. Read for yourself the example that Jesus lived on this earth (Discussed in Chapter Two). Christís example was deemed well pleasing to the Father. Should we not follow?
Many a religious man has sought to justify his own wickedness, and even used Godís Word to do it, rather than repent and forsake his sinfulness. Is this not what we see in doctrines such as predestination, eternal security, purgatory, unconditional love, etc.? Many theologians have stated that we will sin against God everyday in thought, manner, and deed, and have thereby resigned themselves (and their followers) to a life of defeat. They will say that we live vicariously through Christís righteousness and we do not need our own righteousness. They claim Christís righteousness and do not desire any of their own. The condemnation is that men love darkness. 1 John 1:5-7, "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." If youíre still walking in sin then Christís blood has been of no value to you. If there is no change in your life, whatís the point? John 8:34, "Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." To serve sin is to live in darkness. To live in darkness is to be a member of its kingdom and to reject the light. This is the truth of the whole matter: 1 John 3:5, "And ye know that he (Jesus) was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin." Christ came to take away our sins, not give us the ability to maintain and walk in them. Jesus didnít come to pretend to take them away or overlook them. Whose kingdom do you wish to be in? What is the expected victory? 1 John 3:8-10, "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his (Godís) seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." Jesus accomplished what He came to do in destroying the devilís works. John 12:31-32, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." Jesus was lifted up on a cross and we who were bitten by the poison of sin must look to Him or die (Num 21:8). Has the prince of this world been cast out of your life? The devil said you can sin and not die - no need for a remedy (Gen 3:4). For those of you who have bought into this original lie, please read Romans Chapter 6 and apply wisdom: Romans 6:6-9, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." Oh man, if you enjoy the pleasures of sin, be prepared to reap of the same corruption. Romans 6:16, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Which way are you headed, up (effort - heavenly) a narrow path, or down (ease - hellbound) a broad path? We must rid ourselves of the darkness as we live our faith in Christ and become like Him Ė filled with light. Let us eliminate the darkness by yielding to the Spirit. So I say to you: Proverbs 4:26-27, "Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil." Amen.
Jesus started this very discussion of light, darkness, and Godís salvation in John 3:3 where he stated that if you are not born again, you cannot even see the kingdom of God (youíre spiritually blind). 2 Corinthians 4:4, "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." Jesus opened the eyes of the blind (Gospels), yet the devil blinds to eliminate sight (opposite). The devils believe in God (Js 2:19), the difference is that they do not obey Him and are in rebellion. Are you? So if you cannot see how living for yourself (worldliness, rebellion Ė your way) and being oblivious or complacent to sinful aspects of your life is loving darkness, then you are unconverted and blinded by Satan Ė regardless of your profession. Thus you cannot perceive the kingdom of God Ė itís not in you. Believers are always fighting the flesh and sin through Christís power. Any doctrine of grace that takes away the fear of sinning is a false gospel. The message must lead you to God, not away. If a doctrine enables you to sin lightly and to ask forgiveness cheaply, without the deep sorrow and extreme hatred for sin that true repentance brings, then you can be sure it is deception from Satan. If you can live for your fleshly desires Ė do what feels good Ė then itís from Satan. Jesus came to save you from sin, not to justify you to live in it. Do you think God gave His only Son to justify you to do the very thing that He hates and many will be condemned to eternal hell for? Also, do not suppose you can overcome sin apart from Christ (your merit) Ė independent of the vine (John Chap 15). These are serious things that must be thought out. Please examine your heart.
There is a significant parallel between John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16. Followers of Christ are to walk as He walked. John 3:16 states that God so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son for us. 1 John 3:16 states: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." God laid His life down for us and conversely we lay down our lives for each other. We conform to Christís image. This is dying to self and giving to others. Jesus set the example and now we follow. Laying oneís life down would be putting your will aside to help another Ė sacrifice!
What is Grace?
Most religious use Godís grace and forgiveness as license to live in the flesh. They have all sorts of unique and persuasive arguments. Can we face the truth of Godís Word? Titus 2:11-14, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity (sin), and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Wow! This does not seem to be the message of the religious institutions at all. We must live godly, righteously, holy and pure and grace is the enabler to do this. Grace is God working in us to conform us to Christís image. Jesus walked in Godís grace (Lk 2:40). If this is not where we are heading, then we are deceived and heading opposite of salvation. The Holy Spirit works on us to accomplish this seemingly difficult list of godly expectations. In living our faith daily and obeying, we produce good works acceptable to God. The works donít save us because our dependence is upon God. They are just the inevitable result of a true relationship Ė the fruit! Romans 5:21, "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." Grace reigns through "righteousness." The two go hand-in-hand (Rm 5:17). Many choose to ignore (alter Godís Word) the "through righteousness" and have it just say, grace reigns unto eternal life. What happens when religious men who love darkness try and explain grace? Jude 1:4, "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Turning grace into license to sin is the same as denying Jesus! This brings shame upon everything the cross represented. They have blindness of the heart (Eph 4:18-19). Those who shine the light on sin will be called judgmental for they must be shamed into turning the light off. Sinners and hypocrites find comfort in the darkness. Grace is the Divine influence on the heart and its reflection is shown in your life. Grace enables you to live a life pleasing to God. Grace is not a covering for unrighteousness as it has been presented by the religious of our modern era. John 1:17, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Grace enables us to live in the true intent of the law as unfolded by the Spirit. The Word reveals that the Lord restores us and leads us in paths of righteousness for His nameí sake (Ps 23:3). It would be very foolish of us to suppose that the Lord overlooks our continued sinfulness and love of darkness for His nameís sake, yet this is the predominant religious message of man. Where is the restoration in that???
There is an wonderful example in verse 5 (Jude), "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not." These were those children of Israel who had seen all the great miracles of God (judgment of Egypt, Red Sea parting, manna, water from rocks) yet did not put the slightest bit of faith in Him (Deut 4:33-36). The spiritual rock from which they spiritually drank and that followed them was Christ (1 Cor 10:4, Ps 105:41). They rejected Him. They only thought of themselves, what they would eat or drink and the type of foods they wanted (Ex 16:2-3, Num 11:5-6). They were also idolatrous (Ps 78:58). 1 Corinthians 10:5-7, "But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." They tempted God and many were destroyed (Num 11:1, 10, 33, 14:4, 11, 22, Deut 9:7-8, 16, 22-24) Ė we must take heed lest we fall (1 Cor 10:9-12, Heb 3:16-19). They ate and drank of Godís table and then went out to play in their flesh (lusts, desires, manís will). They also constantly wanted to return back to the bondages of Egypt from which God had delivered them Ė and even made a false god to go before them (Ex 32:3-4, 8). This is highly representative of those who make a commitment to God and then want to return to their old life of sin and use Godís grace as justification (Lk 17:32-33). Galatians 2:18, "For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." They actually serve another God, a golden calf of their own making. This fleshly God loves (how they view love) by overlooking wickedness and evil Ė an unconditional "love god." One who conforms to their (manís) will. God said they were stiff-necked (rebellious) and stiff-hearted and that they would not enter into His Promised Land (salvation, Num 14:23, 32:11, 13, Deut 2:14-16). Those who are rebellious to Godís desire that we conform to Christís image will not enter into heaven. Do you see the correlation? They didnít continue in Godís covenant and He regarded them not (Heb 8:9). God said they were a stubborn and rebellious generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God (Psalm 78:8). Psalms 78:36-37, "Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant." They said one thing and did another Ė their hearts were not on God Ė just a desire for blessings. Many will profess Christ, yet seek their own. Please pay attention to this one: They sent out spies that brought back a bad report. They said the people were many, they lived in walled cities, and there were giants in the land (Num 13:28-33, Deut 1:28). God said that He would be the one to fight the battles, and for them not to fear (Num 10:9, 14:9, Deut 1:30). They rejected Godís counsel this because of their worry and lack of faith. As they spoke in Godís ears, so He did to them (Num 14:28). Therefore, God suffered them to wander in the wilderness until that whole generation dropped dead (as per their own proclamation Ė Num 14:2, 29-35, Heb 3:17). The correlation (allegory) is this: the religious men will tell us that we cannot live without sinning, sin abounds, we will have bad thoughts, we will have bad deeds, there will be high walls (bondages), sin is a giant. Jesus says I have provided my Spirit and I will give you the strength and power you need to fight the battles (Heb 1:9). Put your faith in me and you will enter into My Promised Land. Titus 2:14, "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." The children of Israel erred greatly: Psalms 95:10-11, "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest." Oh religious man, Oh doubter who looks through the eyes of man, will you not trust in Christ? Do you lack faith? Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief (Mk 9:24, Lk 17:5, Heb 3:12, 19). God said that doubtless those who did not rebel against Him would enter into the promised land (Num 14:30-31). There is another strong parallel concerning how the Lord leads Ė symbolic of Christ (Ps 107:7). God led the children of Israel as a pillar of cloud (day) and pillar of fire (night) Ė (Ex 13:21-22, Num 9:16-23, 10:34-35, 14:14, Ps 78:14, 99:7, 105:39). Nehemiah 9:19, "Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go." Jesus is the pillar we follow; for Christ is "the light" (Is 60:1, Lk 1:79, Jn 1:4-5, 9, 8:12, 9:5, 12:35-36, 46) and "the way" (Mt 7:14, Mk 10:52, 12:14, Lk 1:79, 20:21, Jn 14:4, 6). The Lord further stated: Psalm 78:52, "But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock." As previously stated, those who were rebellious, self-seeking (carnal, fleshly) and idolatrous did not enter the promised land (Ps 95:10-11, 106:21-26, Heb 3:10-11). These had an identification with God, but not a heart to do His will. Only a remnant actually entered in. Jesus (the good shepherd) also leads His sheep (Jn 10:4). Isaiah 40:11, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." Similarly, the rebellious goats may abstractly identify with Christ, but will be separated and not enter into eternal life (Mt 25:32-33). Just as the Hebrews followed the cloudy pillar (God), we must "follow" Christ. He leads and we follow Ė we obey.
One religious argument (mindset), using one of their favorite verses: Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." The first thing the religious ignore is the comprehensive meaning of grace. They simply view grace as unmerited favor (and it is true that we do not deserve Godís grace) Ė but in the sense of remaining as they are with Godís approval. Then "through faith" is quickly passed over. Faith is essentially daily living of the belief in your heart in obedience to Godís will with a whole heart. To understanding the truth of what God has revealed and living within that truth while relying on Godís strength. Faith influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ. Our faith justifies us and makes peace with God through Jesus and gives us access to His grace (Rm 5:1-2). Salvation is absolutely a gift of God, and no man through his own works could ever earn it and certainly not boast (1 Cor 1:29, Ps 143:2). For in our flesh dwelleth no good thing (Rm 7:18). What the religious say is that since salvation is a gift of God and cannot be earned by man, then it cannot be sustained or maintained by anything that man does now or in the future, Now this would be true if only considering manís attempts to reach God through his own devices, but is not true for those seeking God though His way as led by His Holy Spirit. This position quickly degenerates into an eternal security or once saved always saved outlook (Is 5:23). That God loves and accepts (?) us no matter what our thought, manner and deed. Meaning that if one once accepted Jesus as Lord, then no matter how one lives or what one does, their eternal salvation will always be secure (a chief tenant of Calvinism). Everything just becomes make believe. With this mentality compromise quickly becomes the norm, manís will prevails while the flesh is constantly fed (Read Rm Chap 8). The burden of our sanctification is shifted to God alone with no real expectation on our part (one-sided relationship). Suddenly everything becomes a work that will not save including repentance and obedience (Mt 5:19). If you think you can reach God any other way than true faith, then you are greatly deceived. You are trying to climb up some other way and are a thief and a robber (Jn 10:1). Godís grace is what allows you to live a life of sustained faith that is well pleasing. Many view their faith as positional Ė they consider their place in Christ as unaffected by their behavior. The Pharisees had positional faith in Abraham. They said they were justified just because they were physical descendants of Abraham. Jesus told them they must do the works of Abraham and this shined a whole new light on the situation (Jn 8:39). Likewise many say they have positional faith in Christ Ė maybe because they said a sinnerís prayer. Godís Word says we are to do the works of Jesus (conform) and this also shines light on the subject. What works did Abraham do? What works did Jesus do? Positional faith is a half truth and as such is lacking (Js 2:20, 26). Positional faith together with obedience produces true faith (Js 2:18). Let us do the works of Christ (as identified in Chapter 2) and conform to His image Ė in His likeness! So the Jews professed to be of Abraham, but did not do his works. Likewise many profess to be in Christ, but do not do His works. In both cases they have not the love of God in them (Jn 5:42, 14:24). To have love for Christ is to keep His commandments (Jn 14:15, 21, 23, 15:10, 1 Jn 5:2-3, 2 Jn 1:6). 1 Corinthians 8:3, "But if any man love God, the same is known of him." Let us obey and love God and have relationship with Him Ė we must not do despite the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29).
Works, Manís or Godís?
We must understand that there are two types of works. One is the religious works man does to try and justify himself based upon merit (referred to as attempting to earn oneís salvation, 1 Cor 1:29). This type of work is unacceptable to God and no man will be justified in it (Rm 4:4) Ė it makes faith void (Rm 4:14)! The other type of work is what naturally occurs as the result of a life yielded and submitted to God in obedient faith (known as fruit). This resultant fruit is Godís works in you. If we are led by the Spirit, then we will produce acceptable works as a result of Godís grace manifested (revealed) in our lives. As we obey the Spiritís leading we conform to Christís image. Godís grace working in us produces Godís works in us (Rm 6:22). These are the visible fruit. Grace compels us to live righteously before God when we are truly converted in heart Ė otherwise we do not have Godís grace. Our fruit is unto eternal life (Jn 4:36). No man will boast before God or merit place (position) based upon personal effort.
Let us look at an example from scripture: Luke 5:3-5, "And he (Jesus) entered into one of the ships, which was Simonís, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. Peter (Simon) was a very capable fisherman who had labored hard all night in his own abilities, yet without any results. At the Lordís Words (who had no earthly background in fishing), he denies the wisdom and experience of the flesh and simply obeys. Luke 5:6-10, "And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." No matter how accomplished we are, our own works are ultimately futile. When we trust and obey God, we are very abundantly productive and fruitful. Jesus was demonstrating that when we release our own efforts (works) and become obedient to Him, He produces the fruitful harvest. This obedient faithfulness also makes us pleasing in His sight Ė brings Him glory. Just how impressed were these seasoned fishermen? Luke 5:11, "And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him." This forsaking included their own works (efforts). Jesus also did the same thing shortly after he had risen from the dead. John 21:3, "Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing." Simon went back to something familiar that he felt confident in doing, but his efforts were in vain. John 21:4-6, "But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes." Jesus once again reinforced the fact that only through Him (obedience to follow His Word) will our efforts be fruitful. Our faithful obedience produces results: John 21:11, "Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken." Jesus then tells Peter he will suffer for His sake but to "follow" Him (Jn 21:18-19, 22).
The truth is that if you take the favorite verses above (Eph 2:8-9) and include verse 10, a different meaning starts to emerge: Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Now this may seem like a paradox, we are not saved of works yet we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. The meaning is plain; manís works do not save. Man has nothing acceptable to offer God. However our walk of "living faith" produces Godís works in us. Salvation is through faith and the proof of faith is a sanctified walk. The latter is the inevitable consequence of the former. Thus by abiding in Christ we will produce acceptable fruit unto God (Jn Chap 15). Thus we will be known by our fruit (Mt 3:10, 7:17-19, & 12:33, Lk 3:9 & 6:43-44, & 13:6-7). This is how the doctrine of eternal security can be judged (aside from scripture), by looking at the fruits of those who practice it. So we are not going about doing things to earn something (Gal 2:16). Secondly our focus is on God and not the works themselves; there is a difference. God regenerates us (converts, born again, newness of life) and through His Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do His will (Eph 4:24). Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" We live a life of faith and are led of the Spirit (must have the Holy Spirit - essential) and thereby produce Godís works or evidences (Js 2:17-19). Romans 6:22-23, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Notice that Romans 2:10 said that we should walk in these good works. Now we start to see our need to follow Christ, our example: 1 John 2:6, "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Now concerning the necessity of obedience and repentance for salvation. From Genesis to Revelation God has made known extensively His desire for man to obey Him. I challenge you to read the entire Bible for yourself. Two examples (one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament): Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 16, "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart (serve through love), and be no more stiffnecked (rebellious)." Hebrews 5:9, "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." The fact is that you will OBEY someone, who will it be? Romans 6:16, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" So if you choose God (through Christ) then it follows: Romans 6:18-19, "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness."
Repentance was preached by: John the Baptist (Mt 3:2, Jn 1:4, Lk 3:3, Acts 13:24); Jesus (Mt 4:17, 9:13, 11:20-21, 12:41, & 21:32, Mk 1:15, & 2:17, Lk 5:32, 13:3,5, & 15:7, Rev 2:5, 2:16, 2:21, 3:3); and the apostles (Mk 6:12, Acts 11:18) Ė notably Peter (Acts 2:38, 3:19, 5:31, 8:22, 2 Pt 3:9) and Paul (Acts 17:30, 19:4, 20:21, 26:20, Rm 2:4, 2 Cor 7:9-10, 2 Tm 2:25). Those who repented were required to bring forth evidences or fruits (Mt 3:8, Lk 3:8, Acts 26:20). John the Baptist turned many back to God through the baptism of repentance (Lk 1:16). Jesus commissioned that repentance be preached: Luke 24:47, "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." When Jesus send the twelve out by twos, they preached that men should repent (Mk 6:12). Always remember: 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Itís the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God that leads you to repentance (Rm 2:4). Therefore if God Himself requires obedience & repentance it is absurd to say they are unacceptable to Him regarding our salvation through Jesus Christ. Of what value would Christís death be to you if you do not think you have done anything wrong or wish to remain as is? Of what benefit would you be to Godís kingdom if you desired to remain in rebellion (not obey) Ė Is this not the condition of the devil and the fallen angels? Oh man, take heed! Run from a message that denies repentance and obedience for salvation. Acts 3:19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
Therefore, we are saved by faith in God, which is the hope we have in Christ Jesus. This faith is exhibited by abiding in Him through obedience to His will as lived out daily. To do this we receive the Holy Spirit and walk as taught/led, verified by His Word. We walk worthy of God (1 Thess 2:12). As a result, our life produces fruit through the pruning of God and not our own efforts. This pruning may not appease the flesh, but will definitely produce a life set apart for God. In short, our faith is demonstrated by our lives. We are ever conforming to the image of Jesus Christ who is the image of God (1 Cor 11:7, 2 Cor 4:4, Col 1:15). If we are not doing these things or are totally oblivious or complacent to them, then we are living to the flesh, rebelling against God, and conforming to the image of Satan.
The Prophets and the Son
God has been very consistent with His message to man throughout the Bible (Old and New Testaments). God sent His prophets and lastly His own Son. These came speaking Godís Words and not their own. The message was always to forsake your evil ways (idolatry, worldliness, sin) and turn to God with a full heart (be humble and obedient in faith) Ė TO REPENT (2 Kg 17:13-14, Neh 9:26, 30, Jer 25:4-5, 26:5, 12-13, 35:15, 44:4, Zech 1:4)! Man has been very consistent in his response to Godís messengers. Man has rejected Godís message in his rebellion and killed Godís messengers and Son (2 Kg 17:13-15, Jer 2:30, Neh 9:26, Ez 20:8, Dan 9:10, Zech 1:4, Acts 7:52). 2 Chronicles 36:16, "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy." However, there has always been a remnant of mankind who grasped and obeyed the message. These are the harvest that God has been seeking. There has also been a group who identify themselves with God (religious), yet seek Him through their flesh and are blinded to their own idolatry and sinfulness (they do not forsake). These love the darkness, associate with the light (but do not come to it) and assume (deception) that their actions are justified with God. They use Godís mercy as a covering to continue in the things that oppose Him (2 Kg 17:41). They twist Godís Words for new meaning (such as: works do not save and repentance is a work).
This is a term that the religious love to throw around even though they do not know the true meaning. Whenever one proclaims obedience to God (which leads to a righteousness holy life) is required, they will most likely be condemned as guilty of legalism. They will say obedience is a work and works do not save. Usually these same religious will be using Godís grace as a covering (license) for their ongoing sinfulness and life in the flesh. Legalism is the obedience to the commandments of men. Never, ever is legalism true loving obedience to the commandments of God. When we attempt to fulfill Godís law through obeying our own set of rules, this is legalism and the works of the flesh. We are not being led and controlled by the Spirit of God. The religious will stress things like perfect attendance at their religious meetings, getting involved at their church complex (campus), increasing membership, programs/activities, or 10% pre-tax tithes to their facility. They will not stress denying the flesh and taking up the cross daily, dying to self to perform Godís will, righteousness/holiness, being led of the Spirit, and true love of oneís neighbor (sacrificial). The best way to tell the false (wolf, Mt 7:15) prophets/ teachers/deceitful workers (2 Cor 11:13-15) is this: Are they leading you toward God (righteousness/holiness) or away from Him (things of the flesh)? Matthew 7:17, 20, "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Legalism may also be trying to perfectly obey the legal law under your own efforts. Apart from God and His Spirit, this is impossible, and no man will gloat before God as having earned his place or have God indebted to him. Christ obeyed the law perfectly by His perfect submission and obedience to the Father as led by His Spirit. We are also required to exercise our faith.
The religious Jews killed the very Messiah they were looking for (awaiting) to deliver them! They were far from knowing God! John 18:28, "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover." Will murder and false witness defile? Something is dreadfully wrong here: The religious Jews had so missed God that they were in the very process of killing Godís own Son, yet they were still concerned about their religious observance of the Passover which was symbolic of Jesus (a foreshadowing). What good did their religion do them? Had it positively affected their hearts in any way? All the symbolism of the passover was embodied in Christ and His living example. The religious were at a minimum knowingly violating commandments concerning false witness and murder against an innocent man. This is how religion clouds the mind (Jn 4:23-24) and blinds the eyes (Jn 9:39). Matthew 27:3-6, "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood." Here again, the religious are concerned about religious procedures Ė unconcerned about killing an innocent man. Do you see the condition of their hearts? Is shedding innocent blood unlawful? Proverb 21:2, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts." Do you worship God through religious procedures or a heart that burns to do His will? Is fear or love the motivation for your relationship?
Jesus did not fit in very well with the religious system of His day. He was always irritating the chief priest, scribes and elders by violating their doctrines and traditions. For instance he healed a man with a withered hand in a Synagogue on the Sabbath (Mt 12:9-13). How did they react? Matthew 12:14, "Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him." At another synagogue, Jesus also healed a woman on the Sabbath who had been bowed over for eighteen years (Lk 13:10-17). On this occasion the religious were put to shame when Jesus pointed out they treated their animals better then their fellow man. Jesus once healed a bed-ridden man who had an infirmary for thirty eight years on the Sabbath (Mk 5:5-15). How did the religious react to this? Mark 5:16-18, "And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God." Notice that Jesus confirmed that what he did was absolutely in Godís will. Now here is the mind of the religious: They would say that the people Jesus healed had been sick for some time, so why did he not heal them on any other day of the week (Lk 13:14)? Does this sound reasonable? All Jesus would have had to do was a little compromise of not healing on the Sabbath to bring unity (does this sound familiar?). Well Jesus intentionally chose the Sabbath to perform these healings because it exposed their hearts Ė and they were far from God. Stuck on legalistic laws and rules with no love or compassion for their fellow man (Lk 11:42). Jesus came to bring sinners to repentance and seek that which was lost. Jesus revealed Godís heart of love and compassion over rigid heartless observances. Obedience to the law without love is legalism and misses the very intent of the law.
Are All who Believe Saved?
John 12:42-43, "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." These men realized that Jesus was the Messiah. They knew the things He was saying were true. Even though they mentally believed they were not willing to follow and as such were unconverted. These men were not willing to submit to God. They were not willing to deny self, make sacrifices, or suffer reproach for Him (Lk 6:22, Heb 13:13). Matthew 10:32-33, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." The issue is this: to truly believe in Christ is to put full faith and trust in Him. This is obedience to His will and is lived out accordingly. Otherwise you despise His purposes in favor of your own. Some tailor or interpret His Word to allow for their continued will and this is making judgment on Godís Word.
So these chief rulers had belief that was really just a mere mental assessment of Christ, which is essentially unbelief. Unbelief is a rebellion and opposition to God (disobedience). It does not deny self and is not willing to give up what pleases the flesh (pet sins and desires). This is opposition to God's will. Unbelief cannot be separated from disobedience. Faith cannot be separated from obedience. 1 John 2:4-6, "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Let each of us so walk!
Messages dealing with selfish gain are a false gospel. Many present God as one that wants the best carnal things this world has to offer for His children. They just have to go out in faith in regain it from the thieving lying devil. God is placed in the position of having to placate a nursery room full of ungrateful self-centered never happy, always whining brats (Eccl 5:10). In other words, God is only there to cater to your fleshly desires. These adherents have God serving them, and they become God. Psalm 10:3, "For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth." Read the account in Exodus (or Psalms Chapter 78) of the children of Israelís wanderings through the wilderness to gain perspective of Godís opinion of whining for things and how He dealt with them. Any parent knows that when you give your children things (excess) all the time it produces a rotten self-centered, ungrateful, rebellious spoiled brat. Producing such has never been Godís goal, but this is what man is. This message makes the Word of God null and void and God out to be a liar. If we love the world, we are an enemy of God (Js 4:4). If we seek the things of the world, the love of God is not in us (1 Jn 2:15-17). If we love money, which is the root of all evil, we have erred from the faith (1 Tm 6:10). If our mind is on the flesh, we cannot please God (Rm 8:6-8). He that trusteth in riches shall fall (Pv 11:28). Jesus never sought such things, rather forsook them, and He is our example. Jesus spoke and lived the way of the cross and self-sacrifice Ė denial! Luke 12:15, "And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." "Take heed" and "beware" are strong words and we should give our undivided attention to what is being said. These prosperity messages always think of serving God in terms of what may be selfishly received, whether in faith, prayer and giving (Pv 23:4). The message is all about getting "blessings." 1 Timothy 6:9, "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." God desires us to freely serve Him in faith through love with no expectation of worldly gain. Luke 16:13, "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money)." This is a gospel of the flesh and is in keeping with manís selfish rebellion against God Ė beware! The men who teach this are destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself (1 Tm 6:5). 1 Timothy 6:6, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." To be content is to be thankful and grateful for such things as you have and not continually seeking more. God loves the humble and meek for they will inherit the earth (Ps 37:11, Mt 5:5). Such is not true of a rich man: Luke 18:25, "For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The rich rely on themselves (ingenuity, skills Ė Ps 49:6, 17-19) and their money or resources rather than God - These things they serve! God will never lead someone who is seeking His will down such a path. This is a broad path for those seeking their own will. Some will look to God to be a genie in a bottle to be called upon when needed for physical healing and coveted things (Eccl 5:15). Woe! Woe! Woe! 1 Timothy 6:7-8, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." The prosperity religious teachers allure through the lusts of the flesh and through much wantonness (2 Pt 2:18). Those who follow them are promised liberty, but are brought into bandage (2 Pt 2:19). Those seeking wealth and worldliness best rethink their efforts and seek righteousness. Proverb 11:4, "Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death."
The Lord said that the children of Israel were a rebellious people and that if He walked in their midst within the camp He would consume them in a moment (Ex 33:1-5). Exodus 33:7, "And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp." Those that sought the Lord came out (from sin and rebellion). Sin sacrifices were made "without (outside)" the camp (Ex 29:15, 8:17, 16:27, 17:11). Hebrews 13:12-13, "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." Those who go outside the camp will not be popular. This same situation presented itself after the nation of Israel split into Israel and Judah: 2 Chronicles 11:14-16, "For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the LORD: And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers." Jeroboamís nation was very religious, yet wicked and those that sought the Lord had to "come out." Those who stood for God were silenced. Today is no different. We must ask ourselves: "Are we willing to come out of this rebellious self-seeking society (the camp, Is 65:2) Ė to separate Ė to come out and worship the Lord?" Are you willing to come out of your own sinfulness (many prefer a false gospel that says they do not have to)? Are you willing to stop going along with the broad path crowd and come out of popular culture (rebellious) and suffer reproach for God to serve Him? 2 Corinthians 6:17, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." When you start becoming the light Christ has called you to be, the religious themselves will put you out. They will not tolerate your presence. Many religious institutions of man are thriving in the midst of a worldly rebellious culture. These are building tremendous religious monuments (facilities, temples) to man. They have not changed society one bit, and worse... There is no separation, but an embracing of those things that will generate new memberships to the organization (manís way of doing things). They love the praise of men. These institutions are reflecting (image of) popular culture with a religious spin Ė a powerless form of godliness Ė a religious placebo or facade. This is the path of least resistance (see Chapter Three)! We are to overcome the world, not be one with it (1 Jn 5:4). We are to follow Christ, not the course of the world (Jn 10:27). We are to be Spirit led and not "purpose driven." When we start conforming to Christ, we will be a great reproach to popular society and will suffer persecution Ė we will be hated (Mt 5:10-12, 10:22-25, 24:9, Mk 13:13, Lk 6:22, 21:17, 15:18-20, 17:14, 1 Jn 3:13). Hebrews 13:12-13, "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach (also 1 Pt 4:14)." Much of this persecution will come from the religious themselves (jealousy, envy, control). If we are in Christ and He is in us then our lives will be as His (Jn 14:20). Christ suffered great reproach (from the religious, Ps 69:7, 20). The religious hated Jesus the most! Are we content to rejoice in Christís suffering, yet seek our popularity and praise with the world? An intimate relationship with Jesus will develop consistency (uniformity of successive results, coherence) between you and your beloved (Job 22:21-22). Opposites do not attract Ė the flesh is contrary (opposed) to the Spirit Ė light repels darkness (darkness hates the light, Jn 3:20). The world hated Christ, the world will hate those who are like Him. An important bonding in any relationship is likeness Ė the two walk together (Amos 3:3).
Jeremiah was a man who suffered reproach for God by speaking His Truth (Word). Jeremiah 20:7-9, "O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." Notice that speaking Godís truth did not make Jeremiah popular and certainly didnít draw followers (members, supporters). He suffered reproach from others for speaking the truth (just like Christ). The flesh never wants to hear messages that deny it, yet these are always the types of messages from God. Jeremiah considered being silent to sooth his flesh (get along with the crowd, compromise), but the Word of God burned within him. A true man of God will never be able to be silent or tone down the Word of God for fleshly comfort (popularity). A true "follower" has Godís nature within. The Word will come forth and convict mightily. Most (living to the flesh) will reject it and try and put out the light (Ps 37:2). To receive the Word will necessitate a change that will invariably deny the flesh. Those that speak the truth of Godís Word will be put out of these religious institutions Ė God separates us one way or the other.
Church growth is the focus for many in the religious world today. This is building empires. Every conceivable worldly notion will be employed to attract new members. The religious believe that almost anything done to bring people to Christ (by their definition) is acceptable. What these people are won with is what they are won to. If something seems a bit uncouth or out of order for their churches, they will Christianize it to their liking. The church becomes a reflection of the world, filled with worldlings Ė yet they refuse to be ashamed (Jer 3:3). 1 John 4:5, "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them." This is a spirit of error (v. 6). The truth is that they are not bringing people to Christ, but to themselves and their institutions. They want to glory in your flesh (Gal 6:13-15). Many have a mass production cookie cutter style approach; void of Christís Spirit that simply produces two fold more the child of hell (Mt 23:15). If one truly comes to Christ as a result, it will most likely be despite their efforts. God is faithful and does deal with man on an individual level. God will touch some hearts despite all this. The Holy Spirit may have been shut out of many religious institutions, but Christ still faithfully reaches out to anyone (the blind) within the religious organizations who have a heart to receive Him. Jesus said, Luke 12:32, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Jesus said His flock was few (little): Luke 13:23-24, "Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." We are told clearly in scripture that most of the world is on the broad path that leads to destruction. The path to eternal life is narrow and does not accommodate large crowds. God doesnít limit the numbers of who may travel; itís just that few will truly respond. Man will inherently choose to live his own will rather than sacrifice and deny himself for God and will convince himself that he is right. Being religious does not place you on the narrow path! The strait gate is not entered by partial obedience to God through human reasoning, but rather unconditional surrender to the will of God. We are told that some one billion people in the world are Christians Ė Christ knows who are really His for He looks at the heart (Nah 1:7). 2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity (sin)." Interesting that Jesus would associate those who are His and departing from sin, in the same thought. Worldliness is enmity with God and thus sin. If the religious insist on using such methods, then they make themselves enemies with God. Matthew 22:14, "For many are called, but few are chosen (Also Mt 20:16)."
Prior to entering the Promised Land, the children of Israel were warned over and over not to mix with the evil around them (Deut 7:2, 5, 25). They were told these evil influences would turn their hearts from God, particularly their children (Deut 7:4). They were told that these evil people (world) would be a snare to them in serving false gods (Deut 7:16). The religious of today try and reach the world with the things of the world. Many religious institutions have become as the world. Look and see how this evil has turned the hearts of their children from God to the world. The surest sign is the fruit. Most must now be constantly entertained in their flesh such that they can tolerate a few words of truth (sometimes twisted) from Godís Word. The worldly religious of today are seeking the flesh and most certainly not the Spirit. Jesus does not manifest Himself to those living as the world, but rather to those who keep His commandments resulting in a precious relationship (Jn 14:22-24).
The religious are now redefining terms and seeking worldly methods of marketing and quality control. Books have been written and associations have been formed. The lost and sinful are now seekers. Churches are being designed to appeal to them on their worldly level and not offend their conscious nor convict their hearts. Give the people what they want; appeal to the consumer. 1 John 4:5, "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them." The organized religious institutions of man are conforming to the world and its image and not that of Christ. The target audience (sinner) calls the shots concerning what the institution should be, based upon the target audienceís likes and dislikes (image). The religious organization literally transforms itself into the image of the world to attract the world in its lust for members and acceptance within the world. Growth and popularity become success and this is the worldís standards (not Godís). The message of Christ has been sugar coated and watered down and is "another gospel" altogether. This is a process of manipulation whereby one is slowly acclimated into the religious institution by degrees. Worldly and devilish psychology practices and mind changing processes are being incorporated into the religious organizations. Unity is being achieved downwardly through consensus and compromise using Hegelian Dialectic; a process where each extreme of an issue is demonized such that a predetermined middle ground will be adapted and embraced. This is a process of managed change for manís purposes and not Godís. This is manipulation and control and is witchcraft at its worse. Many are being asked to leave these congregations (Jn 16:2) because they may question (have conviction) the "church growth" tactics. These churches are not being upfront and honest with their "seekers." People are drawn into the religious institutions through worldly (yet Christianized) rock and roll music, dinner theaters, plays and productions, and activities such as church sponsored sports, aerobics, topical seminars, patriotic celebrations (such as singing flag chorus), holiday galas (such as singing christmas tree choirs), beach trips, summer camps, etc. Can we honestly imagine Jesus taking His disciples on a church beach or ski vacation - sun tanning on the beach in a bathing suit with a bandana, pair of shades and temporary Christianized tattoo? Is this what the Father would direct Christ to do? This would be ridiculous and demeaning to Godís majesty, but was written to prove a point. Are these the types of things Jesusí body (the church) should be involved in? Jesus was about the Fatherís business and there was barely time for eating, much less leisure (Mk 6:31). These religious institutions should invoke their own "what would Jesus do" test on themselves. Of course they will say that they will pass out a few gospel tracts and are providing wholesome recreation for their youth. The gospel is still a mystery to them as they seek God through the flesh (see Speaking in Parables, Chapter Two).
The truth is that religious groupís measure success by the bottom line Ė numbers. To them popularity and crowds mean that God is moving and they proudly pat each other on the back. Sinnerís prayers are said, membership papers are signed, church responsibilities and rules class 101 is attended, and positions within the organization are assigned. Amidst all the worldliness, an outward expression of a truly changed life will not be recognized or even considered to be necessarily required. True godly examples to follow may not exist for there is death in this pot (2 Kg 4:40). If one truly desires to seek God and follow or asks questions, he may be told to watch out for legalism, extremism, or fanaticism. Oh man, God looks for a changed heart and a surrendered life that can be molded by His will to produce an acceptable work that will withstand the fires of purification (1 Cor 3:13). True faith will manifest in oneís actions and devotion. The Spirit will conform us to Christ, and not the world. The flesh will be denied; not filled to overflowing.
Letís examine what Jesus said about John the Baptist. John 5:35, "He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." John was a shining light or in other words, a perfect witness for God. What was Johnís message? Johnís message was to repent, confess your sins, bring forth evidence (demonstration in your life) of your repentance, and turn from your sin or face the wrath to come (Mt 3:1-11). John said that Jesus would gather in the wheat and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire (Mt 3:12). He said that those who were fruitless would be cast into the fire (Mt 3:10). This message was a "turn or burn" type of sermon. This was not an "unconditional love" message. This was not a church growth message and certainly does not appeal to the flesh. Yet Jesus said John was a burning and shining light Ė he represented Godís will in the matter. John was great in the sight of the Lord (Lk 1:15). This message will not be preached in any seeker meetings or be put in any how to grow your church books or seminars. Oh man, your religious organizations are growing through fleshly doctrines, but you greatly err (Mt 23:15). It is good to have godly fear and this may be the means in which some realize their error and condition, but we must also recognize that this must lead to a devotion to God. We must be motivated through our love for Him. To serve God strictly out of fear (hell) is self-centered and rebellious toward God.
The true body of Christ should be encouraging one another to come to the light of Christ and to walk righteously and not follow the course of this world. We all need such encouragement in this fallen world, particularly in this evil end of the age in which we live. Those who truly seek to live godly should find refuge in the body of Christ ("the Church"). If the religious institutes are not being led by the Holy Spirit and more resemble the world, then all they are offering is a placebo (fake substitute with no power or life). You feel like your serving God, maybe its "emotional" - but many are being led away from Him. What religious institution is saying deny yourself, take up your cross and follow? Denying and taking up your cross are known as dying to self! Are there any that are not focused on building projects, remodeling, funding, and membership?
We once attended a religious denomination that had what was called, "childrenís church." There was a carnival like atmosphere in a large room with painted figures on the walls, colored lighting and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. The children were "entertained" from the moment they entered until services concluded. There were puppet shows, skits and contests/games with prize give-aways. The children were encouraged to compete (not show love or sacrifice) for prizes, money and candy (lusts after - covet). They were also given things for reading certain scriptures at home (bribery, false motives). My children (and others) would get angry if they didnít win or were not picked (envy, bitterness, hatred, jealousy). My son received a card for his birthday with "christianized" rub-on tattoos (Lv 19:28 Ė pagan skin markings, rebellion). The children watched fictitious christianized cartoons and listened to christianized rock and roll music. During the holidays, all the worldís paganism was fully manifested Ė from egg hunts to Santa songs. Everything was centered on entertaining the flesh, even if a Christian teaching was incorporated. The fruits of the flesh were clearly manifested. The fruit of the Spirit was noticeably absent. The religious thought this was great and saw no problems Ė after all the kids loved it and the crowds were coming. The religious take great notice of numbers (attendance, commitments, tithing and memberships) and measure success by them. These children will grow up and take the church into deeper levels of apostasy and worldliness. Isnít this how change takes place? Man takes over and improves. The Word of God is put aside or tailored and the Holy Spirit does not lead. These improvements accumulate over the years until things are far from what was intended. Each generation only knows those doctrines and traditions they were taught and those they added. What one generation tolerates the next embraces. Those that follow the Word and the Spirit then become fanatics, extremists and legalists out to stop the fun.
That which has been shall be again and that which is done shall be done again (Eccl 1:9). God took His chosen people, Israel, from being a reproach to being exceedingly beautiful (Ez 16:3-14). However Israel trusted in her own beauty (Ez 16:15). This is what the devil had done (Ez 27:3, 28:12, 15, 17, 31:8-9). Israel became a harlot to the world. She took the things of God and sought after the things of men (Ez 16:17). Israel became estranged from God and totally given over to the things of the world. They did not remember their nakedness (sin) and polluted blood (life Ė is in the blood) Ė Ez 16:22. The modern "growth" oriented religious institutions of today are no different. They are harlots to the world and seek its popularity and acceptance. Membership, membership, membership. This translates into popularity, control, money and huge religious buildings with every conceivable form of entertainment for the flesh. Is God pleased with their religious zeal? Brethren, do not be overcome by the world (1 Jn 5:4-5).
True love is giving, sacrificial and longsuffering. It never seeks its own, but always places others first. True love will speak the truth of Godís Word in gentleness, but unyielding firmness. Jesus exhibited true love as He ministered to the needs of others, yet spoke against injustice, error and hypocrisy. Jesus later laid His life down for those of us who are just plain undeserving. Those who speak falsely, compromise, downplay or repress the truth will have made a covenant with death and with hell an agreement as they seek to satisfy (Is 28:15). Perhaps they are concerned they might offend or be unpopular for standing against the flesh. This message will bring death to the hearer as offenses are overlooked, praise is unduly dispensed or received and misdirection is given, confirmed or blessed. True love is not unconditional because there are bounds for behavior and motive, but true love is forgiving and merciful to the repentant cry.
Many teach Godís love is unconditional. This allows self-willed rebellious man to set the terms of peace and reconciliation with God. This doctrine says that once one has made a profession of Christ that no matter what one does, God must overlook it because He can only see Christís blood. However, is this blood not precious? Why did it have to be spilt? Christís sacrifice was necessary because Godís love is conditional and God does not just overlook sin and rebellion. Christ did not come to justify you to continue to seek your own will and thereby continue in sin Ė the very thing God hated, and that necessitated Christís death. We must understand that under the original law there was no room for mercy Ė all who violated the law were condemned. Christís shed blood now allows for mercy under the law (Heb 7:12, 25, 8:6-7, 9-13, 9:15, 10:9). Acts 13:39, "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." This mercy is for those who seek Christ and is not used as a means to accompolish your own evil intents and purposes Ė to live your way. Reconciliation and mercy only happens when man lays down all rebellion to God and conforms to His will and purposes. When man lives his will and only seeks Godís acceptance, then man exalts himself above God. In other words, man tells God he will accept Godís provision for the forgiveness of sin (Christís death) as long as God accepts man as he is and will love him unconditionally. This is a doctrine of the truly unconverted, for to be converted is to die to your will and unconditionally serve God. Notice the opposites: God says man will love Him unconditionally, but man says God will love him unconditionally. Which do you suppose the devil would endorse? To human reasoning and manís will, unconditional love seems so right, yet manís nature is corrupt and fallen. Proverb 14:12, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." The real question should be: why does a truly loving and righteous God even concern Himself with sinful rebellious man (Ps 8:4)? God is looking for that remnant with a heart toward Him that He will reconcile to Himself (Rm 9:27). These will submit to God unconditionally. Those who desire unconditional love only want God to serve their selfish desires and they shall have neither. These either love the darkness or are to proud to repent.
Abraham is our example of what God desires (Gen Chap 22). He was told to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham did not question God, but totally submitted to Godís will in the matter (Heb 11:17). Abraham no longer lived for self, deciding right and wrong. He was willing to obey, regardless of cost. Abraham was willing to sacrifice that which he loved to obey God. He showed that he feared God through his actions and God was pleased (Gen 22:12). We must have this same faith. Galatians 3:9, "So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." To do the works of Abraham would be to die to self and offer all to God upon the altar with no conditions (Jn 8:39). Many say, I will serve you "IF." God does not negotiate with a rebellious mankind (Num 23:19). God "IS" and "WILL BE" regardless of your acceptance of Him. God displayed great love and provided a way of reconciliation that cost Him dearly and was of His choosing (Christís death). Those who lovingly accept Godís way will be reconciled. Those who do not come to God on His terms simply manifest their continued rebellion and justify a deserved judgment of condemnation. These will be separated from God into the hellish result of rebellion fully matured, for eternity. There they will experience their greatly magnified, yet totally unsatisfied lusts and fleshly desires forever, never to be fulfilled Ė for these are what they chose over love of God. None of Godís creation will protest their judgment because God is totally righteous in the matter and the wicked condemn themselves.
We must have correct faith toward our Lord. Many have faith to believe in Christ and that their sins are forgiven. However, misplaced faith will view this forgiveness as a type of covering that allows one to remain a servant of sin rather than being freed from sin (Jn 8:34-36, Rm 6:6-7, 11-18, Gal 1:4). These will say, "Not perfect, just forgiven." The inference is that we all do the same bad things, but since I profess Christ its OK for me to do them (Gal 2:17, 1 Pt 1:14-16, 3 Jn 1:11). This is displeasing to the Lord because it undermines and negates His will (1 Jn 3:8-9). This type of faith is in vain because your nature and fruit have not changed (conversion, born again) to conform to His will (1 Jn 2:29). These make Jesus a cloak for their continuance in sin (Jn 15:22, 1 Jn 1:6, 2:4, Jude 1:4) and dishonor Him greatly (Rm 2:8-9). Correct faith will view forgiveness as the mechanism whereby we can now live and be pleasing to the Lord and bring Him glory (Rm 2:7, 1 Jn 1:7, 2:5-6, 3:3, 7). This faith views Jesus as the Savior who delivers from sin (Mt 1:21, 2 Tim 2:19, Gal 1:4, Col 2:11, Ti 2:14, 1 Pt 2:24, 1 Jn 3:4-6, 5:18, Rev 1:5) and provides grace to live righteously (1 Pt 1:5) and holy by abiding in Him (Ti 2:11-14, Rm 6:7, 22-23). Acts 3:26, "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." The new man (born again) is created in righteousness and true holiness Ė not pretend (Eph 4:24, 1 Thess 4:7). We recognize that God converts, leads and guides us to be pleasing in His sight Ė we just obey from a loving and submissive heart (1 Pt 1:2, 22). Thus God works in us to do His good pleasure (Php 2:13, Heb 13:21) Ė God working, youíre conforming. This cannot happen if you are working in you to live for self, cling to darkness and thus do the leading and guiding (Jn 3:19-20). Luke 11:35, "Take heed therefore that the light (air of religiosity, misplaced faith) which is in thee be not darkness." So the exercise of correct faith will be to forsake ungodliness and be obedient to the Spirit so as to be conforming to the image (likeness) of Christ (Rm 6:4-6). To further illustrate this point, a hypothetical and somewhat absurd example: One could have all the faith in the world in believing that God would help them rob a bank such that they could be rich; yet this faith would be misdirected and in vain. Why? Because God would not endorse (assist and abet) stealing, lust and covetousness, self-seeking, the love of money, or a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations Ė nor would God become your servant to enrich yourself in such worldliness. All these things would oppose His righteous character and will Ė and you thereby make yourself an enemy. In the same way, we cannot view Christís forgiveness as license to do what opposes Him Ė and thereby become an enemy. Jesus will not "just understand" your love of darkness and resulting rejection of His great, tremendous, and precious sacrifice. We have no hope apart from Christ. We must seek to become "the friend of God" as Abraham did through obedience (Js 2:20-24).
Many often pray for things they want (self-centered) or for Godís blessing on the things they have already decided to do (self will). They essentially want God to serve them rather than them serving God, but do not necessarily see it that way. This is attempting to elevate yourself above God just like the devil attempted to do (Is 14:12-14). Jesus said: John 14:13, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Prayers are to accomplish Godís will for His glory. God is not glorified when you pray selfishly to indulge your own lusts. It should be understood that those who truly seek God are seeking His will and not their own. Many live as they choose with little regard for God, but always expect God to be there when needed? God is not a genie in a bottle to be called upon through the will of man. Many believe if they can pray with enough faith, then God will provide a Cadillac, nice career or big home. This is misplaced faith for fleshly things that are not needful. Itís self-centered and violates Godís will. Any answers that may be received from such prayers are probably demonically arranged to deceive and misdirect focus from God to selfish desires. Perhaps God will answer them according to the multitude of their idolatry giving them over to their true love Ė self (Job 34:11). Consider this: 1 John 5:14, "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us." AND 1 John 3:22, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." Many cannot understand why prayers seem to go unanswered. 1 Peter 3:12, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." When you live for Godís will, He responds to your requests. James 4:3, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." When we pray selfishly, we ask amiss for our own lusts. John 15:7, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Abiding in Christ is loving Him by obeying His Words (commandments - Lk 14:23). John 9:31, "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." Godís will is not for selfish or wicked motives. Proverb 15:29, "The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous." When we rise above our will and seek only Godís, then our prayers will be answered Ė and things will go well.
Matthew 6:5-8, "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." Many in religious denominations pray disingenuous prayers for healings of church members when their own doctrines deny that supernatural healings and gifts per 1 Corinthians 12:9 are for today. These prayers seem to be more obligations and placating of desperate family members and for show, than sincere faith. They do not really expect an answer and would most likely be surprised to see one. Such was the case of those praying when Peter was imprisoned (read Acts 12:5-16). A doctor is much more likely to get credit than God. James 5:16, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Let us live righteously that God will answer our prayers. We can pray in public for pretence or we can fall on our knees in secret and be for real before God. We should talk to God from our heart and be prepared to follow His directions. Often, what God knows we have need of and what we think we have need of are two different things with two different timings. Do you seek Godís blessings or Godís will? Notice in the lead-in verses that prayer in secret is intimacy with God. No distractions, no ulterior motives just a desire to communicate.
How Do I Pray
Luke 11:1-2, "And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." We are to exalt and praise God (recognize His greatness). We are to pray that Godís will be accomplished (in us) in all things and not our will (not selfish things) Ė we yield to Him in everything. This shows our need to be conforming to Christís image and dying to the things of self and the world. Luke 11:3, "Give us day by day our daily bread." We recognize that everything we have comes from God. He is our all in all Ė the bread of life (Jn 6:35). We depend upon God, not ourselves or others (no self-sufficiency). Luke 11:4, "And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. When we ask to be forgiven, we must recognize that we must also forgive (Mt 18:23-35). And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." We must be repentant of all our transgressions against God and be set apart for His service. We must be actively fighting sin (Jn 8:34, 1 Jn 3:3, 7-10, Js 4:8) in our lives and all appearance of evil (1 Th 5:22). We put Godís Word in our heart that we not sin against Him (Ps 119:11). When we resist temptation (Mt 26:41), God makes a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). We cannot pray for deliverance from temptations and then willingly put ourselves in tempting situations (in front of TV?). An alcoholic that seeks deliverance would not be expected to seek fellowship in a bar. Matthew 6:13 adds: "ÖFor thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." The verse says "IS" and this is in present tense. Matthew 4:17, "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The kingdom of heaven is now! Luke 17:21, "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." We are to be actively living in the kingdom of heaven right now on earth.
Fasting is the process whereby one denies oneís flesh to specifically seek God. The Spirit rises above the flesh. You may recall that Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights in the wilderness seeking the Father prior to the start of His earthly ministry (Mt 4:2). Fasting is pleasing to God because one willingly gives up something in self denial to seek Him out of love. This is an expression of our professed love. True love (sacrifice) is demonstrated when we secretly fast for the needs of others. Jesus said His disciples would fast after His departure (Mt 9:15). When we fast, it is not for show, for men to see, and should be kept as confidential as possible. This is private intimacy between you and God and you must not appear to be fasting (Mt 6:17-18). Some types of deliverance can only be accomplished through fasting (Mt 17:21). Fasting could be abstaining from eating for a meal, day, week, etc. Fasting could be giving up something you enjoy for a period of time and truly seeking God (1 Cor 7:5). What, when, the duration, and how frequently you fast is between you and God. The point is that the desires of the flesh are being subdued, denied and become subservient to the Spirit to seek Godís purposes in your life or anotherís with a sincere desire to serve. Fasting is just one outlet whereby we may demonstrate our faith if done with the correct motives for the right intent. Everyone should seek God through periodically fasting in some way. When you declare a fast to God you must be faithful to complete it (Eccl 5:4-5). Do not say and not do.
Matthew 6:16-18, "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." This is fasting to be seen of men for personal glory (self). This does not honor God nor does it show love for others. When some fast they make it a point to tell everybody. They work it into their conversations or mope about hoping someone will ask why. They may make more of it than there is such as fasting from a specific food on a specific day each year as a ritual requirement of their religion. Fasting for others to see is seeking personal glory and exalts the flesh rather than the Spirit. Fasting is a part of your intimate relationship with Christ. Itís just between you and He and must be guarded as such.
The first thing you must realize in giving is that God does not need your money. God has created this world and owns everything: Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (also Deut 10:14, Ps 89:11, 1 Cor 10:26)." Giving is for your benefit, to grow and mature you to be as your Lord. Giving is a denying of self for the benefit of others - love. Giving is self-sacrifice and a humbling of oneself to God. Giving can be in terms of money, possessions, time, labor, etc. We are to feed, clothe, visit, and lodge others in need (Pv 19:17, 22:9, 28:27, 29:7). Jesus said when you give to these that ye have done it unto Him (Mt 25:40). Giving may just as easily be the coat off your back as money from your wallet. The key here is that this is a sacrifice on our part. Mark 12:41, "And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." Some give much out of their abundance (no real sacrifice), but others little out of their need (great sacrifice). 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." Some give out of obligation or fear. Many religious organizations make one feel obligated/guilty about giving a 10% tithe. Recall, the Levitical priesthood is gone, so there is no more required 10% tithe. However, the religious institutes of man have created another unauthorized priesthood. These institutions will say this 10% pre-tax tithe must go to them. They must pay their staffs and build big buildings and further their organization. Godís desire is that you give out of the love of your heart and often that will exceed 10%. We should give to those men who are truly being used of God, but not as a required arrangment and perhaps totally in secret.
There is no requirement as to where you must give, but one must be responsible about it. If you do not give cheerfully, then you have missed the point. Matthew 6:1-4, "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." We are not to give for selfish reasons (personal gain Ė Lk 6:35) or to derive personal praise (such as a plaque with our name on some fixture in a religious structure). We are to give discreetly (secretly) Ė itís between us and God as part of our intimate relationship. Some give expecting a benefit such as a tax deduction and thus they have their reward. The religious made deals with the government (long ago) and obtained a tax-exempt status (501C3). This of course requires much paper work (peering eyes) and is what you might call a sounding of the trumpet. You can be sure the religious organizations know who the big givers are. You can also be sure the religious big givers let the religious institutes know who they are. Religious organizations require tithe envelopes and records; after all, they are beholding to the government and must comply Ė lots of records to keep. If you have ever given to any "established ministry" distant or local regardless of itís intended purpose (such as feeding hungry, creation science, teaching, rescue mission, etc.) you will most likely end up on a mailing list. You will receive never ending solicitations (manipulations) for contribution and support. These worldly mass marketing gimmicks should be a tip-off (fruit) for legitimacy. The Lord never intended for giving to be conducted in such a manner. Those that are guilty of using such mass solicitations need to do some serious re-examining of their purposes, methods and authenticity.
The other negative side to this is that many will only want to give to tax-exempt organizations (after all, being good stewards) and this certainly deters direct secret giving (or open) to the needy Ė these are seeking a benefit (tax deduction). Itís all as easy as writing a check Ė you will never even have to see or talk to these poor folks you are helping (after the institute pays all its expenses of course). However, there is no greater personal satisfaction than directly helping someone truly in need Ė making a real difference in someoneís life. This is lost through much of the impersonal giving done today. If we are in a position to meet a need directly, we are to do so and not to defer it to others (Js 2:15-17) such as some church benevolence committee. God does promise that if we feed the hungry that we will not go hungry (Ps 41:1). The Lord does reciprocate our actions based upon our measure (Lk 6:38). Personal gain (1 Tim 6:5) can never be our motive because that is an exalting of self (Mt 23:12) with no true love or sacrifice. Some have been presented a gospel of gain Ė give to receive much more Ė you canít out give God. Even the worst sinner would give to receive ten times as much. Yet the scriptures say: 1 Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Often Jesus says that we are building treasure in heaven (for a later time, Mt 6:19-20, 19:21, Mk 10:21, Lk 12-33-34). Lastly, we cannot view our giving as some merit on our part, for we are doing only what is required. However God says that He will re-pay us: Proverb 19:17, "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." When we are in need God will help us.
I once heard a preacher (told the congregation) tell of a couple who approached him in the parking lot as he was locking up the church building. They said they needed gas and food and were trying to travel home. He told them that the benevolence committee members had already left for the day and sent them away. Then as he got into his truck, it occurred to him that he could actually give them some of his own money. So he went and found them and gave them five dollars. Another religious man once told me that he was approached in the church parking lot by a young lady who told of how her life was so messed up and she needed food and diapers for her child. He wanted her to come into the church and talk with the religious authorities. She said she did not feel worthy. Finally this man gave her five dollars and lectured her about not spending the money on drugs. If he suspected fraud, he could have taken her to a nearby store and bought her the things she needed, but then he would have missed religious services that should be telling one to love his neighbor. I am not trying to be pious here, but am trying to make a point. In both cases these men did do the right thing in giving of their own resources. However, we should also give enough to meet the particular need assuming we have the ability. The result of our listening and hearing Godís Word should be a direct application of it in our lives. One who is a doer of the Word is on the road to mastering hearing the Word. We must open our eyes to see (Jer 5:21, Ez 12:2, Mt 13:15).
So What Went Wrong in the Synagogues?
Remember, our righteousness must exceed that of the religious Jews (Mt 5:20). Lets re-cap what we have already discussed about them: (1) They did works to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries (slips of scripture text); enlarge the borders of their garments; love the uppermost rooms at feast & chief seats in the synagogues; love greetings in the market and titles of distinction (Mt 23:5-12). (2) Loved to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men; used vain repetitions thinking that they shall be heard for their much speaking (Mt 6:5-8). (3) When they gave, they sounded a trumpet before them to receive glory from men (Mt 6:1). (4) When they fasted, they had a sad countenance and disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast (Mt 6:16). (5) They were self-righteous (Lk 18:10-14). (6) They held their doctrines and traditions of men in higher regard than obedience to God (Mk 7:7-8). (7) Appeared righteous to men on the outside (Mt 23:28) and justified themselves before men (Lk 16:15). (8) They were legalistic with no love or compassion toward their fellow man (Mt 12:10 & 23:4, Mk 3:2, Lk 11:42). (9) They hindered true worship (Lk 11:52, Amos 2:11-12). (10) Professed God with lips - but didnít follow, they were hypocrites (Mk 7:6, Lk 12:1). (11) They omitted the weightier matters of the law, like judgment, mercy, and faith (Mt 23:23). (12) They had no discernment (Mt 16:3). (13) Disregarded true messengers from God (Mt 23:29). (14) They also trusted in the fact that they were descendants of Abraham and heirs to the promise. (15) They trusted in their ability to keep the law as their salvation. (16) Spoke evil from an evil heart (Mt 12:34-36). (17) For they say, and do not (Mt 23:3). (18) Their works were unacceptable (Mt 23:3). (19) They judged Jesus unworthily saying He had a demon, was mad, and was a sinner (Mt 12:24, Jn 10:20). (20) They were full of manís wisdom, always learning, but never understanding God (2 Tm 3:7). They were truly blind leaders of the blind (Mt 15:14, 23:24). Matthew 23:33, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" They shall receive the greater damnation (Mt 23:14).
Perhaps you noticed that everything they did was for self (totally self and man-centered). John 12:43, "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." They sought their own glory, they did not glorify God. Isaiah 5:21, "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! They followed after the flesh, not the Spirit (Php 3:3, 9). They were also very protective of the institute they had established and would defend it at any cost: John 12:19, "The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him (Jealousy/envy)." John 11:49-50, "And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient (useful/profitable) for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." They were concerned that they would lose their glory and were all the eager the kill Jesus. Isaiah 5:14, "Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it." Consider carefully: Romans 10:21, "But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." They wouldnít humble themselves and die to their will to serve God. Gainsaying is to refuse Ė they loved the darkness and loved not the truth.
Now many might consider the things that Jesus said of the religious as unloving. I submit to you that what Christ said to them showed a tremendous amount of love. Jesus was correcting them of their gross error and also providing an example for the religious of today (Do they see it?). Jesus was showing them how far they were missing Godís will. They just did not accept it as most will not today. Had they taken this correction to heart and repented they would have been saved. They didnít heed the advice and: John 8:21, "Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come." They were not following! When one dies in their love of darkness, they can no longer come to Christ. This is the condemnation: pride exalts itself and balks at wisdom. Self does not want to yield. These religious had built a tremendous system on error. The same can be said of much today. Repentance requires a humbling of oneself and a submission of the will. Repentance requires a confession of fault and guilt. Repentance requires a forsaking and a new direction. How many are willing? The self-righteous (lukewarm) rarely repent (they donít see the need), but the sinful and lost (cold) often realize their wickedness and fall upon Godís mercy. When you see the need and submit to God, then reconciliation can result.
What about the Religious of Today?
Could the religious of today be as the Jews were when Jesus walked the earth? Absolutely! They make a name for themselves through their denominations, doctrines, traditions, religious works, books, television programs, and large buildings. Pastors, deacons, committees, big tithers or influential church folk run the churches, often lording it over all others Ė perhaps somebodyís ancestor helped build or start the church. Cherished positions might include head of childrenís church, Sunday school administrator/teacher, elder or deacon, nursery lead, member of the choir/soloist, building committee chair/member, or treasurer. These positions come with power, popularity, respect and control. Some become cliquish and form clans or groups. To maintain or accumulate power/position, many hold to the doctrine of Balaam (Rev 2:14). Many want to be recognized before the body for some service they perform and are hurt if they donít receive due glory (self-centered, fleshly). Certain pews/seats may be unofficially claimed by some as "our seats." The pastors (clergy) tend to claim the spotlight, chief seats, and recognition from their (ownership of) members. After all they have certificates, awards, and diplomas. Perhaps the pastor wants to be called Reverend. These are the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6) who lord it over the people. Members (known as laity) are regularly manipulated through emotion/fear/peer pressure to give extra money and time for building programs or improvements, projects or to work in some area of the institution. This religious machine takes a lot of man power to run it. Church governments are established and patterned after the secular government. Heaven is ruled by God alone, not majority vote! Ministry teams are dispatched to visitorís homes to recruit new members for the institute or denomination. Some visitors may not be welcome (minorities, poor, fanatics, Js 2:1-4). There is very little separation from the world these days and more than likely a reflection of it. Some may be in the midst of Satanís seat (Rev 2:13) Ė the devil seeks to rule and corrupt from within (2 Cor 11:13-15). Some women operate in the spirit of Jezebel through their manipulated husbands (maybe behind the scenes). Most are lukewarm concerning Christ and are therefore wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev 3:16-17). Yet given their monuments (mega-church, gymnasium, church camp, youth facility, mission trips, etc.), they feel they are rich and in need of nothing. Many have left their first love (Rev 2:4). Christ must be the sole focus and have all preeminence. The Holy Spirit must lead. Love must be manifested.
Doing the Will of God?
When one joins a religious institution (through saying a repeated prayer, baptism, signing a doctrinal statement, transfer of membership, etc.), they will most likely be assigned a position to serve the institution (building, denomination, etc.). They may be asked to be an usher, choir/band member, bus driver, Sunday school worker, committee member or various other tasks. They will also be expected to serve the religious institution through attendance, tithing, denominational proselytizing, learning/agreement and such. The religious see all this as doing the will of God. What this book has tried to reveal is that doing/performing the will of God (in practice) is a life lived daily with the foundation being Godís Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We perform Godís will when we acknowledge the sin/transgression/rebellion/iniquity in our own lives and turn from it (forsake). We do the will of God when we seek Him in our daily lives with love in our hearts. This may involve reading His Word, praying, and denying self by walking as Christ walked. We do Godís will when we guard our hearts and eschew all evil (see Chapter Three, A Tremendous Idol). We do Godís will when we stop seeking to be as the world and rid our lives of all idolatry (example Ė Chapter Seven, Christ(mass), A Worldly Celebration). We do Godís will when we see someone in need and meet that need not expecting anything in return. We do Godís will when we live daily by example and become a bright and shining light to those around us. We do Godís will when we suffer reproach for standing for the name of Jesus Christ in a world that opposes Him. This list could go on and on. Doing Godís will is found in our daily faith and devotion to Him. Notice that all these things are done aside from the religious institution. The religious institution says we must reach and serve God through it. Jesus says that He is the head of the true body and has given it His Spirit. Who do you follow? Stop being religious and start being real!
Apostasy Ė Its Here and the End is Near
Apostasy is abandoning God, whom you have given yourself to. Sometimes the true God is exchanged for a fake facsimile more resembling manís image of what he wants in a seamless transfer (deception). What are the steps to apostasy? Romans 1:21, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Many know Godís Word, but choose to ignore much of the truth. They create a God in their own image that allows the flesh to reign. They say nothing is required of me but a mental assent to the facts. They are not thankful and dishonor Christ by continuing to walk in their sins and seek the things of the world. They do not fight the flesh or grieve over the sin in and around them. They use Godís grace and forgiveness as license to fulfill the desires of the flesh. They seek their own will rather than Godís and have become proud. Romans 1:24-25, "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." They serve themselves under the cloak of religion. They love not the truth of Godís Word which is to totally submit to Godís will in love (sacrifice). The Word of the Lord becomes a repraoch to them and they have no delight in it! They seek their own and thus remove themselves from the true light and this darkens their foolish heart. Romans 1:26-32, "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." This is where much of manís organized religion is today, focused on the flesh and things of the world. They have religious conventions to push for the acceptance, recognition of marriage, and ordination of homosexuals. Can you see how far from God things have become? This was the culmination of Sodomís (Sodomites) wickedness. This is a point of great judgment. Leviticus 18:22, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." Religious men have also been peddling a gospel of gain (covetousness) for some time. Just name it and claim it Ė money, wealth, blessings, and the good life for the flesh. Others are telling us that we will just all fly away in a rapture to avoid any sacrifice. There is a scientist that has an organization that has attempted to reconcile the Bible with manís scientific explanations of creation. He has allowed for evolution, death before the fall of man, vast geological ages and a local rather than global flood. He travels the country peddling manís knowledge over Godís truth in the religious institutions and is gladly received. Several big name television and radio preachers and one major Christian magazine have endorsed these views. The Pope of Romanism has also endorsed these views. These types of apostasy are the content of the best selling Christian "positive thinking" books. There are no best sellers on dying to self and the things of the world Ė but that is Christís gospel! Large donations will not be garnered from telling self to die and submit totally to God. Why is the truth not being told? The truth is not told because the truth does not profit the flesh.
The reprobate mind is one that lacks moral discernment. It no longer sees the evil as evil. The reprobate just stops grieving over sin. This sin may be a hundred little things in a given day Ė a word here and a thought there. Most things will be justified away in total compromise. God is no longer in their thoughts (Ps 10:4). Everything becomes just innocent fun, make believe, fantasy, and pretend. Everybodyís doing it, nobodyís perfect Ė you have to live in this world and itís all so innocent. We are delivered to do these things, letís be open minded - tolerance. To be conscious of God and having Him in your thoughts is to fight the flesh and the things of the world which is the exaltation of self. To honor God is to follow and obey daily. These will constantly be humble and broken before God. Those who have knowledge of God will grieve over the evil and they will run from it to God and cleave to Him.
Politics and Religion
We are encouraged in scripture to pray for those in authority (kings, governments, etc.) so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (1 Tm 2:2). We must recognize that our lives are in Godís hands and not that of man or ourselves and that God is in control (Rm 13:1-7). Hebrews 12:14, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." The temptation to many (in a democratic country) is to help God along through manís intervention. This can very quickly turn our focus off of God and onto a never ending worldly political process that is far from seeking after righteousness and holiness. Patriotism can qickly become idolatry. Isaiah 30:1-3, "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt (America), and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh (the President of the USA), and to trust in the shadow of Egypt (America)! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh (President) be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt (America) your confusion." The politicians tell the religious what they want to hear, but then do just the opposite. The religious feel they must play along to get what they can get. Such utter confusion! Doth not God hear the prayers of the righteous (conditional Ė Pv 15:29, Js 5:16) and know their needs?
Most religious institutions and their members support the political process in order to legislate morality (dominion) through the state (church/state Ė mystery Babylon) Ė i.e. we must regain our (perceived) religious freedoms. The apostate church will always turn to man for answers rather than God. God has always allowed manís free will to see who freely chooses to serve Him (whosoever will - Mt 7:24, 10:32, 16:25, etc) Ė these will be the ones with Him for eternity. One cannot be forced to follow Christ Ė this misses the whole point! The organized religious institutions have failed to change society because they did not submit to God (were not led of the Holy Spirit), but rather they (and their proselytes) were changed by society. Do not think the worldly political processes will succeed. This was tried by the Roman Catholic Church and was a bloody mess of inquisitions, heresy hunters, and less than enthusiastic followers which were all subjected to the will and doctrines of man in a time known as the Dark Ages. Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction! This will be the case in the great tribulation. Even the most cruel Nazi SS man felt right and justified in what he did.
Many tried to drag Jesus into controversy with the worldís governments. They asked Jesus if they should pay taxes. Men love money and wish to retain it. Jesus said give it all back to whose subscription is on it and serve God (Mk 12:16-17). This was not what the flesh wanted to hear. They accused Jesus of being a king who threatened Caesarís authority. Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world (Jn 18:36). He did not interest Himself in temporal earthly things. Christís outlook was eternal and God-centered and so should ours be.
God is supreme and so is His will. Americans have a hard time with concepts outside of democracy. This is why the religious have democratic types of government (voting) within their religious institutions. The majority vote is a decision for right and wrong and undermines Godís authority. The kingdom of God is not democratic. The kingdom of God does not begin some time in the future, but is now and within you if you are a true follower of Christ (Lk 17:21). This means that you totally submit to Godís will with a whole heart. Being held to the law of the land is no different than how the Pharisees and Sadducees observed the Law of Moses. To grudgingly follow the law with no real heart toward its intent and more important toward God totally misses Godís will and purposes. Those that perpetrate the law (whether godly, Christian or not) through political means want to control the behavior of others for selfish benefit. They want to exert their will over another. Only God can change a manís heart (nature), man cannot (Jn 1:12-13). God will only do so when a man comes to Him on His terms (repentant). We are Godís witnesses in this world who are to be lights for all to see. The Lord expects each believer to "follow" in His example -in doing so, we become the light that He intends for us to be Ė the image we were created to be. The world will be won as each light bears witness to another in sincerity and example.
Here is some real wisdom. Start personally following God as detailed in Chapters Two through Four and conforming to Jesusí image. When you have humbled yourself and submitted to God and are truly led by His Spirit, then you can seek God about changing the other guy. In other words, put your own house in order before you start imposing (forcing) your will on others. You may find that your will was not Godís will and He certainly doesnít want you imposing it upon others.
Americans have too much freedom. How does the average religious man utilize his freedom? Bibles are freely available to all, how many read them daily? More importantly, how many follow them daily? There is no one who can stop you from praying silently everyday (not to be seen of man) to your Lord. For those that are so concerned that there is no prayer in school Ė given the times in which we live, just what sort of public prayer do you think would be imposed? I guarantee it will offend. So many who profess Christ get upset that God is not in the schools, but do they read through the Bible and teach their children at home (Deut 6:5-9)? Parents are free to teach their children from the Word of God every day at home (how many do?). Unfortunately the television (the devilís teaching tool, Ps 101:3) probably takes up all the prayer and Bible study time Ė this is what most will freely choose to do, but God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7). Children are primarily taught from: 1) Their parentís example (assuming they are not being raised by someone else in daycare or the TV) Ė do what I say, not what I do; 2) Television programming, movie rentals, video games, music and very popular entertaining books on the occult/witchcraft (Harry Potter, Lord of Rings, Goose Bumps), peer pressure; and 3) Somewhere down the line the much maligned godless schools (which incorporates some of the above). Remember Ė what one generation tolerates the next will embrace. So many "Christian children" are growing up to be a reflection of the world. How can this be? Could it be that their parents have their eyes on the world rather than Christ and the children are learning? We must rid ourselves of this evil: Acts 19:18-19, "And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts (occult/witchcraft) brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." There needs to be some Christian house cleaning.
The Doctrines of Balaam
Balaam, Son of Beor was hired by Balak, King of Moab to curse the children of Israel (Num 22:5-6). Israel was too mighty for Balak to conquer militarily and they had God on their side. Balak promised Balaam riches and great honor to curse them. Balaam greatly sought after these things, but God spoke to him clearly that he was not to curse Israel. God required that Balaam bless Israel and it became obvious that God was on their side and they would never be defeated. Therefore Balaam gave counsel to Balak that if he were to corrupt Israel to sin against God, that they would fall from Godís grace and God Himself would destroy them (Num 31:16, 2 Pt 2:15, Rev 2:4). The Moabites led Israel astray through idolatry and sensual pleasures. Many Israelites died in Godís judgment of the matter. This has been a tactic of the devil from the beginning. God is too strong to fight. You must corrupt the object of His adornment such that God rejects it.
When one professes to follow Christ, yet corrupts themselves with the things of the world, then they are following the doctrines of Balaam. Many will walk after Balaam and the imaginations of their own heart as they seek the flesh (Jer 9:14, 2 Pt 2:15-16). Most of these "professed believers" are not even cognizant of the wrongfulness of what they are doing Ė they are oblivious or complacent! Jesus said that these were unproductive and fruitless. Luke 8:14, "And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." These will be greatly lacking because the Lord said, John 15:2, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." The unfruitful branches are cast into the fire (Jn 15:6, Mt 7:19). God desires that we bear fruit in Christ. John 15:8, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
It should be noted that much of the membership in religious institutions follow the doctrines of Balaam. There is often very little distinction between these and the worldly culture of the society in which they live. Do these organizations of man even see a problem? Is the Spirit allowed to lead to righteousness? The religious institutes have become a reflection of the world. In an every increasing lust for membership, these institutions are using every worldly ploy imaginable to attract crowds into their temples. Worldly ploys produce worldly members Ė be not deceived.
We are Delivered to do these Abominations
When Israel entered the Promised Land, they were warned over and over: Deuteronomy 18:9, "When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations (described in vs. 10-14)." Israel did not obey and continually mixed paganism with their worship of God: Jeremiah 7:9-10, "Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?" Further: Jeremiah 7:16-19, "Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven (whom many now refer to as Mary), and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? God also describes some of what they do in Ezekiel Chapter 8. This clearly shows Godís perspective of such things Ė they dishonor Him! Notice that they felt it was innocent and justified themselves. God said they brought confusion upon themselves. Ezekiel 23:39, "For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of mine house." We are delivered to do these things! Can we not honestly see the absolute confusion that reigns in this world today? Consider all the groups that claim to represent Christ and the great variance in their messages Ė such confusion!
Many individuals feel they are delivered to live worldly and yet come before the Lord to worship and pray. Partaking of all the world has to offer through television programming was discussed earlier as one example of this. Many will refuse to see this as an issue because the blind by nature cannot see. The flesh becomes dominant over the spirit (Rm 8:5-8). Do the religious institutes of today incorporate paganism into their worship services? Absolutely! This subject will be addressed in subsequent paragraphs.
The Courting of Balaam
Most of the popular childrenís books, movies, cartoons, toys, card games (collectables), and video games are now filled with occult/witchcraft. These things have been presented to the public in such an entertaining and innocent way Ė the evil has been packaged as good (deception). When you or your children do these things, you are participating in witchcraft - rebellion against God Ė (Ex 22:18, Dt 18:10, Lv 19:31 & 20:6, 1 Sam 15:23, 2 Kg 9:22, 21:6 & 23:24, 2 Chr 33:6, Is 8:19 & 19:3, Mic 5:12-13, Na 3:4-5, Acts 19:19, Gal 5:20). God forbids us to do such things! Those who practice/do witchcraft will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21). These things are not confined just to the lost, but to so many that are going to "church." Many parents want their children to be as the world (not different) and adapt an "everybodyís doing it" attitude. The religious organizations cannot speak out (or must tread very softly) against these things because they are popular in the world and these organizations have tied themselves to the world. To condemn these practices as the evil, they would offend so many within the organizations and send them fleeing to more tolerant ones. This would decrease membership and tithing, get the preacher who is answerable to men in trouble, and so the story goes. Therefore the religious institutes become a mixture of Christianity and paganism, a reflection of the world (2 Kgs 17:33). You cannot compartmentalize your life by attending church on one day while enjoying paganism through the week. This is mixing the things of God with idolatry and sensual pleasures and is the doctrine of Balaam. Every father should be the watchman (Ez 33:6-7) as to what is allowed to come into his home (including the removal of the television idol). This may be a difficult task if there is disunity between spouses.
The most popular childrenís books are the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, and Goosebumps series. All of these teach children blatant witchcraft and the occult. These images have also worked their way into toys, movies and clothing. Much can be determined (fruit) about a child and their family by the types of clothing one wears out in public. The essence of who you are is demonstrated through the things you do and enjoy. What you place in your heart is what you become. For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he (Pv 23:7). This is called learning. Applying the things that you learn to your life instills those values. Parents, are you teaching your children to reject God for worldliness, idolatry, witchcraft, and the occult? The Antichrist will come (and yet is here in spirit), these will follow. Many "professed believers" have even suggested that the Lord of the Rings is full of Christian imagery and is redeeming. What the Lord of the Rings is full of is wizards and magic. These things God has strictly forbidden and associating such with Christ greatly dishonors Him. Isaiah 8:19, "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?" Why do these that defend darkness not seek after God through His Word rather than perceived imagery? They will say that the author had Christian association. We have been told over and over to look at the fruit. Wizards are bad fruit!
The occult and witchcraft are tremendously popular in the worldís culture right now, but why? The hearts and minds of the world are being prepared to receive the antichrist. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ; Satan is preparing the world for his rule. We are undoubtedly in the generation that will see these horrors come to pass. This generation is being called to stand as detailed in Chapter Nine. Are we grieving over such things or compromising and justifying Ė participating and giving into our children and peer pressure?
Christ (Mass), a Worldly Celebration
This is a huge worldly celebration and many will be greatly offended by the inescapable and undeniable conclusions reached regarding this holiday (Holy Day). Christmas is a pagan holiday based very loosely on the birth of Christ (Gal 4:8-10). Because of the Christianized aspects, it is all the more deceptive to most. The origins of Christmas are all pagan and trace back (among other things) to the worship of the Roman false god, Saturn. The Romans had a mid-winter festival in honor of Saturn, called the Saturnalia from which the foundation of modern day Christmas is derived. This celebration occurred at what was thought to be the winter equinox on December 25. What has come to be known as Christmas was instituted shortly after the combining of the church and state in Rome into Romanism, also known as the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church recruited pagans into the church by adapting (Christianizing) parts of their rituals and holy days into Catholicism (Ps 106:36). This former pagan festival was made into a Roman Catholic mass to honor Christís birth, hence the name, Christ-mass. Christís birthday was assigned as December 25 with absolutely no justification in fact in order to placate the new converts and their pre-established celebration of Saturnalia. This was just the start and over the centuries numerous pagan rituals or traditions have been added from different cultures to form what we know as the modern Christmas. Some absurd things such as a red-nosed reindeer were not added until much later, in this case the 1960s (as the result of a popular song). Christmas is a pagan mix of fleshly delights, idolatry, and fantasy with just a small touch of confused truth mixed in. This is confusion at best and this should be our clue Ė the fruit (Jer 7:16-19).
Although we are truly grateful and most joyous of Christís birth, nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to celebrate it nor how. To emphasis this, nowhere in the Bible is the birth date of Jesus given. No one knows the date, but through other biblical details, we can ascertain that it was not in December. Christmas is manís requirement and not Godís. Even so, many religious ones will celebrate a Jesusí birthday (some get a birthday cake). What could possibly be wrong with that? God was very careful and exact to describe those celebrations that were acceptable and exactly how they were to be observed and when. We are instructed not to add to or take away from Godís commands (Deut 12:32). Just because man has decided that Jesus should be honored with a birthday does not mean that it is acceptable to God. God struck down Nadab and Abihu for offering something that He had not requested (Lev 10:1-2). Man always seeks to serve God his way. Jesus would have never celebrated a birthday when He walked the earth because we know from scripture that He never pleased Himself or did His own will (Jn 5:30, 7:18, 6:38, Rm 15:3). Jesus always directed praise and glory to the Father and never upon Himself. Christ would never have participated in such a self-centered prideful event designed to bring glory to Himself. If Jesus had celebrated a birthday then He would have been guilty of seeking self just as Adam had done and this would have been sin. We honor Jesus by following His example and by keeping (obeying) His commandments (Jn 14:15). Christ will be glorified as we conform to His image and walk as He walked. Christ will not be glorified through manís idea of a very fleshly birthday celebration (and who is receiving the gifts?). Christ will receive due honor when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. How many would be willing to let go of all the self-centered activities of Christ-mass and start living for and obeying Christ daily with nothing personal to gain?
So these will say that they are honoring the birth of Christ at this time of the year and there is no harm in that Ė that Jesus is on their minds and they are glorifying Him. The time chosen for Christís birthday celebration is an historically known time of pagan rituals and sacrifices - those things which are an affront to God! All the symbology used has pagan meaning. Where is the glory and honor in that? Jesus is not the "reason for the season" and never has been. When God established Holy days (feasts), they were specifically designed with symbology representative of the coming Messiah - Christ (foreshadowing). Christ-mass has none of this and is an odd mixture of paganism from various cultures over time. Further the values instilled are opposite of God as will be discussed in this section.
One must be willing to ask oneself why they do the things they do. Weíve always done it is not a sufficient answer and this is the danger of deep-seated tradition. A follower of Christ must build his life on a sure foundation, the Word of God. There is no place for other beliefs or superstitions. Let us examine some aspects of the modern day celebration of Christmas and determine just what is being taught through all this symbolism and tradition. If you truly desire to know the truth and are teachable, you are going to be very surprised by what you read.
Jesus said, Matthew 7:20, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Parents view Santa as a made-up fun harmless tradition. Children view Santa as a wonderful God who gives them things. The truth is that Santa is a great deceiver. Take the letters in the name Santa and rearrange them to form Satan. This is no coincidence. The whole concept of Santa is based upon and sustained by lies. Satan is the Father of all lies (Jn 8:44). Parents, friends, religious organizations, Sunday school teachers, and even total strangers will lie to children to perpetuate this fraud. Theyíll say, "Whatís Santa going to bring you?" Everyone thinks this is so innocent, yet God says, all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Rev 21:8). Perhaps you think God is a liar (Pv 12:22, 13:5, Heb 6:18)? To absolutely engrain this fraud in the minds of children, men dress up and pretend to be this character. Suddenly fantasy takes on reality in the mind of a child. Children are literally taken to Satanís throne (Santa by proxy) to worship him and petition for their fleshly desires (Deut 8:19). There needs to be some repenting and righting of wrongs committed - some honesty. God stands for truth and cannot lie (Ti 1:2). The devil stands for deception and cannot totally tell the truth. Just who is being represented here? Are children to learn that love is getting things Ė having lusts fulfilled? There are seven things that God hates (abominations) Ė lying lips is one of them. Proverbs 12:22, "Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight." Most will say telling their children of Santa is so innocent, but then again fools make a mock of sin (Pv 14:9). Santa is a false god! Ė it will be a snare (Deut 7:16, Is 42:8).
For what ultimate purpose would parents want to lie and purposely deceive their children? So they can destroy their trust and confidence later by telling them it was all a fraud? This is all so fun and innocent, why? Because you were lied to as a child and wish to continue the tradition? Many parents manipulate their children to behave by telling them that Santa will not bring them things. Manipulation of others for reasons of self is witchcraft as is lying and deceit. Be truthful to your children and chasten them properly concerning their behavior as God has so deemed (Pv 13:24).
To question the celebration of Christmas will qualify you to be a scrooge in the eyes of most, who wants to take everyoneís fun away. This is the exact same attitude the Children of Israel had when they worshipped the numerous false gods of the surrounding cultures. They just wanted to be like everyone else. Speaking the truth and upholding the character of Christ is love. Love is not demonstrated by others giving you things, yet this is the prevailing message of Christmas. This celebration has something for everyone because it is based upon the desires of the flesh and the carnal nature of man. The flesh wants to rule and reign and does not like challenges to it.
Satan has set himself up as a god to receive glory and corrupt man. Letís examine some facts about this good ole deception. This character known as Santa has been assigned attributes and qualities that God alone possesses. He is described as "all knowing" (omniscient), for he knows when you are bad or good and he knows when youíre awake (knows whats in your heart). He knows what presents and gifts you covet and lusts for so be good for goodness sake. Santa is described as being "everywhere" (omnipresent), he brings gifts to every boy and girl on earth during Christmas Eve. Children are encouraged to make petitions and make lists (prayers) to him for things. Santa has eternal life and lives in a magical place far away. He has mythical elves to serve him (principalities, angelic beings). Santa wears white and red (purity and shed blood). His hair and beard are as white like snow (Rev 1:14). The similarities between this false god of lies and Jesus Christ are astounding and by no coincidence. This small list could go on and on but the point has been made. Santa is a false god and an abomination to the one true God (Jer 44:4). Will you provoke God?
When the Lord convicted the authorís heart about this worldly celebration, he set about to remove all the commemorative/celebratory paraphernalia from his house. The author never lied to his children about Santa Claus, yet had images of him on a multitude of objects that are still occasionally being found and eliminated Ė its truly amazing. Consider that songs are sung, poems and stories are read, movies are watched, images are displayed in abundance, food offerings are left, and people dress up to mimic (impersonate) this false god Ė Dear reader, this is worship in every sense!
Jeremiah 10:2-5, "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good." Professed believers will set up Christmas trees in their homes and deck them with gold and silver and all manner of tinsel. They will hang cherished ornaments, some being family heirlooms, from the boughs to be greatly admired and esteemed, having much sentimental value. Underneath this image they will place their offerings of gifts and presents that each loved one has coveted after. They may gather around and sing to it, "Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches." Wreaths are very similar to the trees if not the same. God said in His word that we were not to make images, altars or groves and set them up in such a way (Deut 7:5, Ex 34:13, Num 33:52). Most will scoff and insists that itís totally innocent. Churches will set up trees in their sanctuaries and hang wreaths on their doors. Some may Christianize them by putting religious "images" on them (see Chapter Five, Trinkets and Paraphernalia). Oh such an abomination to a Holy, Righteous God. Remember, every tree (Christmas?) is known by its fruit. Deuteronomy 7:26, "Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing." We think we are modern and wise, yet we cannot see our own idolatry. If you do not think these things have a hold on you then start throwing away those valued items. We will take nothing with us when we die, so anything that has a hold on us now is temporal and must be treated as such Ė do not let things possess you (Ps 49:17). Lord help us to see that the trees are idols and the presents under them are offerings for the purpose of satisfying the flesh Ė enflaming oneself (Is 57:5). This has absolutely nothing to do with bringing glory to Christ and compels one to do just the opposite Ė to live and not die (Mt 10:39, 16:25, Mk 8:35, Lk 9:24, 17:33, Jn 12:25). This is not innocent, we are not delivered to do these abominations. This is not the narrow path that one takes to conform to Christ. Come out, come out (2 Cor 6:17). Christmas trees are idols! Ė (Ps 97:7)
Nativity scenes are set up to depict the birth of Christ surrounded by wise men/kings (Mt 2:1-16) in a manger scene. There are several problems with this due to idolatry (image that people set up) and general misrepresentation. When the wise men found Jesus, He was close to two years of age and not a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (Mt 2:16). The Bible never gives the number of wise men; it has only been assumed that there were three, probably based upon the number of gifts named. The wise men came into the house of Joseph and Mary and were not outside around a stable (Mt 2:11). God sent angelic messengers to proclaim Christís birth to common humble shepherds in the fields and they were the ones in attendance just after His birth (Lk 2:8-17). They brought no gifts just worship. Man prefers to have Christ surrounded by the rich and proud, but Jesus came to the poor and humble. Had Mary been given the gift of gold at the time as depicted in nativity scenes, then she could have offered (would have been able to afford) the greater sacrifice (burnt and sin offering) of a lamb rather than the lesser of two turtledoves required for the firstborn son (Lv 12:2-8, Lk 2:22-24). These Nativity scenes have become nothing more than images or idols. The author once saw a nativity scene that had a kneeling Santa by the manger (in a Christian bookstore). How shameful, the father of lies placed in the context of the birth of Christ Ė confusion. When children see this and are later told Santa was a lie, surely they must also assume Christ is also. God says we will have no images nor bow down to them, the work of menís hands (Ex 20:4, Lv 26:1). We have never seen God and certainly cannot make an image to represent Him Ė Itís wrong! The date of Christís birth and many of the events surrounding it are not even factually presented in this celebration called Christmas. Nativity scenes are images!
The Fruit of Christmas
So, what is Christmas? If we are truly honest with ourselves, we will reach the following conclusions: Lying, deceiving, threatening and manipulating children; creating a false god known as Santa and assigning him ALL the attributes that God alone possesses; drinking alcoholic beverages and partying; gluttony (overeating and excess); greed/lusts/covetousness (Ps 10:3, Col 3:5); obligating others with gifts or favors; spending what you do not have (debt); buying what you do not need Ė sales, sales, sales; fighting/arguing over whose house to visit or eat at (or toys to play with); ill will or bad feelings, bitterness, and disappointment when one does not receive what one covets; gossiping about others; pride and arrogance such as outdoing the other guy in decorations and presents; coveting after what otherís have received; idolatry (decorated trees) and objects of adornment; self and stinginess; worldliness; and depression and guilt. Christmas produces what have been termed the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth. The world feels more comfortable celebrating this holiday that the religious and this should be a wake up call in and of itself. No wonder this time of year has the highest suicide rate.
The Religious Institutions put up trees & wreaths, children sing Santa songs, members wear Santa paraphernalia, and yes Ė itís all so innocent. We are delivered to do such things, we want to be as the world. How can this be? Those who claim to represent Christ are far from knowing Him. This celebration is all deeply engrained in everyoneís minds due to all the pageantry. There are cute little Christmas songs, stories, traditions, foods, gifts, clothing, decorations, fellowship, memories, etc. Traditional belief or superstition no matter how unreasonable, evil, and silly it is dies very hard. This is the danger and how hearts are turned from God. Most will say they are worshipping God by celebrating Christís birth, but they are really blinded and are worshipping self. Manís will and purposes are what is prevailing. Many will never be able to part with such things and will cleave to them irregardless of what lengths they have to go through to justify it. Christmas is almost exclusively based upon the desires of the flesh (Rm Chap 8).
For those who persist to insist that Christmas is so innocent and fun consider this: stop participating and see how quick the world will condemn you (family, friends, workmates, strangers, etc.). Just see the reaction you receive when you stop altogether. For most people, Christmas is not something you can just opt out of without cost. You will be challenged, shamed, ostracized, looked down upon, be made to feel guilty, humiliated, become the center of jokes, and be hated. Christmas is a requirement in the mindset of this culture. This is not a voluntary activity as one might suppose. What all this should be telling us is that it is not of God. What the world defends cannot be of God Ė the world has by and large rejected Him. How could such an activity that is not even mentioned or required in the Bible hold such importance in the lives of those who claim to follow God? Note: Details of Christís birth are given, but we are talking about Christ-Mass (Christmas) and all it encompasses. In a religious setting, one could be guilty of unrepentant grievous sins against God and not get the kind of attention as not celebrating Christmas. Some will realize the truth of this message, but will continue to celebrate for fear of man (kiss the calf Ė Hos 13:2) and what will be said of them (Ps 118:6, Pv 29:25). The peer pressure is enormous and will keep most in bondage. Galatians 4:16, "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" Ė Pv 15:10, 32.
This I say to those whose eyes are starting to open and whose hearts are beginning to soften. The hardest thing you may ever do is to stand against the world on issues such as television, Christmas or anything popular. Everyone will be aligned against you. You must explain to your children and family why you choose to follow God and not the world or those who compromise Christ. You must tell the flesh it must be denied Ė does it ever understand? You may have no supporters and God alone will be your strength. Those religious who claim to be the church will not exhort, encourage and edify Ė not in denying the flesh. These religious ones will be celebrating and viewing with everyone else. Everyone from family to total strangers will be ridiculing you, wagging their heads and mocking you to your face and behind your back. They will talk about how you are too hard on your children and how they feel sorry for those poor kids who cannot be a reflection of the world. They will say we have piped a tune, but you did not dance (Mt 11:17). We tried to make you feel bad, but you have not responded (Jn 15:19). Why go through it? Why? Just a little compromise here or there could make things all right Ė but Oh how cowardly and dishonoring to God that would be. The reason you must go through it is because firstly the love you have for Christ, and secondly He has called you to be His witness. We are to shine our lights brightly for the world to see. We are to be an example that all can learn from. The reason you do it is love for the very ones who are ridiculing you and mocking you and telling you that you have no love or compassion Ė to turn them to Christ. Just as Christ walked to the cross broken and bleeding for the same who wagging their heads, belittled, and insulted Him. Psalm 22:13, "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion." You do it because you are walking in the path of the cross and itís a narrow path. Your character is assassinated and you die for those who may seem undeserving, because of love. 1 John 3:16, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." We are following the steps of our Lord. John 15:18, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." You want to defend yourself, but you remain meek and silent just as youíre Lord and place your care upon Him (Acts 8:32, 1 Pt 5:7, 2:23). This is why you will tell your children they cannot have occult themed and violent video games or popular books about witchcraft. Your children may not understand, but you pray that someday they will. You love them so much and want life (everlasting) for them that you will lay yourself down as a sacrifice for all to ridicule. You must stand because who else will? For those who mock on Ė You are forgiven, for you know not what you do.
Standing against the television, Christmas or other such worldly things is actually an evidence of your conversion and is fruit unto God. This is a result of the Spirit working in your life and opening your eyes to understanding and your subsequent obedience (application). This is not trying to earn your righteousness or justifying yourself before God. No! This is a manifestation (resultant of) of your new nature. These things reveal that you now take no enjoyment in those things which oppose God (understood through the Spirit and the Word) Ė you embrace His Word to live it. Godís grace is working in you! You become a light and a target (Ps 37:12, 32). The darkness hates the light and its convicting power. Those who have rejected Godís will (Word) will seek to put out this light. Youíll be branded a fanatic or perhaps a scrooge. Donít be surprised if the religious ones oppose you the greatest. Stand firm and fight the fight of faith. Perhaps, over time, you may draw these opponents to the light that shines through you as your shield of faith diffuses (quenches) all the fiery darts thrown at you (Eph 6:16). Your devotion to God may eventually penetrate the darkness in others and change their hearts. The best testimony is a consistently walked out one for all to see.
When you do not chart your life by the course of this world you will stand out. If you do not celebrate with the world (such as Christmas) or be entertained with the world (such as television) or other such things, then you will be noticed. This is standing against the things that oppose God and openly living your faith and being that light which Christ wants you to be (Mt 5:14). Yes, you will suffer reproach and be talked about unkindly (2 Cor 4:11, 17, Heb 13:13, Php 1:29, 3:10, 1 Tm 4:10, 2 Tm 1:8, 1 Pt 4:13-14). However, your life will convict those around you. Donít be surprised if those who demean or reject you arenít eventually drawn to your light, if you live consistently as per your convictions (no compromise). Your example (despite the reproach) is your greatest witness. Many will ask you why you do the things you do and this will open a door for witness (to point others to Christ). Many who "follow the world" will respond to your witness by saying, "I am a Christian also." Your life will convict their form of religiosity and compromise. When you "follow the world" and are as the world, you have no witness. Your light may be dim or extinguished. Jesus said it like this: Matthew 5:13, "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men." Many have become as sand Ė distasteful (repugnant)! Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." When your light shines brightly, your flesh will suffer so be prepared. He that is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked (Pv 29:27). However, to seek fleshly comfort is to lose the light of testimony. Let us be salty!
For those who are persevering and overcoming the world remember this: Isaiah 25:8-9,, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." The Lord will set up a kingdom on earth where his people will no longer be a reproach among men.
The resurrection of Christ was truly a blessed event that we should always be ever mindful of. The meaning of Christís suffering is remembered through the Lordís Supper (Jesusí broken body and spilt blood Ė 1 Cor 10:16, 11:26). Jesusí triumphant reserrection from the dead should be in our hearts away. We are not directed to formally celebrate this event any other way. Easter is also pagan and its roots are in Eastre the Teutonic Goddess of spring and fertility. Her festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox. Pagan traditions that have survived are the Easter bunny, and colored eggs. The word "easter (spelled various ways)" occurs once in the King James bible and is actually a mistranslation of the word "passover." Translators Tindale, Coverdale, Becke, and Cardmarden followed the old Saxon mode of translation. Jesus was absolutely connected/integral with the passover celebration and was the literal fulfillment of it. Easter was a pagan celebration performed in April (the month April is called easter on the Saxon calendar). Everyone associates the resurrection of Christ with easter; but are more illiterate (ignorant, untaught) concerning the passover, which is the truth. Religious institutions and their members mix the resurrection of Christ with pagan bunnies, egg hunts and sunrise services. Judging from all the religious sponsered easter egg hunts, one would think it to be a biblical mandate. However, and perhaps to the surprise of many, bunnies and colored eggs are not to be found anywhere in scripture. If anything, such practices distract from the truth. Why sunrise services? Ezekiel 8:16, "And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD'S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east." The religious try to give Christian meaning to pagan symbolism and teach it to their children. We are delivered to do these abominations.
Children are taught of a magical bunny that brings baskets loaded with candies and toys. Somehow this all seems very strange when mixed with the resurrection of Christ. Parents think this is fun make-believe. Loved ones give children "images" of this bunny. Children love and trust their parents and do not expect lies and deceit. One day these false gods start to fall one by one: Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. Where is the reality in a childís mind? Why should Jesus be true when all these others are lies? Oh, all the years of incorrect conditioning (manipulation, lies, deceit)! The deception, hurt, manipulation, and uncertainty have all worked their poison. The Lord says we are to teach our children of Him in our home, by the way, when we lie down and when we rise up (Deut 6:5-9 & 11:18-20). God is to ever be before our eyes and in our home. The Lord says we are not to even learn the ways of the heathen and their false gods much less teach them to our children (Deut 18:9, Ps 106:35-36). We are told to love our Lord, walk in His ways and cleave to Him (Deut 11:22). Oh modern man, how are you any different from those rebellious ones that came before you? Why do you teach your children the doctrines of Balaam? The easter bunny is a false god! Ė it will be a snare (Deut 7:25-26).
This Do in Remembrance of Me
The Lord Jesus and His twelve disciples were gathered together in an upper room to celebrate the Passover (Mt 26:17-20). Jesus Christ was the literal fulfillment of the Passover. He became the unblemished (sinless) lamb that was slain. This was a literal fulfillment right down to Jesus suffering no broken bones (Jn 19:36). This last Passover was significant as Jesus revealed to His disciples the significance. This is an event that we are to remember.
The religious celebrate unauthorized celebrations along with the world of Christmas, Easter, Saint Valentines Day, Saint Patrickís Day, All Hallows Eve, etc. How did Jesus say we are to remember Him? Luke 22:19, "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." This is how Jesus directed that we are to formally (and symbolically) remember Him (Mt 26:26-29). Those who follow Christ are directed to remember His death and resurrection by celebrating the Lordís Supper. This is a very serious event that should not be approached lightly. We must examine our hearts and do all things properly. 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." This is truly honoring the Lord.
Religious men have taken it upon themselves to claim sovereignty over this event. It is assumed that an ordained pastor or priest must administer the bread and drink. This is not a biblical mandate, but a clergy/priestcraft inspired doctrine of man. True believers may partake of the Lordís Supper whenever there is a gathering. Any mature believer may administer the Lordís Supper. We must all examine our hearts before we partake.
The most blatant occultic & demonic celebration of the big three. Everyone dresses up and pretends to be something that they are not. Religious institutes sell pumpkins and/or have Christianized Halloween alternatives (or just plain celebrate) so their children will not miss out on any worldliness. They say: Oh, but we can use this evil for good to win the lost (to what?) and maybe generate a little money for the institution. Romans 3:8, "And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just." Rather than winning the lost, they are losing their own, but are too blind to see. Just because one continues to attend and support the religious institution does not mean they have a heart for God. Many have their heart on the world and want to be as the world Ė and their religion allows it. This is why these religious organizations must continue to be more and more worldly to hold their memberships. The religious do not seem to deny themselves anything when it comes to popular secular events. Religious Halloween alternatives are nothing more than slightly toned down observances of Halloween and they do not fool anyone. The religious endorse and perpetuate these things by celebrating and buying costumes and candy from stores. Parents believe that not denying their children things shows them love. The children are definitely learning from all these worldly celebrations and their hearts are on the world. Many of these children are taught to get things by threatening tricks. Oh how innocent! God says He would not suffer a witch to live, but children dress up as witches (Ex 22:18). God says we are not to drink blood, but children dress up as vampires (Lv 19:26, Deut 12:23). Some dress up as biblical characters, but what scripture is this based upon? We are not to pretend, we are to be, and this is the problem Ė so many pretenders!
Nature worship is often presented as Evolution or themes dealing with Mother Earth. Many religious have blended various portions of evolution into the creation account and even have speakers in their meetings to intermingle Godís Word with manís science. I guess some feel like unregenerate man (science) knows creation better than God or they presume to tell us what God really meant. God has already answered these religious: Job 38:4, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding." The prideful rebellious one will actually try to provide an answer. Those whose faith is in the world (manís will, science) will always look to man for answers and work God into the scenario to soothe the guilty conscious. Godís creation account was very specific and detailed. To add to this or take away from it is to reject the Word of God Ė plain and simple. Less faith is required to accept Godís account than manís. The question is, where will our faith be, in God or man?
Sacrifice of Innocents
There is probably nothing more innocent than a baby. The pagans offered their own children to Molech (sacrificed in the fire, Lv 18:21, 2 Kg 23:10, Ps 106:37-38, Jer 32:35, Ez 16:21 & 20:31, etc.) to receive blessings and things. Men and women have truly degenerated to the lowest level when they will overcome their God given parental instinct and kill their own child. This is the saddest thing of all, "some" in the religious world who profess belief in Christ, offer their children up as sacrifices (abortion) to pursue their own selfish ambitions (blessing and things, Ez 23:39). Many of these are conceived through fornication and offered to the god of convenience. These set themselves up as God deciding the child is not worthy to live so that they can live to themselves. Many religious institutions will not speak out against such things for fear of offending members due to the widespread nature of the act. They will say these are personal matters. The religious want to be as the world (Rev 17:1-5), but "The Church" is "called out" from the world to be a witness. When the Holy Spirit leads the body, and Christ is the head, such things will not be manifested nor tolerated. Those who are guilty must repent before God and truly turn from such evil, for Christ is where the healing is.
Nothing has changed with manís nature. The ancients offered their children to false gods and so does our modern "civilized" society. Our temples of sacrifice are a bit more sterile and clean, but the baby always dies anyway. Oh man, you can clean up the outside, but your inside will be as dead manís bones, full of sin and uncleaness. Such things cannot be done without long lasting effects on oneís mind. Those things done in secret will one day be manifest for all to see Ė what a dreadful day it will be!
A Simple Test for the Religious
Suppose your religious organization or institution decided to build its foundation on the Word of God. Christ would be acknowledged in all things and holidays would only be observed, as they are compliant with all scripture. Members would be mindful of Jesusí birth throughout the year, but not on a particular day because none is given. Christís resurrection would be honored throughout the year and noted during the Passover. Halloween would have no place. There would be no more Santa, Christmas trees or decorations. No more Easter bunnies or egg hunts. What do you think would be the reaction of the membership? Do you think they would like things to remain as they are? Then they would have chosen the things of the world over Christ. If they could not give these things up in the light of Christís Word, then they are most certainly idols. Those who hold to idols love the darkness. These are abominable things that God hates (Jer 44:3-4, Lev 26:30). Psalms 106:35-36, "But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them." These are stiffnecked people. They are pertinacious Ė adhering firmly to a belief, purpose or opinion, stubbornly and persistently. The author would add: when shown to be scripturally wrong.
The Jewish people were spiritually blind in their unbelief (Lk 8:10). They refused to let go of their traditions even when Christ showed them that the traditions contradicted Godís Word. They would not let go! Jesus said: John 5:38-40, "And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." They said they believed Godís Word, but refused to release that which opposed Godís Word. The religious institutions of man today are no different. Their traditions and celebrations contradict the very Word they say they believe. Ezekiel 33:31, "And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words (from God), but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness." Their speech and their heart are misaligned. Santa Claus is sustained by lying and creates a false god for children to worship and parents to enjoy Ė will you let go and come to the light? Christmas trees are idols which offerings are made to gender covetousness (presents placed under tree) Ė will you let go and come to the light? Easter bunnies are sustained by lies and create a false god for children to worship and parents to enjoy Ė will you let go and come to the light? Halloween is filled with the occult and things which oppose God, which those of all ages partake of Ė will you let go and come to the light? We must prove what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph 5:10, 1 Thess 5:21-22). Idolatry has never been acceptable to God in any form and never will be (Eph 5:14). The reason these things seem so innocent is because those who practice them are spiritually blind (Jn 10:39, Ez 12:2). The spiritually blind cannot perceive that they are rejecting truth Ė they do not understand truth Ė their compromises prove it. The truth of the Spirit is foolishness to them (1 Cor 2:14). Their idolatry will never seem as such! If a preacher tells you the lying associated with Santa Claus or the easter bunny is innocent (or allows its practice Ė Mt 15:7-9) it only proves he has rejected Godís truth (Lk 6:39, Mt 23:24) Ė he attempts to usurp (supercede) Godís written Word! Woe! Ė Woe, woe! Isaiah 9:16, "For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed (also Is 29:10-11)." He becomes an enemy of Christ (Php 3:18-19). This day (today Ė now!), you are being offered light Ė how do you respond?
Strongly consider this (for those who teach their children of Christ and then do that which opposes Him): Jesus said of children: Mark 9:42, "And whosoever shall offend (cause to stumble) one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Teaching your children of Santa and Easter bunnies is causing your little ones to stumble. You do not have the right as a parent, relative or friend (Mt 18:7, 10, 14). We are to teach our children the truth of God. Deuteronomy 11:18-22, "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth. For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him (also Deut 6:7-9)." Psalms 97:7, "Confounded (confused) be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods." Santa Claus, flying reindeer with glowing red noses, talking snowmen, and easter bunnies that give colored eggs is confusion to the uptmost my friend Ė things canít get much more confused than that (Is 45:16). Wake-up! Fools consider not that they do evil (Eccl 5:1). These things are no doubt silly and absurd, yet this is what you are teaching your children. It is not so silly to them. This is not innocent and fun it is EVIL and manipulative!
A Serious Discussion
We have discussed the failings of organized (by man) religion and the fact that we must be submitted to God and led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the head of the church and we have direct access to Him (Eph 2:18). Christ has given us His Spirit. We live in a time of flesh oriented religious deception of unprecedented levels. The author has noted/observed the process so many times in the area in which he lives. A religious work (group/organization/denomination) will form. Initially they will have very humble beginnings such as a rented facility, storefront or gathering at a school. As quickly as the necessary funds can be garnered (i.e. new members, church growth), the group will move to a vacant small or medium sized pre-existing church facility Ė time for an increase in paid staff. Growing the church will become the emphasis such that their very own building can be built Ė to serve God of course (noble intentions). Church growth is erroneously assumed to be a sign of Godís approval, presence and blessing. Soon there will be building committees looking for prime real estate in areas with high household incomes and growing families with which to build a new facility. This facility will be planned for quick expansion such that gymnasiums, convention style kitchens, fellowship halls, theaters, libraries, and education wings can be added initially or later. Are these not eminent (high, lofty) places built for manís glory (Ez 16:24)? Competition with other nearby religious campuses may be fierce (keeping up with the religious Jonesís). These buildings take great priority (an emphasis - considered a must for worship), yet nowhere in Christís testament are we instructed to build any kind of building for the purpose of worship. However our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost and we are instructed to be doers of the Word and to keep our temples clean (holy and righteous). The religious building/organization has become the focus, yet Jesus Christ MUST be the focus. There is a loss of love here Ė the first love (Rev 2:4). To most, the religious building legitimizes the assembly. Does not the infilling of the Holy Spirit justify us (2 Cor 1:22, 1 Jn 3:24)? The author was involved (in leadership roles) with detailed planning of these types of things (buildings, facilities) when he lived religiously. God convicted the authorís heart and he stopped! It is literally amazing how quick some religious institutions can grow when they are given over to the things of the world and the flesh (Ez 16:25). These are no different than big business in the world Ė but then again these religious organizations are legal corporations. They have a product to sell Ė entertainment and a religious experience Ė alluring through the lusts of the flesh (2 Pt 2:18). They have a show to put on and how well they perform will determine future membership to the club/lodge/institution. This will be very carefully orchestrated. They are also servants to the banking institutions and very beholding to them. They organize just like the world with layers of authority, who rule over the people and use a presumed call of God as a scare tactic (Ez 34:2, 4, 8). Religious titles, degrees and psychological training will intimidate and separate. They must maintain the crowds and this means entertainment Ė fun, fun, fun. The religious experience will be geared to the wants/desires of the target audience (Mom, Pop and kiddie too). If something is popular in the world you can bet a Christianized version is on the way. Sacrifice and denial will be foreign terms because they serve a god of the flesh. A god of constant blessings. A god who serves them and their organization. They will say, "you will see God in a whole new way." Donít be surprised if itís a whole new god. Seeking righteousness and holiness may be viewed as a denial of Christís sacrifice Ė a twisting of the gospel. Seeking the truth of Godís Word may be the one way that you will be asked to leave the organization Ė sowing discord so to speak. Do you really think this is what God wills? Big religious structures Ė monuments to man? Entertaining feel-good experiences with very smooth non-offensive or convicting messages? Big crowds with worldly/fleshly outlooks put into daily practice? Highly organized cookie cutter type franchised works of man that mirror the world? Layers of Lordship and influence between the sheep and the shepherd? If so, then you desperately need to read Godís Word Ė cover to cover and over and over.
Godís true church is nothing like this. The true measure of the real body will be growth and maturity in the Word of Christ. This means an actual practice and living of Godís Word. The goal will be to root and ground people in the Word of God such that they live for Jesus everyday. Those in fellowship will be encouraged to die to worldly things and fleshly entertainments in order to truly seek Godís will and purposes (1 Pt 4:2). Christ will be the focus (1 Jn 5:12) Ė not a building. This will not draw crowds, but that will not be the intent. This will not build big buildings, but that will not be the intent. This will not gain the pastor popularity, recognition, authority and salary (Ez 34:8), but that will not be the intent. This will not be a fleshly feel good experience, but that will not be the intent. The ONLY intent will be to point you to God such that you totally yield to Him and live a life of abiding and sustained faith to do His will (2 Jn 1:9). That you see your sinfulness and great need for God such that you repent and truly become born again with Godís nature and a heart to serve Him Ė not to serve manís religion. That you see Jesus Christ as the one and only door and realize the path is not one of ease, but worth every single step.
Conclusion, What Should I Do?
We must realize that our biggest battles on earth are personal ones. We battle our flesh with the Spirit (Rm Chap 8). Which will reign in your life? To whom will you be conformed? We can only defeat the flesh through our faith in Jesus Christ. When we submit to Christ and are led of His Spirit, the Spirit will come against the flesh. Our daily obedience will either be to the Spirit or the flesh Ė only one will prevail. Cumulatively, these battles will form the basis of our walk through this life. This is what God will look at when the Bible says every manís work will be revealed according to his ways (Job 34:11, Eccl 3:17, 11:9, 12:14, 2 Kg 8:39, Ps 62:12, Pv 24:12, 29, Is 59:18, Jer 17:10, 25:14, 32:19, Ez 7:3-4, 8-9, Oba 1:15, Zech 1:6, Mt 12:36-37, 16:27, Jn 5:29, Rm 2:6, 16, 14:12, 1 Cor 3:13, 4:5, 2 Cor 5:10, Col 3:24-25, 2 Tm 4:1, 1 Pt 1:17, 4:5, Jude 1:15, Rev 2:23, 20:12-13, 22:12). Proverb 24:12, "If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?" We must serve God with a perfect heart - for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever (1 Chr 28:9). The wicked will be snared by the works of his own hands (Ps 9:16). Proverbs 5:22, "His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins." Our daily obedience will either be to the Spirit or the flesh Ė only one will prevail. We also fight spiritual battles for those around us. When we follow Christ daily through our love and obedient faith and are led by His Spirit, then we conform to His image. When we follow the flesh through our own lusts and desires (rebellion to God) we are being conformed to the devilís image (Jn 8:44). Compromising Godís truth for your opinions or sentiments (or mixing) is to be in rebellion to God. The devil said, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God (Is 14:13)." Man professes the same when he exalts his opinions above Godís Word. Rebellious man says, "I thinkÖ" Those who seek God say, "according to thy Word/willÖ" Following your sentiments (what seems true, valid or probable mixed with your feelings and emotion) is nothing more than following your own lusts (Jude 1:15,-19). Much of the religious structure of man is now following the world or flesh (things/will of man, doctrines and traditions, etc.) and not the Spirit (Is 30:1). In many cases there ceases to even be a battle of flesh and Spirit Ė the flesh has overcome. Those that are born of God overcometh the world (1 Jn 5:4). Many religious are now using the things of the world to win the world and multiply themselves to be as the world. The light is to overcome the darkness, yet these are dimming the light such as to have the darkness overcome them. Those that seek the flesh will defend the flesh. Those who seek the flesh will have doctrines that teach of/to the flesh. To love darkness is to hate the light Ė to love evil more than good (Ps 52:3). We have not received the spirit of the world to be as the world and practice the things of the world (1 Cor 2:12). We have received the Spirit of God to know Godís ways and live in them (1 Cor 2:12). So you must realize that you will never change those that love not the truth. The Word of God is a reproach unto them and they take no delight in it (Jer 6:10). Proverbs 1:29-31, "For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices." God cannot be worshipped through the flesh (Jn 4:23-24). The flesh is an hindrance and does not profit (Jn 6:63, Gal 5:17). The truth of the gospel spells death to the flesh and things of the world (Col 3:3). If the religious institutes of man are not following the Spirit and teaching such death to flesh and the world, then how can they possibly encourage, exhort, and teach you to conform to Christís image? It cannot happen! The religious institutions of man cannot teach dying to the flesh (as per Godís purposes) because it directly contradicts what they are (worldly, overcome) Ė it would reveal their hypocrisy. If they do not teach truth and point you to God, then they are leading you away! You must walk away Ė think of your children and what they are being taught. Those that reject Godís truth would not repent even if one came back from the dead (Lk 16:29-30). This is what it boils down to: Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." The true body of Christ looks to the Head Ė Jesus. We must look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2) and not man or religious institutions of man. Who is your foundation?
The majority gospel (false) message today has God conforming to the image of man. This message says that God accepts us as we are (as Satanís image) and we do not have to change (Acts 3:26). It says Christís blood covers our sinfulness and we can remain sinners Ė a cloak for unrighteousness (Jn 15:22). This message has God serving us through blessings that further the lusts of the flesh. God is just an unconditional love god. In other words, we do not have to be restored back to the image of God (Col 3:10). God just pretends that the ugly fallen image isnít what it is Ė Jesus did it all and nothing is required of us. Therefore these seek the flesh and serve God Ė two masters. They see no conflict. There is no true repentance or restoration to the will of God. Reconciliation is taught as manís terms. The religious of today offer salvation without conversion. The religious of today tell us to stay in the darkness and just look at or acknowledge the light. The religious of today worship an image of Jesus rather than conforming to Christís image. Their faith is dead because it doesnít change them one bit. This is Satanís gospel! Religious manÖ.Do you really know Christ or do you just serve religion? Think hard.
We must enter into relationship with Christ. Jesus said: John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." To truly know Christ we must receive Him and walk as He walked (Col 2:6, 1 Jn 2:6, 2 Jn 1:4, 6). We do all things as He did: speak Godís Word, perform Godís will, be filled and led by the Spirit, suffer reproach for His name, bear fruit, etc. When we live as He lived, we identify with Him (Php 3:10, 1Jn 3:24). The religious would not receive Christ and rejected His Words and thereby rejected the Father (Jn 8:21, 24, Acts 4:26). To receive Jesus is to come out of the darkness into His marvellous light and live therein. To believe/trust is to obey.
This may come as a shock to the denominationalized and institutionalized religious world of man: Ephesians 4:4-6, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." The Shepherd only has one fold (Jn 10:16)! This "one" body is not controlled by man at all. Jesus Christ is the head and His Spirit leads (Col 2:9-10). Man does not call the shots or determine the doctrines! The Spirit will lead the true believer to see this and understand the truth of the Word. The Spirit does not require a large religious building with all the religious trappings. God is not reached through religious membership, charismatic leadership (i.e. a man), committees, religious works, or doctrines. Ephesians 2:18, "For through him (Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit (Holy Spirit) unto the Father." This access is through faith in Christ (Eph 3:12). I challenge you to read the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and note that the religious always stood in the way of Christ. The religious ridiculed, accused, sought to kill, misrepresented, demeaned, questioned, and generally opposed God at every instance. Even those who said they believed on Jesus resorted to slandering Him and deserting Him (Jn 8:30-59). The poor, broken and humble received Jesus and His Word. Jesus did not seek out the religious leadership, but they sure did seek Him out Ė almost always out of envy, jealousy, self righteousness and control. Those who are religious (apart from the Spirit) always think they are serving God even when they actually resist Him at every opportunity. Oneís true character will come out under pressure and God will try/prove by bringing pressure to bear (1 Thess 2:4) Ė you can count on that! We will conform or rebel, but know that God will not have the rebellious among Him (Is 65:2, Ps 55:15). The church is suppose to be the fullness of Christ (Eph 1:22-23) Ė Are these religious institutions who claim to represent Jesus, the fullness of Christ? Do they reflect the Jesus of the Bible?
When man and not the Spirit lead the church, it takes on a life of its own. Satan has always overcome man apart from God. How will we know this has happened? We must look at the fruit. This book has endeavored to show that our life is found in Christ and the evidence is that we are becoming like Him, walking as He walked Ė in His steps. This is a relationship that will lead us to righteousness and holiness and a deep abiding love for Christ. Walking apart from Godís Spirit will lead opposite of God to the things of the flesh and toward the will of man. This is how we will judge if a group is following Christ. Jesus Christ has always had a body (Ekklesia, the church). This body is led by His Spirit and has not been institutionalized and franchised by man (1 Jn 2:27). This is the purpose of this book: 2 Timothy 2:25-26, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves (led by man and manís doctrines); if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (know your wrongfulness and start seeing); And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil (conformed to his image), who are taken captive by him at his will (through their own lusts)." You are invited to join the true body through new birth (only through Jesus) as you die to your will and totally yield to Godís will (1 Jn 1:3). We live in difficult times. Daniel and John were given glimpses into the future and they were troubled (astonished, wondered greatly, utterly amazed, alarmed) by what they saw (Dan 7:28, Rev Chap 17). John saw a great harlot called Mystery Babylon that greatly opposed Godís will. Jesus said in the last days deception would abound and that many would come professing His name, but not to go after them (Lk 21:8). What John saw was much of the institutions of manís religion. The ones who claimed to represent Christ, but took authority over men on earth and actually opposed Jesus. Much of the world is held in this bondage. We live at a time when this harlot has come of age and we must be cautious. The leaven has worked its way through the meal and leavened the whole lump. We will know them by their fruits Ėfruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22, Eph 5:9) or of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of righteousness which is of Jesus Christ (Php 1:21). The flesh will seek itís comfort and popularity Ė it will not (refuses to) suffer loss!
In these last days the institutionalized religious systems will continue to apostatize. The leaders are causing those led of them to err greatly such that the young are corrupted and all these will be destroyed (Is 9:16-17). The world is becoming more vile and wicked and this system is tied to the world. Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots (Jude 1:12) Ė No doubt! Many religious men now oppose Godís truth: 2 Timothy 3:8, 13, "Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate (counterfeit) concerning the faith. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." Jesus has a body which is composed of individuals. Christ is the head of this body and it is not controlled by man. This body gives glory to Christ alone. Those who are following Jesus will begin to draw closer as the visible religious institutions fall further away. Many true believers will be delivered up and chastised in these religious organizations for standing for the truth (Lk 21:12) Ė but many will turn to these to hear the true gospel (Lk 21:13). Your life must be a light (even if you suffer reproach Ė and you will, Lk 21:17). Some will withdraw from these religious organizations of man under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. More and more as the distinction becomes apparent Ė the blind will not know. The problem is that those in the midst of deception cannot see the deception. Those that justify the wicked are wicked. These will receive the reward of unrighteousness (2 Pt 2:13). You must pray that God will open your eyes and understanding. As the divide becomes wider more persecution will ensue. The true followers will separate from the world and this will be addressed in Chapter Nine. We must be led in the path of righteousness. PLEASE NOTE: Psalm 145:17, "The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." AND Psalm 11:7, "For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright." This is what the Lord is and this is what we must also be (Ps 5:12, 9:8, 11:7, 15:1-2, 18:23-24, 24:3-4, 33:5, 34:15, 17, 21, 45:7, 92:5, 13, 97:2, 6, 106:3, 146:8, Pv 8:20, 10:2, 30, 11:4-5, 13:6, 12:28, Hos 10:12, Zeph 2:3, Lk 1:74-75, Heb 1:9, 1 Jn 3:7, Rev 19:11). Psalms 32:11, "Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." Christís kingdom is based upon righteousness: Hebrews 1:8-9, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows (also Ps 45:6-7)." Ė King of righteousness (Heb 7:2). A scepter is the royal power or authority. We enter (narrow path) through gates of righteousness (Ps 118:19). Never let anyone tell you that departing (totally forsaking) from iniquity and obeying the Lord with your whole heart (abiding in Christ) is legalistic or that seeking His righteousness and holiness with all your heart (through Jesus) is earning your salvation, fanatical/extreme or being to literal (Pv 11:5-8, 18-19, 23, 30, 12:3, 7, 28, 13:6, 9, 25, 14:2, 15:9, 16:8, 18:10, 28:18, 97:12, 119:142, Is 26:7, 45:23-24, 51:1, Dan 12:3, Mal 3:18, 2 Cor 6:7, 7:1, 1 Pt 2:24, 1 Jn 2:29, 5:18). Romans 2:7, "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life." When truth fails (is no longer practiced, taught or heeded), he that lives/practices righteousness becomes a prey for those religious ones (Is 59:15). When Jesus walked and taught, He marvelled because of the peopleís unbelief (Mk 6:6). The same would be true today. All unrighteousness is sin (1 Jn 5:17) Ė ye that love the Lord, hate evil (Ps 97:10). He that doeth not righteousness is not of God (1 Jn 3:10, Rm 2:8-9). 2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." Colossians 3:25, "But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons (also see Gal 6:7)." Do you suppose that there is anyone in heaven that lives in iniquity or does not conform to Godís absolute perfect will and character (Pv 21:21, Ps 119:89)??? Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." The righteous do not iniquity: they walk in His ways (Ps 119:3, Pv 8:36). We must mourn over our transgressions and iniquities (Ps 51:2-3) and seek after righteousness to glorify God (Is 61:3). Romans 6:20, "For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness." Some wish to remain free from righteousness supposing that grace gives them covering to serve sin (2 Pt 2:19). These will receive death as their wages (Rm 6:23). Will you join them? 1 Thessalonians 4:7, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." Christ provided reconciliation through His blood (Col 1:19-20); Jesus gave us His Spirit; and He said, "Come, follow Me." The eternal question: to follow or not to follow? God calls to righteousness and obedience Ė man prefers religion, opinion and ritual. Those who worship an image of Christ will never change. Most religious institutions offer an image. Those who "follow" the living Christ in obedience and righteousness as led by His Spirit will have their very natures changed through His transforming power. These will be His disciples. These will deny themselves daily and take up their crosses. These will die to SELF and find their lives in Jesus. There is a new heaven and earth coming wherein righteousness dwells (2 Pt 3:13).
A word of caution: 1 Peter 4:17, "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? (also Ez 9:6)" Woe to them who profess but do not follow! They will most assuredly stand to lose more than those who do not profess at all. God will surely test your heart (Ps 7:9) Ė absolutely, count on it. Please note: God is looking for an obedient heart toward Him Ė Godly righteousness. Often man will seek righteousness through self Ė self righteousness.
I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back. No turning back. Itís a narrow path that few will choose. The end of the journey will be all the more worthwhile. Oh, to see Him as He is!
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