What Does Spiritual Church Leadership Look Like?

 

1909 painting The Worship of Mammon by Evelyn De Morgan.

There is evidence that the word translated mammon in the New Testament was the name of a pagan god and means much more than just “money.” In John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible he wrote:

The word “mammon” is a Syriac word, and signifies money, wealth, riches, substance, and everything that comes under the name of worldly goods.

In Wikipedia under the word Mammon we read:

The spelling μαμμωνᾷ refers to “a Syrian deity, god of riches; Hence riches, wealth”

Susanne Schuberth had a great observation of how mammon works in her comment on her latest blog.

“As soon as [church] tradition comes in and money is needed for the building, [also] money for those clerical ‘workers’ who believe they need to be paid (as ‘god’ speaks and acts through them), then the Holy Spirit withdraws. Thus [due to His absence] God makes room for other spirits to take over.” (1)

Jesus saw the seductive power of this mammon spirit warning:

No man 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. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt 6:24, KJ2000)

Adam Clarke wrote about this verse in his commentary saying,

Our blessed Lord shows here the utter impossibility of loving the world and loving God at the same time; or, in other words, that a man of the world cannot be a truly religious character.  He who gives his heart to the world robs God of it, and, in snatching at the shadow of earthly good, loses substantial and eternal blessedness.  How dangerous is it to set our hearts upon riches, seeing it is so easy to make them our God!

Ever since “church growth” became the new focus, the god of Mammon has always trumped the Holy Spirit in today’s worldly churches.

There was no such thing as a “church building” for the followers of Christ to meet in for the first 290 years of Church history (The pagan Emperor Constantine took control of the church in about 311 AD and changed it into worldly organization. He made Christianity the official bureau of religion in the Roman Empire and appointed his own bishops over it). The early saints knew that the true temple of God was not made of bricks and mortar or wood, but rather it was one made from living stones.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22, ESV2011)

Those who trusted in Christ alone met in homes or underground because of persecution so the only “offerings” that were taken up were for the poor and needy among them. There were no “paid Christians,” and no salaried professionals, either. The apostle Paul made that the norm in his teachings.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil 3:17-20, ESV2011)

Jesus was so taken by the need for money to support “His ministry” that He put a known thief in charge of the communal purse. When money was demanded of them to pay the temple tax, He sent Peter to catch a fish with which God miraculously provided a coin in its mouth!

According to Paul, we are NOT to keep our eyes on those who do not follow his example, supporting himself by manual labor. But what we have today are churches with people who can’t wait to get a position on the paid staff. THAT is their only example of what “church leadership” does. How sick! Paul calls the paid professional Christians, “enemies of the cross” whose minds are set on earthly things, and not on their citizenship in heaven.

And again he wrote:

 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2Thess 3:6-12, ESV2011- emphasis added)

To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; (1Cor 4:11-12, ESV2011- emphasis added)

The early church leadership suffered much. Church leadership was not a “profession” that worldly men sought after as it is today. They often went without, laboring with their own hands as they provided for themselves, and they did not mooch off other believers. Paul not only supported himself, as an example to all, but he often supported others who were in need among them (see Acts 20:34-35). He had no lust for the things of this world! “The ministry” in churches today is a paid profession just like any other worldly profession. You get a college degree, apply for work in a corporation and settle in, looking for ways to climb higher in the organization (or build up your own organization) as you keep the wheels of the machine turning and the money coming in. If you rise high enough, you get paid vacations, medical benefits, a company car, a corporate jet and even a good retirement.

We have friends who attended one of the local mega-churches here in town while they were barely making it on his wages and she is medically disabled and can’t work. She got very sick for a few weeks and nobody from that church called, came to visit or even cared, even though she was the chairman of a church “ministry.” The final straw for them as members of that church was a collection the officials took up so the pastor could have a bigger and better boat than the expensive one he already had (one that our friends could never dream of owning). They have not attended a church since. A sad thing these days is how many people there are outside the church because they rightfully have observed, “All those people want is your money!”

It is very obvious here in America, at least (and everywhere in the world that the American gospel has been preached), that the example of church leadership is not a heavenly one, but very worldly. The churches here are operated like any other corporation with salaries, perks and bonuses for building ever bigger church buildings and a larger human mechanized force with bigger programs to go with it. It seems that for the most part Paul’s warning to the elders of the Ephesian church has gone unheeded.

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31, ESV2011)

Paul shed tears over what he saw coming on the church, men speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. Whatever happened to men and women, who led by a godly example with the Spirit of Christ, and were driven by a passion to make disciples connected to Him instead of to themselves?

Father, please break through the fog over Christian minds and give them the mind of Christ in all things. Amen.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/seventeen-point-checklist-for-unknown-groups/#comment-19119

 

Religious Cults, How to Find Out if You Are in One

1984 big brother

The mesmerized crowd scene from the movie “1984”

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” — Amos Bronson Alcott, The Dial (1840)

In 1970 I had an encounter with Jesus Christ that changed my life forever. There were many young people at that same time that were touched by Him in a life changing way. Most of them had been into the hippie scene of free love, drugs, and other forms of hedonism.  Because America seemed to have no meaning for them with its constant wars, materialism and empty, cold religious systems, they went the other way. Some of them had even turned to Eastern mysticism trying to find some kind of reality in their lives.

Most of these young people, like myself, had a genuine conversion experience and this phenomenon became known as “The Jesus Revolution.” But as it is in most cases, when one turns to the Lord from this evil world, Satan is out to get us back any way he can and as soon as possible. Satan is a judo expert. He takes our fleshly forward motion adds his power to it and throws us off course. That is what happened to our group as well. Because we had a hunger to grow in Christ and become “mature Christians,” we soon found ourselves following a man who knew the Bible. We wanted to know what it had to say about Jesus, so we submitted to this man and his teachings. This happened all over the USA and anywhere God was working in the lives of these young people with their new found love for Jesus. Soon, Bible wielding leaders rose up wherever God had moved and subjugated many of these people under their absolute control, often isolating them from the rest of society. Our group soon pooled its resources under our new leadership and bought a ranch about thirty miles from town. It was a hippie’s dream come true. We were out of the city and back to nature. The trouble is that isolation is another tactic of cult leaders. Our teacher held himself up as having special knowledge of the scriptures that nobody else had and as a result we became isolated from other Christians. This way he didn’t have to constantly contend with teachings that were adverse to his and there were many older Christians that tried to warn us of what we were getting into. Many Christian cults like this still exist today that were started by these abhorrent leaders. Though they are sectarian by nature, some of them are even counted as “main line denominations” to this present day and no one in the dare stray from the teachings of “the Founder.”

Recently Susanne Schuberth wrote an article about religious cults that quoted a woman who grew up in an Indian cult under a guru who had settled in the northeastern USA. This man had total control over her life from her birth until she was twenty five when Jayanti Tamm got set free of his control. In her blog article, Susanne quoted a list of fifteen things Jayanti wrote that most cults, Christian or otherwise, have in common (1). I found that they fit my own experience, but are not complete. In my hunger to do the will of God in my life, I also stumbled into two Christian cult situations in the first ten years of my walk. The first lasted for six years and the second had control of us for less than six months. It seems that I had learned something from the first one that helped me see more clearly into what the second one was rapidly becoming. I must say here that one of those things I learned was to listen to my dear wife’s warnings instead of subjugating her under my “authority” and that of the cult as I had done the first time around. To this day she reads and proof reads all that I write and often has helpful comments to share before I publish a blog.

All that said, I wish to share my own observations of what cults do to gain and maintain control over those who get sucked into them. I think you will find that even some “mainline churches” use some of these tactics. Here are some of my own observations.

Most cults have a charismatic founder (alive or passed on) who has a magnetic personality that people fall prey to. Have you ever found yourself under the influence of a sales person that gets you to buy something that you really don’t need, want or can’t afford? This is what I am talking about. Not only cult leaders, but many pastors and evangelists today use their personal charisma and charm to get people to do what they want and donate money that they can’t afford to give. Many have lost their homes and even more because of this. Leaders with this kind of soul power can often get others to do their will regardless of their own personal well being and even to the destruction of their own families.

Another practice you run into in these groups is what I call “group think.” Everyone that does not act and think according to the “party line” or the precepts of the cult are castigated and made an example before the rest of the group. They might not be hauled before the Sanhedrin as the Jews did to their disobedient members, but in many cases the pastor or leader just preaches a sermon in such a way that all the members know who it is about and the fallen one knows that they will be shunned or worse if they don’t get back in line again. Peer pressure can be very effective when a person wants to be accepted in a loving family. As a result everyone becomes afraid to do anything that the leader might find fault with. They end up in abject obedience and become more fearful of disappointing the leader than of disobeying the will of God. This is not so hard to do in today’s Christianity where few are encouraged by church leadership to cultivate listening for God’s voice and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It was to this very thing that John warned the early church writing,

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him [the Holy Spirit] abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1John 2:26-27, ESV2011)

In an earlier verse, John was speaking of many antichrists that had already risen-up among them (see 1 John 2:18). The word in the Greek is antichristos and it not only means against Christ, but even worse, it means instead of Christ. These false teachers put themselves ahead of Christ in the lives of believers who submit to them. They “deny Christ” by taking His place in the hearts of His saints, just as a man might try to deny me of my wife by seducing her away from me. Imagine how Jesus feels when His church leaders do this very thing to Him concerning His bride!

This mind control can become very strong in many groups to the point that members must get permission from the leader before they can make any purchases, move from one house to another, decide who they may or may not marry or even get permission to take their own wives out on a date! It is no wonder that every one of the marriages arranged by our first cult leader ended in divorce. It is no wonder that many of their kids grew up hating God.

Another part of this control mechanism is to keep the people busy to the point that they have no time for themselves or their families. Sometimes this even leads to sleep deprivation which makes the person even easier to control. In the first cult I was in we often were working or attending meeting up to 18 hours a day. This tool was perfected during the Korean War by the communists in their concentration camps on the American prisoners of war. Another thing that the guards used was that of giving special favors to prisoners who would spy on the rest and report if anyone said or did a negative thing against their captors. In these cases, such a violator was severely beaten while the rest watched. The enemy finally attained such mind control that a camp with as many as 150 prisoners in it might only need one guard to keep them in line. Sad to say, many of us have seen these same tactics (short of physical beatings) practiced in churches, often with the same results. Some cults actually spanked or whipped errant followers to make them and the others fear anything that might be counted as disobedience.

These groups also tend to be sectarian in nature. They believe that their leader or founder is the only one that knows the “whole body of truth” by which they may please God. Most of them are subjugated to a legal system that binds them in fear, the fear of being ousted from the group they have grown to love. When the ostracized are forced to leave, curses are often spoken on them and their families, and most of them turn from God and never want Him in their lives again. It is sad that such leadership often presents themselves as being God’s man (or woman) on earth who was sent to rule over their followers through their teachings. In this mindset to displease the leader is to displease God. When I was a young Catholic in parochial school, the nuns taught us that they were married to Jesus and to displease or speak ill of them was to insult Jesus with the accompanying consequences. Even non-Christian cults have their counterparts to most of the things I am writing about here. Former adherents of Scientology went through hell to get loose of that organization and this cult’s enforcers continue to harass them even for years afterwards. We had to finally move out of town to get away from the cults we were in.

There is a practice of meditation that is encouraged in eastern religions where the adherents blank-out their minds and open up to the spirits they worship. There is a form of this being practiced in some “Christian” churches today. We were told at “Toronto Fellowship” type meetings in the mid ‘90’s to let our minds go blank and “just receive the ‘father’s blessing.’” If we questioned what was going on while being prayed for, we were being “cerebral Christians” and were resisting what God wanted in our lives. Many people who followed their advice ended up getting “drunk in the spirit,” roaring like lions and making other animal noises and slithering around on the floor. The more outlandish the manifestation, the more we were considered “under the anointing.” Many of these people came under demonic spirits in these meetings that ruined their lives.

Some churches have even taken up the practice of Eastern mysticism like Yoga meditation and Kundalini with no thought whatsoever about the teachings of Christ against such things. They are told by the such meditation will release their captivity within and bring about greater creativity, sexual power and prosperity… everything a worldly person could want. No wonder Jesus told the Jews that it is an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign. It is spiritual adultery to have encounters with demons and their signs.

Another tool that many cult leaders use is the subjugation of women. When Jim Jones was starting to go in an obviously deluded direction, it was the older women in the group that spoke up and gave warning at their isolated compound in the jungles of Guyana. As a result they were castigated and intimidated into silence and if that didn’t work they were finally imprisoned. Jones finally got his way and over 900 people drank poisonous Kool Aid in a fake communion service.

Remember Christian cult leaders know how to use the Bible [as do other cult leaders with their holy writ] for their own power. The worst of these is radical Islam where they are told that killing non-believers will get them special favor with Allah in heaven and their strict adherence to Sharia law is the worst form of bondage where even the women are sexually mutilated. In most cults the one who knows the holy writ is always the last man standing in any argument. We were in a “holiness cult” where the two leaders used their idea of “holiness” to judge and control the rest of us. They also encourage us in prayer meetings to confess our sins and desires out loud. We were in this group for a short time and were given the “left foot of fellowship” when I finally spoke out against their abusive ways. After we left the group their fear tactics and intimidation continued to increase until certain of the women were imprisoned in a rented house and kept under constant guard to shut them up. These two leaders also encouraged a heavy hand on the children by their parents. This finally ended up with one of the little ones dying from neglect of medical attention.  (The child was being spanked because it was fussing and would not stop crying. He finally slipped into a coma and died at the hospital.) At this point the authorities took notice of the welts on the child and the lack of medical attention and one of the cult leaders ended up in prison, as did the father.

Another thing that cult leaders do is to try and pit husbands against wives and vice versa. They use the old “divide and conquer” method when one has something that the leader wants (sex, money, talent, power, etc.) and the other one is less desirable. Sometimes this occurs when one of them speaks out against their abuses, or are otherwise in the way of them getting what the leaders want. This also happened in the cult mentioned above when the pastor of the church they took control of was made to look like a buffoon and his fair blonde wife was told she was a “prophetess” — of course she prophesied words that the leaders wanted to hear. That marriage ended in divorce and the father was not allowed to see his children until they finally grew up and sought him out many years later.

In short, Satan is more than happy to make leaders like these appear as “an angel of light” through their personal soulish charisma and “giftings.” This is why Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” Demons love to give signs and God gave us One true sign, Jesus dying on the cross and rising again from the grave on the third day (see Matthew 12:39-41).

Paul wrote a strong warning that applies today:

 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”(2Thess 2:9-12, ESV2011)

These leaders I have observed and their lieutenants all wanted power, and thus they loved a lie and hated the Truth who manifested Himself as a gentle lamb who laid down His life for us all and loved not His life unto death. Why is seeking power even in the Church a sin? Here is what Jesus warned two of His disciples when they were vying to sit on His right of power and on His left in the kingdom of heaven:

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45, NIV)

It is not just Christian cults that abuse power, all cults do. That is the siren song of the devil. Satan tempted Eve by saying, “For God knows that when you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Only Jesus is like God and there is no shortcut to being conformed into the likeness of Christ. The way of the cross that kills our carnal soul nature is the first requirement and it is no easy road. Jesus said, “He who finds his [soul] life will lose it. But he who loses his [soul] life for my sake and the kingdom’s sake will find it.” There is an old country western song that had a line in it that is very poignant, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

Dear saints, be aware that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and is often manifest in the form of charismatic Christian leadership. As for our Christian growth? It was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Give your hearts totally to Jesus and pray that He does whatever it takes in your lives that pleases God and He will get you to the goal that the Father has laid out before you in His kingdom. For me it has been learning some very hard lessons in cults and churches. Like my friend George Davis put it, “God rubbed my nose in everything He wanted me to never do.”

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/what-is-a-cult-recognizing-and-avoiding-unhealthy-groups-by-jayanti-tamm/

For further reading, here is another site that has listed the earmarks of cults:

http://csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

Spiritual Learning

my sheep hear my voice

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (Heb 1:1-2, ESV2011)

The apostle Paul wrote the most concise description of how we mature in Christ if we are truly spiritual people and not just carnal people wanting to appear spiritual or wanting to heap to ourselves teachers who will tickle our ears.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1Cor 2:9-16, ESV2011)

Let’s look at this passage piece by piece. “’What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”  What no eye has seen… this includes reading and watching teaching videos, etc.  Nor ear has heard… This includes all human teachers and preachers that stand before us with their words of wisdom. Nor the heart of man imagined… Why can’t the imaginations of our hearts be trusted? Because the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. The carnal man loves to delve into spiritual things, but because of his lack of the Holy Spirit within, these things always come out twisted and bring more bondage because of his ignorance. Peter wrote about this problem regarding Paul’s New Testament teachings.

….our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2Pet 3:15-16, ESV2011)

What God has prepared for those who love him. These spiritual things are for a spiritual people. They are not meant for those who approach Him with their carnal minds. God feeds those who love Him with His spiritual food and spiritual gifts both now and in eternity.

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. His Spirit speaks to and teaches us through our spirits. If either one is missing there is no heavenly connection. It is like using two-way radios–they must both be turned on with the volume up and set to the same frequency or we cannot communicate. We must first be “born of the Spirit” if we are to have the transmitter/receiver in us that can hear Him and communicate with Him. This is why Jesus’ words to the Bible-smart Nicodemus fell on deaf ears (see John ch. 3). All he could do was reply, “How can these things be?” When the human mind that has not been renewed by the Spirit (see Romans 12:2) takes hold of the Spirit’s teaching, it always comes out twisted and confused, missing the point of what God has said.

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God… no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. God has appointed His Holy Spirit to be the one who teaches us. Father sent Him to us as a gift so that we would not be left alone without a Teacher on this earth after Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus spoke of this gift.

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:25-26, KJ2000)

He will teach us all things because He searches the depths of God’s thoughts. Do we get all of His thoughts at once in a massive download? If we did our pride would rise up and we would become like Satan on this earth. God teaches us the things that we need to understand as we go through experiences in our daily lives. This converts what might have been mere theory into practical life applications that make our spirits grow step by step and not just our natural minds. God is after spiritual sons and daughters, not carnal people with massive intellects

temptation of christ by vasily surikov- 1872Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. Notice that this world has a spirit operating in it as well. The word world is from the Greek word kosmos. It speaks of not only the earth, but Satan who is the god of this world, the spirit that is in it and rules over it. The New Testament uses the Greek word ge when speaking of this earthly planet upon which we live. The earth itself was created by God as good. It is Satan who has defiled it with his influence, power and presence. Notice that there are two realities for those who live on the earth. We are either under the power of the prince of the earth if we live as fleshly souls or we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit as spiritual men and women. Adam and Eve gave Satan an open door when they rebelled against God and this evil presence working on our minds and hearts has been with mankind ever since. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Like Nicodemus to whom He was speaking who was born into Judaism, many Christians today have been raise up in the churches or convinced to attend them, but they are still fleshly people without any spiritual understanding. Being born of the Spirit is not optional in the Kingdom of God (see Romans 8:5-17).

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. This right here is what makes the difference between your average Bible teacher and those who teach spiritual truths by the Spirit. If you are born of the Spirit, you can discern the difference. Even when the Bible is being preached from or taught and the Spirit is not doing it, these words are like chewing on a bone stripped of its meat. You just can’t swallow it because it gets caught sideways in your spirit’s throat and you go away empty and sometimes confused. Learning to discern the spirits that are in church leaders and teachers might take time and a lot of suffering, but once we rely on the Spirit’s gift of discerning of spirits, we will save ourselves a lot of grief and confusion from following the wrong paths.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Once, as a young born again Christian, I submitted to a man who had a strong personal charisma and a working knowledge of the scriptures. But the problem was that he added his own natural thoughts and desires to the words of God and used them to take and keep us captive to his will and intellect. This is called the power of the soul and many people use their souls to influence us to do what they want. Take an encounter with a smooth talking salesperson as an instance. Remember, Satan often cloaks his lies in 99% truth.

We eventually became this man’s personal slaves in a religious cult on a remote piece of land in northwestern United States. Many of us had become born again in a move of the Spirit that swept through America in the early ‘70’s and had a hunger to know more about Jesus, but when we met this man (and others like him) with both our lack spiritual maturity and knowing the ways of God, we fell into his clutches. We thought that we had found a fast track to becoming spiritually mature (be very wary when men offer you a quick and sure way to become “spiritual”). By the end of that decade of being under his influence we were filled with confusion and depression. Finally, God opened our eyes to see that we had taken the wrong fork in the road years earlier by following a man and we had to start all over again. As long as we follow men instead of God we will be in constant “reset mode.” God always does this. He takes us right back to where we made the wrong choice and starts from there once again — teaching us HIS ways and not the ways of carnal men. Spiritual understanding often comes through the school of hard knocks (see Hebrews 5:14).

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. The Greek word that was translated as judges and judged in this verse does not mean to pass judgment. It is anakrino which means; to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, discern and to determine. Properly translated this verse says, “The spiritual person scrutinizes all things, but is himself scrutinized (or discerned) by no one.” So the next time you discern that a man is a false teacher, don’t let a shallow Christian tell you, “But brother, we are not to judge!” No, we are not to pass judicial judgment (krino in the Greek) on that person and say to him, “You are going to hell!” Only God is our judge. But we are to scrutinize all things by the Spirit within us whether they are from our Father or not. Remember, Jesus said, “My sheep HEAR my voice and they follow ME.”

“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. Do we dare believe we have the mind of Christ in us? Yes, by His Spirit being alive in us, we do! The problem is that when we start out, we are more dependent on our own minds as we have been our whole lives, and that mind wars against the mind of the Spirit within us. Paul wrote about this struggle.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom 8:5-6, KJ2000)

It is the mind of the Spirit in us that we must let operate without constantly overriding it with what we think is a better idea or the less painful way to go. This is imperative if we are to have His life and peace remain in us. When we feel His peace lift while saying or taking an action prompted by your carnal minds, that is a good indicator for us to stop and seek Him before we go any further. Listening to and acting according to what the Spirit is saying is our salvation from a life filled with grief.

May the Lord bless and keep you all as you are taught by His Spirit. Amen.

 

 

Why Pastoral Abuse Continues Unabated in America

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, “Know you that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?” But he answered and said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matt 15:12-14, KJ2000)

Recently in her blog “A Voice Reclaimed,” Anna Waldherr wrote two articles about pastoral abuse in both Catholic (1) and Protestant churches (2) that seems to be running rampant here in America today. She quoted this astute observation by a New York Times writer who did an investigative report on one such church, Willow Creek in Barrington, IL, and its pastor Bill Hybels.

In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.

In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity. His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.

Mr. Hybels built a church independent of any denomination. In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.

But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches. (3)

There is a principle that never fails to be true whether it be in secular governments, corporations, Catholic or Protestant churches. Lord Acton of England said it well in about 1904 while talking with an Anglican bishop.

“It is not a question of who has the right rule [over others]. No one has the right to rule. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

Below the sentences in bold are from the above N.Y. Times quote.

  • “a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests”

People flock to charismatic and powerful personalities whether it be in sports, Hollywood, politics, or even in the churches. It is a form of idolatry. They are looking for a flesh and blood god to stand before them. Even in Christian circles, Jesus who they cannot see is not enough, because believing in Him requires faith (see Hebrews 11:1). Most “Christians” lack a faith that trusts in Christ alone without being fortified by highly visible men telling them what they want to hear. At best these are “carnal Christians” or at worst pagans with a religion. They even fall down before their gods and worship. When these church leaders have an “altar call,” the faithful go forward and kneel before them and pray, awaiting a touch or a word from their holy man to let them know that they got “saved.” This tradition is not scriptural, neither is the “altar call,” nor kneeling before a man (a tradition popularized by Charles Finney, not Jesus or the Apostles). For instance, look at the way that Apostle Paul dealt with this kind of idolatry when it was aimed at him and Barnabas.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. When the listening crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human bodies!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Hermes. The temple of Zeus was located on the outskirts of the city. The priest of the temple and the crowd brought oxen and wreaths of flowers, and they prepared to sacrifice to the apostles at the city gates. But when Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings like yourselves! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In earlier days he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left himself without a witness. There were always his reminders, such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and joyful hearts.” But even so, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:8-18, NLT)

Today, we don’t offer animal sacrifices to these men, but we gladly dig deep into our pockets and purses to bless them as the offering plate goes by. (This practice was initiated by Queen Elizabeth I in 1662 in the Church of England and it has stuck ever since). Paul did not encourage this practice either (see below).

Paul did not rely on his speaking ability or personal charisma to sway men into believing in Christ.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1Cor 2:1-5, ESV2011).

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ” (1Thess 2:5-6, ESV2011).

The problem today is that very few men who share the gospel rely in the power of God, but rather their own powers of human persuasion. The result is millions of people who think they are born again, but instead they are spiritual stillbirths. Salvation has to be the result of God personally gifting us with saving faith IN Jesus Christ and in no other.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13, RSV)

  • Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ

The apostles pointed all men to Christ and away from themselves (who were mere servants of Jesus). When the Corinthians were putting Christ’s messengers in the place of Christ, Paul told them they were “carnal” and not spiritual at all. I am afraid that the churches in America more resemble the believers in Corinth than those in Ephesus whom Jesus commended.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each” (1Cor 3:1-5, ESV2011).

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1Tim 2:5, RSV- emphasis added)

  • “giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.”
  • “In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru… His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.”

Oh, yes, the true sign of a “powerhouse for God”–MONEY! And what did Jesus have to say about this?

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matt 6:24, NLT)

And  Paul wrote,

“I have never coveted anyone’s money or fine clothing. You know that these hands of mine have worked to pay my own way, and I have even supplied the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: `It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:33-35, NLT)

Did the apostles retail their messages as is so common today with the sales of seminars, books and tapes? Here is what Paul and Peter had to say about that.

What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel. (1Cor 9:18, RSV)

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. (2Thess 3:7-10, RSV)

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach their destructive heresies about God and even turn against their Master who bought them. Theirs will be a swift and terrible end. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of them, Christ and his true way will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction is on the way. (2Pet 2:1-3, NLT- emphasis added)

  • “In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.”

Even when there is a hierarchy, elders or a denominational board of directors in these churches, they are likely to rubber stamp the wishes of their cash-cow man in the limelight. When he is asked to step down because he caused them so much embarrassment, it is with the mindset of laundering him as quickly as possible so that he can get back on center stage once again and cut their losses. Bill Hybels might have stepped away from the pulpit, but he is still active behind the scenes at Willow Creek Church.

  • “But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches.”

Oh yes. The “No Speak” rule. This is how it works: cover for the one caught in sin and cast blame on the ones he has enticed and seduced. We have seen in recent years the fruit of this rule being carried out “in spades” in the Catholic church where pedophile priests have abused thousands of children and been covered for by the hierarchy. But it is often the same in Protestant churches. The higher the profile (and the more money they bring into the denomination), the more they cover up the abuses of these men and keep the machine going.

I typed in “pastoral abuse of authority” on Google and got 3,070,000 hits! Do you think that this problem might be completely out of control? If we had only followed Jesus’ command to His disciples…

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, RSV)

A few years back, George Davis and I wrote an article, “Apostles, True or False.”

Jesus said, “…you tried those pretending to be apostles, and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). The trial of those who pretended to be apostles is listed among the positive actions of the Ephesian Church, which pleased the Lord. We are fully aware that we are living in a day when many of God’s children fail to understand the difference between testing and judgment, discernment and criticism, and view all speech and writing of a negative nature as critical and destructive. This has led to a general no-speak climate enforced by those in control that resists reform and allows unchecked deception. We are commanded to prove (dokimazo – to test, examine, scrutinize) the genuineness of all things and hold fast to what is good. (See 1Thessalonians 5:21). (4)

The more things change in the churches, the more that the root problem in them remains–abuse of authority that was never supposed to be in the hands of church men, but rather only in hands of Christ. This is part of the reason why instead of only ONE Church throughout the whole world (see John 17:21), there are over 41,000 Christian denominations and sects that only give lip-service to Him as the Head and Builder of His Church. God’s judgment is on this system called “The Christian Church.”

Then this message came to me from the LORD: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: Destruction is certain for you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the broken bones. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with force and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd… Though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, along with their right to feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey. “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. (Ezek 34:1-12, NLT)

He judged the Shepherds of Israel and His heavy hand will come down on this Christian system that is abusing His people as well. Dear saints, this last days religious system is called “Babylon the Great” in Revelations and the warning to us is clear. Do all pastors abuse their place as shepherds? No, but the larger a congregation gets and the larger their church building, the greater is the propensity for corruption for Satan still knows that if he can smite the shepherd with sin, his sheep will be scattered. Jesus called this system Babylon the Great the mother of harlots in Revelation and to those who in its grip He calls today,

“Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her. For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God is ready to judge her for her evil deeds.” (Rev 18:4-5, NLT)

After he [Jesus] has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t recognize his voice.” (John 10:4-5, NLT)

Dear saints of God, learn the different between the voices of strangers and the voice of Christ’s Spirit and no matter what they say follow HIM.

(1) https://avoicereclaimed.com/2018/08/19/predator-priests-part-1/

(2) https://avoicereclaimed.com/2018/08/26/predator-priests-part-2/

(3) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/05/us/bill-hybels-willow-creek-pat-baranowski.html

(4) http://awildernessvoice.com/ApostlesTorF.html

Where is the Temple of God in the New Covenant?

This week I had a conversation with a man who has made finding the Ark of the Covenant and the holy things that were lost when Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. part of “his ministry.” He said these things were necessary so that the “Third Temple” (it would actually be the fourth) in Jerusalem can be built. In the last couple of decades we have seen much to do about things pertaining to this supposed “new temple.” People have made new cornerstones for the temple (1), attempted to breed spotless red heifers for its sacrifices (2), and manufactured new temple artifacts modeled after the instruments that were lost (3). Temple enthusiasts looking for its original site even excavated under the Dome of the Rock (4). All these things are seen as a threat by the Islamic world and is the cause of the current Islamic Intifada that has cost the lives of millions of people around the world. Here is their own statement.

“The Muslim Brotherhood calls upon the sons of the Islamic Umma (nation), its Ulema (Muslim religious scholars), figures and blocs for an Intifada in order to stop the (alleged Israeli) violations of holy sites…” (5)

The temple mount is where the Muslim shrine to the Prophet Muhammad is and where his “Night Journey to heaven” supposedly took place. They believe that the Dome of the Rock shrine would have to be destroyed to make room for the new Jewish temple, and Orthodox Jews and many Christians would love to see this happen. An organization in Jerusalem dedicated to the rebuilding of the new temple wrote this on their website:

THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE CONSIDERS IT OF PRIMARY IMPORTANCE to educate about the great significance of Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the only site in the world that is considered holy by the Jewish people, and the only site in the world which G-d chose to rest His presence through the establishment of the Holy Temple. (6)

The Ark of the Covenant has not been seen since the Babylonians invaded Israel and destroyed Solomon’s temple and carted off all its holy artifacts to Babylon about 597 B.C. (see Nehemiah ch. 5). Years later when Cyrus the king of Babylon gave orders to return the vessels and artifacts of the former temple to Jerusalem to furnish the “Second Temple” of Ezra, the Ark was not among them. But this did not stop Ezra or Herod the Great from building the second and third temples in Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies was empty in both these structures. The Ark with its Shekinah glory dwelling between the two cherubim on its top was gone. They were offering sacrifices to an empty room. Yet, this man I was talking with–along with other men who make up this “ministry”– think they know where it is, deep beneath the floor of a shop in the old part of Jerusalem where they claim the actual spot of the Holy of Holies once stood.

There has been many a claim as to where the Ark is to be found and among them are a closed-off temple in Ethiopia, southern Africa, Chartres Cathedral in France, the United States, Rome, England, Ireland, buried under Mount Nebo where Moses was buried, under the Dome of the Rock, and now this! Yet all these so called “sites,” many of them “Christian,” ignore the very scriptures themselves as to where it is.

And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. (Rev 11:19, KJ2000)

 

The Antichrist and the Temple of God

These false teachers are all about the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and say that it has to happen because of their misinterpretation of this passage from Paul’s letters,

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know what restrains that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now restrains will do so, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked One be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deception of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thess 2:3-12, KJ2000)

They teach that the temple must be built in Jerusalem so that the antichrist can sit on its throne. But where is the temple of God according to the New Covenant? Yes, it is made up of the ecclesia of Christ, the church, not some building in Jerusalem. This passage is a dire warning that these many antichrists (see 1 John ch. 2) will come into the church with all power and signs and lying wonders seeking whom they may deceive. But know this, those who belong to Jesus as His bride will not be seduced by them. There are both wise and foolish virgins. The most subtle form of the antichrist spirit is found in the Greek meaning of this word:

Antichristos – opposed to or instead of Christ

Today in the church we see Paul’s warning to the elders of the church at Ephesus coming to fruition in the form of men rising up from among us, lording over the flock of God, drawing believers away from Christ and making them disciples unto themselves. Christendom today is full of cult followings of men. Paul said,

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. (Acts 20:29-31, KJV)

Paul and John (see 1 John ch, 2) saw it coming. We have grown so accustomed to men coming into our meetings and rising up among us and lording over the flock of God that we expect it, yet where is the humble servant demonstrated by Christ? These men are antichrists for they stand before us drawing our attention to them with their self centered teachings instead of to Christ. The more arrogance and pride they demonstrate, the more they boast of their great ministries, the more we give place to them like so many hapless sheep. And it’s not long until we have another personality cult formed in our congregations. You don’t think that you are in a personality cult? Answer me this: What happens if these strong leaders fall into sin, leave or die? The church splits and there is a falling away every time. This would not be so if the people were being formed and founded on Christ as their One True Foundation, if so hey would continue to be members one of another as God’s loving family.

Religious Idolatry

Earlier in the history of Israel, the Ark was also lost as well. Samuel was the judge and prophet over Israel and the High Priest Eli’s two sons presumed to take it out into battle against the Philistines. They thought they had the magic that would conquer their foes. They were wrong. Eli’s two sons were perverse and abused God’s people with their priesthood. The Philistines killed them and took the Ark and put it in their pagan temple of Dagon (see 1Samuel ch. 4-6). When David later recovered it, he found out the hard way that God was very specific as to how Israel was to transport it. Because he did not move it “after the due order,” on the shoulders of sanctified priests, his presumptuous act resulted in the death of Uza. Witches and the occult use black arts and cast spells on their enemies with their sacred objects, but God is all about His glory and will not have it defiled by presumptuous men and their superstitions.

When will Christians ever learn this lesson? When the glory is gone out and God is through with one dispensation because of its lack of usefulness to accomplish His ends, He moves on to the next. The Jewish system at the time of Christ had come to that very place. The temple had ceased to be a house of prayer for all nations and became a den of thieves. Because of this Jesus said that it would be totally razed to the ground, and that is what the Romans did in 70 A.D. Not one stone was left upon another just as He said.

And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See you 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. (Matt 24:1-2, KJ2000)

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Matt 23:37-38, KJ2000)

Carnal man always looks at outward things made with hands, the things of this world that can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or heard.  This is where he places his heart’s desires, but God looks upon the heart and the inward motivations from where we live and act. Carnal man worships in physical temples and idolizes such religious trappings, yet Jesus said that the kindom of heaven comes without outward observation for it is in our midst. Paul said to the superstitious Greeks,

Therefore then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Deity is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God overlooked; but now commands all men everywhere to repent: (Acts 17:29-30, KJ2000)

Yes, God once used a physical temple for a season, but no longer. He has moved on to its spiritual counterpart. As Paul put it, “First the natural then the spiritual.” God once used a bronze serpent on a pole to heal the people of snake bite in the wilderness. All they had to do was look upon it and they were saved. Jesus referred to this as a symbol of Himself and His perfect sacrifice on the cross when He said to the Jews, “Lift me up and I will draw all men nigh.” When we look to Jesus only as our Savior, not the contrivances of religion, we put our faith in Him alone and His life within us and we are saved (see Romans 5:10)..

Right here is the problem with Christendom’s focus on physical things. It occludes our understanding of the New Covenant, God’s spiritual house and spiritual priesthood and the depths of spiritual meaning that is written about in the New Testament. We have become all about buildings and their decorations and artifacts, worship bands, human offices and human stature (talented men and women who teach and minister to us and hear our problems as our counselors, etc.)  Have we never read Isaiah’s prophesy about Jesus?

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:6-7, KJV- emphasis added)

He is our Wonderful Counsellor and of the increase of HIS government there will be no end. And as for our need of human teachers, what does the New Covenant say? Do we dare to believe it?

And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (Heb 8:11, KJ2000)

It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me. (John 6:45, KJ2000)

But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26, KJ2000)

These things have I written unto you concerning them that deceive you. But the anointing which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him. (1John 2:26-27, KJ2000)

In the economy of God, it is all about Jesus. HE is the one born as the Messiah who was the Son of David (of the lineage of David). It is HIS throne and government which will last forever. HE is the Wonderful Counsellor and our Prince who gives us peace. In HIM dwells the fullness of God our Everlasting Father. It is His Spirit within that teaches us. It is the zeal of our God who has made this come to pass for us. It is not by human might nor by power, but always by His Spirit.

Today Christians are spending their time, efforts and resources on supporting physical Israel and the rebuilding and furnishing of another temple in Jerusalem where they hope Israeli temple priests will offer animal sacrifices once again. What an affront to God and to His Son! By this idolatry we are telling God that Christ’s sacrifice once for all was not enough! We are telling Him that we are not His temple any longer! We are telling Him that Jesus is not our High Priest. We are telling Him that we are not the true spiritual Israel, that we are not His people and that HE is not our God (see Romans 2:28-29)!  Just as it was with Israel in the wilderness so it is today. What Stephen told the leaders of the Jews 2000 years ago (and it got him killed), applies today!

“Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it… So it was until the days of David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:44-51, ESV2011- emphasis added)

This dire warning to the Jews back then applies to the visible church today! The Holy Spirit was given us to lead us into all truth and how often I have seen the Spirit quenched in our meetings as He has tried to speak or lift us up into spiritual worship! Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman at the well:

Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-24, KJ2000- emphasis added)

What is so hard to understand about the spiritual nature of the New Covenant and its description in the Bible?  God is Spirit and His Christ is building Him a SPIRITUAL house, one made with living stones–those who are of HIS household of faith? Why is it so hard to understand that in the New Covenant, we who believe in Christ are the true Israel? Is it so hard to understand that the true Zion and Jerusalem are from above, the Kingdom of Heaven? All this fuss and hoopla over the rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem is a ploy of our enemy to get us to focus on the kingdoms of this world and their material trappings. There is a lot of worldly politics and carnal focus on this fallen kingdom of Israel. All this focus on worldly things is nothing less than idolatry! Will the Jewish people be saved? Yes, He has promised that a special appeal will be made to them once “the times of the Gentiles has been fulfilled,” but they will have to enter the Door of the Sheepfold, Jesus Christ, the same way we did, by faith instead of blaspheming His name as they do today.

Where is God’s Holy nation today and His priests? It is His ecclesia (church) of called-out ones,

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (1Pet 2:9-10, KJ2000)

Where is HIS temple today?

Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1Cor 3:16, KJ2000)

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2Cor 6:16, KJ2000)

Now therefore you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord: In whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22, KJ2000)

All through the Old and NEW Testaments we see references to Christ being the one who was to raise up the temple of God as its Cornerstone and its Foundation, not men. Here are just a few:

Also the LORD tells you that he will make you a house. And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your offspring after you [Jesus, the Son of David], who shall proceed out of your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. (2Sam 7:11b-14a, KJ2000)

[Solomon prayed] And now, O God of Israel, let your word, I pray you, be confirmed, which you spoke unto your servant David my father. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built? (1Kgs 8:26-27, KJ2000)

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believes shall not be in haste. (Isa 28:16, KJ2000)

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1Cor 3:10-11, KJ2000- emphasis added)

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and will you raise it up in three days? But he spoke of the temple of his body. (John 2:19-21, KJ2000- emphasis added)

Jesus died and rose again on the third day in His resurrected body. And who and where is His body in this NEW Covenant? When Jesus rose again He led the way for us to be raised as spiritual beings in THIS life as members of His body. Paul wrote of this event.

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Eph 4:7-8, ESV2011)

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (Rom 6:4-5, KJ2000)

Jesus took our captivity to sin upon Himself on the cross. He not only dealt with our sins, but our propensity to sin by giving us a new heart. We who believe in Christ alone are of the New Jerusalem which is from above, not the Old one down here!

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Gal 4:26, ESV2011)

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown. He that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (Rev 3:11-12, KJ2000)

As members of His risen body we are spiritual beings who have made our home in heaven with the Father. Although our bodies are living on this earth, this is not our home.

For as the body is one, and has many members, and [we are] all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1Cor 12:12-13, KJ2000- emphasis added)

Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1Cor 12:27, KJ2000)

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Rom 12:5, KJ2000)

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit… As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1Cor 15:42-49, ESV2011- emphasis added)

The old temple system was done away with for a reason. It did not work! Israel just kept on sinning until His very house of prayer had become a den of thieves. Finally the stewards whom He placed over His vineyard killed His Son so that they could have the whole vineyard to themselves (See Luke 20:9-18 and John 11:47, 48). God did away with the first in order to make way for a more excellent Covenant based on His Son and the power of His grace, not on the law and sacrifices of Moses that were weak through the flesh. A physical worldly system of worship was done away with to make room for a spiritual one where we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

Just before the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and the nation of Israel, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote this:

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such a high priest [Jesus], who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens… For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things… But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not… A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to vanish away. (Heb 8:1-13, KJ2000- emphasis added)

Christ came to establish the NEW and more excellent Covenant based on Him alone living in the hearts of men. He is our High Priest that ministers for us before God’s heavenly throne as our Advocate. The old priesthood and temple system were mere shadows of things to come. All those animal sacrifices for sin were only a shadow of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin, ONCE for us ALL.  With this being true, why are Christians worshiping in their hearts and desiring to reestablish a former shadowy system instead of the ONE casting that shadow? Israel, Jerusalem, the temple, the Levitical priesthood, the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant and all the furnishings of that old temple were all signs of things to come and this is why Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” To still seek after these signs and not after the Substance they point to is idol worship and spiritual adultery.

When you drive into our town, there’s a sign on the outskirts that says, “Entering Coeur d Alene, Idaho.” Do we read it and say, “Oh, the sign says we are entering Coeur d’ Alene! Let’s camp right here around the base of this sign. We have arrived”? No, we go on to the place in our town that is our true destination. Anything less and we are still not home.

To worship and devote ourselves to a mere signs and shadows is no different than what Israel did when they made an idol out of the brazen serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness when Gideon was a judge over Israel. That sign was pointing to Jesus being raised up on the cross for all our sins. It was not the Substance, but the shadow or sign pointing to Him.

So, dear saints of God, fix your spiritual eyes on Jesus and HIS kingdom, not on a covenant that was done away with or the kingdoms of men and their so-called “ministries” that are all about the things of this earth. As the Father said on the Mount of Transfiguration in the presence of Moses and Elijah, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

(1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_O1K94NyFA

(2) https://www.timesofisrael.com/red-heifer-temple-institute/

(3) https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/33583/new-details-emerge-rebuilt-holy-temple-jewish-world/

(4) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/israelis-dig-tunnel-near-temple-mount-1610601.html

(5) https://www.investigativeproject.org/6418/muslim-brotherhood-leads-calls-for-intifada

(6) http://www.templeinstitute.org/

 

Fullness IN Christ or Fullness of Iniquity?

Smokey Sunrise over Fernan Lake

Smokey Sunrise Over Fernan Lake, Idaho ~ by Michael Clark

There seems to be no end to the terror, murder and civil unrest that is going on around the world these days we live in. We are watching Syria destroy itself in a civil war, North Korea threaten the United States with nuclear attack and the U.S. government reacting with counter threats. We see thousands of Christians and others being killed and maimed by Islamic terrorists around the world. The murder and crime rate in our American cities is appalling. And just in the last couple days we have seen the civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia end in many injuries and even murder.  How does this measure up to the prophesies about Jesus? For example:

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:7, KJ2000)

This might seem confusing if Christ did not point out that His kingdom would not come with outward manifestations, but would rise within the hearts of those who love Him (See Luke 17:20-21). And what about Jesus’ own prophesy regarding the end?

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matt 24:9-13, KJ2000)

Many, even many would be Christians, are offended with one another, betraying one another and even killing one another as they are coming under the spirit of this age–murder and lawlessness. What is amazing to me is that even so-called preachers are helping to spread this disease with their words. It is easy to see how radical Islamic clerics are fulminating terror and murder using the Koran in the name of Allah against the infidels, but aren’t some of these Christian preachers and teachers doing the same in the name of Christ? As Jesus warned, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

With great insight into the workings of God Paul wrote:

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body. (Rom 8:18-23, KJ2000)

There is much groaning in the pain of childbirth in our hearts as we await the full manifestation of the children of God — those who will be set free from their bondage to their own fleshly corruption and obtain the freedom and glory of the children of God. Father is bringing forth many sons and daughters in the likeness his own glorious Son to manifest His glory. As for the increase of Christ’s kingdom I spoke of earlier, T. Austin- Sparks seems to have summed up what I have been trying to say.

It is a glorious prospect to know that the universe will be filled with Christ, and God is going to have His end. When the Lord gets hold of a life utterly, and when the Cross has really entered into that life, so that that life can say: “I have been crucified with Christ”, nothing passes, nothing gets through that is not Christ. God keeps intensely short accounts with that life. God is alive to everything concerning the first Adam. That is the meaning of: “He that hath the seven spirits of God”. That phrase means the perfection of spiritual vision. Go back to the prophecies of Zechariah and you remember it speaks of “seven eyes”. That means that the Lord Jesus, who has the seven spirits of God, is alive to everything, takes in everything, comprehends everything. Nothing escapes Him. Especially is that perfection of perception related to the things that would be a menace to His ultimate purpose, and in all that we do He knows exactly where the point is which marks the end of what is of Himself and the beginning of us. We do not know, but He does, just where these things overlap, and He is letting nothing pass.

That represents a challenge to us! We have been seeing that God, for His own satisfaction in relation to His own ultimate purpose, must have a candlestick all of gold, a vessel which represents what Christ is in an utter sense, that means a deep cost, a great measure of suffering. That is the challenge which comes to us. Until the Lord reveals it with a heavenly light we do not see how big the difference is between self and Christ. When the Lord does a thing, it is eternal.

Are our hearts set upon God having that which is wholly of Himself? That means ‘I’ crucified! No longer I, but Christ! And that means that Christ in us is the basis of our conformity to His image, until we partake with Him of His own nature – pure gold. It is something to face seriously before Him. It brings to us a challenge, but surely it also brings to us a glorious possibility! What Christ is can be made good in us!

…This is what God is doing in the groaning creation. It does not appear to be so, for to all appearances the ‘fullness’ seems to be evil. Do you remember a very illuminating phrase in Genesis 15:16: “The iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full”? The context shows that Israel’s exodus and occupation of the Promised Land waited upon the Amorite’s full cup of iniquity. “Amorite” is a representative name for all the nations then occupying the land. When that cup of iniquity was full God emancipated Israel. The exodus synchronized with a condition in the world. The filling of the land with what was of God required the enemy’s extension of his evil nature to its limit; then God acted.

We need say no more. The end time will be marked by ‘iniquity abounding’. The rapture of the Church will take place – as its exodus – when “the man of sin is revealed”, when the cup of iniquity is full. We are living at a time when there is a positive landslide of moral iniquity…

God is taking account of this. He is causing the simple facts of His salvation to be made known on a scale unprecedented in the world’s history, and when the whole world has had its opportunity “then shall the end come”. Two things are UNMISTAKABLY evident: the world-encircling by the simple gospel of salvation as never before, and the headlong rush of iniquity to ‘fill up the cup’. There is a third feature: it is the ripening of saints by suffering unto the grape-harvest. These three things are the “work in the groaning creation”. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001617.html)

Beware of Vipers!

paul and viper.jpegPaul wrote that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices. Many of us who have come out of organized Christianity have had to learn about his divisive ways in the process of sorting out all the false teachings we absorbed in that system from the voice of the Spirit in us. As we know, Satan can quote scripture to accomplish his twisted goals and vipers are of the very nature of the Great Serpent we must deal with. Jesus called the Pharisees (who often quoted scriptures) a “brood of vipers” as they tried to tempt Him with their logic.

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (Matt 12:34-35, ESV2011)

There is a very instructive story about how vipers work in what happened to Paul when they were shipwrecked on the island of Malta.

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Malta. And the native people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the natives saw the creature hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice allows not to live. And he shook off the creature into the fire, and felt no harm. However they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:1-6, KJ2000)

When we are the weakest and struggling to maintain our lives, as it was with Paul, is when Satan likes to sneak in and fasten himself to us and inject his spirit-life-killing lies into our hearts. During these times, there have been those who have shown us kindness and kindled a fire in our hearts with their words. But there is another creature that often comes in. Evidently Paul had picked up this snake with the sticks he had gathered for the fire and even had clutched them to his breast, but because of the cold, the snake did not act until he felt the warmth of the fire. False Christians who harbor demons in their natures are like that. These demons can be dormant until they feel the warmth of the Spirit and then they spring into action and fasten themselves onto a saint of God in a moment of weakness. What should be our response when this happens? Should we listen to, cajole, and try to save these demons from their folly? No! Jesus didn’t give the Pharisees any quarter when they spoke their venomous words and neither should we. We should do just as Paul did and shake them off into the fire least they continue to inject their poison into us and draw us away from the path of Christ, the way of the cross.

It is interesting to note that part of the effect of a viper’s poison is to make us swell up with pride if we take its words to heart. When the gracious islanders saw this attack they, too, were confused and took Paul for an evil man, but when he didn’t swell up or die they started to idolize him. Carnal Christians are like these Maltese. They are easily moved by every wind of doctrine. On the one hand, they might want to make us their spiritual gurus because of God speaking through us, but on the other hand they turn and walk away when they see that our hearts are fixed on following Jesus even unto death. This is how the crowds treated Christ and it’s what Paul was talking about when he wrote this:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2Cor 2:14-16, ESV2011)

Yes, who is sufficient for these things? Our sufficiency must be in Christ.

(I would like to thank Susanne Schuberth for her latest blog entry from which God used to inspire me for this article. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/beware-of-jobs-false-friends/ )