In this teaching we examine the necessity of repentance in a person receiving salvation through Christ’s finished work. We also examine how neglecting to preach and lead others to true repentance, hampers a person walking in faith in Christ.
1 John 1:5-7 (NKJV) This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to 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 practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
The above passage reveals magnificent truth concerning the character and make up of God and how we can be intimately connected to Him in “fellowship”. The Greek word translated “fellowship” is the word koinōnia, which reveals the potential of relational intercourse with God, whereby we are knit together in a union even deeper than the one flesh union of a husband and wife.
The apostle Paul writes of his desire to achieve this unity of relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ In Philippians 3:7-10…
Philippians 3:7-11 (NKJV) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
We must not miss that this desire was the most pressing and central desire of Paul’s life. Philippians 3:7-9 details that which Paul was willing to toss away, to attain his desire. The point being, that true fellowship with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ is not only attainable, but essential if we are to remain in fellowship with each other and avoid falling away, into apostacy.
To walk in the light as He, God is in the light, it is essential we do not miss an often overlooked part of I John 1:5-9.
1 John 1:5-6 (NKJV) This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to 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 practice the truth.
The danger of hypocrisy is a clear and present danger to those who follow Christ. The reason for this is not overly complex. We live in a fallen world, where most of what we encounter is contrary to the will of God and will be in increasing intensely until Christ’s bodily return to this earth. In addition, we who are redeemed in Christ, still carry a sinful nature in our humanity. Although, this old man is dead, and sin’s dominion is broken and no longer the ruling factor of our lives; we still feel the weight of carrying our old nature around (Romans 6-7).
If these two factors were not more than enough to deal with, we must learn to stand against Satan, his demons, and their supernaturally charged machinations designed to lead us to sin and hypocrisy. Therefore, remaining in or falling to a pattern that leads to walking in darkness is virtually around every corner ahead. Contributing to this potential is a lack of understanding of what and how prevalent walking in darkness is. This is why I have decided to term “walking in darkness” FALL-O-SHIP as opposed to the FELLOWSHIP we enjoy when “walking in the light“.
WALKING IN DARKNESS
The word “skotia” is the Greek word which translates “darkness” in our passage. The word does not mean blackness to the degree that one is totally blind, but a quality of shadiness or obscurity. Simply put, this is not being able to see clearly because of a lack of light or dimness that obscures or distorts what can be seen. In understanding this we begin in verse 5 with “God is light and in Him is no darkness (shadiness, obscurity, grey or shadow) at all.”
James 1:17 gives us a bit more clarity concerning God is light and in Him is no darkness (shadiness, obscurity, grey or shadow).
James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
With both passages we see that God is perfect revealed Truth, which lightens up everything that we may see clearly. Yet the Greek word “skotia” gives more “light” (pun intended) concerning “darkness”. In addition to what we have already discussed, the word “skotia” means ignorance respecting divine things and the corresponding human duties, which leads to ungodliness and immorality to the degree that “darkness” consistently holds sway.
Simply put, walking in darkness means that the person lives in a state of ignorance or confusion concerning God’s will and have little conviction as to how they ought to respond to it. In this practice their thoughts and action become less and less like those of Jesus Christ. As this state progresses, they become more susceptible to falling to temptation by increasing degrees.
When looking into scripture we can determine just how potentially dangerous “walking in darkness” is.
Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV)He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
In this passage we discover that in Christ, we are delivered from walking in darkness, which is the sate of the lost, for the purpose of walking in the light. In this, we are conveyed by God’s power, into walking in the light in the Kingdom of His Son. The word “convey” gives the idea that God Himself moves us along so long as we remain in His will.
It would appear to be easy, but He conveys us on the narrow road that runs right through the valley of the shadow of death; where Satan prowls to lead us off God’s conveyor, to wander around in the shadowlands of little light—where Jesus the object of our faith is obscured—where the word of God, which is our guidepost, is not easily seen.
We have been warned in Ephesians 5, because of the potential to “walk in darkness”, being so great.
Ephesians 5:8-11 (NKJV)For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
Ephesians 5:14-18 (NKJV) “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit
We see the truth that walking in the light means walking with understanding concerning what the will of the Lord is, knowing how to respond to it, and refusing to partake in behavior that is even remotely dark. So that there is no confusion, let us label “dark” behavior that is any behavior or action we partake in that is not approved by the Lord. This behavior often falls into the supposed grey of there not being a “Thou shalt not” command against it. In that understanding we can see just how easy we can say we have fellowship with Him and potentially be “walking in the darkness”.
Revisiting what “walking in darkness” is defined by.
A quality of shadiness or obscurity, where we are not able to see clearly because of a lack of light or dimness that obscures or distorts what can be seen of the Truth.
Therefore, we are ignorantly respecting God’s will (divine things) and how or why we ought to respond in obedience (corresponding human duties to divine things).
Which leads to worldly choices (ungodliness) and greater potential to sin (immorality).
It appears, in general, that the church is confused about the will of God or largely ignorant of it, is that not “walking in darkness”?
What is God’s will?
To seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10; I Peter 3:10-11)
To grow those lost and found through discipleship, as their minds are renewed by the word of God (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 12:1-2)
That this would lead to our abstaining from sin and being a wholly sanctified vessel for God’s glory (I Thessalonians 4:3).
That we would endure persecution and tribulation, not running away or hiding who were are in Christ or using man’s devices for protection or warfare; but by standing in the truth, loving our enemies, while looking for the blesses hope (II Timothy 3:12; Revelation 12:11; Titus 2:11-14).
Our fellowship with each other would fuel and safeguard our transformation as vessels of His will (Hebrews 10:19-31).
With these scriptural truths lighting the practice of the church in America, we can see, we are either walking in darkness or close to it. We would claim to have fellowship with God, yet fellowship among the saints has declined at a breakneck pace over the last 50 years—belief in Christ’s literal return is at an all time low—Christians are falling away because of fear of family or society turning on them or simply desiring to live attached to the world—sanctification is an alien word to most “Christians” in America, while acceptance of sin at low to moderate levels exists in most churches and a growing number of pulpits—American Christians are ignorant of basic biblical truth and think little different than the lost around them—discipleship simply another ineffective or forgotten program—and those experiencing true supernatural regenerative (with conviction of sin and commensurate repentance), leading to a new creation salvation life scarce among thousands of supposed converts.
It appears the church in America is more about FALL-O-SHIP, rather than fellowship with God, while walking in the light. What can we do?
2 Corinthians 13:5-6 (NKJV) Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.
Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Let us renounce the world and its shady light obscuring darkness and let us return to the Lord our God in repentance and faith. The days are coming where those who say they have fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, will be animated by antichrist, to persecute those who have truly received the faith once delivered to the saints. Let us be prepared to stand against the wiles of the devil in God’s full armor.
In recent days, many of the same celebrity Christian voices, have begun to suggest to their followers that taking a vaccine for Covid-19 is not only good, but biblical. One of these Christian superstars is Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and head of Samaritans Purse. In a recent Facebook Post Franklin Graham cited the parable of the Good Samaritan to posit that our Lord Jesus Christ would advocate for the covid vaccine; a vaccine that is still unproven to protect a person from a second infection and is not able to protect from the new variants of the virus (At the conclusion of this post, I have left a link to the original article I have cited).
Before fact checking Mr. Graham’s belief, let me proclaim that I am not advocating for or against taking a vaccine. What any discerning person ought to do, when considering taking anything into their body is be properly informed first. Secondly, even if it appears to be trending in a more positive direction, that person, if they are truly a follower of Jesus Christ, MUST follow the command of those who are the children of God, who are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14), which is clearly laid out for us in Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge the Lord and He will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil”.
When the word of God gives no clear direction on something specific, like a vaccine, we do not assume we have justification to dive in, but we wait on the Lord for clear direction; when the word says “in all your ways” it means “in all your ways acknowledge the Lord and He will direct.” We certainly do not search the scripture for a twistable passage to use for our own agenda. The point being, Franklin Graham should have left the vaccine as a matter of prayer between the individual and God, but he did not, and his conclusion is unbiblical.
Here is what he said…
“I have even been asked, if Jesus were physically walking on earth now, would He be an advocate for vaccines?
“My answer was that based on the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, I would have to say – yes. I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives,” Graham said.
Graham said. “I think if there were vaccines available in the time of Christ, Jesus would have made reference to them and used them.”
In the first place, let us look to see if his use of the parable of the Good Samaritan is an appropriate basis to advocate for vaccines and the use of medicine. Simply put, it is not.
We find the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In this parable we find a Jewish man, who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, is robbed and beaten so badly, he is left for dead on the side of the road. We can clearly see this man is not afflicted with a virus but has been harmed because of violent and wicked behavior from men. Secondly, we see that two of this man’s own countrymen and fellow Jews do nothing but leave him to die. It is the third passerby, a Samaritan, who displays compassion and love, by giving him some first aid, taking him to shelter and paying for his lodging expenses, until the good Samaritan would return. The important question, is why did Jesus tell the parable in the first place?
Jesus gives us this wonderful parable to silence a self-righteous Jewish man…
Luke 10:25-29 (NKJV) And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
We see Jesus’ motive in the parable towards the end of His encounter with the self-righteous lawyer, after Jesus tells the story.
Luke 10:36-37 (NKJV) So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus’ point was not to justify the use of first aid, or medicine. Let us consider that physicians were plentiful in Israel, through the cult of Asclepius; the pool of Bethesda was in fact an Asklepion, which was a Greek place of healing. Let us remember the plight of the woman with the issue of blood, who had spent all she had on physicians and was not any better but worse.
Let us also acknowledge that Jesus never advocated for the medical profession or even sent anybody to a doctor. Even when sent out the 12 and then the 70, He did not instruct them to take people to doctors or give them medicine, but lay hands on the sick that thy would recover in His marvelous name. Graham said “I think if there were vaccines available in the time of Christ, Jesus would have made reference to them and used them.”. So Jesus would have used vaccines rather than healing a person in God’s power, when healing was a biblical fulfillment of prophecy, which defined Him as Messiah (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:18)?
Let us not forget that there is not one passage of the O.T. where the word of God advocates for vaccines or medicines, being a consistent means of healing, but we are told “I Am the LORD that heals you” so long as He is obeyed (Exodus 15:16), we are also promised that we ought to bless the LORD “Who forgives all our iniquities and heals all our diseases” (Psalm 103:1-5). We are reminded that in Christ’s atonement for our sin, His wounds provide for the healing of our bodies (Isaiah 53:3); which is repeated in I Peter 2:21-24.
In the Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament letters we see healing in Christ’s name advocated for, but not medicine or vaccines. As a matter of fact, someone usually brings up Luke, as being a doctor, therefore the bible advocates for vaccines and medicine. That idea is patently false, for there is no scriptural record of Luke continuing his physician-ship in the Gospel of Luke or Acts of the Apostles. Despite that fact, Luke’s medical knowledge enables us to see the supernatural power and present ministry of Christ our Healer.
Let us consider, finally, that in James 5:13-18, that if any are sick they can call the elders of the church to anoint with oil in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, pray the prayer of faith and expect that the Lord will raise them up (heal them). Note not one word is said about medicine and remember physicians were plentiful in the Roman Empire.
For those who would scream, “no, no medicine is different today”, I encourage you to do some independent historical search. Medicine calls us to trust man’s concoctions, accept the undesirable side-effects and the fact that the means do not heal you of the condition. Medicine is largely the same. Please understand, I am not saying all medicine is bad, but speaking the truth about its limitations. When God heals there is no limitation or side effect. And we must reconsider our claim that God has given all these wonderful researchers and medical advancements.
The Bible does say that in the last days knowledge will be greatly increased, but that is not seen as a good thing (Daniel 12:4). in fact, have all these wonderful advancements cured anything fully? The answer is no. Have we worked towards medicine making a better world? No! There are more diseases to worry about now, more than ever and with all the “wonderful” medicines America has become a junkie state of pharmakia.
Therefore, Franklin Graham’s use of the parable of the Good Samaritan and his philosophy concerning God and medicine are at best a dangerous and error prone understanding of the scriptures. At worst his direction is an utter abuse of the power of his ministry platform for personal gain.
As I have contemplated why such a man as Franklin Graham would so publicly advocate for something most followers of Jesus are at least a little uncomfortable with, I have come up with one potential answer. For Samaritan’s Purse to be able to minister in certain places, their workers may be required to be vaccinated; especially if flying to those locations. To hold to any governmental stipends as a tax-exempt ministry, they may be required at some point to mandate vaccines.
Franklin Graham is also the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. For BGEA to hold crusades, without the controversy of being a “super-spreader” event, or getting bad press for being anti vaccine, they must appear to support the culturally accepted narrative.
My point, once again, is not to advocate against vaccines or medicine, but to point out that the Lord Jesus Christ would not advocate for anything that is not specifically His will. Graham’s use of Jesus Christ, unintentionally or intentionally, adds to the word of God; and ought to be rightly corrected. We do not make doctrine concerning anything based on a passage taken out of context, nor based on what “I think Jesus Christ” would advocate. To do so is to put words in the mouth of our Savior and add to the word of God. May our brother Franklin Graham repent of this error and very soon.
Deuteronomy 4:2 (NKJV) You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Proverbs 30:5-6 (NKJV) Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
Revelation 22:18-19 (NKJV) For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
As we have been looking into the poor state of faith and practice in those who first received James 5:1-11, we have discovered that recovering from a fall into carnal and un-Christlike behavior takes obedience to God’s commands. To combat their carnal behavior, arising from a growing anxiety over coming persecution) and the difficulties associated with persecution); we are commanded “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord”. Relief will come from the Lord eventually but wait on Him to bring it rather than take short cuts to alleviate a perceived lack.
Secondly, we are commanded with greater intensity concerning Christ’s return and our need to heed the first command… “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold the Judge is standing at the door”. Should we not heed the first command, we must not miss the second, or we will have controversy with our soon returning King. This is not a small matter, and why the Holy Spirit reminds us of the struggles of the prophets. This is a noteworthy reminder that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”2 Timothy 3:12.
(If you Haven’t read part I or part II, click the following links… part I,part II)
To further magnify this point, we receive another admonition form the Old Testament, concerning a man who suffered greatly, not for his being sinful, but for his being right before God by faith.
Verse 11 begins with “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the intended end by the Lord”. Let us lay a little groundwork, before seeing God’s purpose in including this O.T. reference.
In the first place, Job was suffering for His faith in Christ. Consider with me…
Job 19:25-27 (NKJV) For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Wow! The manuscripts we have of the Book of Job, happen to be the oldest in the Old Testament and in them the faithful patriarch speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ prophetically: “For I know my Redeemer lives and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth”. Job was suffering because of his example of faith in God and the one who would come to take away sin once for all.
When God refers to Job as blameless and upright, He was not referring to the man’s sacrifices and works, but the faith that led him to perform sacrifices, which foreshadowed the coming of his Redeemer, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Satan hates a man willing to live dying to himself, to show forth the Savior, because this man will live dying to self and die with Christ’s name on his lips. This is a person, who despite trouble and deprivations, inherently manifests “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). This is a man, whom you cannot break by taking things from him, because the only thing he truly possesses is Christ, who has purchased the man with His own blood.
This leads us to God’s intended end. In our American Christian mindset, we often think, in error, that God’s intended end was to give Job back double of all he lost; but that would be inconsistent with what the Lord is communicating to James’ audience. So, what is God’s end intended? We find it in Job 42.
Job 42:1-6 (NKJV) Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job’s words come on the heels of his beginning to question God, as to why he was suffering. His words border on self-righteousness. In an instant, the LORD breaks in and questions Job for almost 4 chapters, in a manner summarized best with the question repeated often, “Where were you when I…”. Here we can see God’s compassion and mercy to break in before Job would violate God’s trust of him by sinning. But this mercy and compassion extends further into a new revelation, understanding and relationship for Job to God.
To God’s question, in devastating humility, Job states ““I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”.
Simply put, Job served God in faith, based on what was passed on to him, based on what he had heard of God. In faith, his service was pleasing to God, but Job did not really know God, therefore his words were partial, imperfect and ignorantly in error. When he sees and hears God personally, he now sees his sin for what it is and repents and desires a new nature.
Without the sufferings of Job, he would have stagnated in his faith; his self-righteousness would have weakened his faith and led him to a prideful disposition. Suffering was a vehicle for necessary sanctification.
After losing everything, he understands that faith in God is not about good temporary circumstances, but knowing the true God as personal, present, powerful, and loving. Without Job’s new perspective, his double portion would have been his undoing.
This was God’s intended end and why he reminded those who receive James’ epistle, to seek Him in difficulty, rather than attempt to alleviate the pain in shortcuts or looking for someone to blame. The reason for this call is to show us that trials of waiting are to draw us closer to Christ and strengthen individual faith, as well as that of the body of Christ, with the richness of His love, presence, and power.
Sufferings, temptations, and trials are not to lead us into devolving into cynicism, selfishness, partiality, or unbelief. Here is the challenge for us, as we finish this three-part series.
Hope in Christ’s return is out in front of us, as light to guide us in the darkness of our times, until He comes (Titus 2:11-14). This blessed hope will never disappoint (Romans 5:3-5) and is built up by patiently enduring trials arising from our faith. Amid trials, hope in Christ’s return is like the pillar of fire Israel walked by in the wilderness at night.
We must continue to look unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, especially when anxiety is injected into our mind and heart. In this, remember that anxiety only produces an assumption on “what if” thinking. Therefore, anxiety is around the corner, and we cannot see around the corner, unless given prophetic insight to do so by the Holy Spirit (which would not produce anxiety).
We cannot maintain focus on Christ, who lights the path in front of us, and be looking even a little at the “what ifs” around the corner. We must apply Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33-34. Where we are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, trusting all we need will be given; and remain focused on Christ in the day we are in.
Let us ask the question “Am I being pulled around the corner, away from looking to Jesus in the day, because I am worrying about the “what ifs” to come?
If so… KNOCK IT OFF! You may never reach tomorrow, so worrying about it means we are wasting the time we have today.
In part #1 of this blog series (click to read part I), we began to examine James 5:1-11. In the first 6 verses we discovered a church falling into extreme carnality; they were walking in partiality with respect to how much money and power a person had—they were deep into division and character assassination—they we are seeking their own pleasure and protection—they were withholding compassion from the poor.
In verse 7 the word of God gives them a seemingly strange command, rather than simply proclaiming “Stop”, they are commanded “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord”. God was calling them to live in faith of the blessed hope, in simplicity of faith, rather than seeking to avoid the troubles to come (seeking pleasure and more provision). In this command they are told to “Establish their hearts” in the reality of Christ’s soon coming. This was a warning that their behavior was placing their standing in Christ at risk.
As we discovered, the commands and admonitions are just as relevant for us, as we are tempted to consider the troubles around the next corner, rather than keep our eyes of Christ Jesus. Today we begin with a second command, which amplifies the serious nature of the first one.
In verse 9-11, we begin to see that their desire for more, by ingratiating themselves to the rich, arose from a fear of suffering for their faith. There in verse 10 and 11, the Holy Spirit calls them to consider the prophets and Job; as those who patiently endured suffering for the sake of their faith in Christ. This is the reason the second command begins with “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold the Judge is standing at the door”.
Anxiety over what we assume is around the corner, often leads us to seek solutions through short cut temptations, rather than endure (be patient) in God’s promises. In our efforts to quell our anxiety or seek our wants, we can begin to see even our closest brethren, as obstacles and hindrances. Not only do we begin to destroy with our tongues, we continue to cripple our spiritual life, as we haphazardly walk through the minefield of our unresolved and worn-out emotions. Once their only chaos reigns.
James 3:13-16 (NKJV) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
We must heed the admonition given, for those Christians who fall into this destructive path and having taken their eyes of Christ’s return (as their only hope) are warned… vs. 9b “Behold, the Judge is standing at the door”.
PERSECUTION AMPLIES A SINFUL FEAR OF LACK OF MATERIAL NEED
When we reach verses 10 and 11, we begin to see why such a wrong focus on material need arises and why we look to the “haves” to make sure we are not “haven nots”: They (we can be) were fearful of being without and block from having what was needed, as persecution grew.
Because they lost their foundation and hope in Christ, they were looking to worldly people wealth and supposed influence to shield them, from the suffering associated with persecution for our faith in Christ.
To Christians in America, this ought to sound awfully familiar. This past election season, in fact the pastor four years, revealed how much like James readers, the church has become in the United States.
Many voted for a man who lacks self-control, candor, and compassion, because a few “Christian Celebrity” pastors and entertainment, supported him. I admit, form a political side, I agreed with much of the former president’s agenda, but when he lost the election, Christians lost their mind. Why? Afraid of suffering under those antithetical to our faith.
Is this a real possibility? Yes!
Is it something that should be driving us into cynical attacks and compounded fears? NO!
Jesus told us we would be persecuted, repeatedly. He let us know the times would come when even the pagan world would believe they are doing God a favor by killing us. The Lord Jesus never guaranteed we would have safety, security, full bellies, multiple changes of clothing or even a personal roof over our head. He promised we would have what we need.
Into these growing realities the Holy Spirit inserts the suffering experienced by the prophets and Job.
James 5:10-11 (NKJV) My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
We think of Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and those like them, who suffered assassination attempts, wicked queens hunting them, fierce character assassination, lion’s dens and so much more…
Hebrews 11:35-40 (NKJV) Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking’s and scourging’s, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
In James 5:10 we understand the Holy Spirit calling us to understand faith in Christ, in this life, is not about maintaining or accumulating enough supply to feel like God loves us. We are called to understand that deprivations and sufferings prove our faithfulness to Christ, which in turn prove His presence with us and faithfulness towards us, as we endure, that which is contrary to us.
Our main concern need not be how we are going to survive the times of coming persecution, but how we will remain faithful to Him, in joy and cheerfulness, when we suffer for His name.
Matthew 5:11-12 (NKJV) Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
When we lose this perspective, we begin to look for ways and means of protection. We then take ourselves outside of His covering (Psalm 91) and His provision (Psalm 23). In this mode of thinking we then take offense at anyone who appears as a threat. Perhaps, it is for this reason James brings up Job; a man who lost everything and therefore had little to fight over. It is to Job we look to for our next admonition. Until then Stay close to Jesus.
The epistle of James is at times one of the more scathing letters written to the Church of Jesus Christ. There are several rebukes and admonitions, which are germane to Christians living in the United States and other westernized nations. Let us consider a passage with both rebuke and admonition, which illustrates this point.
James 5:1-6 (NKJV) Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.
We must remember that these scathing words were first written to Christians, who were living with a perversion of the gospel. This perversion is remarkably like the elements and produced moral and material circumstances of today’s prosperity gospel. This false gospel was so pervasive that the readers of the epistle of James were showing partiality towards those who would come to fellowship, who were rich (James 2). The poorer brethren were shuffled to the periphery.
It has always been the call of God’s kingdom for those who “have” to give selflessly to those who do not “have” (Acts 4:32-37). The presence or lack of this compassion truly reveals the quality of our life for Christ (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 5:1-11). From what we read in verses 1-5, we understand that the hearers of this letter, were shutting up the bowels of compassion, mercy, and brotherly love; hence they had backslidden into the dangerous position of having dead faith (James 2:26) or worse.
James then calls them out for murder (vs. 6). This of course does not mean they were knifing or stabbing each other with swords, but that they were assassinating one another with words. This diagnosis calls us back to our Savior’s words in Matthew 5:21-22, where He equates the assassination of a person’s character with words, as akin to physically taking their life “for the power of death and life are in the tongue” [Proverbs 18:21]). The entirety of James 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 deal with this egregious practice and its pervasiveness in the church the epistle was written to.
Let’s be honest, these very same things represent a large swath of the church in America, where portions of the prosperity gospel have been sown throughout most evangelical denominations (a discussion of another time); whether Pentecostal, Baptist, Non-Denominational, Liturgical or Main-line Protestant.
Additionally, the urge to respect persons who have and can improve our situation is also sown throughout our humanity, therefore we must be on guard. Although this tendency is innate in all humanity (born in sin), it rises in a Christian’s heart from a lack of trust in God; from being antsy or anxious about the future. In this state, when what we seek does not quell the anxiety about what is around the corner, we are tinder boxes soaked in gasoline; ready to explode into character assassination.
This is often the case (as was with those who first heard this message) in the Church in America, from an individual perspective, as well as a corporate one. This is part of American cultural DNA, where we are socialized to think we need more than we have (This must be denied for Christ). Once stimulated these thoughts lead to us seeking to have just a little more, for the sake of feeling more solid for what may come.
In this we forget, He has promised to provide what we need (Matthew 6:24-33; Philippians 4:19). Subsequently, we grow more anxious, as we are pulled to anticipate the “what if’s” around the corner. We believe these “what ifs” to be adversarial and inevitable. Therefore, we become fixated on them, rather than on Jesus Christ the Author and Finisher of our faith. In this condition James offers a stiff admonition (mild rebuke or firm warning) in love.
James 5:7-11 (NKJV)Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
Through James, the Holy Spirit is calling them (and us) to refocus on what is fundamental concerning our faith. The word of God gives us 2 commands with three examples, to reveal how we avoid having our fixation pulled from hope into hopelessness, which leads to the sinful behavior in the first six verses.
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord”. Here we see they had ceased from gaining hope, confidence, and patient endurance, from looking for the blessed hope, the great and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, the lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-14).
Where had their attention fallen to? In focusing on the “what ifs” to come, they looked like cheap substitutes. They were driven by their anxiety over having what was material. They had tried to look around the corner to avoid “what ifs” so much, that they were not paying workers, were looking to fellowship with the rich, (whether saved or not, to advance their purpose and quell their fears) and had shut off compassion to the brethren most in need.
This is a problem for Christians in America. Gone are the days, where filled with the Spirit, we minister the gospel and refuse to worry about the material, as we trust where He calls He will provide. We constantly court donors (church people) to give more and more. Rather than pray, we seek to finance buildings and programs which will bring in more people (potential donors) to pay our pastoral salaries and buildings and properties cost. This is a far cry from Holy Spirit produced faith and love of the early church in Acts 4:32-37, where those who owned property sold it (giving all the money) for those in the body of Christ who were most in need.
What James’ readers were falling into, is a problem for us as well. In our anxiety we justify working ourselves to death, voiding ourselves of fellowship to make a buck, and missing intimacy with Christ in the word and prayer. Remember that Matthew 6:24-33 is an admonition from Jesus to all disciples, not to get programed to live beyond the day at hand, and what is needed. When we do, worry and anxiety pull our minds around the corner, to see the “what ifs”, rather than trusting Him and looking for His return. This is when we run the risk of producing “dead faith”.
In addition to the command to be “patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord”, we are given the admonition to consider the example of a farmer, who plants his field, then in trust waits for the former and latter rain, to do what only God can; make the crops grow. Happily, the farmer, fertilizes, weeds, and works the field, but he must wait on the rain, which is the purview of God. In the first admonition, James’ readers are commanded to “be patient” wait on God for what you need rather than stockpiling, worrying, and looking for ways to produce what may not be needed at all.
How are we to exercise patience, waiting faithfully no matter what circumstances arise? “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand”. This means to anchor your heart to your Holy Spirit born desire for Christ’s return. Faith and hope, fixated on Jesus’ soon return, is the very element which produces godliness (Titus 2:11-14; II Peter 3:1-13) and relieves the pain from the trials of our life (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). If our gaze shifts from the Author and Finisher of our faith, the subsequent anxiety will lead to impiety and ungodly behavior, like is described in the first 6 verses of James 5.
In our next post we see why this ungodly behavior was so pervasive in the fellowship James epistle is written to and is often far too pervasive in our fellowship.
The fall of Ravi Zacharias has been a devastating blow to many in the Christian world. The details of an independent report into the sexual abuse and immorality this man engaged in, are egregious. Over the course of more than a few decades toward the end of his life, he literally ran his own private world of pleasure. The one question we need to answer is how does this happen? And can it happen to us?
In the first place, “it” happens because it is not an “it” but begins with a gradual breakdown in a man’s personal passion and seeking of God. Perhaps, because of “commitments” or “ministerial responsibilities”, so called. I could be dead wrong, but Ravi Zacharias most likely did not begin wanting to manipulate woman for his own depraved sexual pleasure. He most likely began desiring to serve God in some way, if not fully wanting to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as an act of thanksgiving and love. I had heard him enough to know he knew the precepts of the doctrine of Christ better than most. Assuming this was the case, let us consider that our past, unhealed, and untouched by grace, will sneak up on us.
For the sake of time, let us consider that Ravi Zacharias, had a difficult upbringing to say the least. Growing up Anglican in Madras India, he was not a believer and at 17 attempted suicide by swallowing poison. This may come as a shock to you, but suicide is not a product of mental illness. It is a product of demonic suggest, to destroy the image of God. Living in a nation, 98 percent giving to idol worship and demonic ritualism, has an effect. We must also understand, his relationship to his father was not affirming. This led to his perfectionism and being driven to succeed, for the purpose of patriarchal affirmation. Remember, that even after a person finds salvation in Christ, these issues must be reconciled with our relationship to Abba Father, or they remain hidden.
These are unexploded bombs, still armed. It is our Father’s intention to disarm them practically, but only good discipleship, which is not academic but Holy Spirit led and executed, will surface these for removal (I Peter 1:6-7).
It is important that I state clearly, we are not using these elements to excuse this man’s behavior but making clear that Satan will exploit the unsanctified and unhealed areas of our lives. In Zacharias, a man who professed salvation in Christ and had years of what is considered fruitful ministry, we must see where he potentially came off the tracks. We must remember that we can begin to love God with all our heart yet fall away as an entire church was characterized.
Revelation 2:2-5 (NKJV) “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
Although Ephesus was commended for being a solid biblical church, their loving devotion for Christ had been left behind. Jesus did not admonish them for their sin, but rebuked them and warned them of loss, should they not repent. It is clear to me, that the bulk of the Ephesian Church, left loving Jesus, without even knowing it as they loved the ministry and what is brought to them. In essence, their purpose was no longer loving Jesus with all their heart, soul and mind, but professing to love Jesus through serving him, while actually ministering (and expressing loving devotion to ministry) to serve themselves.
To be clear, therefore many pastors move on after short stints and why many pastors move on, when it appears, they have large and growing ministries. Enough is never enough, because their soul is not being filled with God’s presence, power and desire. They need more affirmation, numbers, programs, effectiveness or their lives and feelings disassociate. They begin to look for satisfaction, relief from their gnawing emptiness and pain, in outside areas. This is when the Devil begins his campaign of suggested compromise.
As you can already tell, I am not only speaking of Ravi Zacharias, but all of us. Yes, this can happen to us, in many varied areas of sin. Did he have success, sure enough. Was that success monumental and exponential, absolutely. Did it give him access and authority? Yes! Did that authority isolate him from fellowship with other’s who could have held him in check? Yes.
I spent time in the denomination Zacharias held ordination in and can report that most of the ministers referred to him as if he was a cut above others. It is not too much to say, Ravi was revered and wrongly so. The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, where he was ordained (as was I), began with its only emphasis being Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and soon Coming King. This denomination’s founding, under A.B. Simpson, was full gospel and filled with Acts of the apostles preaching, transformation and miracles. Sometime in the late 1950’s there was a shift, which pushed the Holy Spirit out, especially in the way of manifestation gifts and divine healing.
They became very intellectual and continued to have solid teaching on the Holy Spirit and sanctification, even concerning the return of the King, but the power and presence of God made too many uncomfortable. Into these circumstances Ravi Zacharias flourished. His stellar intellect opened doors and gave him affirmation. But his fall, most likely not until the last 30 to 40 years of his life, began with a compromise based on his deteriorating physical health.
At some point, a man who should have sought divine healing, decided to take massage. At some point a man who seeks divine healing, who does not get healed, needs to hold to the words of God in Paul the apostle…
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NKJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Let us be clear, Abba Father did not give Paul relief through healing, only power in His weakness to love and glorify God. Paul accepted what western Christian’s seldom do, which is do only what the LORD commands or allows. Let us also be honest, we Americans hate that, because we are socialized in getting what we want and if we want relief, no matter the cost we should get it. We believe that God affirms that. He does not.
How did this lead to Zacharias compromise? He would get massages for his back from women. Women who would spend more time touching him, intimately and for his benefit than his wife. Before you label me a prude, a massage, even not one sought for sexual gratification, is sensual and intimate. It really does not matter whether it is a woman or a man giving it (look up Ted Haggard for context).
It was most likely this compromise, which opened Pandora’s box for the man. This is what led to his opening up a massage parlor business, which his denomination should have discerned as a bad and unbiblical idea, with tremendous opportunity for disaster. Again, lets be honest, do massage parlors have a good connotation in our vernacular? With the potential for sin and entanglements, did anyone counsel the man to…
1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV) Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Precipitous falls from the Lord can happen because.
We never deal with painful wounds from our life before Christ, which become the very inner weakness that drives us away from loving Christ with all our heart.
Because, rather than hold to God’s promise of His fullness, transformation, healing and presence with us (to satisfy our souls), we begin to feel disassociated, as our minds are being pulled from God’s word.
We consider and engage in compromise that is not expressly forbidden with a “Thou shalt not…”. In this we have pleased our flesh and the hook is set.
Having isolated ourselves from accountability (or having none in place), we get picked off and begin to sin, as if we deserve to.
So yes, we can fall away from Christ into sin, as Ravi Zacharias did, for these same reasons, because Satan is the one looking to exploit the unsanctified areas of our practical life—Satan is tempting us daily to water down what God’s word clearly declares for our practical life, by focusing on what the world has to offer that is good, and not specifically to be avoided with a “Thou shalt not…”—Satan then easily leads us to devise ways to be undetected and avoid accountability.
The word of God clearly states this…
1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
James 1:13-15 (NKJV) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
As we can see, pride does come before the fall, as does a person’s life controlling frustration, despondency, fear, and entitlement. Most do not have the wide birth granted a man of Zacharias’ supposed intellectual astuteness or supposed spirituality. That said it happens over and again to ministers and laity, everyday as we slip into compromise, with no conviction of the Holy Spirit.
This should not be the case as we are commanded to cleanse ourselves from every filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1). This should not be the case when the Lord has provided what we need for this task in His word and the presence of His Holy Spirit.
How do we fall? It is as easy as being distracted and wasting time.
Ephesians 5:15-18 (NKJV) See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit
What are the schemes of Satan in your life, to drag you off, where a fall brings shame on the Lord Jesus Christ, and potentially undermines the faith of others? Let us consider Ravi Zacharias’ fall as a wake up, to the apostacy waiting to pounce, as the Devil is looking to devour.
In a recent Christian Post article, it was reported that popular Christian writer and pastor, Max Lucado had come under fire for his position on gay marriage and attitudes toward LBGTQ, in general. This occurred after he had been invited to preach at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
“In 2004 I preached a sermon on the topic of same-sex marriage. I now see that, in that sermon, I was disrespectful. I was hurtful,” wrote Lucado, pastor of Oak Hills Church, a nondenominational Christian church in San Antonio, Texas…”
“I wounded people in ways that were devastating,” Lucado, who spoke at the National Cathedral on Feb. 7, continued. “I should have done better. It grieves me that my words have hurt or been used to hurt the LGBTQ community. I apologize to you and I ask forgiveness of Christ.”
“To be clear, I believe in the traditional biblical understanding of marriage, but I also believe in a God of unbounded grace and love,” he said in his letter. “LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ families must be respected and treated with love. They are beloved children of God because they are made in the image and likeness of God.
In Max Lucado’s response we see another “Christian Super-Star” preacher capitulate to the world the flesh and the devil. Really a sermon on marriage being defined in God’s word as being between a man and a woman, was hurtful? To whom?
Out 64 million married America couples that fit the biblical definition of marriage (132 million of 330 million population), there are only 543,000 same sex married couples, with a vast majority of homosexuals choosing couple relationships without marriage (8 million). In the first place it seems, statistically, that LGBT do not care to live in marriage but co-habitate. The reason is that any and all LGBT deal with sexual sin against God. Since it is rebellion, those who choose it, know a government marriage certificate won’t solemnize it in the site of God, so why bother?
Statistically, less than 1% of all marriages are LBGT, so who was he offending? The answer is, he was offending sinners who hate God’s word and hate God’s children, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
In Lucado’s response, he gives the same mush mouthed and unbiblical response, we often hear when accused by a bent-on raging against the LORD and His Anointed (Psalm 2); and that answer is we ought to respect LBGTQ because they too are children of God, being made in God’s image.
Let us further examine this claim.
Although Adam was created in the image of God, that image was marred and tainted, through Adam’s sin. Adam’s first son killed his second Abel, as we see Cain, ignoring the commands of the Lord (Genesis 4:6-7). We then find in Genesis 5:3, that Adam brought for a son, in his own image and after his own likeness. Let us understand, both Cain and Abel were brought forth the same way, yet one desired to be like the father and trust YHWH for atonement (Abel), through appropriate sacrifice in faith; the other wanted to have atonement his way.
This is transgression, comes from Cain being brought forth in Adam’s sinful image and after his sinful likeness (Adam’s passed-on iniquity). Genesis 5:3 reveals that Seth, was more like Abel and Adam, after the fall; Cain more like his father, before the fall.
The point is that Adam’s stain taints every human being born and makes us all other than God’s children, even from before birth.
Psalms 51:5 (NKJV) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
Yet the scripture goes further to declare what we are by birth and it is not remotely close to being children of God.
Romans 8:7-8 (NKJV) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Simply stated, by birth we are all born enemies of God, sinful and unable to please Him, being carnal; sold under sin. To advance this m point, consider with me that sexually immorality (which includes pornography, adultery, fornication and yes LBGT) is carnal behavior. So, are Christians are supposed to respect those who are sexually immoral?
No, we are not! We are not to be respecter of person’s period. We are to love our enemies, but this is not through tolerating or elevating sin, to sanctioned status before God, regardless of what that sin is.
Let us consider an even clearer passage from the word of God.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
In this passage the word of God declares all apart from Christ to be “children of wrath“. The only way to become a child of God is through the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12). In this our relationship to God is restored and only those who have received the promise of God, in Jesus finished work of redemption, are children of God.
With this truth, what does Max Lucado do with I Corinthians 6:9-10, Revelation 21:8, and 22:15, where sexual immorality and homosexuality are listed as sin practices, which will keep humanity out of the kingdom of God? So why did Max Lucado apologize or even take a speaking engagement as the National Cathedral, when it is notoriously liberal? He did both for the almighty dollar.
If Lucado’s position on marriage has not changed (as he says being traditional or biblical), as he stated, the only reason to apologize is to fear diminishment in his lucrative book sales, being rejected by the growing apostate church in America, and doing an uncomfortable tap dance as a mega church pastor. All those of solid faith in Christ, ought to boycott his writings, until he repents of grieving the Holy Spirit.
Truth told, some of his older works were beneficial to my understanding of God’s love, but he has had nothing to give in offering to God or the benefit of God’s church for decades. His work is simply, like drinking a juice glass of water half full of water and the bottom quarter sugar. You’ll get a rush if you get by the syrupy sweetness, but your belly will be sick in a few minutes.
How should treat effeminate, sodomites, cross dressers, those who abominably alter their God given sex? Like any other person who is stuck in their sin, by speaking the truth in love, and avoiding ungodly and overly friendly ties to them (II Corinthians 6:14-18).
Speaking the truth in live is not respect for the individual, but is it God’s love and mercy, calling the sinner to repentance, for without repentance and faith in Christ, they will die in their sin and wind up in the second death, which is the lake of fire which burns forever.
What any militant sinner wants (those who have chosen to shut off God’s voice in word and Spirit) is not respect, but the bowing of the Christian’s conscience to their own unregenerate and debased mind set. May God convict Max Lucado of bowing to Satan’s plan of silencing men of God. May we continue to speak the truth in love, calling all to repentance and reaming humble before our God; for apart from Christ we’d be just as lost.
After reading the rest of chapter 5 (Satan’s Main target) in E.M. Bounds book “Guide to Spiritual Warfare” I had to quote it for our instruction. what you read is found on pages 45-50, from the kindle version of “Guide to Spiritual Warfare“
The Material Deception
We have been taught to regard the principles of church prosperity as those items that can be seen only in a statistical column. We seek to impress an age geared to the objectivity of secular facts and figures. However, the most vital spiritual conditions and gains cannot be reduced to figures. For this reason, they are left out of the numerical column, and, after a while, they are neither noted nor observed. If we do not change our methods, our ideas concerning the strength of the local church will become worldly. No matter how imposing our material results may be, or how magnificent and prosperous the secular arm of the church appears, we must go deeper than these for its strength. We must proclaim and reiterate with increased emphasis that the strength of the church does not lie in these things.
These are the gilded delusions that we mistake for the true riches. While we are vainly saying, “[We are] rich, and increased with goods,” God has written that we are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Wealth and prosperity may be the costly spices and splendid decorations that embalm and entomb our spirituality. True strength lies in the godliness of the people. The personal holiness of the members of each church is the only true measure of strength. Any other test offends God, dishonors Christ, grieves the Holy Spirit, and degrades religion.
A church can often make the best showing of material strength when death in its deadliest form is feeding on its vital organs. There is hardly a more damaging delusion than to judge the conditions of a church by its material prosperity or church-related activity. Spiritual barrenness and rottenness in a church are generally hidden by a pleasant exterior and unusual growth. However, a spiritual church converts people from sin soundly, clearly, and fully. Then it puts them on the road to holiness, where they strive to walk in a way that is pleasing to God.
This spirituality is not to be kept in a corner of the church but is to be its primary and only business. God’s church must continue to do this work of converting sinners and perfecting saints in holiness. Whenever this work becomes secondary, or other interests are held to be its equivalent, then the church becomes worldly. When material interests are emphasized, they come into prominence. Then the world comes to the throne and sways the scepter of Satan.
There is no surer way to make the church worldly than to put its material prosperity in the forefront. This is the surest way to put Satan in charge. It is easy for material assessments to become priority by emphasizing them until the opinion is created that these things are most important. When collecting money, building churches, and counting attendance become the evidence of church prosperity, then the world has a strong foothold, and Satan has achieved his purpose.
Creating a Human Institution
Another scheme of Satan is to eliminate from the church all the humble, self-denying ordinances that are offensive to unsanctified tastes and unregenerate hearts. He seeks to reduce the church to a mere human institution—popular, natural, fleshly, and pleasing.
Satan has no scheme that can more thoroughly thwart God’s high and holy purposes than transforming His church into a human institution according to man’s views. God’s right arm is thereby paralyzed, the body of Christ becomes the body of Satan, and light is turned into darkness and life into death. Men who have religious leadership positions are often blinded by a false attachment to what they think is truth and what they consider honors Christ. They are found trying to eliminate from the teaching of Christ those painful, offensive, unpopular, and self-denying features to which the Gospel owes all its saving beauty and power, and which stamp it as divine.
From the life of Peter we have a painful and most instructive warning:
“From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.(Matthew 16:21–27)”
Here is a lesson for all times and for all people. An apostle had become the mouthpiece of Satan! What an alarming, horrible, and revolting picture! An apostle, zealous for his Master’s glory, advocated with fire and force a scheme that would forever destroy that glory! The apostle Peter became Satan’s agent!
This is the same apostle who had just made the inspired confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” that placed him in highest honor with Christ and the church! Before the words of that divine and marvelous confession had died from his lips, this same apostle became the advocate of plans that would nullify his confession and destroy the eternal foundations of the church.
The Easy Way
Peter, a chief apostle, advocated schemes that would have discrowned Christ of His messiahship and brought heaven’s favorite plan to a disastrous and shameful end! What destructive impulse compelled Peter? Satan entered him and, for the time being, achieved his purposes. But Christ reproved Peter, and in the reproof struck a crushing blow at Satan. “
Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23) is a reminder and duplicate of Jesus’ response to Satan during the wilderness temptation. “Thou art an offence [“stumblingblock,” rv] unto me” (v. 23), He said. The temptation through Peter was the Devil’s trigger to catch Christ in his trap, but Jesus saw through it. “Thou savourest not the things which be of God, but those that be of men” (v. 23). The Devil was not in sight. Man appeared, but Satan’s views were pressed to the front.
The things that men savor in church planning and church life are against God’s plan. The high and holy principles of self-denial, godly living, and surrender to Christ are all against men’s view of Christianity. The Devil seeks to destroy the church indirectly. Men’s views eliminate all the unpopular principles of the Cross—self-denial, life surrender, and separation from the world. When this is done, the Devil runs the church. Then the church becomes popular, self-satisfying, modern, and progressive. But it is the Devil’s church, founded on principles pleasing in every way to flesh and blood.
If this occurs, Christ is no longer in the church. There is no crucifixion of self, no crucifixion of the world, no second coming of Christ, no eternal judgment, no everlasting hell, no eternal heaven. Nothing is left that reminds us of God, because everything reeks of man. Man makes it the Devil’s church by turning Christ’s church over to human leaders. The world is sought and gained in the Devil’s church, but the soul and heaven are lost to eternity.
The very heart of this disgraceful apostasy, this dethroning of Christ and enthroning of the Devil, is to remove the Holy Spirit from His leadership in the church. Satan’s plan is to put unspiritual men in leadership to direct the church. Men of great ability and men with the powers of leadership have often displaced God’s leadership. The ambition for leadership and the enthronement of human leaders is the doom and seal of apostasy. There is no leadership in God’s church except the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The man who has the most of God’s Spirit is God’s chosen leader. He is zealous for the Spirit’s sovereignty, ambitious to be the least, the slave of all.
In this post I have liberally quoted from one of the most influential Christian pastors and teachers of the last 150 years; though many have not heard of him. E.M. Bounds was contemporary to the likes of Moody, Spurgeon, Nettleton, Finney, Andrew Murray and A.B. Simpson. Not only was he read by some of theses men, his work was assimilated into their lives and teaching. This was also true in the lives of great men of God, closer to our world and culture, such as Oswald Chamber, A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson.
Edward McKendree Bounds, was born in Missouri (1835). He became a pastor before the civil war, and although he opposed slavery, he was arrested as a confederate sympathizer and jailed. He was also charged a fine of $500 dollars. Feeling it immoral for the Federal government to treat its citizens as such, he joined the confederacy as a chaplain, hoping to assist those who needed Christ and would die in the war. After being wounded in a battle, He was captured by the Union and released; after which he would continue his pastor work and writing.
His Complete works on prayer is exhaustive, exhilarating and used to be standard reading for those absolutely surrendered to God and were filled by the Spirit. Perhaps the reason so few are reading him today, even among Pentecostals, reveals a lack in those claiming to be filled with God’s Spirit.
In the quotes below from chapter five of his work entitled “Guide to Spiritual Warfare”, Bounds diagnoses Satan’s scheme that has robbed the church in our day of its identity, power and purpose. May God cause us great reflection as we read, that we may right the ship, before apostacy drowns us all.
Satan’s Main Target
Satan is an expert in all the arts of deceit. He is an archangel in execution, and he often succeeds in seducing the nations most loyal to Christ. He leads them into plans that pervert all scriptural principles. When the church itself, the bride of Christ, is seduced from her purity, she degenerates into worldly ritualism. The “gates of hell shall not prevail” against the church. This promise of our Lord stands against every satanic device and assault. But this unchangeable word does not protect the church from the Devil’s strategies, which often pervert the aims of the church and postpone the day of its final triumph. The
Perverting of the Church
The Devil is a hydra-headed monster who is multifaceted in plans and wisdom as well as in atrocities. His supreme effort is to gain control of the church, not to destroy its organization, but to pervert its divine purpose. He does this in the most insidious way, so that there is no startling change and nothing to shock or alarm those whom he is trying to undermine.
Sometimes revolutionary and destructive change is introduced under the disguise of a greater zeal for Christ’s glory. It is often introduced by someone who is held in high esteem by the local church, but who is totally ignorant of the fact that the measure he is advocating is subversive.
One of Satan’s most perverse schemes is to establish a wrong estimate of church strength. If he can create false assessments of local church power; if he can press the material things to the forefront; if he can make these forces powerful in commands and influence, he has accomplished his purpose.
The third temptation of our Lord was intended to subvert the purposes of His kingdom. Satan planned to do this by substituting material elements of strength for spiritual ones.
This is one of the Devil’s most insidious and successful methods to deceive, divert, and deprave. He parades the most attractive material results. He praises the power of human planning before church leaders until they are dazzled and ensnared. Then the church becomes thoroughly worldly while boasting of her spirituality. No deceiver is so artful in the diabolical trade of deception as Satan. As an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), he leads souls to death.
To mistake the true power of the church’s strength is to mistake the true character of the church. When its character is changed, then all its efforts and aims are also changed. The strength of the church lies in its devotion to God. All else is incidental and is not the source of its strength. But in worldly, popular language, a local church is called strong when its membership is large, and when it has social position and financial resources. A church is thought to be powerful when ability, learning, and eloquence fill the pulpit, and when the pews are filled by fashion, intelligence, money, and influence. An assumption of this kind is worldly to the fullest extent.
The Source of True Power
The local church that defines its strength in this way is on the highway to apostasy. The strength of that church does not consist in any or all of these things. The faith, holiness, and zeal of the church are the elements of its power. The church’s strength does not consist in its numbers and its money, but in the holiness of its members. The church’s strength is not found in these worldly attachments or endowments, but in the endowment of the Holy Spirit on its members.
The most deadly symptom that can be seen in a church is the transference of its strength from spiritual to material forces, from the Holy Spirit to the world. The power of God in the church is the measure of its strength. This is the quality God looks for in a church. The power of the Holy Spirit gives the church the ability to accomplish the purposes for which it was designed.
On the contrary, show us a church that is poor, illiterate, obscure, and unknown, but composed of praying people. They may not be men of power, wealth, or influence. Their families may not know one week where they are to get their bread for the next. But with them is “the hiding of [God’s] power” (Habakkuk 3:4), and their influence will be felt for eternity. Wherever they go there is a fountain of light, Christ in them is glorified, and His kingdom is advanced. They are His chosen vessels of salvation who reflect His light.
Within the church there are unmistakable signs that she has been blinded and caught by Satan’s dazzling glare. The church is being seriously affected by the material progress of the age. We have heard so much about prosperity and gazed on it for so long that spiritual views no longer appeal to us. Everything must take on the rich quality, luxuriant growth, and magnificent appearance of the material, or else it seems beggarly. This is the most perilous condition the church has to face. It happens when the meek and lowly fruits of holiness are discounted by the showy and worldly charms with which material success crowds the church.
We must not yield to the flood. We must not for a moment, not with the hundredth part of an inch, give place to the world. Holiness and devotion to God must be stressed in every way and at every point. The church must be made to see this delusion and snare. This transference of strength from God to the world, this rejection of the Holy Spirit’s endowment of might and power, must be recognized as yielding to Satan. The church, more and more, is inclined not only to disregard, but also to despise, the elements of spiritual strength and to set them aside for more impressive, worldly ideas.