October 24, 2016
For those of us who are bewildered about the actions and words of those who belong to the Church of Christ, and for those, as well, within that denomination who wish to understand better why they are ostracizing themselves from others who uphold God’s Word, there is an excellent pdf book, written by insightful men within the CoC itself, which we can study. I have been reading through it this month and it is quite enlightening. It confirms what I have experienced in the past as well as recently, for instead of accepting that friends will, and can, differ in their interpretations of some passages of Scripture, there seems to be an insistence that others come to see their beliefs as being undeniably right. To this end many CoC people work, oblivious, or maybe just unconcerned, as to their combative, insensitive style, and to the betrayal others may feel when they realize that the CoC adherent’s main goal is making a convert rather than that of maintaining a friendship.
Should we not try to persuade others to believe what we are convinced is the Truth? Yes and no. Yes, when we are making a clear declaration that that is our main goal and are leaving it open for others to choose to listen or not, to share with us their beliefs and why they have those beliefs, and when we can drop those matters which cannot be agreed upon. However, if methods are employed such as condescension, intimidation, coercion, or deception, then the one “evangelizing” is not operating in the Holy Spirit, but rather in the sinful nature.
Gal. 5:19-21 makes that clear. There it tells us that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious and that along with such sins as sexual immorality, witchcraft, and fits of rage, the sins of discord, dissensions, and factions are also those sins which will keep a person from inheriting the Kingdom of God. In the pdf book I’ve mentioned that I’m reading, it is admitted that the CoC has many factions, that this is due to much infighting, argument, and contention, and that the majority perpetuate this behavior as if it is admirable to do so. This is largely discussed from chapters 14 on to the end, all of which I’ve read.
Now I am reading through the previous chapters, which I earlier skimmed. Letting their readers know that unity, not divisiveness, was the goal of the CoC founders, these authors lament that the exact opposite has come about. Here are three excerpts and I encourage everyone to read these carefully, noting how off course the CoC denomination has since gone:
~~From p. 31: It is ironic that a Movement that began as an effort to unite the Christians in all the sects should itself become the most divisive of any persuasion in Christendom. It would be like Quakers evolving into bitter warmongers or like Pentecostals becoming apathetic to the call to holiness. Not only did our pioneers preach unity, they also practiced it. The union effected at Lexington could only have occurred among people who were prepared to accept each other despite differences and to honor the right of private judgment.
~~From p. 37: It was here that Stone showed his magnanimity. Realizing that he had been too speculative in his handling of scripture, he resolved to cool it. He went on record as agreeing that there is but one thing necessary insofar as faith is concerned, for union in Christ, and that is believing that Jesus is the Son of God. And there is but one act that is required for entrance into the fellowship of the church, and that is immersion. Campbell had long stressed this believing the one fact, obeying the one act as the basis of fellowship, and Stone accepted it. Stone, however, never really believed in baptism as “essential to salvation,” the view that eventually emerged among the Campbellites, though Campbell himself avoided stating the idea that strongly. Stone’s definition of a Christian will interest you: “Whoever acknowledges the leading truths of Christianity, and conforms his life to that acknowledgement, we esteem a Christian.”
~~From p. 41: Then there are some that will draw the line on a sister or brother for taking a drink. I do not take drinks and I suppose I do not approve, but in the light of scripture do I have the right to impose my view upon others, demanding that they see it my way or be thrust from the fellowship? The scriptures clearly make drunkenness a sin, and I know of no one that disputes that. Here we can agree. But to deduce that one cannot therefore take a cocktail with his meals without sinning is to go beyond what the Bible says. The teetotaler may be right, but as Thomas Campbell liked to put it, he cannot impose his deduction upon others until they see it the way he does.
Where Scripture does not give a clear-cut command, we should never think we have the right to infringe upon others what we believe concerning those debatable issues. In the first four chapters of 1 Cor. we are warned about factions that tout one teacher over another. No, we are to follow Christ alone (3:21-23), for He is our only Master and Teacher (Mt. 23:8-10), our only Spiritual Authority (20:25,26), and the only Mediator between us and God. (1 Tim. 2:5) Moreover, the Lord alone is our Judge (1 Cor. 4:4), and we are not to judge the conscience or motives, nor the debatable beliefs and actions, of another one of Christ’s servants. (v. 5 // Rom. 14:1-4) “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.” (Rom. 14:16) And so that “you will not take pride in one man [and his doctrines] over against another” (1 Cor. 4:6), definitely “Do not go beyond what is written [in Scripture]” –!!! (Same verse) In spite of these warnings, the CoC continues to invent strict rules that are not stated in the Word of God. In the future I will address some of them.
Here is the link to the very helpful pdf book:
Again, I want to point out that this pdf book is written by those within the CoC but who see where their churches are erring and how they are hindering the furtherance of the Gospel. Those who are in the CoC should find it helpful and freeing, and so should anyone else who is being intimidated to believe as that denomination says we must.
October 21, 2016
I thought it was quite interesting that again today while downtown evangelizing, a stranger, after talking with me about God’s Word, asked if he could pray for me. It was at the end of my three hours at the bus and train stops and it was as I was walking the several blocks back to my car. In my last post I wrote about the security cops praying for me and this time it was a cab driver! What a precious prayer he prayed for me, just as the others had. May the Lord bless him, and since he quoted Jer. 29:11, may the Lord indeed give him hope and a good future.
Earlier, after I’d handed a tract to a woman who smiled at me as she passed, she came back a few minutes later and asked me if I would pray for her about some things she confided to me. I did and then told her I would ask my mom to also be praying about her request. When I hugged her, she hugged me like she didn’t want to let me go. May the Lord work miracles in her life!
Within the first few minutes of arriving at the train track, I saw one of my long-time friends. I was very happy that he seemed to have grown spiritually and in concern for his family members’ salvation. He said he very much wished some of them and I could meet. I felt honored that he desired that. May the Lord answer all his righteous prayers, including that of the salvation of his grandchildren and his five year old great-grandchild!
One guy who I’d witnessed to years ago and who I see every once in a while, I saw again today. He is a soft-spoken man, but I was sad to realize that though he used to consider himself a Christian, he now leans more toward Islam. I reminded him of the difference between the man Mohammed who was perverse and a murderer and Jesus who was sinless. I said that if Jesus was not who He claimed to be (God), He had to have then been a liar or a lunatic, not the “good man” Islam claimed Jesus was. This friend said the messenger wasn’t as important as the message. I responded that the Bible was written by many people –righteous people, not like the Quran which was written by just one man whose life revealed he was not worthy of our trust! He responded that he had come to believe that the Bible couldn’t be fully trusted and he said he was doing research about it all. As I drove home later, I kept thinking, “That is what it means to be lost. It means to be confused, to really not know the Truth or who is teaching the Truth, and to be rejecting the Truth out of blindness and because of listening to men’s philosophies and doctrines.” May the Lord reveal the Truth to this friend and may he listen, believe, and turn from falsehoods!
Later I saw a guy I’d conversed with sometime earlier this Fall, the one who had sung so sweetly for me songs unto the Lord. He told me of a recent deep hurt he had received from a preacher and I felt so sad to hear of it and to think of all the calloused crushing that goes on in the name of Christ. May the Lord open doors for this man to use his beautiful voice, his love for Jesus, and his humble preaching ability to spread the Truth far and wide, including on his friend’s radio program. May he always live out that song he sang for me again today, “Oh, how I love Jesus”, and may many people encourage him in his spiritual gifts.
When I was just about to leave, I decided to make one last “lap” around the corners. When I approached a guy leaning against a wall by the track, he said, “You would have to come over here, wouldn’t you?” He said it while smiling and let me know he’d been watching me and that my signs had him under conviction, particularly the one that reads, “A companion of fools suffers harm. (Pr. 13:20)” He took a tract and we talked a while. When I asked him where he was at spiritually, he said that he believes the Word but has a big problem with wanting women. I reminded him that in Mt. 5:28-30 Jesus taught that lust, if it is not repented of (as in rooting it out completely and thoroughly), will send a person to Hell. The guy said he understood that and didn’t know what to do about it. I said that beside prayer and praise to God and reading the Word which feeds our spirit and renews our mind, he should daily take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ, as 2 Cor. 10:5 says to do. I said that he should flee sin and the places and people that bring temptation. May the Lord yank that guy out of the pit he has been sliding ever deeper into!
There were many other people I talked with, others who just took a tract, and others who only stopped to read whatever sign I had showing at the time. Some scowled, some smiled, some remained poker-faced. Some people in cars honked and waved and others gave me the thumbs-up. May the Lord remind every one of them of His Word, His commands, His love, His Truth, and His coming Judgement. May they read the Scriptures, repent and follow Jesus, and share Him with others. And may the Lord give all of them, particularly those people I spoke with today, righteous friends who will encourage them to renounce sin and follow Jesus trustingly, with full commitment, all the rest of their lives.
October 13, 2016
Today at the bus and train stops it seemed like almost everyone was extra receptive and many came over to me and asked for a tract or even initiated a conversation. I believe the main reason for the exceptionally good afternoon of evangelism was this: Prayer. I had texted and emailed more people than I normally do to be praying for me and those I’d meet, and I believe they really were praying.
Speaking of prayer, the Lord arranged a prayer meeting right there at one of the main four corners and it was initiated by one of the transit security cops! There were about six of them on bicycles talking with one another (and with others who were standing there), and two of them started talking to me and thanking me for what I do down there. I was kind of surprised but then I thanked them for their service to the community too. One wanted to see all five of the signs I was wearing and the other asked if he could pray for me right then. I said, “Sure! Thank you.” But then I added, “In the name of Jesus, right?” He said, “Definitely,” and so I again affirmed that that would be great. Both he and the other guy put their hands on my shoulders and prayed for me so wonderfully, with many listening in! It was such a sweet blessing! I’ve been witnessing down there since January of 1996 and I don’t think any law enforcement person has ever done that for me! I felt very edified by seeing their boldness in Christ, as well as their thoughtfulness toward me.
There were many, many excellent encounters today (like with a husband and wife who were from England, and like with a woman who had a huge black eye, bruised face, and mangled ear), but just one other that was a bit unusual was that a guy came out of the McDonalds, handed me a bag and said, “I bought you two hamburgers.” I thought that was so kind of him and I told him so, and being I’d been talking with him about God’s Word a half hour or so before, I didn’t want to refuse his gift. So even though I didn’t actually want the hamburgers, I took the bag, and telling him how thoughtful that was of him, I put it in my tract bag. A bit later when I was headed back to my car, I realized I hadn’t given the hamburgers away to any homeless-looking person, which I had planned to do. I quickly prayed that someone would come by that I could give them to, but being I was already at my car, no homeless-looking person was around. But then! –out of nowhere almost, a tattered-clothed man jay-walked across to my side of the street, and so holding up the bag, I called out to him, “Do you want two McDonalds hamburgers?” He came over to me and asked, “You’re not trying to kill me, are you?”
I knew what the guy meant. It’s the same thought that keeps me from eating anything a stranger gives me –it could be laced with a drug, or anything. I told him the person who gave it to me had just come out of McDonalds and that since the guy was trying to be nice I’d accepted it even though I had other plans for dinner. The guy apparently believed me, for he took the bag and crossed the street toward the spot from where he’d initially emerged from, chomping happily away. As I drove off, he smiled and waved a half-finished hamburger at me.
I tell of these experiences because they distinctly revealed to me that the Lord was answering my prayers that people be friendly, positive, and receptive to me and my message. Several of those partnering in prayer for me said they were praying for the same things, so I know it came about because the Lord was causing it. Truly prayer makes a gigantic difference! Obedience in going out and putting forth the effort is necessary, of course, but even that must be accompanied with prayer.
The Lord works through prayer. Let’s believe it and act according to that faith.
October 7, 2016
A friend and I were talking yesterday about the Lord, about suffering and death, about injustice propagated by this world’s present evil ruler, and about the age to come. During this discussion she asked me what I thought was the reason why so many people who don’t seem deserving have easy and prosperous lives while others who seem kind and good struggle and often suffer. I said that Scripture tells us that God uses hardships to test us in order to see if we will remain faithfully trusting Him, and so that we will draw nearer to Him, know Him and obey Him better, and this so that we will be loving Him and others more fully and correctly.
I said that Jesus taught that life is about overcoming –that we must overcome the temptations to give in or give up, and that we not allow trials to turn us from our Lord. I told her that if God does find us to be faithful overcomers, He will grant us huge rewards, including honor and rulership positions, when He comes (in person literally) to rule the earth (from the physical Jerusalem in Israel) with a rod of iron, with perfect justice, and with perfect righteousness.
I explained to my friend that our mortal lifespans are like one blade of grass, or one speck of dust, compared to our eternal, immortal life to come, and that it will definitely be worth it if we take our trials graciously and seek to do and become what God desires.
Here is a video sermon my brother gave at church back in July and it should be a great encouragement for anyone who would like a reminder of how to think and behave during hard times.
My brother is a very interesting speaker, so I want to also give the new link where anyone can listen to the sermons he gives to the college group at UTA. (Once you click on a sermon, it does take a minute to download.) Here is that link:
One of the verses I told my friend yesterday was John 12:26b. Jesus says there, “He who serves Me, him will My Father honor.” (Yes, we should definitely look forward to being honored by our King!) I described for her the Mt. 25:14-30 passage about the servants’ investments of their talents and about how we should do what is necessary so that we, along with some of them, will hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (v. 21, and again in v. 23) I told her about Jesus’ promise in Rev. 2:26: “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” And in 3:21: “To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne.”
There are many other verses I could’ve mentioned to my friend. Like Mt. 24:13: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” And 2 Tim. 2:12a: “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” And of course 2 Cor. 4:17: “Indeed, our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are producing for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” And certainly Heb. 11:35, for it confirms that obtaining “a better resurrection” comes from having endured suffering faithfully.
Truly our hardships are not wasted. If we respond to them as God wills.
September 30, 2016
I was really surprised earlier this week when someone emailed me who I’d not seen or heard from since 1991! Having lost contact with each other, it was exciting to hear from her, especially since we’d been really good friends our last two years of high school. What was even more exciting was that she told me she has been doing several ministries –three different Bible study groups a week (besides her full-time job!), visiting at shelters, and doing a ministry where she packs brown bag lunches and then walks the beaches handing out the bags to the veterans and the homeless there. Having written messages on the bags, she talks about the Lord with those she encounters. I was thrilled to hear about it, for all these years I hadn’t known what happened to this friend or if she had continued to even follow the Lord.
See, our friendship had begun when I timidly asked her if she wanted to go to a Bible Study Youth Group that I had just begun attending and I’d said it so lamely that I silently blamed myself when she declined (though a few weeks later she did start going). Hearing from her this week and what she’s doing as unto Jesus, –well, I felt like it was a great encouragement the Lord was giving me, like He was saying, “See how I can multiply My servants efforts?” And, “Yes, concerning all the seeds you’ve ever sown, regardless of whether or not you’ve known anything about it, I have been working in those lives.”
Last night I was talking to a different friend, encouraging her concerning the hard trial she’s going through. She happened to mention that someone had told her how soothing it is to hear her play the clarinet as she often does for the residents at a nursing home. I was very excited to realize she does this on a regular basis at four different senior care centers! I encouraged her to continue, and to believe that her efforts help way more people than she realizes. For truly, I reasoned, when a person feels soothed and uplifted, he or she will, themselves, likely act kinder toward others, and this kindness is thus spread and multiplied. She agreed and was further encouraged.
It really isn’t too hard to offer an invitation, give a ride, visit someone, pray for someone, give a neighbor or a stranger a gift of Christ’s love, assist with a need, or just give someone a kind word, a note of encouragement, a compliment, or a smile. Any one of these might go a whole lot further than we could ever anticipate.
September 23, 2016
It is commonly taught in evangelicalism that there are multitudes of prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled, literally, in the person of Jesus Christ during His first advent. Just one of these is Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the clans of Judah, from you shall go forth for Me one who will be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from the days of eternity.” We can see in Luke 2:1-20 that God orchestrated the literal fulfillment of part of this prophecy by having Caesar Augustus order a census, thus motivating Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem in time for Jesus, God in the flesh, to be born there. But was (or is) Jesus ruler in Israel? True, He is their rightful and over-seeing Ruler, but because God does not usurp anyone’s free will, and because Israel has not yet chosen Jesus as their Messiah-King, the manifestation of the prophecy in its totality is yet future.
A similar prophecy concerning Jesus was made way back in Genesis 49:10 that One who will come from the tribe of Judah will rule the nations. Jesus, by being a descendent of Judah (Heb. 7:14) and by being born in Bethlehem in Judea, fulfilled the first part of this prophecy literally just as He will fulfill the second part of it literally about ruling the nations in the age to come. (Ps. ch. 2 // Isa. 9:6,7 & 45:20-25 // Zech. 14:9,16-19 // Mt. 19:28 // Heb. 1:8-13 & 2:5-9 // Rev. 11:15) That the Son of God was born a Jew is crucial in order to fulfill God’s prophecies, as is the fact that He came from the lineage of David and Judah and Jacob. (Dt. 18:17-19 w/ Acts 3:20-23 // Mt. 1:1 // Rom. 1:3 // Rev. 5:5) Yes, Jesus will rule from the throne of David (and David’s throne was neither in Heaven nor in the hearts of believers but in the literal physical city of Jerusalem) and His rule will extend across the whole earth, lasting forever. (Luke 1:32,33 // Isa. 11:10-12 // Dan. 2:44,45 & 7:13,14,27 // Rev. 11:15 & 12:5 & 15:4 & 21:1-5,26,27)
Anyone who claims to believe the literal fulfillment of the prophecies of Christ’s first advent while denying the literal fulfillment of the prophecies concerning His second advent should realize they are disbelieving what God has stated in His Word. No one can slice out portions of Scripture, throw out the LORD’s statements or invent new meanings, and then legitimately insist they are believers of God’s Word. Instead, choosing to believe just some of Scripture, they, as is typical of those who follow cults (or who follow the views of the average Westerner), remain unbelievers.
There are over 60 distinct, major, separate prophecies that Christ fulfilled during His first advent, and He fulfilled them literally. Zech. 9:9 prophesied that Jerusalem’s King/Savior would come to them riding on a donkey and we can read in Mt. 21:1-11 that this was fulfilled literally. Ps. 22:16 and Zech. 12:10 were prophecies that the Messiah would have His hands and feet pierced, and Isa. 53:5 prophesied, “He was pierced for our transgressions.” Jesus died for the sins of the world by crucifixion, a literal fulfillment. Zech. 11:12,13 is a prophecy about the thirty pieces of silver (betrayal money) thrown in the temple to the potter; Ps. 22:18 is a prophecy that lots would be cast for Jesus’ clothing; Ps. 69:21 is a prophecy that He would be given gall and vinegar for His thirst, and Isa. 53:7-9 prophesies that, though He was completely innocent, the Messiah would, without defending Himself, die for the transgression of the people and have a grave amid the wicked and the rich. We can read the literal fulfillment of all these prophecies in Mt. ch. 27.
When we consider these things, it is certainly strange that there are teachers who, while adhering to Replacement Theology (R.T.), deny the literal fulfillment of multitudes of Scripture’s prophecies that have yet to come to pass, and deny even those which have already come to pass in modern times such as the rebirth of the nation of Israel. As the prophecy in Ezek. 37:19-22 says, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph… the Israelite tribes… and join it to Judah’s stick… and they will become one in My hand. …I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or divided into two kingdoms.” God Himself, through people and events, has fulfilled this prophecy concerning the physical descendants of Jacob and has done so in the physical land of Israel as He promised. The rest of Ezekiel chapter 37 then prophesies that this Jewish nation will be cleansed of their sinful backsliding, that David will rule over them forever, that God’s dwelling place will be with them forever, and that they will live in the land forever. Passages such as Luke 1:32,33,67-75 and Rom. 11:25-29 and Heb. 8:8-12 confirm this, but, R.T. adherents disbelieve, and through their confusion they make most of God’s Word out to be nonsense.
Regardless of their unbelief, all of God’s prophecies will come to pass. The “twelve tribes of Israel” (Ezek. 47:13) will have the land divided for them as their inheritance (same verse), because, God says, He swore to Israel’s forefathers to give it to them. (v. 14) In chapters 47 and 48 God gives specific instruction about the borders allotted to each tribe, showing this is to be understood as literal physical boundaries. Moreover, chapters 40-46 describe, in detail, the new temple that will be functioning in the time of the 1,000 year reign of Jesus (who Himself says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David…” –Rev. 22:16), and He will reign over the whole earth, His capital being the present city of Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:1-5 & chapters 11 & 12 & 59:15-66:21 // Jer. 31:1-14 // Zech. chapters 8 & 14 // Rev. 20:1-6)
In Rom. 8:19-23 it is clear that it is not only humans who groan while waiting for Jesus to reverse the Curse and bring renewal to the earth, but creation itself. (See also Gen. 3:17-19 and Isa. 25:6-10 and 2 Pe. 3:2-13) Acts 3:17-26 tells us that Jesus “must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets.” This restoration to an Eden-like earth will begin in Jerusalem, spread throughout Israel, and on to the nations that honor the Lord. (Ps. ch. 72 w/ Zech. 14:16-19 // Isa. 27:6 & 35:1,2 & 51:1-5 & 65:16-25 // Joel 3:16-21 // Amos 9:11-15) The person who “dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth” (Isa. 65:20) and whoever “fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.” (Same verse) Animals will no longer be carnivorous (v. 25 & 11:6,7), vipers will no longer be poisonous (11:8), nations will not war against one another (2:4), and Satan, the Deceiver, will be bound in the Abyss for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:1-3) But, R.T. adherents disbelieve these prophecies.
After the Millennium, Satan will be released for a short time (Rev. 20:3,7) and will go out to deceive the nations again, gathering them for battle against God’s beloved people and city. (v. 8,9) But fire from heaven will devour them and Satan will be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur to be tormented forever. (v. 9,10) After this comes the Great White Throne Judgement of all the dead –the dead which had not been found worthy of the first resurrection (Luke 20:35,36 // 1 Cor. 15:22,23 // 1 Thes. 4:13-18 // Rev. 20:4-6)– at which time earth and sky flee from the presence of the Judge (Rev. 20:11-15) who commands the present heavens and earth to be burned up. (2 Pe. 3:6-13) Death, Hades, and all the wicked are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14,15) and because “the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (21:1) and “the old order of things had passed away” (v. 4), then upon the arrival of the new heaven and the new earth (v. 1), death and sadness and pain are thereby gone forever. (v. 4)
Jesus, having reigned until putting all authorities and enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:24,25) –the last enemy to be destroyed being death (v. 26)– then hands over His Kingdom to God the Father (v. 24) and is made subject to Him (v. 28) so that God may be all in all. (Same verse) That will be the finality of the ages (v. 24) and God will come down to dwell with man on the Eternal New Earth. (Rev. 21:1-5) Yes, God’s dwelling remains Jerusalem, but, having come down from Heaven to the New Earth, Jerusalem is now a brand-new, enormously-enlarged, and forever-purified city (v. 2,3,16), one without a temple building (v. 22), but one into which the nations and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor. (v. 24,26) The New Jerusalem will be approximately 1,400 miles wide, long, and high –a cube (v.16) and anyone who works iniquity will not be allowed entrance. (v. 27) There will be no night there since Jesus is its light (v. 23,25 & 22:5), there will no longer be any curse (22:3), the river of the water of Life and the Tree that heals the nations will be along the main street of the city, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there (v. 1-3) –there in Jerusalem, the Holy City (21:10), on a mountain great and high (same verse), “the wife of the Lamb.” (v. 9) But, R.T. adherents, in disbelieving these prophecies, allegorize or spiritualize them all so that they can continue in their unbelief.
However, just because there are many spiritual aspects to the Kingdom of God, this does not negate the physical aspects, most which will manifest in the Millennium and on afterward into Eternity. Those of us who are united with Christ have His divine power for everything we need for walking in God’s will for our present earthly life. (2 Pe. 1:3,4) This does not mean, though, that our bodies will not get sick, or grow old, or die, for this existing earth and its inhabitants are still under the Curse. But, in the next age –the 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ when Satan is bound for that time– God will have lifted much, though not yet all, of the Curse for those born during that age (Isa. 11:6-10 & 65:16-25) while those who have been already risen to immortality will be reigning with Christ (Rev. 20:6) over the nations (2:26,27 & 3:21) –in charge of many things (Mt. 25:21-23 // 2 Tim. 2:12), including whole cities. (Luke 19:17-19) These saints will not marry or have children, but will be like the angels. (20:34-36)
Sadly, because of the influence of R.T., most churches do not teach these Truths, even though Jesus taught His disciples often about the Kingdom of God, including telling them to pray that it would come to earth. (Mt. 6:10) During the 40 days between His resurrection and accession to Heaven, He taught them still more about the Kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3) So, contrary to what many R.T. adherents teach, it was a completely appropriate question when the disciples asked Him, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6) They would not have asked about their Messiah restoring to Israel a kingdom if Jesus had not been teaching about such a thing. He had been teaching about it, but He had not indicated when it would come to pass. Hence their question. Jesus answered that the timing was not theirs to know (v. 7) but that they should focus on the Good News getting out to the world, and He encouraged them that they would soon receive power from the Holy Spirit to do that task. (v. 8 ) Jesus then ascended to Heaven as they looked on (v.9), and two angels, suddenly standing beside them (v. 10), informed them that Jesus would “come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (v. 11) Yes, every one living will see Jesus returning in the sky (Mt. 24:30,31 // Rev. 1:7) and when His feet stand on the Mount of Olives it will split in half forming a huge valley. (Zech. 14:4) This will happen literally, physically, as God’s Word makes clear by including phrases about locations such as “east of Jerusalem” (same verse) and that the valley “will extend to Azel.” (v. 5)
Quite significant, then, was what Jesus told His disciples when He said, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Mt. 19:28) Should we understand that this promise/prophecy will come to pass literally? Absolutely, we should and we must. For God will bring all His words to pass and they will center around the physical land of Israel, the land that is God’s own inheritance (Joel 3:2), among the nation that is His special possession. (Same verse // Ps. 135:4)
Disbelieving what God’s Word prophesies/says concerning Christ’s first advent is to remain an unbeliever. Disbelieving what God’s Word prophesies/says concerning Christ’s second advent is to remain an unbeliever. “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) Let no one be deceived: Faith that pleases God is to believe what His Word states. It is to believe the Truth and to reject falsehoods, and this is essential for salvation. (3:12-19 // 1 Tim. 4:1,16)
September 16, 2016
While practicing my memory verses a few days ago, 1 Tim. 3:6 struck me in a way it hadn’t before. Regarding overseers in the church (its leaders / pastors / teachers), it says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil.” Wow, I thought, “fall under the same judgement as the devil.” That’s severe. That’s terrifying. That judgement is something everyone should flee from and warn others about. For truly, the devil has an awful eternal future he heads toward, and if a human falls under that same judgement –well, that human has a horrific eternal future as well.
Who is it who is in danger of receiving the same sentence as Satan? This verse shows that it is the person who, after recently becoming a convert to Christianity, then becomes an overseer of a church, becomes conceited, and thus brings himself into enmity with God. In other words, a person who makes the claim to submit to and follow Christ and who then quickly rises to a leadership/teaching role within the church is prone to becoming conceited through doing so, and that this conceit will be the root cause of that person’s condemnation –the same condemnation and punishment the devil is under and will receive.
Such a warning should give all of us very sober pause. Pause in believing just any teacher’s doctrine. Pause in following just any pastor’s leadership. Certainly those who have for a long time claimed to belong to Christ may also be conceited, but we are told to be especially careful about recent converts who quickly become church leaders. But, how recent does “recent” mean? We’re not told, but those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells should utilize the discernment He gives.
Several years ago my husband and I attended a church for about a year where Rick, the pastor, had only been a Christ-follower for about six years, before that having been a drug dealer. He did show signs of conceit in the pastorate but we tried to over-look it, not only because he was using his Spirit-given gifts, but also because we felt anyone doing Bible-based ministry through the Spirit should not be dis-encouraged.
Even so, at the intense and repeated promptings of the Spirit, I wrote him a handwritten letter, and as lovingly as I could, addressed his pride. He didn’t accept it so we went to church elsewhere. However, after crossing paths with him, his wife, and his congregation at a tent revival meeting about a year later, we went back to his church a few times because we still considered everyone there to be our friends. Once again, though, the Lord impressed me to write still another letter to Rick warning him about pride. So after much prayer and weeping I did, and the next Sunday I had it with me, ready to give it to him. My husband, though, pained over the potential strife, had asked me if I couldn’t just wait a couple of weeks; and after church he again asked me to wait. Conflicted about obeying God or adhering to my husband’s wishes, I reasoned I could please them both if I still gave Rick the letter, but not yet.
Well, I never saw Rick alive again. I was in North Dakota that following week, arriving home Sunday night. The next night (Monday) Rick shot himself in the head. I never had given him the warning letter. (Yes, both my husband and I repented through many tears.) It was a letter that could’ve woke Rick up, could’ve shaken him to his senses, could’ve made him hopeful enough, or mad enough, or scared enough, to call out to God for help. The letter could’ve alerted him, reminded him, that even if he was fooling the church people and stealing money from the church treasury for his renewed drug habit, God was seeing all of it and could write him a warning even through the pen of someone who didn’t know anything about how far his pride had actually taken him.
Well, I say all that to say this: Rick was a skilled, smart, and incredibly likable guy. Whoever had helped him get into the pastorate could see that, as could those who eagerly chose to sit under his leadership. But there were other valuables missing –like humility, wisdom, maturity, and careful alertness to the devil’s cunning schemes. Such things come through time, by repeatedly putting into practice Christ’s commands, by exhibiting faithfulness when tested and disciplined by the Lord, and simply through gradual, steady progress. Yet recent converts typically don’t realize this. Thus it’s up to those who are sound and mature in the faith to allow no provision for recent converts to be spiritual leaders.
Does this mean recent converts shouldn’t be urged to evangelize or share their faith? No, for they should. They should be encouraged in proclaiming Christ everywhere. But 1 Tim. 3:6 does teach us that a recent convert should not be given a leadership role or a role of authority pertaining to church discipline, money, or doctrine. The mature should know better than to put a person in a position where Satan, through the strength of temptation, is able to take advantage of a leader’s naivety, immaturity, and lack of experience and discipline. It is no small sin to aid someone in their folly, to assist in the ensnarement laid for someone by the evil one –he who tries to entice everyone into receiving his same destiny.
What is the judgement that the devil has already received? He was ejected from his God-ordained position of being guardian cherub (Ezek. 28:14-16), and this because his pride corrupted his wisdom (v. 17) and his heart. (Isa. 14:12-15) His presumptuous conceit sealed his doom to a non-escapable fate. It is a God-declared condemnation (John 16:11) that, manifesting in the future at God’s appointed time (Rev. 20:1-3,7-10), will sever Satan’s rule and glee forever –as he is “thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” (v. 10), never to emerge.
And again, what does 1 Tim. 3:6 warn us of? It warns us that a spiritual leader, particularly if he is a recent convert, may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil –!!! Yes, to those receiving the same judgement as Satan, Jesus will say, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt. 25:41) “Then they will go away to eternal punishment…” (v. 46) For as Jesus warned even those branches already in Him, if we do not remain in Him, we will be cut off and thrown away to wither, then picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:1-10)
Conceit. It blinds those who begin to think they are better than others, that they are above the rules others must follow, that they are smarter, spiritually stronger, and more gifted than the average. Conceit, if left unrepented of, grows like a cancer, making horribly foolish the one who won’t give it up.
Where does conceit lead the adherents? It leads them to abandon the faith (1 Tim. 4:1) as they delight in listening to deceiving spirits teach their demonic doctrines (same verse), as they listen to godless myths, fallacies, and evil suspicions / conspiracy theories (4:7 & 6:4), and as they continue developing their unhealthy interest in controversies (6:4) so that their corrupted minds (v. 5) are no longer able to teach sound doctrine. (v. 3-5) Such a person’s fate is the same as the devil’s. –Condemnation in the lake of burning sulfur. (Rev. 21:8)
Let’s take note that many verses, including 1 Tim. 3:6, are speaking not of false converts, but of converts to the faith / to Christ –yet who have allowed conceit to overtake them so that they incur upon themselves the same eternal sentence that is coming upon the devil.
Who then is teaching, “Once in Christ, always in Christ”? According to the Scriptures, such doctrine just isn’t so.