The Example and The Departure

The Example and The Departure
Robert Wurtz II
Adapted from the introduction to the book, “The Love You had at First.” 

The church at Ephesus had the greatest teaching available in the New Testament and especially on the subject of love. Both Paul the Apostle and John the Apostle worked diligently with this church. Paul in the book of Ephesians writes that we should be holy and without blame for Him in love (1:4) and commends the church for their love for the saints.(1:15) In 2:4 he reminds the people of the great love wherewith God loved us to quicken us with Christ while we were dead in sins. In 3:17 Paul tells us that we should be rooted and grounded in love and verse 19 we read these words… And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. In 4:2 we are admonished to “bear with” one another in love and to speak the truth in love (v15) until the body is built and edified in love(v16). Perhaps 5:1,2 are the most telling… Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. Three times Paul tells the husbands to love their wives as themselves, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it (5:25, 28, 33). Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit made two final pleas of love when he closed his writing… Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. (6:23, 24) It can be noted that 1 Corinthians was written by Paul from Ephesus which contains the great love chapter- 1 Corinthians 13. (see 1 Corinthians 16:8) We know by tradition that John the Apostle spent much time at Ephesus, even bringing Mary the mother of Jesus here to live out the final years of her life. John is believed to have written the Gospel of John from Ephesus. From Ephesus he penned the words “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…” Ephesus was inundated with the teaching of love, both in word and in example.
The Departure
John the Revelator writing from the isle of Patmos saw visions of the great majesty and glory of God. As one of the first orders of business Christ our Great High Priest gives a report on the condition of the seven churches of Asia. He begins with Ephesus. The Living Bible captures the great essence of what is happening: “I know how many good things you are doing. I have watched your hard work and your patience; I know you don’t tolerate sin among your members, and you have carefully examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but aren’t. You have found out how they lie. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. “Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love (how different now!) and turn back to me again and work as you did before; or else I will come and remove your candlestick from its place among the churches.” (TLB)


 What horror John must have felt. They seemed to be doing everything right, but their motivation was all wrong. Their love was gone. They had left it. They had become as a sounding brass and a clanging symbol and all these things profited them nothing. Their hearts were hardened. The Holy fire of love had gone out. They hated sin, but did not balance it with love for the sinner. This was no different from the Pharisees that Jesus chastised in the years he walked the earth. 


The Ephesian church had abandoned the love that should have been chief and foremost (GK. protos) on their hearts and minds. It begins when we take the love that belongs to Christ and give it some something or someone else. This is a good definition of harlotry; to take the love that belongs to the one and give it to another. If there was no real love for Christ we need not look for a love for the saints, their neighbor, their enemies, etc. (1 John 3, 4) After all the teaching on love and all of the tremendous example of what love was… they forsook the great love that they once had for Christ and the people. They would likely have been moved by contention, strife, fear, envy, resentment, jealousy, guilt or vain glory, but not by love to do Christ’s work. (See Philippians 1:16) They would have condemned the guilty without considering their own sins. (Galatians 6:1) They are a million miles from Paul when he wrote, for I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh. They had it at the first, so where did their love go?

Tracing their Footsteps

In this book we will trace the footsteps of the church at Ephesus as it sprang forth as a root out of a dry ground to become a premier church in all of Asia, if not in all of the body of Christ. We will do this with a view to understanding God’s purposes in genuine salvation individually and revival corporately. God is love and He intends that man be in His image. The city was utterly pagan with a history of idolatry dating back centuries. We all come to Christ having turned to God from idols to serve the Living God. (1 Thess. 1:9) An idol is anything we have loved before God or somehow made Him subservient to. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached with great power and authority leading to a genuine example of New Testament church life in Ephesus. They repented, brought for fruit worthy of repentance, believed, were baptized and then received the Spirit. The love of God was poured out in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5) As did the other churches they had ‘begun’ in the Spirit. (Galatians 3:3) But something happened. We get the diagnosis from Jesus, but in order to understand what they needed to do to repent and do the first works we need to know what they had done in the beginning. We know by tradition that Ephesus continued to thrive as a church for many years after our Lord’s letter of correction. Apparently they did it right and went back to the love the had at first. May it be an example in our own lives as to how we likewise can find a place of repentance and reestablish Jesus Christ as our first love, that we might love one another as Christ also loved us.  

Love, the First Thing

Love, the First Thing
Robert Wurtz II
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
Our passage makes it clear. There are those that would move in the supernatural, the gifts of the Spirit, works of sacrificial giving and yet still lack the most fundamental fruit of the Spirit, love. Imagine being on the receiving end of any of these things from a believer and then being on the receiving end of their unloving spirit. Would it not be a clanging gong to them? What’s the use? A person would rather be treated lovingly firstthan to receive any of these. Love is protos(πρώτος), that is to say, it must be the first thing. It begs the question, ‘of what spirit would the miracles have been done in?’ It brings understanding to the words of our Lord, Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:22, 23 NKJV) Why were they cast out? Because they did not practice love, they practiced lawlessness. Understand that the whole law is boiled down to the two great commandments. If they were lawless, they were not practicing the two great commandments. They were not loving God and their neighbor as they were commanded. This is very simple and straightforward.
A Bad Spirit   
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. (Matthew 9:54-56a) Ye know not what manner that the spirit of Christianity is. It is not a spirit of wrath and vengeance, but of peace, and gentleness, and love. (J. Wesley) This attitude existed in these disciples prior to Pentecost. In fact, Peter would seek to kill a man before his change comes. What changed him from a mean ruffian to a man that could call the church to love unfeigned?
Love of God Poured Out
We are commanded to love; yet God has enabled those that are baptized into Christ by the Spirit to love with God’s love. In other words, love is something we can do as a response to Christ’s commandment and it is also something that God will pour out into us by His Spirit. (Romans 5:5) This is the great evidence of being filled with the Spirit. Initial signs that accompany experiences are only temporary at best. This is why Jesus responded to John the Baptist’s inquiry with the fruits of His ministry and not with the spectacular events that took place at His baptism and anointing. We must keep this clear. Jesus pointed John to evaluate the things that happened after the initial experience as proof that the experience was genuine and He was who He claimed to be. This must be so also for those that claimed to be filled with the Spirit. The life has to demonstrate the initial evidence of the experience or it is invalid. In other words, one cannot possibly claim to be filled with the Spirit and then not walk in love. Why? Love is the first facet of the fruit of the Spirit. It is evidence that God is present and at rest inside of us. (Isaiah 66:1ff)
He that does not love does not know God
We can love with our own natural ability and we can have God love through us supernaturally by the Spirit. John writes, He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:8) This is a straightforward statement. It matters not how correct our beliefs, how bold our profession, how many scripture verses we have memorized, how long we spend time in prayer, how we may operate in the gifts of the Spirit, give to the poor, etc.; if we do not have love it is all meaningless. All of this is as a clanging gong without love. As Paul put it, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) We are called to love one another with a pure heart fervently. This means we have to love each other with a holy passion. This has to be our motivation. To do this we must have been truly born again in the biblical sense. (1 Peter 1:22, 23)
Love unfeigned
Moreover, we read, If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. (James 2:8, 9) Notice how we are not to have respect of persons in the distribution of our love. God sends rain even upon the vilest of sinners. We can infer from James 2:8, 9 that the commandment to love is the royal law. Why? Because this is how God loves and is the highest expression of His person. (Matthew 5:47, 48) It is majestic love. James called this commandment the perfect law of liberty. Why? No one is truly free until they love their neighbor as themselves. Anyone can be selective in their love. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
One of the great problems humanity has faced since the beginning is that men and women do not love one another; and perhaps the greatest of man’s failures is that he and she have not rightly loved their Creator. An old-time preacher wept in the pulpit and asked himself, “By what am I moved? What moves me? What prompts my actions? Am I moved with personal ambition or self-seeking?” Jesus Christ was moved with compassion. (Matthew 9:36) He came into this world and gave His life so that we might share in His love. 

Love or Something Else?

Love or Something Else?
Robert Wurtz II

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8)

More than anything else God wants us to love Him with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. All of God’s commands boil down to those two things. That sounds simple enough, but what does that mean? The world is moving primarily in self-love. This explains much of the reason why there is so much hate and bitterness in the world. The truth is, everyone knows how to love. Jesus taught that even publicans know how to love those that love them. The question is, can we love indiscriminately like God loves? Can we love our enemies and seek reconciliation like God does? (Colossians 1:21) When we have been hurt and abused; when we have been taken advantage of; when we have been persecuted without cause, can we still love?

Can you love like this?

While Christ was on the cross suffering the worst injustice in the history of mankind He uttered these words, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) Could you and I do that? That staggers the comprehension. What about Stephen when he was being stoned to death at the hands of a merciless angry mob? And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts 7:60) How could he do it? Why didn’t he curse and swear as the pain and agony bore down upon his battered body? What about Paul the Apostle? I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1-3 NKJV) These are the words of lamentation because of the Israelites that had rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The disciples had desired to call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, but here is Paul wishing himself could be accursed from Christ if it would save his people. Have you ever wondered why he would utter such things? What could be at work inside of him to make such selfless statements? He was not lying. He means it. His own conscience is affirming within that he is not faking these comments. This is fervent, unfeigned love. Could this be the same man that was breathing out threatening and slaughter against Christians some twenty years before? What could have possibly effected such a radical change in this man? 

A New Commandment

In John 13:35, 36 the Lord Jesus states, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” This command would not come without the power to carry it out. If we would simply obey this passage, all people would know that we were disciples of Jesus Christ. Unfeigned love is essential to genuine Christianity. (Romans 12:9, 2 Cor. 6:6, 1 Peter 1:22) ‘Unfeigned’ is an old word that means sincere, irrevocable and irreversible. We sincerely love and we don’t take it back. If Jesus commanded this type of love He expects us as His people to do it. If we refuse then we find ourselves in the same state as the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2:1ff. Jesus told them, repent and do the first works or I will remove your lampstand. Why? Because the light is the love of God manifest in a darkened world. What is the point of having a golden lampstand if there is no light? It is as worthless as salt that has lost its savor. The truth is, we are not qualified to be a church if we are not moving in this love. We are not qualified to be Christians if we do not have this love. Are you and I confronting the world with this love or with some lesser thing? 

A Black Hole

A Black Hole
Robert Wurtz II

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. (Job 38:1-3) 


The book of Job is a very insightful book for those willing to take time and mine out its truths. It contains what God describes as 35 Chapters of darkened counsel by words without knowledge, bookended by 2 chapters of brilliant light on the left and 5 chapters of brilliant light on the right. In the first 2 chapters we learn some essential truths that have to be factored into any catastrophe that takes place in the earth, either individually or corporately. Let us observe:


Satan is walking about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The only ones that seem to be protected from his antics are those under God’s hedge of protection. We then observe what he is capable of,


1. Mass plunder and murder (Job 1:13-15)

2. Mass catastrophe (Job 1:16)

3. Mass armed robbery and assault (Job 1:17)

4. Weather related disaster and loss of life (Job 1:18-19)


Satan is the agent of all of these disasters. It seems to me, that had Job not been under God’s protection in the first place, Satan may have leveled these disasters upon him already. In fact, the text seems to imply that Satan was capable of and likely willing to snuff Job himself out, but God had to put a restriction on him not to touch Job. (Job 1:12) After a relatively short period of time he appears before God again and receives a green-light to touch Job’s body. In all these things I see Satan take full advantage of God’s permission. He is the real cause of Job’s otherwise unexplainable suffering. (N. Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, P 683)


Satan’s Objective


Satan obviously had studied Job’s life. He knew he had a particular ‘fear’ or ‘concern’ that those whom he loves would curse God in their heart. (Job 1:5) You will know that his wife was the only person of his immediate family that was spared. After seeing all these events we read, Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. (Job 2:9) This was worse than death itself. Job commented saying, For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, And what I dreaded has happened to me. (Job 3:25) Our Hebrew words for ‘greatly feared’ are pachad pachad. This is literally feared feared. In Hebrew idiom words are doubled for emphasis. This is why we have king of Kings (the ultimate king), lord of Lords (the ultimate lord), holy of Holies (the ultimate holy place), etc. Job effectively said, ‘my ultimate fear’ has come upon me. This is what Paul called ‘a fiery dart from the wicked.’ (Ephesians 6:16) Notice it takes faith to extinguish such fiery darts (fiery arrows). 


The enemy among us


There seem to be a mystery at work here. Why does God allow Satan to walk around causing havoc (seeking whom he may devour), seeing fit to hedge in His own people? Obviously he has a right to be here in some sense. Adam opened the door, and now he is here. This begs the question; if the evil and suffering that is in the world is directly related to sin and Satan, why do we hear certain ministers attributing these disasters directly to God as an expression of His sovereignty? Some seem to suggest that every single minute detail of the world is scripted by God. Obviously God could stop Satan if he wanted to, but there seems to be something else at work here. Did Adam’s sin open the door for Satan to come into the world to reign? We know he did not have authority in the Garden of Eden. He was allowed there by God for the purpose of testing Adam and Eve. But once they submitted themselves unto him, we see his ‘authority’ in various places as:


1. The ruler of this world: John 12:31; John 14:31; John 16:11
2. The prince of the power of the air: Ephesians 2:2
3. The god of this world: 2 Corinthians 4:4
We see his authority also being expressed in places like Daniel 10:13; “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.” and again to the Ephesians, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly realms.”
Some theological persuasions, zealous to vindicate God, simply say that what happened to Job was none of Job’s or anyone else’s business. This has the sound of a high degree of piety, but it is not the whole picture. The fact is, God did tell Job what happened and He told us what happened. Some would suggest that God simply ‘told Job off’ in Job 38:1ff, but this is not the whole story. We know by virtue of our possession of the revelation, that at some point God backtracked to the beginning and told Job how the whole thing went down. 


Zealous for Sovereignty


To ignore the first 2 chapters of Job is to overstate the way in which God expresses His sovereignty. It is easy to skip to the end and therefor paint God as an omnipotent being that goes around on a power trip doing what He wants no matter who likes it. Granted, He could do that if He wanted to, but that is not how God has revealed Himself to man. There is always a wisdom to what God does that is in harmony with His revealed attributes. He cannot deny Himself. If the theology or doctrine does not square with God’s revealed attributes, yea, if the doctrine smite the conscience of the Saint, wherein can it be judged biblical? 


Light in the end


It is worth observing, that Job had no idea what was happening to him as the crisis unfolded. Yet, in time God showed him the truth. God is careful to show enough light to the situation of Job so that we do not get the wrong idea about Him. To skip the first two chapters of Job, that were added in retrospect so as to give a complete account of the events, is to rush to judgment in a way characteristic of the modern media that moves in its own biases. Contained within Job 1 and 2 are facts to be held in evidence, not chapters to be skimmed over as if one were scanning a book you would just as soon not read. It is essential to Job’s theology. What can we learn from this?


1. We live in a fallen world that is subject to spiritual realities
2. Satan accuses man of serving God only for the benefit
3. If God were to lift the hedge, likely all would be destroyed
4. God protects the saints in ways he/she is not aware of
5. The events were not an arbitrary expression of sovereignty


Indeed, God may not have told Job at the time, but obviously He told him what happened latter on or the first 2 chapters would not be part of the corpus. Why some attribute everything that happens in the world simply to God’s sovereignty, when obviously Satan has a certain level of free-reign, is to deliberately misrepresent our life experiences. Make no mistake, Satan is bringing the full measure of his authority to bear for evil all over the world. Indeed, he has come down having great wrath for he knows that he has but a short time. Yet, God is charged by scoffers and credited by certain Christians with deeds carried out by Satan every day. Amazing!




A Black Hole 


A black hole is a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or light can escape. Job’s counselors were like a black hole, they opened their mouth to give counsel and before it was over with, drew out what light of understanding did exist. They had given their ‘two cents’ and it is as if God told them, “Who art thou who pretendest to speak on the deep things of God, and the administration of his justice and providence, which thou canst not comprehend; and leavest my counsels and designs the darker by thy explanation?” (Adam Clarke) 


Most of the time it is better just to keep quiet about things, but these men insisted on speaking. We see the exact same thing going on today. God as much as told Job that all the ‘talking’ did nothing more than cast darkness on the already dim situation. This is what happens when men and women are provoked to give answers where God has chosen to be silent for the time being. For Job, he would eventually learn about Satan and how he accuses the Saints day and night before the Lord; how he walks about as a roaring Lion seeking whom he may devour. But, when the talking and commentary begins, independent of Divine Revelation, it only can lead to greater darkness. There is an old saying that states that many situations would be viewed differently but for a critical piece of evidence. Imagine that; if we knew just one more detail we would see the whole situation in a totally different light. Many times we think we have all of the facts, but we do not. The fact missing in Job’s case were the events that took place at the beginning of the story in the Heavenlies. Solution? Be content with the revelation you have and stand in faith knowing that at some point in either time or eternity the truth will come out. Speculation is no contribution and merely leads to doubt, distress and disillusionment. There may well come a day when God shows us chapter 1 and 2 of some of the severe trials we have been through.  


Words Without Knowledge


It is staggering to listen to these men speak chapter after chapter knowing the truth God revealed at the beginning. They did not have the privilege we have. We have a God’s eye view of the situation. After all, that is what scripture is, a God’s eye view of human history. These men had no idea what had happened in the heavenlies, yet they just kept on putting two and two together with their limited information. What they did not know is that what they were doing was sin. Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? They had set themselves up to judge as God. They had made all sorts of pronouncements from a position of ‘no knowledge’. There was only one problem. God was listening. This ought to give us pause. God is concerned as to how events are construed. The fact was, Job lived in a fallen world no matter how peaceful things were in his household. There was a merciless, unmitigatedly evil Enemy walking about seeking whom he may devour, a Greek word (καταπίῃ) that means, ‘to swallow’ or ‘to drown.’ (see Matthew 23:24, 1 Cor. 15:54, Hebrews 11:29) He is here and he means business. The only thing standing between Him and us is any hedge of protection God may have placed around us. God blasted Job’s counselors as sinners for wrongly and presumptuously interpreting the events that happened. What they did was sin. Job had to pray for them in the end. 


Darkening Counsel


Job was obviously hoping for answers. His family was dead except for his wife. He was scratching himself with broken pieces of pottery to ease the boils on his body. These men saw the devastation and came to their own conclusions. Their counsel was so horrendous, that it actually drew what little light their was out of the situation. Like a black hole in space they opened up and the gravity of their comments drew everything into it. What a sad state of affairs! This is what happens when men and women speak about things too wonderful for them. Love puts the best construction on events. These men were so confused and settled in their confusion that they never stopped to wonder where the line of people were that should have been coming to bring them bad news. That is to say, ‘why were they spared?’ Didn’t bother asking that. They could not see how nonsensical and inconsistent with their own conscience that their counsel was. But they had answers, lots of answers. God’s response? Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 


Summary


God didn’t tell Job, ‘it’s none of your business.’ God is not a smart aleck. Paul wanted us to know that we serve a loving God. In Ephesians 3:18 he wanted us to comprehend it, to lay hold of effectively (kata-) with the mind, to grasp (see Acts 25:25). With all the saints (sun pasin tois hagiois). It is no isolated privilege. (Robertson) He wanted Job to understand as well. By revelation he took Job back in time to the beginning of his trial and showed him a God’s eye view of the Accuser of the brethren doing what he does. Job walked away with a better understanding of the inner workings of the world in which he lives. Paul said it like this, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:10-12) One of these days the Accuser of the Saints will be cast down and then we will rejoice. But for now we must arm our minds and clad our bodies because the enemy is coming. 


  

We Have Need of Thee

We Have Need of Thee
Getting along
Robert Wurtz II


Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)


One of the most important subjects we can possibly cover is that of individual attitudes, especially in ministry. Increasingly I am asked why some Christians and even some ministers seem to have such bad attitudes. In fact, some believe that the greatest obstacle to church growth today is how people are treated within the churches. Sometimes these issues are mere personality conflicts, but not always. I want to say categorically, that there is never an excuse to mistreat people. There is never an excuse to treat one person worse than others. If you want to be an agent of Satan within a person’s life or within the churches of God, just start mistreating people. 


Suffer the Children


One of the primary places the enemy is at work is in destroying the faith of children. Would you want a child to grow up and say, “I was mistreated by my Sunday School teacher or my Christian parent, aunt uncle, etc.” We can fit any position into that slot, I only used those positions as I fit that mold. When a child is in his/her formative years they are making memories and judgments about people and their faith. They know when they are deserving of punishment and they know when they are being mistreated. When they get older they will reflect on their bad memories with the eyes of an adult and then the trouble really begins. The same goes for youth. You usually only get one chance to mistreat somebody until you burned the bridge for life. The emphasis needs to be on prevention too, not forgiveness. To obey is better than to sacrifice. Don’t offend people and then just expect them to forgive. That attitude of presumption is a heinous sin. Besides, if a person that does not know God is offended, there may never be a chance to see the wrong righted. And that’s the attitude we need to have. If I mistreat someone I may cast a stumbling block before them.

Condescender or Condescending?

Consider a few points in my folly. Have you ever been to a school, college or to a library and noticed how many that work in these places are condescending towards whomever person happens to be at the counter? For one reason the people at the counter are not ‘customers’ so there is no sense of need to act cordial. We see this attitude at some license bureaus and government offices. This ought not to be an attitude found in the churches of God. People are turned off by that and only go to these offices when they ‘have to.’

The attitude, unfortunately follows the person. In other words, if they behave that way at work, they are likely to exhibit it in public as well. I recall as a teenager working at a local service station. Our librarian came in to make a purchase. Upon receiving back her change she set up a snide look on her face and commenced adding and counting as if I were an idiot. What she did not consider is that I was a very experienced cashier that processed hundreds of transactions per evening with my very job dependent on balancing the drawer. It was not that I could not make a mistake, but it was her attitude that I found very offensive. I never forgot her condescending attitude and determined to never act like that. I still see it often to this day, especially in academic circles. But this type of attitude is not biblical. What did Paul say, 

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. (Romans 12:16)

This simply means that we should associate with the humble and not esteem ourselves too good for others or treat them in a way that portrays a superiority. In the illustration above, there was an assumption that the young man behind the counter was uneducated and incapable, but this was not the case. What says the scripture? We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. (1 Cor. 8:1b) The same holds true for people that are wealthy. A wealthy, educated person is at great risk of pride and arrogance. Paul was a colossal mind, but he understood the effects of knowledge on a person’s personality. The more educated one becomes, the more proud and arrogant they are endangered to be. Education is important, but not if it is not mixed with humility. Wealth can be used for virtue or as a means of self-exaltation. 

Another area I wish to quickly examine is that of suspicion. Love puts the best construction on people and events. In my former example the librarian had an attitude of suspicion. It is this pre-judgment that can be very offensive and sinful. We are told by James not to have respect of persons. This agrees also with the law. Along a similar line I heard once a parabolic story of a millionaire going into a new car lot driving an old beater and wearing old clothes. The salesperson treated them like a dirt merchant and lost the sale. You just never know who you might be talking to. This is the whole basis of reality shows like Undercover Boss. How often people are shamed, whether they realize it or not, because they were assuming and therefore condescending. This personality trait has no place in the Kingdom of God. 



Unity in the Faith 


In apologetics circles there is a saying that has come into vogue that I believe is worthy of our attention. It states, “In essentials unity, but in all things charity.” That is to say, it is not necessary to divide over non-essential issues within the churches of God. Generally we use this phrase to express a Christlike posture among those with differing doctrinal views, but in this entry I want to look at ‘all things charity’ for practical living and preferences (personality). This means we should not refer to other peoples sincerely held views more strongly than we ought. There is so much rhetoric today intended to incense people. Making people angry with rhetoric neither convinces them of their error nor promotes unity. James says it sets on fire of hell. We need to keep this in mind.   


Three areas of differences


There are preferences and differences in doctrine, morality and personality that we encounter in the churches of God. We have already stated that a common saying in apologetics circles is, “In essentials unity, but in all things charity.” There are many doctrinal issues that are held with conviction among believers in the churches of God. I don’t wish to spend much time here as this is commonly understood. Secondly, we have the matter of morality. We all have principles we use to make distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Not all believers come to the same conclusions in what may be called, ‘grey areas’. 


Paul is concerned with how we treat each other in matters of conscience. He states, Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. (Romans 14:13) This passage contains two commandments; 1) let us not judge one another any more. 2) Let no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. The first commandment is self-explanitory. The second can be applied in many different situations. The simplest thing to say is; make a conscious decision that you will never allow yourself to be a source of stumbling for your brother. Recognize that God is at work in peoples’ lives and determine to be a help and not a hindrance. We will examine the third area of difference in the remainder of this entry.


Personality


We all have personality. This is the combination of characteristics or qualities that form our distinctive character. God has wired each one of us and set us in the body as He sees fit. We have to make room for one another. In the proceeding paragraphs we will not look at these issues exhaustively or necessarily scientifically; we will take a brief common sense approach to make some important contrasts. 


Punctual and well dressed


I recall a certain character trait of my former pastor. He had this thing about being punctual (on time). He wanted everything to start on-time. In fact, if things did not start on time he started to get a little uneasy. After knowing him for many years I came to expect this, so I tried to always be ready to begin with the meeting. It really didn’t matter because he would begin the meeting with musicians in place or not; and often with a song. Why? He believed strongly in being punctual. He also believed in ‘dressing the part’. That is to say, he believed a minister should wear a suit and tie. He was from an old-school stock. Granted, other folks including myself were not always as punctual as he was and some of us rarely if ever wore a suit. But we tried to dress respectably. The reason he wore a suit was in part because he wanted to look like a minister as sure as a police officer needed to be in uniform. My perspective was a little different. I have been with men that dressed up and it made people feel they were trying to exalt themselves. “There comes that old minister!” They would say, when the well dressed minister showed up to the outreach meetings. I never forgot that and always tried to be careful not to alienate the people by trying to overly dress. The suit may give a false sense of power and authority as well. I never wanted that. Who was right? We both were, I think, from our particular point of view. 


Pedantry and imprecision


Being pedantic is a character trait that simply means that an individual is fussy about details when dealing with academic subjects. Imprecision is the best word I can find for the opposite character trait. In their extremes, the one is obsessively concerned about details and the other is a bit reckless. If these two personalities meet in a discussion we will surely need a good measure of grace to keep the peace. Why? Because of the way each would view the other. The pedant risks seeing the imprecise as irreverent. The imprecise risks seeing the pedant as a hair-splitter. This can easily develop into a mutual annoyance if these individuals don’t rightly make room for each others personality. 


Formalism 


The term formalism describes an emphasis on form over content or meaning in the artsliterature, or philosophy. A practitioner of formalism is called a formalist. A formalist, with respect to some discipline, holds that there is no transcendent meaning to that discipline other than the literal content created by a practitioner. For example, formalists within mathematics claim that mathematics is no more than the symbols written down by the mathematician, which is based on logic and a few elementary rules alone. This is as opposed to non-formalists, within that field, who hold that there are some things intuitively true, and are not, necessarily, dependent on the symbols within mathematics so much as a greater truth. Formalist within a discipline are completely concerned with “the rules of the game,” as there is no other external truth that can be achieved beyond those given rules. (Wiki)


Informalism among a formalist


A person who moves in a more informal way does not obsess with rules, but rather looks to find solutions more ‘on the fly’ and unrestrained. This is why some companies don’t want a long written out group of policies to run the business, while formalists see this approach as an abomination. It has been my limited observation that a formalist like control and is prepared to treat an employee like a human resource. They are usually just a number meant to be hired and fired. A non-formalist is more willing to work with the needs of his people, rather than beat people over the head with rules. I have observed that formalists sometimes make a game out of being in compliance so as to exalt themselves over the others. A non-formalist risks treating people inconsistently or even showing favoritism. Which is right? I think we need a good balance of law and grace. Without it we will destroy ourselves and others.


A right heart


These casual observations reveal one glaring variable not yet discussed; the heart of the person with the personality. The unregenerate and carnal use their strong personality traits against others that have opposite traits. The risk is that the one group may set at naught the other or mistreat the other as if they needed to conform to ‘our’ personality trait. This causes serious strife. 


The Prince of Peace


I wish to close these thoughts by pointing out how the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ is also the Prince of Peace. He was able to keep peace between Simon the zealot and Matthew the publican; which in todays world would be like making peace between Benjamin Netanyahu and Osama Bin Laden. The Zealots hated Rome and would stop at nothing to see them thrown from Israel. Matthew the publican was a tax collector for Rome and apparently saw the wisdom of supporting Rome as surely as Jesus said to render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s. Yet, this is but one example of how God kept the peace with extreme personalities. Paul was a theologian; Peter was a fisherman. How will that work out? Will Paul beat down Peter with his colossal intellect and make him look stupid? We read nothing of the kind. Will Peter take his sword to Paul like he tried to do the high priests servant? We read nothing of the kind. Why? Because these men saw the value of each other- even referring to the one as a ‘beloved brother.’ How can they do this? By walking in the Spirit. If these man had been carnal they had fought like cats and dogs. 


Awaiting Judgment   


Not only did Peter and Paul demonstrate how to walk in love with personality, they preached doing it as well. This is important because somehow folk can get the idea, “Well that’s how they do things and I’m going to do it ‘my way’.” Paul writes: You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. (Romans 14:10 NIV) This passage should arrest our attention. We will all give an account to God for how we treated one another. He continues, Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather (make up your mind), that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. (Romans 14:13 comment added) We have to determine that we will not use our own uniqueness as a weapon in the churches of God. This is serious business to which we do well to take heed. If I might dare to say, I believe God is more concerned about how we treat each other than our petty concerns and areas of personal emphasis. 

  






The Ultimate Commandment

The Ultimate Commandment
Robert Wurtz II


Throughout the scriptures repetition is often a form of emphasis. This is Hebrew idiom. You will recall the many times our Lord stated, “verily verily I say unto you.” Here verily is repeated for the sake of emphasis. In Genesis we have the King James rendering ‘thou shalt surely die,’ which is literally ‘dying thou shalt die’. This is ultimate death. We have King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is the ultimate King and the ultimate Lord. We have Holy of Holies and the Song of songs. All of these ‘doubling repetitions’ are done for the sake of demonstrating the ultimate in that category. So what are we to make of the 7X commandment of our Lord in Revelation 2 and 3, “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”? If two is for emphasis- what is seven? Seven is the number of completion. It is the number of perfection. It is impossible that God could have emphasized the importance of, “hearing what the Spirit saith unto the churches” any greater than He did. He said it seven times- not six and not eight. It is the common factor to all of the churches. This ought to give us great pause and prompt tremendous reflection as to how serious Christ is about speaking direction to His churches. 


The Local Assembly

If we look at this logically then it seems evident that perhaps the most important thing for any local assembly to do is to ‘hear’ what the Spirit is saying unto them- right here and right now on the earth and where we are at this moment. This is God-speak in real time. What is the Spirit ‘saying’ to the church? What is the Spirit saying to us as individuals? Nothing could possibly be more important than how a local gathering responds to this 7X command. “He that hath an ear let Him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” is God in active participation in the local church. This is Christ watching and moving among the candlesticks. He is keenly interested in that for which He shed His own blood. He knows what is going on and He is speaking to those that have an ‘ear to hear’. Notice there is no direction given on how to hear we are just told ‘to hear.’ This tells me we have no trouble hearing if we are listening. 

Messages from the Head 


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)

Christ is the head of any ‘real’ church. The government of the churches is upon His shoulders. (1) This means He is in charge and calling the shots. Many gather in His name- drawing nigh with their mouth and lips- but their heart is far from Him. That is to say, that they are not interested in being sensitive to the Spirit that they might do what is on HIS heart. Many go on in whats on their own heart. This, perhaps, is one of the greatest characteristics that define a local assembly- whether they ‘do’ or ‘do not’; whether they ‘will’ or they ‘will not’ HEAR and hearken to what the Spirit is saying unto their church. Not the imaginations of men- but absolutely given to gaining direction from Christ their head. He knows what we need. He sees and He speaks. This is the message we find in Revelation 2, 3.

The Vain Counsel of Men

“I think we need to do this” or “I think the problem is this”, etc. ad infinitum is what we hear today. Amateur diagnostics seem to rule the day. This is the vain counsel of men. It has no authority or efficacy to make real changes. Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church…”The key is the ‘I’. It is His Church and He’ll do the speaking. The question is, who is doing the listening? Who has ears to hear what the Spirit is saying? Our Great High Priest is moving in the churches, observing them and knows what they need. The trouble is, it is an exceedingly rare thing to find any assembly– denomination, non-denomination, house church, etc., that is really bent on hearing what God is saying to them. I say this stuff and people look at me like I am crazy. As if God don’t speak to the churches or they have no idea how they might go about ascertaining what Christ is saying to their assembly. Obviously if Jesus commanded it to each of the churches it is not beyond out ability. 


A First Step
We hear all kinds of things today. Denominations are the problem, their is the problem, that is the problem, etc. People, however well intentioned, end up attacking the churches for various reasons because they don’t conform to some pattern they have set up. What are we to do? Shall we self-diagnose? Shall we sit around and criticize and articulate the obvious problems in churches of our times? I suggest our first step is not to speak- but to listen; to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches so we can know where we need to make corrections in our own gatherings. Not the denomination down the street or some ‘church of America’ but what is God saying to the people attending the meeting where I gather. 
Worried About Everyone Else?
A fools mind is in the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24) God has not called me to be concerned with what is going on across the country, but to mind my own business (John 21:22). This is why Jesus gave careful instructions to each of the 7 churches. He did not get up and make blanket statements to them. He didn’t ‘spank them all to get the right one.’ He spoke to each one individually what THEY needed to hear. Men move in their pet-peeves and finite wisdom and have no clue what God is doing unless He tells them. Talk about messing something up, men can do it. Men can speak to the problems of our times and make the situation worse than before. 
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. (Eccl. 5:2)

We need to hear from God and it begins in our personal lives and assemblies where we gather.

________________
pilgrim 777

   

Who Exactly is a Fool?

Who Exactly is a Fool? 
Robert Wurtz II

“Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)
I wish to examine a carefully placed account of a man that the Bible defines as ‘a fool.’ I have chosen this text in 1 Samuel 25:17 to introduce an incident that took place just prior to David becoming king of Israel. It happens that David was traveling with about six-hundred mighty men that had been keeping a certain part of the country secure, including the flocks and shepherds of Nabal. Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite (1 Samuel 25:3 NASB)

Nabal is the Hebrew word for fool. You will notice that he is contrasted with his wife that was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance. Nabal was a very rich sheepmaster on the confines of Judea and the desert. His ranch was on the southern Carmel, in the pasture lands of Maon. It was the custom of the shepherds to drive the sheep into the wild downs on the slopes of Carmel; and it was while they were on one of these ‘pastoral excursions’ that they met a David and his mighty men, who showed them unexpected kindness, protecting them by day and night, and never themselves taking anything from them. (1 Samuel 25:7, 15, 18) 

A Love Gift? 

When David heard in the desert (cf. v. 1) that Nabal was shearing his sheep, which was generally accompanied with a festal meal (see at Gen. 38:12), he sent ten young men up to Carmel to him, and bade them wish him peace and prosperity in his name, and having reminded him of the friendly services rendered to his shepherds, solicit a present for himself and his people. (Keil and Delitzsch) Obviously Nabal was a very greedy man, though exceedingly rich, he refused to share anything with David. We read, Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (1 Samuel 25:11 NKJV) This response show the level of madness this man was moving in. In order to justify his own covetousness, he posited David as a vagrant slave who had run away from his master! He had totally ignored what he had been told about David’s protection of his sheep and shepherds. His twisted mind could not see the wisdom of giving David and his men some basic rations for their services. This is yet another example of the noetic effects of sin. He was covetous, therefore an idolator (Colossians 3:5). This was one of the sins that corrupted his thinking processes. Think about it. It would be common sense to give David and his men some gift for the services rendered; but this man could not see the sense of it. He got angry and acted out even for them asking! This is pure unmitigated madness. 

Saddle Up Boys!

When word gets back to David he is furious, and rightfully so. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff. (1 Samuel 25:13) Good times are about to go bad for Nabal. David could slay this man and his whole house as if it were a light thing. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rages, and is confident. (Proverbs 14:16) Nabal went running headlong into mortal danger. A wise man would have had the good sense to know David deserved something, especially in light of how nicely he asked for it. Had he been a common thug he would have just taken what he wanted and defied anyone to say something. Moreover, a wise man would have been careful, thoughtful, self-mistrusting and reserved; a disposition which flows from the reverential awe of God (fear of the Lord). The fool, on the contrary, is self-confident, regardless and secure. While a wise man will avoid evil and carefully goes out of its way, the fool has no sense of the situation he/she is in. 

The Wilted Mind

“Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)

Talking to a fool is like talking to the wall, but why? They cannot reason rightly about moral and spiritual issues and will even act out so that no one can speak to him. But why? We have a few clues from the Psalmist, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1 KJV) Here is our word Nabal again, only it is translated as fool. The word in Hebrew comes from a root nabel and it means ‘to wilt.’ We have this word used concerning those that delight in the law of the Lord, And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3) Here wither is nebal. The law is the revelation of God; that is to say, it is light. Those that walk in the light as He is in the light will not wither. This implies that what withers was once healthy. Wilting in plants can be caused by either lack of water or sunlight. If this condition progresses wilting becomes withering. This is explained on a spiritual level in Romans 1:22, professing themselves to be wise they became foolsBecame vain (emataiōthēsan). Ingressive first aorist passive indicative of mataioō from mataios (empty). Empty reasonings as often today. Became fools (emōranthēsan). Ingressive first aorist passive of mōrainō, to be a fool, old word from mōros, a fool. (This means he had entered into a state of being a fool). An oxymoron or sharp saying, true and one that cuts to the bone. (Robertson)
Evil for Good

Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath repaid me evil for good. (1 Samuel 25:21)

 Let us observe the mentality of a fool, they reward evil for good. Such dastardly behavior ought to smite the conscience, but not Nabal. His mind had been darkened until he could not make even the most obvious moral judgment. What caused it? Obviously he was not born a fool. The word Nabal implies wilting from a state of health. This is the pattern for the Noetic effect of sin. Sin has a direct effect on a persons moral reasoning. However, Nabal’s wife Abagail went to David and brought a large gift and pleaded with him to have mercy on the ‘scoundrel’ (as she called him 1 Samuel 25:17). Though he had not the good sense to see the danger he was in, his wife interceded with the soon to be king for him. David spared Nabal for her sake. 


The Finality of the Fool

But that was not all. So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. (1 Samuel 25:37) Nabal was not only drunk, but he was in a state of moral intoxication. But somehow in the morning he sobered up in both cases. Once he realized that he narrowly escaped death for himself and his whole house, his heart died. Matthew Henry comments, His heart overnight merry with wine, next morning heavy as a stone; so deceitful are carnal pleasures, so soon passes the laughter of the fool; the end of that mirth is heaviness. Drunkards are sad, when they reflect upon their own folly. About ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal, that he died. David blessed God that he had been kept from killing Nabal. Worldly sorrow, mortified pride, and an affrighted conscience, sometimes end the joys of the sensualist, and separate the covetous man from his wealth; but, whatever the weapon, the Lord smites men with death when it pleases him. 





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