The Sacrifice of Fools

The Sacrifice of Fools
Robert Wurtz II

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. 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. 5:1-2)


God in His goodness will give a special grace to His people to compensate for their lack of knowledge and understanding, but when revelation comes there comes with it a responsibility to respond rightly. This special grace is given to sustain us as we find our way lest He leave us to our own devices for our willful ignorance. This is true in many areas of our lives. In our times God is bringing revelation in understanding of how Jesus Christ functions within the churches as our Great High Priest according to the New Covenant. This revelation stands in contrast to the Old Covenant forms of assembly and worship.

A New Covenant Focused on ‘Hearing’


The New Covenant brought with it an entirely different mode of worship. Jesus Christ has said that where any two or three are gathered together in His name- there He is in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20) This is God’s working. He has told us that ‘He will build His Church’ and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. God deals with individuals and begins moving in their midst as they assemble. As this becomes a local church (no matter how seemingly small, for who has despised the day of small things) Jesus Christ our Great High Priest takes over leading that group if they will consciously acknowledge His presence and determine to hear His voice. This means that as His presence is near He is walking in the midst of the candlestick that the assembly in His name has brought about. This is extremely important to understand. In Revelation chapters 2-3 we are told no less than 7 times, “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” The Old Testament was a series of stories designed to teach us about God’s ways and are written for our learning. Solomon, that dedicated the Temple understood this reality on a certain level. What we are told 7X in Revelation 2-3 agrees with our passage in Ecclesiastes.

The Greek word for ‘hear’ is used over 400 times in the New Testament. The Hebrew word for ‘hear’ is shema and it is used over 1100 times in the Old Testament. Taken together that is over 1500 times the word hear is used in the Bible. Typically the people would come to the House of God to worship. The word for worship is the Hebrew shachah and it means to prostrate or bow down in submission. In a sense it means to kiss the hand. This submission also agrees with our text in Ecclesiastes and Revelation 2-3. The act of total submission is an inclination to ‘hear’ and ‘respond’.

Have They Not Heard?


The book of Romans asks an important question concerning those Jews that had rejected God throughout history and then Jesus Christ when He came unto them; “Have they not heard?” Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. (Romans 10:18-21) God tells us that the Jews did in fact ‘hear’ and that He had been speaking to them in divers manors by the prophets and then finally in these last days through His Son. (Hebrews 1:1-3) He was speaking but the people were not ‘hearkening.’

Hearing and Hearkening


Romans 10:18-21 gives us an example of how people ‘hear’ but they do not ‘hearken.’ That is to say, they hear the words but the hearer refuses to mix those words those words with faith when they are heard. As it is written, For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:2) The word did not profit some who heard it because they did not respond to that word in faith. They did not hearken, so the word did not help or benefit them. James is careful to point this out when he states:

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:23-25)
when we hear God we must consciously keep in mind what He is saying until our obedience is fulfilled. How many times has a parent told their child to do something and before it is done the child was sidetracked and totally forgot. This is what James would call a ‘forgetful hearer’. A ‘doer’ is one that keeps the what their heard before their mind until it is completed or until they can safely move on.  


The Responsibility of the Hearer


Knowledge implies responsibility. We are accountable to God for what we know and what we should have known. To know to do good and do it not is sin. (James 4:18) In fact, Romans 1:18-21 tells us, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:18-21) This passage adds additional insight into our text. The foolish is one that knows God’s will and purposes and yet they did not glorify Him as God. That is to say, they did not obey the truth that they knew. They did not walk in the light of understanding that God has personally shown them. They were ‘hearing’ and were accountable, but yet they still treasuring up wrath against themselves because they were holding the truth in unrighteousness.

Acquired Knowledge Not the Key


The late G.W. North once stated that, “Obedience is better esteemed with God than acquired knowledge, it is the most important lesson of all and fundamental to the gaining of all spiritual knowledge from God.” This is utterly true. God does not give knowledge of Himself for academic purposes. Revelation implies responsibility. When God reveals something to us about His will and His character we have a responsibility to respond rightly to what He has revealed. We have to ‘mix with faith’ what we have heard. God is pleased with His people when they stop what they are doing and LISTEN to what He is saying to them that they might do His will. Jesus said it, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. Obeying what God is saying is fundamental to our going on with God.

Trodding Down the Courts of God


Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:10-18)


I have quoted a large passage, but it is essential to the point I wish to make. God told Israel in no uncertain terms that they were completely out of step with Him in bringing all these things as ‘sacrifices’ that He was not asking for. They needed to come with an attitude of ‘hearing’ and obeying, but instead they came heaping all these things towards Him that He had not required at their hands and yet were expecting Him to receive them. God had actually come to detest the very things that He Himself had ordained because the peoples hearts were not right towards Him – nor were they in step with His concerns. Behold, to obey is better than to sacrifice. If they would have come together more prepared to listen than to speak they would not have given such an abundant sacrifice of fools. God was trying to break through and the people were ignoring Him. They were going through a religious exercise that satisfied their need for religious things, but they were totally ignoring God. They had gone in the way of Cain and Saul. They were bringing things to God He did not ask for as a substitute for obedience.

No Substitute for Obedience


One of the more misunderstood passages of the New Testament is in Hebrews 13:15, By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. The word here for ‘giving thanks’ is homologeo and it means to ‘say the same thing.’ This is a picture of Christ our Great High Priest functioning in that capacity in the assembly speaking to the church and then we adding our agreement (amen). That is to say, we come together ready to hear what Christ is saying to us so we can then agree with Him and do it. This is the first step. Can two walk together if they are not agreed? (Amos 3:3) Then the second follows… Do not neglect to do good and to be generous, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:16 ISV) So we see then that the sacrifices God accepts as ‘well pleasing’ to Him are our responses to His will that are made manifest in the meeting. God makes something known to us, we add our amen and then not being a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work we obtain the blessing of doing that which is well pleasing to God.

A Readiness to Hear


Solomon reveals to us the attitude and disposition of heart that we need as we come together in Christ’s name. We need to come prepared to receive the word of God. We need to be prepared to hear what He is saying to us on an individual and church level. God never designed that New Testament church life would consist of people coming in and doing all the speaking and no listening. In our singing we should be listening. In the teaching we should be listening. In the testimonies we should be listening. In the preaching and prayers we should be listening. We must have a readiness to ‘hear’ what the Spirit is saying and then do what He is saying to do. There is no other sacrifice more acceptable to God than these. He is looking for obedience. He desires a God centered gathering where He is in control and He is directing. This is a revolutionary concept to some, but indeed it is God’s design from the beginning. It is the great lesson of Cain and Abel. We have to hearken to what God is saying is His will and what He wants and mix faith with it- that it will be said of us that as Abel “we offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” It begins with keeping our foot in the gathering and ‘hearing’ rather than rushing to offer to God something His soul detests; that is, a sacrifice that is substituted for hearing and obeying what HE is saying and doing rather than what we would like to offer Him. The Father seeks such to worship Him. This is total submission and offering of ourselves unto Him in obedience as a living sacrifice. This right attitude towards God and His word will cultivate thankfulness, unlike Cain who rejected God’s word and got angry when his offering was rejected. As then as now, if we do well we will be accepted, but if we do not, behold sin is crouching at the door.  

Bought With A Price

Bought With A Price

Robert Wurtz II

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 NKJV) 
Our passage offers tremendous insight into the thought process of Christians that started out well, but now were walking as unregenerate men and women. (1 Corinthians 3:3) If we grasp what Paul is revealing here we will understand much better a great problem in many Christian lives that prevents them from going on with God. When Paul uses the phrase, “do you not know” it can generally be taken to mean that many Christians ‘do not know’. This is either because they have not considered the fact, they have forgotten or they are living in such a way that it appears that they do not know. Let us observe the fact that how and what we think has a direct effect on how we live. Many of the Corinthians were in a carnal state of mind, living as if they did not have the Spirit nor were ever born again. Paul brings them around to the point with this tremendous statement, “…you are not your own. For you were bought at a price.They had been living as if they were never redeemed and sanctified unto the Lord. Think of how horrifying it would be to hear this and yet know you had been doing sinful things with a body that actually and truly belonged to God alone. Now consider how Paul introduces again as he did earlier in 1 Corinthians the Temple motif. He had already said to them, Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16,17 NKJV) Both the individual and the organism of the local church constitute the temple of God. I believe both are in view in this passage.
You are the temple
A cursory reading of the Old Testament beginning at Moses would reveal to a person how absolutely the things of God had been set apart for His use alone. This is why reading the Old Testament is vital to understanding the New Testament. If a person never read or were never taught about the Levitical Priesthood they would have no clue as to the seriousness of the handling and use of the holy things of God. All of the examples from Nadab and Abihu to Uzziah and a host of others that profaned the temple or its members (vessels, etc) were written for our example and learning. Over and over again we encounter this issue in the Old Testament. People like Uzzah were smote dead on the spot for their error. (2 Samuel 6:7) Even when Jesus came into the Temple and found the money changers He took up a whip and drove them out. Why? The House of God is not an ordinary house. This demonstrates how strongly God feels about keeping that which is sanctified unto Him- sanctified unto Him. If I might so say it demonstrates our Lord’s reaction to the notion of ‘progressive sanctification’. The Temple is not an ordinary place. It belonged 100% to God and they that have been bought with a price belong 100% to God. The Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple could not be rented out for weekend parties, shindigs or any of that. It was holy ground and was to be treated with godly reverence. Now we can reckon with the fact, do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
Profaning the temple? 
Now, tremble at this thought. Imagine it just dawned on the guilty person that Paul is writing to at Corinth that their bodies were God’s ideal of a Temple of the Holy Spirit in the earth and that the Wilderness Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple were only types and shadows of what God had planned. The temples made with hands were not where God wanted to dwell (Acts 7), He wanted to dwell in man. And yet these Corinthians had been treating their temple (the members of their body), that were sanctified unto the Lord at least as much as the Lamp stand, Laver, Veil, etc. was in Israel, as if they were common items. I wonder if some of them looked up on the wall to see if a hand had appeared with the words, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. (Daniel 5:25b) You will know that these are the words Belshazzar saw and then his knees smote together. What was he doing? He was using the artifacts from the Temple of God that had been sanctified unto God alone for party dishes! They were holy vessels unto the Lord. Perhaps this is an area that we desperately need to revisit in this dreadful age, the difference between holy and profane. All throughout the Old Testament, especially in areas that pertained to the priesthood, man was being taught that God is holy and the things that are sanctified unto Him are to be used for Him alone and are not to be taken out for common use. Even the most pagan of societies understand the concept of sacred. The things of God were to be treated with the highest levels of respect out of reverence for God. Belshazzar did not reverence God so he profaned and desecrated the holy things of God. What God did to Belshazzar and how God responded to what Belshazzar was doing is a standout example unto all Saints as to how He feels about irreverent profanation of things sanctified to the Lord. When God sanctifies a man He does so for His service. We are made kings and priests unto God. Very sobering indeed.  
The Saint Belongs to God
When a person is truly born of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit comes in to take up residence, they become the possession of God instantly. This is an instant setting apart of ourselves to God as His unique possession. That is to say, were are at the point of transaction 100% sanctified unto God. I’m now using the word sanctified in the true biblical sense rather than the modern Evangelical sense. Modern Evangelicalism would suggest that we are being progressively set apart unto God, but this is a strange notion that has no parallel in scripture. It stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means for someone or something to be sanctified unto the Lord. Carnality blinded Corinth to this reality and it blinds today. God paid the full price to redeem the Saint and He retains 100% ownership and rights of property from the moment of transaction. God does not redeem man on an installment plan or on layaway. Let Paul ask us, Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. Here ‘were bought’ is in the first aorist, meaning that the event has taken place. The consequence? You are not your own. Who do we belong to? Obviously, the purchaser. 
Temple Sanctified 
Imagine the enemies of Israel attacking the Temple mount when the shekinah glory of God was filling the house. If Nadab and Abihu could not stand before the Lord in disobedience when He glory was on the House, how could the enemies of God have ever stood? There is no reason whatsoever for a believer to be defeated by sin and Satan. The Fire of God burning in man consumes everything that is not of God. It is just unfortunate today that true sanctification has been so ignored that to discuss the subject almost feels heretical. “Because of failure in their own lives men lower the standard and tone down the message because they do not wish to preach something they are not living. When a man preaches his own experience as a substitute for the pure word of God, there is always a loss of power. This cannot be helped, because it is based on and proceeds from man. 1 Thessalonians 5:23:  “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sanctification, by intention and provision of God, embraces the whole man. God has committed Himself to this and He is faithful to do it. God makes a man holy in a moment of time and, if that man is co-operative, will keep him holy through the successive moments of time till the Lord comes.” (G.W. North) 
Jesus not ashamed of us
One of the great challenges of our times is to get Christians to stop what they are doing and start to think about what God has purposed for them in this life. Jesus desires that we live a manor of life in which He would not be ashamed to call us His brethren. (Hebrews 2:11) Yet sadly and tragically today many folks seem to only care about having their sins forgiven and then they are ready to move on to a thousand other church related subjects from prosperity to politics, daring not to mention purity. Those that do touch the subject focus on how we are being sanctified as if we are called to live lives of sin- but ever slowly surrendering ground to God as He progressively sanctifies us. In other words, we’ll give God what is rightfully His as we get ready. As if a person is saying in their heart, “if I want to use my hands, eyes, ears, etc. as members of unrighteousness to sin, then I can do that.” Why? Because God understands that I’m being progressively sanctified, and I don’t have to concern myself with truly being one of His sons until I get ready. God forbid! What did God say, “And they delivered the burnt-offering unto him, piece by piece, and the head: and he burnt them upon the altar. (Leviticus 9:13 ASV) Paul in the language of priesthood then takes up the subject,  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:13 NKJV) Piece by piece and member by member. It not just the blessings that we should count.” (Ron Bailey)

Present Active Sanctification
Jesus is our example in all things, including sanctification. He was the Temple of the Holy Spirit while He walked the earth. (John 2:19) Just as the Wilderness Tabernacle was utterly sanctified to God as was the Temple of Solomon, Jesus Christ was sanctified unto God. He was not being progressively sanctified, He was presently being sanctified and there is a great difference. What did He say?
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:19)

Here Jesus says “I sanctify myself” where hagiazo (sanctify) is in the present active. He does this so that we “might be sanctified” where hagiazo is in the perfect passive. Keep in mind that He made this comment just prior to the cross event. He was a mature man and readied for the final trial. The context of the passage is life in this present evil world. Jesus left the sanctuary of Heaven to teach you and I through the word of truth that God could keep a holy man ‘holy’ in this present evil world. So what did Jesus mean, “I sanctify myself.” Certainly He did not mean that He was being progressively sanctified in the Evangelical sense. This is the language of priesthood, purification and holiness. He is guarding against defilement. By using hagiazo in the present tense He is teaching us that He consciously set Himself apart unto God continually and in every circumstance. “I am not of this world” was a common attitude of His. He then continued for our sakes, And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are]. Keep them what? Keep them sanctified even as Christ kept Himself sanctified. How? When Satan came to defile Him with sin He told Satan that He lived (and we all must live) by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. This is ‘right now’ revelation and grace from the Father to deal with the present circumstance so that He could go on sanctifying Himself unto God. That is to say, He kept Himself unspotted of the world. Jesus was and is perfect and He has perfected us while simultaneously sanctifying us. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are (being) sanctified. (Heb. 10:14)

 I suggest, that like Jesus we too must be being sanctified. Not in the Evangelical sense of the word, but in the same sense that Jesus used the phrase. We must consciously set ourselves apart unto God continually and in every circumstance. We have to do it the same way Jesus did it, by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. That is not to say that we will be without mistakes or errors in judgment (as Wesley would say), but that we would not willfully and knowingly go against the revealed will of God. Having been bought with a price and sanctified, we are continuing to be sanctified as we present ourselves in obedience to Him.
   

‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’

‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’ 
Robert Wurtz II

And Ahab said to Elijah: ‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’ And he answered: ‘I have found thee; because thou hast given thyself over to do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD. (1 Kings 21:20)

But there was none like unto Ahab, who did give himself over to do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. (1 Kings 21:25)

In August of this year I had the privilege of visiting the British Museum where artifacts from the Assyrian Empire are on display. These items date from roughly the 9th to the 6th century BC. As this empire was growing stronger and stronger the Northern Tribe of Israel, with the help of a series of diabolic leaders, was drifting farther and farther away from the one true God by serving the false gods of the pagans. The Assyrian’s were a barbarically cruel people of a merciless sort, readied to punish the wickedness of those that were once called by the name of God. Their savagery has been well documented in history as for starters they would impale and behead their enemies for sport. Here were these formidable agents of cruelty on Israel’s doorstep with the only thing standing between the two being the mercy of God. Yet, here we have Ahab mean-mouthing Elijah, a man of whom he was not worthy to have even met. Elijah was the great prophet of the Old Testament of whom signs and wonders followed in unparalleled ways. He prayed and the heavens shut up for 3 and a half years. He called fire down from Heaven and raised the dead. (1 Kings 17:22) Yet, Ahab and his wicked wife greatly withstood this man of God.

God not mocked

Some might wonder why God had not built a special compartment in Hell for Ahab and Jezebel where He turned the temperature up, but there is no need to worry about that because the judge of all the earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25) God wanted this man and his evil wife to repent and leave off his evil way. (2 Peter 3:9) We read about God in the Revelation dealing with a kindred spirit in the churches of God and giving ‘that woman’ what He called a space to repent, but she repented not. (Revelation 2:21) But Ahab was blinded. His blindness was so complete that he viewed his true enemies as good and submitted to their influence while viewing those that were God-sent and good as enemies and shunned their counsel. God explains this when he states, But there was none like unto Ahab, who did give himself over to do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. (1 Kings 21:25) The word here for ‘stirred up’ (cuwth) comes from the idea of persuading, prodding or enticing a person to do something. She used her influence to exercise Ahab’s authority for her own will- thus she us known as a usurper. She was as the thorns and briars in the book of Hebrews, rejected and nigh unto cursing whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8) Or in the words of the Revelation, Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (Revelation 2:22) 

Imposing appearances

Jezebel had a reputation for destroying the prophets of God. (1 Kings 18:4) So when Elijah heard she had threatened his life he fled from her. (1 Kings 19:1-9) This is amazing given the fact that he had just experienced a great victory over the prophets of Baal. It would seem that Elijah had become confused on a point and I think this was brought about because he misinterpreted God’s allowing Jezebel to destroy many of the prophets. I have always told myself when pondering these events that no matter what God’s reasoning for allowing her to destroy good men it was not because he was an ‘Ahab’. That is to say, God was not under Jezebel’s spell. He does things for His own reasons and is not subject to men even though the enemy would like to spin events to look that way. God was not impressed by the way she doctored her eyes with makeup to both seduce and impose upon men in order to control them. To give an idea as to how effective this strategy was she tried to use it at last to save her life when Jehu came to destroy her. When Jehu came to Jezreel and Jezebel heard of it, “she put her eyes into lead polish (i.e., painted them with it), and beautified her head and placed herself at the window.” This make-up is a very favourite eye-paint with Oriental women even to the present day. It is prepared from antimony ore (Arab. khΩl, Cohol or Stibium of the Arabs), which when pounded yields a black powder with a metallic brilliancy, which was laid upon the eyebrows and eyelashes either in a dry state as a black powder, or moistened generally with oil and made into an ointment, which is applied with a fine smooth eye-pencil of the thickness of an ordinary goose-quill, made either of wood, metal, or ivory. The way to use it was to hold the central portion of the pencil horizontally between the eyelids, and then draw it out between them, twisting it round all the while, so that the edges of the eyelids were blackened all round; and the object was to heighten the splendour of the dark southern eye, and give it, so to speak, a more deeply glowing fire, and to impart a youthful appearance to the whole of the eyelashes even in extreme old age. Rosellini found jars with eye-paint of this kind in the early Egyptian graves (vid., Hille, über den Gebrauch u. die Zusammensetzung der oriental. Augenschminke: Deutsch. morg. Ztsch. v. p. 236ff.).—Jezebel did this that she might present an imposing appearance to Jehu and die as a queen; not to allure him by her charms (Ewald, after Ephr. Syr.). (K&D) But it did not work. She had ran out of men she could intimidate and control. Jehu asked for some help and the men that were up with her cast her down so that her blood splattered on the wall and her body was mangled in the streets. All the while these events are going on the Assyrian Empire is gaining strength and preparing to exile the Northern Kingdom of Israel. 

Elijah’s discouragement

God had to get Elijah back on his feet after his bout with this woman after the demonic principality that was back of her had nearly wore the life out of him. These events are instructive. First let us observe the big picture. Satan was leading Northern Israel farther and farther away from God until they will in time ‘pass into legend’. God is sending prophets to halt the destruction, but men like Ahab are under her spell seeing good as evil and evil as good. Undoubtedly this drunkenness of judgment is a fearsome judgment in itself, but God also made an example out of Ahab. He allowed his wife to stir him up to do evil so he was accountable. We are accountable for how we allow people to influence us. No blaming her. He listened to her and rejected the voice of reason (Elijah). Elijah received strength from the Lord as He got him back in the game doing his calling (anointing kings, etc. 1 Kings 19:16). Her threats had succeeded in side-lining Elijah for a time. Understand that Jezebel is a discouraging spirit that seeks to sideline men of God. Yet God warns of her finality, Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel. (2 Kings 9:36, 37)

That Woman Jezebel?

One of the most sobering things a person can do is to look at an ancient timeline. Listed over the years are the names of men and kingdoms and religions that come and go as time marches on. Consider the snapshot of a timeline below.

























You will notice that Ahab (in blue) ruled from roughly 874 BC to 853 BC (22 years). Notice the two thin black lines sweeping upward towards Assyrian rule. This is where the Northern Kingdom was headed since Jeroboam started the people on a path to total annihilation. The righteous that lived in the Northern Kingdom migrated to Judah and many of the evil in Judah migrated to the Northern Kingdom. If you notice it was about 853 BC that Jonah was called to preach to Nineveh, capitol city of the Assyrian Empire. These things are going on along almost parallel lines. The people of Nineveh repented of their ways for a time, but eventually went back. During the ‘went back’ phase God used them to judge the Northern Kingdom. Ahab was oblivious to what God was doing as he was so focused in on what was important to him. He lived in the moment and with the advice of his evil wife did whatever he had to do to get his way. 

Examples unto us


Someone might read how the dogs licked the blood of Ahab (1 Kings 21:19, 1 Kings 22:38) or how Jezebel was thrown from a tall building to burst asunder on the ground, blood splattering the walls and horses as she was trod under foot (2 Kings 9:33, 34); and wonder why these wicked people would meet such an end. Yet Paul reminds us, Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11) We are also told by Paul that Christians have the ‘earnest of their inheritance’ whilst in this life as a foretaste of the greater life we can expect in the eternal future. Yet also, some evil people in this life, for the purposes of God (such as Pharaoh) are raised up as examples of God’s power for destruction of evil and wickedness. Ahab and Jezebel exacted a tiny- almost immeasurably small portion of their inheritance for the world to see and remember from the pages of God’s Holy word. They are examples unto us. What did Ahab do to warrant such an end?

The lesson of Naboth


And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. (1 Kings 21:2, 3)

Naboth was a man of principals and conviction. His property had been handed down as an inheritance, but Ahab believed the man’s heritage could be monetized. The tangible link with his past and family was this property. Ahab wanted it to add to his host of possessions, as he admitted, he had better lands than this. What did Ahab do? He went home to pout and make a big show for his wife Jezebel. She asked him, “Are you not the king of Israel?” This attitude is pagan and not of the kingdom of God. In the world kings get what they want, but it was not so to be in Israel. Nevertheless, she told him, Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” What did she do? she forged a document pretending to be the king and got Naboth set up to be lied against and stoned to death. Him and his sons. (2 Kings 9:26) The result? And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead. (1 Kings 21:15) It was all a wonderful plan. It seemed to have worked! Jezebel conspired to kill a good man, but at least she got Ahab his vineyard. After all, how dare anyone resist the will of the king, right? Wrong. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it. (1 Kings 21:17, 18) Ahab had gone down to collect the spoils. But he was not banking on one important factor; God was watching this whole thing play out. 

You found me, again!

Now we have come to our text, And Ahab said to Elijah: ‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’ And he answered: ‘I have found thee; because thou hast given thyself over to do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD. (1 Kings 21:20) Notice that Ahab refers to Elijah, the man of God as his enemy. This admission tells us that he has postured himself as the enemy of God Himself. Nevertheless, God did two things. He allowed a lying spirit to enter Ahab’s prophets that thought they were speaking by the Spirit of God. They were not. So this lying spirit told Ahab to go up to the battle. But Ahab was suspicious, so he called Micaiah the Prophet and he told Ahab there was a lying spirit in their mouth. Ahab believed the lying spirit. Why? He was delusioned with sin and wanted to believe what he wanted to believe. When the Prophet Micaiah would not endorse his decision he had him imprisoned to be fed the bread of affliction. Ahab disguised himself (for we know he was afraid God word would find him) and he went into the battle. What happened? But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. (1 Kings 22:34a ESV) Notice the anonymity and the destiny contained in this verse. I recall a minister say many years ago that had this nameless man shot left the arrow would have turned around like a patriot missile and hit Ahab right where God had said. No need to sit around biting fingernails wondering when God will set things right. He already had an arrow with Ahab’s name on it. God gave him and his evil wife a space to repent. Yet we read, But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” (1 Kings 22:34 ESV) There was a space to repent and there was a space for God’s final judgment. A sobering end to a man that lived to be lied to, so he could dumb himself down into total deception and perdition. 

    

   

Our Own Way

Our Own Way
Robert Wurtz II

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 NKJV)

Notice how our passage zooms in on the essense of the controversy that God has with man; We have turned, every one, to his own way. That is to say, each one of us either is or at one time did what they wanted to do- to the exclusion of what God thought about it. In the language repeated in the time of the Judges,  In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6, 21:5) This is the essense of all sin- me being in charge of my own life doing what is right in my own eyes. Yet this type of life is truly nothing more than slavery to Sin. As Jesus said it in John 8:34; Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (NKJV) A lot is said about freedom today in Christian circles. There are thousands of books on freedom. Sermons on freedom. I recently performed a contemporary Gospel song query and found over 100 songs that contain the word ‘freedom’. When some people speak of freedom they see it as the release of inhibitions in public worship. Others see it as being free from their past sin or past life and identity. Yet, freedom is a deceptive concept. Understand that noone but God is truly free. The rest of us are slaves to someone else. The question is, who or what are we a slave to? 

Changing Owners

For when ye were the slaves of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things [is] death. But now being made free from sin, and become slaves to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:20-22)

Some speak of freedom as if they were liberated from Satan in order to do their own thing. Almost as if there was some middle place between God and Satan that a person can function in being free from both Sin and any real obligation to obey God. Some came out of ‘deep sin’ having been in bondage to drugs and alcohol, etc., while others never did such things and were just as much a slave to sin as anyone else. So long as a person is serving themselves they are serving Sin. What did our key text say? All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way. (Isaiah 53:6) In fact, unless a person is a slave to God they are by default a slave to Sin. When we finally repent and turn to God we shift completely from one form of slavery to the other. We  go from being slaves of sin and shame unto eternal destruction, to being slaves of righteousness and holiness unto eternal life. 

Down with the king

One of the great areas of change that must come to all people that desire to serve God is in the area of, “our own way.” Many serve sin thinking they are living life as Frank Sinatra described it, “My Way.” But it is an illusion. People insist on being the king on the throne of their own life. That sounds like a simple thing to say, but it has a tendency to go right by us. Many think they have the right to think what they want to think, say what they want to say, behave like they want to behave, etc., as if they are accountable to no one but themselves. If they want to mistreat someone or treat them unrighteously they believe it is their prerogative. This attitude comes from Adam and when given the opportunity become more and more inhumane and vile.  

Jesus defined repentance by referring us to the Book of Jonah and the behavior of Nineveh after hearing Jonah’s message. To understand how evil and brutal these people in Nineveh were you would need to do as study of Assyrian warfare. After employing terror and blood upon their enemies they would return home to the capitol city of Nineveh and paint their exploits of butchery upon the walls of the kings palace as if it were some sort of morbid and diabolic wallpaper. When representatives from other lands would come to visit they were met with images of human felleting, beheadings, impalement and every other vile thing in order to intimidate them into subjection. They were the most professional army the world had seen to date. Yet, upon hearing a simple message from Jonah, “Yet 40 days and Niniveh shall be overthrown”, the people of Nineveh repented. The king got up from his throne and put on sackcloth. This is a picture of man in his typical hateful way responding to the grace of God in repentance and faith. God spared the city at that time. However, as other generations came along they fell back onto their ways and were destroyed. The final verse of Nahum ends with a question; Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AS)”> at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty? (NIV) Their repentance was sure at the first, but by the time 150 or more years had passed enough new generations had came that knew not the Lord nor the judgment He had pronounced before until they were back to their old cruelty. They had killed so many people there was no one left to mourne their demise. Why? Because nobody lived that had not been touched in some way by their savagery. Yet, even as far gone as these poeple were they still found a place of repentance. They were still able to abdicate the throne of their heart and allow God His rightful place.  


Thy will be done

One way to describe true repentance is simply to say that a person goes from saying in their heart, ‘my will be done’ to saying ‘thy will be done.’ This is where it has to begin. 




You Have Not So Learned Christ

You Have Not So Learned Christ
Robert Wurtz II


But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus. (Ephesians 4:21 NKJV)

Under the New Covenant we have the promise that it will not be like the Old Covenant when God took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt (Jeremiah 31:32). You will recall Lot in the days of Abraham living in Sodom lingering and not really wanting to leave though fire and brimstone judgment was pending. We read, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. (Genesis 19:16) This is outward leading. The New Covenant would be different in that God would work in those that were partakers of this covenant by working in them both to will and to do His good pleasure. It is an inward working. 

The Gentiles Walk

The context of our passage above deals with the manor of life that a Christian is to lead as contrasted with the gentiles. Paul describes them, Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 4:19) Past feeling is a Greek word denoting the inability to feel pain. They have become numb to their sinfullness and feel no conviction of sin or pain of conscience. We might say their conscience was seared to the point where they sin as if it’s normal. Our word for lasciviousness in the KJV is translated sensuality in the newer versions. The Gentiles have given themselves over to the desires of the body until they have become ungodly lusts and are utterly controlling their lives. Paul then goes on, But ye have not so learned Christ (V. 20). If we are in Christ, walking in Him, then the truth that was in Him when He walked the earth (His manor of life) will be the truth that is in us. Why? Because that is what He teaches us inwardly. Many people claim to be Christian and live like the Gentiles. This is why Paul qualifies his remarks, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him. There is emphasis here in the Greek, If YOU have heard Him and been taught by Him. 

The Truth is IN Jesus


This then brings us to Ephesians 4:21: if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus. We that have been baptized into Jesus Christ by the Spirit are in Christ where the truth is. So long as we are inChrist then Paul can say you have heard Him and you have been taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus. Being in Christ provides the means by which we are taught individually. It is a relationship in which the Lord Himself reveals truth to us inwardly. What is the truth that He is teaching us? That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind. (V.22, 23) Our passage uses the phrase, the old man. Paul uses the expression ‘one new man’ in Ephesians 2:15. The one new man, I suggest stands in contrast to the old man or our old man (Romans 6:6) that was crucified with Christ. This new man has Christ as the Head. The old man has old Adam as the head. This is two categories of people. We are born in Adam, the old man. We are born again in the Last Adam, baptized into one body with Christ as the Head. This reality makes for a totally different manor of life. The old man is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. The verb corrupt in the Greek is in the present continuous tense, meaning that it keeps on corrupting itself. Just when you think you have reformed it it refreshes itself in wickedness again. The only solution is to get out of our old man and get in to and stay in the new man. This is where the truth is. 

Transformed into His Image

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformedinto the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18)
This is the experience of the New Man. Here we have ‘are being transformed’ also in the present continuous. Just as the old man waxed corrupt, the new man is undergoing a continuous refreshing into the personality of Christ. I would suggest this is what we might call ‘progressive glorification’. Moses had gone up and came down glowing with the glory of God, evidence that he had been with God. We know that being with the Lord has a profound effect on behavior even as noticed by Israel and the rulers when “they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). 
  
Dangerous behaviors

I want to carefully transition in our discussion into an area of concern in our times. In the broader context of Ephesians 4, Paul moves on and deals with being angry, working, and our communication as believers. He tells us to be angry and sin not, let not the sun go down upon your anger, neither give place to the Devil. Think about how the churches of God were persecuted in the 1st century when these words were penned. Leaders like Caligula Claudius , and Nero (that had his own mother executed) ruled Rome during these terrible times. How did Christians respond? What did they learn of Christ? We know that they loved to the end, even as we have in the example of Stephen. Believers were respectful to others, and to leaders as was Paul when he went before Festus and Agrippa. They never lost their testimony before the world. Keep this in mind.

Modern Trappings

As Christians we are at great risk in modern times of being angered by the unrighteous behaviors that go on in society and among leaders just as would have been the Christians that watched their fellow believers burned to death under Nero or the lewd awful behaviors of a Caligula. We risk being lured into a bad spirit that would not please God. Our passage was useful to the Ephesians and the epistles broader audience and it still applies to us today. What complicates the situation is that some believers begin to feed into various worldly means that spread anger, such as talk-radio and television, until they get a bad spirit. Not knowing that these people are not friends of the Gospel simply because we share what some would call a ‘common enemy’, they begin to listen to the talk and get angrier and angrier. I think we already know this, but conservatism is not the same thing as Christianity. They may share some common views, but Christianity originates in a different Kingdom, not of this world. To participate in a voting process is one thing, but to transgress Godly principals and fail to move in the person of Jesus Christ is never acceptable. Everything you and I do in this regard we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Did I learn this from Christ?” 

You Have Not So learned Christ

What happens? Rather than praying for our leaders as we are told in 1 Timothy 2, we see believers start to mean-mouth and mock, just shy of cursing our leaders. Beloved, this ought not so to be. Answer? But you have not so learned Christ. Anger is a valid human emotion under the right circumstances. Yet we are also told that the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. (James 1:20) That is no straw statement. God’s ways are not our ways unless we are moving in the mind of Christ. If we allow the world to press us into its mode of thinking (Romans 12:2), even when there may be a common agreement in a few areas, we risk losing the whole of our testimony. Is it wise to think we can fight fire with fire? Can we fight anger with anger? What did Paul say? Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29) 

Dangerous Teachers

Introducing scoffing and mockery into a solemn subject is like dead flies in perfume. It mars the subject and the speaker. (Ecclesiastes 10:1) Jesus never taught anyone to be a smart aleck. It neither promotes the cause or bolsters the argument. The stench of pride in such behavior makes me think of Thomas Carlyle when he stated, Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it”. One thing I know for certain, but you have not so learned Christ. This brings us to a great question. What are we allowing to ‘teach’ us? Sarcastic teachers? Or are we listening to the Lord as He leads us inwardly? He taught us how to deal with our humanness in overcoming sin and temptation. He taught us how to handle situations when He was being persecuted. He is our teacher. The risk we run today is that we would allow other voices to teach us instead of Christ. The voice of politics or conservatism. Voices that lend to anger and sinning as opposed to having the mind of Christ. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus. (Ephesians 4:21 NKJV) The truth is in Christ, not these other voices that pretend to speak for Him. 



Obsession with Competition (revisited 2012)

Obsession with Competition (revisited)
First published June 11, 2009. 

Robert Wurtz II

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15)

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)


Romans 12:15 tells us to rejoice with them that do rejoice. This means we are to be happy for people when they are blessed in some way. This runs counter to modern popular culture. When was the last time you know of a person rejoicing with their neighbor when they came home blessed in a way that positioned the person on a higher economic or social plane? What about a ball game? When was the last time you saw a team get excited for the team that just beat them in the championship? Understand that the reason you don’t see this very often if ever is because the world is moving in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life (pleasure, possessions and popularity). Anything that contributes to that end is regarded as good by the world; but anything that pushes a person down in any of those areas is regarded as a bad thing. So when the neighbor gets a promotion and a new company car, etc., it is hard for a fellow laborer in this present world to rejoice with them. Why? Because they are competing with each other on these three levels. This is why Christians are told in Romans 12:1-2 not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If we think like the world we will never, rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15) Why? because it is unnatural to be happy or sad for your competition. 

Battle in the Workplace


Every day in the West men and women get in their cars and go to ‘battle’. They go to battle on as many fronts as 24 hours in a day will allow for. The key behavior being this incessant desire to compete and be the victor. Many almost obsessively desire to reign in their circles as the man or woman with the nicest house, coolest car, most expensive and trendy clothes and jewelry, largest bass boat, nicest lawn, coolest motorcycle, latest Ipad, smart phone, nicest indoor furniture, patio furniture, grill, stainless steel appliances, digital front loader washer and dryer, 75 inch plasma or LCD 3D TV, Dolby surround sound stereo system, and any other gadget known to man that has the capability of ‘scoring’ high points in this battle. Anything a person can possibly use as leverage in this war is fair game. And these are just the material things. How many people have abused coworkers to gain favor with the boss? How many politicians have lied and kissed babies to go from a nobody to the mayor, governor or president? Teenagers and young adults mock themselves to scorn on programs like X-Factor or American Idol for a shot at being popular. The obsessions border on the occult at times. Who would want to be an ‘idol’ anyway? Many people work their whole lives looking for the most effective ways of exalting themselves over their neighbor. Again, how can we rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15) if we are moving in this worldly paradigm? 

Training the Kids to Fight


While the parents are fighting their neighbors on these fronts the kids are fighting their friends in the streets for bragging rights on who has the coolest car, loudest boom box, newest rims, fastest engine, coolest clothing, tattoos, piercings, best fade away jump shot, fastball pitch, swing, kick, throw, punch, dodge, leap, swim, fish, drive, ad infinitum. All of which began when little Billy got the first tricycle on the block or little Suzie got the coolest Barbie in the neighborhood. Maybe it was before that, when the parents insisted that at 3 years old the kid have their first $100 pair of Nike tennis shoes (Nike is Greek for victory). How could love possibly exist in this environment? How can anyone love their competitor? But this is the world mindset. This is why schools are such a harsh place for many kids to try to exist. The cruelty of kids can nearly scar a person for life. All so the person can jockey for position in this life and at nearly every age. 

Who is truly at peace with their neighbor?

Is there anywhere where this competition is not found? Is there any place where fallen man will not draw a line and commence a competition? From cradle to grave it seems to happen. Have we not heard it all? “We planned our kids while every one else’s were ‘accidents.'” or “My kid goes to the best school and gets the best grades.” or “My kid is on the honor society.” Then there are the stickers on the bumper; “Proud parent of a Principal Honor Roll student.” And if that were not enough, “My kid beat up your honor roll student!” “My kids are on the deans list.” or “My kid is first chair in the band or is the ‘star quarterback.’ My kid has an academic scholarship. My kid went to private school. My kid is going to Harvard; … oh, really? well mine is going to Oxford!” On and on and on. The madness is nearly enough to gag a person. How many kids have been destroyed by their parents working day and night to forge a child they can be proud of and boast about? Some kids have come to despair even of life because of it. How about this, how about lets just love them and seek God’s will for their lives

The battle for status

I submit to you that the primary reason people are not happy is because they are caught up in the spirit of competition that dominates their lives. They struggle to be happy because they are always reaching for something newer, better, cooler, more expensive, etc., and can never just be thankful for what they have and the state they are in. What an awesome thing it would be to simply stop competing with everyone in all these areas we have mentioned and simply rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15) How can a person have compassion on their neighbor when he’s about to lose his house if he feels exalted because he has his paid on time? How can you weep for someone that are are competing against when their misfortune positions you higher than them in this world’s rat race? What use is it to bemoan the gang in the streets that wear red or blue and fight to the death- but wist not that they battle and fight and war – even soliciting God into the mix- praying for more and greater – why? That they may ‘consume’ these things on their own lusts. But lust for what? All that is in the world- simply, possessions, popularity and pleasure. God will not be a part of this fighting and warring. God is not going to bless a person so they can exalt themselves above their fellows. In this the spirit of this age is running utterly contrary to the Spirit of God and we must identify it when it tries to influence our lives. 

My talents and abilities as weapons in this war?

So when your on your way to work and get cut-off by that aggressive driver that’s hoping to get to work an hour early to get that extra overtime to get that larger check to buy that new gadget bigger than the neighbor he don’t like or the buddy that he heard through the grapevine- just bought; consider all this. Consider why it is so difficult to rejoice when someone is blessed. Ask yourself why there is such envy- such displeasure at the blessing of others? Could it not be because we have fallen victim in society to the popular culture that would rather see men and women fight in the afore mentioned battle fields than in the streets with their guns and fists? Was the BBC right when they suggested in the acclaimed video series, The Century of the Self. that these things have been fostered in order to control the dangerous crowd and the hostile forces that exist within fallen man? Can human nature be so depraved- that the masses have to be controlled in this way? This is a radical question to consider. 

Why many cannot rejoice at the blessing of their neighbor

We should ask ourselves, when was the last time I was happy that my neighbor got a better paying job than me? When was the last time that I wept when they lost their job and their home was foreclosed upon? What about if their child did well in school? If we struggle in these and similar areas there is a good chance that we are failing in Romans 12:2 and are allowing the world to press us into its mold. Born again believers have been delivered from the spirit of this age. The challenge to all of this is the ongoing spirit of competition that keeps us from feeling like we are all on ‘the same team’. Nobody gets excited when the competition succeeds. God never intended that we look upon each other as ‘competitors’. This is the worlds ways and it has profited the big corporations in the multiplied billions. What happens if we play the game? Everyone ends up on an island- not in the Spirit of the New Testament, but pressed into the mold of this wretched world (Romans 12:2). We lose the sense of love and compassion and rejoicing that God desires that we experience one for another. In all reality when a person suffers loss- there could actually be pleasant feelings because they are less of a threat. God deliver us from this brutal game that steals our love, compassion and joy. May men be transformed by the renewing of their minds having renounced love for this present evil world.    

The Folly of Unforgiveness

The Folly of Unforgiveness
Robert Wurtz II

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32)

Forgiveness is essential for all relationships. Without it, there is no hope for any of us. Paul tells us plainly that we are to kindly and tenderly forgive each other. He reminds us of how Christ has forgiven us and calls us to follow His example. We are to forgive each other because it is the right thing to do and the loving thing to do. This implies not if forgiveness is needed, but when. The need for forgiving each other is a foregone conclusion. We are going to offend each other at times whether we mean to or not. Often offenses are caused by a lack of understanding. A person may say or do something for good reason and with pure motives, but the other person simply does not understand, so they are offended. This is why 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love puts the best construction on events. Love does not look for reasons to be offended. The more loving you are in your approach to people, the less offended you will be. Yet, offenses still come. The only person that doesn’t need forgiveness is God. The rest of us have needed it, do need it or at some point will need it. In scripture offenses are likened to debt. When someone does us wrong they are in a sense indebted to us (and vis versa). When we sin against God we are indebted to Him. This brings us to an important parable given by our Lord. I have quoted it here in its entirety.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matthew 18:22-34 NKJV) 
The context of this parable is important also, because Jesus is discussing with Peter how often he ought to forgive a person. Peter says, “Until seven times?” Seven is the number of perfection and completion, so seven seems reasonable. But Jesus said unto him, I say not unto you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. That is 490 times. Some translators have rendered the text 77 times. In either case, the bar is set very high. It was a settled rule of Rabbinism that forgiveness should not be extended more than three times. (Vincent) An example is given of a man seeking forgiveness from a rabbi for a single minor offense 13 times and the rabbi refused. (1) So for Peter to up the number from three to seven was over twice the norm. Forgiving people in the way Jesus describes was a novel concept of unparalleled proportions. .
How Much Did We Owe?
Our subject is taken up with a man that has been brought before the King to settle accounts. When it was all added it the man owed a staggering 10,000 talents. You will recall the parable of the man traveling to a far country that delivered one, two and five talents respectively to his three servants. We get the impression that 5 talents is a huge sum of money to invest and it is. In fact, a talent in New Testament times was anywhere from 60 to 130 lbs of silver. Josephus pegs the weight at 100 lbs (2). If we do the math the man owed 10,000 X 100lbs or 1,000,000 lbs of silver. In response to this mammoth sum, the man told the King; Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” To understand how long it would take to pay this debt we need to know what a worker made in an average day in Judea in that time. You will recall Jesus giving another parable of the generous land owner in Matthew 20 which sets the men’s wages at a denarius a day no matter what time of the day they started working. A denarius in the time of Christ was a days wage and the equivalent to roughly .110 oz silver. This means that the man would need to work roughly 145 days for a pound of silver. Since he owed 1,000,000 pounds of silver it would take him 145,000,000 (145 million) days to earn enough money to pay his debt. If he worked seven days a week it would take him 397,260 years to pay the debt or roughly 65 times recorded human history. Yet the common human response? Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.”
What he was owed 
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!” So he was owed basically a hundred days wages or 11 oz of silver. Understand that this was a lot of money in the first century. It would be like someone owing you 100 days pay. That is to say, the offense that the man committed against the other man was very great in one sense. However, the amount that he was forgiven of was effectively 145,000,000 denarii (days pay). He owed 1.45 million times as much debt as the man owed him. That is a staggering comparison. In a figure this is God showing us the difference between what we have done to others and other have done to us and what we have done to Him. 
Forgive and forget or forget we were forgiven?
 Notice the attitude of this wicked person, but that servant went out and found one… It’s as if he could not wait to find the guy that owed him to press upon him the controversy he had. He didn’t just ask for the money, but what was worse, he took the man by the throat. That is to say, he was choking the man- saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!” What you owe (ei ti opheileis). Literally, “if you owe anything,” however little. He did not even know how much it was, only that he owed him something. “The ‘if’ is simply the expression of a pitiless logic” (Meyer quoted in Robertson). This is the cruelty of a godless man. He takes no account of how much he was forgiven of as if he should be grateful and emulate the behavior- but rather behaves towards his fellow man the exact opposite of the kindness he received. This seems at first to be outrageous, but think about how people have come to Christ seeking to be forgiven of their sins and would even beg God on their hands and knees to forgive their gargantuan sin debt and then they turn right around and refuse to forgive their neighbor that has sinned against them. This is the thrust of the story. How men can be forgiven of God and then refuse to pass the favor to their fellow man.

Others grieved, perpetrator oblivious
So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved. Notice that those that beheld the situation from afar off had the good sense to see that the man should have shown mercy after he had been forgiven so great of debt. It is common for folk to see others in a situation and say they should forgive, but not see it for themselves. I’m reminded of Nabal in the Old Testament that in a drunken rage mistreated David after he had guarded his property. David was within a hairs-breadth of destroying Nabal and all the men in his household. (1 Samuel 25:10-39) Why? It may be helpful to point out that the word Nabal is Hebrew for fool. Nabal had returned evil for good, and that is exactly what this man had done in the parable. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant!
The wickedness of unforgiveness 
Jesus calls the man who had done this high-handed dastardly deed wicked. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” What this man had done can only be described as criminal unreasonableness. He had willfully operated in gross inequity. This behavior is not to be remedied but punished. He had begged for forgiveness and even suggested he would work the debt off- though it would take nearly a half-million years. The truth is, once he was forgiven the man should have thrown the celebration of the ages and committed himself to a life of serving his King and others, but no; he walked out and wiped his mouth as if he had done no evil. The situation revealed the type of man he was, he was of his father the devil and the lusts of his father he did do. If Satan were king there would be no forgiveness, but a constant throttling and torture every time an offense came. Is there any wonder the day will come when God is going to sweep the creation clean of this wickedness? Who would want to live for eternity around people like the one described in Jesus parable?
Delivered to the tormentors 
There is a point I want to bring out in this parable that often goes unnoticed. Jesus did not suggest the man should be put into therapy for what he had done. We read, And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.If forgiving the man of all of his sins didn’t change him, nothing would. You see, it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. What greater good could God do than this? This is very sobering. So often we look around wondering how God is going to reach the hard-hearted that have rejected Him time and time again. Maybe if God sends this destructive force or that one. God does all of these things to bring us to the revelation that He wants to forgive our sins and reconcile with us. The man in the parable wanted his debt forgiven so that he was no longer under its obligation, but that’s all He wanted. he didn’t want a relationship with the King that having forgiven much he should have loved much and he had no love for his neighbor either. I’m afraid that multitudes have no comprehension of the fact that in Christ dying on the cross He had one objective- that in showing us so great of love we would love Him back in return and our neighbor as ourselves. We love Him because He first loved us. It is the reason for the ‘therefore’ of Romans 12:1. 

Forgiveness conditional

We read in Mark 11:25, 26, And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Here we have it again and very straightforward. It is folly to ignore this passage. The clear implication of the parable is that the man had been forgiven of the debt, but that afterwards there was a rescinding of that forgiveness based on his unwillingness to forgive his fellow servant. The Lord’s prayer follows this theme as well, “forgive us of our debts as we forgive our debtors.” God is determined to forgive us, He cheerfully forgives us, casting our sin behind His back desiring to remember them no more; however, He is also determined that we will pass on the blessing as the only sensical thing to do. To do otherwise is to place our name into the blank in the parable of Jesus. 

 
  
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(1) Even so, the practice was terribly different. The Talmud relates, without blame, the conduct of a rabbi who would not forgive a very small slight of his dignity, though asked by the offender for thirteen successive years, and that on the day of atonement; the reason being that the offended rabbi had learned by a dream that his offending brother would attain the highest dignity; whereupon he feigned himself irreconcilable, to force the other to migrate from Palestine to Babylon, where, unenvied by him, he might occupy the chief place (Edersheim, Life and Times, Book 4. P.30).

(2) Antiq. 3:144 ¶ (3.6.7.144) Over against this table, near the southern wall, was set a candlestick of cast gold, hollow within, being of the weight of one hundred pounds, which the Hebrews call Chinchares; if it be turned into the Greek language, it denotes a talent.      
 

The True Worshippers

The True Worshippers
Robert Wurtz II

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-25)

A few times this week I have had to deal with an issue with folks trying to find a place of worship. Those two experiences, coupled with many thoughts and experiences of the last month have served as the impetus for the thoughts I wish to present in this blog. I mention the situations in passing to protect the parties involved. In our passage above I find it interesting that throughout the ages there has always been concern about outward aspects of worship. This woman was concerned with the ‘where’ of worship, while today many are concerned with the ‘how’ of worship. Yet Jesus slips a truth in that often goes undetected, “… But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Here we have our Lord dividing up worshippers into two categories: 1) true 2) false. John uses the Greek word alethine (ἀληθινὴ) which we translate as ‘true’ or ‘genuine’. We might call it, ‘the real one.’ He uses the word when he speaks of the true light (John 1:9), the true bread (John 6:32), the true vine (John 15:1), the only true God (John 17:3), the true witness (Revelation 3:14), and the true sayings of God (Revelation 19:9). True worshippers, says John, worship in spirit and in truth. “Spirit or pneuma (πνεῦμα) is the highest, deepest, noblest part of our humanity, the point of contact between God and man (Romans 1:9); while soul (ψυχή) is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions, having a side in contact with the material element of humanity as well as with the spiritual element, and being thus the mediating element between the spirit and the body. The phrase in spirit and in truth describes the two essential characteristics of true worship: in spirit, as distinguished from place or form or other sensual limitations (ver. 21); in truth, as distinguished from the false conceptions resulting from imperfect knowledge (ver. 22). To worship in truth is not merely to worship in sincerity, but with a worship corresponding to the nature of its object.” (Vincent) 

You will recall that ancient Israel under the direction of Aaron made a golden calf for the people to worship. They wanted a god made after their own hands with their own input and concepts; but Jehovah cannot be molded into man’s concepts. (Exodus 32:1ff) He is who He is and cannot be changed. To change God into something other than who He is is to make an idol. We need to ask ourselves; “Am I worshipping the God revealed in scripture or am I worshipping my own golden calf- a fabrication of my own imaginations of how I wish God was.” This event is very instructive. Israel rejected the God of the Fire on the mountain (Hebrews 12:18) and desired one after their own thoughts and purposes. They fabricated it at the foot of the mountain where the one true God was manifesting Himself. Very sobering. They didn’t want the real God, they wanted to remake Him after their own lusts. This leaves one question; what constitutes false worshippers? Obviously they are not worshipping in spirit or truth. We have a responsibility to God to learn of Him and understand His ways so that we can do those things that please Him. What folly is it that we would seek to please ourselves in the worship of God? It is a God-centered proposition from beginning to end.

Regulative and Normative Principals of Worship

The regulative principle of worship is a doctrine regarding worship that teaches that God institutes in the Scriptures everything He requires for worship in the churches and that everything else is prohibited. In this view there can be no innovations. This doctrine is often found among those with a strict view of the principle of sola scriptura. The regulative principle is often contrasted with the normative principle of worship which teaches that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship, as long as it is agreeable in the churches. Charles Finney in the early to mid 1800’s argued for innovations in the churches sighting that God allows for the churches to innovate as means and necessity were in view. Not to push the blame to Finney, but certainly there was a shift in the churches from that time and we have been heading fastly beyond even a normative principal approach to worship. I can only describe what is happening in some Christian circles as ‘anything goes.’ 

Maintaining the Boundaries

In many Christian circles the influence of popular culture has been so great that hymns that were sung in the churches of God for some 200-250 years have been fastly discarded as ‘old’ and ‘out of touch’ with the times. This is a very strange thing to consider even for the most ardent proponent of modern worship techniques. It is as if there is a conspiracy to totally break ties with the past so that there is no continuity between the Christianity of the 1900’s and before and the Christianity of today. It’s as if many want a clean break. What is even more disturbing is that some churches are now adopting full-on secular music into their services. I heard recently of a church that used a popular 70’s hard rock song that was once considered one of the most satanic of it’s time as sermon material. As shocking as that may be, what is more shocking is that there is not a revolt against such things. What has happened is that we have totally lost sight of the boundaries. I have to ask, is this true worship and are these true worshippers? Is this being done in Spirit and in Truth? It is a tough question, but we need to ask it sincerely. In Finney’s day it was pitch pipes that were controversial. In later times it was choirs and musical instruments. Then the question became whether or not accompaniment tapes were valid. But then we turned a corner and various musical genres (rock, country, classical, blues, etc.) were singled out as controversial. In the last 5 years the boundaries have been challenged even more and full on country and rock songs have been made into ‘Christian’ by changing a few words around and directing them at God instead of a man or a woman. But before we can even address that controversy, now we have the satanic music of the 70’s in full-dress making it into the meetings. Now what are we going to do? 

A Look Back


The photo above was taken at the British Museum and stands as one of the oldest depictions of Christian worship known in the world, dating to the 300’s AD. If you could see their faces they are looking up to heaven with their hands open and raised. This was found in an ancient house church south of London and restored one piece at a time. It is insightful. It tells me that no more than 200-250 years from the time of the Apostles that this was the pattern of worship to God within this local church. If we are to maintain our way as the churches of God we need to keep asking how things used to be done rather than seeking the latest innovations. We need to take a more Bible based approach to all that we do when it comes to the worship of God. 

Losing Our Sense of Sacred

In Isaiah 6:1ff God gave the Prophet a foretaste of Heaven. He shuttered and cried out ‘woe is me!’ He learned real fast why God judged his friend king Uzziah with leprosy when he went into the Temple to offer incense to the Lord as a king. (2 Chronicles 26:19) God is to be reverenced (feared). What about Nadab and Abihu who offered strange (common and unapproved) fire to the Lord? Did you know they were burned to death with the Fire of God and Aaron was not allowed to mourn their death and it was his own sons? (Leviticus 10:6) Their judgment was warranted, therefore God forbade any hint that what He had done in judging them was undue severity. What about when Uzzah reached up and touched the Ark of God and was smitten dead? (2 Samuel 6:7) What about Hophni and Phinaes and the way they disregarded God and the sacred things of God. What about Eli that just stood by waiting for God to judge him because he would not put an end to it? (1 Samuel 3:14) He would rather defend his sons than defend what was right. All this led the people terribly astray. (1 Samuel 2:17) What was God teaching us through these things? After all, they were written for our example and for our learning upon on whom the ends of the earth have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11) Anytime you or I see someone being smitten dead in scripture we should stop and have a ‘therefore’ moment. This is God’s estimate of a particular behavior we are seeing played out. God may not smite a person dead every time they do something high-handed, but once He has reacted to a behavior it has become our example of how He feels about it. We shouldn’t need more examples. How many people would have to be smitten dead after the record we already have for us to get the message and believe God? (Revelation 9:20, 21)

Modern Day Will-Worship

Does anyone ever wonder why so-called worship services are more like the rock concerts of the 70’s and 80’s with all the fixens including loudness and pyrotechnics? Just asking. Not trying to be divisive. Since when do guitar contests have any place in the churches of God? Does that not draw the attention to men and divide the worship? Just trying to be honest. It seems almost like another generation that knew not the Lord nor the works He had done in Israel have been raised up. (Judges 2:10) As soon as the older folks fall ill or have to step aside it’s like the bursting of a dam when the worldliness and often satanic behaviors begin to pour forth. Is there a generation chomping at the bit hoping to have a chance to take this on to the next level until all that the churches of God were ever designed to be is lost in the chaos and compromise? I think of the kings of Israel and Judah that seemed to wait for their fathers to pass so they could plunge Israel into utter worldliness and ruin. (1 Kings 15:26, 16:30, 2 Kings 21:7, etc.) Has the Bible been put so far down on the list of influences within these circles that nobody even bothers to ask if some of these things are even Biblical or Godly? (2 Timothy 4:3) When God got ready to teach us about Himself and His service in the Old Covenant He ordered almost every detail. The clothing, the Tabernacle, the recipe for the incense, the Fire, were all sacred things. He taught us and commanded us to discern between the holy and the profane. (Ezekiel 22:26, 2 Corinthians 6:17, Hebrews 5:14) 

A Weeks Worth of Living

We bring a weeks worth of living into any worship gathering. (G.W. North) It is a strange belief that one can live like the unsaved all week long and then God will come a running to inhabit their praises. If we strike up the band and get our favorite songs going we will start to feel ‘better’ or feel ‘something’. Remember, Jesus said that the true worshippers will worship in Spirit and in truth. I have heard people say, “I need to go get some worship” as if they were going to get a fix of some kind. That is not a criticism, but a sobering reality. Do we even realize what worship is? Throughout the Bible the concept of worship is linked with Total Surrender.  This is not a 30-60 minute exercise in song, but a life of total devotion. When Abraham went up on the mountain to ‘worship’ he was planning on slaying his promised son in an offering to God. This is our first real picture of worship in the Bible. Worship implies unwavering obedience to the one we are worshipping. It implies a desire to serve Him all week long, 24/7/365. Oddly enough, the same people that typically baulk at holy living and Bible based Christianity also baulk at what I am saying here. The two almost always go together. No matter how many teachings are put out like this one that seeks to turn our attention back to the Bible they go largely ignored. The people are simply not interested. They are doing their thing and don’t want to be bothered. They would rather see it as an attack on them rather than an admonition to turn back to scripture and ask if we are on a right path. Yet we read in Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. One of the saddest things about this subject is that so many refuse to accept any instruction, but rather vaunt themselves as experts and unteachable. Isaiah learned that the situation in Heaven is very different than here on Earth. Have you ever stopped to think that when you draw your last breath you will never be able to disobey God again? Jesus told us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” In Heaven everything is done in accordance with God’s will. No one is doing things to be seen of men or to divide the worship between them and God. 

An Example


At the New Life Conference at Rora, Devon in 2012 I was able to see first hand that a balance can be brought to all of these issues and God be glorified. I heard new hymns and I heard old ones. As Jesus said, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:52) I heard worship where the voices of the people carried the song, not the instruments. They had guitars, a bass, drums and an electric piano like any other place I have been, yet they were there to accompany the worship of God not to drive the worship. Noone complained as to how loud the music was because the peoples voices drowned out everything. They sang with all their hearts unto God. As a worship musician for some 18 years and a drummer for over 30 years this was quite an experience for me. People from all over the world and all over England came together in unity and sang as it were a celestial choir prodding my mind to wonder what Heaven will be like. No one got mad if their song was not sung and no man or woman was being glorified. It was an awesome sight. The people sang and I believed them. It was in Spirit and in Truth. Not in a 10 million dollar building, but in a large tent and in a blinding rainstorm. 


   

   

Catch The Little Foxes

Catch The Little Foxes
Robert Wurtz II


Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes. (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)

Our passage is an allegory dealing with love between individuals that is ever presently in danger of being spoiled. Vines are the place where fruitfulness takes place and this is where the ‘little foxes’ cause the damage. Foxes are notorious for their destructive power so the writer makes use of them in a figure to show us the importance of being vigilant about the things that foxes represent. What things? Things that try to spoil relationships between people; especially between Christ and His Bride or between individuals within the churches. The enemy makes use of ‘little foxes’ in our lives; little things that go almost undetected until it is too late. His objective is clear; spoil the vinesIn a figure we might say that the enemy wants to nip love in the bud. 

Tender Blossoms

I recall as a child each year when my father would plant a garden. Although we never planted grapes, we planted many things that grew on vines; watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. These plants were always subject to danger and had to be protected. Needless to say the kids were not allowed to play near the gardens as trampling through the vines or throwing balls into the garden would be a serious problem. Why? Recklessness has no place in a vineyard or a garden. They are tender vines. Relationships are tender as well. It’s the job of the gardener to protect the vines and it is the job of all of us to protect the relationships in our lives. Why? They are tender. 

Unseen Dangers

Catch us the foxes, The little foxes, says the scripture. These are big issues (foxes) and little issues (little foxes.) Notice the admonition, “Catch!” These cannot be allowed to run free. Relationships are complicated enough without allowing destructive forces to go unchecked. The big issues (foxes) are usually obvious, but what about the ‘little foxes’? What about the things that people do that cause problems and they don’t even realize it? What happens in relationships when one party feels like the other party should obviously know what they are doing and yet they are oblivious? People are not always intentionally obtuse. Sometimes they have been raised in a way that blinds them to the obvious. This is a dangerous situation. This can spoil a relationship. Whether or not it is intentional there are ‘little foxes’ that have to be caught and to catch them there has to be an attitude of believing that they just might exist. 

‘Catching!’ 

I’m reminded of Nabal in scripture when it was said of him thathe is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17b ESVS) Catching little foxes means we have to be willing to take inventory and listen to criticism. God forbid, that if we are as Nabal, we will live fruitless lives and be as clueless as anything. Also, if we believe our own press we are surely doomed to failure. Pride is a killer when it comes to catching little foxes. Sometimes we feel so spiritual that we could not possibly be off track. I think of Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah when he went near and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go from me to speak to you?” (1 Kings 22:24) He believed he was God’s man for the hour, but he was deceived. He refused to hear what God was really saying and decided rather that he was the only person that could possibly be right. His attitude was evident and destructive. Catching little foxes means we have to be somewhat self-mistrusting. We have to open our eyes to see areas where we have been blinded for years before the vines are totally ruined and an opportunity for fruitfulness is lost. We have to be teachable. 

Pleasing Others 

Relationships cannot become one sided. We read in Romans 15:1, But we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just please ourselves. Did God just say that we ought not to please ourselves? Indeed He did. This means that we are watchful for things that become ‘little foxes’ – ruining a relationship simply because it is something we are doing to please ourselves. Again we read, Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes. One of the fastest ways to ruin love is to become selfish and inconsiderate of others. Love does not impose on others, but rather as we read in song of Solomon draws a person out into love. This is a powerful picture of Christ and the Church; yet we can apply these truths in our everyday lives and in the churches of God. We must watch and catch things before they have a chance to spoil. We have to ask God to show us the little foxes in our lives.  



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