Softly Leading

Softly Leading
Robert Wurtz II


But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die.”  (Genesis 33:13 NKJV)

Genesis is a book about beginnings. Many of the subjects that will fill the pages of sacred text will be introduced in this first book. The subject I wish to consider is that of a shepherd and his flock. It is a common motif found all throughout the scriptures. God begins here in Genesis building revelation, so that by the time the word “shepherd” is used in the New Testament, we will have a good understanding of what God means by that term. 


A cursory read of the Bible reveals that frequently God used sheep and shepherds as a metaphor for His people and His representatives. For example, in the Old Testament, it is “sheep” that shepherds watch for, but in Hebrews 13:17, it is “souls” that elders watch for. The word watch in the Greek means “no-sleep.” The idea being that someone is awake and watching (keeping watch) over the sheep (souls) while others are asleep. It is not an office but a primary function within the churches of God. The flock must be fed, and the flock must be kept safe by men who delight in them (See Mark 13:33; and compare Luke 21:36 and Ephesians 6:18). Early on in Genesis 33:13-15, God is laying down His qualities of leadership that will serve as the guideposts for Israel and the churches of God. 


Foisting Upon the Flock


Every passage of scripture is useful for our edification and instruction — as God takes hold of it and applies it to our hearts by revelation. Let us observe that Jacob and Esau have met up as Jacob is trying to move his family and herds as God had instructed Him. Jacob is very sensitive to the flocks’ condition and is highly concerned that they cannot handle what was about to be foisted upon them by Esau (Genesis 33:12). By foist, I mean specifically that Esau is wanting to impose upon the flocks and herds a pace that they cannot handle at this time. These were more than animals fit for the slaughterhouse, they were beloved flocks and herds. Jacob is “watching.” God had given him a word to return to his people, but now Esau is trying to take the lead. Keep this very clear. 


Jacob nursed his flock from infancy. He was close to them and cared deeply for them. On the other hand, Esau is a “Johnny come lately.” He never raised these animals. He has no idea what it took to see them come of age. Therefore, the tendency is to be reckless with those on whom he bestowed no labor. Nevertheless, Jacob knows this and will not tolerate his flock being mishandled. As we will see, it was a very dangerous situation for the sheep. Esau was about to kill many in the herd; however, Jacob had the courage to take control before it was too late. 


All that God had blessed Jacob with could have been lost in a single day had Esau been allowed to drive his herds. A man like Esau has no business leading someone elses flock, because they are not sensitive to their needs. Jesus uses an illustration of a hireling that reveals the attitude of Esau. Understand that when trouble comes, the hireling flees. Why? Because he is in it for the money, and does not care about the sheep. (John 10:13 NKJV) That’s why he is called a “hire-ling.” Webster defines hireling as a person who works purely for material reward. This is figurative language. Nevertheless, as A.T. Robertson points out, “He may conceivably be a nominal shepherd (pastor) of the flock (saints) who serves only for the money, a sin against which Peter warned the shepherds of the flock ‘not for shameful gain.’ ” (1 Peter 5:2). This is the key thing. Does the shepherd really care about the flock? You can tell by the way he feeds and protects them. 


The Blessing at Risk


Esau spoke up and said, “Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you.” He wanted to take the lead. I get the impression here, and it seems that Jacob got the impression, that Esau was in some kind of a rush. “Let us take… let us go… I will go…” Again, this is the same flock that God had blessed Jacob with, while his father-in-law had been changing his wages. It was a supernatural flock in one sense, but it was not invincible (Genesis 30:32f). It had already been a perilous journey that put at risk the entire herd. It was difficult, but they managed. This is a picture of a faithful shepherd, who is patient and careful with their flock, leading them through this present evil world. 


Murder and Eternal life


And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. 

Jacob knew what kind of man Esau was; this is why he feared him. He had been worried during the whole trip that Esau was still filled with hate and anger. We have this passage in 1 John 3:15, Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We read the two passages together, and we realize one of the reasons why Esau was rejected of God. Here was a man capable of killing his own twin brother in cold blood. Jacob knew this and stirred the family with his personal fears. He even set the people in order in case Esau started killing everyone, that Rebekkah and Joseph would be killed last. This was a dangerous time because Jacob believed Esau was a murderous man. 


When they met up it went much better than expected. Esau seemed to have cooled off, but he was still “Esau.” Time could not change the essential character of this man. We learn later from the life of Paul the Apostle, that it takes the love of God poured out in the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), the transforming power of genuine regeneration, to remove the murderer from the man. 


A Flock Unsettled


In W. Phillip Keller’s classic book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 we have this insightful perspective, He is the owner who delights in His flock. For Him there is no greater reward, no deeper satisfaction, than that of seeing His sheep contented, well fed, safe and flourishing under His care. This is indeed His very ‘life.’ He gives all He has to it. He literally lays Himself out for those who are His. He will go to no end of trouble and labor to supply them with the finest grazing, the richest pasturage, ample winter feed, and clean water. He will spare Himself no pains to provide shelter from storms, protection from ruthless enemies and the diseases and parasites to which sheep are so susceptible. 

No wonder Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd — the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” And again, “I am come that ye might have life and that ye might have it more abundantly.” From early dawn until late at night this utterly self-less Shepherd is alert to the welfare of His flock. For the diligent sheepman rises early and goes out first thing every morning without fail to look over his flock. It is the initial, intimate contact of the day. With a practiced, searching, sympathetic eye he examines the sheep to see that they are fit and content and able to be on their feet. In an instant he can tell if they have been molested during the night — whether any are ill or if there are some which require special attention. Repeatedly throughout the day he casts his eye over the flock to make sure that all is well. Nor even at night is he oblivious to their needs. He sleeps as it were ‘with one eye and both ears open’ ready at the least sign of trouble to leap up and protect his own.”



Keller was writing from his own experience as a shepherd. Men who have been real shepherds in real life have a unique perspective on how to lead a flock and handle the dangers. This is why many of God’s great leaders started out as real shepherds before He allowed them to shepherd His people. Abel, Jacob, Moses and David were all real life shepherds at one point. This is a very significant pattern.

Overdriving the Flock


When the flock is unsettled by circumstances beyond their control, nervousness, loss of appetite, lack of rest, can all signal that danger is waiting in the wings. We are taken by Jacob’s words, ” …if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die.” (Genesis 33:13) Jacob, as a good shepherd, understood that you cannot over-drive a herd when they are already weighed down,  or you could kill all of them in one day. If Esau, who has no connection with these flocks and herds, is allowed to drive this flock just one time (not twice or three times) he will put the entire group in their grave. There is a great lesson here early on in Genesis. No matter how   humble and submissive Jacob might have been towards Esau his brother; no matter how   fearful he was of the man; he refused to allow him to put his flocks and herds at risk.  He was more prepared to put his recent reconciliation with Esau at risk  than he was to put the flock at risk. 


God’s leading




Jacob has a solution, “Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on softly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.” (Genesis 33:14 NKJV) Notice that Jacob, not Esau, is going to lead his flock. He articulates his strategy, I will lead on softly.” This is pure wisdom. He will move them at a pace that they can handle. He will lead them in safe places where he is able to closely guard where the dangers are. 


Sheep are very vulnerable. They have no way to defend themselves but to run; and they are not particularly fast. They are copy-cats. If one sheep does something, the others will follow. If one jumps a cliff they may all jump the cliff. The sheep cannot tell danger, this is why they need oversight and protection. This is why God created shepherds; not to be abusive and Lord over his heritage, but to protect them from harm and to lead them in a path of spiritual health. 


W. Phillip Keller continues, “The shepherd went up to the plateau before the sheep came to make sure everything was in order for his sheep. There were certain wild plants that were poisonous, he would find those and destroy any. He made sure the pastures were lush and there was amble room to move to another area. He placed a supply of salt and minerals  around at various spots on the range. Predators were numerous watching for a stray sheep, the shepherd was constantly on the alert to take care of his sheep. Though it was a great time for the flock, the shepherd never stopped providing for them. Just like Jesus with us, we don’t realize how much He cares for us and has our welfare in His heart.”


Father’s of the flock


Jacob watched many of the sheep and other livestock being born; he raised them and he cared for them through the hard times. They were his. He had a tenderness for them. He did not view them as expendable assets. I’m reminded of the relationship between a shepherd and a sheep as I think about Nathan telling David the story of the little ewe lamb. David could relate to the scenario and it made him furious to think that someone would carelessly and callously kill some little and beloved lamb. This is what the scripture means when it says, “David was a man after God’s own heart.” David loved God, yes; but this is not all that it means to be a man after God’s own heart. There were times in David’s life when the very heart of God was being expressed by his actions. As a shepherd, He loved his sheep and he laid down his life for them when the lion and the bear came to devour them. He even rescued a dying lamb from the jaws of death. This tender care was found early-on in Jacob. He told Esau plainly, …I will lead on softly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure.” This is the pattern set forth for all shepherds. Amen. 

The House of Eli (When God Departed)

The House of Eli
When God Departed
Robert Wurtz II

And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. (1 Samuel 4:3)

Since God began dwelling among men, He has warned His people about dangerous characters who would come along and put His presence at risk. Satan seems to have an endless army of agents at his disposal who infiltrate God’s ”  house ” for the purpose of    running Him off. Satan knows that bad behavior and God do not mix. These phenomena play out countless times in the Old Testament and into the New Covenant. In fact, a cursory read of Revelation chapter 2, and 3 revealed how serious the Lord Jesus is about protecting the churches of God from bad people. These people came in to cause God’s unique presence to cease dwelling among the people; in the language of Revelation, to get their lamp stand removed. 

In Chapter 2 the Lord praises Ephesus for not bearing with those who were evil and for rejecting false apostles as liars. Pergamos tolerated Baalam like people in the church who stumbled the saints with fornication. He warned them sharply to repent. Thyatira allowed a ” Jezebel ” to stumble the people with fornication and idolatry. He gave her a chance to repent, but she did not; tribulation was now at the door for them. These are just some examples of how the enemy is relentless to corrupt the churches so that God’s presence will withdraw from them. 

An Old Testament Lesson

It is hard to read our passage without bringing to mind the complete lack of discernment that Eli showed when Samuel’s mother wept before the Lord. Here was a man ready to accuse a woman for being drunk, while his two sons were living like devils in the ministry. All the while, she wept because she had no son. Now Eli’s sons are about to manifest the full recklessness of their own father’s inaction. In modern times, he would be tried for criminal negligence. In Israel, God will now demonstrate His estimate of bad behavior within the ministry. 


It is folly to pretend to have faculties of discernment when one is devoid of basic common sense. (compare 1 Cor. 11:14a “does not even nature teach you?”) Any person who had even the faintest understanding of the God of the Jews would have known how evil these boys were. If a man fornicates with women of the church, he is capable of anything. Moreover, they would take the largest portions of the offering for themselves causing the offering of the Lord to be despised. A sinner could have been called in to bring correction to such high-handed disregard for the things of God. Why did Eli allow this to happen? God said it was because he honored his sons more than he honored YHWH (God). You see, what was designed to be God’s House, had year-by-year slowly turned into Eli’s house. 


A House For God


Shiloh was the temporary capitol of Israel before the first temple was built in Jerusalem. For over 300 years, this place served as a center of religious worship. In fact, the Wilderness Tabernacle was erected here semi-permanently, with the Ark of the Covenant and the other related furniture. This means that things had gone relatively well for some 260 years. Then came that dreaded 40 year stretch where Eli, the high Priest, judged Israel. There are over 100 references, directly or indirectly to the number 40 in scripture. Typically the number symbolizes testing, trial, or probation. During these last 40 years at Shiloh, the nation was spiraling into a backslidden condition with Eli’s “priestly” son’s Hophni and Phinehas leading the charge. 


Either one or both of the sons of Eli was an accomplished fornicator; and either one or both of the sons was a gluttonous man. Between these two sons sins, and their father’s dereliction, the entire house of Eli was judged forever ending their priestly ministry with Abiathar


Only God understands the secrets of men; so we cannot say with any certainty why Eli honored his sons more than God. Whether he was proud of them or afraid of them, we cannot tell. We only know that he would rather disobey God in the face of certain judgment than deal with them. In fact, so serious was the situation that God raised up the young boy Samuel to replace Eli as the spiritual leader in Israel. In the very spot where God was to be reverenced and obeyed (as He is reverenced and obeyed in Heaven), Eli’s sons were behaving in unconscionable ways. We have this simple description of these men, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” (1 Samuel 2:12) 


The sons were evil and the father was complacent. Loyalty is when you will stand by a person even when they are in the wrong; faithfulness is when we will stand for truth no matter who it effects. Eli’s loyalty to his sons trumped his faithfulness to God. Absolutely nothing moved Eli to correct His sons. He was receiving undeniable and direct threats from God (not that God makes any idle threat). God spoke to him in the strongest of ways warning him of what would happen if he did not stop them. Nevertheless, he carried on into the 40th year as if God was not talking. 


Sometimes it seems as though God is never going to judge sin. Can you imagine how vexed the Saints were who witnessed these things? Year after year the house of Eli acted out. People probably wondered, ” when is it going to stop? ” they have made a mockery of the ministry. It’s a wonder there was any faith left by the time it was all over. Some would have liked to have done something perhaps, but they could not bring themselves to do it. Indeed, things were completely out-of-hand. Eli didn’t correct them, and neither did anyone else. Somewhere between charm and intimidation, the house of Eli behaved however they wished. God had to do something. 


He describes His plan to Eli saying, “I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.” (1 Samuel 2:35) God wants leaders that are after His own heart–not their own lusts. This account of the leaders in Israel’s history are recorded for us, the churches of God, as examples of what not to do in the Kingdom of God. 


Moving in a Superstitious Reverence


It came to pass that God spelled out his judgment upon Eli and his house because of the way they had treated Him before the eyes of all of Israel. We have said this before, but the primary role of any leader in the Kingdom of God is to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people. Leaders must never give the impression that God is like a common man who can be obeyed and disobeyed at will; but they must exalt Him and sanctify Him before the people — through their conduct — in absolute reverence. 


Eli and his sons didn’t live by every word that was proceeding from the mouth of God; in fact, they treated God as one who can be trifled with. Isaiah 66:1-3 tells us what is required for a place of “God’s rest.” They are a broken and contrite heart (humility) and one who trembles at God’s word (obedience). The house of Eli failed on all counts and it would signal the beginning of God’s departure in Israel.




Blasphemed Among the Gentiles


People may have thought YHWH to be a dumb idol of wood or stone based upon how they behaved toward Him. In fact, the sons and elders of the people were so rebellious and misguided, that they viewed the Ark of God, i.e., the Ark of the Covenant- the very throne of His divine presence, as a superstitious relic that could be used almost as an amulet. They didn’t look to God, but to the Ark itself to secure victory in their battle with the Philistines! 



They didn’t obey and regard God, but they tried to go a running into battle with the ‘symbol’ of the authority of God to overthrow the Philistines. There is an important truth here. What sense does it make to try to exercise authority over demons if we are not willing to obey God ourselves? This is a sobering point. Why would men who flagrantly disobeyed the authority of God call upon His authority in their time of need? They wanted saved out of their situation, but had no intention of submitting to God’s authority. Notice they did not call upon Him, but they used the symbol of His authority superstitiously. This is what things came  to. When men seek to utilize the authority of God for their needs, but will not submit to Him in their everyday lives, it is time for serious change. 

The Ark Lost

The power was never in the Ark itself; it was what it represented in the Earth. The only power was in the peoples’ submission to God and their standing under His authority. The Ark had been sanctified to the Lord and was not to be used for man’s whims. It should have been the farthest thing from these elders’ minds. At least Eli had the good sense to tremble for the Ark of God as his sons took it out presumptively into battle. 


When a messenger returned he gave this report, And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. (1 Samuel 4:17) When Eli heard this he literally fell over dead. 


The story continues,  And his daughter in law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. (1 Samuel 4:19-21) The glory departed  from Israel. The saddest thing of all is that God offered many chances for Eli and his sons to repent; they would not. 


A Big Shout


This story would not be complete if we did not go back and make an important point. When the battle began, 4000 of Israel’s men were killed. This is 100 times the number of years Eli ruled (judged) Israel. Upon hearing this news the elders asked, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us today before the Philistines? How could they ask such a question? Was it ignorance? Were they blinded and hardened in sin? The elders should have known better than to suggest something so insane. Clearly neither the sons of Eli nor the elders had any clue about how Israel won the victory in the former days. 


Did they inquire of the Lord for an answer? No. Why? The Word of the Lord was precious in those days and there was no open vision. People apparently were not in the habit of seeking the Lord’s direction. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Rather than waiting on God to see why things had gone so badly, they presumptively rallied around man’s idea. That idea was that the Ark could save them! In other words, the method could save them, or the thing God had done in the past will save them. They were banking on yester-years victories, while living in flagrant rebellion. They refused to understand that when God moved in the days of old, it was because the people had sanctified themselves unto Him. They determined to obey God and His word at any cost, and as a result they saw mighty victories. What about these rebels? Did they think that God was going to be with them as He was in years past simply because they went through the same religious exercise of their forefathers? No way. Rather, God sought to slay the devilish leaders from Eli’s house. 

So the people sent to Shiloh, and they brought from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which sitteth upon the cherubim: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. (1 Samuel 4:4-5)


Notice how the people were excited about what they believed God (the Ark) was going to do. These people shouted so loud that some translations say that the ground shook. Now contrast this with David, who in the decades to follow, when the Ark is finally brought back into the city, danced before the Lord with all of his might. He was overwhelmed with excitement that God was returning to the tabernacle in and rule Israel. Yet, in the years prior the people of Israel made a loud ruckus and wist not that God was actually departing as they shouted! They made a big noise, looked up and God was gone. 

For a brief moment it almost fooled the enemy, but then they strengthened themselves. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. (1 Samuel 4:7) Even the Philistines believed God was moving, but the people were operating in the emotional excitement of bygone years. Nobody can prevail on the stories of past victories. We have to establish our own testimony of a life of faith. The trouble is that they wanted victory without holiness.  They wanted to fornicate and covet and then go out and do exploits. It can never happen: at least, not by the Holy Spirit of God. 


Israel had not taken the time to sanctify themselves before the Lord as did Joshua and those who took the land. The consequence? What they thought was going to be a great victory ended up being their greatest defeat. Why? Because they mistakenly trusted in the objects and the memories and had not submitted themselves under the authority of God. They wanted the devil to obey God, but they had no intention of setting a course for personal obedience to Him. 


Personal Application


When God stirs men in repentance, He is seeking to turn them back to Himself in personal obedience. God does not want His people living according to the counsel of their own will. He does not want us quenching and grieving the Holy Spirit when He deals with us. Human beings are creatures of habit, and sadly, quenching the Spirit can become almost a habit. This ought not so to be. God wants us in the habit of seeking His counsel and obeying His voice. That is to say, His gentle checks and rebukes along life’s way. Elijah is the example of a man that learned this very thing. Here we read,  


 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13) 


Sometimes people think God is speaking in ways that rend mountains. They are looking for an earth-shaking fiery ‘Word’, but God moves His people most often with a still small voice. We don’t need God to speak to us in a way that will shake the earth or move a mountain — we only need to give heed to God speaking to us in the subtlety of His dealings. When we spend time in prayer, or in the word of God, He will speak to our hearts in a way we can know His will with certainty. He will nudge us to do well, and we need to be responsive. It is of no consequence to give up a big shout if we refuse to obey the still small voice. This is why so many people never know the voice of God- they simply refuse to respond rightly to Him when they know He is dealing with them. Nevertheless, the house of Eli soon discovered that God will abandon a people who will not obey his will. His house is liable to become our house. 


See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ (Luke 13:35 NKJV)


  
   

  

Menace-ters of the Gospel

Menace-ters of the Gospel
Robert Wurtz II


I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:1–4 NKJV) 

The renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson once commented that “the temptation of the merely ‘popular’ preacher is to furnish the latest tickle.” Those tickles are for the ears of those who have turned away their ears from the truth and have turned them to fables. Tickling the ears is an expression meaning to gratify a person’s hearing or in our day to “tell them what they want to hear.” As A.T. Robertson expressed it, “they want any ‘new thought’ or any other fad that will give a new momentary thrill to their itching ears and morbid minds.” These teachings and new fads make their way into Christendom to become a menace to the true saints and faithful ministers of the Gospel. Lacking a good word to describe the effects of a menace upon the ministry I combined the terms. In this entry I wish to describe the furnishing of ear tickling words as menacetry and the respective preachers are menaceters (menace-ters).



In modern times, the world is plagued with self-serving ministers. I’m reminded of Paris Reidhead’s suggestion that all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are the only tools the devil has ever used to damn the race of men. What are they? Pleasure, possessions, and popularity. In the Old Testament, the house of Eli used the priesthood to obtain all three of these things. Between Hording Hophni and fornicating Phinehas, this family nearly destroyed the ministry they were entrusted with. It seems unconscionable, but many men and woman see the Church as a multilevel career opportunity. Some view ministry like a family-owned business that they can get in and establish, and then pass down to their children. They convince themselves that they own it and thereby have the right to do with it as they wish.

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

Leaders in ministry need to be reminded often that the people over whom they have the oversight are God’s heritage (emphasis on God’s). The sheep do not belong to men. Nevertheless, many ministers so-called, have the notion that they do indeed “own the sheep” and lord it over them in every way they possibly can. They drain the saints  for sordid gain rather than being servants to them. Understand that those who labor in the word and the Gospel are to be financially supported by the churches. Nevertheless, some people would not do the work of ministry unless they were getting a paycheck. Preaching for a paycheck is a perilous endeavor for all involved.

A primary qualification for leaders in the churches is that they must not have a reputation for “filthy lucre.” This is a word that means discraceful gain. In other words, they must not have been shrewd business men who were willing to stoop to all kinds of questionable things to make a profit. If you asked them they would tell you it is just “business.” In fact, some Christians actually make a distinction between their Christian life and business as if it’s acceptable to be such a schizophrenic. Nevertheless, this mentality carries over into the churches of God once the person gets involved in ministry. God does not want that. Why? Not only will they almost inevitably resort to the sordidness of making profit out of Christian service; they will behave differently in board meetings than they do in the pulpit. It becomes about the money rather than God’s will. Of course we know they will call it stewardship, but this is usually a thin veil for greed and covetousness. The split personality of Christian/lover if lucre is a menace to the churches and must be eradicated. If we see it we must show no mercy to it. 

Paul gives the solution when he writes to Timothy, Preach the word! Pastor/teachers are to labor in the word primarily so that they can be ready to preach. Why should they do it? Why not just do what ever we want to do? Paul answered our question when he told Timothy, I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” Judgement day is coming and we are all going to give an account of our ministry. In fact, James tells us that teachers and preachers will receive the stricter judgment. This warning ought to compel any reasonable and sane person to preach only what God’s word says and not spin it in any way for personal gain. 





* In case there is any confusion (per M.F), this article is not addressed to Missionary Societies who provide stipends to their ministers. 

The Truth About "Judge Not"

The Truth About “Judge Not”
Robert Wurtz II

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. (Luke 6:37 KJV)

The Lucan “Sermon on the Plain” is named such because of the reference to the “level place” in Luke 6:17. This section parallels Matthew’s better known, and much longer, “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5:3–7:27. This sermon teaches not what must be done to enter the kingdom of God, but what is expected of one who is already in the kingdom. Jesus’ sermon is intended primarily for his apostles and disciples (see vv. 17, 20). (NIBC) Moreover, the sermon is an expression of normative behavior for saints who have been baptized into Jesus Christ by the Spirit, and are walking in the Spirit. 

Our passage contains two negative commandments; judge not, and condemn not, and a positive command; forgive. Our first verb is judge not, the negative form of the Greek word krino. This is the word from which we derive the English words critic, criticism, criticize, and discriminate. (A.T. Robertson) To “judge” here does not exactly mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments upon them. It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here condemned. (JFB) It also ignores the fact that we ourselves have committed the same or similar sins in times past. Therefore, we cannot judge others without likewise soliciting judgment upon our own actions. (Romans 2:1) 

There are two issues involved in judging; the person and the person’s actions. We must be cautious never to judge the inward motivations of others. Moreover, we must not just another person’s soul. These and other like things are the Lord’s prerogative alone. Jesus said, we will know the tree by its fruits. This is where we make our examination. We examine the fruit; it is for the Lord to judge the root. In Luke 18:11 the Pharisee thanked the Lord that he was not like other sinners such as robbers, evildoers, adulterers and tax-collectors. In doing so he declared himself to be good and the others to be bad. (See Hale and Thorson, P. 168) We must never possess such an attitude. Peter warns us in 2 Peter 1:9 of the consequences of forgetting that we were once purged of our own sins. It can blind us to our obligation to show long suffering, kindness, and mercy to others who likewise sin. We risk a proud, unloving disposition void of the grace of God. 

Moreover, Jesus adds condemn not. The word translated as condemn is a forensic term denoting judicial condemnation. It is an expansion of the previous command, “judge not.” It is here to be taken to mean a condemning, censorious spirit, which looks sharply and unforgivingly at the faults of others, spies out and brings to light every defect, and places it under the ban of condemnation.” (J.J. Owen, P. 89) Censoriousness is also a fruit of a self-righteous spirit, which the Pharisees were prone to possess. 


Our last commandment also comes with a promise; forgive, and you shall be forgiven. True Born Again believers have the nature of Christ; His attitude was always one of mercy towards others. Even while on the cross He prayed for those who were killing him, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Paul takes up this theme in Ephesians 4:32, And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Remembering how God forgave us is vital to a right mindset towards others. The moment we forget that we were forgiven, we start the path to a dangerous, proud, self-righteous attitude. God will resist us if we take that path.

A Great Warning

You will recall that each of our commandments were conditional; Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Notice the conjunction “and” used three times. Some suggest that the context is laying out how God will treat us on judgment day based on how we treat others during our earthly lives. That is a very sobering consideration. 

But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servant 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. (Matthew 18:26-29)

Here is a man who had been forgiven 10,000 talents (monetary debt). He then goes out and finds a fellow servant that owed him 100 denarii. By contrast, it takes 5000 denarii to equal 1 talent. A denarii, as the word is used in the Gospels, represents a days wage. We gain more insight when we recall that the Disciples suggested that it would cost 200 denarii to feed the 5000. In other words, 100 denarii could by food to feed 2500 men (plus women and children). So the man in Matthew 18:26-29 was owed a significant amount of money.

In Roman times it was legal to take a person by the throat, choking and leading them to court, if they owed you money and refused to pay. In fact, some creditors were so brutal that they would twist a person’s neck until blood flowed from the mouth and nostrils. (Pelobout, P. 325; see also Vincent) This seems to be what is in view here. The man, not sure how much he was owed, throttled his fellow servant and demanded an account of where his money was. 


The man had every right, as far as Roman law was concerned, to take action on his fellow man for owing him money. However, there is a common sense principal that was in play rooted in the very nature of human understanding of equity and justice. As best as may be known, there were no specific laws on the books requiring a person to forgive others their debts if they had been forgiven themselves; though the principal was generally taught among the Jews. Nevertheless, it was up to the person who was forgiven to do the right thing. As best as we know, there was no precedent for such a thing; the man needed to listen to his conscience as to the equity of his actions based upon how he had received so great of mercy. What did he do?But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’

This entire passage is a metaphor for condemning others when you and I have a debt of condemnation we could never pay. I’m sure if you asked the man, he would give a hundred excuses as to why he did what he did. Nevertheless, his actions brought about a firestorm reaction.

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?” (Matthew 18:31–33 NKJV) 

This is as crazy as if the woman taken in the act of adultery, after being forgiven by Jesus herself, would have went and had her neighbor dragged before the Sanhedrin for playing the wrong tune on his shofar. This kind of madness is surreal. One almost has to pinch themselves to be sure they are really seeing what just happened. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved. Their grief drove them to action. Would to God that the man would have had a good friend to rebuke him utterly for his intolerable act, before the king found out and took action; but he did not. Nobody withstood him, they simply went to the king and let him handle things.  

And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. (Matthew 18:34–35 NKJV)

The New Testament warns in the strongest ways about having a censorious, judgmental, “take your neighbor by the throat attitude.” Jesus said we must forgive from the heart. This man not only did not forgive from the heart, but he actually took action against the man who owed him. For that, he was delivered to the torturers; an obvious euphemism for Hell. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. (Luke 6:37 KJV)



Predator Prophets

Predator Prophets
Robert Wurtz II

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ ” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:1–3 NKJV)

The most dangerous person in any full gospel setting, is a person who at one and the same time believes they have “the gift of prophecy”, but does not truly fear the Lord. What makes them dangerous is that they do not hesitate to speak for God. It’s as casual a matter as if they were speaking of any subject. Nevertheless, ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ ” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!

Since the dawning of the Charismatic movement, we have watched a wholesale shift towards the use of so-called “prophetic utterance gifts.” In fact, whole ministries have sprung up headed by people who do not hesitate to say, “Thus says the Lord.” Sadly, many of these people could not pass a lie-detector test, much less have a standard of truth worthy of speaking for God. Typically, these words are vague statements of encouragement that often promise the person the moon. They generally appeal to the flesh or some other self-pleasing and self-serving thing. I wish I could count the number of prophesies I have heard where people were told in effect that God is going to make them famous. When the prophesies turn out to be false, usually the person who gave it is nowhere to be found. This is profoundly different than when Paul received a word in the book of Acts. What did a prophecy sound like in Paul’s ears? Ask yourself how many so-called “words” that you have heard actually prepared a person for calamity? This is the word Paul received everywhere he went:

“The Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me” (Acts 20:23 NKJV)

I recall as a young Christian a certain man came to a meeting loaded with “Thus saith the Lord’s.” After giving a round of words to various people in the meeting, he came upon a woman who had been praying earnestly and daily for her husband who was a hard worker trying to make a living for the family. The so-called prophet gave her a word that she needed to pray for her husband. This caused so much confusion that the young man had to be confronted. His response? “I’m sorry, I’m new at this.” 


Not all people will admit that they have misued prophecy, intentionally or otherwise. In fact, one of the greatest consequences of false prophecy, or a false “word,” is that the individuals almost inevitably feel compelled to stand by the word they gave — even against all odds. This is why the saints, and more specifically the Elders, were to judge (discern) whether or not a prophecy was of the Spirit of God. This is part of the “check and balance” system that God designed specifically to protect the sheep. When “personal words of prophecy” are given, this is all but impossible, and that is why abuses take place. Any prophecy or prophet that seeks to operate independent of the discernment of the Saints, and is unwilling to submit to the Elder leadership of the church, is in error and should be rejected. 

I am not saying that if a person gives a false word they are going to Hell or ought to be stoned; nevertheless, God-fearing Christians will often say that in the Old Testament, if a “word” or “prophecy” went forward that was false, a funeral was held. In fact, The penalty for false prophecy, was capital punishment according to Deuteronomy 18:20. This is God’s estimate of the behavior. How ought men and women tremble before ever pronouncing the words, “Thus says the Lord”? 


But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20–22 NKJV)

The Didache had some simple tests to identify a false prophet (if he stays more than two days or asks for money, 11.5–6). It is “from his behavior, then, [that] the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known” (Didache 11.8, quoted in NIBC) In other words, prophecy was not to be prostituted into a money making scheme. It is marvelous how society would put a politician or judge in jail for receiving bribes, but false prophets solicit their wares all over the world unthwarted. Money corrupts judgement. (1 Samuel 8:3) In fact, if a so-called prophet gives a “personal prophecy” to someone who pays their salary or contributes significantly and knowingly in their offerings, it is a conflict of interest. That is common sense. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the marks of a false prophet and the consequences of being one (Matthew 7:15-23 ). He also cautioned His followers to beware of false prophets who would arise during times of tribulation and in the end times (Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:11, 24:24; Mark 13:22 ). He said to be careful when the world loves a prophet’s words, because a prophet who is false is apt to be popular (Luke 6:26 ). (Holman) Imagine a person trying to operate in the gifts, but they are as unloving and unchristlike as can be. Not all false prophecies are from the false prophets own heart; some are CLAIRVOYANT. How will we know who is true or false? Check for the fruit of the Spirit. It’s hard to cover up a bad spirit for long periods of time. Jesus said it plainly:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:15–18 NKJV)


I wish to complete this entry by focusing on our Lord’s description of false prophets as ravenous wolves. A ravenous wolf in nature, is one that devours great quantities of food.  We have this passage in Genesis 49:27, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” The tribe was said to have a warlike spirit. You will recall that Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was from the tribe of Benjamin. He described his life prior to salvation this way, “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and laid waste to it.” (Galatians 1:13 NKJV) Paul, before he was born again, was a ravenous wolf hunting down and persecuting the saints. He was a destroyer of Christians who tried with all his might to compel them to renounce Christ. This is what a Ravenous Wolf does; it naturally destroys the faith of the sheep. 

The ravenous wolf (false prophet) comes in sheep’s clothing. It pretends to be harmless and Christian outwardly. It befriends the other sheep. It can put on a show with the best of them. It behaves in such a way that it can blend in with the sheep; however, it is all “put on.” The Christian behaviors are a pretense. A sheep is not what they really are. Their love is feigned. In fact, they are devoid of the fruit of the Spirit and then pretend to be anointed of God. In private they have a devouring spirit. Wolves don’t love the sheep; they love to eat the sheep and the sheeps resources. 

The word ravenous also carries the meaning rapacious. This word means aggressively greedy or grasping: like a rapacious landlord. Webster dictionary has it in the sentence, “Poor Tom has fallen for a rapacious gold digger.” A.T. Robertson defines the word as being “greedy for power, gain, and self. It is a tragedy that such men and women reappear through the ages and always find victims. Wolves are more dangerous than dogs.” Again, false prophets are ravenous and will destroy the sheep (saints). 

In this evil generation professing Christians in full Gospel circles are know to tell others things the Lord has revealed to them or some specific direction for them. False words of this type take place with a chronic regularity. What are the consequences? It destroys peoples’ faith in Christ. I have known of so-called Christians to give “words” to people that were maliciously wrong, and it stumbled the person. If you have worked in pastoral ministry in Full Gospel circles you have likely come across this devilish treachery. 

Not all words that are given to folks are “positive.” Some so-called prophetic words are given to people out of sheer envy and meanness. These false prophets hear something about a person and then have the gall to say “the Lord revealed it to me.” People are told that they are doing things they are not doing –stumbling their faith and destroying their belief in Spiritual gifts. “Women on women” false prophecy abuse is a terrible problem in some Charismatic and Pentecostal circles.   

Jealousy and prophecy are a devilish mix. Words are given to control and hurt people. It is witchcraft. The false prophets are generally so deceived, that you cannot tell them that they are wrong. They are so deceived that they believe themselves above correction. They will stiffen up as if the person hearing is the liar. Nevertheless, if you are given a false word from somebody, mark that person. They are quite probably a wolf in sheep clothing. At the very least they are destructive to the kingdom of God. If they miss your prophecy, how many more have they missed? How many people have they stumbled? These are very serious issues. This is why Jesus warned us. It is more than mere putting words in God’s mouth; it is userping HIS authority in a person’s life. What could be more diabolical than to assume the authority of God when saying something to a person when God has not spoken? 

Moreover, many, if not most people are afraid to confront a false prophet because of the devilish out-of-context “touch not the Lord’s anointed” teachings that prevail in this evil generation. Show me a person who emphasizes that teaching and I’ll show you a false prophet. 

Moreover, never excuse a false prophecy as just a mistake. The Holy Spirit does not inspire people to do things contrary to the scriptures. The old-timers used to say, “the Spirit and the Word agree.” When Moses said, “Thus saith the Lord” over a million people took a step forward. Professed Christians would not be quick to prophesy “thus saith the Lord” if they knew the enormity of it. God is going to judge every word that has been spoken in His name. If you or I ever say, “Thus saith the Lord” it had better and I mean better be the Lord. God will not suffer fools gladly. He is going to hold the false prophets accountable. 

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:3)





Guarding the Churches

Guarding the Churches
Robert Wurtz II

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17, 18) 

Paul employs a familiar verb to solicit action from the Romans when he writes, I beseech you.” This is the Greek word parakaleo and in this context means to call to ones side to urge them to action. It is a sincere and earnest plea to do what is written next, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Obviously, the Christians to whom this epistle is addressed, were unified in believing and acting upon the teachings they had received. However, Paul warns them that some people will not accept the form of Christianity he teaches, and will therefore lead people astray with fair speeches that deceive simple-minded folks. These people are not serving Christ, but their “own belly.” That is to say, they are as the sons of Eli in the Old Testament who abused their priestly position in ministry, using it for their own belly — rather than regarding God’s purposes. (See 1 Samuel 2:1ff)

Paul is writing the Romans and urging them in the strongest of terms to avoid a similar situation as to what happened with the House of Eli. These men in 1 Samuel 2 were charged to do the service of the Jehovah (YHWH), but they high-handily abused their position to the point that God warned Eli of coming judgment. Nevertheless, because he honored his sons more than God, he never stopped them and the bad behavior continued. What were they doing? They were walking contrary to the doctrine that they had received. God had given Israel the Law along with specific instructions for the priests. In spite of that, they were fornicators and gluttons. Scripture refers to them as children of the Devil, even though they were functioning as God’s servants. 

Paul knew that people who behave badly have to be dealt with in decisive ways. The challenge is found in getting Christians to take Paul’s words seriously and actually do what he is saying. I am convinced that a great amount of trouble that exists in the churches of God today is the consequence of not taking warnings and directives like this one Romans 16:17,18 seriously. There have always been people who creep in unawares to being divisions and offenses contrary to what God’s word teaches. It was in Eli’s House in the Old Testament and later Paul warned the elders at Ephesus of similar patterns. What are we to do?

Serious moral failings such as were found in the House of Eli are to be dealt with by the churches in accordance with Paul’s teachings to the Corinthians. Fornicators and such must be removed from ministry and put out of fellowship if necessary in order to see repentance. In extreme cases the church is to turn the person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh until they truly repent (emphasis on truly). Otherwise, a fornicator will destroy a church. No doubt many of churches have been split because leaders failed to deal properly with a fornicator. Indeed, the “spirit of Eli” has wrecked many harvest fields. Nevertheless, God is not mocked, and will hold the leaders who have allowed this to happen accountable on judgment day. 

In the case presented in Romans 16, we do not have a directive to turn the offenders over to Satan or any such thing. This could be because the offender is being harbored and protected by some church. This makes for quite a dilemma. Sadly, it happens all too often in modern times. Offenders don’t usually stay in the church they divided with their bad behavior, they move someplace else. Some go from church to church wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of stumbled souls all over the place. 

What can we do in such situations? Paul told us to mark them and avoid them. Marking them according to A.T. Robertson means “to keep an eye on them so as to avoid them.” Our Greek word for avoid according to Vincent is better translated as “turn aside.” When you see them, go the other direction. Have no fellowship with them whatsoever. Do not bid them godspeed with your presence. In other words, give no one the impression that you are in agreement with them. If you are a minister, don’t share the platform with them. Vincent continues, “Not only keep out of their way, but remove yourself from them if you fall in with them.” 



This is Paul’s plea for dealing with those who profess Christ, but cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned. Bad behavior cannot merely be ignored. Sometimes offenders will find refuge with people they have charmed with their good words and fair speeches. Charm is the ability to make a person like you. It is not a spiritual gift, but a potentially dangerous character trait. People who are charmed by bad people often hang around with them — overlooking their behavior until it’s too late. eventually something awful happens and the churches of God are damaged. This is why Paul says, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. He is concerned more about the safety of the churches than maintaining friendships. He was no Eli and this is no small directive. We do well in this crisis hour to heed Paul’s words and take them as seriously as “thou shalt not murder.” This would position us as God’s people to protect as many of the flock as possible from the destruction divisions and offences cause     

Skandalon

Skandalon
Robert Wurtz II


He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9–11 NKJV)

John brings us to a central theme of the New Testament with a renewed focus and insight. This theme is summed up in the words of Paul in Romans 13:10, Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10 NKJV) In other words, one of the objectives of the Law was to teach fallen man how to treat one another in relationships. When one is walking in love, one achieves the primary objective the Law. 


1 John 2:9-11 may be used as a symposium on Romans 13:10a where Paul stated, Love does no harm to a neighbor. Both Paul and John agree that when a person loves their brother, there is no “cause of stumbling” in him. That is to say, there is nothing in them that could cause another person to fall into sin or fall in the faith. Our word in the Greek for “cause of stumbling” is skandalon; the word from which we derive the English word scandal. It is a trap or stumbling block. In other words, a person who walks in love is not a spiritual “trip hazard” for others. This is because a person who loves their brother is utterly conscious of the value of their soul. People are vessels who have to be handled with care — as if you were handling a priceless antique vase. In fact, a person who walks in love is conscientious and careful not to ever, under any circumstances, cause an unnecessary offense against others, by intention or recklessness so as to turn them against God or harm their faith. 

Some professors of the Christian faith do not live by this rule. They have no concept of how their actions are affecting others. John tells us why this is when he writes, But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. This is a sobering passage. First, it teaches us that some professors of Christ actually hate their brother or sister. They may not admit it, but their actions testify to the fact that they do indeed hate them. What is one such action? It is behaving in such a way that could offend the person and cause them to fall from the faith. 

The Disciples, before they were Born of God, had the attitude that if people didn’t respond to God in a way they thought necessary, they should call fire down from heaven. Jesus told them that they knew not what manner of spirit they were of. It was not the Holy Spirit inspiring them this way. Nevertheless, when they received the Holy Spirit, the love of God was poured out in their hearts and their perspective changed. They loved the very people they once hated. 

The second thing I wish to see in our passage is that when a professor of the Christian faith has a hateful attitude towards his brother, he is filled with darkness. He is blinded by the hate. This not only endangers others, but it endangers the blind person. What is worse is that the person does not know they are blind. They believe they are seeing clearly, but what they see is a false reality. Hate distorts a person’s perceptions so profoundly that John characterizes them as “blind.” 

John and Paul are not the only Apostles to address this issue. Peter takes up the exact same line when he writes:

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he who lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. (2 Peter 1:6-9)

A person who lacks temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love is spiritually blind. Peter adds the cause of the blindness; he has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. This is always the danger. When a professor of the Christian faith forgets that they have sinned and been forgiven, they develop a self-righteous, ungodly, and unloving attitude towards others that blinds them. What did Paul say? And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV) 

Some professors of the Christian faith excuse their hateful behavior by suggesting that the person they hate is no Christian at all, but an enemy of the faith. Once they convince themselves of this, ungodly and unloving behaviors become acceptable to them. Paul addresses this stronghold in Romans 14:4 when he asks, Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4 NKJV) It is folly and a trap to exclude brothers and sisters in the faith because you or I don’t think their faith is “genuine enough” and they are therefore worthy of hate. 

“What a blessing it is that the Lord’s heart is so large, that He can help whenever He sees some good; whereas man withdraws because he sees some evil thing, which is generally found to mean something that wounds his own self-love in the little scheme he had set up as perfection.” (Anthony Norris Groves)

Groves had his hand on God’s pulse when He wrote these words. How far is it from the attitude of the person who hates and stumbles their brother? Yet we need to add one more person to our list whose words are perhaps the most sobering of all.


Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. (Luke 17:1–3 NKJV)

The idea is not simply to cause someone to sin, but rather to become less faithful disciples, or to stop following Jesus altogether (see note below). Jesus recognizes that such things will happen, but woe to that person through whom they come. In what sense is it terrible for the disciple who causes another to stumble? In v. 2 Jesus states that it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one to stumble. Elsewhere Jesus states that it would be better to lose an eye or a limb in order to gain heaven than to go to hell (see Mark 9:43, 47). Although this language may be hyperbolic, Jesus warns of the danger of judgment upon anyone who would destroy the faith of the one who believes in him. The final warning of v. 3a, so watch yourselves. (NIBC) 


Hope For The Barren (A Dissertation)

Hope For The Barren 
A Dissertation
Robert Wurtz II

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1–2 NKJV)

Our passage is a fascinating and sobering revelation of the relationship between the True Vine (Jesus) and true branches (the Saints). Understand that any work that the Holy Spirit is truly involved in will bear His fruit. Moreover, everyone without exception who is in Christ is enabled, by the flow of the Spirit, to produce the fruit of the Spirit. This means that the person’s life lines up with the basic teachings of Jesus as found in the Gospels. This is not to say that a true Christian is perfect, but the general and consistent walk of life, in public and in private, matches the teachings of Jesu
s Christ. This alone is where the evidence rests. 

When we think about Christianity and Discipleship, we are dealing with submission to Christ. Many want a savior, but have little interest in a Lord. This is quite strange, really. You will recall the Lord Jesus asking, “why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” Even the disobedient understood how important it was to have Christ as Lord; this is why in pretense they say “Lord, Lord.” Nobody referred to Jesus as “Savior, Savior” (though this too is what He is). How can Christ save someone who refuses to come under His command? How can we be saved from Sin unless we are prepared to do what He tells us to do? Everyone who heard Christ understood that following the Lord’s word, will, and ways, are not optional. A metaphor used throughout the New Testament is that of fruit. 

Every living thing according to Genesis brings forth after its own kind. Apple trees produce apples. Fig trees produce figs. If there is no fruit on a mature plant during the time of harvest, something is very wrong. This is true also of Christians. Jesus said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16 a KJV) In other words, God has determined that a Christian must yield fruit, and He will accept no substitutes. Talents can’t substitute; giftings can’t substitute; education can’t substitute; prophetic utterances can’t substitute; and divine miracles can’t substitute.” A tree is known by the fruit it bears. In fact, fruit is not an evidence; it is the evidence.

Fruitlessness

It has been said that “faithfulness without fruit is fraud.” In fact, there will come a day when the deceived will appeal to their miraculous works as evidence of their salvation, only to hear, “depart from me you worker of iniquity, for I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:13-27) Judas was a miracle worker, and yet he killed himself after betraying the Lord. This man loved money more than he loved people or the Lord Jesus; Yea, more than his own soul. He was numbered with the Twelve. He heard all the teachings of Jesus for three solid years, and was still under the delusion that he was right with the Lord. He was close in proximity, but his heart was far from Jesus. He had everyone but Jesus fooled, including himself. What was wrong? Jesus and Judas did not share the same values or concerns. God so loved the world that He gave, but Judas was a thief. This ought to settle forever the question as to whether miracles are evidence of salvation. Unfortunately, it does not. Many will agree with this principal, but in practical living, and under distress, they deny it.

The Bold Deception of Miracles



“Wonderful works” are acts of power, and are at best merely leaves on the olive branch. Miracles, signs, and wonders are not fruit and must never be confused with fruit. Many today are deceived by what appears to be “God moving among the people” — as if Jesus ever told anyone that was evidence of any ones spiritual state. God may move among people irrespective of their spiritual condition because of His grace. Again, this is not how “the trees” are known; this is how people are fooled. God is not trying to deceive people with His workings; He is trying to bring them to repentance. Sadly, people can experience God’s workings and go right out of the meeting and behave very badly; but because they still see Him trying to work in their life they interpret this as His affirmation of them. A tree is not known by its foliage, but by its fruit. Signs and wonders are about God’s grace; fruit is evidence that His grace is accomplishing its work. Keep that thought close to your vest as you read this entry.  

A person who looks to the supernatural as evidence of spirituality is deceived of Satan. In fact, every course of action that a person takes that is contrary to the fruit of the Spirit is actually evidence that the “wonderful works” a person is working are false. If a person continues to drink in God’s Spirit, and yet are not moving in love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc.; they are on a dangerous path. One can only grieve the Holy Spirit so long before His Spirit lifts off of them. Since they are used to being carried along by a Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:2), they risk coming under the influence of a demon. This is how “miracles, signs and wonders” can continue in a person’s life for long periods after the Lord is departed. Again, you have to look for the fruit of the Spirit in the life. 


In the Absence of Brotherly Love

It is sobering to know that every true New Testament Saint was capable of moving in the Gifts of the Spirit. In fact, the supernatural was commonplace in the book of Acts, even among sinners. This is why it was essential for the Saints to be looking for the fruit of the Spirit. Miracle workers were a dime a dozen. This is why God placed the emphasis on fruits, so we would know the true from the false. God does not long enable a person to work His miracles while they treat others like trash (rubbish). That is straight talk, but understandable. In this crisis hour, we do not need eloquence, we need to understand clearly what God has said to us. He does not anoint people with supernatural gifts to glorify themselves or to use those signs and wonders as a means to personal gain. In fact, the Holy Spirit doesn’t even glorify Himself; why would He allow Himself to be used to glorify a man or woman? (John 16:17) These are additional warning signs. 

Nevertheless, one cannot continue grieving the Holy Spirit and moving in His power at the same time. This is common sense. Nevertheless, the deceived operate their lives focused on foliage (as it were) — as if foliage were somehow the primary evidence of spirituality. It is total deception; and when a person is in that state of mind for long periods of time, they have to be radically awakened from it or their soul may be lost. 

The Blinding Power of Pride

People who look at sign gifts as evidence of spirituality are almost inevitably blinded by pride. Satan convinces them that they, and people like themselves, are somehow closer to God than others because they operate in signs and wonders. Derek Prince once said that “Pride is the only sin for which Satan will not make us feel guilty.” He used examples of people like William Branham who started out well, but ended up moving in clairvoyance. Add to that teachings about “touch not the anointed” and we have a dangerous recipe for a person’s soul to be lost and a host of others to be deceived. What happens? They become a law unto themselves, and are virtually untouchable, unteachable and unreachable. Why? Because they convinced themselves and others that only they or someone of “their caliber” could hear from God. As a result they were destroyed. 


Humbling Ourselves

We have to guard ourselves against pride by refusing to allow ourselves to be exalted. The enemy will work tirelessly to puff us up. And saying we are humble or humbling ourselves does not mean we are doing it. Our words and our actions have to match. 

Always remember that the fruit of the Spirit does not tempt a person to pride. Have you ever heard of a person seeking the fruit of the Spirit? It is not a sin to desire the best gifts; nevertheless, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that there is a more excellent way. He expressed to them how gifts without fruits are nothing more than a banging gong or a clanging cymbal. In other words, people who want to move in the gifts of the Spirit without first moving in Christian love are asking for ministry in vain. The prospect of fruits does not appeal to the carnal man who wants to be noticed. Moreover, Jesus reached out to the unlovable and societies outcasts. There was nothing to glory in. The flesh cannot exalt itself when you minister in love and long suffering to people who the world has forsaken. In fact, there is nothing about the fruit of the Spirit that enables the flesh to boast whatsoever, because the fruit of the Spirit is the opposite of the works of the flesh. When you see what appears to be the “gifts of the Spirit” performed by a person “living in the flesh” you need to flee for your life. 

Where is Boasting?



For example, have you ever heard a person boast that they had more fruit of the Spirit than anyone else? It is highly improbable. Why? Because nobody becomes a “rock star” by yielding the fruit of the Spirit. When was the last time someone was asked to speak at a conference or appear on TBN because the fruit of the Spirit in their life was so abundant? Would you travel to see a preacher or teacher who was known for the fruit of the Spirit? Most people would not. Conferences don’t sell out on the fruit of the Spirit — but on people coming to see folk operate in the gifts. In fact, some gate keepers will not invite a person to speak in their meetings unless they can come with words of prophecy. Is this not strange that when ministerial worthiness is measured that the fruit of the Spirit is often the most minor element? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. It is a sign of the times when talents and spiritual gifts (so-called as it is often clairvoyance) are the qualifiers for invitations to preach, etc. People who are deceived in this way have a stronghold of the enemy that must be broken or they become the gate-keepers for deception in the churches. 

The Spirit and the Word Agree


Where the Spirit of God is flowing genuinely, truth will be flowing with it. Always remember that the word of God and the Holy Spirit always, 100% of the time, agree. God does not lead people to do things by His Spirit that are contrary to His word. There will always be a scriptural basis for the action. This is why a full knowledge of God’s word is essential. In the Old Testament there were “schools of the prophets.” In fact; prophets, priests and kings were expected to have a working knowledge of God’s word. This would have prevented their misleading the people.


When it comes to God’s revealed word, there is no need to pray about whether or not to obey it. Many Christians pray about things that God has already commanded them to do or not do. Any spirit, no matter how subtle and peaceable, who leads us to compromise God’s word is not of God. For example, consider this passage:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17–18 KJV)

Paul begged the people to mark out a particular group of people who were causing division and offenses and avoid them. This is two things: mark them and avoid them. The challenge would be found in the next verse, by good words and fair speeches (they) deceive the hearts of the simple. These offenders literally beguile the simple and lead them astray. The simple are people who don’t know any better. They don’t really have an opinion about what is happening because they don’t comprehend what is going on. They are not unintelligent, they are uninformed and innocent. The offenders are suave smooth-talkers who use their charm to talk the simple into allowing them to hang around. 

Charm is not charis (grace); it is a power that makes you admire the person. If you admire someone; ask yourself if you have been charmed by their smooth flattery. It was said of Franklin D. Roosevelt that he could charm a person into believing they were greatest person on earth; but they whist not that five minutes after the conversation he had no use for them. He used people for his political agenda and he used his charm to win people over. Paul begged the Romans to not only reject their flattery and charm, but mark them and avoid them. The Holy Spirit is going to agree with this word. No need to pray for direction. You have direction.  

Walk in the Word

The Holy Spirit is here to convict of righteousness and truth; why would He then lead us contrary to God’s word? It doesn’t make sense. This is why many Christians are locked in deception; they are following a spirit who has fooled them into believing that they can walk contrary to God’s word and still be spiritual. They are looking at the “leaves” in their life and not the fruit of the Spirit. 

Christ is the Living Word. His life was a fruitful life because of the life that is in Him. If His life is in us, we will bear the fruit He bore. His teachings are signposts to help us examine ourselves to see if His life is in us (emphasis on if). The sermon on the mount beginning in Matthew 5:1 is a great place to start. If a person is not in line with that sermon, they are not a Christian. They may have some kind of man-made religion, but they are not a child of God. God’s children do by nature those things contained in the teachings of Christ. This is the character of God (love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, etc.) in written and oral communication. Any branch who is in Christ and does not produce this fruit is eventually taken away and burned.


The Danger of Barrenness 

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:19 KJV)

When Jesus visited this fig tree and found no fruit, He pronounced upon it that it should never bear fruit again. Here was a fig tree growing conspicuously along the lane for everyone to see. It gave every impression at a distance that it was a healthy fig tree; however, it was void of the fruit that God designed and expected it to be producing. It had the limbs and the leaves, but it had no fruit. So the Lord Jesus spoke a word of death to that plant. I know we are used to Him speaking words of life, but death? Why?

Imagine going through your life thinking you were spiritual because you did all kinds of religious exercises. You fast three times a week; attend meetings every time the doors are open; give tithes of all you possess; function in the gifts of the Spirit and many other like things. Then one day, at a season of your life, the Lord passes by and finds no fruit. It happened at Corinth. The people were gathering together not discerning the Lord’s Body. Many were sick and some had died. Why? Because of the trivial things we often focus on as major sins? No. Because He found no fruit on them. 


If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6 KJV)

The fig tree was courting observation from those who passed by, loaded with leaves and promise. It stood out along the road as if it were a means by which men and women might satisfy their hunger. Nevertheless, it was all a show. John the Baptist warned the people that every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Trees are used figuratively of people in scripture. In fact, it was “people” John was speaking to and “people” who 
were expected, through the life of Christ available through the New Covenant, to bring forth fruit.

For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8)


This is one of the most fearful passages in the Bible. Though it is written in picture language, it is a very real revelation of God’s estimate of spiritual barrenness. What is being said? In some terms, no matter how much God pours out His Spirit, the person still behaves like an unbeliever. For example, while in public they put on a show of love, but in private they treat their family rudely and abusively. Not all family members, just the ones they can get away with bullying or the like. In fact, bullying in families is one of the greatest sins 
that a person can commit. Not only does it show an absence of the fruit of the Spirit, but even of natural affection (astorgos). If a person can’t treat their own family 
with kindness and love consistently, then they are not saved, no matter what their proclamation or supposed position. In fact, if we can’t love everyone in this way we are not saved. 

False Love


Even sinners act lovingly towards people when it’s advantageous to them. This is what Jesus taught all through His earthly ministry. The greatest test is can we love the unloveable? Can we love people sincerely and without pretense? If a person is not loving towards others and are not compassionate, then they need to be born again. The life of Christ is not in a person who does not love his or her brother or sister. This is the clear teaching of John’s epistles. A Christian has a heart of compassion towards all people (emphasis on all). Indeed, you and I may make excuses for why a professed Christian or even a leader acts unlovingly, but that cannot change their barrenness. Ministry titles don’t come with a full cluster of fruit. When a person has a pattern of acting rudely, unloving, and over bearing towards people — God doesn’t overlook it. The normal, everyday disposition of a believer, who has the life of Christ, is Christ-likeness. Just like He didn’t overlook the fig tree. At some point The person will be cut off all together.

The Diagnosis

“Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell 

My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.   ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. (Isaiah 58)

The people who were called by God’s name had gotten so hardened that there was almost no hope. The remedy was matched to the condition they were in. They were caught up in their religious exercises to the point that they were almost unreachable with truth. They may have even said, “How dare you challenge me!” Nevertheless, the challenge had to go forward. This was almost a last ditch effort to see the people changed. God has been known to give last ditch efforts. He gave Pharaoh ten of them before finally destroying him. 


It was a light thing for God to tell the prophet literally, “Cry with full throat, hold not back; lift up thy voice like a bugle, and proclaim to my people their apostasy, and to the house of Jacob their sins. And they seek me day by day, and desire to learn my ways, like a nation which has done righteousness, and has not forsaken the right of their God: they ask of me judgments of righteousness; they desire the drawing near of Elohim.” That is to say, with all the strength of the voice, lifting up the voice like the shōphâr (not a trumpet, which is called חַצֹצְרָה, nor in fact any metallic instrument, but a bugle or signal horn, like that blown on new year’s day: see at Psa 81:4), i.e., in a shrill shouting tone. With a loud voice that must be heard, with the most unsparing publicity, the prophet is to point out to the people their deep moral wounds, which they may indeed hide from themselves with hypocritical opus operatum, but cannot conceal from the all-seeing God. (Keil and Delitzsch)

Why would God have the prophet “cry loud, spare not, and lift his voice like a trumpet.”? Sounds very extreme. Because people who are self-deceived can deal treacherously and without compassion without pain of conscience. A person asleep needs no awakening. These people are asleep in their sins and are in danger of being eternally lost. However, they were real spiritual while being ungodly. They even fasted and prayed in order to further their ungodly attitudes. As if God is going to help them as they plot to act in an unchristlike way. Fasting for strife and debate? They fast to be heard, rather than to hear. This is how self-deluded 
a person can become. What do they need? A trumpet in their ears that will not spare for their excuses. After all, better to have a trumpet in your ear than hear the words of death, like the fig tree did. Or as the church of Ephesus faced, to have the lamp stand removed. Cry loud and spare not was the next stage of treatment this people to whom Isaiah was sent. Definitely not for the faint of heart. 

In summary, it is far more evident that the Lord will not tolerate a Christian who pretends to represent Christ, and does not yield the fruit of the Spirit. Religious exercises, talents, gifts, miracles, are nothing more than leaves and foliage in the absence of fruit. The question is, where is the Christlikness? Where is the evidence of the life of Christ indwelling a person? Where is the compassion for real people. Not imaginary “souls” that have no name. How are you treating real people? All people? It is well that we examine our own selves lest we be deceived and on that fateful day be cast as empty branches into the flames. God has poured out His word and His Spirit. Has it yielded fruit? If not, why not? 

No Prince – No Peace

No Prince – No Peace
Originally Posted to sermonindex.net  
Robert Wurtz II

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

It is worth noting that among the Disciples of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and 10:3 as a publican who sat at the receipt of custom in Capernaum. Publicans were basically tax collectors for Rome. Not only were some of them dishonest and would extract more from the people than they owed, they were considered traitors by many and apostates by some.

There was a group of Jews who were part of the Jewish Freedom movement, who believed that paying taxes to Rome was paramount to idolatry. They were first known as Galileans as they were led by Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37). They based their charge of idolatry on the First Commandment, as Rome had implemented the cult of emperors throughout the empire in the first century BCE. Taxation was viewed similarly to paying tithe to Caesar, an ancient form of paying tribute to a deity.

Nevertheless, the publicans were viciously hated by the Galileans. Several of the discipes were from Galilee. In fact, in Matthew 26:73 Peter was pinpointed by a group as a Galilean. After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” (ESV) The Galileans were insurrectionists and the crowd knew that this charge against Peter could have gotten him crucified along with Jesus and the other insurrectionists. In other words, the Galileans may have hated the Romans and the people who supported them, but Rome had little tolerance for them either.

Enter the scene another figure, Simon the Zealot in Luke 6:14-16. This man was a Galilean on steroids (so to speak). The Zealots were exactly what their name implied. They received their name from the “zealous” actions of Phinehas in Numbers 25. Many of them were ruthless killers who carried little knives under their clothes to assassinate people with. In fact, they were quite possibly the worlds first terrorists. Their actions led to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

Question: how do you suppose a man like Matthew the Publican could have gotten on with Simon the Zealot and all of these Galileans? These people fellowshipped together on a regular basis. They were still under the Old Covenant! These people would rather call fire down from heaven, but yet could get on with a traitorous publican in their midst. Talk about theological differences! They would have had almost nothing in common as to their philosophy of life. They were going in different directions when Christ met them. How could they get along? Daily? In fact, the love of God had not yet been poured out into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, a characteristic that the New Covenant regenerate are supposed to have received. How did they do it?


I’ll tell you. Because the PRINCE OF PEACE was in their midst. If Christ was truly in our midst, we would not have the gall to fight one another. It is our unconsciousness to the presence of Christ that emboldens the disunity. Simon and Matthew? Old Covenant? What a sad commentary on what many purport to have under the New Covenant. If the love of God had truly been poured out into hearts, we would love one another with a pure heart, fervently. 

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