No Love — No Lamp Stand

No Love — No Lamp Stand 

Robert Wurtz II

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:12-14)

If the experts in eschatology are right, and we are indeed living in “the last of the last days,”  then it stands to reason that Matthew 24:12-14 applies to our generation more than any other in recorded history. The passage states plainly that as iniquity (lawlessness) shall abound, the love of many will wax cold. Our Greek word for ” abound ” means to be multiplied. Our words for “wax cold” means “to breathe cool by blowing” or “to grow cold.” This is “spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malicious or poisonous wind” (Vincent). The love of many, that is, the love of the brotherhood gives way to mutual hatred and suspicion.” (A.T. Robertson) 

I’m reminded how as a child my mother would blow on the hot food of small children to prevent it from burning their mouths. Jesus prophesies that iniquity is like the blowing of a poisonous wind — having a chilling effect upon peoples’ love.  This is a staggering thought. As our love chills, we become less and less like our loving God. The same goes for individual churches. 

The Example of Ephesus 

Some have suggested that the reason the church at Ephesus had left its first love was because of their constant dealings with sin, false apostles and doctrines. Sin and false doctrine in a church can cause anger and strife. Nevertheless, their condition gave rise to the warning in Revelation 2:5 that they must “repent and do the first works or else Christ would remove their lamp stand.” Ephesus would not be the first to get fed up with sinners and behave unlovingly. The prophet Jonah was an example of a man that seemed to hate the people he was preaching to. In fairness to Jonah, the Assyrians were a very evil and merciless people. They killed people for the fun of it and could sleep like a baby at night. Their capitol was Nineveh. 

I can see how the sin of Nineveh “cooled” Jonah’s love and compassion for the people. However, he got a bad spirit as he apparently took their sins personally. I think also of the Prodigal Son’s brother, that never left home. He had allowed his brothers sin to “cool” his love and compassion for him. What a horrendous thought! The brother even lost his natural — familial love for his own sibling. The Lord said of the Ephesian condition, I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. (Revelation 2:2There is a thin line between hating iniquity as Jesus did and allowing iniquity to cause you to hate the person. Once we cross that line we are of no use to God — as individuals and churches. 

Jesus said that many will “cross that line” (as it were) in the last days. It only stands to reason that in our times we are at great risk of leaving our first love, both as Saints and churches. Iniquity abounds in our times. False prophets abound. How are we reacting to this? When our spiritual energy is blighted and chilled by a malicious (mean) and poisonous wind, what will we do? Will we return to the Lord for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit that we might endure the contradiction of sinners against us; or will we faint in our minds? (Hebrews 12:3) Will we adopt an attitude of returning evil for evil and railing for railing; or will we be spiritual enough to love the unloveable? This is the great question of our times. 

No matter how deep those that crucified our Lord probed into His flesh with spikes and spears, they still hit love. He was love to the very core of His being. In fact, Jesus could look at a sinner caught up in iniquity and still have compassion for them, love them, and die for them. He loved those who made themselves His enemies. These were not fictitious people in hypothetical circumstances; these were real people brandishing real weapons of hate. 

We need to ask ourselves, do we take a sinner’s sin personally? And if we do, why? God is the primary offended party in all sin, and He has chosen to forgive — if the person is willing to acknowledge and repent. What about us? Do we forgive and forget or do we forget that we have been forgiven? Sin hardens the sinner; seeing sin can harden a saint. We must guard our hearts and go on loving in the grace and power of God.

Lamp stand in Jeopardy

I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent. (Revalation 2:5)

This was not an idle threat. Jesus said, “I will remove your lamp stand if you do not repent” of having departed from the love you had at first for both God and man. If you do not turn back and do what you did in the beginning, when you could still remember how bad a sinner you were and how God forgave you; and be thankful enough to want to extend love and mercy to others, I will remove your lamp stand. Why? We have a clue in Song of Solomon 8:7a, Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. (NIV) Love is depicted in scripture as a fire. Therefore, what good is a lamp stand with no fire (love)? A lamp stand with no flame is nothing more than a stumbling block in the darkness. And a Christian or a church without love is just one more thing to stumble over in this darkened world. People’s faith is stumbled in an atmosphere of non-love. This is why our Lord simply could not and cannot condone, with His presence, the spiritual condition that the church at Ephesus had fallen into. Jesus is effectively saying, if you can’t love the people I have commanded you to love — I am out of here. 

How did they get here?

God had been dealing with the church at Ephesus prophetically, but they still were no listening. God tried to remedy their condition long before it reached a crisis level. Is there any wonder we have the follow up commandment repeated over and over again in Revelation, He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 3:22)? They had chosen not to listen, and were going through the motions. They apparently learned how to have a meeting without love. If they had not listened to Jesus’ rebuke, they would have had a meeting without Jesus. What an insightful thing to consider! When we stop listening, it’s over for your lamp stand. It is only a matter of time unless there is repentance and a return to the things that were done at first. There must be a return to first love.

Life without the lamp stand

Only God knows how many churches have lost their lamp stand over the last 2000 years. What happens? All that is left to do is bring in programs and religious exercises to prop up a dead carcass. Where there is no love there is no fire and where there is no fire there is no light. People begin living in spiritual darkness. 

Nevertheless, the masses are good at “having church.” Some are even pious and holiness driven; but Christ is not in the midst in the book of Revelation sense. What happens? The people simply turn up the music and create a soulish atmosphere to fool the unsuspecting and corrupt the spiritual concepts of the young and ignorant. The consequence of a dead church is that they end up treating people exactly like the world treats them. They offend people by treating them in unChristlike ways at critical times and scar them to the true knowledge of Christ. 

Far too often the love that professed Christians have is no more than the world has; if they like you they will love you; but if they don’t like you (don’t like your looks) or if you cross them then you are shunned or put out. This is not how Christ loves. He loves all. This is what we must do. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves and that is a tall order. Understand that we know how to love real good, so long as it is someone we like. What good is that love among people in desperate need of love and compassion? A lamp stand with no Fire is but a stumbling block in this darkened world.

Repent and do the First Works

The good news is that it does not have to be this way. For some, they will grow cold; but it does not have to be so among you and I. We can get alone with God and get in our Bibles with a willingness to return to our first love and to the prescribed measures that God put in place and has not changed. We need to return to preaching genuine repentance and faith. We need to preach water baptism and Spirit baptism. If we do  what the church at Ephesus started out doing we will be met with the same success. When Ephesus got away from book of Acts — New Covenant living — it was all down hill from there.  

Historians tell us that Ephesus existed for a few centuries after the writing of the Revelation as an indicator that they did repent and return to Christ. Today it is a heap of ruins. There came a point when the conditions were such that Christ removed the lamp stand and Ephesus was no more. Like Nineveh of old that repented for a while but then many years later was destroyed by God anyway, the reprieve will last as long as the repentance lasts. Christ does not give us instruction for a temporary change of behavior and practice; but rather, that we would walk it out for the rest of our days. The key to a lasting, vibrant Christian life and spiritual church is to repent and do the first works and keep on walking in that way. We have to remember where we came from or we will not rightly love. If we refuse Him that speaks we will find ourselves upon the ash heap of history as bywords and solemn examples of those that failed to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The Hidden Counsel of Compromise

The Hidden Counsel of Compromise
Robert Wurtz II

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Cor. 4:1-5)

Living in the year 2015 is very challenging for me as a Christian. I grew up in the 70’s when there was still a clear line drawn between the churches of God and this present evil world. I was not raised in church, but I was sent to church often enough to know what it was all about. I listened to good preaching and I read my bible. In the 1980’s I watched Youth For Christ (KYFC) broadcasts on the old channel 50 that warned me “day in and day out” of the pitfalls of modern culture. All of this instilled in me a terrific aversion to this present evil world. And though I would not be born again until early in 1992, I always knew the difference between a sinful world and a righteous church.

Now I understand that I was listening to the cry of a bygone era when men of God still believed in holiness unto to the Lord. They believed that we must follow peace with all men and holiness without which no person will see the Lord. I would read of men like Smith Wigglesworth who lived separated to God. Others like A.W. Tozer who lamented the entertainment driven culture of his day. Then Leonard Ravenhill who put his hand on the pulse by showing how we have falsified regeneration by a system of 5 minute of less prayers that leave people believing they are saved, but unchanged at heart. I believed all of them.

I recall the old timers talking and preaching about how sinful the world would be in the “end times.” As a child I found some of these things difficult to believe. People in the last days were said to become so worldly that Jesus once asked, yet when the Son of Man comes, will He find a persistent faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8) Surely we live in a time where most, even professing Christians, are doing what is right in their own eyes. What is worse is that from the pulpit to the pew few are bothering to ask what the Lord thinks about the end-time wholesale compromise of the faith that was once delivered to the saints. 

A cursory read of the Old Covenant demonstrates what we are seeing today. I used to read the bible and wonder, “How on earth could God’s people backslide so much in a mere 50 years?” Then I read the verse, And there arose another generation that knew not the Lord nor the works that He had done in Israel. (Judges 2:10) That is all it takes; one rebellious generation to decide to break continuity with the past and plot a different course for Christianity. I guess in practical terms in the West, we are somewhere in the book of Jeremiah or maybe Ezekiel about now. Certainly God has a remnant; He always has had. But Jeremiah never wept over the remnant, he wept over the rest of the people.

I have come to the sobering reality that “by today’s standards” of evangelical doctrine and practice I was never lost; I have never backslidden; I have always been saved; I was never worldly; and God has been anxious to tell me “well done thou good and faithful servant.” In fact, even while I lived in sin I was still under the bondage of “that old holiness stuff.” Most of the things I was doing that I considered symptoms of backsliding were only teachings of Pharisees who had no love or grace. What I thought was conviction of sin was really just condemnation from then Devil. As if a generation has lauded, “All those ‘fuddy-duddy’ holiness preachers in the past were too strict and we are the enlightened 21st Century evangelicals. Nothing is compromise in our eyes.” Really? So what did I get saved out of? What “world” am I now crucified to? What world was I supposed to come out of and be separate from? What world am I not supposed to be loving? If it’s not all the stuff I came out of while in sin, what is it? What did I come out of to be saved from? Because much of the stuff I was saved from is over running whole sections of the camp right now.  

In the old days people were expected to straitened up and fly right when they “got saved.” Not today. There is no standard of right. What people get saved to today is generally “a fuzzy, love drenched version of political correctness.” Don’t judge. Don’t call anything sin. Don’t call anything compromise. Seek for power to perform miracles, but abandon the lifestyle of holiness that God calls the churches to.

I recall hearing for years that one of the reasons we should pay tithes and give in offerings is so that our loved ones will have a place to go back to when they finally desire to get saved. However, what are they coming back to? If someone attended meetings in the 80’s as a teen and now show up in their 40’s they are likely to be so disillusioned that they walk out the door. There old church doesn’t exist anymore. The buildings are all still there, but the reality is long since departed. The line of demarcation between the world has been moved so far in many churches, that many may say to themselves, “Wow, all this time I thought I was backslid. I guess not. I lived farther from the world than this when I was in sin.”

Sound too strong? Let me ask, what do you think some of the men that we love to quote so often like Smith Wigglesworth would say if he showed up to one of our “christian” events? How about A.W. Tozer? What would men like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, or Charles Spurgeon say? What about Peter or Paul? What about John the Baptist or Jesus? Can you imagine these men participating in these things we laud as “christian”? Be honest with yourself and when you come to the right answer ask yourself why not? Why would they never in 1000 years participate in such things?

When the cat is away the mice will play. That is simple enough. However, as hard as it is to deal with these things, we have a consolation. Paul stated, Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. This is not to say that we do not challenge the lukewarmness of our times or compromise. Quite the opposite. Nevertheless, It’s not for me to guess what motivates men and women to do what is right in their own eyes. God is going to reveal the hidden counsels of people’s hearts. Some will receive praise and others will be shamed.

What can we do? First, if you were raised to know the difference between worldliness and holiness you can prayerfully and lovingly be a light to this ever increasing darkness. Multitudes are finding comfort in the fact that their pastors, Christian friends, famous and respected leaders, and others are all “doing it.” Be encouraged! You can stand against the flow as a voice of reason and righteousness. Your attitude has to be, “let God be true and every man a liar.” Don’t compromise because friends and family are doing it. Don’t change your theology to match the lifestyle of the people you love. Jeremiah cried and Ezekiel sighed. We may have to do both before it’s over with.

Getting Right With God (Repentance and Faith)

Getting Right With God

Robert Wurtz II

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

Our passage is a prophecy that is precious to all saints. Isaiah speaks of the Lord Jesus receiving the awesome punishment that each of us rightly deserves. The verse begins with the word “all” and ends with the word “all.” The word “everyone” is sandwiched in the middle to assure us that God means everyone without exception. 

First, the verse states, all we like sheep have gone astray. I’m reminded of a sheep that went lost several years back in New Zealand and was presumed dead. It made national headlines when it was found a longtime later with its wool so large and thick that it earned the name Shrek. In fact, it hid out in caves and dens until its coat weighed 60 lbs. However, Shrek is a very rare case. Most sheep who wonder off are living against the clock. It is only a matter of time before they meet an untimely death. 

Sheep are sometimes called the dumbest animals on earth. Although their I.Q. may be closer to cattle, some of their documented behaviors are so bad that they are legendary. In fact, they are not only vulnerable to predators, they have to be protected from their own risky actions. This is why they need either a shepherd or to be pinned up in a safe area. Once a sheep has gone astray there is little chance it will find its way back home. This is a picture of all people… We all, like sheep, have gone astray. We have “wandered off” from the safety of God and His precepts — whether we consciously know it or believe it. This is part of the analogy of the relationship between man and sheep. We generally see neither our own errors nor the danger those errors have put us in. 

The next part of the verse tells us; We have turned, everyone, to his own way.”  At first glance, the casual reader may respond, “Well, isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Are we not all supposed to do our own thing and live our own lives?” It seems correct to say, “Yes! Of course!” We are used to politicians and motivational speakers encouraging us to control our own destiny and achieve the American Dream. However, this is nothing more than the Devil’s self-centered philosophy. He pioneered the attitude of asserting his own corrupted will in place of God’s will. For that, he was banished from Heaven for all eternity. 

Modern western culture is about the greatness of the individual. People are made to desire stardom and wealth (fame and fortune). Nevertheless, the government of God is not a democracy, it is a kingdom. This is a radical departure from a democratic society. Seeing this tension, some people try a “hybrid” between kingdom and democracy, but it cannot work. When we breathe our last breath, everyone will realize that there is a kingdom where God rules absolutely. 

The Kingdom of God

All our lives we in the West have been used to having control of our destiny — as well as voice and vote within the government. However, this has never been the case, nor will it ever be the case within the Kingdom of God. Each one of us either is doing, or at one time did, what they wanted to do — to the exclusion of what God thought about it. In the kingdom of God the will of God is done 100% of the time. 

In the language of the time of the Judges we read, In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6, 21:5) This is the essence of all sin — me being in charge  of my own life doing what is right in my own eyes. Yet, this type of life nothing more than slavery to Sin. As Jesus said it in John 8:34; “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (NKJV) Everyone is going to serve someone or something. Nobody lives in a vacuum. The question is, what kingdom are you and I going to submit to? 

A lot is said about freedom in Christian circles. There are hundreds of books on freedom. Sermons on freedom. I recently performed a contemporary Gospel song query and found over 100 songs that contain the word “freedom.” Many people speak of freedom as the release of inhibitions in public worship. Others see it as being free from their past sin or past life and identity. Yet, freedom can be a deceptive concept. Understand that no one but God is truly “free.” The rest of us are slaves to someone else. The question is, who or what are we a slave to?

The Greatest Pink Elephant of All

The Greatest Pink Elephant of All
Robert Wurtz II

Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. (Acts 26:19–21 NKJV)

“Elephant in the room” or “Elephant in the living room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first recorded use of the phrase, as a simile, as The New York Times on June 20, 1959: “Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you just can’t ignore it.” (wiki) Nevertheless, for over 100 years the reality of Acts 26:19-21 has been largely, if not completely, ignored. When it’s not being ignored the passage is being wrested by those who cannot handle its implications. Why did Paul preach John the Baptist “type” repentance? Stephen gives the answer in Acts 7 when he concluded his sermon with, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV)

When we read Stephen’s word ” resist ” it is natural to conclude that this is a simple non-compliance. However, this is not the case. Stephen employs a rare Greek word (antipiptō) used once in the New Testament. It means to “run against” or “to fall upon.” This is an allusion to Numbers 23 and Isaiah 63 in which God had done everything in His power to bring about His purposes for His people — nevertheless; they  provoked (vexedHis Holy Spirit — who is not easily provoked (1 Cor. 13:5). This phenomenon could also be seen in the fact that the prophets’ words could not be resisted, but the prophets themselves could be, so they “ran upon” them as they soon did with Stephen. 

Repentance is vital to the Gospel because it addresses the issues of resisting the Holy Spirit head-on. There is no way to get by on some lesser thing. The resistance and rebellion against God must be brought to an end and the person come into a right attitude towards their Creator. The old timers used to say that people need to “get right with God.” This language is from Acts 8 when Peter told Simon that his heart was not “right” with the Lord. Nevertheless, multitudes of ministers and Christians search for ways to avoid this. In fact, the subject is rarely even brought up in discussion it is so detested. However, it is folly to invent doctrines and theologies that sidestep this need. The tragedy is that theologians and Bible teachers are often better at teaching people what a verse does not mean than what it truly means. In modern times clever theologians have tried to reduce repentance to a mere change of mind towards sin; but in practice the teaching is a dead forgery. Their is no expectation that the person with actually demonstrate a change of mind. The strategy is to address the passages in question so as to appear theologically correct; however, the verses are made of no effect. This is what happens when men become theologians who themselves are resisting the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting to consider just how long man has been actively resisting God’s authority. Our passage in Genesis 6:3 is a subtle commentary on the days of Noah; this would have been roughly 2800 BC, or nearly 5000 years ago. When we arrive at Acts 7:51 we have the same diagnoses, You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. In the 21st Century we have the same pattern of behavior. God is trying to establish His authority in the hearts of men and women and they do always “strive” or “resist.” I suggest that “always resisting the Holy Spirit” is the single greatest problem in mankind, and summarizes the relationship between God and unbelievers. Unfortunately, it is also the case in the lives of many professed believers.

In Genesis 6:3 we have the word “strive.” The context is found with Noah a preacher of righteousness, bringing forth a message of salvation. This is God striving with people outwardly. In this way, God had used men as His means of striving with man since the prophet Abel in Genesis 4:8 (compare Luke 11:50-51). Just as Cain rose up to snuff-out his witness to the truth of obedience to God, the response of the masses has rarely altered course. Inwardly, the people would feel the sting of their conscience, and the many strong impressions made upon them by the Spirit of God. The scripture is replete with men who quenched, grieved, resisted, vexed, and even blasphemed God’s Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:101 Thess. 5:19Ephesians 4:30Matthew 12:24-32). This is the message of Stephen to the religious leaders, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV

The very people who prided themselves as instructors of the foolish, and teachers of babes — men who had the form of knowledge and truth in the law (Romans 2:20 NKJV) — did always resist the Holy Spirit. In fact, Stephen added, as your fathers did, so do you. It had been a tradition in families for generations. Stephen went on to ask them which of the prophets did their fathers not persecute? He then went on to show that Jesus Christ, the anti type of all who had gone before Him, was given the most hideous treatment of all. The one who was the greatest representation of God was the one most persecuted by the rebellious. The treatment of a man was proportional to His capacity to represent God in striving with men. In other words, the more godly he or she was, the worse they were treated. This is the record. 

Pink Elephant

I once attended a meeting where several men were speaking on the topic of the end-times. One man took the pulpit and opened his address with this unforgettable question, “How are we going to talk about 666 when we can’t even turn off HBO?” It was his way of saying that we love to speak about all kinds of topics that divert our attention away from unpleasant issues. In the late 19th and early 20th century a methodology for “getting saved” was invented that allowed people to continue to resist the Holy Spirit and anyone who preached a “book of Acts” type Gospel and still call themselves “saved.” This is the pink elephant in modern evangelicalism. A person can be actively resisting the Holy Spirit and be told “you are saved and don’t let the devil lie to you and tell you anything different!” And if they go on and try to receive the Holy Spirit they can say a few unintelligible sentences and be told “You got it! You got the Holy Ghost!” Wow. A thousand times, wow! 

If obstetricians were as reckless with childbirth as many ministers are with new birth we would have an infant mortality rate in the land that is unprecedented in world history. People have to be born of the Spirit and there is a right way to preach in order to see that reality come about. Becoming a Christian means we align ourselves with God and His holy word.The Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. If a person does not agree with God’s word — in reality — they are resisting Him no matter what they profess. Jesus asked the simple question , “and why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do the things I say?” As if He would ask, “why do you make my word of no effect by your traditions? Why do you keep doing things that are contrary to God’s word, just as your fathers did?” Answer, because once someone is bold enough to trample on a precept others are emboldened to follow. Soon everyone is doing it (well, not everyone). This is how we have veered off course so bad in the last 100 years. None now live that even remember how repentance and receiving the Holy Spirit is supposed to be.

Ours is the generation that can change all this. A person may have preached a soft Gospel for 75 years, but if they are sensitive to God they can still change. Others will go to their graves doing the same old thing that is not working. Meanwhile the churches fill up with people who have no real desire to comply with God’s will. it’s as if a whole new religion has been created to serve the people who never stopped resisting the Holy Spirit. Environments use music to forge the presence of God while the people keep on resisting. These and many type elixirs numb the conscience enabling people to read their bible and just skip past the verses they don’t like or agree with. This is the tragedy of our times. Nevertheless, there is hope for anyone who will hear the voice of God and truly repent. They can leave of resisting the Holy Spirit and finally receive the Holy Spirit in the genuine article. They can become the real thing — not a forgery. They can begin in the Spirit and live a life that agrees with God and longs to do His will. 

Judgment In The Sanctuary

Judgment In The Sanctuary
Robert Wurtz II

For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners? (1 Peter 4:17–18 NET)

Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. (Ezekiel 9:6 emphasis added)

One of the most disturbing things about our times is the ever increasing rebellion against God’s word among His own people. We expect the world to trample God’s word under foot, but what are we to make of things when it happens in God’s own house? It’s like multitudes no longer believe in the inspiration of scripture. God has spoken in His word and He will not change His mind. Nevertheless, with each passing day something new is being compromised. And then we wonder why we don’t have revival. Nay verily; we may as well brace ourselves for a bloodbath. If history is any indicator, it’s only a matter of time. 

It is sobering to consider that the accounts of Israel’s apostasy and judgment, according to Paul, “were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 NKJV) We are to learn from their experiences. In fact, the renowned Greek scholar of the late 19th century A.T. Robertson remarked that 1 Peter 4:17-18 is taken from the vision of Ezekiel 9. You will notice in Ezekiel 9:6 that the wrath of God is first revealed upon those who are called by the name of the Lord but are not obeying the truth (Romans 1:18). Beginning with those who most knew better (or should have known better), God’s judgment started with them. Why? Because they deserved the greater condemnation in that they had the greater privilege; and with privilege comes accountability.

The Ancient Men First

In Ezekiel 9:6 God told the executioners not just to begin with the sanctuary, but with the sub-group that were to be first judged within the sanctuary; i.e., the ancient men. These were not the righteous ancients, but the ancients whom were spoken of in the previous chapter who were not really loyal to God at all, but committed abominations in the darkness (in secret). The seventy elders, also known as the Sanhedrin, were the first people who came under the judgment of God (Ezekiel 8:11). This tells us that judgment begins first upon unrighteous leaders who are secretly or publicly rebelling against God. After judgment falls on the unrighteous leaders — judgment flows down through the sanctuary and out into a rebellious society. 

In modern times we can almost see a similar scenario setting up. Radical Islam, a modern and savage version of ancient Assyria and Babylon, is chomping at the bit — waiting to baptize Christians in fire and blood. Their resurgence is no accident. The ancient Assyrians were a murderous band of barbarians who were legends in fierce brutality. Nevertheless, in modern times ISIS, in its insatiable bloodthirstiness, is training up ten-year  old boys to execute who they term as “infidels” by carving them with knives or riddling their heads and bodies with bullets. If they had their way they would brutalize every Christian on earth in ways that would make Mary I (Bloody Mary) of England blush. In a figure, these brain-washed and demon-possessed people are massing on the borders of our peace and security. All the while,   a general hostility towards Christianity grows in the Western World. Could these people be the agents by which God will purge His house? Are we on the brink of a modern-day 1 Peter 4:17-18?

The Seal of Sorrow

And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. (Ezekiel 9:3b, 4)

One of the great lessons of the Old Testament is that people often fail to see God’s perspective of circumstances. They fail to feel as He feels. Nevertheless, there is always a remnant who knows the times and reacts according to the ungodliness thereof. Our passage reveals that God had set a seal upon the people who were vexed from day to day with the lawless deeds of the people around them (2 Peter 2:8 lit. tortured). While the rest of those naming the name of God were getting more and more worldly, content with the wickedness of our day as though it had no effect on them — the righteous felt as God felt about things. 

Understand that rebellion is a very subtle thing at times. Most people are able to see rebellion in others, but cannot see it in themselves. Believers justify all kinds of compromise and call it Christian liberty. However, if the behavior does not line up with the plainly revealed word of God — it is rebellion.  Some want to identify with the world and sin and not only “be saved,” but have influential ministry. We must discern the rebellion. The enemy is working overtime to get people into positions of leadership who refuse to do God’s will and obey His word. 

If the pattern of the past has any meaning today, God has already rejected many and placed them on the list for judgment. Paul said that the stories of the Old Testament were recorded, written down, reported for our example and learning. To those in Ezekiel their secret agreement with sin and iniquity, manifesting itself in silent approval and tearless eyes, was enough to level upon them the full fury of God’s wrath. They received no mark in their foreheads. 

Today the world is loaded with those who hate righteousness and love iniquity. Nevertheless, we are called to be as Christ who loved righteousness and hated iniquity (Hebrews 1:9). The Spirit of Christ wells up in those in whom He dwells as a revolting reaction to the sin and compromise that grieves His holiness. A Christian reaction to sin (especially their own) can only be described as vexation; that is, torture. When sinners have rejected Christ, trodden under foot the blood that could have sanctified them, and are sinning with a high-hand we ought to be gravely disturbed. God sent His messenger to set a seal upon the people who were vexed in Ezekiel’s day. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the Godly out of temptations. The wrath of God will someday consume those that know Him not nor obey the Gospel. The only real proof that we are not in line for this judgment is whether the Spirit of God who is in us is grieved within us — or are we as those who have no grief, but rather take pleasure in those who commit such sins (Romans 1:32)They who are born of God are vexed by rebellion and sin — just as He is. 

Marked out by God

When God set His mark upon the people it was a single Hebrew letter “tav.” This letter, in some ancient texts, is in the shape of an X or a T. Perhaps this symbolized the fact that the righteous would be saved but scarcely (1 Peter 4:18 lit. with great difficulty). 1 Peter 4:18 tells us that judgment begins at the house of God, but if it first begins at us, and if the righteous scarcely be saved; what shall the end be of those who obey not the gospel? To those who so rightly deserve judgment — judgment will be applied first, and to each one in their own order. The Lord knows they who are His; His name is in their foreheads. 

Driving God from His Temple

It is a dangerous thing to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. It is akin to allowing the devil to run rampant in the Temple in Jerusalem. Satan is the great defiler of sanctuaries. He lures men and women to backslide away from God where He once dwelled in them. Have we not all seen it? They did run well and now they are moving in carnality and sin. What a dangerous place to be in. We have some examples of how these things play out from the Old Testament. God never leaves without some form of warning. 

Ezekiel was a priest whom God used to prophesy to Israel. 

In Chapter 1, God revealed Himself to Ezekiel. 

In Chapter 2, God anointed Him with His Spirit (Ezekiel 2:2). 

In Chapter 3, God put His words in His mouth as a scroll and warned Him to be a watchman of the people to warn them-lest their blood be upon his hands. 

In Chapter 4, Ezekiel cooked up some dung cakes to get the peoples attention (for they were sorely hardened and inattentive). 

In Chapter 5, He shaved his head, divided the hair into three equal parts, burnt the first third (for they were consumed by pestilence and famine), diced up the second third (for a third part died by the sword), and tossed the latter third into the wind (for they were scattered into the nations).

In chapter 8 God showed Ezekiel that the ancients were driving His presence from the Temple because of their lewd imaginations. In verse 8-10 we read: Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, printed (carved out) upon the wall round about. The leaders were committing abominations in their heads and they thought that God was not watching. Verse 12 reads: Then He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.’” For this cause God was being driven from the Temple because of their sin (Ezekiel 8:6).

Getting Used to Darkness

“I stumbled into the dimly lit dungeon, fell over a chair and mumbled that I needed a flashlight to read the menu. When the food came I ate it by faith and not by sight. Gradually, however, I began to make out objects a little more distinctly. You know how it is if you sit a while in a dark room. And my friend remarked, ‘Funny, isn’t it, how you get used to the dark.’” (Vance Havner)

This “getting used to the dark” often takes place over time; that is the subtlety of it. Once the sins that were committed “in the darkness” have ran their course the enemy closes in on our borders. These are the times we are living in. Hardened hearts in congregations all throughout the nation will cry out to the righteous as they did in the days of Isaiah… Seer’s — See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits (Isaiah 30:10). Rebellion has no time for truth. It has no time to hear what the Spirit is saying. And it happens according to the true prophecy of the Apostle Paul which said… For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

A Deadly Combination
(A Hard Heart, a Soft Chisel, and a Weak Arm)

When a generation hardened itself against God throughout history, God always stepped up the power, wisdom and fortitude of His ministers to meet their highhanded backsliding head on (Isaiah 50:7, Jeremiah 1:8-10). It cost the prophets their lives, including John the Baptist. All but one of the Apostles were martyred according to tradition. Even the Lord Jesus. Anyone that communicates the life of God to this darkened world is a target of the enemy. 

What if the messengers of God were so “bound up” with sin and so ready to compromise God’s word that they couldn’t preach with authority (Ezekiel 8-9)? What if a famine of the word of the Lord existed in an hour and society that so desperately needed rebuked and called back to repentance (Amos 8:1ff)? What if the watchmen were drunk, not with wine or strong drink, but on the elixir of their own sin and rebellion — unable to sound the warning call (Ezekiel 3:1ff)? What if every end-time prophecy was being fulfilled at once — would they who name the name of Christ, who are living in rebellion within the churches of God, follow the world into their secret chambers? 

The quaker philosopher Elton Trueblood once stated that “By the year 2000 the church will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism.” This is 2015 and we are not only surrounded by an arrogant militant paganism, but by radical Islam. The time to get serious was many years ago and yet the masses have slumbered. For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners? (1 Peter 4:17–18 NET)

The Loneliness of Honesty

The Loneliness of Honesty
Robert Wurtz II

And Jehovah said unto Ahijah, Behold, the wife of Jeroboam is coming to inquire of you concerning her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shall you say unto her; for it will be, when she comes in, that she will feign herself to be another woman. (1 Kings 14:5)

Our passage is a fascinating account of a woman attempting to get answers about her sick son. She was sent by her idolatrous husband Jeroboam, king of Israel, to an old reliable prophet who had gone blind from old age. Since her and her husband were not on good terms with the prophet (or God), Jeroboam counseled her to disguise herself and take an offering to the man who was more like a peasant than a king. These measures were hoped to be sufficient to fool the man of God into telling her what will come of their son. The logic behind this appears to be that if someone else asks how the child will be, who has no controversy with God, they will receive a good report. 

Apart from the full implications of this passage and the story involved, I would like to drill down upon the king’s willingness to act deceptively. If we can focus on this area, we may discover one of the core problems that were wrong with this man — that ultimately led to his complete rejection by God. In other words, deceitfulness was a major obstacle for him going on with the Lord. 

In Psalm 51 David wrote a song in response to his repentance in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. Verse 6 is instructive and relevant to our discussion. It reads, Behold, you  desire truth in the inward parts; And in the hidden part you wilt make me to know wisdom. The Hebrew word tuwchah for inward parts means ” the inner parts. ” Some see the word like a bow that fires an arrow. It’s the place from which the issues of life are derived or spring forth. In that inner place from which all our decisions are made, God desires truth. Perhaps David was reflecting on how he tried to deceive Uriah into believing the baby was his. He went as far as to get the man drunk trying to deceive him. This is very sobering. 

God desires truth in the inward parts. He expects His people to move in truth. Dishonesty creates distrust. Deceit works to undermine the very foundations of life. 

We have looked at two examples of how men can have deception in their inward parts and move in lies. This is an awful thing to contemplate. When a person is willing to say or do anything necessary to deceive a person, there is going to be trouble. It is only a matter of time. Why? Because they have made lying optional. If they get into a scrape, they can just lie or deceive their way out of it. Nevertheless, the person who matters the most is never fooled. God knows when truth has vacated the inward parts. 

How often have we heard someone say, “You just can’t trust anyone these days.” You listen to a person talking and you hope they are being honest. You hope they are telling everyone the same message they are telling you and not modifying it to tell you what they think you want to hear. Abraham Lincoln was once reported to have said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. ” He missed a line. “You can’t fool God any of the time.” However, this has not stopped people from trying. Jeroboam believed he could deceive the man of God, but He had no idea that God was ten steps ahead of him. This ought to alarm anyone who has allowed deceit to invade their inward parts. 

Think about the two examples we have given in this entry: Jeroboam and David. What if, for some reason, God did not uncover their deceptions? What if the blind prophet would not have heard from God and just gave a general blessing to the woman? What if Uriah the Hittite would have raised a son that did not belong to him? The consequences would have been awful. And this is why God desires truth in the inward parts. When a person has a tendency to deceive others in order to put over something false they cause chaos and confusion unlike anything we can imagine. 

Bathsheeba comes into view. Here is a woman who would have been forced to tell David one thing and Uriah the Hittite something else. Jeroboam’s wife did essentially the same thing. She played the part of wife to Jeroboam, but something else to the blind prophet. This kind of deception can be very subtle and extremely dangerous. These women were counseled by their conspirators to give different messages to different people — depending on who it was. Had they been walking in truth they would have all been forthright in telling and conveying the truth. 

There is no new thing under the sun. The pattern that David and Jeroboam was in is commonplace today. The issues may not be a serious as idolatry and adultery, but they are serious still. How often does a man or a woman alter who they are, and how they feel about issues in life, depending on who they are talking to? Tell one person something and then tell another person something completely different. The scriptures call it being “double-tongued” (delogos) and it disqualifies a person from leadership. (1 Timothy 3:8) Some people have told so many variations of stories that they can no longer keep them straight. In fact, this is one of the greatest causes of strife and division in the world. Telling one person one thing and another person something else makes every party involved a victim of lies. A person like this can never be trusted. 

It is hard for a deceiver to acknowledge deceit. David apparently lamented the fact that had he been successful in lying to Uriah, he not only would have damaged him, but everyone else that believed the lie. The crime was so great that had God not confronted him in the mouth of Nathan the prophet, he may had denied the sin and the deception to his grave. Uriah may have gotten suspicious, but denial would be the base response. Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts. Why? Because it can keep you from causing a serious mess. Lying, falsehood, feigning, all just heap trouble on top of trouble. 

Sometimes being truthful is a very difficult thing. If we have truth in the inward parts, we will be honest and genuine as a matter of course. We won’t pretend to be one thing in front of one person and something else around others. That only betrays everyone. Soon nobody knows who we really are. If we have said so many different things and worn so many masks — were liable to forfeit any meaningful identity — other than deceiver. And nobody wants to be thought of as a liar and a deceiver. 

Jeroboam was given a word from God and apparently never repented. David realized his error and sought the Lord for a change of heart. Nevertheless, multitudes have never learned from these serious examples. It’s not too late to change. Step one is to realize that God desires truth in the inward parts. He doesn’t want to look into the core of our being and see a liar or a deceiver. He wants to see truth. He wants genuineness. He wants consistency. He wants our default attitude to be one of integrity and honesty. 

Called To This Generation

Called To This Generation

Robert Wurtz II

For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep. (Acts 13:36)

Our passage deals with a period in Israel’s history in which David was destined to live. The people had previously decided they would rather have a man lead them than God. Samuel the prophet grieved over this decision. God simply told him, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7 NKJV) This is a way of saying that the people did not want to receive and follow direct orders from God. They wanted a middle man that they could manipulate or influence. God needed a man that would inquire of Him in all of their decision making. He needed a faithful representative on the earth. This would prove to be a challenge from day one.  

When God called His people Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, He instructed them to hearken diligently to His voice. This was true with Moses and Joshua — as well as with the judges. God never changed His mind about expecting His people Israel to obey   His voice. Whereas the first king of Israel Saul was a man who sought to please the people, David, the second king of Israel, was a man after God’s own heart. He would turn on a dime when God spoke to Him. This means that David desired to know and do God’s will  more than anything else. He was not a perfect man, but there were many occasions when David was a living demonstration of God’s character. These facts make for an interesting paradox. David served God — yet our passage tells us he served his generation. What are we to make of these things? 

We might have expected Acts 13:36 to say that king Saul served his generation and fell asleep. But did he? From a certain point of view,   we may say that he did. He served as king and did some things. However, what does it mean to serve our generation by the will of God? Does it mean that we are slaves to our generation? Do we take our orders from our generation? Must we conform to our generation in order to serve it? The answer to these questions is clearly, no. This is not what God meant when He said that David served his generation. He served his generation by the counsel of God — not his own counsel. 

God replaced Saul for being what some call “a man of the people” rather than a man of God. We read in 1 Samuel 15, And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
This sentence made so powerful an impression upon Saul, that he confessed, “I have sinned: for I have transgressed the command of the Lord and thy words, because I feared the people, and hearkened to their voice.” (1 Samuel 15:24) But these last words, with which he endeavoured to make his sin appear as small as possible, show that the consciousness of his guilt did not go very deep. Even if the people had really desired that the best of the cattle should be spared, he ought not as king to have given his consent to their wish, since God had commanded that they should all be banned (i.e., destroyed); and even though he has yielded from weakness, this weakness could not lessen his guilt before God. This repentance, therefore, was rather the effect of alarm at the rejection which had been announced to him, than the fruit of any genuine consciousness of sin. (Keil & D.)
Saul refused to honor the Lord and take responsibility for his actions. He downplayed his sin — not realizing that God expected a genuine confession. He would not acknowledge what he had done and in turn taught his generation to do the same. God intervened by rejecting Him. Samuel followed this up by refusing to be identified with Saul. This did not mean that Samuel hated Saul; quite the contrary. He wept for the man all night. It meant that Samuel’s concern was God-wards. 

In the 1970’s, a famous comedian popularized the phrase, “The devil made me do it.” Saul may as well have said, ” The people made me do it. ” He had no Godly sorrow for his sin. Samuel had a God-wards grief for what Saul had become. However, Saul had no God-wards sorrow at all. He was only concerned with how the sin would affect his reputation and rapport with the people. His concern was horizontal — not vertical. 

By the Will of God

Our verse states categorically, “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep.” The key phrase is “by the will of God.” David was God’s man for his generation. He was a personification of the will of God in one respect. God had called and equipped him. Moreover, he endeavored to do God’s will. When he sinned, he agreed with God. He let God be true. He confessed and forsook his sins. All of these things are examples of a man doing the will of God under the circumstances. 

Some will say, “Well, it was not God’s will for David to commit adultery or number Israel.” This is true. However, when he recognized his error, he obeyed God’s directives and received his punishments. Saul followed his sin up with the sin of passing the blame. On the contrary, David placed the full weight of the blame for his sins on himself. In this way “he served” — “he did a great service to his generation.” We see then that the only way to serve rightly our generation is to do the will of God. David served God and in serving Him he  served the people. It is no service for any person to serve the people independent of God and His will for them. 

David had a zeal for God that Saul knew nothing about. He was zealous for God’s honor. This is one of the reasons why he faced the Giant. God was being shamed because of the cowardice and lack of faith in Saul. I’m reminded of an old naval quote, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.” David was the type of man who would not furl the sails. He would allow the will of God to carry him whithersoever God desired. Not his own will mistaken as God’s will,  but by the very counsel of God David served his generation and then fell asleep. This is all any of us can hope to do. We can do no more. Our influence may be felt in future generations, but we can only serve our generation. May we do it faithfully, as David, according to the counsel of God. 

Started in the Spirit (Begin in the Spirit)

Started in the Spirit
Robert Wurtz II

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3 KJV)

In the winter months in the central United States we have our fair share of cold weather. Many places are colder, but we still endure temperatures that can make life challenging. One of those challenges is the simple process of starting an automobile. Generally a car is “started” by rotating the ignition key to the start position and when it starts the key is released and a spring rotates it back to its default position. Other cars have a either a push button or toggle type switch that is pressed until the car starts and then it is released. 

With this in mind I would like to draw a simple analogy from our passage that says, “…having begun in the Spirit.” All analogies break down at some point so we have to be careful how we use them. However, I just want to draw an illustration to help understand “starting.” First, the Galatian letter was written to people who had truly received the Holy Spirit. If you were to ask them, as Paul did the Ephesians, “Did you receive when you believed?” they would have answered “yes.” They would not have given proof-texts or anything like that. They would have answered according to their conscience experience. Secondly, Paul remind them that they have begun in the Spirit. This word suggests the start of their Christian life. This does not mean that they “began” when the Spirit came. They already existed long before that. It means that they started in the Spirit, whereas before they had been in the flesh (carnality and sin). 

By way of analogy, we can see in a sense how this plays out. When I go to start my automobile I switch it to turn the engine over. A small electric motor rotates the engine so it will fire and start running. If the engine does not start right away there is generally a reason why. Some people, especially in the winter months, turn their car over until the battery runs down because it does not start. Nevertheless, if the engine does not start, the button defaults back to the run position. It is dead. Unless your engine has started, the default state is “dead.” However, if the engine does start, then it defaults back to the run position and keeps running. The whole process is determined by whether or not the engine has started. 

Nobody ever yet held down the start button and then attempted to put the car in gear and take off. If they did, they would not get far. And nobody ever yet tried to help the engine out by turning it to the start position after it was already running. Likewise, if a person does not “start” in the Spirit, they will default back to “dead” in trespasses and sins. In the automotive world we call this a “no start.” There is a reason why they did not “start” in the Spirit. The best thing to do is go to God and have Him raise the hood and point out the problem. He will even fix it if we let him. The trouble is that most people refuse to raise the hood so God can get in there and do the work. When He does get in there they refuse to agree with Him concerning the problem. Hence, they keep running the battery down trying to start. Some even go to meeting to get a “jump start” and still can’t get started. Why? There is a problem under the hood and they refuse to have it fixed. In the words of Jesus… For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:20–21 ESV)

God is the ultimate mechanic. He can fix anything if we will allow Him. But we got to let Him under the hood. We have to believe the diagnosis and then approve the repairs. Best of all it’s free. The tow, diagnosis, and repair… no charge. The only thing you will be giving up is the old dead life. 

How Faith Comes (Faith comes by hearing)

How Faith Comes 
Originally published on November 18, 2011  

Robert Wurtz II

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:16-17 KJV)

Led in the Steps of Faith

God desires to speak to individuals personally in order to lead them into His perfect will. If we need a “prophet” between us and God to speak directive prophesies, we are no different than the Jews going to their Rabbi or a Roman Catholic going to their priest for instruction and direction. But in order to see folks come under the leading of the Spirit we must know that Christ’s Sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. This is the Great Shepherd working in believers “one on one”, leading and guiding them into His perfect knowledge and will. As our Great Elder Shepherd, He leads on softly at just the right pace (Genesis 33:13-14). If we will understand this we will cultivate an attitude that trusts God to do this job. He will lead them to walk out the steps of faith, even as He led Abraham in the desert (Romans 4:11-12).
The Ancient Question: What is faith?

What is faith? This is one of the great questions of our times; and it is an ancient one. Hundreds, if not thousands of books have been written on the subject; and a multitude of sermons have been preached on it. If we get the answer correct we gaze into the scriptures rightly; if we get it wrong our understanding will be skewed on every hand. Our passage sheds light on this timeless question by showing us where faith originatesand what must be employed for it to become effectual. Let me say in passing, that sometimes it is necessary to read the scriptures backwards (in reverse) to get the meaning. If we employ this technique in Romans 10:16-17 we find God at the beginning of faith. God initiates the process of faith by speaking a Word. As it is written, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The possibility of faith begins when God speaks. This means that faith cannot be manufactured by man. Keep this very clear. To move when God has not spoken is not faith at all; it is powerless presumption. Why? Because God does not anoint man to put words in God’s mouth; but to say what He is wanting said. Unless the word of His grace is in our mouth, our words are utterly impotent and completely incapable of bringing grace and faith.

As we discovered in our previous studies, Eli’s sons lost the throne of God’s presence (the Ark of the covenant) when they acted when He had not spoken. This is why we have focused so much on God’s authority: you simply cannot understand faith unless you understand that God, and not man, is the one in charge and calling the shots (speaking the words).

The great debate

There is a great debate in the churches of God as to the nature of faith. Some have wondered where Abraham got his faith? Did he and others like him somehow reach inside themselves and “self-generate faith”? These opt for the view that faith is a gift from God and cannot be exercised unless God gives it. God favors some and gives them the free gift of faith and He leaves others to languish under the burden of their unbelief. On the other side there is a view that faith is a force that has to be cultivated. If you “build your faith” you can speak your own words and determine your own reality. Because faith is seen as a force, you can move mountains and prophesy into existence things that are not as though they were. The power of life and death is in the tongue; but not in the sense that our words have creative powers. This is heresy. This latter view comes in many forms, but was most popularized with the phrase, “name it and claim it.” The problem is that folks presumptuously and superstitiously try to exercise faith as man wills and not as God has spoken. As we examine the scriptures we will find that faith comes through hearing God’s Word; and that His Word is the vehicle by which He dispenses His grace (Ephesians 3:2Colossians 1:25). 

The Spirit of Prophecy

 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). 

Will you notice that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” That is to say, the one prophesying is made consciously aware of the mind of Christ at that particular moment of time, and is capturing and conveying that reality in words that bespeak of Christ’s own experience. When David stated in Psalm 22, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…”, he was not giving his own personal testimony, but the testimony of Jesus several hundred years later. David was articulating realities that had not yet taken place, not from his own mind, but by the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Keep that very clear. When a person is made aware of the mind of God at a particular moment they are are “seeing” and hence, were known as “seers.” This is why John stated in 1 John 1:2“For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” This is more than eyesight; it was insight. Christ opened their mind and gave them understanding in the things that they had seen and heard and how their eyewitness account of events was foretold through the testimony of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy. They suddenly could “see” the life that was manifested. This is more than information, it is revelation.  

Faith and Grace Both “come” to You 

Wherefore having girded up the loins of your mind, being sober, hope perfectly upon the grace that is being brought to you in the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:13 YLT)

 I have opted for Young’s Literal Translation here because it corrects some of the verb tenses that are essential to understanding this passage. I want to focus on the phrase, hope perfectly upon the grace that is being brought to you in the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The great 19th century Greek Scholar A.T. Robertson comments saying that the phrase, “That is to be brought” (tēn pheromenēn) is the present passive articular participle of pherō, picturing the process, “that is being brought.” (end of quote) The grace of God is being brought to us in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Grace, another word that is often abused, is more than God’s Divine favor or attitude towards us; grace is God’s Divine enablement. Simply put, grace enables; it enables us by the power of God to do or be what we could never do or be without that grace. In this way faith comes by hearing and grace comes in the revelation of Jesus Christ. In other words, God’s word contains within itself the power to do what He sent it forth to do. It will not return unto Him void if it is mixed with faith. Perhaps we need to answer the question now; what is faith? 
What is Faith?

Man may give a word, but only God can bring revelation. If the Holy Spirit is involved in the process, revelation will come with the hearing of the Word of God. The person will suddenly “see” what God is saying to them. This is why we read in Proverbs 29:18 ESV, that where there is no revelation (prophetic vision) the people cast off restraint. The Kiel and Delitzsch Old Testament critical commentary notes that “the prophetic revelation in itself, and as the contents of that which is proclaimed” are in view. “Without spiritual preaching, proceeding from spiritual experience, a people is unrestrained.” This is why G.W. North has stated that “preaching without Fire is spreading death.” Not the fire of enthusiasm, but the Fire of God. God can use any means He desires to bring faith and revelation but it will typically be brought through the preaching of the Gospel. When the word is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, faith cometh 

Faith has two components: revelation and right response (see Hebrews 4:2). God initiates the process of the generation of faith by revealing His word to a person. This has always been how faith “comes”. God’s word contains within itself the grace (divine enabling) needed to accomplish what God has said. It is no more complicated than that. God has enabled everyone that hears His word to believe no matter how depraved they may be. Even a reprobate can and must obey God when they receive revelation of His will. In fact, when God speaks, the dead can come forth from a grave! Men can walk on water when God speaks to them to do so. This is the key factor; Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. 

No Word From God Shall Be Without Power

For no word from God shall be void of power. And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:37-38 ASV)

I have chosen this passage to illustrate the point that faith and grace come when God speaks. This truth is utterly essential to understanding Christianity. Miss this and you will wonder like a vagabond through the New Testament. Luke 1:37-38 as translated in the KJV and most all editions since, have greatly obscured this passage. I have said in the past that, “Whole sections of seminary libraries could be taken out and burned had this one passage of scripture been translated properly and the reality behind it understood.”

Observe: here we have a virgin woman being told she is going to conceive a child. We all know that in the natural order of life this is impossible. So how is she going to do the impossible? That is to say, how is she going to fulfill God’s will? The information forms the revelation from God that contains within itself the necessary grace to perform the task. Once she believes and responds rightly to what God has said, she possesses the grace to accomplish the task. Keep that clear. Grace is more than unmerited favor; it is unmerited enabling. We do not deserve either one.

Notice in our text that in Luke 1:37 we have the KJV English rendering, For with God nothing shall be impossible. Most all mainstream translations follow this rendering in so much that it is a common line quoted in Christmas stories and plays thousands of times each December. The statement is true, but it is not what the text actually says. If the translators had been a bit more consistent with the Greek words, the whole of Christendom could have been spared a lot of confusion. But it is too late now except to try and teach the right rendering. The American Standard Version gets it right; for no word from God shall be void of power.

No Word From GOD is Void of Power

The KJV translators opted to translate the Greek word rhema as “thing” in our text. No “thing” (nothing) shall be impossible with God. They did this because the word “thing” represents the whole of what God said to Mary and determined to do. There are other times when the KJV uses “thing” in this way, where the word “sayings” should have been used in order to maintain continuity with the principal faith coming by hearing the word of God. A simple search of the word RHEMA in the Greek New Testament will show this. As a simple exercise insert the word “sayings” or “word” in the passages that employ the English word “thing” and see how much more sense those passages make.

For those that wish to look at this more technically, we observe that the Greek text reads, ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ πᾶν ῥῆμα (Luke 1:37). Here we have ῥῆμα (rhema) that is usually translated as “word”, “say” or “sayings”, but is distinguished from λόγος (logos) that is also translated as “word”. Renowned Greek scholar Marvin Vincent (1834-1922), who lived long before the Charismatics of our time, stated: “In classical Greek, ῥῆμα (rhema) signifies a constituent part (essential part) of a speech or writing, as distinguished from the contents as a whole. Thus it may be either a word or a saying. Sometimes a phrase, as opposed to ὄνομα, a single word. The distinction in the New Testament is not sharp throughout. It is maintained that ῥῆμα in the New Testament, like the Hebrew ‏דָּבַר‎, stands sometimes for the subject matter of the word; that is, “the thing”, and so the KJV translators used “thing” to translate rhema in some important passages.* But there are only two other passages in the New Testament where this meaning is at all admissible, though the word occurs seventy times. These are Luke 2:15 andActs 5:32. “Kept all these things” in Luke 2:19, should clearly be “all these sayings”, as the KJV itself has rendered it in the almost identical passagein Luke 2:51. In Acts 5:32, the Revised gives “sayings” in the margin. In Luke 2:15, though the KJV and the Revised render the text as “this thing”, the sense is evidently “this saying”, as appears both from the connection with the angelic message and from the following words, “which has come to pass”: that is to say, “the saying which has become a fact.” The Revised rendering of this passage is, therefore, right, though a little stilted: No word of God shall be void of power; for the KJV errs in joining οὐκ and πᾶν, not every, and translating it as “no-thing”. The two do not belong together. The statement is, Every (πᾶν) word of God shall not (οὐκ) be powerless. The KJV also follows the reading, παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, with God; but all the later texts read παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, from God, which fixes the meaning beyond question.” (Vincent) Here is the text as it should read:

For no word (rhema) from God shall be void of power. (v37) And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (rhema). (Luke 1:37-38 ASV)

The translators variety of words has caused the masses of English readers to miss the precious link between Verse 37 and 38. Had all of the passages that contain rhema been translates with “saying” or “word” English readers would have a much better understanding of the New Testament. “Thing” is used just enough to break the continuity and introduce confusion. Unfortunately the new translations still do not correct this as we see in the NASB, NKJV, NIV and ESV. This is either due to a lack of understanding of the principal that “no saying” or “word” from God shall be void or power or the use of “saying” or “word” to translate rhema has serious doctrinal implications and is not admitted.  

Why Does it Matter?

It may seem as though we have belabored the point, but it is well worth belaboring. Unless we understand that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God we will wonder where faith comes from and how it works. God speaks His enabling word and all we have to do is respond rightly. When God speaks you absolutely can and you absolutely must. Again, notice our text in Romans, But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:16-17 KJV) Notice the text says that they that heard did not all obey. In fact, the words obey and believe are here synonymous. Some will say, “But I can’t obey and I can’t believe!” Really? God said, No word of God shall be void of power. 

Grace for God’s will 

 It is important to learn scripture verses. We need to put to memory as much scripture as we possibly can. God has said a lot of things and made a lot of promises. The challenge is to know when a particular promise applies to us as individuals. God is the Creator and can do all things; but He is also moving in an immutable will. When we pray, we are to pray that His will be done. In the words quoted in “Shadowlands”, the biography of the late  C.S. Lewis, “Prayer does not change God, it changes us.” We can quote passages back to God and pray them to Him, but until He quickens that Word to our heart we cannot apply it in faith. We cannot put words in God’s mouth, nor can we apply promises to ourselves that were addressed to someone else, at a different place and at a different time. It is a hard saying, but we cannot prophesy our own reality. God is moving in His own purposes. No amount of faith can change God’s plans, unless He has already determined to change in response to faith. 

The sin of presumption

God almost always gives direction when He sets out to do something miraculous. His directions have expiration dates. We have an example from Numbers chapter 14 that is written for our example and learning. You will recall that when the twelve in Israel went to spy out the land they had an opportunity to believe God in faith; He had spoken a Word to them. Ten came back with an evil report and the people believed that evil report rather than God who was in the mouth of Joshua and Caleb. God killed the ten spies and pronounced a judgment of forty years of wondering on the people. They were grieved and then decided to go up and take the promised land. But it was too late. The promise had reached its “sell by date”. Moses warned them not to try it. We have this passage that is insightful, “But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.” The throne of God’s glory; that is to say, God’s authority was not with them. It remained in the camp. We have this sobering conclusion, “Then the Amalekite came down, and the Canaanite who dwelt in that mountain, and smote them and beat them down, even unto Hormah.”(Numbers 14:45 NKJV)  

Praying for direction

When we need something from God we need to pray and ask God for direction. As I stated before, God almost always gives direction when He sets out to do something miraculous. Why? Because it is His Word that comes to us by revelation that carries the grace necessary to effect the miracle. We have in Psalm 107:20“He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” Here the verb “sent” is in the imperfect denoting a process of sending. We have to have ears to hear what God is saying to us. He may not be saying anything at all about our situation, but looking for us to simply trust Him. But we will never know unless we seek God for direction. The Bible is replete with people having a need and God giving specific instructions to be responded to in faith. 

No formula for healing or miracles

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6

I wish to close with a personal testimony of Divine healing. Let me say first that nobody knows “a formula” for Divine healing. If they did, they would be immortal. God has already appointed that man will die and after that the judgment. The world is under the consequences of sin that resulted in the fall of man and will suffer those consequences until the regeneration. Many people get sick, even the most godly of Saints. Death is one per person. If the Lord tarries we will all die from our last disease or an accident. As the Lord has enabled me to be with many dear Saints at end-of-life I can say that sickness falls on saint and sinner alike; even the most terrible of sicknesses. I am sorry to tell this, but few people will just go to sleep and pass away without some form of suffering. 

During this interim period where we await the redemption of our bodies, God in His infinite wisdom and purpose heals some. The gift of healing in its purest form is a very rare thing. Jesus healed some and passed by the rest. Only God knows why. But for those that He did heal, He gave them some instructions that they could respond to in faith. When He spoke, the impossible became possible. Please see some examples below of the Word of His grace being spoken and the people responding in faith. A man with a withered arm could not move it until Jesus spoke the word; then He could do what was said. When God speaks, we can and we must. We can take up our bed or we can walk on water. But God has to speak. 


Appendix (a few examples)

1. And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. (Luke 6:10)

This man could not stretch forth his hand as it was withered until Jesus spoke. His very word enabled the impossible.

2. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. (John 5:6-9)

Observe that the man was a long time unable to rise from his bed. Jesus spoke the words, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. The grace necessary to fulfill the command was resident in the words. 

3. Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. 

And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God. (Luke 18:41-43)

Here is a man that by implication had ‘heard’ about Jesus. He cried out in faith. Jesus spoke the words, ‘Receive thy sight’. The man immediately received because he was prepared to mix faith (right response to revelation) with the words spoken. 

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