Industrialized Salvation (Understanding Decisionism, Easy-Believism, and Shallow Conversion)

Industrialized Salvation

Robert Wurtz II

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” (Acts 8:18–24 NKJV)

Simon the Sorcerer is a New Testament example of how a person can profess to believe in Jesus Christ; submit to water baptism; demonstrate a desire for the Holy Spirit; and their heart still is not right towards God. 

The Greek word for “right” in this verse is translated “straight” in the John the Baptist narrative where he is said to “make His paths straight.” This is a way of saying, “get peoples’ heart right with God.” Simon had not yet gone through this process. He never repented of his sorcery or the underlying issues that drove him to want to be a sorcerer and manipulate people. 

In fact, Simon was bound up in wickedness and in a state of perishing. “Your money perish with you…” said Peter. Clearly he never repented in such a way that his heart became “right” with God and he exercised saving faith. Yet he is continuing in fellowship with others who had repented and truly believed. This is very sobering. He was going through the motions and had almost everyone fooled. But God is never fooled. Men may have failed to see his true heart condition, but God sees all peoples’ hearts and at all times. 

If man had the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit as easy as man can baptize another man in water — Simon would have went into the church and caused untold destruction. He was baptized in water and had made a profession of some kind, but he still was a wicked man in need of forgiveness and regeneration. This reveals for all times that we must never place too much emphasis on outward things. Man looks on the outward appearance of things, but God looks on the heart. 

Unlike in Peter’s time, in the 21st century a person can actually pass into the churches under the guise of having received the Holy Spirit when in fact they have not. Sound shocking? Consider that in many full-gospel circles a person is considered to have received the Spirit if they can move in the prophetic or perform miracles. In Classical Pentecostal circles “speaking in tongues” has been made the supreme evidence for Spirit baptism. Doctrinally, they will affirm that speaking in tongues is “the initial evidence;” however, over the last 100 years it has become the evidence on a practical level. If a person gives ecstatic speech they are said to have the Holy Ghost. Holy living and the fruit of the Spirit are marginalized if not secondary in many circles. Therefore, we are wide open to “Simon the Sorcerer” types in our day. Jesus said you will know them by their fruits not “spiritual gifts,” talents, education, etc.

Because this is a blog post I kindly refer you to my book Televangelicalism by Robert Wurtz II available on amazon in paperback and Kindle for an in depth look at this topic. However I will share some useful history for your consideration. In evangelical circles in the 1900s Evangelicalism went through a time when salvation basically became industrialized. People were being brought to Christ like cars rolling off an assembly line at the first Ford Motor plant. Moreover, people started being told they were “saved” for the first time. Prior to that nobody dared using that kind of language. It was believed that that salvation and assurance was God’s domain and few if any dared intrude into it. Sadly, telling a person they are saved is as normal today as anything. This was not the case prior to Billy Sunday. 

Prior to Sunday people were said to be Hopefully Converted. This means that their conversion was “hopeful” and suggested that the person go on seeking the Lord. Today, people are told they are “saved” and generally stop seeking the Lord in any real and meaningful way. God’s dealings with the person grind to a screeching halt. Why? They already have their ticket to heaven. Why go on seeking? There are few things more dangerous than telling a person they “are saved.”

Below is an image I captured in 2009 back when Google allowed searchers to analyze the distribution of words over time. The feature placed the relevant distribution data on a nice little chart and sorted it by year. Take a close look at the distribution of the words “hopefully converted.” You will see that in early 1900 that phrase stopped being used in publications almost completely — though there was a high amount of usage since the advent of mass publication in the early 1700s. We need to ask, how and why did this happen?


    


The Inquiry Room

The use of the inquiry room became so popular, that it became necessary to provide those who labored with the anxious sinners a guide on how to conduct themselves. In 1884 George Soltau (1847-1909) of England wrote a handbook on the subject entitled, Enquiry Room: Hints for dealing with the anxious. He moves first giving basic directions:

As a company of workers desiring to engage in the solemn and important work of dealing with the anxious in the enquiry room, we all are agreed at the very outset that the Holy Spirit alone can lead a sinner to the Savior; that each of us must look to Him for the right word, the fitting text, the wise counsel; and that we are to be but the mouthpieces through whom He will speak. Our constant attitude must be one of communion with God; our memories and minds must be well stored with Scripture, that we may be ready for the Master’s use. Before entering into the details of our subject, the following general suggestions will be found worthy of consideration:

1. Do not be too eager to lead a soul into peace. In Jeremiah 6:14, and 8:11, we find the words, “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace.’” It is not desirable to use the expression, “Have you found peace?” seeing that the anxious soul needs a Person, rather than a blessing.

2. Avoid the expression, “You have only to believe, to be saved,” until you have very fully stated and explained the facts and promises to be believed; and then point out that it is a person in whom the soul’s trust is to be placed, and not your statements about Him.

3. Always read your quotations from the Bible, turning to the passage; so that the Enquirer may be able to distinguish between your statements and the Word of God. The latter has an authority that your statements can never possess.

4. Avoid telling your own experience or that of others; as the Enquirer must lean on the Word of God, and not on any one’s experience of it.

5. Do not try to apply to the need of the Enquirer any text, the truth of which you have not yourself experienced.

6. Make it clear that at conversion the Lord Jesus claims possession and control of the entire being. Show that it is not merely the salvation of the soul that is needed, but also deliverance for mind and body from all the power of sin in every direction.

7. If an enquirer baffles you with difficult questions, hand such an one over at once to a more experienced Christian.

8. As far as possible converse only with persons of your own age or younger; of your own sex and walk in life.

9. Do not tell a person he is saved. Let the Holy Spirit be the witness in the heart of the believer, telling him that he is delivered from sin and its penalty. (end of quote)

George Soltau then gives directions as to the importance of making sure the anxious person recognizes their sinfulness. He continues:

An inexperienced worker, having a few favorite texts, would probably speak to each person in this way, “You must just believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin. You know He said, ‘Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Cannot you believe that ‘Now is the accepted time,’ that ‘Now is the day of salvation’? ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.’ Just kneel down, and say from your heart, ‘Take me as I am’” We would not say that none of those thus addressed would get any blessing through such treatment: but what we ought to do is to – First ascertain the cause of this blindness; and lameness; and numbness, etc.; and then by God’s help apply the right remedy.

Our first questions then should be, “What brings you into the Enquiry Room?”

“What do you think you need?” The answer may be, “I want to be saved,” or “I want to become a Christian,” or “I don’t feel I am quite right,” or, “I think I ought to turn.” In none of these replies is there any very definite statement concerning sin, or any apparent consciousness of sin. Therefore the first thing to be arrived at is to convict deeply of sin. The Gospel is not designed primarily to make people happy, and give them peace; but to deliver them from sin, its presence, power, and penalty; and to bring them into communion with a Holy God. Sin is not an accident or a misfortune, but a disease. Active in its principle, permeating every fiber and tissue of mind and body; hideous and loathsome as a foul leprosy; abominable and irremediable; not to be dealt with piece-meal, but to be attacked at this root. All the restlessness of soul, the craving for excitement, the love of the world, the dislike of holy things, the reluctance to come forward for Christ, are the effect of sin dwelling in the heart. What, then, is the state of the heart of a sinner? (end of quote)
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We will not continue to quote from this book as the reader may acquire it free since it is now in the public domain. Nevertheless, I have shown the approach to leading an anxious sinner to Christ in an inquiry room type environment as late as 1884. This method was similar to D.L. Moody, Charles H. Spurgeon, and many others. According to the Religious Intelligencer, “The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed.” Indeed it is “heavy labor” working with God to lead souls to a genuine conversion experience in Christ. There is nothing haphazard or slapdash about it. These counselors pressed the anxious to make a decision for Christ, as had been being done for almost 100 years.



Decisionism in Infancy
 
Beginning with Finney, and later D.L. Moody, we experienced an up-tick of the notion that a person just needs to make a “decision” and a down-tick of the New Covenant necessity of being born again of the Holy Spirit. As I explain in Televangelicalism, in Finney’s case this is due in part to his lack of belief in Original Sin. If a person does not agree with the diagnosis — their remedy is sure to be off. Nevertheless, these changes in approach to salvation and New Birth happened so slowly over the course of time that they would have been almost imperceptible to anyone living in that day. However, they did not go fully unnoticed. Some theologians and preachers denounced the new measures and their effect on Christianity. 

What happens? New Measures serve as inflection points, but emphasis on regeneration (new birth) steadily dies out. The emphasis was shifting totally towards man and the minister. Indeed, there is a sense in which God does the work; the Word of God does the work; the minister does the work; and the anxious does the work. When this reality is forgotten the whole process is thwarted, and the result is often a spurious conversion.


Billy Sunday

Fast forward to the ministry of Billy Sunday. Most serious-minded evangelists knew that Billy Sunday’s methods produced spurious conversions. This led to the derisive term “Sunday Convert.” A fellow student at Wheaton College kidded Torrey Johnson, founder of Youth For Christ, “Got religion, have you? I suppose it’s the Billy Sunday type. It’ll last about six months.” What an awful comment, but it was all too true. People would go through Sunday’s scheme and “backslide” in about six months. This is exactly what Finney’s contemporaries feared, and now it came to pass. Although Finney was not the originator of the measures he was rebuked for using, he popularized them and brought them to the mainstream. He made them acceptable. Once something is made acceptable by a famous figure, it is almost impossible to stop it. Finney influenced Moody who influenced Chapman, who mentored Billy Sunday. Each minister compromised the measure more than the person who taught it to them. The compromises added up until Christianity went from a repent, believe and “wait and see” to “walk this trail and you’re saved.” In fairness to Finney, he knew it was impossible to fully know who was saved. Again, upon seeing fruits of repentance, verifiable faith, and seeing a compelling change of lifestyle—Finney would consider the person hopefully converted. Unlike Billy Sunday, he never allowed people to rest in any assurance that man could give.

The End of “Hopeful Conversion” Terminology

God and His Word doesn’t change; only the definition of what it meant to be “saved” slowly changed. By 1918, a newspaper headline reported:

“CONVERTS RUSHED TO GRASP HANDS OF BILLY SUNDAY.” According to the media, “Publicly acknowledging their belief in Jesus Christ as their savior, and expressing their repentance for sin, 425 men, women and children of all ages and types, surged down the sawdust trail to the platform at the tabernacle last night to grasp the hand of Billy Sunday and to be enrolled as professing Christians.

It is almost inconceivable that 100% of the people who went forward were considered “saved” because of this “singular act” and “supposed mindset.” Lost in the frenzy was the Biblical teaching of the sovereignty of God and the born-again experience. The terminology “hopeful conversion” was lost by the end of Billy Sunday’s career. Within a 39-year span, “hopeful conversions” were replaced with “x number of people got saved.”

The Roman Road Back to Rome (How Jack Hyles Changed Evangelism)

The Roman Road Back to Rome
Robert Wurtz II

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exodus 19:5 NKJV)

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20 KJV)


In the middle part of the 20th century discerning preachers and writers sounded an alarm that evangelical Christianity was being assaulted by a combination of humanism and what we now know as decisionism. Humanism is an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Decisionism in Christianity is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion. (Theopedia) Decisionism is sometimes referred to as Sandemanianism (Robert Sandeman (1718-1781)  Proponents of this doctrine suggest that justifying faith is a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus Christ, differing in no way in its character from belief in any ordinary testimony.

Paris Reidhead (1919-1992) pointed out that humanism had basically married decisionism to give us modern day Evangelicalism. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), who some have called a prophet to his generation, made similar observations that people were making decisions for Christ based on logical deductions drawn from proof texts. This observation was made in the 1960s. Fast forward to 2015. We have untold numbers of people who claim the name of Christ and have very little understanding or interest in what Jesus talked about in Matthew 28:19-20 where He commanded us to teach all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Not a few verses from Romans; not enough passages and sad stories to secure a “decision;” but  all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

When God got ready to make a covenant agreement with the children of Israel He had the words of the law read to the Israelites no less than three times to insure they were prepared to agree to what God had said. Think about that. Nobody came into that covenant using the methods of what Bill Bright’s wife called a “crackerjack used car salesman.” That’s who Bright used to help train his soul-winners to give a “pitch.” Evangelists are not sales people. When they function and think like sales people they error. God does not want a quick “sign on the bottom line” before you change your mind. God deals with His people little by little just as plays out in the synoptic Gospels. By the end of three years everyone knew if they wanted to be a member of the kingdom of God or not. Jesus never treated anyone as if He had to hurry up and get them saved lest they drop dead unexpectedly. This false notion is one of the reasons why we have so many shallow decisions. Christians think they can make disciples microwave oven style. It doesn’t work and until we get back doing what Jesus told us to do we are going to have almost exclusively carnal, shallow, goats that believe they are sheep.  

God wants His “prospective people” to know what they are getting into. I say prospective because everyone should take time to know the agreement (covenant) before agreeing to it. God is not interested in people agreeing to a few verses, believing their sins are forgiven, and going about their way. God wants His will to be carried out in the lives of His people as His will is carried out in Heaven. Sadly, a man-centered “gospel” has been being preached for over 100 years. The Gospel is all about the happiness of man. Make man happy while he is alive and keep on making him happy in heaven. As Reidhead has so rightly said, this is an appeal to man’s selfishness and it is sin. 

The greatest of all miracles is the new birth, which comes through a supernatural experience. Yet how can people rightly value something they don’t understand? Moreover, how can people understand what they refuse to study? Thanks to a shift in evangelistic emphasis in the second half of the 1800s, multitudes of people grew more concerned with having their sins forgiven than with a true born-again experience. This trend accelerated in the tent revivals of the early 1900s, largely as a consequence of high-speed evangelistic techniques. This is a million miles from go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. 


The Roman Road That Leads Back to Rome



Take the so-called “Roman Road to Salvation” for example. The unsuspecting Christian will receive this teaching as if it was used by Peter and Paul to wins souls. After taking a college level evangelism class, and completing the Billy Graham evangelistic training, I was completely shocked to begin finding out how unbiblical such an approach is. In fact, with each passing day I see the error and destruction of it more clearly. 

America took shape as a nation in the fires of the First Great Awakening, which swept the colonies in the 1730s and ’40s, thanks to the preaching of men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John Wesley (all theologians). Those helping to shape modern evangelism included Charles Finney (a lawyer), Dwight L. Moody (a shoe salesman), and Billy Sunday (a professional baseball player). Ignorance of the New Covenant especially came into vogue through Sunday, who loved to exclaim, “I don’t know any more about theology than a jack-rabbit does about ping-pong, but I’m on the way to glory.” This attitude came to a head in 1948, when east Texas pastor Jack Hyles devised the “Roman Road to Salvation.” Hyles simplified salvation by reducing the entire book of Romans to five verses, teaching generations to come how to “lead someone to faith in Christ through a simple system of proof texts.” 
It is sobering to say, but if obstetricians were as reckless with childbirth as many ministers have been with the new birth, we would likely see unprecedented infant mortality rates. People must be born of the Spirit; there is a right way to preach in order to see that reality take place. Spiritual stillbirth is the primary reason why many supposed believers in Christ have no appetite for the Word of God. They remain in a carnal, or unregenerate, state. To paraphrase Paul, spiritual things remain foolishness to them (see 1 Cor. 2:14). What is the solution? Two verses come to mind:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exodus 19:5 NKJV)

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20 KJV)
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footnotes

Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soul Winning (Mufreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Foundation, 1962), 32. In Mr. Hyles’ own words, 
“By the way, you folks who don’t come on Wednesday
night don’t know this, but about twenty-two years ago, in
a little East Texas Church, I came up with a little plan of presenting the plan of salvation called ‘The Roman Road’ whereby you take Verses contained in Romans and show people how to be saved using Romans 3:10, and Romans 3:23, and Romans 5:12, and Romans 5:8, and on and on. I termed it, ‘The Roman Road,’ and from the ‘Roman Road’
I wrote the little book, ‘Let’s Go Soul Winning.’ Over one hundred and thirty-five thousand copies of that book have been printed. It has been translated into several foreign lan- guages: Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, French, and others, and has literally gone around the world.” From Jack Hyles, 
“There Remaineth Yet Very Much Land to Be Possessed,” http://www.jackhyles.com/muchland.htm (accessed July 18, 2015). 

  

How To Get Forgiveness From God (Homologeo: confessing or acknowledging our sins)

How To Get Forgiveness From God
Robert Wurtz II

And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. (2 Samuel 12:13)

Our passage is a small, but vital part of the story of king David’s sin in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. He had stayed home when the kings went off to war in the house that Hiram the king of Tyre had built for him. (Ezekiel 28:14-19) He wist not that he was being set up of the enemy. The subtle and seemingly insignificant voices and choices of his life had brought David to a baited-snare prepared by the Devil. He saw Bathsheba, called her to his room, and a terrible series of sins ensued. The sordid details of the events are recorded in 2 Samuel 11:1-17.


Obstacles to Confessing

It is human nature to want to cover our sins. Nobody wants to be embarrassed. In modern times exposing peoples’ sins has become a sport. Hardly a week goes by and someone is in the media caught in sin — with millions of people “piling on.” There is a violence in our age that seeks to destroy people. It’s like a diabolic ground and pound is loosed upon the fallen seeking to beat them to pieces. It is Satan at work. I have always marveled at the way in which people can condemn others knowing they have done similar sins. In fact, I attended a court hearing once in which a young man was being charged with a crime. The judged scolded him and ended his rant with this sobering question, “Do you know what the difference is between you and I? You got caught and I didn’t!” With this attitude prevailing in the land it become more difficult by the day to confess our sins when we have done wrong. The Devil works to make each and every person a prisoner to their own past — yet Christ has come to set the captives free. 



I was at a conference a number of years ago and an opportunity was given to share a confession with the people. In fact, it was streaming live all over the world. Feeling pricked in my heart I went up as I have done many times over my Christian life to acknowledge that I was not as perfect as I sometimes projected by my actions. Some brothers prayed with me and others who did likewise. As is typical of these events, there were some who viewed it as an occasion to criticize and condescend. I was quite upset about it and determined to never be vulnerable like that again. However, over the years I have come to realize that the enemy was trying to use this situation (and others like it) to harden my heart before God. Satan does not like it when we are self-loathing (for lack of a better term) and sensitive before the Lord. He wants us to proudly carry on as if we are perfect before God so that the world “will never see us sweat.” Can you imagine how many people were lined up to throw a stone at king David? They may have had two or three mistresses on the side themselves; but if people were then as they are today they would have stoned him with lipstick on their own collar. 

How could a person be so callous that they would send someone to jail for doing the very thing they did — only they didn’t get caught? This, to me, is one of the many reasons why hell is going to be so hot. Like the man forgiven of a fortune Matthew 26:28 who then went and took his neighbor by the throat over a few coins. “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1–3 KJV) In spite of all of these things we have an obligation to confess our sins before the Lord. If our sin is known publically it should be confessed to the extent that it is known. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
(Proverbs 28:13 KJV)   

Cover Up and Denial 

When the “writing is on the wall” and a person still will not own up to their wrong doing — we call that “denial.” It is an ancient sin traced to Cain and his evasive and contemptuous answers when confronted by God. The Lord knows that this is often a human reaction to sin. Cover-up and then deny. It can last for hours, days, weeks and years. It all depends on when the guilty decide to change their mind about their behavior and justify God instead of themselves. All the evidence in the world cannot secure a confession if the person is not prepared to admit. Many variables weigh in on this stubbornness. We simply don’t want to admit that we could do something so dishonorable. 


Convinced of Sin

Nobody likes to be confronted when they are in error. Herod killed John the Baptist because his wife was furious over John’s preaching. She wanted his head in a charger and Herod gave it to her. Paul told the Roman authorities that the Jews sought to kill him because he called them to repentance (Acts 26:19-21). It is safe to say that nobody wants to be confronted with their sins. 

King David was an unusual case because he held the power to kill his accusers. Shockingly, he had already demonstrated he was willing to kill to cover up his sin (i.e. he had Uriah killed). In fact, Joab knew David so well that he anticipated exactly what he would say to the messenger that gave the details of the losses in battle. He armed the messenger with these words, thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. To this David was pleased and replied, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him. Imagine a man that should have been livid at the negligence of one of his leaders actually encouraging him. Joab knew something was up.  

What Did Joab Find? 

It’s hard to imagine how paranoid David had to be. He knew of all people Joab could do simple math. No one is that dumb. And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. How long did this last? No woman would be so shady as to jump right into a marriage before her husband’s bones are even cold in the grave. Some amount of time had to elapse. Even if it were weeks, the clock is ticking and David knows it. He only has roughly nine months before this child is born and he already lost near a month from the time of her cleansing until the discovery of the pregnancy. That means there are eight months before birth at the time of Uriah’s death. 

David had to be sweating bullets. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. (2 Samuel 11:26, 27) David has a problem though, this all looks very suspicious. His own conscience would have smitten him to no end, but he is also living with the daily fear of discovery. What did he say later? “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” (Psalms 32:4 KJV) That is a verse to a song! Could you imagine singing a hymn about being under conviction of the Holy Spirit? Maybe we should do it. 

Uncommon Courage

There is no telling how long David would have gone if he had not been confronted. Had this thing drawn out for years and years he would have become a spiritual zombie. Struggling day to day to scratch out an existence on this earth. He would have lost his cutting edge. What if he had no Prophet? This is the trouble with error, the enemy often puts people in position to ride out their sin until at last they either lose their mind or destroy themselves. The king seemed to have nobody willing to confront him. Who would do it? A close friend? A family member? Not usually. Friends and family are often anything but confrontational, because they fear the loss of the relationship too much to confront a situation. The Jews have a saying, that one of the causes of the ruin of their nation was, “No man reproved another.” (Adam Clarke) This is the strategy of the enemy. How many people thought, “It’s not my place to ask” or “I can’t talk to him!” People are smart enough to know that confronting a person that is not in a place to hear it will often hate them afterwards. Proverbs tells us:

These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment. He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him: But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them. (Proverbs 24:23-25)  

Relationships have the power to corrupt right judgment. In fact, relationships have the power to corrupt our theology. The time would fail to speak of the times I have seen ministers change their theology to agree with their loved ones’ lifestyle. Nevertheless, a friend or family member may well slip down into hell because of fear of addressing their state. Why? Just to save the relationship. It is one of the most common exchanges for souls; relationships. Standing for truth and what is right takes uncommon courage when there is a high price-tag on the line. Nathan the prophet is said by some to be one of the bravest men in all the Bible. David could have killed him. Yet fearlessly, Nathan, who was just a man went to the king. He was a Prophet, but he was still a man. Notice that he did not bring out all the evidence. He had not obtained the letter from Joab or drew up in black and white the fact that the baby was born full-term and yet it was only a seven plus month pregnancy. He did not use anything that David could have explained away. He went in the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. 

Dealing With Sin Under the New Covenant 

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. This is hard to do, but it is the way of Christ (Robertson) The Rev. version ‘shew’ is better than tell, which implies merely naming the fault; whereas the injunction is, go and prove to him how he has erred. Tell him his fault (ἔλεγξον). The verb means, first, to test, try, search out; therefore, to cross-examine with a view of convincing or refuting; thence to rebuke or chide. (Vincent) It seems counter intuitive to Christian manners, but the same Greek construction is found in Titus 1:13b where we read; Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. 

This design is that the person would “hear” and “hearken.” This is to agree with what is said. This is the best case scenario; the person acknowledges what they have done and there is reconciliation. We then read, But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. This is God’s way of applying the pressure to the person so that they are brought face to face with the facts in the case. 

Common sense tells us that if a person has to come to this point, they will probably only acknowledge their offense under pressure and the chance of it being genuine is diminished. It is from here a small step to stage three, And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. This is direction also for what would later come to be known as “church discipline.” However, the principals are still in play. If a person transgresses and does not repent — there is a stoppage of the process. There can be no going forward unless this situation is made right. If the person will not “hear” the church (refuses to hear Gk. parakousēi). Many papyri have examples for ignoring, disregarding, hearing without heeding, hearing aside (para-), hearing amiss (Robertson). what should we do?”… let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:17).  

Agreeing With God

God’s route of forgiveness has never altered. I see this reality in 1 John 1:9 and have the example of David in the Old Testament. Nathan the prophet confronted David by using a simple story to touch his heart. God met him right where he was. The result? And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. There was a point when David was angry at the outcome of the story, but suddenly hears the voice of God in the mouth of Nathan. His reaction? And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. God’s reaction to David’s acknowledgement,  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 

David deserved death, but because he acknowledged his sin, God put away his sin. He would have to face the consequences of his actions, but he was back in a right standing with God. No more running. No more hiding. No more cover-ups, lying, or evading. He confessed; the world knew it; and he could go forward. What a glorious thing! In the writing of Psalm 51 his repentance became as notorious as his sin. As he ran he slowly dried up inside; but he cried out to God and found a faithful God that forgives and puts away sin. God restored the joy of his salvation. Confession; that is, agreeing with what God has said about our sin is the first step back to Him for the sinner or the fallen saint. No matter how difficult it is and no matter how many naysayers line up to throw the first stone, we have to keep our eyes on God. Forget what people think and say. What has God said? If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Amen.

An Offer You "Can" Refuse (Controversy with God)

An Offer You “Can” Refuse
Robert Wurtz II

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:17–23 KJV)




When the rich young ruler came to Jesus he came running. He had a zeal to make Heaven. All indicators were that he wanted to be right with God. However, as Jesus placed His hand upon the controversy that God had with this religious young man, it became evident that he wanted right with God on his own terms. He referred to Jesus as a good teacher (Master) until he heard what Jesus said. We do not call teacher’s “master” today (although it would get interesting throwing the word master in with pastor in a church setting). Nevertheless, Jesus didn’t go in for flattery or vain titles. He did not fraternize either. Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Jesus shot down the blandishments and told the young man the truth. Though he came running to Jesus excited; he walked away from Him sorrowful. This is a sobering case.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. (Mark 10:21)

Many people come to God and make a pretense of repenting of sin — when in reality they have not turned completely to God. They are knowingly holding back a part of themselves. As with the Israelites, so with individuals; “Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1 KJV) As God had a controversy with Israel and Judah, so too, He has a controversy with sinners. What a person does with that controversy will determine whether or not they go on with God. 


Many, even now, have some sin, as did the rich young ruler, which is standing directly between them and God. The minister may not see it, but Christ does. John Wesley comments on this verse saying, “Doubtless for the dawnings of good which he saw in him: and said to him – Out of tender love, One thing thou lackest – The love of God, without which all religion is a dead carcass. In order to this, throw away what is to thee the grand hindrance of it. Give up thy great idol, riches. Go, sell whatsoever thou hast.” Though he had thought he outwardly kept all the commandments — his “god” was his stuff. We must remember that we are not at liberty to pick and choose what sins we repent of. We must repent of anything and everything that God puts His hand on in our life. Sins that place other ‘things’ on the throne of our heart are paramount to idolatry and a violation of the 1st commandment and the great commandment. Anyone or anything that is standing between us and God is an idol — no matter what or who it is. 

A Great Myth of Repentance

Some people are not as cut and dry as was the Rich Young Ruler. They will try to hang around and come to church without any intention of repenting of the controversy they have with God. It would be as if the Rich Young Ruler ignored Jesus’ words, kept his riches, and began following. Because he was innocent of “the obvious sins” he could say to Jesus “all these have I kept from my youth.” He would have gotten past most gate keepers, but he did not get by Jesus. Someday the Lord will separate the sheep from the goats. Why would He have to? Because many have tried to do what I just stated. They ignored the controversy and came on to church because people don’t see their heart state like Jesus does. God has a way of pointing out the idols in the heart. This is what God showed Ezekiel in the first several chapters of his prophecy.   

Richard Owens Roberts wrote a section in his, “Seven myths of Repentance” stating, “When anyone resorts to selective repentance, the tendency is to repent of the glaring matters, the things of which everyone knows he is guilty. There is no potential for selectivity in genuine repentance. Even if someone in your church is caught in adultery and sheds buckets of tears, and makes no self-defense, and admits openly and candidly to an adulterous relationship, it is not necessarily repentance. You have to be sure that the underlying cause of adultery has been turned from, and that cause in most instances is pride. Take as an example, a woman who forsakes her three children and her husband and runs off with a local university professor. When she is confronted by the church, she at first says, “Well, if you knew that beastly fellow I’m married to, you’d understand.” But the church is very earnest in bringing her to repentance and so finally she says, “Well, I admit that I did the wrong thing.” Do we then rejoice? I’d want to get underneath and discover whether she had turned from the pride that made her think she didn’t need to be bound to this miserable man.” People often repent of the ‘symptoms of sin’ but they never repent of sin itself-, which is rebellion against God, and His authoritative word. 

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 

When we are determined to keep our sin there is nothing left to do but to walk away. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking God will overlook our sin. He has already declared how He will judge sin and there is no changing that. Why deceive ourselves? If we hold on to some sin we are trading our soul for it. We are trading an opportunity to have an eternal relationship with God for it. For what? Some fleeting pleasure? Some relationship? Some material thing? Jesus, unlike many ministers, will let you walk away. He wants you to know what you have done so that perchance down the road you may truly repent. it is dangerous to hang around churches that allow damnable sins in the name of “love” and “acceptance.” The story of the Rich Young Ruler is clear. God makes us an offer of forgiveness and eternal life, but it is an offer we can refuse by holding on to our sin.  

Four Basic Attributes of God (ubiquity and Ex-nihilo)

Four Basic Attributes of God
Robert Wurtz II


But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV)

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4–5 NKJV)



Our first passage deals with an important reality that must exist in the heart of every professing Christian; that is, they must sanctify the Lord in their heart. When Peter penned these words, killing Christians was practically a sport. The killing could commence, gain an audience, and the perpetrator(s) would be cheered on. These killings eventually moved to the Roman Coliseum where large crowds attended as if it were a modern-day professional sporting event. This blood-thirsty, murderous nature in he heart of fallen man can strike fear in those who are subject to it’s pitiless, merciless, diabolical rage. The solution? Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready.

God has to have the ultimate place in our hearts. He must be sanctified in us in such a way that we have what is commonly called, “the fear of the Lord.” People who do not fear God do not sanctify Him in their hearts. As shocking as it may sound, He may as well be their favorite super hero. That’s about the level of fear and reverence some people have for the Lord. 

The Fear of God

There are some verses in the Bible that are so hard to dance around that even the most robust theological libraries struggle to find significant comments on them. Luke 12:4-5 is one such passage. The commentators who do speak to the verse work overtime to blunt the edge of what common sense makes perfectly clear. First, Jesus was not talking to His enemies, but to His friends. Second, bear in mind that the same Greek word for fear (phobeo) is used throughout. Lets look at the number of times fear is used: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” 

Most people being helplessly killed by someone would have a tendency to submit to that person in order to stay alive. This is common sense. They do it out of phobeo (from whence we get our English word phobia). There is no sense in starting up the music and dancing around this verse like the NIBC does for example; suggesting that phobeo means “to hold in respect.” In 2015 the word respect means to hold in deep admiration. The Lord had respect unto Abel’s offering. Is this how we are to view one who can kill us and then cast us into hell for all eternity? Clearly someone is in denial.


Adam Clarke once said, “A man has but one life to lose, and one soul to save; and it is madness to sacrifice the salvation of the soul to the preservation of the life.” Moreover, “God is to be feared more than the most powerful men: “I will forewarn you whom you shall fear (v. 5): that you may fear man less, fear God more. Moses conquers his fear of the wrath of the king, by having an eye to him that is invisible. By owning Christ you may incur the wrath of men, which can reach no further than to put you to death (and without God’s permission they cannot do that); but by denying Christ, and disowning him, you will incur the wrath of God, which has power to send you to hell, and there is no resisting it. Now of two evils the less is to be chosen, and the greater is to be dreaded, and therefore I say unto you, Fear him.” “It is true,” said that blessed martyr, Bishop Hooper, “life is sweet, and death bitter; but eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death more bitter.” (Matthew Henry)   

With these things in mind I wish to consider four important things about God that may help us understand better who He is.   

1. GOD IS OMNIPOTENT

The word omnipotent (omni-potent) simply means – all powerful or possessing unlimited power. Actually, God is the source of all power. The word power can be defined as – “to be able” or “to have the ability to do.” In terms of both energy and authority, God is the source of all of it. In fact, when Jesus was being crucified He told the Romans, You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin. (John 19:11 NKJV) If something has energy it was received from God; if someone is in authority they received that authority from God too. (Romans 13:1) As it is written… For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it (1 Corinthians 4:7)? God is the supplier and we are the recipients. 


On a practical level, authority is sometimes measured by the reaction to a command that one in authority gave. T
he faster the order is carried out, the greater the perceived authority. In Genesis 1 and 2 God spoke the universe into existence in demonstration of power and authority. The fact that it happened instantly is a testament to the authority of God. In Matthew 8:8 the Roman centurion told Jesus “just speak the word.” Why? It was his own personal understanding of authority. Jesus commended him for his faith. Moreover, when Jesus commanded the winds and waves to obey Him, the disciples questioned how a man could possess such authority. the time would fail to list the many examples.

Power and authority are symbolized in scripture through various metaphors such as horns and keys. In Revelation, Jesus, the Lamb, is said to have seven horns and seven eyes. This is perfect power and perfect revelation.


2. GOD IS OMNIPRESENT

The word omnipresent simply means that God is everywhere and at all times. God is transcendent of His creation. Omnipresence is sometimes called ubiquity. Though God is present in all places at once, it does not mean that all substance contains God. In other words, matter itself is not God. God transcends the creation. Moreover, God manifests Himself uniquely in certain places and not in others. 

Remember, God is transcendent of the creation, which means that God exists apart from the material universe. While being separate from the creation, God is still present everywhere in the creation (immanent or existing within). An example of error would be to hug a tree thinking you were hugging God or to partake of the Eucharist in Catholic services thinking you were literally consuming Christ’s body. God exists in the creation, but He and the creation and separate.

There is literally no place to hide from God. David asked, Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:7-10). This is good for the believer, but bad for the unbeliever. As it is also written, Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD (Jeremiah 23:24) and again, And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them: And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good (Amos 9:3-4) And again, And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:15-16).

3. GOD IS OMNISCIENT

Omniscient simply means all-knowing. God knows everything that can be known: past, present, and future. There is nothing that God does not know. God is more than omniscient, He is the source of true knowledge and wisdom. Understand that wisdom is the ability to use knowledge. Just as wisdom is broken down into earthly, sensual, and demonic on one side, and the wisdom from God, above, etc. on the other side; so knowledge can be broken down into truth and lies. What God considers as truth is unchangable, because God does not change. 

Truth is absolute according to the Bible and is not relative as the world teaches. Satan is the father of lies. He has taken his knowledge of truth and twisted it to make everything from deception to damnable lies. He authors blasphemies and heresies by twisting truth into falsehood. He cannot create things ex-nihilo (out of nothing), so he takes what God has given him and fabricates lies and deception from the “raw materials.” 

Satan has limited power and limited knowledge. God has unlimited power and unlimited knowledge. Satan cannot increase in power unless God were to give him more power, and that because the only power he has is what he has received from God. He cannot register a blip on God’s radar screen unless God wants him to. What gives Satan his “power” is when people submit to him and grant him authority over us. He cannot control a believer, but he can deceive them into yielding to him. That is where Satan is powerful; he deceives people into doing his will.

4. GOD IS SOVEREIGN

Because God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient- He is Sovereign. The word literally means superior to all others in power and authority. God is the highest degree and He is supreme. God is the final authority: there is no more appeal. His counsel is immutable[6]. It is impossible for God to lie. His prophetic word will come to pass.[7] None can stay His hand ir require an answer from Him. He rules and reigns in the affairs of men and gives the kingdoms of this world to whosoever He pleases. 

Nebuchadnezzar learned these things the hard-way, spending years in a pitiful pasture grazing as a wild animal only to find himself submitting to the God he once marginalized. In his own words, “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?[8]” 

Summary

Whether people acknowledge it or not, God is worthy of being feared. Sadly, many Christians fear the concept of the fear of God than they fear God Himself. This is a characteristic of modern-day Christianity that one struggles to find in older writings. It’s as if believers are afraid that people will actually fear God. However, a careful examination of the New Testament demonstrates that God’s love and the fear of God are about equal in their presentation. Do we have this balance in modern times? No, we have a generation that typically lauds “unconditional love” a concept that has no place in scripture. The old-timers would say, “we have gone to seed on love.” Nevertheless, the Bible sheds a lot of light on our concepts of God. We do well to consider these things in this crisis hour.  


__________________________________

[1] For example, God heals but total healing will not be seen until we are resurrected.

[2] Compare 2 Corinthians 1:20-21, Acts 10:38 and Daniel 11:32-33.

[3] Matthew 16:18-19

[4] Luke 5:21-24

[5] 2 Corinthians 5:20, 1 John 2:12, Colossians 2:13-14, James 5:15, Acts 11:14, Romans 5:9, etc.

[6] Hebrews 6:17

[7] Isaiah 55:11

[8] Daniel 4:34-35

What God Wants Remembered (Book of Remembrance)

What God Wants Remembered
Robert Wurtz II

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. (Malachi 3:16–18 KJV)

Reading the Bible casts a tremendous amount of light upon what many people believe is Christianity. Take Malachi 3:16–18 for example. If I didn’t know better, I would think that some believers esteem it a virtue to be able to exist in this present evil world unvexed by the evil things they see happening. We should just take it quietly and never raise any kind of fuss or complain. Yet here is God ordering a book of remembrance to be made of the people who feared the LORD and spake often one to another concerning the blasphemous ways the people were acting. In the language of Peter, their righteous souls were vexed from day to day by the unlawful deeds of the wicked. God saw it in Lot; He saw it in the people in Malichi’s day; and He notices it now. 

Notice our first statement, Then they that feared the LORD…” This is the key. The fact that these Israelites feared God manifested in their speaking to one another about the craziness that was going on around them. “They strengthened themselves in their faith in Jehovah, as the holy God and just Judge who would in due time repay both the wicked and the righteous according to their deeds, and thus presented a great contrast to the great mass with their blasphemous sayings. This description of the conduct of the godly is an indirect admonition to the people, as to what their attitude towards God ought to be. What was done by those who feared Jehovah ought to be taken as a model by the whole nation which called Jehovah its God. Jehovah not only took notice of these conversations, but had them written in a book of remembrance, to reward them for them in due time.”

(Keil and Delitzsch)

Moreover, God took the whole event a step further. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. The behavior exhibited by these godly Israelites was such that God wanted them thought of as sons. That is to say, they had a zeal for God as a son would have for His own father. This is a powerful truth. The Hebrew word translated as “jewels” is translated otherwise as “treasure.” God treasures those who have a zeal for Him in this darkened, evil world.

Photo Richard Lyons courtesy South Australian Museum

In 2003 a man in Australia unearthed, cleaned up and polished what has come to be known as the Virgin Rainbow. It is the most beautiful Opal in the world. Valued at roughly $1,000,000 it will go on display in a museum for the first time ever. “That opal actually glows in the dark,” museum director Brian Oldman told ABC North and West SA. “The darker the light, the more color comes out of it. It’s unbelievable.” This gem reminds me of Malachi 3:17. Perhaps this is akin to what God sees when He finds a saint(s) with a zeal for him in this dark world. People who have to talk among themselves just to be able to cope with all the madness that goes on. 

What is more sobering is the last verse, Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”  How did they distinguish themselves? What was their character? “It was the reverse of theirs that spoke so much against God; for they feared the Lord—that is the beginning of wisdom and the root of all religion; they reverenced the majesty of God, submitted to his authority, and had a dread of his wrath in all they thought and said; they humbly complied with God, and never spoke any stout words against him. In every age there has been a remnant that feared the Lord, though sometimes but a little remnant.” (Matthew Henry)

Sometimes it is hard to know who is and who is not truly serving the Lord. At the bar of Christ, in the last judgment, it will be easy to discern between the righteous and the wicked; for then every man’s character will be both perfected and perfectly discovered, every man will then appear in his true colours, and his disguises will be taken off. Some men’s sins indeed go beforehand, and you may now tell who is wicked, but others follow after; however, in the great day, we shall see who was righteous and who wicked.” (M.H. ibid)

Someday it will be easy to determine who is who. All of our false notions and misconceptions will be done away with. Moreover, we will see God as He is — from from the mischaracterizations leveled upon Him by this present evil world. In an age when men call good evil and evil good — it can be tough to know who is truly doing right. Are the people who go on living among sin as if it’s business as usual the true saints or is it the people who are vexed bad enough to have to talk to brothers and sisters about it? Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

Proving God’s Perfect Will (Deo volente or "DV")

Proving God’s Perfect Will
Robert Wurtz II

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

God’s will is the perfect will simply because it cannot be improved upon. A wise old preacher once said that, “A good wit can dispute and distinguish about the will of God; while an honest, humble heart, that has spiritual senses exercised, and is delivered into the mold of the word (not the world), loves it, and practises it, and has the relish and savour of it.” This was the attitude of the Lord Jesus. His “meat” was to do the will of the Father. (John 4:34) In fact, He employed the food motif first when He stated categorically when talking to Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

Deo volente or “DV” (as it is commonly expressed), is a Latin term that means “God willing.” It reflects back to biblical prohibitions against the sin of presumption. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:15 NKJV) James reminds us of the central position of God’s will in the life of a Christian. We don’t even know that tomorrow will come and we must always consciously beware that God is sovereign in all things. That is to say, we acknowledge God’s right to maintain supreme rule in our lives — including matters of life and death.

Diabolic Detours 

Understand that when people are bent on doing their own will  nothing will change their mind. It is useless arguing with them. Human beings have made a life of rebelling against what they know to be God’s will. Moreover, many people (even Christians) will give lip-service to the importance to doing God’s will until that will conflicts with their own. However, the spiritual person not only seeks to prove (rightly discern and obey) God’s will, but will always encourage others to do likewise. This is what James did, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills…” A spiritual person should never (underline the word never) encourage you to disobey what you perceive to be God’s will. If what you are about to do is in compliance with God’s word, and you feel strongly that some certain thing is God’s will, you ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29) 

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. (James 3:14–15 NKJV)

 
The carnal man generally lives for the moment and fears the future because of that. Satan exploits these traits. As a result, decisions are often made on the basis of carnal factors that are not of God. Moreover, the first question that any Christian should ask before making any decision is, “what is God’s will in this matter?” “What does God’s word teach?” “What is His Spirit leading me to do?” Jesus is pictured with seven eyes in the book of Revelation. This is perfect perception and knowledge. He knows the problem and He knows the solution. He knows the future and he knows what is the mind of God. He understands the workings of God’s will on the earth. Nothings escapes His eyes.Nothing takes Him by surprise. This is why we lean on His understanding and guidance and not our own or others.

Carnality in Decision Making   

The world makes decisions based on their emotions, lusts, pet-peeves, what’s trending, and a host of other things. No person can prove God’s perfect will making decisions on that basis. It is impossible. We cannot approve things that are holy, godly, excellent (Philippians 1:10), etc. when employing substandard criteria for decision making. Christians must be moving in an unbiased — unprejudiced judgment concerning the things of God if they are ever to prove God’s will. God often challenges conventional wisdom with His perfect will. 


Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (1 Corinthians 1:20 NKJV) Answer: yes! In fact, it is impossible to prove God’s perfect will when employing the methodology of fools. That’s what the wisdom of this world is, foolishness. When we make decisions based upon any other factor than a desire to do God’s perfect will we are moving in foolishness. And there are going to be consequences. A Craig Caster has rightly said, “Man can never improve upon God’s perfect will, only destroy it.” When man gets in the way of God’s will, leaning upon his/her own understanding, the consequence is sure to be disaster. Those who meddle in God’s business are sure to give an account to Him. If you have been guilty of this, don’t delay! Repent and go to the person(s) and confess the sin. Perchance God will forgive the sin and remedy the damage. 


For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (1 Corinthians 3:19 KJV emphasis added)


Sometimes it’s hard to do God’s will because of the craftiness (Gk. panourgian) of people who are bent on their own self-will. The religious leaders used craftiness (panourgian) to try to trip Jesus up. He asked them, “Why do you tempt me?” (Luke 20:23) Satan is said to have used craftiness (panourgian) to deceive Eve (2 Cor. 11:2). Paul used the word once again to describe how men use “cunning craftiness” to lie in wait to deceive vulnerable believers. (Eph. 4:13) 


Satan the Scandalon



When Jesus was about to do God’s will and die on the cross for our sins, Peter took Him and rebuked him. (Matthew 16:22) But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23 NKJV) The Greek word for offense is skandalon. A better translation would be not “thou art an offense” but “thou art in my way!” (Vincent) Peter went from being a “rock” Jesus could use to build the church to Peter the stumbling stone. that is shocking! And it all related to doing or not doing God’s will and how we encourage or discourage folks in that area. He was setting a trap to cause him to miss God’s will. The voice of Satan was in Peter’s mouth at that moment. How can this be? Satan filled Ananias and Sapphira’s heart and he can fill a Christian’s mouth. The human heart can be very deceitful without any help from Satan. (Jer. 17:9) People can be deceitful. Christians can be deceitful. Leaders can be deceitful. Preachers can be deceitful. Believe it or not, even Prophets can be deceitful.

“And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the LORD, “You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’ “He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ” (He was lying to him.)”

(1 Kings 13:16–18 NKJV)

An old prophet used his influence to lie to the man of God. We are not told why. The result was the man of God obeyed the voice of the prophet rather than obeying what he knew was God’s word to him. He had direct orders from God and should have obeyed them. He believed the lie instead and was killed as a result. “The conduct of the old prophet at Bethel appears so strange, that Josephus and the Chaldeans, and most of the Rabbis and the earlier commentators both Catholic and Protestant, have regarded him as a false prophet, who tried to lay a trap for the prophet from Judah, in order to counteract the effect of his prophecy upon the king and the people. But this assumption cannot be reconciled with either the divine revelation which came to him at the table, announcing to the Judaean prophet the punishment of his transgression of the commandment of God, and was so speedily fulfilled (1 Kings 13:20-24); or with the honour which he paid to the dead man after this punishment had fallen upon him, by burying him in his own grave; and still less with his confirmation of his declaration concerning the altar at Bethel (1 Kings 13:29-32).” (Keil and Delitzsch) 

The story is written for our example and is a solemn warning. We are to obey God rather than men — no matter who that man may be. The prophet tried to use his influence just as many deceivers do in our time. Our responsibility is to obey what God has said to us or be prepared to suffer the consequences. It may not always be death by a wild beast, but we can rest assured that there will be some consequence.  

It’s not uncommon for people to withhold their true thoughts and feelings about things when they try to influence you to disobey God. Moreover, they will generally “beguile you” by craftiness — undermining what God has said to you. “Hath God really said?” You will recall that I mentioned earlier that this is what Satan did to Eve. Nor is it uncommon for men to try and manipulate situations to achieve their own will. This is what the lying prophet did. God does not tell us “why” the prophet lied because the “why” is not important. The fact is, the man of God’s first responsibility is to obey God. End of discussion. 


Some deceivers may even sound “spiritual” when they are talking to you. “I too am a prophet…” Some of these charlatans are self-deceived legends in their own minds. They have confused their deluded counsel for the counsel of God. In fact, Paul tells us that God will someday reveal the hidden counsels of the hearts. This means that God will reveal why the prophet lied to his comrade and got him killed. We never know what peoples’ real motivations are. One thing is certain, when people seek to trump God’s will with their own wisdom He will take them in their own craftiness. The sobering thing is, if you obey them rather than God you will suffer with them. And if perchance God’s will has been thwarted by the actions of men, and it seem they have avoided judgment on earth, we have this promise; For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. (Luke 8:17–18 NKJV) God is going to deal with everyone and everything that sought to frustrate His will on the earth — regardless of their motives. The fact remains that they put their will in place of God’s, and are to be held accountable for it by Him.  

If someone is challenging God’s will in your life, you are probably in a spiritual battle with the Devil who is trying to challenge God’s plans. That doesnt require special discernment; it’s common sense based on James 3:14-15. A person who is “self-seeking” will utilize earthly strategies and possibly demonic influence to thwart God’s perfect will. In an age where carnality is as rife as it is today among people who purport to be spiritual and even “prophetic”; it behooves us to have a settled attitude that we are going to obey God no matter who challenges it

Cut the people out of your life if necessary and wipe the dust off of your feet if they are bent on thwarting God’s will. Don’t miss God to please people. They are not your friend they are your enemy. I don’t care how many “earthly, sensual, and demonic” arguments they volley into your life — cut them off and obey God. The time would fail to list examples from the Bible of people who were rejected of God because they caved to the pressure of people. No person is worthy of your time who seeks to steer you away from God’s will. Deceivers will not advocate for you on the day of judgment — nor will their treacherous ways pass muster in the court of heaven. Fear the Lord — not men. That is the reasonable thing to do knowing that we are all (at best) just years from the great judgment.  

The Lord of the Harvest (ekballo)

The Lord of the Harvest
Robert Wurtz II
After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. (Luke 10:1-2)


The field and harvest motif is a metaphor for the billions of people in the world who are in need of salvation. It is a great (plentiful and abundant) “harvest” of people being brought into the kingdom through the ministry of the Gospel. Some scholars such as Adam Clarke tell us that it was customary for teachers in the 1st century to be referred to as “reapers” and the students as the “harvest.” As with any harvesting, the process involves labor. You will notice that our Lord gives instruction to those who see the vastness of the Harvest that he would send forth laborers. The picture is not of the Lord of the harvest creating new laborers, but exercising His authority in sending forth the laborers He has already chosen to be in His service. 
An Abundant Harvest
I read recently a quote that suggested that credentials are not the key to leadership: concern is. Many are called to the ministry, but have no urgency to prepare themselves to get about the work. the era of “quick fix” and “instant” everything, has robbed multitudes of the patience and fortitude they need to truly get prepared. 

If one were to listen to the mainstream media one would likely conclude that sinners are always hostile towards God and hasten to reject the Gospel message. Although this may be true for many, it is not the case for everyone. I suggest that there are many people who desire to believe, but there are few who desire to labor. Ministry is work. Ministry requires that we set aside our own will to perform God’s will. This is where the problem lies. God has not called just a handful of people to work in the fields, He has called all of His people to the work in some way. Everyone has a part to play. 
Drive Them Out!
Our English translation doesn’t rightly capture the urgency of the situation when it translates the Greek word ekballo as “send forth.” The word literally means to eject, drive out, cast forth, etc. It comes from a root that means “to throw.” It is the same word used to describe how Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness and in numerous places to describe casting out devils or casting a person into hell. I don’t think it an imposition on the text to say that we are to pray that the Lord would order the laborers out into the fields as would a manager or an owner order his workers to do a job. This is not a passive and optional request, but a direct order. Souls are in danger. Even earthly harvests must be performed in a reasonable time or they whole thing can be lost.  
Preachers Only?
We are all called to minster before the Lord. The New Testament applies to all Christians — not just the ministers. What says the scripture:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). 
In the Old Testament only certain people could do certain things. The priests had the service of the Lord. In the New Testament the regenerate are a kingdom of priests who wait upon the Lord. We can all wait upon the Lord with a readiness to go where He wants us to go and say what He wants us to say (as the old hymn goes).  Whatever the Lord lays on our heart to do we can and we mustdo. Not all are called to be preachers or teachers, but all are called to service. Everyone can share the Gospel or give their testimony. In fact, one of the greatest “sermons” ever preached was not delivered by a well polished preacher, but by a hard working deacon (Acts 6).
Full of Grace and Power
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. (Acts 6:8-10)
Here is a man waiting on tables and doing miracles. He set his heart to do whatever God called him to do, and before he knew what happened, he had the full attention of the Devil. Obviously, Stephen was speaking truth to the people and God was confirming it with signs and wonders. He didn’t have a platform or a microphone. He must have been just casually sharing what he understood to be true. He was not a theologian, scribe or pharisee as best as we know. He was a common man full of the Spirit and faith. He was willing to be used of God. In fact, I believe he walked so close to God that ministry was natural to him. It was part of the overflow of his relationship with God.
License Not Needed
Some people mistakenly believe that you have to have “credentials” to minister. This is not the case. We need to be prepared with the fullness of the truth of the New Covenant, but credentials are not necessary. They are an innovation of men. Licensing is useful for the purpose of establishing a persons’ qualifications before governments and strangers. Stephen had no license, neither did Jesus, Peter, Luke, James, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul or all the rest. That is not to say that “credentials” are not helpful, because in some cases they are. Nevertheless, in the vast number of opportunities to share the Gospel or minister in some capacity — a license is not needed, even for the people that possess them. Thesefore, “non-licensed” cannot be used as an excuse to inactivity.
Summary

If we are born of God and full of the Holy Spirit, God can use us no matter who we are. He has our “spot” picked out. We must draw near to Him as did Stephen and the Apostles and simply be a child of God. Stand before the Lord. Be available to Him. The Christian life doesn’t have to be a choreographed performance. We are not entertainers! We must focus on being a Christian who loves God and worships God.

I have sometimes said, “If we will spend time in prayer and in the word of God — ministry will find us!” The enemy puts those who are full of the Holy Ghost and faith at the top of his hit list. We need to hear the voice of God sending forth His people. I’m reminded of the great question in Isaiah, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:1ff) With more people on earth than has ever been there is no shortage of ministry work. May we step forward without hesitation as we hear and answer the Lord with a heart-felt, “Here am I Lord, send me!”

Living With Regret (Charlie Peace)

Living With Regret
Robert Wurtz II

For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:17)

Our passage calls to remembrance the story of Jacob and Esau, twin brothers from the book of Genesis (beginnings). Though Esau was the oldest, he unconscionably sold the precious birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup. At the time he didn’t think much about what he had done. In fact, he figured on getting the birthright anyway as if he had never despised it by selling it. Not so. Jacob and his mother tricked Isaac into pronouncing the blessing on Jacob — while Esau was out in the field hunting. When he returned home he was horrified to discover that his father had irrevocably pronounced the precious birthright on his brother Jacob. Hebrews 12:17 reminds us of this event, telling us that for one morsel of food (one act of eating) Esau sold his birthright. As we still say today, “it was all over but the crying.” For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. 

There are some things that forgiveness cannot undo — that tears cannot reverse. Esau probably never thought about the long-term consequences of his actions. However, his attitude towards his birthright was merely a symptom of a systemic problem. He was a profane man according to Hebrews 12:16, the previous verse. This speaks to his character. He had a tendency to treat holy things as common. This is the meaning of profane — to trod under foot as commonplace. Not everything in life is commonplace. Some things should be regarded as holy and sacred. Esau traded a unique relationship with God for a single meal. Is there any wonder we read these solemn words, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Romans 9:13b NKJV) Theologians will argue until eternity whether or not the full force of hate is implied in this verse. Nevertheless, one thing is certain; there was a time when Esau hated Jacob for what had happened and determined to kill him. He failed to understand that it was his own attitude towards his relationship with God that was the problem, not Jacob. 

Regret

A few years ago a video clip made the usual rounds on social media entitled, “Regret.” It was comprised of a couple scenes from the war movie Saving Private Ryan. In it the medic is seen sitting in a cold abandoned house with his comrades, sharing a heart-rending story about his youth. It happens that as a teen, his mother would come to his room to check on him and say “good night” or “just talk for a minute.” Rather than responding to her at the door he pretended to be asleep. She would quietly close the door and go on to bed. Now he was overseas fighting in a war wondering how he could have done that. The video changes scenes to a firefight in which this same young man has just been shot by a high-powered rifle in the abdomen. He, being the medic, tried to instruct the men on stopping the bleeding. All they could do is give him morphine. The video ends with this young man going out into eternity crying for his mother. 

It has been said that only a fool learns from his own mistakes when he/she could have learned from someone else’s. Although it is secular, the video titled “Regret” is a sobering reminder not to do foolish things that cannot be undone. Like Esau who trod under foot his relationship with God — at the time it didn’t seem like a “big deal.” Yet all she wanted was a little conversation with her beloved son. He was passing up a precious opportunity. In the end he found no place of repentance though he too sought it diligently with tears. There was simply no way to go back and say, “mom, I’m sorry.” The time for making mends is while there is hope — not after all hope is gone. If we play the fool, we will live with the consequences. 

Charlie Peace

Charlie Peace (1832-1879) was a notorious criminal in England many decades ago. He was a vile man who murdered a police officer and even his neighbor to take his wife. He burglarized homes and eventually fled as a fugitive with 100 pounds on his head. Finally, the police caught up with him. Sentencing him to be hanged he took his last meal and headed to the gallows. He was escorted on the death-walk by the prison chaplain, who was reading aloud from The Consolations of Religion about the fires of hell. Peace burst out “Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worth while living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!” This was Peace’s last chance to make peace with God and yet he voided the opportunity. 



The broken glass motif, in some ways, has come to symbolize how desperate one can be trying to accomplish an important task. Walk on broken glass to save souls? Undoubtedly he would probably walk a million miles on broken glass if he could go back and reconsider the opportunity he had to be saved from his sin. It was all talk in the moment, but now he is living with eternal regret. There is no way he can go back and change his decision. While professing a willingness to trod England bare foot on broken glass he was trodding under foot his own soul’s salvation. This is what it is to be a profane person. 

What about now? What about us? Is there something we need to do right now while we have opportunity? Before we ever trade our “birthright” for a single meal; before we ever ignore our mother as she passes by our room; before we fill a sinner’s grave we can learn from these and a million other like stories and spare ourselves a lifetime or an eternity of regret.   

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