The Whole Counsel of God

The Whole Counsel of God

Robert Wurtz II

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). 

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:26–27 KJV)

There is hardly a day that goes by without news of Christians being backed into a corner someplace. The forces of hell work feverously to put a stop to the message of the Gospel and few seem to know what the solution is. Something is missing. We are inundated with technology and talent. We are moved by the pithy sayings of smooth talking hipsters and stupefied by endless – meaningless drivel that masquerades as “preaching.” While the world is growing darker by the day and becoming increasingly intolerant of what the NT calls “sound doctrine” — we are being pushed to a precipice in which our only option is going to be to surrender or charge!         

The church of the book of Acts had no trouble knowing what to do or what to preach in these situations. In fact, some of the most straight-forward preaching known to man comes right from the pages of the book of Acts. They met the people where they were in their heart and understanding. Not a single soul heard a seeker-friendly, preacher-safety, message like we hear today, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That message may be safe to preach, but it rarely saves anybody. If it does “save” someone they typically end up being the type of believer that thinks that real preaching is harsh and that calling sin -SIN is judging people. Can you see the kind of mess that’s been made?

When Peter stood up and preached in the book of Acts he told the people like it is. He knew what to say and he had the boldness to say it. It was not his words and it was not his boldness. When he received the Holy Spirit, he went from a man who cowered down to a woman who asked about his relationship to Christ — to a man who could face a firing squad for Jesus. He was a preacher of the Gospel and that Gospel contained the whole counsel of God. This means that he left nothing out. He called sin -SIN and he called the people to repentance and faith.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:38–42 NKJV)

Micah the Moreshite prophet preaching to the Israelites

Peter first called the people to change their mind and come into agreement with God about everything He has revealed. This is the part where the crowd gets angry. This is the part where the preacher takes his life into his own hands. Anybody can preach gentle Jesus meek and mild, but people have got to repent. They have got to come into agreement with God or there is no way forward. We may as well pack up and go home if we won’t preach repentance. Some will gladly receive the word and some will angrily reject it. Whether its the proclamation, the teaching, or the good news… (kerygma, didache, or evangelica), the fundamental revelation is to repent, believe the Gospel, and receive the Holy Spirit.

When Paul was leaving Ephesus he reminded the leaders concerning the content of his ministry. He told them plainly, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27 KJV). This is a flashback to Ezekiel when God told the prophet to warn the people or that their blood would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8). Paul had been warned repeatedly that when he arrived at Jerusalem that chains and afflictions awaited him. Yet he still pressed forward and continued to preach to everyone until he was free from their blood upon his hands. He died in Rome under Nero — who obviously was not trying to hear his message.

In the face of demons and danger, Peter and the disciples knew that they needed supernatural power to proclaim the truth in a world that will not put up with it. We can echo with him the words, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). This is what we need today. First, we need to know and preach the full counsel of God. Secondly, we need the BOLDNESS to preach it without fear or favor.  They didn’t pray to preach in love or peace because they already had those fruit of the Spirit in their lives. What happened?     

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31 NKJV)

Faith in the Fire

Robert Wurtz II

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6–9 NKJV)

If there is one thing that is certain about our Christian faith, sooner or later it is going to be tested. God has ordained for this to be and it is as sure as the Sun rising in the morning. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that God shakes everything that can be shaken so that the things that cannot be shaken will remain (Heb. 12:27). Haggai 2:6 promises that, when it is time for the final judgment and the end of this age, God will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. All that will remain is what cannot be shaken, namely the kingdom that Christ shares with those who continue to trust in Him (IVP/NBC).

Our passage in 1 Peter 1:6-9 contains a phrase that reveals two types of faith. Peter speaks of the “genuineness of your faith” and by implication, there must likewise be a counterfeit faith. The genuine type of faith is more precious than gold, leading to the salvation of the soul. Counterfeit faith is less than worthless because it masquerades as the genuine article — soliciting the trust of all who encounter it. Like counterfeit currency that is discovered at the time of payment, counterfeit faith ends in misplaced confidence.  What a let-down!

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12–13 NKJV)

Peter tells us to not be surprised or astounded when the fiery trial comes as though something strange is happening. As dreadful as it is, it is perfectly normal. Some of the oldest and most provoking stories in the Bible deal with sufferings and trials. God uses fiery trials for a multitude of reasons. Yet suffering is always used by our opportunistic enemy to bring doubt. Job’s wife caved in and told him to “curse God and die” when he had lost everything and was covered in boils. She failed the test — though he passed with flying colors.

image description

Trials are often extreme tests of faith. In fact, Peter uses a Greek word for fiery that could be translated as a furnace. We find it in Proverbs 27:21 related to the smelting of metals. What is happening? Our faith is being tested. Keep in mind that the original readers of Peter’s words were under extreme persecution. The KJV does not give the sense of the present tense as it is in the Greek (is trying you) but implies some future event (is to try you). However, Christians were already in the furnace (as it were) as Nero is said to have killed Christians for sport. This was on top of all of the ordinary trials of life that result from the fall of man (death, disease, etc.). Christians were tied to long poles, dipped in pitch, set ablaze and raised to be street lamps during the night. That was a very literal fiery trial. There were other unconscionable tortures employed as well. Most people will never experience anything so gruesome. Yet more or less we are all going to be tested in this world.

Finally, notice again what Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials…” The AV (KJV) has the rendering, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” The Holy Spirit, through Peter, wants us to know that in light of eternity the “various trials” are only a “little while” or “for a season.” When the trials finally end and we pass from this life we have all of eternity to rejoice that our faith withstood the test, purified in a furnace, resulting in the salvation of our soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sweet Smelling Aroma

Robert Wurtz II

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:1–2 NKJV)

Our passage is one of many examples of Paul explaining some mysteries of the OT priesthood (temple cultus). The concept of a “sweet-smelling aroma” is introduced in Genesis 8:21 when Noah offered of his flocks a burnt offering. It is taken up again in Exodus 29, Leviticus chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 17, 23, 26, etc. The examples in Exodus and Leviticus are more interesting because those burnt offerings were carried out with the sacred fire that God kindled from heaven. This fire was to be used exclusively for the lampstand, altar of incense, brazen altar, and the preparation of the shewbread. What was God teaching us in the OT and how does that relate to Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:1-2?

The Tabernacle

The context of Ephesians 5:1-2 deals with our responsibility to imitate the kind of love that God expresses. That love, in one sense, is the antitype of the sacred fire that the priests were commanded to use in the OT. When the sacrifices were offered using the sacred fire they were a sweet-smelling aroma to God. When Jesus offered Himself for our sins, His offering was also a sweet-smelling aroma to God. Why? Because His offering was presented in the sacred fire of the love of God. It is this reality that we are to imitate.

You will recall that Nadab and Abihu decided to offer common fire to the LORD and were struck dead. It is believed that they were intoxicated at the time because immediately afterward the priests were issued prohibitions concerning intoxicating drink (Lev. 10:9). Likewise, Paul adds later in Ephesians chapter 5, And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18 NKJV). Not only does alcohol alter our judgment, it tends to ungodly lust rather than godly love.

There are two other occasions that come to mind as it relates to offerings as Christians. In Romans 12:1-2 were are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices — holy and acceptable unto the Lord. This is a picture of a living burnt offering. The love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) and thus we are enabled to offer ourselves to God as a sweet aroma. All that we do, motivated and energized by the love of God, produces an acceptable offering to the Lord. Any other motivation or energy source (as it were) is as strange fire to the Lord. It is simply not acceptable to Him.

Secondly, we have in Philippians:

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18 NKJV)

Here we have an example of an offering being given to Paul out of love. How do we know? Because it was a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. This agrees with Paul’s words to the Corinthians on love — which reveal the necessity of love in all that we do. What does it matter if we gave ALL of our goods to the poor if we did not offer them in love? So on and so forth.

In Revelation chapter 2 we have the Ephesians in a state where they had left their first love. Jesus informed them that unless they returned to their first love, He would remove their lampstand. Why? Because godly love is (in one sense) the antitype of the sacred fire of God. When the fire goes out — ministry cannot go forward. What use is a lampstand in a darkened room once the flame is extinguished? It’s just one more thing to stumble over in the darkness. So it is with a Christian and a Church. No matter what we do — if we are devoid of God’s love — we are nothing.

So we see then, that the key to presenting God with an acceptable offering is to do so in the love of God. That love — that fire — must be the energy source and motivation behind all that we do in ministry. When it is present… our labors and offerings are a sweet-smelling aroma unto Him. This is a major key to acceptable ministry.

 

 

 

 

 

Redeeming the Time

Robert Wurtz II

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16 NKJV)

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Col. 4:5 ESV)

Walk in wisdom towards those without, redeeming opportunities. (Col. 4:5 Darby)

Our passages offer great insight into Paul’s approach to the Christian life and ministry. In Eph. 5:15-16, he does not use the Greek word chronos (time) in this verse, but kairos (opportunity).  This is significant because Paul wrote Ephesians in roughly 62 AD (near the end of his life) having experienced severe hardships that left him imprisoned on several occasions. He suffered first hand the “evil days” that he writes about.

Every minute was precious to him because he never knew what a day would bring forth — except that the Holy Spirit warned him in every city that chains and afflictions were waiting for him (Acts 20:23). He was liable to be imprisoned for years at a time with little access to the people he desired to minister to. So when an opportunity presented itself, he “redeemed it” and made full use of it. Otherwise, those moments of time… those opportunities would be lost forever. Other than daylight savings time, there is simply no way to turn back the clock. 

Businessman pulling a clock hand backwards

Wasting Time and Opportunity

When I was a child, minutes seemed like hours, hours seemed like days, days seemed like weeks, weeks like months, and months like years. Everything seemed to be in slow-motion and my mind was recording it as it were on a high-speed camera — logging details so precise that the memory of my youth seemed to be decades long. But now that I’m old, years seem like months and months like weeks, weeks like days, days like hours, and hours like seconds. What happens? When we are young we are so impatient and time seems to drag by. When we are old we grow patient and time no longer waits for us. Youthful impatience slows the speed of time to a crawl. Aged patience unlocks the wheels of times to blazing speeds. The young man asks, “What’s taking so long?!” The old man bellows, “Where has the time gone?”

The famous British missionary C.T. Studd (1861-1930) wrote a poem that captures the essence of Paul’s repeated admonition to “redeem the time.” I quote only the last stanza:

Only one life shall soon be past and only what’s don’t for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee. — C.T. Studd

 

When opportunities come along to do God’s work we need to make use of them. In one sense, time is opportunity. In fact, sometimes we need to make our own opportunities. If we make ourselves available to God He will present opportunities to us. If we waste away our time those opportunities will be lost. 

We simply never know what a day will bring forth. Why procrastinate? Why waste our time on meaningless things? We may have far fewer opportunities than we realize. For Paul, he knew he had to make every one count. He could be thrown in jail and the opportunity to minister to specific needs in time would be lost forever. In these last days, loaded with every means of time-wasting one could imagine, may we ever be mindful of Paul’s and C.T. Studds words:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16 NKJV)

Only one life shall soon be past and only what’s don’t for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee. — C.T. Studd

 

 

Bound by Reputation

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

(Philippians 2:3–11 NKJV)

 

Have you ever wondered how the Lord Jesus could endure such hostility against Himself? No matter how great of things He seemed to do there was always that element of people around who were trying to destroy His reputation. In fact, the religious leaders even stooped to saying He had a demon. The time would fail to simply list all the times in the Gospels when people were trying to slander Him. How would you and I handle such treatment?

Jesus was humble in the extreme. His beginning was humble, His life was humble, and His death was utter humiliation. Yet we never read of Him fighting back. Think of the times He was mocked. Even His disciples once participated in a raucous where a family laughed Him to scorn (Luke 8:50-55). Indeed, He warned the religious leaders that if they continued to say He had a demon they could be blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but He includes in that warning the hope that people who spoke evil of Him, personally, could find forgiveness. How would you and I handle such treatment?

Good Reputation

 

I truly believe that reputation can become an idol in our life that we serve in a way that does not please the Lord and it hinders our effectiveness as Christians. How far are we willing to go to “not allow our good to be evil spoken of” or protect our reputation? True to the image above much of our reputation is manufactured anyhow. How often do we project to people what we want them to believe about us?

It is human nature to seek to control what others think about us. When David sinned with Bathsheba he was willing to murder one of his most trusted friends in order to cover it up. He was far too concerned in the beginning about what people thought rather than God. He wanted his legacy to be that of killing a lion, bear, and Goliath… or a psalmist who could play and sing and demons would flee. Who wouldn’t? Nobody wants to be remembered as an adulterer. Why? Because our primary concern is far too often our reputation.

When Jesus came into the world He emptied Himself and humbled Himself like a slave. This is what it means for Him to “make Himself of no reputation.” He is God and was willing to humble Himself in this way. What a staggering thing to consider. Perhaps the most striking thing is that while Jesus was emptying Himself out (so to speak) — laying down His reputation — we are perpetually tempted build ours up. We want to be respected and recognized. We want people to know what great talents and abilities we have. Or do we?

“Not caring what others think” does not mean that we all become sociopaths. Jesus was no sociopath — He was touched with the feeling of our weaknesses. Nor does it mean we become careless and foolish. When we make ourselves of no reputation we are liberated from the constant pressure to measure up to whatever version of ourselves we are trying to project. All that God asks is that we walk in the Spirit. If we will do that we will live a life pleasing to Him. But when we get caught up esteeming ourselves better than others — making a reputation for ourselves — we are moving in selfish ambition, conceit, pride and a host of other repulsive and destructive things.

The world says, “Guard your reputation!” Certainly, we want to have a good reputation in the eyes of the world. We should be people of moral character, integrity, honesty, etc. That’s not what this is about. It’s about self-exaltation. It’s about lifting ourselves up by projecting comic-book type caricatures of ourselves. If you or I find ourselves behaving this way the only solution is to repent. The same God who hates a proud look gives us a choice. Paul said, “Let this mind be in you.” We have to allow God to do it in us through the Holy Spirit. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merchants of Darkness

Merchants of Darkness
Robert Wurtz II
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. (Job 38:1–3 NKJV)
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8 NKJV)

I recently read a quote online that got the wheels turning in my head a bit. A person, almost in passing stated, “The focused, educated, and wary will always recognize the folly of the masses who are deceived into issues that don’t exist.” Almost immediately the two passages above came to mind. Between the people who insist on misapplying truths to people and the rest who deliberately misrepresent facts (they do lie), we have before us a great reason as to why all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. In other words, what Job’s friends were saying were generally truths — they just didn’t apply to Job and his situation. God said that the more they spoke the darker the situation was getting. So He broke in and “shed the light of truth” on the topic.

Edward Bernays was one of the first people to exploit the fact that people tend to move like a herd. They are moved by their unconscious desires and are generally irrational in the process. So if a deceitful person can figure out what will move people they can exploit them in droves. This is what a liar does and liars come in many forms. The greater the platform the greater the potential is for damage. I have always said that someday God is going to expose all lies and liars and when He does we are going to be shocked at how much of our thinking process was based on false information. It may take us a million years to come to terms with some of the ways that the lies we believed impacted us during our earthly life. Are you starting to understand yet why all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death? It is impossible to measure the impact that lies have on people as individuals and society as a whole.

I recall some twenty-five years ago on a Sunday afternoon, as a young Christian, doing research on atheism and macro-evolution at a local library. To my surprise, a gentleman was sitting at one of the large tables editing a new edition of a high school earth science textbook for Holt, Rhinehart and Winston. Being the kind of straight-shooter I was in those days I asked him, “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?” He explained that he was a retired science teacher from a local high school and edited for Holt, Rhinehart and Winston part-time. Pointing out a nearby window I asked him, “Do you think all of this got here by accident?” He explained that he believed that God created it, but he didn’t know how. He even told me that he had attended a local church that morning. I was shocked and disillusioned. How could a man go to church on Sunday morning and then teach macro-evolution to children? I realized then that being a Christian in the school system may be worse than not being there at all. To participate in the propagation of such a damnable lie was to me unconscionable. But again it helped me understand why all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. This man influenced a great many impressionable children with lies.

On August 21, 2017, my hometown Kansas City, MO was ground-zero for one of the most spectacular events in modern history. It was high-noon when the Sun went completely black for a few minutes. Even the crickets were deceived as they chirped away for about five minutes. And just in case you missed it we have another Solar eclipse scheduled in about seven years. I have to admit that it was a bit frightening. As powerful as the Sun is… it was being eclipsed by something and on a massive scale. Darkness at noon? People who love darkness got a taste of it. It got the wheels turning in my head a bit. What is God trying to illustrate to us?

Lies and deception are to the truth what the moon was that day to our sun. And these are the times we are living in. There is more information and access to the truth now than there has ever been. But there are also forces at work to darken counsel by words without knowledge.We are all going to give an account someday for the false words of our mouth. Even when we may be saying things that are generally true, but do not apply in a specific situation. We need to be very careful. Sometimes we can only know the truth about something or someone by specific God-imparted discernment. Job’s friends were counselors — they were not prophets. This was their downfall. Perhaps the Psalmist said it best, Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3).

An Invitation to Armageddon

An Invitation to Armageddon

Revisited

Robert Wurtz II

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (Matthew 24:7 NKJV)

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:9-12)

Matthew 24 is typically viewed as a passage about end-time events, or what theologians call eschatology (from the Greek eskhatos meaning “last things”). The idea is that the closer we are to the end of the age the more evil and godless society is going to be. The sobering thing is that many end-time things were prophesied over 2000 years ago and are as real today as if they were just penned. In fact, when Jesus said that nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom nation is the Greek ethnos from which we get our English word ethnic. We could read this, “Ethnic group shall rise against ethnic group…” On the very date of this publication, a simple internet news search yielded this headline as the number two search result, The Latest: Threat of ethnic violence looms in Nairobi slum.” We are seeing it in America increasing over the last several years. What is happening?

It is simple, the further people get from God’s word and His influence, the more wicked and evil they become. It is axiomatic. They can do no other. As men dismiss God and His rule from their minds; when they no longer have God’s word as the primary variable under which they make decisions; unbridled evil is always the result. (Jeremiah 6:28-30, Romans 1:26-30) By way of analogy, the influence of God is waning in the world like the battery that runs down on a cell phone. If the phone is used more than it’s charged the battery will get weaker and weaker until it finally switches off. In the case of this present world, as God’s influence becomes less and less — it won’t switch off — it will blow up. It will come front and center into what we read about in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation. The only thing that can turn the tide of this progress is for God and His word to be more of an influence and not less. 

   

If the people who hate God could have their way and He be purged from society — they would not like the world they would be living in. We have had a couple of great awakenings in America and many revivals. These have kept the lid on things (so to speak). Yet in the 1960s rebellion against God reached a fever pitch and we have been on a slide (like no other) ever since.


Abraham Lincoln once said that “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” So it has been in the West. Multitudes of God-hating professors and teachers have taught children against God in unconscionable ways. They grew up and brought forth another fresh crop of God-haters. They probably thought they were winning, but now, in the 21st century, the world is sitting on top of an apocalyptic powder keg. The world will self-destruct without the influence of God.


The “seismic activity” (as it were) that we read in the news every day is indicative of an eruption that seems inevitable. Like a volcano with hot pools of lava swelling under the surface — society is readying itself to explode at any time. If God were to take His hand completely off of this world, we would be plunged into fire and blood in ways unknown in human history. The warfare bloodbaths of the early 20th century, that witnessed the deaths of some 100,000,000 people worldwide, would be mere skirmishes compared to the bloodshed the 21st century will experience without God’s restraining hand. 

God’s Restraining Influences

God declared in Genesis 6:3 that He would not always strive with man, but that His days (of striving) would be 120 years. God’s striving is like a tether — restraining the full expression of evil that fallen men are capable of (Galatians 5:19-21). The Hebrew word for strive in Genesis 6:3 carries the meaning of sailing straight. God works to thwart the expression of man’s evil thoughts and intentions. In fact, God is striving with the very nature of Satan himself, who is working to a greater or lesser degree in all unregenerate people (Ephesians 2:2). 


Satan has been a murderer since the beginning (John 8:44). He enjoys bloodshed. As people resist God and yield more to Satan, they become more like him. They are his children and manifest his nature. Indeed, men become Satan’s slaves to an increasing degree as they resist God. We can see plainly that people are becoming more and more murderous and hateful as society drifts away from God. God is love. Satan is a murderer. Men determine (by who they yield themselves to) who they will ultimately reflect and become like. 

The Holy Spirit Strives With Man

God strives with man to limit his or her iniquity. The word iniquity simply means lawlessness. This does not mean lawless towards man’s law — but God’s natural Law. First, the masses are rebelling against the very law that God has written upon all men’s hearts increasingly by the day. They reject the light of conscience. Their hearts are hardened and in many cases, they are past feeling (they are numb to their conscience) This is where the Church (comprised of the regenerate) must step in. With confusion rife, God has called Christians to be salt and light. In other words, we know that iniquity is going to spread like gangrene though this present evil world, but God has established the Church to be a light in the darkness and salt to help slow the festering wound. The Church should be a serious impediment to the spread of evil. Otherwise, we are worthless for the task and are nothing more than impotent dust that the world treads under their feet. Light is anathema to a person who loves darkness and salt is painful to an open wound. However, we are called to a task and God expects us to do it.

We are on the Road towards Genesis 6. People love their lawless ways but they have no idea about what the consequences are going to be — not just in this world but in the world to come. There is a great effort to rewrite right and wrong on all levels. Satan is doing everything he can to corrupt mankind with all kinds of sexually related sins. Drugs that used to be illegal are slowly being legalized until the day may come when people can buy Opiates at the same liquor store that sells booze and cigarettes. It seems insane now — but so did same-sex marriage thirty years ago. No telling what diabolical wickedness we will face next. God’s word forbids certain behaviors (in one sense) because of the destruction they cause. Do we really want to live in a world where it’s legal to get bombed out of your mind with drugs as people do with alcohol? 

God’s law can be summed up by one word: love. Men are to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbor as themselves (Luke 10:27). Take away God’s law and you strip away love. To evict God from our society is to risk being unable to love anything but sin. Paul describes this condition in the closing days of his life when he writes to young Timothy:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

The words “without natural affection” is the Greek word astorgos. This is the natural love that a mother and father ought to have for their young; it is familial love (family love). How could that happen? Think of the fatherless children in the world as one example. When men refuse to take care of their own family and children there are serious consequences. Men who willing do this are worse than infidels no matter what their profession of faith (1 Timothy 5:8). It creates a cycle of bitterness and misconceptions in the hearts of the children. As Mac Davis penned some 50 years ago… “… He’s going to be an angry young man some day! Take a look at you and me… are we too blind to see. Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way? As the world turns.” This is but a single example of a consequence of disregarding God’s word. There are as many examples are there are people who reject God’s word. There is no escaping it. Reject God’s word and there will be a serious consequence.

God: Just Cut Us Loose? 

We are moving towards Armageddon as fast as the unlocked wheels of time will take us. What happens as the collective mind seeks independence from God’s influence and comes completely under Satan’s? Notice our text again. The love of many shall wax cold. Greek scholar Marvin Vincent reminds us that it is not the love of many people only that shall be chilled, but of “the many,” “the majority,” “the great body.” This is the consequence of man wanting God to “cut the tether” that restrains them from sinning. 

Many want freedom from God and their conscience — freedom to sin without restraint. What happens? If Genesis 6 is any indicator; if the current trajectory of things continues; people will become bloodthirsty savages — slaves of hate, and lovers of violence. It can be no other. It is all that will be left once God, and His word are gone from the peoples’ minds and hearts. 

Symptoms of Hard-Heartedness

Symptoms of Hard-Heartedness

Robert Wurtz II

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. (Romans 2:5–9 NKJV)

There are many occasions in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit will inspire the writer to use a word found only once in the rest of the New Testament. The technical term for this is a hapax legomena. However, Romans 2:5 contains several hapax legomena — suggesting that God is being particularly expressive when warning us about hardness of heart. Our opening sentence gives God’s diagnosis, But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart (…).” Our Greek word for hardness comes from the root skleras and it is found many times in the LXX (Greek Old Testament). It is often used to describe an insensitive, cruel and harsh person. A person who is sklerotes is moving in a selfish disregard of others. This can only happen if a person has hardened themselves against the word of God when it speaks concerning our behavior towards one another.


What is more striking is that Paul turns a statement that was commonly known at the time in order to reveal the fact that the reader is oblivious to their own hardness of heart. He writes you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. In ancient times there was a concept that people who were in covenant with God actually had a personal treasury (with their name on it) that God was building up based on the person’s good works. This “personal treasury” would pay out at the final judgment. Jesus spoke of this when He stated, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19–20 NKJV) Yet Paul informs the people that instead of laying up treasures they are actually storing up wrath for the day of wrath. 


Imagine how shocking that would be to hear. On the one hand, you believe you are storing up good works in heaven to be paid out when you die. Instead, you find out that you are storing up God’s wrath. How could this be? Clearly, Paul is demonstrating to the people that their heart is so hardened that it no longer “smites them” when they do wrong. You will recall that David’s heart smote him when he cut Saul’s robe (1 Samuel 24:5) and when he numbered Israel (2 Samuel 24:10). Unlike David, the people Paul is referring to can see other peoples sins clearly (Romans 2:1), but cannot see or feel their own. In the words of Paul to the Ephesians, “they are past feeling.” (Ephesians 4:19) Their conscience is seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:2)


People who fit Paul’s description in Romans 2:1-9 are in need of radical repentance. The person must first repent of the attitude that John the Baptist confronted when he preached radical repentance. You will recall that the Jews had a tendency to evoke “Abraham as our father” as if that birthright was the solution to everything. It was not. No matter what family you are born into (Jew or Gentile) you are expected to walk in line with God’s revealed will. In fact, the Jews had an even greater obligation to live righteously because to them were entrusted the oracles of God. (Amos 3:2) If we have ears to hear we will see that Paul is preaching repentance in these verses. He is challenging the same attitude that John the Baptist challenged.


The second area of repentance is to identify areas of our life where we know that we have flagrantly disregarded God’s word. These are areas where we may have sinned and felt convicted in the past, but now we behave a certain way and it doesn’t bother us at all. This is a symptom of hardness of heart. No matter how many sermons we hear on that topic it will never do any good. One way God illustrates hardness of heart to us is by using the analogy of hard (untilled) ground and seed. This is perfect because many people have tried to plant seeds on hard dirt only to discover that it doesn’t work. Our heart, if hardened, is similar to hard and dry ground. What happens? The heart is hard and beaten down in an area and the seed of God’s word cannot penetrate or take root. It happened as the people resisted and then rejected God’s word. They would hear it and like seed on scorched earth, it bore no fruit. So God told Israel,“Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12b NKJV) 


In the summer of 1980, the Midwestern United States suffered one of the worst heat waves and droughts on record. This natural disaster claimed some 1,700 lives and farmers lost an estimated $20 billion in crops ($60 Billion in 2017 dollars). In those days our family lived out in the country and we witnessed first-hand the destruction of that heat and drought. I recall the day my uncle came to plow up our half-acre garden. As the farm tractor attempted to make its first pass, the ground was so hard that the front wheels came up on the tractor and it rode a wheelie for about fifty yards. This happened each time he cut a new row. I had seen many fields plowed by this time, but as a young boy watching that tractor ride wheelies was very exciting to me. In retrospect, it’s a wonder he didn’t destroy his equipment. Needless to say, 1980 was a disaster for gardeners.

God forbid that our hearts would be as hard and dry as that soil in 1980. Yet if it is, repentance is the only solution. Without it, our lives will be as barren as our garden was that year. The solution for a hardened heart? When need to come before the Lord with an open heart and really let Him speak to us. Nothing is off limits. No excuses. We have to make that first step because God wants to plant the seed of His word on that hardened ground. “Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12b NKJV)

Self-Inflicted Bitterness

Robert Wurtz II

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:20 NKJV)

In the ancient world, unlike Romans Citizens, Roman slaves were subject to corporal punishment, torture, or the death penalty without the benefit of due process. This is the context of our passage. In the first portion of the verse, Peter makes a clear distinction between justly suffering from one’s own faults and suffering wrongfully. When a slave did wrong, their owner often responded by beating the slave for their error. However, there were times when slaves (and even people like Paul) were beaten for no good reason. When that happened, Peter informs us that it is as an offering to the Lord when we take the beating patiently.

 

In modern times legalized slavery such as the Romans experienced does not exist in the Western world, but the principle contained in this verse can still be applied. People still respond to bad behavior. God still responds to good behavior. Understand that there are times when we suffer (at the hands of others) as a consequence of our own bad choices or behavior. In those situations, we have no one to blame but ourselves. People are simply reacting to your bad behavior or choices. However, there are times when we are wrongfully accused or are simply mistreated for no good reason. If we accept that treatment with patience, God accepts it as an offering of sorts. 

 

The most challenging part of our passage is making a distinction between the suffering that we deserve and that suffering that we don’t deserve. Sometimes people behave in ways that are completely unacceptable to others. Rather than change their ways, they keep on doing it. These people are known to psychologists as sociopaths. Some are warped enough to pretend that their behavior isn’t bad at all, but (in their mind) the problem is with everyone else. They will blame everyone including Satan himself for what they call “attacks of the enemy.” 

 

It doesn’t matter who the person is (or who they think they are) who is acting out, bad behavior is going to solicit a negative response from the people who are subject to the bad behavior. It is common sense that there is only so much abuse someone can dish out before people start responding against it. The sociopath type, devoid of conscience, never sees the error of his/her ways. They paint themselves as the victim. Again, when they abuse people and the abused respond back, the sociopath types reckon it as persecution (or something similar). Nevertheless, it’s not persecution. It’s not abuse. It’s not mistreatment. What it is — is that people will not go on putting up with bad behavior forever. What happens? The sociopath type either changes or there are consequences. 

 

As Christians, we don’t move in an “eye for an eye” mindset. However, neither are we commanded to subject ourselves to perpetual mistreatment. If we treat people in a way we would not want to be treated –sooner or later there is going to be a backlash. And when the backlash comes, what will the response be? Will the perpetrator(s) get angry and bitter because people no longer tolerate their abusiveness? Will they accuse their victims of rebellion or some other cynical trait? Our passage challenges people who are “suffering at the hands of others” to ask themselves whether or not they deserve the treatment they are receiving. People are patient, but they will not allow bad behavior to go unchecked forever. 

 

The Solution

 

In my fifth grade class, way back in the 70s, we had a misbehaving student who was forever acting out. On one particular day, our teacher had had enough and she put her head down on her desk and started to weep loudly. Upon seeing and hearing her, the bad-mannered student ran frantically up to her desk shouting, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry.” The teacher raised her head and with blood-shot eyes growled out words that are forever etched into my consciousness. “Cody, I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry!’… I just want you to stop it!” He had no idea until that moment that his bad behavior had him hanging by a thread.

 

 

Some people go through life oblivious to how their bad behavior is affecting people until something tragic happens to open their eyes. For Cody, it was when the teacher broke down and wept. He didn’t blame the Devil. He didn’t blame any of us who looked on. He didn’t get bitter at the teacher. In that moment, he realized that he was the problem. If the problem was going to be resolved, Cody was going to have to change. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? Seeing her tears had the effect of a thousand beatings and detentions. At a young age, he learned that there is a limit to how far people can tolerate bad behavior. So when people “put their head down on the desk” (so to speak) it’s not the time to blame everyone else. While there is still hope… it’s time to stop it… whatever the “it” might be.  

 

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:2 ESV)   

Haman in the Midst

Robert Wurtz II

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A gallows 75 feet high stands by Haman’s house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.” The king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided. (Esther 7:9-10) 

He who digs a hole for his neighbor will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone rolls it on himself. (Proverbs 26:27 NETS)

 

It is unfortunate for Haman that he either never read, or never took to heart, Proverbs 26:27. Being the son of an Amalekite, he seemed to hate God’s people with perfect hatred. He plotted to destroy all the Jews in Persia and hang Mordecai on a 75 ft gallows. Haman rolled the proverbial stone up the hill until it finally rolled back over the top of him. His story comes down through history as an ever present warning against men and women who seek to destroy others in order to advance their own ambitions and desires. 

Esther Exposes and Denounces Haman

Haman, a man after Satan’s own heart, was prepared to wipe out all of the Jews simply because Mordecai would not bow to him. He was so bent on his destruction that even an invitation to the king’s palace could not calm him down. He stated, “Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” (Esther 5:13) He craved honor. He wanted to be revered and respected. Yet Mordecai comes along and refuses to bow the knee. My question is this, “Who did this man think he was?”

 

Although the king had commanded the people to bow to and reverence Haman (Esther 3:1f), as a Jew he could not show that honor to man which was due to God alone. (C. F. Keil and Delitzsch) And this is often the problem. Men desire the honor and reverence that God alone deserves. In fact, some men have actually confused themselves with God. Like Haman, their position has gone to their head and they won’t tolerate people not honoring them. Sadly, many Christians have been deceived into honoring men in this way because of their alleged “anointing.” I marvel at how well people can twist scripture to maintain and control their following. What did Paul say?

 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7 NKJV)

 

Unlike modern times, the ancient world highly esteemed learning and because of that they practically worshiped teachers. Even the Jews had schools of men such a Hillel and Shammai. However, notice how the Lord Jesus commanded the disciples to view themselves, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Matthew 23:8 KJV) The KJV commonly translates the Greek word didaskalos (teacher) as “master.” This comes from an Old English word that traces its origins to the Latin magister or magis meaning “more” (i.e., more important). Can you imagine what would happen if we called our Bible teachers “Master _____”? Jesus said plainly that we have one “Master,” “Teacher,” “Rabbi” (or whatever honorable term we can come up with to translate the Greek) and the rest of us are all brethren (adelphos). So common is the adelphos (brethren) that it’s found nearly 350 times in the New Testament. That kind of repetition is hard to dismiss. 

 

If everyone would gladly receive the words of Christ in Matthew 23:8 and the words of Paul in Philippians 2:5-7, we could eliminate the “Haman” type figures from our midst. If we could only grasp the fact that God does not want us viewing our leaders as kings and queens — but as brothers and sisters in Christ — we would eliminate the very platform on which the Haman’s of the world build their “empires.” But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (Matthew 23:8 KJV) 

 

Nevertheless, it is likely that the same old habits and tendencies will prevail. Why? They will not repent. Why? Because people who seek honor from one another tend not to believe God’s word. Why? Because they have their list of self-serving verses, but they don’t accept God’s revelation as a whole. How do we know? Because the Haman’s of the world keep gunning for the Mordecai’s (as it were) and the people of God continue to be at risk. Had they believed God’s word they would want others to succeed in ministry — even if it meant that they would lose influence or position. We live in a day when leaders try to bring each other down because they want the big title. They refuse to help one another succeed. What is worse is that this very attitude is the obstacle to much of what God wants to do. Jesus asked a piercing question, “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44 NKJV) Selah. 

 

We are not going any place (in terms of ministry success) until the Haman’s of the world either repent or die off. So long as we have men who are consumed with craving honor from other men and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it… we are at a stand still. The solution? Renounce the mind of Haman and receive the mind of Christ. 

 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7 NKJV)