The Gong Show
Robert Wurtz II
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV)
It may be inferred from our text that certain believers at Corinth believed that speaking with tongues was (is) the hallmark of true spirituality. Paul erases this notion without forbidding or disparaging tongues. He points to the fact that without the love of Christ, speaking with tongues will annoy people as fast as banging a gong in their ears.
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.” (Acts 8:18 KJV)
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. (Acts 8:20–22 KJV)
Peter called Simon the Sorcerer’s misguided desire for the power of God, “wickedness.” He had one major problem, his heart was not right with God. He wanted to move in the gifts (as is sometimes said), and he was a hairs-breadth from blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Peter’s reply was a foretaste of what Jesus spoke of when He made clear, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21–23 KJV) In other words, you are not spiritual because you appear to be prophesying, casting out devils and doing miracles: you are spiritual when you do God’s will. Again as it is written, And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. (Acts 5:32 NKJV)
Many people have learned about receiving the Holy Spirit through what we might call “on-the-job training.” They learned it from someone they trusted and watched — who learned from someone they trusted and watched and so on. Meanwhile, few have returned to their bible to see if what was going on is biblical. Apart from a few obscure proof texts, there is little for them to base what they are doing on. This is why ministers and altar workers try to pray people through to the Holy Spirit who haven’t even repented of their sins and trusted Christ. Their heart is not right with God and someone is trying to pray them into receiving the Spirit. This is madness, but it happens all the time and it has happened for decades.
I personally have been in countless meetings where altar calls were given and there had not been enough Gospel preached to save a flea, and yet folks are trying to pray people through to the Spirit. The band starts playing and people are driven into near madness trying to somehow get to God. In many cases the music is so loud that the people can’t hear God. They are being carried along in some mindless music induced emotional state. What happens? They have a good cry, utter a few unintelligable words, and there is no change. Someone declares, “You got it! You got the Holy Ghost!” And they go back to their old ways. Why? Because they try to do with music and emotionalism what can only happen through total surrendering our will to God’s will. The altar workers are listening for the sound of a “tongue” rather then seeking to lead a person into total obedience to God. Tongues is the end-all. What is more delusional is that these type altar calls are believed to be essential to the furtherance of Pentecostalism and if we don’t have them, we have failed in ministry.
How can we know if the goings on in meetings are producing fruit? First, turn the attention off of the supernatural and get it on Jesus. A person has to come completely under His authority. This can take days and weeks to establish. It all depends on the person and their understanding of what God is doing in them. Many people try to receive and resist the Holy Spirit at the same time. They want to receive His power– while resisting His Lordship and guidance. This is impossible. To dabble in this way is to open oneself up to demons and counterfeit spiritual gifts.
When the Holy Spirit really comes in He pours in with the love of God (Romans 5:5). Compassion for all people floods into your being. This is what Paul was speaking if when he wrote, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV) Speaking in tongues is wonderful, but if a person is doing it who does not move in the love of Christ it is only an annoyance to people. We may even want to question the source of the utterance. The Holy Spirit does not come in with just tongues or prophecy: He brings the full load of the fruit of the Spirit. This means compassion for people like unto what we find in the New Testament.
For example, while Christ was on the cross suffering the worst injustice in the history of mankind He uttered these words, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) The question is not whether a person speaks in tongues, but whether they can forgive like Jesus forgave. What about Stephen when he was being stoned to death at the hands of a merciless angry mob? And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts 7:60) How could he do it? Why didn’t he curse and swear as the pain and agony bore down upon his battered body? What about Paul the Apostle? He spoke of being stoned, beaten of rods, and a host of other disfiguring assaults. Nevertheless, he could raise his shirt, show you the scars on his back, and still exclaim, “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-3 NKJV).
No matter how deep the nails probed into Christ’s hands or the spear probed into His rib and side — they still tapped love. Stephen was smashed to bits and as they stirred through his battered body nothing could be found but love. When Paul was beaten and stoned the scars left behind his testimony, I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh. These are the words of lamentation because of the Israelites who had rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the love of God. This is what removes the clanging gong from the testimony of those who speak with tongues and move in the gifts.
The disciples had desired to call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, but here is Paul wishing himself could be accursed from Christ if it would save his people. Have you ever wondered why he would utter such things? What could be at work inside of him to make such selfless statements? He was not lying. He means it. His own conscience is affirming within that he is not faking these comments. This is fervent, unfeigned love. Could this be the same man that was breathing out threatening and slaughter against Christians some twenty years before? What could have possibly caused such a radical change in this man?
Simply put, he was baptized into Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and that reality was demonstrated through his great compassion and labor on behalf of Christ. He was no noisy gong. He was the real thing, and he wanted the Corinthians to be that too.
Agape or Armageddon?
Robert Wurtz II
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)
God’s Restraining Influences
God said back 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 in man (Ephesians 2:2).
Satan is many things, but one characteristic stands out among the rest; he is a murderer (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 at a greater degree as they resist God. The image of God in them that was marred by the fall is all but eradicated as they progress in their resisting the Holy Spirit. 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’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:
The words “without natural affection” is the Greek word astorgos. This is the natural love that a mother ought to have for her young; it is familial love (family love). How could that happen? It begins in the churches of God and among professing Christians. I personally know of parents who claim they never wanted one or more of their children. Some don’t care if their kids know they don’t like them. How could this happen?
Moreover, think of the fatherless children in the world. Men who refuse to take care of their own family. They are worse than infidels no matter what their profession. (1 Timothy 5:8). In fact, middle-aged adolescence is plaguing this generation. Many are stuck in their “tweens” (not teens), but their bodies are in their 30s, and 40s. Nevertheless, we have had more classes and seminars on “the family” than at any time in history, and the scourge continues. I suggest that the problem has been the politically correct — worldly approach to training people about the family. What did Paul say?
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children. (Titus 2:3–4 ESV)
I realize that there are women standing in line in many circles to be ordained to the ministry; however, has anyone stopped to consider how important this verse is? What happens when the older women refuse to train the young women to love their husbands and children? We end up with a world filled with parents, even among professing Christians, who do not love their families. Think about the import of that reality. Because they have not been trained by older women to love all of their family, they love their “pet” children (their favorites), but “tolerate” the rest. In doing so they provoke the despised children to wrath. Then they wonder why they have disaster in the home. It is an abomination to God and anyone who is in His image.
God: Just Cut Us Loose?
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.
Robert Wurtz II
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:22–24 KJV)
When we look at the world, there are major points of distinction between it and the kingdom of God. Forgiveness and love are in short supply in the world. A cursory look at the daily headlines reveals this. The devil fathered this world system and its philosophy, and there is no place for love or forgiveness in him (John 8:44). The ungodly work desperately to push Jesus Christ out of society; nevertheless, as the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”
Worldly relationships live and die on loyalty, and in a world with behaviors that keep people at each other’s throat constantly, forgiveness is a necessity. Strange it is, many want unconditional loyalty, and yet are disloyal themselves. People want love, and yet refuse to give it. They want respect, but act disrespectful. C.S. Lewis once pointed out that man is greatly unable to see his or her own faults that are clear to everyone else. People rarely see their personal contradictions. Therefor, they fall into the trap of unforgiveness and “broken fences.” The self-centeredness of the average mind leaves no road back to reconciliation. Denial typically blinds the parties involved; and blocks any hope of restoration.
The world is generally a merciless place. When someone fails they will live with that failure forever. The world will typically make your failure your identity. No matter how long ago the event took place; the person is never allowed to get past it. This is what happens in an environment of unforgiveness. Moreover, the marring of relationships is often permanent. Friends break apart and never reconcile; families break up and don’t speak for 30 years- if ever. Enemies become enemies and remain enemies. The root of bitterness and hatred runs deeper by the day. Priceless relationships can end over a few dollars; nevertheless, no amount of money could mend them.
When Left To Themselves
The depravity of man was first revealed when Abel was killed by his own brother (Genesis 4). Abel served as an ever-present reminder to Cain’s conscience that he had disobeyed God. Cain was an evil and devilish sinner and apparently didn’t like being reminded of it (I John 3:12). He abandoned his relationship with God through blatant disobedience, and despised his relationship with his brother. Cain wasn’t “into” relationships — obviously. He was devoid of a certain type of familial love known in the Greek as stergo. He lacked what the KJV translators defined as “natural affection” (Romans 1:31). Cain had discarded the natural love that God planted in the hearts of men, that they should love their own flesh and blood (family). This spirit of hatred and revenge has followed mankind since that time and will continue to flourish in these last days (2 Timothy 3:3).
The spirit of this evil age will culminate with the same situation that existed in Noah’s day. People were full of violence. Noah’s preaching fell on deaf ears. It had no effect. This ought to alarm us. Today the masses are inclined to offend Saints, but offer tolerance to sinners. The “spirit” of Cain is in the land. Romans 1:28-31 describes these people whom when left to themselves through reprobation, were capable of anything. Paul writes, And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. This passage reads like the daily newspaper.
A Reformation of Relationships
A stroll through the Old Testament reveals that the Gentiles were so wicked and violent, that they were often a threat to the very existence of mankind. People committed unconscionable acts. The pagan idol worshippers at Tophet, for example, would beat drums as they threw their babies into the sacrificial fires to drown out their screams. Pagans in North America would bag up their babies and offer them to their false gods in many cultures. Just a few miles from Furgason, MO. where rioting and violence have broken out, sits Cahokia where native Indians practiced human sacrifice like the Azteks. (click HERE) Where do you suppose those demonic spirits went after the indians died off? As an aside, perhaps you may wonder why there is so much bloodshed in Mexico among the drug wars? Wonder no more. The same demons who led men and women to human sacrifice are still around. At the end of the day these are the things we are dealing with.
This is why whole cultures had to be eliminated in the Old Testament. God simply could not allow that contagious and deplorable behavior to spread and fester, until every man and woman was reprobate. These people had no trace of natural affection left in them. Nevertheless, when Jesus came onto the scene, a whole new paradigm began to take root within society that has changed the course of humanity. Had Jesus not come we had already destroyed ourselves, as did the pagans of Noah’s day. Violence would be the law of the land, and forgiveness would be a word of ancient folklore. Jesus and His teachings had turned the tide of evil and cast a different light on man’s relationship with each other. Even the Jews had a lot to learn when it came to relationships; and they were the most Godly of all peoples. Cruelty in the Ancient World was the norm, but mercy would redefine the standards from which we relate to one another.
Father Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do
Never before had such a dichotomy of innocence and torture met on earth. Jesus, who personifies love and forgiveness, put to silence the tortuous revenge and hate when He cried out for His executioners’ forgiveness (Luke 23:34). In a figure, his blood speaks better things than that of Abel. Who ever heard of such forgiveness prior to this? So great was the influence of Jesus in those who received His Holy Spirit, that men like Stephen would emulate this attitude, crying out for mercy for his killers at his stoning in Acts 7:60. Mercy was simply unheard of at that level. The Spirit of Christ brought it to earth. So great was the impact of these events that over the centuries, people came to Christ as a consequence of the witness of these persecuted or dying saints.
The Teachings of Jesus
The teachings of Christ have had 2000 years to extract the devil’s cruelty from society; and wherever true Christianity prevails — mercy and grace are found. Jesus taught us to love one another and to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). These were strange concepts in His day, and in many ways they still are. John the Revelator went as far as to say “he that loveth not knoweth not God- for God is love” (I John 4:8). Love comes to us in four primary forms: eros (lust), phileo (friendship), stergo (family), and agape (God’s type of love).
The closest word we have for agape is compassion. Compassion is an undeserved love that results in tender mercy (splagchnon eleos). That is precisely what we need in this world today. We need a world where retaliation is left to God alone and where justice is meeted out – out of love. We need society to embrace the message of mercy and reconciliation. We need to return to the clear instruction of Jesus and show love to one another out of a pure heart fervently (1 Peter 1:22). We need to lay aside our corrupt hearts, prejudices, bitterness, and jealousies and begin to influence the world with the person of Jesus Christ.
Angry Without a Cause
Some people can’t get along and they don’t know why. You ask them and they might say “I don’t like their looks!” Delving into the core of how these feelings come to be is a mystery too great for us; but one thing is certain, acting on these feelings and harboring them is unacceptable among the Saints. The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s long since forgot why they were feuding; as have the Crip’s and the Blood’s. Nevertheless, these type feelings live on in this present evil world. They are even found in families. Bitterness is boiling under the surface. This is dangerous. People are filled with hate and don’t even realize the danger they are in (Matthew 5:22). “Anger without cause” is an attitude that emperils the soul.
The Holy Spirit will expose ill feelings and challenge them as a first point in His dealings. Sinners must stop resisting the Holy Spirit when He reveals this behavior. If it exists in a Saint, it is grieving to Him (Ephesians 4:30). We must submit to the Holy Spirit’s dealings immediately. We cannot allow the sun to go down day after day on ill feelings, until they become a permanent part of our personality (Ephesians 4:26).
Some people wait until it’s too late to try to get things right. They stand over the graves of friends and family teary-eyed wishing they had said they were sorry or made an attempt to reconcile. Their grief is their just reward for quenching the Spirit for years as He prompted them to make amends (Romans 1:27). Now they live with themselves. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can lay aside the stubbornness and uproot the bitterness that is poisoning our souls and souring our spirit. We can make that call or send that letter; we can find a way to break the ice. No matter whose fault it was — it is the Spiritual person who must move to restore the relationship (Galatians 6:1). God will prepare the hearts as we pray and God will give us the courage. We are not guaranteed success; nevertheless, we must make an effort.
Reconciliation is a very powerful thing. It is proof that God is at work in our lives. Anyone can stay angry and make excuses — but a true child of God will seek to reconcile broken relationships. We have to love one another. And if so be that the person will not cooperate, their blood is on their own head; that is, if we moved in unfeigned love and sincerity. Some people are not rejecting us — they are really rejecting God. Nevertheless, God has used reconciliation to transform people’s relationship with Him. He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Could God say that of us? God was in _____ (your name here) reconciling the world to Himself? Do we have a heart of compassion and love that wants to end the strife and operate in Christian love? Can we lay aside the past? Can we put aside our emotions? Can we part with our record of wrongs? Can we heal some broken relationship? Can we mend some fences?
Love Gone Cold
Robert Wurtz II
Some have suggested that the reason Ephesus had left its first love was because of the constant dealings with sin, false apostles and doctrines. This gave rise to the warning in Revelation 2:5 that they must repent and return to their first love. If that is true it would not be the first time. Jonah is an example of a man that did not rightly love because he apparently allowed the sin of Nineveh to cool his love and compassion for them as a people. He got a bad spirit when he took their sins personally. I think also of the Prodigal Son’s brother, that never left home. He had allowed his brothers sin to cool his love for him. What a horrendous thought! We have this said of the Ephesian condition, I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. (Revelation 2:2) There is a thin line between hating iniquity as Jesus did and allowing iniquity to cause you to hate the person. Once that line is crossed then we that are called by the name of Christ are of no use to God. Jesus said that many will cross that line in the last days. It stands then to reason that in our times we are exceedingly at risk of leaving our first love as the Saints and churches of God. Iniquity abounds in our times. False prophets abound. How are we reacting to this? When our spiritual energy is blighted and chilled by a malign (mean) and poisonous wind, what will we do? Will we return to the Lord for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit that we might endure the contradiction of sinners against us or will we faint in our minds? (Hebrews 12:3) Will we adopt an attitude of returning evil for evil and railing for railing or will we be spiritual enough to continue blessing? This is the great question of our times.
No matter how deep those that beat and crucified our Lord probed into His flesh and soul with their hate and violence, they still hit love. Jesus Christ could look at a sinner caught up in iniquity and still have compassion for them and love them. We need to ask ourselves, do we take a sinners sin personally and if we do, why? God is the primary offended party in any sin and He has chosen to forgive if the person is willing to acknowledge and repent. What about us? Do we forgive and forget or do we forget that we have been forgiven? Sin hardens the sinner and seeing sin can harden a saint. We must guard our hearts and go on loving in the grace and power of God.
They had already left off consciously listening for the Word of His grace and as a result had missed many opportunities to remedy their condition long before it reached this crisis level. Is there any wonder we have the follow up commandment repeated over and over again, He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 3:22) They had chosen not to listen and were going through the motions because they had learned how to have a meeting without Jesus. If they had listened in the first place they would not be in this fix. What an insightful thing to consider! When you stop listening, it’s over for your lampstand. It is only a matter of time unless there is repentance and a return to the things that were done at first. There must be a return to first love.
In our times a generation has changed the face of Christianity in such a way that only God can bring this thing back around. Like Ephesus of old, false apostles in the name of organized religion militate all too often against the local church and its lampstand with Christ in the midst. Self-serving pastors and leaders far too often power grab and act more like popes and cardinals than loving, compassionate servants such as Jesus, Paul and Stephen. They love their congregation like a hireling; so long as the money is flowing they love, but what about when jobs are lost? What happens when people fail to meet our expectations? What if they fall into sin? Do we act like the Prodigal’s brother? God forbid! A ‘church’ without a lampstand and its accompanying Fire is spreading death. We end up with a wholesale corruption of the concept of Christianity in our times. It is staggering how many things are being put forward as ‘Christian’ or ‘Evangelical’. We ought to weep when we reflect upon such deplorable acts and blasphemies of the name of Christ. These and a host of other iniquities seek to cool the love of even the very Elect. God forbid that as the love for Christ waxes cold along with our love for our neighbor we simply do not feel compassion anymore. We are at risk of being spiritually frostbitten by the cold winds of lawlessness on every hand in our times. The risk is that we would be no longer sensitive, void of compassion and love; we risk hating the sin and the sinner.