The Sin of Self-Deception

The Sin of Self-Deception
Robert Wurtz II

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

C.S. Lewis in his classic book, The Screwtape Letters, explains a primary strategy of the enemy in destroying people. He suggests that Satan and his followers work on professing Christians to, “Aggravate the most useful human characteristics, the horror and neglect of the obvious.” Lewis believed that demons work to bring people to a condition in which he/she can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself/herself that are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with the person or worked in the same office.

Lewis’ “neglect of the obvious” is very useful to Satan. Why? Because he uses it to keep the “neglector” blind to their own behavior — while aggravating others who have to tolerate them. For example, a person makes a post on Facebook about others who need to do something (usually in the area of forsaking some sin or stopping some behavior) and yet it’s obvious to everyone reading the post that the one posting the remark needs to heed their own advice. I have seen cases when the very person posting was the most flagrant violator of what they posted that I knew. Yet they simply don’t see it. They seem to be sensitive to others doing “something” and blind to themselves doing the “same thing.”

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)


It is impossible to overstate how offensive such behavior is to God. Matthew 7:3 asks a riveting question. Why? Why do you look at the sins of others while ignoring your own sins that are worse than theirs? In fact, Jesus uses a word that is considered His strongest of all to denounce these actions; that word is “hypocrite.” You and I may be many things, but may we never be viewed by God as a hypocrite. Jesus tells us plainly that the final sentence (executed judgment) for being a hypocrite is to be cut in two and sent where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51). We commonly know this place as hell. 


The English word hypocrite is translated from an old Greek noun that means actor, interpreter, and one who personates another. Jesus uses it of people who are forever doing something to look “pious” (godly), while they are inwardly full of dead men’s bones. They can’t give without “sounding the trumpet” or pray without making a show of it (just for starters). But their prime characteristic is that they look at the speck in their brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in their own eye. The late renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson stated that “‘hypocrite’ (hoi hupokritai) is the hardest word that Jesus has for any class of people and he employs it for these “pious pretenders who pose as perfect.” They have received their reward (apechousin ton misthon autoœn). This verb is common in the papyri for receiving a receipt, “they have their receipt in full,” all the reward that they will get, this public notoriety. They can sign the receipt of their reward (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 229. Also Light from the Ancient East, pp. 110f. Apocheœ means “receipt.” Quoted in Word Pictures on Matthew 6:2)

Understanding Hypocrisy

Our passage in Matthew 7:3-5 adds to our understanding of a hypocrite as a person who gazes upon the faults of others (sawdust), while overlooking greater faults of their own (planks or logs). They are forever meddling in other peoples’ business when they should be attending to their own first. They emphasize other peoples’ faults and sins and minimize the seriousness of their own sins. A hypocrite is the type of person who would cast the first stone—knowing they have done similar or worse things. 




It was said of the late president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) that he kept people around him, such as American reporter Louis Howe (1871-1936), who “knew where all the bodies were buried.” The Howes of the world are useful to the politician types who can use elicit information to their political advantage. I suggest that some hypocrites keep good records of other peoples’ sins  so they can use them later to their advantage. This is what the Pharisees did when they took the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. 

On the contrary, spiritual people remember that they were once purged from their own sins and as a result add to their faith virtue, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity (2 Peter 1:7-9). Not hypocrites. They have “publican love” — a love that loves who they want to love and shuns all the rest (Matthew 5:46). Hypocrites devise clever ways of making exceptions for their own sins. Generally, this is along the lines of “my sin was many years ago” or “God forgave me of my sins.” In other words, God forgives their sins, but not other peoples’ sins. They may not say this explicitly, but this is what their attitude and behavior amounts to. 

Blinded By Sin

Jesus spoke about hypocrites no less than twenty times in the Gospels. Why did He come down on them so hard? Why would He use the strongest of terms to denounce them? Clearly, it is because they are some of the most evil people around. What did Paul tell the Romans?


Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. (Romans 2:1 NKJV)

Everyone has had something in their eye and knows how painful it is. I suppose God designed us that way. We need to be able to see clearly, so we need our eyes in tip-top shape. This is why it hurts so bad when something is in there. Our natural response is to get that thing out of there! Now! Not later; right this second! Nevertheless, (in keeping with the hyperbole the Lord Jesus used) imagine the doctor entering the room with a small beam (pencil), medium beam (broom stick), or a large beam (floor joist) protruding from their eyes. If such were the case, it would undoubtedly blind their eyes. How are they going to help someone fix their eye when they are completely blind? This is common sense, but it often does not stop people from the behavior. 

Obviously, Matthew 7:3-5 is intended to be metaphorical, but we can easily see the difficulty here. A person with a speck in their eye may be rubbing it or flushing it with water, but a person with a beam ought to be screaming in pain. But they are not. How can this be? They apparently don’t see or feel it. In other words, everyone can see the hypocrites issues but the hypocrite. Remember what C.S. Lewis said, “
bring people to a condition in which he/she can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself/herself that are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with the person or worked in the same office.” This is very sobering. Notice Jesus’ words, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly (…)” A hypocrite is in no shape to help anyone. They are in 100X worse condition than the people they are criticizing or “trying to help.”

Right Response to Hypocrisy

If we fit this picture, our first step is to take our focus off of others and get it on ourselves. Allow God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to do their work and acknowledge that we have a plank in our own eye (if so be that we have one). Acknowledge it in the plainest of terms. We can’t use strong terms for other peoples’ sins and use euphemisms for ours (and avoid the charge of hypocrisy). We have to call it what it is and repent. 


Unpublished Scandal (Lessons from the Pericope Adulterae)

Unpublished Scandal
Robert Wurtz II


Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say? (John 8:3–5 NKJV)


And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:3 NKJV)


I have drawn attention to these two passages as a unit to illustrate a particular behavior pattern that the scripture denounces expressly. In John 8:3-5, we have the beginning of what scholars call the Pericope Adulterae — more commonly known as the woman taken in the very act of adultery. In Romans 2:3, Paul warns us not to judge others for doing something we “occasionally do” because that would be an invitation to the judgment of God. They taught things that they did not live by and then had the audacity to judge others who ignored their teachings. Apparently, certain religious Jews (perhaps teachers) lived as if they were immune to the law simply because they were Jews. Sadly, some Christians expect the same immunity. 

The story of the woman taken in adultery illustrates a severe character flaw in some religious people. How could a person condemn someone else for doing the very thing they do or have done in the past? Clearly, it is because they never got caught. Their sin was never widely known so they conduct themselves as if they never sinned. This is what the religious leaders attempted to do. It was not until Jesus told them, “You who are without sin cast the first stone” that they came to their senses. In fact, they were convicted by their own conscience. They would have had this woman stoned while deserving to be stoned themselves. Amazingly devilish!


Unpublished Scandal

There is nothing more disillusioning than to have a Christian condemn others for moral failures — only to have it discovered that they had moral failures in their own past. What is worse is when a person makes a life of condemning others for lesser crimes than they committed. Paul asks, And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:3 NKJV) Apparently, God despises this attitude. As Matthew Henry once said, “Preaching against sin does not atone for the guilt of it.” 


Moreover, if there is one thing the world resents it is to watch religious people feign perfection. God never excuses sin, nor should we. Nevertheless, we must have the attitude of Jesus who showed mercy when it was needed. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:10–11 NKJV) Jesus had never sinned, and yet wanted mercy for this sinful woman. 

The attitude of the religious person is the opposite. They know they have sinned and need mercy, but are unwilling to extend that mercy to others. Why did they bring the woman? Why not the man? A religious spirit will always condemn the woman and let the man off scott-free. When Adam sinned God came calling his name not Eve’s. Notice their attitude was to condemn selectively and not universally. If they like you — you get a free pass. If they hate you — you get condemned. This is the hypocrisy of it all. People always show mercy to the people they love. If they don’t show mercy they don’t love the person. That’s the simplicity of it. 

Judgment Day Publications

There is coming a day when the pretenders who judged others for the very things they committed are going to be exposed for the frauds that they are.  Paul told Timothy, “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later.” (1 Timothy 5:24 NKJV) If God were to pull back the cover and expose everyones’ life sins we would all be mortified. The sad and perplexing thing is that people will walk around as if they had never sinned — knowing they had lived scandalously and if God were to expose them they would be utterly ruined. It is because God’s instinct is to cover that we have any hope. Love covers a multitude of sins. 

The right attitude is found in Paul’s writings to the Galatians 6, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 NKJV) Spiritual people work to gently restore those who have been “overtaken” in a trespass. The great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson comments on this verse, “The spiritually led (Galatians 5:18) are the spiritual experts in mending souls. Restore (katartizete). Present active imperative of katartizoœ, the very word used in Matt. 4:21 of mending nets.” We are to help people get back on track — not condemn.  

Understanding Hypocrites

Understanding Hypocrites
Robert Wurtz II

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Our passage above and others similar to it deserve our undivided attention. Reason being is that Jesus uses a word that is considered His strongest of all to denounce certain people and their actions. The word I’m referring to is “hypocrite.” In fact, Jesus tells us plainly that the final sentence (executed judgment) for being a hypocrite is to be cut in two and sent where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51). We know this place as hell. The English word hypocrite is translated from an old Greek noun that means actor, interpreter, and one who personates another. Jesus uses it of people who are forever doing something to look “pious” (godly), while they are inwardly full of dead men’s bones. They can’t give without “sounding the trumpet” or pray without making a show of it (just for starters). 


The late renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson stated that “‘hypocrite’ (hoi hupokritai) is the hardest word that Jesus has for any class of people and he employs it for these ‘pious pretenders who pose as perfect.’ They have received their reward (apechousin ton misthon autoœn). This verb is common in the papyri for receiving a receipt, ‘they have their receipt in full,’ all the reward that they will get, this public notoriety. ‘They can sign the receipt of their reward'” (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 229). So Light from the Ancient East, pp. 110f. Apocheœ means “receipt.” (Quoted in Word Pictures on Matthew 6:2) 


Our passage in Matthew 7:3-5 adds to our understanding of a hypocrite as a person who gazes upon the faults of others, while overlooking greater faults of their own. They emphasize other peoples’ faults and sins in order to minimize the seriousness of the sins they have committed. A hypocrite is the type of person who would cast the first stone—knowing they have done similar or worse things. How can they do this; you  ask? They devise clever ways of making exceptions for their own sins. Generally, this is along the lines of “my sin was many years ago” or “God forgave me of my sins.” In other words, God forgives their sins, but not other peoples. They may not say this directly, but this is what their attitude boils down to. Hypocrites keep good records of other peoples’ sins, so they can use them later to their advantage. Spiritual people have not forgotten that they were once purged from their own sins and as a result add to their faith virtue, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity (2 Peter 1:7-9). Not hypocrites. They have “publican love” — a love that loves who they want to love and shuns all the rest (Matthew 5:46). 

   

Blinded By Sin

Why would Jesus speak about hypocrites no less than twenty times in the Gospels? Why would He seem to hit them so hard? Why would He use the strongest of terms to denounce them? Clearly, it is because they are the most evil people around. People who are supposed to represent God are looked upon by others as examples. Some people will never read a Bible—all they read is the lives of Christians. Take it a step more and consider Christian leaders. God is holding them to a higher standard. What should we expect if they turn around and play the hypocrite? No doubt all the verses on the topic in the Gospels will apply to them as well.   


Everyone has had something in their eye and knows how painful it is. On three separate occasions throughout my life, I have had metal removed from my eye by a doctor. Few things are more painful than having a foreign object scraping against your eyeball. I suppose God designed us that way. We need to be able to see clearly, so we need our eyes in tip-top shape. This is why it hurts so bad when something is in there. Our natural response is to get that thing out of there! Now! Not later; right this second! We can’t have our eyes destroyed by foreign objects. Nevertheless, imagine the doctor entering the room with a small beam (pencil), medium beam (broom stick), or a large beam (floor joist) protruding from their eyes. If such were the case, it would undoubtedly blind their eyes. How are they going to help me fix my eye when they are completely blind? This is common sense. 


Obviously, this passage is intended to be metaphorical, but we can easily see the difficulty here. A person with a speck in their eye may be rubbing it or flushing it with water, but a person with a beam ought to be screaming in pain. But they are not. How can this be? They apparently don’t see or feel it. In other words, everyone can see the hypocrites issues but the hypocrite. This is very sobering. Notice Jesus’ words, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly…” A hypocrite is in no shape to help anyone. They are in 100X worse condition than the people they are criticizing or “trying to help.”




Right Response to Hypocrisy

If we fit this picture, our first step is to take our focus off of others and get it on ourselves. Allow God’s Word to do its work and acknowledge that we have a plank in our own eye (if so be that we have one). Acknowledge that it is there in the strongest of terms. We can’t use strong terms for other peoples’ sins — use euphemisms for ours and avoid the charge of hypocrisy. We have to call it what it is and repent. What good is it to go on focusing on somebody else? Perhaps even while reading this you may be thinking, “I know someone that does that!” If so, you are already falling into the trap. We need to ask ourselves if the passage applies to us. As if we locked ourselves in a room alone with God and Matthew 7:3-5, we need to let God do a work in us. We need to allow Him to turn our attention back upon our own spiritual condition. Not our enemy; not our rivals, but me. 

Nominated For Best Actor

Nominated For Best Actor (or Actress)
Robert Wurtz II

And why do you stare at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-6)

Notice how our Lord uses the eye ball in this illustration. The eye is the most sensitive part of our body. Few things hurt as bad as getting poked in the eye or getting a scratch on the eye ball itself. If someone is going to work on our eyes, they need several things:


1. A knowledge of how to remove foreign objects from eyes
2. Clear vision to see what they are doing
3. A steady hand to do the work with precision
4. A compassion for the one suffering

The writer has had metal removed from his eyes on three separate occasions. The preferred prerequisite is that the doctor has had objects removed from their onw eyes and understands how it feels. A callous person has no place in optometry — nor in the ministry. 

Blind to One’s Own Sin  

It should be no surprise to us that if a person focuses both of their eyes on the faults of others, they will have none left to see their own. This is the plight of the hypocrite. For while they gaze upon the overgrown fields of other people’s lives, they overlook the weeds that have decimated their’s. This is why some have charged the hypocrite with enjoying three mile-long  prayers while offering others a half-mile of   grace. When a person is falsifying Christianity, they are devoid of the compassion that flows from a true experience of God’s grace; hence, they have no basis upon which to show mercy to others. 

Putting On The Mask



Of all the titles that a professed Christian would hope to be associated with their name — hypocrite is near the last. Few words have the power to bring one into derision as swiftly and completely as this one. The Lord Jesus used it on several occasions to describe behaviors that He clearly detested. The word commonly means an “actor on a stage” or an “impersonator.” 

Before we continue on it is important to establish why hypocrisy is such an egregious sin. Imagine for a moment the seriousness of impersonating a police officer. Once a person has assumed the identity of law enforcement they are afforded the privilege of police officers. This is extremely dangerous and is a threat to society unlike most other crimes. If a person believes that an impostor is really an officer they can be taken advantage of in a multitude of ways. The time would fail to discuss how the enemy infiltrates God’s people by falsifying his identity. From the serpent in the Garden, to the angel of light, to the wolf in sheep clothing; false impersonation is a serious issue in the churches of God. Jesus thoroughly explained what a hypocrite is and it is the subject of this entry. 


Mixed Up Priorities 

First, Hypocrites have grossly mixed-up priorities. For example, Jesus healed a woman in Luke 13 who had been oppressed of Satan for eighteen years. Rather than rejoicing, the leader of the synagogue went through the crowd indignantly telling the people that there were six days in a week to be healed, and the Sabbath was not one of them. Jesus exposed his hypocrisy by pointing out his willingness to break the Sabbath when he loosed his donkey from the stall to go water it. This statement exposed the man as a fraud. He only pretended to care about Sabbath breaking; that is, it was acceptable for him to do it for an animal, but not for Jesus to do it for a child of God. Amazing.

There is another concern we must take up, and it is that of “playing the hypocrite.” This is more of a one-off act rather than a state of being. One can behave as a hypocrite under duress, whereas that is not their normal state. One way this happens is when a person changes their convictions depending on present company. This is what Peter and some of the other believers did in Galatians 2. They took a stand for the Gospel while around the Gentiles, but when the believing Jews came around they altered their stance based on what the Jews expected. Paul would have none of it, and confronted Peter about it. Having a different set of beliefs depending on who you are around is an awful sin. It leaves people not knowing what to believe. 


True hypocrites do pious things in order to appear spiritual and godly. They use their position and status to exalt themselves. If there were no self-glory in the thing, they will not do it. Jesus described the hypocrisy of those who pray, fast, or give money publicly, so people will see it. (Matthew 6:2ff) For Hypocrites, the term “brother” or “sister” is not enough; they expect to be called by titles like Rabbi or some other modern rendition. They figure they have “earned the right” to assume. Others are more pious suggesting they only want respect for the “position.” Nonsense. Imagine the madness of a person who will say Jesus, Paul, Peter or John, when referring to them; but themselves expect to be called apostle, prophet, pastor or deacon. Jesus was forever deflecting self-exalting titles. A good dosage of Philippians 2:3-8 is well in order as the antidote for such proud hypocrisy.

In Mark 7:6 Jesus describes a hypocrite as a person who honors Him with their mouth, but their heart is far from Him. This is a key definition. David was a man after God’s own heart — meaning that his heart was set on the things God’s heart is set on. This was not always true, but generally it was. He loved what God loves and hated what God hates. He wanted to please God in all things. A hypocrite says things to give the impression that they are men or women after God’s own heart, but it is a fraud. They really don’t agree with God and His word in the way they present themselves. They twist things to suit their own will while at the same time saying all the right things for the sake of appearances. Their words and actions do not match.


Finally, we are told by the Lord Jesus that hypocrites will have their place in the Lake of Fire. In Matthew 23:13-29, He gave a long succession of “woes” directed at hypocrites. They hinder people from entering the kingdom. They clean the outside of the cup, but not the inside. They work hard a making a proselyte, and when successful, train them to be more evil than they are. They are big on tithing and small on judging right from wrong; kindness to the afflicted, and a faithful conviction to uphold God’s word. The passage is well worth reading, studying, and pondering. Our Lord then states in Matthew 24:

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:50-51)

Summary

A hypocrite is often so self-deceived that they live their whole lives not realizing they are one. They can’t see that their whole Christian life is an act. They are performing for the people they have told they are a Christian. Jesus tried desperately to show the hypocrites of His time the error of their ways. Most simply got angry at Him. Nevertheless, we have to come to reality. It is too easy to just “put it on” for some people. They have an idea of how Christians are to behave, so they impersonate what they have watched. It is impossible to state how dangerous this type of behavior is. 


After a while, a hypocrite becomes one with the Christian they are pretending to be. They can live their entire lives in a state of double-mindedness. It would be akin to Marion Morrison forgetting that he was not really John Wayne. How long would it take before the person identified themselves with the character they were playing? Once this happens it can be near impossible to see a person come to genuine repentance and faith. Nevertheless, Hollywood may give out awards for best actor or best actress; but in the kingdom of God, stage actors are sentenced to hell as stated in Matthew 24:50-51. This is a very sobering thing to consider. 

Hope For The Barren (A Dissertation)

Hope For The Barren 
A Dissertation
Robert Wurtz II

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

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

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

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

Fruitlessness

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

The Bold Deception of Miracles



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

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


In the Absence of Brotherly Love

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

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

The Blinding Power of Pride

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


Humbling Ourselves

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

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

Where is Boasting?



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

The Spirit and the Word Agree


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


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

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

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

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

Walk in the Word

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

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


The Danger of Barrenness 

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

False Love


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

The Diagnosis

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Curse of Conflicting Messages

The Curse of Conflicting Messages
Robert Wurtz II

Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. (Matthew 23:3)

Conflicting messages are far too often the curse of those who would seek to teach and preach God’s word. It was true in the time of Jesus and it is true in our day and age. Matthew 23:3 is a sad commentary on certain of the Pharisees. Jesus told the people of His day that they are teaching you right with their mouth, but leading you astray with their actions. In the broken English of my former teacher from Japan, “Word and action no match.”


In the churches of God, conflicting messages cause tremendous confusion. Even children are capable of picking up on inconsistencies in our teachings. If I teach a group of children that something is wrong and then allow my own children to do it — it is an inconsistency. It will damage my credibility in their eyes. I risk the charge of hypocrisy. However, conflicting messages in the churches of God are more subtle than this in modern times. 

Confusion Comes to the World

Militant atheist George Benard Shaw once said that “all great truths begin with blasphemies.” This is how the Devil warps peoples’ minds. He blasphemes sacred things as a platform to promote his ideals. For example, there was a time when a clear line existed between sacred and secular things. False and carnal professors of Christ have compromised this fact. Thirty years ago it would have been considered a profanation to play secular music in a church or during a Christian meeting. In 2014 secular music is being played during altar services where people are supposed to be getting right with God. Twenty years ago a generation sang about going into the enemies camp and taking back what the Devil stole; this generation has gone into the enemies camp — stole Satan’s stuff — and are offering it up to God as a sweet savor. And if that lunacy is not bad enough, consider that now a popular beer company is using the classic Gospel Hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” to promote alcohol in its commercials. 



To take a Gospel Hymn and profane it in such a way is as brazen as Belshazzar taking the holy things of God into his debauched party in Daniel 5. “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms…” Perhaps the Devil figured, “The church ain’t using it .. maybe I can use it.” The trouble with this is that some old timers will hear this message and play the tune out in their mind. When they do it’s liable to backfire on the Devil, just as it does when secular music is playing during so-called Christian altar calls. At any rate, the enemy has raised the cup of this sacred hymn to God as if to join these so-called Christians in blaspheming the things of God and distorting the concept of holy for the saints and sinners alike.

Looking To the Future

Be of good cheer, things are about to get worse. If God spares our lives ere many years, we are liable to see compromise, confusion, blasphemy, and profaning at a level believed only to exist in Hell right now. This is the true cost of redefining time-tested definitions of Bible concepts such as conversion, new birth, born again, “saved”, holy, sanctified, and the rest. 



  





  

Stuck In The Eye

Stuck In The Eye
Robert Wurtz II

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Our passage is a solemn reminder that sometimes people have a tendency to gaze upon the faults of others, while looking past greater faults in their own lives. Jesus defines the behavior as hypocrisy. This is a particular danger in our times for a number of reasons. In the body of Christ there are some sins that are viewed as heinous, while other equally or more serious sins are often marginalized. In the world there is a huge emphasis on self-esteem that does not allow some people to be introspective. they would think about their shortcomings, but that would make them feel bad about themselves, so they avoid the practice. 

From time to time I think to write upon a particular subject and the Holy Spirit will bring this verse before my mind. Perhaps some behavior or action I have done has been displeasing to God and He wants it dealt with – long before I speak on a topic. You may ask, why is that? Three reasons: first, it is hypocritical to want to help others correct issues in their lives while we have glaring ones that we have not dealt with. Secondly, we cannot see clearly to be of any real help. Our perceptive faculties are encumbered by that which is “in our eye.” Thirdly, we may tend to emphasize other peoples faults and sins in order to minimize the seriousness of our own. This is a subtle, but deadly mind game.  


On three separate occasions in my life I have had metal removed from my eye. Few things are more painful than having a foreign object scraping against your eyeball. I suppose God designed us that way. We need to be able to see clearly, so we need our eyes in tip top shape. Our natural response is to get that thing out of there! Now! Not later; right this second! We can’t have our eyes destroyed by foreign objects. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine the pain of having a beam in my eye. Small beam (pencil), medium beam (broom stick), or a large beam (floor joist) – they are all dreadful to me. If such were the case, we would undoubtedly be blind in that eye. Obviously this passage is intended to be metaphorical, but we can easily see the difficulty here. A person with a speck in their eye may be rubbing it or flushing it with water, but a person with a beam ought to be screaming in pain. 

However, sometimes, rather than scream with pain, we may take it upon ourselves to focus on someones splinter as if they needed more help than us. This is hypocrisy. We will never get anywhere in the Kingdom of God while we focus on someone different’s shortcomings and marginalize our own. Moreover, we can’t possibly see their problem correctly and are liable to make it worse. Notice Jesus’ words, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly…” When we have compromise, disobedience or sin in our lives, our spiritual and moral vision is clouded at best and blocked at worst. We are simply in no shape to help anyone. 

Our first step is to take our focus off of others and get it on ourselves. Allow God’s Word to do its work and acknowledge that we have a plank in our own eye (if so be that we have one). Acknowledge that it is there in the strongest of terms. We can’t use strong terms for other peoples sins – use euphemisms for ours and avoid the charge of hypocrisy. We have to call it what it is and repent. What good is it to go on focusing on somebody else?

Perhaps even while reading this you may be thinking, “I know someone that does that!” You are already falling into the trap. Our passage applies to all of us. As if we locked ourselves in a room alone with God and this passage – we need to let God do a work in us. We need to allow Him to turn our attention back upon our own spiritual condition. Not our enemy; not our rivals, not the church, not the TV preacher, etc., but me. Me, me, me! A thousand times, me!    

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