Three Years Of Tears (Weeping Prophets)

Three Years Of Tears (Weeping Prophets)
Robert Wurtz II

Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31)

Paul has brought the elders from the church at Ephesus together for one final exhortation before he leaves for Jerusalem. He knows that he will never see them again. The Holy Spirit has been warning him for some time that trials and afflictions are ahead. Nevertheless, this is not his concern. In fact, he testified that none of those things moved him. He had already been stoned, flogged, and beaten mercilessly on numerous occasions for the cause of Christ. The wretched conditions of a cold jail cell were frequently his home. If these things didn’t move him, what did? Obviously, it was not the prospect of more pain and suffering. What could move a man who was as tough as nails to tears?

Paul Wept

It is sobering to read the full context of Acts 20. The contrasts are stunning. On the one hand, we have a man who has been weeping for three years as he warned the Ephesians about grievous wolves and opportunistic people. He is destined to suffer and die for the faith. On the other hand, we have people waiting for him to leave so they can push their own self-serving agenda. They don’t care about the Body of Christ.

Jeremiah Wept

Few people in the Bible can be said to have wept for years. Jeremiah comes to mind. He was known as the weeping Prophet. Maybe we should think of Paul as the weeping Apostle. Both men share this one similarity — they wept because the people would not listen. When people are destined for destruction and refuse to see it, there is nothing left to do but weep.

Jesus Wept

Jesus even wept over Jerusalem when they would not repent and turn to Him. He wanted to gather them together, but they would not have it. The consequence of this would be unimaginable horror, both in this world, and the one to come. The multitudes would rather follow the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots. As predicted, in less than forty years after His ascension, the entire city of Jerusalem, with its magnificent Temple, would be destroyed and plowed under like a farmer’s field. Masses of people would starve to death as Vespasian, and then Titus, would put the city under siege.

This event, known as the Destruction of the Temple, happened in 70 CE. The people could not have imagined what was coming. Atrocities were committed against the Jews by their own people. Before it was over, Josephus records that one woman even dressed and cooked her own baby for food. Jesus saw it coming; He tried to warn them; they would not listen; so He wept. That’s all He could do.

Storm Warning

In modern times, there is a violent storm coming. The Western World, used to centuries of relative acceptance of Christianity, is headed for persecution. Nevertheless, the cycle of Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul has visited us. Multitudes are blind to the fact that ” trials and tribulations are awaiting. ” There is a hostility to Christianity that is growing by the day. Even within the churches there is a large percentage of people who think exactly like the world. They advocate the same things that the world advocates. The reason for this is that for over 100 years, we have not had the Gospel being properly preached in the main stream. The high-speed industrialized evangelistic methods of the 20th century have filled the churches with nominal Christians.

This is why persecution will also come from within the churches. No matter what religion a person claims, if they have not been born of the Spirit. they are capable of doing anything that any other sinner is capable of. Always know this. If they still have the same heart and spirit after they become a Christian as they had before — they are capable of doing anything that they had done before. This is common sense. And this is why we are in trouble. Millions of professing Christians have not been changed and yet believe they have been. A person like this is capable of anything. They may even kill real Christians thinking they are doing God a service. Why? They were never changed to have the mind and Spirit of Christ, but were told that they were. Therefore, they think that everything they do religiously must be of God. Similar things happened during the Reformation, and I believe it will happen again. This will be the consequence of 100 years of shallow preaching.

Nominal Christianity

Many people over the last 100 years have “entered the ministry” who were never born again. Only God knows the true figure, but people like A.W. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill warned us about it. All kinds of so-called ministries are popping up —, but preachers and evangelists are in short supply. In fact, the problem is getting so bad that some church leaders would like to do away with preaching and make the whole meeting a song service. Bible preaching is merely ” tolerated ” almost as a necessary evil to them. What did the prophet say?

Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11 NKJV)

Some can sense this fact, while others are fiddling. Nominal Christians who become ministers would rather use the Gospel to build a name for themselves than prepare the people for the suffering that awaits. However, there is a violent storm coming: a category five storm that will sweep many off of there very foundations.

It would be superfluous to give examples from the Bible or history just to demonstrate what I’m referring to. If history is any indicator, true Christians are bound for persecution and death. In spite of this, multitudes are preaching an exaggerated and unbiblical form of love and tolerance to the point that most refuse to take a stand for truth anymore. Grace is being used to dumb down the conscience to the point that nothing is sin anymore. God loves everybody just the way they are. Really? These are some of the doctrines of Devils that are warned of in the scriptures concerning the end times.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3–5 NKJV)

A “No-repent” Gospel

Repentance and holiness are now among the most offensive words in many churches today. This is not merely in Protestant circles. Many are not surprised that even the Pope has cowered and bowed in compromise with everything from homosexuality to Islam. All the while, a clarion call goes out — faint as it is — drowned by the voices of those who minister hype instead of holiness and prosperity instead of preparation. Like the people in Noah’s day, there is a generation that refuses to ready itself for the wrath that is to come.

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:37–39 NKJV)

What is there left to do? Preach and weep. Don’t hold back. Warn the people night and day with tears, if necessary. Not crocodile tears— but real ones. As time goes on and we keep our hearts pure we will eventually weep. Some weep already. We are vexed from day to day with the unlawful deeds of those around us. They refuse to listen… So what is there left? Weep for those who refuse to hear. Jeremiah did it. Jesus did it. Paul did it. This is the wrenching response to people who hear the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and still refuse to respond rightly. They would rather go on building their own kingdoms or the kingdoms of men. What can we do? Imitate Paul.

Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31)

Profits or Prophets?

Profits or Prophets? 

Robert Wurtz II

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2–4 NKJV)

In 2012 Reuters reported that a study had been performed in which music created between 1955 and 2010 was drawn from the Milllion Song Data Set and digitally analyzed. Their conclusion? Pop music (is) too loud and (it) all sounds the same.” This summary became the title of the article. “A team led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council ran music from the last 50 years through some complex algorithms and found that pop songs have become intrinsically louder and more bland in terms of the chords, melodies and types of sound used. ‘We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse,’ Serra told Reuters. ‘In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations – roughly speaking chords plus melodies – has consistently diminished in the last 50 years.'”

I wonder if there were a million sermons and Christian songs in a database, and a similar test could be conducted over the last 100 years, what the results would be? If we went on our passage in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 alone we would know the outcome before the team could be assembled or the first algorithm devised. For decades mainstream Christendom has suffered from the same kind of “homogenization” of its music and Biblical discourse that has affected secular music. In general, these things are getting louder and blander by the day. 

What is driving this trend? Undoubtedly, its the same thing that’s driving the secular world. In an attempt to maximize sales, record companies look for music that will create the most revenue. It’s not about creating good music, it’s about creating money. This is the consequence of commercialization. Nearly all of our experiences in the Western World are directly affected by profits. 

Profits of Prosperity 

Modern Christianity is fast in danger of becoming a non-prophet for profit organism. This has been the trade-off. Sometimes you will hear the peace and prosperity merchants using cynical stereotypes to describe who they call “prophets of doom.” This is what happens when Christianity becomes a profit centered enterprise. What does it do to edify the Body? I’ll tell you. Nothing meaningful. It makes me wonder; if Jesus were to show up in the flesh in the 21st Century, what do you think He would do with the money-changer driven “Pop-Christianity” that dominates our times? If He took his leather whip, as He did when moved in zeal for His Father’s House, where would He head to first? The Christian bookstores? The CCM headquarters? How about the political conventions we have in our denominations? What about the Christian Networks that use satellites and TV stations to teach things they ought not for filthy lucre sake? I dare say there wasn’t a single false teacher in the New Testament that could hold a candle to some of the prophets for profit whose names are on the lips of many Christians in our day. 

A False Jesus

I realize the standard picture of Jesus is an effeminate man with a lamb in his arms, but I really have to ask — what would He cleanse first if He should prepare His Church for His return? The homogenization of the faith has produced a form of Christianity that bears little resemblance to the New Testament. What is most dreadful of all is that the masses refuse to even ponder this great problem. It is a hard saying, but it’s almost like today, many don’t have time to learn. People will sacrifice for nonsense, but not give ample resources for their own eternity. Sure, books that puff man up sell and those type preachers captivate their audiences. “Your best life now” sells a million copies, but the pour soul writing about genuine repentance, holiness, or an expounding of the wonders of the New Covenant can’t get the time of day. Why? They won’t sell. There is no money in it. No demand. 

One of the top selling genres of so-called Christian books is Amish love stories. Really? Sin and compromise always sells, but if we are to move into Christian reality we are going to have to recognize the hour we are living in. I dare say that the time has come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they heap up for themselves teachers; and they turn their ears away from the truth, and are turned aside to fables. For Paul it was the future, but for us it is now. Let the weight of that sink in. Our generation fits this passage like no other. 

Spiritual Malnutrition

The challenge we have is that the very people who are homogenizing Christianity and feeding it to the people have made sure that nothing they ever teach will cause alarm. It like people eat and go into some kind of spiritual food coma. They are asleep to the dreadful times we are living in. If they did become alarmed, they are so spiritually malnourished that they wouldn’t have the strength or courage to do anything. Homogenized Christianity for profit has created a generation of Christian refugees traveling life’s road in perpetual weakness and frailty. Moreover, their entire palate is adjusted for the homogenized and bland stuff in such a way that they can’t stand the taste of anything legitimate. It’s like a person who has not eaten solid food for so long that they can’t handle it anymore. 

Paul’s Charge

Indeed, this is our times, but there is no need to despair. Paul gave us the solution; Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. When it’s not popular — Preach the word! When the people don’t want to hear it; Be ready in season and out of season. When they call you a prophet of doom; Convince, rebuke, and exhort. But most of all realize that God warned us of this time. We should have been expecting it to come. He knows about it and He warned us. Therefore do all these things with all longsuffering and teaching. Keep teaching the people. Keep showing them what is happening to them. Not everyone will listen, but some will. Even if nobody listens, we have a mandate from God. This is our calling. This is our commission. This is the charge we must keep.      

Menace-ters of the Gospel

Menace-ters of the Gospel
Robert Wurtz II

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:1–4 NKJV) 

The renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson once commented that “the temptation of the merely ‘popular’ preacher is to furnish the latest tickle.” Those tickles are for the ears of those who have turned away their ears from the truth and have turned them to fables. Tickling the ears is an expression meaning to gratify a person’s hearing or in our day to “tell them what they want to hear.” As A.T. Robertson expressed it, “they want any ‘new thought’ or any other fad that will give a new momentary thrill to their itching ears and morbid minds.” These teachings and new fads make their way into Christendom to become a menace to the true saints and faithful ministers of the Gospel. Lacking a good word to describe the effects of a menace upon the ministry I combined the terms. In this entry I wish to describe the furnishing of ear tickling words as menacetry and the respective preachers are menaceters (menace-ters).

In modern times, the world is plagued with self-serving ministers. I’m reminded of Paris Reidhead’s suggestion that all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are the only tools the devil has ever used to damn the race of men. What are they? Pleasure, possessions, and popularity. In the Old Testament, the house of Eli used the priesthood to obtain all three of these things. Between Hording Hophni and fornicating Phinehas, this family nearly destroyed the ministry they were entrusted with. It seems unconscionable, but many men and woman see the Church as a multilevel career opportunity. Some view ministry like a family-owned business that they can get in and establish, and then pass down to their children. They convince themselves that they own it and thereby have the right to do with it as they wish.

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

Leaders in ministry need to be reminded often that the people over whom they have the oversight are God’s heritage (emphasis on God’s). The sheep do not belong to men. Nevertheless, many ministers so-called, have the notion that they do indeed “own the sheep” and lord it over them in every way they possibly can. They drain the saints  for sordid gain rather than being servants to them. Understand that those who labor in the word and the Gospel are to be financially supported by the churches. Nevertheless, some people would not do the work of ministry unless they were getting a paycheck. Preaching for a paycheck is a perilous endeavor for all involved.

A primary qualification for leaders in the churches is that they must not have a reputation for “filthy lucre.” This is a word that means discraceful gain. In other words, they must not have been shrewd business men who were willing to stoop to all kinds of questionable things to make a profit. If you asked them they would tell you it is just “business.” In fact, some Christians actually make a distinction between their Christian life and business as if it’s acceptable to be such a schizophrenic. Nevertheless, this mentality carries over into the churches of God once the person gets involved in ministry. God does not want that. Why? Not only will they almost inevitably resort to the sordidness of making profit out of Christian service; they will behave differently in board meetings than they do in the pulpit. It becomes about the money rather than God’s will. Of course we know they will call it stewardship, but this is usually a thin veil for greed and covetousness. The split personality of Christian/lover if lucre is a menace to the churches and must be eradicated. If we see it we must show no mercy to it. 

Paul gives the solution when he writes to Timothy, Preach the word! Pastor/teachers are to labor in the word primarily so that they can be ready to preach. Why should they do it? Why not just do what ever we want to do? Paul answered our question when he told Timothy, I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” Judgement day is coming and we are all going to give an account of our ministry. In fact, James tells us that teachers and preachers will receive the stricter judgment. This warning ought to compel any reasonable and sane person to preach only what God’s word says and not spin it in any way for personal gain. 

* In case there is any confusion (per M.F), this article is not addressed to Missionary Societies who provide stipends to their ministers. 

Paul’s Warning

Paul’s Warning About “They”
Robert Wurtz II

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2-5 KJV)

In our previous entry I entitled, The Power of Paul’s Preaching, I closed the entry by demonstrating that Paul continued to preach the message of repentance from sin and faith towards God to the very end. In fact, he passed a solemn charge to Timothy that he carry on the work in like manner. Paul inserts into this charge a prophecy about a type of people that he simply calls “they.” They are characterized by three things:

1. They will not endure sound doctrine; i.e., reproving, rebuking, and exhorting.
2. They will heap to themselves teachers that tickle their ears and fuel their lusts.
3. They will refuse to hear the truth, but will turn to fables (stories and myths).

This prophecy is given as a future reality as the verbs are future tense. It is certain that Timothy could expect at some point to have to deal with “they”. I suggest that “they” would arise as a consequence of Paul being dead. This is akin to the warning Paul gave to the Ephesians that after his departure wolves would enter in, not sparing the sheep. In the absence of sound preaching, the lusts of men and women come to the fore and a band of so-called ministers rise to feed them. 

After Their Own Lusts

Markets are driven by demand. This is true in all walks of life. When demand for something dries up- the supply chain for it dries up. Flow is created by pressure; and in this case the pressure is lust. The Greek word for lust is the standard word for strong desire (epithumia). These people are not driven by God’s will or His word- but their own strong desires. Whereas the Kingdom of God is designed around God’s desires, these have traded God’s desires for their own desires. Nevertheless, they chose to remain in the churches. This creates a very serious challenge for preachers. Feed the peoples lusts; or preach for the glory of God?

Heaping to Themselves

The very fact that Paul told Timothy that “they” will heap teachers to themselves that tickle their ears- suggests that Timothy is going to be woefully outnumbered if he carries out Paul’s charge. It suggests that even in the first century there was a serious disparity between the number of true preachers and ear ticklers. “They” are able to vote out truth by majority. In other words, majority rules. “They” are deceived into thinking that the more people agree with their lusts the more likely “they” are to be right. Add to that the false idea that popularity equals authority and you have a recipe for wholesale deception.

In our times heaping can be done on an exponential basis. The television and Christian networks are loaded with speakers that have carved their niche in meeting the lusts of men. Simply put, they tell people what they want to hear. They almost never serve up news that would agitate their base. Therefore, their TV audience, radio listeners, and Internet mailing lists keep growing. Obviously not all are in this category, but clearly the majority are. In Timothy’s day “they” could heap a handful- today the sky is the limit with so much access to various speakers. 

An Encouragement to Timothy

Paul was telling Timothy what “they” were going to do and what their speakers were going to tell them. Fables. Falsehoods. Twisted notions. All sorts of things that distract them from the truth. Typically these notions seek to bless “they”, that is, the very people God is wanting reproved or rebuked. It means that Timothy would have to live with what Leonard Ravenhill called, “rejection.” Paul dealt with it too. even among professors of Christ. When Timothy got up to preach he could expect a house of reluctant hearers that seemed to merely endure his preaching; but then came the ear tickler and the house was full and the people anxious and attentive. He would have seen it and it would have grieved and vexed his soul. But then, we could expect, Paul’s words would come to mind.

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Almost as if Paul shot down all the arguments from the beginning. “They” are thronging the ear tickling preachers you say? ” But watch thou in all things. I know what “they” are doing but “thou” are to watch in all things. The word for “watch” here could be translated sober. “They” may be drunk on the elixir of this world and stagger at the lusts that are heaped up, but be thou sober in all things. “They” might be doing it, but you must not. You fill to the full your ministry and leave “they” and their speakers to God. No matter how insignificant you may think your contribution is- keep preaching the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

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