Spoiling Our Witness (Mean Christians)

Spoiling Our Witness
Robert Wurtz II

Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes. (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)

Our passage is an allegory dealing with the love between individuals that is always in danger of being spoiled. Vines are the place where fruitfulness “happens” and this is where the “little foxes” do damage. Their destructiveness is predictable and preventable. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived second to the Lord Jesus, makes use of them figuratively to demonstrate why vines that ought to yield fruit are yielding failure

In the Greek Old Testament (LXX), the word spoiled is aphanizontas and it is translated as “disfigure” (their faces) in Matthew 6:16;  “corrupt” (moth and rust doth…) in Matthew 6:19; “Perish” in Acts 13:41; and “vanish away” in James 4:14. This is the semantic range of the word… it means anything from disfigure to vanishing away all together. In other words, from damage to total loss.  

What are the “little foxes” that cause failure at the vines? Understand that we are destined, as the saints of God, to bring forth fruit unto God. Just as God told Adam in the Garden of Eden to be fruitful and multiply — so too Jesus (the Last Adam) told the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20 NKJV). This is God’s will. This is our job. The enemy knows this and is working relentlessly to hinder or stall this process completely. How does he do it?


Fruit Carries the Seed

In Genesis God ordained that all trees should bring forth fruit after their own kind. In fact, the fruit carries the seed of the next generation of trees. If we carry this thought into the kingdom of God, we can understand the relationship between the fruit of the Spirit and the ministry of the word of God. If a Christians’ fruit has been “spoiled” the seed of God’s word is hindered. Think about it. Have you ever met a Christian who talked about Jesus and yet their behavior spoiled their testimony? I have seen it several times in the workplace. One minute they try to witness to someone and a few days later they attack the person in some way. We have all probably observed this and were very saddened. In the business world a salesman would never attack their customer. They have more sense than that. That would be a good way to lose a client. However, Jesus said… for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8b KJV) They treat their prospects with courtesy and kindness. Nevertheless, some Christians understand these things when it comes to losing a sale... but not when it comes to losing a soul. 



Some professing Christians are like “little foxes.” Satan makes use of them to damage and disfigure the testimony of Christianity and the Church. Their bad behaviors and attitudes get ignored or excused until it’s too late and the damage is done. The “little foxes” spoil the vines (souls of people) before they have a chance to be fruitful; or they destroy the “tender grapes” that are starting to grow on the vine. If he can’t nip these people in the bud he will destroy them while they are tender. We must be aware of this strategy and be quick to deal with “little foxes” when they rear their destructive heads. 


Tender Blossoms

As a child my father planted a fruit and vegetable garden every spring. Although he never planted grapes, he planted many things that grew on vines; watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. He knew these plants were always subject to danger so he took steps to protect them. The garden was set up as a sanctuary of sorts where fruits and vegetables could thrive. It was common knowledge that people and animals were to keep out. Children were not allowed to play football or baseball near the gardens lest they trample through the vines recovering their stray balls. Why? Recklessness has no place in a vineyard or a garden. Plants have tender vines and they must be protected. Likewise, people who are growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ must be protected within the churches.

Real Danger

Catch us the foxes, The little foxes, says the scripture. Notice the admonition, “Catch!” This implies great diligence. Solomon was writing about a marital relationship. In the same figure the New Covenant is a marriage contract. People come into relationship with Jesus Christ by covenant to become members of the Bride of Christ. Anything or anyone who obstructs or endangers this process must be “caught” and dealt with. Anything or any person that is putting souls at risk must be swiftly dealt with no matter what or who they are. This is one area where we cannot afford to “overlook” destructive behavior. 

In modern times churches go to great lengths to protect children from sexual abuse because of all the scandals that have happened in the Catholic church. They run background checks on the workers; set up special “safe” areas where only authorized persons can be; etc. Yet some of these churches will overlook a mean-spirited person and allow them to teach and handle children. There are many wonderful teachers who have been faithful to do God’s work over the years; however, the time would fail to list all the times that I have personally known of so-called Christian workers to offend children. These offenders destroy the works of those who were faithful. What happens? The offended child grows up angry at the church and you never see them again. It is a hard saying, but while they were yet young and tender, people who had no business working with children offended them and destroyed them “on the vine.” They should have been “caught” and dealt with. Sadly, they never were.


Kids will be kids. If a person has a bad spirit they have no business being involved in ministry. They need to be sat down and dealt with so that God can bring them to repentance. God doesn’t care what their title is or what their name is. Did God really mean that we ought not to please ourselves? Indeed He did. Was Solomon right when he told us that foxes were destroying the vines? Indeed he was. Did he tell us to catch and deal with them? Indeed he did. This means that we are watchful for things that are trying to spoil God’s work. Things that are offending people unnecessarily and destroying their relationship with God. Again, we read, Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes. Recognize and mark the people who tend to act mean to children and old people. Deal with them. 

Time To Move Forward (Reconciliation after apochoœrizoœ)

Time To Move Forward
Robert Wurtz II

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:9–13 KJV)

It is hard to read the book of Acts and not be troubled by the situation that arose concerning Mark (John Mark), the nephew of Barnabas. Because John Mark did not go to the work with Paul and Barnabas when they travelled to Pamphylia, Paul did not “think it worthy” to take him on the new journey in Acts 15. The statement “think it worthy” is a little stilted, but that is the import of the Greek words used to describe the incident. I concur with Matthew Henry’s assessment of the matter, “Paul did not think John Mark worthy of the honour, nor fit for the service, who had departed from them […].” It is possible that there was more to the quarrel than Luke has told us. The incident of Galatians 2:11-14 may have occurred at this time, in which Barnabas as well as Peter vacillated on the question of eating with Gentile believers. The matter seems to have been quickly settled, but the memory of it may have remained to exacerbate this present dispute. (David J. Williams, NIBC on Acts 15:39, 272-273).


“Dispute” is probably not a strong enough term to describe the event. In fact, both renowned Greek scholars Marvin Vincent and A.T. Robertson describe the event as an angry outburst.

The contention was so sharp (paroxusmos). More correctly, there arose a sharp contention. Only here and Hebrews 10:24. Our word paroxysm is a transcription of paroxusmo\ß. An angry dispute is indicated. (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament).  

A sharp contention (paroxusmos). Our very word paroxysm in English. Old word though only twice in the N.T. (here and Heb. 10:24), from paroxunoœ, to sharpen (para, oxus) as of a blade and of the spirit (Acts 17:16; 1 Cor. 13:5). This “son of consolation” loses his temper in a dispute over his cousin and Paul uses sharp words towards his benefactor and friend. It is often so that the little irritations of life give occasion to violent explosions. If the incident in Gal. 2:11-21 had already taken place, there was a sore place already that could be easily rubbed. And if Mark also joined with Peter and Barnabas on that occasion, Paul had fresh ground for irritation about him. But there is no way to settle differences about men and we can only agree to disagree as Paul and Barnabas did. So that they parted asunder from one another (hoœste apochoœristheœnai autous ap’ alleœloœn). Actual result here stated by hoœste and the first aorist passive infinitive of apochoœrizoœ, old verb to sever, to separate, here only and Rev. 6:4 in the N.T. […]. This is the last glimpse that Luke gives us of Barnabas, one of the noblest figures in the New Testament. Paul has a kindly reference to him in 1 Cor. 9:6. No one can rightly blame Barnabas for giving his cousin John Mark a second chance nor Paul for fearing to risk him again. One’s judgment may go with Paul, but one’s heart goes with Barnabas […]. Paul and Barnabas parted in anger and both in sorrow. Paul owed more to Barnabas than to any other man. Barnabas was leaving the greatest spirit of the time and of all times. (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament) 

Passing Blame

When situations such as these happen it is not helpful to work to assign blame. What God had joined together was now being put asunder. That is where our vexation should focus. The Holy Spirit had separated these two men for the ministry and now they have gone their separate ways. What a travesty. A chorus of a thousand theologians could not convince me that this was God’s will. Both men should have focused on the ministry they were both utterly devoted too and not become incensed at the situation at hand. Their separation had greater consequences than anything John Mark would have caused. But what was done was done and they had to find a way to go forward.




We know that Paul changed his opinion of John Mark as Colossians 4:10 clearly demonstrates. At some point Mark had changed his conduct and was “profitable” for the ministry. Paul told Timothy, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” Where once Paul suggested he was “unworthy” now he is “profitable.” As A.T. Robertson puts it, “Most assuredly Now Paul longs to have the man that he once scornfully rejected (Acts 15:37ff.)”

Moving Forward

When Paul reached the end of his life he looked around and some of the people he had trusted to the end had forsaken him. Yet here is John Mark still being faithful after all these years. God even used him to pen the Gospel of Mark if tradition is to be believed. That is a profound demonstration of God’s grace. 

Sometimes we think that men like Paul are too great to make mistakes — if we want to call it that. It’s not true. It wasn’t true then and it’s not true now. One thing we can say is that Paul changed his mind about Mark. The embrace wherewith he desired him in the end exceeded the rejection he felt for him in the beginning. Unworthy? Nay verily, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” If the order of words indicates Paul’s emphasis he placed John Mark ahead of everything. He wanted to see him one last time before he died. Undoubtedly he wanted to confirm his love towards him.

I like happy endings. This was a happy ending. No loose ends to tie up. Everything made right. This is how it ought to be. Matters that seem so important in the moment often do not stand the test of time. It’s easy to talk tough when you have your whole life ahead of you. But oh how feelings change when you have time to really think about things. Paul thought about it. I don’t think myself a blasphemer to say that there was probably not a day that went by that Paul did not feel regret. It’s not too bad a word, regret. Have you ever felt it? It just means we feel sad and disappointed about something that happened in the past that we cant go back and change. We have to live with it. But what we do with regret is what matters. The anger he felt that day he and Barnabas separated transitioned into a slow burn of an aching sadness that undoubtedly taught him much about what it means to truly love. This is love in shoe leather. Had Paul lived to be a hundred years old he would have still sought out this man John Mark. He had to make sure 100% that John Mark knew that he accepted him as a legitimate man of God and fellow worker in the Gospel. 

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”” (1 Peter 4:8 NKJV)  



  

Blaspheming the Word of God

Blaspheming the Word of God

Robert Wurtz II

Let the aged women likewise be in reverent behavior, not slanderers, not enslaved by much wine, teachers of good things, that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, kind, subject to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:3-5)

An inscription was found in the city of Pergamum, home of one of the seven churches of the Revelation that read, “Julius Bassus to Otacilia Polla my sweetest wife, who loved her husband and children and lived with me blamelessly for thirty years.” (Vincent) We can safely infer from this that the husband Julius left this behind as a memorial to his beloved wife whom he referred to tenderly as “my sweetest wife” and praises her for what the Greeks would have called philandros and philoteknous. These two words are compounds beginning with philo, one of the Greek words for love (fondness) combined with husband and children. He completes the praise saying she was blameless (faithful) for thirty years.

Otacilia Polla, based on her husband’s testimony, was a model wife by any standard. She lived out the essence of Titus 2:3-5 in an age of gross immorality. What an awesome legacy. John Wesley once stated that the older women are to train the younger women to “love their husbands and children with a tender, temperate, holy, wise affection.” Wesley knew first-hand what this was all about. His mother Susanna trained him up at her knee to know and love the Lord. In an age where many women are lining up to get their credentials in ministry, it would be to the churches of God a priceless service, and honor to God, to simply have these neglected verses in Titus 2 obeyed. We cannot improve on simple obedience no matter what we may aspire to accomplish. 


Coming to Their Senses

What child does not long for motherly affection? How horrific it would be to seek and not find it? This is why Paul’s directive in Titus 2 is so critical. In verse 4 Paul uses a Greek word that we translate as teach or train, which actually means to bring a person to their senses or into their right mind. Generally speaking, a woman who does not love her husband and children is not in her right mind. That is to say, she is not thinking in harmony with how God designed her. Paul is saying that she (whosoever it is who does not properly love her husband and children) needs to be brought to a “right mind” before God’s word ends up being blasphemed. 

Why would God’s word be blasphemed? Because many people blame a person’s religion for their bad behavior. When Christians act out in public — what do people say? They blame it on Christianity. This is why we have to be very careful. Paul said to let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. This is how God’s word can be blasphemed; especially if the husband and children are unbelievers. 



How a mother treats her children will have a direct bearing on whether or not that child ends up serving God. This is common sense. It is disastrous for women to act contrary to Christ in a rude and unloving disposition because it brings reproach on the Kingdom of God before the eyes of the children and husband. Contrary wise Peter gives this encouragement, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:1–2 ESV) 

Trained to Love 

It is interesting that God commands men to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, but He instructs the older women to train the younger women to love their husbands and children. They have to be instructed and shown by example. A man cannot command his wife to love him and children cannot demand it. They are completely at the mercy of the woman. If somebody does not come along and train them to love or if they refuse to follow their natural instincts, there is not hope for a family to receive motherly love. A man can learn of the sufferings of Christ and understand what God means by “love as Christ loved the Church;” young women generally must be shown by the older women. 

Think of all the times you have seen men and women disrespect their spouses to friends, etc. Think about the times you have heard parents speak evil of their children or act as though they were a nuisance. This behavior is an abomination. Moreover, young people are watching this and learning from it. This is how it gets repeated and normalized. 

Feminism and the Churches

In modern times feminism rules the day and has greatly impacted the churches of God in the West. As early as the first part of the 20th Century the renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson lamented how women would prefer to love their poodle dog to their children. This is a strange thing to consider given that God puts it in the heart of women to love their children. It is natural. To act otherwise is unnatural. This is why Paul says that young women need to be brought back into their “right mind” in this regard.

The scripture teaches that in the last days people would be astorgos a word meaning “without natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:3) We see this played out at abortion clinics every day. How can a woman be involved in ministry or pretend to worship God who does not even love her own offspring? The same can be asked of a man. Ministry begins at home. That seems like common sense, but common sense is not quite so common these days. Moreover, it is almost a badge of honor for men and women to treat their spouses disrespectfully in modern times. Sitcoms mock fathers and husbands as if it were a light thing. All these things are evidence of the spirit of Antichrist running rampant in the land. Motherhood is depicted as a plague to be avoided. God’s order is under fierce attack.

In today’s society in the West we have an epidemic of fatherless children. What is often overlooked is that those children also need a tender, loving mother. Not just some of the children, but all of them. There was a generation that taught the next generation to select their “pick” (favorite child) and mistreat the rest. Not in all families, but many of them. It’s not uncommon today to hear of boys in prison or even dead and all they wanted was their momma to love them. I think of stories of prisoners lying in their prison cells crying for their momma. This is a reality you will rarely find depicted in this evil age.

Rejecting God’s Design

Indeed, we need a generation to renounce feminism and get back to bible-based family living. We don’t need a line ten miles long of women trying to imitate and aspire to being a TV minister like Joyce Meyer or Paula White. This is not what God has called women to do. We need a generation to imitate the home life of godly women like Susanna Wesley or the late Lily Burch, who like Otacilia Polla, was a tender, loving and faithful wife. “I’m not her!” says the proud and rebellious feminist generation. This may be true, but what is more sad is that there is little or no desire to be a “Otacilia” or “Lily.” Few if any books are written about such godly women. And this is how the scriptures are being fulfilled. The reason why the last days is filled with people who have no natural affection (familial love) is that it is a rejected concept. Feminism overthrew the natural God-given motherly desires. Nevertheless, God knew this was coming and He warned us. Here we are.

If anyone on earth ought to love a child, it should be their mother. Who would disagree with that? It is horrific and offensive to even the hardest of evil people to hear of a mother abusing or killing her kids. I don’t want to pick up the newspaper and hear of another mother killing her kids. If I never heard another story of a mother abusing her children or hating them, it would be too soon. Nevertheless, there is a more subtle behavior going on of non-love that is also destructive. Kids and husbands want their mother and wife to love them kindly and affectionately. They want to view their mother as a sweet and kind to everyone. 


Consequences of Non-Love 

God created men and women to love one another and love their children. When this ceases to happen the world becomes hell on earth. Satan is influencing as we speak to prevent Titus 2:3-5 from ever becoming a reality. He wants posts like these to sound chauvinistic. Nevertheless, we all are going to stand before God some day and give an account of the stewardship of our family. How did we love our kids? How did we treat them? How did we love our spouses? How dreadful do you suppose it is going to be for those who followed the course of this adulterous generation and blasphemed the word of God? Life is short. We are only here on average of seventy odd years. What after that? Hopefully those who have rejected God’s counsel in this regard are coming up with a profound excuse. Not that any excuse is going to help. Because their actions risk leaving the churches and the world in total havoc; or in Paul’s words, “that the word of God be not blasphemed.” We have a choice to make. We are either going to follow God’s blueprint or this evil world’s. We are either going to be part of the solution or part of the problem. Let the aged women likewise be in reverent behavior, not slanderers, not enslaved by much wine, teachers of good things, that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, kind, subject to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:3-5)

No Love — No Lamp Stand

No Love — No Lamp Stand 

Robert Wurtz II

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:12-14)


If the experts in eschatology are right, and we are indeed living in “the last of the last days,”  then it stands to reason that Matthew 24:12-14 applies to our generation more than any other in recorded history. The passage states plainly that as iniquity (lawlessness) shall abound, the love of many will wax cold. Our Greek word for ” abound ” means to be multiplied. Our words for “wax cold” means “to breathe cool by blowing” or “to grow cold.” This is “spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malicious or poisonous wind” (Vincent). The love of many, that is, the love of the brotherhood gives way to mutual hatred and suspicion.” (A.T. Robertson) 


I’m reminded how as a child my mother would blow on the hot food of small children to prevent it from burning their mouths. Jesus prophesies that iniquity is like the blowing of a poisonous wind — having a chilling effect upon peoples’ love.  This is a staggering thought. As our love chills, we become less and less like our loving God. The same goes for individual churches. 


The Example of Ephesus 

Some have suggested that the reason the church at Ephesus had left its first love was because of their constant dealings with sin, false apostles and doctrines. Sin and false doctrine in a church can cause anger and strife. Nevertheless, their condition gave rise to the warning in Revelation 2:5 that they must “repent and do the first works or else Christ would remove their lamp stand.” Ephesus would not be the first to get fed up with sinners and behave unlovingly. The prophet Jonah was an example of a man that seemed to hate the people he was preaching to. In fairness to Jonah, the Assyrians were a very evil and merciless people. They killed people for the fun of it and could sleep like a baby at night. Their capitol was Nineveh. 

I can see how the sin of Nineveh “cooled” Jonah’s love and compassion for the people. However, he got a bad spirit as he apparently 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 and compassion for him. What a horrendous thought! The brother even lost his natural — familial love for his own sibling. The Lord 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 2:2There is a thin line between hating iniquity as Jesus did and allowing iniquity to cause you to hate the person. Once we cross that line we are of no use to God — as individuals and churches. 


Jesus said that many will “cross that line” (as it were) in the last days. It only stands to reason that in our times we are at great risk of leaving our first love, both as Saints and churches. Iniquity abounds in our times. False prophets abound. How are we reacting to this? When our spiritual energy is blighted and chilled by a malicious (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 love the unloveable? This is the great question of our times. 


No matter how deep those that crucified our Lord probed into His flesh with spikes and spears, they still hit love. He was love to the very core of His being. In fact, Jesus could look at a sinner caught up in iniquity and still have compassion for them, love them, and die for them. He loved those who made themselves His enemies. These were not fictitious people in hypothetical circumstances; these were real people brandishing real weapons of hate. 


We need to ask ourselves, do we take a sinner’s sin personally? And if we do, why? God is the primary offended party in all 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; seeing sin can harden a saint. We must guard our hearts and go on loving in the grace and power of God.

Lamp stand in Jeopardy

I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent. (Revalation 2:5)




This was not an idle threat. Jesus said, “I will remove your lamp stand if you do not repent” of having departed from the love you had at first for both God and man. If you do not turn back and do what you did in the beginning, when you could still remember how bad a sinner you were and how God forgave you; and be thankful enough to want to extend love and mercy to others, I will remove your lamp stand. Why? We have a clue in Song of Solomon 8:7a, Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. (NIV) Love is depicted in scripture as a fire. Therefore, what good is a lamp stand with no fire (love)? A lamp stand with no flame is nothing more than a stumbling block in the darkness. And a Christian or a church without love is just one more thing to stumble over in this darkened world. People’s faith is stumbled in an atmosphere of non-love. This is why our Lord simply could not and cannot condone, with His presence, the spiritual condition that the church at Ephesus had fallen into. Jesus is effectively saying, if you can’t love the people I have commanded you to love — I am out of here. 


How did they get here?


God had been dealing with the church at Ephesus prophetically, but they still were no listening. God tried to remedy their condition long before it reached a crisis level. Is there any wonder we have the follow up commandment repeated over and over again in Revelation, 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. They apparently learned how to have a meeting without love. If they had not listened to Jesus’ rebuke, they would have had a meeting without Jesus. What an insightful thing to consider! When we stop listening, it’s over for your lamp stand. 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.

Life without the lamp stand

Only God knows how many churches have lost their lamp stand over the last 2000 years. What happens? All that is left to do is bring in programs and religious exercises to prop up a dead carcass. Where there is no love there is no fire and where there is no fire there is no light. People begin living in spiritual darkness. 

Nevertheless, the masses are good at “having church.” Some are even pious and holiness driven; but Christ is not in the midst in the book of Revelation sense. What happens? The people simply turn up the music and create a soulish atmosphere to fool the unsuspecting and corrupt the spiritual concepts of the young and ignorant. The consequence of a dead church is that they end up treating people exactly like the world treats them. They offend people by treating them in unChristlike ways at critical times and scar them to the true knowledge of Christ. 


Far too often the love that professed Christians have is no more than the world has; if they like you they will love you; but if they don’t like you (don’t like your looks) or if you cross them then you are shunned or put out. This is not how Christ loves. He loves all. This is what we must do. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves and that is a tall order. Understand that we know how to love real good, so long as it is someone we like. What good is that love among people in desperate need of love and compassion? A lamp stand with no Fire is but a stumbling block in this darkened world.

Repent and do the First Works

The good news is that it does not have to be this way. For some, they will grow cold; but it does not have to be so among you and I. We can get alone with God and get in our Bibles with a willingness to return to our first love and to the prescribed measures that God put in place and has not changed. We need to return to preaching genuine repentance and faith. We need to preach water baptism and Spirit baptism. If we do  what the church at Ephesus started out doing we will be met with the same success. When Ephesus got away from book of Acts — New Covenant living — it was all down hill from there.  

Historians tell us that Ephesus existed for a few centuries after the writing of the Revelation as an indicator that they did repent and return to Christ. Today it is a heap of ruins. There came a point when the conditions were such that Christ removed the lamp stand and Ephesus was no more. Like Nineveh of old that repented for a while but then many years later was destroyed by God anyway, the reprieve will last as long as the repentance lasts. Christ does not give us instruction for a temporary change of behavior and practice; but rather, that we would walk it out for the rest of our days. The key to a lasting, vibrant Christian life and spiritual church is to repent and do the first works and keep on walking in that way. We have to remember where we came from or we will not rightly love. If we refuse Him that speaks we will find ourselves upon the ash heap of history as bywords and solemn examples of those that failed to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Why Relationships Fall Apart

Why Relationships Fall Apart
Robert Wurtz II 

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14 ESV)

What do you suppose would happen if unexpectedly all the   mortar that is holding every brick and stone together were suddenly gone? Our entire civilization would be in a heap of ruins. Everything would come crashing down — destroying anything in its path. Buildings would implode; bridges would collapse; walls would fall over. We pay little attention to the mortar holding things together until it is gone. Paul used this concept of a “bond” or “binding force” to describe the importance of love. 


It is sad to realize that many relationships begin, and are held together, by something other than love. It is not unusual for young couples to kick-start their relationship by victimizing themselves in order to stimulate “sympathy” or “pity” in the other person. It’s the oldest trick in the book. How does it work? Tell all the sad personal stories that you can remember; make them as pitiful as possible and try to get sympathy out of the prospective girlfriend or boyfriend. Anyone is liable to be thrown under the bus during these episodes. It’s used so often because it is generally effective; however, it is akin to pouring gas (petrol) in the fireplace because your wood is wet. It may start a fire, but it is likely to burn everyone up in the process. 


If a person has to throw their family and everyone else to the wolves in order to get a little sympathy, I suggest the relationship is doomed anyway. If I have to say something that will cause a person to hate someone else — just to get them to feel sorry for me, there is a serious problem. This is not love, and the relationship is doomed to failure. Nevertheless, this is the kind of false-footing that many relationships begin with; and it causes all kinds of love related issues down the road. 


The Right Method 



Our passage in Colossians 3:14 begins with the phrase, “And above all these…”. This is the final binding garment (as it were) that will anchor and tether all godly attributes. “Above all” is a phrase that escalates love to the highest level of importance. The “these” that he is speaking of is the list in Colossians 3:13-14. As we look at this passage let us settle this once and for all in our minds. The subject of love is not secondary, or even primary, it is at the very top of our religion and faith. A thousand subjects may be spoken on within any given day within the Body of Christ; but none excel past this one. 

The Binding Power of Love  

Our next phrase is “which binds everything together….” The picture here is that of a girdle that binds together all other aspects of the clothing. It was a foundational connective garment. Like an over garment, love is to be “put on” over the top of everything in Colossians 2:18 in order to hold it all together. 


Within the range of meaning in this concept is another picture of the binding power of tendons and other connective tissues within the body. These hold the various members together as a functional unit. This is how a knee functions or an elbow. Love is that binding force that brings cohesion to all things within the body. Without love, everything within the body of Christ becomes disjointed and dissimulated.



A Torn Ligament or a Herniated Area 

Our passage is a powerful picture of the essential binding force (love) necessary for the body to function. Any area of the body where love is not being expressed properly is a place “not holding” itself together.


Colossians 2:19 explains that Christ, the Head, has to be “held.” He has to be given His rightful place as the head and held there. (See Ephesians 4:16) If we allow Jesus Christ, the Head, to become disjointed because we are not moving in love for Him, we will allow other “loves” to become the head and rule our lives. Moreover, every member of the body is important and each one needs to be “held in place” by the power of love. Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians:

But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: (1 Corinthians 12:20-22)
 

 God set the members in the Body of Christ as He sees fit, but Paul tells us that love is essential to the functionality of all of those members. Non-love is to the body as a torn ligament or a herniated abdominal wall. It is a weak spot. In fact, if non-love is not dealt with soon, certain members of the Body may become disconnected or even rejected by others members of the Body. This is a particular concern in a time when scripture tells us that because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold. There is no replacement for water and there is no replacement for love.

Herod and Pilate were made friends and brought into unity, not because they loved each other, but by placing their hands on a common enemy and destroying Him. When love is not present to maintain cohesion and unity, then something will have to be substituted. Love can hold all things together in unity; however, hatred will sacrifice a victim to start a relationship, mend a fence, or maintain a friendship.

Real Life = Real Love


Jesus came into the world that we might have life and have it more abundantly. This is the very life of God that He pours out into us when we genuinely receive the Spirit. This is the life that empowers us to love. What does it profit to speak in tongues if we cannot love? The song writer speaks of “pouring our love on Christ”, but He has called us to also pour our holy love on one another in a binding unity. 

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14 ESV

What things? Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

Love binds this list together and holds it in place. It holds each of us together in place. What are we trying to substitute for this love? It will never do. We need it above all these other things, and that is quite a list. May God quicken our minds to this reality and show us how utterly determined He is to bind us together in love.

Mending Fences

Mending Fences
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). 

Making Reconciliation

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?  


The Destructiveness of Division

The Destructiveness of Division
Robert Wurtz II

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. (I Corinthians 1:10, 11)

Paul really hits the ground running in his letter to Corinth. The situation is serious and he intends to nip it in the bud. Their behavior was completely unacceptable and was becoming a reproach on Christ. Therefore, it is no accident that Paul takes up his pen in the power of the Holy Spirit and gives for some a crash course on basic Christianity and for others a refresher. 

Paul had received word from Chloe’s household that trouble was brewing at Corinth. Though they were proficient at moving in the gifts of the Spirit and working in ministry, there was a crack in their foundation that had to be dealt with before everything that had been built simply flew apart. Paul puts his finger on the problem in the 3rd chapter when he diagnoses the people as “carnal.” For though he had sown to them spiritual things, they were still moving in the flesh (carnality Gk. sarkikos). “It is a bold and cutting figure, not without sarcasm, but necessary to reveal the Corinthians to themselves.” (A.T. Robertson)

Are You Not Carnal? 

We have a definition of carnal when Paul stated, “For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3) Rather than living in the Spirit – they were walking in the flesh. In other words, they were behaving just like “mere men” – unregenerate men. God has called the churches and His Saints to be an expression of the kingdom of God in the earth. We are God’s representatives on earth. We’re supposed to be demonstrating how the kingdom of God does things. What happens when the image of Christ is distorted in the churches because of carnal behavior? What happens when Christians begin to imitate the world’s behaviors and conflicts? Paul lets the church know it was Chloe’s house that brought this to his attention and then he lists three things as evidence of their carnality: envy, strife, and divisions. 

Envy comes from a root meaning zeal and it can be a good or a bad thing. When it turns to jealousy or envy it can lead to our second problem, strife. This means “long and complicated disputes.” The KJV’s strife is from a Greek word that is translated as rivalry by the ESV. Where there is rivalry there is sure to be division. Webster defines a rival as “a person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.” Rivals do not operate in unity though technically they could be on the same team. Rivals typically view their opponent as the enemy. In the churches of God this leads to our final word divisions. In Classical Greek the word for division (schismata sci÷smatameans the rending of material such as a garment or cloth. It is torn in two. The jealousy and envy led to a rivalry that lead to the tearing apart of the church.

The Road To Rivalry

It is a tough pill to swallow, but in modern times rivalry is often a direct consequence of setting up denominations and churches in a worldly organizational structure that creates “positions” and “offices” of authority to be filled. Jesus told the Disciples that we are not to be organized like the Gentiles, but His words have been ignored in the main stream (Matthew 20:25-26). What happens? People are asked to vote on whom they want to lead them or who the person they feel the Lord is calling to the position. As surely as Jesus warned us and then commanded us to avoid it, this model is a recipe for total destruction. One group is hearing God say ____ should be voted in while the other group says God is saying ____ should be voted in. Each group is sure of their spirituality and that the other group is “missing it” or under the influence of the Devil (demons). All the while both groups have fallen into the trap of carnality and are in the cross hairs of Paul’s warnings in I Corinthians 1-3 and Galatians 5. While lauding themselves as spiritual – they just became the epitome of carnality and don’t even know it. Majority rule is democracy and the kingdom of God is not a democracy. We are called to come together in the mode God has established and seek His will until we can agree in unity as to what to do. In other words, 51 to 49 or a two-thirds majority may work in the US Senate, but it is an abomination to the kingdom of God. After all, one of the greatest flubs ever made in the Bible came when Joshua and Caleb were out numbered 10 to 2. That was an 83% majority and they totally missed God. 

What happens? Factioning begins. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Because the names are ancient and far removed from our situation, we can’t see ourselves in this passage. But what if you and I replace Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ with rival ministers in our church or denomination? Think of some names. Think of some people that are jockeying for positions within the organization. They believe they are called, it’s God’s will, and that is that. If they don’t get in they are disillusioned at best and bitter at worst. 

Everyone a Prophet

Can you imagine being in an environment like Corinth where it seemed like everyone was moving in the gifts of the Spirit? (1 Cor. 12:7,11) Even the women prophesied. (1 Cor. 11:4) Paul asked them, How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.”  Everyone believes they are hearing from God! Everyone. How could you counsel these people once the infighting begins? They would seem to be the most high-minded and impossible to coach people on earth. “I’m hearing from God – so don’t tell me anything!” Really? They each have a red phone on their desk (hotline) and when they pick it up – God answers? Paul dealt with these “super spiritual” folks by calling them carnal.


 Understand that as soon as the voting begins the rivalry begins. Why? Because positions have been created by men and they have to be filled by men. Then we ask God to tell us who He wants us to put in our man-made positions? What if the next time the people are handed a little white paper to write a name on, everyone just goes ahead and writes it as a sentence, “I am of ____” or “I am of _____.” Then maybe we’ll understand the magnitude of what we are doing. We need to seek God’s will until we can agree upon it in unity – not in a majority.

The Scourge of Schism

What happens? One group believes “their man got in” while the other group believes “we missed God” – just like the Republicans and Democrats every two years after election day. Then each group tries to rally their troops to right the wrong the next election. But it doesn’t end there. In fact, it is just beginning. An undercurrent of strife develops that begins to eat away at the very foundation of the churches. The one group feels slighted and is offended… envy develops and a feud is in the making. The other group tries to hold their position so they don’t get voted out in the next election. Pretty soon everyone is looking at the other as the enemy and questioning motives. Everything each side does gets interpreted and spun so as to fuel the feud. Then they are seeking little subtle ways to retaliate or dig at one another. Oh, nobody will admit as much. Of course not. Were all too spiritual and what were doing is of the Lord. Really?

The scourge of schism is so profound in many circles that it is going to take God to intervene to bring correction to all of the mess that we see. There are no Paul’s to bring correction. We have God’s word on the matter, but few are paying attention to it. We give lip service to infallibility and authority and mock the very things God has said. We could end this all today by simply abandoning our traditions and get right with God. God calls the envious, rivalry and strife-laden behavior as rife carnality (a hidious sin) – while everyone keeps on pretending they are pleasing the Lord. All the while few – if any – are prepared to put an end to it all.

Dwelling in Disunity 

Why pray for revival if we are going to go on grieving the Holy Spirit behind the scenes? Will God honor the feuding that goes on between rival groups? I think about Jesus who deals with people coming to the Judgment seat. Here were people that were doing all kinds of “wonderful works.” You know, works like Judas was doing while he was stealing from the money bag (see John 12:6, Luke 9:1ff). They are duped by the ancient notion that miracles authenticate ministry. In fact, they believed their miracles were evidence that they were saved. How shocked they must have been when Jesus told them to depart from Him, “you workers of iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23) Could some of these people have been Corinthians who were moving in the gifts, but were as carnal as unregenerate men? It is insane to go on behaving badly and then tell ones self that because it appears God is doing miracles that we must be pleasing Him. He is happy with us or He wouldn’t work miracles among us. Really? Ask Judas how that works out. 

Paul jumped right in the middle of the situation at Corinth and sought to get them back on track. Otherwise, why pray for a move of God? So we can be sure and get that position that we feel “is God’s will for our lives?” What’s the use of even praying when were not right with one another? When there is, as James says, bitter envy and strife in our hearts? What says the scripture?

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 5:23-25)


The divisive and rival carnality is such a stench in the nostrils of God, that He will not accept our worship if we don’t get things right. How can we do something as basic as love one another in an environment of rivalry? We may give lip service to it – but who is treating their rival like they would want to be treated? This is why Paul wrote I Cor. 13. to the Corinthians church. They needed to learn to love one another. How can you do the most basic Christian things when everyone is expected to suit up and pick sides?

I am convinced that we will fake another move of God before we see one – while His people refuse to come together in unity and simply love one another. Away with the rivalry. Away with the politics. Let’s be the church or take the sign off the building. 

  



Loving in a world of lawlessness

Loving in a world of lawlessness
Robert Wurtz II


But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 20, 21)

We have in view perhaps the most important thing Jude says in his short letter to the saints, Keep yourselves in the love of God. Hebrews tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God; Paul tells us that now faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest is love. We can deduce from these facts that if love is greater than faith then without love it is also impossible to please God. Satan challenges our faith and he challenges our love. Job is a case in point. Satan tried to destroy Job’s faith, so that he would curse God to His face. Likewise Satan seeks to set up circumstances that will destroy our love. Jude provides the solution, Keep yourselves in the love of God. 

When iniquity abounds

Jesus, telling of end time events, inserts a sobering prophesy;  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12). I have given this prophesy much thought over the years. Why would iniquity affect peoples love? The answer is simple. Iniquity means to be without moral law or the laws of God. The whole moral law can be summed up with one saying, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Galatians 5:14). When people live as if there is no moral law the result is offence on top of offense. The law was given, in one sense, to enforce an environment of love. The law created a society that whether people truly loved each other or not, they somewhat treated them like they did. There were laws against unloving behavior. It was not a matter of feeling, but a matter of institutional law. If someone broke the law there was a penalty. This greatly reduced the number of hard-core offenses that had the capacity to cause hatred. If you murder someone or stole something, the law brought justice. If you fornicated or wronged a person, there were laws that dealt with the behavior. In this way the law served as a deterrent to destructive offenses against ones neighbor. But what are we to do in a society that systematically removes the laws of God from the culture? Soon everything is ‘OK’ and the offenses pile up until everyone has offended everyone until people hate one another. The civil codes and its immoral culture allow for and promote behaviors that causes intense human suffering and bitterness.

Loving in a culture of lawlessness

Understand that when iniquity abounds then offenses abound. We are watching the world morally disintegrate. Things that used to be illegal are now promoted on television. Immoral sexual practice, extreme physical violence, flagrant disregard for common sense and justice, all come together to try and forge people into agents of bitterness and hate. Christians are not exempt. When we see our society, that our forefathers and mothers labored diligently to pass on as Godly and respectable, being flushed down the toilet as if it were nothing we are provoked. When injustice and gross immorality rule the day we are provoked at the sight. It was said of Lot when he loved in Sodom, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds (2 Peter 2:7, 8).  Here we have two Greek words for ‘vexed’, one meaning to wear down and the other to torment. The first word vexed is the root katapaneo (kataponou/menon) and is only here and Acts 7:24 where Moses killed the Egyptian that was oppressing the Israelite. The Rev. translates it “sorely distressed.” The second word for vexed is ebasanizen (ebä-sä-nē’-zen) from the root basanizo (bä-sä-nē’-zō) meaning to “test metals”. It is in the imperfect active (kept on vexing). Their nonsense and immorality kept putting him to the test. What are we to do when we are worn down and tormented by the iniquity (unlawful behavior) of our times? Lot left Sodom, but Paul said that in order for us to get away from the evil we would need to go out of the world itself (1 Corinthians 5:10). So we are here and that is that. What can we do?

Keeping yourselves in the love of God

Jude first tells us that we need to build up ourselves in our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. This means we are to pray no matter how our circumstances press against us. Lot didn’t seem to do a whole Lot of praying in Sodom, but we cannot afford to allow our love to wax cold under the deluge of madness and sin that is progressing in our times. When the enemy opens up a volley upon our soul we must take to God in Spirit-filled prayer. We need to pray until we touch God and He anoints us to pray. The old-timers use to speak of the Spirit of prayer coming upon a person. This is when God enables a person to pray in a way they could not ordinarily pray. Secondly Jude says, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. We have to keep our eyes focused on eternity. We have to look unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. Jesus was full of love and compassion and He loved to the very end. This is our test. Can we love like that? Surely we can if we will allow God to love through us. The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We can allow that love to flow like a river from our bellies. The world is trying to dam up the flow with all manor of madness that we see and hear. 



Finally, sandwiched in the middle of these two admonitions we have this profound directive, Keep yourselves in the love of God. This is the objective. We have to do it. None can do it for us. We have to make that determination. God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. We have to remember from where God brought us and look upon sinners through eyes of compassion. When you don’t feel like loving, love anyway. Pray until you can love. Rebuke the thoughts that would come into your mind to challenge your love. Satan would like nothing more than to place our love in the freezer of offense and bitterness until we were as cold as ice. But Jesus didn’t say that the love of all people would wax cold, but the love of many. May we move in a determination in this crisis, evil hour, that we will be numbered among the few that stoked a fiery love. No one can do it for you, as Jude admonishes us, Keep yourselves in the love of God.       

    

Bound Together By Love

Bound Together By Love
Robert Wurtz II 

 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14 ESV)

“Two or more things cannot be held together without a third; they must have a bond of union. And the fairest bond is that which most completely fuses and is fused into the things which are bound.” (“Timaeus,” 31 quoted in Vincent) In Colossians 2:2 Paul speaks of the hearts of believers being “knit together” in love. If the love of God has been poured out into my heart and your heart we are fully capable of being bound together in perfect love. But we have this command to “put on” that refers back to Colossians 3:12-13 that we must touch on first. Our picture in one sense is that of layer upon layer of garments. In fact, the Greek word for “put on” means to “sink down into” like a garment. As God’s holy, chosen and beloved people we are to sink down into:

1. a compassionate heart +
2. kindness +
3. humbleness of mind +
4. gentleness +
5. restraint of passion (especially anger)/patience +
6. bearing with one another +
7. Forgiving each other as Christ forgave us

The binding garment


Our passage in Colossians 3:14 begins with the phrase, “And above all these…”. This is the final binding garment (as it were) that will anchor and tether all of these other attributes. “Above all” is a phrase that escalates love to the highest level of importance. The “these” that he is speaking of is the list in Colossians 3:13-14. As we look at this passage let us settle this once and for all in our minds. The subject of love is not secondary, or even primary, it is at the very top of our religion and faith. A thousand subjects may be spoken on within any given day withing the Body of Christ, but none excel past this one. We must settle ourselves and come to terms with this fact. We need to introspectively search our own hearts. Why? Because without the love of God, given to us through the life of God, our gatherings are nothing more than a glorified club or association.

The Binding Power of Love 


Our next phrase is “which binds everything together….” The picture here is that of a girdle that binds together all other aspects of the clothing. It was a foundational connective garment. like an over garment, love is to be “put on” over the top of everything in Colossians 2:18 in order to hold it all together. Within the range of meaning in this concept is another picture of the binding power of tendons and other connective tissues within the body. These hold the various members together as a functional unit. This is how a knee functions or an elbow. Love is that binding force that brings cohesion to all things within the body. Without love, everything within the body of Christ becomes disjointed and dissimulated.



A torn ligament or a herniated area

Our passage is a powerful picture of the essential binding force (love) necessary for the body to function. Any area of the body where love is not being rightly expressed is a place “not holding” itself together. Colossians 2:19 explains that Christ, the Head, has to be held. He has to be given His rightful place as the head and held there. (See Ephesians 4:16) If we allow Jesus Christ, the Head, to become disjointed because we are not moving in love for Him and will allow other ‘loves’ to become the head and rule our lives. Moreover, every member of the body is important and each one needs to be “held in place” by the power of love. Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians:

But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: (1 Corinthians 12:20-22)
 

 God set the members in the Body of Christ as He sees fit, but Paul tells us that love is essential to the functionality of all of those members. Non-love is to the body as a torn ligament or a herniated abdominal wall. It is a weak spot. In fact, if non-love is not dealt with soon, certain members of the Body may become disconnected or even rejected by others members of the Body. This is a particular concern in a time when scripture tells us that because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold. There is no replacement for water and there is no replacement for love.

 As we mentioned in our previous article Herod and Pilate were made friends and brought into unity, not because they loved each other, but by placing their hands on a common enemy and destroying Him. When love is not present to maintain cohesion and unity, then something will have to be substituted. Love can hold all things together in unity, but non-love can only sacrifice a victim to mend a fence and maintain connectivity.

Real life = real love

Jesus came into the world that we might have life and have it more abundantly. This is the very life of God that He pours out into us when we genuinely receive the Spirit. This is the life that empowers us to love. What does it profit to speak in tongues if we cannot love? The song writer speaks of “pouring our love on Christ”, but He has called us to also pour our holy love on one another in a binding unity.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14 ESV) What things? Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV) Love binds this list together and holds it in place. It holds each of us together in place. What are we trying to substitute for this love? It will never do. We need it above all these other things, and that is quite a list. May God quicken our minds to this reality and show us how utterly determined He is to bind us together in love. 

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