Preparing to Receive Christ

Robert Wurtz II

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” (Luke 3:4-10 ESV)

After 400 years of prophetic silence, God broke into this present world with the voice of John the Baptist — who was foreordained to preach the message of repentance to the Jews in preparation for the advent of Messiah. At the risk of being labeled a “Preparationist” God neglected the basic premise of Reformed Theology by sending the greatest man who ever lived to preach one of the most important messages mankind had ever heard, “REPENT, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” He then arrested Saul on the road to Damascus and commissioned him to preach the same message. This was not the watered down, inert, twice dead version of repentance as it is preached today, but a fiery call to change the mind (agree with God) and turn from all known sin (repentance). At the risk of being shamed (or even corrected) by modern ministers and theologians, God was not afraid to expect people to bring forth real evidence of their change (fruits worthy of repentance). In fact, so vital is this message that when Paul went before Agrippa he told him that he preached this basic message to everyone no matter who it was ( Acts 26:16-23). This is a Biblical fact in spite of those who assail or resist it. The clear implication of the text is that had he not preached repentance, he would have been disobedient to the heavenly vision.

This was not a new message with John the Baptist and Paul the Apostle being its first preacher. God had been calling the people to repentance for centuries. A cursory reading of the Old Testament will establish this fact. Consider the message of Ezekiel to Israel:

When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:26-32 ESV)

During the diaspora and silent years, the Scribes and Pharisees rose to power. They supplanted the role of the priests whose job was to teach the people God’s word. God’s estimate of them (according to Stephen in Acts 7) was that they always resisted the Holy Spirit. When men take hold of God’s word in a state of resistance of His Spirit they are bound to err greatly. For they will devise many self-serving theologies that accomplish their desires rather than God’s will. It was not just the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus rebuked; it was their willingness to make God’s word of no effect by their traditions (teachings). In other words, they often taught the people the exact opposite of what God’s word said. Albeit, they had plenty of proof texts and commentaries of the ancient sages to buttress their beliefs. Jesus overthrew much of it with plain renderings of Old Testament texts and pure common sense.

For example, the Jews thoroughly believed in Unconditional Election (Predestination). It was the cornerstone of their belief system. They believed God predestined Jews to Himself through natural birth. If one was born a Jew then one was a child of Abraham. If one was a child of Abraham one was automatically, “saved.” No need to repent for the Jews — God had already declared them eternally chosen. In reality, their Divine calling and election was not to salvation; but to a grand purpose. They were elected by God to be a light to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, they erred thinking it was to salvation — so to them, repentance was optional. John the Baptist (and Jesus) slammed this doctrine by telling the people that God was able to make children of Abraham out of rocks. There may have been a play on words here because of the hardness of the people. The message of repentance was designed to soften them up (if you will) and prepare them to receive Christ as both their Savior and Lord. In fact, he told them that the ax is now laid to the root of the trees (not the Tree but trees plural) and that every tree (every individual) who does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Jesus (in flagrant disregard of the fact that the expectation of evidence will someday be deemed anathema) contrasted their works with the works of Abraham (John 8:39-40). He concluded that had they truly been of Abraham they would have done the type of works that Abraham did. In other words, their profession and the evidence did not agree.

The writer to the Hebrews takes up this theme as well:

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation (Hebrews 6:7-9 ESV).

The writer to the Hebrews speaks metaphorically of people being like land and the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Grace) being the rain. This is a picture of God dealing with people to bring about necessary change. God sends His goodness, His word, and the dealings of the Holy Spirit in order to bring about repentance. Figuratively and literally, thorns and thistles are worthless to anything but the fire. This is the plain meaning of the text. They make good kindling, but that’s all. The cultivator (God) expects the land to bring forth good fruit — just as would any farmer. If it does not the only thing to do is to apply fire. Clearly, this is a picture of eternal punishment.

It is a rare thing to hear the word of repentance preached in modern times; so as the old song says, “So you better listen close the first time.” You may never hear it again for the rest of your life. You may even buy into the modern notion that repentance from sin is unnecessary to salvation — in conflict with Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul the Apostle. In fact, it would do many of us well to read Acts 26 until we memorized it. Why? Because it is so easy to read the theologians and listen to the teachers who flagrantly contradict everyone from Moses to Paul on the subject.

Acts 26 is nearing the end of Paul’s recorded ministry. He had been warned prophetically on a number of occasions what was waiting for him when he arrived. He insisted on going. Paul testified in court before two Roman leaders Agrippa and Festus (witnesses) about what he preached and what his understanding of the heavenly vision was. There is no need to debate it after this court appearance. Agrippa and Festus wanted to know and we want to know. Paul, what did you preach? His opening is striking. He tells Agrippa, “I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews.” Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.” (Acts 26:-3 ESV) I suggest that we also listen to Paul patiently.

He tells us that he was an exemplary Pharisee. He spoke of how the resurrection is not an unreasonable thing to believe in and that his life once consisted of trying to destroy the Church. He tells next of an extraordinary experience, “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 26:12–14 ESV) Kicking against the goads was a way of saying that Paul had painfully disregarded the dealings of the Holy Spirit — to his own hurt. He continued and then declared his commission and how he had carried it out. He begins with the words of Jesus.
“For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul then explains how he fulfilled (was fulfilling) this commission from the Lord:

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.”

Notice that the Jews tried to kill him for preaching a John the Baptist style word of repentance. That is, “Change your mind and turn in such a way that there is real evidence of the mind change.” Some people say they agree with God about sin(s) in general or personal but they never turn from it. Actions and words don’t match. Believing is when you do it — not when you give a mere mental assent to it. Clearly, the text implies that there is an expectation that sin be turned from. As the late great Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson noted: See Matthew 3:8 for similar language used concerning John the Baptist. Paul, the greatest of theologians, was an interesting practical preacher.” (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament)


Paul started in Damascus which indicates that it was immediate. He didn’t wait… he started preaching it right then and there. Persecution followed. However, Paul continues, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”” (Acts 26:16–23 ESV)

I have sometimes said that if we can’t accept Paul’s word in Agrippa’s court room how can we claim to believe in the inspiration of scripture? All scripture is given by God and profitable for doctrine, etc. If we can’t receive the narrative in Acts 26 didactically we may as well rip the book of Romans out of the Bible too. Why? Because we can understand nothing of Paul’s ministry if we cannot accept what he said during that hearing with Agrippa. “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” This is John the Baptist all over again.

In modern times we have a great number of people who want salvation and forgiveness, but they don’t want real repentance. Some even want to receive the Holy Spirit, but they don’t want true repentance. God sent John the Baptist (and Paul) to preach to the people so as to make their heart right (compare the Greek word euthus in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:4 with Acts 8:21 to understand what “make his paths straight” means). Like Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:21, they have done many religious things, but their heart is still not right with God. Why? Because they have never been through the process of genuine repentance. We have empirical evidence that this was the way of the New Testament. How? The change that was wrought in the world. What about our world? How are our doctrines and theologies faring? Have we turned our world upside down? Many professing Christians are becoming more liberal by the day. They don’t agree with God. How can we say they repented if they refuse to agree with God?

If we are ever going to see significant change in our churches, cities, and country we have to begin where God began. We too have to come into compliance with the heavenly vision. It wasn’t just for Paul — it is for all of us.

The Manifesting Power of an Age of Antichrist

The Manifesting Power of an Age of Antichrist
Robert Wurtz II
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us (1 John 2:18–19 NKJV).
It is only right in the sight of God that people who are not genuinely His, but number themselves with those who are, will eventually be exposed as frauds. John says, “… they went out that they might be made manifest” or we would say revealed. Rather than being a child of God and sibling of Christ — they are at last revealed to be of the spirit of antichrist. That is not to say The Antichrist, but antichrist in their disposition and doctrine. They serve and represent a substitute Christ — an invention of their own lusts. Their life is an expression of the carnal mind; a mind that agrees with the spirit of antichrist.
If there has ever been a time when false professors of Christ will be revealed, it is this time. Moral declension has permeated Western Society to the point that many professed believers have confused the love of God with political correctness. Christ is being cast into an idol that reflects and accepts the sin of modern times rather than loving righteousness and hating lawlessness. Multitudes are worshipping this “Jesus idol” as it is more agreeable to their own compromised notions of what Christ ought to be like.
Anytime Christ is being reimagined or reinvented the result will always be an idol; the serving of it idolatry; and the fabricators of it idolators. This is one of the ways the spirit of antichrist is manifesting itself in modern times. It is gathering to itself a host of people who worship a false rendition of Christ — in the name of worshipping the true Christ. Yet we have this clear warning from John for all ages, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.”
The thing that is exposing the people who John said “are not of us” is this “anything goes” Christianity that is gaining in popularity. It is so appealing to the carnal mind that false professors cannot help but go along with it. What happens? An inordinate emphasis on the love of God is proportional to the desire of false professors to justify or cover their sinful lifestyles. This is why we have such an exaggerated emphasis on the love of God in modern times. It has to be so in order to offset the cognitive dissonance in the hearts of people who want to identify as Christians but also want to keep their sin.
The unrepentant tell themselves that God loves them no matter what. It helps dull the edge of the conviction they feel or the conscience that condemns their behavior. The more they compromise the more they have to emphasize love and grace. Instead of changing to conform to the image of Christ — there is a generation that is changing Christ to conform to their image. It is idolatry. It is a manifestation of the spirit of antichrist in this age.
Yet it was prophesied nearly 2000 years ago, so we shouldn’t be surprised; “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us…” When John penned these words he was dealing with Gnostics that suggested that the body is sinful and therefore it doesn’t matter how much people sin with that body.   They even produced Gnostic writings that sought to distort the truth of New Testament. Why? Generally, it was so they could continue sinning while imagining themselves to be Christians.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
Not everyone who names the name of Christ is a true child of God. The circumstances of life will generally reveal whether a person is of God or not. How do they feel about sin? Much is said about love, but do these professors love righteousness? Do they hate lawlessness? Or are they friends of lawlessness and at heart hate righteousness? Listen to their words. Ponder the things they write on social media. Our modern age offers all people an opportunity to express their true inward condition. Satan is greasing the slide. He is making it easy to “come out” and manifest an antichrist position on a host of topics. If it is there — it will eventually be revealed that none of them were of us.

Jesus Defines Repentance

Jesus Defines Repentance

Robert Wurtz II

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:32 NKJV)

There is a generation that heaps to itself teachers who tickle the ears saying, “Repentance does not mean ‘turn from sin’ it merely means ‘change your mind.'” In fact, Greek scholars debate among themselves as to the full extent of the word mετανοεῖτε (repent) and as time goes on the definitions become more self-serving. Yet, perhaps we can spare ourselves the debate and simply focus on how our Lord used the word in a well-known sentence. He stated, The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matthew 12:41) Our cognate passage is cited above as Luke 11:32. Jesus described the behavior of the Ninevites as having repented (metenohsan) at the preaching of Jonah.

Our Lord said that Nineveh repented. Clearly, He did not mean to say that they felt sorry for their sins or some other modern definition of repentance. To thoroughly understand our Lord’s concept of repentance (the only person whose definition matters) we must go back and study the book of Jonah. To understand what our response to the advent of Christ ought to be we must contrast the greatness of the man Jonah with the Son of God. If the Pagan Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, what ought our reaction to be to the preaching of Jesus Christ? That is the import of what is being said.

U turn road warning sign

When Pagans Teach Repentance By Example

Nineveh was one of two capital cities of the Assyrian Empire. They were brutal people beyond comprehension. In fact, the savagery employed by ISIS is a mere taste of the Assyrians atrocities. They celebrated their blood-thirstiness in murals painted on the palace walls. They were hated by their enemies with pure hatred. They had no Bible; no Sunday Schools; no churches; and no religious rituals that honored the One True God. In the words of God… they didn’t know their right hand from their left (Jonah 4:11). Yet they had sense enough to repent at the preaching of Jonah.

Time was running out for the Assyrians of Nineveh, but God still held out hope. He sent Jonah to preach to them… but his hatred was so great that He disobeyed God. He fled on a ship from the face of God rather than preach repentance to the people. God wouldn’t have it. He sent a storm that smote the nerves of all on the ship — until at last, at Jonah’s request, they threw him overboard. God put him through what may have been a death and resurrection to change his mind about preaching to the Assyrians. Three days with no air… he ended up on shore with a new revelation about the sovereignty of God.

Jonah entered the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown (Jonah 3:4). This message offered no hope. There was no compassion in his voice… just a declaration, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. This is instructional. Can you imagine hearing this? Over and over again… Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. The result? So the people of Nineveh believed God. (Jonah 3:5a) This is essential to any persons’ repentance; they have to believe what God is saying. The people of Nineveh believed so as to proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. John the Baptist and Paul would have called this fruits worthy of repentance (Acts 26:20).
No “Pointers”

You will notice that they were not given a checklist of things to repent of. They were left to themselves to sort it out. This tells me that God knows that we know what is offending Him. There is no need for ministers to stand in a pulpit — listing off possibilities. People will sometimes pretend that they don’t know what they need to repent of, etc.; but apparently, God is not buying it. Nineveh is the example. They will rise up in the judgment against us if we pretend we didn’t know better. Very sobering. Can you imagine God calling the Ninevites to testify against the unrepentant? Jesus said it will happen.

The King Vacates the Throne

We have another facet to Nineveh’s example when we read, For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (Jonah 3:6) Have you ever known of a person to do such a thing when they repented? They didn’t put on their “Sunday best” and go to church. They stripped off anything that could have exalted them. This is utter humiliation and sorrow.

Like the king of Nineveh, we have to come off of the throne of our own life and utterly humble ourselves before the true King. This is the key. This is more than outward things, it is an inward change of attitude. What else did they do? Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. (Jonah 3:9) There is the key component to repentance that is too frequently rejected or ignored… let them turn every one from his evil way. True godly sorrow (sorrow that is God-wards) for sin produces a turning from sin in which the person does not turn back (2 Cor. 7:10).

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:32 NKJV)

The Goodness and Severity of God

The Goodness and Severity of God
Robert Wurtz II

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22 NKJV)

Paul turns our attention to the state of the unbelieving Jews of which He had elected to His purposes, but they refused to admit the need of confession of sin on their part and so set aside the baptism of John. They annulled God’s purposes of grace so far as they applied to them (A.T. Robertson on Luke 7:30). As a consequence of this, instead of continuing in God’s goodness they became objects of the severity of God. The severity of God is then defined as being “cut off” as one would cut a branch off of a tree. It ceases to enjoy the precious resources of its former source, immediately dies and begins the process of drying up. 

Our passage brings the two ways in which man experiences God into view: goodness and severity. Our Greek word for goodness could just as well be translated kindness. We have this rendering of Romans 2:4 from the ESV, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” The kindly quality of God, manifested in the various graces that He provides, is intended to cause everyone to change their mind and turn to Him from sin. Nevertheless, the people presume upon God’s goodness and as an immutable consequence are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath when God will judge the human race. (see Romans 2:5)

If everyone on earth were moving in the goodness of God there would be no need for reminders such as Romans 2:4-5 and Romans 11:22. Nevertheless, the world and even many churches are loaded with people who are under the severity of God. That reality forces the hand of any loving Christian or minister to warn the people about their condition. The problem is that people want a God who is devoid of the severity quality and there is no such God. To present God without both His kindly and severity qualities is to misrepresent God and fashion an idol that fits our own desires. 

Moreover, this is why a growing number of theologies are designed to render God’s severity quality obsolete or impotent. People want to live without the threat of God’s severity looming over their heads. This is understandable. Right? I mean, who wants to live in fear all the time? In fact, this is why modern versions of Calvinism are becoming popular. They offer the promise of eternal security in spite of how sinful the person lives. In this way Calvinism is more like a soul-insurance policy that will cover me even if I backslide and renounce Christ. I don’t have to take seriously the religion of my fathers, but can scorn the standards of many generations under the soul’s shield of shelter. It becomes a modern rendition of Anne Hutchinson’s antinomian free grace theology that was condemned as heresy in the early 1600s. 

Paul tells us to consider the goodness and severity of God (emphasis on and). We do ourselves no favors by ignoring one or the other. Our Greek word for consider means to see and perceive. The KJV renders the word behold. God’s goodness (kindness) is a wonderful thing if we continue in it. If we do not then in time it will no longer apply to us — for we, as did the unbelieving Jews, will experience the severity of God. This is the simplicity of it. If we want to recreate God as a kindly God only, then we have put ourselves in danger of misunderstanding God and His expectations of us. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22 NKJV) 

Rejecting Revival (Why We Don’t Have Revival)

Rejecting Revival
Robert Wurtz II

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 55:6–8 KJV)

The old timers used to say, “Be careful that you don’t miss God!” It was a way of reminding people that God moves in His own timing, and we must be sensitive to His dealings. He is a sovereign God; which is a way of saying that He is all-powerful and can perform His will at will. He doesn’t need permission from anyone — though He often moves in response to prayer.     

Our passage in Isaiah 55 has a clear context wherein God is dealing with His people by His grace to bring about His purposes with them. However, there is a timeless truth here that we do well to grasp. Isaiah admonishes us to seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. The repeated key word is “while.” The implication is that God draws near at unique times bringing opportunity to restore or establish a meaningful and experiential relationship with Him. People become, “God conscious.” Some simply say that there is an “awareness of God.” This means we are suddenly aware that God is near and dealing with us.  

Once we know that God is near, we must respond to His dealings. He has created us in such a way that we know (on the inside) when this is happening. Theologians sometimes call this faculty an “a priori” knowledge of God. When God comes near we become conscious of our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. There are a number of times when God was moving in the book of Acts, and it was said that “fear” came upon the people and that they walked “in the fear of God.” When the Holy Spirit healed and delivered people it was said that “great joy” was in that city. When God is near both the fear of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord can coexist without contradiction. 

God works to change our minds to agree with Him and His ways. God and man cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. (Amos 3:3) This is axiomatic.  Individuals must turn away from their wicked and unrighteous ways and acknowledge their sins. In other words, they must return unto the LORD. If a person is willing to do these things’ God will have mercy upon him (…) for He will abundantly pardon. 

Missing the Day of Visitation

There are times when God visits people sovereignly. We have to be ready to respond to God when He decides to move… not the other way around. Notice again, Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. God initiates contact. There may have been many prayers going up to ask for God to come near, but it is always God’s sovereign choice to move.

For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:43–44 NKJV)

The destruction of Jerusalem came roughly 40 years after this prophecy as the terrible consequence of the unbelieving Jews rejecting Jesus. He came for a “visitation” — from the Greek episkopos meaning “to look over” or “examine.” John the Baptist came to make straight the path for Jesus through the preaching of repentance. Most refused to cooperate with what God was doing; that is, to repent and turn to Christ.  

It is one thing to recognize what happened to Jerusalem, but it is quite another to see ourselves in Luke 19:43-44. When God decides to come near, who can say whether He will move in that way again? The book of Hebrews warns us that if we hear His voice, we must not harden our hearts. We cannot risk passing up an opportunity to seek the Lord during the times of His unique visitation. 

This is not to say that we cannot go on preaching the Gospel and God will honor His word; but there are unique times when God visits people with what some have called “revival” and they must respond. 

Danger During Revival

Sometimes God moves on an individual level, or He will move among churches. He may even bring revival to an entire nation. The time would fail to tell of the first and second great awakening when God moved wonderfully. Every moving of God has a purpose. Only God knows all the reasons why He sends revival. However, we can rest assured that if we miss God’s visitation, there will be serious consequences. This is true for nations and for churches. For example, some suggest that John Wesley’s preaching and the revival that came to England in those days helped avert the revolution that took place in France. What if England had missed her visitation? 

For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another. (Isaiah 48:11 KJV)

When God begins to move, the enemy springs into action. He uses all kinds of means to stop a revival. This is a primary reason why we see so little revival in our times. Either men are worried about who is going to “get the credit” for what God is doing; or they try to use revival to promote themselves or “their ministry.” That is how utterly corrupt things are in our times. What did God say? For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it.   

Carnal people are a great hindrance to revival. Pastors fear how their congregations will respond if God chose to use some other person other than them to speak to the people. Church members sometimes view revival as God’s approval of a minister and may seek to replace the former pastor. These are the types of reasons why God and churches are often at an impasse. Politics is one of the primary reasons churches have lost out with God in modern times. Leaders and carnal church members simply refuse to get out of God’s way.

Sometimes the church members seek God in repentance… but the leaders remain in carnality. In fact, “spiritual leaders” are often the last people on earth to repent. They are determined to keep up appearances (to make things look all right whether they are or not). Again, this is often because of politics. No minister wants to give people ammunition that can be used against them at election time — so they cover their sins and carnality. This is quite different than men like Daniel who would cry out to God on behalf of the people and number himself among those who need revival. 

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:4-6)

If we only had Daniel for an example. we would conclude that ministers ought to be the first in line to repent when God visits His people. The very desire to seek the Lord comes from God. It is Him initiating a visitation. This is different than people who attempt to manufacture revivals. What is worse is that we have suffered a complete “redefining” of revival. What happens? People are keen on prophecy and healing revivals… and if a few people repent it is called success. The healing revival emphasis has been going on in America since the 1950s. None now live who know what a “book of Acts” revival looks like. Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994), author of Why Revival Tarries, often lamented the absence of genuine revival in the English-speaking world.   

Eugene Bartlett, author of the Gospel hymn, Victory in Jesus, penned the famous line: 

“I heard about His healing… 
of His cleaning power revealing… 
how He made the lame to walk again 
and caused the blind to see. 
Then I cried dear Jesus 
come and heal my broken spirit… 
and somehow Jesus came and brought 
to me the victory.” 

At the time of this writing Bartlett was paralyzed over half his body from the stroke that would soon take his life. I have to ask, with our nation going down the toilet; with our churches cold and carnal; do we really need a healing revival? Do we really need a personal prophesy revival? Do we need a prosperity revival? What did God say? Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. This is what God is after. Unfortunately, for Israel, they rejected God’s dealings until there was no hope. I’m reminded of the sobering passage:

Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had consecrated in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:14-16)

What happened? The leadership and the people continued on in their sin — making excuses — listening to the ones who “healed the wound of the daughter of my people slightly” — mocking the ministers and prophets who had the voice of God truly in their mouths. The crowd would celebrate the compromisers, but reject people who preached the truth. Sound like today? Indeed, it does. Nevertheless, who can say what God will do? If perchance He moves again to grace us with revival, may we be swift to respond, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 

An Offer You "Can" Refuse (Controversy with God)

An Offer You “Can” Refuse
Robert Wurtz II

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:17–23 KJV)

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus he came running. He had a zeal to make Heaven. All indicators were that he wanted to be right with God. However, as Jesus placed His hand upon the controversy that God had with this religious young man, it became evident that he wanted right with God on his own terms. He referred to Jesus as a good teacher (Master) until he heard what Jesus said. We do not call teacher’s “master” today (although it would get interesting throwing the word master in with pastor in a church setting). Nevertheless, Jesus didn’t go in for flattery or vain titles. He did not fraternize either. Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Jesus shot down the blandishments and told the young man the truth. Though he came running to Jesus excited; he walked away from Him sorrowful. This is a sobering case.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. (Mark 10:21)

Many people come to God and make a pretense of repenting of sin — when in reality they have not turned completely to God. They are knowingly holding back a part of themselves. As with the Israelites, so with individuals; “Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1 KJV) As God had a controversy with Israel and Judah, so too, He has a controversy with sinners. What a person does with that controversy will determine whether or not they go on with God. 

Many, even now, have some sin, as did the rich young ruler, which is standing directly between them and God. The minister may not see it, but Christ does. John Wesley comments on this verse saying, “Doubtless for the dawnings of good which he saw in him: and said to him – Out of tender love, One thing thou lackest – The love of God, without which all religion is a dead carcass. In order to this, throw away what is to thee the grand hindrance of it. Give up thy great idol, riches. Go, sell whatsoever thou hast.” Though he had thought he outwardly kept all the commandments — his “god” was his stuff. We must remember that we are not at liberty to pick and choose what sins we repent of. We must repent of anything and everything that God puts His hand on in our life. Sins that place other ‘things’ on the throne of our heart are paramount to idolatry and a violation of the 1st commandment and the great commandment. Anyone or anything that is standing between us and God is an idol — no matter what or who it is. 

A Great Myth of Repentance

Some people are not as cut and dry as was the Rich Young Ruler. They will try to hang around and come to church without any intention of repenting of the controversy they have with God. It would be as if the Rich Young Ruler ignored Jesus’ words, kept his riches, and began following. Because he was innocent of “the obvious sins” he could say to Jesus “all these have I kept from my youth.” He would have gotten past most gate keepers, but he did not get by Jesus. Someday the Lord will separate the sheep from the goats. Why would He have to? Because many have tried to do what I just stated. They ignored the controversy and came on to church because people don’t see their heart state like Jesus does. God has a way of pointing out the idols in the heart. This is what God showed Ezekiel in the first several chapters of his prophecy.   

Richard Owens Roberts wrote a section in his, “Seven myths of Repentance” stating, “When anyone resorts to selective repentance, the tendency is to repent of the glaring matters, the things of which everyone knows he is guilty. There is no potential for selectivity in genuine repentance. Even if someone in your church is caught in adultery and sheds buckets of tears, and makes no self-defense, and admits openly and candidly to an adulterous relationship, it is not necessarily repentance. You have to be sure that the underlying cause of adultery has been turned from, and that cause in most instances is pride. Take as an example, a woman who forsakes her three children and her husband and runs off with a local university professor. When she is confronted by the church, she at first says, “Well, if you knew that beastly fellow I’m married to, you’d understand.” But the church is very earnest in bringing her to repentance and so finally she says, “Well, I admit that I did the wrong thing.” Do we then rejoice? I’d want to get underneath and discover whether she had turned from the pride that made her think she didn’t need to be bound to this miserable man.” People often repent of the ‘symptoms of sin’ but they never repent of sin itself-, which is rebellion against God, and His authoritative word. 

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 

When we are determined to keep our sin there is nothing left to do but to walk away. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking God will overlook our sin. He has already declared how He will judge sin and there is no changing that. Why deceive ourselves? If we hold on to some sin we are trading our soul for it. We are trading an opportunity to have an eternal relationship with God for it. For what? Some fleeting pleasure? Some relationship? Some material thing? Jesus, unlike many ministers, will let you walk away. He wants you to know what you have done so that perchance down the road you may truly repent. it is dangerous to hang around churches that allow damnable sins in the name of “love” and “acceptance.” The story of the Rich Young Ruler is clear. God makes us an offer of forgiveness and eternal life, but it is an offer we can refuse by holding on to our sin.  

When God Reveals Himself (Conviction of Sin)

When God Reveals Himself
Robert Wurtz II

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11 NKJV)

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44 KJV)

There is an old saying among Pentecostals and Charismatics that states that, “a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.” This is a way of saying that when a person has an experience, that experience trumps all reason. In other words, the experience itself becomes the authoritative basis of belief. What then are we to say when we are told that gold dust, diamonds, and angel feather manifestations are proof that God’s glory was present in their meetings? What about sensations and flashes of light? What is the criteria with which we judge these things?

In the book of Acts God manifested Himself in powerful ways.   The time would fail to demonstrate the “effect” of these manifestations. Needless to say, nobody used them as a means of self-glorification or to show how their group was more spiritual and favored of God than another. Nobody used them to start a TV ministry. In fact, they were too busy getting their life together to boast or misuse what God was doing. 

Acts 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. Acts 5:11) 

Acts 19:17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 

When God manifest Himself in the book of Acts, the fear of the Lord fell upon people. Just as Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5, there was a sense in which the people cried out “Woe is me! For I am undone… I am a man of unclean lips and walk among a people of unclean lips.” When John the Revelator saw Jesus glorified in Revelation 1:17 he fell at His feet as dead. No dancing around. No going on “business as usual.” These manifestations rocked these men to the core. They were never the same. Isaiah gave the reason…for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5b KJV) 

A Blinding Light

Saul (who was present for Stephen’s sermon) was traveling along to Damascus persecuting Christians when suddenly he is confronted by the LORD. Blinded, falling to the ground — fearful and stunned, Saul hears these words, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Act 9:4-5) Pricks were goads that farmers used to keep their animals plowing in a straight line. Some would “kick” against the goads only to suffer the pain of being gouged by the person in charge of keeping the animal going the right direction. It was uncomfortable. It was “hard” for them. Jesus used this metaphor to describe what Saul was doing. Saul was kicking against the strong dealings of the Holy Spirit. The Greeks and Romans used this same metaphor to denote a mortal man fighting against their pagan gods (Vincent). 

This theophany was not a pleasant experience for Saul, though a necessary one. The light of God’s glory overwhelmed him. In fact, when he was finally able to get back to his feet he opened his eyes and could see nothing (Gk. oudeis). Though he regains his sight enough to function, Paul (Saul) spent the rest of his life with eye damage as a constant reminder of this event (Acts 9:8, 9:17, 22:13, Galatians 4:15, 6:11). Saul (Paul) repented, was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. 
Convincing The World

Many things today masquerade as “the presence of God.” In fact, man can falsify both the presence and glory of God. He can falsify the sensation of a “presence” with music, sound and effects. He can falsify the glory of God with special lighting. “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV) This is why it is essential to know the difference between the glory and presence of God and what is being manufactured with electricity. Shut the power to the building off and see what’s left. Then we will know the true and the false. The Holy Spirit does not come to put on a light show but to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. That is how you will know you are moving in the authentic; when people walk away changed into representatives of Jesus Christ on the earth — sons and daughters of God that reflect His personality. No change or even a “temporary change” only reinforces the falseness of the experience and adds to the disillusionment of people truly seeking the Lord.

While Jesus walked the earth He dealt with individuals and groups according to their need. He met them right where they were. This is why we find Him dealing gently with some and sternly with others. He was gentle with the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, and Zacchaeus; but He was stern with most of the scribes and pharisees. His dealings fit their heart condition. In fact, when Jesus spoke with the rich young ruler He put His hand on the controversy that existed between God and him. It was his wealth. Jesus gave Him specific direction as to what to do to remedy the controversy. The rich young ruler went away sorrowful. He would not obey what God was telling him and could go no farther until he did. 

As a man Jesus was limited on the scope of His earthly ministry. This is why He stated, Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. The Helper is the Holy Spirit. He would be sent into the earth in a way not known before to do three specific things; And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The Holy Spirit was coming to bring to bear individually the reality of who Christ is and the sinful condition the person is in. 

First, God wants all people to know that they are indicted for their sins. We are charged with a life of sinning against the Holy God. We have sinned and God expects us first to acknowledge our sins. This is not shifting blame or “staying silent” as did king David at the first when he had sinned with Bathsheba. No excuses. Moreover, if we refuse to believe on Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross we will die in our sins. There is no other path to forgiveness than through the shed blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit convinces us of this reality. Once we have truly repented and believed (repented and believed in a way that God can ‘amen’ our repentance and faith) the Holy Spirit will apply the blood of Christ to our conscience – purging it from dead works to serve the Living God. Conviction is replaced with God’s Joy, Love and Peace, etc..

Second, God establishes authority in the life of a person by the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus has ascended, the Holy Spirit takes on His role pointing out the controversies we have with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness. He will lead us or goad us (depending on our heart state and need) to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit into all righteousness. He will lead us and teach us as surely as Jesus led and taught the disciples when He walked the earth. This is why Paul could say to the Ephesians, “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” (see Ephesians 4:20ff) The Holy Spirit speaks the things of Christ. It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ speaks the will of Christ to the churches (Revelation 2-3). When we “hear” what the Spirit is saying to the churches we are hearing what “Christ” is saying to the churches.

Third, the Holy Spirit will convince us that there is coming a great judgment day. Satan’s judgment is sealed as evidenced by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus Christ overcame the world – dashing all hopes the Devil could have had of prevailing in his schemes. There is nothing preventing judgment of every person alive but the mercy and grace of God alone. When the Holy Spirit comes to deal with us, He will make that plain. Paul took up this line in agreement with the Holy Spirit in Acts; “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Act 17:30-31 NKJV)

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)  


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