Priesthood: His and Ours (Understanding Priesthood for Christians)

This entry is to make available two teaching sessions on youtube from the “Priesthood: His and Ours”  conference in Scotland. Please feel free to have a listen. Blessings, -Robert

Perfunctory Preparation and Performance (October, 2011)

Perfunctory Preparation and Performance
Originally Published in October, 2011. 
Robert Wurtz II

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John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

John 21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

John 21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

This conversation with Peter was, in effect, a restoration. Jesus begins asking, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? This is a gentle rebuke for his having suggested that he loved the Lord more than the rest of the disciples. He then turns and states, in effect, if you really love me like you have said, prove it by feeding my lambs. This is an amazing revelation into the very center of the heart of God. The Lord was giving Peter a charge to keep. It would be the greatest responsibility of all. If he fails here he will prove he did not really love the Lord like he claimed. It will come down primarily to this one thing. Jesus had fed Peter with words that were spirit; now He is leaving this earth, and it’s Peter’s turn to feed His lambs. 

A Parting Charge from Christ

Our passage is frequently expounded to emphasize the use of two Greek words for love (agapao and phileo) as they change in the original text of the conversation. Nevertheless, I wish in this entry to examine a commonly overlooked emphasis on the part of our Lord. You will notice in the KJV that the word ‘feed’ is used three times. In the original Greek we have Βόσκε (bosky, feed) in verse 15 and 17 and Ποίμαινε (poimanate, tend) sandwiched in the middle in verse 16. The KJV obliterates the distinction here. The order is: feed my lambs; tend my sheep; and feed my sheep. But why? Was this just careless speech on the part of our Lord, or was He saying exactly what He meant? We know that there are no insignificant details in the scripture; however, this conversation with its shifting back from “feed” to “tend” to “feed” has puzzled many expositors over the years. We read in Trench: 

In Dean Stanley’s, Sermons and Essays on the Apostolic Age, p. 138, the answer is suggested. The lesson, in fact, which we learn from this is a most important one, and one which the Church, and all that bear rule in the Church, have need diligently to lay to heart; this namely, that whatever else of discipline and rule may be superadded thereto, still, the feeding of the flock, the finding for them of spiritual food, is the first and last; nothing else will supply the room of this, nor may be allowed to put this out of that foremost place which by right it should occupy. How often, in a false ecclesiastical system, the preaching of the Word loses its preeminence; the feeding (βόσκειν) falls into the background, is swallowed up in the “acting as shepherd” (ποιμαίνειν), which presently becomes no true shepherding, because it is not a feeding (βόσκειν) as well; but such a “shepherding” rather as God’s Word by the prophet Ezekiel has denounced (Ezekiel 34:2, 3, 8, 10; cf. Zech. 11:15-17Matt. 23.)” (Richard C. Trench; Synonyms of the New Testament). 

The Priority of Feeding

In Ezekiel 34, God denounced the “shepherds” that refused to care properly for the flock of God. They were self-serving and fleecing the flock. They shirked their responsibilities, and as a result, the people were carried off by the enemy. God came down on them with a severe judgment, and required the flock of God at the shepherds hands. That is to say, He held the shepherds accountable for the loss of sheep. 

Ezekiel 34 ought to sober even the most hardened of preachers and teachers. This abuse of the flock by the shepherds would be embedded in the psyche of all the Jews. It was a common theme that even Jesus would take up. God had given the shepherds clear responsibilities, and they had sorely abused them unto their own destruction. This is a lesson worthy of note and shines forth again in the New Testament: My brethren, be not many  masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (James 3:1) The text is in the imperative, “Do not, so many of you, become teachers because you know we will receive a greater sentence in the judgment. “ How many teachers and preachers take that seriously? If a man will give an account for every idle word they speak on the day of judgment, what do you suppose will be the fate of those who have spoken for God recklessly? 

A Wake Up Call

An elderly minister (age late 70’s early 80’s) came to speak to our local assembly one Tuesday evening, as he had done many times, about his prison ministry. He was an aging giant of a man with a solid head of white. His hearing was almost gone. I cannot recall the text he spoke from — nor the contents of any of his previous messages. However, I shall not soon forget how he told of a dream he recently had. It happens that the Holy Spirit had spoken strongly and certainly to him in the night these words, “I am tired of your perfunctory ways.” The minister stated that he had to go find a dictionary to look that word up, because he did not know the meaning. What did he find? 

Perfunctory |pərˈfəNGk tərē| adjective (of an action or gesture) Carried out with a minimum of effort or reflection: he gave a perfunctory nod. Done merely to discharge a duty; performed mechanically and as a thing done mechanically; done in a careless and superficial manner; characterized by indifference; as, perfunctory admonitions.

Perfunctory Admonitions

The minister had no reason to lie and tell on himself. I doubt a man could make such a thing up. I could tell by the way he told the story that he was dead serious. He was troubled by the dream and wanted to pass on what God had said. Here is a dear man in his late 70’s to early 80’s still being expected of God to shepherd the people in his care with concern and excellence. 

Again James writes, Many teachers become not, my brethren, having known that greater judgment we shall receive. (James 3:1 YLT) God loved this minister enough to bring his actions to his attention so he could change. A minister may be tempted to just “coast along” in his old age as if God don’t mind, or as if God understands that he is tired and worn out from years on the trail. Not so for this minister; he still had plenty of life left in him and was fully able to discharge his duties. Those who teach/preach the word of God are going to be judged with a greater judgment. Again we read in Ezekiel, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? (Ezekiel 34:2)

Feeding Themselves

I have marveled at times as I would reflect on the “Perfunctory Ways” dream as I have come to remember it. I do not say this as a criticism at all, I merely want to demonstrate a point here. The purpose of his coming was to raise funds, and rightly so, for his ongoing ministry. Ministers should live of the Gospel. This is God’s design. Ministers are not to demand their rights to payment; but rather, the churches are to insure that the ministers’ right to support is Biblically upheld to the best of their ability. What did Paul say?

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. (1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV)

Double honor is generally understood to mean double wages. It is of the Lord that “the Ox who treads out the corn also partake of that corn.” Nevertheless, if a person is going to receive wages, they ought to be upholding their end of the deal — tending and feeding the flock of God. The pattern given to Peter was feed, tend, and feed some more. Surely, God does not long pay for perfunctory feeding. This brother had been warned of God in a dream that God’s estimate of his service in ministry was that it was “perfunctory.” Nevertheless, he still desired wages for his services. Obviously, he did not realize this was happening and God pointed it out. He mended his ways and went back to faithfully discharging his ministry. Nevertheless, what about others? What about men who go on taking a perfunctory course in ministry? 

Dean Stanley (1815-1881), former Dean of Westminster, made some comments along these lines that are worthy of note; “How often, in a worldly ecclesiastical system, does the preaching of the Word lose its preeminence; the βόσκειν (feeding) falls into the background, is swallowed up in the ποιμαίνειν (service), which presently becomes no true ποιμαίνειν (service), because it is not a βόσκειν (feeding). Understand that today the emphasis is often on everything but feeding the flock of God. It is on building programs, administration, singing, etc. The enemy seems to have no small list of chores he can enlist a minister to do in the place of preparation for feeding the sheep. 

Again, neglecting God’s Word is what the prophet Ezekiel denounced (Ezekiel 34:2, 3, 8, 10; cf. Zech. 11:15-17Matt. 23.) Understand that real study is real work. If a man is successful at feeding the sheep, it is because of the great amount of laboring in the word that he is willing to do. A man may perfunctorily preach and teach, and it be little effort, but not if a man obeys God and executes the responsibility biblically. It is a tremendous effort. It is the most important thing — even more important than visiting the sheep. In fact, the same Peter that took the charge to feed the flock of God in John 21:15-17, also said this, It is not reasonable that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. (Acts 6:2)  We could fill in the “serve tables” with any other lesser thing ____________. The Devil would do almost anything to marginalize the importance of feeding the flock of God that is among them.

Able and Willing to Teach

The overseer then must be irreproachable, husband of one wife, sober, discreet, decorous, hospitable, able to teach; (1 Timothy 3:2) and again, And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, able to teach, patient (2 Timothy 2:24). Before a man ever takes up the responsibility of elder or minister they ought to observe this one qualification. God is going to hold ministers accountable. He is not looking for administrators, but feeders of His sheep. 

The job of a minister is primarily to feed the flock of God. The job of the sheep is to support the minister. God expects everyone to do their part for the successof His churches. Notice our passage does not say to feed on the flock; that is to say, they are not to be made objects of greed; but rather, we as ministers are ordained to live “of the milk” of the flock (1 Corinthians 9:7). It is a reciprocal relationship. What did Peter go on to say? Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:2,3) Our word for feed here should be translated “tend” the flock of which feeding is the primary part. 

Perfunctory Preparation 

A certain substitute teacher commented to her class that it was easy to sit for 45 minutes in front of the kids, but that her real responsibility was to sit in teachers meetings. The veteran teacher looked on and smiled as if to say, “Madam, you sure have a lot to learn!” In time the substitute would have to backtrack on the comments once she got settled in and realized that teaching full time, five days a week, was not the same as being a substitute that was called in a few times per month. Her distorted view of reality proved she had not rightly considered what she had signed up for. Her words gave her away. 

Jesus once told the disciples, For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:28) So it is with ministry. Jesus charged Peter primarily with feeding the flock; that is the primary effort employed in the building of a tower (as it were). It is serious business; life and death serious. It takes many hours of preparation to move from the perfunctory to the satisfactory. 


If you don’t like to study, you definitely have not been called to the ministry. If you think that preaching and teaching can be done with minimal effort, with little reflection, merely to discharge a duty; performed mechanically and unthinkingly; done in a careless and superficial manner, then you are on your way to being a perfunctory preacher and in the end will receive a greater judgment (sentence). God will not have it. 

A child may run the vacuum cleaner over the carpet three or four strokes, roll up the cord, put it back in the closet, and then tell mother he is finished; but that kind of perfunctory work is not fit in the Kingdom of God. Imagine the child boasting to his friends how easy it is to vacuum, while they look on in amazement because they vacuum their parents house rightly. Amazing! 

We don’t preach and teach just to discharge the duty. It is a high calling. It is to be taken as seriously as if you held a loaded gun on the people. God expects his servants to prepare and seek His face. He expects us to rightly divide the word of Truth. This takes time and energy. It takes serious reflection. It takes getting alone for hours at a time to prepare. It takes a close walk with the Lord. This is why God commanded that they that minister and labor in the word are to be supported. 

The old timers used to say that the minister carried a burden for the people. The messages they prepared were often tear-stained as they wrestled with God for a word for the sheep. The reckless shepherd leaves the sheep in weakness and frailty. Like so many of our hymns and choruses — so also the sermons. Prosperity, positive confession, and a host of other foolish doctrines masquerades as preaching today. Is that food worthy of God’s flock? Does it edify the people? God is going to hold the teachers and preachers accountable. For this cause may we that labor in the word; count the cost; and endeavor to move well beyond the perfunctory — until we can preach and hear, “well done thy good and faithful servant.”

Witchcraft or Worship?

Witchcraft or Worship?
Robert Wurtz II

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1Samuel 15:23)

At first sight these verses are stunning and sobering. God likened the rebellion of Saul, and his refusal to perform what he knew to be God’s will, as “witchcraft, iniquity, and idolatry.” You will recall the words of Jesus to the lost, “… depart from me you worker of iniquity.” So to have something we are doing be labeled as witchcraft, iniquity and idolatry is more serious than anything we could possibly imagine. Saul was rejected of God and David was raised up in his place. Why? Rebellion. Though glorified as a youthful virtue since the 1950s, rebellion is one of the most dangerous sin states a person can possibly be in. Saul was a leader of Israel, the people of God; but he was in complete defiance of God Almighty. We could put a hundred megaphones in our ears and not hear it as plainly as we ought. Simply put, rebellion is a one way ticket to eternal damnation. 

An Unholy Matrimony

When the impotent evangelistic techniques of the early 1900s joined up with the rebellious pop-cultural spirit of the 1950s and 60s, they gave birth to what we call modern Western Christendom; the Visible Church in the Western world. This is not the spotless True Church, but Christianity in the main stream. The joining of these two was the perfect match. Millions of people were made to believe they were Christians without having been born again- leaving them in a carnal state. They are not spiritual, their minds are still at enmity with God. They cannot bring their hearts and minds to agree with God about sin and rebellion. It does not make sense to them. What’s the big deal, they ask? This is why they don’t understand why Christians are barred from worldly and sinful practices. Romans 12:1-3 has almost no meaning to them. When you tell them certain things are sinful or of the devil, they just get angry. They think you are being nit-picking, etc. This is one of the tell-tale signs that these people have never been born of the Spirit. They think like the Devil and desire the things of the Devil, but they see no contradiction. They defend sin and compromise rather than righteousness and holiness. Simply stated, they are on the wrong team and don’t even realize it.

Rebellion Becomes “Cool” and “Hip”

Carnal people have generally, and historically, embraced and advocated nearly every expression of rebellion- as it was understood by the Saints of bygone generations. Rebellion is a state of the heart towards God and the things of God, but there are specific ways it has been expressed in the main stream. In fact, in the 1950s and 60s a generation arose that sought to completely break ties with the standards and lifestyle of their parents and grandparents. Standards began to fall and the very foundation of society was under attack. This is why everything from smoking to Rock and Roll was embraced by a generation. Music was shaped by the rebellious to express their spirit. That tool then began to shape them until society began to spiral into total madness. The situation became so shocking, that one famous Rock group of the mid-60s, in their rebellious rant, My Generation sneered… “I hope I die before I get old.” This is now considered to be one of the most distilled statements of youthful rebellion in rock history. Old people were lame, un-cool and un-hip, so they would rather be dead than be what they were. I have often wondered if the lead  singer, Roger Daltry still feels that way: he turns 70 in March. 

Rebellion As An Expression of Personality

Prior to the 1950s True Christians were very sensitive to compromise. The consensus is that if our grand fathers and great-grandfathers could see what mainstream Christianity has become since their death, they would roll over in their graves. Most will agree with this, but some will add that it is because those “old people back then” were ignorant, legalistic, or any other cynical adjective they can use to dismiss their convictions. The Saints of old understood that everything we do is an expression of who we are. They saw behavior as an expression of the heart. For example, in the 1950s the stereotypical Rebel Without A Cause look was a teenager with his hair slicked back, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his t-shirt, and looking “cool.” When a person saw that they did not think of Christianity, they thought of rebellion. Like Roger Daltry, they did not mind telling you they were in rebellion. Everything they did telegraphed it. “Were in rebellion and we want the whole world to know it…”

Rebellion As An Expression of Popular Culture

In time, many things that were expressions of rebellion in the 1950s, 60s and beyond, began to shape the peoples idea of normal. Rebellion is now in style! What happens when rebellion is trending? What happens when rebellion has been around so long that it is now fused into the very fabric of society? A few years ago in Missouri, where I live, an EF5 tornado went through one of our towns totally destroying much of it. Homes, churches, were destroyed- and even the hospital (ironically named Saint John’s) was moved several inches off of its foundation. Why? Because the force of the storm was so great, everything in its path, no matter how well established, was effected. This is what has happened in society. The tornado of rebellion and godlessness is ripping through our nations leaving nothing but total devastation. Our homes are being destroyed, churches are being destroyed, and only the strongest of structures remain as they once was. When expressions of rebellion become normative, fashionable, and a matter of “taste” we are on the fast track to perdition.

Rebellion As An Expression of Faith

I was shocked to see that several “Christian” bands are traveling the country under the heading, “The Rock and Worship Tour.” How could those two words possibly fit together? Which is it? Is it Rock or is it Worship, because it cannot be both. As a teenager growing up in the 80s, I had a front row seat to all things “Rock.” In fact, I am probably one of the few people my age that has actually seen Roy Orbison in concert. I have been to the concerts. Sadly, after a steady 5-8 hour dose, I nearly OD’d on MTV. Pop music was in the malls, the department stores, on the radio, in our commercials- it was even on the jukebox in my middle school lunch room. This is why people in my generation typically cannot relate to any other form of music. They were baptized into it. 

What happened? Girls shaved their heads, painted their hair, wore huge earrings and provocative clothing. Guys began to wear earrings in the left ear (symbolizing “sophistication), rat tails, concert t-shirts with “666” and the “Number of the Beast”, chains, etc.. The anthem of many was, “Were on a highway to hell…” We knew it was rebellion. Why do you think people did it? I knew in my conscience that these things did not please God, I trembled at some of the things I saw. It is foolery to say we were just being kids or going through a “faze.” We knew what we were doing. However, on the rare occasions I did come to church, I did not expect my rebellious world to be manifest inside the four walls of the church house. With my friends? Yes. On the television? Yes. On the radio? Yes. In the school house? Yes. On our boom boxes? Yes. In the church house? Never. Not in a million years. How has a culture of rebellion changed the face of Christian expression in the last 30 years? Look around. Did any of these people take Romans 12:1-3 seriously? Obviously, they did not and here we are.

Witchcraft or Worship?

Saul started out well, but he fell into compromise. He may have figured, “this little bit of rebellion will never matter to God.” But his attitude was expressive of a generation that wanted him in power. They were rebellious and they wanted a rebellious king. They may not have said it, but God already told Samuel that the people had rejected Him (God) as being their king. This is always where compromise rests; people do not want God as King. A whole generation behaved in this way, save the elect that God had reserved.     

 It is difficult to convey the truth of what I have written in this post, because so few grasp what is at stake. The world is in a state of enmity with God. It is expressed on its TV shows, in its music, in its trends. Would to God that I could open the eyes of professors of Christ and show them that reality. But when you love something, you don’t like hearing it criticized. It angers you. So the conversation never gets any place. The Devil has deceived thousands of people into thinking they can Rock and Worship, and never see for even a second that they are using a vehicle for rebellion for the worship of God. 

Its as if a generation has junked the new cart and ordered a hearse to slide the ark into to drive it around. After all, this is cited as the impetus for the angry, frustrated, sneering example of “one of the most distilled statements of youthful rebellion in rock history” My Generation. Roger Daltry sang it, but legend is told that band member Pete Townshend, reportedly wrote the song while on a train. He is said to have been inspired by the Queen mother who is alleged to have had Townshend’s 1935 Packard hearse towed off a street because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through the neighborhood. Hence, his expression of darkness and death through his music manifested also in the very car he drove. The question is, are we going to load up Christianity into the back of that spirit and carry our faith?


Televangelicalism (Book Release)

Televangelicalism (Book Release)
How We Lost the Gospel and How to Get it Back
Robert Wurtz II

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. (Acts 26:19,20 ESV)

Our text offers precious insight into the message of Paul the Apostle. Luke records Paul’s clear declaration that he was not “disobedient to the heavenly vision,” implying that Christ has given him a mandate to preach a certain message. By implication, he is simply obeying the Lord. For those familiar with the New Testament, you will recognize the message that all men should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. This is the same Paul that wrote the book of Romans and Galatians. In fact, this event before Agrippa was roughly two-thirds through Paul’s ministry. He was on his way to Rome; nevertheless, Luke is careful to give us this last detail, lest we spend 2000 years in confusion. The careful observer of Lucan thealogy will observe that his writings are book ended with references to John the Baptist. From Jerusalem, to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world the first word of the Gospel remains; “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but know he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30, 31 ESV)

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Paul stood before Agrippa or on Mar’s Hill. He lived before God as a shining light reflecting upon this world’s ever worsening corruption. The man and the message were not popular then–nor are they popular today. The word of repentance will arouse the conscience of people as a scorpion in their mind and heart. The knee-jerk reaction is to put the light out, immediately. Hence, it takes a special breed of man to preach the Gospel. It takes a person like John the Baptist, Peter or Paul, who has one Master alone; Not money or popularity, or anything else. At the risk of ones own life they shine forth the light of truth in a violent and wicked world. Truly, preaching the true Gospel is not for the faint of heart. 

Men search in vain for proof texts to nullify the plain reading of passages such as we find in Acts 26 and Acts 17, but that has not stopped them from looking. As a dear friend once said, “‘Hope,’ says the proverb, ‘springs eternal’ and our race has an amazing capacity to believe what it wants to believe in spite of any evidence to the contrary.” This is never truer than in the preaching of the Gospel. Nevertheless, there has always been a remnant that desired to follow God’s programmatic passages to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, in modern times, mass media has made it possible to “heap to themselves” teachers who will tickle the ears; a condition that Paul warned of just before his death in 2 Timothy 4:3. How can the remnant survive the onslaught; the perpetual deluge of compromise and false teachings that are flooding into the visible church? 

There is no new thing under the sun. The pattern in Israel was much the same, almost like a broken record that skips the looping pattern over and over again. The problem? God nails it through the prophet Hosea, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me (Hosea 4:6a). Israel was called to be a kingdom of Priests and so are the New Covenant saints. The risk we have is again, from Paul’s pen, For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.  Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (Romans 11:21-23 ESV) For all of our boasting, we are no better than Israel if we fail in the grace of God. There are no privileged characters in God’s kingdom. 

Unfortunately, men over the centuries have not feared the Lord as did Paul and Peter. Knowing therefore, the terror of the Lord, they persuaded men…but not today. I tremble to say it, but we have lost the Gospel in mainstream Christianity. We lost it because of men who proclaimed God’s Word to be the final authority and then labored against the plain teachings that even plow boys can understand. For reasons known only to God and themselves, they stripped the Gospel of its primary teachings and afterwards put forward substitutes that have been around so long they have obtained the force of law. When was the last time you heard a preacher tell the people that God is demanding that they repent and turn from all of their sin to him? When was the last time you heard it preached that men should renounce questionable practices, forsake evil associations, and come out of this present evil world? How did we come to this?

Between the Reformation (ca 1500s) and Billy Sunday (ca early 1900s), the visible church made great strides towards recovering “book of Acts” style Gospel preaching. In fact, the United States was founded by people that believed in genuine conversion and right Christian living. New measures became popular just prior to Charles Finney, and he expanded them as did D.L. Moody. Finney believed the anxious bench took the place of water baptism. Unfortunately, all the well-known mainstream evangelists have followed this pattern. However, something radically changed when Billy Sunday came upon the scene. He no longer believed that there needed to be a “struggle of faith” in order to come to Christ; but that men and women can get saved “without all the fuss.” his influence is so dramatic, that we have to break evangelism down to pre-Billy Sunday and post-Billy Sunday evangelism. Salvation became as simple as walking the sawdust trail and making a handshake. No more praying through at an old-fashioned altar. He passed out a converts pledge card that contained the forerunner of what we commonly call “the sinners’ prayer.” 

A perfect storm was brewing. The Gospel was compromised about the time radio, and television were invented, taking the Billy Sunday Gospel to the nations. Today salvation is simply coming forward and praying a prayer… a pattern totally foreign to the book of Acts. Then in the 1950’s a whole new level of compromise came into popularity. The Gospel of humanism was in full swing… evolving into a message of self-help, positive thinking, and prosperity. It was signaled by a well-known televangelist named Rex Humbard, who attempted to build a 600 ft tower outside Akron, Ohio and was never able to complete it. True to Jesus words, he did not count the cost and was not able to finish. It is the mocking stock of the area. From that time until this, the Gospel is preached without the mandate to “count the cost.” Sadly, it is a message tailored to appeal to sinful man with no power to bring change. 

In my new book, Televangelicalism, I provide a sketch of how evangelism was done from the book of Acts until this very day. With some 340 pages, and with over 300 footnotes, we divide the book into two parts, “Part I, the pre-Billy sunday era” and “Part II, the post Billy Sunday era.” Available on Kindle in late September, 2013, Televangelicalism is sure to be an eye-opener for anyone concerned with how so many today name the name of Christ, but have no real heart for God. Here is our trailor for the Book:

A Fading Glory

A Fading Glory
Robert Wurtz II

For if that which fades away came through glory, how much more does that which is permanent have glory? Therefore, since we have such a hope, we speak very boldly, not like Moses, who kept covering his face with a veil to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of what was fading away. (2 Corinthians 3:11-13 ISV)

2 Corinthians 3 is a fascinating chapter where Paul is setting before the people the true evidence of the legitimacy of His calling and ministry. He tells the Corinthians in the first verses that they are his epistle (letter) of commendation. This is amazing. In the early churches of God it was sometimes necessary for a respected church leader (such as Paul or Priscilla and Aquilla) to write a “letter of commendation” to send with a person so that the churches and believers they visited would know they were legitimate. The Corinthian church knew all too well what this was, because one such letter had vouched for Apollos when he first arrived there (Acts 18:27). Paul begins this chapter by saying that when he came to them, he needed no such letter of commendation, because the believers themselves were the very proof that he was commissioned of God. The evidence of their changed life was clear for all people to see. Their behavior was as a living epistle before the eyes of all men. Paul was telling them that it was the grace that had been given to him by Christ that wrote that epistle (as it were) upon the fleshly tables of their hearts. It was this epistle in the heart that they were walking out in flesh and blood.

A heart of stone

Paul goes on in this chapter to contrast the ministry of the Old Covenant with that of the New Covenant. We learn elsewhere that the Law was spiritual, but unregenerate man is carnal and sold under sin. (Romans 7:14) The Old Covenant was tailor designed for the old Man, but the New Covenant would be tailored for the New Man (R. Bailey) Here, the heart of man comes front and center. It can do no other, because the heart of man is the central issue that must be dealt with before any lasting change can take place. Until the heart of a person is changed by God, all change is temporary. The hearts of men are found of God to be desperately wicked, and unknowable. Romans describes the hearts of men as uncircumcised, foolish, darkened (Romans 1:21, Acts 7:1-45), blind (Ephesians 4:18), obstinate, impenitent and hardened. (Romans 2:5)  The word impenitent means unrepentant. Hebrews 3:10-12 describes people that see the proof of God, and yet they still refuse to believe, as having “an evil heart of unbelief that departs from the Living God.” Peter speaks of people that train their heart as would an athlete train his body, not in godliness, but in covetousness. (2 Peter 2:14) The Revelation tells of the heart that confidently boasts in its security as if it will never see sorrow. The time would fail to tell of Satan that set his heart as the heart of God, and the very people that followed in this attitude (compare Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:2-6, Isaiah 47:4-15).

The hopeless heart

“The heart is more deceitful than anything. It is incurable. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ISV)

Though God told Israel to make themselves a new heart, the use of means by man in the Old Testament to accomplish change was only of limited effectiveness and longevity. Man has a disease of heart that we know as sin. It is mortally sick and incurable. It constantly seeks to substitute the arm of the flesh for the living God. (Meyer) Its thoughts, intents and secrets are unknowable and must be discerned by the word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 14:25) With all of this vileness and corruption it becomes plainly evident that man needs a new heart, given by God supernaturally. All unrepentant men and women are as Israel, that in a figure had hearts of stone such that only 10 Commandments could be chiseled out upon them. God desires to give men and women in this Gospel dispensation a new heart that are like fleshly tables where He can put His laws into them (Jeremiah 31:33). This law of God is the full expression of the living Word; that is, the person of Jesus Christ coded within the heart and manifest in the person’s behavior. If something is to proceed from the heart other than evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, etc. (Mark 7:21-23), God must replace it and write His personality into it. Amen.

A “change of heart”

The book of Acts tells us that God opened the heart of Lydia to listen carefully to Paul’s preaching as would a man open up a folding door (Acts 16:14). This is similar to when Jesus opened the mind of the disciples to understand the scriptures in Luke 24:45. There are times of visitation when God will open mens hearts to carefully hear and understand the Gospel. This is a crucial time.

As a younger believer I recall praying with a dear man for salvation. In my prayer I asked the Lord along this line to touch his heart and perhaps give him new heart. To my surprise, he opened his eyes and stopped me. “Don’t pray for my heart, I have a good heart!” he said. I was confounded by the thought. Here is a man that had a reputation for vile sin and rebellion against God and yet he somehow believed that deep down on the inside he really had a good heart and was a good person. I have given this experience much thought over the years. You see, many people think that they have a “good heart”, but as we have seen, this is not at all what scripture teaches. People use expressions like, “I have had a change of heart”, but this is not what God means by a new heart. Repentance is a change of mind upon a matter, but this is really only a first step. Man’s idea of a “change of heart” is more like a new years resolution. It is a superficial and shallow change compared to what God means. A new heart means exactly that, a new heart. This is not a rebuilt old heart, but a new heart.  

Moses and the veil

Israel had a stoney heart as individuals and that reality was one of their primary problems. We have to keep these things well in our minds or we will not rightly understand what follows. Paul moves on to our opening passage in 2 Cor. 3:11 and gives an additional and insightful revelation about the workings of God in the life of Moses and Israel. You will know that Moses went up on the mountain for 40 days without food or water to get the commandments and to spend time before the face of the LORD. (Exodus 34:28-35) It was him and God. He was consumed with being with the Lord. Moses surely came to understand during these 40 days, as spoken of by our Lord, that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. For those 40 days Moses was dead to everything and everyone but God. What an amazing experience! When he came down from the mountain his face was shining with the residue of God’s glory as evidence that he had truly been with God. The people could see this as evidence that he was truly commissioned of God to lead them. Their reaction to his radiant face was fear. They had seen the gods of Egypt, but nothing remotely like this. The mountain was on fire and Moses face was glowing with the glory of God. Yet, they would not draw near. I would have thought they would have desired to see God’s glory and possibly even beg to go up into God themselves, but they did not. Why?

The beauty of holiness

Moses was face to face with God. We might say, he was eye to eye. This was not a feeling that was stimulated from meditation or music or anything in the soulish realm; he was truly with God and in the presence of God. Many people mistake a feeling for the presence of God; but when God comes near there is a holy reverence that accompanies Him. The mountain was on fire and Moses trembled before the people. God was revealing himself as a consuming fire as a reminder that sin has no place in the presence of God. When God is near, sinfulness and uncleanness leads to fear (see Isaiah 6). Now Moses came down with a radiant evidence of the presence of God and the people were afraid. I think it is a false idea that men will want to “be like us” and “have what we’ve got” when they see God’s glory in our lives. Many people want a feeling, but they don’t want holiness. “Holiness will command reverence; but the sense of sin makes men afraid of their friends, and even of that which really is a favour to them.” (M. Henry) 

The glory that never fades

Moses found this to be true as he watched the people reel from him as he had shown forth the radiance of God glory. Sadly, He placed a veil over his face except when he was speaking with God. This is sort of like blunting the edge of the word of God by preaching it without the accompanying evidence of the holy presence of God. Paul tells us that when he preached, he did not veil (as it were) the glory of God, but allowed the full effect of the word of God to be brought to bear upon the hearer by the power of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:12-13) This is not eloquence or volume, it is the Holy Spirit backing the words by His unction. Why? That our faith would not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5) He later told the Corinthians that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and that knowing the fear of the Lord he persuades men. (2 Cor. 5:11)Many today regard this as a played-out motive, but not Paul.” (Robertson) When the Holy Spirit is present He will convince the world of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. There was something about Paul just as there was something about Moses that brought men face to face with God when they preached. The difference is that Paul did not put a veil over the manifest glory, but set forth Christ crucified evidently among the people. (Galatians 3:1) This would have had the effect of bringing those he preached to unto their own Damascus road experience.

Transient glory

Some say Moses placed the veil on his face so the people would not see the glory fading away. Some say the glory was still evident when he died 40 years later. Obviously both of these statements cannot be true. No person over the period of 40 years could observe such a slow fade. Rather, I suggest, as Paul, that the glory on Moses face was a fading glory, just as the Old Covenant had a glory that was fading. It was only temporary and completely dependent on an outward refreshing on the mountain. When the mountain trips ended, the glory eventually faded away. The Old Covenant, as did Moses face, eventually waxed old and vanished away according to the writer to the Hebrews. It ended for good when the Temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD and there was no more means of servicing the covenant. The fire for service (light) went out, but was superseded by the Fire (light) that fell at Pentecost. This is an inward source or refreshing. (2 Cor. 3:18) We are to be being filled with His Spirit as a perpetual reality. Not as the Samaritan woman worshipping on this mountain or that mountain, “we know not what” (John 4:22) and never being changed at all, or as Moses that experienced a transient glory (though awesome it must have been!); but continually being refreshed into the very image of God from glory to glory. For those that experienced Pentecost they no longer moved in a transient glory, but became lights in this present evil world. How? Because the very source of that glory (as manifest on the mount of transfiguration when Peter, James and John became eyewitnesses of his glory) came to live in them. Amen. Jesus Christ was not dependent on coming into the presence of the Father in order to gain a fading radiance of glory as did Moses; He was the brightness of the glory of God and the express image of His person. Now He wants to bring many sons unto glory. 

A fading glory (a testimony)

I wish to close this entry with a bit of personal testimony. I knew of God as a child by the hearing of the ear. I attended Sunday School from time to time, and would read our family Bible (usually when I was troubled). But I never really knew the Born Again experience. I believed God’s word when I read it or heard it. As a child and teenager, I answered more altar calls than I care to count. I repeated the sinners prayer over and over, but I was never changed. My heart was as corrupted and evil as ever. I must have asked God to forgive me of all my sins every night for years and years just trying to escape judgment. 

You see, I didn’t understand that when God was dealing with me about things, that I needed to submit to His Holy Spirit. I needed to be told to stop quenching the Holy Spirit and resisting the authority of the Holy Spirit. God wanted control of my life, but so did I. I would come to meetings and receive ‘something’ of the workings and glory of God, but as soon as I left the meeting the experience started to fade. Like the little glow-in-the-dark toys that used to come in the cereal box, I would be held up to the light of God’s grace, but would walk out the door with a fading glory. The longer I stayed in a meeting or the more evident God’s manifest presence seemed to be, the longer the excitement and zeal seemed to last; but by Wednesday I was already faded out again and was in a carnal mind. 

“Glow in the dark” toy when fully charged

I tremble to admit, that I knew when I got up from the altar of prayer that I was not changed. Upon reflection I can say that I was only slightly serious with God. I figured I could give God part of me, but He wanted all of me. He wanted to bring an end (death) to my former person and resurrect me in the power of His Spirit as a new creature. In time God brought me to a place where I knew it was impossible for me to serve God in my own strength and I loathed all of my sins. I knew I was wretched. My mind was often tormented by the things I had done. I got to the point where I doubted I could be forgiven. I was all undone. For several weeks my life was as Isaiah 6 when he declared “woe is me”. I had done so many sinful things knowing better. I was ashamed. I was vexed. My conscience was in me like a scorpion stinging me heart and mind over the sins of my past and present. What happened? God led me into His word to speak to me on a one on one. It was then, while reading the Bible, that I realized that I had to stop quenching the Spirit when He would deal with me about issues in my life. When He brought things before my eyes or checked me not to do things or prompted me to do certain things, I had to start obeying. So I did. And He started leading me and dealing with me. As I repented and turned from things He placed His hand on, I grew in desire to be right with Him utterly and to truly receive His Holy Spirit. God was opening my heart to hear His word and desire Him. As soon as I completely surrendered to him, it was as simple as praying and asking for His Spirit. I was in total desperation. I had laid down all of my arms. I had no back-up plans. it was under these circumstances that a man of God laid hands on me to receive the Spirit and I received the Holy Spirit for real. I knew instantly I was a changed person. 

The changer of hearts

By God’s grace it was a radical heart change. To Him alone be the glory. It reminds me of when God changed out Nebuchadnezzar’s heart in Daniel 4, only He gave me a heart after His own heart instead of the heart of a beast. It didn’t take two years or ten years, it was as swift as when God swapped out Nebuchadnezzars heart. He used to be at home in the palace and now he was at home in the field; likewise I was at home in sin, but now I am at home in the Kingdom of God. Suddenly all my desires were different. I was a different person in a moment of time. The thing that happened too is that I was no longer a “fading glory”. Christ, the Light of the world, came into me and began to consume things as it were a great fire. I didn’t need a phone call each week to make sure things were OK. A Fire had been started. This Fire God gave me a desire to feed with the good word of God and things that edified and built up. It was God that worked inside to will and to do His good pleasure. My meat was to do the will of Him that sent me.This does not mean I have not sinned and made mistakes, because I have and I have repented numerous times. It does not mean I cannot harden my heart now and backslide. But I am not the person I used to be. The gift of God in the New Covenant is the capacity to be changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory. Instead of fading, we can keep on refreshing by His Spirit; that is, if we will hear His voice and not harden ourselves. If we will leave off quenching and resisting the Holy Spirit we can be the lights that God called us to. In that way we can be as the disciples in Acts that were full of the Holy Spirit, on fire and ready for ministry on the way to the meeting… and not just fading out, like I used to do on the way home.