Minding Our Own Business
Robert Wurtz II
John 21:22 is a rebuke that is a little tough to receive in this sensitive age. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing this verse addressed (though I’m sure many have done it). As a child it always struck me as stern or possibly rude. I figured it probably hurt Peter’s feelings. It is the type of statement that I would try to avoid telling a person. Just being honest. It makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it. However, what if a person really needed to be told “…what is that to you? You follow Me”? It would take a good deal of courage or a very insensitive person to carry it out. Obviously the Lord Jesus courageously spoke the truth to Peter and He did it out of love.
The Destructiveness of Division
Robert Wurtz II
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. (I Corinthians 1:10, 11)
Paul really hits the ground running in his letter to Corinth. The situation is serious and he intends to nip it in the bud. Their behavior was completely unacceptable and was becoming a reproach on Christ. Therefore, it is no accident that Paul takes up his pen in the power of the Holy Spirit and gives for some a crash course on basic Christianity and for others a refresher.
Paul had received word from Chloe’s household that trouble was brewing at Corinth. Though they were proficient at moving in the gifts of the Spirit and working in ministry, there was a crack in their foundation that had to be dealt with before everything that had been built simply flew apart. Paul puts his finger on the problem in the 3rd chapter when he diagnoses the people as “carnal.” For though he had sown to them spiritual things, they were still moving in the flesh (carnality Gk. sarkikos). “It is a bold and cutting figure, not without sarcasm, but necessary to reveal the Corinthians to themselves.” (A.T. Robertson)
Are You Not Carnal?
We have a definition of carnal when Paul stated, “For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3) Rather than living in the Spirit – they were walking in the flesh. In other words, they were behaving just like “mere men” – unregenerate men. God has called the churches and His Saints to be an expression of the kingdom of God in the earth. We are God’s representatives on earth. We’re supposed to be demonstrating how the kingdom of God does things. What happens when the image of Christ is distorted in the churches because of carnal behavior? What happens when Christians begin to imitate the world’s behaviors and conflicts? Paul lets the church know it was Chloe’s house that brought this to his attention and then he lists three things as evidence of their carnality: envy, strife, and divisions.
Envy comes from a root meaning zeal and it can be a good or a bad thing. When it turns to jealousy or envy it can lead to our second problem, strife. This means “long and complicated disputes.” The KJV’s strife is from a Greek word that is translated as rivalry by the ESV. Where there is rivalry there is sure to be division. Webster defines a rival as “a person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.” Rivals do not operate in unity though technically they could be on the same team. Rivals typically view their opponent as the enemy. In the churches of God this leads to our final word divisions. In Classical Greek the word for division (schismata sci÷smata) means the rending of material such as a garment or cloth. It is torn in two. The jealousy and envy led to a rivalry that lead to the tearing apart of the church.
The Road To Rivalry
It is a tough pill to swallow, but in modern times rivalry is often a direct consequence of setting up denominations and churches in a worldly organizational structure that creates “positions” and “offices” of authority to be filled. Jesus told the Disciples that we are not to be organized like the Gentiles, but His words have been ignored in the main stream (Matthew 20:25-26). What happens? People are asked to vote on whom they want to lead them or who the person they feel the Lord is calling to the position. As surely as Jesus warned us and then commanded us to avoid it, this model is a recipe for total destruction. One group is hearing God say ____ should be voted in while the other group says God is saying ____ should be voted in. Each group is sure of their spirituality and that the other group is “missing it” or under the influence of the Devil (demons). All the while both groups have fallen into the trap of carnality and are in the cross hairs of Paul’s warnings in I Corinthians 1-3 and Galatians 5. While lauding themselves as spiritual – they just became the epitome of carnality and don’t even know it. Majority rule is democracy and the kingdom of God is not a democracy. We are called to come together in the mode God has established and seek His will until we can agree in unity as to what to do. In other words, 51 to 49 or a two-thirds majority may work in the US Senate, but it is an abomination to the kingdom of God. After all, one of the greatest flubs ever made in the Bible came when Joshua and Caleb were out numbered 10 to 2. That was an 83% majority and they totally missed God.
What happens? Factioning begins. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Because the names are ancient and far removed from our situation, we can’t see ourselves in this passage. But what if you and I replace Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ with rival ministers in our church or denomination? Think of some names. Think of some people that are jockeying for positions within the organization. They believe they are called, it’s God’s will, and that is that. If they don’t get in they are disillusioned at best and bitter at worst.
Everyone a Prophet
Can you imagine being in an environment like Corinth where it seemed like everyone was moving in the gifts of the Spirit? (1 Cor. 12:7,11) Even the women prophesied. (1 Cor. 11:4) Paul asked them, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.” Everyone believes they are hearing from God! Everyone. How could you counsel these people once the infighting begins? They would seem to be the most high-minded and impossible to coach people on earth. “I’m hearing from God – so don’t tell me anything!” Really? They each have a red phone on their desk (hotline) and when they pick it up – God answers? Paul dealt with these “super spiritual” folks by calling them carnal.
Understand that as soon as the voting begins the rivalry begins. Why? Because positions have been created by men and they have to be filled by men. Then we ask God to tell us who He wants us to put in our man-made positions? What if the next time the people are handed a little white paper to write a name on, everyone just goes ahead and writes it as a sentence, “I am of ____” or “I am of _____.” Then maybe we’ll understand the magnitude of what we are doing. We need to seek God’s will until we can agree upon it in unity – not in a majority.
The Scourge of Schism
What happens? One group believes “their man got in” while the other group believes “we missed God” – just like the Republicans and Democrats every two years after election day. Then each group tries to rally their troops to right the wrong the next election. But it doesn’t end there. In fact, it is just beginning. An undercurrent of strife develops that begins to eat away at the very foundation of the churches. The one group feels slighted and is offended… envy develops and a feud is in the making. The other group tries to hold their position so they don’t get voted out in the next election. Pretty soon everyone is looking at the other as the enemy and questioning motives. Everything each side does gets interpreted and spun so as to fuel the feud. Then they are seeking little subtle ways to retaliate or dig at one another. Oh, nobody will admit as much. Of course not. Were all too spiritual and what were doing is of the Lord. Really?
The scourge of schism is so profound in many circles that it is going to take God to intervene to bring correction to all of the mess that we see. There are no Paul’s to bring correction. We have God’s word on the matter, but few are paying attention to it. We give lip service to infallibility and authority and mock the very things God has said. We could end this all today by simply abandoning our traditions and get right with God. God calls the envious, rivalry and strife-laden behavior as rife carnality (a hidious sin) – while everyone keeps on pretending they are pleasing the Lord. All the while few – if any – are prepared to put an end to it all.
Dwelling in Disunity
Why pray for revival if we are going to go on grieving the Holy Spirit behind the scenes? Will God honor the feuding that goes on between rival groups? I think about Jesus who deals with people coming to the Judgment seat. Here were people that were doing all kinds of “wonderful works.” You know, works like Judas was doing while he was stealing from the money bag (see John 12:6, Luke 9:1ff). They are duped by the ancient notion that miracles authenticate ministry. In fact, they believed their miracles were evidence that they were saved. How shocked they must have been when Jesus told them to depart from Him, “you workers of iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23) Could some of these people have been Corinthians who were moving in the gifts, but were as carnal as unregenerate men? It is insane to go on behaving badly and then tell ones self that because it appears God is doing miracles that we must be pleasing Him. He is happy with us or He wouldn’t work miracles among us. Really? Ask Judas how that works out.
Paul jumped right in the middle of the situation at Corinth and sought to get them back on track. Otherwise, why pray for a move of God? So we can be sure and get that position that we feel “is God’s will for our lives?” What’s the use of even praying when were not right with one another? When there is, as James says, bitter envy and strife in our hearts? What says the scripture?
The divisive and rival carnality is such a stench in the nostrils of God, that He will not accept our worship if we don’t get things right. How can we do something as basic as love one another in an environment of rivalry? We may give lip service to it – but who is treating their rival like they would want to be treated? This is why Paul wrote I Cor. 13. to the Corinthians church. They needed to learn to love one another. How can you do the most basic Christian things when everyone is expected to suit up and pick sides?
I am convinced that we will fake another move of God before we see one – while His people refuse to come together in unity and simply love one another. Away with the rivalry. Away with the politics. Let’s be the church or take the sign off the building.
The cruelty and confusion of jealousy
Robert Wurtz II
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame. (Song of Solomon 8:6 NKJV)
I have given a lot of thought over the years to a great subject that has perplexed me since childhood. From the Tex Avery’s cartoons that made fun of the “mother-in-law” to the cold wars that existed in families since I can remember. In particular, I have been disturbed by watching generations of women that seemed to almost hate their mother-in-laws. I would try to objectively look at the situation and figure out why the hostility existed? Most of the time mother-in-laws are stereotyped as nosey trouble makers; but then I looked at cases where it was obvious that this was not the case.
Hate without a cause
I watched as women would enter families hostile from the start and without cause. The situation was so serious that from childhood I trained my sons not to marry a woman that would come in and seek to divide our family through these type of unwarranted hostilities. I didn’t understand the mechanics of the phenomena, I just knew I wanted no part of it. As a youth pastor I would tell our students, “Your life will be either heaven or hell on earth, depending on who you marry.”
No new thing under the sun
Many years have passed since those days. It seemed to me that the mother-in-law was being treated as if she were the man’s ‘Ex-wife’ or ‘Ex-girlfriend’, rather than his mother. Armed with this hunch I started to do some research and came across this article: Why wives are programmed to fight their mother-in-laws. I found it to be very insightful and a must read for all families that are struggling with these tensions. Consider some of these comments from the author:
In Christ we are delivered from the Adamic influences of Sin, but we are still human. The remedy begins when there is an admission and acknowledgement of the problem itself. The author of the article suggests the problem is “programming” because her own mother-in-law was not the typical stereotype trouble maker, but a nice lady that she should have liked and been close to. As Christians we never have the right to just dislike a person or treat them with hostility, no matter how many excuses we can come up with. It would be a sad thing to end up in hell because of a refusal to repent of the anger without cause and treat someone so close as this with at the very least common respect. She is not his ‘Ex’, she is his mother. It is just sad to me that now the writer realizes how bad she acted towards her mother-in-law and is bracing herself for what her sons wives will do. My only advice for young married women would be not to sow such things and then you won’t be as apt to have to reap them. Treat them how you will someday want your daughter-in-laws to treat you. Sow love to your mother-in-law and it will return to you. Selah.
Obstacle to the Outpouring (Part 2)
Robert Wurtz II
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:16)
This entry is a follow-up to Obstacle to the outpouring (Part 1) and is intended to be applied on an ‘as fits’ basis. It is intended to serve as a devotional piece that we might prayerfully and openly search our hearts as God seeks to pour out His Spirit in these desperate and difficult times.
At the risk of being redundant I wish to speak to this matter of unity a second time. In our previous entry we examined how God refuses the offering of those that knowingly harbor ill-feelings towards their neighbor. God has shown repeatedly that His primary concern is that we love one another with a pure heart- fervently. This means that we cannot isolate individuals from our love and expect God to pour out His Spirit upon us. It is not OK, it has never been OK and will never be OK. It is sin, has always been sin and will always be sin. It is folly to try and excuse the behavior.
Refusing to be reconciled
Spiritual people seek reconciliation. Carnal folks just go on living like sinners harboring grudges and all manor of evil bitterness. Those two sentences are as simple of thing that a person can say along these lines. A person cannot please God when they do not love. In fact, they are not even saved no matter what they attempt to do for God- practical or supernatural. One of the more troubling things in our times is that many things are passed off as ‘spiritual’ and most of them a demon possessed person can do. Consider what our Lord said;
Many will say to Me in that day, Lord! Lord! Did we not prophesy in Your name, and through Your name throw out demons, and through Your name do many wonderful works? And then I will say to them I never knew you! Depart from Me, those working lawlessness! (Matthew 7:22-23 MKJV)
A person can prophesy, cast out devils, work miracles and still end up in Hell in the end- having never known Christ. The sad thing is, the people in this passage act as if they never saw it coming. Keep in mind that Jesus is prophesying here about what will happen at the White Throne Judgment. He states emphatically that many are going to say this to Him, Lord! Lord! Did we not prophesy in Your name, and through Your name throw out demons, and through Your name do many wonderful works? They mistakenly believed that the evidence of their right standing with God was that they moved in the supernatural in spite of how strongly He told them otherwise. Nothing could possibly be more false than to equate the supernatural with spirituality. In fact, this passage renders moving in the gifts as almost meaningless when it comes to a person’s spiritual state. A person can do all of this and not even be known of Christ. In fact, many people throughout the ages have believed that they are known of Christ because they move in the supernatural. That is truly sobering. Based on our passage, many people are therefore seriously deceived and are going to continue to be deceived in spite of teachings that alerted them even to this passage. Somehow folks look at it and say, “It’s not talking about me.” Well, the only way we can know that for sure is if we are moving in the Fruit of the Spirit.
By THIS shall all men know
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)
When was the last time a crowd was drawn to a person because they loved everyone and exhibited the fruit of the Spirit? You’re right, probably never. The reason is that men and women are drawn to the sensational. When was the last time you heard someone say, “We really believe this person is the ‘real deal’ because we have witnessed how they love the brethren?” We don;t hear it. It even sounds strange for me to infer that spirituality is determined in this way. It’s as if for the last 50 years man and God are working from different playbooks. Many are not even on the same page with God. It seems that while God is looking for men and women with evidence of love, joy and peace- men are looking for people that prophecy, cast out devils and are miracle workers. Amazing. This is why they are ripe for deception. Sadly, many are looking for the supernatural and don’t bother to discern what spirit a thing is of. For example, we need to know certain things to listen for when a word of knowledge goes forward or a sermon is preached. Does it cause a shrill in your spirit or does it draw you to God? What did James say? But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:17-18) Notice that James says categorically that Heaven speaks with words bathed in the fruit of the Spirit. Yet a person can angrily make comments and get more ‘amen’s’ than when another person is speaking the truth in love. This is because folk are entertained by bitter envy and strife. What spirit is the thing of? That’s what we need to know. What is the energy source backing the comments? Anger is not the same thing as anointing and it does not work the righteousness of God.
In our mini series we have examined in part 1 how God does not accept the prayer, worship and praise of those that regard the iniquity of non-love in their hearts. If I have ought against my brother or sister the Lord will not hear no matter how dramatic I get. In this entry we have explored the importance of ministering from the Spirit of God and the fruit of the Spirit rather than some other spirit. The devil can counterfeit many of the things that we see go on in Charismatic circles, so we need to know the source of inspiration. As one writer has stated it, “Anybody who shrugs off that warning or treats it lightly does so at the risk of his own soul. The greatest single danger in this end time is not sickness, nor poverty, nor persecution. It is deception. If anybody says, “It could never happen to me,” it has already happened to that person, because that person is saying something could never happen that Jesus said would happen. That is a sufficient indication that such a person is deceived. “ If there is bitter envy and strife in the house, everything becomes suspect no matter how radical or supernatural. Many will spend eternity in Hell after doing ‘many wonderful works’. They overlooked the teaching of Jesus as if it did not apply to them preferring to be deceived by the works of their own hands and the words of their own mouth.
This is akin to Zedekiah the prophet of Ahab, But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee? And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself. (1 Kings 22:24-25) We must guard against the spirit of Zedekiah that says that God only speaks through me and my friends. Paul sought to thwart this very attitude when he told the Corinthians that though he moved in the spuernatural in a host of ways- if he did not have love it profited nothing. (1 Cor. 13). Why? It is the main thing God is concerned about. If there be bitter envy and strife in the house the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit are at risk to become weapons in the hands of the enemy spilling the very blood of the saints in the midst of the congregation. We cannot allow the wrath of man to try to work the righteousness of God. If the people do not react to your ministry- give it to God. Don’t get upset and take it out on people or get a bad spirit and want to quit. It is not about me- it is about the glory of God. We need to truly walk out that reality.
Before we endeavor to do anything for the Lord we ought to ask ourselves some probing questions:
1. Am I angry at someone?
2. Do I hold bitterness in my heart towards __________?
3. Am I wanting to strive with __________?
4. Am I motivated by God’s love at this moment?
5. Am I sowing the fruit of righteousness in peace?
6. Am I behaving peaceably and gently?
7. Are my motivations pure?