Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
NIV†† II. Peter 3:15‑18
The apostle Peter instructed the saints to be on guard against those who were distorting the teachings of the apostle Paul, as well as the rest of the Scripture. He had good reason to warn them. False doctrines have power to carry us away from God and bring us down from our secure position in Christ. We Christians are to guard the truth. When a person is given the responsibility to guard something, that person must keep a constant eye on it. They must pay attention to it. Implicit in the term "guard" is the need to fight against those who come to steal or destroy what you are guarding. So if we are to guard the truth successfully, we will have to possess a certain amount of zeal for that truth and a commitment to it.
To our dismay, in the last decade we have watched the exact opposite attitude sweep over the body of Christ like a plague. There has been a radical shift of emphasis from guarding truth to guarding relationships regardless of truth. The whole idea of sacrificing relationships for the sake of truth is being discredited.
Suddenly we have a situation where the average Christian no longer cares about doctrine. In fact, the defense of truth is fast becoming the enemy and tolerance the hero of Christendom. Multitudes of believers have been duped into believing that it is wrong to defend the truth they are supposed to be guarding. They have bought the lie that spiritual unity should take precedence over everything.
Yet it has become evident (at least to us) that a host of demonic teaching spirits have been unleashed against an unsuspecting Church. The result is that many Christians are now accepting all kinds of unbiblical teachings and practices into their lives. If ever there was a formula for disaster among the Lordís people, this is it.
The shift away from caring about doctrine has been the result of various significant developments both inside and outside the Christian community. The first development has been the influence of the world. Tolerance and unity also happen to be the emphasis of todayís "politically correct" establishment. We are getting close to the institution of a one-world government. Both in secular and religious arenas the atmosphere among humanists and New Agers is inclusive. Everyone will be included in the new orderóeveryone except Godís "elect" of course. They will be viewed by all nations, and by many Christians as well, as too divisive and intolerant.
Thereís an incredible amount of pressure outside the Christian community to be inclusive and tolerant. Unfortunately, the organized Church is caving into this pressure. This should not surprise us, for the Religious System has never been very successful when it comes to resisting the influence of the world. Instead of influencing the world for the good, the world always seems to be influencing our churches for the worseóand this is nowhere more evident than in the fact that contemporary believers are continually imitating the world, creating Christian versions of its corruption. This is why we have Christian rock/heavy metal and Christian rap and Christian alternative music. This is why we have Christian tee-shirts with pagan advertisement look-a-likes, such as the one that displays a Budweiser beer can and reads: "Godweiseróthis blood is for you."
Is this what James meant when he said we should keep ourselves "unspotted" from the world [James 1:27]? Is this what Jesus meant when He told us to be a "light set upon a hill" [Matt. 5:14]? We should be on a hill with a light, offering the lost something that is completely other than what they are experiencing. Jesus never taught His disciples to make Christian versions of the worldís iniquity so the unsaved would be able to "relate" to them better. He never told us to copy the trends and fads of our fallen society in order to reach the lost.
A second development has come from within the Church, on a grass-roots level. There has been a reaction against the misuse of doctrine. People are tired of all the fleshly striving over doctrine that has gone on year after year between denominations and religious groups. They are tired of all the division and backstabbing among Godís peopleóand rightly so.
Though not all division over doctrine is wrong, it is certainly true that many of our divisions are wrong because they have been the result of religious pride, not a genuine, Spirit-led defense of Godís truth. There has indeed been much wickedness manifested and people have been hurt, even destroyed, all in the name of defending doctrine.
It is good that believers are trying to correct the situation. But the way we are attempting to repair these divisions is wrong. We are over-reacting, and not only over-reacting, but over-reacting against the wrong thing. Neither godly doctrine or the godly defense of that doctrine is the cause of most of our divisions. The problem is religious pride. The problem is what men do with Godís doctrine. They hold it in unrighteousness. They twist and pervert it. They use it as a means to their own selfish ends and they use it to divide and enslave the body of Christ.
Instead of rejecting the tools that our religious leaders have used to divide the body of Christ, we should be rejecting the men and the systems they have created, which separate Godís people. Unfortunately, this will probably never happenónot in this age anyway. Religious leaders have beat the people of God down into a permanent state of submission. Most Christians will never call those who are responsible for these divisions into account for fear of "touching Godís anointed" or "rebelling against spiritual authority." Neither will they ever leave the systems these men have created.
A third development has also originated within the Church, but at the highest levels of leadership. An organized effort by leaders of the Protestant and Catholic church has been launched to unify the two faiths and bring the "separated brethren" (Protestants) back into the Roman Catholic fold. Most Christians are not aware of what is going on yet; by the time they find out it will be too late to stop it.
Currently there are many "walls" that divide Protestants from each other and from Catholics, but the biggest and the most important wall is the wall of doctrineóand this is why we have seen an effective campaign by various denominations and national religious leaders to de-emphasize the importance of knowing, maintaining and defending doctrine. Todayís buzz-words are reconciliation, unity and tolerance.
The Lord has given us a burden to expose some of the errors that are having a disastrous effect on Godís people. Those who read this booklet may already understand whatís happening. Thatís good. Some may not; and it doesnít hurt to be strengthened in our convictions through confirmation. We stand with the apostle Peter, who said, we will not be "negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth" [II. Pet. 1:12].
Watching The Leaven
Contending and dividing over doctrine is fast becoming religious taboo. Yet, when we read the New Testament, it is hard to ignore the importance that is attached to learning, teaching and defending doctrine. Our modern concept of doctrine has become degenerate. Doctrine is not a mental science for highly educated academics. Doctrine is truth, Godís truth, delivered to men by men. Learning doctrine should never be a dry, lifeless exercise in boredom. If it is, it is because we are on a quest for religious knowledge instead of a deeper union with our Savior. The Scripture says that becoming skilled at handling the Word of God is a desirable thing. It is the privilege of all His saints.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
II. Timothy 2:15‑16
The writer of Hebrews said to an entire congregation of saints, "ye ought to be teachers" by now. But instead of being a people who can rightly divide the truth, you are still unskillful in the word of righteousness [5:13]. You need to be taught the principles of Christ yourselves. It is more than just desirable that every saint become skilled at rightly dividing the Word, it is absolutely necessary. Paul warned us that profane and vain babbling would "increase unto more ungodliness." In other words, religious delusion will be the hallmark of the days just before the Lordís return. That day is here, and as we shall see, these "babblings" are not only coming from within the Church, they are coming through those who have the authority to teach and preach.
When you get right down to it, every false doctrine is simply the perversion of a genuine truth. False doctrines are the result of wrongly dividing the Word of God. The best protection against false teaching is not, as we might suppose, to place ourselves under the "covering" of a minister (after all, many ministers are themselves deceived), but to possess a thorough knowledge of the Word of God; and when we speak of "knowing" the Word we are talking about more than knowing "key" verses or principles. We are talking about hiding the Word in our hearts. We are talking about having such a thorough grasp of it that we cannot be deceived by those who handle it deceitfully, or those who can quote it but quote it out of context, or those who are skilled at putting a wrong "spin" on it or twisting it in some way. Again, this is the privilege of all Godís people. You do not need "ordination papers" to become skilled at handling the Word of God.
Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?...How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Matthew 16:6‑8 & 11-12
Jesus defined bad doctrine as "leaven." While bad doctrine is not the only thing that constitutes leaven in Scripture, itís an important one. He told His disciples to "beware" of doctrinal leaven.† When Jesus tells us to beware of something, He means precisely that. The influence of bad doctrine in our lives is no joke. False doctrines are not harmless. They contain spiritual power. They have the power to throw the life of a believer completely off balance. If left unchecked long enough they can destroy individuals and entire congregations.
Only Satan would tell Godís people not to worry about doctrine when there is such a strong emphasis in the New Testament on learning, teaching, maintaining, defending, and if need be, dividing over sound doctrine. If we ignore the Lordís words we do so at our own peril.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing...For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Galatians 5:1-2 & 6-9
"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," said Paul to the Church at Galatia. Here leaven represents the persuasion (influence) of certain brethren who had come from Jerusalem for the express purpose of bringing the new Gentile believers under the Law of Moses. Because they claimed to represent the apostles, the people were listening to them. Just a few deceived brethren had brought an entire church to the brink of falling from grace. The Galatians were quickly losing their liberty in the Spirit. These false ministers did not come into the fellowship and start denying the virgin birth, the atonement, the resurrection, and so forth. Rather, they manipulated the true gospel just enough to make it unbalanced. An unbalanced gospel is "another" gospel.
What was Paulís answer to the problem of introducing error into the fellowship through those who teach and preach? Did he tell the Galatians to submit to them because, after all, they were ministers from the head church at Jerusalem? Did he tell the brethren not to fuss over doctrine because, after all, contention over doctrine is what was causing all the trouble in the first place? Did he tell them to make sure they donít let doctrine divide them? Did he tell them to just "love" one another?
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
Paul said he wished they were cut off. He wished they would be cast out of the fellowship. He told the brethren to stand fast in the liberty, to hold fast to the doctrine he taught them originally. He told them to purge out the leaven so they would be a pure lump. Anyone who wants to be pure before God must purge all leaven out of their lives. When the leaven we are dealing with is doctrinal, it means we must put Godís truth before our relationships, before spiritual unity, before tolerance, before fellowship.
But instead of following Paulís example, many of those who teach and preach today have been seduced and are doing the exact opposite. Moreover, they are teaching believers to do the same, telling them that they should not "judge" those who are promoting strange doctrines and practices. They say, donít confront them or make them uncomfortable. They say, Godís love would never cause Christians to take any action that would "alienate" brethren from one another. Relationships (unity) must be preserved at all costs. This entire attitude stands in direct contradiction to the plain meaning of the written Word. None of the apostles walked in this kind of wishy-washy attitude, least of all the apostle Paul.
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.
I. Corinthians 5:1‑7
Here leaven represents not only the sin of an unrepentant member of the fellowship, it also represents the ungodly tolerance of that wickedness by the assembly. This is precisely where todayís counterfeit doctrines of "love" and "unity" will eventually lead every single fellowship. The Corinthian brethren had fallen into an unbalanced view of love. This doctrinal leaven was causing them to tolerate moral leaven, for a fellow believer was openly engaging in sin; it was "commonly reported." Everyone knew what was going on. Yet instead of confronting him, rebuking him, and then separating from him if he refused to repent, they were accepting his sin. No doubt they thought they were showing him "unconditional" love and were proud of their ability to tolerate his wickedness and rebellion.
Paul had to tell them that they were walking in deception. Far from accepting this manís behavior and showing him unconditional love, they should have mourned so that he might be "taken away" from them. Instead of accepting his moral leaven in the hopes that such love and tolerance would eventually bring him around, they needed to deliver him to Satan for "the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."†
Does this constitute a callous heart towards this brother? Not at all. It constitutes love for him, and for those he would eventually harm if permitted to remain in the fellowship in his condition. The Corinthians were not viewing the situation through the eyes of the Spirit. They were moving according to their corrupted emotions and a false view of Godís love. BAD DOCTRINE PRODUCES BAD EXPERIENCE! When you have an unbalanced view of Godís love or His ways, you will of necessity be living an unbalanced Christian life.
Paul had to tell them that their glorying is not good. He asked, donít you realize that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Donít you understand that this one man will corrupt and destroy the entire assembly if you allow him to remain among you? Are you willing to sacrifice the whole church in order not to lose one member? This is not unconditional love for the sinner, it is a total disregard for those he will eventually infect.
When Paul told them to purge out the old leaven he was talking about that man. He was telling them to separate themselves from him, to cut him off from the fellowship and become a clean congregation again. The Corinthians would never have considered doing this on their own. Paul had to tell them to do it because they were not moving according to the mind of the Spirit. Their logic was emotional and absurd. They were trying not to drive away a brother who was already gone spiritually. He just didnít have the courage to leave the fellowship physically because remaining in the fellowship provided him with a sense of security. He got security from the assembly, but the only thing he was capable of giving to the assembly was sin and rebellion. His only hope was to be cut off. This alone would destroy that false security and make him realize that he cannot have fellowship with either God or the brethren as long as he continues to live in blatant sin.†
The church obeyed Paul and separated from him. That act alone saved the man from eternal destruction. Todayís religious mentality would tell us to never do such a thing for this would only alienate him more than he already is. Alienate him more than he already is? What blindness! It was this action that caused him to repent.
The leaven of ungodly tolerance of sin is a very great problem, and a very great evil, in the body of Christ today. This kind of leaven not only affects our fellowships, it also affects our homes. Parents are tolerating, participating in, and encouraging the rebellion of their children in order to keep peace in the family. Husbands and wives are also accepting each otherís carnality in order to keep peace.
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
I. Corinthians 5:9‑11
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
II. John 1:10‑11
The apostles said if any man that is called a brother is involved in moral or doctrinal leaven we are not to receive him into the fellowships, or even eat with him. Eating with him represents entering into close fellowship with him, for sharing meals together was one of the main forms of fellowship in the Early Church. What the apostles are telling us is simply that we cannot have intimate spiritual fellowship with believers who have defiled themselves unless we compromise our standard of holiness.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
II. Corinthians 6:17‑18
Paul told the Corinthian believers to come out from among them and be ye separate and touch not the unclean thing. It is obvious that he was talking primarily about coming out from among unsaved Corinthians, for the unsaved are spiritually unclean. Whatís not so obvious are the implications of what the Spirit said concerning being received by God. Why did God tell those who were already saved, who were already His children, who were already baptized in the Spirit, who had already been given an abundance of gifts and ministries, that they had to remain clean in order to be received by Him? Didnít He "receive" them when they were saved and filled with the Spirit?
Those who want to experience a mature relationship with the Father, those who want to go deeper in God, must keep themselves spiritually clean, not by their own strength or religious works, but by yielding to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. If we want to walk on a higher path and have a more intimate relationship with God, if we want to know Him in ways that the average believer has no desire to experience, we must touch not the unclean thing. It has not so much to do with being saved or lost as it does with deciding how close a relationship we want with our God.
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Being "unequally yoked" with unbelievers is not the only thing that defiles a Christian.† Foolishness defiles a Christian, covetousness defiles a Christian. How many believers do you know who live or act foolishly? How many believers do you know who are covetous? They are defiling themselves. Prideóespecially religious prideódefiles a Christian. Deceit defiles a Christian. How many believers do you know who have a problem with pride? How many believers do you know who have a problem being honest with people, or have a habit of stretching the truth, or deal shadily in their businesses? They are defiling themselves. How about evil thoughts? How many Christians do you suppose have evil thoughts? Evil thoughts defile us. We must go to Jesus to be cleansed. If we do not, we live in a continual state of spiritual defilement.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
I. Corinthians 8:6‑7
Our conscience can be defiled if we do things that in our hearts we think are wrong. These things might not actually be wrong in Godís eyes, or in the eyes of fellow believers, but if we consider them to be wrong and we do them anyway, we will defile our own conscienceóand a Christian with a defiled conscience is a defiled Christian.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.
A root of bitterness can defile a Christian. Bitterness is a particularly wicked form of leaven for it is the result of unforgiveness. It comes as a result of not forgiving those who have wronged us. Any Christian who harbors a root of bitterness against someone is defiling themselves.
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
†These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God...Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Revelation 14:4-5 & 16:15
We can defile our spiritual garments by giving in to the desires of the "flesh." Jesus said those who keep their garments clean are blessed. Then He told the Church at Sardis that only a few of them had done this. The majority in that fellowship had defiled themselves. They did not watch; they did not keep themselves from touching the unclean thing. The 144,000 were overcomers because they did not allow themselves to be "defiled with women." They are virgins; not physical but spiritual virgins. They are true to the one they have been betrothed to, as Paul said, "I have espoused you to one husband" [II. Cor. 11:2]. Therefore, they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. They are totally dedicated to Him and Him alone. They have no divided loyalties.
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I. Corinthians 5:7‑8
"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, [even] as ye are unleavened," said Paul. Purge out the leaven because you are unleavened. That is, in Christ we are unleavened positionally. Now we must allow the Spirit to make us unleavened in experience. In Christ we are justified. Now we must allow the Spirit to "sanctify" us so that what we are in Christ, we become on earth. What is true of us in the heavenlies must be made manifest. We must demonstrate "unleavenedness" by walking in sincerity and truth. Leaven is error, it is the opposite of truth.†
Christians need to understand that being forgiven and justified does not mean that we are automatically and continually kept spiritually clean regardless of what we do. Not only must we allow the Spirit to purge out all doctrinal and moral leaven that has been in our lives since before our conversion, we must also allow Him to keep us from defiling ourselves with additional leaven as we go through life. Believers need to realize that they can be defiled by all kinds of things and all kinds of people, including other Christians.
We have been given the responsibility to touch not the unclean thing. Surely we cannot do this in our own strength and by our own wisdom. But we can do it through the Spirit. He will show us what is clean and what is unclean if we allow Him to. He will also impart the strength it takes to keep separate from those things that He has declared unclean, but we must yield. God will not force us to yield and He cannot yield for us. We must allow Him to purge the leaven out of our lives, and then keep us clean in our daily walk.
Here again we have a stark contradiction between what we are being taught and what the Word says. Almost all Christians everywhere are taught that to judge othersóespecially those who teach and preachóis a big no-no. We are told that it is never right to set ourselves up as a judge, and Matthew 7:1 is frequently quoted to prove the point.
This is a good example of wrongly dividing the Word of God. How are believers supposed to learn how to know the difference between a true anointing and a false anointing if it is forbidden to judge those who teach and preach? How will we ever learn to tell the difference between a true doctrine and a false doctrine, or between those who are walking in the Spirit of God and those who are walking in another spirit, if we can never judge anything or anyone? In order to remain clean we must be permitted to discern the difference between good and evil.
The command to love the brethren, and all men, does not mean that we must compromise with people or come under the spirits they walk under. Love does not mean compromise. Love has to do with our attitude towards people, not our acceptance or participation in their behavior and beliefs. You can totally reject and denounce a fellow Christianís behavior, yet still love him and be willing to help him get delivered from that behavior. You can totally reject and denounce a fellow Christianís bad doctrine, yet still love him and be willing to help him get delivered from that bad doctrine. In fact, if you do not confront and remain separated from such behavior or doctrine, you will not only be defiled by it, you also become guilty of condoning it and become a partaker in it with him.
Certainly we should continue to love those in error. We should not treat them as enemies and burn them at the stake. There can be a certain amount of involvement with them as long as we do not compromise the truth. The point is to stay free from their leaven. The point is to not let ourselves be defiled by the things that are defiling them. This is called obedience to the Lord. It is not spiritual "elitism" or religious pride. If we want to be received by the Father we must stay spiritually clean; it is not an option.
Love and fellowship are not the same thing. We can love a worker of iniquity without compromising Godís standard of truth and righteousness. We can help such a person without compromising with them. But, it is impossible to have spiritual union with them unless we compromise at some point. Sadly, this is not what we are being taught. What we are being taught is that in order to walk in Godís love we must "keep company" with them regardless of what kind of doctrine they promote, what kind of spirit they walk under, or what kind of behavior they manifest. We are being taught that love equals tolerance of leaven, acceptance of leaven, and compromise with leaven.
Paul told us not to be deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners [I. Cor. 15:33]. Leaven is contagious. It spreads, it infects, it corrupts. Compromise with it and the toleration of it will eventually ruin us and those around us. It is like cancer and we should be treating it just like cancer.
Those who refuse to judge anything or anyone do not have a prayer of staying clean. They will be defiled by all kinds of unclean desires, unclean spirits, unclean doctrines and unclean Christians. They will go to the Throne of God convinced that they have pleased Him because they spent their whole lives loving, accepting and having spiritual union with everyone who called themselves a "Christian." But they will discover that they have in fact become filthy spiritually, have defiled their garments, and have displeased the Lord.
Watching The Brethren
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
I. Timothy 4:1
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly," said Paul to Timothy, that in the latter times "some shall depart from the faith." The Spirit spoke expressly concerning these events. He did not hint or insinuate that some shall depart from the faith in the latter days, He made it crystal clear: some of Godís people shall depart from the faith in the last days.
Do you believe that we are now living in the last days? If you do, then you must understand that right nowónot in the future, but todayósome of Godís people are departing from the faith. This simple truth needs to be repeated over and over and over again until Christians wake up and start living in the reality of what is happening all around us. The great majority of us are still not convinced that it is possible for a true believer to actually depart from the faith. We are still mesmerized by a System that denies this possibility.
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.
NIV†† I.† Timothy 6:20‑21
Many still think that if a Christian falls away or departs from the faith, it means that they were never really a Christian in the first place. They only thought they were a Christian. Real Christians donít depart from the faith...or do they? The Word says they can. It tells us that some Christians will depart from the faith because of deception, while others would wander away from the faith as the result of an ungodly quest for religious knowledge. It also tells us that believers can return to their own vomit, or go back to wallowing in the mire they were once delivered from, be overcome in that state, and have their "latter end" be "worse than the beginning" [II. Pet. 2:20-22].
Those who deny this is possible are not only saying the Word is untrue, they are not even using simple common sense. Can non-Christians depart from the faith? Can unbelievers wander off from the faith? Can sinners be carried away from the faith? If those who are departing, wandering off and being carried away from the faith were never really Christians in the first place, then neither were they really part of the faith in the first place. An individual who thinks he is a believer (but really isnít) is not part of the Christian faithóhe only thinks he is. How then can he depart, wander off or be carried away from something he was never part of in the first place?
Can you depart from a house you were never at to begin with? Can you depart from a city that you have never entered? Can you wander off a path you were never on? Can you fall from a position you were never in?† Can you be carried away from a hope you never had?
Listen brethren, it is not possible for a fake Christian to depart from an authentic faith. A fake Christian is not in the faith to begin with! Our shepherds have intentionally chosen to remain blind to this simple fact. They have intentionally rejected the obvious meaning of many New Testament verses which plainly state that we can fall awayótotally and eternally. They have intentionally deceived millions of people. To say that those who depart from the faith were never really in the faith to begin with is about the most asinine statement a person can possibly make!
Once we accept the reality that some of Godís people are falling away, we can then get to the heart of the matter and discover why they are falling away. What is causing them to depart? When we understand what is causing them to stumble we can be used by the Spirit of God to expose those things and recover themóat least some of them. Unfortunately, we will never be able to recover all of them, just as we will never be able to save every sinner in the world. But we can be used to restore those who are willing to be restored.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Here the Word gives us the answer to several questions. Please notice exactly what kind of departing Paul is talking about here. He is not referring to out-right apostasy. They are not intentionally turning from God. They are not rejecting the virgin birth, the atonement, the resurrection and so on. They are being deceived by seducing spirits and embracing the doctrines of devils.
When we come under the influence of the doctrines of devils we accept teachings that are designed to keep us from obeying specific truths of Godótruths that are designed to set us free and conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. If we continue to listen to the teachings of these spirits, not only will we stop growing spiritually, we will eventually begin to depart from the faith. The fact that most Christians do not believe this is possible is a testimony to the deceiving power of the enemy. While walking in deception, they assume they can never be deceived!
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
II.† Corinthians 11:3‑4
Most of the time seducing spirits deceive us by wrongly dividing the Word of God. They misquote verses of Scripture to the mind or quote them out of context. They impress upon the mind a wrong slant, an over-emphasis or an under-emphasis of certain passages. They manipulate sentences and words just enough to produce an unbalanced view of what has been written. Unbalanced truth is false doctrine.
Paul said he feared for the saints at Corinth. He feared that the Serpent would beguile their minds. A beguiled mind can receive another Jesus, or another spirit, or another gospel.† Paul was writing to genuine, blood-washed, spirit-filled saints. After we have been saved and filled with the Spirit we can still be seduced. We can still be tricked into accepting a counterfeit spirit. Now more than any time in history it is imperative that Godís people know how to rightly divide the Word. Todayís counterfeits are not like those of the past. They are more subtle, much closer to the truth than ever before. Christians say they know this is true but they really donít believe it. If they did, they would be living differently than they do.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
II. Corinthians 11:13‑15
Already in the first century there was a counterfeit anointing, a counterfeit Christ, working in the churches. Another Jesus was already being preached and another gospel was already being taught. If it was possible for such things to happen in the Church in the first century, how much more so in these last days? False apostles and false ministers are operating in the Church right now, today. Why would they waste their time working anywhere else? This is why every child of God should be concerned about truth and why we should be guarding it diligently. We should be living in a continual state of high alert. We should be living a life of sober, intense watchfulness, making certain that the "spirit" that is moving in our midst is really the Spirit of God. We should be exercising our "senses" (spiritual discernment), making sure that the "gospel" and the "Jesus" we proclaim are the real things.
Unfortunately, most Christians are not watching because they do not really believe anything like this could ever happen to their fellowship. They have no idea that for many of them it has already happened. They donít know they have already been seduced, that they have already come under the influence of counterfeit doctrines of love and unity. As a result of being under these errors, not only are they not interested in purging bad doctrine out of their lives, they do not even care about doctrine anymore.
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
I. Timothy 4:13‑16
After warning Timothy that some people would depart from the faith, Paul admonishes him to give attendance to reading, exhortation and doctrine. In other words, Paul is telling Timothy to pay attention to the doctrine of God. He further tells him to "take heed" of that doctrine and to "continue" in it. In his second letter he emphasizes again the necessity of having and defending sound doctrine. He says much the same thing when he writes to Titus.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
II. Timothy 4:2‑4
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine...In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.
Titus 2:1 & 7
Notice what those who have been approved of God are to do with the doctrine of God. They are to preach, and reprove, and rebuke, and exhort with sound doctrine. They are to "speak things" which become sound doctrine. Far from not caring about doctrine, we should be very concerned about it. We should care about it enough to learn to rightly divide the Word of Truth. We should care about it enough to become approved unto God. We should care about it enough to make certain that our doctrine demonstrates uncorruptness, gravity, and sincerity. For Paul prophesied that a day would come when Godís people (not the heathen and the pagan, but Godís own people!) would no longer put up with sound doctrine. He spoke of a day when the very idea of defending that which we were commanded to guard would be scoffed at and ridiculed.
That day is here, and we need to be aware that it is not the Spirit of God that causes us to belittle and de-emphasize doctrine. Have we forgotten that hundreds of thousands of believers have been butchered by Rome because they chose to remain faithful to the doctrine found in Godís Word? Is it the Spirit of God that causes us to now despise the very thing they died for? Oh no! It is a counterfeit Christ that causes us to disregard doctrine and makes us refuse to defend Godís truth, when for centuries the brethren have been burned alive to uphold that very truth. God cares about His Word. He cares about His doctrine. He went to great lengths to preserve them for us and He expects us to care about them too.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
II. John 1:10‑11
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
II. Thessalonians 2:15
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
II. Thessalonians 3:6
When we read the Scripture, free of the pressure to accept every kind of abomination in the name of love and unity, we see that doctrine was important to the original apostles. JUDE exhorted believers to contend for the faith, and not only contend but contend earnestly for it. Does Jude mean we are to contend over doctrine? You bet! Today brother Jude would have a hard time finding believers who would be willing to contend over doctrine.
JOHN said believers should not receive any who come and bring not this doctrine. That is, the doctrine he had just taught in his epistle. Johnís directive almost certainly included the fellowship as well, for all fellowship was carried out in the homes at that time. Not only were believers commanded to keep separate from those promoting doctrinal error, they were not even allowed to wish them well. Today brother John would have a hard time finding Christians who would be willing to be that narrow and intolerant towards fellow believers.
PAUL told Titus that any person who persists in teaching heresy, after that he has been shown the truth the second time, should be rejected. He also commanded believers to withdraw (separate) themselves from every brother who walks not after the traditions he taught. Today Paul would have a hard time finding people who would be willing to be that harsh or exclusive.
The apostles spoke out strongly against compromising the truth in order to achieve or maintain unity. Were they arrogant? Were they divisive? Were they anti-unity? No, they were not. They were moving in wisdom and discernmentótwo things many have rejected and turned a deaf ear to in this hour. They understood that when you make relationships (unity) more important than guarding and defending the truth, you invite spiritual disaster into the assemblies. Holding fast to Godís truth, to Godís Word, to Godís doctrine, must take priority over our relationships. Those who refuse to hold fast to the truth will lose the truth and end up serving another Jesus.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here we are given a perfect example of why truth must take priority over relationships. Certain men had crept into the above assembly unawares and began to turn the grace of God into sin (lasciviousness). How did they turn the grace of God into sin? They began to teach that because of grace it is ok to continue in sin. What was being distorted? Paulís doctrine of grace. By turning sound doctrine into false doctrine they were deceiving that assembly. This is why Jude tells the members to contend for the truth, to contend over doctrine, because if someone in that congregation does not defend the doctrine of God, those who crept in will destroy the whole church. Christians who refuse to defend the truth will ultimately end up in deception.
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
I. Corinthians 11:18‑19
When we think of people walking in religious delusion we still tend to think about what is happening "out there" in the world and the cults. But according to the Bible, where is the birthing ground of heresies? Heresies spring up among those in the Church. This is why it is so important that every believer becomes skilled at rightly dividing the Word. We need to be able to stay out from under the influence of these heresies when they spring up among us. Satan deceives some brethren, then uses them to deceive other brethren. God allows this to keep us in the Word, to keep us paying attention to doctrine, so they which are approved may be made manifest. The more members of a fellowship who are approved and know how to rightly divide the Word, the better equipped that assembly is to overcome seducing spirits.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Here the Word gives us some wisdom that will not sit very well with a lot of people. Paul called a meeting with the "elders" of the various Ephesian congregations before leaving that region. He knew he would never see them again so he admonished them to watch themselves because after he leaves, "grievous wolves" will enter the fellowship and destroy the flock. We need to consider just what Paul was saying here. First of all, he said the wolves will come in from outside the assembly. Secondly, he says that they will enter in among you. That is, among the elders. In other words, the wolves will be fellow elders. The reason they will be able to come in from outside and destroy the flock right under the noses of these shepherds is because they will also be shepherds.
Does this surprise us? It shouldnít. Do we think Satan is going to stand up and announce that he has arrived? Do we expect the wolves to stand up and admit they are wolves? Who had crept into the assembly that Jude wrote to? Was it not those who had the authority to preach and teach? Who has the authority to come into a fellowship and preach except sanctioned (ordained) religious leaders? Does your fellowship allow just any "Joe" off the street to come in and teach? These people look like real shepherds and act like real shepherds because they are real shepherdsóseduced shepherds.
Wolves will be people who are trusted, people we know, people who have the authority to go from fellowship to fellowship, preaching and teaching. Satan achieves his goal by deceiving those who are already leaders. Then he sends them into various congregations to deceive other leaders. Once the shepherds have been deceived he has free course to destroy the flocks. He goes for the leadership first because he knows that if he can deceive the "shepherds" the vast majority of the "sheep" will blindly follow themóand they do.
But the danger was not limited to those coming in from the outside. Paul also said, "from your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things..." He was warning the Ephesian elders that from among their own midst men would arise who will begin to speak perverse things and draw the saints away from the Great Shepherd.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
II. Peter 2:1‑2
Unlike Paul, Peter was not addressing elders only. He was addressing all of us when he said, "There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies...and many shall follow their pernicious ways." When Peter says there will be false teachers among you, he means among YOU. The wolves that devour us are not New Age teachers and Mormon teachers, they are Christians! They are pastors, teachers, evangelists, apostles and prophets who have come under the influence of seducing spirits. The deceptions that were prophesied for the end time will come from the top down, through religious leaders, not from the bottom up. How then shall we keep from being seduced?
Watch! Watch yourself. Watch those around you in your own fellowship. Keep an eye on everyone, especially those who have authority to teach and preach. For some of them will be deceived and lead many astray. If you are one who believes and/or teaches that genuine Christians can never fall away, that only fake Christians can be led astray, that we have nothing to fear, you are not going to be deceived, you already are deceived. Such a position can only be maintained by intentionally ignoring and twisting Godís Word. It is the height of arrogance and pride.
No one is above being deceived. Therefore, the shepherds should be watching themselves just as closely as they watch the sheep. The sheep should not only be watching themselves, they should also be watching the shepherds as well. EVERYONE SHOULD BE WATCHING EVERYONE! But who is watching today? Who is guarding the truth? The average Christian does not even know the Word of God, let alone have the skill or the zeal to defend it, for they are too busy running after ministers, relationships (i.e., spiritual unity), the anointing, and supernatural physical experiences.
As if all this were not bad enough, they are placing the authority of ministers, quite a number of whom have already been seduced, above the authority of the Scripture. They have already allowed false doctrines, a counterfeit anointing, counterfeit miracles and counterfeit spiritual experiences into the fellowships. The few people who realize something is wrong with whatís going on are afraid to challenge it because they assume they would be "rebelling against spiritual authority." They are afraid to hold the shepherds accountable to the Word of God. So when the shepherds go into deception they follow right after them.
This is so crazy! The Word of God is the highest authority in the life of the believer, not shepherds. The Scripture is the spiritual authority we should be afraid to rebel against. Moreover, we should love that authority and guard that authority with such zeal and commitment that we are willing to challenge anyone, including shepherds, who stray from it. Even Paul did not place his own authority as an apostle above the truth. He said he delivered the truth unto the Galatians and that they must guard that truth faithfully. If anyone comes to them and preaches that which is contrary to what was first delivered to their trust, they must reject them. He included himself in that warning, for he said, "though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you...let him be accursed" [Gal. 1:6‑8]. Even if we ourselves return and preach something different than we first preached to you, Paul said, do not accept us. Guard the original message above all else.
It is a dangerous mistake to place anythingóany spiritual experience or anointing, any spiritual manifestation or revelation, any goal (like unity) or ministeróabove the written Word of God. Once the Word loses its supreme authority in our lives we become easy prey for seducing spirits. King David said, "thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" [Ps. 138:2]. The Scripture was given so we would not be deceived by these things. But when the "spirit" that is leading a person or a congregation is no longer constrained by that Word we lose its protection. The Word must be kept in its proper place and we must become skilled at handling and obeying it or we will be deceived, regardless of what kind of "covering" we are under.
The apostles told the saints of the Early Church to watchówatch themselves and all the brethren. This applies to us as well. Regardless of whether you are a shepherd or a sheep, in the Religious System or out of it, part of a small group, a big group, or standing alone, you must watch yourself and everyone around you or you will be seduced. Watch especially those who preach and teach doctrine, including this writer.
Watching Our Natural Relationships
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. †And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Satan is very skilled at using our weaknesses to ruin us. The area in which we humans are the most vulnerable is relationships. God designed man for relationship, first with Himself, then with each other. No matter how much wealth, or power, or fame, or glory people acquire, they are never satisfied until they find a relationship with someone. To be in a relationship is our most fundamental need because that is what we were created for. When our relationship with God does not hold top priority, our relationships with other people automatically become the most important things in our lives.
This is why at Mt. Sinai the first commandment God gave Israel was, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" [Ex. 20:3]. God was to remain first in the lives of the Hebrews. Jesus made it clear that under the New Covenant nothing has changed, for He said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and souls.
Of course, all Christians give lip service to this commandment but few really live it. The sad reality is that today, many believers are involved in all kinds of relationships that are just as important to them as their relationship with God. Some are involved in relationships that are more important than their relationship with God. Idolatry in the realm of relationships is common.
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Bible commentators have speculated as to exactly who came to see Jesus and why they came. Was it really his actual sisters and brothers? Did they come to distract Him in some way? But the important lesson here is not so much who came or why they came because the Lordís words were not directed to them, and quite probably they never even heard His response. Rather, His words were directed to the one who interrupted Him.
That individual was saying family relationships are more important than obedience to God. He was telling Jesus to stop teaching, to stop obeying the Fatherís will at that moment and give place to the demand of natural relationships. Jesus saw that in his mind family took precedence over the work of the kingdom. So He went right for the root of this manís problem and asked him the question, "who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" Then He pointed to His disciplesónot to the crowd, but to the disciplesóand said, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Jesus was telling this person that all natural relationships, even the most precious, must be subservient to our relationship with God.
Was the Lord denying His natural relationship with His mother? No.† But He was putting it in its proper place and Kingdom perspective. Obedience to God first, loyalty to God first, love for God first, family duties and relationships second. In addition, said Jesus, anyone who is doing the will of the Father, though they be not my natural family, are just as important to me as my natural family. Keep in mind that He was referring to His mother, who we know was a believer, a godly woman. It is not as if Jesus said those who do the will of His Father were just as important to Him as those members of the family who were unbelievers. They were just as important to Him as His redeemed family members.
For the natural man, this is an inconceivable way to view life and family. It is doubtful that very many Christians will ever understand what the Lord actually said here. Fewer still will ever be able to walk with Him in this kind of Kingdom life. His words reflect a reality that is foreign to everything around us, both in our secular and our church culture. His attitude towards natural relationships was certainly holy and right, yet it was so far beyond anything that is being taught today, we dare not even explore it too deeply at this point. Godís people cannot handle it because it goes against all the fundamental impulses of the soul.† Indeed, the mind and the emotions find it extremely offensive and recoil from it. Still, Jesus said it and He was living it. All we can do is encourage the brethren to consider what He said.
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.† And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Luke 9: 59-62
Here we have two would-be disciples of Jesus. The first one is called by the Lord, the second one volunteers his service. Both have a similar problem: family relationships and responsibilities are top priority in their lives. The first man wants to fulfil his duty as a son and display his loyalty to his parents by burying his father before joining the disciples.
Carrying out a family duty like burying a father is certainly not wrong, yet in this instance the Lord knew that fulfilling a proper family duty, even one as necessary as that, would have kept this man from following Him. So He told him to let the (spiritually) dead bury the (physically) dead and follow Him. This might seem harsh to us but it was a manifestation of Godís love for the man. What would have been harsh, is if the Lord would have let him return home without saying what He did, knowing that if he went back he would miss the Kingdom of God.
The second man wanted to go back home, put his house in order, and say farewell to the family. Again, this would be the right thing to do under normal circumstances. Surely it is irresponsible for a family member to just up and disappear without a word. Yet Jesus must have known that if he went and did the proper thing, he too would miss the kingdom. It is not hard to imagine his family telling him that God would never tell him to forsake them. It is easy to imagine them begging and pleading with him not to do such a thing, putting him on a guilt trip. It is also easy to imagine him caving into the pressure and staying. So Jesus tells him not to even go back and say farewell. What seems cruel to us is actually the love of God many times. We must learn to see things as God sees them.
Now it was in the context of family relationships that Jesus said those who look back are not fit for the kingdom. He was not referring to backsliding or apostasy in general. He was talking about allowing our natural relationships to interfere with our spiritual walk. God has instituted family relationships and duties. They are not to be ignored or despised. But they must be kept in their proper place. They must remain subservient to our relationship to God as His sons and daughters. Jesus was saying that once we make a decision to follow Him we must never allow any family relationship, any family duty, any family responsibility, regardless of how right and proper they may be, to interfere with our complete obedience to His will.† If we allow them to interfere we simply are not fit for the Kingdom.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
No true disciple of Messiah can love family more than God. Indeed, Jesus stated that we must "hate" themócomparatively. In other words, when family duties and relationships begin to interfere with our obedience to God we must deal with those relationships as our enemies. When they begin to replace our love for Him we must deal with those relationships as our enemies. When they begin to steal our time with Him we must deal with those relationships as our enemies. In short, when duties and affection for family come in competition with our Savior we must choose Him, regardless of the consequences.
The only way we will ever be able to love others the way we should, the only way we can keep all our relationships in their proper place, is if we are loving God above everyone else in this world. The reason there are so many messed-up relationships among Godís people, the reason Christian bookstores are full of books on how to fix bad relationships, the reason Christian family counseling has become a multi-million dollar industry, is simply because Godís people are breaking the first commandment. They are involved in idolatry and God is judging those relationships.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Without denigrating or denying in any way the proper relationship between a husband and wife, Paul said that this natural relationship is merely a picture of a greater kind of relationship with Messiah that is available to every person who desires it. After discussing the proper roles and duties of those who are married, Paul says, I am not really discussing natural marriage here at all, I am talking about the relationship between Christ and His Church. All believers, men and women, young and old, are to marry Messiah. We are to become flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone.
We do not automatically experience this intimate marriage relationship with Messiah as a result of conversion or baptism anymore than we automatically attain spiritual maturity or bear His full image or possess total sanctification automatically. Marriage with Messiah is much the same as natural marriage. We can be close to Him or distant. We can spend time with Him or we can spend time with ourselves or our friends. Our communication with Him can be clear or it can be muddled. We can invest our whole being in Him, in His desires and His work, or we can live our own (Christian) lives, giving only the amount of time and devotion to Him that is required in order to keep bearing His name. We can love Him for the gifts He gives us and the things He provides for us, or we can love Him for who He is. We can also be unfaithful to Him and commit adultery.
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Just as a man leaves his natural mother and father to be joined to his wife, so believers are to leave their Adamic life, with all its goals, desires, talents, wisdom and relationships, to be joined in marriage to the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Out of that union there should come forth in us a new kind of life, a life that desires to focus on things eternal, a life that is consumed with Messiah and the realm in which He dwells. This is why Paul said, "if ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" [Col. 3:1‑2].
Christians have no concept of what it means to actually be married to Jesus. Their lives are wrapped up in their natural and church relationships. Once again, this is partially due to the fact that we have been taught error. We are being taught that in order to prove that you really love God, you must love (focus all your attention on) people. In order to love unsaved mankind you must focus all your lifeís energies and time on saving the world.† In order to love saved mankind you must spend all your time and energies on church ministry. But when our lives are focused on people, when we are finding our fulfillment in them, it is impossible to experience that full union with Messiah that is available to each and every believer.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Here we have two kinds of believers, typified in these two sisters. There was Martha, who was totally focused on ministering. She was not doing anything wrong. She was a godly, dedicated servant of the Lord, caring for the needs of the brethren. Indeed, someone had to do what she was doing. Yet there is one drawback to this kind of life: we will be careful and troubled about many things and bypass a certain closeness to the Lord. Still, we will have the love and adoration of the people to whom we are continually ministeringóand with that many are satisfied. Then there was Mary, who, like King David, said in her heart, "the Lord is the portion of mine inheritance" [Ps. 16:5].
For Mary, the Lordónot merely His blessings or His provisions or His peopleóbut He Himself was her goal and her inheritance. So she "sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word." She too was a godly, dedicated servant of the Lord. She too was doing nothing wrong. It was just that she chose to give her undivided attention to the Master instead of dividing it between Him and men.
Martha knew nothing of this kind of devotion. She was only familiar with the kind of devotion that manifested itself as the servant of men. Assuming that this is what it meant to be a believer, she naturally supposed that Mary was avoiding her share of that responsibility. She went and complained to the Lord, thinking that He would tell Mary to be a good girl and go do her religious duty. But He didnít. What He said was, "one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part."
One thing is needful brethren! There are millions and millions of Christians on this planet like Martha. They are Godís people. He loves them and they love him as much as they are capable of loving Him. They are saved and filled with the Spirit. They are godly folk but their first concern is ministering unto peopleóeither the unsaved through evangelism or the redeemed through church ministry. Ministering to people is not wrong in Godís eyes. It is a necessary work in the kingdom. However, this can never change the fact that those who focus their entire lives on this work will of necessity be careful and troubled about many things! They will miss the opportunity to cultivate an intimate marriage union with the Lord of Glory.
Make no mistake, God loves those who only understand devotion to Him through the framework of ministering to mankind. He will not despise those who can only find partial fulfillment in Him, who must find the rest of their fulfillment in human relationships. As long as those relationships do not become idolatrous He will bless them. He will be their Savior and provider and healer. Yet there will be a dimension of life with Him and a closeness to Him that they will never experience.
We need to understand that Messiah wants a people for Himself. He wants a "wife" who has eyes for Him alone, and a "body" whoís loyalties are undivided. He wants a people who will leave everything, including human relationships, to sit at His feet. He wants brethren who will follow Him whithersoever He goeth. He wants a "firstfruits" company of saints who will stay true to Him and stay pure for Him. The Father is preparing just such a people for Him today. They will become "bone of His bone" and "flesh of His flesh."
The opportunity for a life of total fulfillment through union with Messiah is being made available to any believer who wants it, and who is willing to pay the price to have it. The price is to sit at the Masterís feet and find our complete fulfillment in Him. Those who choose such a walk may be despised by the Marthaís of this world, who are busy, busy, busy, loving, serving, and finding their fulfillment in others, but they are not despised by the Master. They are greatly loved by Him because He knows that these despised ones will be the fulness of His joy one day. As He said to Mary, He says to these, you have chosen that good part, and it "shall not be taken away" from you.
Watching For Messiahís Return
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
One of the things any expert on relationships will tell you is that you never get more out of one than you put into it. It is the same with our relationship with Messiah. Every person is going to get exactly what they put into it. We are going to end up in exactly the place we have chosen because God will never force anyone to do anything, be anything or go anywhere we donít want to. He will never force us to let Him become our all in all. Because this is true, many believers are short-changing themselves. They are choosing other things now and they are going to be disappointed when the Lord returns.
The greatest rewards and the closest union with Messiah are reserved for those who are looking for Himónot those who are waiting to be raptured to a party in Paradise, or those who are waiting to get their mansions, or those who are looking for an escape from all the misery of this life, or those who are waiting to get Godís poweróbut those who are looking for Him.
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Godís people continually talk about prophesy, about the coming one-world government, about the coming judgments, about saving the world, about going to heaven and so forth. But how many are really looking for Him? How much of our day to day lives are actually wrapped up in Jesusónot in religion, not in prophesy, not in church work, not in ministry or fellowship with the brethrenóbut in the person of Jesus? The Word says that those who are looking for the appearing of Jesus will have their conversation "in heaven." Our "conversation" is not what we say but what we do. It is how we live. It is what occupies our time and energies and resources. If we are truly looking for the return of Jesus, our time, energy and resources will not be focused on this earthly realm of existence.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
II. Peter 3:11‑12
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Again, those who are looking for Jesus will be exhibiting certain qualities. They will maintain a "holy" conversation. They will be taught by the Spirit how to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and they will be learning how to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. Any spirit that is not producing sober Christians is not from Godóit matters not who is endorsing it or what it looks and feels like. In other words, the spiritual parties that are sweeping across our assemblies are not coming from a Holy God. When He looks at the condition of His people today I guarantee you He is not laughing, for there is nothing funny about what is happening.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
II. Timothy 4:7‑8
Those who love His appearing will receive a crown of righteousness in that day because they will have kept the faith, fought a good fight and finished their course. They will have allowed God to mold them and bring them into the realization of the destiny He prepared for them. Those who do not love His appearing are waiting for other things. They are waiting to be whisked off to heaven, or to be blessed, or to get their next spiritual kick. Since their focus is on other (religious) things, they will not allow God to mold them and bring them into the realization of the destiny He prepared for them. When they stand before Him and realize what they have forfeited they will despise the shepherds who told them everything will turn out fine regardless of how they live. There is also another kind of Christian who is not looking for the Lordís return: thatís the one who is caught up in an earthly existence.
And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.† And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
One of the men with whom Jesus was eating said, "blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." Jesus responded to his statement with a parable. He said blessed indeed, but who is actually going to be there to enjoy that bread? Certainly not the ones God originally invited. They hold the invitation of no value. They value a pair of oxen more than coming to this kingdom feast. They value a couple of acres of worthless dirt more than partaking of the life of His kingdom. Earthly, sensual, soulish relationships are more important to them than partaking of an eternal, heavenly feast. Oh yes, blessed is the man who eats bread in the Kingdom of God, but you better make sure that you are one of those who make it into that kingdom because many who have been "called" and "chosen" will never see it.
So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
It is evident that this parable was directed to the Lordís own people, the Jews, for Jesus said the "bread" of the kingdom is the "childrenís" (Jewish peopleís) bread [Mk. 7:24-29]. By this we understand that it was the religious leaders, the aristocrats, the landowners and the merchants who rejected Messiah and His wonderful feast; but the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind tasted of it. It was those along the highways and hedges, those in the lower rung of Israelite society, who held the invitation of great value.
Although this parable was directed primarily to the Lordís people at that time, it has a wider, secondary application for His people in our time. For that meal was the evening meal, the third and last meal (feast) of the day (age). Just as He did back then in Israel, today Messiah has invited many in His Church to the Feast of Tabernacles experience. He has invited them to the "marriage supper of the Lamb" [Rev. 19: 6-9]. But He had made it clear that in order to partake of this feast we must make ourselves ready. We have to be prepared by the Spirit of God.
Sadly, many of those who have been invited to this great feast continue to have their conversation (manner of life) on earth instead of in heaven. Their time and energies are focused on temporal things and experiences. The most important things in their lives are home, family and friends. They are not really looking for Him. Consequently, they are not aware that the Master has called them to come to the feast. They are not aware that it is time to go in because they are too occupied with other (earthly) things.
If you know what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about and you know you have been invited to that feast, donít throw it away for worthless houses, lands and possessions. Donít let the things of this earth become your security and pleasure. Donít let family or friends steal you from Messiah. Donít let this earthly existence capture your soul and cause you to miss the greatest feast of all time. Put Godís Kingdom first! Rise up in the Spirit and leave this sensual realm behind. Have your joy and your life in Him who dwells in the heavens and be consumed with Him. Give your undivided attention to the work He seeks to do in you so you can enjoy Him forever.
To whom much is given much is required [Lk. 12:48]. If we turn down the invitation to this feast, if we reject the offer to marry the Lord of Glory, choosing instead the worthless things and experiences of this life, we are not going to meet the sweet baby Jesus or the gentle Shepherd when we stand before the Throne of judgment. We are going to meet an angry Godóa God who has sworn to give every man "according to his works!"† Selah.