There are many cultural and social indicators that the next couple of decades are going to be very difficult ones for the Church, and as we all know this world is becoming more hostile to us who are bible believing Christians, i.e. Evangelicals. Not only is this world becoming more antagonistic toward what we believe and our Christian world view there is an increasing level of hostility within the Church, propagated by divisive errors, that are beginning to take hold in some form or another in some local churches.
What might not be self-evident is that these difficult times are coming at us at the pace of the internet and social media and what is regrettable is many are not aware of a pending storm although the clouds are already forming above us. We understand that American Christians have been insulated from anything that looks like the activity of God in judgment, or personal persecution, even though for many years many gifted men have been predicting judgment, and predicting various difficulties coming upon America and upon the American Church.
However, even though the Old Testament prophets came to Israel prophesying Gods pending judgment also they prophesied a means of avoiding it which usually meant that Israel first had an ear to hear the prophet and second that they were to repent. Jesus in predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple also provides the first century Christians a practical means of escape. In other words, Jesus had explained to the Jewish Christians, let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, howbeit that Judea would have been the first place that the retreating Jews would have gone to, that is, into Judea and into Jerusalem to take refuge behind its walls. However, Jesus tells them don’t go to Judea, but instead flee to the mountains, which saved many who had remembered, listened and obeyed.
Not unlike Jesus and the Prophets providing various warnings, the Apostles in their many letters provided to local churches, who were suffering and under persecution, with those things they should attend to for their personal survival during these difficult times, which I believe is a foreign concept and experience to many American Christians, as well as many who instruct them. Because we have been insulated from any personal persecution or from any hostility toward what we believe, coming from a host culture, many remain unprepared. We go unprepared because we have not attended to those warnings found in the letters where one particular virtue we should already have been attending to is our God given faith, that is, to maintain and nourish it. For the nature of a robust faith is that it is immune to what is temporal, because it rest in the eternal, having been born of God. Those whose faith is born of God overcomes the world, and its many attempts to defeat what God has given.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith
Consequently, many possess a more superficial faith which is both weak and feeble and barely recognizable because they have not attended to the gospel as they should have been in the more quiet times. Therefore, the potential exists for some Christians, during times of persecution or judgment, or during cultural or economic storms, or attacks upon what little understanding they might have, for their faith to fail them, or, for some to acquiesce. Because some lack discernment they will be willing to adopt their host cultures morality, thus believing and teaching a gospel message that has a large dose of their contemporary cultures philosophical, political, social, religious, and humanist views which all attempt to undermine the “outdated” gospels absolute, inflexible, fixed, and unalterable message. We all need God given discernment and understanding that both nourishes our faith and directs our way.
The soul satisfies itself with thoughts which are but the forms and images of truth, without receiving the truth itself in its power. God’s way is ever first to give us, even though it be but as a seed, the thing itself, the life and the power, and then the knowledge. Man seeks the knowledge first, and often, alas! Never gets beyond it. God gives us Christ, and in Him hid the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. O let us be content to possess Christ, to dwell in Him, to make Him our life, and only in a deeper searching into Him, to search and find the knowledge we desire. Such knowledge is life indeed. Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ.
Our host culture is becoming more intolerant and hostile toward our bible and the way we are interpreting it, attacking it from all angles in an attempt to minimize, intimidate, humiliate, and even threaten what we believe, regrettably, we will see all manner of professing Christians trying to reinterpret the gospel, that is, to bend it according to the existing worldly moral, social, religious, and political climates. However, what stands true is the Holy Spirit will interpret to those who have eyes to perceive and ears to understand what Jesus intended. It is God who grants a Spirit given understanding of His word, one that nourishes and strengthen one’s faith and we can all rest assured that we are those who hear Jesus voice, in that He has given us His Spirit.
And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Therefore, it is a robust, strengthen faith that can rest in Christ, that is, abiding in Him. It is in our abiding that we come to know Jesus in a more intimate manner, having a personal relationship with Him on a daily basis. It is in this unique union with Him where He speaks to us, instructs us, gives us more knowledge of Himself, His heart and mind, i.e. all things that add to ones faith, strengthening it. Without these things we are those who wonder in and out of every wind of doctrine, our faith withers and becomes miss guided. Therefore, our faith is like a heat seeking missile, where electronically it is guided to its target. The nature and characteristics of our faith is that it seeks only one thing, and that is God, in Christ, unto knowing Him personally, fully, and daily. Our Christianity begins with a new birth, however if we do not move on from there we remain as babes in the faith, and just like babes, remain vulnerable.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…
We need to understand that we are a unique people who have been raised into newness of life, into a kingdom not made with hands; where its values, morals, and ways are higher than what exist in this world, where we are made to embrace a higher wisdom given to us by the Holy Spirit, sent from God. It is the Spirit that speaks with us and in us, instructs and mentors us, and leads us into God’s grace in accord with this new life. Therefore, our language is the language of the Spirit, which is the language of the heavens, which is the light of God that directs our way into His will where now, it is not our responsibility to be good people for God, but to learn to abide in Gods Son, who is good.
Another particular problem regarding our faith is due to the superficiality of the instructions many have been receiving for years, where this particular training, or lack thereof, has been so diluted it has become powerless to impart anything of spiritual value, i.e. value for one’s personal spiritual progress toward possessing a strong and robust faith, that is, what otherwise should have been written upon one’s heart. In addition, because of personal ignorance, both theological and spiritual and worldly mindedness many do not possess the level of conviction they should have to endure any pending storms.
Regrettably, these have given themselves more to this world than to the one above. After Jesus had finished His sermon on the mount He explained the consequences of not attending to His words in a manner that is commensurate with its source, and that is, it is like building upon the sand (sands of religion, i.e. having form without the power) when the storm hits this building will fall.
Additionally, both the Church and the individual Christians spiritual immaturity can be attributed to the absence and use, by those who call themselves builders, of any genuine biblical building materials, e.g. gold, silver, and precious stones; for many have been building with inferior materials, i.e. wood, hay, and stubble which will not endure the test of time or fire. It is the Holy Spirit in us, and in our assemblies, who takes from the Lords spiritual resources, that the Father has assigned and given Him and now communicates that which is of heavenly quality to the true and called out builders. Recognize if a leader plans on using these high quality materials to build with they are costly. However, any preacher who insists upon the wisdom of men (e.g. the business or market place means to build, or the next church model, entertainment etc.) to build their assemblies is not this wood, hay, and stubble? Jesus explained in Revelations to come to Him and purchase gold refined with fire.
Howbeit, we see in scripture that all things that are not of heavenly or kingdom quality, when shaken, will suffer lost, for isn’t the ground already beginning to shake in America, and not unlike an earthquake we have had in California, where some have been of a certain magnitude, which the locals have felt and survived, however, and as the experts warn, that as the earthquake increases in magnitude the shaking is not proportionally linear, but exponential, i.e. the shaking magnitude is increased tenfold per increment. What I fear is there is coming a cultural and social driven shaking that is of a magnitude that is unprecedented in America.
Therefore, what quality of faith should all have been preparing for in the quiet times? That is, recognizing in scriptures that the first century Christians had faced many difficult times, persecuted for what they believed, and where Paul warns, admonishes, and encourages them in their maintenance of their faith and its increase, i.e. to be steadfast, and not moved away from it. Conversely, Christians in America have been attending to a more social, political, or materialistic view of their faith, e.g. attending to a social gospel, or a political one, or even one that is more focused upon the material i.e. to get something from God for personal gain and success, one’s personal happiness and wellbeing, or for ones propagation of their personal ministry, which takes advantage of both material and monetary gain, and in some cases, more attention and recognition of their spiritual gifts. Emphasis is upon “Your” gift, without recognition from whom the gift has come, and why you possess it, i.e. it is not for your gain but for the edification of the Body of Christ.
Many preachers associate how successful they are to what their balance is in their bank accounts. Also, they measure how well they are doing in the will of God by how many people are in the seats of their local congregations, their building size, and the many programs they have set up, i.e. how busy they keep their people. But what we should understand, this perception of success is not a biblical one but an American measure of success, more in line with American materialism and consumerisms, and certainly is not Gods perspective.
We see in scripture what is of real value to us and how one should measure their successes and that is in terms of what is biblical, in terms of heavenly treasures, and specifically in terms of our God given faith that resides in each Christian. Not belief, or “blind faith” as some would call it, but a heavenly virtue birth into us by the Holy Spirit and when continually nurtured will sustain us, in both good and bad times, amidst the storms or trials of life, and even in an hostile culture that would attack it. Our faith, an uncreated essence originated in God and seeks to return to Him in the purity as it was given, with increase, affords us a means of resting in Christ who had sacrificed His life that we might possess it.
If faith is to survive it requires nourishment, i.e. the sustenance of heaven, that is, the bread of life. Therefore, what importance should we assign to our faith, in what manner must we attend to it, and what attention should we be giving to it in maintaining it, and not only maintaining it, but giving much care for its increase in us. A healthy faith in us is one that continues to move us on toward its given source, that is, into the Father in Christ. Yes there are detours along the way that all of us encounter, we all get discouraged at times both with ourselves and with the church, however, our faith, given any amount of nourishment, by its very nature, continues to move us on. In addition, this same faith enables us to remain steadfast and unmoved during any adverse seasons, historical storms, or even judgments that might come upon the world we are in.
Therefore, each of us should have already been attending to the instruction of sound teachings with our own spiritual ear and eye upon Christ, the bread of life and living water, through the Spirit, thus by His instructions fortifying our faith in anticipation of any event, whether fire, storm, or shaking, according to its own dynamic, and by the Spirits power to exercise our faith in dwelling in, or abiding in, Christ, our true place of refuge and sustenance, unto having His word written upon our hearts thus possessing an enduring robust faith. A faith built upon the fundamentals of a gospel message that is as Paul explains it to be, a faith not built upon man’s wisdom, but has been built upon the power of the heavens,
I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
The senior managing editor of Christianity Today in an essay entitled, “Yawning at the Word” speaks to what he called a tragedy of the Churches increasing impatient with, and resistant to the time consuming reading of scriptures during Sunday services. I’m not surprised at the editors statement and observation because this is the beginning symptom of those, as Paul describes them to Timothy, having itching ears. If we understand that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God we can see that if Christians are growing impatient with the gospel and preachers who read and quote from it, it is not difficult to see why the Churches faith is waning.
I believe that a dire consequence of someone whose faith is withering in them, and is in danger of ebbing to the point where it is barely recognizable, has become listless, idle, and has grown dull are those in danger, as Paul writes to Timothy, of having itching ears. This phenomenon, amongst first century Christians, began with an intolerance to sound teachings, i.e. Paul’s gospel message, and as Paul explains, they are those who would no longer endure his sound doctrine, or teaching, consequently would begin to gather to themselves one teacher after another, who would in their preaching, draw back from sound instructions based in scripture. However, they do so, at the risk of their hearers faith.
For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions.
Albert Barnes comments regarding Paul’s prediction to Timothy,
The apostle here explains that by turning away from Timothy, and from sound instruction, they would not abandon all religious teachers, but would rather increase and multiply them.
Also, Charles Ellicott suggests a motive for turning aside from Timothy’s and Paul teachings,
These worldly ones to whom St. Paul referred, reluctant to part with the hope Christianity taught, and unwilling to live the life which St. Paul and Timothy insisted upon as necessary to be lived by all those who would share in that glorious hope, sought out for themselves more indulgent teachers, who would flatter and gratify their hearers with novelties in doctrine, and would, at the same time, lay comparatively little stress on the pure and saintly life.
In addition, and what I believe is a consequence of a dull and passive faith is the spiritual posture of always learning yet never arriving at an understanding or knowledge of the truth. Paul addresses some specific women of his day when he speaks of someone who is always learning, but I believe in our day it is applicable to many older Christians. I believe the spiritual and mental demeanor of many today, and especially among those older believers, i.e. those who have listened and read the scriptures for many decades however, have arrived at little understanding of what they hear and have read, except in terms of a superficial understanding, i.e. an understanding that has not entered their spirit and hearts as one begins to abide in Christ. Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ,
Let it be your first care to abide in Him in undivided fervent devotion of heart; when the heart and the life are right, rooted in Christ, knowledge will come in such measure as Christ’s own wisdom sees meet. And without such abiding in Christ the knowledge does not really profit, but is often most hurtful. The soul satisfies itself with thoughts which are but the forms and images of truth, without receiving the truth itself in its power.
Not only do these with itching ears only possess a superficial understanding, to their own hurt, they have little desire or hunger any longer to know any real depth and meaning or knowledge of scriptures because they have grown hard to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit who would daily impart to them the true knowledge of Christ, that is coming from the Lord Himself.
The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]. Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it]; Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
To me this disposition of older Christians, that many find themselves in, is a danger that contributes to a failing faith than any other thing, for no longer can you reach them, they have shut you out, and certainly do not want anyone to come along who might disturb their comfortable religious life they have created and become most familiar with. To attempt to re-interpret their superficial understanding of spiritual things is no longer possible, to call them to self-sacrifice they cannot hear, and in doing so, would disturb all their presupposition regarding what is gospel and what they believe personally. Basically, because these who have the symptom of an itching they no longer want to attend to the sacrifices and self-denial that more understanding would give them, instead they are like the eddy’s in the river that continue to swirl around holding them in place keeping them from continuing along the path of a river with its many turns and bends. They are candidates to gather many teachers to themselves that are just as superficial as themselves believing that as long as they are nice to others, pray to a distant God, occasionally or religiously attend their local church each Sunday, attending to the occasional bible study all is right with the world, yet they remain lifeless and distant from Christ without recognizing their carnality or spiritual poverty, these can quote scripture believing they own what they quote. Are they going to heaven, sure they are, however, some do retreat so far that their faith is easily compromised by their many teachers they gather to themselves, leading to much error, and even in some cases some fall away into a gospel and Jesus that is barely recognizable in scriptures.
…they are forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth.
The first century Christian, though reluctant to part with the hope and assurance of certain aspects of the gospel, and as Ellicott suggests they did not want to live a pure and saintly life, where to do so requires sacrifice and personal suffering. Why sacrifice and suffering, because if we are going to walk in the manner that the scriptures directs us to, that is, unto a stirring and edification of one’s personal faith until it finds its resting place in the realities of a relationship and personal communion with a holy God, one has to lay aside the old and pick up the new. This new life, or newness of life, is different from the old one, where the old will have to suffer loss if we intend to live in the new. If anyone attempts to touch the inner life of these with itching ears will meet with either rebuke or indifference. I always say this, that whatever is really in the cup, when bumped, will come spilling out.
God is holy, and His children must also aspire to be, that is, if they want to walk with Him in agreement, which the new life affords us. We must recognize that the old man has no desire after God, no delight in Him, nor does it have any capabilities to do His will having no spiritual energies to attend to it, that is, strengthen by the Spirit in the inner man. The old remains dead and unregenerate in us because of the cross, however it still remains a threat to us, and if not resisted can cause us many problems. However, we discover that our source of strength is not in the old, but in the new, and the newness of life is resident in Christ, whom we have access via our regenerate spirit and robust faith. The old sinful nature causes us problems but the self-life even more. Unless we allow the light and power of the words of Christ to divide asunder the flesh, soul and spirit we remain bound by one or the other.
It is in the newness of life that we are now to walk, that is, walking in accord with Christ life in us unto holiness. Walking in newness of life requires that the old inevitably will have to suffer, and because we have lived according to the old dictates for many years, to live otherwise, means death to the old. Therefore, the old will have to be denied and its ruling place in each of us resisted, for its nature is to maintain control, by remaining at its center place in us, that is, a self-centered one, and not God centered. If we are to know these things we must gather to ourselves teachers who will instruct us in them, otherwise, going the easy way, swimming with the current of the self-life your tendency is to find those instructors who tell you things that itching ears wants to hear rather than what the Spirit would instruct you in, and that is self-denial.
Walking in the new is not automatic or natural to any of us, therefore, how do we know how to live in the new, for are not the ways of the new life above us? We need Spirit given wisdom, knowledge, and understanding granted to us from the Father and communicated to us by the Spirit, that is, that the eyes of our heart being enlightened. Understanding comes as the Spirit illuminates God’s word as we read or hear it, setting our minds and hearts on things above, and or setting in front of a preacher who depends upon heavenly things for his preaching, and for building the local Church.
Recognize that God given wisdom will always lead us all into one specific direction, or place, and there should be no confusion or division about where this place is, and that is, into Christ, in the Father, from where comes godliness and holy living that the Father is well pleased with. The self-life has no place in acquiring a holiness of life from above, through a life laid down, nor does it want to bear a cross and its many implication to it. The self is very content in remaining religious, comfortable in its thoughts of a future kingdom rather than attending to what is pleasing to the Father, that is, the pleasure the Father derives from a life that is laid down, and one that has discovered, in its laying down, the new life In Christ, from which comes grace, mercies, favors, and goodness. And as Peter writes to us explaining what our new direction is, that is, what our spiritual journey should be, must be, i.e. the stepping stones in our life that leads to this newness of life in Christ, and in our making progress in His kingdom, i.e. making spiritual progress.
…employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence), And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety), And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love. For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
Peter continues to explain the consequences of not attending to his given path, his direction, his path to spiritual maturity and kingdom life, where he says,
For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] shortsighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Peter also sheds the light of heaven upon what it is that should occupy all of our lives, continually, daily, and if we do…as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus…be all the more solicitous and eager to make sure (to ratify, to strengthen, to make steadfast) your calling and election; for if you do this, you will never stumble or fall.
Peter provided us with our means of exercising our faith, unto an Spirit given and approved spiritual walk, not a self-life, but a spiritual one, and its many rewards. Attempting to walk, as Peter instructs, in your own strength and wisdom will always end in failure however, it is the Spirit in us who instructs us in this way and gives grace and strength to do so. To do otherwise, ordering our life differently in accordance with those who would teach us otherwise, results only in spiritual blindness and the coming short of the knowledge of the Christ, consequently the product of neglect or indifference to a God given path results in our seeking every other thing that has nothing to do with godly living, nor abiding in Christ, who is godly. When religious people do not understand what is Gods will for their daily life, i.e. their personal internal and external holiness, they seek all manner of things to live their life by, other than In Christ who is their holiness, which ends in much error and frustration; their ears begin to itch, and they seek after, or gather to themselves, those teachers who would accommodate their folly and approval of improving a self-life other than a spiritual one. Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ explains,
The whole Christian life depends on the clear consciousness of our position in Christ. Most essential to the abiding in Christ is the daily renewal of our faith’s assurance, “I am in Christ Jesus.” All fruitful preaching to believers must take this as its startingpoint: “Ye are in Christ Jesus.”
They will gather to themselves one teacher after another
If you look up itching ears in the Greek Lexicon one particular definition that is of interest and what I believe is relevant regarding the context of what is being taught in many American Churches today is, “wanting to hear something pleasant”. I believe there are many reasons this ear irritation is finding its way into the psyche of American Christians, and I will mention a few; although the reasons are numerous and scripture addresses them. I believe, one particular cause is lifeless and powerless preaching where there is no Holy Spirit participation or His personal witness in terms of what is being taught and preached to American Christians. Another is miss interpretation of scripture leading to error, for you have to ask yourself why would the Holy Spirit agree with preaching that is riddled with error; subsequently such preaching becomes lifeless because the Spirit cannot support it. Also a Christians neglect or indifference to the truth, or their overt worldly mindedness and certainly is self-centeredness and selfishness at its heart because many, upon discovery, are unwilling to make the required self-sacrifice that the word calls for. After an extended period of time, where an assembly has been exposed to a teaching that does not lead its believers to the heavenly realities of a resurrection life, the preachers message simply sinks into the mundane.
Preachers, Pastors, and Leaders who have not been taught by God nor has His will been written upon their hearts are those who will begin to do whatever it takes to keep people coming to their assembly. If they believe the people are bored and their preaching is out dated they remake themselves and the gospel message to be more contemporary, seeking to entertain using animated cheerleading emotional preaching, with a sprinkling of scripture, and a large measure of human energy, psychology, and self-actualization; man’s tendency to actualize himself to realize his full potential- man centered rather than God centered messages. If the Preachers teaching has become powerless and lifeless, consequently they have lost their ability or the capability to convict the heart, or stir the spirit, where faith is untouched and the realities of heaven are not realized, and where the kingdom is set into the future when one receives his furnished “mansion” in the sky.
When I say lifeless, I do not mean unemotional, where the Preacher is unanimated. An emotional animated preacher’s word can be just as powerless and lifeless as the unanimated one. In other words, just because someone is behaving abnormally on stage, speaking loud, with many animated gestures or emotional pleas does not mean they are full of the Spirit, nor is their message demonstrating the power and conviction of the Spirit. A.W. Tozer speaks of the animated preachers of his day, which tells us very little has changed.
Christians have fallen into the habit of accepting the noisiest and most not so excellence, and in open defiance of the Sermon on the Mount they have given their approval not to the meek but to the self-assertive; not to the mourner but to the self-assured; not to the pure in heart who see God but to the publicity hunter who seeks headlines
If we are listening to a preacher whose message is dynamic, powerful, and full of illumination, i.e., that it convicts the heart of ungodly living and subsequently draws us into Christ, that is, to abide in Him as the Lord of our life; unto a worshipful respect and godly fear of the Father, Son and Spirit, there usually is a more quieted and subdued atmosphere, with very few, if any, amen’ s, or overt audience participation. Why is this true, because the word of scripture is powerfully entering their hearts, minds, and spirits which is uplifting, regenerative, convicting, illuminating and always is drawing us into fellowship and communion with the Lord who gave them. The Spirit is the spirit of peace and authority, and when a speaker attempts to cheerlead his audience into an emotional response, be cautious that you’re not confusing human energy with what is Spirit. Usually, and in many cases, where the Spirit is absent in a congregation one has to fill the void with a lot of pretentious animated and emotional preaching, using gimmicks, and somethings music and play acting, or video, that is, emotionally uplifting images to reach Gods people, however in vain, because the heavens have provided the only source the Church will ever need and that is the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ its head to reach the heart of Gods people. We do not need emotionally uplifting feel good preaching so that everyone is smiling as they leave the building, we need more Holy Spirit inspired preaching which many times comes most quietly and conservatively. Can you show me an instant in scripture where Jesus raised His voice, or show me any animated gestures during His preaching?
He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets
We realize that the words of the Lord were characteristically full of Spirit and life and when Jesus spoke to an individual, or to crowds, their conclusion, having had an encounter with Him, had been, “no one spoke as this man” or wasn’t our hearts strangely warmed. When Jesus said to someone He just healed to “go and sin no more” you better believe it was not a superficial religious statement, but it cut deeply into their heart and spirit and had a lasting effect upon their life. Have you ever considered how many times Jesus had only spend a short time with those He encountered, and most of the time said very little, thinking, was that it, how were these going to make any spiritual progress later on in their life. Why is this? It is because His powerful word had been sown into their hearts and as a heavenly seed could later be cultivated by the Holy Spirit and when given increase from above would bring salvation and change. This is what the Church needs today. If we are left to ourselves, and as many, indifferent to words that have become repetitive and powerless there is no conviction of heart, no regeneration, or possessing a word that can cut deep into one’s heart and spirit thus leaving Gods people in the dark believing all is well.
For example, when the rich man came to Jesus and asked him about possessing eternal life. I’m sure he did not expect to be cut to heart from his encounter with Jesus, instead he expected what had been his normal religious encounter, that is, what he likely heard from his Jewish brothers and leaders. In other words, the rich man probably thought he was going to hear a word that would have been a typical response in terms of his Jewish tradition, that is to keep the commandments, which I’m sure he knew very well and could recite them easily from memory. However, though you would think that in keeping all of Gods commandments from his youth that would have been the right response and if in fact he had, would have been a tremendous accomplishment, but for an unknown reason he asked another question, that I’m sure he had wished he had not, i.e. “what still do I lack”. If one can say they have kept all of Gods commandments why would they ask what is it that they still lacked unless their encounter with Jesus came with a deep sense of holiness, that is, a level of conviction of heart of their own unrighteousness recognizing that Jesus life exhibited the results of truly, from the heart, of someone who kept all the commandments. However, and in the case of the young rich man, and in terms of what or who had been the primary focus of his heart, there arouse another question from the conviction of his own heart.
And behold, there came a man up to Him, saying, Teacher, what excellent and perfectly and essentially good deed must I do to possess eternal life?
And He said to him, Why do you ask Me about the perfectly and essentially good? There is only One Who is good [perfectly and essentially]—God. If you would enter into the Life, you must continually keep the commandments.
He said to Him, What sort of commandments? [Or, which ones?] And Jesus answered, You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.
The young man said, I have observed all these from my youth; what still do I lack?
Jesus answered him, If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me].
But when the young man heard this, he went away sad (grieved and in much distress), for he had great possessions.
What the rich man did not expect from Jesus had been a word cutting into what had been the true treasure of His heart and possibly what he attended too, that is, a personal idol and primary focus in his life, other than God the Father as His treasure. Therefore, the young man could haphazardly and flippantly say he kept all the commandments not recognizing if he had, from the heart, that these would lead him into a relationship with the God who gave them, thus securing His spiritual blessing. I’m sure that had been the last thing the young man wanted to hear from Gods Son had been to go and sell all he had and give it to the poor, that is, if he sought to be perfect, or mature, in the things of God as He was who stood before Him had been.
If we begin to see that the Lord seeks to do a deeper work in us, where we begin to see our deep and profound need for our God and an illumination of our own inferior poverty of life, how is it that we can respond to our Father as we ought to? In addition, without a revelatory or illuminating message from our preachers we go without any level of consciousness of those things that are not pleasing to God, especially internal ones. The old repetitive or emotional message we are used to has no place when we’re speaking of the road that leads to life.
If you understand that many Christians today are gathering into many of America’s mega assemblies seeking those who would preach a more superficial, socially correct, culturally relevant, and self-pleasing gospel where man is at its center, rather than God, you can know these things are fruitless when it comes to having a mature spiritual life and having a realized fellowship with our holy God. There is no substitute for a faith that is built upon the power of Gods words. The wisdom of men is powerless to divide asunder the flesh, soul and spirit. Nor does the wisdom of men have the power of conviction that all of us need and require if we are to make any spiritual progress. However, as men are called, taught, and sent by the Lord they are the ones we need to sit in front of each Sunday, that is if we are going to make any real spiritual progress, otherwise we remain motionless and stagnant where we have to fill up our lives with all kinds of religious activities, that is, if we want to feel as if we are making any real progress, yet in vain. Paul explained the source of his message like this,
And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them], So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God.
Consequently, many who seek those preachers and teachers who will teach things that can be considered as something pleasant, rooted in the wisdom of men which is preached in a manner so as not to upset the refined contemporary American social and religious consciences, will do untold damage to one’s spiritual life and walk. Unfortunately in their seeking after these more superficial things their personal faith is compromised and is not strengthened and remains feeble because they did not continue steadfastly in the doctrine of the Apostles.
They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship…
Approved Preachers & Teachers and their Messages
The words of the Apostles have to first be engrafted into the heart and spirit of the preacher before he can preach or lead. How is it that they would know what to teach if they possess very little spiritual understanding and wisdom unto a personal application of both in their daily personal lives. Prior to His death Jesus had explained to His disciples that He has given them all that the Father has taught Him. Also, Jesus speaking of some of the activities that the Holy Spirit would attend to, after His coming to the disciples, He would take from what had been given to Jesus, from the Father, and show it to them. Certainly, the disciples had limited understanding prior to Jesus death, however after His accession and the coming of the Holy Spirit He would be in a position to remind them, and instruct them out from all that the Father gave to Jesus. Unless a preacher is participating, at some level and to some degree in this same unique fellowship with the Holy Spirt they cannot have anything of any real spiritual value to share and instruct their assemblies with or in, nor do they know what should be their goal in terms of guiding the saints, that is, according to the gospel message? Yes, they can teach from the text, however if the Spirit is not engaged and participating with them, there is no power of entry of the word into the heart, only the mind. A preacher who has not understood some level of dependence upon the Spirit or some aspect of self-denial regarding their means to understand the scriptures, what they possess will be lifeless words. We are instructed to approach God as children, i.e., those with a mental and spiritual posture ready to learn from above. One can study scripture for years without much understanding; always learning yet never arriving at the truth.
I believe that the litmus test for any preacher is this, that the word is being engrafted in them in such a manner that what begins to arise, in them, that is, in terms of their motive or ambition for instructing the Lords body, is love. When a preacher has the Lords mind and heart working in them via the Spirit, especially His love for believers, thus possessing a deep regard for their wellbeing, and at this juncture, he has the capability to teach. For unless a preacher has come to the Lord as Peter had, and Jesus has asked them three times, do you love me more than these, they remain cold and indifferent toward those who they seek to teach and lead. Therefore, if this be the case in the preachers life, He cannot help but loving Gods people, because Jesus did, therefore and as Paul said, I love you from the love of Christ, a preacher can say the same.
In addition, Paul reminds and warns Timothy regarding what his goals should be in terms of how he is to live and what his teaching should contain. The reason Paul gave for this warnings had been in the light and context of the false Apostles, teachers, and doctrinal errors that had been infiltrating the local churches. Paul warns Timothy not only of doctrinal errors but warns of the consequence of not ordering one’s life after scriptures.
As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him.
Recognize that the amplified bible includes “in union with Him” without which one cannot know the Lords mind or heart for His Church in the context and intent it was given because this is an relational matter. Jesus in union with the Father, i.e. the Father in Him, knew exactly what the heart of the Father had been in instructing Him, for it was not just words given, where Jesus by rote and disconnected from them communicated them, but Jesus, united with the Father, was able to communicate His Fathers heart to those who listened to Him; a heart full of care and love for the children of Israel.
In addition, Paul had charged Timothy regarding how he should live and teach where Paul puts both Timothy’s and those who would hear him salvation on the line.
Look well to yourself [to your own personality] and to [your] teaching; persevere in these things [hold to them], for by so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
Also, Paul explains to Timothy what the goal of his instruction should be, that is its primary focus,
Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith…
Notice that all of these goals are primarily God focused, i.e., love for God that is pure in terms of its motives and intentions in approaching Him…blessed are those who are pure in heart for they shall see (know) God. The second goal is the sincerity of one’s faith, for God looks steadfastly upon our faith and expects it to be robust and constant in holding fast, in every circumstance, to the redemptive work of Christ. If we do not have a healthy faith, before our God, how is it that we can approach Him, for He looks for that proclivity of faith that is constantly abiding in the Son and His redemptive work. The third goal of Paul’s instruction, and very importantly, is to possess a clear and sensitive conscience, for we cannot expect a steadfastness of Gods nearness, that is His presence in our spirit, if our conscience is evil or offended before Him. It had been an evil conscience that caused Adam and Eve to hide from God, and so it is today, when we have an evil conscience we sense an internal pulling away from God, to separate from Him, i.e. we begin to feel far from Him. Our failures and sins should not drive us from God, but into Christ, who is not only our means for forgiveness but also our strength, an internal strength given and known so that we might not sin.
A called out, taught, and approved preacher knows what his goals are in leading those the Lord has given him to lead, both in word and deed, otherwise their instruction is vain and subject to ever kind of error leading many into purposeless talk. Why is it purposeless talk, because their instruction has no real or lasting impact upon living a godly and worshipful life before their God, unto knowing Him.
Paul also explains that some have missed the mark and wandered away from his instructions unto what he calls vain and purposeless teachings,
But certain individuals have missed the mark on this very matter [and] have wandered away into vain arguments and discussions and purposeless talk…
Therefore, I believe that we should hold all the teaching and instruction of men up to the light of a single scripture, one that Paul initially had presented to Timothy and specifically applies to everyone’s future, pointing to the date when all of us will be judged.
I charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by (in the light of) His coming and His kingdom.
In addition, before anyone takes to themselves the responsibility to admonish or correct Gods people; all those who aspire, currently are, or are attempting to teach in Christ Church, should pay close attention to James admonishment, James says this,
Not many [of you] should become teachers (self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity
What is important to understand about a call to teach Gods people is to understand the severity of such a calling, i.e. a teacher in the body of Christ will be judged differently by the Lord than others. Those who aspire to teach others must understand how influential one is who stands up in front of many each week instructing them; either harming or edifying Christ body; because as a teacher goes so goes His assemblies; if he falls off the proverbial cliff many will fall with him. In other words, the time of instruction each week begins to impart to others the teacher’s theology, way of life, personal convictions, and beliefs where if there is any error, sin, foolishness etc. will also be communicated. I would ask you, what is more extreme or regretful in your mind, the preacher who commits adultery and repents, or the preacher who for forty years taught the Lords people, and from beginning to end, their faith and spiritual life had not changed in the least?
Additionally, Paul indicates the presence and atmosphere that all men will give an account in; in the light, radiance, and glory of the Son of Man thus bringing to light those things that were not in accord with His truth; truth that is to reside in men’s hearts who profess faith; as the Apostles John explains… because of the Truth which lives and stays on in our hearts and will be with us forever. Also, looking upon Him in whom the Father put all spiritual blessings and placed us in Him, therefore, in what manner can we excuse ourselves knowing, as we stand before Him in all His glory, all that had been given and available to us, how can we excuse ourselves for our feebleness?
…the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a thunderous crash, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. Since all these things are thus in the process of being dissolved, what kind of person ought [each of] you to be [in the meanwhile] in consecrated and holy behavior and devout and godly qualities…
Fruits of approved teaching – where we all should be going
John Owens in his book Communion with God explains, the Lord Christ is exceedingly delighted in tasting of the sweet fruits of the Spirit in the saints. Therefore, what is it that the Lord would look for in terms of what is good and what is bad works at His judgment seat, i.e. what is His intent for us for our good, and what is it that the Father works to accomplish in us; isn’t it that we bear much fruit, that is, through a robust faith abide in the true Vine until His life begins to flow into the branch, and as the Husbandmen prunes so will that life flow more abundantly. In other words, that Christ divine and gloried life finds its way, unhindered by self and sin, into our heart and spirit and subsequently our soul that God would be glorified? Why is He glorified, isn’t it because it had been the Fathers redemptive work, accomplished and fulfilled in His Son, that we now possess life, and in the Fathers immeasurable wisdom, He put us in Christ, causing us to abide, that we would bear fruit; in other words, God is glorified because all originated in Him to begin with and in His infinite mercies and grace reached into our lives and through the redemption work of His Son has established us in newness of life, in Christ.
Therefore, isn’t the judgment seat of Christ in terms of what is good in Christ, and not in ourselves, for we are only the earthen vessel, that is, He would be expecting to see the fruits of His own nature in those who have called upon Him as their Lord, and have walked according with His given Spirit unto bearing fruit? Or do you think the mentioned good works, as some might lead you to believe, are only in terms of what is religious in men, according to their many activities, personal successes and efforts, that is doing work for God to the exclusion of any internal experience and union with the Christ, for we are called to abide in the Vine, and without Him we can do nothing. Consequently it behooves all of us to go and learn of Him.
Although one might have attended to the many outward observances, and the various traditions of their Christianity, denomination, or attending to the unspoken organizational expectation of a local church, however, if one has neglected the matters of the heart are you not like the religious Pharisees whose hidden inner life deteriorated into religious rhetoric and pomp, and the law of Moses morph into external behaviors acceptable to men, centered religious behavior, rather than a changed inner life. Jesus had described this condition this way,
You offspring of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil (wicked)? For out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the heart the mouth speaks.
Or might you suggest about your own life that because you call yourself a born again Christian that you are living an inner life acceptable to God, filled grace and with those heavenly blessings in Christ, those things proceeding from Him who sits at the right hand of the Father, our source for all spiritual blessings and fruitfulness?
We have to be honest with ourselves and ask some serious questions about our salvation, for if we are not making any true inward progress in knowing the Lord, abiding in Him, unto bearing Spirit given fruit, maybe we better discover and attend to what is true and real in our religion. At Jesus judgment seat all will come to light in His presence, so it is wise to allow the matters of our own heart to come to light prior to our standing before Jesus later. At least that is my thinking.
We are called the bride of Christ, however what will the Groom find when He returns? A bride waiting patiently with much expectation in her heart filled with the grooms many spiritual blessings, with much fruitfulness, or will He find a bride that is filled with this worlds desires, having a heart distant from Him, and one who has soiled their wedding garment with a self-centered life? Thomas Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.
Go to, faithful soul, prepare thy heart for this bridegroom that he may vouchsafe to come to thee and dwell within thee, for so He saith, if any man loveth me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him…
Let us understand what Jesus will be looking for in His bride at His coming. Paul explains it his way,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Paul explains that not only is Jesus expecting a bride that is sanctified and cleansed by His word, i.e. without blemish having no spot or wrinkle, holy, however, one who is also closed in His glory. For Jesus had sacrificed His life on the cross to put our sins away, and He gave us the Fathers words for our continual washing and cleansing, and after His resurrection, He shared His glory with us, in Him. Therefore, after the bride has been washed, cleaned, considered as spotless and without blemish how should she then be keeping herself for His return while waiting in the world?
The temptation here is to believe that we have initially been given a white wedding garment and after many years of walking in this world, with its many distraction and temptations, that we have remained pure, and have not soiled the given garment? Consequently, after walking with the Lord for many years, is the last better than the first? Is there a spiritual life or a carnal one in us? Is there a life of faith or unbelief, is your life full of Christ, and His divine nature, or self?
We do not have to venture very far down the path of faith to discover or recognize that even though our house has been swept cleaned and put in order however, due to our own neglect, worldliness, and self-centered living our house can be worse than its beginning; we don’t get better with age we get worse. Unless the Father is revealing Jesus in us, and we are increasing in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ albeit, our old nature and self-life is attempting to live the life that only Jesus can give, the newness of life. Jesus called Israel a wicked generation because of all the miracles He accomplished as they looked on, all the demons He cast out, healing those who were sick however, they still did not repent and recognize Him as their messiah. Not unlike Israel, we can rest back upon our initial faith in Christ, that we are “born again” yet neglect our sanctification unto a personal holiness and fruitfulness in Christ.
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.
Do we possess the heart and mind of the bride, anticipating our marriage with Him, having a heart filled with all goods things from Him, or have we been committing spiritual adultery, knowing the groom is coming, however, in His prolonging, our heart becomes devoted to someone, or something else? Have we allowed our inner life to grow cold and indifference toward Jesus, and in some cases, given our hearts and minds to every other thing in this world other than keeping it pure and focused upon Him who is coming? For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
As mentioned previously, regarding Jesus return, I believe He is not only looking for a bride that is without spot or blemish, but as Paul said, glorious. In other words, a bride that has commune and has an abiding relationship with the Groom she cannot but be filled with the Grooms glory, i.e. her place of rest in heavenly places, at the Fathers right hand, in Christ. For the bride that continues to live in Christ will eventually become radiant with His heavenly glory, for is not this His new dwelling place therefore, the bride so occupied with the love of the Groom, looking into His beauty and holiness she bride is no longer distracted with those things she deems as menial, temporal things, things in the world she lives, as John mentioned them, that is, the pride of life, lust of the flesh and eyes,
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever
Who had John written this letter to, had it been unbelievers, no, believers, warning them regarding in what manner they should abide and tarry, waiting patiently for their coming Groom.
At Jesus judgment seat what will He consider good in us? It is only His own graces, virtues, and glory, i.e., the fruit of His divine nature and love, at the center of our life and heart. I believe the Groom is expecting that we have so attended to His words, that we have kept ourselves without spot or blemish, and having so communed with Him that our hearts cannot help but focus upon Him. Or, will we shrink back in fear at His coming, or will we be bold in His love, at His appearing? I think John says it all, in just a few words, all that I attempted to say in many words, when he said in his letter to the Church,
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.
One does not mature in the love for the Groom overnight, it is a lifelong endeavor with many failures along the way, however until we take our last breath the Groom bids us to come to Him. Therefore, there is much to learn, and be attentive to, guarding ourselves against, that is in keeping our wedding garment pure and our love aflame. A.M. James, True Consecration explains the intent of God, that is, to know the depth of our own sinfulness that we might come to know Christ strength,
It may truly be said that much of Christian experience can only be gained through failures; and very certain it is that we seldom, in any other way than through many failures, learn fully to realize our weakness. And it is also certain that these discoveries of our weakness become, if we use them rightly, an actual means of progress…We must learn not to forget our own weakness; for only through the continual remembrance thereof can we obtain the blessedness of His Strength…Thus every revelation to ourselves of the evil within our hearts is counterbalanced by a yet clearer revelation of the unbounded Love of Christ. Whatever teaches us more of that Love, and whatever casts us more and more completely upon its upholding power, becomes a means of progress.
Why do I write these things, not to condemn, for I would be the first in line for my own condemnation because of my own self-centered life and many failures with much regret, however, as the Lord bids me to come I come and cannot help myself from telling others to come; those as I’m, tired, discouraged, yet with faith. I know the more I meet with my own sinfulness and failures my appreciation and thankfulness goes up a notch because, in Him, I have forgiven. Not unlike the taxpayer praying in the temple, beating his breast saying God be merciful to me a sinner, that in my many failures I realize the depth of my own sinfulness before God in whom I’m totally dependent upon His mercy and grace, through and in Christ. Whereas, prior, and at times, I had been as the Pharisee who prayed “I thank You God that I’m like this taxpayer for I fast twice a week, give tithes, yet we see whom Jesus said got up justified.
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
We do not necessarily learn to abide in Christ, nor in His love, by reading and memorizing many bible passages, or in much religious tasking as if you were laboring for wages, or do we learn by going to the latest and greatest bible conferences, or even, in some cases, attending church every Sunday and paying your tithe religiously, though these all can help. If the things of Christ are going to be ours, and their realities break in upon us, we have to lay aside ourselves, follow the dictates of the Spirit, paying close attention in listening closely and attentively in humble dependence upon the God who grants these things, yet, embracing the pain that comes to those who would seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. In other words, and to say it more succinctly, watch, and keep the oil burning in your lamps.
Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish (thoughtless, without forethought) and five were wise (sensible, intelligent, and prudent). For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them; But the wise took flasks of oil along with them [also] with their lamps. While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they all began nodding their heads, and they fell asleep. But at midnight there was a shout, Behold, the bridegroom! Go out to meet him! Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order. And the foolish said to the wise, give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise replied, There will not be enough for us and for you; go instead to the dealers and buy for yourselves. But while they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were prepared went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came and said, Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us! But He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you].
Watch therefore [give strict attention and be cautious and active], for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come
I believe that there are two forces working for and against us as Christians. One is a spirit or spirits, that is, the spirit of anti-Christ, that is, all that works from this spirit is as its or their name implies that is all is anti-Christ. What ever its activities and work are directed at keeping the unbeliever as well as the believer from Jesus Christ, that is, His redemptive works, His life, death, and resurrection, if this spirit can minimize anything that God has accomplished in His Son, is its goal. Whether this revocation of is of Christ birth, His life, cross, death, resurrection or ascension, however this spirit can attach the Fathers work he will do it. therefore, it should come as no surprise that the world would attach our faith and subsequently is becoming more hostile toward those who have faith in Him. However, not only is this minimization coming from outside but also inside the Church. There are many who reinvent the gospel, that is, the good news of Gods grace in His Son. Within our own ranks, a perversion of the gospel message and Jesus is taking hold. The second force working on our behalf is God; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose will it is that we all possess the full and complete knowledge of Christ, unto an understanding of our union in and with Him, now, and for all eternity. because the faith of some is weak and feeble to the point it has impacted ones ability to discern and understand even the most basic things of their salvation and Christ life. Therefore, they are targets for the spirit of anti-Christ.
Why do most Christians, directly or indirectly, minimize or neglect Christ, that is, in all His resurrection glory, is simply because they have little understanding and knowledge of the resurrected and living Christ, i.e., some level of spiritual understanding and God given wisdom, without which many walk in darkness and are susceptible to all kinds of various errors and deception’s that might come their way, to include having the phenomena of an itching ear. Therefore, you can believe that the Father is willing to communicate to His children all manner of understanding that originates from above, In Christ. It is not Gods will that His children remain in the dark regarding His purposes and intent in His Son, however, we have to be willing, as Paul had been, to make the same declaration and commitment he made regarding his intent to the Philippian Church. A declaration, not founded in a superficial faith, but in terms of one that has been engrafted, via the works of the Father. Paul explains what his personal goal was, and certainly, it is based in Gods willingness to communicate with, and to him, that is, His revelation for the spiritual health for His children,
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Understanding, that the understanding we need, its source, is not intellect, but spiritual, that is, it is God given, from above, via the Holy Spirit who occupies both heaven and earth, and is not a product of the activities of the mind nor rooted in the works of men. Understanding that we require does not come through much reasoning as many Christian philosophers and theologians might lead us to believe, however, it comes to us, that is, as we receive it from Him who both reminds us and instructs us in the things of Christ, that is, the Holy Spirit, who has the power to engraft the gospel message into our spirit and heart. Charles Spurgeon, The Beatitudes explains,
As men cannot live upon the chaff and the bran, but need the flour of the wheat, so do we need something more than the form of godliness and the letter of truth, we require the secret meaning, the engrafting of the Word into our spirit, the bringing of the truth of God into our inmost soul…
The chaff and the bran are the written word where one reads and studies it using those human facilities given at birth, reading by the light of this world, yet in all our human effort to do so. Jesus parables, as well as the Apostles letters, remain but text on a page and words to memorize by those who are religiously minded, howbeit, by these little spiritual understanding is known or discovered. Why is this so, it is because God requires humility in our approach to Him and dependence upon Him; not unlike a child. At the new birth, our spiritual faculties were quickened or awakened, that is, made alive, in other words now we can see the kingdom of God and begin to enter it, recognizing that we see it, not by the light of this world but by the light of heaven. It is by the light of heaven shinning upon and in the human spirit, via the Holy Spirit, that we can begin to venture down the path to both understand those things of the kingdom. It is through the Holy Spirit that the text on the page becomes living words, and because they are living have the power to enter our hearts and in entering begin the process of engrafting.
Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls
From the amplified version there is more clarity and detail regarding what the Apostle James explains,
So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls.
The English definition of engraft is to fix or set securely or deeply and some of the synonyms are to embed; imbed; implant. Some suggest we can do the engrafting through the memorization of scriptures and by meditating upon them, however I would suggest although these exercises are important they have no engrafting power, again this just contributes to possessing a form of godliness yet with power and certainly there is a lot of this in contemporary Christianity and is one of the primary problems that exists in many local Churches. Whereas, the activity of the Spirit, during these mental exercises is when the engrafting takes place, because the Spirit brings to bear the power of heaven upon what is written, because that word is living because its source is living. How do you know these things are true, it is so when someone who has these engrafted words in them what has been engrafted will begin to grow and bear much fruit, where this fruit begins to show up in one’s external life both in deed and word. When someone talks and attempts to explain the scripture, without having been engrafted, there is little power and conviction, however when someone has this word living in them, can speak and explain scripture with much understanding and conviction to the hearers. Also recognize in what manner James explains this engrafting process, it is in receiving, with meekness that will nourish our soul and saves us.
That is, receiving, with meekness the engrafted living word will both nourish our soul and enliven our faith, words that make the kingdom of God, seen and as we enter, this same kingdom becomes our means of spiritual provision, unto personal holiness. Why holiness, because Jesus is holy and now we have are in Him who is in the kingdom and in whom we can come to know the eternal Father. Upon our God given realization of things from above, those things higher than we are, are what elevates our religion and our personal and corporate experience with it, is what sets our faith apart from anything superficial, blind, or susceptible to change by external means. What confounds the unregenerate “Christian” or the unbeliever is our profession of faith. Though some might remain intellectually afar the text, they do not in terms of an active viable organic uncreated God given faith pressing in upon our most inner being; in this manner our faith remains steadfast and unmovable. Anything short of the reality of the actualization of this unseen kingdom and its King is only pretense, make believe, superficial, i.e. worshipping and praying to a God who remains distant and foreign.
Therefore, with this kind of witness in us, via the Spirit, although the world remains in chaos regarding what is biblical or not biblical, challenging our faith by any means at their disposal, whether, scientific, theological, political, religious, our faith remains intact and our attending to the full gospel and its instructions to us does not change. Many can attach us, with much name calling, belittling, threatening’s, however what remains in you, by the Spirit, is His witness of the realities of your God based upon your relationship and union with Him, in Christ. A faith built upon these things is a faith that is unshakeable. There is more life giving and faith building knowledge known via one touch of the grace of God upon our heart then there is in many hours of study, memorization, and learning, that are efforts of religious men.
Not unlike the first century church that Paul had been addressing our contemporary twenty-first century churches are experiencing some of the same issues regarding those who are turning aside from the rigors of the New Testament message and seeking after those who preach a more indulgent gospel message. Why is this so, it is because of a waning faith, one that is feeble in seeking after and knowing those things from above. If one’s faith is dependent upon a last day message, a cheerleading preacher, denomination, or in convincing someone that the Noah Ark existed, your faith is shakable. However, our faith is not sustained via intellectual exercises which is simply building upon some system of belief that when tested can easily be shaken by someone more intelligent than you, or more logical, someone more adapt to reasoning through an idea or a particular thought, or even someone who knows the bible very well yet remains unregenerate. If one’s faith is based in these things it is vulnerable.
In many of our churches today we see a new instruction paradigm that is more accommodating to the American life style of feeling good, self-serving, self-assertive, indulgent, and worldly where many passages or words in scripture are avoided because they might disturb one’s conscience, or sense of personal wellness, for doesn’t God want us to be happy they say. There is no shortage of new and friendlier churches cropping up in the US, where a “new” Jesus is being preached, that is, one who is considered your personal buddy, tolerant, and more inclusive of everyone even if they do not believe Jesus is the only way to God, or if they are living in overt sinfulness. Why is this direction that many take a treat to your faith, because how can the Holy Spirit agree with such errors and if He doesn’t agree how can we continue to know the realities of the kingdom whom He is the administrator of. Paul had mentioned to those Jews who were falling back into the Mosaic law as a means for justification that they have cut themselves off from God’s grace. I believe that many sincere Christian no nothing about Gods daily communication of His grace, in Christ, to our spirit therefore their assurance of their salvation is easily questioned by any accusation that might come their way, thus upsetting their faith.
I believe the knowledge of the kingdom and Christ, that is their realities, remains hidden from the eyes and ears, and certainly the experience of many professing Christians who would continue to live in overt sinfulness, those who want us to believe their sin is something other than it is. The only person these “Christians” are fooling is themselves, because their God remains but an invisible friend, a thought, and one who is distant from them, where any reality or experience of His fellowship with them is but wishful thinking on their part. Quoting scriptures or possessing a social or political conscience does not make you a Christian, however, what remains true is Jesus knows those who are His, and those that are His, have a witness and assurance in His grace from Him and by Him.
As more and more churches move to the cultural, political, and religious center and their focus becomes self rather than Jesus they not only begin to lose their cognitive sight of the Lord but the spiritual sight of Him as well. Losing or cutting ourselves off from what is Spirit cuts ourselves off from Christ heart and mind. We evangelical understand at some level that Jesus had and has a single focus and that is His Father as the center of His life, i.e. as He walked on this earth to please Him, and who demonstrated to all of us, how we are to walk, that is worthy of Him, e.g. with worshipful reverence and obedience to the exclusion of all else. Apart from the mind of Christ and His heart communicated to us how can we really understand our own sinfulness and His holiness where those who are going to walk upright before the Father and begin to know Him have to do so only as they are In Christ. Jesus had been so passionate after His Fathers approval and attention, and to know Him in the most intimate manner, therefore, if anyone is going to know the Father, as Jesus knew and knows Him, that He truly is the way, the only Truth and the Life and no man, no man, no man can come to the Father but through Him, we must adhere to what He taught, seeking to understand His heart and mind. When the church loses this focus, it has lost everything, and subsequently will fall into all kinds of deceptions, errors, and doctrines of demons leaving the truth and embracing an error and those who would teach the same error; and certainly there are many teachers who will accommodate these errors and doctrines that are man centered and not God centered. However in doing so have no place in the Father nor In Christ where the realities of their kingdom remain distant in them.
When preachers no longer correct what is false, unholy, and ungodly in their assemblies they make a grave mistake because it is in our adherence to the scripture that keeps us in good stead with our God who seeks to reveal Himself to us. Without God revealing Himself our inner life remains but a dust storm, our understanding in the dark where any knowledge that we believe we have of God is but hearsay, religious, and subject to all kinds of error. When one replaces the gospel message with a message that is self-centered and self-serving, i.e. is bent toward personal success, prosperity, self-actualization rather than poverty of spirit and humility they make a dire mistake. Certainly self-sacrifice, a personal cross, or things like these will not be tolerated or mentioned and are avoided altogether in most contemporary churches, at least by those who would rather please men rather than God. Sunday mornings have become a time to be entertained, laugh, listen to feel good music, watch uplifting dramas, or play acting, where many gimmicks are used to focus the attention of their audiences upon things that will make them feel good rather than upon a self-surrendered life to Christ. Our pastors have become our personal cheerleaders following after one church model after another short changing those who long for a deeper relationship with their God. Eventually these too will begin to leave. If you truly want to fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to know their realities in your life than you better attend to sound doctrine and settle upon the idea that you will have to make some sacrifices.
Why itching ears and teachers who would attempt to scratch that itch it is because many grow cold and indifferent toward the message. Why they is this true it is because they have not gone beyond the fundamentals unto the riches of Christ. They remain without sight and hearing of those things that the Father has placed in His Son, the glories of heaven itself.
To them (gentiles) God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
Let us be those who are content with sound teaching striving to draw from it the many riches that lie beneath its surface, yet for a time its surface seem hard and unyielding, let us work hard to till it, with the Holy Spirit help and assistance, until it yields its abundance to us and truly recognize it for what it is. Therefore let us work and strive to be found in Christ, and in His righteousness, and enter further into His unshakeable kingdom as the ground under our feet begins to shake. Let us be men and women whom Tozer spoke of….
…these peculiar men and women (Christians) were beholding a city invisible; they were walking day by day in the light of another and eternal kingdom. They were already tasting the powers of the world to come and enjoying afar the triumph of Christ and the glories of the new creation.