TruthInvestigate

“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sorcery in the church today

“As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.” (Mk. 1:2). “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” (Mk. 1:3). The scriptures referred here are two. The first being Malachi 3:1. Malachi was the last voice from heaven sent to the Jews about 450 years before John the Baptist began preaching. We can gather from John’s intimate knowledge of the Old Testament messages from God that John studied this last prophet and gathered much of his preaching material from this prophecy.

Both Malachi and John foresaw the soon arrival of the Messiah. Malachi’s original prophecy stated, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:1). John preached, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.” (Matt. 3:11).

Both saw the Messiah’s coming as a day of judgment and the application of much spiritual heat. Malachi wrote, “But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.” (Mal.3:2-4). John cried, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:11,12).

Both saw the presence of Satan among God’s people. Malachi prophesied, “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not Me, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:5). But who could be the sorcerers, adulterers, and oppressors? “But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7). The religious leaders were the sorcerers, adulterers, oppressors, and false prophets.

The religious leaders incriminated themselves with their own lewd parable. “Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
And last of all the woman died also.
Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.” (Matt. 22:24-28). “They all had her.” The Pharisees had come to Him to tempt Him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Matt. 19:3).

Jesus’ response was an implied rebuke, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matt. 19:9). He had previously given the declaration, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20). So we begin to see who Malachi was speaking of when he prophesied the Messenger’s swift witness against adulterers.

Another evidence that the religious leadership were the sorcerers and oppressors of Malachi’s prophecy comes from the subtle methods to circumvent the Law of God. “Corban” was a means authorized by the priests whereby the wealthy could keep the use of their possessions instead of giving it to their aging parents, so long as they pledged the donation of that wealth to the temple to be given after their death. This Christ exposed.

“God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is [Corban], by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matt. 15:4-6). “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” (Matt. 23:14).

But, how could this be considered sorcery? The Lord had, since ancient times, described stubbornness to the calling of the Holy Spirit as spiritualism. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1Sam. 15:23). Like King Saul, the rulers of Christ’s day showed their witchcraft and sorcery in their rebellion and refusal to accept the purity in the character of Jesus as undeniably abundant evidence that they were witnessing the wonderful works of the promised Messiah.

So the official priests and scribes and Levites, as well as the self-appointed Pharisees and Sadducees, were the sorcerers of whom Malachi warned and who Christ pointed out. Isn’t that interesting? Certainly they had read Malachi’s book without recognizing themselves in the prophecy. They no doubt, saw the Romans, the publicans, and the prostitutes as the wicked people Malachi pointed to. The religious leaders busied themselves with pulling out the dust specks from the eyes of the poor masses, so that the masses couldn’t suspect the logs in the leaders’ eyes.

So as it turned out, the roles were reversed. The first were last, and the last first. Did the religious leaders who everyone followed look like witches and warlocks? Not at all. They didn’t wear pointed hats with stars and moons in them. Yet they were doing the work of Satan, and being even more effective than the pagan Romans and the Egyptians because of their sanctimonious, holy-looking sacred robes. “They [made] broad their phylacteries, and [enlarged] the borders of their garments.” (Matt. 23:5).

All this was the life story of King Saul. He may have appeared to be innocent and righteous, but his heart had fallen away from God and he felt no compunction to return to the glorious sanctifying influence that comes from communion with God’s Spirit. He had an evil heart of unbelief. He did not desire to have with God what the Lord graciously had showed him through the deep friendship which his son, Jonathan, had with David. This should have convicted him of his great sin in departing from the living God, and it could have. But instead, he continued his charade of holiness in order to hold on to the good life which royalty gave him and his family, and to fight for the prestige that came with his high status.

So Satan came in and possessed him. God backed away and “the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul.” (1Sam. 19:9). Even this could have been enough to convince Saul to seek God again, and God would have happily received him with open arms; but the king persisted in his stubbornness to live apart from God. Saul faked the life of joy and peace and righteousness. He flattered himself in his own eyes, “until his iniquity [was] found to be hateful.” (Ps. 36:2). His heart was not renewed by gracious contact with the loving God, and selfishness oozed from him despite his goodly exterior. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12). His condition was desperate—an evil heart—far from innocuous, though it appeared that way. As Satan took possession of him he fell into the group that is destitute of anything good: “beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children.” (2Pet. 2:14).

Here is where the witchcraft comes into play. He beguiled his own unstable soul and that of others’ as well. Unable to demonstrate a life of walking with God, he led multitudes to follow his example of living an apparently moral and pious life without any connection with Jesus. Thus, during his early days under the mandate of the Lord, he had ridden the land of witches; but later, by departing from the Lord, he became the unsuspected high priest of sorcery in Israel.

Today, do we have Sauls for rulers of the Advent movement? Are all of our leaders really connected with God? Have they wrestled with God and found a friend in Jesus? Can they speak of Jesus in a convincing way, and preach Him from the New Testament as well as the Old? Do they rule like King David, justly in the fear and love of God?

And if they don’t, or cannot at the present, will they escape repeating Saul’s ill response to the Spirit’s call to get with Jesus and his tragic end? Will they seek Him out with all their heart, will they wrestle to know His grace, until they find Him? Because His promise to them is, “I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” (Jer. 29:14). Or, will admitting to living apart from God be too much to risk for ministers of the gospel, as it was with Saul? If they repeat Saul’s choice to live apart from the Spirit of God, they join the ranks of sorcery, beguiling unstable souls, coming under Satan’s full control and ultimately receiving the mark of the beast.

Praise music.

The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.
As spiritualism more closely imitates the nominal Christianity of the day, it has greater power to deceive and ensnare. Satan himself is converted, after the modern order of things. He will appear in the character of an angel of light. Through the agency of spiritualism, miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and many undeniable wonders will be performed. And as the spirits will profess faith in the Bible, and manifest respect for the institutions of the church, their work will be accepted as a manifestation of divine power.
The line of distinction between professed Christians and the ungodly is now hardly distinguishable. Church members love what the world loves and are ready to join with them, and Satan determines to unite them in one body and thus strengthen his cause by sweeping all into the ranks of spiritualism.
Great Controversy, p. 588.

One indication that sorcery, or spiritualism, is making its way into our ranks is in the “praise music” which has become so popular of late, the acceptance of which our leaders have blessed. The old hymns retold what God has done, taught, and promised; they delineate God’s love for us, His justice and mercy for fallen man. But all this is surprisingly absent from praise music. The name of Jesus shows up repetitiously again and again throughout the new lyrics, but the gospel is subtly altered by words which express how much I love Him and how He is my all in all. Praise songs aren’t about Jesus; they are about how righteous the singer is. The lyrics are not about how good and loving the Redeemer is, but how good and loving the worshipper is. So, where is the singer focused? On self and a mushy, love-sick sentimentalism toward the holy God whose name is Reverend, just the thing Satan loves in order to mock the Creator in the worship service.

And when this deceptive form of self-praise is united with pastors and leaders preaching sermons which exclude a knowledge of the character of Jesus and in His work to save us from sin, then we have a fully developed and perfected recipe for false worship, even in the Advent movement, where it appears that Jesus is our subject of interest, but in reality His affect on our faith is absent. Thus, we see in our day the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy quoted above, “As spiritualism more closely imitates the nominal Christianity of the day, it has greater power to deceive and ensnare. Satan himself is converted, after the modern order of things.”

What they desire is a method of forgetting God which shall pass as a method of remembering him. Ibid. p. 572.

I saw that Satan was working through agents in a number of ways. He was at work through ministers who have rejected the truth and are given over to strong delusions to believe a lie that they might be damned. While they were preaching or praying, some would fall prostrate and helpless, not by the power of the Holy Ghost, but by the power of Satan breathed upon these agents, and through them to the people. While preaching, praying, or conversing, some professed Adventists who had rejected present truth used mesmerism to gain adherents, and the people would rejoice in this influence, for they thought it was the Holy Ghost. Some even that used it were so far in the darkness and deception of the devil that they thought it was the power of God, given them to exercise. They had made God altogether such a one as themselves and had valued His power as a thing of nought. Early Writings, p. 45.

For the lack of knowing Jesus and preaching Jesus, Adventist preaching in America is now following on the heals of mainline Protestantism, whom the Lord took away in 1844, and which now exalts the supposed presence of the Holy Spirit and substitutes the worshiping of It in the place of the preaching of Jesus. The popular denominations would not suffer the scoffing against the present truth of Millerism in the 1840s, and thus, became the source of it. Since then, they have enjoyed the safety and comfort of popularity in America for 165 years, and have had nothing spiritually to struggle with and wrestle for.

“They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.
Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.” (Ps. 73:5-7).

Therefore, they could not know condemnation, and therefore, they could not need grace. Adventism has had its own period of ease and comfort for the past 90 years since the voice of Ellen White ceased, and as a body, is also left largely inexperienced with condemnation, or the need of grace. Now they want to claim that they have a relationship with God. But this cannot be if they have never wrestled with God.

“Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel [Protestantism] hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto Me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah [Adventism] saw it.
And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding [Protestantism] committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister [Adventism] feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that [Protestantism] defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
And yet for all this her treacherous sister [Adventism] hath not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 3:6-10).

We would do well to hear the above judgment of heaven against today’s Christendom, Adventism included. As He did with the ten tribes of Israel in 722 B.C., in 1844 the Lord took away the many denominations of Protestantism, and, like Judah, Adventism carried the torch of truth. But, how are we today? Today, as with Judah in the past, how are the fallen churches around us different from Adventism, caught up in worldliness and in the Charismatic movement? Shouldn’t the Lord judge us for all this? What does His word say?

“Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: and shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord’s.
For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against Me, saith the Lord.
They have belied the Lord, and said, It is not He; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine:
And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them.
Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make My words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.
Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the Lord: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.
Their quiver is as an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men.
And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat: they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds: they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees: they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword.
Nevertheless in those days, saith the Lord, I will not make a full end with you.
And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the Lord our God all these things unto us? then shalt thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken Me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours.” (Jer. 5:9-19).

Doesn’t the Lord love His remnant church? Yes, He loves us as much as He did the Old Testament Jews. They were the apple of His eye, and so are we. Zech. 2:8;2SM 396. Yet, He still brought them affliction through captivity to Babylon. Who again reigns over the earth just before Jesus returns? “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Rev. 17:5). “For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” (Rev. 18:23).

Spiritualism will conquer the world. Will Adventism escape it? Current indications say, No. Satan is ravaging us, “for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun.” (Num. 16:46).

“And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” (Rev 13:3). “And when they [the Lord’s preachers of law and grace] shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.” (Rev. 11:7-10). “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication
, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” (Rev 18:1-5). “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Rev 11:11-13).

The Advent movement is a prisoner of hope and will sail through to the very day Jesus returns. The promise to us is, the Lord will “destroy; but make not a full end.”

The majority will dodge the condemning voice of Ellen White and apostatize, but salvation will come to the world through the Advent movement. The Adventist sorcerers will be desolated and destroyed, and the true Adventists will be the objects of the last great holocaust. But out of the time of trouble “such as never was” the message given us by Jesus through Ellen White will be the only safety to steer a right course through all the confusion of the very last days.

The Spirit of Prophecy, whose emphasis is obedience to the Law of God, is the sole means today to keep us from “walking in craftiness,” or “handling the word of God deceitfully.” (2Cor. 4:2). The counsels of Ellen White will have prepared the 144,000 who go through the last great conflict, so that “in their mouth was found no guile.” (Rev. 14:5). They are like their Master who was spotless, “neither was any deceit in His mouth.” (Is. 53:9). Hypocrisy is gone from among the Lord’s remnant people. Sorcery and falsehoods have been shaken out; spiritualism cannot enter. Through the wrestling for a friend in God and His gifts of repentance and obedience to His Law, they escaped the strong delusion that swept the world into the sorcery of the Charismatic movement, filled with professed Christians who “had pleasure in unrighteousness,” and who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2Thess. 2:12,10).

Devoid of any shame and guilt from the Law of God and of any wrestling to receive the blessing of peace with heaven, through the lawless and graceless Evangelical false worship and error-ridden doctrines and eschatology, Satanic control will be quarantined in all who were shaken out of the Advent movement, all who refused to be humbled by the high standards of the Spirit of Prophecy and receive the repentance that needed not to be repented of. The rest will “be quickened...together with Christ” and be “raised...up together”, and be “made...to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5,6). They will “ascend into the hill of the Lord”, they will “stand in His holy place”, they have “clean hands and a pure heart”, and have not “lifted up [their] soul unto vanity”. They “shall receive the blessing of the Lord, and righteousness from the God of [their] salvation.” (Ps. 24:3-5).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Righteousness by the experience of humbling, a commentary on Saint Job, the Great

This post is not an attack on this servant of the Lord. “The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Job was stuck in a trap that only the Lord could deliver him from. It’s a real event in history that we can all learn from because we are all in the same trap, from the most religious person to the most secular. We were born in it.

When one keeps reading beyond the first two chapters of Job, he finds that Job wasn’t totally perfect, even though God said he was. God can declare us righteous in name and begin to make us so in heart, but there will always be room for improvement in the life and character. And we need to always be aware of this fact and never think we are a finished product of God’s grace, a lesson which we learn from the experience of Job.

The reality was that although Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil,” (Job 1:1) and was genuinely seeking God, he still had a “secret love.” (Prov. 27:5). No one had known of this darling sin, not even Job. But God saw it; and so did Satan. And Job’s secret sin is still a mystery to multitudes of Christians, as it was to Job’s family and friends. Largely, it is a mystery because multitudes are indulging it, too; therefore they can’t see it.


If you keep your ears perked today you will occasionally hear the common sentiment, “How great was Job’s patience! Even in such pain he maintained his faith!” It seems we have beatified Job and made his experience a super-human fiction, as if it belongs to the Apocrypha. But, the last third of the Job account would reveal a totally different picture of St. Job if people would read that far.

We love heroic stories and are quick to make heroes of anybody and everybody. The ancient myths come down to us due to this propensity to exalt the human. The gods were originally men and women—sinners like us, who gained widespread celebrity status because of some extra endowment of intellect or physical strength or beauty, or even, a seemingly great morality. Satan used their extra God-given endowments to make them objects of worship. He gave these individuals notoriety, and thus kept multitudes’ focus away from God and on the sinful human hero, whose worship was a proxy for self-worship, and, ultimately, the worship of Satan. The devil still uses this tactic today. Too often, those who are best known in the public eye, who make the newspaper headlines for doing some great good for the nation or the world, are Satan’s best agents for destroying the earth through the worship of other gods instead of the Lord. Without the word of God as our guide to unmask this tragedy, we humans are easily misled.

Especially did the post-exilic Jews and the apostatized early church exaggerate the practice of setting moral giants as their center of focus. Yet, the church looking to these moral heroes—even to newly invented characters for Paul or Peter or John—was bold idolatry of the darkest hue, on a par with everything vulgar paganism had produced. It has sent billions of lifelong devotees to their hapless graves miserable from worshiping humans. The resultant ascetic life has plagued every religion from the beginning of time. From time immemorial, vanity and vexation of spirit has been the fruit of false religion in men who could not see their sinfulness to repent of it for all their morality and outstanding religiosity, and by multitudes who inherited a less than praiseworthy willpower for good but were taught that praising the moral heroes would satisfy God for the lack of willpower in the multitude. This we see in the life and times of St. Job, and in the response to Job by so many Christians today.

Job had failed in a big way. But because Job didn’t recognize in himself any fault that could have contributed to his calamities at the beginning of the story, in the end we hear the Lord coming on to him with some pretty strong language that seems surprising—almost incomprehensibly arbitrary—since He praised Job in front of Satan at the beginning. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me.” (Job 38:1-3).

Before I go on, right here I need to confirm that Job did love the Lord. He was seeking and striving to know God. His morning and evening offerings were genuine and from his heart. But, something prevented the Lord’s perfect blessing on Job’s family. Something was making all of his children go awry. The first two chapters of the book don’t say what the problem was.
Where was Job’s failure? Was it in a bad life? No, quite the contrary. What plagued him so much that the Lord was forced to unleash Satan on him with full fury, was that Job had never done anything wrong. I mean nothing really wrong. He wasn’t really a sinner, like others. Read his self-assessment in chapters 29-31! He had been a really good person! But by his own admission, he had become a moralist. His words were of himself, and not of his Lord. Since out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, his focus had been on his own goodness. He had lost his focus on his true strength. This caused the attack by Satan.

Recently, I attended a conference on Righteousness By Faith that was misguided in its understanding of sin. And at one point the comment was made that babies aren’t sinners—using the definition of James 4:17, babies aren’t culpable for sin because they don’t know what they do wrong, therefore sin cannot be imputed to them! But that’s trying to pull good news out of a wrong premise. Wow, that was good news if I ever heard it, even though it is very wrong! With that reasoning, according to Rom. 5:13,14 babies should never die.

The good news isn’t that we aren’t born sinners until some age of accountability; the good news isn’t that we are free from condemnation for sins not realized. The truth is that everyone of us are born sinners and are culpable for every sin we ever commit against God; yet the good news is that God is so infinitely forbearing that He gives the whole planet grace for the duration of this lifetime when we don’t even know we need His grace. His mercy endures to the infinite depths of forbearance, and His mercy has endured on and on with this world bankrupt of His love and goodness.

Our first birth was messed up; otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a dire need for a second birth. If our first birth were only a little evil, then we need only a lukewarm remedy for it. A lukewarm burnt offering on a cross. Preachers who are trying to ease the burdened consciences of people by telling them they aren’t such bad sinners are only making things worse for their followers. It’s only the power of divine rebuke that will bring us to our knees. And these false pastors are diminishing the divine rebuke, and thus cooperate with Satan to prevent their parishioners from ever getting to the breaking point. “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:14). But, as we see from the Lord’s words to Job, He didn’t mind bringing Job to the breaking point.

The good news of the gospel is that “open rebuke is better than secret love.” “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Pro. 27:5,6). The open rebuke of a faithful friend is the power of God unto salvation, especially when that friend is Jesus or His servants. Reproof also means the demise of Satan. Our Savior, the friend of sinners, said to saint Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan.” He said this because His beloved disciple was trying to water down the plan of salvation. As many as He loves, He rebukes and chastens. Thus, we see the Lord’s use of conviction in His work to save us and we see Satan’s continued effort to minimize the strong language of the Bible which leads souls to repentance and faith.

The problem with St. Job is summed up in Elihu’s judgment on him, “Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying, I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, He findeth occasions against me, He counteth me for His enemy.” (Job 33:8-10). Basically, St. Job is saying, “I never did anything wrong! I was framed! I don’t deserve all this torment!” What we actually deserve is hell. But God gives us all a lifetime of opportunities to come to repentance and surrender, to save us from hell.

But how can anyone really need God’s justification if they have never done anything really bad? Yet, I know many miserable moralists, in church and outside of it, who are making a wreck of their lives and the lives of their spouse and children because they can never own up to their sins, and then know the peace of God. They can never know how good Jesus is because they refuse to admit to being bad, really bad, deserving of nothing but eternal death. So, they can never be converted; they never get more than lukewarm justification. Of course, they admit to being sinners, but not really bad sinners; just little sinners, lukewarm sinners. The devil has convinced them that they should not have to hear strong reproof because they are pretty good people. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that no one can be perfect, except Jesus? (A tragic misquote of Romans 3:10,23.) They have turned away from the rebuke of the Spirit of truth, the straight testimony of the True Witness.

In the meantime, they are blocked from having the peace of God and the love of Jesus. And if they continue with this rebellion until the day they die,—and multitudes are going to their graves in this condition—they will wake up one day and hear the horrifying words of Jesus, “I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt.7:23). How can they be workers of iniquity when they can say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22). Yet, they will hear His one answer. “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:30).

Happily we can say that Job broke under the pressure of God. He bowed his pride and closed his mouth. But with this backdrop of Job’s saintliness, let’s look at some of the things that St. Job said to distinguish himself as a great moralist.

“I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.
Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.
My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.
Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.
After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.
And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.
If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down.
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.” “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high?
Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?” (Job 29:14-25; 31:1-3).

Then comes a series of “ifs” from the mouth of Job and moral oaths of appropriate divine punishment on wicked sin, as a great finale of his last soliloquy. “If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit; let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.” (Job 31:5,6).
“If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out.” (vs. 7,8).
“If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door; then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her.
For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.
For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase.” (vs. 9-12).
“If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when He visiteth, what shall I answer Him?” (vs. 13,14).
“If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;
if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
if I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:
then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.” (vs. 16,19-22).
“If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence;
If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much;
If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness;
And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand:
This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.” (vs. 24-28).
“If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom: did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door?” (vs. 33,34).

Job was God’s servant and under extreme physical agony and the force of despondency. His record had been good, and leaves us a high standard to study for our obedience to God. However, as righteous-sounding as this all was, it was vanity, and ended up with vexation of spirit. It was self-manufactured and self-exalting. If it were not, then he would not have received the powerful rebuke from Elihu and then from the Lord after His servant finished reproving Job. “Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.” (Job 31:35). Solomon had the right answer to all this, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecc. 1:2).

But with all due respect God couldn’t let this self-righteousness in His servant continue. So, He who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will gave Satan full reign (except to end Job’s life) and then permitted Job’s wife and three friends to heighten his misery until he would incriminate himself.

Finally Elihu brought St. Job some relief, but not without severely rebuking him. Said Elihu, “Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment.
Should I lie against my right? my wound is incurable without transgression.” “What man is like Job, who drinketh up scorning like water?
Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men.” (Job 34:5-8).

St. Job had become victim of one of Satan’s oldest tricks. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Rom. 1:18). Job became full of “great swelling words of vanity.” (2Pet. 2:18). Without anyone realizing it, St. Job was on the road to doing the original work of Satan, who had “a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.” (Dan. 7:20).

Satan’s greatest success has been in stifling the authority of God to rebuke sin. This has left the church unrepentant and lifeless. She is “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1). Without the humbling that comes with conviction of sin, and then the resulting repentance, we sinners are most miserable. Proud morality might feel good to the unregenerate heart, but the result is a restless, living death, an eternally burning hell. “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” (Rev. 3:1). This condition is further described in the 3rd angel’s message, and in light of Israel’s bitterness from turning away from Jehovah’s reproofs, which reveals that Christless, loveless, proud morality is the cause of the Mark of the Beast. “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev. 14:11).

The sinner must be humbled before he or she can accept the grace that God offers and have true peace. Self must be broken, and Jesus billets Himself as the right person to make that happen. “Whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken.” (Matt. 21:44).

His strong language and harsh consequences to sin will be just the tonic to quicken us and bring us back to life. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12).

Let us avail ourselves of His power through His humbling. But to those who choose not to be tested and tried and have their pride planted in the dust, crucified with Christ, He says, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” (Jn. 13:8). “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Heb. 10:38).

Let us trust the Lawgiver and High Priest, our Prince and Savior, that He will not give needless pain to our sensitive soul. “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” (Is. 42:3). “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up.” (Hos. 6:1). The offense of the cross may hurt now, but it will feel better later. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1Cor. 10:13). In Christ, we will know that we have a true father, one who really cares about us. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6).

The suffering and the humbling will be doable; for He has done it all before us. “Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Is. 53:12).

“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29,30).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Failing of the grace of God

“For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation.” (Hab. 1:6). Why was Babylon a bitter and impatient nation? Why were they so described as “terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves”? (vs.7). They were like their predecessors the Assyrian potentate, who said, “Are not my princes altogether kings?” (Isa 10:8). And it was “in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.” (vs. 7). How did they become such violent aggressor nations?

The answer is found in spiritualism—a subtle spiritualism that resides in every unconverted heart.

“I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” (Jer. 23:14-17).

Doesn’t Jeremiah refer back to Moses? “And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:
The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.” (Deut. 29:19,20). As we have said before, Paul pointed to the real cause of bitterness. “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.” (Heb 12:15).

Failing to receive grace. Nothing can make a soul so indifferent to love and faith as having no grace shown to it. Nothing can harden a sinner in sin as a world without grace. Nothing else can make life so meaningless and purposeless.

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph 2:1). How did God quicken us to life? “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved.)” (vs. 4,5). Graces softens the heart of the recipient. Grace makes truly peaceful souls. Grace evaporates our pride and our swaggering presumption. The goodness of God leads sinners to repentance and humbles the heart like nothing else can.

But there is a connection between spiritualism and a life devoid of mercy and grace. What is that connection? We can see it in the serpent’s first promise. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5). Satan led Eve away from her natural-born childlike love of trust and relationship, and wisdom packaged within the context of trust and love, to an empty search for knowledge, sophistication and ambition.

Eve was tempted to leave her simplicity and to chase complexity which would only end in her confusion. She accepted a life devoid of grace but full of high hopes of a suitable substitute in the satisfaction of curiosity. It isn’t that in her innocence she couldn’t handle wisdom and knowledge, which implies that the simple life God gave them leads to ignorance. But the Lord had planned to teach that holy couple slowly, in His time, and on His terms. Yes, He wanted them to be all that they could be; but only as quickly as they could receive it. He wanted them to have a depth of knowledge that wouldn’t destroy them. But the serpent had one purpose; he was bent on their eternal destruction.

Would attainment of knowledge however great, silence the need of a good conscience? Can sterile wisdom replace the wholesomeness of the wisdom that comes from communion with the Spirit of God? Yet, once having chosen a life apart from God, mankind became subjects to the spirit of darkness. Satan himself has abandoned the God of grace and he is driven to darkness. Grace, now, is his arch enemy, gracelessness his greatest ally, and he will do his utmost to keep man from ever discovering the need of it. Thus it is as Christ said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat 7:14).

Mankind is enticed to do great things, study great ideas, achieve, accomplish, discover, and invent, to be awarded with badges, honors, applause. Each generation moves farther and farther from the last great revival of primitive godliness under grace in the Protestant Reformation. The further it moves from simplicity and grace the more bound up it is into vanity and vexation of spirit. Decadence and promiscuity attempt to heal the wounded souls, but only amplify the destitution of the empty hearts.

Vices and lawlessness only spread desolation. Gadgets and games only postpone the inevitable collapse. The addictions attending the dissolute lives imprison the masses in Satan’s power, chaining them to his car. They are under his strict control and he manipulates them to further destroy all evidence of grace, even leading men to kill those who know God’s grace.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom 1:28-32).

There is only one remedy—return to the simplicity of Eden. “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3,4). This simplicity was in the mind of Christ. “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” (Isa 53:2). “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.” (Jn. 5:19,20).

In the demonstration of Christ’s self-forgetful love, and His precepts concerning the same, we find the only escape from the scourge of bitterness plaguing the world today. In His substitutionary death as the Lamb of God we have deliverance from this bitter and hasty modern life.

“I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa 57:19-21). Who has not already seen enough of life to acknowledge that there is no peace with those who pursue the life of disobedience to God's law of love and liberty?

Brands plucked from the fire

“And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech. 3:1,2).

To understand this we need to look at the account written in the book of Ezra. Chapter 1 was Cyprus’ proclamation to Israel to rebuild the temple. Chapter 2 lists the families who left captivity to return home to rebuild Israel and the temple—almost 50,000 people.

“And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.
Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.
And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.
They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required;
And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.
From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid.
They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.” (Ezra 3:1-7).

An altar was set up to which all the people willingly united around. It had been 70 years since they had worshipped at God’s altar. That altar had been despised before the destruction of Jerusalem and conversion and repentance had been completely dismissed. Now the Lord had given a beautiful new heart and mind toward spirituality and consecration to His service.

“Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.
Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites.
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.
And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:
So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.” (Ezra 3:8-13). They desired a new temple.

But no sooner had they laid the foundation of the house for God than the local people wanted to join in the work. Maybe it meant employment and a temporary income—money being their primary motive. But another reason was that they wanted to take some of the credit of the building. “I built that!” “Our people built that.” It would also give Satan opportunity for influencing the service and the Hebrew religion. But Zerubbabel the prince and Joshua the high priest could give them only one answer: “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.” (Ezra 4:3).

“Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,
And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 4:4-6).

Do you know this experience? Has this ever happened to you? Have you turned your back on God and on repentance and consecration to Him, and so He let the devil come in and bury you under a mountain of trouble? Finally you began to desire reconciliation with heaven and finally returned to the old altar you had despised. You sensed that God had brought you back to Himself and faith took hold of His promises to forgive and receive you again. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.
And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” (Jer. 29:11-14).

Now you desire to rebuild a new religious experience to house the God who had reclaimed you from a life of living death. And like the builders of the temple in Israel we laid the foundation but worried if it measured up to the faith we remembered having in our more innocent, younger years.

Then came along people to “help” us rebuild according to their specification. “We should do this, like they’ve done,” or that, “because it worked for them.” Human traditions. But in reality, God is guiding us to rebuild on His statutes and ways and on our new covenant with Him. He has the specification and we must follow His guiding. “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” (1Jn 2:26,27).

He is our schoolmaster, and He will teach us out of His law. “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts.” (Ps. 119:97-100).

We cannot abide by the restrictions and alterations from God’s will which Satan would place on us. But when Satan sees that his counsels go unheeded, he turns on us to frustrate our efforts to gain a better, clearer knowledge of Jesus and His righteousness. He weighs us down with our bad past.

“And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.
Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:
Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites,
And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.
This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time.
Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.
Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.
Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;
That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.
We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.
Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time.
The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.
And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.
There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.
Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me.
Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.
Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:7-24).

The past was dredged up in public and the work to build the temple ended. Shame and discouragement stopped the work of God for 2 years. This is where Zechariah and his vision of Joshua enter. Joshua saw himself and his people guilty of heinous sins—unforgettable sins. Have you ever felt that our past was unforgivable? It seemed like that to Joshua. So the Lord represented that in a vision to Zechariah through the figure of Joshua in putrid, raggedy, beggar’s clothing. Joshua was wholly unfit to seek God—or was he? But he was doing it anyway. Was he hoping for God’s mercy? Satan’s argument was, “How can he? How dare he?” But how else can we approach the holy One? There is only one way to come to Christ—acknowledging our deficiencies and faultiness but hoping He will be merciful and accepting. Because none of us deserve even the least of His mercies.

All we can ever pray is Daniel’s prayer, “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from Thy judgments:
Neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither Thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee.
O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee.
To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.” (Dan. 9:5-9).

The Lord raised up Nebuchadnezzar to punish Israel. Those whose pride was humbled were received again into the Lord’s love and peace. So we see Christ, the Angel of the Lord, forcing Satan to leave the sinner who was seeking to regain a lost relationship with God. “And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech. 3:2). “And He answered and spake unto those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.” (Zech. 3:4, 5).

“Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.” (Ezra 5:2). With justification and reconciliation with God came a new power to build and finish the dwelling place for the Lord. Now nothing could stop them, not even threats from powerful local authorities appealing to the king. The effort was made to stop the temple building, “which temple ye are.” (1Cor. 3:17). “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2Cor. 6:16). The whole time the king was researching the authority to rebuild the temple; the temple rebuilding was going on through to the end, not slowing a bit; this because of the Lord’s vision to Zechariah for all the people represented in Joshua the high priest.

“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zech. 4:6,7).

“And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1Sam. 17:47).

We have our own temple to build for the indwelling of the Spirit of God. But the building is God’s work with our cooperation. Under His supervision, we build the soul temple for His abiding presence. “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. …
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (Jn. 14:21,23). “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” (Jn. 15:10). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12 ,13). And we have He promise, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6). “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2). He will begin it and He will finish it.

The work of sanctification and building the soul temple is God’s work. “The battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2Chron. 20:15). “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the LORD:
Even He shall build the temple of the LORD; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zech. 6:12,13). We are definitely involved. No one is coerced into building for God. But if we don’t build, then we won’t have His abiding presence. If that is what we want, we can live out our threescore years and ten here and then die, as if we never existed.

But if we want more than this, we must work for it. We must seek Him and let His Spirit guide us in how to get a clearer view of Christ and His righteousness and acceptance. But He will be the inspiration for His temple building. And He will get all the credit. “My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” (Ps. 34:2).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In close with Jesus

I am jealous of Isaac. He lived in paradise. His home from childhood to adulthood was a constant haven of rest. His father had studied in the school of Christ and had learned all the lessons of goodness and greatness before Isaac was born. His mother also had learned holiness and righteousness. They could provide a peaceful, loving home to their only child. They could love him without worshipping him. The family could have been dirt poor and Isaac would have been a happy, healthy, holy youth, destined to greatness in all things.

Isaac had no dangers or threats to dwell on and be influenced by. Evil words and practices stayed out of their home because God shined in it. Their homestead was His sanctuary. As it is written, “And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” (Ex. 25:8). Every square inch God was there. If Abraham moved, God went with him. His covenant with that family was, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” (Ex. 33:14). And Abraham’s covenant to God was, “For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee.” (Ps. 84:10-12).

Isaac knew perfect happiness. His name meant laughter and he knew by experience that a joyful heart does good like medicine. The faith of Abraham was transmitted to the son. As his father walked in perfect communion with God, so did Isaac. The fallen human nature existed in Isaac as much as in anyone, but his continuous meditation and prayer to god, even amid the busy transactions of running the family farm, kept him true and faithful to righteousness. The divine nature displaced his human nature.

Isaac lived in heaven, as Paul described the rebirth of the Abrahamic experience in the new church,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;
Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself:
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will:
That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ…. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 1:3-12;2:6).

As Abraham prefigured Paul, so Isaac represented the apostolic church, “the seed [that] should come to whom the promise was made.” (Gal 3:19). The church was sealed—sealed in that holy walk of faith and in the blessings of heaven that attend faith; not walking in condemnation of the law, but under the promise of acceptance by heaven.

The law had done its perfect work; condemnation had humbled and prepared the sinners; their presumption was renounced and their hearts had accepted subservience. Now Jesus could be Master of the saints as He had been with Isaac. So He could be just in justifying them, overlooking all their iniquity as He had done with Abraham and Isaac. This restoration of the life of faith had been predestinated from ancient times. Heaven had looked forward to it for nearly 2,000 years.

Now the Son of God had in the church what He worked toward since the days of the patriarchs—peace on earth and a home in the hearts of men. They had prepared a place for Jesus, and He and His Father could come to them and abide with them, as He had promised. (Jn. 14:23).

I dedicate Psalm 84 to those who, in the past, took part in the great revivals of righteousness by faith, and I look forwarded to the next great revival of it just before Jesus comes when we’ll be able to say, “This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek Thy face.” (Psa 24:6 ).

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Baca [tears] make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The creeping king of the north

How does Satan bring to nothing a movement established by God in a singular demonstration of supernatural power, as in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the birth of the apostolic church, or the establishment of Protestantism, humanly speaking against all odds? When the Lord of hosts has made bare His holy arm and saved His people in a mighty display of destruction on their enemies, the time comes that He must destroy the movement which He saved.

We see this repeated scenario of sacred history illustrated in Daniel’s vision of the anti-Christ. The “king of the north” was used as the lesson of this destructive power in Daniel 11 and one thing stands out which this “king” does several times. “With the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken.” (Dan. 11:22). A breaking forth of his forces seems to show up again and again, a sudden demonstration of his power.

Paul referred to this suddenness in 2Thess. 2:9 when he warned the church of the coming king of the north. Paul used the Greek parousia, a word which implies a surprise entrance. But we gather from Daniel 11 that a work precedes this surprise attack by the northern foe. We read in the previous verse, “He shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” (vs. 21). First a seeming delightful friend becomes devilish fiend, as he springs on his unsuspecting enemies.

Flattery, the exalting of the human abilities, talents, and natural or Spirit-given gifts would be the work of this “king” who had not yet come in Paul’s day (and therefore could not have been Antiochus Epiphanes, whom everyone today wants to call the arch-enemy of Daniel’s visions). His work would be peaceable, quiet, unaccountable, mysterious. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (vs. 7), and the “king” was already forming in the church. Peter and John, James and Jude, all blew the trumpet against this enemy of God and heaven. (2Pet 2;1Jn. 4:3,4;Jas.2:20;Jude 3,4).

An undercurrent, a silent dissolving of consecration to Christ, was at work in the late apostolic church. Paul bewailed it everywhere he went (Acts 20:29-31;1Tim. 4:1,2). He saw the approach of the king of the north, that antichristian power which prophecy had pointed out.

When a people can be brought through enough trial and conflict, their faith is refined and it glows with the beauty and translucence of burnished gold. But as decades pass the following generations don’t know the testing and purifying experience of their forebears. For all time the template for this repeated process comes down to us from the faithful word of God which liveth and abideth forever.

“Also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:
And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.” (Ju. 2:10-13). This was never again written so plainly because God only needs to be plain once, and we are to pay heed.

We don’t bow before the naked male and female statues of Baal and Ashtaroth. Today Satan doesn’t offer those objects or those degraded styles of worship practices—yet. But he changes his tactics to fool those who will not study the Bible and seek the discernment of the Holy Spirit. Thus he tricks multitudes; thus he rules the whole race.

The prince of darkness, who has so long bent the powers of his mastermind to the work of deception, skillfully adapts his temptations to men of all classes and conditions. … That mighty being who could take the world’s Redeemer to an exceedingly high mountain and bring before Him all the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them, will present his temptations to men in a manner to pervert the senses of all who are not shielded by divine power. GC p. 553.

“All the world wondered after the beast,” while they think they are being blessed by Christ. (Rev. 13:3;Jn. 12:19). What makes the difference between the multitudes that followed Jesus and those that think they do but really follow the Beast? How are they fooled?

First, let’s recognize that neither the whole world, nor even the whole nation of Israel went after Jesus. This exclamation of the priests in the previous reference from John 12:19 comes as an exaggerated misstatement based on a popular uprising among the Jews. Since the Jewish priesthood sought only for power over the people, instead of the revival of spirituality, when an appearance of loyalty shifted away from them to Christ, they feared to lose their power base. The reality of the Jews’ response to the holy Son of God was, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (Jn. 1:11). It is written that toward the end of Jesus’ work for them, “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” (Jn. 6:66). From Christ’s own mouth, “And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38).

But, how is Satan so successful in bringing about apostasies? What keeps causing this bait and switch among God’s people? How does this mystery of iniquity work? If we have the word of God, we shouldn’t be “ignorant of his devices;” we should be able to see how Satan works. (2Cor. 2:11). The architecture for apostasy is spelled out by James. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (Jas. 1:14). How is a consecrated mind and heart drawn away? By its own lusts. How can a consecrated heart have lusts? We can be partakers of the divine nature through the precious promises of scripture and escape the corrupting influence of self. But do we ever lose the roots of sin? Do we ever lose our fallen natures this side of heaven? No, this side of redemption that corrupted nature is only covered over by Christ’s power, and we retain a valid conversion only through faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us and as we maintain a vital connection with Him.

So the seeds of rebellion remain in us until Jesus comes again and then He will “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.” (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1Cor. 15:52). By faith we must hold fast our salvation.

But what does “by faith” mean? By faith means by a relationship with Jesus. Ah, but here lies Satan’s greatest of masterpieces! Define “a relationship with Jesus.” You see, Satan allows for the Bible to be sown broadcast today, so long as he gets to control its interpretation. So, in the time of the end where we are today, it is utmost essential that you “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” and not “handling the word of God deceitfully.” (2Tim. 2:15;2Cor.4:2).

What we see today in all religious circles, from Hinduism to Adventism, is claiming “the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions upon which mercy is to be granted.” GC. p. 472. This is not faith, but rather “it is presumption.” (Ibid.) “Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.” (Ibid.)

Every man may come into possession of this priceless blessing if he will comply with the conditions. All “who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality,” will receive “eternal life.” Romans 2:7. GC p.533.

“I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” Revelation 21:6. This promise is only to those that thirst. None but those who feel their need of the water of life, and seek it at the loss of all things else, will be supplied. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.” Verse 7. Here, also, conditions are specified. In order to inherit all things, we must resist and overcome sin. GC p.540.

Paul wrote of three golden treasures: “Charity out of a pure heart,” “a good conscience,” and “faith unfeigned.” (1Tim. 1:5). How were these purchased? What is the mechanics of their operation? A person could sleep very soundly every night and know perfect prosperity in this life if he had these. How do I get them? What does it profit to acquire the world’s greatest treasures and not gain these three?

Paul’s answer, “The end of the commandment” —the end product, the end result, of the Law of God upon the soul. The glorious good news is that God will bring us to this state of grace! Salvation is not our job. But, He will use His Law to humble us and save us. “What things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom. 3:19). But herein lays a barrier to salvation—not many desire the condemnation and humbling experience of standing before the authoritative voice of the Law of God.

Comets are a natural phenomenon in the night sky. Wispy light glows from a ball as it seems to speed across the cosmos. Closer investigation reveals that ice and space dust comprise the comets. Our Sun’s gravity pulls them into itself, and as a comets get closer to the sun’s heat, the ice melts and boils away, leaving a long trail of water vapor visible with the naked eye.

The sinner, in whatever religion or culture or country, feels the conviction of his sinfulness; the Law of God is impressing His conscience. The conscience is disturbed as the Spirit of God opens to the darkened mind the distinction between the sinner and God’s expectation of him. Will that Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim or Jew or Christian remain under the heat of the divine spotlight? How long will he squirm there? Will he wrestle with God? Will he allow himself to be kept drawn into the grip of God until God wins the battle for his soul?

Or will he go the way of the majority; will he prefer the millions of sidetracks and excursions Satan has planted in every culture and land through all time? If he will stay and wrestle with eternal things, one day he will know what Jacob experienced—the goodness of God and of holiness. Surrendering the resistance to God and His will, that person, in whatever religion, will become a child of the King of heaven. All such will have complied with the conditions of salvation and will know the promise for themselves, “They shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy.” (Rev. 3:4).

“All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.” (Jn. 6:37). Thus the Law of God plays a vital role in our beginning a valid relationship with Jesus. Without a knowledge of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, we would have no need of a Savior who can save everyone “to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” (Heb. 7:25). Every soul is given a lifetime of choices through which our Creator seeks to awaken the conscience and begin the saving process.

Thus it can be said of the multitudes of humanity throughout all ages, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (Jn. 1:11). The real question to ask is: Do we want a Jesus who represents His Father’s Law of perfect equity and purity? If no, Satan stands ready with a substitute Savior, one who will deal in formalities and traditions and who will skirt the issue of sin. Satan’s imitation Christ will not be in the business to save us from sin, but to “save” us in sin. This is accomplished simply through silence in the realm of God’s Law. The fake Jesus becomes the Savior of choice by those who prefer to avoid the humbling process of conviction. This Savior is the preference of these “rice Christians” because they desire a “rice Jesus,” an effeminate Messiah who never rebukes or condemns or makes demands on his followers. The cross in this substitute’s religion is only an object to look at, not to bear in the character.

The true Jesus declared in no uncertain terms: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:24,25). And the true Jesus exemplified burden-bearing and the daily dying of self. Through the Spirit He mortified sin in His inherited, weakened human flesh just as we must do—through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, seeing Him do it and then copying Him.

If we will choose to stay under the cutting laser of the all-searching jurisdiction of God’s Law; if we will be “naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13), then and only then can we take part in His salvation. Otherwise, in the words of Jesus, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” (Jn. 13:8).

“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:23-26). Being kept under the condemnation of the Law until we really need a Savior is the one and only way to the true faith which reaches all the way to the throne of grace.

Any other proposition that skirts the Law’s condemnation is satanic spiritualism, and, according to Paul, is emphatically accursed. (Gal. 1:8,9). But the end result of God’s Law is that Jesus becomes the new focus after God and His law have boiled away our rebellion and brought us to surrender. Only then are we truly humble disciples of His. Only then are we free from presumption. We are “children of God by faith in Christ” and worthy of His forgiveness. We have paid for it in our blood drawn from Christ’s word, which is sharper than any razor blade. We have sought the Savior with all our heart. We bought His wine and milk with the currency of heaven. (Is. 55:1).

From the beginning of the world, only those who stayed in the light of the Law of God ever came to true conversion, and discovered salvation from sin. Only they, of all Earth’s teeming crowds, looked up to heaven with Nebuchadnezzar after their own 7 years of madness, and could testify, “At the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation:
And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?
At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” (Dan. 4:34-37). With Nebuchadnezzar, they are the only true children of God in the congregation of the righteous.

This is faith, which comes as a gift from God, because He works it into us. By this faith we can look for a true Jesus and find Him. Without the faith that springs from the wrestling match with God the human heart can only hope in a pansy for the Son of God with fine female hands and wearing lipstick. But the Bible declares of Christ, “But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.” (Is. 11:4,5).

“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” (Ps. 2:12). “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty.
And in Thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things.
Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; whereby the people fall under Thee.
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” (Ps. 45:3-7).

Jesus is the light that lighteth every man that comes into the world; and John was a good reflection of Jesus. Therefore, of Christ it can be asked, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
But what went ye out for to see? A Man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
But what went ye out for to see? A Prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a Prophet.” (Matt. 11:7-9). Jesus sent word to John who was to be beheaded in prison, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” (Matt. 11:6).

Christ’s pre-carnate character did not change at His incarnation. “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? (Job 38:2). “Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me.
Wilt thou also disannul My judgment? Wilt thou condemn Me, that thou mayest be righteous?
Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like Him?
Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.
Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.
Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.
Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.” (Job 40:8-14). “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3). “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex.3:14).

Contrariwise, Satan flees the majesty and manliness of Christ. The devil disguises Christ’s strength of character, a “patience that nothing could disturb, and a truthfulness that would never sacrifice integrity.” “In principle firm as a rock.” DA. P.68.

“And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.” (Dan. 8:24,25).

During Satan’s silence concerning holy things, he has always cried, Peace, Peace, when there was only an imaginary peace. And today he cries, Relationship! Relationship with Jesus! When the provision for a valid relationship with Jesus has been made contemptible—the testimonies of Ellen G. White. Satan has worked “wonderfully” again. Jesus’ work through Mrs. White is our last hope to take part in the Latter Rain and to get ready for the time of trouble such as never was and the great second advent of Christ.

“A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jer. 5:30,31). How mysterious and prosperous Satan has been in the advent movement! Righteousness by Faith today means to disregard the Straight Testimony of the True Witness. Has anything changed from the days of Jeremiah?

Has our denomination changed Saviours? “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.
Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.
For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:12,13).” “Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” (Jer. 5:29).

“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
If any man have an ear, let him hear.” (Rev. 13:8,9). We need to heed this new apostasy now more than ever.

Friday, June 04, 2010

God our Savior

“And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech. 3:1,2).

To understand this scene we need to look at the account of Joshua, written in the book of Ezra. Chapter 1 was Cyrus’ proclamation to Israel to rebuild the temple of the Lord. Chapter 2 lists the families, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, who left their land of captivity to return home to rebuild Israel and the temple—approximately 50,000 people.

“And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.
Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.
And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening.
They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required;
And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord.
From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.
They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.” (Ezra 3:1-7).

An altar was set up around which the people willingly united “as one man”. It had been 70 years since they had worshipped at God’s altar. Their fathers had despised the altar of the Lord before the destruction of Jerusalem, and the brokenness and contrition that came from witnessing the death of innocent lambs and kid goats and heifers they had ridiculed. Hard-hearted, licentious Baal worship had been the popular form of religion. But now, through 70 years of hard labor, the Lord had given the Jews a new heart and mind toward spirituality and consecration to His service.

“Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord.
Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites.
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.
And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.
But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:
So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.” (Ezra 3:8-13). They desired a new temple, a new place for God to dwell with them.

But, no sooner had they laid the foundation of the house of God than the local people wanted to join in the work. Maybe it meant employment and an income for a while—money being their primary motive. But others more wily, through Satan’s inspiration, wanted to take some of the glory of the building, “I built that!” “Our people built that.” But worse, it would also provide them occasion for influencing the service of Jehovah and the Hebrew religion.

Therefore, Zerubbabel the prince and Joshua the high priest could only give them one answer: “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.” (Ezra 4:3). “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2Cor. 6:16).

“Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,
And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” (vs. 4-6).

Do you know this experience? Has this ever happened to you? Have you turned your back on God, on repentance and consecration, and so He let the devil harass and destroy you and bury you under a mountain of trouble? Finally you began to desire reconciliation with heaven and peace with God, and finally returned to the old altar you had despised so long before. You sensed that God had brought you back to Himself and faith took hold of His promises to forgive and receive you again to Himself. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.
And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” (Jer. 29:11-14).

Now, you desired to rebuild a new religious experience to house the God who had reclaimed you. And like the builders of the temple in Israel we laid the foundation, and then worried if it would measure up to the faith we remembered having in our more innocent, younger years.

Then came along people to “help” us rebuild according to their specification, that we should do this like they’ve done, or like that because it worked for them. But in reality, Jesus is guiding us to rebuild on Him and our new covenant with Him.

“These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” (1Jn. 2:26,27). Christ is our schoolmaster and wise character builder, and He will teach us out of His law.

“Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of Thy law.” (Ps. 94:12). “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” (Ps. 119:18).”Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.” (Ps. 119:98).

We cannot abide by the restrictions and alterations of God’s will which Satan and his agents would place upon us to confuse us. We are counseled from the scripture principle: “David girded his [Saul’s] sword upon his [Saul’s] armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.” (1Sam. 17:39). Likewise should the children of God let the Spirit and His baptism be their guide.

But when Satan sees that his proffered advice goes unheeded, he turns on us to frustrate our efforts to gain a better, clearer knowledge of Jesus and His righteousness.
“And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.
Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:
Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites,
And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.
This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time.
Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.
Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.
Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;
That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.
We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.
Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time.
The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.
And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.
There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.
Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me.
Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.
Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:7-24).

All the past was dredged up in public and the work to build the temple ended. Shame and discouragement stopped the work of God for two years. This is where Zechariah and his vision of Joshua enter the scene. Joshua saw himself and his people guilty of huge sins—unforgettable sins. Have you ever felt that your past was unforgivable and unforgettable? It seemed that way to Joshua, even after having worked so hard on God’s temple.

So the Lord represented this to Zechariah in the figure of Joshua clothed in filthy, putrid rags. Joshua was wholly unfit to seek God—or was He? He was seeking the Lord anyway, with or without the right to do so, with or without Satan’s permission to do so. This, God always accepts. This boldness comes only from real faith, desperate faith. This kind of faith is a gift of God, drawn from us at His prompting. Was Joshua hoping for God’s mercy? How dare he? Yet, how else can we approach the Holy One? There is only one way to come to Christ—in hoping that He will be merciful and accepting of us, not because we deserve it, but hoping against hope that He will consider our dire case, in spite of our unmentionable history. None of us deserve even the least of His mercies, right?

“We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts and from Thy judgments:
Neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither Thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee.
O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee.
To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.” (Dan. 9:5-9).

The Lord had raised up Nebuchadnezzar to punish Israel. Those Jews whose pride was abased were received again into the Lord’s love and peace. So we see Christ, the Angel of the Lord, forcing Satan to leave the sinner who was seeking to regain a relationship with God.
“And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech 3:2).

“And He answered and spake unto those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.” (vs. 4,5). That beautiful headband on his forehead had a small golden plate attached with the inscription, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD.” (Ex. 28:36;39:30). The seal of the living God.

“Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.” (Ezra 5:2).

With justification and reconciliation with God came a wonderful new power to build and finish the dwelling place for God. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13). Now nothing could stop Joshua and Zerubbabel—not even threats from powerful local authorities appealing to the king of the empire.

The second effort was made to stop the temple building, “which temple ye are;” but to of no avail. (1Cor. 3:17). The whole time Darius was researching the Jews’ authority to rebuild the temple, the temple rebuilding went right on, not slowing a bit. The people had a mind to work because the highest authority in heaven and earth had revealed His condescending love for them by granting them the vision given through Zechariah.

“He answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zech. 4:6,7). “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6). “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” will begin it and He will finish our building and He will receive our glory. (Heb. 12:2).

The work of sanctification and the building of our soul temple is Christ’s work. “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the Man whose name is The BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord:
Even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zech. 6:12,13).

We are involved, yes. But our part in our salvation is to seek Jesus and to let His Spirit guide us into full sanctification. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn. 1:12,13).

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Tit. 3:5) Not by human might or willpower in obedience, but in whatever it takes to get a clearer view of Christ, His righteousness and acceptance of humbled sinners. Persistence in prayer is how Joshua got through to Jesus. And the Angel of the Lord will be the inspiration and power for our temple rebuild; and we will give Him all the glory.