Category Archives: Sermons

Redeeming the Time

Redeeming-the-TimeThe Apostle Paul was one who, on many occasions exhorted the brethren. Many of those exhortations are recorded for us in Scripture. As we read God’s Word, you’ll notice there is a sense of urgency that is transmitted from the words and from its pages.

For those who fear God and wish to walk in His ways, that sense of urgency has to be embraced and applied on a day to day basis. There is an urgent cry found in Ephesians 5:16, which reads “redeem the time, for the days are evil.”

That word “evil” is ponēros [Strong’s 4190], a Greek word translated “hurtful in effect or influence.” We can all agree that in the times we live in there are plenty of things that can be classified as “hurtful” especially among the brethren, both young and old, as none of us are invulnerable.

We are admonished in Isaiah 55:6; “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found.” Now is the time for the Lord’s people to cry out to Him, to draw close to Him, to receive the strength and the help we all need. None of us are able to execute what needs to be done in our own personal lives apart from God Himself.

Because we are human, there are things that crop up in our lives, things that cause roadblocks to our spiritual growth and well being. For example, apathy and lethargy.  We live in a world that is apathetic and lethargic. And because we live in this world, it’s easy for that to bleed off into our lives. Maybe not in the whole spectrum but in certain areas of our lives where we can become apathetic and lethargic, such as in our prayer life, where days go by and things escape us, like personal Bible study, preparing for meetings, because we let other things crop up into our lives, from the world around us.

We have admonishment in Scripture that tell us that this sort of thing happened to the Church in the past.  Such as in the early stages of the Ephesus Church when they first began. (Rev. 2:4) Where it says after starting out so good, something happened, and all of a sudden they lost their first love. And the admonishment was to WAKE UP, get back on track in your consecrated walk.

What is this “first love”? Deu. 6:5 tells us: “Love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”. If something else comes in the way of our consecrated walk, somehow the love of God got diverted into other areas. The Ephesians were becoming apathetic and lethargic in their execution of what God had commanded them. A little bit later as the Church progresses along the prophetic picture that is pictured in Revelation 2 and 3, we see in Revelation 3:15, 16, the last Church that is mentioned is Laodicea.

Laodicea is a church that is described as being in a quasi state of affairs, hot and cold, which is translated as being lukewarm. They are not full of fire and zeal for the things of God, but they are not against it either. They are as we say cooled down. We are told because of the world we live in, the Laodicean age, “the love of many is waxing cold.” (Matt. 24:12) And as it waxes cold, it is going to have an impact upon the consecrated, lest they recognize this as the scriptures exhort us to do. To be mindful, to WAKE UP to what’s happening all around us.

This WAKE UP call is very important. As you know our nation was stunned back in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and our nation was suddenly hit with a WAKE UP call, the  likes, it had not seen before. It wanted to stay out of this trouble that was going on in Europe and Asia. Well this trouble became reality on December 7th, and “we” had to do something. We had to WAKE UP as it were, and it mobilize the whole nation, as we were in a fight for our physical survival as a nation. That’s how serious it was.

Again on 9/11 2001, two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center and another WAKE UP CALL goes out to the powers that be of the United States. What happens? They get quite concerned “What’s going on?” And immediately, they take action, and start taking the necessary precautions to protect the homeland, people rushing to the Churches to draw close to God in this time of trial.

But after a handful of weeks and months, what happened? It was business as usual. The Churches were no longer filled as they were. Seems like people always run to God when there’s trouble, when times are good who needs God? That’s exactly what happened; people began to fall back on their former ways.

So the American people became a little apathetic, lethargic, to the seriousness of that wake up call on September 11, 2001. The Apostle Paul had admonished the Christians in his day, and his words are preserved for our edification so that you and I will keep something in mind, that we never lose sight of God’s admonishment and WAKE UP call.

In Romans chapter 13, we’re told that there was a need for exhortation, the Apostle Paul wanted to exhort the brethren in Rome, and he told them to AWAKE, as it were, out of sleep. He said that their lives were beginning to reflect a dull sleepiness, and he senses that they are losing something.

Exhortation has to do with giving warning or advice, as an example of that, 2 Tim. 4:2 where the Apostle Paul told young Timothy; “Preach the word; in season, out of season” and tells him to do what? To “exhort”, in other words let the people have the warning from the scriptures, help them to understand the sense of urgency that God is trying to convey so that they don’t fall into an apathetic or lethargic lax frame of mind and therefore things slip up on them, and capture them unaware.

What we see in the term “Awake!” carries the connotation of don’t be careless or indifferent, because It is so easy to get careless and indifferent, because we live in a careless and indifferent world, where people don’t have that spark, that desire to want to do things the right way.  Even from a physical point of view.

We need to understand that we are called from a spiritual point of view. We have to shake off as it were any slothfulness, we need to be mindful that if we’re not constantly aware of what is going on around us, it will infect our mental state of mind. This is why we have to bring every thought into subjection to Christ, according to the word of God. Because if we don’t then other things can get in there. There are a lot of things that can penetrate our minds that don’t belong there. That is why it is important to be mindful that we cannot be fatally indifferent to spiritual things.

It’s time for us to wake up, because the day and age is moving very rapidly and as it says in Romans 13:11; “knowing the time”; Paul is focusing in on time, time is a precious commodity that we have been given. And here we are told that the time is now “high time”, in other words this is something that should be top priority on our time schedule of events.

Paul continues “that now it is high time to awake out of sleep” that if we have been sloppy, groggy, somewhat dozing, in terms of our own personal lives that God wants us to wake up and realize the seriousness of the time in which we find ourselves living.

We are not living back in the middle ages, we’re living at the consummation of man’s world we’re living at the day where scriptures talk about all the prophecies that have been proven and that have definitely been fulfilled in the Old Testament ring loud and clear and all the prophecies in the New Testament concerning the Lord’s presence have great impact saying “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:22 ) We are living in quite an unusual period of time to say the least.

Now is not the time to be dozing off. Paul says “our salvation” that is what God has called us to understand, grasp  and comprehend, and he says it’s nearer now then when we believed. When we were first coming  in as “babes in Christ.”

Now look at how the years have passed in our life, what have we done with those years? Have we really made them count when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father Jehovah, and elder brother Jesus? I think it’s safe to say we should all hang our heads in shame, that we have wasted an awful lot of time. We have wasted time on foolish things, on things that are not worth it when all is said and done. If we were to put it on a scale and see what we’ve done with that time , we would all be ashamed and say “Father, be merciful on me a sinner, I have truly messed it up.”

God is desirous that we wake up and acknowledge our shortcomings. He’s willing to forgive us. But if we say we’re wide awake and walking in the light when in reality parts of our life are dark, we’re walking in darkness as the scriptures says. If we do that we lie, and the Truth is not in us.

The verse is clear; “it is nearer now then when we believed, because the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” God’s Divine Plan is drawing closer and closer with each passing day.

 

Do we sense that urgency? As God sees it, as he tries to convey it to us. It goes on to say “therefore cast off the works of darkness” now we’re told in John 3:19 that men love darkness because their deeds are evil. You and I have been told in 1 Peter 2:9 to come “out of darkness and into his marvelous light”, we’ve been transferred into that marvelous light. He goes on to say “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying”. In other words not get caught up in the devices and problems of this world as the world is sinking in morality very fast.

Rom 13:14  “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof”.

Let’s ask ourselves a very important question. Why do we need to keep awake?  What is Paul emphasizing? Time. Time is a critical component for us. We don’t know how much time our heavenly Father has bestowed on each and every one of us. Time is in His hands. And he’s given us time, and we ALL hope and pray that we use whatever time we have left wisely in making our calling and election sure.  Knowing that the time is short, it should speed us up with an urgency and a desire to make the most of that time.

In James 4:14-17, we’re reminded that our lives are like a vapor.  How many of us can remember our youth. It seemed like yesterday we were in grade school, high school, college, and now out on our own.  Married, children, grandchildren, and we ask, “where did the time go?” It went by so fast. Actually, it went by one day at a time, and it was gone before we knew it.  That is why we need to make the most of our time as the 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 tell us: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (Firstfruits for he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) Paul tells them the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”(this should read “a” day of salvation, according to Isaiah 49:6) And it is for the firstfruits of God. Those called at this time, have been given insight to understand this very important calling.

This is revealed to us in the Scriptures, through the Divine Plan of the Ages.  So we see that this is our day, our time, the rest of the world will have a different time, a different schedule, when God will work with them. He is no respecter of persons, and wants ALL to come to a knowledge of the Truth,  but the vast majority of the world is not at this time able to do that. They do not know what they are doing. They did not know what they were doing when they crucified Jesus.  In their minds they knew exactly what they were doing. They were putting to death one who claimed to be the son of God. What they didn’t know, was that he WAS the Son of God, who provided a “ransom for all”, to provide salvation through his death, his shed blood for all of us, and so the Apostle Paul tells them “that through ignorance ye did it.” Acts 3:17.

Next we are told that our salvation draws near, and yes it is. And most people do not grasp or comprehend what are we talking about when salvation is discussed.  They think it means going t o heaven when you die.  And they do not realize that there is much more involved when the Scriptures mention salvation. It is nearer because God’s Revelation tells us as we move through the corridor of life we begin to discover how truly our own mortality is.  “The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all.” Until the times of restitution, when the Lord will call forth all mankind and bring them forth in the resurrection of life and judgment.  We are reminded in Hebrews 9:27: “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”  Because of what happened in the Garden of Eden, and the path that was chosen by our original parents. We have all been indoctrinated  and implanted with a seed of rebellion in our natures, and we have all gone down that wrong path,  and it has brought about wages that we have earned. Paul talks about that in Romans when he said; “the wages of sin is death.” Death is in this world, but it is not God’s desire to allow it to remain in this world. He is going to destroy it in the process of time. He tells us that “the night is far spent,” and what does that translate too?  It translates to the fact that the world we are living in is drawing to its final close, that the time of man’s days is drawn unto its conclusion, and the Kingdom of God is on the horizon, and when the Kingdom is FULLY established, the world will see something wonderful, a transformation of this whole entire world . What humans beings have talks about, God is going to produce. Human beings talk, but they do not produce the right results, only God can. Notice what it says in 1 John 2:8; “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.”  We now have access to the True Light, and what does light do? It dispels darkness. God is cleansing our hearts, minds and spirits. He’s showing us what Truth is all about.  How it relates to His character, He is the most beautiful being in all the universe.

That’s why he says “don’t make any idols or statutes, and try to pawn them off as God.” Because they don’t even come close in representing what he is like. This is what we need to keep in mind. This is the fear of God that shows acknowledgment and reverence to Him.

Now we live in a world today that is far from the Truth, we hear a lot about God in the Churches, but as 2 Tim. 3, states: “they have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof”. They don’t want to hear about God “ruling in the Kingdom of men”, that’s exactly what Daniel 4 says he does, he rules in the kingdom of men, he is bringing to pass the prophecy of his word, just like he said he would. He uses individuals to bring to pass what He wants, and when it’s all said and done God weaves his wonderful promises and all these things come to pass and not one fails. Not one promise will return without accomplishing His purpose.

This is what God wants us to keep in mind. How He’s working with us, because we are a work in progress. We are the first fruits of this wonderful work in progress that God is creating. We have been made in His image.

What are we willing to do in return? He tells us we should respond accordingly because the night is far spent; it’s coming to a close. If we look around today, just as the scriptures say prophetic clouds are gathering. And as those clouds gather, what are they telling us? They are rushing towards fulfillment. When we read the book of Revelation we see a book that has a special blessing for all who read it. And yet there are ministers out there in the Churches who say “you don’t need to read that book. It doesn’t mean anything.” How sad, when people need answers to the questions that plaque them and bother them today.

2 Peter 1:19-21 states: “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;  knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,  for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

We see that God’s hand is at work, His hand is going to accomplish his will, his purpose and that brings us as to how we ought to walk. As we look at the world around us, we need to stop and consider very seriously how have we been walking? How have we been using this time that God has given to me? Have we walked with him more this year than the last? Did I walk with Him less? Did I pray to Him more? Did I pray to Him less? Did I appreciate and thank Him for the many blessings that he has given me? Or did I just accept those blessings and never said ‘thank you’?

Today we live in an age when people just accept things and never have the courtesy to say ‘thank you’. We live in serious times. We are told to cast off the works of darkness”. Romans 13: 12 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” We need to be combat ready, we have to wear the material that will aid us in our daily battle and struggle in living life as God fearing men and women. This armor is described for us in Ephesians 6.

I would hope and pray that none of us are deliberately practicing willful sin, but at the same time it would be an error to say that we are sinless today, if we say we have no sin we lie and the truth is not in us. We have all strayed from the path, not deliberately, but because of human weakness we stumble, we falter from time to time. The point in question is, do we follow the example of David, do we quickly give back to God and acknowledge to God where we have fallen, where we have gone wrong and ask God to help us and to restore us again with the joy of His salvation? Would we rather shake ourselves to get back on track or would we rather have God shake us? I believe the former is the better way to go. Don’t you?

Because when God arises, he is going to shake this earth, and people are going to go out of their minds, they are not going to know what to do. The Scriptures constantly admonish us to consider our way. The world has encroached upon all of us, perhaps in more ways than we care to admit, and that’s why it’s time to WAKE UP. All of us need to take a self-analysis. Do we allow into our lives now things that just ten years ago we would not have done? Has something softened us? Weakened us? Invaded our spiritual lives? Only we as individuals can answer that question. And if it has happened, do we see it for what it is? Do we acknowledge it for what it is? Do we run back to God and say ‘forgive me Lord”. This becomes a very important issue. What are we suppose to get rid of? Notice some of the things mentioned in Gal 5: 19-21 Col 3:5-8. “drunkenness, revelry, lewdness, lust, strife, envy, adultery, fornication, idolatry, sorcery, contentions, jealousies, wrath, selfishness, and the list goes on.

Some of you may say ‘I’ve never been involved in that’, but you’re wrong, perhaps not deliberately, but vicariously. Jesus stated Matthew 5:28 “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Have you been to the movies lately? Do you have a television? What are the themes of those programs? That many times we have ALL watched? Murders, adultery, fornication, violence, vulgar language, it crops up doesn’t it? They keep pushing the envelope. Granted, it’s not like you sit there and say, I want to see this program and listen to the vulgar language, no, we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about sitting there, watching a program and say, “well, this is a decent program and then all of a vulgarity is slipped in. Sometimes you know it’s coming and think they’ll bleep it out. They no longer bleep out the bad words.  Why? Because it is now culturally acceptable and people are beginning to become addicted to it.

Well the point of it is this, we need to view everything in life according to how God sees it. He said “come out of her my people” this is not anti-movies and television, because there is a balance here.  There are wholesome movies, but most people aren’t interested in wholesome movies, they want action, violence, death and see things blown up. But even with so called wholesome movies, we need to be careful. The ratings system is no longer what it was, as time and culture changes, so does ratings. What was unacceptable 10, 20 years ago, is now acceptable. Sex, violence and profanity have crept into PG and even G rated movies, something that was rated R years ago.

That is why we are admonished to put on the whole armor of light, because we are constantly in combat mode. Now you have to watch when you go to movies or watch television. There’s always a good side to everything, remember it’s not the thing that is wrong, it’s how it’s used. Man has this wonderful proclivity of taking something good and twisting it and making it wrong. Now in this particular case what we see is that people today are being hypnotized literally by this stuff, it’s a form of entertainment to them, instead of entertainment it should be viewed objectively and look back and asked, where are they taking me with this?

We need to put on Christ, by first arming ourselves as we are at war, in combat. On a National Geographic special there was an episode about the lioness’ (the female lion) and how they hunt water buffalo for the pride, they go out and circle the herd of water buffalo, and what happens is that they target a specific one. That’s how the adversary works; 1 Peter 5:8 tell us that Satan “roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour”. They’re out there seeking which one of those water buffalo is going to be the evening meal. Here’s the interesting part, they start a procedure whereby they go around and around and around and they’ll attack the herd and push them back and they’ll attack again and push them back and they’ll go around and around. The whole point being this, they keep pressuring the herd and pressuring the herd until the herd makes a mistake. When the herd makes its mistake, they go for the kill. How many times have you and I made mistakes in life because we were under pressure and we finally caved in under pressure? Satan knows how to attack, he knows where our weak spot is, and he will pressure and pressure until he can succeed in his attack. Therefore it is important that we do not allow him or as Ephesians 4:26 tells us, “don’t give place to the devil.”

Speaking of pressure, have you notice that the world in which we live in is like a pressure cooker? People long for the good old days, when you can sit on your porch and relax (provided one has a porch). What happened to those days? They’re gone! Everybody’s so busy now, everybody’s pressured, pressured, pressured.

Who’s creating the pressure? Who’s out there seeking whom he may devour? This is why you and I have to be combat ready according to scriptures. Put on Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:27 tells us , we did that when we were baptized. We are told to continue developing the character of God. It is critical, that we are to make no provision for the flesh. How do we understand that? We have the responsibility not to feed the flesh. When you feed the old man, you get the wrong results. When you feed the new creature, you get the right results.

It’s like everything else, if you don’t make the right deposit in your checking account, if you don’t keep putting money in, and you’re just taking out all the time, sooner or later it’s all gone. A zero balance. In the same way, if we allow ourselves to feed the flesh rather than the spirit, then what ends up happening is that we end up being spiritually delinquent and we live only for the moment, the flesh, and that is what Paul is warning us against.

Let’s notice Romans 8:12, 13a; “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die” In other words if you just go about your normal pursuits of life, and don’t take God seriously in the equation of living life, you will die. And that’s what the world is doing, they live, they die. Perhaps that’s why they came up with that old expression in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” They see no hope, no future. Only through God do we see a hope and a future, because He gives us one.

Romans 8:13b; “but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body…”  That is when a wrong thought comes into the mind, we immediately dismiss it. Kill that thought, stop it right then and there.

Wipe that thought out. Because if we hold onto and feed it, it’s going to feed the flesh. So we see if we do this, and “mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live.”

1 Corinthians 10:13;  tells us that God is faithful,” and he “will not allow you to be tempted beyond  that you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to  bear it.”  So our Heavenly Father will never allow anything to get so bad against you that it would break you spiritually. He knows your breaking point. You know, everybody has a breaking point. You could only go so far. And God says I will never put anything on you or allow anything to come on you greater than you can bear.

Now let’s take a look at 1 Peter 4:7 because this has a very important application. I Peter 4:7. Here we are admonished on the following:  It says: “But the end of all things is at hand:. . .” and because of that, it says: “. . . be you therefore sober,. . .” notice that means have a high degree of alertness, that’s what sobriety means in the term you’re sober; you’re very much alert, and notice, “. . .watch unto prayer.” As you’re watching, as you’re looking, and evaluating things in your everyday life, make sure you’re praying about these things because what you see is not always what it is. You may see something and think it’s a certain way, but when you pray about it, all of a sudden God’s Spirit puts something else into your mind and you say, “Oh wait a second, there’s more here than meets the eye.”

Because God’s Spirit, remember, is a Spirit that does what? “Shall show you all things,” it says. It’ll show you prophetic applications of things, and it’ll lead you the way God is directing the affairs. Otherwise, it’s just a guess. It’s just speculation. And that’s what human beings do. They guess; they speculate; but God knows the outcome. And God tells us to be sober and to watch unto prayer. Now we know that we are to watch for what reason? So that we may be accounted worthy to escape all these things.

There are things coming that we don’t want to be a part of. They are recorded for us in scripture to both  inspire and encourage us to do the right thing. It’s not designed to scare the daylights out of us as if God’s going to get us, so we’d better do this now. That’s not what God wants. He wants us out of what He has revealed as Jesus said, “Behold I’ve told you all things ahead of time that you might believe. That you know that I have your best interest at heart. That I’m trying to show you what to escape, to avoid the minefield that’s gonna blow up and cause mass confusion in the minds of people. But God is not the author of confusion. He’s the author of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and He shares that with us and gives us that understanding. So we see here a very important application that we need to ask ourselves how serious are we in this regard of waking up and redeeming the time.

Are there areas in our lives where we need to really wake up and get on the ball and as we see God’s Plan moving closer and closer to the end? We cannot afford to be indifferent about spiritual things. We can’t allow the Spirit of God to become something that is looked upon in a careless manner. We need to value the Spirit of God. We need to stir up the Spirit of God. We need to thank God for His Spirit because without that Spirit, all we’ve got to rely on is our human spirit, and that’s not enough. We have to be guided and directed in the knowledge of the things of God. And only God can administer that to us, but we have to ask. You have not because you ask not. And you’ve got to make sure you’re always asking with the right motive at heart, because if you ask amiss, it isn’t going to happen. Plain and simple.

So God, out of love and concern is telling us He does not want us to be in any aspect of our lives lethargic or apathetic.  Let’s have to look at 1 John 1:8, 9. We already read verse 8 before:

1 John 1: 8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Verse 9 – “If we confess our sins,. . .” and that’s part of what this whole period of self examination is all about right now. We’re in the process of confessing our sins to God. Have we been indifferent? Have we been lax in areas? Do we need to polish up the armor of light so that we can let God’s Spirit work and flow more effectively in us? It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness”. He’s there to help us do what? To keep His commandments and do those things pleasing in His sight.

Because unrighteousness is the opposite of what righteousness is. And the righteousness is defined as keeping the commandments of God. Psalm 119:172: “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.”

So God is teaching us how to live by His law. To have it written in our hearts and minds, so that we understand how we are to conduct ourselves.

We need to be excited each time we come together as brethren in Christ. This is not something to take for granted. This is something that the adversary would love to destroy, and we have to guard it. Hebrews 10:25  tells us “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” God commands that so that we hear when we hear, it inspires us and encourages us and makes us realize our God is real. And that our God is going to do what He said He’s going to do. No human being can alter that fact.

We find from God’s Word that as individual men and women, we are to be children of the day, not the night, to clean up our lives, if there’s any dark spots, any places there that are unacceptable. We’re to put on Christ more and more and let that light shine just as He said. We’re to put that whole armor on. We’re to walk properly, to stay away from things which are wrong.

You know, the world we live in can hypnotize you if you’re not careful. Have you ever been driving down the highway, your eyes wide open and yet you were asleep? For a split-second. Does that ever happen to you? It’s happened to a lot of people. Myself included. The technical term for it is myoclonic jerk.

You’re driving down the highway, and all of sudden you do this jerk, and you suddenly come back to reality. Where was I? I thought I was awake, driving down the highway. They call it highway hypnosis, that you just keep your eyes riveted in one spot all the time, this will happen to you. So they tell you always to keep your eyes moving. It breaks up that monotony so you don’t fall prey to that.

Well, think about how people today are hypnotized through the media, e.g. television, radio, news, advertisements, etc. Their eyes are focused on one thing, and they’re constantly blitzed and bombarded by this stuff. And a lot of the things that are on there today, once they get in there, it’s hard to get it out. And so what God is telling us, just like that myoclonic jerk, it’s time to jerk yourself back to reality and see exactly what’s going on around you.

Unfortunately some of our brethren get caught up in the latest fads, the political scene. They get upset over things they have no business getting upset over.  It’s one thing to watch the world, it’s another to get involved. This is something we have to see through God’s eyes, and what God sees, He says it isn’t very good. What a merciful God we have, that in spite of all the chaos that goes on in this world, in spite of all the evil, God still blesses.

“Truth” or “Love”—Which Comes First?

truth or loveThe apostle John repeatedly taught the importance of both Biblical truth and godly love. To understand the identity of the true Church, it is vital to recognize which of these is the foundation for the other.

The larger, well-known churches of this world are comprised of millions of “believers”—people who believed in and talked about Jesus. No doubt, many of them are sincere. They also talked much about “Christian love.” Many are the sermons given about “Jesus” and “love”. This describes the diet served every week from pulpits in tens of thousands of churches, around the world.

Of course, these are both critically important topics! The Bible has hundreds of scriptures that refer to our Lord and the importance of demonstrating godly love. But I see that many people have a hollow love, and that few really believed what Christ taught. No real love is evident in their lives.

They have the Lord’s name on their lips but the truths that He taught is not evident in their lives. Lots of talk about love, but little, if any, being practiced in their lives.

John has been called the “Apostle of Love,” because he spoke about this subject much more than all the other New Testament writers combined. A quick glance in any concordance, will confirm this. What is not realized is that he also wrote more about the importance of “truth” than all the other New Testament writers combined. John could have easily been known as the “Apostle of Truth”! A superficial look at his writings could leave you wondering if he wrote about anything other than these two subjects. Strangely, despite John’s dozens of references to the importance of truth, this emphasis is ignored by almost everyone!

In God’s infinite wisdom, He knew that He could not have one apostle stress truth and a another stress love. This would have left the impression that people could “choose their favorite apostle,” depending upon whether they felt truth or love deserved greater emphasis. (It was this very kind of division that plagued the Corinthian brethren – 1 Cor. 1:10-14.)

Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them that are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, save Crispus and Gaius.”

The result is that each group would feel superior to the other because it has the “more proper” emphasis. Many today feel that they merely need to stress “love”—and without explaining the Bible definition—with little emphasis on correct doctrine. Those that think this way have a well-honed set of passages they use in an attempt to establish their position.

The Role of Love

Two of the most frequently quoted scriptures come from John. Both speak about love. John 3:16 states:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

People who know little—or nothing—about the Bible usually know of this verse.

John 13:34-35 states:

A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.”

It is easy to see, from just these two passages, why so many believe they are Christians if they just “have love”—all the while feeling no need to be concerned about truth. Notice the phrase, “By this [love] shall all men know that you are My disciples.” It is true that an outward demonstration of love does make an important impression on people. In a selfish, unhappy, confused world, people practicing genuine love—do stand out from all those around them!

A basic question arises. How does Christ know if you are His disciple? We are not asking how men know, but how Christ knows. John also answers:

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Did you notice the phrase “IF you continue in My word, THEN are you My disciples…”? This is a key point! “Continuing in [Christ’s] word”—remaining free of error—signifies to Christ that we are His disciples.

This is what Christ looks for!

The Role of Truth

Holding to the truth would never be a sign to men. People are usually turned off by what true Christians believe:

because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).

1 Cor. 2:14 tells us that the truth is not attractive to anyone not called by God . However, seeing people show genuine concern for one another turns no one off and is attractive to all. Anyone who doubts this, may attempt to “cast” a few “pearls” at someone (Matt. 7:6). Watch the reaction. Then try showing love to them when they don’t expect it. The lesson will be learned.

Consider that True Christians are led by the Holy Spirit—the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13). This same Spirit of truth “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit will lead all those who are truly consecrated into the knowledge of real godly love. Galatians 5:22 reveals that love is a “fruit of the Spirit.” Romans 5:5 explains that such fruit is possible in a Christian’s mind only because God’s Spirit has put it there.

Romans 13:10 states, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” 1 John 5:3 adds this, removing all doubt:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.”

It will be clear to others that you have love, because they will see you fulfilling God’s laws toward your fellow man. Understanding real Christian love—what it is—how it is expressed—its relationship to law—its part in being the light of the world—is in itself also a great truth!

Let’s now carefully examine an important verse:

He that says, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).

Pause and consider this before continuing. Verse 5 speaks about people who claim to be Christians—to “know Him”—but who neither keep the commandments nor have “truth” in them. The world is filled with professing Christians who claim to “know Jesus in their heart” but who have no interest whatsoever in understanding the Divine Plan as outline in the Bible. Now, focus carefully on Christ’s words (vs 5)

But whoso keeps HIS [Christ’s] word; in him [that person] verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.” (vs 5)

Real love cannot be perfected in those who are not keeping Christ’s word—His recorded instruction—the truth. The true love of God is only perfected in people who ARE doing this!

Remember John 8:31.

If you continue in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.”

We must always “continue in” or “keep” God’s word. No wonder our Lord taught,

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4).

The Greek word for “keep,” tereo, means “to watch or to guard (from loss or injury) by keeping the eye upon…to detain in custody.”

  • Will you determine to keep the truths of God’s Word in your “custody”?

  • Will you “guard” it from “loss or injury”?

  • Are you convicted about keeping your “eyes” continually upon it?

Remember, when we consecrated and became disciples of Christ, we were “sanctified” by that Word of truth (John 17:17). Only in this way can you first become and then remain Christ’s disciple!

Remember! Truth is the umbrella that stands over love. Love springs from truth—not the other way around! It is no coincidence that Matthew 22:37-39 says,

love your neighbor as yourself,” afterwards says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

We didn’t wake up one day and decide “I’m gonna love God”, no, we learned the Truth, when about His Plan of Salvation, and fell in love with the heavenly Father.

Certainly, no one who rejects God or His truth love Him. Therefore, genuine love for “neighbor” will also be absent.

Many Churches Claim to Have “Love”

What about all those who emphasize the importance of love and having a “relationship with Christ”—while in ignorance of God’s Truths or while neglecting or abandoning the ones they may have? Can love be “perfected” in them? The Bible says that this is impossible! (Recall 1 John 3:4.) The only thing such people and organizations “perfect” is the ability to talk about love. So says God! While many have honed “love speak” into a fine art, this is nothing more than empty talk!

These are the ones who talk of “love” and “Jesus,” while demonstrating no real love of God and no real knowledge of the true teachings of Christ. How you love someone you don’t really know? At best it’s a superficial love. When there is doctrinal disagreement within their ranks.

Augustine has been credited with coining the phrase: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” In actuality, Rupertus Meldenius, a German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, coined the phrase in a tract published in 1627.

In any event, today this thought still echoes, even among the brethren. They say: “we must agree to disagree. Love is primary. Doctrines and opinions about Bible truth is secondary. Let us all just have love. Let us submerge our differences under ever more love.”

It’s a nice gesture, the problem with this thought is that, in the end, this breeds more division and doctrinal confusion and a complete disregard and neglect of doctrinal truth. This wrong premise puts the “love” cart in front of the horse. The true Christian continues in truth and then is able to walk in love. Remember, real love, springs from first having the truth! John stated that he “rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you [them], even as you walk in the truth.” Seeing this within fellow Christians was John’s greatest joy (3 John 3-4).

How Love, Truth and Blessings Work Together

There is a final, important, related point. What role do blessings and growth play within the formula of truth and real Christian love? Do their presence—or absence—tell the true Christian anything?

They should!

1 John 3:18 states, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” John explains that this gives Christians confidence toward God in their prayers, while eliminating the conscience problems that hinder them. Now verse 21: “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” Answers and blessings flow from obedience, pleasing God and application of His truth: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (vs. 22).

This principle is made plain through paraphrasing three verses. Let’s notice. Isaiah 58:13-14 explains that Israel was promised wonderful blessings if they kept the Sabbath properly. Malachi 3:8-10 shows that they were also promised great blessings—but only if they tithed faithfully. Exodus 15:26-27 directly connects the promises of good health and healing to full obedience to God’s commands. These and many other verses containing promises show that the Christian can know when he is in harmony with God. Conscience problems vanish when people follow all of God’s commands and instructions.

God’s people must recognize and never forget that a real Christian’s path is not easy or pain-free. However, if our ways please Him, God will continually give blessings and growth. This becomes a sign to us of His happiness and pleasure with us. When blessings, fruit and growth are continually lacking, God is not pleased! We know—either way.

First, belief and continuance in the truth tells Christ who His disciples are (and real love will always be evident anyway). Next, love tells people who Christ’s disciples are. Finally, blessings, fruit and growth tell the individual Christian whether he or she is pleasing God and continuing in His Word.

If I were the adversary I would speak endlessly of love and “Jesus,” while de-emphasizing right doctrine—Christ’s teachings—truth!—and their connection to growth and blessings. If this is what you are hearing, beware!

Test Your Leaders

leadersTo the angel of the church of Ephesus write: He who holds the seven  stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, says these things. I know your works and your labor and your patience, and how you cannot bear those who are evil. And you tried those pretending to be apostles, and are not, and have found them liars.(Revelation 2:1-2).

It would seem absurd to think that these men claimed to have been the apostles selected by our Lord. The only solution would seem to be that their claims were either, that they had been called to that office after the Lord ascended, as Paul was; or, that they claimed the honor due to this name or office, in virtue of some election to it; or, that they claimed to be the successors of the apostles, and to possess and transmit their authority.

In either case there are but two types of apostles spoken of in the Scriptures, the twelve apostles who were sent out by our Lord to spread the Gospel and those apostles sent out by the Church, as the word APOSTLES simply means “messenger, ambassador.”

See Acts 14:14 – “but hearing this, the apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their clothes and ran in among the people, crying out.”

Barnabas is called an apostle because he was sent forth by the church on a particular message (Acts 13:3; compare Acts 14:26), not because he had been chosen to the special work of the apostleship. – Barnes

In our text, there were those who were claiming to be apostles when they were not. The Lord praised the Brethren at Ephesus for detecting their false claims. While today many denominations claim to have apostles, these men were not apostles sent forth by another Ecclesia, for the Lord would not have praised them for detecting false apostles of the world. No! These false apostles were in the Church!

While today we do not have veritable apostles, we do have congregational elders, who not only serve their local ecclesias, but who from time to time are invited to serve other ecclesias and conventions. These elders can and do sit on committees and publish Bible studies by way of journals, newsletters, books, etc. Their qualifications as elders are highlighted in 1 Tim. 3:1-7. (We discussed that at length yesterday)

They are to shepherd the flock that has been entrusted to them, by teaching them, encouraging them and preparing them for what the Lord describe as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” – Mark 7:15

Now what do you do when the very elders elected are the “wolves”?

Now we’re going to digress here a moment and consider a few things about eldership that were not covered yesterday.

Eldership

 Paul, when writing to Timothy in regards to the office of elder, writes: “It is a faithful saying, that if a man desireth the eldership, he desireth a good work.” (1 Tim 3:1 – Murdock) It’s not quite clear, whether Paul believed this to be a “faithful saying” or whether this was a “faithful saying” in general among the brethren. Regardless, it is a “good work”.

The first word “desireth” is Strong’s 3713, which means “reach out after (long for), covet after, desire.”

The second word “desireth” is Strong’s 1937, which is defined as “to set the heart upon, that is, long for, covet, desire, lust after.”

Elders (or Bishop, Overseer) is a position sanctioned by the Scriptures. We shouldn’t take the word “desire” and lust after” too literally. Before I was elected an elder, being an elder was not on my agenda. I loved the Lord, the Truth and the brethren. I wanted to serve them all in whatever way I could. But I did not go about politicking for the office. [Not that we should] I knew enough of the Scriptures that this was not an office to toy with. There were lessons to prepare, talks to present, Truths to defend. Hebrews 13:17 tells us that elders will have to “render an account” to the Lord for all they do, in regards to teaching and shepherding.

After all, Elders are the shepherds, the servants of the ecclesia. They look after the spiritual welfare of the flock.

1 Peter 5:2-3 tells us: “Feed the flock of God among you, taking the oversight, not by compulsion, but willingly; nor for base gain, but readily; nor as lording it over those allotted to you by God, but becoming examples to the flock.

The ecclesia has been entrusted to the care of the elders. With eldership comes certain responsibilities, certain duties. Their sole responsibility is to the flock that have been entrusted to them. Namely the ecclesia. When I was elected as an elder, I was NOT chosen to shepherd any other ecclesia, but the ecclesia that appointed me to that office. There are of course secondary duties that come our way. For example, speaking at conventions or large gatherings of brethren.

I admit, it’s a bit of a high, when you see your name on a convention program for the first time. But then you wake up. Some elders NEVER wake up, and want to see their names on as many programs as possible. Let me ask. WHO suffers as a result?

One elder spoke his heart when he said; “why bless a handful in my class, when I can bless hundreds at a convention?” I guess we know where this brothers priorities were.

I spoke at a convention where 7 were in attendance. I took a major airline and a puddle jumper to get there. The Lord said “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” – Matthew 18:20

If I as an elder spend too much time on speaking engagements, what happens? I now have to prepare outlines. That is time consuming and will eventually take away from more pressing matters, that of taking care of the flock entrusted to me, those within our own ecclesia. Preparing for ecclesia meetings. There is nothing worse than coming UNPREPARED for Bible Study.

It happens. Why? It’s obvious, we don’t set aside time, we may have more “pressing” matters. Perhaps I’m putting together a really good outline to impress the brethren at my next speaking engagement?

Whatever the case …. we let our guard down and what happens? The individuals mentioned by Paul and Jude creep in and wreak havoc.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with serving at conventions. It’s an honor and a privilege. They serve a purpose, especially now at this end of the age, with our dwindling numbers. A lot of hard work goes into their preparation. That being said, if we as elders, find ourselves serving others, as oppose to those in our own ecclesia, we may find ourselves ATTENDING meetings and conventions instead of SERVING at meetings and conventions.

Now I’m going to digress even further ….

Some years ago I heard a brother from a convention platform mention how he had been voted out as an elder. He said in part:

“You know why they voted me out? Because I travel too much! I went around to the various conventions serving. They didn’t want that. They wanted their elder here!”

To that I ask, and what is wrong with that? Were you elected as a missionary to the world or a local elder to shepherd the flock? He also stated:

“It is known that I was voted out of my class. … a class I started, a class I fostered for over 58 years.”

His class??? I wonder what came first, his appointed as elder or the class that appointed him? Did he start the class and then profess himself elder? Or did the class after it was formed elect him as elder? It just seems presumptuous on this brother’s part to claim that he is entitled to be an elder because he “started” the class and “fostered” it “for over 58 years.”

He apparently felt he had been divinely appointed as a missionary to the world, for he later said;

“I don’t feel that my mission is for my class only. My mission is for all the classes!”

Who says? Did the class he “fostered” for 58 years, elect him as apostle. Giving him their blessing to forsake his duties to them and serve “all the classes”? I wasn’t aware that being an elder gave one such power and authority. Apparently it didn’t, because the brethren of this class saw the abuse, and withheld their hand.

And now this poor brother had to go and make phone calls, because he “had already about six commitments to serve conventions.” And so he had to call up everybody and tell them he was no longer an elder.

Ah, but have no fear … the Lord will fix it all. As the brother recounts;

“someone called me up” and said “we started a new class and we have invited you to serve as an elder.”

Hmmm …. I thought one had to belong to a class in order to be elected as an elder. Shouldn’t they have called the brother up first, invite him to be a part of the class and then elect him as elder? So nice of them to call and tell him, “Oh, by the way, we started a new class and we made you elder.”

Now this brother feels empowered, he tells the audience;

“the Lord says “no way are you going to stop what you’re doing!” And the new class say “…. you want to go anywhere you want to go … go ahead!””

I guess he forgot to tell the audience that this new class was actually a split from the class he fostered for 58 years.

So there you have it …. Self proclaimed elders, brethren who will do anything to be an elder, to be prominent. To forsake those who appointed him, for the sake of traveling and making a name for oneself. And when the class sets him straight, he goes elsewhere, keeps his titles and his appointments. Perhaps they take the Apostle Paul’s words literally, “if a man desireth the eldership, he desireth a good work” that is of course to “long for, covet, desire, lust after.” What better way to describe such individuals?

I knew of another elder, who traveled a lot, the class told him, “brother, you travel too much, we need you here.” Did he tell them, “No! I am appointed of the Lord, to travel to all the classes”? NO, he said “okay” and declined all invitations. He listened to the voice of the Lord through the ecclesia.

Others do not … they do what they feel is important.

Okay, let’s return to our Revelation 2:1-2

In our Revelation text, the Lord said, “you tried those.” According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the word “tried” is defined as: “to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quality.” Does that sound like we should just go along with what the elders say and teach? The Lord says you can either easily put them to the test or you can easily be deceived.

Our focus should always be on the Christ who is in our midst. Revelation 1:12-13 reads,

And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands I saw One like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and tied around the breast with a golden band.

The emphasis is not on the seven candlesticks—the emphasis is on Christ who is in the midst of the seven candlesticks—Christ is right in the middle. But He will allow His followers to go astray.

Let’s continue the description of Christ:

“His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like a flame of fire. And His feet were like burnished brass having been fired in a furnace. And His voice was like the sound of many waters. And He had seven stars in His right hand, and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. And His face was like the sun shining in its strength.” (verses 14-16).

This great Being is described to introduce the seven eras of Revelation 2 and 3. If we let Christ and His work slide from the middle of the picture, all we have left are deceived churches. So the emphasis is not on being “in the Church,” but following the Lord! When John saw Christ in this vision, he “fell at his feet as dead” (verse 17).

Unless this same Christ leads the Church, we are in serious trouble; and if Christ isn’t leading the Church, we should not follow! If the Brethren at Ephesus, in a right attitude, tried those who said they were apostles, shouldn’t you? This was the same Ephesus Church which was discussed in 3 John 9-10. Was Diotrephes one of those false apostles? How did he get all those people to follow him while casting John’s followers out of the Church? How much authority did he have? It’s difficult to say. John’s followers, who stood by John and Christ, were “cast out.” The point is, John discerned Diotrephes’ evil motives and rebuked him. We need to do the same.

Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul said the leader is to follow Christ. Follow a man only as he follows Christ. We can’t do that unless we are testing and proving all things. It’s very biblical to do so.

1 John 4:1 tells us 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

John pleaded with the brethren to “try the spirits.” Why? Because there are “many” false prophets and false leaders. Often these deceivers were among God’s people. We must always test our leaders with God’s Word.

We must prove all things! Individuals go astray. Ecclesias go astray. Christ never goes astray! A man is not the trunk of the tree. An organization is not the trunk of the tree. God’s Word is the trunk of the tree. And what Christ established through “That Servant” for some 40 years is a big part of the tree trunk. Anyone who has been among the Lord’s people for any period of time is use to change. But not all change is good.

We read in Acts 17:11

“And these were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so.”

Do you realize brethren, that your approach to Bible study helps reveal to God how noble you are? Do you search the Scriptures daily “with all readiness of mind,” eager to see what the Bible says, so you can follow Christ more perfectly? God’s elect are very noble people when it comes to their Bible study.

Thayer’s Lexicon says the word “searched” is often used as the verb “judge” in the Bible. The Bereans approached their Bible study by investigating and examining the evidence. That includes examining our elders and those who take the lead, as long as it is done with a Berean attitude. God knows if an attitude is right. It is good to have “righteous indignation” when the direction is wrong among the Lord’s people. God certainly does!

Luke said these people had greater nobility because of this attitude. That means a higher reward in God’s Kingdom. The very elect have fallen in love with God’s truth. They love God so much they will stand alone or even die for Him. They are not deceived by “hugs and kisses” without real substance. And they are not deceived by endless talk of “love”! They know what the true love of God is. They judge by “fruits” (Matthew 7:16), not outward appearance.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11

“and with all deceit of unrighteousness in those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, so that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”

God will personally send strong delusion! But why? Why would God send strong delusion to His own people? Does He want us to fail? Of course not. This is God’s way of testing who “received not the love of the truth” (verse 10). God wants to know how much you love Him and His Word. It’s not possible to deceive God’s VERY elect (Matthew 24:24).

Paul is not talking about normal delusion being sent to God’s people—this is “strong delusion.” We’re going to see thousands of people deceived because they are “blind” to their own spiritual condition (Revelation 3:17). They assume there is safety in numbers, and they assume they are God’s very elect who cannot be deceived. If they are not careful, these assumptions will lead them into the Great Tribulation and possibly the lake of fire!

We all think we love God. God requires that we have the depth of love necessary to withstand strong delusion. God sends “strong delusion” to His people to determine who will be His very elect. God wants to know who loves the truth—and who just has it. With a wrong attitude, some are going to lose out big time! (2 Thessalonians 2:10). God is dead serious about our calling. The Lord’s people have been flooded with the present truth. Now God is going to see if we just talk about faith—or really live by faith—by His Word. Do we remember what we were taught and do we live by it?

God sends strong delusions to see if His people are Faithful. The Lord wants to know who will qualify for His Kingdom. That is the whole purpose for our existence. There are probably more warnings in the New Testament about false teachers than any other subject. If God saw fit to put these warnings in His Word, then we brethren, should take it seriously.

“Change is everywhere. It’s in everything. And frankly brethren, when you come to understand people, it’s appearing in just about everyone…”

We read in I Thessalonians 5:21: ‘Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good.

Revised Standard and other translations will more often say ‘that which is right.’ Hold it fast. Now, that’s not a suggestion, that’s a plea …. a command.

Why would Paul, tell us to hold fast that which is good after we proved all things if it could not be done? Now you know how people say, ‘You can prove anything from the Bible,’ or ‘the Bible is a fiddle in which you can play any tune.’

The word there for “hold fast”, is the Greek word katecho (Strong’s 2722). Any one familiar with Catholicsm recognize what word comes from katecho … catechism. It means to hold down or hold fast, to have, to keep in memory…”

You know I think one of the most amazing things about the changes through the doctrinal sleight of hand we are living through, is that brethren forget how much truth we have. They just forgot it! It just went out of their head. They had it, but they never studied later on the way they always studied earlier on, and it just went out of memory.

It’s interesting what katecho means. The Catholics know what it means. When instructing their youth they called it catechism because they knew exactly what katecho means. Now they don’t hold to the ‘hold fast that which is right’ part, but they wanted their youth to prove all things within Catholic doctrine. It always means “possess”. The truth is something we possess and retain.

Let’s turn to Acts 17. There are those who think a sermon has to have something new to be exciting…I think the most exciting thing in the Bible is the truth. The truth is what fits. The truth is the mind of God. What could be more exciting than that? Studying something that is new, but false—but hey, it’s new!, right?

Acts 17:20, Paul is being accused:

“For you bring certain strange things to our ears, therefore we are minded to know what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers who were there spent their time in nothing else except to tell or to hear something newer.)”

‘Oh, now we’re going to hear another sermon that is just the same old, same old’

Through the years I have heard brethren say ‘I want to hear more meat in the sermon.’ Invariably, what these brethren were saying is; “you’re preaching to the choir, ‘You’re not telling us anything we don’t know. I want to hear something new.’

I call this SPIRITUAL BOREDOM

Do you want something new, or are you willing to live with the same old, same old? It may be the ‘old, old story’, but let me tell you something, it’s a story that never grows stale. If it does, then the problem isn’t with the story.

Beware of being unwilling to change in the areas of your life that involve character growth, but always willing to take a look at that little different idea that comes along—The truly consecrated is supposed to be unwilling to change when it comes to ideas, but always willing to take a look at his character and change wherever he needs to…”

We must not be part of what I call the ‘Bible Student Ecumenical Movement’, that is reflected in the kind of ecumenical thinking that the Catholic church is attempting. The Mother Church wants her daughters back, FINE.  But, we can’t be in God’s Church, “spiritual ecumenists.”

You know there are a lot of voices within the Bible Students community, books, booklets, tracts, newsletters, journals. And I was guilty of subscribing to them all. But in recent years, I’ve let my subscriptions lapse. I figured, since they all claim to be heirs of The Divine Plan, I might as well stick with The Divine Plan, and not the cheap knock-offs out there.

While I recognize that it is a noble cause to publish such study material, in an effort to help others understand The Plan, or to defend it, there have been in the past those who have endeavored to rewrite The Divine Plan in a simpler, easier to read format. These have all failed miserably in that regards. While a noble attempt, they lack “meat” found nowhere else, but in the original. Others have made subtle changes in The Plan to reflect their views.

Many individuals and ecclesias have even used these resources in their own personal and ecclesia studies as primary study material. This is a grave mistake, as I feel personally that the Harvest Message (the writings of Pastor Russell) should be the primary material used in our personal and eccclesia studies.

We don’t want to pick up any doctrinal baggage from these various sources. Brethren don’t realize how much they ingest from reading all that “spiritual junk”. And yet the basic command was to ‘prove all things, hold fast that which is good,’ and that’s what the Bereans did in Acts 17:11 ‘…in that they received the word with all the readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.’

But, 10 verses later you’ve got this bunch from Athens, not very far from Berea. They say, ‘Titillate us!’ That’s what they wanted. So there are lots of brethren and elders, and ecclesias out there as a result. I’m not attacking them personally, I’m not saying they aren’t consecrated, but they are missing a very fundamental command—and how deeply they are consecrated, and how hot they are, is a huge question…”

Matthew 24:13: ‘But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.’ All right, we have to endure, but what does it mean?

Look at 2 Thessalonians 3:6, we’re going to look at the Greek here again:

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.’ But he commands them, ‘I command you, hold fast the tradition as you have been taught.”

Now 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or epistle.”

“Stand Fast” – A little different Greek word here…krateo. See what you notice.

Katecho is ‘hold down, fast, have, keep in memory, possess, return, take, seize on, stay.’

Krateo is ‘to use strength, a little stronger even, to seize or retain, to hold by, to hold fast, to keep.’

If you were describing to a Greek mind, if you said, ‘Well, I want you to krateo the stick. That means to ‘grab hold of’ or ‘lay your hand on it’, and ‘obtain’ and ‘retain.’

Now the TRUTH is something we obtain, and then we’re told after we grab it to retain it. That’s exactly what it means. That’s krateo, stand fast, and if people don’t do this—withdraw from them. That’s what it says!…”

Turn to 2 Timothy 1:13, this is katecho again, ‘Hold fast the form of sound words.’ We talked about the importance of sound words, a sound mind, and sound doctrine and so forth. You hear sound words, don’t follow unsound things…”

Next is 2 Timothy 3:14: ‘Continue you in the things you have learned and have been assured of knowing of whom you have learned them.’ Do you do that? ANY truth you possess, you learned from “That Servant”.

If you take a look at Church history, you’ll see that there has always, always, been a battle internally for the soul of the Church, between those who would change and those who would not.

History reveals that those who want change usually ‘win,’ and I put that in quotes. They usually ‘win.’ And they usually outnumber those who don’t because of the drive—the need—in human beings to go along to get along. To not be willing to disrupt the status quo is great. If you doubt that, look at how many stayed with the Society after the death of the Pastor. There’s a battle for the soul of the Church. And if I read prophecy correctly, the battle is going to intensify, brethren, not diminish.

This is war brethren, and that’s why we’ve been chosen to be soldiers. We’re called and told, ‘We must war a good warfare,’ and it’s going to be that way to the end.

I’m not trying to lay any ground work here. I’m just saying you better make your own decisions as to what you’re going to do. Are you going to hold fast? Or are you going to sort of, over the course of time, become lukewarm? Go with the status quo? We have to be very careful that we don’t take part in this ‘ecumenical movement’ within the brotherhood. To align ourselves with the majority, (for the sake of unity) because we fear being left alone. When in reality, we’re never REALLY alone.

2 Timothy 4:4

“They shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables.”

We’re here, Brethren!!! We can no longer say “the time will come”. The time has come. Brethren are NOT enduring. It’s not, ‘it came and went.’ It is now come. And Brethren are out there looking for teachers.

Just hear of some of the insanity that is being promoted from the platform by some and what’s worse, not just the ecclesias that continue to appoint them, but those ecclesias and conventions that continue to invite them.

When I first began to associate with the brethren, I marveled at some conventions that would invite the same speakers year, after year …. and now I know why!

As a side note, you do realize that elders are not the only ones commissioned to stand up for the Truth. It will take courage, brethren, but if you’re in the presence of somebody, just you and one other person, in the presence of somebody who’s teaching something that’s wrong? Are you going to show courage? What would you do?

Just remember … it was this same lukewarm spirit, of appointing men, year after year, without testing them, requiring of them an accounting that gave rise to the hierarchy that we know as Babylon the Great. So today, we have a Little Babylon, we have wolves in sheep’s clothing, false brethren, and deceivers in our midst …. strong delusions, itching ears due to every wind of doctrine.

These men didn’t appoint  themselves …. You did!

Discourse given by Rolando Rodriguez