Gen. 3:6; 2nd π Prov. 6:16,19 π Isa. 29:13 π Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 12:36 π Mt. 15:8-9 π Mt. 20:25-26 π Mt. 24:12 π Lk. 10:38-42 π Lk. 12:48 π Jn. 5:19-20 π Jn. 8:28-29 π Jn. 13:17 π Jn. 13:34 π Jn. 14:31 π Jn. 15:12 π Jn. 15:15 π Rom. 11:22 π Gal. 5:17 π Gal. 6:7-8 π Phlp. 2:12 π Col. 2:23 π 2 Ths. 2:9-12 π 1 Tim. 2:14; 2nd π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Heb. 5:8 π 1 Jn. 2:16 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π Rev. 3:16 π Rev. 19:15 π Rev. 21:3-4
If there is anything the devil likes to pull over on the believing Christian, it is a seemingly innocent substitution. For instance, by inserting the English word "church" where the Greek word "ekklesia" exists, Satan has successfully diverted many people into looking for God in what they think is "His house," a building, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to enable them to find and become "the called out people of Christ." In another instance, a "pastor" takes on the role of a modern corporation CEO over his own sect and fails to see his own disobedience to Christ's command about not lording it over other believers ( Mt. 20:25-26 ) and conveniently forgets that God hates one who divides brothers even when it is done in the name of doctrinal "purity" ( Prov. 6:16 , 19 ) In yet another instance, we see a believer's need for a teacher and, most often, look to some man to fulfill that role who teaches us many things we don't need to know and who is quite unable to teach us many things we do need to know - all while we fail to cultivate an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit who alone is able to teach us to abide in Christ. ( 1 Jn. 2:27 ; also see 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top )
For those who participate in the advanced technology of the internet - the new virtual reality - there are some very real dangers. First, there is the fact that it is virtual reality. That is, it is almost real life. This can be a very subtle but very real substitution as there is the lack of face-to-face interaction. There is no way, outside of the work of the Holy Spirit, to accurately convey a spiritual message using only electronic bits of information. So, while it is true that God has used - and continues to use - messages printed on the net, we must be careful that the net does not become a replacement for real life with real people in real face-to-face situations. There simply is no such thing as electronic spirituality.
But there is even a greater danger and, though it is extremely relevant to the internet, it is as old as mankind. And this is the danger of substituting reading and knowing in the place of actually doing what God has commanded. Adam knew that God had commanded him not to eat of the one tree in the garden. When Adam chose to ignore what God had commanded and instead chose to act independently of God, he set in motion a chain of events that has been disastrous for mankind ever since.
And let's look at Adam's sin. Was it a heinous crime, a gruesome murder or some other villainous act? Was it even a petty theft or trivial crime that Adam committed? No. Adam simply took a piece of fruit - some say an apple but more likely a fig or date - and ate it. That is the sum total of his physical actions. And for this action, God cursed the ground and all mankind, and sin and death entered into human history.
Satan's subtle substitution was "you shall be like God" - appealing to one of the deepest driving forces within the human soul, the desire to be like the Creator. In Eve, the fruit stirred up the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (compare Gen. 3:6 with 1 Jn. 2:16 ) and she was deceived. ( 1 Tim. 2:14 ) Adam, on the other hand, stood by, heard the conversation between Satan and Eve, and then watched her pull the fruit from the tree and eat it. When she handed the fruit to him, Adam chose. (compare Gen. 3:6 with 1 Tim. 2:14; top ) He knew that God's command was to not eat of this tree. The simple substitution of his own will in the place of God's will was the catalyst of all the subsequent sin, misery and death for all mankind. And if the punishment must fit the crime - and God is consummately just - then the way we view Adam's actions as a trivial deed must be completely skewed for God saw it as a crime worthy of the death of the entire race.
Some 4,000 years later, the leaders of Israel knew their God-given Law inside and out, backwards and forwards. But when Christ - their promised Messiah - appeared, they envied Him and turned Him over to the Roman governor to be executed.
Let us review their actions with frightened acuity. They had read, studied, memorized, meditated upon, argued over and, in many instances, even made valiant attempts to practice everything that was in God's word. They wondered with amazement at the prophecies. They trembled with fear at the commandments. They studied every nuance of every story of the histories and made allegorical applications from these histories. But even though God's word was on their lips, their hearts were far from Him. ( Isa. 29:13 ; Mt. 15:8-9; top ) Their hearts were so far from Him, in fact, that they envied and hated and killed the Son of God, the ultimate personification of the very One who had given them all of their laws, prophecies and histories.
Now, as we approach revelation which God gives us through the Scriptures, let us recognize how lethal it could be to our own lives. The more we know, the more we will be held accountable for. Or as Jesus said, "To whom much is given, much is required." ( Lk. 12:48 ) It is still a part of the real gospel that we will be held accountable for every idle word. ( Mt. 12:36 ) Let us then be careful that we do indeed work out the salvation of our soul with fear and trembling. ( Phlp. 2:12; top )
That's the "dark side" of our responsibility before God but there is a "light side" as well. Whatever revelation we have received from God, if we will just put that into practice, we will be blessed. Jesus said, "Now that you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." ( Jn. 13:17 - emphasis added; top)
This "carrot and stick" approach - or as Paul called it, the simultaneous "goodness and severity of God" ( Rom. 11:22 ) - is to be found throughout the whole of the New Testament. The book of Revelation speaks of great and wondrous rewards - "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." ( Rev. 21:3-4; top )
But even in the face of such great rewards for those who are faithful, let us never forget Jesus' dire warning: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" ( Mt. 7:21-23; top )
Let us notice this very carefully. Only those that actually do the will of the Father will pass Christ's judgment. All the others must leave Christ's presence because all they did was practice lawlessness - that is, that which was right in their own eyes, the same action of Adam that brought upon all humanity such dire calamity and the same action that prompted the Pharisees to oppose and execute Christ.
Let us take a few moments to consider two concepts:
1) the will of God and
What is God's will for our lives? All the specific ins and outs of where we should go, who we should meet, what we should do, etc., are summed up for the believer in the notion that we are to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Some key characteristics of Christ-likeness are found throughout the Scriptures. And we could devote hours of study to this concept alone. But let us just choose two. For if we could but learn even these two, we would be many steps ahead in becoming like Christ.
First, there was His utter dependence upon the Father. Christ claimed that He did nothing - absolutely nothing - except what He saw His Father doing. ( Jn. 5:19-20 ; 8:28-29 ; 14:31 ; 15:15 ) Most of us, especially those having experienced the spirit-numbing, growth-inhibiting environment of "church," have absolutely no idea as to how to even see God, let alone how to do what we see Him doing. To learn how to see God requires that we learn to sit quietly at Jesus' feet, hearing and obeying only His voice. (see Lk. 10:38-42 ) Until we can sit quietly at His feet, we are completely unfit for service to His kingdom because we will only be doing things that we believe to be right in our own eyes! Doing our own will - even doing those things which seem to be godly - will never conform us to the likeness of Christ. ( Col. 2:23; top )
The second aspect of Christ that we need to embrace is suffering. The writer of Hebrews tells us that even though He was the Son of God, Christ learned to obey God through the things He suffered. ( Heb. 5:8; top ) To tell a Christian that he must suffer in this life is often quite contradictory to the "gospel" message which brought them toward Christ in the first place. Many people are exposed to messages that tell them the benefits of believing in Christ - and indeed there are many benefits - but these messages often fail to convey the complete and utter selflessness that Christ truly requires. This is not to say that every believer is to be a blank automaton with no personality. Quite the opposite is true - but it is only in Christ, our Creator, that we can experience the fullness of who and what He created us to be. Any action independent of God - no matter how seemingly innocent or godly or religious it might be - is only an act of lawlessness, the same sin of Adam, the same sin of the Pharisees. And if we find this notion that we must surrender our will entirely to be oppressive, let us consider that when Christ returns, our wills will be surrendered to Him unconditionally as He will rule all the nations with a rod of iron enforcing righteousness for a thousand years. ( Rev. 19:15; top )
Suffering enters into the picture of our lives at many different levels. If we are accustomed to catering to the whims and desires of our soul, it will be painful when we have to choose His will over our own whether there is physical suffering involved or not. And when there is physical suffering - such as a disability or illness - it is still our duty to seek to glorify God and to honor and praise Him. Few things bring so much glory to God and so weaken the powers of the flesh and our soul as does continuing to praise, worship and obey God in the face of our physical ailments.
Let us now consider what the Scriptures call lawlessness. Jesus prophesied, "Because of the lawlessness that will abound, the love of many will grow cold." ( Mt. 24:12; top ) We read that and we think that lawlessness refers to gross wickedness and iniquity, to heinous and gruesome crimes (one New Testament interpreter, in his own private interpretation of the word, helps this misunderstanding remain when he renders "lawlessness" to mean there will be "an increasing crime wave"), but this is not so at all. Lawlessness simply refers to every man doing what is right in his own eyes. This is why our culture is becoming more and more wicked - everyone does what he thinks is the right thing to do according to his own self interests. Philosophers call this "relativism." As a result, in spite of the fact that thousands of pages of new laws are being written every year in this country, there is no single righteous standard of right or godliness contained within the laws. And no matter how many new laws the lawmakers write, until we return to God's standards - and His standards alone - we will become more and more lawless and more and more wicked as a nation. These two go hand in hand. As each special interest group continues to promote its own agenda and attempts to bolster its own power base by enlarging their own faction, more and more people will feel justified in pursuing their own selfish interests at the expense of others. This is lawlessness.
Lawlessness is also quite clearly seen in the "church." Each denomination or sub-sect seeks to attract members who agree with that sect's peculiar creeds or who fit in with the sect's peculiar image requirements. Anyone with their own ideas - or anyone seeking to discover and embrace God's ideas - is viewed as troublesome and rebellious and is soon asked or forced to leave that particular sect - and often these feel compelled to go off and start yet another denomination or sub-sect. This is lawlessness.
Unfortunately, some of this lawlessness - perhaps because so many members of the Body of Christ still retain some corrupted notions left over from their experience in various "churches" - is still practiced among believers who have received much revelation about the kingdom of God. A man gifted with speaking and sharing gifts spends so much time "ministering" to others that his son can only be called a PK (preachers' kid - in all the stereotypical downfallings of that term). Another man, old enough to be an elder, seems to take pride in his "helping God" provide a "wilderness experience" for those other members of the Body of Christ who move into his rather rural area by neglecting the needs of the newcomers - and those local believers who take their cues from him seem unable to selflessly serve anyone who doesn't come to their religious meetings and participate in their peculiar religious expression of the Body. Another man, upon being corrected about some issues deep in his heart, withdraws from all fellowship with others in the Body - except with those who still respect his opinions and listen to his every word as if from God Himself. Another man spends 60 to 70 hours a week at work, claiming that God has him doing this for a time to provide for his family - but still he has little or no available resources and his family is not ministered to and led as they ought to be. In addition, both on and off the internet, multitudes of men and women argue with each other about various doctrines and practices - each wanting their own peculiar expression of the truth to be the end-all, be-all doctrine of the month. Also on the internet, nearly everyone who is on a discussion list or who participates on blogsites and in chatrooms is a self-proclaimed expert on their own views and dogmas - but very few even know what the Spirit is really saying to the people of Christ. All this is still lawlessness - everyone doing what is right in his own eyes instead of everyone doing only what the Head, Christ Jesus, commands.
Let us remember carefully what Jesus said. "Because of the lawlessness that abounds..." - because everyone is preoccupied in the pursuit of his own plans and agenda, especially, but not limited to, his own religious notions - "the love of many will grow cold" - that is, the selfless expression of the Spirit of God from within the hearts of believers will be quenched and extinguished in many cases. Nor could it be otherwise. The Spirit strongly desires what is contrary to the flesh and the flesh strongly desires what is contrary to the Spirit. ( Gal. 5:17; top ) When we seek only the things of me and mine instead of desiring God's will above our own, we are going to quench the work of the Spirit in our lives. It is inevitable. No fleshly or soulish - lawless - expression of religion will ever enable us to obey Christ's command to love one another as He loved us. (see Jn. 13:34 ; 15:12 ) All that a fleshly or soulish - lawless - expression of religion can ever hope to deliver to us is a "form of godliness" that is utterly devoid of the power of God. ( 2 Tim. 3:5; top )
This is the essence of the subtle substitution that Satan now offers to those who profess the name of Christ: the right to practice lawlessness - doing what you believe to be right and proper - in the name of Christ. But do not be deceived - God will not be mocked. As a man sows, so shall he reap. If he sows to the flesh, he will reap corruption and death. But if he sows to the Spirit of God, he will gain abundant and everlasting life. ( Gal. 6:7-8; top )
The choice is ours to make here and now. If we continue to remain under the priestly-"pastoral" system of "church" designed by the spirit of antichrist and perpetuated by the traditions of men, if we continue to remain divided from our brothers in Christ who hold slightly different notions than our own, if we refuse to selflessly lay down our lives for one another as Christ gives us opportunity, if we continue to seek after more and more revelation while we remain disobedient to what we already know, then we are only practicing yet another form of lawlessness. And there will soon come a day when God says, "Enough. You who love and practice unrighteousness - I give you over to a deceiving spirit so that you will be condemned with all those who love and practice lies. I am tired of you trying to live with one foot in the world and one foot in My kingdom. Since you will not enter into My kingdom, I will remove you from My body and give you completely over to the control of the wicked one." ( 2 Ths. 2:9-12 ; Rev. 3:16; top )
Let us with great clarity and great soberness consider the options that lie before us this day.
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