Gen. 1:27 π Gen. 4:3-4 π 1 Sam. 16:7 π Mt. 7:22-23 π Mt. 13:47-50 π Mt. 23:25-28 π Mt. 24:4-5 π Mt. 24:10 π Rom. 1:17 π Rom. 2:28-29 π Rom. 9:30-33 π Gal. 1:10 π Gal. 5:17 π 1 Ths. 5:23 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π Jas. 1:21-22 π Jude 11
T. Austin Sparks wrote:
"John's Gospel was written when the New Testament Church, as we have said, had lost its original form and power and spiritual life, its heavenly character and Divine order; written in the midst of such conditions as are outlined in the messages to the churches in Asia at the beginning of the Apocalypse, and that can be so clearly inferred from his letters.
...as John writes, things are not as they were, not as God meant them to be. They no longer represent God's thought in and for His people. The order, the heavenly order, has broken down and is breaking down yet more. The heavenly nature has been forfeited and an earthly thing is taking shape in Christianity. The true life is being lost and the glory is departing...
Christians can be, in the man, divided into these two classes. There is that very large class of Christians whose Christianity is objective, is outward. It is a matter of having adopted a Christian life, that now they do a lot of things which they once would not do. They go to meetings, they go to church, they read the Bible, lots of things they used not to do; and they now do not do quite a lot of things they once did. That is what holds good more or less in that class. It is now a matter of not doing and doing, not going and going, being a good Christian outwardly. That is a big class with its various degrees of light and shade, a very big class of Christians indeed.
There are others...for whom the Christian life is an inward thing of walking with the Lord and knowing the Lord in the heart, in greater or lesser degree. That is the nature of it, a real inward walk with a living Lord in their own heart. There is a great deal of difference between these two classes." (The School of Christ, p. 31, 86-87)
As it was in the beginning of church history, so it is at the close of church history. As it was in Jesus' day, so it quickly became again by the time John wrote his gospel (by 90 a.d.). Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." ( Mt. 23:25-28; top )
Paul struck a similar note when he wrote, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." ( Rom. 2:28-29 ) Later he continued, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.'" ( Rom. 9:30-33; top )
To recognize that this human tendency to focus on the outward things is nothing new, we need only consider the Lord's words to Samuel, a man who lived carefully attentive to the Lord's voice.
What we are looking at here is the fruit of the Fall. Man was created in the likeness of God. ( Gen. 1:27 ) Part of that likeness is the threefold nature of his existence - body, soul and spirit. ( 1 Ths. 5:23; top ) Whereas God looks at the inward heart (spirit and soul) of man, man, because of the fractured nature of his existence, looks on the outward and most often makes his judgments from what he sees there.
In the first recorded practice of false religion, Cain, looking at the outward appearance, could see no difference between bringing some of his crops (the fruit of the ground which God had previously cursed) and bringing a spotless lamb as a sacrifice to God. ( Gen. 4:3-4 ) In the end times, Jude pronounces woe on the last days apostates (those departed from the faith): "For they have gone in the way of Cain." ( Jude 11 ) The great falling away from the faith ( Mt. 24:10 , 2 Ths. 2:3; top ) will be characterized, in large part, by those who, focused on outward things, will see no difference between outward "church" attendance and the living way of following Christ. They will bring the fruits of their soul and flesh before the Lord and they will be so angry that their sacrifice is rejected by God that they will lash out and persecute those who simply follow Christ wherever He leads.
Jesus said, "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. 7:22-23 - emphasis added; top) Many will proclaim all the outward things they've done in Christ's name but in the end He will tell them to leave Him because what they did was right only in their own eyes and not His. He never knew them in their inward man.
Carnal (fleshly) men will always be able to see only the outward aspects of anything - especially religion! Whereas God demands a surrendered and undivided heart, men still focus on titles, denominational distinctives, rituals, routines, "theologies," liturgies and the like to display the value and legitimacy of their religion. But all that is carnal (flesh) is not only useless to God, it is contradictory and antagonistic to the Spirit and life of God. ( Gal. 5:17; top )
In the end, the group of people to whom Sparks applied the term "Christian" will be divided along just these two class lines - outward and inward. Jesus said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to short; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." ( Mt. 13:47-50 - emphasis added; top)
After the gospel of the kingdom has drawn as many as will come to Christ and God, the angels will separate the wicked in heart (no matter what their religious title, denominationalities, "church" affiliation, "theological" or seminary degree) out from among the just - that one who lives by the faith that God implanted in his or her heart. ( Rom. 1:17 , Jas. 1:21-22; top )
That one is not a true follower of Christ who takes on a mere outward form of godliness that lacks the power to change the inward bent and nature of the fallen heart. ( 2 Tim. 3:5 ) and those who preach a "gospel" that pleases men and attracts followers to the speaker are not servants of Christ and God. ( Gal. 1:10 ) "Let no one deceive you - especially those who come in My name claiming to have the 'anointing' to speak My words!" (see Mt. 24:4-5; top )
Let he who has ears hear!
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