Arrayed in Hypocrisy

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:27,28 KJV).

“Looks can be deceiving” is not only true during Halloweentime, but confirmed year-round within Christendom.

Today is Halloween, when children dress up and feign themselves to be creatures they are not. Likewise, many church leaders today wear “Christian” garbs, but their ministries do not bring the Lord Jesus Christ glory and honor. They promote their denomination, and seek to perpetuate it, rather than serve and exalt the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. The Bible manifests these who appear to be good, as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

In today’s Scripture, Jesus Christ exposed Israel’s corrupt religious leaders who misled the nation in His day. In His Parable of the Tares, Matthew 13:24-30,37-43, Christ explained how just as He had sown good seed (wheat, believing Jews) in Israel, Satan had also sown tares/weeds (unbelieving Jews). Tares resemble wheat; unbelieving Jews resemble believing Jews. The unbelieving Pharisees and scribes, for instance, looked like God’s people (believing Israel). Judas Iscariot was another example of Satan’s tares—the apostles never realized who Judas really was until it was too late!

But Satan’s counterfeit believers are not confined to Israel’s program. Today, within local assemblies of the Body of Christ, there are people feigning themselves to be Christians: For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Beloved, beware of the church leaders who are arrayed in hypocrisy, “and avoid them” (Romans 16:17b). If their teaching does not agree with the rightly divided King James Bible, you have no business as a child of God to be following them.

*This is excerpted from a larger Bible study with the same name. The Bible study can be read here or watched here.

A Brother Offended

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Proverbs 18:19 KJV).

Today’s Scripture reminds us that backstabbing (betrayal) often has irreversible results.

Within the last few weeks, I have personally had to endure two backstabbings, so today’s Scripture is especially fresh in my mind. What grieves me is that both parties were professing grace Christians. Both gained my trust, and both played the hypocrite rather subtlety. One inflicted great damage on me spiritually and emotionally, which I cannot adequately express in words.

One was a “friend” of mine for just over a year, and the other a family “friend” for decades. Both of those relationships were highly distracting for my ministry, they still are, and they pose some difficulties for the ministry and me in the coming years. I was insulted, humiliated, and betrayed, and it makes it all the more painful that they claimed to be grace brethren in Christ. In short, dear saints and readers, I have a broken heart.

As today’s Scripture indicates, an offended family member—either physically or spiritually a family member—is “harder to be won than a strong city.” You can eventually conquer a walled city, but the upset human heart is far more resilient. Some broken relationships can never be restored. We do make every human attempt possible to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18), but this does not always come to pass. There are people who are stubborn and prideful, and while they claim to be Christians, they persistently mock Christian charity (even after being repeatedly admonished). They make fellowship with them impossible, so we must avoid them in order to keep the situation from escalating.

Saints, we may lose all of our “friends” for the Lord’s sake—even professing grace Christian brethren will forsake us. Let us not be surprised, but let us rejoice that the Lord is glorified in that. Saints, since our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ lost everything to provide our eternal salvation, let us be willing to lose every relationship in this life for Him.

Kicking Against the Pricks?

Monday, October 29, 2012

“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5 KJV).

What did the Lord mean here when He said Saul of Tarsus was “kicking against the pricks?”

The King James Bible uses “pricks” thrice—today’s Scripture; its parallel verse, Acts 26:14; and Numbers 33:55. Let us examine the latter for a clue as to the definition of “pricks.”

God instructed Moses to advise Israel when she would enter into her Promised Land: “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:55). Notice “pricks” and “thorns” are connected (cf. Ezekiel 28:24).

Prior to Paul’s salvation, God had been forming the nation Israel (often likened unto sheep). God had also sent His Son, Israel’s Messiah-King, Jesus, as the “good shepherd” (John 10:11), to lead wayward Israel back to Him. Jesus declared, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24; cf. Matthew 10:6; Luke 15:1-10). Saul was one of those lost Jews, bitterly opposed to Jesus Christ: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). He imprisoned and murdered Jewish believers (verses 10,11; cf. Acts 7:58–8:4; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13,14,23; 1 Timothy 1:13).

God described Saul’s activities as “kicking against the pricks.” “Pricks” (goads) resemble thorns; they are pointed objects used to prod and drive rebellious livestock. Essentially, Jesus Christ referred to Saul as a disobedient sheep, sinfully opposing God’s will for Israel (Saul rejected Christ, and was killing those who accepted Him).

Saul learned his fighting against the Creator God was futile, for he was unsuccessful in annihilating believing Israel. In fact, hell-bound Saul eventually quit striving against God. He trusted Christ, and ultimately became the Apostle Paul, God’s apostle to us Gentiles!

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Sunday, October 28, 2012

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29 KJV).

Saints, let us be mindful that today’s Scripture is truer today than ever before.

In the context of today’s Scripture, the Apostle Paul is bidding the Ephesian church leaders farewell. He is determined to return to Jerusalem, unsure if the Jews will kill him there (verses 22,23). Paul warns these church leaders to “take heed therefore unto [themselves], and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made [them] overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (verse 28).

They need to be on guard, for in the next verse—today’s Scripture—he cautions them that false teachers will come in and spiritually devour these Christian leaders and their local assemblies. Satan’s ministers, denominationalists/religionists/legalists, will devastate the spiritual health of God’s people. They will come in from the outside world, and infiltrate the church with heresy so Christians become ineffective.

But, the subsequent verse says, “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (verse 30). Not only will people outside the local church come in and deceive, there will be false teachers within the church (already doing the damage subtly and hypocritically). They claim “Jesus is Lord,” they talk about God’s love and grace, and some will even go so far as to agree with us by teaching the special ministry and gospel committed to the Apostle Paul’s trust. But, when you read the King James Bible for yourself, and compare their teaching to it, you realize that their ministry confirms today’s Scripture.

“With tears,” Paul warned the Ephesians for three years about false teaching (Acts 20:31). By the end of Paul’s ministry, several years after that warning in Acts chapter 20, Ephesus and the rest of Asia (Turkey) went into apostasy (2 Timothy 1:15). Dear saints, how we would STRONGLY URGE you to be very careful about what preacher, ministry, and/or church you follow. Many corrupt the word of God” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Aid Not the Sinner in His Cause

Saturday, October 27, 2012

“And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief” (Exodus 32:21,22 KJV).

While we are to speak out against the world’s sins, let us make sure we are not aiding them to commit those sins.

For the past 40 days, Moses has been on Mount Sinai, receiving the Law from the LORD. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt” (verses 7,8).

So, Moses descends from Sinai, holding the tables of stone on which the LORD engraved His Law. “And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh [near] unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it” (verses 19,20).

Today’s Scripture describes the next event. Aaron was left in charge of Israel while Moses was away, so Moses demands of his brother why he allowed Israel to indulge in this pagan idolatry. Aaron confesses that when Israel wanted an idol, he took Israel’s gold, “cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf” (verse 24). Ridiculous—Aaron claims the idol just “magically” appeared! In today’s Scripture, notice how Aaron blames Israel’s wickedness, when he was ultimately to blame!

Saints, let us not encourage others to sin, as Aaron misled Israel. Church leaders should be especially cautious in that regard.

Israel’s Walk By Sight

Friday, October 26, 2012

“And Israel saw the great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31 KJV).

While we in the Dispensation of Grace “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), today’s Scripture validates this was not true of Israel in her program.

In Christendom, there is much discussion about “miraculous demonstrations.” Apparitions, snake handling, exorcisms, and healing campaigns are publicized as “the work of God.” They insist, “Come and see signs, miracles, and wonders!” Certainly, believers in Scripture did perform various miracles, but we need to understand why they carried them out, before we try to mimic them (and before someone gets hurt!).

The greatest hang-up in Christendom is a persistent, defiant confusing and combining of Israel’s program of “time past” with God’s current program operating in the “but now.” Just because God did something in the past, He is not necessarily doing it today. Do we still offer animal sacrifices? Are we building an ark like Noah? Should we stone to death those who work on the Saturday Sabbath like Israel did? Just as we understand the clarity of these issues, we should recognize that miraculous demonstrations performed in Israel’s program are not occurring today (according to the rightly divided Bible, anyway).

For instance, in the context of today’s Scripture, Israel has just observed God drowning the Egyptian armies in the Red Sea. Israel responded by faith, but not until after she had seen that miracle (today’s Scripture). After all, “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22a). Jesus explained to Israel why He performed His miracles: “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). Without miracles, Israel would not believe (cf. Exodus 4:1-9); Aaron performed signs before Israel, “and the people believed” (verses 30,31).

We are Gentiles, and unlike Jews, we do not need signs, miracles, and wonders—they were for the benefit of unbelieving Israel (see 1 Corinthians 14:21,22, for example). When we study and believe Paul’s epistles, we learn that the completed Bible replaced the miraculous demonstrations (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:16,17).

A Burdened Musician

Thursday, October 25, 2012

“That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart” (Romans 9:2 KJV).

With the passing of another saint I knew personally, we remind ourselves that our family and friends need to hear from our lips the salvation found only in Jesus Christ.

Mr. Hadley Castille, a world-renowned Cajun fiddler, passed away earlier today at age 79, not too far from my home. A few years back, when we had our newspaper ministry, he read and enjoyed our Bible study columns. The last couple of months of his life, he battled brain cancer, and I was privileged to recently visit him in a rest home and minister to him and his wife.

During his last few days alive, Mr. Castille had such a burden for his lost friends, two of whom were visiting him the same day I was there. He expressed his grief to me that he wanted to tell them how to go to heaven, but he was unsure of where to begin and what to say exactly. I gave him gospel tracts, and suggested that he simply give those to them when they approached his bedside.

Those two friends and I shook hands, and then they went to Mr. Castille’s bedside. I heard the urgency in the dear man’s voice as he softly stated, “I want you to go to heaven with me.” Nevertheless, these two friends—both in bondage to world religions—refused the gospel tracts he offered them. One reassured us that his pagan religion would certainly get him to heaven, and the other friend preferred not to have a “theological discussion.”

In today’s Scripture, even the Apostle Paul sorrowed that his fellow Jews were lost and going to hell (cf. Romans 10:1-3). He preached that he “might save some of them” (Romans 11:14). Saints, we should be burdened to share the Gospel of God’s Grace with everyone we know and meet. After all, even those currently suffering in hellfire, have an intense desire that their living loved ones do not come and meet them in that awful place of torment (Luke 16:27,28).

Let us be burdened, just as that musician….

-IN MEMORIAM-
Mr. Hadley J. Castille
(March 3, 1933 – October 25, 2012)

An Abomination and a Delight #3

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8 KJV).

In today’s Scripture, we read of an abomination to the LORD and a delight of the LORD.

All too often, churches capitalize on vain religious performance. They encourage us to pray, but they never teach us how to pray in this the Dispensation of Grace as God’s Word instructs. We are begged to “support the program” monetarily, but they never teach us how to give in this the Dispensation of Grace as God’s Word instructs. They implore us to walk aisles and make “professions of faith,” “turn from our sins and then trust Christ” (?), and “follow Jesus in ‘believer’s baptism.’” Friends, it may come as a shock to you, but these “godly” activities are abominations to the Lord: they literally are wickedness.

Faith is first and foremost, and faith in God’s Word to us—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon—does not lead us to walk aisles, it does not lead us to forsake our sins to be saved, it does not lead us to follow Israel’s legalistic tithe, and it does not lead us to be water baptized. These emphasize our performance, not Christ’s performance. Satan enjoys religious performance—he desires to rob Christ of His praise by getting us to boast in what we do!

We go contrary to what God is doing today when we promote denominational theology. Today’s Scripture speaks of “the sacrifice of the wicked” as “an abomination to the LORD.” This is someone doing what he or she wants in religion: offering a sacrifice, but doing it wickedly (no faith). Such activity does not honor the Lord.

If we want God to “delight” in our Christian service (today’s Scripture), let us first study and believe His Word to us—Paul’s epistles—and then, by faith, apply those Scriptures to our lives, daily speaking to God about our lives in light of what we read in His written Word (prayer). In doing so, we exalt not ourselves, but we magnify our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone deserves our delight. 🙂

An Abomination and a Delight #2

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8 KJV).

In today’s Scripture, we read of an abomination to the LORD and a delight of the LORD.

According to Jeremiah 9:23,24, the prophet warned Israel’s southern kingdom: “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory [brag] in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”

Paul loosely quoted Jeremiah in 1 Corinthians 1:29-31: “That no flesh should glory in [God’s] presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

Prayer is simply us “pouring out [our] heart before [God]” (Psalm 62:8). We talk to God about the events in our lives, and how His written Word relates to those circumstances. We should know for what to pray, but “we know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26). Some events are just too complicated to express in words. Thus, as verse 26 continues to explain, the Holy Spirit “helpeth our infirmities [weaknesses]… the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” When we pray, the Holy Spirit brings to our minds the applicable verses that we read and studied, and thus enables us to speak to God in prayer more effectually.

Today’s Scripture explains that God delights in hearing the prayers of the “upright” (His believers). He enjoys hearing His saints value His Word by their speaking to Him about their lives in light of His Word. As Jeremiah and Paul stated, God delights in us glorying in that which He values. After all, in prayer, we should boast in God’s Word, in the wonderful things He has done for us.

An Abomination and a Delight #1

Monday, October 22, 2012

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8 KJV).

In today’s Scripture, we read of an abomination to the LORD and a delight of the LORD.

Especially during Isaiah’s time (circa 700 B.C.), apostasy was rampant in Israel’s southern kingdom (Judah and Benjamin). The LORD went so far as to call it (spiritually) “Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:10)!

Read God’s reprimanding of Israel’s southern kingdom: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats…. Bring no more vain [worthless] oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (verses 11,13-15).

God is sick of Judah’s double mindedness—she murders His prophets, yet she performs the Mosaic Law religiously (animal sacrifices, Sabbath day keeping, et cetera). Despite their godly façade, God can read their evil hearts. They were practicing Judaism, but not by faith: it was just worthless, mindless repetition, which God literally hated.

Jesus chided Israel’s religious leaders of His day, who were so fixated on executing ceremonies that they ignored having faith in why God had instructed them to perform those rituals (formalism): “Well hath Esaias [Isaiah 29:13] prophesied of you hypocrites, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6).

Let us not be like Israel, in Jesus’ and Isaiah’s day, who blindly performed religious ceremonies just to appear good. Faithless religious performance is “an abomination to the LORD,” just as wicked as indulging in the sins of the flesh.