2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Judgment, and Hope. The converse is that if the land is not healed, “my people, who are called by my name”, are responsible. Not the sodomites, baby killers, gamblers, divorcees, atheists, Satanists, and crooked politicians. It is we who are called by Jesus’ name whose “wicked ways” are the cancer of our land.
The corrollary of this converse is that God has given it within our power to humble ourselves, pray, seek the face of God, turn from our wicked ways, and thus remove the cause of our land’s sickness.
It isn’t “the other guy.” It’s us.
This is a judgment upon the attitude that we are “doing enough”, with “no time” for any more responsibilities, such as “moving mountains”. Matthew 21:21. It is hope, for hearts too broken by the mountains to find rest in anything else but their imminant removal. It is a promise of reward for willingness to do all we can for our God.
How can God blame a nation’s sins on its Christians? But the sins of our land are things which Christians don’t do. Is it fair for God to blame us for what sinners do?
Or so we would like to think – that we don’t do such things. We are grateful that we are Christians, and not like those sinners over there. (Luke 18:10-14) Actually, Barna surveys indicate there is little statistical difference between the participation in what God calls “abominations” by Christians and atheists. But let’s set that annoying fact aside for a minute. Even if Christians in other churches do them, you and I don’t do them. At least not any more. At least not right now. And probably not later. Is it fair for God to hold you and me responsible for the sins of others?
God holds us responsible to report crime. America’s laws hold citizens responsible to report crime to authorities able to stop it. Witnesses are “compelled” to testify in court against criminals. In some circumstances, refusal to render assistance at the scene of an accident or a natural disaster can be a crime. Refusal to report a crime to authorities can, in some circumstances, bring charges for being an accomplice to the crime.
The Bible has similar expectations of Christians for cooperating with God and with human authorities to bring appropriate restraint of actions identified as abominations by God.
Joshua 7:1 The LORD's command to Israel not to take from Jericho anything that was to be destroyed was not obeyed. A man named Achan disobeyed that order, and so the LORD was furious with the Israelites. (GNB)
Notice: one man disobeyed God, and that made God “furious” with the whole nation. Furious enough, that God removed His protection from Israel’s armies, and they were defeated in their next battle. Here is how God unloads on Joshua about it:
Joshua 7:11 Israel has sinned! They have broken the agreement with me that I ordered them to keep. They have taken some of the things condemned to destruction. They stole them, lied about it, and put them with their own things. 12 This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They retreat from them because they themselves have now been condemned to destruction! I will not stay with you any longer unless you destroy the things you were ordered not to take! 13 Get up! Purify the people and get them ready to come before me. Tell them to be ready tomorrow, because I, the LORD God of Israel, have this to say: 'Israel, you have in your possession some things that I ordered you to destroy! You cannot stand against your enemies until you get rid of these things!' (GNB)
Achan sneaked forbidden war booty into his tent and buried it, and God held all Israel responsible? Does God expect Christians to be so vigilant that they report to the authorities even those abominations which sinners hide in their closets?
Apparently. Of course today, as abominations march out of closets, Christians carefully avoid “offending” them by calling them “sin” in public; and in fact Christians vote for candidates who promise to promote them.
God made us the stewards of a great treasure: the oracles of God, as Romans 3:2 puts it: the knowledge of right and wrong, as Romans 7:7 illustrates. We are called “watchmen on the wall”, those sentries who stay awake all night on top of the city wall watching for enemies who might attempt to invade. We are called “salt”, whose very presence kills infections and rottenness. We are given Light, and the responsibility to shine it on “the whole house”, and across the whole city.
Ezekiel 3:17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The very shining of Light in many cases makes Darkness impossible. When our culture is made aware of the wrongness of an activity, it takes its own corrective action. Sometimes by creating laws and putting offenders in jail. Sometimes by formal or informal boycotts. Sometimes by just a general revulsion that cuts off the gravy train for evildoers. Often by educating evildoers themselves and rescuing them from Hell as well as from a life of Hell on earth.
Theologies of hiding light. Watchmen, God calls us. Yet our churches do not – in fact believe they should not – monitor Satan’s progress outside their sanctified “sanctuaries”, much less report anything they accidentally notice to anyone ready to stop Satan’s advance.
America’s churches even have theological reasons to not shine their light on the darkness around them. Even in our most Bible-affirming pulpits, light is shone on specified abominations seldom – perhaps once or twice a year – and without the detail necessary to enable church members to organize to resist Satan – while only a tiny fraction of churches devote even a tiny fraction of their time, money, and resources reaching the dark world’s forums with enough light to help the lost recognize right from wrong.
That would be “controversial”, we are assured.. Where those abominations are promoted and protected by government, that would be “getting involved in politics”, we are told, as if being “controversial” were all 10 of the New Testament 10 Commandments. Christians who find themselves inspired by their pastors’ sermons to go into the darkness to save sinners from their sin are told they should instead “separate” from sinners. In Canada it is already against the law to say what God says about sodomy, (Saskatchewan v. Whatcott, 2013) and in the United States, lawmakers could safely outlaw it without the controversy of hardly anyone violating it.
In fact, the resistance to church involvement in resisting Satan’s advance across our culture, education, entertainment, and laws is so entrenched that we must ask ourselves if we assume too much, to think God cares any more than churches do. Is it the sin of being “controversial” to care? Is it just a few fanatics who think and talk this way?
Light defined. What do we call “light”? That is, what does God mean by the “light” which Jesus said we ought to shine? What are the “good works” which Jesus said would exemplify our light and cause men to glorify God?
Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Light is what shines in the darkness, where people who love darkness hate the light, because it exposes their evil deeds. This explains why people hated Jesus: because they hate God’s love.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
According to these verses, “darkness” is God’s metaphor for “evil deeds”. This would include all kinds of evils, with the list topped by those identified by God as “abominations”: things like baby killing and sodomy.
“Light” is God’s metaphor for Scriptures which clarify what deeds are evil. It doesn’t, at least directly, stop the wicked from doing evil, but it makes any future doing of those evil deeds a concscious, informed choice. It frees those who never meant to do evil from continuing in it, while it enrages those who are very comfortable doing evil.
When a church won’t proclaim its knowledge of which deeds God calls “evil” beyond its walls, it is not shining its “light” for the “whole house”. It is keeping its light “under a bushel”. It is no “city on a hill”.
What are our yardsticks of America’s “Darkness”? Reflect now on all your conversations with Christians. Think of the most boring, go-along-to-get-along, wallflower Christians you have met, who would never rock a boat, or even vote.
What makes all of us shake our heads at each other and mutter “America is going to Hell – it’s time for Jesus to come and fix all our problems”?
What makes us cry out to God to heal our land: when a denomination sprinkles instead of immersing? Or when California schools tell children to use the bathroom for whatever sex they are pretending to be?
What drives us to our knees for souls in our news, neighborhoods, workplaces, and families: a denomination worshipping on Saturday instead of on Sunday? Or lewd, violent rock lyrics in our school music programs while Christian music is censored?
What stirs our fear of God’s judgment upon America: the wrong position on speaking in tongues, or Obama’s friendliness towards Muslims while he threatens Israel?
What sparks sermons warning that God might turn America into a “valley of slaughter”, as Jeremiah 7:32 describes it: Christians who are wrong about whether the wine and bread literally changes into Jesus’ physical body and blood, or baby butchers with over a million notches on their scalpels a year?
What makes us despair for the world that will greet our descendants: when a denomination says “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” during a baptism (Matthew 28:19) instead of “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38)? Or the Common Core-approved textbooks which rewrite Christian influences out of American history?
What makes you shed more tears in your prayer closet: women being ordained, or Christian businesses forced to close for turning down sodomite wedding profits?
In other words, is disagreement over church doctrines our measure of the cancer in our land, or is it the latest news of how far Bible-defined abominations have progressed in our culture with the support of our courts and laws?
The Bible measures a nation’s decline by its abominations.
But before I get to that, let’s make it unanimous: even the very pulpits which prohibit any organizing by church members on church premises to oppose, outside the church, the abominations crawling through our land which were identified by the pastor’s sermons – even those very same pulpits also list abominations – not the doctrines of denominations – as evidence of America’s decline, if not evidence that we are in the Last Days. Pastors will list the theological errors of competing denominations as a reason not to attend them, but they list the abominations named by God as evidence of apostacy, of America’s decline, and of these being the Last Days before Jesus returns.
God’s yardsticks of national decline. When God gave examples of how far Israel had fallen away from Him, He did not mention the differences of Biblical interpretation between the ancestors of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He listed the most eggregious examples of Satan’s progress: sodomy so entrenched that it was accepted even in church, and child killing right outside the walls of Jerusalem where Israel’s leaders could hear the screams. (It helped quiet the consciences of the priests of the Temple that the screams were on the other side of the city.)
...they also built [places to kill babies]...and there were also sodomites [literally, “male temple prostitutes”] in the land.... 1 Kings 14:23-24 (In other words, homosexuality had come all the way from the closet to the sanctuary) Also 1 Kings 15:12, 22:46.
2 Chronicles 28:3 “Moreover [King Ahaz] burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, [“Gehenna” in Greek; Jesus said it illustrated Hell] and burnt his children in the fire,”
Jeremiah 7:31 “In Hinnom Valley they have built an altar called Topheth, so that they can sacrifice their sons and daughters in the fire. I did not command them to do this---it did not even enter my mind.” (GNB)
Bible commentator John Gill says of this verse,
“Tophet,.... Where was the idol Moloch; and which place had its name, as Jarchi thinks, from the beating of drums, that the parents of the children that were burnt might not hear the cry of them: which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom; a valley near Jerusalem, and lay to the south of it, Joshua 15:8.
“....to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire: which was done, as Jarchi says, by putting them into the arms of the brasen image Moloch, heated hot. The account he gives of Tophet is this,
“...Moloch...was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved:''
“... There is some agreement between this account of Jarchi, and that which Diodorus Siculus (z) gives of Saturn, to whom children were sacrificed by the Carthaginians; who had, he says, a brasen image of Saturn, which stretched out his hands, inclining to the earth; so that a child put upon them rolled down, and fell into a chasm full of fire....”
John Gill adds, as he comes to 2 Kings 23:19, “So the Indians in India now, at the burning of wives with their deceased husbands, attend them with drums and trumpets; and at such time as the fire is put to the wood, the drums and trumpets make a terrible noise for fear their cries should be heard.” John Gill lived from 1690-1771. India’s practice of burning every widow alive on her husband’s funeral pyre (a wooden contraption upon which the dead husband was cremated along with the living widow) was ended with the British occupation of India a century ago.
How different we do it today! We kill them before they are born so there is no need of drums and trumpets to cover their screams! There are those despicable pictures, held by a handful of fanatics, but false arrests and court injunctions to stay away keep their numbers down, without the need of a single drum or trumpet. Or even a cornet.
As for the homosexual temple prostitutes, we don’t set up tents on our church lawns for them to do their business! (Yet.) No, we’re way above that! We merely have them preach in a few of our pulpits. And in the rest....well, we certainly don’t want to “offend” them so they will leave and never hear [what’s left of] the Gospel!
“Josiah had to break down their houses which were actually ‘in the house of the Lord’ (2Ki_23:7)” - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
“(The “houses”) were probably only tents or huts, which were erected in the court of the temple for the paramours to dwell in, and in which there were also women who wove tent-temples (בָּתִּים) for Asherah” - Keil & Delitzch
“....brake down the houses of the sodomites — not solid houses, but tents, called elsewhere [2 Kings 17:30] Succoth-benoth, ‘the booths of the young women,’ who were devoted to the service of Asherah, for which they made embroidered hangings, and in which they gave themselves to unbridled revelry and lust.” - Jamieson, Faucett and Brown, on 2 Kings 23:7
There are a few other specific measures God has of how far a nation has fallen from Him.
Jeremiah 22:3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, [immigrant] the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
Zechariah 7:10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, [immigrant] nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger [immigrant] from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
All of these things are things that Christians do not do. Or do they?
To the extent Christians vote for lawmakers who promise laws that oppress these “least of Jesus’ brethren”, are Christians not responsible for oppressing Jesus Himself? (Matthew 25:40, 45)
Let’s check this list.
Widows: I am not aware of general mistreatment of them by our laws or culture.
Employers not paying their workers: no general problem, except for employers of immigrants.
Fatherless (orphans): If taxpayer-funded bureaucrats would just attend to abandoned orphans, there would be no scandal. But when they create such arbitrary, expensive, and tedious regulations that prohibit friends, relatives, neighbors, or churches from caring for children, but leave children in legal limbo for years while waiting for someone in the long line of applicants to finally break through the gauntlet, I have not met anyone who can explain how that is in the “best interests of the child”, which our laws say is their purpose.
The far greater oppression is of children with loving parents, made fatherless by child abuse police operating under definitions of abuse so arbitrary that no one can look at any home and predict whether a zealous bureaucrat will leave it alone.
Immigrants turned aside from their rights: Here we have a huge enough problem to cripple America – a charge with which both sides of the debate agree, though they are opposites in their grasp of the facts.
One side says they have no rights because the laws they created give them none, and we must not give them any rights because they destroy our economy, bleed our welfare budgets, water down our language, break our laws, and crowd our land. They quote verses about God-sanctioned borders as if God must also sanction the legal burdens we lay upon the backs of immigrants who cross them – burdens we would not touch with one of our little fingers. (Luke 11:46) They quote Romans 13:1, “obey the higher authorities”, which they apply to immigrants obeying their oppressive laws, but which they do not apply to themselves creating laws which do not violate the Highest Authority.
The other side says the more we allow them to come legally the better for our economy; they take less welfare than the little that some of them qualify for, unlike citizens; they learn English at about the same rate as our own ancestors; they commit fewer of the acts which are crimes when citizens do them; and God has made room for them in our land. They quote Matthew 25:39-45 which classifies “taking in” the immigrant with “taking in” Jesus, with all its eternal implications. They quote Leviticus 19:33-34 which tells us to impose upon immigrants only the same laws by which citizens are judged. We are told to love immigrants as we love ourselves; this specifically applies Jesus’ “Second Greatest Commandment” - love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) to immigrants. In fact, Leviticus 19:33-34 is part of the context of the giving of that Second Greatest Commandment in Leviticus 19:18. The whole chapter applies that holy principle to several situations.
Leviticus 19:33 "Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. 34 Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
In fact, the illustration of this Second Greatest Commandment given by Jesus in Luke 10:29-37 is of an immigrant like today’s “illegals”: a foreigner, unwelcome, excluded from equal rights by law,
dehumanized by the whole nation, yet still serving us patiently, without complaining.
Jesus tells us that sacrificing for these millions whom we have chosen to marginalize is the second most important thing to God that we can do. The Samaritan is not only the model of who to
love, but of how to love.
The poor, mistreated in court. The mistreatment of immigrants, widows, orphans, and the poor that God is talking about includes, if not is focused on, fairness in courts. These groups are usually not rich, and American courts are heavily stacked against justice for the poor.
Deuteronomy 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, (1690-1771), on Deuteronomy 16:19:
“Thou shall not wrest judgment,.... Or pervert it, pass a wrong sentence, or act contrary to justice; this is said to the judges as a direction to them, and so what follows: thou shalt not respect persons; so as to give the cause on account of outward circumstances and relations; as in favour of a rich man against a poor man merely for that reason, or of a near relation or intimate friend and acquaintance against a stranger, but justice [in court] should be administered without favour or affection to any; as Jarchi puts it, he was to make no difference in his address and behaviour to contending parties before him; he was not to be tender and soft to one and hard to the other, or let one stand and another sit: neither take a gift: as a bribe to give the cause wrong: at Thebes, in Egypt, as Diodorus Siculus (y) relates, in a court on a wall, were images of judges to the number of thirty; in the midst of them was the chief judge; having Truth hanging down from his neck (which seems to be in imitation of the Urim of the high priest of the Jews), his eyes shut, and many books by him; by which image was shown, that judges should receive nothing, and that the chief judge should look to truth only: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous; see Exo_23:8 the Jews have a saying, that a judge that takes a bribe, and perverts judgment, does not die of old age, or till his eyes become dim (z).
Deuteronomy 24:17 Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow's raiment to pledge:
Gill: Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless,.... Who are unable to defend themselves, and have but few, if any, to take their part; and therefore particular care should be taken by judges and civil magistrates to do them justice, or God will require it of them:
Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Gill: “a judge on the bench, drunk, must be very unfit for his office; since he must be incapable of attending to the cause before him, of taking in the true state of the case; and, as he forgets the law, which is his rule of judgment, so he will mistake the point in debate, and put one thing for another; and "change" (g) and alter, as the word signifies, the judgment of the afflicted and injured person, and give the cause against him which should be for him; and therefore it is of great consequence that kings and judges should he sober.”
When our Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, its Sixth Amendment guaranteed everyone the “right to counsel”. That is, to be represented by a lawyer in court. The trouble is that the right Americans had then was their choice of five different kinds of lawyers. Now we may choose only one: the most expensive kind. Then, one became a lawyer by (1) apprenticing for a lawyer; which consisted of being a human copy machine in exchange for access to read the lawyer’s law books. (2) working in a courtroom until one says “Hey, I can do this” and hangs out his shingle. (3) the accused has a friend who can talk better, so he asks his friend to come talk for him in court. (4) a guy just decides he wants to help others in court so he hangs up his shingle. (5) some went to seven year law schools in England.
Now only the most expensive lawyers – the ones with debts from seven years of college – are legal. We actually have laws against the other four kinds which the 6th Amendment supposedly “guarantees” our right to.
Judges tell you today that it is against the law for the protection of defendants; judges don’t want poor defendants to be represented by incompetent lawyers. Of course that means the accused who can’t afford lawyers have to represent themselves, leaving them far more vulnerable than if they had low cost assistance. No one can explain how that benefits defendants, or serves justice.
Courts pretend to serve justice by offering “court appointed attorneys”. There are two grave problems with this scheme.
First, their budget is only a fraction of the nearly unlimited budget of the prosecutor, so court appointed attorney generally just try to get their clients to plead guilty, with the incentive of a lower sentence than if they plead innocent and lose, which they are guaranteed to do because the lawyer has little budget.
Second, the accused is billed for the public defender’s services even if it puts him in debt for the rest of his life.
There are many other ways the rich generally rule in American courts. It could all be changed. Our ancestor’s freedoms could be taken back for us, but it will take Christians caring as much as God commands us to.
God held Israel’s kings responsible, not only for what they did personally, but for stopping others from doing them. Today, we voters are the rulers of our land, and we have the power through our votes, and through the national discussion that precedes them, to stop these evils. But only a quarter of Christians even vote.
“This is not about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about returning American to its Judeo-Christian heritage … There are 65 to 80 million evangelical Christians in America, but half of them are not registered to vote and half of those who are registered don’t go the polls.”
In the past several elections, even a 2% increase in the percentage of Christians who vote has made a measurable difference in the godliness, by several measures, of Congressional actions.
We who are called by Jesus’ name need to stop flattering ourselves that its the other guy, the atheists, the perverts, the baby killers, who are pulling America to Hell. It’s us. And how can we do otherwise than pull America down, when we measure America’s fall by all the sins so settled in our culture that government now promotes them, yet we create theological reasons not to be “involved” in the healing of our land by those same measures, because that is “politics”?
When is it time to leave “church”?
Martin Luther’s decision. During Martin Luther’s time, (1483-1546) many of God’s people concluded that they could serve God better away from the Churches, which at that time were Catholic. Remaining with the Church, with the new knowledge they received from the Bible, was only getting them killed. The Church’s only response was to demand they renounce their new knowledge of God, while refusing to give any reason for doing so. Martin Luther famously begged them to show him one error in his writings which they were demanding he renounce or be burned at the stake, which they steadfastly refused to do.
Excerpts from “Martin Luther”, the 1953 Louis deRochemont Associates Production black and white film nominated for two academy awards in 1954.
April 1521, the prosecutor: Yesterday you admitted these writings are yours. Tell us now. Do you persist in what you have written here, or are you prepared to retract these writings and the beliefs they contain?
Dr. Luther: I ask pardon if I lack the manners that befit this course. I was not brought up in king’s palaces, but in the seclusion of a cloister. I am asked to retract these writings. But they are of different kind. In some I discuss faith and good works. If I were to deny these I would deny accepted Christian truths. In others, I attack popery, and assail those who have afflicted the world and ruined the bodies and souls of other men. If I were to retract those, I should be like a cloak that covers evil. O serene emperor, illustrious princes, noble lords I am only a man. And not God. But I must defend myself, as did Jesus Christ when He said, as I say now: if I have spoken evil, bear witness against me! (John 18:23)
Prosecutor: Martin Luther, you have not yet answered the question. Give us a simple answer! Will you recant, or will you not?
Dr. Luther: You ask for a simple answer. Here it is. Unless you can convince me by Scripture, and not by Popes and councils who have often contradicted each other, unless I am so convinced that I am wrong, I am bound to my beliefs by the text of the Bible. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Therefore I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
Luther’s immediate escape from that lynch mob was a miracle involved in politics. Keeping him safe until his natural death was assisted by the latest communication technology, which made it possible to print and distribute a Bible in German, which Luther translated, along with several short articles by Luther. The subsequent revolt removed the nation of Germany from the control of the Pope.
But how could Luther think of leaving the Church which had faithfully preserved the Word of God for over 1,000 years, along with valuable Bible studies, testimonies and histories?
For all The Church’s faults, can anyone say the Spirit of God did not rest at least in part upon The Church? The Church was faithful to obey a large portion of Scripture.
Luther rejected the infallibility of any pope, pointing out how they contradicted each other. But Luther did not claim to be infallible himself; indeed he was not. Among his errors were a dehumanization of Jews which we today recognize as scandalous. Shouldn’t he therefore have remained with the Church to protect himself from the errors that endanger individuals accountable to no one, and shone what light he had upon the Church within, to purify it from within?
Of course, regarding the Jews, he learned that error from The Church.
Purifying from within was Luther’s heart’s desire. But how was it possible for The Church to more stubbornly refuse any purification, or the shining of any light other than what it already had, than to burn at the stake anyone who shone any additional light: that is, anyone whose disagreement with the Pope proved irrefutable?
Even though The Church had preserved much Light over many centuries, The Church refused to “put on the whole armour of God.” (Ephesians 6:11) Let me clarify: no human wears the whole “armour of God”, but what I mean is that The Church refused to wear it. They were determined not to obey certain Scriptures which got in the way of their personal wealth and dictatorial power.They were so determined to drive away any further Blessings from God than they already enjoyed, that they routinely tortured to death any who dared offer them the further blessings of those hated verses.
Luther never claimed that The Church served no divine purpose. Where would Luther himself have been without the light of The Church in which he had been raised and trained? He owed his own spiritual life to The Church. (Catholics still call theirs The Church, as if it is the only one that is legitimate.) It was not with any disdain for the light and blessings of The Church for which his soul was indebted, but with a burning hunger for the additional Blessings of God rejected by The Church but which which Luther had discovered through the Light of the Scriptures which The Church had faithfully preserved.
The Church had made it impossible to enjoy those additional blessings within The Church. The Church had responded to additional light, “are you saying we do not have the Holy Spirit among us?” as if any offer of additional light is a claim that there was no light, which would be so absurd as to discredit the offer of additional light.
Or as if the presence of the Holy Spirit at all is enough to get us to Heaven, and any more spirituality than that would just be filthy fanaticism.
Actually it wasn’t The Church which told Luther, verbatim, “are you saying we do not have the Holy Spirit among us?” Those words certainly articulate the attitude of The Church towards Luther. But those words, verbatim, were told me by a Protestant pastor recently to whom I was trying to present some of the information in this article.
To avoid the necessity of Martin Luthers splitting them, churches today need to be hungry to grow in greater light than they already have: and to receive it from whomever God chooses to offer it. Remember that God typically chooses His messengers from people with the fewest of the world’s credentials.
James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (ESV)
Galatians 1:11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ....15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
Paul didn’t go to Seminary: ERV: Galatians 2:6 Those men who were considered to be important did not change the Good News message I tell people. (It doesn't matter to me if they were "important" or not. To God everyone is the same.)
Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
1Corinthians 6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
The kind of dynamic verbal interaction described in 1 Corinthians 14 and modeled by Jesus, 6/7ths of whose teachings were verbal interaction with others who questioned or disputed Him, made the First Church self-cleansing. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul lambasted the Church for thinking of splitting into four denominations; chapter 14 models the kind of openness to additional light that makes church splits unnecessary. It models the way a church can accept purification from within.
During the Pilgrim’s time, a small group of God’s people, calling themselves “Separatists”, believed they could better serve God by completely separating from the Church of England, and from England itself; their only way to publish their Bible studies for fellow Englishmen was from a print shop in Holland. Their purpose was accurately described by the complaint of the English ambassador at the Hague: “to print prohibited books to be vented underhand in His Majesty’s kingdoms.” (Saints and Strangers, by George Willison, 1945, page 96.)
Today’s legacy of their secret printing press with its anonymous authors includes about 1,000 pages of the Works of John Robinson.
Their voyage to America was a sweet deal for the English king, because their publications were less likely to reach England from America than from Holland.
How could the Pilgrims think of leaving the Church of England which had faithfully preserved the Word of God for over 100 years, along with valuable Bible studies and testimonies and histories? Because although the Church was faithful to obey a large portion of Scripture, they rejected the whole armour of God: certain Scriptures which got in the way of their personal wealth, they were determined not to obey, and were indeed determined to torture to death anyone who brought up those verses.
But weren’t the “Puritans” right? They faulted the Separatists for leaving everything of the Church of England which they couldn’t confirm from the Bible: its hierarchies, its ceremonies, its doctrines. The Puritans hoped to “purify” the Church of England from within: keeping the institutions but leaving behind only the corruption.
Surely the Church of England bore much light! Especially by 1600 when the Separatists were in Holland, after 60 years of the blessing of the King and the Church of England on Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible being allowed to circulate among English people.
But it is the nature of Light to whet appetites for more of it. That is the hope of souls and the bane of institutions.
Tyndale (born 1492) had been martyred in 1536 for translating the Scriptures into English. But his prayer at the stake was that the King’s eyes might be opened, and shortly afterwards they were. After asking prelates if there were any translation errors in Tyndale’s work and being told there were none, the King, having made himself head of the Church of England which he had just created, authorized Tyndale’s translation to be published and made available to all Englishmen. Tyndale had first published his version of the Bible (New Testament, Pentateuch, and Jonah) in the city of Worms in 1526, in which Martin Luther had been tried and convicted only 5 years before.
Surely the Separatists saw far more light in the Church of England than Luther had in The Church a century before. But the Church of England, though opened so wide to more of God’s blessing by the blood of Tyndale, would not open any farther to the light of the Separatists. Although the church was no longer burning them at the stake, it was still putting them in jail and confiscating all their possessions, and burning their books wherever they found them. Consider how much labor went into printing and binding even one book in those days.
The Church of England was still foreclosing any more light than it already had, forcing anyone who hungered for more to leave it. The Church of England had no mechanism or hunger for receiving and processing more Scriptural light.
Is it time for those who love God to leave the “established” churches? And if so, what is the extent of what we must leave? Then, God’s people left ALL the churches. How close are we to that need?
How can anyone even think of separating from all, or most, modern churches, as if nothing in them remains of value? Obviously they preserve knowledge of the Word of God, just as the Church of England did in the Pilgrims’ time and the Catholic Church did in Luther’s time. And yet God’s people left, then. Luther’s desire was not to leave the Church, but the Pilgrim’s was. But how can any good come of leaving the very people who have preserved the knowledge of the Word of God, and the Word of God itself, for centuries?
Jesus actually answered this question. Because Jesus Himself, and His disciples through Jesus’ teachings, created a separation of a new world religion from the religion whose clerics had faithfully, zealously perserved the Word of God as it had grown over 4,000 years. How could Jesus abandon such a holy religious machine?
How could Jesus think of leaving the priests who had faithfully preserved the Word of God for over 1,000 years, along with valuable Bible studies and testimonies and histories? Because although the priesthood was faithful to obey a large portion of Scripture, they would not put on “the whole armour of God”: certain Scriptures which got in the way of their personal wealth, they were determined not to obey, and were indeed determined to torture to death anyone who brought up those verses.
Jesus’ solution was not to abandon all the good that remained in the clerics – the preservation and knowledge of the Word of God, but to reject all that they have added to the Word of God, along with the example of how to live in their personal lives which is not in accordance with the Bible. Jesus actually kept going to synagogues and the Temple, as Paul did after Him, but not to just sit and listen. Jesus went to teach, Luke 4. Paul “reasoned” with folks at the synagogue. Acts 17:2, 18:4, 18:19. They did not remain silent and avoid saying anything which the clerics or the laymen might regard as “controversial”. Jesus used the synagogue to announce news so controversial that they tried to stone Him, in Luke 4. In Acts 18:6 when Paul got controversial enough to provoke the Jews to blaspheme, that’s when Paul officially announced he was going to concentrate on the Gentiles.
Neither Jesus nor Paul would be allowed in churches today, if they dared say anything with which the pastor would seriously disagree; and it is impossible to imagine Jesus or Paul refraining from such unwelcome Truths. Today’s churches do not allow any voice but the pastor’s, and whatever voices the pastor has pre-approved. But synagogues, from that day to this, have opened their podium to discussion. Heresy used to be punished, but it was not censored.
Would Jesus or Paul have gone into synagogues where they were not allowed to speak? I’ll let your imagination struggle with that. I can’t imagine it.
Jesus acknowledged the light of the Pharisees. He did not advise cutting ourselves off from it.
Mat 23:2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: :3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
As applied today, the pastors have great Bible studies and Christian media offer great Bible programs. What they tell you how the Bible says to live is generally useful. But don’t follow the traditions which they have made up from outside the Bible to replace the commands of the Bible.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible expands on this passage. He says Jesus didn’t mean we should follow any of the laws or observe any of the customs created by “the church” of the time, (“church” translates the Greek word for “assembly” and is not limited to Christian gatherings), nor did He mean we should live like the Pharisees; Jesus’ reference was to those who read and explained the Bible. In those days, of course, there were no small Bibles for people to take home; Christians had to go to a synogogue to hear the Word of God. So Jesus was telling people to “go to church” enough to hear the Word of God read and explained.
Christ does not here speak of the sanhedrim, or grand council of the nation, and of their legislative power; but of those that were the teachers of the people, and the interpreters of the law; and of those, who, though they corrupted the word with their glosses and traditions, yet retained some truth, and at least came nearer truth, than the Sadducees; who therefore are omitted, and only Scribes and Pharisees mentioned, who gave the literal and traditional sense of the Scriptures; of whom he says, they sit in Moses's seat: not that they were his successors in his office as a legislator and mediator; though the Persic version reads it, "sit in the place and chair of Moses"; but they read his law, and explained it to the people: this post and place, as yet, they kept in the office they were, and were to continue; and the people were to regard them so far as they spoke consistent with the law,.... The allusion is not to the chairs in which the sanhedrim sat in trying and determining causes, but to those in which the doctors sat when they expounded the law; for though they stood up when they read the law, or the prophets, they sat down when they preached out of them: this custom of the synagogue was observed by our Lord; see Luke 4:16.
This reliance upon synogogues to hear the Bible read is alluded to in the ruling of the Council of Jerusalem, where they seem to be saying “They have their own Bibles; they don’t need us going into a lot of detail how they should live.
Acts 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
Sin has terrible consequences. The reason given in churches today why we should not go outside the church “offending” sinners is that to be “loving” we must not oppress them with all this condemnation.
Is light such a curse? Is it not a blessing? Is not sin a curse? Is it not a blessing to deliver people from sin, by shining light on it so they know to avoid it? Just because some people hate light, and almost everyone resists it at first, and we cannot know who will finallly allow it to heal them, is it not love to shine for the benefit of those whom it will heal?
And even those who resist God to the death: does God think it is love for you not to tell the wicked what He says about what they do?
Doesn’t sin have terrible consequences, here as well as hereafter? How is being “offended” too high a price to pay to be set free from it?
Jeremiah 7 explained to Israel what they were doing that was about to cause God to bring the Babylonians to slaughter them.
Jeremiah 7:6 ....oppress not the [immigrant], the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood [as we do with abortion] in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: [other gods then, like Islam’s “suicide bombers” today, honored human sacrifice]
Interesting that God is not concerned about the people hurting Him, but about people hurting themselves. Don’t we hurt ourselves when we slaughter our own children before they are born, ripping them limb from limb, or burning them with acids, or literally sucking out their brains?
Job 35:1 It is not right, Job, 3 ... to ask God, "How does my sin affect you? What have I gained by not sinning?" ....6 If you sin, that does no harm to God. If you do wrong many times, does that affect him? :7 Do you help God by being so righteous? There is nothing God needs from you. :8 Others suffer from your sins, and the good you do helps them. (GNB)
Where does the Bible say a church should be “politically involved”? Well...
Half the Gospels were Jesus’ sermons to Palestine’s political rulers.
None of our Examples of Faith in Hebrews 11 were politically insignificant.
The greatest sin of all time – the only sin of which God warns that each and every person who does it will go to Hell – is a very politically involved sin: the Mark of the Beast. And right now, the voters pushing hardest to fast track and implement that technology are the conservative, Republican, Bible-believing Christians. If taking the Mark when the alternative is decapitation takes one to Hell, can it be judgment-safe to vote for candidates promising to fast-track it?
1 Timothy 2:1-2 states a church’s political objective: to get government to leave Christians alone. It gives four strategies for reaching that goal. Prayer to God is the first. The other three involve communication with humans. Since it is common knowledge, along with the teaching of Luke 18:1-7, that the best way to “move the heart of the king” is to communicate with him, we may presume that is what God means for us to do. James 2:15-18 teaches that prayer, without action, is not prayer, and that our desire for God to take care of our neighbors’ is not a substitute for us taking our own actions to help.
GNB, ISV, NLT, and CEV says all four of these communications are to be only “to God”! ERV, NIrV and Message leaves out the other 3 communciations! These are perversions of the Greek.
But even without all this Biblical evidence, what excuse can there be for hiding Light under our “church” Bushel just because government promotes Darkness?
For more Bible studies, see www.Saltshaker.US.
Instead of worship services that include the Light-shining which God commands, today’s American worship services feature a ceremony not found in the Bible.
The principal feature of a modern worship service is a “sermon” with which no one may interact, question, clarify, or correct. There is no precedent for that in the Bible. Paul “reasoned” with people. Jesus’ teachings were in a context of interaction in 6/7ths of the time and no one was ever asked or commanded not to interrupt Him or challenge Him. The Greek word for “preach” describes messengers of kings whose duties included reasoning and negotiating with people, not just giving them non-negotiable orders or messages.
When “church” is really taking too much time.
I have gotten to know hundreds of people severely oppressed by wicked laws and bureaucrats. I have studied their cases and tried to help them.
I have helped spouses trying to save their marriages from divorce courts.
I have helped loving, innocent parents try to recover their children from zealous child abuse police who are governed by vague laws that fire bureaucratic imaginations.
I have helped immigrants find a voice to inform lawmakers of the horrors of 2500 pages of immigration law; truly, “they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.
I have shown prolifers a legal strategy for ending legal abortion in a matter of months.
Whatever you deeply care about, whatever makes you cry out to God “Why did you allow this?” God has a solution for you. He offers you the privilege of correcting the evil alongside Him, to give your life meaning. Jesus promised that mountains can be moved if we have enough faith to not give up. Matthew 21:21. God showed churches how to help; how to make mountain moving a lot easier.
Therefore the greatest of tragedies is when I discuss with someone what needs to be done, and he agrees with me that it seems a reasonable strategy, and nothing could be more important, but the person won’t do it for lack of time; he works, and goes to a church four times a week. The chuch won’t help him because that is “getting involved in politics”. The church won’t even discuss it as 1 Corinthians 14 provides, or pray about it as 1 Timothy 2:1-2 provides, because that is “controversial”.
Christians need to leave “church”
to the extent that
ceremonies never given in the Bible
leave too little time
to do what the Bible commands.