Bill Onisick, identifying humility as the gateway character trait to God's Kingdom, focuses on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, contrasting pride and humility. Any time we feel prompted to exalt ourselves, we demonstrate Satan's spirit of pride, thereby jeopardizing our entry into God's family. Sadly, most of us would receive a D or F on a simple quiz of 20 "yes or no" questions, such as: 1. Do I readily seek other peoples' opinions? 2. Am I happy when something good happens to someone else? 3. Do I ever get offended? 4. Do I do more listening than speaking? and 5. Do I ever say anything negative about a brother in Christ? Paradoxically, the key to exaltation is to esteem others over self rather than exalting self over others. When we become self-aware of our carnality, we discover our penchant to tear others down while exalting ourselves. It is our obligation to emulate our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, who taught us to wash feet, assuming the role of a servant.
Richard Ritenbaugh continues his exposé of artistic and spiritual resistance, an analogy derived from Stephen Pressfield's The War of Art, a manual designed to overcome artistic resistance and many forms of self-sabotage. The core of self-sabotage is our carnal human nature, which absolutely abhors any change which leads to self-sacrifice or to growth. Human nature is comfortable with the status quo, accepting the domination of Satan's influence and the world. Human nature is enmity (hatred and hostility) against God and His Holy Law. Human nature has instinctive antipathy to anything good. Most of the biblical luminaries, including Moses, Jonah, David, and Gideon demonstrated resistance to God's prompts, indicating that they initially feared men more than they feared God. When we are called, repent, and are baptized, our sins are washed away, but the baggage from our human nature stays with us. Like Gideon, we are tempted to put God repeatedly to the test, in spite of Christ's warning that an evil generation looks for a sign. When we resist God, we, like Peter, risk inadvertently channeling Satan. To actively overcome resistance, we must: (1) not forget God's laws, but etch them on our heart, (2) practice justice, mercy, and lovingkindness, (3) trust God and have faith in Him, and (4) remain humble, running from evil as we would run from a nest of angry hornets. We must put on the whole armor of God in order to stand.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that, although Transcendentalism never achieved a major following in American religious practice, Emerson’s teachings were highly influential in the Ivy League universities—Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. His teachings were said to provide a jolt to Christianity as practiced in New England following the Puritan/Separatist leanings of the Bay Colony Pilgrims, much like a blow to the stomach in a vigorous pillow fight. Even though Emerson was married and fathered a son, he had apparently written in his earlier journals of a torrid affair with one Martin Gay, leading to speculations that the etymology of the term ‘gay’ may have derived from this reference. Emerson also amalgamated strains from Buddhism and Hinduism, leading to some of his nihilistic references to blending into a nirvana-like Over-Soul. His insistence that every person is free to be his ‘own god,’ determining what is right in his own eyes, serves as the underpinnings of the ascendant, emergent religion of humanism, rapidly and savagely neutralizing all mainstream religions in North America.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that although Transcendentalism as a movement never had an abundance of adherents, submits that Emerson's teachings did permeate the schools of philosophy of American Ivy League Schools, institutions , ironically, which were started as Puritan Theological Seminaries. Harvard welcomed him with open arms, giving him an honorary doctorate and placing him in an influential teaching and advising role. In this capacity, having already jettisoned his Unitarian roots, Emerson waxed syncretistic, absorbing ideas from Mormonism, Paganism, Buddhism, and other Eastern philosophies, including the idea of "The Over-Soul"—a blobby plastic-like bubble where everything blends together without individual parts, making no distinction between Creator and creation. In Emerson's analysis, the only God to which we are beholden is the "god" in our own minds, trusting in ourselves rather than trusting in our Heavenly Father.
John Ritenbaugh, reminding us that Transcendentalism (a tributary of Pantheism, championed by William Wordsworth) flourished and died out the second half of the Nineteenth Century, attributes the popularity of Transcendentalism to Ralph Waldo Emerson. In one of his early writings, Emerson reacts with anger, adamantly rejecting any force, custom, or tradition which threatened to put his intellect in chains, declaring himself free to shape his own destiny. To his emerging Pantheistic concept, the entirety of the material universe is a manifestation of God. Transcendentalism (Pantheism) is a worship of nature and is surprisingly a precursor of Darwinism. The cardinal doctrine of Transcendentalism is that people are at their best when they are self-reliant, independent, and totally unencumbered by religion or the traditions of society. Many of these views on self-reliance and rugged individualism, derived from the influence of Transcendentalism, are regarded as sacrosanct by many Americans. Jerome Bradley suggests that the principles of Transcendentalism are active in Jurisprudence in the 21st Century. Believing in one's own genius ( as prescribed by Emerson) has significant limitations, especially when one assesses the genius of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or Mao Tse Tung, Nebuchadnezzar, the Pharaoh of Egypt, or Nimrod. One could say that President Bill Clinton's serpentine equivocation with the word 'is' (during the Monica Lewinsky affair) reflected a strain of Transcendentalism. Trusting in the genius of self apparently obviates the need for a sovereign Creator and a steadfast relationship with Him. To do what comes natural to us often militates against our God-ordained best interests.
Clyde Finklea, recounting the harsh appraisal of Job in too many commentaries calling him "a classic example of self-righteousness," and "horribly self-righteous," asserts that the Scriptures clearly vindicate Job from that charge. Self-righteousness is defined as being smugly proud of one's own opinion and intolerant of others. This kind of self-righteousness, described as filthy rags in the Scriptures, applied to the Pharisees, but not to Job. What Job repented of in dust and ashes, symbolic of our lowly mortal state, was his total misunderstanding of the magnitude and greatness of God's power—something that all of us fail to comprehend as well. The false accusations against Job by his 'friends' were displeasing to God, requiring a sacrifice to atone for their foolish utterances. Our behavior must be more aligned with Job's than the self-righteous Pharisee who smugly looked down on others.
John Ritenbaugh, in his exposé of philosophers who have impacted culture generally and education specifically, focuses on the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, America's foremost practitioner of Transcendentalism and Pantheism, philosophical viewpoints somewhat akin to those mentioned in Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19, which suggests that the Creator is revealed through his Creation. Sadly, Transcendentalists, Pan-Theists, and Neo-Platonists fail to bifurcate the identity of the Creator from the Creation, calling it one and the same. This blurring of Creator with His creation gives adherents of Pan-theism the ability to declare themselves God, and not subject to any power higher than self.
As Revelation 5 opens, the apostle John sees a scroll, sealed with seven seals, in the right hand of God. The only One worthy to open the seals is the Lamb of God. . . .
Martin Collins reflects on the time of Satan's restraint, which will be a time vastly different from today due to his present ability to reach into our homes through the media and Internet. Our Christian warfare cannot merely consist in maintaining a defensive holding pattern, but instead we must go on the conquering offensive, using the sword. The victories of God's life are achieved with a lifelong spiritual struggle against our carnal mind, the world, and Satan. The real problems of this world are not confined to the material world, but are also against spiritual hosts of wickedness. The secular media, controlling the world's processes, receives inspiration from the forces of evil, as do a great many of today's political leaders, threatening to turn the world into a new Dark Age. Christians cannot remain in a holding pattern in the midst of this onslaught of evil; we must arm ourselves with God's spiritual (defensive and offensive) armor. The life of a Christian is not easy, as it goes against the culture of the world. We are instructed to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might before we put the armor on. We are living in an evil day, needing the whole armor of God in order to stand, avoiding falling into sin which would bring disrepute on God's name. We have to recognize our weakness and need for help from God's Holy Spirit. Willpower is woefully inadequate for the spiritual battle. The name of God is strong and mighty, a strong tower for those who trust in Him.
David C. Grabbe: How are we different from those who have fallen away from the truth? How do we know that at some point in the future we will not also follow a path of deception and eventual apostasy? How can we be confident that we will not be deceived?
With many "churches of God" around the world claiming to be part of or even the only church of God, the question "Is There a True Church?" is a pertinent one. John Ritenbaugh examines, not their claims, but what the Bible reveals about the makeup of God's church, especially as time draws near to the return of its Head, Jesus Christ.
Martin Collins suggests that when we look upon the modern preoccupation with political correctness and the wholesale abandoning of moral principles, we can see parallels with Paul's grieving over his countrymen for having zeal and sincerity, but rejecting their Savior. Today also there is a big disconnect between sincerity and truth, as is seen in the current political scene, in which the current players are calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20), infested with doublespeak, in which communism is "communitarianism" and socialism is "government partnership." It is dangerous to judge the value of something on the basis of misplaced 'sincerity,' which is often the opposite of godly sincerity. Godly sincerity must be paired with the truth, but worldly 'sincerity' does not require truth. Ironically, seeking has become more important than finding. Today society does not care about the real outcome just as long as one is 'sincere.' Tragically, sincerity is not a guarantee of truth. A sincere zealot, Paul of Tarsus, had to be rewired according to the truth in order for his sincerity and zeal to be useful. Knowledge and truth must trump zeal and sincerity in all cases. Sincerity cannot sanitize syncretistic religious defilement, namely Christmas and Easter, firmly rooted in paganism, particularly the cult of the sun. No zealous, sincere, carnal human being, equipped with a hopelessly reprobate mind, can decide what God wants, nor has the capability of living by God's standards. Sincerity without truth is worthless, but sincerity with God"s truth is valuable.
John Reid reminds us that even though the Pharisees had a corrupt form of righteousness, because they were in the office or seat of Moses, we should follow their instructions (pertaining to the Law of God), but not follow their hypocritical personal examples. The Pharisee, by contrasting himself with others, felt superior to others, having an exaggerated confidence in himself. To exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, we must use the magnification of the Law in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:17) to move our perception or understanding from the letter to the spirit of the Law, loving the Lord with all our might and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40), having mercy and patience with others as God has had mercy and patience with us. In addition, we should not separate ourselves from our brethren as had the Pharisees, but seek the fellowship of our fellow servants, ministering to their needs as we have the opportunity thereby ministering to Jesus Christ. By emphasizing the dimension of mercy and love, Jesus placed the bar much higher than could be attained by the Pharisees.
Keeping the Sabbath definitely marks a person as different. Perhaps the feeling of being odd that comes from Sabbath observance affects young people most of all. Clyde Finklea recounts the story of a friend's momentous choice regarding his keeping of the Sabbath, a decision he had to make all on his own.
The two men who go to the Temple to pray contrast in character, belief, and self-examination. Martin Collins shows that, although this parable involves prayer, it is not as much about how to pray as it is about how to be justified before God.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that the truths of God are eternally dependable because the Father and Jesus Christ remain steadfastly dependable. If we trust in His truth rather than ourselves or other men, we will not jeopardize our spirituality. Sadly, the vast majority of Christian-professing churches has been saturated with an "end-time flood" of appealing, pagan doctrines (antinomianism, immortality of soul, Dispensationalism, Dualism, and Docetism) derived largely from Hellenistic Gnosticism. In this confusing environment, truth has become an endangered commodity. Pursuing "inner spirituality" (supposedly "despising the flesh") ironically enables one to become promiscuous and self-indulgent. In contrast, the true Christian is obligated to perform works (derived from God's law) that God has preordained and walk continuously in the Way. Keeping the law, vilified by antinomian, evangelical Christianity) gives structure and guidance to a Christian's life.
Many Christians believe that we are allowed to take another's life in defense of our own, but is this what the Bible teaches? David Grabbe shows that God's Word distinguishes only between accidental and premeditated killing, meaning self-defense is not a biblical justification for murder!
Many Christians today believe that killing in self-defense is sanctioned by the Bible. David Grabbe explains that this is a terrible misunderstanding of Christ's teaching.
John Ritenbaugh suggests that being poor in spirit (a precursor to humility) is a necessary, foundational spiritual state one must have to qualify for God's Kingdom. As the polar opposite of pride, poor in spirit describes a condition of being acutely aware of ones dependency and unworthiness. Because of this deep inner felt need and want, those who are poor in spirit are primed to receive and apply the Gospel's instruction to their lives. Poor in spirit (not a product of human nature) does not equate with physical poverty (there is often much pride in indigence), but instead a spiritual state of felt need in which one renounces his smug self-sufficiency, recognizing his intense dependency upon God for all things.
John Ritenbaugh describes the process through which God perfects His image in us, linking three sub-themes: 1) God's disciplining, 2) our listening, and 3) God's watchful care. Obedience to God's Word strengthens us, enabling us to receive our spiritual heritage. Remembering the lamentable condition of our slavery to sin and God's deliverance and involvement in our lives helps us to exercise obedience, keeping us growing toward perfection. Paradoxically, humble dependency upon God strengthens us, while prideful self-sufficiency weakens us. No matter what situation, God carefully watches over us like an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11), ready to come to our aid and supply us with what we need.
Countering the Protestant red-herring argument, "You cannot earn salvation by works," John Ritenbaugh stresses that works certainly are not "done away" but that God expects works from all those He has called. We show our faithfulness and loyalty to God by our works or conduct - what we produce by what we have been given. The works demanded of us consist of continual striving to be faithful to our covenant relationship with God by keeping His commandments (not the traditions of men). As we strive to live by the Spirit instead of by the flesh (Romans 8:5) we will produce the kind of fruit pleasing to God. God forces a converted person to choose between two opposing forces (Romans 8:13), providing us His Spirit as a tool to overcome.
John Ritenbaugh insists that the hallmark of true Christian character is humility, which comes about only when one sees himself in proper comparison to God. Then he can see himself in proper comparison to other men. The opposite of humility—pride, arrogance, and an inordinate self-esteem—leads us to put down, scorn, or make perverted comparisons between others and ourselves. Because a pride-filled person feels overlooked or his accomplishments undervalued, harboring pride leads to depression, frustration, self-centeredness, self-pity, and rebellion, totally eliminating God from the picture. What makes pride so dangerous is that even though we instantaneously see it in others, we seldom detect it in ourselves. God scorns the proud, but accepts the lowly.
The seventh and last of the attitudes within the church, Laodiceanism is the attitude that dominates the era of the end time. It seems more natural to think that this attitude would be the least likely to dominate in such terrible times—that it ought to be obvious that the return of Christ is near. But Christ prophesies that it will occur. In fact, it indicates the power of Babylon! Why does Babylon dominate the church in the end time? Because it dominates the world, and the Christian permits it to dominate him!
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