Martin Collins, reflecting on Christ's promise in Matthew 16:18 that He would build His Church, asks us whether we can identify the true church. Yes, we can, if we examine the fruits. For example, the true Church will follow God's Law and eschew the pagan traditions. We should interpret each of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 as personal messages, as well as records of historical epochs of the true Church. Because God did not lead the members of the various historical churches to record their experiences, we must rely on the histories of their adversaries. The Catholic Eusebius, hardly an unbiased witness, has provided valuable insights about the persecutions which took place against those who resisted Emperor Constantine's displacement of Passover with Easter, a tragic consequence of the Council of Nicaea (325 AD). Constantine and, later, Archbishop Chrysostom of Constantinople displayed no tolerance for those who were on the fence; persecution and martyrdom shifted into high gear. Despite the Council of Laodicea's condemnation of the Sabbath, a large group of faithful believers termed Paulicians assembled in Armenia under the leadership of Constantine of Mananali, assiduously keeping God's laws, including the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, baptizing by immersion, preaching the Kingdom of God, and resisting the mainstream heresy emanating from Rome. Compromise (that is, spiritual adultery) begins a slippery slope of no return, where each successive compromise incrementally deadens the conscience. Like the Armenian Paulicians, we must take heed when we think we stand, for we may indeed be on the verge of perishing.
Charles Whitaker, focusing on Paul's comments in II Thessalonians 2:6-7, where he speaks of a force capable of restraining the emergence of the man of lawlessness, posits that the Apostle is referring to God's Word. In Proverbs 29:18, we learn that people run wildly out of control in the absence of God's revelation. God's Word is that revelation, and, failing to respect it, law and order fails. Historically, when God's Scriptures are denigrated, people become ungovernable, but when God's Word is esteemed, people are blessed. The original Thirteen Colonies largely crafted their civil laws using God's Law as their template, thereby protecting people from the excesses of unbridled carnality. Sadly, by the 1700s, Americans were drawn into the currents of the Enlightenment, ushering in an "anything goes" mentality which incrementally began to displace the citizen's fear of God. The formerly Puritan theological schools soon because refashioned into secular schools which readily accepted German Higher Criticism and secular European philosophy, denigrating God's Word and eventually effecting its total detachment from public governance. God's Word is the only protection we have against lawlessness. As people lose their respect for His Word, they more and more become easy prey for the flattering lies of the man of lawlessness.
David Maas, focusing on Philippians 2:12, where Paul urges us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, takes issue with misguided theologians who have tried to create a false dichotomy between grace and works or grace and law. One of their common "proof-texts" is Ephesians 2:8-9; they emphasize verses 8 and 9, while failing to mention verse 10, which is logically connected to the preceding two verses through the conjunction gar, meaning because. Verse 10 clearly states that God has created us to do the works He was ordained for us. The scriptures are replete with cautions that God will critically appraise the works of His people. At the turn of the last century, insidious Protestant antinomian elements infiltrated into the Worldwide Church of God, savagely attacking such doctrinal concepts as "qualifying" and "building character," claiming that such concepts imply that we must work to "earn" salvation. Pointedly: We do not qualify for salvation, God has ordained that we surrender our lives to Him in order to build godly character. Because God has gifted us with free will, He cannot create character in us by fiat. Character comes only from choosing. Control over thoughts comes from choice. Christ will not control our thinking. Sanctification does not take place at the onset of our calling, but instead is a lifetime process which will not end until our death in the faith (or change at the First Resurrection). Our role in the sanctification process, insignificant as it may seem, consists of being junior partners (spiritual share-croppers), diligently cultivating the Fruits of God's Holy Spirit thought our post-calling experiences.
David Grabbe, reflecting on a notion that Sabbath-keeping is not a "salvational matter," urges that the question of a matter being "salvational" is a deceptive red herring, obscuring the real question: "Is it relational?" After Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command in a matter they must have considered "non-salvational," their relationship with their Creator suffered immediate and long-lasting damage. Consequently, they hid themselves in shame. If we had been in their place, what value would we place on a peaceful relationship with God? Jesus Christ defines eternal life as knowing the Father, and adds that if we love Him, we will keep His Commandments. Failure to obey God's commands demonstrates our disdain of them. Cultivating a relationship with God resembles cultivating a marriage relationship; if we know that some "minor" behavior annoys our spouse, we will avoid it, insignificant as we think it is. If our greatest desire is to live with God, we will do our best to live that right way, realizing that everything matters. We should not seek how much we can get away with, but instead study how we can maximally yield to His desires for us. Instead of asking if something is "salvational," we should ask if it will gradually erode the relationship between us and our Lord. Too often, our judgment of our own character is the opposite of God's assessment because we have allowed our conscience to "adjust" to compromises in areas we might consider "inconsequential." Isaiah 66:2 reminds us that God responds to those who tremble and revere His Word, focusing on the relational rather than the salvational aspect of obedience.
In the professing-Christian world, an insidious, false belief exists: that the God of the Old Testament was a cruel, angry God, while Jesus, the God of the New Testament, is kind and loving. Pat Higgins, using the Bible's own testimony, shows that nothing could be farther from the truth! In fact, Scripture plainly shows that the same God has always communicated and interacted with humanity throughout its history.
David Grabbe, taking issue with antinomian Protestant clerics who boldly claim that God's law was nailed to the cross, or that the law of love nullifies God's law, reminds us that God promised to write His Law on our hearts and minds—part of the proclamation of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8, compare Jeremiah 31). God's act of writing His Law on our hearts is not instantaneous. Rather, it requires time. Paul, when he chastised the Corinthian congregation for tolerating a man marrying his step-mother, reminded the people that such sins would not even be tolerated by the Gentiles, whose consciences had many of God's moral principles written on them. Overcoming sin and building character require constant practice. When we do miss the mark, God gives us another test to rewrite over our previous error. When we experience the consequences of our sins, we experience the depth of how bad it is. God is working out something more profound and important than "fairness." Trials and tests are not meant to crush us. We need to develop the reflex response of choosing God, allowing Him to write His word on our heart. When we let down, we automatically regress, and our senses become dulled. We must keep our hearts soft, realizing that God's laws are holy, spiritual, just, and good.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reminding us that Americans, whose country was founded on the principle of freedom, are fiercely protective of their rights, narcissistically claiming freedom means to do, go, say, or think whatever they want, often selfishly insisting on material acquisitions (fulfilling freedom from want) which are not rights at all. The common denominator in western culture seems to be self-determination and the freedom to determine one's destiny. God grants His called-out ones self-determination, free moral agency and true freedom under the protective blessing of His Law. Any freedom to choose must be accompanied by a set of standards against which choices are made. The people of the world do not have this freedom because they are held captive by their own lusts, the lures of this world, and the current ruler of this world, Satan. Goethe lamented that none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. If freedom is not anchored in God's Law, it is not freedom at all, but abject bondage to sin. True freedom only occurs when one has a relationship with God, the One who did all the heavy lifting in our liberation from sin. Truly converted people incrementally act more like God and less like men. If we sow spiritually, we will reap spiritually; if we sow carnally, we will reap carnally. License is not a synonym for liberty or freedom, but instead equates to bondage to lusts and the captivity to sin. The dark underbelly of freedom alerts us that freedom apart from God's Law and a relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ is bondage to sin and death.
Martin Collins, focusing on the Prophet Habakkuk, whose name means "one who embraces" or "one who clings," suggests that a major theme of the Book of Habakkuk is the importance of clinging to God regardless of the vicissitudes of life. Habakkuk's prophecy seems to be up-to-date when describing God's called out ones today, who are compelled to cling to God as evil change agents threaten to destroy our civilization. Habakkuk evidently lived following the times of Josiah's massive reforms, a time of spiritual decay following the bright times of Josiah, a transitional time something like we are experiencing today, a time the law is powerless and justice no longer prevails. We should never be tripped up when we see bad things happen to good people or vice versa, realizing that history is indeed following God's timetable. God's timing is perfect. We should never doubt the justice of God, remembering that terrible events cannot separate us from the love of God. When we feel overwhelmed, we need to (1) stop and think, refraining from rash speaking, (2) calmly restate basic principles, (3) put events in their right context, and (4) return to God for further clarification. Habakkuk followed this formula as he reflected upon every attribute of God, realizing that God had been continually faithful to His people and that the impending invasion of the Babylonians was not the last event in God's plan, but only a tool in bringing about God's ultimate purpose. Like Habakkuk, we must detach ourselves from the problem at hand, return to the ramparts and seek God's counsel, staying in the watchtower, seeking God in prayer and study until God gives us the answer, remembering that the just shall live by faith.
Martin Collins, warning that all prophetic speculations have been accompanied with a high degree of error and subsequent embarrassment to the speculator and his adherents, admonishes us that any prophetic speculation, accurate or not, is useless unless it is promotes diligence in living Godly lives, eagerly and expectantly preparing for the return of our Savior, living our lives to the glory of God. If we begin to doubt the veracity of Christ's return, our hearts will turn cold, causing us to imitate the evil servant who begins to mistreat his fellow servants. We have to exercise the same kind of watchful care as a night watchman on guard against thieves and robbers. It is natural for all of us to desire to protect our physical property; protecting our spiritual property should warrant a much higher priority. We must assiduously emulate the faithful servant rather than the evil servant, caught up in cruelty, carousing, and shirking responsibility. Faithless Christians will be judged with greater strictness and severity than non-believers who do not know any better; knowledge always creates a greater level of responsibility. The anticipation of seeing Christ return should be the greatest motivator, bringing about a dramatic change of behavior, living sanctified, set-apart, holy lives that please God, the kind of behavior which could actually bring about an acceleration of God's plans. We should be emulating Christ's model prayer, diligently beseeching the establishment of the Kingdom of God. We need to avoid two dangerous extremes, believing that nothing we can do will make a difference, and the notion that God cannot do anything unless we personally do it. As God's called-out ones, we avoid becoming unstable by growing spiritually, realizing that being saved by grace is only the beginning of the process; we must be constantly strengthened by grace, prompting us to keep God's Commandments as a testimony of our love for Him, maturing to the full stature of Christ.
David Grabbe, reminding us that the Days of Unleavened Bread are about leaving one venue (sin and Satan) and moving toward deliverance, warns us that as we leave sin, we do not want to leave our first love, as did the Ephesus congregation as recorded in Revelation 2:1. The Ephesians had a strong sense of duty to not let down, as well as serving as a vanguard in the battle against the false doctrines of the Gnostics and the Nicolaitans. What was lacking was the devotion to Christ, Who had given His life; the spark of love had gone and was replaced by a mechanical going- through- the- motions. They were not zealously attempting to form a relationship with God and Jesus Christ. In an environment of turmoil, it is easy to draw inward in protection of the self, ignoring our relationship with God. Our goal is to grow to the stature of Jesus Christ, or our works are meaningless and will not produce fruit or light. Our prior fellowship lost its lamp-stand because of losing its first love. We do not dare follow in its footsteps, but must reignite our first love with the help of God's Holy Spirit.
Martin Collins, focusing upon various interpretations of who or what constitutes antichrists, examines several characteristics of this group of beings, including fostering deception and confusion, preventing fellowship, and creating intense spiritual conflict. Realizing that our real enemies are not human beings at all, but demonic principalities emanating from the spirit of darkness, we are mandated to put on the whole armor of God, embracing the truth. The mystery of evil and lawlessness has been extant from the beginning of the early church, recognized by Paul and John. Some teachers in the early church actually attained leadership and influence in the teaching of noxious false doctrine. Ultimately, the being or order emerging as the antichrist will be motivated directly by Satan. Historically, antichrist teachers have proclaimed that Jesus was only a man, or that He had a phantom body and never really experienced death. The syncretistic new religion of Chrislam is actually a prime example of antichrist doctrine. The false prophet and the great political leader in Revelation 13 and 17 will both be worshipped by people duped by Satan to believe a strong delusion. We need to be on guard for antichrist influences attempting to penetrate the greater church of God. We are admonished to test the spirits, realizing that heretical tares have been permitted to test our faith. The spirit of the antichrist is alive and well today, attempting to sabotage our spiritual welfare and steal our spiritual crown.
Among the best-known signs of the end of the age is Jesus' declaration in Matthew 24:12 that "the love of many will grow cold." However, David Grabbe advises caution in judging that such a state exists in others, in a church group, or in the church as a whole. Could love be there but just not as we might expect it?
The Bible warns us that a great False Prophet will soon arise to sway mankind into idolatry. In addition, numerous passages speak of other false prophets and false teachers in the church and in the world. David Grabbe, in exposing the differences between false prophets and true ones, explains what we need to look out for as the end nears.
In the huge water bowl that is the city of New Orleans now, the looting began not long after the worst of Hurricane Katrina had passed. ...
Since God has authorized no day other than the Sabbath, John Ritenbaugh observes that Sunday worship is a pagan deviation, perpetuated by Hellenistic Gnosticism, a multi-faceted movement that despises Yahweh, the Sabbath, and God's laws. Though Constantine enforced Sunday-keeping (the counterfeit Sabbath) on Western culture, the ugly tentacles of Gnosticism had already surfaced in Paul's warning to the Colossians about "rudiments of the world," angel worship (actually demon worship), and "white" magic. Gnostics have incorporated Neo-Platonic notions of real (supposedly appearing in the Pleroma) and corporeal (corrupt, earthly, physical forms) to counterfeit the shadow and reality concept as described by Paul. Christ, not angels, is the reality and the fullness of God. Antinomianism, Dispensationalism, eternal security, and irresistible grace—all assimilated into evangelical Protestantism—have all derived from Hellenistic Gnosticism.
John Ritenbaugh warns that the sheer variety of choices (distractions) available to us today (with their potential accompanying temptations and enervating time-wasting diversions) is extremely stressful because it automatically increases sin and lawlessness, automatically decreasing love, zeal, and affection. Like our society, the recipients of the general epistle of Hebrews were a group of people living in confusing rapidly changing times — experiencing intense economic, cultural, social, and moral upheaval. These "crusty old soldiers" or weary seasoned veterans identified in the book of Hebrews (like the Ephesians and far too many of us) were becoming inured and indifferent to mounting societal sin, allowing their spiritual energy to be sapped by resisting negative societal pressure, draining them or diverting them of their former zeal and devotion to Christ. If we incrementally lose our love, affection, and devotion to Christ, we automatically lose our desire and motivation to overcome, endangering our spiritual welfare as well as our relationship to Christ. God Almighty has mandated that we reignite the spark and rekindle our first love.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: As I neared the intersection of two four-lane streets on my way to work a few days ago, I was suddenly forced to jump on my brakes. ...
John Ritenbaugh, repeating his caution about uncritically reading certain theological books and commentaries, warns that deception will abound exponentially in the Information Age. The elect are not immune to antinomian deception, including the doctrine of eternal security, the total depravity of man, unconditional love, irresistible grace, and the "once saved always saved" mentality. These pernicious, surreptitious teachings are designed to remove personal guilt and the necessity for personal responsibility or works (anathema to antinomian, "rule-hating," syncretistic, evangelical teaching), casting aside the law of God and substituting personal standards. Without a demonstration of works (prompted and empowered by God's Holy Spirit), it will be impossible for God to judge whether we will actively adhere to His standards, steadfastly walking in the footsteps of Christ. Finally, the amazing history of the rejection of the Sabbath and the embracing of Sunday is explained.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing upon the seemingly innocent but subtle and pernicious doctrine of Dispensationalism, attacks the assumed yet unbiblical adversarial relationship between law and grace. Modern "Christianity" totally rejects the Bible in its eclectic, pick-and-choose religious hybrids, instead following Gnostic Docetism, which leads to vile, fleshly perversions. Hatred for Yahweh (Jesus Christ), the law, Israel, and the Sabbath, along with endorsing lawlessness, serves as common denominators for all Gnostic practitioners. Modern "Christianity," twisting Paul's writings to turn the grace of God into license to sin (by blurring the distinction between justification and sanctification) is totally derived from Gnosticism.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on the second beast of Revelation 13:11-18, offers his speculative interpretation. Both beasts appear to be end-time entities (having a brief but horrifying 3 1/2-year tenure), serving as counterfeits of the Two Witnesses. Both beasts derive their power from Satan the Devil. The first beast rises out of volatile, ever-changing political turmoil, while the second rises out of an entrenched, worldwide religious system, totally opposed to God's laws. The second beast will be able to perform lying wonders, have capital authority over the lives of "heretics," and cause an identifying "mark" on the forehead (representing thoughts or attitudes) and right hand (representing physical activities) of those who voluntarily take it. The number 666 seems to represent the number of ultimate human "perfection" (humanism) apart from God—as opposed to the number of ultimate godly perfection.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon Wordsworth's lament, "the world is too much with us," comments that the fast pace of the world threatens to crowd God out of our thoughts. We cannot allow the cares of the world or the stress of the world's pressures, or the pride of the world to crowd God out of our thoughts or to defile our minds, bringing about abominable works or evil fruits. The spiritual battle we fight is in our minds and in our thoughts. We are what we think - what we put into our minds. We need to actively lay siege to our carnality and hostile thoughts, bringing them into captivity to God's Holy Spirit. Our thoughts determine the content of our speech and the contents of our actions- i.e. our fruits. What we sow we will reap.
The first six element of motivation were positive, but the last in negative. John Ritenbaugh explains that our fear of being judged negatively by our Judge should spur us to greater obedience and growth toward godliness.
John Ritenbaugh contends that those who believe in the "once saved always saved" doctrine foolishly fail to see that God has a more extensive and creative plan for mankind than merely saving them. One can fail to bring forth fruits of repentance and thus qualify for the Lake of Fire. By denigrating the role of works in repentance and building character, the proponents of the "no effort, no works, love Jesus only" idea ignore the lessons of Scripture and mock God's plan for mankind, suggesting that He requires nothing productive of His contractual partners. Salvation is not unconditional. If we deliberately choose death (Deuteronomy 30:19), rejecting God's covenant, He is not responsible for our breach of contract.
Three of the seven churches of Revelation 2 receive warnings from Christ to beware Nicolaitanism. What is it? Richard Ritenbaugh shows how Nicolaitanism—a form of Gnosticism—still plagues the church today.
John Ritenbaugh, using the term "malignant narcissism" (from M. Scott Peck's book "People Of The Lie") to describe the blind Laodicean pride which denies our inherent sinfulness and imperfection by means of clever self-decptive quibbling and equivocation. Accepting one of the most pernicious gifts of Protestantism (no works mentality), the Laodicean doesn't know that it takes mental work and exertion to produce faith; it does not come by magic or by mere acceptance of certain knowledge. The Good Samaritan parable teaches that unless one practices doing good rather than just knowing good, his faith will be severely compromised.
God gives us a great deal of freedom under His law, but do we have the authority to bend or break the rules under extenuating circumstances? David Maas shows that the law applies at all times to everyone.
Christ's first letter to the churches focuses on the Ephesians, a people who succeeded in trying the spirits, but in the interim left [their] first love.
Halloween has seen a recent surge in popularity, now ranking second only to Christmas in retail sales. There is no doubt, however, that Halloween should never be celebrated by true Christians. Not only is it pagan in origin and practice, but it also promotes self-indulgence, deception, and other ungodly behaviors. Far from being a harmless holiday, Halloween has the potential to destroy our relationship with God.
A great many Americans feel that they do not have to submit to the government. John Reid brings the Bible's viewpoint into this discusssion.
Many people divide sin into physical and spiritual sins, but the Bible clearly says that all sin is lawlessness! Richard Ritenbaugh explains I John 3:4 in its first-century, Gnostic context.
John Ritenbaugh suggests that even though sin offers temporal and fleeting pleasure, we must learn to intensely hate sin, regarding this product of Satan as a destroyer of everything God loves and cherishes. We will ultimately be judged on what we have done with what we have been given, living what we know, and intensely striving to emulate God- the essence of love. If we sin, we love neither God nor ourselves. Sin corrosively destroys innocence, ideals, and willpower, replacing these qualities with hardness, slavery, more sin, degeneracy, and ultimately death.
No one seems to talk much about sin anymore, but it still exists! John Ritenbaugh explains the basics of sin and the great effects it produces on our lives.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon vision - an especially vivid picture in the mind's eye (undergirded by faith, scriptural revelation, and prompted by God's Holy Spirit) to anticipate and plan for events and results which have not yet occurred. This foresight or revelation, strengthened by analyzing, comparing, and applying scriptural principles, produces a common (or uncommon) sensical prudence of conduct, insuring that a person's life (temporal or eternal) is preserved and plans fulfilled.
The 1990s has seen the rise of militant homosexuality and government sponsorship of the gay agenda. What are God's views on the subject? What does this mean for America?
John Ritenbaugh insists that if mankind is separated from one another, it is also separated from God. Moreover, atonement with God will occur when mankind loves one another, loving as an action rather than simply a feeling. Contrary to the antinomian position taken by many Protestants, repentance—something that Christ does not do for us alone—is something we must do with the precious free moral agency God has given us. As sin brought a change in perspective and separation to our parents Adam and Eve, repentance, in one sense, brings us back to Eden—to the tree of life (via God's Holy Spirit). Reconciliation is an ongoing process enabling us to draw closer to what God is, having His mind installed in us.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon a singular disaster to befall modern Israel, involving captivity-largely as a result of its shameless toleration of rising violent crime. God ordained capital punishment, but because of the flawed legal system, with the exceptions for insanity, youth, and police mistakes, the deterrent value has been rendered ineffective in modern Israel. The prison system, actually producing academies for learning crime, is pitifully inferior to God's system of justice. Nevertheless, resisting civil governmental authority (a buffer against chaos) is tantamount to resisting God's authority. People who reinforce in themselves the habit of rebellion (resisting God's as well as man's authority) will be mercifully terminated in a lake of fire. Jesus, by emphasizing the spirit of the law, places deterrents on the motive- preventing the actual murderous deed from ever taking place. Brooding anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, and scorn constitute the activating motives for actual murder. We need to develop the maturity and faith to allow God to take vengeance rather than presumptuously taking this prerogative upon ourselves. Christ teaches that we also need to learn to (with the help of God's Holy Spirit) proactively promote peace by attending to the physical needs of our 'enemies,' responding as Christ would respond.
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