Joseph Herrin (4-22-07)
In recent communications with professing believers I have reflected upon the problem of near-sighted reasoning. Oftentimes, due to long practice and familiarity, the saints embrace errors that are clearly shown to be what they are when they are viewed from a larger and more Scriptural vantage point. The areas in which the saints suffer from this myopia are manifold, and of very serious consequence.
As an example of this type of nearsighted reasoning, I cited the false assertions of certain believers who proclaim forcefully that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to all other Bible versions. I have had opportunity over the years to correspond with a number of people who were champions of the KJV Bible. I have been told by some of these professing Christians that the KJV is the only Bible God approves of today. Some go so far as to declare that only those who use the KJV are truly saved, and that all other translations are works of Satan. It is a prerequisite of many that those who become part of their church must use only this Bible.
I have sought to reason with those who espouse these things. I have reminded them that the King James Bible did not see the light of day until 1611, and even then it only spoke to one language group of the world. Are they contending that there were no true Christians during the first 1600 years of the church age, or that the Spirit of Yahweh had no acceptable Bible translations with which to communicate to the early believers? And what of the Christians from nations such as Germany, China, India, Russia, and the many African states? They have Bibles in their own languages. Are they all works of Satan, and must these Christians learn English that they might be instructed from the only authorized Bible translation?
Invariably, those who are champions of the “KJV only” camp are English speaking people who have lived during the last 400 years. The church, however, is composed of people purchased by the blood of Christ from “ every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Suppose some tribal group from New Guinea received a Bible translation in their own tongue that was commissioned and paid for by the ruler of their people. Suppose these people only knew this one translation, and had been instructed from it for generations. Could they not also, due to long use and familiarity, come to adopt views of this Bible translation that were not sound? What if they became so bold as the “KJV only” champions and asserted that one had to read from their translation to truly be saved? Would we not laugh at the preposterous conclusions at which they had arrived?
I cite this as an example of the nearsighted reasoning that many saints participate in. It is all too easy to judge matters from our own limited experience. We too infrequently think outside the box of our own tribe and tongue and people and nation, and, I would add, our own time period. This immersion in our own culture can lead to serious flaws in our doctrine and beliefs. We tend to venerate things that are passed down from previous generations, and the longer certain practices and beliefs have been held, the less likely we are to examine them, and the more violently our mind reacts against any challenge to those things.
As another example, I would cite the Christian observance of Christmas and Easter. Neither of these days were observed, or have even found mention in Scripture. The apostles and early disciples knew nothing of these celebrations. Their origin is extra-Biblical in nature, and scholarly research reveals that they owe their adoption to pagan observances that were practiced by the people in the lands to which Christianity spread. The very name Easter is the name of the ancient goddess of fertility. This is the same name as the Germanic Eostre, the Babylonian Ishtar, the Greek Astarte, and Ashtoreth of the Old Testament.
It was Solomon who is first mentioned as adopting the worship of Ashtoreth in Israel, having been influenced to this idolatry through his foreign wives. Hundreds of years later the temple to Ashtoreth that Solomon had built was destroyed by king Josiah.
II Kings 23:13
The King [Josiah] also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption-the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the people of Ammon.
According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary the name of this goddess is a reference to fertility.
In S Arabia the name is found as ‘Athtar (apparently from `athara, “to be fertile, to irrigate”).
(From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
The name Athtar still bears resemblance to the name Easter that has been handed down to our present generation. That Easter is linked to the celebration of this pagan goddess of fertility is seen in the many symbols of fertility that are associated with it. The Easter eggs, the bunny rabbits, the flowers and grass baskets are all symbols of fertility. The fertility goddess was honored at the beginning of Spring in hopes that she would bless and make fruitful both the plants and animals of the people who worshiped her.
History records the tale of how many pagan practices were merged into Christianity during the time of the Roman Empire. In the year 325 the Council of Nicea, convened at the behest of the Emperor Constantine, established the date upon which Easter was to be celebrated by the church. It fell close to the time of observance of Passover, and elements of both holidays were joined as the church failed to divide between the holy and the profane.
The present day church’s observance of a holiday named after a pagan goddess of fertility is an example of the nearsightedness with which we must contend. We accept many things due to long practice and familiarity. Even when we are confronted with the truth of the abominable origins of certain practices, we find that there are few among us like King Josiah who are zealous enough to cast down and destroy that which is detestable to God. It takes a clear eye, and courageous obedience to come out of something that we have known all of our lives, which our churches and pastors and forebears of long generations have accepted and even revered.
We must look beyond our present culture to the example of the early apostles, and we must seek the witness of the Spirit of Christ to understand what truly defines God’s will and desire. If God reveals His will to us then it does not matter if all around us are doing something else, we must obey God. Part of the difficulty is getting Christians to look beyond their present experience; to separate them from the habit of accepting all things wholesale as if current practice defines what is pleasing to God.
All of this has been shared as a prelude to the topic I would now broach. I live in America, which has been described as “the greatest consumer nation on Earth.” There are 300 million other citizens of this nation, and the majority of them describe themselves as Christians. The lifestyle of those in and out of the church is hard to distinguish. The following passage describes both those in and out of the church in America, and in many other nations of this world.
And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
These words of Christ describe the focus of the people of the Earth at the time of His return. He is describing the things that people are seeking after, that which they find fulfillment in.
They are eating.
They are drinking.
They are marrying.
They are buying.
They are selling.
They are planting.
They are building.
None of these things are unlawful. Condemnation occurs only when people are giving inordinate attention to these things. An all consuming attention to worldly pleasure, and worldly pursuit is to be expected of those who are separated from God and foreigners to the life of Christ. This world is all they have, so they seek to get what they can out of it while they have the opportunity. The children of God are not to be so minded, however.
“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?… Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…”
The Gentiles, those foreign to God, eagerly seek after the external things that this world offers. In the book “The Mark of the Beast” I have described how the natural man depicted in Adam was given the command to “subdue and rule over the beasts.” This was mankind’s first direction from God. Yet, when Adam and Eve were confronted by the serpent they submitted to the beast’s rule over them. The apostle Paul declares:
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…
Adam and Eve presented themselves to the serpent for obedience, and they became slaves of the beast nature. The beast nature is described in the curse placed upon the serpent.
Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life.
The phrase “on your belly you shall go” is describing the beast nature’s slavery to its appetites. The phrase “and dust you shall eat all the days of your life” is a reference to the beast nature’s desire for fleshly things, for man’s flesh was formed of the dust of the earth. The apostle Paul certainly had these things in mind when he penned the following words.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
The natural man lives to satisfy his appetite for earthly things. He is a consumer bent upon acquiring as much of the material goods of this world as he can. It is this pursuit that our Lord said will mark mankind when He returns. Mankind will awake each day and go forth to his labor. He will earn money to acquire houses and lands and furnishings and clothing and everything his natural heart lusts after. Truly we see this being played out today, both in and out of the church. The church is minding earthly things as much as their lost neighbors. This should not be the case.
Our Lord was an example of a new kind of man, a spiritual man, whose desire was to seek first the kingdom of God. Yahshua lived to do the will of the Father. His first test by Satan in the wilderness was a test of consumption. Yahshua had not eaten in forty days and He was hungry. The devil tempted Yahshua with the words, “If you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread.” Yahshua revealed that He did not live to satisfy His appetites when He stated, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” In this He was declaring that it was more important for Him to wait upon God and do His will than to satisfy the desire of His flesh. He knew the Father already had a provision prepared for Him, and He merely needed to wait for it. We are told that after the temptation that the angels of God came and ministered to Christ’s needs.
Christ is described as “the Light of the World.” Light is the opposite manifestation of the beast nature. Whereas the beast nature goes on its belly seeking to satisfy its craving for fleshly and worldly things, light is giving. Light does not consume, it radiates outward. Light gives illumination and warmth, and brings life and energy to everything it falls upon. The saints are called to be “lights in the world.” They are not to be consumers, but radiators of the life of Christ.
In the early church we see a manifestation of the awesome transforming power of the Spirit of Christ. When the Spirit was given to the church in Jerusalem they were transformed from consumers to givers.
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them… For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.
The beast nature was cast down. The saints were seeking the kingdom of God. Contentment replaced coveting, and giving replaced the spirit of consumption. The apostle Paul describes the contentment that they enjoyed.
I Timothy 6:6-8
Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
A great problem arises for present day Christians when they look at the lives of all those around them and they assume that what they are seeing is God’s desire for the normal Christian life. We are so immersed in a culture of consumerism, and in a society that manifests the beast nature at every level, that we falsely conclude that all this focus on buying and selling, eating and drinking, planting and building, is God’s desire. We fail to look at the Scriptures as the standard, and we consider the saints in Jerusalem to be an aberration, and an anomaly. We look at the life of Christ and of Paul and see them as exceptions, rather than as patterns for the rest of us.
The requirements for discipleship have not changed in the past 2,000 years. What Christ spoke to men and women then, is the same today, no matter how much our society and culture seek to impress upon us a different standard. Christ spoke to those who would follow Him in this way:
Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying,’ This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace. So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The words “so therefore” are referencing all that Christ said before. He said there is a cost to discipleship. He said you must hate even your own relatives, for they will seek to turn you back from The Way. Our natural relatives, and even those who are professing Christians but are immersed in the world, will tell us that we are fools if we do not pursue the world and seek to get our rightful portion of its goods. They will seek to convince us that a respectable Christian must conform to the pattern of this world. They will tell us that Yahshua and Paul were exceptions, not patterns. They will seek to convince us that turning our back on consumerism is not the cross we are called to carry. They will deny that Yahshua meant what He said when He declared, “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” The end result is that the vast majority of saints give into this worldly reasoning and they lose their savor. They are as salt that has become tasteless.
In another place our Lord replied to one who would be His disciple:
And a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Yahshua said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Yahshua went directly to the heart of this man’s dilemma. He described for Him the cost of following Him. Scribes were well regarded and prosperous people in their society. They had houses and possessions, and such was this man’s experience. Yahshua said that He could promise the man no such thing, for He lived to do the will of the Father, and the Father had not provided Him with a house of His own, or possessions in the earth. The beasts of the earth required such things. The birds had nests and the foxes had holes, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head. Such is the cost of discipleship.
When I was ten years old I became a Christian and was baptized. I grew up in the church in America, a church influenced tremendously by its culture. When I became a man I married and had children and acquired a house and vehicles and furnishings and many possessions. I was influenced by the covetous society in which I was immersed. I went to my job every day, and I used my earnings to satisfy my desires for earthly things. My life was indistinguishable in all of its trappings from the lives of the lost people with whom I worked. They too were pursuing the same things.
Then in 1999, at the age of 38, the Lord challenged me to commit to a deeper obedience and a true discipleship. He challenged me to follow wherever He would lead. He did not spare me the cost of discipleship. The first thing He did was separate me from all of my possessions. Then He led me by His Spirit to fulfill the ministry He had called me to. He became our sole source of provision, and though we moved frequently at His leading, and were constantly in tight places where we often didn’t know where our next day’s provision would arise from, He never forsook us. As we sought first His kingdom He provided for us all our needs. We never lacked food, or covering. He always had a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in. He was even so gracious as to always provide electricity and even Internet service that I might carry out a ministry of writing.
As I have followed the Lord it has been costly. Family and friends and church members alike all told me what a fool I was to follow God in this way. I was criticized and rejected and ostracized from Christian fellowship. The worst persecution came from Christians, especially those who were rich in this world’s goods. The pressure placed upon my entire family was immense, and resulted in my wife choosing to go back to the cultural Christianity of this day. She moved in with wealthy Christians who urged her to leave me, and my son went with her.
After my wife left I was led by the Spirit to many different places. For five months I lived out of my car, and out of a tent. I spent two forty day periods camped out in the Oconee Forest in Georgia. I was then led to go to a Rescue Mission where I lived for a year, serving as manager of the male residents there. Then I was given another position with this same mission and moved to an apartment and then to a house next to the mission which is located in a downtown area of Macon, Georgia. There are drug houses in the neighborhood behind me, and the county jail is just across the street in front of me.
Some would look at my circumstances and condemn me, but I have never known the presence of the Spirit of Christ as certainly, and known His direction as surely, as I have in these past years. His grace has been abundant and He has carried me through many sorrows and trials. He has cradled me in His arms, and sheltered me under His wings. I have had a table set before me in the presence of my enemies. He has led me through the valley of the shadow of death and His rod and staff have comforted me. His provisions have been supernatural, and I have been able to testify of the presence of a living God more than my companions. He has kept my salt salty.
I ask those of you who are leading lives typical of the culture in which you find yourself, “Does your life stand out from the society in which you find yourself, or are you pursuing the same things as those around you?” Consider the peculiar nature of the society we live in. Every day we are immersed in a sea of advertising that is directed at stirring up in us a desire to consume a world of products and services. Our nation is addicted to television where multitudes of people are daily subjected to programming that is supported by companies that want you to buy their products. The average American child will have watched 650,000 commercials by the time they graduate from High School. By the time they reach age 65 they will have watched 2 million commercials. (“The Social Impact of Television”)
Besides this we are subjected to advertisements on the radio, in magazines, on billboards, on the Internet, on buses, at sporting events, and every other media and venue imaginable. We live in a society bent upon consumption, and companies and organizations everywhere are spending billions of dollars to entice us to consume more. Over two hundred billion dollars are spent annually on advertising in America. The result is that Americans in and out of the church are conditioned to shop, to make impulse purchases, and to consume, consume, consume.
All this excess is the work of Satan, and he has a very deliberate purpose in mind. In Ezekiel we read:
By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries.
Satan has consistently used trade and traffic to defile the sanctuaries of God. Thus we see Yahshua entering the temple in Jerusalem and driving out the merchants and the money changers who have turned the house of prayer into a house of merchandise. This is merely a parable of the work Satan is performing today as he is using an excess of trade and merchandising in the things of this world to defile that temple of living stones which is the church of God. Millions of Christians have filled their temples with the sound of trafficking as they focus on eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, and they have forsaken the purpose for which God called them.
Tragically, the church has taken her position upon the back of the beast as John recorded in Revelation. She who was espoused to Christ as a pure virgin, she who was counseled to count the cost and to turn away from the allure of the world, has fallen into great reproach.
II Peter 2:1-3
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies… And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not.
Through covetousness false prophets have made merchandise of the people of God. Millions of saints have been led into the trap of consumption. They have been burdened with debt and enslaved to an existence where they daily go off to their jobs to earn the money to support their pursuit of worldly matter.
Because the saints are immersed in a culture that is focused on buying and selling they find it difficult to see God’s true desire for them. God never desired that we should be caught up in a quest for the things of this world, but that we should seek His will, to go where He leads us and to do what He commands us to do. He desires that our lives should be marked by contentment, not lust and coveting. Having food and covering, with these we should be content.
It has now been many generations since the church has departed from The Way. There are few examples of men and women who have come out of the rat race that defines our society. A spirit of consumption is everywhere until most do not even realize that they have become caught up in it and have departed from the will of God. Yahweh is calling for a people who will surrender to Him, who will count the cost and say, “Lord, where You lead I will follow. Your will is my desire.” Yahweh is seeking a people who are willing to let Him drive out the merchants and money changers from their lives and to make them a house of fellowship with Him.
Will you follow where He leads?
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