Friday, April 5, 2019

Guest Post: The Proof is in the Prophecy

Tom: Today we’re discussing prophecy, which is perhaps the most compelling feature of the Bible, demonstrating beyond doubt that it is indeed what it claims to be, the Word of God. Dave, last week we quoted numerous verses from the book of Isaiah, where God himself says that He alone is the God of prophecy. Can we just kind of review some of those verses?
Dave: Yeah, I forgot my Bible this morning, Tom! So, I’m in bad shape, but let’s see if we can’t remember some of them. In Isaiah 42, I think it’s around verse 8, 9, 10, somewhere in that region, God declares that He is the one who tells you what’s going to happen before it happens. In Isaiah 43, He points to Israel in verse 10: “You are my witnesses that I am God . . .” —Witnesses to yourselves and to the world because of what He said would happen to Israel. You can’t escape that. Isaiah:46:9-10, I think it is, God again declares He is the one true God, and then He tells us again that He will tell us what will happen before it happens, and He will watch over history to make certain that it does, so that when it comes to pass you will have to acknowledge that He is God - Isaiah:48:5, I think it is. I think it’s around verse 5.
Tom: But, Dave, this is another good reason why people ought to check you out.
Dave: (Laughs) That’s right!
Tom: I mean, you are doing this from memory . . . 
Dave: Very good!
Tom: Let’s search the Scriptures to see if what Dave is saying is . . .
Dave:  Hey, maybe this is a good illustration of why they ought to search the Scriptures, but [in] Isaiah:48:5 God says, “I’m not going to let you give credit to your idols! I’m the one who told you what would happen, so when it happens you can’t give credit to your idols for having done this, but you will have to give credit to Me.”
So, the Bible (we’ve probably said it several times) is about 28 percent prophecy. If you cut prophecy out, you cut out an awful lot of the Bible. Most people, when they . . . you say, “Well, we’re going to talk about prophecy,” they think, Well, you’re talking about the Antichrist, the Second Coming, the Great Tribulation. . . . Future events.
No, no! Most prophecy has already been fulfilled. This is the great proof that God exists and the Bible is His Word.
Tom: Right, last week we began looking at fulfilled prophecy, particularly the prophecies that predicted the first coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dave: Yeah, this is how you would know who the Messiah was. There are no prophecies for Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Zoroaster, or anybody else. How would you recognize . . . and it’s very significant, the choice of words. In Luke 7, John the Baptist is in prison. He sends two of his disciples to Jesus to check Him out. He doesn’t say. “Well, are you the Messiah? Are you the Savior?” No, he says very precisely, “Art thou he that should come?” Ohh! Somebody was coming! Well, how would you know He was coming? “Well, the prophets said He was coming.”
Well how would you recognize Him? The prophets laid it out exactly how you would know who the Messiah was.
Tom: Right. And in particular, some people said, “Well, Jesus could have kind of put these things together to make himself . . . the nay bobs, the gainsayers,” and so forth. But how do you pick where you are going to be born? Micah:5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
Dave: That tells us that He is eternal; the one who was born in Bethlehem. This is not the beginning of His existence, although many Jews would not believe that and wouldn’t accept it. Isaiah:9:6, of course, says, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” So the babe born in Bethlehem is the man; the Son is the eternal Son of God. “The government will be upon His shoulders,” so you know that’s the Messiah. “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God; the everlasting Father.” So, when Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” He was absolutely in accord with Isaiah, who said that the babe that would be born in Bethlehem, amazingly, is the everlasting Father! He is God!
Tom:  And, Dave, the particulars, with regard to prophecy—even Jesus’s bloodline had to be specifically fulfilled. Again, we’re talking about things that He had no control over—that is, unless He were God!
Dave: Unless He’s God. Right.
Tom: Luke:1:31-32: “And behold you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great [again, this is the angel Gabriel speaking to Mary], He shall be great and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.”
Dave, in Matthew:22:42 it says “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is he?  They say unto him, the son of David.” So Jesus had to be in the line of David.
Dave: Well, he had to be because 2 Samuel 7 and many other places God promised this to David. He said, “I have found David a man after my own heart.” He was a sinner; he did commit adultery; he committed murder—that’s horrible! And yet he repented. Not that he was a man who was perfect, without sin, but he was at least perfect in his heart when Nathan the prophet confronted him and said, “Thou art the man!” he repented. When Saul was confronted by Samuel, he tried to justify himself.
So God chose David, and He said that “on his throne the Messiah would sit.”
Now, when you come to the New Testament, Romans 1, for example, Paul says that he is preaching the gospel of God. Not the Methodists, or Baptists, or Catholics, or Presbyterians—none of that matters. These are labels that people have put forth much more recently, but Paul says, “I am preaching the gospel of God.” Well, how do we know that it is the gospel of God? He says, “ . . . which he promised before by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures,” (Romans:1:2). Then he says, “Concerning his Son Jesus . . . made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans:1:3). So he had to be of the seed of David.
Tom: Dave, prophecy—not only is it . . .
Dave: It’s exciting, Tom! I get excited!
Tom: It is exciting! It’s confidence building, it’s a great encouragement to all who will look at it and accept it for what it is—factual, historical, and, really, supernatural, because only God could fulfill these aspects of it.
Dave: Amen! This is the first thing I go to when I’m on an airplane talking to some CEO or whoever he is. When I take them to prophecy, and I show them that God has foretold history before it happened—and these are not cheap little events, you know, hidden away somewhere. These are events that have made history, and the Bible foretold them centuries, even thousands, of years ahead. We have absolute proof! We have absolute proof that Jesus is the Christ. Furthermore, it even tells us when He would come! So it’s too late now for the Messiah to come the first time, but the second coming is getting very close I believe.
Tom: Dave, I get excited about this too, so I want to keep some of these things straight and communicate them as well as we can. But I want you to throw in whatever prophecy that you’re excited about, that is somewhat unique, that maybe many of our listeners are not aware of prophecy, or they just don’t know the prophecies that we are going to be speaking to.
One that really excites me is Jeremiah:22:30, “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”
Now, Dave, this prophecy—actually the man that they’re speaking to is Jehoiachin, also known as Jeconiah, or Coniah. And he was eight years old when he took the throne of David. He reigned for about three months, and then he was taken captive to Babylon, where he spent thirty-seven years in prison. Now this is a curse against this line of David. And it said that no one from that line will ever sit on the throne of David. Now Jeconiah had children, but they never sat on the throne of David, and no one from that line could sit on the throne of David.
Dave: It might have confused some people because it begins by saying “count this man as childless.” But it doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to have any children; it means that his children are going to count for anything. Because it does go on and say “none of his descendants,” so it does indicate that he had descendants.
Tom: The reason I find this prophecy exciting is that it looks like God has just boxed Himself in, because Jesus, through his father (foster father), Joseph . . .
Dave: Yeah, let’s make that clear. The Bible is very clear about it.
Tom: Well, yes, because what you’re saying is that if Joseph was Jesus’s father, then there was no virgin birth. But here’s what’s interesting about this particular prophecy: if Joseph was really the father of Jesus, and there was no virgin birth involved, Jesus would be, not really, according to God, the king of Israel.
Dave: He would be of the descendant of Jeconiah, because Joseph was; therefore he couldn’t have been the Messiah.
Tom: Yes, however Mary comes through the line of Nathan, the son of David, and that gives Jesus the bloodline that He needs to be the king of Israel. But Joseph, being His foster father—however you want to describe him—that gives Jesus the legal right. So He has the legal right through His father, but the bloodline—He has the bloodline through Mary. That’s an incredible prophecy!
Dave: Tom, the Bible is just absolutely full of amazing prophecies; though I am sure that you and I have missed quite a few of them yet.
Tom: We have time, Dave, if the Lord tarries.
Dave: No, I don’t mean talking about them! Oh, right, we’ve got time for the Lord to point them out to us. They’re all in His Word.
Tom: We do have Bibles here by the way.
Dave: Yeah, well, in Hosea:3:4-5, God prophesied that the children of Israel would be without a king, without a sacrifice, without a priesthood—obviously, something would happen, or something would prevent the temple from being rebuilt—and it says for many, many years. Jeremiah foretold 70 years of desolations on Jerusalem, and it happened. At the end of 70 years, Cyrus let them go back (Cyrus the king).
Jesus then elaborates on Hosea. He says, “Jerusalem will be trodden down [this is Luke:21:24, I think]. Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Now, that is an amazing prophecy! If it’s trodden down of the Gentiles and they can’t offer sacrifices, something is going to prevent the temple from being rebuilt for a long, long time, and Jesus does not—well, He says, “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” I think that won’t happen until Armageddon, when the Gentile nations are destroyed at Armageddon.
But you can go over the history of Jerusalem; I love the prophecies about Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been fought over, occupied, by every major power down through history. The Jews have not had control of this since the time that they were thrown out in the final Diaspora in AD 70. Everybody else has had it, from the Greeks, to the Romans, everybody. The Muslims, of course; the Mamlūks of Egypt had it for about 400 years; then the Turks—they were on the wrong side in WWII, so when the allies took that area (they called it Palestine), they turned it over to the British, you remember? The British Mandate. And the British had it since then. Well, finally, in 1967, when Israel took Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, I remember some of the prophecy experts saying, “Wow, that’s the end of it now. The ‘times of the Gentiles’ are fulfilled!” and Moshe Dayan turns around and gives the Temple Mount (that’s the most important part of it, that 35 acres—you could start a nuclear war over that) gives it back to King Hussein of Jordan. In 1974, the PLO takes it over, and Arafat is in control of it, and we could go down through history. In fact, we can just go to modern history. Do I have enough . . . are you going to give me another couple of minutes here?
Tom: Sure, go for it!
Dave: [It’s] very interesting. The United Nations in 1947, UN Resolution 181 said when they partitioned the land and gave part of it to the Jews, “Jerusalem must be an international city forever.” You know that the pope recently—last February—he was in Israel, in Jerusalem and then in Bethlehem with Arafat, and he signed a deal: the Vatican with the PLO, saying there must be international assurance that Jerusalem will remain an international city and it will not be under the control of the Jews. Jesus said it will be “trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
The United Europe recently said that “Jerusalem must remain an international city.” So in all these negotiations that are going on—as you know, the negotiations at Camp David recently broke down because they were quarreling over Jerusalem. The Jews want to have . . . this is their capital, this is where they have the Knesset. But all the nations of the world have their embassies somewhere else. Jesus said, “ . . . trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Now, Tom I don’t want anybody out there to think I am anti-Catholic and I’m throwing in something, but they need to know that the Catholic Church has been absolutely opposed to the Jews having control of Jerusalem, even to being in their land. For example, in 1904, Theodor Herzl records in his diary . . .
Tom: Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist Movement.
Dave: Right. And he asked Pope Pius X for support for the Zionist movement. They quote what . . . well, we have to take Theodor Herzl’s word for it, and it certainly ties in with many other things. He says that the pope said to him, “We cannot prevent the Jews from returning to Jerusalem, but we could never sanction it.” In 1919, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, he was Secretary of State of the Vatican at that time, he said (and Tom I just find these statements so astonishing) he said “the thing that frightens us the most is the possibility of a Jewish state in Palestine!”
And then, you know, we’ve quoted in our newsletter the letter from Pope Pius XII to Roosevelt, which was uncovered recently in the archives, June 22, 1943, with the smoke of the incinerated Jews hanging over Europe, and Pope Pius XII said to Roosevelt, “There is no precedent in history for a people who have been cast out of the land for 1,900 years returning.” Now he says, “If a Jewish homeland is desirable, then it would be a lot better to give them someplace else—not in Palestine. Because,” he said, “if you let the Jews return there, it will cause great problems for the world.”
Now we have hundreds, literally hundreds, of prophecies in the Old Testament where God promised that after He scattered His people He would bring them back, and, in fact, they have to be there, as you have been saying, because the Messiah returns there to rule on the throne of His father David in Jerusalem over His chosen people, the Jews!
Tom: Dave, this is an extraordinary example of an ignorance of prophecy. I don’t think they understand what they are doing.
Dave: But wait a minute, Tom. I’m sorry, but this is the Vicar of Christ—he claims to be the representative of the one true church. Part of the problem is, and it’s not just with Catholics but it’s with a lot of evangelicals today, the Catholic Church said it, and it’s in Vatican II, and you can find the statements back there, that the Jews are no longer the people of God. Vatican II says the Church is the new people of God, and the Jews were the people formerly chosen by God, and we’ve got evangelicals who teach this today.
So, yes, it is an ignorance of prophecy, but how could it possibly be? There are so many prophecies! There is an opposition to Israel being back in her land where she must be. But anyway, the point I was trying to make is this is an amazing prophecy by Jesus. “Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Hosea said they are going to be without a sacrifice, without a priesthood and so forth.
Now, this is very important—if we have any Jewish people listening out there—if Israel has been without a sacrificial system; without a means of dealing with sin for 1,900 years—not by accident, God said they would be without it. Well, then, we are driven to one of two conclusions. Either God has, as many Christians (so-called) today say, cast off His people; the Jews are no longer His people. If you say that, then wow, you have just pulled the rug out from under one of the greatest prophecies in the Bible, so that can’t be! But either God has cast them off, or the Messiah has come and as it was foretold, He would be crucified, He would die for the sins of the world. He has fulfilled the Old Testament sacrifices. There is a once-for-all sacrifice for sin! I don’t think you can escape one of those conclusions. We are driven to one or the other.
Tom: And, Dave, there are so many details, as you’ve been saying, in the Bible with regard to prophecy that underscore—for example, you mentioned crucifixion. Christ came, and He was crucified. King David, writing in the Psalms, Psalm:22:14, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. . . .” Now who is this describing and what form of . . . ?
Dave: It’s not David; it never happened to David, so he is talking prophetically.
Tom: “ . . . my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me . . . ”
Dave: That’s Gentiles and Jews.
Tom: “ . . . they pierced my hands and feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.” Dave, two aspects of this. Not only is David referring to his son to come, the Son of God, the Messiah, but he writes this 1,000 years before Christ, when crucifixion was never used. I mean it wasn’t used until about 150 years before Christ as a form of execution.
Dave: “All my bones are out of joint.” They pound the nails into them down on the ground. They don’t climb up ladders. And then they lift that thing up and drop it into its socket in the ground. All your bones are out of joint! But, Tom, it goes even further. It tells us that they would not do what they always did to the crucified.
They would not break His legs. “A bone of Him shall not be broken.” They always did that. Let them linger on the cross. The whole idea was torture, a slow torturous death. And then we want to take them down and break their legs so they can’t support themselves anymore, and they collapse, their lungs collapse, and then they die.
No, but they wouldn’t do that, because Jesus said, “No man takes my life from me. I lay it down of myself.” He was dead already. You couldn’t have imagined how could He possibly be dead already? And then it said they would do to Him what they’d never do to the crucified: they would pierce Him with a sword, or a spear, Zechariah:12:10.
Well, Tom, we’ve run out of time, but it is just so incredible, and, as you said, it is strengthening to our faith to see the Bible has laid it all out ahead of time.
Tom: Right. It’s why we know that it is indeed God speaking to us.
Dave: And that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of sinners.

TBC Program #1914

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Guest Post: Heard From God Lately?

Let’s say I were to voice the question, “Heard from God lately?” to a very large crowd that had a mix of Christians and non-Christians. Among the crowd would be professing Christians, biblical Christians, cessationist Christians, charismatic Christians, pentecostal Christians, contemplative Christians, progressive Christians, conservative Christians, as well as a few agnostics, skeptics, and atheists. 
Their first thoughts related to a response to my question, no doubt, would be as diverse as their religious perspectives. For example, atheists and skeptics would think I was delusionary. Agnostics wouldn’t think much about it nor probably even care. Contemplative Christians would react to my question as supportive of their intuitive feelings-oriented approach to hearing from God. Some of the charismatic and pentecostal Christians might respond in the same way. Conservative Christians and those with a cessationist bent might worry that I had bailed on the written Word of God in favor of personal subjective communication with Jesus. All biblical Christians, I would hope, would restrain themselves from thinking ill of me doctrinally for at least a few minutes. They would give me the opportunity to explain what I meant by my question and then would search the Scriptures to see whether or not it was true.
Let me make a seemingly controversial statement before I start explaining myself. If someone who calls himself a Christian is not hearing from God, he’s in trouble—not potential trouble, but serious trouble—guaranteed. His situation is like that of a man in the middle of a minefield without a map or any device to guide him and keep him out of harm’s way. That said, what do I mean by “hearing from God?”
I need to begin with what I believe is the Lord’s responsibility: God has to communicate with those whom He created. Why? Because there are only a limited number of things we can know about Him without His communicating to us directly. Everyone who recognizes that the universe and everything in it must have had a Creator/Designer would also understand that the Creator must be infinitely intelligent and powerful. That awareness, however, doesn’t supply necessary details about the Creator that only He can provide. Furthermore, He is infinite, and we are finite; our own efforts to figure out an infinite God cannot go beyond mere guesswork. That same ignorance applies to knowledge about ourselves.
Let us reason for a moment. What are some of the things that only God can supply? Well, for one thing, knowledge of who He is! Then there are His characteristics and attributes, as well as His reasons for creating us. What about humanity’s condition right after its creation and its later rebellion and separation from Him? Then we learn of His plan for reconciliation between Himself and those very creatures!
Without God communicating such information to us, we’re left in a quagmire of speculations, conjectures, theories, and unsubstantiated opinions. Therefore, not only must God communicate with us, but He must do it in a way that we finite and fallen beings can understand. This He has already done through His direct communication to us, which is—His Word. His Scriptures. His Bible!
What then of the question: “Heard from God lately?” If what we’ve heard isn’t grounded in the written Word of God, we’re more than likely in that minefield mentioned earlier. Each step is precarious, even though the first one may not blow our feet off. But as National Park rangers instruct and warn hikers, it’s the first step off the marked trail that leads to their becoming lost. 
The Bible is filled with instructions, exhortations, and warnings regarding the necessity of carefully adhering to what it says. Hebrews chapter 2 begins, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” Is “slippage” something to be concerned about? Second Timothy 4:3-4 declares, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” Jesus, in Matthew:24:4, warns, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Not earnestly heeding the instructions of God’s written Word is the basis for one’s drifting away, or, as noted, stepping off the “marked trail” that God, in His mercy, has laid out before us.
What the Bible supplies is “sound doctrine,” meaning those teachings that were given to and faithfully recorded by God’s prophets through the Holy Spirit. They are objective teachings from God, bereft of the subjective input of men. They are God’s words, not man’s (Galatians:1:11-12). Yet we are told prophetically that a time will come among professing and true Christians that they will not endure (continue steadfastly) in God’s instructions. False teachers will seduce them through their doctrines. That fact is confirmed in the warning given by Jesus in answer to His disciples concerning the last days prior to His return, which He characterized as being a time of great deception (Matthew:24:4,24). Although that time is certainly upon us, the antidote for individual believers is found in the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that he “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy:4:2). “Enduring” sound doctrine means reading it, believing it, and living it out.
Going back to the question, “Heard from God lately?”—how lately is “lately”? I’m hoping the response is overwhelmingly “daily!” There is no better habit for the believer in Jesus Christ than to read the Bible daily—at least none of which I am aware. Here are just some of the reasons. Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, believing that He paid the full penalty for their sins, have been born again. They have received the free gift of eternal life and have begun a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus their Savior. Of course, that includes loving Him. 
For any relationship to develop, an increase in the knowledge that individuals have of one another is key. Everyone knows that’s the way it is when it comes to people with whom they physically interact, whether they be newlyweds, or in a relationship with new friends or new co-workers, etc. What about someone we want to personally befriend but whom we can’t physically be with? We might consider becoming pen pals or “email pals,” which may satisfy the desire to get to know them better. 
Well, then what about developing a relationship with Jesus? That takes place through the reading of His Word. It’s through the Scriptures that we learn who He is, what He has done for us, what He wants for our lives, and how much He loves us. We’re told, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John:4:19). The more we learn of all He has done for us, the more our relationship with Him grows. That’s at the heart of my question, “Heard from God lately?” If we’re not hearing from Jesus daily through the reading of His Word (He is the Word! [Revelation:19:13]), our relationship with Him will suffer—at best. The circumstances that occurred with those in the Ephesian church, who, we are told, had “left their first love,” Jesus Himself (Revelation:2:4), happened because of their allowance for things—some of them even good—to hinder their love relationship with Him. So, too, will our love for Him be strangled by our own negligence to connect with Him through the Scriptures. 
Why does this happen to many believers who are, or should be, aware of the horrendous price He paid in order to save them from their sins? The reasons, among many, include worldly distractions, backsliding, laziness, loving self more than Him, and, for increasing numbers of folks, being deceived regarding how we are to communicate with Him.
The first means of growing in our relationship with Jesus must be through the written words of Scripture, which is God’s objective communication to humanity. This is critical, because our interpretation of the Word can be tested on an objective basis, according to principles of hermeneutics. The major deception of our day, which began in the Garden of Eden with Satan’s ploy of subtly undermining God’s command to Adam and Eve, is to replace what God has indeed said with man’s false interpretations. Such interpretations are too often formulated through emotions, impressions, personal sensitivities, intuitions, and so forth. Those who take such an approach rely on their feelings for their understanding. This may also lead to the error of eisegesis, i.e., introducing one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto a biblical text. When the experiential dominates a person’s life, God’s truth is lost.
Next we are going to look at some of the meanings regarding the question “Heard from God lately?” that are understood in ways that are seriously at odds with what’s been presented above in this article. Of late, there has been a rush away from the objective interpretation of Scripture. Now, many insist that they are hearing from God personally with little or no regard to His Word at all! This is not new in church history. In the third century ad, the Catholic Desert Fathers were all about hearing from God mystically. That precedent continued into the Catholic monastic and cloistered period and through mystical nuns such as Teresa of Avila and Anne Catherine Emmerich, then into the 20th century via priests and monks such as Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. The latter deceased priest has become a particular favorite of many influential evangelicals, including Rick and Kay Warren. Quaker Richard Foster and his Renovaré organization have been instrumental in influencing the Contemplative Movement, with its mystical methods (meditation techniques and spiritual rituals drawn from Eastern mysticism), to spread throughout evangelicalism today. 
What has taken place in a greater way among Pentecostals and Charismatics is the very same spiritual subjectivism, albeit cloaked in biblical terminology. Some of their leaders give the impression (intentionally) that they are in a continual conversation with God. One of the false doctrines they conjure up to support their heresies is the teaching that God has two basic but different modes of communication: logos and rhema. Their belief is that logos is God’s communication through the written word, and rhema is His spoken word. No. In fact, the terms are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. Moreover, according to this doctrine, God’s oral transmission has authority (they call it “new revelation”) over His logos, which means that the hearers are beyond being corrected by Scripture! Like Satan (Genesis:3:1-4), the leaders in this movement continually add to, undermine, and contradict God’s Word, while their followers willingly conform to whatever those over them may claim. All of those connected with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and ministries such as the International House of Prayer (IHOP), Bethel Church Redding, and the Elijah List are among those who promote this error.
Hearing from God experientially seems to be an accepted practice among some of the most influential women in ministry today. Even a cursory review of the teachings of Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, Sarah Young, and Jennie Allen of the IF:Gathering (and her conference speakers) reveals a preponderance of “conversations with God” and little to no exegesis of the Scriptures. It can’t be overstated how dangerous this subjective teaching and pursuit is to millions of Christian women spiritually. Worse than just taking a step off the path of God’s Word, it’s a step off a cliff with nothing objective (e.g., sound doctrine) in sight to grab onto. Once a believer buys into the “God told me” stories of others, biblical doctrine quickly mixes with and is lost in a jumble of personal experiences. More often than not, the subjective experiences and teachings replace sound doctrine and are accepted as being true to and even supplanting the Scriptures. It then becomes a clear case of adding to God’s Word, a practice that the Bible condemns (Proverbs:30:5-6Revelation:22:18-19).
Are all subjective personal experiences with Jesus likewise condemned? No. Everyone who has believed the gospel began a personal intimate relationship with Him. That can’t take place without the involvement, to some degree, of one’s emotions. It may also include some form of personal communication with Jesus—if He chooses, how He chooses, and when He chooses. The principle of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit personally interacting with believers is found throughout Scripture. Paul’s life in Christ reveals his often-subjective guidance and communication with the Holy Spirit. Subjective? Yes. For example, Paul is forbidden by the Spirit to preach in Bithynia and is redirected to Macedonia (Acts:16:7-10). That communication was subjective, meant only for Paul at that time. Was this an objective command of God, indicating that believers are never to go to Bithynia to preach? No! Peter writes to believers in Bithynia, so obviously the gospel was preached and believed there (1 Peter:1:1-2). Three things are demonstrated in those verses and many others: 1) The principle that God communicates to believers is established; 2) He communicates objectively through instructions and commands for all who read His Word, and 3) He communicates personally and subjectively with individual believers. 
Should the Lord choose to communicate with a believer on a personal basis, that must neither be received as though it were equal to the Scriptures nor put forth in any way that supplements or supplants God’s Word. Furthermore, as with every spiritual experience, it must be tested: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…” (1 John:4:1). The critical test is whether or not the content of the communication or the experience is a) true to the teachings of Scripture and b) true to the revealed character of the persons of the Godhead.
 Books promoting conversations with God such as God Calling, A Course in Miracles, Conversations with God, and Jesus Calling, to name but a few, have become best sellers within Christendom, mostly because few Christians seem interested in applying biblical discernment, which is in direct disobedience to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy:2:15). The two women who channeled “Jesus” in God Calling said they felt highly privileged for being “selected” to be personally taught by him, and indicated that they were more comfortable not having to rely on written words. Who wouldn’t want to be personally spoon fed by Jesus and be convinced that His teaching content was at a higher level than what has been written down in the Bible? That’s an incredibly powerful seduction and one that is deceiving millions in Christendom today.
Pray for those who have been drawn in by those who “speak not according to [God’s] word” (Isaiah:8:20); and pray for the shepherds who are not shielding their sheep by warning them in solemn words that “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs:30:5-6).
By T. A. McMahon

Friday, February 1, 2019

Guest Post: Do You Have a Religious Preference?

Tom: If you’ve just joined us, I’m in the studio with Dave Hunt, and we’re discussing his book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith. And that’s a good title, because this book indeed has some terrific questions that everyone should take seriously. First and foremost is, “Where do you plan on spending eternity?” The common response is, “Well, I haven’t given it much thought.” And for those who have thought about it, it’s rare for them to go beyond wishful thinking. Certainly very few have strong reasons for their belief about this subject.
Dave, although we know that’s the way it is in the world today, most people do a lot of serious planning for their . . . let’s say 75-85 years on this earth, yet they seem oblivious to how they will spend their lives beyond what amounts to an incredibly short period of time – that is, when we compare it to eternity.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Unfortunately, that’s the case. We’re caught up in this world, and the plans for this world, and . . . I mean, just the commercials on television get you hooked, chasing materialism and the good life. Maybe we don’t have time for it, but one of my favorite authors, William Law, many years ago (I don’t agree with everything William Law had to say, but he had some insightful concepts and amazing ways of saying things), and I don’t think we’ve ever mentioned it on this program . . . William Law would say, well, a person that spends [as you just said] his life planning the home he’s going to retire to, you know, this . . . maybe the swimming pool, the tennis court, the sauna, and so forth, the beautiful home he’s going to build, and where he’s going to retire—and he manages to retire with quite a lot of money and lives comfortably. You would say, “He’s been a very wise man. He’s done well for himself.” William Law says, “What about the man who spends all of his life planning the home on Mars that he’s going to retire to—with the tennis court, and swimming pool, and sauna, and so forth.” You’d think the guy is crazy! William Law says they’re both crazy! The difference between their insanity is just this: one man is planning for a place where he can never be—on Mars; the other man is planning for a place where he cannot stay.
Tom: That’s an amazing statement, especially since William Law lived in the early 1700s, and it’s easy to forget people then were caught up in materialism just as they are today.
Dave: Well, of course, I’ve modernized it a bit, with the swimming pool and so forth.
Tom: (Laughing) Right! As you know, we have five children, one of whom is considering college. We have one in college, and the oldest in grad school, and we’re constantly encouraging them to plan for their future with regard to what they’ll do after graduation. So I can empathize with those who spend most of their time thinking about temporal things. It’s hard to consistently set one’s mind on eternity.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s a problem that we all have. Of course, when you’re young, you can’t believe that life would ever end. It’s unpleasant to think about death, so people tend to push that out of their minds. Solomon said, “It’s better to go to a funeral than to a feast, because a funeral is the end of all living. And maybe the living will lay it to heart.”
Moses said, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
So, a wise person realizes how short this life will be. But the scriptures say, you know, they named their houses, their fields, their businesses, after themselves, as though they will continue on forever. But we won’t. You don’t like to think about it, and so you go to a funeral—what do they do? They cover the casket with flowers. If it’s not a Christian funeral, they make such silly speeches: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”  And, “They live on in our memory,” and so forth. What we . . . we’re in a conspiracy of trying to cover up death, the reality of death. But we’d better face it, because it is inevitable – except for a Christian, if the Rapture occurs. We don’t look forward to death; we look forward to being taken to heaven. But if the Rapture does not occur, we all pass through death’s door. I mean, it’s a fact! Then we’d better prepare for it. We’d better be, in fact, absolutely certain.
A lot of people have the weakest ideas for their religious beliefs: “Oh, I like the pastor,” you know. “The choir is so wonderful. The people are so friendly.” Ideas, reasons, for their so-called religious faith that wouldn’t be sufficient. You wouldn’t rely on them for buying a refrigerator or a used car! You want to have something more solid than that. And I guess they just kind of slough it off, or they say, “Well, I haven’t lived too bad a life,” you know. “I guess it’s going to all be okay.”
Tom: Dave, in your book, you use three terms as you discuss where one considers he’ll spend eternity, and the three terms are tolerancepreference, and conviction. And then you quote, I think, a very insightful Time magazine article, which stated in part – I’ll give you part of it: “When it is believed that religion is a breezy consumer preference, religious tolerance flourishes. After all, we don’t persecute people for their taste in cars. Why for their taste in gods? Oddly, though, there is one form of religious intolerance that does survive—the disdain bordering on contempt for those for whom religion is not a preference but a conviction.”
Now, I bring that up because there are certain things that mitigate against people considering these things as though, yes, there is a truth out there; there is a reality, and it’s not something I can make up.
Dave: Well, you make a good point, Tom, because this is another one of the ways that mankind blinds themselves to this reality—the idea that, “Well, it would be narrow-minded and dogmatic to be definite about this. I shouldn’t really say that other people might be wrong and that what I believe is right,” or even the thought that there is only one way, which Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” Peter boldly said to the rabbis, “Neither is there salvation in any other. There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must [not “might” or “may”]—must be saved.”
Now, if that’s true, we ought to at least check it out. We ought to check out what Jesus said. Jesus claimed to be God. He came from the Father. And He said to the Jews, “You are from beneath; I am from above. Where I’m going, you cannot come if you do not believe in me. In fact, if you do not believe that I am God. . . . ” Now, that’s a pretty heavy thing for Him to say! He’s either an egomaniac, or He’s a liar, or He’s telling the truth, and this – what Jesus said – is too powerful, it is too definite, I mean, it is too important for anyone just to slough off and pass by, shrug your shoulders about it.
So, as we’ve probably said it before, but I often tell people, “You can’t live long enough to study all the religions. Now go to the Bible first, because it claims all the others are wrong.” And I can prove the Bible is God’s Word, that it’s true, and we’d better face up to what it says because when you die, it’s too late!
I think we quote, in this chapter, I believe, Omar Khayyam. He’s walking through the—you know, as he dies—it’s a door into darkness. And then, is it Thomas Hobbes, who spent his life trying to improve this world? But when he came to die, he said, “I’m about to take a leap into the dark.” You wouldn’t take a leap into the dark on this earth. To take a leap into the dark into eternity doesn’t make sense!
Tom: But, Dave, that’s the mentality of the day, and it’s not just with this aspect of tolerance and intolerance, but Allan Bloom, as you know, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, he makes the point that we’ve become so open-minded that our minds have been closed to the idea that something may be true and something else may be false.
Dave: Mm-hmm. That’s in his book, The Closing of the American Mind. How about that? The “closing of the American mind through openness”! He says the one virtue in America is openness. Openness to everything. You wouldn’t dare to say somebody was wrong. This is what we call being “politically correct.” You wouldn’t want to offend anyone. That very term, “politically correct” says some devastating things about politics, and unfortunately, that has come into the area of religion.
Now, if you come to me as a medical doctor, and I . . . you know, you’ve got a pain in your stomach, or somewhere down there, and I examine you, and I know that you have a ruptured appendix, and if you’re not on the operating table within a few minutes, you’re dead! But I wouldn’t want to offend you; I wouldn’t want to upset you by telling you the truth, so I say, “Tom, it’s okay. You’re going to be all right. If you feel some pain, take some aspirin.” That’s not love! I’m destroying you in the name of tolerance because I wouldn’t want to be so intolerant . . .
You say, “Well, Doc, what’s the diagnosis, the prognosis?” And I say, “Well, I wouldn’t be narrow-minded and dogmatic as to presume to come up with a definite diagnosis. What would you like, you know? Everybody’s entitled to the operation of their choice!” You hear people say, “Well, everybody’s entitled to the religion of their choice.” Of course, they are! But we would like to give them some facts and some evidence so they can make an intelligent choice, because the choice has to do with eternity! The issue is the eternal destiny of souls.
Tom: Dave, again, like this idea of intolerance, which is really—it’s false! It’s just absolutely false! The phrase that you hear is, “All roads lead to the same place.” Whatever religious path that you’re going to take, it all ends up in the same place.
Well, that’s blatantly false!
Dave: Well, it’s being dogmatic, because it’s denying that there is more than one destination.
Tom: So it’s intolerant, really.
Dave: It really is intolerant. These people who are so tolerant that they believe in everything, they are very intolerant toward evangelical Christians, who dare to say that Jesus is right. And they will not embrace that at all! So I t’s like in the public schools, it’s so broadminded anything can come in. You could bring in witchcraft, you could bring in a North American Indian witchdoctor, and homosexuality, and evolution—anything! But dare to bring in Christianity? Dare to say, “We’d better check the Bible out, because evolution, maybe, isn’t true. We’re not forcing that on you, but it just could be that God created this universe, and nothing else makes sense, and we’d better find out what God has to say about us.”
I know I‘m repeating myself, but the program I was on some months ago, Spiritual Seeker, in Southern California, and the talk show host says, “Here we are. We have two hours every Sunday night to talk about God, religion, and spirituality.”
Well, my question was, “We’re going to talk about God? Maybe we ought to find out what He has had to say about us.” That’s what we’d better face.
Now if God didn’t say anything, if the Bible is not God’s Word, if all religious scriptures or writings are on an equal par of “maybe there’s a little bit of truth, maybe not,” then forget it! And let’s stop talking about it! And let’s stop studying them, because we’re wasting our time. But if God really did speak to us, and the Bible is His Word (and, again, we can prove that!) we’d better face up to this and find out what He has to say, because one day, we face Him.
Tom: Dave, in this chapter, you make a very strong point that all religions are in opposition to biblical Christianity.
Dave: That’s true.
Tom: Why would you say that?
Dave: Well, all religions are basically the same, in one way. In other ways, they’re very different. They have different concepts of God. For example, Buddhism is basically atheism. Hinduism, you’ve got 330 million gods, it has been estimated.
Tom: So there is diversity among them.
Dave: There is a diversity, but when it comes right down to it, they’re all trying to work their way to heaven—whatever their concept of heaven is, whether it’s the Happy Hunting Ground for the Indian, or Paradise for the Muslim or . . .
Tom: Samadhi, or Moksha . . .
Dave:  . . . Moksha . . . but whatever it is . . .
Tom:  . . . for the Hindu.
Dave: . . . they’re going to do it through some ritual; they’re going to do it through some sacraments, or through good works . . .
Tom: Some sacrifices—animal sacrifices, human sacrifices, in some cases.
Dave: Right. They all think, and they all have the idea, of appeasing God. It’s as though God could be appeased! I mean, no! It’s a matter of justice. The penalty has to be paid, and we can’t pay it. We would be separated from God forever. But anyway, all religions are in opposition to Christianity on that point.
Tom: Here’s one verse: Romans:4:5, and, as you know, there’re dozens of other verses, but it says, “But to him who worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Now what other religion in the world makes that statement?
Dave: None! They can’t possibly make that statement.
Tom:  And they’re – they do work. That’s the point you’re making. They are in opposition, they are contrary to biblical Christianity.
Dave: By “they do work,” you mean they work. They’re working at getting to heaven.
Tom: Right.
Dave: It’s like the Tower of Babel. They . . . “We’re going to build a tower, and it will be high enough that climbing up its steps, we can reach heaven.” This is the religions of the world: man’s efforts to come to God. God came down to this earth to meet man and to take his place in judgment, to pay the penalty that His own judgment required! There is not a religion in the world that offers that. There is no one who claimed to do that. Buddha didn’t claim it. Confucius didn’t claim it. Muhammad. You know, you name them! Krishna – anybody. None of them! They all offered a philosophy of life by which you could improve yourself and lift yourself by your bootstraps up into heaven, and somehow, reform yourself and please God enough. Or make some sacrifices of animals, or whatever.
Now, the Bible does have animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. These were prescribed by God very carefully, and as you study the Old Testament, the way in which they were to be offered, by whom they were to be offered, the purpose for which they were to be offered . . .
Tom:  What was the purpose then?
Dave: It was all laid out very carefully – all of these sacrifices looked forward to the Lamb of God, who would be God himself, who would come as a Man – He wouldn’t cease to be God, and He never will cease to be Man – He’s the one and only God/Man, and He would be the One who would take upon Himself the sins of the world. As John the Baptist declared when he saw Him: “Behold the Lamb of God, who bears away the sin of the world.”
But the sacrificial systems, or the works religions, or the rituals or sacraments of these religions of the world, they do not look forward to God coming as a Man.
Tom: They’re supposed to be efficacious in themselves. They’re for us to do to manipulate the god out there, or to appease the gods, so the god – whoever we’re sacrificing to – will do our bidding, in effect.
Dave: Mm-hmm. We’d better find out what God has said.
Tom: Dave, some people may say, “Oh, okay, that’s what you guys believe, and this is what the other religions believe.” Our point here is we want to make that distinction. People do not have to just take what we say as a belief that they have to adhere to. The point is . . .
Dave: We’re not asking that, Tom.
Tom: No, but we’re making a distinction, and there are distinctions, and the current mentality, religious or otherwise, political or otherwise, is that it’s all the same, and it’s not the case. That’s the point we’re trying to underscore.
Dave: God says in Isaiah:1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Faith must be reasonable. It’s not a leap in the dark. We’ve said that many times, but it’s very hard to get the point across. People think, “Well, faith is just something you believe, and so long as you have a faith . . .” –people of faith, you know . . . . Even Pat Robertson refers to the members of the Christian Coalition as People of Faith, whether they’re Buddhists or Hindus, Muslims, whether they’re Mormons, or Roman Catholics, whatever. So long as they are people of faith, then we’ll all work together.
Well, maybe you can work together against abortion, or whatever it is. Don’t leave these people with the idea that so long as they just have some “faith” that’s okay. We’d better have the faith. And, in fact, the Bible tells us that “we must earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And the reason is the eternal—as I say it again and again – the reason is the eternal destiny of souls hangs upon what each person believes. Listen, the Bible says you must believe God. You must believe what He says. You must come to Him His way. We don’t negotiate. We don’t discuss it—dialogue about it with God. We don’t say, “God, I think this is okay. Why can’t this go?”
Why would we even want to do that? We take God’s way—and why not take God’s way? Look, you don’t think this is God’s way; you think some other way is God’s way. Give me the evidence! You know, I sat with a couple of Mormons—maybe I mentioned it earlier—about three weeks ago on a train, an all-day train going from. . .
Tom: Yeah, you mentioned it last week.
Dave: Yeah, going from Czech Republic to Slovakia. And one of the questions I asked them, I said, “I can prove the Bible is God’s Word. Give me one proof that the Book of Mormon is God’s Word. I can prove that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be: God, come as a Man to die for our sins. Give me one proof that Joseph Smith is who he claimed to be: ‘the prophet of God.’ In fact, Mormonism contradicts the Bible. Give me one proof.”
Well, they said, “We prayed about it, and we got a feeling inside.”
I said, “Buddhists have that feeling. Hindus and Muslims have that feeling. Give me something better than a feeling.” Now we have objective, factual, historical, prophetic evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. And that’s why we say to people, “Search the Scriptures daily.” If you have a quarrel with what we’re saying, your quarrel is not with us – it’s with God’s Word. We believe the Bible is God’s Word, and we can prove it, okay? And it has the proof. Please! Don’t be so proud that you say, “Well, this is going against what I’ve been taught, or my religion, or my church.” Please! We beg of you, consider very carefully what God has said. Search the Scriptures daily. That’s all we’re asking.
Tom: And, Dave, to bring this around to where we started, the question here is, “Where will I spend eternity?” God’s Word has the answers. And it doesn’t take a Council, or a Magisterium, or any organization to lay it out for you. It’s right there, very simply, in God’s Word.
Dave: Tom, when it comes to answering that question—when it comes to that decision—I’m not going to trust anybody, no matter what fancy robes they wear, no matter how long they’ve been around, their church may be the largest or oldest, no matter how convincing they are, I want to know what God has to say. That’s the only thing that’s going to matter one day.