Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Guest Post: What is Unbiblical Christianity?

Tom:  Welcome to Search the Scriptures Daily! In this first segment, we’re going through Dave Hunt’s book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, which we’ve been using because of its emphasis on the critical necessity of searching the Scriptures for understanding the Christian faith. In fact, if it’s not biblical Christianity, it’s not Christianity.
Now, Dave, I can imagine some of our listeners reacting to that statement, thinking, well, it’s rather cavalier. But it’s not. It’s just simple truth, isn’t it?
Dave:  Well, where do we find out about Christianity? From the Bible! So, are you going to come up with some ideas on your own? I mean, isn’t Jesus Christ—isn’t He the Head of the church? Isn’t He the One after whom Christianity is named? Well, then, I guess that’s the authority we go to.
Tom: Right. Dave, in chapter seven of your book, you begin the chapter by quoting two verses from the Old Testament: Exodus:20:24-26, where God gives instructions for constructing an altar, and then you quote Genesis:11:4, which gives man’s ideas about building an altar for spiritual gain.
How do these verses relate to mercy and works?
Dave: Well, we can certainly see how they relate to works! In Exodus 20, God says there is to be absolutely no human involvement in this altar. The altar is to be built of earth. If you can’t get enough earth to scrape together—the ground is so rocky— build it of rocks. But you cannot lift up your tool on it. You don’t carve the rocks. You don’t add any human embellishments. The altar of earth is a place where you offer a sacrifice. It has nothing to do with human works. And they are forbidden to go up by steps.
Then, in Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel, where they’re going to build a ladder—well, they’re going to build a tower—and by steps of their own making, they will climb right into heaven!
So, one is certainly the very opposite of the other. Babel is a rejection of what God says. How can there be any human effort? And didn’t Christ pay the penalty? Now, if it’s mercy, how can you merit mercy? Someone is merciful to you because you don’t deserve to be pardoned. They’re doing it not because you are worthy of it, but they’re doing it out of mercy.
Paul, in Romans, he contrasts “grace” and “works.” If it’s by work, then it’s not grace. If it’s by grace, it’s not by works—otherwise, grace isn’t grace and work isn’t work. And mercy is very similar to grace.
Tom: Dave, to go back to these scriptures—so, God, in a sense, is laying out something practical but also something very symbolic. And we could look to it—we don’t build altars today, but these scriptures have great meaning to us in terms of what God is telling us: that we cannot come to Him through anything that we might do.
Dave: It is absolutely essential that we understand that salvation is not by works. And it is an affront to God, it is an insult to God, to offer anything. And yet, this is what religion is all about! All religions partake of this error. Paganism, all ritualism, sacramentalism, the robes, the incense, the gilded altars, the ceremonies . . .
Tom: The Liturgies . . .
Dave: Yes, the Liturgies, the sacraments . . . they think that this is somehow efficacious, that this is pleasing God, or pacifying God, and that this is somehow earning God’s merit. I think of the chapter we discussed, “Well, what about the temple? Solomon’s temple was beautiful.”
These were all specifically designed by God. He said, again and again, “See that thou make all things after the pattern that was showed to you on the Mount.” It was a pattern of things that were yet to come. All the sacrifices were a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God, who would come and bear away the sin of the world. And it had to be exactly the way God said, because it was a picture of a reality that was yet to come.
Now the reality has come. Christ has come. He has paid the penalty for our sins. And the various cathedrals—I mean, you’ve visited them in Europe, all over the world—the altars . . . it’s amazing! Not only did Israel fall into this—the high places. The heathen, the pagan nations around them, they worshiped their Gods at high places. It’s like, again, it’s as you say, symbolic of man’s effort. Or the pilgrimages, you know. We were recently (maybe I mentioned this on the radio; I’m not sure, but . . . ) we were recently over in Slovakia, and we visited—outside of this town—they called it Calvary! It has an Orthodox church up on top of it, and it has a path winding up, with various little shrines on the way. And people come by the thousands and walk up this on their knees! Bloody knees, some of them. People who are somehow trying to suffer in order to get merit with God. No! There is no merit in that, and there is no merit . . . the church today has two ordinances: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Neither one of them has any merit in themselves. They are pictures of something that has happened in reality. If you are not a believer, you have not met Christ, you are not—as Paul said—crucified with Him; you have not accepted His death as your death, and you have not experienced new life in Christ by believing the gospel, then baptism means nothing! It will not help you. It can only delude you if you think it will help you.
So, the Bible teaches not infant baptism but believer’s baptism. In Acts 8, the Ethiopian, remember, said to Philip, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?”
Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, then you can be baptized.”
So Baptism is not efficacious, it has no power. It is symbolic. It is a remembrance, or a declaration, that you have died in Christ and been raised to new life. The Lord’s Supper, we take the bread and the cup. It is not . . . we are not eating the body and blood of Jesus. That would do you no good. We are not gaining some spiritual power, spiritual life, by this. We are remembering. Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of Me.” We are remembering something back there that happened 1,900 years ago—the penalty was paid. Christ died for our sins.
So, even the ordinances that we have today have no power in themselves. They are symbolic or a remembrance of something. So it was with the Jewish Levitical priesthood. The robes they wore, the . . . whatever it was that they did, those priests had no power to communicate spiritual life. They were simply following a pattern that God had given them that was looking forward to something that was to come.
Now, in contrast, all of the religions of this world including Christianity, which has partaken of the same errors of paganism, it believes that it has some power—that there is a priesthood with power. The robes, or the rituals, or . . .  whatever . . . have some power in themselves. It is absolutely contrary to the Bible. It is an abomination to God, and we have to come to God depending upon His mercy, not our works.
Tom:  Dave, your answer for me personally, it gives me some insights, because sometimes I think, Well, why is God so particular? Why did He lay it down so carefully and He tells us to be careful in what we do? And I think you’re answering that, because we have to stay with the pattern and what the pattern that He presents means. I think about—you mentioned ordinances, like baptism and the celebration of the Last Supper, “communion” for some; “eucharist” others would call it. It’s interesting historically to see how those ordinances changed into sacraments. First of all it began with the elders—and there were only certain people who could actually . . . well, there were only certain people who could perform these in the early church. It had to do with elders, and then it was bishops. Out of that—I think the reason for it was because they started to see something efficacious. They started to mystify that Christ’s presence was there, so you could only have individuals who were of a certain order, a certain spirituality. Out of that, what developed? Sacerdotalism, or the priesthood. So then we had priest who could only do this.
So, my point here is . . .
Dave: Then they claimed to have the power to change it into the body and blood of Christ.
Tom: Right.
Dave: And they took on themselves an authority that was never given by the Bible, which then gave them power over the common people, who then could only get to God through them, and it was exactly what the rabbis had done, and Christ condemned them for it in His day.
Tom:  Right. And it begins with getting away from the pattern, from the carefulness of what God institutes—or has instituted. You know, it’s man developing his own program around it, taking something and really corrupting what God has given. That's, as you started to say, look at all the religions of the world. Take the sacrifice that you find in pagan rituals—I think this is a corruption of what God instituted back . . . I think it began in the Garden of Eden, when God killed two animals, took the skins, and gave them to Adam and Eve to clothe themselves.
Dave: Well, everything in a system . . . I mean, for example, in Tibetan Buddhism they have the priesthood; they have the nuns; they have the incense; they have the holy orders; they have the monasteries and the convents; they have the robes. It’s very, very similar to what you would find in Roman Catholicism today! I don’t think it developed out of Roman Catholicism. I think it is part of a problem. You see, Babel—and the idea of building a tower that would reach to heaven and so forth—that’s a perversion that comes from man’s own pride, his desire to somehow present himself to God. You have it with Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire on the altar, and God killed them for this! And, as you said, it goes back to the Garden of Eden. Is God precise? Do we take His Word seriously? He said, “Don’t eat of that tree! If you do, you’ll die!”
Now, that would tell us that something that seems to be very unimportant, and maybe we ought to pay attention to details. You don’t negotiate with God. You don’t revise what He has written. But we have people today who are revising His Word. It upsets me! Some of the modern paraphrases—sometimes they even claim to be translations. They’re not translating the Bible. They’re paraphrasing it. They’re embellishing it. They’re putting their own ideas in there. They don’t think that God . . .
You know, it’s like an editor would do. Well, I mean, I do it to myself, and you do the same. We write something, and then we look at it, and we don’t like it. I mean, it needs to be improved. I sometimes rewrite things five or six times, and then if I saw it a year later, I would rewrite it again, if I had the opportunity.
You don’t do that with God’s Word! When God said it, that is it. He is perfect! But we have men who want to rewrite God’s Word. Of course, we have people today who claim it isn’t God’s Word; our seminaries who are denying that it’s God’s Word. “Well, it wasn’t really six days,” you know, “that the earth was created in. And we don’t think it was a worldwide flood, you know, and what about this . . . ?”
Wait a minute! Is it God’s Word or isn’t it God’s Word. Does God know what He’s talking about? Then, why do we try to improve upon it? So, this is what, I suppose, that chapter at least is somewhat about—mercy and works. Are we going to rely on God’s mercy? Or are we going to offer something to Him that we think is an improvement upon His way of salvation?

Tom:  Dave, one of the enigmas of all this is man, who is in rebellion against God, is very religious. I do find that . . . I’m not saying . . .  Well, even the Buddhists, who are atheists, they’re very religious. The atheists, in terms of their ideas and beliefs, they’re very religious. But more than that, we find people who develop ritualism, who are looking for formulas, religious ideas, concepts—whether it be the New Age, whether it be Wicca, occultism, whatever it might be.
Dave:  Or it’s worshiping “Mother Earth,” worshiping the atom, worshiping space. Carl Sagan was a pagan. He would get very religious in the presence of the Cosmos. That really is their god, the materialist. And his God is some kind of a force that is hidden in matter and it brings forth order and life and so forth. That’s his god.
Now, it’s very similar, Tom, to the person who may even call himself a Christian, but he’s not willing to submit to Christ. They call themselves atheists, but yet they have, as you said, a religion. Einstein was certainly not a believer in the God of the Bible, but he believed that there was some kind of a force out there—some kind of a power that organized things. But it’s a power that we can manipulate. The scientist can tap into this. He can discover how this all works, so, in the final analysis, he is God, just as Satan promised Eve in the garden. “You can become one of the gods.”
Tom: Or, he, as Lucifer, promised himself in the very . . . in heaven!
Dave: Exactly. So it is impossible for any human being to escape this religious consciousness that there is a God, but he perverts it, and it is in religion itself that the perversion becomes the worst. I mean, it is more obvious in man’s religions, because this is how he thinks that he’s approaching God and pleasing God and so forth. And it is right here that the perversion becomes the greatest. And it is in our relationship to God that we have to recognize . . .  You know, Tom, I often talk to God about this. I say, “Lord, I don’t . . .”  It’s frightening when you think God never had a beginning. He didn’t get to be God. He didn’t somehow come from nowhere, and somehow become God. God is God! The I AM. And when you think about that, it just is beyond—it’s boggling! “God, You never had a beginning! I can’t fathom that! You always are! You are God from eternity to eternity!”
And then we dare to think we can offer this incredibly . . . well, incredibly infinite—infinite is incredible. This God! We think we can offer Him something! Or we can improve upon His Word. Or we can negotiate with Him! Or we can just ignore Him, and we can make up our own religion. We can make up our own way of life, and so forth. What an affront it is to Him to see His creatures that He created—He gave them life and existence—and they ignore Him!
We’re building, you know, our own little empires. We’ve got our politicians; we’ve got our parties; and we’ve got our United Nations, and we’ve got our plans and our programs, and man, somehow, is going to make something out of this earth, and he’s going to bring peace and prosperity and blessing, and yet, we are the ones who made a mess out of this world. The whole problem is that we don’t pay attention to God. We don’t even . . . many people who call themselves Christians, and I speak to my own heart: How seriously do I take the Bible? This is God’s Word. This is supposed to be a lamp to my feet, a light to my path. This is supposed to be my guide. Then you have . . .  “God says, My people have forgotten Me days without number.” This is the whole problem in the world. We’re all playing God, and we ignore God, who has given us His Word, and we go about our business.
Or, when we come to Him—we go to our churches on Sunday morning, and we’re going to pay Him some pittance, you know. We’re going to acknowledge Him. And we have our own ways of doing it. We’ve got our own little formulas that we’ve fallen into, and that goes for Protestants as well as Catholics.
Tom, we call this program Search the Scriptures Daily, and it speaks to my heart, as well as, I hope, to the listeners. We need to search the Scriptures. We need to get back to God’s Word and treat it like it is God’s Word, and thank Him for His mercy and His grace instead of trying to offer our pitiful rituals or whatever they may be, and trying to impress Him some way, and learn His ways, and trust Him.
Tom:  Why, Dave? Because for all of what you said with regard to the rebellion of man, nevertheless, God sent His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe upon Him would have eternal life.
Dave: He came to die for our sins, to pay the penalty that we deserved and that His own justice demanded.
Tom:  Right. In terms of works, the only work that we can do is to be separated from God forever. That’s the penalty. In other words, I’m saying if you want to pay the penalty, you want to appease God—I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you have to die for your sins, or turn to Christ, who paid the full penalty
Dave: Accept His death. Now, the Bible does teach works, of course. We’re not putting works down. But works are not for salvation, but they are as a result of salvation. We have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
Tom: Dave, you’re right! Works—well, first of all, works cannot pay the penalty. Only Christ’s death could pay what we couldn’t pay.
Dave: We are created in Christ Jesus, Ephesians:2:10 says, “unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” So now it is God who works in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure. So our works are not our own fleshly efforts, but it’s Christ living within us, and now, the Christian ought to be characterized by good works, but it’s the life of Christ in him, not his efforts to appease God.

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