Tuesday, March 30, 2021

How Is Alcohol Related to Worship?

Maybe the question of the title got your attention.  It sounds like that's what I was trying to do, but I wasn't.  Instead I jumped into the car and turned it to the 24/7 radio station of the biggest Calvary Chapel in our area of Oregon.  The son, who is now the senior pastor, was preaching on worship, a subject that is near and dear to me, as you readers know.  In the midst of his talk, he had his crowd turn to Ephesians 5:18-19, which read:

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

He didn't break down verse 18 very far, but he related being "sloshed," a word he used twice to refer to being drunk.  He said that alcohol itself was fine, just not being drunk.  To start, that belies the grammar of the verse.  Look at it.  Speaking of the "wine," Paul said, "wherein is excess."  In other words, in the wine is excess, which is riotousness.  The "wine" itself isn't innocent.  This is also how the Bible reads about alcohol or "wine" that can get someone drunk.  It must be alcoholic, so in it is excess or riotousness, which are both sinful.

The Calvary Chapel senior pastor then said that there is a kind of singing when someone is sloshed.  He compared to drunken revelry, and he said that was a contrast here.  One can imagine the pub where a group of men are staggering home off pitch and slurring a popular song, what today is called a drinking song.  I know this happens, but is this what Ephesians 5:18 is talking about?  No.  It really misses the point.

Being drunk is contrasted with being filled with the Spirit.  There are at least two points that Paul is making with this contrast and it does relate to worship.  One, drunkenness puts alcohol in control of someone.  He's controlled by the alcohol.  The Greek words for "filled with" mean "be controlled by."  The believer is commanded to be controlled by the Holy Spirit and not alcohol.  The alcohol is related to worship, but someone is never to be controlled by anyone or anything but the Holy Spirit.  That means in every area of life, which the next twenty something verses reveal.

The control of alcohol brings excess and riotousness.  The control of the Holy Spirit results in something else, what follows in the proceeding verses.  Alcohol really does control.  Someone can understand that.  With that understanding, come to the Holy Spirit and imagine His controlling instead.  Alcohol almost totally takes over with limited human control.  Holy Spirit control is almost total control with a background of human control.  A person is still doing something, but he's controlled by Someone else as a whole, the Holy Spirit.

The second point of Paul is to relate to the false worship of Ephesus at the temple of Diana that the audience of the church at Ephesus would know.  In the base of the pillars were ornately carved grapes.  Drunkenness was part of the worship.  It would bring a state of ecstasy, which was confused with a kind of divine control.  This out of body type of experience of drunkenness gives the impression that someone is out of control, which he is, but that he is under the control of divine power.   He isn't. It's the alcohol.  Paul contrasts the false worship of Ephesus with the true worship of the true God.  It isn't ecstatic, which unfortunately and ironically is the worship of these Calvary Chapels.

The rock music of the the CCM that even originated with the first Jesus' movement of the first Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California gave the impression of something spiritual occurring.  It wasn't.  It was entirely fleshly, ecstatic, like the drunkenness of the worship of Diana.  Fleshly music brings a kind of ecstasy like that produced by alcohol that gives a counterfeit, false experience of spirituality.  It might be "a spirit," but it isn't the Holy Spirit.  It isn't Holy and it isn't Spiritual.  Spiritual worship does not arise from the flesh, from alcohol, or from rhythm.  These churches manipulate their listeners, giving them the wrong understanding of true spirituality.  It is a form of idolatry.

There is actually no contrast in the worship of the Calvary Chapels with the world's temples.  They incorporate the ecstatic experience of the world into their so-called "worship."  In so doing, their people develop a false imagination of God.  Their worship gives them a false god that does not have the same nature as the One and True God.

The local Calvary Chapel pastor compared drunken singing to the singing of Ephesians 5:19.  First, he approved of alcohol as long as someone isn't "sloshed."  He was saying this in a mocking tone, like he was embarrassed to be preaching about something bad related to alcohol.  He was approving of alcohol as long as it didn't result in drunkenness.  In many people's minds, being "sloshed" is a further level of drunkenness than the mere term drunken or legal drunkenness.  This is missing the teaching of the verse and is dangerous to his audience.

The worship of Ephesians 5:19 proceeds from the control of the Holy Spirit. This is not carnal or emotional.  It might result in emotions, but it is not emotional. Colossians 3:16 is a parallel passage and it compares Spirit filling to being controlled by the Words of Christ.  If someone is controlled by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, the first way that will manifest itself is in true worship.

The participles of Ephesians 5:19 relate to being controlled by the Holy Spirit.  You can or will know if someone is saved and then filled with the Spirit, based upon your worship.  Worship comes first in this list of manifestations.  False worship is controlled by something other than the Holy Spirit.  It doesn't have to be alcohol.  It could also be fleshly music that brings a closely related ecstasy to that occurring in the false worship in Ephesus.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

What Is Illegal in Door-to-Door Evangelism in the United States?

Contrary to a typical criticism of door-to-door evangelism, I don't believe that it's the only way to evangelize.  There are many scriptural ways to preach the gospel besides door-to-door, and I would teach all of them.  However, I don't believe a church can be obedient to the Bible without going door-to-door, because that's the only way to preach the gospel to everyone, which God wants from us.  It is also seen in the example of Jesus and the Apostles.  Why would someone argue against that?

By my experience, which is a lot at this point, door-to-door specifically doesn't see the most conversions.  That doesn't mean don't do it.  I can relate that many people can be saved through the contacts of a person who is saved through door-to-door, the contacts from one person being saved.  Those are still related to door-to-door.  But I digress from the point of my post.

The area of Oregon where we're starting our church has many, many more "no soliciting" signs than the San Francisco Bay Area, where I started a church and then pastored it for thirty-three years.  I'm estimating at least five times more no soliciting signs here than there.  They are everywhere and they are also very inventive, long lists of things the person doesn't want.

I've seen this sign at least five times:  "No Soliciting:  Seriously.  Don't ring the bell.  Don't make it awkward."

I've been kicked out of two apartment complexes going door to door, and as I was leaving another neighborhood, someone told me I couldn't do that and she would be taking it to the board.  Last week someone called me about a door-hanger, very insulting.  He said something like this:  "You obviously don't read the Bible, so at least read my no-soliciting sign."  And then he threatened me with physical harm if I came again.  I know it wasn't me, but someone else in our new church, who had put the hanger on his door.

It's a little worse in the coronavirus era, because people have the virus card that they carry very easily.  You're there to preach the gospel, and they're there to preach the dangers of the virus and the foolishness of not wearing the mask.  I don't argue with them.  I let them spew forth their doctrine of physical safety, as I stand over ten feet away outdoors.  It is a message of self-righteousness, as they are preaching a message of physical salvation.

So I've had questions about the legality of door-to-door.  What is protected by the United Constitution?  People already don't want to go door-to-door, so if there is the further layer of illegality, people will feel justified in not doing this thing that they don't want to do.

In no necessary order, first, someone can legally kick us out of an apartment complex if it has a sign saying that they don't allow evangelism or the like on their property.  That doesn't mean you can't evangelize there.  What it does mean is that the complex has the right to tell you to leave.  As long as they don't tell you, you can keep doing it until they tell you.  When they tell you, understand that they have the right to kick you out.  It then becomes a trespassing situation.  Usually how it happens is that someone angrily calls management, complaining.  I've been told that it's fine to visit someone who lives there, that you already know, but you can't keep going cold turkey, once they tell you to stop.

Why go to an apartment complex when it might result in getting kicked out?  You already know the answer.  They need the gospel there, so keep trying until you get kicked out.  If you get kicked out, then you tried.  I would suggest put door hangers in apartment complexes where you've been kicked out.

Second, door hangers are not legally solicitation.  They are not.  If you see a no-solicitation sign on a door, put on a door hanger.  A door hanger has an official, legal title.  It is canvassing, and canvassing is protected by the Constitution.  It doesn't say it in the Constitution, but rulings have been made by the Supreme Court that allow for canvassing.

For canvassing, there is a limitation.  If someone posts a "no trespassing" sign, then you could be charged with trespassing.  That's also a ruling by the Supreme Court.  I never saw a no trespassing sign in town or the city in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I've seen again about five of those at least in Oregon.  I don't go to a door with a no trespassing sign.

Three, is door-to-door evangelism solicitation?  Legally, it isn't.  This statement was made in the decision, United States v. Kokinda, 497 U.S. 720 (1990):

Solicitation requires action by those who would respond: The individual solicited must decide whether or not to contribute (which itself might involve reading the solicitor's literature or hearing his pitch), and then, having decided to do so, reach for a wallet, search it for money, write a check, or produce a credit card.  As residents of metropolitan areas know from daily experience, confrontation by a person asking for money disrupts passage and is more intrusive and intimidating than an encounter with a person giving out information. One need not ponder the contents of a leaflet or pamphlet in order mechanically to take it out of someone's hand, but one must listen, comprehend, decide and act in order to respond to a solicitation.

Solicitation relates to a "contribution" legally.  The Supreme Court differentiated between the two in this recent decision.  In so doing, the Supreme Court is saying this is protected speech.

You could stand and argue with someone about the meaning of solicitation, but it's going to be fruitless.  You would win in court.  It's not you.  They probably mean you though, when they put up the sign.  For that reason, I honor the "no soliciting" sign to mean "no evangelism," if it's on an individual door.  I leave a tract or door hanger on the door and move on.  At the same time, I've expressed that I don't care if you go ahead and knock on that door or ring that doorbell for evangelism.  I've done it many times.

What I've written here leaves plenty of opportunity for door to door evangelism. It's saying that you can canvass everywhere, which means leaving the gospel on someone's door.  The man who threatened me for a door hanger, I take him with a grain of salt.  He doesn't know what he's talking about.  Evangelism is not solicitation, so for sure canvassing isn't solicitation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Command to Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness

Without doubt, scripture teaches that worship of God must be regulated by what God says.  The point of this post comes from Psalm 29:2

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

I've seen this verse many times.  Many.  Yet, something occurred to me when I read it in my Bible reading this year that really struck me.  Since true worship of God is regulated by scripture, then worship should be regulated especially by this verse.  There are not many verses as stark as this one on worship of the LORD.  The teaching is also repeated three times.  It's not a stand alone.

1 Chronicles 16:29, "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."
Psalm 96:9, "O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth."
I've written many times on the regulative principle of worship.  Scripture shows exclusively and through numerous examples that worship must be regulated by God's Word.  Silence is not permission.  In this case, scripture says something.

I've also written a lot about beauty.  It is among the topics or doctrines about which I've written the most (it is under "B" in my index).  I've also written about it recently in a three part series on the throne room of God (part one, part two, part three).  I've mainly written about beauty as one of the transcendentals, especially related to apostasy.  I don't take any of that back, but in this case, I want to talk about how "beauty" relates to the regulation of worship according to this verse and the others like it.

One point that caught my attention when reading Psalm 29 in my trip through psalms is the command.  It's not just what scripture teaches on worship.  This is a commanded aspect of worship.  How many of those are there?  "Worship" as a verb is imperative.  It's not that worship itself is imperative, which it is -- "worship the LORD."  Everyone knows that's an imperative.  The imperative is that the LORD is worshiped in the beauty of holiness.  "The beauty of holiness" is a requirement in acceptable worship.

I want to reiterate this point.  God does not accept worship that is not in the beauty of holiness.  He rejects it.  This is part of the regulative principle, but it's more than that.  All worship must be in the beauty of holiness.  If not, it isn't worship.  If what someone calls "worship" is not in the beauty of holiness, then it isn't worship.

Almost all evangelical and now even fundamentalist worship is not in the beauty of holiness.  Evangelicals and fundamentalists as a whole are not worshiping God.  I know that means that they are doing something else, worshiping themselves, and that sounds tough or seemingly impossible, but it is true.  They are disobeying this command and, therefore, offering God something that is against His nature.  It is more than this, which brings me to the second point that caught my attention.

A second point is that beauty is assumed in the verse.  It is implied that the reader knows what beauty of holiness is.  It is obvious.  It cannot be obeyed if it cannot be understood.  A modern audience most of the time does not understand the beauty of holiness.  It is a completely foreign concept.  Yet, everyone is still required to worship God in the beauty of holiness.  This is an ignored requirement.  God commands it, and the apparent worshipers say, "Meh. Nope.  Gonna do what I want instead."

It's not just what I've written so far. The so-called worshipers today don't want to be critiqued for not worshiping God in the beauty of holiness.  They are angry if you do.  They want to treat it as not being able to be understood, a tertiary matter.  Even though beauty of holiness is non-optional, it is rejected by evangelicals and most fundamentalists.  One could say that the one thing required is the one thing the most offensive to evangelical and fundamentalist sensibility.  It must not be a part of their worship.  What is this all about?

The main apostasy of the age in which we live is that the things of God are conformed to the world.  They must be accepted.  Evangelical and fundamentalists success, which amounts to getting bigger and having bigger budgets or at least translating into tangible results, even if they are fraudulent, requires elimination of beauty of holiness.  It has to at least be redefined and dumbed down until it isn't even what it is.  This is all to be conformed to man, to his lust, which is what makes these churches popular.  Of course, it all leads to or just is false worship.  Their people don't have the same God in their imaginations. That's been ruined by their unwillingness to conform to what scripture says.

There are many of these in scripture, but "beauty" is self-evident.  We already know it.  If we don't know it, it's not a knowledge problem, but a rebellion one.  The rebellion proceeds out of lust.  Beauty though is something that men can know like they can know what "corrupt communication" is and what "the attire of a harlot" is.  Ignorance is not a legitimate excuse.  It won't be accepted by God.

Since worship must be in the beauty of his holiness, then beauty is objective.  It can't be subjective. That would be to command, worship the LORD in the whatever you want beauty of holiness to be.  People don't want to be judged on beauty, because they want their own taste. 

You're going to spend eternity somewhere, and that relates to what God knows about what you're doing.  You should think seriously about whether He will be pleased.  Nothing that "you like" will be in God's kingdom or in the eternal state, and that's what you want to highlight in this life -- what's going to be in the next.  If you don't care, then you should check whether you will be there or not, or whether the actual God of the Bible is your God.

When readers see the title of this post, I suggest most just move on.  They don't care.  They want something "practical."  There is nothing more practical than God being worshiped.  If that is not your practice, you are not pleasing God, the whole purpose of your existence.  This is not a "controversial issue."  People have already moved on.  They just smirk and say, "He's one of those."  Pause a moment.  If you don't obey this command, you are not worshiping God.  That means you are not a "true worshiper of God" (John 4:23-24).

Okay, so you may ask, "What is the beauty of holiness"?  "Holiness" is the perfections of God's nature.  Beauty corresponds to or parallels with the manifestation or revelation of the character of God.  Much has been written on this through the centuries to the point where the church has agreed what this is.  Just because modernism and post-modernism has left it and even rejected it doesn't mean that it isn't still true.  Beauty is in accordance with the nature of God.  It cannot clash with who He is, and 90 to 100 percent of evangelical and fundamentalist worship does.

Evangelical worship is ugly.  It is worldly.  It is carnal.  That's what evangelicals like about their worship.  They disobey this command:  worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.  They are not worshiping the LORD.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Psalms 14 and 19 in Preaching the Gospel

 How could someone read Psalm 14 and think that salvation is by works?  Read verses 1-4:

1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. 2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. 3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.

I ask you to consider how conclusive these verses are.  They are speaking about everyone, anyone who has ever lived.  The LORD is looking down from heaven, and He doesn't miss anything.  He says that every person is corrupt, has done abominable works, does not good, does not seek God, has gone aside, and is filthy.  He does all these things and then he does not call upon the name of the Lord.  He is helpless to live a righteous life and yet he still does not call upon the name of the Lord, whom he needs so that he can be righteous.  He's not depending on God, because he's proud.

Men can't save themselves.  It's not just that they're sinners, but they could never sustain a righteous life by doing good works.  They do not do good works.  This is reality for mankind.  God knows this better than anyone.  Whatever a man may say about himself, these verses are the truth.  A person is lying to himself if he thinks he can be saved by works.  He'll never succeed, because this psalm is who he is.

The Apostle Paul refers to this psalm in Romans 3 with his treatise on sinfulness of man.  Many of you reading know that it says this in verses 10-12:

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 

Then you also know that he writes the following in verse 23:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

And from that a man should conclude according to verse 28:

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The point of that argument by Paul is so that men will submit to justification by faith alone and not by works.  If you can't do good works and you aren't righteous, then you can't be saved by works.  You should conclude that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works.  You should believe in Jesus Christ to receive His righteousness by faith, which is to have His righteousness imputed to you and the forgiveness of your sins.

Psalm 14 is quite a psalm to be singing.  This is a song to be sung to God expressing the truth of man's sinfulness.  God wants to hear that men agree.  He's praised by this truth.  It assumes that men need God.

The Old Testament doesn't teach salvation by works.  It teaches that men are sinners and they need God for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.

What about Psalm 19?  It says that from God's creation alone men know God.  These are statements of reality.  God knows.  He says:

Verse 1a:  The heavens declare the glory of God.

Verse 1b:  The firmament showeth his handiwork.

Verse 2a:  Day unto day uttereth speech.

Verse 2b:  Night unto night sheweth knowledge.

Verse 3:  There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Verse 4:  Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

All of these are sheer statements of fact.  They also state the truth of what man knows.  From the standpoint of knowledge, he is without excuse.  Everyone living in this world knows God through the declaration of the heavens -- the handiwork of the firmament, the speech uttered by the day, and the knowledge shown through the night.  The day speaks through the sun, as seen in verses 4-6:

4 In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. 

"Them" in verse 4 refers to "heavens" in verse 1.  The word "their" all the way through (vv. 3, 4) refers to "heavens."  Poetic language describes how the heavens talk, specifically through the sun.  The heavens during the day are a tabernacle for the sun, which shows itself in all the helpful, beautiful, and awesome ways explained.

A beauty of the revelation of the heavens is that it transcends a particular speech.  It can be heard in every speech, every language.  An Italian, Russian, Hispanic, or English person hears the voice of the heavens from God without exception of place.  This speech goes out to the whole earth and to the end of the world.

When we evangelize, we should learn to use and then use creation as a basis of introducing the God of the Bible to an unbeliever.  He already knows.  This revelation has reached him.  We should assume that.  People that haven't even read the Bible, which are more than ever, still know God and through His creation, the heavens.

Furthermore, scripture, also the revelation of God, called "the law of the LORD," "converts the soul" (verse 7).  For salvation, the soul needs to be converted.  It is stained and corrupted by sin.

James 1:25 calls the law, "the perfect law."  The idea of "perfect" isn't contrasting with "imperfect," but with "incompletion."  The law of the LORD is complete or sufficient.  It lacks nothing, it has everything in it that anyone would need.  Conversion of the soul is the total transformation of it.

The first designation of the Word of God in Psalm 19 is the law of the LORD.  The usage of that term refers to all of the Word of God, not just the first five books of the Bible or just the parts that are laws.  The Hebrew word for "law, torah, means instruction, direction, or doctrine.  It reminds me of 2 Timothy 3:15, which says that the "holy scriptures," referring to the Old Testament, are able to make a child wise unto salvation.

The LORD's law instructs man sufficiently for his soul to be converted, which is to be restored.  It has been ruined by sin and it can be restored to moral rightness before God.  It makes sense that the "law of the LORD" isn't just the Mosaic law, which in itself wouldn't convert the soul, even though it has an important part according to the Apostle Paul, who in Galatians (3:24-25) says it is a schoolmaster to bring someone to faith in Christ.  The instruction of the LORD, which is His Word, is powerful to save, specifically the Gospel (Romans 1:16).

Psalm 19 says that salvation is the conversion of the soul.  In the Old Testament, the soul is nephesh and in the New Testament, psuche.  Jesus said (Luke 9:24) that to save one's life (psuche, soul), someone must lose his life (psuche, soul).  He's got to give up his soul.  He gives it to God and God restores it using scripture.  This is the sanctification of the truth, the Word of God, that God uses in salvation.  The conversion of the soul is the transformation of a life, where the person becomes a "new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Peter calls this the knowledge of Jesus Christ through which someone becomes a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:2-4).  After the conversion of the soul, the sinner has a new nature, a divine nature, and is returned morally to the image in which God created him.  He now has the ability not to sin.

Someone might consider the teachings of Psalms 14 and 19 to be New Testament concepts.  No, they are biblical concepts of salvation, which is the same in the Old Testament as it is in the New.  They can be used in preaching the gospel.

Friday, March 19, 2021

King James Version marginal notes and Ruckmanism

 What do the marginal notes in the original 1611 edition of the King James Bible indicate in relation to Ruckmanism? Find out in my newest post here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Worship Is God's Priority for Men: The Case of 2 Chronicles 26

Part One

Man isn't going to make his way through life without sinning, but he can as a habit or lifestyle come to God by faith in worship of Him through the means and in the way prescribed by God.  2 Chronicles reiterates this.  In the midst of annals of especially various battles and conflicts with other nations, worship of God surfaces again and again.

Uzziah became king of Judah.  2 Chronicles 26 says "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord" (v. 4).  He "sought God" (v. 5).  Verse 15 says, "he was marvelously helped, till he was strong."  The next verse (16) says:

But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

I think we should assume that "being strong" in this sense means that he was so strong that it went to his head.  It's the opposite of 2 Corinthians 12:10, the Apostle Paul, "for when I am weak, then am I strong."  The strength comes from the acknowledgment of weakness.  Uzziah's strength came from above and he didn't recognize that, so he was really weak, the opposite of what Paul talked about.  I think you get it.

So.  "His heart was lifted up to his destruction."  Destruction sounds serious.  That isn't successful, being destroyed.  What caused that?  The strength that didn't come from Uzziah, but he was considering it to be his strength, lifted up his heart, so that he did something that merited destruction.  Another layer is that Uzziah "transgressed against the LORD his God."  Everyone transgresses against God, and it doesn't result in destruction.  What did result in destruction?  This verse states it very plain.

He "went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense."  Well, is it wrong to burn incense at the altar of incense?  No.  It wasn't wrong.  So why did that result in destruction?  Just because something isn't wrong doesn't mean that it is right.  Worship is regulated by what God says, not by what He doesn't say.  God designated the priests to burn incense on the altar of incense.  When Uzziah did it instead, this was according to God "to his destruction."  God does not want innovation in worship.  He wants exactly what He said that He wants.

The next few verses read:

17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. 

I guess you could call this an intervention.  When someone violates biblical worship, it must be stopped and other people should involve themselves in stopping it.  In this case, it's someone in authority, but the worship of God is more important than his office.  They couldn't just "agree to disagree." They had to do something about it.

Uzziah thought he was participating in an honorable activity, something an honor for him to do, burn incense to God.  He might have felt good about it.  Azariah and 80 other priests brought that to his attention, probably risking their lives to do so even as verse 17 calls them "valiant men."  It took guts for them to perform this intervention and to stop Uzziah from doing this.

People offered incense to God.  It was permissible for them to offer it, but it wasn't permissible for just anyone to do this.  They had to be ordained and qualified people to do it.  They were consecrated to do so, or in other words, they were set apart to do so, fulfilling the scriptural requirements.  Others were not permitted to do it.

Silence wasn't permission.  This is very often where worship goes off the rails.  If scripture doesn't say it's wrong, then someone is at liberty to do it.  God didn't tell Cain he couldn't bring fruits and vegetables.  That didn't mean that bringing fruits and vegetables was right.

Today professing Christians, including leaders, say that a church shouldn't stress over methods.  It's not worth being strict, onerous, or intolerable over methods.  That's not how scripture reads and especially when it comes to worship.  Believers through the centuries observed that all worship must be regulated by scripture, including in its methodology.  This is the regulative principle of worship.  This text in 2 Chronicles 26 is further evidence of this.

Why are so many men, 81 of them, needed to stop one man from practicing false worship?  I have noticed through the years, that when men are not functioning based on scripture, they are operating based on something else mostly related to their feelings.  What they are doing is closely related to their own personal opinions.  It's pride.  When someone crosses someone in a personal way and against their emotions or feelings, they react in an emotional way and even a violent way.  It's not an easy reaction.  It can be difficult to deal with.

Consider what occurs in the next two verses:

19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.

Uzziah is wroth.  Like I said, false worship is personal and emotional.  I've talked to many people about salvation and obedience to the Lord.  They are not surely saved and they are not living obedient lives.  They are interested though in the kind of music we have in our church.  They've got to have it.  If they don't have it, that's enough not to come to our church.  A lot of you reading know what I'm talking about.  The music is about them, their feelings, their entertainment.  It's emotional and personal.

Biblical worship is faithful worship.  It is true to scripture.  It wants what God wants regardless of feelings and personal opinions.  They key is to give God what He wants, which centers on the mind and the will, not the emotions.  The feelings are a byproduct, feeling good about giving God what He wants in worship, because He will be pleased.

The punishment for Uzziah for false worship and then not repenting of false worship was immediate leprosy.   This was a slow death sentence.   God wants true worshipers.  The alternative is bad.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Worship Is God's Priority for Men: The Case of 2 Chronicles 25

The impression from an overview of scripture is that worship is God's priority for men.  Jesus said to the woman at the well, God is seeking for true worshipers (John 4:23).  Jesus said this.  David was a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  What was David's priority?  The worship of God.  1 Chronicles 25:14-16 provide another example:

14 Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them. 15 Wherefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah, and he sent unto him a prophet, which said unto him, Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand? 16 And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king's counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel

Amaziah, king of Judah, conquered the Edomites based on a prophecy from God.  God gave his mercenary army the victory over Edom, which had rebelled against his great-grandfather, Jehoram (verse 14).  He obeyed God in slaughtering the Edomites.  However, as you can read above, he brought Edom's gods and bowed down to them and burned incense to them.  How did God react to that?

God's anger was kindled against Amaziah, because of the false worship.  There's more.  God was the one who delivered the Edomites, and these new gods could not deliver them.  So, God sent a prophet to confront Amaziah.

False worship doesn't make any sense.  God gives every good thing and yet people worship another god and in numbers of different ways.  What is it?  It doesn't explain the insanity of this, but we know it still occurs.  The true God is not worshiped in a true way.  He's ignored.  He's refused.  What causes men to choose a different god or worship the true God in a way He would never accept?  Why do they do it?

Maybe it doesn't matter why.  Maybe all that matters is that they do it.  In the end, the judgment will come for what, but why still matters.  It doesn't say, but I think we know.  We're supposed to know.  God gives everyone every good thing, but God expects something from His worshipers.  False gods don't have the same expectations as God.  It's like doctor shopping.  You shop for the god of your choice and have him be your god, and then you get what you want.

Another avenue today is to keep the God of the Bible but conform Him so much to your own preferences and your own style, that He's not even the same God.  He's god, not God.  That's all over "evangelicalism."  People are important to evangelicalism, and evangelicalism's god conforms to people.  That's who he is.

The wrong worship and the wrong god merge into one another.  They become indistinguishable at some point.  Keeping the same "God" is just a masquerade.  And then people are so self-deceived, they just don't know anymore.  God knows and He's angry.

In many ways, people again in a self-deceived way are thinking they can fool God.  He won't know.  Or He'll understand and accept.  2 Peter describes apostasy and in the most rudimentary way, it is not wanting accountability or authority.  This does challenge the goodness of God and redefines goodness.  Goodness becomes the object of man's lust, and man doesn't want a God who doesn't give him what he wants.  Reader, God knows.  You won't get away with it.  His worship is His priority.

God is angry with false worship as described in the previous four paragraphs.  On the other hand, someone who prioritizes that worship, as flawed even as he may be personally, is a man after God's own heart.  He prioritizes the true worship of God.  That doesn't excuse His flaws, but it's helpful to know God's priority.

Amaziah's worship story is an amazing one.  Do you agree?  But let's move on.

God sends a prophet to warn about false worship.  True prophets warn against false worship, preach true worship.  Practical, successful living matters to God, but worship is the priority.  Today that would be to worship the right God the right way, which is in His church, regulated by scripture.  Church growth is not the priority, except for more true worshipers.  If there isn't true worship at all, God doesn't want church growth.  He wants church disappearance or elimination.

The message from God through the prophet is not to seek after other gods.  Don't seek them in whatever way anyone may seek them.  On the other hand, seek the true God.  People don't know Him, because they don't seek Him.  He must be sought to be known.  This relates to a lot about believing the Lord.  He is available and can be known, but we must seek Him.  Sure, we can't seek Him without His seeking us, but we must seek Him.  It's crucial.

The first half of verse 16 accounts of the threat by Amaziah to the prophet.  That sounds serious, threatening someone who impedes your false worship.  I've stood at the door arguing about worship for hours.  A lot of people would say, let it go.  It's not important, the gospel is important.  Except for the gospel is about worship (see John 4:23 again).

When doing spiritual warfare with someone about worship, it is emotional.  People don't want their worship rejected.  If it is, something isn't wrong with them, the false worshipers, it's you the prophet.  It was so serious for Amaziah that he threatened the prophet in one of the most mafia like threats in scripture.   There were two components.  First, there was a veiled threat of his job as the king's counsel, a job he would have lost anyway if, second, he was killed by Amaziah.

I want to emphasize that false worshipers want to defend their false worship.  I contend that it's not about their god.  It's about them.  They want what they want, and their god is allowing it.  God gave the victory.  He deserved to be worshiped, but whatever the gods of Edom offered Amaziah, he preferred it. 

Not allowing the false worship is like taking food from an animal.  I've found this to be the reaction.  The false worshiper attacks the prophet to keep the worship.  I've experienced dozens of personal attacks in similar situations with people angry over the challenge of their worship.  Cain is an early example in scripture, challenging God and killing his brother over this same issue.

The prophet addressed both threats in an economy of words and in reverse order.  Getting straight to the point, God is going to destroy you, implying that you are not going to destroy me.  Second, you didn't listen to my counsel anyway, so you really can't threaten me with my job.  The prophet stood up to the false worshiper and his false worship.  He did not back off.  This is God's will, to confront false worship.

Modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism attack those who confront false worship.  If you are reading this and you're one of them, you're probably defending your attacks with bad arguments.  They call it a tertiary issue.  You will be canceled by them for confronting false worship.  Love is love after all according to the leftish value list.  Love would accommodate false worship.  God will kill over it.  The prophet actually was saving Amaziah's life.  That is actual love, not the toleration of the leftist values now foremost in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  I face those values every week and almost every day.

2 Chronicles 25 is another case for worship as God's priority for men.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The Generation Clash Symbolized by Meghan and Harry Versus Queen Elizabeth II

Less than a hundred years ago, one fraction of the world set itself to defend against an entirely different culture that wished to impose itself, and wipe the other out.  This wasn't the first time.  Almost the entire globe participated in either attempting to change the world order, the dominant view, or keeping the older one.  The world rejoiced when the emerging order was defeated.  They continue to rejoice over this victory.  Many hundreds of thousands died to keep the status quo.

Today you reader, myself, and the rest of the world are in another cultural battle, a clash of civilizations, which represent again two separate views of the world.  One would like to do away with the other as much as the one in the middle of the twentieth century.  This is not a military battle, more of a civil cold war, between two factions characterized by two generations.  The consequences could be, however, as or even more serious.

The older generation itself is not pure in its representation of the source of the way of life, which it represents, but still stands in sharp contrast to the youthful one that pursues to replace it.  This brings me to the comparison of Meghan and Harry to Queen Elizabeth II as a helpful illustration.

I don't care about Oprah's interview with Meghan and Harry.  I didn't watch it.  I read chunks of the script though in various articles.  I read that these two victims of great note were paid seven million dollars to help them in their new state of welfare minus their government support.  I think you can be sure that, ala President Obama, they didn't build this though.  Everything they're getting is based on a celebrity proceeding from their connection to what they're attempting to crush.

Victimization sells to this generation.  It's even a marketing strategy.  You know the power of victimhood when the privileged see it as a step up for them.  Yet, as the world falls apart under its type of influence, people will be looking to complain to someone about why they've got obvious problems, but there won't be enough non-victims to listen.  Everyone will have to rush as far to the bottom as they can, but will anybody be left to care?  It will just be a victim competition.  The worst victims are those who must proceed from this ooze, the children of the victims.  Maybe we can find out that evolution is true and an advanced new species will climb out.  You all know that won't be true.

What's happening does remind me of the trajectory of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel.  I've just been reading them at high speed as part of getting through the Bible twice this year.  It's a very sad story as the generations erode into near oblivion.  The only way the Southern kingdom, Judah, survives in a mutated form is by the grace of God, and it only survives.  It doesn't come close to thriving.  The enemies of the nation don't care that it's inhabitants are victims.  They welcome it.  Their final note of victimhood is captivity.  They are captives to a foreign power.

It seems pathetic and embarrassing, a shame, to admit instability and frailty to the world.  The practice of past generations is to keep those revelations of personal doubt and mental anguish to one's self.  It is not appropriate to attempt to engender sympathy by complaining in public about undesirable treatment.

The British traditionally speak of a "stiff upper lip" and "keep calm and carry on and all that."  Their island has survived through many trials, yet Meghan and Harry present a combination of victimhood and identity politics set in contrast to and a threat to the self-sacrifice, duty, and a serious fortitude of Her Royal Highness.  Someone called it a clash between old Britain and post-Diana new Britain.  The loss of old Britain is obviously also self-inflicted as it has divorced itself from the basis of its former toughness and endurance.  At one time, Britain was a Christian nation.

In the last century at least, Winston Churchill to me stands for old Britain and consider some of his statements:

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. If you're looking for a secret ingredient for success, then stop looking. The only thing you need is perseverance, i.e. the ability to keep going no matter what.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

There is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.

The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked with the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor.

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.

Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. You have only to persevere to save yourselves, and to save all those who rely upon you. You have only the right to go on, and at the end of the road, be it short or long, victory and honor will be found.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

It was a generation in a sense that didn't have time for whining.  They would never take such feelings public.  They would "carry on" in silence with a "stiff upper lip."  This is the generation from which the queen comes.  Meghan and Harry call this being "trapped."

Victimhood for the new generation is apparently a narrative that expresses authenticity.  No one can question the pain that someone feels any more, so as long one has been sufficiently abused, he can say almost anything without question.  It is his or her truth.  It is a very cheap replacement for true accomplishment.  Any challenge to that narrative is just further abuse.  Others identify with the story, not to their betterment or to their strengthening, but unto their further self-pity.  From this springs even more victims, who think they see in the embrace an opportunity.

Before coming back on the scene again as a leader, Winston Churchill experienced his so-called "Wilderness Years."  During that time, Churchill wrote his four volume history, Marlborough: His Life and TimesThis wasn't a ghost write.  Churchill among other things wrote a monumental history and became then the best selling author in all of Britain.  It was an intellectual and industrious task far beyond any modern politician.  The thinking within that massive work prepared Churchill for what was to come.  The danger for Britain from which John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, delivered the nation was akin to what it later faced from Germany.

What is left of Western Civilization no longer can swat away something so patently deceitful as seen in the testimonies of Meghan and Harry.  In previous times, anyone would recognize these were not two victims, signing mega-million dollar deals with tech titans while ensconced behind the walls of a California mansion and wearing a $4,500 dress.  They cry for privacy while they selectively reveal intimate secrets.  The former generation would now recognize the shots fired by Meghan and Harry at the bow of old Britain, most likely preceded by hours of coaching and rehearsing to deliver the greatest possible harm, sinking it and sending it to complete oblivion.

Aspiring victims should pause to consider what winning this war will bring. It will leave a landscape so devastated that it will never return to its former self.  It will only hope to pick at the flesh from the carcass it defeated to see if it might gain the sustenance necessary to escape from a world inhabited by a majority of victims.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

A False Kind of "Unity" Sought by a Typical Evangelical

In the area in which I am evangelizing and starting a church, there are several congregations from the Calvary Chapel movement, which started around here in 1977 in the Rogue Valley.  The first and biggest of these has its own radio station, which I listen to very often when I get in the car to go somewhere or do something.  Listening the past few weeks, based on what I'm hearing, there's at least a concern for unity in the church, because it is a constant theme from the two main teachers, a father and his son.

The son was talking about unity in the church and the trouble seemed to focus on a political divide in the church between Democrats and Republicans.  I imagine it.  There are two factions in the church, the young and Woke and then the older and conservative, which right now would be clashing more than ever.  There is a wide chasm between these two and probably some anger.  This ravine is so wide that the two can't come together.  A question should arise:  how are they in the same church in the first place with such diversity of belief and practice?  But they are.  Now there's the attempt to procure this unity with teaching.  What would that teaching be?

Unity in scripture is the same belief and practice.  Unity isn't putting up with differences in doctrine.  Some evangelical churches today have redefined biblical diversity.  Diversity is when you have different genders, ethnicities, gifts, abilities, and socio-economic levels.  They work together, but the togetherness is the doctrine and practice based on the truth of scripture.  The new and counterfeit diversity is a diversity in doctrine and practice, so the unity is something also different.  Evangelicals often celebrate the diversity of doctrine in a church and conflate it to a welcome diversity taught in scripture.  In fact it's just disunity being tolerated.

The unity of the Bible is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, which is the same unity as Jesus had with God the Father.  This is perfect unity based on the truth.  They don't agree to disagree.  That's also reflected in every single passage on unity in the Bible, which are many.  None of those passages differ and none of them teach what evangelicals say unity is.  They are disunified with the unity passages.

If I were to offer one verse that provides the biblical teaching, I would provide 1 Corinthians 1:10:

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

I'm not going to break it down.  It's self-explanatory.  It's almost redundant in its emphasis on what unity really is and in contradiction to how it is being perverted.

Why is unity defined so much in scripture?  One, God wants it.  Two, it's going to be attacked and perverted.  And it is.

So what is the perverted view that I heard on the radio, an attempt to conform two such divergent groups into one?  He said that the one faction needed to see the other faction as its enemy.  The Bible commands, love thy enemies.  He said that when you treat an enemy with love, then the next thing you know, he won't be an enemy any more.  Then that person will be your neighbor.  Then you just love your neighbor.  He didn't prove any of this assertion, but is it right?  Or what's wrong with it?

How does someone love his enemy?  He doesn't murder him, steal from him, and bear false witness against him.  As much as possible he lives peaceably with him.  He preaches the gospel to him.

Loving your enemies is not overlooking their false beliefs and practices.  It is confronting them and rebuking them and finally separating from them.  You can't fellowship with false beliefs and practices.  You can only reprove them (Ephesians 5:11).  You don't become friends or neighbors of an enemy by accepting his false belief and practice.  You can't keep enemies in a church.  They have to become friends and that comes by alignment with the truth.  If they are enemies because of doctrine and practice, which is what this evangelical leader is talking about, the false doctrine and belief must change.

What is being taught is that the false doctrine and practice must be tolerated.  This is loving the enemy.  "It's okay fellow church member that you hold to false doctrine and practice."  This is disobedience to scripture, it isn't unity, and it isn't love.  Toleration of sin isn't unity.  For much of evangelicalism, keeping together a coalition is more important than pleasing God.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Four Thousand Praised the LORD with the Instruments Which I Made

In the midst of a variated list, 1 Chronicles 23:5 reads:
Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.
Part of the worship of God was praising Him with instruments.  Instruments were made with the intention of praising Him.  These were musical instruments.

Psalm 150 teaches praising God with instruments.
1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. 2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. 3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. 4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. 5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. 6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
Other Psalms read:
Psalm 33:2, Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
Psalm 92:3, Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
Psalm 98:6, With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.
Psalm 144:9, I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.
God wants to hear instrumental music, but it isn't just His hearing it.  He wants instrumental music that praises Him.  That means that there is music, there is an aesthetic, that is fitting with God's nature.  He isn't praised by instrumental music that conflicts with His nature, and there is that instrumental music.

4,000 praised the Lord with instruments.  Psalms commands to praise Jehovah with trumpet, cornet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, stringed instrument, organ, and cymbal.  "Joyful noise" is King James Version language, but the translators were right.  This is a noise because it is made with an instrument.  If there is a joyful noise in contrast to other noises, then noises can be distinguished from one another, even like 1 Corinthians 14:8 says:
For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
Different sounds or noises from instruments mean different things.  Above, Psalm 92:3 speaks of a "solemn sound," something different.  I'm sure that laments were not sung with a joyful noise, but a solemn one.  The assumption of God's Word, what one should call a "self-evident truth," is that we can judge sounds and noises.  They send different messages, have different meanings, and some can praise the LORD, when they are in accordance with His nature, and some cannot.

What I'm writing here would have been agreed upon by about everybody for hundreds of years, then by all Christians after some started rejecting it because of humanism and relativism, and now people still know it, but they don't care.  God wants to hear instrumental music that honors Him.  It must be sacred.  That doesn't relate to the words.  The music itself must praise God and can separately from words.

Only until a later date were sacred songs matched permanently with music for psalmody and hymnody.  For most of Christian history, the text could be accompanied by numbers of different tunes.  The present psalter from which we sing in Oregon gives options on the instrumental music.  The metric need only be the same.  Take away all the words, and the instruments can still praise God.  I've written this before, but I was motivated to write about this again for several reasons, but mainly because I read 1 Chronicles 23:5 in my Bible reading this week as I read through the Bible twice this year.

The New Testament is not as obvious about instrumental music.  Sometimes the New Testament doesn't say a lot to repeat Old Testament truth.  It says enough that we know that the Old Testament remains the doctrine on that subject.  It is normative.  Many of you know that "making melody" in Ephesians 5:19 translates the Greek word, psallo, which means "to pluck on a stringed instrument."  That is saying play instruments to the Lord in accordance to the Old Testament.

God is still excellent and great, and still should be praised greatly, which includes instrumental music, even majestic, gigantic pieces, as in 4,000 instruments, if possible.  That doesn't mean a small church can't do its best.

Instrumental music isn't primarily for personal pleasure.  It is to please the Lord.  Jubal created instruments for personal pleasure (Genesis 4:21), to console mankind under the harmful effects of the curse.  Music is a way for unbelievers and professing believers to kick the can down the road on true fulfillment in God.  They replace ultimate fulfillment with superficial, short term pleasure, and music masks the pain of their rebellion, the emptiness.

Instrumental music originated in heaven.  Heaven didn't see what Jubal did and say, "Good idea!"  Jubal was taking something heavenly and repurposing it for self along with all the sinful line of Cain, whose imagination was only evil continually.  Revelation 5:8 reads:
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
Revelation 14:2 agrees with this:
And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.
You can see, "having every one of them harps."  They were playing those to God because He wanted to hear harp music.  Harp music was already in heaven before Jubal formed his own new and distorted purpose for serving self.

God is the standard for the instrumental music He wants to hear.  The following is not how it should work.  Man invents music for himself, that he likes and is line with his carnal nature.  He takes that music into the church and uses it for worship, because then he likes the worship more.  This keeps man at the center and most of this in history related to revivalism that used music to attract unbelievers.  Almost nothing is as perverse as concocting music for man or self and then giving that to God as an offering.  It's blasphemous.  The music should be transcendent, proceeding from the nature of God and in line with the perfections of His attributes.

A large majority of professing churches now use music.  They use it.  It isn't worship.  It doesn't conform to God.  It conforms to the world system.  They use it because they like and the carnal people who gather like it.  Then in their addiction to it, they must have it at church.  They will not have a church with sacred music.  It must be carnal.  It must be what they like.  They demand it.  It is always prominent and mainly preeminent in their church choice.  They then associate it with God, bringing Him down in their imagination to the nature of their choice of music.

The choice of music reminds me of the choice of Saul as king.  They wanted him because he was tall.  He fit central casting.  That's what they wanted, a king based on superficial, fleshly criteria.  God wanted David, and he didn't look central casting in the outward appearance.

These "worship leaders" are the same ones who degrade outward appearance, wearing their dress t-shirt and stocking cap, the outfits of their choice, while looking for their King Saul kind of music.  They want it tall, jutting, and in line with their desires.  God doesn't accept it and it destroys the true imagination of God.  On top of that, God isn't worshiped.  It's the opposite.

Churches, praise the Lord with instruments.  Praise Jehovah.  Offer Him what He wants.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Are We Living in the Last Days? The Right Approach to Biblical Prophecy

The Bible is a prophetic book.  That alone is an amazing statement, because it is the only prophetic book in the world, since it is the only one written by God.  Prophecy has a lot of purposes, a major one being a validation that that the Bible is in fact the Word of God.  As you open the New Testament, it is easy to see the importance of prophecy all over it.  God wants us to take it seriously.

The first page of the New Testament in Matthew, a genealogy, is related to prophecy, because the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are prophetic.  The genealogy proves that Jesus is a fulfillment of those predictions.  Then you get the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy that says that Jesus is a fulfillment of that.  Then you have the magi setting off looking for the Messiah based upon what?  Prophecy.  Then there are four wondrous prophecies in four different geographical location in the second half of Matthew 2 that confirm who Jesus is.  Matthew 3 talks about John the Baptist, himself another fulfillment of prophecy.

When Peter preaches on the Day of Pentecost, almost every point he makes relies on prophecy.  When the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs, what is that?  It is a fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist, Acts 1:5, which is repeated by Jesus before He ascends into heaven.  When the unbelievers mock what's happening in Acts, Peter defends it with what?  Prophecy.  He refers to Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21 to kick off his sermon there, explaining to the audience what's going on.  He starts:

15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God

It is such an unusual, outlying event, outside of the norm for comprehension, Peter makes the connection to the Old Testament.  This gigantic crowd wasn't all drunken.  This is what Joel was talking about, and Peter says that what was occurring there on the Day of Pentecost was "in the last days."  Generally, when people say, "We're in the last days," they mean something different than what Peter says, so that becomes confusing.  Peter's usage of the last days is the correct usage and it's what we should imitate.

We're not waiting for the last days.  We're already in them.  Peter was saying that he and his audience were in them.  1 John 2:18 says,

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

"Last days" or "last time," which is the same terminology, is ironically a terminology from Old Testament prophecy.  That's what is supposed to get us up to speed is the Old Testament usage.  Here are some places:

Isaiah 2:2, And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

Jeremiah 23:20, The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.

Ezekiel 38:8, After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.

Daniel 10:14, Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.

To the Jews, the last days were the Messianic era, when the Messiah had come and was in operation.  To God, this began when Jesus came the first time.  This launched the last days.  It's also why Peter can be using a passage with amazing astronomical events and say they are referring to the Day of Pentecost, when those things didn't take place.  What they experienced on the Day of Pentecost, I like to call the "sample pack."  It's like when you go to Costco and you taste a sample, so that you'll be receptive of the whole box.

The last days had arrived, because Jesus had arrived with the accompanying miracles, wonders, and signs.  The ones on the Day of Pentecost are in the same program as those that will appear when Christ undoes the seals during the seventieth week of Daniel, what we refer to as the seven years of tribulation.  What the audience in Acts 2 understood as the Messianic age, that Joel was prophesying, was already started.  This was the prefulfillment of that with the ultimate fulfillment later.  In one sense, it's all the same event with book ends, Jesus coming as Savior and then Jesus coming as Judge.

The magi were anticipating the coming of Jesus.  Believers today should be anticipating the second coming.  How do you interpret what you read in the prophetic passages?  Look at all of the prophecy of scripture and compare.  The prophecies will give you clues.  Revelation is symbolic language, as revealed in the first verse with the word, "signified."  Prophecy uses symbolism, but that isn't freedom to treat it like your Gumby doll.

If God can do astronomical events, like He will according to Joel 2, then He can do the smaller, albeit plainly divine, ones of Acts 2.  That's the push-back and explanation from Peter.  These things are occurring because we are already in the last days.

I believe we are meant to look for the fulfillment of prophesies that haven't been fulfilled.  We are required to be scriptural with this and not to speculate.  If we are speculating, we should say we're speculating.  When someone asks, do you think we're in the last days, they are meaning something other than what that phrase means.  I don't like to give them an answer that reaffirms their wrong view.  A better question is, do you think that some of what we see happening portend to unfulfilled prophesies from scripture?  I say, yes.

Let me give you an example.  Revelation 13:17 says,
And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
I think it is good to make an application of this with what we see happening today.  The world economy will be centrally controlled in a totalitarian way.  We can look today how this might be applied.  We can see it can happen.  That is a good application of that above verse.   How does one man control everyone?  Can technology give this capacity?  We should point to that, look at the contemporary examples.  That doesn't contradict what I see New Testament authors do with Old Testament prophecy.

Prophecy in scripture is real.  We should take it literally.  That doesn't mean we don't take the symbolism into consideration.  We do.  We understand the symbolism based on comparing every passage with every other passage of the Bible.  It gives us enough clues to understand.  This is hard to be understood like Peter said about Paul's prophetic passages (2 Peter 3:16).  It can be understood though.  As preachers or teachers in the church, we should want people to understand the prophecy and how the yet unfulfilled parts should be understood.

We should oppose globalism, because it looks like the one world government and church of the antichrist.  There is a tension here.  If we really want the Lord's return, perhaps we could hasten it by supporting the one world government.  The elimination of borders is a contemporary issue that relates to prophecy.  We should use prophecy to make that application.  This is right thinking.  This is a good use of the Word of God.

Let me give you two more examples.  The Apostle Peter prophesies how the world will end in 2 Peter 3:10.  That's how it will end.  This results in my denying the contemporary climate change teaching.  That is an application to the world we live in, based on what Peter said.  It says a lot more than that, but we shouldn't ignore it.

The culture of the United States and then the world is deteriorating.  This looks like a trajectory toward total apostasy.  It has affected a hearing of the gospel.  Let's be honest.  When Isaiah went to preach to apostate Israel, he couldn't get a hearing.  We are in similar times.  These are times like Noah was in.  Man is of the same nature he's been since the fall.  We can say that we're getting closer to the end, because we see this trajectory.  We don't want it.  We're still being faithful, but we've got to make the application.  People need to know.

Much more could be said.  We don't want to stretch scripture beyond what it's saying, and in that sense, just use scripture.  We should preach what the Bible says and apply it, including the prophetic passages.