Are you obeying the gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught or have you been deceived by another gospel message?
Well, I think I'll get into the message. And would like to start out by saying that I know you're all familiar with a major, so called Christian teaching, upon which many other false beliefs hang — and that is that man is made of two components, body and soul, and that he has an immortal soul. I believe that Mr. Cowan may have spoken on this in July of this past year, so you've covered that. In the past it was referred to as dualism — that the body is evil, the soul is good — it's the spirit. The body is physical. It's evil and that the soul lives on after death, and it has to go somewhere, so it goes to heaven or hell, and awaits the resurrection to be rejoined with the body. Now this I believe came out of Egypt, and then to Greece, and ultimately, became a part of Christianity.
Christ, Peter, Paul all warned that false teachers would enter and cause great problems to the true beliefs and believers. And one major group that infiltrated the church in those early years were the Gnostics. I was talking to Mr. Holladay and he said that he covered some on the Gnostics several months ago. The Hellenists - one of the sources for these beliefs — Jews from the Greek culture — brought in a lot of these beliefs with them into the church. And, no doubt, Simon Magus was associated with them as well. His followers were leaders and promoting this Gnostic Christianity. Many of today's protestant doctrines came from Gnosticism.
A lot of Paul's, Peter's, Jude's, John's writings were to counter the false teachings that came from Gnosticism. They wrote how, in some congregations, the Gnostics would out- number the true believers, and expelled them from the congregations, and others just attended with them. Even as Jude says that they were blemishes in their feasts. In II Peter, he speaks of that as well — that they attended with them, but, of course, they believed quite different. They taught that humans were immortal souls, or spirits, that had fallen from heaven and from grace, and they needed to be restored.
In 1963 when I was in college, I went down to work for the Union Pacific Railroad for the summer, lived in a boxcar. They were converting the yards there to piggy-backs where they could put the transferred trucks on the flatbeds of the railroads. They needed workers for about 2 1/2 months. They hired college students and teachers, so about three of us went down from Ambassador College. They also hired a lot of Mormon teachers and we got into some very interesting discussions. And, of course, they wanted us to go to church with them. I asked one of the Mormon priests, "What are your beliefs about humans?" He said, "We think humans fell from heaven, that they were spirits — something like the angels that fell — and we're trying to be restored." So there was a similarity to that with some of the Gnostic beliefs as well. It was surprising to learn that later.
Of course the Gnostics believed that you had to pass through seven eons or levels in order to return to heaven, the eighth level, and that you needed special knowledge to make that journey back. The angels would help you find that special knowledge, or reveal it to you, and teach it to you. Of course, in the book of Colossians, it speaks about angel worship. That's Paul countering some of these false doctrines that were being introduced into the church there. They were very much antinomian — anti-law. They believed in dualism. They thought the physical world of physical things was evil — the spiritual was good. So the God of the Old Testament was evil, because He made this evil material world, and He and His evil angels then had given man laws to put them in bondage. Of course the eighth level was number eight — seven in number was bad — eight was good. Then, of course, they believed that they should keep the eighth day. That was their beliefs. They also believed in docetism.
I'm just summarizing a few things because there's something that I think we need to realize here — that Gnosticism is still around and it's had a very powerful effect on Christianity, but also on the people of God. It is this Gnostic Christianity that was bought into the Church of God in 1994 and 1995 that proved to be so attractive to many people.
In December of this past last month, an article came out in the US News & World Report. It says, "In Search of the Real Jesus," and I want to read some excerpts from this. I hope you'll listen. I don't like to read this much, but this is an incredible article, and I want to tie in some things with this as we, first of all cover, just several paragraphs here. And you know that The DaVinci Code, The Gospel of Judas have become very popular among a lot of people. It, too, goes back to Gnostic writings, and it is not just becoming attractive to just a little small splinter group, but you'll see it's attracting a lot of the younger people, too.
But the title of the article here is The Gospel Truth — Why Some Old Books Are Stirring Up a New Debate about the Meaning of Jesus.
What does The DaVinci Code have to do with a letter written by the Archbishop of Alexandria in the year 367? As it turns out, quite a lot. Call it a part of the Gnostic connection — a long, fine thread of influence connecting contemporary cultural debates with an important struggle in the early Christian movement to define the meaning of Jesus' life and teaching. In that struggle, arguably the most important, waged by self-styled correct believers against so-called heretics, orthodox Christians battled Gnostic Christians over their respective interpretations of divinity, human nature, sin, salvation, and other critical theological and philosophical points. But Gnostic principles lived on in isolated communities, and occasionally, sparked Gnostic-like revivals.
Indeed, in recent decades, thanks to the recovery and scholarly interpretations of a trove of Gnostic documents, the ideas of that ancient movement have come to play a surprisingly prominent role in our current culture wars. Today, there are many scholars, theologians and popular writers who promote the Gnostic perspective as a liberating antidote to a close-minded dogmatism.
See, they see it as liberation to they say a close-minded teaching; the belief that there's only one way to salvation, you know that it's an antidote to that. He says:
Name many of the issues that fuel our cultural politics today; authority vs. individual freedom, fixed moral precepts vs. moral relativism.
In other words, people that say well you say that this is always true, always right. Well maybe not necessarily. What might be true for you may not be true for me. Truth is relative. Now this is being accepted more, religion vs. spirituality. A lot of people say I don't believe in religion, I believe in being spiritual. Now that may sound innocent enough but it's Satan's deception.
You can find usable precedents in that long-distant conflict between Gnostic Christians and their orthodox foes. Emory University biblical scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson, may be right in saying that a new Gnosticism once again threatens the shape of Christian faith. But the return of Gnostic ideas has also contributed to a larger debate between progressives and traditionalists that goes beyond the strict concerns of one religious tradition.
So for us, this is the aftermath of 1995 as we'll see here in just a few minutes. He says:
Consider the far-reaching historical consequences of Archbishop Athanasius's letter from 367: In addition to providing the first known list of the 27 books that would eventually constitute the official canon of the Christian New Testament, the letter ordered all Christians to repudiate an assortment of "illegitimate and secret" Gnostic texts that he deemed heretical.
And so he was affirming two things. The true scriptures — and that's being challenged today, and some are buying into it, so it undermines the creditability of the bible — and, as we'll see here, he ordered the religious people to burn these books.
So he enunciated two bedrock principles of orthodoxy and traditionalism: (1) the importance of scriptural canon. (What makes up the inspired scripture of God?) And (2) the apostolic authority to determine what is and is not acceptable Christian thought or teaching.
So these Gnostic writings bearing names like the Gospel of Truth, the Secret Book of John, the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas offered strikingly different slant on the teachings of Jesus, one that emphasized esoteric knowledge and particularly self-knowledge as the path to salvation.
You have the knowledge as they would say within yourself for salvation and as we'll see that you don't need, as it's going to say here others to teach you, you don't need a church, it's all in yourself. It says:
Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons spoke of these being full of blasphemy and the fact that he and other Christian bishops devoted so much effort to exposing them is perhaps the strongest proof of the Gnostics' wide appeal.
At least a few rebellious monks decided to bury their condemned texts rather than destroy them and these were recovered just about a hundred years ago in Nag Hammadi area where they dug up some jars that had 13 papyrus books in some caves there.
Let's drop drown to modern relevance; the scholars, writers and popularizers who, either as promoters or critics, made Gnostic ideas relevant to so many modern concerns. Elaine Pagels is a writer of a book called The Gnostic Gospels that became very popular. It says that official Christianity repressed the whole truth about Jesus and His earliest followers, and says, simply put, this book was the right book at the right time.
It was written in 1979. Now think about what was happening in the world in 1979, what was beginning to happen in an America still reeling from Watergate? Do you remember Watergate? I know, probably, a lot of our young people don't. But this is where Richard Nixon was caught lying and trying to cover up some things that some of the men that worked with him were doing and so it caused a suspicion of authority and leadership in the country.
So it was the right book at the right time and America reeling from Watergate still distrustful of authority and institutions and still shaken by the liberating intensities of the 1960's, here was a book that argued that early Christianity contained a multitude of diverse interpretations and movements or at least did so until the leaders of the orthodox church succeeded in suppressing them as heresies.
So here are books who are saying look there are many other ways of looking at truth, many other ways of looking at Christianity.
According to orthodox belief, Jesus bestowed ecclesiastical authority only on those male apostles who saw him after His Resurrection, thereby establishing the line of succession running from his inner circle of disciples.
So they say what traditional beliefs would have you to think is that Christ is working through men as ministers but some of these other books will show you that some of His best friends were the women, the women disciples and that women should preach too. They should be up there in the pulpits preaching to the people.
To challenge the special privilege of what the Gnostics called "the apostolic men" was to challenge the basis of clerical authority. Pagels argued, to insist that women were among Jesus' closest confidants was to put into question the exclusively male character of the priesthood and many of the implicitly and explicitly sexist assumptions of what became orthodox Christianity.
To the Gnostics, or at least to many of them, Jesus was not the son of Yahweh sent to redeem fallen humanity through His death and Resurrection; he was an avatar or voice of the over soul sent to teach humans to find the sacred spark within — to find the secret spark within each individual person. You see they taught docetism, and I'm sure this was covered as well — you know where Christ did not die. You see He came to the earth — actually they would say that He came at the time that the spirit descended upon Jesus as a dove. Do you remember that? That's when Christ entered the man Jesus and right before His Resurrection, since Christ is God, Christ left Jesus and only the man died. You know Christ, the God, didn't die. And that's what John said, of course, in I John, that he that says that Christ is not come in the flesh is an antichrist. That was their doctrine back then and it's amazing that that doctrine was introduced into the church in 1993 and 1994 and so many thousands bought into that.
It goes on saying:
To attain salvation, one needed only to turn within. To turn within — you can find salvation inside — just between you and Christ and God. You don't need teachers, you don't need the church.
For Gnostics, writes Pagels, exploring the psyche became explicitly what it is, for many people today implicitly, a religious quest. As Pagels presented them, the Gnostics came across as forerunners of modern spiritual seekers wary of institutional religion.
Organized religion — suspicious of it. Did you ever hear that term by people today? I don't go for organized churches, organized religion any more; liberalism and hidebound traditions.
I'll skip part of this, I want to read the last couple paragraphs here, it says:
Arguing that the Gnostic perspective was never fully extinguished, Wright says that it has been particularly strong in the West for close to three centuries. "There's a sense", he says, "in which post-Enlightenment culture on both sides of the Atlantic has been implicitly Gnostic, implicitly telling this story about us now having this new knowledge (new truth), including science and technology which will enable us to blow the lid off the boring stuff we grew up with."
Those old boring truths you grew up with, just blow the lid off of it. America has a particularly strong case of the Gnostic bug.
If the Gnostic perspective is not really that new, and if its seminal ideas are already planted in the heart of modern western, and particularly American culture, why are the defenders of orthodoxy so troubled by the arguments of modern Gnostic enthusiasts? Perhaps it is a matter of self defense on the part of those who see delicate historical and theological truths on the verge of demolition.
The Gnostic perspective is unlikely to wither even under such forceful attacks. Its defenders, past and present, inevitably intellectuals like those second century Greek speaking eggheads, are always ready with a quick "yes but." "This is an exciting time to be a scholar," says Marvin Meyer. "There are now so many new approaches and possibilities and ways of putting things together that they allow people to find out where their theological comfort zone is."
It's like going to the cafeteria so far as religious beliefs are concerned. Let's see, I'll take some of that, a little bit of that, no I don't want that please. Pick out your own beliefs and that's good enough; their own theological comfort zone.
The Gnostic claim that the truth lies within fuels an argument so deep and old and indeed so fundamental to who we think we are that it is hardly surprising that it finds expression in our contemporary culture wars.
I wanted to give you that background because within this article, I think are astounding points that if we look at them and think about them that has shaken a lot of people's beliefs today that God called and worked with.
I want to say an "ism" of religion has two components; dogma and spirit or that is doctrine and spirit, truth and spirit or doctrine and attitude. Keep that in mind, I'm going to come back to that, two components; dogma and spirit.
God's word tells us that a great powerful being has deceived the whole world and we know that's in Revelation 12:9 and also mentions in I John 5:19. The word deceived means to lead astray or to lead into error. Now he says Satan has deceived the whole world. No one, no one is excluded, including you and me. But God called us and He has opened our minds and He's taken away, allowed us the knowledge of things that will take away that deception.
I'd like to read here Ephesians 2, verses 1 through 3. Paul said:
Ephesians 2;1 You were dead, through the trespasses and sins,
Verse 2: in which you once lived following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of air, the spirit that now works or is at work among those who are disobedient,
All of us, how many?
Verse 3: All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses and were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
You and me, we were also among those that were deceived. But you might say, well no what about our children? Our children grew up in the truth. They were born into a family that knew the truth. But there are degrees of deception and there's also religious deception, it's not the only deception that he espouses. Satan wears many hats and he's working on even our children now through education, through entertainment, through music, through peer pressure. They too are experiencing some of that deception.
Now Paul goes on to speak in Ephesians 4, let's go to verse 18. It says:
Ephesians 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and their hardness of heart.
I'd like to focus on two things here because he shows here two causes: he says ignorance for some; he says for others hardness of heart. I read that in the new Revised Standard Version. They are darkened in their understanding, because of their ignorance and their hardness of heart. These are really two different things.
Now when we are called and you and I are called to the truth we know that all deception and blindness is not removed at once. That's what spiritual growth is all about. Paul said to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 4, verses 20 through 24, he said:
Ephesians 4: 20 This (He spoke of the previous things he mentioned) is not the way you learned Christ.
Verse 21: For surely you have heard about Him and were taught in Him as truth is in Jesus.
Verse 22: You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and diluted by its lusts,
Verse 23: and be renewed in the spirit of our mind,
Verse 24: and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
But that takes time and part of spiritual growth is coming out of the deceptions of the past and conquering the hardness of heart or the normal rebellious spirit that we all have, becoming a humble teachable individual as it says in Isaiah, to this man I will look; to him that is humble and of a contrite spirit and trembles at my word. That's the one that God says He takes notice of.
Now let's go to Luke 13; let's notice something here in verse 23 and verse 24.
Just a few months ago I had an interesting conversation with a young lady that had grown up in the church. She of course was attending and keeping the Sabbath and all of that but she felt very strongly that a lot of people out in many of the other churches, even though believing quite differently were Christians also. Let's notice Luke 13, verses 23 and 24:
Luke 13:23 Then one said to Him, "Lord are there few who are saved?"
Here's how Christ answered:
Verse 24: You strived to enter the narrow gate for many I say to you will seek to enter and will not be able.
So He told this individual you strive to go through that narrow way, that narrow gate, that narrow road because the majority (many) and even said will seek or try to enter and won't be able. Try and not be able? Why would they try and still not be able? Because they're trying the wrong way. It goes back to the two points that have to do with ignorance. We'll tie that with a specific scripture later and also the hardness of heart as well.
Are there many paths to salvation? In John 10, verse 1 Christ said that he that seeks to enter a different way is a thief, a robber. There's the narrow way here. Let's drop down to verse 27. Here's an individual that He said that he would say: "We were with you, we were among you, and we taught and ate and drank in your presence."
Verse 27: He will say, "I tell you, I don't know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of lawlessness."
All you workers of lawlessness and once again think about two causes; ignorance and hardness of heart.
If someone in your neighborhood came to you and said: "What is a true Christian?" How would you answer that? You might say: "Well a true Christian is a follower of Christ." But it has to be more than that doesn't it? Because Paul said in Romans that if you don't have His spirit you are none of His. So not only a follower but you must also have of the spirit of God. Well let's go look further at that question. What is a false Christian or is there even such a thing as a false Christian? That's almost a misnomer isn't it? You know that a Christian and a false Christian, it's almost an opposite there. What is the difference between a true Christian and a false Christian? Let me just mention here there is a difference in being converted and being a good person. There are a lot of good people out there. There are a lot of people with high morals, high moral standards. I believe that Gerald Ford was, I don't know him but I presume it seems like that he was a man of high moral standards. But then once again, there's a big difference in being converted and being a person with high moral standards. How do you identify and let me just ask once again and I especially want our young people to think about this because a lot of us were in that position at one time. How do you identify a false Christian? You might say: "Well should you even worry about that? Wouldn't that be judging?" Christ said don't judge or condemn other people. It's not to condemn but it's to avoid falling in with a false way or wrong way.
Let's go to II Timothy, chapter 3. Paul talks about the last days.
II Timothy 3:1 Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.
I want to drop down to verse 5, it talks about there would be a large number of people as Christ said:
Verse 5: Having a form of godliness but denying its power and (What does He say?) from such people turn away.
Let me ask you a question. I know somebody here I'm sure probably a lot of you know the answer. What is the Greek word for power? Anyone remember that? One of the words is dunamis isn't it? The word dynamite comes from it. Another way that power can be translated too is authority. Sometimes it's translated authority. So here are people who are religious that have a form of godliness but they deny its power or authority in their lives. It's not something that's supposed to have anything to do with control over you or the way you live, things like that, any authority in your lives, something you just learn.
Let's drop down to verses 10 through 13.
Verse 10: But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering. love, perseverance,
Verse 11: persecutions, (all the things that Paul suffered because of his deep beliefs that he endured) and out of them all the Lord delivered me.
Verse 12: Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Verse 13: But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, (He didn't say there that they will fade out, evil men and impostors will fade away. No he said they'll grow worse and worse) deceiving and being deceived.
I'd like to read a comment here from Barkley's on this section in Timothy. He said: "The final condemnation of these people is that they retained the outward form of religion but deny its power authority. That is to say, they go through all the correct movements and maintain all the external forms of religion but they know nothing of Christianity as a dynamic power that changes the lives of men."
Let's turn over to II Corinthians, chapter 11. Maybe perhaps before we go there, let's go to II Corinthians 4 and then we'll go to 11.
II Corinthians 4:1 Therefore since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
Verse 2: But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Verse 3: But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
That is to the present time.
Verse 4: whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them.
Here he speaks of the god of this world having blinded so that the light of the gospel; the light refers to truth.
Now it's interesting in the Old Testament in Isaiah 8 and verse 20, it says:
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
So here we see light referring to truth. If they don't also teach you the law and testimonies, there isn't any light in them.
Now in II Corinthians 11, one great deception has hit us and it is still affecting a lot of the people of God and it will not be the last. There is no one that Satan would rather deceive than who? The people of God and I believe that his preferred deception is not ignorance but a false belief. Now let's go here to II Corinthians, chapter 11 and pick it up in verse 2.
II Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Now Paul was their leader, he says when Christ returns, I want to give you to Him as a chaste virgin. He's speaking spiritually there; as a father presents his daughter as a bride.
Verse 3: But I fear lest somehow as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
I want you to notice carefully verse 4 because we're going to spend some time on this.
Verse 4: For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, (When you came into the truth) or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it.
Now you tolerate people who bring this other Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel. He mentions three issues here, three issues. Let's look at those three: first of all another Jesus. So he's indicating there that there is another Jesus that was being presented to the church and has been since then and not just as we have learned, not just a long-haired effeminate Jesus born on the wrong day, who died on the wrong day, who was resurrected on the wrong day, who came to correct His father's harsh laws and you could go on an on but someone with the same name but not the same being. Now in Matthew 24, hold you place here, let's go to Matthew 24. Jesus Christ warned of this. He said:
Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.
Jesus Christ warned of this, He said: For a few will come in My name. Did I read that right? I didn't read that right did I? A few will come in My name.
Verse 5: For many will come in My name saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
Who will deceive many? So without going to other scriptures some would preach Him as the Christ and others would claim to be Christ themselves. But He said many. Let's drop down to verse 24.
Verse 24: For false Christ's and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders (False Christ's and false ministers) so as to deceive if possible even the elect.
I'm sure we have a lot of old timers in here and I remember way back in the 60's when we used to read this and we believed and I believed that the elect could not be deceived; that once you knew the truth you would not be deceived again; that once you learned the truth about Christmas you would never go back to Christmas and many other things as well. It sounds like there that Christ was talking about yes the elect. If they let their guard down they can be deceived too and I think time and circumstances have proven that. But Satan has dressed up as Christ. He is the god of this age. Back in II Corinthians 11, Satan has teachers and you'll notice right on their forehead it says "Satan's Teachers." It's kind of a tattoo up there so you'll be able to recognize them. It's a good thing that it's up there isn't it? II Corinthians 11 as you know, I'm kidding.
II Corinthians 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
Verse 14: And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
Verse 15: Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers (So Satan has ministers) also transforms themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Now let me just quote Matthew 7:15. Once again Jesus Christ said:
Matthew 7:15 Beware (Be on guard) of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
Let's move on over to the first part of II Corinthians. So here are the false teachers who presented another Jesus. Is it all right? These are some of the questions I had when I was a teenager and beginning to be faced with crossroads in my life or fork, making decisions. Is it all right to have pictures of Christ? Is it all right to idolize the cross? Is it all right to keep Christmas and Easter? Is there indeed no other name whereby man can be saved? I spent the first 12 years of my life of 13 in the Methodist church. I remember hearing the statement that there are many roads that leads to salvation. Now we Methodists are taking one and the Baptist are taking another and the Presbyterians, the Pentecostal, they're taking a different road but they're all headed for the top of the mountain. The same place they would say in heaven.
One might ask the question as we did: "Well what about people like the Buddhist?" Well you know the Buddhist, they just don't have all the knowledge yet but they're also headed for the same place, they're just taking a different road too. They just call God by a different name. So that was what I heard explained when I was growing up.
Hold your place here in II Corinthians 11. I want to go to John 4. I mentioned that there are ism of religion basically has two components; dogma and spirit. Let's notice here in verse 23, Jesus Christ said:
Luke 4:23 But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers (Wait a minute, true worshipers, well if they're true worshipers that must mean that there also false worshipers) will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
They'll worship the Father in spirit and truth.
Verse 24: God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
So here it is talking about the true worshippers who worship God in spirit and truth. So he talked here about not only the true teaching but also the right spirit. Now we know the spirit can refer to a number of things; it can refer to the spirit of God, it can refer to the mind, it can refer to attitude. I would ask the question here going back to 1994 and 1995 some may have rejected the false doctrine but they were infected with the wrong spirit. You probably heard it said that you can be right and still be wrong. Now that's true. You might be technically right but you can be in a wrong attitude or you can be of a wrong spirit.
Now before we leave, it's interesting here that Christ mentioned these two things and the very next two things we're going to cover in II Corinthians 11 deals with a different spirit and a different gospel. But a lot of you remember when years past we used to talk about the seven churches of Revelation and one of the things we talked about was that churches seemed to have a spirit about them. Do you remember that? You could say you could go to the Church of God here and you could go to it in California and you'd find the same spirit; same type of people. You could go to the Philippines, go over to Europe and you still find that same spirit in people. Now I do believe there is a spirit, an attitude, of course there's a reason for it in the churches. I believe there's a spirit in the Pentecostal church. I believe the spirit in the Baptist church is different than the spirit in the Presbyterian church and you could go on. But here he talks about another spirit, a different spirit.
Satan works through thoughts and attitudes. I just want to mention a couple scriptures without turning to them. In John 13:2 it says that Satan has put into the heart of Judas Iscariot certain thoughts and in Acts 5:3 Ananias and Sapphira, Peter asked why have you allowed or why has Satan filled your heart, he asked Ananias. Satan has filled your heart, filled with a particular spirit. I John 4:1 says try the spirits whether they be of God or not. Not only check the teaching, check the truth, check the doctrines but also try the spirits. Test the spirits whether they are of God or not.
It's interesting that most other religions out there, once they learn what we teach and believe, they're automatically hostile. You believe that you ought not to eat pork? You don't keep Christmas and Easter? You keep those old Jewish days? It evokes not just that you're taking a different route and it's not that at all. Now there's a hostility there. Romans 8:7 says the carnal mind is enmity against God's law, not subject to it, neither indeed can be. So you're labeled a cult, a sect if you believe these things.
Let's go to Mark 9. Some might say well what about what it says in Mark 9 that if someone comes and does something in the name of Jesus, as long as they do it in the name of Jesus then they're doing what's right.
Mark 9:38 Now John answered Him saying: "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us (we saw this individual that's not one of us) casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us."
We told him don't do that. Here's what Jesus answered:
Verse 39: But Jesus said: "Do not forbid him for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me."
Now we must not forget what Christ said that many would come in His name and do great signs and wonders, didn't He? So that doesn't nullify what He said there. We also know that it says that some would appropriate the name of Jesus and do things in His name.
Let's just take a minute here and ask: "Who was this individual that was casting out demons in the name of Jesus Christ?" It wouldn't have been the Jews would it because the Jewish leaders hated Christ? Who could it possibly have been? I believe and I may be wrong, I believe it possibly was John the Baptist' disciples because you know John the Baptist before he died he told his disciples, he said: "Behold the Lamb of God." He pointed out that Jesus was the true Lamb of God, the Savior of the world. I can't think of anyone else in that time who would have been casting out demons in the name of Jesus Christ because most all of the other religions were hostile to Jesus and envious and jealous of Him.
Now let's notice here before we leave here to go to Matthew 7 and hold your place here in Mark 9, we'll come back there because there's a key there.
Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven (Not anyone who uses His name or calls upon Him shall enter the kingdom of heaven) but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
Now let's notice carefully what He says:
Verse 22: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord,' have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?"
Verse 23: "And then I will declare to them, (Good job, now He didn't say that did He?) I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"
So there will be others who will appropriate the name of Jesus Christ. Let's go back to Mark 9, verse 40. The real key lies in verse 40.
Mark 9:40 "For he who is not against us is on our side."
You know unless you've been called you will be against the truth. Unless God opens your mind, you'll be against the true teachings, to some degree some more than others. So it is verse 40 here that shows the key to that and of course I'll just read quickly Luke 11:23.
Luke 11:23 "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters."
Christ said My sheep will know my voice.
People can even have the same doctrines but a different spirit. In Christ' time it was the Sabbath keepers who killed Him, wasn't it? It was the people who kept the holy days who killed Jesus Christ. So I believe that some rejected the doctrine but they accepted the spirit and the attitude.
Let's move up quickly here and finish up. We speak here of a different gospel. I'd like to go in II Corinthians chapter 11 a different spirit and now a different gospel and in Matthew 15:8. He says:
Matthew 15:8 "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
Verse 9: In vain thy worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
It is possible to worship Christ in vain and He says that there are people that are doing that because they are teaching the doctrines and commandments of men rather then of God. So a different gospel is a different message. A message of going to heaven, of the immortal soul, of perverted grace, just accept Christ, give your heart to the Lord and that's all there is to it, once saved always saved.
I went over to the Baptist church when I was a teenager; I had left the Methodist church because there were no other teens there so I started to attend the Baptist church and I remember standing in the Baptist church and arguing with the superintendent of Sunday school that he said:" Well Bruce, once you're saved, once you give your heart to the Lord, you'll always be saved and you'll never sin again." I said: "Well I don't think that's right." I was 19 years old and I said: "Because there are some scriptures that talk about Paul being concerned about sinning and mistakes that he was making and other things." We went back and forth thing. Also the teachings of an ever burning hell, pagan days, and also the wrong teaching that you can be saved by works; Paul had to combat that too. But it says here that these people would twist the scriptures of Paul in II Peter 3: 16 and 17. I won't turn there.
But what Christ is speaking of here and what the bible warns is a syncretism, a mixture of truth and error and calling it Christian. This is exactly what happened to our forefathers all the way back at the time they went into captivity as we read II Kings 17. They mixed truth with error.
I might mention one other question here, let's go to John 7. Some people say: "Well you concentrate too much on doctrine, you talk too much about doctrine, you ought to be talking more about love."
John 7: 16 Jesus answered them and said: "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
Verse 17: If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority."
So Christ taught doctrine, doctrine from God.
As a 19 or 20 year old I asked the questions: "Are these people keeping the Sabbath? Are they keeping the holy days, the ten commandments?" Were those relevant questions? Were those questions that should be asked? Are there bottom line basics which are required? Is it true that there is no other name whereby man can be saved? Is the Sabbath indeed a sign between God and His people?
We're told in Ezekiel 20 and 22 that Israel went into captivity because of two things. Do you remember what those two things were? Idolatry and Sabbath breaking. We were told, well you know there was a time that God required Israel to keep the Sabbath and then they didn't have to and then Christ, He was a Jew and He taught them and set the example of the Sabbath, and then Paul came along and told them didn't have to keep it and it was almost like if you remember; you probably heard this story of a woman and a man standing before the preacher who was about to marry them and the preacher looked at the woman and said: "Do you promise to love, honor, obey and cherish this man as long as you live?" She said: "Yes, no, no, yes. "Yes to some of the things you said and no to the others." That's almost what people want you to believe. God do we keep the Sabbath? Yes, no, no, yes, no. It depends on what age you're talking about, what time. We know God is consistent.
Does God give His spirit to those who obey Him? Well, we know the answer to that. Now let me turn that question around. Does He give His spirit to those who don't obey? Now think about that. Are God's requirements still the same? Now, I want to say this is not a condemnation of other people because we know that in the second Resurrection if not before the blindness will be removed and they will, if I could use the vernacular, they will jump on the truth like a duck and June bug. They will probably, may even do a better job than we've done once their minds are open. So I don't condemn the people but I do condemn the message because I know the source. I Timothy 4:1 say the source is doctrines of demons. That's the source. We know that God holds the teachers and leaders more responsible as well. I'm also not questioning their sincerity but honestly you can be sincere and still be wrong. You can be very sincere about being a communist. Probably some of the atheists are sincere and I'm not questioning their good works. I applaud people's good works out in the world. I think it's wonderful the good works that people do and I certainly wouldn't say that there would be times when some of their prayers may be answered. Someone might say to me or my next door neighbor might say: "You know I have a little girl who was dying and I prayed to God and God healed her." I wouldn't say He wouldn't or didn't because God is a merciful God and the scripture says it rains on the just and the unjust, doesn't it? You can't look out and see the weather forecast and you see these patches of rain, where is it raining? Well, that's for church members, it isn't raining on anyone else. So God is merciful and that's certainly knowing there are times that God, in fact you might say Jesus Christ never healed unconverted person in this physical ministry as far as I know. Everybody He healed is still unconverted. There can be people of high character, good morals, sacrifice to help others but Christians aren't the only ones who help others either. There are Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists that help others and love others too and love their children, love their mates. You can do all those things and still not know the true God. I think that the man who jumped on another one there at the railroad, to cover him with his body to save his life, I think that was an awesome deed, self-sacrifice there. But that doesn't mean that he's converted does it? He just certainly exhibited a tremendous aspect of character there.
My son, sadly swallowed some of this, Paul's teaching back in 1995 and he'll come to me and say: "Well Dad you ought to read this book by this minister here, why he's doing such a wonderful work, he's just reaching thousands and thousands of people wherever he speaks in every city." Now I'll say: "Dan, I don't want to read that." He'll say: "Why not, Dad?" Once or twice I'll say: "Because I know that he doesn't know Christ." He'll say: "Doesn't know Christ, how can you say that?" Well, either I John 2:4 is true or it isn't. He that says I know Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. Do you want to scratch that out of the bible or is it true? You can worship God in vain. The people have and people do but I want to go on to say: "I do not believe that you can live a decent life in vain." If good works are done out of love then I don't believe it's in vain. Someone who may not know God at this time who practices good morals and seeks to live a life of integrity that it is in vain, it is not in vain. These things have their own reward and I believe that this kind of people will be the kind that will carry over into the millennium or upon death be resurrected in the second Resurrection and they will not have a difficult time being converted. They'll be ahead of some others like the apostle Paul once the light hit him; he was converted there on the road to Damascus.
Remember there are two causes, one is spiritual ignorance but there's the other, hardness of heart. Some religious people are hypocrites. They're in it for show, for power, for money, for fame and yet there are others who are sincere, they're just deceived, they're spiritually blind. Now I don't want to follow a religious hypocrite but I also don't want to follow the spiritual ignorant either, the spiritually blind who's sincere because what did Christ say, just follow the blind. He said: "You'll fall in the ditch, right?" Well let's close with a couple scriptures here, Romans 10.
Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.
Paul looked around him and he saw the deception, he saw the majority of his countrymen were not moving in the right direction.
Verse 2: For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, (There are people out there who are very zealous in their religion but notice the next statement) but not according to knowledge.
Not according to the right way, to the truth. You remember the thing Mr. Armstrong used to say years ago in the airplane they used to come on the intercom and say, the pilot said: "I've got good news and bad news and the good news is we're making very, very good time, the bad news is we don't know where we are." So they have zeal but they're going in the wrong direction
Verse 3: For they being ignorant of God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, (They're ignorant of the truth and they've substituted the doctrines and traditions of men) they've not submitted (Interesting, submitted) to the righteousness of God.
Verse 4: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
You know that the word end there comes from the Greek word telos. The word telescope comes from that and it's basically he's saying Christ is the end result of the life of one who lives a lawful life. Use the example of someone who submitted their life to the laws of God, the direction, the guidebook that teaches us the way to go. Paul knew as it goes on to say later that their time of enlightment would come in the future.
Well I want to close with Isaiah 25. Here the prophet Isaiah was inspired by God to speak of the time of enlightment in the future and especially the millennium kingdom of God. Let's read verse 1.
Isaiah 25:1 O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.
Let's drop down to verse 6. He talks about what's going to happen in the future and this is talking about the coming kingdom.
Verse 6: And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people, a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, (Probably talking about the marriage, wedding feast when Christ comes back) of fat things full of marrow, of well refined wines on the lees.
Verse 7: And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, (Christ will destroy that veil, that blindness, spiritual blindness will be removed) and the veil that is spread over all nations.
Verse 8: He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.
Verse 9: And it will be said in that day: "Behold, this is our God (The true God) we have waited for Him and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
So it's speaking of a time in the future when that blindness will be removed and the deception that Satan has bought on this whole earth will be taken away as well. In the meantime, Christ tells us to beware and keep close to Christ, to God and keep our noses in His work.