Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Discernment

You are here

Discernment

Downloads
MP3 Audio (22.1 MB)

Downloads

Discernment

MP3 Audio (22.1 MB)
×

Do you have discernment? Can you tell the difference between a counterfeit and the real thing? Between truth and heresy? As Christians we must all exercise the gift of discernment to be a part of God's Kingdom.

Transcript

[Donald Ward] The title today of the sermon is one word, Discernment. Discernment. Would you say that you have the gift of discernment? Let's turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, and verse 10, and you will see here that discernment is one of the gifts of the Spirit. But even though you may not have this gift, per se, in abundance through the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way, you still must have discernment if you are going to make it into God's Kingdom. And after we read this we are going to talk more about the definition of discernment. But in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 10, we are here listing the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

1 Corinthians 12:10 1 Corinthians 12:10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
American King James Version×
...to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits.

The apostle John writes in 1 John, chapter 4…well, it's all the way…if you start in chapter 4, verses 1 through 6 – but specifically verse 4 – it says:

1 John 4:4 1 John 4:4You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
American King James Version×
try the spirits to see whether they be of God.

We are living in a time in which evil spirits are walking the face of the earth, of course, under the direction of Satan, the devil. It seems that the hedge rows have been broken down. The devil is alive and well on planet earth seeking whom he may devour. And so, you have to be on guard with regard to the spirits.

It seems that the spirits – evil spirits in particular – are more intelligent than they used to be – more cunning, more deceitful, and in many ways more difficult to discern. So this says:

1 Corinthians 12:10 1 Corinthians 12:10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
American King James Version×
another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues to another the interpretation of tongues.

So what is discernment? Discernment has to do with the ability to distinguish between good and evil. Now you can, obviously, look at the commandments, and read the Ten Commandments, and it will say: Thou shalt not…. And perhaps you can quote all ten of the Ten Commandments, but I would place discernment even above that – especially as a gift of the Spirit – that you have some kind of ability to detect whether or not a person is of God. And it's not any mystical kind of thing. It's just you understand, through many cues, with regard to where a person is coming from. We hear the expression oftentimes, “Well, he's a good judge of character,” or “He's a bad judge of character,” but in the broadest sense, discernment has to do with distinguishing good from evil.

Another way to define discernment is the ability to tell the difference between the counterfeit and the real thing. Satan is the master counterfeiter. He is the greatest counterfeiter in the world.

Look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 11 – forward a few pages – with regard to counterfeiting. There are people in various areas who are given the task to study whether or not money is counterfeit. Of course they have machines today that they can use to determine if money is counterfeit money. You might notice, oftentimes, when you give a twenty-dollar bill, that the clerk there might have a little marker and mark on it. There is a certain color that might come up whereby they can identify.  But, there are people who are specially trained to catch counterfeiters. And what they do…they don't look at counterfeit money. They just look at the real thing. The real thing is always different. The real thing is different. There is a special kind of paper. There is a special kind of treatment. There is a special kind of ink. There is a special kind of marks. And it just goes on and on with regard to how the real thing is different from the counterfeit. So they don't study counterfeit money, they study the real thing so they can identify it. They can discern what is real and what is not real. In 2 Corinthians 11:14 2 Corinthians 11:14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
American King James Version×
:

2 Corinthians 11:14 2 Corinthians 11:14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
American King James Version×
And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. So one thing about Satan is that he generally appears as one who is your friend, one who will help you. He is an angel of light – and more about that as we go on. So, he is a great counterfeiter. Of course, Christianity has been counterfeiting and we've heard a lot about that – might hear more.

In Revelation 12, verse 9 – a scripture that, perhaps, we are all familiar with:

Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan which deceives – or, who is deceiving – the whole world, he was cast out into the earth and his angels – the demons – were cast out with him.

So we're living in perilous times. One thing about the great counterfeiter is he seldom launches a frontal attack. He seldom launches a just…you know immediately that it is Satan or one of the demons. Sometimes that is the case, but very often, he poses as an angel of light – is very subtle. You look at Genesis 3:1 Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
American King James Version×
– we’ll read Genesis 3:1 Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
American King James Version×
with regard to subtlety and deceit.

Genesis 3:1 Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
American King James Version×
Now the serpent was more subtle – more cunning, more deceitful, more seductive – than any beast of the field, which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, “Yea, hath God said you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” So Satan is likened unto a serpent in the Bible – a slithering snake – a slithering snake who slyly tries to make inroads into your mind and thought processes.

Another way to define discernment is the ability to tell the difference between the truth and heresy. And that's one of the great challenges that is before us. I often time wonder and I hearken back to the late '80's and the early '90's – the great heresy that came into the Church of God. How on earth could people who had been in the church – some ordained as ministers, various elders, deacons and then thousands of people – could so easily give up what they had initially paid a great price for to be there. To tell the difference between truth and heresies. I think, in a lot of cases, they knew the difference. But it doesn't make sense that some man could say, “Okay, it's okay to do this, that, or the other,” and I would gleely accept that and go do it. Why? What happens in a person's mind that will allow them – cause them – to do that? It's like, “I'm just looking for an excuse.” If you're just looking for an excuse, why would you stay with it at all at any time?

So, another way to define discernment: the ability to tell the difference between the truth and heresy. Satan is the original and greatest heretic of all times. He led – and is leading – one third of the angels, or demons, in rebellion against God. Of course, he led a great rebellion, as recorded in Isaiah 14, trying to take over the throne of God. Satan poses as your friend. You know: “I'll really help you.” He poses as a liberator: “I'm here to set you free.”

Let's go back to Genesis, chapter 3 – Satan's attack on Eve in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3, Satan starts off – we've read this last part of this first verse:
Genesis 3:1 Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
American King James Version×
-
…and he said unto the woman, “Yea….” – see, one of his great strategies is to ask a cunning – what he thinks it's a cunning – question to sow a seed of doubt – “Yea, has God said” - you know, has God told you this? – “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” I mean, “Did He tell you that?” And the woman said unto the serpent,”We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Of course, that is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – deciding for yourself what is good and what is evil. So, it's an attack, really, on God and it's also an attack on the notion that God has your best interests at heart. It is trying to get a person to doubt God. And as soon as Eve says, “We can eat of every tree except that one in the middle of the garden,” you look at verse 4: And the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. You shall not surely die.

I mean, are you going to believe God? Of course, he wanted to keep her away from the tree of life. He wanted her to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So he, first of all, attacks, in essence, the tree of life, asking Eve if God had said that they could eat of every tree of the garden. In other words, “Are you truly free? Can you just eat of every tree or has God placed some kind of restraints on you? I mean, what is He trying to do to you?” Eve says: We can eat of every tree of the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for God has said the day you eat of that tree, you shall surely die. And Satan tells Eve the greatest lie of all times. “You shall not surely die.” And we've spent considerable time, in a recent sermon, talking about the great lie – the immortality of the soul lie. And so, Satan wants you to believe that you have eternal life abiding in you regardless, and the religious world tries to get you to embrace whatever philosophy or ideology – tenets of belief – that they have to “save your soul.”

The bottom line that I'm getting to, initially, is, we are involved in spiritual warfare and are you discerning that? We are involved in spiritual warfare and we have been drafted – notice the word drafted – into God's great army – His great spiritual army. Do we recognize that we are in that warfare – in that battle – the battle of the ages – spiritual warfare? We are not volunteers. We have been called out of this world to represent God and Christ as their ambassadors.

Look at John 15, verse 16. John 15, verse 16 tells you very clearly – I'm reading John 15:16 John 15:16You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
American King James Version×
now:

John 15:16 John 15:16You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
American King James Version×
You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name He may give it to you. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.

John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×
says:

John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×
No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him.

So you have been drafted into God's great spiritual army. We have been called out of this world to fight the battle of the ages. It is spiritual warfare. In warfare, the enemy must be clearly identified. Every nation has what they call its intelligence service. It is often just referred to as Intel. What does Intel say? What does the intelligence service say? The US has the CIA. Israel has the Mossad. Russia has the KGB – or some say that they did away with it. I read an article recently that they are reviving – that Putin is reviving – the KGB. And Britain has their version of the CIA, and so do other nations. The purpose of the Intelligence Service is to identify the enemy – gather as much information as possible about the enemy's location, strategies, movement, weapons, and the list goes on and on, It's just learn everything you can learn about the enemy, so that we’ll be able to more “intelligently” (in quotes) prepare strategies to combat  the enemy. Well, God's Spirit and God's word provides us with the Intel needed to defeat the enemy on every front so that we will have the discernment – so we can discern between good and evil – so that we will be able to distinguish between truth and heresy.

So God's word and Spirit provides you with the means to discern the enemy's tactics. Remember that Satan is more cunning than any beast of the field. Remember, Satan poses as an angel of light. Remember, Satan poses as your friend and great liberator.

So do we understand the depth, to the depth of our being, Satan's goal? His ultimate goal and strategy is to destroy you. Look at 1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×
. How is it that Satan can dress up this world with its glamour and glitz, so called, and sell death? – greatest salesman on the planet, because he appeals to the baser nature of man – those three things identified in 1 John, chapter 3 – that he appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In 1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×
:

1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×
Be sober – which means, be watchful – not sober, in the sense of not being drunk – but if you're drunk, you can't be watchful. Be watchful – be vigilant, be on guard – because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour. He wants you. He wants to destroy you. And he’ll use every possible means at his disposal to do so. And of course, the two main peoples that he wants to get at, of course, would be physical Israel – to whom the promises were given – but more importantly, spiritual Israel – the Israel of God – because it is the Israel of God that has been given the commission to be the watchman to expose Satan and his tactics to the world. And sometimes you wonder, do we really understand what we've been called to? Do we understand that we will never be accepted by this world? So do we understand, to the depth of our being, Satan's ultimate goal, his ultimate strategy, is to destroy you?

So we're talking about life or death matter here. We're talking about eternal life or eternal death. But if it really gets down to it, everything is reduced to a final choice. You have two choices: eternal life or eternal death.

This battle dates back into eternity when Satan first rebelled against God and deceived one-third of the angels, who have now become demons, into following him. The battle was raging in the first century. Go to Jude. Jude, forward a few pages, as one chapter. In Jude, the battle was raging in the first century. Jude probably wrote somewhere in the 90's AD, a few years after the New Covenant church was founded. We often say the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost 31 AD. So, about 60 years after the church was founded – circa 60 years – Jude was already concerned about this. Jude was the brother of Jesus Christ. He doesn't say this here in the first verse. He says, “Jude, the brother of James.”Of course we know James was the brother of Christ. Jude was the brother of Christ. So:

Jude :1-3 – Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father. Who sanctifies him? Those who are sanctified? They are called, they are chose, they are drafted into. …and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints. Only 60 years after the church was founded, Jude was writing this: Earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered!

Satan is always there. Satan was in the Garden of Eden after humankind was created. Satan, at every turn, tried to subvert the plan and purpose of God. The evil was so great in the pre-flood world that God had to, in essence, start over again. Only eight souls were saved – Noah, his wife, three sons, and their wives. That is eight. And then, the age of the patriarchs, and the various battles that they went through. And then, calling out of Israel – Israel – Jacob – twelve sons. Jacob's name changed to Israel. Twelve sons – twelve tribes – becomes the nation of Israel. And Satan continually tried to destroy Israel. Do you think that Satan is not trying to destroy you and the Church of God? Well, if you think that he's not, then you better wake up.

V3-4 – Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness. So the key point in Jude's message is, that they have turned the grace of God – His divine favor – into lasciviousness, and as a result, they are denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

So what is lasciviousness? It means unbridled lust; excess licentiousness – and licentiousness comes from the word license, and it means just license to sin – wantonness; outrageousness; shamelessness. And we see it in abundance displayed continually before our faces today. So in summary it just simply means license to sin.

When the Christianity of the day is reduced to its most basic tenets – that is, its most basic teaching, it is a form of lasciviousness – that is you only have to believe in Jesus and all will be well with your soul. Obviously, you do not have a soul. You are a soul. It is life potential. This teaching, and those who believe it and embrace it, are in fact denying God and Jesus Christ. It makes God into the minister of sin.

Now look at Galatians. You're going to hear more and more from the religious world…the religious world will continually come forth with grace, grace, grace. And it is by the grace of God that I stand here today – divine favor. You know, the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 – I think it's verse 8 – I am what I am by the grace of God – His divine favor. But, His Divine favor does not give us license to sin. And they go about quoting “by grace are you saved,” but oftentimes, not quote the whole thing. It says: by grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God. What is the gift of God? Eternal life. Faith is believing God and doing what He says. In Galatians 2, verse 16:

Galatians 2:16 Galatians 2:16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
American King James Version×
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. So this continual thing of just believe in Jesus Christ, just believe in Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. And of course, another tenet teaching is that of eternal salvation – that once saved, always saved. And if you say, “Well, what about brother so and so? They're out there…he's getting drunk every night and he beats his wife.” “Well, he was never saved in the first place. If he had been saved in the first place, he wouldn't be doing that.” And then sometimes, brother so and so will have a time of confession and be reinstated.

I had a great uncle who would go – he was a binge drinker and drunkard – and he would get drunk every so often. Finally, they put him out of the church. And then one Sunday afternoon, they had the restoration kind of service, where he came and confessed his sins, and he was reinstated. Of course, I don't know if he ever really changed or not.

V-17 – But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. See, Christ is not the minister of the sin, therefore you have to, as you heard in the sermonette, you have to repent. See metanoein is compound word. Meta means after, and noein is from gnosi or knowledge. After knowledge, then what? After you are convicted, after you know that this is the truth, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to repent and turn to God, as was read from Acts 26, verse 20, I think it was? Or are you going to continue to go your own way? So verse 18:

V-18 – For if I build the things again which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. So it makes it abundantly clear that yes, you are justified by faith. There is no amount of law – even keeping the Ten Commandments – that will justify you. See, the wages of sin is death. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, therefore you must have a Savior, or Redeemer, to buy you back. And Jesus Christ bought us back from sin and death. But that is not license to sin. You say, “What does that have to do with us today?” Well, when so many people left the church in 1995, it had just about everything to do with it – in that a couple of sermons were given in different places, where the person in charge, in essence, said, “You can play golf on the Sabbath. You can eat leavened bread during the Days of Unleavened Bread.” As if he is what? In the place of God? He is now the great lawgiver? “Oh, he said that. Now I can do it.” What does God say? That's what we want to be attuned to. What does God say?

So this teaching, and those who believe it – that is, just believe – they are, in fact, denying God and Jesus Christ. And it makes Christ the minister of sin. God the Father is the lawgiver. The wages of sin is death. But God, in His mercy, provided a Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who died that we might be bought back – brought back from sin and death. It’s bought, as well – paid the price. But God the Father and Christ commands us to love them, and to love one another, as He gave commandment.

Now look at John 15. Do we have the discernment? You know, the evangelical world has tried, in recent times, just about every gimmick you want to name – mainly starting in California – drive-in services. You don't have to get out of your car on Sunday morning, you just drive in. And some even rented these drive-in theaters that were popular back in the 40's and 50's. We used to go to the drive-in theater occasionally. You drive in your car, and big screen out there. So we have church services in a drive-in theater – don't have to even get out of your car. Well, that sort of waned. And then they started providing all kind of music, so we have worship service before the main service. So we have two services now. We have the alternative service, and then we have the traditional service. “We have two services for you. We'll fit your needs.” Well that sort of played out. Then, “We're going to offer you a lot of food – burgers and fries and whatever else it is.” So that's not working either. Now in the various opinion polls it goes out – surveys like Barna and Pew – P-E-W. They are now finding out that the millennials – those 30 and under – would rather hear verse by verse exposition of the Bible, than all of this stuff from drive-in theaters to burgers and fries.

In John 15, and verse 9:

John 15:9 John 15:9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love.
American King James Version×
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Continue you in my love. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. So how much did He love us? Well, verse 13 tells you:

V-13 – Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

So I ask you once again, can you discern between good and evil? Can I discern between good and evil? As we have noted, Satan is very subtle, and a master counterfeiter, and a liar. And one of the reasons why we've had so many ups and downs and splits in the Church of God is because we have not discerned between good and evil, at times, based on the word of God. And it was so easy for the devil to subvert people – just through a man. And of course, God allowed it.

See, discernment takes hard work. I've often said, before you are a student, you should be a teacher. See what it's like to be a teacher. Before you are listening to a sermon, you ought to have to give a sermon. You ought to have to prepare a sermon – to see what it's like, and the work that goes into preparing a lesson, if you are a schoolteacher, or the work that goes into preparing a sermon or Bible study – it's hard work – or the work that goes into, let's say, editing an article. But then, when you read you read an article, and/or you're reading the Bible, are you really looking at it? Are you analyzing it? Are you trying to discern what it really means to you? And are you really discerning whether or not it is true? Once again, discernment is hard work. It takes intense prayer, study, and meditation on the word of God. So many people just gloss over things and take things for granted. They have a form of righteousness, but are denying the power thereof – and that “power thereof” is to become new creations in Christ Jesus. It takes hard work. It takes concentration.

Look at Psalm 119. In Psalm 119, and starting in verse 97, the psalmist gives us an idea about it – Psalm 119, verse 97. We sing the song, Oh How I Love I Thy Law.

Psalms 119:97-105 Psalms 119:97-105 [97] O how I love your law! it is my meditation all the day. [98] You through your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies: for they are ever with me. [99] I have more understanding than all my teachers: for your testimonies are my meditation. [100] I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts. [101] I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep your word. [102] I have not departed from your judgments: for you have taught me. [103] How sweet are your words to my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! [104] Through your precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. [105] Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
American King James Version×
Oh how love I your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, have made me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me – that is, Your commandments. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts. You have to study them. You have to learn them. You have to keep them. To whom will He teach knowledge? Those who are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breast – line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You have taught me. How sweet are your words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

See, that's what it takes. You have to do what Paul admonished in the book of Acts – we quote this so often – the Bereans. Let's turn there – to Acts 17. The Bereans were more noble than they in Thessalonica, because they searched the scriptures daily, whether these things be true. See, Paul went to Thessalonica and they literally ran him out of town. He barely escaped with his life. He went down to Berea. Look at verse 10. Well, we'll start in 9 in Acts 17:

Acts 17:9 Acts 17:9And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
American King James Version×
And when they had taken security of Jason and of the others, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea, who coming there went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind. See that's another thing – and it ties in with James 1, verses 19 through 21. In verse 21:

James 1:21 James 1:21Why lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
American King James Version×
…to receive the word with a perfectly teachable heart.

So many people – and younger people – will come to church and they know before they get there. Their mind is made up. They're not going to listen to this. They're not going to have anything to do with this. “I'm just biding my time” – not realizing it is for your life.

Acts 17:11 Acts 17:11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
American King James Version×
…more noble than those in Thessalonica, received the word with all readiness of mind – they had a teachable heart – and searched the scriptures daily whether – searched the scriptures daily whetherthese things be true. Those of you who used to listen to The World Tomorrow on radio, dating back in the 50's, 60's, 70's: “Don't believe me, believe your Bible.” Get the Bible and see if that's what it says.

So God has called us out of this world to be a light to the world, but that doesn't mean we will ever be loved by this world. We are to do good works. Be all things that a good neighbor should be. So, we'll go to the nursing home and we will sing. And we’ll have a food drive and we'll give it to the AgapeHouse. And we’ll hear of the neighbor who needs help. They'll come to our rescue. Our neighbor that lives next door to us – not in the church – oftentimes has pulled me out of the pond – my lawn mower! He even pulled the dog out when I was gone. So we need to be good neighbors. We need to serve. But if you think that that's going to make them love us, in the Christian sense, you're wrong. We are not a civic club, though we should do some of the good works that a civic club might do. “Many will come to Me in that day, and say, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not done many good works in your name?’” – cast out devils and all of that. “And I will say unto them, ‘Depart from me you workers of iniquity, workers of lawlessness. I never knew you. So there is much more to it.

Look at John 3, verse 18. Whereas John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×
– probably everybody could quote: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life – in John 3:18 John 3:18He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
American King James Version×
:

John 3:18 John 3:18He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
American King James Version×
He that believes on Him is not condemned, but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation – the judgment – that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their works were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth comes to the light that the deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought – or they are done – in God.

So you look now at John – I think it's John 12:34 John 12:34The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ stays for ever: and how say you, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
American King James Version×
– I don't have it in my notes. But if I don't, I think we can paraphrase it. I think it's John 12:34 John 12:34The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ stays for ever: and how say you, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
American King James Version×
.

John 12:34 John 12:34The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ stays for ever: and how say you, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
American King James Version×
The people answered Him – this is John 12:34 John 12:34The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ stays for ever: and how say you, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
American King James Version×
. The people answered Him, “You have heard out of the law that Christ abides forever, and how say you the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is the Son of man?” Then Jesus said to them, “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have light, lest darkness comes upon you for he that walks in darkness knows not where he goes. While you have light, believe in the light that you may be the children of light.” These things spoke Jesus and departed, and did hide Himself from them.
In one place Jesus says – maybe it's in John 10:24 John 10:24Then came the Jews round about him, and said to him, How long do you make us to doubt? If you be the Christ, tell us plainly.
American King James Version×
or 34. I'll look at one more place. If it's not there, we'll go on. It's not where I'm looking for it, so we'll go on. The verse I want to paraphrase then is, at one point Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to bring peace, but a sword – and brother against brother, and neighbor against neighbor, and enemies shall be those of your own household.” When I came into the knowledge of the truth and began to accept it, I was not popular in our family. And probably you weren't either. And that goes back to the sermonette – part of the first generation Christians. They wanted no part of it and still do not want any part of it.

If we think that we're going to create an environment in which we are warm and fuzzy, and because of that, people will come and flock to our doors, think again. Think again. Even the evangelicals in the world have tried just about every gimmick you want to name, and they are dying. The churches in the western world are dying. And the Church of God – and Churches of God, if you want to go extend it –  most of them are dying. The congregations are small to begin with and we can hardly maintain even numbers – that is, to replace those who die. In most cases, we cannot.

But look at 1 Peter, chapter 2. People talk about, “Well, it is up to God to call us – or to call them.” And so it is that God calls, but God calls…. See, here’s our scripture of the day: Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God. So, then you have Romans 10:14 Romans 10:14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
American King James Version×
:

Romans 10:14 Romans 10:14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
American King James Version×
How shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach unless he be sent? So the Word of God has to be preached. And it is the Spirit of God and the Word of God that convicts the sinner. It is not drive-in theaters. It is not burgers and fries. It is not having a song service, of an extended nature, before church. We could go on. It is not bingo games. It is the Word of God and the Spirit of God that convicts and has to be preached. And even the millennials – those under 30 – in these polls that are being conducted by Barna and Pew, as we already mentioned – that they are saying, “We want to hear the straight of it. We want to hear the Word of God. We don't want to hear the fluff. Fluff can never save you!

1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×
-10But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a purchased people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. You have to continue reading for the purpose of it. Which in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but have now obtained mercy. In the past, I’ve tied together this from Hosea 1 – that they became Loruhamahnot having obtained mercy – and Loammi – not My people. And the way back is through Jesus Christ, where you become Ammi and Ruhamah – having obtained mercy, now you are My people.

V-11 – Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul – the life potential – wages of sin is death – having your conduct honest among the nations that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. So you do it in spite of, or despite – in spite is a better word than despite – of what they may say or whatever.

You know, we had, at one time, projects around the world in various nations. I visited many of these projects. I'll never forget what we did in Sri Lanka. We carved out an Ambassador College – a mini Ambassador College – on top of a mountain – an old tea plantation – outside of a little town called Newara Eliya in Sri Lanka. You stand up there, you look out and you see all of those…the tea growing on the side of the mountains. It's a beautiful sight – a little river running down through it. They called Sri Lanka the Emerald Isle. It's a beautiful, beautiful place. We had students there teaching Christian living and various courses from the Bible – or Bible related. And eventually, of course, the Church of God – Worldwide – went under. But they continued to try to keep that institution open. And people were selling their inheritances, so they could send their child there one year. See, we never realized what we had when we had Ambassador College – when we had those things for the youth. Oh, some people thought, “Ah, just get rid of that and we'll be doing fine.” No vision! “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And surely, we do not want to perish. So I got a letter years after – we were living out there on Holly Lake – way after Ambassador had closed – where this person wrote me, and said, “Well, do you remember the commencement address that you gave when you came to Sri Lanka – that you can have an Ambassador College anywhere on the face of the Earth, from the frozen tundra to the lush green hills of Sri Lanka?” He said, “We have kept that dream alive, and people are selling their inheritances to send their children here for one year.”

Now the average wage in Sri Lanka was very low – maybe 5, 6 dollars a day – and that's, in some ways, high for some parts of the third world. The person that Mr. Armstrong made the inroads with, his name was Gamini Dissanayake. He was the Secretary of the Interior – one of the leading, I guess you would call him politicians – statesman – in Sri Lanka. He visited the campus in Pasadena, and he hosted us when we were there. He later ran for President, and as is so often the case in Sri Lanka, many presidential candidates are assassinated, and so was he. But one of the things that he told me, he said, “We really don't want your money, per se. We want your knowledge of how to do things, and how to be, and how to carry on life in a way that can be successful.”

So people criticize all kinds of things, being short-sighted, not knowing, not discerning the value thereof. And oftentimes it just falls back to being self-centered – of what he or she wants.

We must rely on our Intel sources and do what it says: be vigilant, wakeful, watchful, rightly divide the word of truth. We must stand in the gap. I've just written an article, to be in the United News after the  Feast, about standing in the gap – being a watchman, crying aloud – spare not! “Lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show My people their sins.” Let's look at that briefly in Ezekiel 22. Of course, Ezekiel was taken captive. He was one of the young ones – you might call, one of the intelligentsia, along with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – taken into captivity into Babylon. And God called him out to be a prophet to take a message to Israel.

Ezekiel 22:23-26 Ezekiel 22:23-26 [23] And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, [24] Son of man, say to her, You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained on in the day of indignation. [25] There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the middle thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the middle thereof. [26] Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
American King James Version×
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man say unto her you are the land that is not cleansed nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like roaring lions ravening the prey. If you have not yet discerned that there are conspiracies in the land, based on all of the happenings that are going on in our government today, you indeed are asleep. You need to wake up. They have devoured souls, they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things. See, profane means to make secular, to make worldly - not spiritual, not holy. They have put no difference – see, they have not made a discernment, and that's where we are today – there is no discernment between that which is good and that which is evil. Is it going to rub off on us? Do we slowly see Satan is more subtle than any beast of the field, and slowly makes inroads so that you compromise, I compromise? …made no difference between the holy and the profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Then it goes on describing the various behaviors of the leadership in the land. Then you get down to verse 30, and it says:

V30 – And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it, but I found none. That must not be spoken of us or written of us – United Church of God, you or I individually. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them, I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath. Their way have I recompensed up their heads, says the Eternal God.

Brethren we have to develop a love affair with the truth and defend it with all of our Intel sources. It requires hard work and diligence. You can take nothing for granted.

Look at Ephesians. We covered Ephesians, I think, in the last sermon, or the sermon before that I gave – the same verses that we're going to read here today – Ephesians, chapter 4, verse:

Ephesians 4:8-16 Ephesians 4:8-16 [8] Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. [9] (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? [10] He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) [11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: [14] That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; [15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: [16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×
Wherefore He said when He ascended up on high – I’m reading Ephesians 4:8 Ephesians 4:8Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.
American King James Version×
He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Satan has been conquered by Jesus Christ. We can conquer Satan and rule over him. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the Earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. And gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying – the building up – of the body of Christ. We want to build up the body of Christ. We want to equip the body of Christ with all the spiritual weapons that we can possibly give to them, so that they are fully prepared that they can fight the good fight of faith.

Till we all come in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine. “Oh we would like to examine some of the counterfeit stuff – I wonder what they are saying over here.” Remember, those who really train to identify counterfeit stuff only look at the real thing. The word of God is the real thing. It's not a counterfeit. It will never change. By the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. God works through men, as we read up there in the preceding verses. Verse 11 – Satan works through men and women, his agents who willingly give themselves over and sometimes, so very often, a lot of people are just deceived and they go along, not really examining. But you need to be speaking the truth in love, grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love – so that we mutually bind up, build up one another. You must not fall into the trap that, because you are tithing, attending church, and serving, that's all there is to it. No, you've got to search the Bible daily whether these things be true. You've got to do as the psalmist did. We read from Psalms 119:97-105 Psalms 119:97-105 [97] O how I love your law! it is my meditation all the day. [98] You through your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies: for they are ever with me. [99] I have more understanding than all my teachers: for your testimonies are my meditation. [100] I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts. [101] I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep your word. [102] I have not departed from your judgments: for you have taught me. [103] How sweet are your words to my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! [104] Through your precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. [105] Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
American King James Version×
Oh how love I your law! It is my meditation all the day.

It's hard work. Like Christ says in Matthew 23, these things, like tithing, attending church, serving, you ought to be doing that, but He says, more importantly, is doing the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy and faith – discerning between good and evil. If you don't, you may be Satan's next victim, because Satan is walking about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

So we're there in Ephesians. Let's close it out now with chapter 6, beginning in verse 10. To a large degree, it nearly always comes back to this – that is, putting on the whole armor. In Ephesians 6, beginning in verse 10:

Ephesians 6:10-12 Ephesians 6:10-12 [10] Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. [12] For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. See, we have been given the word of God and the Spirit of God. We have been given the wherewithal to overcome every obstacle in our way. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities. Obviously, there are men and women who do Satan's bidding. It seems that the whole world has gone mad, but we don't have to follow there. We're admonished to come out of this world. And as we read from 1 Peter, chapter 2, an verse12: …whereas they speak of you as evildoers, may in the day of their visitation….

You know, I would really like to be able to be there when Gamini Dissanayake and his wife come up in the resurrection – to the resurrection of judgment – I assume they are Buddhist, or died as Buddhists – and to be able to work with them. I think they'll remember. And you could name, and I could name, a lot of others. I would like to be there for my mother and daddy. I know my wife would like to be there for her mother and daddy when they're resurrected. Whereas they speak of you as evildoers now, they will be more ready to accept in the world to come if we do the right thing. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore – in view of all of that –  take unto you the whole armor of God – not part of it – all of it – the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand – or stand – in the evil day, and having done all to stand, stand therefore – that's the way it should be punctuated. Of course, punctuation and verse division is of man, but that's a better way to punctuate it.

Having done all to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand, stand therefore, having your loins gird about with truth. “Your word is truth. Sanctify them through Your word. Your word is truth.” See, one of the great gifts of discernment is, can you discern between heresy and truth? Gird about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness – Psalm 119, verse 172 – “All Your commandments are righteousness.” Righteousness has to do with believing God, doing what He says, living in faith. “If any man says he loves Me, he will keep My commandments.” And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You're ready. “Go ye therefore into all the world….” You're ready to take the truth to the rest of the world.

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of Satan. No matter what Satan tries to lodge into your mind, if you have the shield of faith, if you know and know that you know, they'll fall harmlessly at your feet. You will be more than overcomers. But your faith will be tried over and over again. And take the helmet of salvation. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 1 Thessalonians 5:8But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
American King James Version×
, the helmet of salvation is defined as hope. It says: “…the helmet of salvation, which is hope.” Hope is something that permeates the mind. You have hope in being in the Kingdom of God. You have the big picture burning brightly in your mind – the goal in view. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

Brethren, if we do this we will have discernment. It takes work. And you can't just go through a form week after week. It is that time between –the time between this service and the next service. What are we going to do with that time? That's the time where the hard work really has to take place. The Sabbath day is a day of refreshment – a day to receive instruction, a day to be, hopefully, motivating, a day to learn – maybe to gain more insight and understanding – but then, it's in your court. What do you do with it? Those in Berea were more noble than they in Thessalonica, because they searched the scriptures daily, whether these things be true. I hope that is said of you and I.