Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees

Jesus had a strained relationship with the religious leaders and authorities of His time. The following quote shows one of the reasons (see bold type) why He saw it necessary to warn His disciples about them.

… the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him

In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”. (Luke 11-12)

Is His warning equally valid today? If so who do we need to beware of? Who would be the present day Pharisees and Sadducees? What individuals or groups reflect the attitudes and behaviors of those bible-era opponents of Jesus and His gospel? What did the historical Pharisees and Sadducess do in their desire to oppose Jesus?

There is one example in the quote above “seeking to catch Him in something He might say“. They scrutinised everything (not with integrity like the later Bereans, who wanted to find whether Paul’s preaching was valid or not) but with the intention of finding fault with anything Jesus was saying. They just wanted ammunition with which they could accuse and condemn Him. Eventually, when they found none, they chose to take His words out of context and give them unintended meaning.

Another trait was their unwillingness to recognise and accept the miracles that Jesus did. Instead, again, they tried to find fault because Jesus didn’t do things according to their own traditions and teachings. They even attributed His works to the power of Satan. When everything else failed they resorted to outright lies.

Eventually they condemned Him because He told them the truth – truth they refused to accept.

I suggest that any present day equivalent of those religious leaders would demonstrate the same attitudes and same tactics as their historical counterparts and similarly deceive their undiscerningly devoted followers, steering them away from the the opportunity to enter and experience the fullness of the gospel and the ministry life that Jesus came to give those who genuinely follow Him.

“Woe to you … For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” (Luke 11)

Beware of those who deny the power of God and its continuation in the present day.

Beware of those whose major “ministry” is finding fault with what others are saying and doing.

Beware of believing accusations made against others without checking the truthfulness of those accusations.

Beware of those who CLAIM to honour the word of God, and yet see the need to dismiss or reinterpret those parts of it that don’t suit their particular theological agenda and traditions.

Jesus answered [the Sadducees] and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.
(Matt 22)

Beware of that same kind of blindness.

An Exhortation for All Followers of Jesus in Troubled Times

The following is from an Asia Harvest newsletter. A link for the full article is included at the end of the excerpt.

World events are only going to get progressively worse as the world spirals toward anarchy, before the great and glorious return of Jesus. He will come to bring judgment and to clean up the mess we have made: “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).

How can a Christian strengthen their heart and mind to survive the dark times ahead? Our answer is one that you have probably never heard from a Christian organization before: do NOT ‘read’ God’s Word! People read newspapers, novels and webpages, but the Bible instructs us not to merely “read” the Word but to “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

It’s not enough just to have a few favorite Bible verses, or to pick and choose bits of Scripture that make us feel good. To be healthy, a person needs to enjoy the full banquet of God’s Word, and not just grab a few snacks here and there. Throughout the Scriptures, we find the people God used greatly were those who diligently studied His Word, for example: “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

To survive the end times, we must study whole books of the Bible, and invest time each day in getting to know the Lord through His Word and in prayer. It’s time to get serious, or our faith will not survive the storms ahead. God’s Word will give us discernment and wisdom, enabling us to navigate through this life

We not only need wisdom as we live in this world, but we also must discern truth from error in today’s Church. Each day, thousands of pulpits and the airwaves are spewing out a false gospel that has stripped the Christian message of key words like repentance and holiness, and crucial teachings of the Lord Jesus, such as: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)..

https://asiaharvest.org/an-exhortation-for-all-followers-of-jesus-in-troubled-times/

I’d also refer you to my article here: https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/dont-study-the-bible/ which according the title may seem like a contradiction of the above, but just as context is vital in our understanding of scripture, context should be taken into account with this article. Read the whole article and not just the title.

INDIA: Pandemic Brings Unprecedented Growth

From Open Doors.

As India begins to ease restrictions on the world’s largest lockdown, millions of Christians remain side-lined as many local businesses and churches stay closed. Yet, the Indian church is rejoicing as more come to know Christ during the pandemic.

Open Doors local partner, Heena* says that Christians are continuing to struggle without stable income or fellowship with other believers. “People here do not even have money to buy food for their families. It’s really sad. It’s not just one story or four or five such stories, but the story of almost every family.

“Many people depend on small businesses or work as day laborers or small church services. All of them are affected and all of them don’t have food.”

Despite these hardships, God is using this pandemic to bring revival to His church in India. As Open Doors and local partners deliver emergency relief to the vulnerable and as churches broadcast their services online, the Indian church is seeing unprecedented growth.

“I believe the pandemic lockdown is being used by God to use His church in a new way,” one local pastor said.

See here for full source article.

Beware of Becoming What You Intend to Rebuke

 

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matt 7: 15-20) NIV

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5: 19-26) NIV

 

Where is the ferocity being displayed in this video?

Who is making an unfulfilled “prophetic” claim of judgement? (Note: Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead instantly)

How (and by whom) are the fruit of the Spirit being displayed, compared to the “acts of the flesh”?

Note, the video seems to have been proudly posted by the rebuker or his followers.

Does “Brother Terry” never consider how different things could be if the time and effort spent picketing events and rebuking others (something NOT commanded by the Lord) was put into something the Lord actually DID command – such as preaching the gospel and healing the sick, delivering those under demonic influence?

Beware of becoming what you intend to rebuke.

Fired for quoting the Bible

Australian Rugby professional, Israel Folau has had his multiple million dollar contract ended because of alleged “homophobic” comments made on his private social media account.

Note, those comments were effectively a quote from scripture – and they don’t single out homosexuals, but equally specifies several types of sinners who need to turn to Jesus.

Why the allegations of “homophobia” and not similar complaints about the condemnation of drunkards, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves atheists and idolaters?

 

 

View this post on Instagram

Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on

 

Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus (2)

fleeing finding.jpgIn my previous post about this book I mentioned my initial disappointment when it didn’t seem to fulfill my expectations regarding testimonies of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus.

Then I recognised that “finding Jesus” wasn’t only applicable to new converts fleeing their old religious affiliation, but it also applied to professing followers of Jesus who would find a deeper relationship with Him when they faced unimaginable adversity.

My initial expectation was eventually fulfilled, but the hoped for evidence of Muslims finding the truth of Christ was often closely related to existing believers finding that deeper faith, as the security of their past was stripped away.

“For me as a believer, life is even better now than it was before ISIS. There are new opportunities and open doors to speak out loud about Jesus, to talk about Islam. A lot of Muslims are questioning who is God, and you only need to look on the Internet to see so many Muslims saying ‘if that’s God, I don’t want Him anymore.'”

Through the upheaval caused by the brutaility of ISIS and the resulting flight of those in their path, previously insular groups were brought together with a common plight.

…one of the themes that has come out of this displacement is the fact that Christian, Muslim, and Yazidi communities are no longer living in enclaves, isolated from the villages around them.

The brutality of ISIS forced everone to leave their homes and engage with people they had previously avoided…

How easy it is to sit here in the “west” and choose to read a book about Muslims coming to faith in Jesus in the Middle East, being turned against the religion of their birth by the evils they see in ISIS and other extremist groups who claim to embody Islam; as well as the stories of Muslims being pointed towards the truth of Jesus through dreams and visions.
Testimonies like that are encouraging, a joy to read and hear.

What isn’t so easy is taking the time to consider the other part of the story – the part about perecuted Christians, about followers of Jesus losing everything they had, being driven from their homes by the very same ISIS.

And yet those Christians, stripped of material security, play an important part in the aspect of the story we find so encouraging. If we REALLY consider the changes experienced by those believers, and if we considered their experience in light of scripture, and what Jesus said about those who follow Him; we ought to see how closely they fit the biblical descriptions, and how we in the west don’t.

If we could take a step back and dispationately compare the two vastly different Christian experiences which would we see as the most authentically and effectively lived, Christian witness?

“I look at the west and wonder if Satan uses our affluence to limit the growth of the church. I wonder whether his tactic for keeping God out is by providing comfort, by giving so many riches and so much wealth that people feel like they don’t need God.”

“When real persecution happens, you’re not afforded that. You have to call on God multiple times a day. Can you imagine what it does to your faith when you don’t know where the next meal is coming from or if you’re an Iraqi that’s lost a million dollars and two homes and a couple of cars and are sitting in a tent freezing in winter? Maybe that’ll be the first time in your life that you find yourself really calling out to God.”

Most of us here in the west won’t face the loss and tragedy being experienced elswehere, where  evil forces like ISIS, or their inevitable successors, express hatred through killing, stealing and destroying on a massive scale.

But we ought to meditate on the question of our own response if we did have to experience what so many have already faced elsewhere in the world. Would we be able (or willing) to trust God if those things we’d considered to be His blessings were torn away from us?

One thing that makes me think we in the prosperous West might find it difficult to summon up that willingness is the evidence of how even Western “believers” have responded to the plight of those who have been through the experience of losing home, possessions and family through the violence of others elsewhere in the world.

As they flee from the violence, seeking sanctuary in the west, they have ben rejected, shut out, pushed away in fear. Our fear. Fear of the disruption and cost that so many needy refugees would create to our comforatble, established lives.

Towards the end of the book the authors quote an interview related to their topic.

“I think there’s a lot of Christians who, rather than go and fulfill the Great Commission, they said, ‘I think I’ll stay home and pray for the Great Commission.’ And God said, ‘I want you to be part of it, so I’m going to bring the Great Commission to you'”

David Garrison

What has been the reaction of many when God brings the Great Commission to us?

th

Most Dangerous Place to Follow Jesus

North Korea: The Hardest Place To Follow Jesus.
This has been the most dangerous country to be a Christian for 17 years. North Koreans are forced to worship the Kim dynasty, and nothing else. Anyone with links to Christianity is arrested, tortured and even killed. Despite this, the underground church is growing, with an estimated 300,000 Christians in North Korea.

 

https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/world-watch-list/north-korea

Lovers of Darkness Rather Than Light

Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven.

 

Australian Rugby player Israel Folau has been going through a sustained media campaign* against him for several weeks now, because of his public expressions of faith in Jesus. It started when he

“…was asked a question by somebody about what God’s plan is for gay people. My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings….”

 

Since then he’s been attacked from all quarters in the media and by a media fuelled public.

The situation worsened when he dared to post a video of a David Wilkerson sermon on his twitter account, described in the media as “an anti-gay video”.

 

 

The onslaught continued today:

“It appears the furore surrounding Israel Folau’s religious views is only fuelling him to share more of his controversial thoughts…”

https://au.sports.yahoo.com/door-closing-izzy-tweets-religion-035521779.html

 
Because of his expressions of his faith, there have been calls for Folau’s career to be ended as well as the constant negative media attention.

 

Also in the news today:

 

Poll shows nearly 80% of respondents are against religious schools’ exemptions on LGBTI anti-discrimination law

Four out of five Australians oppose the right of religious schools to hire and fire staff or expel students because of their sexuality, a new poll has found.

The YouGov Galaxy poll, conducted for the LGBTI rights lobby group Just Equal, found that 82% opposed the existing discrimination law exemptions that allowed expulsion of gay and lesbian students and 79% opposed the schools’ ability to fire teachers if they married a person of the same sex.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/14/most-australians-oppose-religious-schools-right-to-fire-staff-based-on-sexuality

 

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

________________________________________

*Examples here: https://wwos.nine.com.au/2018/05/12/11/39/israel-folau-met-by-protester-in-new-zealand

http://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/rugby-star-israel-folau-refuses-to-be-silenced/news-story/63d2028462cf010b950b8b52769639ab

https://www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/super-rugby/karl-stefanovic-lashes-israel-folau-over-his-homophobic-remarks/news-story/bb88bd8c1812a27dc362219ecccf8719?nk=0ef75b84262d5b76f8f187db8d66b93e-1526272807

https://au.sports.yahoo.com/door-closing-izzy-tweets-religion-035521779.html