David Pawson: Letter to the Church at Pergamon

 

note the armchair-like shape of the altar.

 

The teaching in the video below, about the letter to the church at Pergamon (Rev 2), came up in the comments section of an earlier thread, regarding its reference to the altar of Pergamon (now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin). Pawson associates that altar with the throne of Satan, mentioned in Jesus’s letter

 

 
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,

‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’

 

Luck. Blessing. Desire for truth

In a discussion with a friend about the state of the world, he said how lucky we were to have Jesus in our lives. I agree totally, also realising how difficult it can be to express that sentiment without using problematic terms like “luck”.

It could be avoided by replacing it with “blessed”, but I’ve also come to see that word overused and misapplied, to the extent that it dilutes understanding of what GENUINE blessings are.

Previously I’ve commented on the way that in affluent societies, so many of the things we designate as “blessings” may very well be thorns and weeds that choke the fruitfulness of God’s word out of our lives (see Mark 4) Our idea of blessing may differ significantly from God’s.

The idea of “luck” suggests chance or even worse, chance combined with “predestination” – as if we were fortunate to have our names pulled out of God’s salvation lottery hat, a very simplistic view that far too many people (like Calvinists) believe (though they probably wouldn’t like the way I described that belief).

It seems clear that there ARE so many seemingly “lucky”, random aspects to salvation and our response to it, including:

1) The religious culture of where we are born and raised.

2) Our parents’ attitudes to that religious culture.

3) The non-parental influences we face as we grow up

4) Personal experience and how we respond to it.

5) The availability of the gospel.

6) Our “mood” if and when we hear the gospel.

7) The quality of teaching and encouragement we receive after responding to the gospel.

It seems like some people can be more advantaged than others, to the extent that it doesn’t seem fair for those who don’t have the advantage of free access to the gospel.

In the past I’ve come across people who ask about the fate of those in other countries where Christianity is suppressed or absent in some other way; where conditions like those mentioned above are rarely favourable. That scenario is raised in a way that questions the validity of the gospel, because surely there’s no justice in someone’s eternal fate being dependant on their response to a message they never hear.

Some time ago I came to the conclusion that the key is a person’s desire for truth and that God WILL get the gospel to ANYONE who has a genuine desire for truth wherever they are, no matter what obstacles there seems to be.

And maybe there’s another perspective to consider. Should we recognise the “disadvantage” of having too much access to the gospel where the gospel seems to be freely available to all?
In that latter scenario it can be too easy for compromised messages and diluted gospels that aren’t really THE gospel to be adopted.

But again I see it is all dependent on a person’s genuine desire for the truth. It is that desire, and the integrity of an individual’s search for truth that makes the difference and ultimately protects him/her from the risk of false religions of all kinds, including secular/political alternatives such as nationalism.

Golgotha Reworked

A major local exhibition is approaching, but I’ve done very little painting over the last year or two.  I missed the same event in 2016, but want to participate this year.

My hope of completing one or two new works has been undermined by the weather. It’s been too hot to work in my garage studio. This month we’ve only had one day below 30 degrees C, and throughout January it was the same. Most days we’ve been in the high 30s, with a few over 40 degrees C. Not the best conditions for painting in an uncooled garage.

As a compromise I’ve looked back at some of my earlier paintings and have decided to rework one of the larger canvases. What started out as this:

golgotha

 

Now looks more like this:

 

 

golgotha

The difference in the crucifixion image is an illusion caused by different lighting conditions when the two photos were taken.

No change was made to that part of the painting.

More work needs to be done, but at this stage I’m considering two or three different ideas. Entries for the exhibition need to be in by 3rd March, so I have a little over two weeks to finish my changes.

 

Believing God?

I suspect the Lord tailors his teaching to our different capabilities of learning. But while the way we learn may be unique to each individual, the overall intent of the lesson will always be the same: an understanding that conforms to God’s nature and purposes that can be confirmed through a proper addressing of scripture.
But the intended outcome is never knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but deeper relationship with Him and others.

Throughout my Christian life I’ve learned a lot through experience, making a lot of mistakes and taking many wrong paths before stepping back to consider why things went so unexpectedly wrong.
Perhaps out of that, the most important thing the Lord has opened up to me is the need to test everything. What Paul wrote with regard to prophecy can be applied to all areas of revelation and learning: “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil”.
It’s very easy to be attracted by something “good” and then fall for something “evil” – IF we bypass the testing.

I think back around 30 years ago when I was hooked by word of faith teaching. The thing that caught my attention and drew me in was a LEGITIMATE understanding of faith.
A group of friends were bombarding me with arguments recommending the Copelands’ WOF teachings, and in the process (despite their arguments rather than because of them – and I wish I’d realised that at the time) I finally understood something about faith that took it out of the realm of wishful thinking and to a place of greater certainty.

I suddenly saw that Christian faith was simply believing God and His word even when sensory and intellectual evidence seemed to be “proving” something else.

That was the good and if I’d stopped there and studied the Word for myself I might have avoided the bad: a lot of false teaching that took me in a wrong direction. But instead of searching the scriptures for myself to develop my understanding, I searched the Copeland’s teachings and relied on the particular spin THEY placed on the “faith message”.

What I find disappointing now is that I could see that a large portion of their teaching was (at best) questionable, but I pushed my reservations aside.

I can now recognise that by taking that path I wasn’t really believing God and His word, (as per that revealed understanding of faith) I was “believing” what Copeland told me ABOUT God’s word, without actually checking it out for myself to see if he was addressing it correctly, according to its intended context.

I said above that Christian faith is simply believing God and His word. Yes it IS as simple as that. But what is not necessarily so simple is being sure that it is REALLY God and His Word that we are believing. It is extremely easy to pick up wrong ideas that create a distorted understanding of God, and that is where so much of WOF teaching is in error. Its view of God and his purposes are created out of selected parts of scripture, usually applied with no consideration for the intended context of those scripture portions.

It is essential that we develop an overview – an understanding of the broad scope of scripture, and not be satisfied with bits and pieces that seem to support what we want to believe.

Are You In The Market For Deception?

There are a lot of warnings in scripture about false teachers, false prophets and false Christ’s that would all be totally redundant if there wasn’t a need to alert people to the possibility of being turned from the truth to accept something contrary to the truth.

But not only are there warnings about deceivers, there are warnings about people who follow them. In Jeremiah a commentary on false prophets also turns an accusing finger upon those who welcome their messages: “My people love to have it so”; and Paul writes about people who collect teachers to appeal to their itching ears.

Without a “market” for deception, no deceiver would survive.

It seems today there is little difference between attitudes to theological ideas and the consumption of news. Does it really matter if the source is reliable as long as its message supports a desired stance?

Often it takes only a very cursory (honest) look into a teaching or news source to assess its truthfulness, but unless there is a genuine desire FOR the truth, it is easy to dismiss clear evidence if it contradicts what we WANT to believe.

Likewise it’s easy to ignore serious flaws in a teaching or news source if it’s PROMOTING what we want to believe.

It’s sad fact that many (even professing Christians) really have no love of the truth, preferring to mould a more appealing (to them) version of “reality” to live by.

All Things Work Towards God’s Agenda

The following is a slightly amended version of an email I recently sent to my American friend and brother, Steve.

* * *

 

I think one of my most important realisations came out of my reading into WWI:  that nothing happens in isolation from God’s purposes.

All of history has been working towards the future that God has planned. It’s not always clearly seen – but God works through man’s actions, even man’s evils, to bring about His purposes.

Unlike Calvinists I don’t believe God plans, causes or intends man’s evils to take place, but I believe He “deflects” or manoeuvres the outcomes of man’s evil actions into a direction that furthers His agenda and takes us towards His ultimate purpose: A new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells and all unrighteousness is excluded.

Nothing, whether it is history, politics, art, or any other aspect of human life has an importance or relevance separated from spirituality and God’s ultimate intention for His creation.

We can easily get caught up in the politics, the facts of history or mankind’s creativity, but if we make those things the central focus we miss the point.

And if I may make a statement that some will find controversial  – the same can be said of the bible, of prayer, and any other “spiritual” matter – if we make THEM the focus rather than God and our relationship with Him, we miss the point. Those things are just a necessary “means to an end” – and that “end” is God Himself.

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But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Filling the Gaps in the World.

Since I started this blog, it has reached readers in most of the world. Most of those countries not registering at least one reader are understandable, such as North Korea, South Sudan and Yemen.

The majority of blank sections on the map are in Africa, followed by central Asia.

In the Americas only Uruguay and Cuba are noticeably absent, and is Greenland classed as being part of North America? That is the single largest landmass showing as visitor-less on my map of blog visits. Europe seems only to be missing Kosovo, a small white patch I overlooked at first.

Apart from small islands (and any other tiny countries) not visible on the map, the following is a list of places I’ve identified that so far haven’t visited this blog.

Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea. Gabon, Greenland, Guinea- Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tajikistan, The Gambia, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uruguay, Western Sahara, Yemen.

It’s been exciting to see previous gaps being filled in the world map, especially those countries lacking easy access to the gospel message.

Life Changing Experiences (part VI)

On reflection, what are some of the things experience has taught me!

 

1) My introduction to the Christian faith was evangelically orthodox, but not biblically sound, making the early years more difficult than necessary, creating unreasonable expectations that could never be fulfilled.
My first step to the Christian life came through reciting “the sinner’s prayer”, asking Jesus into my heart, a non-biblical practice that could give to some a false assurance of salvation. However, if done sincerely, it can become a first step to a greater, more legitimate discovery of discipleship.

A traveller doesn’t arrive in London by taking a flight to Tokyo but the desired destination can be reached later with amended directions and travel arrangements.

 

2) A Christian’s understanding of “spiritual” often isn’t very spiritual at all. Consider what motivated me to drop out of my first Personnel Management course, described in part iii of this series.

Also, for a short time after rediscovering my faith, I had regrets about my University study when I began to wish I’d gone to Bible College instead of spending three years studying writing and literature.

I gradually began to realise that those literary studies were far more beneficial than being taught what a particular church or theological group believed about the Bible. My university studies equipped me to understand the nature of communication, and how messages can be manipulated to create a desired outcome.

For someone who was very prone to assuming the unbiased integrity of people presenting a message (especially Christians), that was a very important lesson to learn. I’m now much more diligent about checking things out for myself instead of accepting things at face value. I also double check myself – am I REALLY remembering a part of scripture correctly and in accordance with its intended context? A lot of the time I find I’m not – and need to correct assumptions I’ve made.

Too often what we “remember” from scripture relates more to the context of teaching we’ve heard than its actual BIBLICAL context. At one time I had an impressive arsenal of memorised proof texts to back up my beliefs. Later I realised that MOST of them had been picked up from recorded sermons and my understanding was influenced by the context of the sermon instead of its intended context in scripture.

 

3) Inadequate, ill-considered or insincere teaching creates vulnerability that can lead someone to accept false teaching. If a teacher is careless with the content and method of teaching, their students will be equally careless.

Teachers need to take extreme care. James cautions that teachers will receive a stricter judgement and the gospels warn of the consequences of leading people astray.

However, false teachers don’t exist in isolation. They are sustained by willing followers. Paul writes of people who aren’t interested in sound doctrine who collect and surround themselves with teachers who say what they like to hear.

Regarding both teaching and being taught we need to be sure of our personal standing.

 

4) It is essential to test all things – accept nothing at face value, no matter what its source.

Even the bible can be used to support a variety of false beliefs, that’s why so many contradictory doctrines can have an alleged scriptural foundation. We will be held accountable for the things we believe and the things we pass on to others – so we need to be sure of their truth, as well as being sure of the truth and integrity of those who pass things onto us.

When the bible is used to support a  belief or teaching, is the bible actually saying and meaning what is being claimed?

 

5) Be honest.

Don’t bend the truth in thought word or deed.

Always act and speak with integrity.

Always think and reason with integrity.

 

Always demand integrity from your chosen teachers.

Life Changing Experiences (part V)

When everything you knew seems wrong (mostly)

Middle-age.

Back on track – but not the same one.

I thought the fifteen years of spiritual crisis had rid me of the effects of appealing but dangerous teachings, but I was to find out that persistent diligence is required. That complacency is a dangerous attitude to adopt.

I re-entered the Christian world thinking I could pick up where I’d left off. Even though I quickly found that I could no longer accept teachings I’d so avidly followed in the past. Some things weren’t easy to put aside because they’d been such an integral part of what I “knew” to be Christian normality, but later were found to be the effects of questionable religious tradition.

The most recent phase includes a lot of ground I’ve gone over before on this blog, so I won’t go through it all again. But it includes experience in vastly different churches where Gloria and I saw extremes ranging between charismania (where the pastor boasted of an appearance of gold dust in the church) and a devoted adherence to Calvinism.

The journey over the past 15 years hasn’t been easy, but it’s been enlightening, giving me insight into the corrosive effects that traditions of various types from various eras have had on the church. The lessons I’ve learned present me with two significant options 1) to push aside any concerns and go with the flow: basically what I did in my younger Christian days, or 2) take those concerns seriously and try to address them no matter what the personal cost. As sanctimonious as that may sound, I’ve learned that the cost of going with the flow can be far worse in the long run.