Friday, November 28, 2008

It Really Happened

“They will go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord,
but they shall not find Him. He has withdrawn Himself from them.”
Hosea 5:6

Those who have studied the Old Testament well know that God’s mercy is great. They know how He suffered patiently great indignities and disrespect from His own people for centuries before He finally turned them over to heathen conquerors. It was heartbreaking to God Himself when the time came for Him to withdraw from His people and turn them over to the will of their enemies.

Our point here, though, is not how much it grieved God to withdraw from His own beloved people, but that He did it at all. What does the fact that God ceased trying to communicate with Israel and withdrew from His chosen people teach us about God?

The most important lesson for us in this is that we know, from observing His example with Israel, that there is a limit to God’s patience with sin and rebellion. He will make a greater effort than any man would, to save His people from their sins. There is no man who would have waited as long as God did before turning away from Israel. But He did it. At long last, He did it. It broke His heart, but He did it. And He did it because He did not know what else to do for them. “What could have been done more unto my vineyard?” God cried (Isa. 5:4). “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me’ ” (Isa. 1:2). Through Micah, God pleaded with the children of Israel, “O my people, what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me.” But they could not tell God anything wrong He had done to them, or how He in any way had wearied them with too many commandments, or with commandments that were difficult to keep.

And in the end, He resigned Himself to carry out the only remaining course of action. He would leave them alone. “You are not my people, and I will not be your God.” . . . “For the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house; I will love them no more.” . . . “I will go and return to my place until they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face. In their affliction, they shall seek me early” (Hos. 1:9; 9:15; 5:16).

Hosea cried out, “My God will cast them away because they did not hearken unto Him, and they shall be wanderers among the nations” (9:17). But it appears that nobody who heard him paid any attention to his words or his grief.

It happened. That is the point. And Paul said that these things happened to Israel, “as examples for us, that we should not desire evil things, as those people did” (1Cor. 10:6), and that they “happened to them as examples, and they are written for our admonition. . . . Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall” (1Cor. 10:11-12).

If we are already saved, and if our salvation is assured whether we do God’s will or not, then how does God’s treatment of His people in the Old Testament serve as an example to us? The whole point of the history of Israel being preserved by God is to warn us of what God will do to His own people if they fail to keep the covenant they made with Him when they become His.

The point is that “if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee” (Rom. 11:21). Or, as Jesus repeatedly said, one way or another, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord! Lord! will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And Peter went so far as to say that it is better never come to Christ at all than after coming and being washed from sin, a child of God is unfaithful to the Lord. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2Pet. 2:20-21).

“Worse than the beginning”! Isn’t it worse to have been called and cleansed by God and then have Him withdraw from us than never to have felt His love at all? Aren’t they in a worse state who have been received into the household of God, and then cast out, than are those who have never been in the family of God at all? It happened to many in Israel, and it has happened to many in this covenant. We must confess that it really happened. As deeply as it grieved God to do it, He withdrew Himself from His own people who did not walk uprightly with Him. And that fearful reality serves as a warning to us who believe.

Let’s cause our heavenly Father no heartache. He wants to care for us and to save us, and He will. All we have to do is humble ourselves and co-operate with His love. Let us resolve to “be followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ has also loved us.” Let’s make our loving heavenly Father happy, not sad.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Always, and All Ways, Perfect

God is not a man . . .”
Balaam, in Numbers 23:19

This could be part of a long series on the topic, “God is not a big one of us.” There are many, many ways in which God is not like us. This is just one of them.

Nothing God thinks has evolved. What He thinks now is perfect because He is perfect. And what He thinks now is exactly what He has always thought. God hasn’t matured intellectually even a tiny bit. He was perfect in wisdom from eternity, and He is perfect in wisdom now. God is not now even a little wiser than He used to be. Nor is He more discerning than He once was, or more knowledgeable. He has always known all things perfectly, visible and invisible, including all things in the future.

The spirit of evolution infects all of modern society, including how man perceives God. That is why, as men’s thoughts evolve (or devolve) concerning what is right and wrong, and what is good and evil, they imagine God as changing with them. But that spirit only succeeds in winning converts on earth. It does not infect God or confuse Him. He still knows Himself, that He is what He has always been and what He always will be. Everything He has ever done, said, or thought is perfect; it cannot be improved upon.

Fearing, loving, and praising God comes as natural as breathing to those who see Him as He really is: perfectly good, perfectly wise, and perfectly powerful. Every creature in heaven knows that, and that’s why none of them is an evolutionist.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

How Do They Do It?

The simple-minded man believes every word, but the prudent man looks well to his going.”
Solomon, in Proverbs 14:15

Assembly of God Doctrine on Spirit Baptism

Sometimes, it is just astounding to me. I read the words of religious teachers, but what they say is so contrary to the plain sense of the Scriptures – and sometimes contradictory to their own words in other places – that I marvel at how they manage to gain such a large following. The latest episode that made me marvel at the ability of false teachers to impress millions and persuade them to adhere to their teachings had to do with the Assembly of God sect, the largest of all Pentecostal sects.

A few months ago, we freely mailed out over 27,000 copies of one of our books, Speaking in Tongues at Spirit Baptism, to Pentecostal churches across America, including Assembly of God churches. Yesterday, one of those books was returned to me by an Assembly of God pastor in Altha, Florida. In addition to the returned book, the minister there included a brochure published by the Assembly of God organization, Our Distinctive Doctrine, The Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was happy to receive it, and I read through the twenty questions and answers about the baptism that were in the brochure.

What struck me most about the brochure is not that the AOG doctrine is wrong. Long ago I studied what they teach, and I already knew it was wrong. What struck me this time was how obviously wrong AOG doctrine is, and yet how many of God’s people support it. This brochure stirred up anew the deep grief I feel for God’s divided and confused children – not merely because they are taught badly but because the badness of what they are taught is so obvious – and yet they do not seem to notice!

Why? How can a doctrine be so wrong, so illogical and so unbiblical, and yet be so popular among God’s people? It would be understandable if it was just the world that supported false teaching. That would even be expected. But God’s people! Why do they support brands of Christianity, such as the Assembly of God sect, that are so clearly wrong?

Paul exhorted the saints to “prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good.” John exhorted the saints to “try the spirits to see if they be of God.” Jesus commended the pastor in Ephesus because he had the wisdom and the courage to put false apostles to the test and to expose them as liars. But where is that kind of zeal for truth, and courage, and godly wisdom among the saints today? The lack of those things among God’s people is the answer to my original question, “How do the false teachers gain such a large following?”


If we are prudent, we will “look well to our going.” That is, we will examine carefully what a man tells us about God. We will not take for granted anything a man tells us, but we will wait for the witness of the Spirit before we commit ourselves. The Spirit alone can guide us into all truth, and we should never support any man who claims to serve God until Jesus has confirmed to our spirits that what that man has for us is really from God.

Do you know what the man really teaches who is teaching you about God? Have you examined his doctrine? Have you “looked well to your going?” Or are you among the many who are “simple, and believe every word”?

From a different perspective, let me point out that one of the biggest headaches for a true servant of God is people who follow him but who do not really know whether or not he is sent from God. Jesus had many such followers, and every one of them were a burden to him. I would rather have a thousand enemies than ten such friends. I have always exhorted everyone associated with me to get in touch with God for themselves and find out why they are associated with me. I tell them they must know why they are involved with my work in Christ. If they truly belong with me, they need to know it. And the only way to truly know that I am their pastor and this is their spiritual home is to have it shown to them by Jesus.

God’s people have not been taught to examine themselves and their faith, but to do so is an element of righteousness. When and if the saints do examine the doctrines they are taught, they are going to be stunned at how wrong they are, and how simple-minded they have been to support the men who have been teaching them for so many years.