Things of Darkness Brought to Light
One of the signs that we are living in the end times is that
everything that is hidden will be revealed. When the Lord
returns he will "...bring to light the hidden things
of darkness...[and] make manifest the counsels of the hearts..."
(1 Corinthians 4:5) The consequence of lifting this dark shroud
of secrecy, which for centuries has gone unchecked, is that
everything that can be shaken will be shaken, at every level-political,
financial, religious and social. Haggai 2:6-7
is no question that the prophecies of our time are in process
of fulfillment as we witness one scandal after another eroding
the very foundation of society. Presidents have been impeached,
corrupt financial practices of corporate giants like Enron
and WorldCom are televised worldwide, and nothing is too sacred
for scrutiny; even church leaders have not been spared....
the suppressed child abuse scandal within its priesthood has
propelled the Catholic church to unprecedented media notoriety.
Time Magazine estimates 2,000 priests are currently accused.
The New York Times quoted one attorney who said he "...fields
between 100 and 200 calls a day from survivors [former victims],
about half of whom are breaking their silence for the first
time." As a result of this and so many other scandals,
the entire professed Christian community has become soiled
in the eyes of the world.
Did the Church get so Out of Control?
of a particular parish were recently asked what they were
going to do about the indefensible scandals happening in the
church. One demoralized member said, "Well, what can
we do? We are only the congregation. This is up to the bishops
to handle." Here is where many professed Christians have
failed in their understanding of the Scriptures. God set forth
that the order and discipline of the church is up to the congregation
and not a hierarchy.
When God directed the Apostles to establish the early church,
they set in place a checks and balance system designed to
protect them from wolves-those who would injure the flock.
Those who were considered the elders or bishops in the church
were actually elected by a vote to be the servants of the
flock. "And when they had ordained them elders in every
church and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to
the Lord." (Acts 14:23) The term elders, as seen in this
text includes evangelists, pastors and teachers. At the present
time this term ordained generally refers to a ceremony of
installation, but this is not the original significance of
the Greek, kirotoneo, used in this text. The Weymouth translation
renders it: "...they selected Elders by a show of hands..."
This and several other translations show the real intent of
the scripture, which was to elect church servants by a vote
of the congregation.
The practice of self-governing was commonly held in the early
church. Choosing pastors and teachers from among one's own
body of believers, as led by the spirit of God, is sanctified
common sense. Who would know better the exemplary lives of
those in their midst than the congregation? But the majority
of congregations today are sent pastors and priests from a
governing body disconnected from the congregation. This implies
that the congregation does not know what is good for them.
It exhibits a total lack of confidence in the holy Spirit
of God to rule in the church and disregards the instruction
of the church to handle their own affairs. It also holds the
congregation in bondage to sectarian control.
or Shepherds, of the Flock?
fact, it was within only a few centuries after the founding
of the early church that certain bishops arose who usurped
control and altered the proper role of shepherds to the flock,
as they then became lords of the flock. Submissive to their
demands, the timid sheep allowed themselves to be controlled,
and thus arose the unscriptural concept of clergy and laity.
There soon resulted a hierarchy of clergy, and the church
put faith in a system of imperfect men, rather than in the
only true, stable and perfect heavenly Father and His only
begotten Son. How contrary this practice is to the admonition
of Peter to the elected elders of the early church: "Feed
the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight
thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy
lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's
heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." (1 Peter
5:2, 3) There is only one Lord of the flock-all others are
to be servants of Him and servants of each other.
Consequences of Ignoring Scriptural Council
serious consequence of turning over control to a hierarchical
system is that when the governing body of pastors and priests
senses a threat, it struggles to keep the status quo at all
costs. Thus, serious transgressions are hidden from the flock
that these might not disturb them. Time Magazine observed,
"When Cardinals are created, they take a vow before the
Pope to 'keep in confidence anything that, if revealed, would
cause a scandal or harm the church.'" This is a well-meant,
but serious disregard of the Scriptures, which state that
it is far better to acknowledge sin in your midst and root
it out that the whole might not suffer.
Early church congregations were admonished as a body of believers,
led by the holy Spirit, to handle behavioral problems themselves.
Note how the Apostle Paul stresses the responsibility of the
congregation in matters of immorality in their midst: "...if
any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous,
or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner...put
away from among yourselves that wicked person...Know ye not
that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain
to this life?" (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 6:1-3) Thus, it
is clear that the congregation is to take responsibility.
We are to remember that a little leaven of sin can affect
a whole community, and as soon as anything unhealthy is detected,
the congregation should lovingly, yet firmly, take corrective
Not the Unclean Thing"
the community of believers was to keep a high standard. They
were given the example of the nation of Israel as to what
would happen to them if this admonition were ignored. The
downfall of Israel in the time of her kings was that she mingled
with the people of the land-allowing their pagan practices
to pull down the standards which God had set for her. This
failure to be sanctified or set apart from the people of the
land has contaminated Christianity today, as they have admitted
into their midst the worldly minded. This does injury, not
only to the congregation, by lowering their standards, for
the average will be considered the standard, but it also injures
the strangers, by causing many of them to believe themselves
thoroughly safe, and needing no transforming of character.
It lowers the standard of doctrine also, because the minister
who realizes that at least three-fourths of his congregation
would be repelled by the presentation of the strong meat of
truth, withholds the same, and permits those who need the
strong meat to grow weak and starve.
God's advice through the Apostle Paul to those who find their
congregations in such moral decay is very severe, but critical
for spiritual survival in this evil day. "Be ye not unequally
yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath
righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath
light with darkness? ...for ye are the temple of the living
God... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,
saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will
receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be
my sons and daughters... Having therefore these promises,
dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness
of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of
God." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 7:1
The day in which we live is spoken of as an evil day and a
day of thick darkness. Temptations abound in every corner.
But Christians should be a shining light, setting the highest
standards for society. They should not come down to the level
of the world, but should set themselves apart from it. As
the Jews profaned the name of the Lord by careless living
amongst the Gentiles, so there is great danger of Christians
profaning His name by careless living. This has not only corrupted
the congregation, but it has also brought reproach to the
name of their God. When speaking of the time of our Lord's
return, the Apostle Peter presented a question: "Seeing
that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons
ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"
(2 Peter 3:11) Are we setting the example, or are we drifting
helplessly with the current of this present evil world? Are
we being able ambassadors for Christ? 2 Corinthians 5:20
Absolute or Relative?
every hidden thing is being brought to light by the fire of
God's indignation, as He forewarned: "The fire shall
try every man's work of what sort it is." That is, not
every congregation's work, but every individual's work shall
be tried. And as the testing fire spreads, the light of truth
goes with it-greater knowledge brings greater responsibility.
Reprehensible crimes being revealed in Christian churches
today should awaken professed Christians everywhere to take
personal responsibility not only within their congregations,
but especially within their own lives.
Today, rather than consulting the Scriptures on moral issues,
christians often resort to psychology and human reasoning,
which, if not guided by the Word of God, tends to make sinful
behavior relative to contemporary society deeming it "not
so bad." Often, it is concluded that there are no absolutes
which Bible believing Christians must follow.
But, is morality relative? Has God changed His position on
homosexuality, adultery and other practices?-Of course not.
Yet, life styles such as these are not only common in some
congregations, but Christians who oppose such behavior are
considered unloving and bigoted. It is not "politically
correct" to point out scriptures which reveal God's position
on such subjects. But, the Scriptures are absolute and positive
that certain life style choices being condoned today in the
church are an abomination in God's eyes. "Mortify therefore
your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness,
inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness,
which is idolatry: for which things' sake the wrath of God
cometh on the children of disobedience..." Colossians
Power of Suggestion
at fault for today's increasingly lower standards is the media.
The most popular television programs feature fun-loving people
living in thoroughly sinful conditions. Society has developed
a desensitization to sin by the suggestions thrust at them
hourly through media exposure. Entertainment sources of every
kind bombard the mind with power suggestions. Sinful behavior
unheard of before is now made to appear as normal behavior.
The power of the media to create anything imaginable from
the sensual to the devious is titillating the psyche with
images of demonism, violence, perversion and sensuality.
What is more, we are now living in a time when several generations
of children have been brought up by the examples they see
in the media. Children, the most suggestible of all, spend
hours, mesmerized in front of the television, movies, the
internet, computer games and books which thrill and excite
their untrained minds with sinful suggestions.
Sober, Be Vigilant"
sincere Christian will fight against these snares of the adversary
and seek every means to overcome his wicked influence in the
church, the home and the heart. "Be sober, be vigilant;
because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh
about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in
the faith..." (1 Peter 5:8, 9) The Apostle Paul speaks
of this as warfare: "Put on the whole armour of God,
that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
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. Wherefore
take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able
to withstand in the evil day..." (Ephesians 6:11-13)
The evil day-this implies that in this end time there will
be the most severe trials ever known to God's people, and
that they will have the greatest need for the whole armor
of truth and righteousness.
Before the Christian, our Lord sets the very highest ideals:
"Be like unto your Father in Heaven"-not that Christians
can ever be all that the Father's character expresses, but
that this is to be the ideal, or aim in life. God assures
them that he will judge them, not according to their success,
but according to their endeavor to live up to their ideals
and the sacrifices they make in order closely to attain those
ideals. "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight
I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body,
and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when
I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
1 Corinthians 9:26, 27
So that we might not be discouraged in the fight, the Apostle
Paul assures us that he, too, struggles with his flesh. "For
I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good
thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform
that which is good I find not." (Romans 7:18) Since only
that which is good or perfect could truly be acceptable to
God, and since all of our efforts at warfare could never really
make us perfect, it is clear that we are only acceptable to
the Father by the covering robe of Christ's righteousness.
We must constantly go to the throne of grace that we might
find forgiveness for our unintentional failings and strength
to overcome them. Hebrews 4:14-16
Necessary to Overcoming
God created man with a good conscience, the ability to determine
accurately what is right and wrong, sin has depraved this
conscience. In order to have a "conscience void of offense
toward God and toward man" the conscience must be trained
in righteousness. Acts 24:16
The Apostle Paul admonished his brethren, as they were not
giving proper heed to the doctrines for this training: "For
every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness:
for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are
of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses
exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:13,
14) Note here that one must have a keen perception of good
and evil in order to fight against it. To "keep ourselves
unspotted from the world," we must seek divine aid by
appropriating to ourselves the instructions, encouragements,
and exhortations of God's Word. The Scriptures refer to this
as a cleansing work, progressing throughout our entire Christian
course-the "washing of water by the Word." Ephesians
is the Man that Endureth Temptation
Father in Heaven seeks a godly seed to one day bless all the
families of the earth. (Galatians 3:16, 29) "Blessed
is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried,
he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised
to them that love him." (James 1:12) Only the tried and
faithful will live and reign with Christ, their heavenly bridegroom.
They will have the blessed privilege of teaching the world
righteousness in the thousand year Kingdom of Christ. (Isaiah
26:9) "Brethren, give diligence to make your calling
and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never
fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly
into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ." 2 Peter 1:10, 11
of Noah's Day a Mirror Image of Today
today are reminiscent of the days of Noah: "...wickedness
of man was great in the earth...every imagination of the thoughts
of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)
Luke confirms that our day will be a mirror image of this
time: "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be
also in the days of the [return of the] Son of man."
Our present evil world (Greek: aion, age or dispensation)
is coming to an end. (Galatians 1:4) Under the Lord's judgment
the corrupt systems are disintegrating and will soon be replaced.
To the extent that churches have been involved in the evil
practices of this world's corruption, they will come under
this judgment of God, as well: "...my determination is
to gather the nations...to pour out upon them mine indignation...for
the earth [all levels of society] shall be devoured with the
fire [destruction] of my jealousy." Though this is a
fearsome time, note that this prophesy doesn't end there:
"For then will I turn to the people a pure language that
they may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve Him with
one consent." (Zephaniah 3:8, 9) Even though the corrupt
systems are burned up, note that the people survive to learn
a pure language and serve the Lord wholeheartedly.
Certainly, all have been born in sin and shapen in iniquity,
and as slaves to sin, we are unable to pull ourselves out
of degradation. God permitted this painful condition, knowing
that it would be an everlasting lesson to teach the bitter
consequences of disobedience. And he has provided a glorious
plan for the world's recovery through His beloved Son. Jesus
Christ tasted death for every man and this ransom for all
will be accomplished in due time. (Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy
2:3-6) No more will mankind be bound by sin, weakness and
ignorance. They will profit eternally by their experience
with sin and its terrible effects. In God's kingdom, all will
be taught to discriminate between right and wrong and in the
end, most will choose righteous obedience. Isaiah 26:9
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first
heaven and the first earth were passed away...And I, John,
saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem [Christ and his Church],
coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned
for her husband, and I heard a great voice out of heaven saying,
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men [those who will
learn righteousness], and he will dwell with them, and they
shall be his people." Revelation 21:1-3