Article: Churches merge, close: “We no longer live in Christendom. We really have to accept that it’s a thing of the past”
The quote above is from Reverend Daniel Webster, canon for evangelism and media for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He’s studied the trend of churches closing and merging for 20 years. The article presents his point of view, as well as documenting the decline in church attendance which occasions the closing and merging.
Jonathan Pitts, the writer of the article, offers Mr. Webster’s opinion of one of the most important factors in declining church numbers.
While it’s hard to pinpoint a single most important factor, Webster says, it’s impossible to ignore the repeal of most of the old state blue laws, regulations that had long placed restrictions on commercial activity on Sundays, starting in the mid-20th century.
Today’s faith leaders must compete with everything from youth soccer and pro football games to shopping at the mall.
Mr. Pitts doesn’t really spend much time on causes. He just assumes that competition from the world is the cause and details a number of church’s efforts to merge or close.
However, I do not agree that competition from the world is the cause of church closings and mergers.The world has always been in hostile competition with the Kingdom of God. Believers have been in a fight since the Garden of Eden with those who oppose God and His plans. Perhaps you’ll be surprised at my opinion that the church has also been in hostile competition with the Kingdom. The church (in general) and the world are not much different from each other. Churches claim to follow Jesus, but when we compare their beliefs and practices with the Bible we can see that they don’t have much in common. On the other hand, compare churches with the world and we can see that the real merging has already taken place.
Just because the church has some trappings that look Christian, does not mean a church is automatically part of the Kingdom of God or the body of believers. Much of what the church has done is to merge some stories and tradition borrowed from the Bible with self-seeking behavior. Way back in 325 A. D. when the Roman emperor Constantine took a fancy to some of the Christian concepts the merger with the world got a big boost. For centuries the visible church has been in a tug-of-war with the world sometimes holding to God’s Word better than at other times. But in modern times it has mostly been tugged in the wrong direction.
The church merged with the world a long time ago, and the loss of some people or buildings is not the biggest hurt. It is the loss of God’s Spirit due the refusal to do what God says that has really sunk the church. Churches might be shrinking or merging, but the body of Christ has been steady and growing because we hold tight to the Word of God, living and teaching it to all who would listen.
I don’t even agree that “we no longer live in Christendom.” Believers have never lived in Christendom. We are salted throughout the world, and even throughout the church or churches. A church member is not the same thing as a believer although there are believers who might be church members. The world has always been hostile to God and the body of believers, and we’ve never had a Christendom. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we no longer live in Churchdom.
Jesus meets a demon possessed man near a herd of pigs in the country of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes as recorded for us in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. He commands the demons, who call themselves Legion, to leave the man, and Legion’s last request is that Jesus allow them to go into the nearby pigs. Granting Legion’s request, they leave the man and enter the herd of about 2,000 which immediately rushes downhill and drowns itself in the Sea of Galilee.
Whenever I read these accounts, one of the first things that puzzles me is that the people ask Jesus to leave the area. Why, I wonder, would they send away such a powerful miracle worker, one who had returned one of their brothers to them? Why would they not rejoice that a local travel hazard was removed? What if the demons left that man and infected others?
Some teachers say that the expense of the pigs was a factor. Jesus had just cost someone (or maybe several someone’s) a lot of money. Others say that these people weren’t supposed to be growing pigs for market because pork was not to be eaten according to the Mosaic Law. I get that these were possibilities, and perhaps they can stay in the mix for explaining the incident. But they just are not that satisfactory to me. Wouldn’t the loss of the pigs be worth removing a hazard like a man who could break chains and attack people? I’d think so. Were the citizens Jews, who would care about the Law, or were they gentiles, who wouldn’t? The ESV study Bible says that they were Gentiles, but there must’ve been some Jews around too. And Jews aren’t exactly known for always sticking with all of the Law anyway.
I was able to make a great deal of progress understanding this situation as I read further in Mark and got to the rich young man of Mark 10, and the question on the authority of Jesus in Mark 11. Now how, you may ask, did I connect the people of Gennesaret unwilling to allow Jesus to stay in the area with a rich man unwilling to give up his riches and the unwillingness of the chief priests to answer Jesus about whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from man? I’m glad you asked that. (You might be guessing at the same conclusion as I because of the way I phrased the question.)
The chief priests could not answer a simple question, because they refused to acknowledge that the authority of Jesus was from God. If they did it would mean that their authority was from man, and they would have had to give up their cushy positions. The rich man knew that Jesus was a “good teacher,” but not so much that he was willing to suffer economic harm to follow Him. The Gennesaret people knew Jesus was at the very least a holy man of God, but were not willing to suffer further economic harm in order for Him to have stayed in the area.
In other words, none of these people wanted to go all the way. They saw the miracles done by Jesus, acknowledged His power and authority, recognized that He was from God, but didn’t take the next step of risking everything to follow Him.
In modern times we find the same sorts of attitudes. We hear people saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” all the time, in song and prayer and sermons. We see regular attendance at a church service, with many an “Amen” during the preaching. There are bumper stickers and hats and T-shirts proclaiming that the wearers “know Jesus.” Mega-churches abound, pastors have carved out positions with nice paychecks claiming to speak for God, and television stars rake in the bucks while hawking their latest books and trinkets.
Very few will see the Kingdom of God because the ticket into the Kingdom costs a lot more than simply raising a hand and “going forward.” Faith is putting your money where your mouth is, like the rich young man refused to do. It is the willingness to give up possibly everything you have to follow Him, like the people of Gennesaret could have done. It is submitting your will to His, and giving everything to welcome Him into your heart unlike the chief priests, Pharisees, and other religious leaders then and now.
Jesus obviously had authority from God because He did what God told Him to do and taught what God wanted Him to teach. Everything Jesus did or said was right from the written Word, and could easily be checked if one wanted to do so. But we don’t want. We fear to give up our position, our money, our reputations or our lives because the short term suffering is not worth the long term gain.
Like Frank Sinatra or Cain, we want to do it our way. We want to retain parts of the world system and try to merge them into the Kingdom. We say “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. We want to patch the garment with unshrunk cloth because we don’t want the work of making it right. We try to fit new wine and old wineskins together when they are just not compatible.
We refuse to accept a message from the Christ because it will cause us too much trouble and might wreck the nice little corner of the world we have made for ourselves. It might cause us some discomfort. It might make us change. It might make us realize that even with the talisman of the name of Jesus we are still far short of what God requires of us.
There is a Look Inside feature, you can flip between the front and back cover, and it is only $19.50. If you would prefer, we will have the entire text on a web page when we update our website so you can read it online.
The book has about 800 direct quotes from the Word, around 1,500 entries in the Scripture Index, and is about 340 pages. One of the many uses of the book is as a handbook for whole Bible Christians everywhere who need a reference to help counter attacks against a whole Bible lifestyle. Chapter 7 deals with a bunch of the objections to following God’s living oracles, and chapter 8 has a list of blessings from doing what Jesus says.
Let us know what you think, and make sure to post a review on Amazon if you would be so kind.
I’m sorry. Every time I think about this subject, or read about someone who has positively identified The Beast, I crack up. Or at least chuckle a little. The reason it’s so humorous is that the methods used for identification, and the results of the methods, are mostly based on personal feelings. Or perhaps what I call newspaper exegesis (interpreting by newspaper headlines). I haven’t seen a result yet that comes from an understanding of the Bible. The best method of identification is right there in black and white. Or black, white and red. Or whatever fruity colors are used in your version.
The Beast is the coming ruler spoken of in the Bible who will sway nearly the whole world to follow his lead. As a token of appreciation, he will cause all who do so to receive a mark on the hand or forehead, without which no one can buy or sell. His helper is the false prophet, one who looks like a lamb and is called the anti-Christ or ‘instead of’ Christ. This helper of The Beast is the one who causes all to receive the mark. These two will be backed by the serpent or dragon, also called the deceiver and Satan. This unholy trinity will unite much of the population in a rebellion against God and His Christ. They will not succeed, but while they have their run there will be much death, destruction and wrath poured out from God. The wrath part is why I think this is still future, though others think it has already happened.
The Beast has been identified as Hitler, or rulers/kings like him. Some have pegged President Obama as The Beast. This is funny to me because as bad as Obama is he isn’t a pimple on the butt of The Beast. Various other leaders from time to time have been sometimes hysterically identified as the Beast. At one time people in the Calvary Chapel denomination along with many others were all excited about a computer in Belgium (early ’80’s) that was called the beast (at the time it could have numbered every person on the planet). Lately some are pointing to a smooth-talking atheist in Greece that has got them worried.
The problem with identifying The Beast comes in when people look right past the obvious. Especially the church. We will look everywhere except in the mirror. We are so blinded by men’s teachings, traditions and philosophies that we don’t recognize an important fact:
The Beast will be just as acceptable to the church as to the general populace.
Yes I know. That will be a shocking statement to those who think that the “church” is taken away in a rapture before all the really bad stuff starts, like a fairy tale princess in a flying pumpkin coach. However, the rapture without question is appended to the resurrection, and that resurrection clearly doesn’t happen till the end of the Tribulation. See our video Whole Bible Prophecy: The Rapture for more explanation on this.
So “the church” will be here during the tribulation. That’s the first boo boo in the whole identification process. There will be many who don’t even realize it at first, and many who will be upset when they find out they’ve been lied to by their leaders.
Some people point to the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation 4 through about 19 as proof that the church is gone. But here’s a fun fact for you: there is no church in the Bible. At all. It exists only in translations. The ekklesia (the Greek word translated by the English word ‘church’) is simply an assembly or congregation, and is found throughout history in the Word. A group of people. Ekklesia is used of Israel in the Septuagint translation, but isn’t translated as ‘church.’ It is just translated as congregation or assembly. So technically ‘the assembly’ is much different than ‘the church’ and includes all believers everywhere and everywhen. This explains the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation. Especially the modern church. It was never there in the first place.
The typical church-goer can’t (or will not later) properly identify The Beast because they are not grounded on the Word, do not read it except for a few favorite verses, and refuse to do what it says. Instead they have crafted for themselves a seeker-friendly social gospel that only vaguely resembles anything biblical, with a hippie flower-child Jesus letting everyone behave as they choose. We have leaders telling us that hell doesn’t exist, parts of God’s Word are old and irrelevant, men’s traditions are the new covenant, and sexual immorality is really okay. If this doesn’t sound like “tolerating that woman Jezebel” or allowing the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (Revelation 1-3) I don’t know what does. The church has watered down the message of God for themselves so much that it isn’t even recognizable as God’s. By and large they have removed the whole nutrition of His Law from the message, and are therefore not grounded on the Rock.
For these reasons and a few others I believe The Beast will look a lot like a mega-church pastor, and teach many of the same things. He will be so very acceptable to the majority of the church because He will look and act just like they do. The church looks the same as the world, acts the same, and believes the same except for a little different Jesus flavoring. The Beast will bridge the (very small) gap between the world and the church very easily.
That might sound hard to some of you. But truth is only hard to the hard-hearted.
It is written that The Beast has blasphemous names on its heads and is given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words (Rev. 13). If you do a comprehensive word study you will find out that blasphemy is, at the bottom, either attributing evil to God’s works or attributing the works of God to evil (Satan, the Beast, or the anti-Christ get the credit instead of God). I think this means The Beast will claim that he is the author of works that are God’s, and will blame God for evil he and his two buddies do and the evil that is in the world in general. Right will be wrong and wrong will be painted as right.
The lack of grounding in the Bible for the majority of self-named Christians will contribute to the acceptance of The Beast. The blasphemy practiced by the Church (calling God’s Law irrelevant for instance) along with sexual immorality (adultery, divorce, fornication, homosexuality) and watered-down teaching from the Balaams, Jezebels and Nicolaitans among us will combine to allow easy acceptance by stone-hearted people.
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV).
Hey. I’m not saying this. I’m getting it right from the Bible. Read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 1-3 if you don’t believe me. The people described in negative terms there have always been around and always a part of the so-called church. The door that Jesus is standing at and knocking is the door of the church. It’s just that in modern times a greater percentage of wolves in sheep’s clothing are present and the corruption is more prevalent than in the past. See our video The Whole Picture: Who Put the Church in Charge? at http://youtu.be/3dkxJTQCriI for more on this.
A part of identifying The Beast is helped by figuring out who is spoken of in Revelation 17. There we see a woman riding on The Beast who has a name of mystery on her forehead that is “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” She looks pretty, dressed in purple and scarlet (the colors of ruling or royalty), with jewelry to match, but her main claim to fame is sexual immorality and murder of God’s people. She is seated on many waters picturing peoples, multitudes, nations and languages, so this woman is everywhere on earth. She is riding The Beast but he and the kings who give him allegiance (the horns) hate her and destroy her.
The Catholic Church has been identified as mystery religion Babylon, but that is too limited. Catholicism has only been around for about 1,800 years, and has not covered the planet that thoroughly during those centuries. This mystery religion has been around at least since the time of the tower of Babel (Hebrew meaning gate of the deity; Babylon is Greek for the same city/kingdom), which is where we see the record of the first idolatrous behavior (although there was probably much before the flood too). I think it is more likely that this woman is all religion that leads away from God with idolatry, sexual immorality and blasphemy. This includes all paganism, all idolatry, all witchcraft and voodoo and the like. It can even include the church (otherwise Jesus would not be warning the seven churches of the teachings of Balaam, Jezebel, and the Nicolaitans). Idolatry is cheating on God, with or without a statue. The modern church is certainly cheating on God, which will put them right in the same chariot with Babylon on the Beast. The Beast tolerates the false religion for a while, but he wants the first place of worship so he destroys Babylon because she’s in the way. It’s like that movie The Highlander. There can be only one. The Catholic Church certainly is pagan and idolatrous, and part of the mystery religion Babylon, but does not carry the whole burden by itself. There are many other churches and synagogues that are joined to her in immorality.
So identifying The Beast is kind of an exercise in futility for the church. You can’t very well find his hiding place when you’re looking everywhere but in the church building. Inside, this guy will indeed be a ravenous beast, but on the outside he will appear as a fluffy little sheep. He won’t appear to be the big bad wolf that most people are expecting. He will speak beguiling words; words that are close to God’s but just a little bit off at first. Just like the words of most church leaders and followers of today. He will say things that sound good and appeal to our self-seeking pride, and because the average Christian will not be grounded in the Word of God they will be willing to accept him and his instead-of-Christ prophet even to receiving the mark. They will “believe in him” so much they will gladly do whatever he says. They will be enamored of his teachings on sexual immorality, tolerance and unconditional love because these teachings will mirror their own. He will be able to quote the Bible better than most Christians, albeit with his own twisted slant and matching almost word for word the text of many sermons. He will mix science with sorcery and probably claim to be the next evolutionary step for all mankind. The image fashioned by the anti-Christ could very likely be a clone who will speak as the serpent did in the Garden, offering a path to be “like God.”
Believers will need to be filled with the whole of the Word, have patient endurance, reject the teachings of Jezebel and her ilk, and hear what the Spirit says to the congregations that make up the Body. Start tuning your eyes and ears to see Him and listen for His instructions by taking in all of His Words and doing them. Now. While there’s still time. Repent, go through the open door, buy from Him gold refined by fire and white garments to cover the shame of nakedness along with some salve to anoint your eyes. Be zealous and repent.
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:8–12, AV)
There’s been a lot of discussion at times over the nature of the “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” Some think it’s a special lie just for the end times, like a campaign promise by the Beast. That is the context anyway; the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed and then people will believe a lie. The lie could be one of the things that the Beast will be peddling, which is his claim of Messiah-ship. Or it could be the lie that we can be gods, which the power behind the Beast (the serpent or deceiver) has been trying to sell since the Garden.
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5, AV)
According to Strong’s Lexicon (4106), the word delusion is related to “wandering” (from truth) and “deceit.” Sounds like a campaign promise to me. We can see the desire for this campaign promise to be true all around us. I like superhero movies as much as the next guy, but the one commonality they all have is the idea that if we just had more strength we could solve all man’s problems. They sell the lie that we can solve everything without God. All we need are super powers.
You can see the lie in the desire for cheap, abundant energy. Like the push for figuring out fusion energy in movies like ‘Chain Reaction.’ The idea there is we can solve all mankind’s ills if we just had more power.
You can see a form of the lie in the slavish devotion to science. Scientists (mostly) push the thought that we could solve all of man’s ills if we just had more knowledge. The doctrine of evolution is designed to give substance to the lie by implying that knowledge is just around the corner. We just need to keep “evolving.” The knowledge that the scientists think we need doesn’t include knowledge of God. Just knowledge. This assumes that if we had the knowledge we would also have the wisdom to use it. History shows just how much of a lie that is.
Pay close attention. The lie in all it’s forms is simply that we can do without God. We might not actively be calling ourselves “gods,” but that is exactly what we are doing – trying to become as God. Pursuing power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience) and presence everywhere (omnipresence) through TV, the internet, and radio are parts of the same lying principle. We want to believe that if we just had a little more (something) we could solve everything and live long lives in peace and happiness. Just don’t include God in that something.
The Beast will probably use all of these elements in selling his Messiah-ship to the unbelieving world. In deceit he will present himself as God and exalt himself above all that is called God, but will not have a tenth part of what makes up God. So he is doomed to failure. In part at least much of the “progress” of science and technology is nothing more than enabling the kingdom of the serpent to flourish. The deceiver cannot be all powerful, or all knowing, or all present. But with nuclear weapons, a bag of “all power and signs and lying wonders,” some science, evolution principles, TV and fast transportation he can come close. And he will, for a while. But like everything built without God it will fall apart of it’s own lack of substance. Close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.
No matter what we try we come up short when we wander away from the truth of God. It wouldn’t matter if we had super powers or abundant cheap energy or if we could be everywhere at once. The deceit of that thinking would be evident as we continued to have the same problems we always have without God in our lives. Whatever we build will fall apart. The power of whatever government we invent will lean to tyranny without Him. If we lack God we lack that basic something that actually gives life and that more abundant. Nothing we try without Him will work. We are doomed to failure if we believe the lie. There is no way that we will be successful or complete without submitting to the source of all things good.
At the stoning of the woman caught in adultery, did Jesus teach that the Law was gone, or did He criticize because the Law was not followed? Did Jesus eliminate the Law as popular church teaching suggests, or did He disapprove of the mishandling of God’s living oracles? I think in each question it is the latter. When Jesus was tested, He stayed with the Law while His opponents stuck with their own interpretations and traditions. His opponents were wrong in nearly every case.
Jesus never tells us that “we all sin” so none of us can judge. What He tells us is that to judge properly we need to stay within the whole of His Law. The people testing Jesus wanted permission to sin. They wanted certification for their self-appointed authority. But they didn’t want God’s Law. See the video for more details.
Well, we’re up to 55 videos now, with about 10 more in the works. This one is about the instructions of Jesus to inherit eternal life in Mark 10, Luke 10 and Luke 18. Did you know that Jesus wasn’t kidding around when He told the man/lawyer/ruler that they could inherit eternal life by following the Law? Do you know why He wasn’t kidding? Watch the video and find out!
“ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” (Revelation 3:15–22, ESV)
The “I stand at the door and knock” phrase is frequently directed at the unsaved as an invitation to be saved. But notice that the door Jesus is standing outside of is the door of the church. Why is He outside?
Will we argue that this is just the church of Laodicea, and doesn’t relate to today’s church? It relates if we do the same things. If we act like Laodicea, then we ARE Laodicea. Can anyone deny that our works are lukewarm? Can anyone deny that the huge buildings, the expensive cars and designer clothing, and the lush interiors of our homes and meeting places fairly scream “I am rich, I have prospered, I need nothing?” Compare the modern church to the church right after Peter unleashes the Word of God in his first powerful public sermon.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)
It is the church that needs to answer the door and invite Jesus back in. It is the church that is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. It is the church that has locked out His Word, His Law, His ways and statutes and commands. We reject the hot and yet are not fully cold. The words of Jesus are rejected, and as His words go so goes He.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:48–50, ESV)
Therefore be zealous and repent. Buy gold from Him refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Easy answer. We follow the Law because we love God. Love and Law go together like mountains and valleys. Jesus says it this way.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12, ESV)
Interesting how Jesus equates Law and love, isn’t it? As people move away from the Law, they move away from love. So if we want to get closer to God, we get closer to His Laws. Every tiny little command we follow is loving Him that much more. He loved us first, and we love Him in a small way by doing everything He says.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12, ESV)
Some people insist on questioning the Law. They liken it to “slavery,” or “legalism,” or stuff we cannot do. They view God as a sadist because He gives us “laws” that we cannot follow. They don’t see the Law as love, because they do not understand love. Their hard hearts prompt them to resent the Law as burdensome requirements imposed from the outside on the unwilling. They see God as a harsh taskmaster who doesn’t deserve the smallest return on His investment (Matthew 25:24).
But our hearts are flesh, and have the Law written on them by the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34). We delight in every word God speaks, and work at whatever He suggests. We love others in the Body with a similar love, because He first loved us. After all, Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness. He paid the penalty for disobedience to God’s Laws, so we don’t have to worry that if we make a mistake we will be separated from Him again. He is not waiting to hammer us for the smallest misstep. He longs for us to respond to His Words of Life and have life more abundantly. His Word trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives, zealous for good works.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14, ESV)
From the book Whole Bible Christianitychapter 9 Whole Bible Instruction section titled “Do What Jesus Did”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Matthew 4:5–7, ESV)
Guideline four here might be a little more obvious if we realize that the word “put” is the same word as “test.” Literally, “test God with a test.” And testing is exactly what we think it is. We do not make God prove Himself with tests of our own making. This is what the deceiver was trying to get Jesus to do by throwing Himself off of the Temple. Testing like this includes a lack of belief and even outright disobedience. The Satan quoted parts of Scripture (he’s skilled at part-Bible doctrine) and Jesus responds with the missing sections.
16“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. 17“You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. (Deuteronomy 6:16-17 NASB95)
Israel “tested” God at Massah (a word that means “test”) by moaning and complaining about the lack of water, and faulting God for failing to provide. They were questioning whether God was present, and disobedience followed. Instead, they should’ve had patience and trusted that God would not have led them to that place without providing water.
7He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7 NASB95)
In effect, they were saying that God couldn’t or wouldn’t follow through. That implied either He was too dumb to know they needed water or was deliberately messing with them. They were saying that God did something wrong on purpose. They made up a fault in God and were using that to remove Him from the throne and put themselves in His place. Testing God in this way is nothing more than high-handed disobedience, and shows we do not trust God’s Word. When we test Him with a test of our own making, it is because we are afraid He won’t live up to His Word. Or that we want to use a perceived failure of the test for an excuse to go our own way.
A different kind of test is laid out for us in Malachi. This testing is approved by God.
10“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Malachi 3:10 NASB95)
The testing mentioned here is within the bounds of obedience, as in “obey the Lord, and in so doing test Him and see that His Word is true. He will deliver as He promised.” We don’t test God by disobedience; we test Him by trusting His Word and obeying it.
When we decide on our own to switch the Sabbath to another day, this is also testing God with a test. He doesn’t immediately (or apparently) zap us, so we think we’re okay. Then we go on to break other laws. If we eat bacon and don’t drop dead we keep eating. We presume on His grace, making it cheaper. Then we compound our sin by sharing the results of the test with others. We encourage them to test Him in a sinful way also. It just keeps getting worse and worse. Either we stick with the whole of His Word, carefully and exactly, as Jesus did, or we test Him to justify our own knowledge and pride. I think I’ll pick the testing of obedience, myself.
Just a note to let you know that we’ve posted a new article to the website titled Read the Word Publicly. We advocate reading large portions of the first five books of the Bible and the first five of the … read more
Baltimore Sun October 23, 2017 Article: Churches merge, close: “We no longer live in Christendom. We really have to accept that it’s a thing of the past” The quote above is from Reverend Daniel Webster, canon for evangelism and media … read more
Just put a new article up on the website titled Law, Restated. It’s about the imaginary restriction some people put on the Law that it is not restated in the New Testament. Therefore it is not something we “have” to … read more
Jesus meets a demon possessed man near a herd of pigs in the country of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes as recorded for us in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. He commands the demons, who call themselves Legion, to … read more
Publishing a book is not an easy task. Traditional publishers want you to get a literary agent and won’t accept manuscripts if you don’t. A literary agent can be good or bad, but mostly they are limited by their own … read more
So I was catching up on the news this morning and ran across an article titled 50 Christian Statues Defaced and Decapitated in Germany (Heatstreet by way of The Drudge Report 12/15/16). My first reaction was “Huh? Christian statues?” My … read more
Our book Whole Bible Christianity has finally been published! It is on Amazon at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997501413/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1DQVER67Q2HMX&coliid=I1RPTLB6JQO1FI There is a Look Inside feature, you can flip between the front and back cover, and it is only $19.50. If you would … read more
Arius was a guy who lived around 300 A. D. and came up with the notion that Jesus was created. He was a bishop in the “church” who challenged the teaching common at the time that Jesus was God in … read more
Thank you for proclaiming and searching the whole word of Yahweh. Please if my question’s and reasoning’s seem harsh or confrontational forgive me as this will never be my intention. I It seems to me that Yahshua never planed to … read more
I read the headline on Drudge with amusement: Americans More Skeptical of God than Ever Before. I had to laugh. And laugh. And chortle. And maybe even snicker. All these surveys measuring human belief in God, and not a single … read more