“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (II Tim. 3:12-13). These remarks are pertinent to every age and race. Godly denotes those who live with piety and holiness suitable to the Christian faith. Will is to will, desire or wish, implying the act of volition. It is often used in cases where wisdom and justice are not apparent, but where the will is absolute. Like the Apostle, those who have the desire to live the Christian life have periods when good and evil principles are brought into close collision and the bystander cannot understand why one will not just “go along with the crowd” rather than pursue his beliefs. Wax is to drive forward as if with repeated strokes, beat forward, beat ahead, push forward, advance. This is descriptive of evil men in contrast to those seeking to do meticulously the will of God. To use a common expression it means these evil characters will “go from bad to worse.” Deceiving and being deceived suggests how these deteriorate from bad to worse. It is through self-deception as well as deceiving others. Paul evidently has in mind some he had personally observed who had repeated falsities so often that they came to believe them as true. I must admit, that I have crossed paths with some in my lifetime that I judged this the case. If you disagree with this conclusion, surely you realize that some men are bent on deceiving others whether they believe their deceptive ways true or do not believe them so.
World conditions are like the rising waves of an angry sea. Never have we a greater need for a rock of ages to which we can cling. Never in my lifetime, has there been a greater need for the unity in the body of Christ to shine in the world with a noble light. Yet, despite the urgency of the times, and the opportunity these times afford, the church seems to be driven by evil men to come apart at the seams. Tensions within and without the church pull at the tie that binds. I suppose that some of this can be expected and even anticipated, first, because the times were stressful from the beginning even though the Apostles walked the earth. Secondly, the church is not a robot but a living organism. The church must grow and deal with things that would hinder and destroy it. And, third, some that have been baptized into Christ (added to the church,) have brought worldly and religious practices—baggage—unknown to the New Testament with them. Pride, arrogance and self-will have always been (and I suppose ever will be a menace) to the church. Forth, we recognize and have championed the free moral agency of man with the right to read, study, and come to scriptural conclusions. If the church had an infallible Pope whose words were infallible laws, I suppose that some turmoil would be alleviated. Deliver us from that!
Jesus recognized that Christians were to live in the world, yet He knew there loomed the danger of contamination, a real and deadly threat to the spiritual man. For that reason the Lord prayed to the Father, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (Jn. 17:15). Doubtless, His prayer and intention was to include the influence of evil men, whose desire is to deceive us.
THE CHURCH AND THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD ARE NOT THE SAME
In the judgment hall of the Governor in answer to his question, “Art thou the King of the Jews,” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but my now is kingdom is not from hence.” (Jn. 18:36). The kingdom of our Lord and the church are the same people—people “called out of the world” and placed in the Kingdom upon obedience to the Gospel (Col. 1:13 & 18). Without thinking about it, we are all aware that the Kingdoms (Governments) of the world are established and maintained by force and carnal might. However, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ was not established nor is it maintained by the weapons of carnal warfare. The Gospel is not machine gunned into a person and Christians do not capture others, put them in jail or otherwise torture them until they confess Christ. If that was the manner Christ wants us to use, He asserts that He would not have been taken prisoner by the Jews and delivered to Pilate because there would have been a skirmish put up by His followers.
The Jews as religious zealots by bringing Jesus to Pilate had surrendered to a political agenda in order to advance their religion. “And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ the King.” (Lk. 23:1-2). Mixing politics with religion was popular when it was to their advantage. They certainly did not care about Caesar being honored. They serve as an example of what others do to advance a cause. Christians send a look of condemnation in their direction for what they did and how they accomplished their end—calling for the death of Jesus.
Look at the terrorists among us called “Islam.” They wage war in the name of Allah taking the physical lives of innocent women and children, even to the point of trying to destroy religions that are different from their own. Politically they use their religion to gain advantage. Americans have historically deplored such acts of violence. There are ways of bringing others to your side besides the use of fear of bodily harm. As Christians, we stand in opposition to their tactics and follow the manner Jesus advocated, which is to gain people by gaining their heart. A person becomes a Christian when he has “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine” preached from the Book of God (Rom. 6:17).
Viewing the landscape today, we see so called Christianity being dragged to the low point of being used to advance political agenda’s. While some speak ill of the Jews as they use their religion to exalt Israel, and bemoan the fact that people of the Moslem persuasion promote their religion to gain advantage either politically or geographic, turn around and practice the same thing. Men like Pat Robertson, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton calling themselves “Reverend” use a perverted form of Christianity to further their political ideologies. Regarding or discarding their politics, shame on them for low-rating Christianity to the mud! May I add that these men clearly are more interested in filling their pockets and duping their followers than in seeking to please God. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, (trusting that they are not outright hypocrites), if they believe what they are doing is right, they are “deceived” and they are “deceiving” those who blindly follow them. The Apostle indicted such men when he inferred that they use a cloke of covetousness” (I Thes. 2:5). A word to the wise from the Savior: “if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall in the ditch.” (Mt. 15:13).
WHILE ON THIS MAY I MENTION TWO IMPORTANT THINGS
- 1. The use of the word “Reverend” as a religious title for men. The men named are not the only ones guilty of attaching the tittle to themselves for advantage. The word “reverend” is found but a single time in the Bible. David used it in Psalm 111:9 when speaking of God, “holy and reverend is his name.” The meaning is that God is terrible and men in recognition of His great might and justice in judging human frailties should fear lest we fail to obey His commandments bringing displeasure to Him. No man is worthy of such homage; therefore, it is irresponsible for a man to place such a title before or after his name. Such titles are foreign to the spirit and statements of the Word of God. Our Lord was quite severe in denouncing the use of religious titles. Speaking to the Pharisees of His day, the Lord said, “all their works they do for to be seen of men…And love the uppermost rooms at the feasts, and chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Mt. 23:5-9). The title of “Rabbi” was one that was earned among the Jews, yet, the Lord said this marks a separation among the people, therefore it should not be used. The men that take such titles unto themselves wish to show the superiority of themselves over common folk, or looking in the opposite direction, they desire to demonstrate the inferiority of we commoners to them. Shame on any man that calls himself “Reverend” a Biblical word used to designate God. Let me go a little further. When brethren in the church for which Jesus died are want to use titles to separate themselves from other members of the body they are equally as wrong. Taking words that are used to describe “a work” and place it on a signboard pointing to a certain man is contrary to the spirit of Jesus Christ. Some young men who aren’t shaving yet seek recognition thinking that a title makes them “somewhat” is the fruit of what we who are older have sown. Shame on us!
- Some ask: Doesn’t the fact that these men are sincere allow God to overlook their error? It is not my place to say what God is allowed. The only thing I can go by is what He has revealed to us. Whether a man is sincere or insincere has nothing to do with the matter of what is right and what is wrong, what is good or what is evil, what is righteous or what is sinful. Was Uzzah sincere when he saw the “Ark of the Covenant” sway and fearing it would fall and be crushed, put forth his hand to steady it? Regardless, he died the moment he touched it. Was Lot’s wife sincere when she peeped back toward Sodom? Doesn’t matter, she died the moment she saw the flaming city. When people use Christianity (albeit a perverted or corrupted form of it), to further their political ends Christianity is dragged through the mud giving the atheist ammunition to thwart the Lord’s Cause. Anyone with normal reasoning powers can see that the principle is the same as used by the Israelis and Islam.
CHRISTIANITY TURNED INTO PAGANISM
The occurrences of our modern world more and more place Christianity on the level of Paganism. Some who “claim to be Christians” act more like Pagans than Pagans themselves. At times, the similarity startles the observer. An outstanding characteristic of Pagan practices (ancient and modern), is that they use their (so called) “gods” to their own purposes. Religion becomes to them a device used to manipulate, placate and otherwise control these “gods” for their own purposes and ends. Pseudo Christians have the same spirit in their attempt to convert and order God to take up their cause and aid them in their particular endeavors. Can we deny that
their idea is to perform a few rituals or appropriate the name Christian to some far-fetched endeavor obligating God to take their side and somehow demands that others condone it. In addition, if any stand opposed to them or their endeavor, the advocates think that person arrays himself against the Almighty. God becomes a personal Genie and with a little practice the number of times we have to rub Him brings the desired blessings. Exaggerating? I think not! Look at the conditions around us, as these religious charlatans are hard at work deceiving the masses. “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom. 16:18).
Some of my brethren in Christ attempt to bring God down to our levels and make Him our servant rather than the other way around. Not to the extent, those mentioned above practice it, but it is done. The Kingdom of Christ is NOT of this world. Deceive ourselves as we may, God has not granted us the right to run the affairs of the KINGDOMS OF MEN. As a teenager, I recall a brother making the remark that he voted against a man running for President because he was a Roman Catholic. It so happens that he won and did become President. And, the man that opposed him (who was NOT a Roman Catholic) was later elected President and although he protested “I am not a crook,” was indeed a shyster. That was not surprising to students of the scripture. Christians need to pay attention to God’s word. Daniel remarked (4:17), “that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men, and giveth it to whosoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” Do you think you can change that? Do you think you can change God’s mind? Do you think that by some ritual (voting) that you can obligate God to you? Some Christians are like Sarah when God promised that Abraham and she would have a son: “Sarah laughed” disbelieving that God would accomplish what he said. Others are like her when she gave her husband her handmaiden to bear a son for him. Such Christians evidently decide they will help God out by voting the best man to office. Often brethren and sisters the similarity between Pagans and us is all too great.
Barney Owens 1501