Last week we talked about the intellectual ignorance over the last couple of millennia. This has been made up of men and women debating over doctrines and theology. Mix that with false prophets and satan masquerading as an angel of light and you end up with desolation and incomprehensible division and a form of godliness that has denied power. This has happened because of our disobedience to the word of God even though we were warned over and over again to obey. Just like Israel was warned about living in the Promised Land as to what would happen if they did not obey, we too were warned. This happened from the very beginning when Jesus started to preach and the further away we got from his teaching the worse it got, until what was being perpetuated was no longer the word of God but deception and delusion along with man’s intellectual misgivings about it. We ended up following those that say this is what I think; this is what I believe; this is what I want; this is what I can do etc. No longer was the gospel about the great I Am but the great preachers, teachers and gurus of each time period. We were warned from the beginning that this would happen. Last week I said put yourself in the Paul’s congregation; this is Paul speaking to you. Here is what Paul said in Acts 20:17 “Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 25 Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” My question is how in the world are people in the church today not seeing this same thing right before their eyes.
Remember in Revelation, the church at Ephesus was warned Revelation 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Paul told you what to do and he warned you this would happen. Don’t be surprised that this is happening throughout the church. Paul would say I told you so. At first the word of God went out and was preached and signs and wonders confirmed their message as Jesus said they would. This gospel was to be passed on. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 2:14 “For you became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.” This is our example of what we are to do. We are also to go out and preach and the same results should follow; nothing has changed with that command, except we do not have the same power simply because we no longer have become imitators of the gospel but imitators of what is false and man made. History in the church has shown us it is more important to uphold the distinctions of our particular set of beliefs. The early disciples and churches like the Thessalonians did as they were told to do and because they did so they went out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:45 “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (We desperately need God to do this again.) 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Acts 1:4 “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This going out was to be done in the power of the Holy Spirit not going in our own power as it has been for many generations. Look at what our hands have created.
As soon as we started ignoring the word of God and going our own way, His power was taken from us. That has been made clear all through scripture. So instead of being sent out in power, we are going out without power and being defeated. I know you might say some churches are packed, they must be doing something right. Sadly it really doesn't matter how many are following. Numbers do not make it truth. The end result will be “I don’t know you.” The further we get from New Testament times the worse it got as we discussed last week with all the denominations and doctrinal differences therefore we had to question salvation but no one seems to want to do that. Better to question now than later I would say. These differences have just been accepted. This is dead wrong because it looks nothing like how the church was designed to be with Jesus at the head, leading his flock. Arguments and debates and division prevail in the church to this day, accept now people just agree to disagree and call it unity. Wrong! That is not possible. To be unified we must be led by the Spirit, not by men teaching for their own gain, those who slipped in among us, those in sheep’s clothing; those who 2 Peter 2:1 “were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (It is what we have had for generations. Most have not questioned, they just move on to a more palatable doctrine) 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. 17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.” If the spirit does not lead us, we will be destroyed. Hosea 4:6 “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” Just because someone says the Holy Spirit guided them, we know from Jeremiah this can be false. This is all done in the name of the Lord but not necessarily in the name of the Lord. Saying it and actually having God say it to you are two very different things. I am not just talking about charismatics such as Benny Hinn or the likes of him but non charismatics like John MacArthur all teaching things contrary to the word of God but my people love it this way; what will we do in the end. Look at all the people follow just these two examples. Jeremiah 23:10 says “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. (Remember what Paul said, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.) 11 “Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,” declares the Lord. 12 “Therefore their path will become slippery; they will be banished to darkness and there they will fall.” (Says that in the New Testament also) 16 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ 18 But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? (Read the end of Job) Who has listened and heard his word? 19 See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. 20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. 21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.” 30 “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. 31 Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ 25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? Worshiping false gospels is the same as Baal worship with the same results. People are not turning from their wicked ways.
Just because men and woman have followers doesn’t not mean they are followers of God’s word. Those that followed Jim Jones I would say wished they hadn’t. Yes this is extreme but is it not the same for those following false gospels. The 918 who died pales to the millions who have been deceived by other gospels. What happens is many modify the gospel to fit their own needs and beliefs. (You saw this from the example I gave you at Christmas with James MacDonald) They have simply modified the intellectual ignorance that went before them and made it their own. Many are only repeating what they have heard from others and they have to adapt so that what they believe fits with their manmade theology. When they preach it is not a hammer or fire but just words from men and women who really don’t know what they believe according to the word of God. You can tell when you listen. Yet people by the millions listen and follow blindly down a path that only leads to death and destruction, not life and prosperity. People don't say Matthew 7:29 “he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law,” like they said about Jesus. We must worship in Spirit and in truth. This means we get off this path of intellectual ignorance and back on the highway of holiness. No I didn’t say back to the good old days of the reformed or holiness or charismatic movements but back to Joshua 1:7 “Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” In the church success is not defined with a secular definition; “a person who achieves desired aims or attains prosperity. The Christians definition of success is living by my Spirit and doing what God has commanded. Zechariah 4:6 “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” The opposite of this is Isaiah 30:1 [ Woe to the Obstinate Nation ] “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin;” It is not what we can do but what God can do in us and the results will look like scripture not like a Fortune 500 business model.
The only way to get back on track and get off this path of division is to turn from our wicked ways. Solomon was told in 2 Chronicles 7:13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” But this is where the church is at today. 19 “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name.”
So because we have no power we must turn back to the truth. We cannot have truth without the Spirit; we must be led by the Holy Spirit. Paul said in Romans 8:14 “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” It makes sense that if you are not led you are not children of God. In Galatians we are told even then when Paul wrote the churches of Galatia. Galatians 5:7 “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.” They were warned about not living by the Spirit but under the direction of men.” I read earlier Romans 8 but if you look at Romans 7 you will see that 8 is the answer to 7. Yes Paul confuses many “ignorant and unstable people who distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” as Peter said. Yes Paul said 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This is life without the Spirit. This is what the church has become. People say Paul was still a sinner and couldn’t help himself. People say just try harder. This is where legalism lives by the way. Colossians 2:23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” As Paul said in Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 3 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
If we want this freedom we must wait as Jesus told us to wait. It is obvious we do not have the power/ gifts of the Spirit let alone the fruits. Many in the church today do not even see that they will not inherit the kingdom of God because their lives are filled with the acts of the flesh. So we wait. God has called us to wait but I can guarantee that people will say how could God be leading if bad things happen. Well that is just the thoughts of those ignorant of scripture because Paul was already told bad things were going to happen in every city but that does not mean he was wrong. He was being led by the Spirit into much pesecution. Matthew 4:1 “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” Being led by the Spirit is not always the popular thing to do. For the most part it will offend the masses just as Jesus said it would. You see a couple of Old Testament examples of this. When Moses led the people there was an uprising and Numbers 16:3 “ They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron. Moses responds, “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him.”28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: The earth swallowed the protestors and people feared the Lord. Another example is when Elijah went up against the Prophets of Baal. I Kings 18:36 “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
Being led by the Spirit always stands in the face of the enemy. Not only does it stand but also defeats the enemy and pushes back darkness. Just in case you think God only did this in the Old Testament, we look Ananias and Sapphira. Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.” His wife lied also. Peter said “Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also. 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”
Could it be that we really do not want the Holy Spirit leading us because we would have to change. How many people would die in the church today if that power of the Holy Spirit returned? How many are dying right now? The only way we can change is by the Spirit. Just because someone told you were changed doesn’t mean that you are. I hear all the time people preaching you have the Spirit go. No you don’t. There would be evidence of the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. By the way finding out your spiritual gifting’s like good with kids, musician helper, these are just talents. You really don’t need to have someone tell you you can heal. It will be obvious and by the way the Holy Spirit gives as he determines. Saul was told, 1 Samuel 10:6 “The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8 “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” 9 As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.” Then we see the same at Pentecost. This is the example for us. This is what should be happening. Mark 16 going out in power, authority and the glory of God. Not following some guru who is not led by the Holy Spirit. If what the guru is saying doesn’t look like scripture don't follow.
We need to follow by the leading of the Holy Spirit. I always thought the printing press was key to the spread of the gospel. Thanks to Gutenberg way back in 1456 we now have a printed bible. One person said, “Christianity, the religion of the Book, was becoming universal in a new way. Religion did not have to end at the church door; thanks to the possession of Bibles, every household could become a training ground for faith.” By the way we don’t want religion, we want fire. Okay great now look at this way. Think about how many bibles people have especially now that we can read it online. The word of God is more accessible than ever before but still the least read best seller of all time. We have more access to the written word of God than ever before and what is the result. The bible has been set aside for tradition, reason, experience, writings of man and their ideas about their own ignorance prevail. The church sits dimly lit with the candle almost out. So is the written word really what it is all about. Last week we said the bible just becomes a book without the Spirit but with the Spirit we worship in Spirit and in truth and the world is changed. We read about the new covenant. Hebrews 8:11 “No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Where is that? So we now see the church in desolation, void of power and no ability to reach the ends of the earth even though many are trying. We are in worse shape than we have ever been yet millions stand and worship every Sunday in packed buildings, poorly attended buildings and all those in between and my people continue to perish and no one is turning from their ways and everyone doing as they please. Jeremiah 5:3 “Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent.”
Sadly the word of God has not been passed on. What has been passed on was a set of beliefs. We saw it in Revelation and today we see still see the results of losing our first love and being lukewarm. Has the Holy Spirit been calling yes but are we listening and humbling ourselves and turning from our wicked ways. No. This is not complicated. We pass on what we have been taught. It was not supposed to change but we are not passing the truth on from generation to generation. If we were led by the Spirit we would still have power. Paul said 1 Corinthians 11:23 “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you.” If we were led by the spirit it would have been passed on in the power of the spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:1 “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (by the way 120 in the upper room) 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”
This is how it is passed on but we are missing something key. We haven’t been passing the Holy Spirit on through the laying on of hands. Remember this is an elementary part of the gospel as Hebrews 6 tells us. It doesn’t do much good to lay hands if the Holy Spirit is not present. But when the Spirit is present this is how it is done. We must also realize that the power can also come upon groups not just individuals. Luke 4:40 “At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” Acts 8:18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money.” Bad idea. 2 Timothy 1:6 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” This elementary teaching in the church is missing. The easy answer is so is the Holy Spirit. Also be careful you don’t want a false prophet laying hands on you by the way. 1 Timothy 5:22 “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.”
The ignorance of knowledge, our disobedience, going our own way, the doctrines of demons and false teachings have separated us from God’s word leaving us desolate. As our ignorance and disobedience grew more and more so has falseness. Now we know what it is like to not have the Holy Spirit and truth. You would think there would be repentance but the deception is immense. 2 Chronicles 12:5 “This is what the Lord says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.’” 6 The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is just.” 7 When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. 8 They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.” What a difference it is. Being led by the Spirit is not the same as going our own way. Have we not had enough of going our own way? Sure there can be man made results. Yes buildings can be built and filled with people for an hour but the secular world does the same thing; conferences, seminars football games. They fill buildings and listen to Ted speak for 18 minutes. Pretty sad that our attention spans are down to 18 minutes.
We can go through all the motions, it can look like Christianity and appear to be very successful but it will still be wrong if we are not being led by the Spirit. Yes I know those giants of success will say it is by the Sprit of God but the question will always be where is the power to defeat the enemy? Joshua 7:1 “Because the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things. 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” We saw this with Samson. He did not know the Lord had left him and he was defeated. The sooner we realize this and humble ourselves before God and turn from our wicked ways, the sooner we will see God move. Our wicked ways are following other gospels. For this we are in trouble. 2 Kings 22:13 “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
The people were told get ready to take the land. They were also told to obey and they were also told to follow for a reason. Why? The answer is simple. Joshua 3:2 “After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” It we want to go where God wants us to go we must follow him. How can we follow his voice if we don’t know it? Isaiah 55 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” God will keep his promise to David. If you want to be part of the remnant; you must be led by the Spirit. Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”