Sunday, June 12, 2016

MASQUERADE. ANGELS OF LIGHT? OR SATAN'S SERVANTS?

MASQUERADE
A. Brother

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived
by the serpent’s cunning, your minds
may somehow be led astray
from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 
Or if someone comes to you
and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached…
you put up with it easily enough.” 
2 Cor. 11:3,4

“…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 
It is not surprising, then, if his servants
masquerade as servants of righteousness.” 
2 Cor. 11:14,15

            Since Christ came, there have been those who knew Him, and preached Him truly and faithfully.  These men, like Paul, suffered much to follow Christ, and were examples of his love and sacrifice.  They lived the “sincere and pure devotion” which Paul talks about here to the people they brought into the Kingdom of God. 
          They were examples to the flock of Christ’s compassion, humility, and generosity, giving of themselves without thought of being paid back, and desiring only that men and women find Christ for themselves, and that they be taught the truth consistent with Scripture and the life of Jesus.  From the apostles on down, these men and women are our examples for life and service in Christ.

          But today, as always, we have many who do not preach and teach the Jesus of the Bible.  They are fakers and deceivers, deceiving and being deceived, and take many with them down the path of disobedience and confusion.  Our churches in affluent America have gone down this path with alarming speed over the past decades, growing fat and complacent, leaving the elementary truths of God’s Word behind in their love affair with the world and its ways.
          Our leaders, the so-called shepherds of the flock, have led the way in being deceived, and in accepting the wages of the world.
          The vast majority of our church traditions, practiced daily, weekly and monthly among the churches calling themselves by Christ’s Name, are weak and faulted, based upon the traditions of men rather than on the revealed will of God in His Word.
          The traditional church service.  The Sunday School.  The tithe.  The sacred days, like the Sabbath, Christmas, Easter.   The role of pastors.  The clergy/laity division.  All are dangerously removed from Biblical teaching, and must be examined as man-made traditions, much like those gradually adopted by the Jews over the centuries, which Jesus our Lord spoke against, and still speaks against in His Word.  Our desire to have religion and its trappings has resulted in a maze of religious tradition that entraps people who would know Christ from finding the way to Him.
          God abhors religion.  He hates man-created religious tradition, pomp and ceremony.  He despises our attempts to rein in the Holy Spirit and put Him in the confines of liturgy and rigid conformity to comfortable schedules and staid religious structures.
          Who are we to stand against the Word of God?  To ignore His clear Ways?  To replace His power with our placid, powerless religion?  To preach a gospel other than that which Paul and the other apostles preached?  Who are we to disobey the God of Heaven, who reached down in Christ to pluck us out of dead religion, and grabbed us away from the world and its basic principles?  Who are we to mold ourselves after the weak and miserable traditions of men, instead of holding fast to the Truth that is the power of God in us?

          As Paul told the Corinthian ekklesia of God in the passage quoted above, they were already being led astray by smooth-talking professional preachers and teachers who were more interested in securing lucrative and steady employment than in serving Christ by taking up their cross of pain and suffering.  So today, we have a professional clergy that is dedicated to continuing the puny traditions of men, so that they can thrive in steady, salaried, comfortable positions of prominence.
          If Paul were preaching today, he’d be standing against this unholy system of paid prophets and secure shepherds, because he stood against it in his day.
          The tithe we preach and teach today has absolutely no place in the teaching of the New Covenant.  The teaching of the New Covenant in Christ is giving, without reference or basis in tithing.  Generosity, love, sharing, and giving up all one has is the new standard.  Love for the brethren is the key concept in giving, and support for those who preach and teach God’s Word among us is expected, not in worldly business paradigms, but in spontaneous, abundant, loving provision out of hearts full of gratitude to Christ.  Our giving to Christ is not counted in percentages, but in possibilities.
          The church services we hold have no resemblance to those held among the scattered ekklesia of God in New Testament days.  Their coming together was marked by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and though done in orderly fashion, was marked by the enthusiastic input of all in the Body that were present, with songs and teachings being brought by many, and confession of sin and prayer for healing of those sins being a regular part of their gatherings.  The music was spontaneous and came from the heart.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were allowed to be manifest among the brethren as He led, and the unfettered growth of the Body in love and strength and encouragement was the result.  There was mourning and grieving, repentance and confession as well as joy and praise.  There was no “professional” staff hired to plan and develop sophisticated service traditions, and to do all the leading and teaching and preaching and music themselves.
          Leaders were expected to shepherd the flock, down in the trenches, loving and working individually with their sheep.  They knew their sheep as Jesus knows them, doing the difficult work of feeding and caring for them, as Jesus did.  Every sheep was expected to grow and contribute, and the leaders were charged with teaching and preaching, making sure the flock learned how to follow Jesus, and going after the strays personally, as Jesus would.  The leaders were charged also with training others to lead, and growing up others into the maturity in Christ that would allow them to teach others how to follow Christ.
          There were no special days, because the birth of Christ, His death, and His resurrection were celebrated in the daily life of the Body.  They were in the process of dying to self, and being resurrected to new life, and it wasn’t a once a year thing.  It was daily.  That’s why they met together often, as often as they could, because they loved to be together, and didn’t need special days and special events to make it worthwhile. 
          There were no staid traditions.  It was each day with Christ, each day by faith and not by sight, each day in danger and difficulty on the Narrow Road with their Savior.  They, like many Christians in the non-affluent countries today, knew that following Christ meant exposure to mistreatment, and hardship.  As it would for us in America if we truly followed Christ, instead of playing dead religious games.

          We must fall on our knees and repent, asking the Lord God for forgiveness, and for His will in His Word to be revealed to us in freshness by His Spirit.  We must weep and mourn and wail as James says, seeking God’s forgiveness for our apostasy and comfortable disobedience.  We ask God for the wrong things, and we ask Him with wrong motives, to spend them on our own spiritual comforts and pleasures.

          Woe to those who lead the flock of God into the wrong pastures!  You who eat of the best, and sit at the seats of honor at the banqueting tables, and hold the pulpits away from the Lord’s people so that you can have the preeminence.
          Woe to you who treat the Lord’s holy offices of leadership as a career, and your positions as secure ways of income!
          Woe to you leaders who lead with unexamined and untested lives, emulating not Paul and the other apostles, not the Lord Jesus Himself, but the worldly leaders around you.  Woe to you who rely on worldy management principles to govern the One Holy Nation of God!

“Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come…
You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.” 
Amos 6:1-7

            Listen to the Word of God, kneel and repent of your wickedness, before He comes and removes you from your exalted and comfortable position.  Grieve over the ruin of the churches, put aside your self-absorption and insistence upon your security, and become like the Lord Jesus, the Servant, and like the apostles and prophets who are given us as examples in Scripture. 
          Abandon Broadway, and take the Narrow Roads with Christ, and find true fulfillment in your calling, or suffer the loss of all you have worked for!
          Sheep of the One Flock, heed your One Shepherd’s voice, and leave the dead religious traditions of men.  Follow Christ, your Lord and find His joy, His peace, His love, His Way.  Leave the men and women who “masquerade as servants of righteousness” but preach a Jesus other than the Jesus preached by the Word of God.  Leave them and follow Christ, for in the final Day, you will have no excuse!

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