THE LORD IS A WARRIOR
Original first-century Christianity was known for the spiritual power of the apostles and early disciples. They had a powerful Leader.
“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” [Acts 10:38]
There has never been any greater or stronger Man in all of history than the Lord Jesus. In the Hebrew language He is Yehoshua HaMashiach. The definition of His Name contains the Tetragrammaton—YHWH-Savior, or Yahweh sets free. And this is what He came to accomplish, to save people and free them from the evil power of sin and bless them with abundant life.
He is the Messiah, the Anointed One. No one was ever more powerfully anointed. He was both a man’s Man and a tender compassionate Man who loved and cared for others. He was a Leader of very strong men, men with independent minds and powerful bearing. He would build on their natural strength and transform them into stouthearted spiritual men, the greatest men, men unafraid to act, bold men willing to take the Good News into every hell hole of the nation and rescue those to be saved and redeemed among the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
They would not need just His training though. As a Coach and Mentor He would show them the ropes and teach them all they needed, but He must also impart a greater strength made possible only by His powerful Holy Spirit. In this He would be a spiritual Father imparting His indwelling Spirit and giving them both a personal strength of mind and manner as well as a spiritual strength far greater than that of dark sinister forces and demon-possessed rulers.
The Lord’s men must be trained and empowered to do spiritual battle against mighty spiritual enemies. They would have to take on the devil, the world, and their flesh and deal properly with the flesh of others. They must be powerfully equipped to do so.
They were. He saw to it. That’s what Pentecost was all about. Once Pentecost happened His people were off to the races. The evidence of their success is historically obvious and evident: They turned the world upside down. They upset the normal business-as-usual status quo order in a way no group of people had ever done. It was, of course, an extension of the Lord’s earth-shaking ministry as He continued working with them.
The Lord’s first intention was to set people free from slavery to sin, demonic influence, and evil authoritarians who used people as mere cattle. His success in this objective was off the charts.
THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL
Yet here we are in the present, living in a world far more wicked than that world of two thousand years ago. There are far more people needing salvation and spiritual freedom. Followers of the Lord Jesus must therefore be just as spiritually equipped as His original apostles and the first-century Community of believers in order to be as successful.
But sadly, American Christians in general have largely rejected the only means by which to do this and have substituted non-spiritual alternatives that do nothing to address our greatest need, that of winning spiritual victories and defeating spiritual enemies. This must change.
For starters, Christians will never be able to defeat the strong influence and temptation of this fallen world unless they effectively leave it, exactly as the Lord and His disciples taught.
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [James 4:4]
Exiting the “world” was clearly illustrated in the story of the Exodus. Egypt is a type of the world and the first major thing the Israelites were commanded to do when the time came was get out. This they did, en masse, in the dramatic event we call the Exodus. Their exit was sealed once they walked through the divided Red Sea on dry ground to the other side and watched as the sea came crashing back together as a slamming door. There would be no going back and that’s how it should be for all believers.
Then, from that point forward throughout the Sinai wanderings, the Lord did His best to get all the Egypt out of them but was unsuccessful with that first generation and it paid an eternal price. In our day, many Christians, a possible majority, have done the same. They have compromised their walk and made peace with a sinful world rather than flee as commanded. Having never left Egypt in their hearts nor allowed the Lord to get it out of them, they instead joined the equivalent of Pharaoh’s kingdom with no remorse. Such soft pretenders are filled instead with the spirit of the fallen culture. They are as worldly as the day is long and have no understanding or concern of the penalty which awaits. They will die out in the Sinai. They will never enter the Promised Land. Their choice disqualifies them from the following:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. [1Peter 2:9-10]
Christians will also never be able to defeat the devil unless and until they can defeat their own flesh. Remember, the Lord was not shy in His instructions regarding this—He effectively stated we must crucify the flesh. He said we cannot properly follow Him unless we do so while carrying our cross. The cross is a constant reminder that our flesh must be defeated, it must be put down, and it must be ever-crucified. He showed us how to do it.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [Galatians 5:24]
Prior to ministry, as a manual worker, the Lord was an incredibly strong and dynamic Man, working long and hard each day out in the elements, laboring as a skilled builder and carpenter. His skin was bronzed and tanned by the sun. He was Man of rippling tendon and sinew and muscle. And yet when the time came to begin His ministry, His purpose for being here, He gave it all up over the course of a 40 day fast. He transferred His natural strength, suited to His prior purpose, for spiritual strength suited to His new purpose. He became thin and likely somewhat drawn but only in the natural. In the Spirit he was heaving 500 pound boulders like baseballs. The fasting never stopped, of course, though He practiced it at intervals. Scripture does not say how far He went in this regard after His initial fast but along with mighty ongoing prayer which often came forth in solitary all night prayer meetings, fasting was an overall part of His spiritual lifestyle. And the results were historic (understatement alert).
Unless American Christians in general also embrace the spiritual discipleship and dynamic ministry of the Lord and His originals they may just as well quit altogether because their efforts are largely worthless. Such amounts to nothing more than going through religious motions in the natural, in the flesh that should otherwise be defeated and crucified. In fact, their flesh is for the most part coddled and embraced. Thus, many Christians of whatever stripe have no means to defeat spiritual enemies.
This denotes, of course, that their spiritual enemies are defeating them. It is why so much has been lost. It is why America has fallen. American Christians in general refuse to get equipped to fight. Most won’t even start the program. They are content to play church while everything goes to hell around them. They refuse to engage.
But when they are actually faced with the enemy—when he comes to their town, to their church, or to their very home—they will need to engage and want to engage but will be unable. It will be too late. They will have no means with which to fight. They had previously rejected spiritual weaponry and chose powerless religion as a worthless substitute. They made no plans for any such enemy assault upon themselves. They never prepared. Their wimpy defensive posture renders them defenseless.
Why? Here’s why: The Lord Jesus created a dynamic spiritual army, one that goes on the offensive, is proactive, and attacks the gates of hell. He thus provided no armor for our backside. However, once Christians accept living in an anti-spiritual-fight mode and at best adopt a purely defensive posture, withdrawing from the fight instead of going on the offensive, they will soon find themselves unable to defend anything. The devil will have a field day. Sound familiar?
THE NEW TESTAMENT MODEL
It could all be so much different. Real Christians serve a very powerful King. There is nothing He cannot do. His spiritual enemies greatly fear Him. They each know He has the means to destroy them. He can obliterate them and make them pay. He can send demons to the abyss. Yet the Lord has decided to make things interesting by not fighting from the advantage of heaven only but also through the veil of humanity. He defeated the devil as a Man, as a Human Being. But before that He had already defeated the world and illustrated the process of defeating one’s sinful flesh. His flesh was never sinful so He never had to defeat it but He illustrated what it takes to do so.
His sinlessness, of course, made Him the perfect and only candidate to be the Sacrifice Lamb who would take away the sin of the world but it took extremely great courage and powerful determination to face the cross. No human being can ever know how difficult it was for Him. No one can possibly relate. But He was willing to face the cross in part to give His people the means to defeat spiritual enemies also. Sadly and inexplicably, however, the majority of Christians in the world have largely wasted the Lord’s great sacrifice by never appropriating this spiritual power. The likely culprit is sinful flesh unwilling to die. Therefore, if one wants to fight against and defeat spiritual enemies one will never be able to do so until one defeats one’s own flesh. Sinful flesh is a potent enemy and does not go down easy.
As a test case imagine the following scenario: On a Monday morning, when a never or rarely fasting Christian decides to do a simple half day fast from midnight to noon on Tuesday, he will suddenly likely want to head to the grocery store and load up as if a natural disaster is coming and then chow down even possibly unto the midnight hour “in preparation” as if he’s on death row and it’s his last meal. Then when Tuesday comes he spends the longest and most dreadful few hours of his life having no idea how he will ever get through such a difficult and trying procedure.
Of course, if this person, on Monday, never thought about fasting and never intended to fast on Tuesday, then skipped breakfast on Tuesday morning for any reason other than spiritual, it would be no big deal, the morning would fly by, and he would probably never even be hungry.
This is how the flesh operates.
As long as it’s in control and thoroughly satiated the flesh will be relaxed and happy and even sassy and won’t go nuts and fight back having no need to. But the flesh WILL go nuts and fight back when:
(1) Its authority is challenged
(2) Its comfort level is threatened
(3) Spiritual means are suggested and are intended to be applied
(4) It’s confronted with its greatest dread—conviction of sin
Sinful flesh hates being reminded of what it is and equally hates and fears the idea of any opposition toward sin and especially fears and hates the process of repentance. It also hates the entire idea of the Gospel. Again, the flesh is a potent spiritual enemy.
Now, for a positive example made for those who desire to make the correct application and gain victory over sinful flesh, here’s a quick illustration you won’t find anywhere else of what overcoming the flesh looks like:
In the movie The Wizard of Oz, the wicked witch of the west (who is worse than the wicked witch of the east), at her very worst and most evil represents the flesh in its greatest strength (“I’ll get you, my pretty!”).
The wicked witch of the west frantically crying out while being evaporated toward nothingness is the flesh being fought against and overcome (“I’m melting! Melting!”).
The wicked witch of the east under a house with her stockinged feet sticking out and toes curled up is the flesh defeated. Likewise, the wicked witch of the west, after she was reduced to a flat steaming heap of black witch apparel, is the flesh defeated.
THE OLD TESTAMENT MODEL
When one walked in the fenced tabernacle enclosure, the first structure seen was the Altar of Sacrifice. This represents Repentance. It entails total destruction, death, and consummation by fire.
The next structure immediately after this was the Brazen Laver. It was where the priests washed after making sacrifice. It perfectly represents Water Baptism.
Right after this was the opening to the Tabernacle itself. This represents the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Before one could do the work required within the Holy Place (the first section of the tent), he had to be equipped and qualified. In the Holy Place was the large seven-branched Golden Lampstand, the Table of the Bread of the Presence (KJV: shewbread), and the Altar of Incense. Each of these has a spiritual meaning and represents the specific work of the Lord’s Community post Pentecost.
It is why the apostle Peter used the following exact words at the end of his initial message, the very first of the Church. In it, he portrayed the greatness of the Lord and His unprecedented accomplishment on the cross on our behalf. He explained how the Lord defeated His spiritual enemies and why His followers must follow in His footsteps. And He announced the arrival of the Promise, which was on full display that very morning, moments before, when the Upper Room was filled with the presence of the Lord and in which each person there was also filled and became spiritual warriors.
The greatest of Warriors won the greatest of victories and would pass on the spiritual means to do the same for whosoever was willing from that point forward. Remember, every single real member of the Lord’s Community—His Kingdom—is a spiritual priest. And just as it was in the Old Testament when only priests could enter the tabernacle and minister (an allegorical type and shadow of New Covenant ministry), each spiritual priest must also be qualified to enter the Lord’s spiritual tabernacle and minister (listed in four parts in the following passage). And each priest of the Lord is subject to the only King and High Priest and reveres His holy Name.
He is the Door through which one enters the Holy Place—the Lord Jesus Messiah:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. [Acts 2:36-42]
© 2023 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
THREE TYPES OF CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA (Part 4)
In this post I will identify the first of the three types. For those of you who have been faithfully following this series you have likely deduced the three types by now…
On the surface, the original Pharisees didn’t look so bad. They were dedicated (one may say ultra-dedicated) to their belief system. Outwardly, it looked as though they were faithfully following the Word of God. They overtly held the Word of God in high honor. But this must be qualified. Their emphasis was not actually on the entire Word. As many Christians today, they had their prejudices and were quite selective regarding Scripture, though they convinced themselves otherwise. Regarding this practice, and how they made their supposed application thereof, the Hebrew Scriptures of that time (the OT) had a different format than that which we have today in our “Christian” Bibles. Their Scriptures consisted of three main divisions:
(1) The Law (Torah, or “Teaching”), which comprised the Pentateuch, the first five books of the OT
(2) The Prophets, which included not only the individual accounts of the Major and Minor Prophets but also the earlier historical books of Joshua, Judges, Kings, and Samuel
(3) The Writings (the remainder of the OT, primarily the Psalms, which the Lord referred to often)
The Pharisees were specifically very high on The Law. They emphasized the teachings of Moses. And though Moses was certainly a prophet, they didn’t necessarily see him that way nor do most Christians. They saw Moses as the great lawgiver and ostensible head of the nation in that he revealed all the particulars of how they should live.
Moses (1526-1406BC) predated the kings of Israel and the many prophets, both the well-known and the not so much, which arose several centuries later. The Pharisees certainly had respect for Abraham (1946-1771BC), but focused primarily on the Law and neglected (often spurned) The Prophets.
The latter is due in part because the Pharisees (Separated Ones) originated at a time which was already far into the “Silent Years” in which the prophetic voice was entirely absent from the nation. Regarding a specific date of their founding, some say it coincided with the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in 167BC. However, there had likely already been a loose organization by that time which may have existed for a few decades which rapidly coalesced in response to the attack and desecrations of Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
The last Hebrew prophet was Malachi in approximately 450-420BC. Therefore, since there were no longer any prophets or prophetic voice speaking to the nation in what remained of Israel (primarily Judea) after that date, the entire focus shifted to The Law, since this was the area of expertise of the Tribe of Levi, along with the temple and its ceremonies, rites, etc. The Levites were the only ones remaining in authority in charge of anything “spiritual,” so to speak. Lacking the very necessary prophetic Word and the highly anointed Prophets to balance them out, correct them, and keep them in line (theses two camps often clashed), it is not difficult to see how the nation drifted away from the heart of God and proceeded to emphasized dogma, laws, rites, externals, liturgies, and unbridled religious authority from an ecclesiastical caste which superseded the heart of the Lord as characterized through the prophetic writings.
Which made it all the more strange that the Pharisees and their precursors effectively dishonored the Law. How did they do this? First of all, one may recall the apostle Paul’s admonitions about the letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law:
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. [Romans 7:6]
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [2Corinthians 3:4-6]
Those who look at The Law from a strictly legal perspective have a problem with it covertly though they may honor it overtly. The problem? It is not specific enough. Though it contains a great many laws (613), including the ceremonial directives, it correspondingly contains behavioral commands about what to do and what not to do and lists many “for instance” particulars which are very specific. It also defines sin. Yet it cannot possibly list all the sins known to man and could not possibly list all the possible “for instances” that might occur. So even though it appears to be a comprehensive collection of all conceivable thou shalts and shalt nots that would satisfy the strictest Torah teachers and certainly everyone else, who would otherwise think it to be much too extensive and far-reaching (and extremely difficult to follow and obey), there were some who thought it to be quite limited.
Why? Because they could conjure up other specific particulars that Moses never addressed. In their defense, they likely experienced such particulars or heard of such and knew as lawyers they must address every possible occurrence. So while God was giving specific laws through Moses these laws were seen as somewhat general laws and needed to be further parsed out. This is why the Torah teachers, over several centuries, began adding greater specificity to the original Torah so as to have an answer for pretty much any eventuality. All these additional “laws” were collected over time and became quite extensive. And because they could never write all these additional laws down and thereby give them the same legitimacy as the Torah, their vast collection became known as the Oral Law. It was passed down orally over the centuries and collected greater weight and honor along the way.
But this large collection of specific oral additions to the written Law of Moses caused a problem. By attempting to be too fine, the Oral Law had a tendency to lessen the impact of the original. After a while, those guys went even further in their attempt to add to the Law by adding much additional fine tuning to their initial fine tuning. For example, if the Law stated plainly “Don’t Do This,” they would break down all the possibles of what that single command entailed so as to have every possibility covered. One may see this as a good thing in that it merely added greater clarity to the issue, especially since there were penalties involved in breaking such a law, sometimes severe.
But as I alluded to previously, a very strange thing happened. Within the list of further particulars and possibles contained in the Oral Law was the possibility of some particulars which seemed to get one off the hook. In delving into all such possibilities an even stranger occurrence took place. The Torah teachers actually started making laws designed to do that very thing. They eventually created a massive system of statutes that only they were privy to and they learned exactly how to implement them to gain a particular outcome.
Therefore, is it surprising that the Oral Law tended to favor its most loyal supporters, those who actually created it? Is it not a phenomenon in this world that laws are often written to favor those in charge and do damage to perceived political enemies? This was the inherent danger in adding to the Word of God, whether one was sincere or not. Mixing religious prejudicial renderings from the hand of man causes the Word of God to lose its impartial and holy nature.
Remember, this was the “Oral Law.” It was never written down before 70AD when the nation ceased to be. The only way to learn it and know it was by being taught by the few who did, and the only way that could happen was by being an ultra-dedicated student who would honor their Torah teachers (lawyers) exclusively and never question them or their teachings.
Though it may seem obvious to people from without (or should), those people who created, passed on, and taught the Oral Law had actually created an elite Secret Society with its own precise rules and regulations in which only the top members knew what their Oral Law actually stated in total. Most Israelites were apparently completely unaware of these sinister goings-on. Maybe they never noticed because the internal goings-on were always done essentially in secret though in appearance in the open. (There existed a superficial front of legitimacy hiding the actual unspoken agenda.) In other words, the few candidates to become members of the next generation of Oral Law teachers learned their craft in schools which only they attended. The people at large had no idea what went on in such places but were conditioned over time to believe that the Torah schools (in which the Oral Law predominated) were a great and holy enterprise created and supported by God. They learned to never question anything that went on there.
Now, while this was true for the majority of Israelites, whether some actually believed in the institution fully or not but went along with it anyway, there were a few who disagreed. And some of those who disagreed and saw through the false façade of the Oral Law institution and its teachers were strongly opposed. Yet, not having a voice and being appropriately wary of crossing powerful people who had tricked the general public into supporting them and gaining their trust, few ever spoke out. But the time came when the centuries of silence finally ceased. The blessed day arrived when God’s voice returned.
THE AGE-OLD CLASH SUDDENLY REIGNITED
It was the coming of John the Immerser that blew the lid off and exposed them. A Great Awakening had begun. God was intent on exposing this secret society and all others like it which had gained illicit control over the nation and its people to their detriment. We have seen the same thing happen throughout our current Age of Grace which has existed from that time. There have been many occurrences when great corruption was exposed within Christianity in general. We are now living in one of those times.
Never forget that corruption always thrives in secret. John had to be completely and absolutely disconnected from society at large in order to be incorruptible and effective. He did an excellent job. May real Christians in the present be as effective.
It is always the case that a lack of proper accountability results in eventual corruption. When the ability to correct is removed, especially from those who lead and have great power, their corruption will spread throughout whatever it is that they control. When the corrupt controllers have the ability to threaten, coerce, and make demands upon the people they rule over and have the law and the means on their side to carry out their threats, there is no remedy or ability to counteract them outside the Kingdom of God. It is why countries, societies, and yes, religious organizations, should never allow the establishment of a tyrannical government, secret society, ruling class, or religious clergy group to take control because once they do, freedom will be the first casualty. And they will twist everything around for their own benefit.
It is why America, in its original form post Revolution, was the greatest country and form of government ever created. And while America now has an ever increasing amount of domestic enemies, some in very high places, who hate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and never have any problem ripping apart the Founders and their hope of a place in this world where individual freedom may reign, they never address any better alternative in the world. Even in its present degraded condition, America arguably remains the best country on the planet in the eyes of a likely majority, though freedom is under severe attack and will not last much longer without a powerful corrective.
However, one must know that the necessary corrective will never come from this first type of Christian in America which I identify here. Their political equivalent in the 1770s were the American Tories who continually betrayed the cause of freedom and independence by staunchly siding with the English Crown and Parliament. These people comprised about one third of the American Colonists. Many if not most of them were directly connected economically to the higher money interests in England and Europe which essentially controlled the government of England since the Bank of England was created in 1694. For the Tories, then, it was a power and money issue. Why should they fight against the very hand that feeds them? Why should they sacrifice their comfortable position in American society or allow it to be threatened for a mere political cause?
There are Christian denominations that still exist which were identified as Tory at the time of the American Revolution. They opposed the relatively smaller Protestant denominations who stood for freedom, those who actually had ministers of the Gospel who took up arms and fought for the cause. One particular well known large denomination which still exists today, though a mere shell of what it once was and almost thoroughly taken over by the sinful culture, was so against the American Revolution that many members left the country or went into hiding. They supported the English money-controlled tyrants absolutely. Those that remained refused to fight. And then when the War was over and their side lost, the many members of this denomination suddenly came back out of the woodwork and began evangelizing in America again, taking full advantage of the new religious freedom won in the War. Talk about your blazing hypocrites!
In essence, those who believe in high church, who cannot exist without customary church structures and a ruling clergy, who must be told what to believe and do, who have no desire to do their own research into the written Word, who refuse to put the pure teachings of the Lord Jesus first and always, and who revert to the beliefs of their denomination or church or pastor though such beliefs often clash and disagree with the New Testament, are identified as this first type of Christian. They will stand by as real Christians who honor the Lord Jesus are persecuted. They are the equivalent of the religious acolytes who refuse to get their hands dirty by helping the unfortunate victims of assaulting robbers left dying on the side of the road. They are as the rich man Dives who neglected a destitute Lazarus asking for mere scraps to stay alive and viable. They will rarely do anything which may threaten or sacrifice their standing in church society or as members of a higher group. Their money, salaries, prestige, and success are always more important. They place a high premium on their social status and are mortified if people see them as something other than legitimately mainline.
They are opposed to the total authority of the Lord Jesus, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and the free exercise of spiritual gifts. They are against the spiritual love and close fellowship as characterized by the originals and their unity in the Spirit. They insist that Christian unity can only exist through an authoritative establishment which must include institutional church structures just as the unbelieving Israelites insisted on the physical temple and its priesthood instead of the Lord’s new spiritual Temple comprised of every single believer as a priest thereof.
They gag at independent Christian home groups or Bible studies. They will only support whatever their church or leaders sanction and nothing else. They cannot see that church as we know it is much different than it was in the beginning. They don’t care about the beginning. They don’t care about Biblical Truth. They much prefer their own respective “Christian” interpretation which is more comfortable, socially acceptable, and not threatening to the devil. They love playing church. No matter how much someone may point out that so much of what they hold dear has no precedent or support in Scripture, they will continually insist they are perfectly satisfied with their interpretations, doctrines, and church formats to the point of actually holding Scripture in contempt. They hate it when Scripture proves them wrong. Even five hundred years after the Protestant Reformation we still have a great many Christians who insist on putting clergyites and church governments on the throne and allow their oppositional pronouncements and beliefs to counteract and overcome the Word of God.
These people are best defined as Christian Pharisees. They are perfectly described by the Lord Jesus in the following passage as He reveals the fallacy of the Pharisees’ vaunted Oral Law (the tradition of the elders), which Unreal Christianity has their own many examples of (extra-Biblical church doctrines, traditions, bylaws, statements of faith, confessions, catechisms, specific denominational beliefs, etc.) which render the Word of God of none effect:
The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” [Mark 7:5-13]
© 2022 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
THREE TYPES OF CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA (Part 1)
THREE TYPES OF CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA (Part 2)
THREE TYPES OF CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA (Part 3)
THREE TYPES OF CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA (Part 5)
THREE TYPES OF CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA (Part 6)
THE DAY OF PENTECOST 2021
Today is Pentecost. It is the 50th day since the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection. On this date almost two thousand years ago the Holy Spirit outpouring began.
In the beginning God initiated the initial Great Awakening. He brought forth a great spiritual event heavily prophesied in Old Testament literature and in His own ministry. He told everyone with ears to hear what would happen and it is apparent that only very few had such ears. As recounted here often, the Lord Jesus had preached to tens of thousands at the populous height of His ministry. They came from near and far. Word had spread rapidly. For a while He was the most sought after and popular Israelite in history. But alas, like all things spiritually solid and truthful in a fickle, unbelieving, sinful, and shallow religious world, His popularity and support began to fade.
WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?
Though it was the greatest of Messianic ages in that a probable majority were aware of the prophetic times, there was much difference of opinion and confusion over what the Messiah must be. Most Israelites were obviously put off with their station in life and with the status of their nation as a whole, though it was no longer much of a nation. From the heights of the later portion of King David’s time a thousand years before when the Lord had brought together a roughly unified people after the defeat of Saul and emerging Israelite interlopers intent on the throne, a time not unlike the heights of Joshua’s conquest when the warrior David regained and established much territory, Israel began its long and steady decline. David’s son Solomon, like King Saul before him, had started out well but fell into sin and eventually descended into abject idol worship and tyranny. All that David had gained was lost not soon after Solomon’s death when the nation was split in two. From there it was a precipitous fall. The great nation began hemorrhaging and never recovered. Over the next millennium God did all He could to keep His believing remnant intact for His eventual arrival.
The Lord’s ministry experienced a similar pattern. The tens of thousands of followers were reduced over time due to various reasons, though He was as powerful and consistent as ever. It appeared as though His school might end. The Lord even alluded to the possibility of being reduced completely in the following passage:
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” [John 6:66-67]
By the time the great prophesied and hoped-for event of Pentecost arrived, only a relative fraction remained as His faithful followers.
The people of the Lord’s time thus looked back with great remorse over what had become of a once profound nation and also seethed with anger over its centuries-long perceived mistreatment at the hands of various world powers. Little did they know or appreciate that such powers—Babylon, Medo-Persia, the Macedonian Greeks, and now the hated Romans—were actually being used to keep the nation intact. Without the strong unifying governmental structure applied from without, the Israelites would have easily destroyed themselves years before from within. Which brings to mind a statement of God made early in their history which encapsulates and defines Israel’s true identity that it would never be able to slough off or prove otherwise:
And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people… [Exodus 32:9 KJV]
This descriptive term arrived in the English language in 1526, undoubtedly associated with William Tyndale’s first printed English translation of the New Testament of the same year, the first to be translated directly from the Greek. Most of the much later King James Version (1611) was taken directly from Tyndale’s version, though not credited to him. The echo of the preceding statement of God referencing the early Israelites in Exodus 32:9 is found in its only New Testament occurrence, translated by Tyndale and spoken by Stephen, telling the world that nothing had changed in the intervening centuries:
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” [Acts 7:51KJV]
And they still resist the Holy Ghost. And most Christians do likewise. In fact, Christianity has taken such stiffneckedness to entirely new levels beyond that of its early Israelite forebears. In somewhat reasonable defense of the Pharisees et al who pretty much had no impulse control whatsoever when it came to any perceived slights against their prideful exalted religious standing and highly slanted, opinionated, and goofy interpretations of OT Scripture, they never had any hands-on frame of reference to Pentecostal happenings as later Christians did. In fact, the history of Christianity in the world contains a world class stiffnecked opposition toward all things New Covenant spiritual that actually puts the rebellious Pharisees to shame, if that were possible, and thus evokes the notion, judging by having so much in common, that those same Pharisees had somehow morphed into fake Christians.
RESISTANCE AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT
There are several strange non-New Testament beliefs held by some Christians who are not so clear on the concept regarding the Holy Spirit’s identity. Many Christians actually believe that God is literally three different persons. They believe this because they were taught it. They did not acquire this belief from the Lord’s pure teachings or the New Covenant writings because it simply isn’t there. Call it an interpolation. The classic trinity doctrine was invented two to three centuries after the Lord’s time. There is obviously no such thing ever alluded to in OT literature which consistently and repeatedly states, in direct contrast to the rest of the world, that God is one. He is one Person. This was a quite radical departure among the ancient Hebrew patriarchs from the polytheism of the time. The prophets especially reveal this truth. Isaiah shouts it. But whatever. That was a long time ago and those guys just didn’t get it, right? I wrote about this in my post, IF ISAIAH SAID THAT HE’S A LIAR!
To illustrate this further, I remember seeing a Christian production a few decades back likely put on by some mega church and broadcast on Christian TV that featured the Lord Jesus in the usual stage depiction but also added the Holy Spirit as an additional personage. One might have thought prior to production, “But how do we display the Holy Spirit?” They solved that problem by essentially using the Casper the Ghost model. I kid you not. They made a Holy Spirit effigy out of a very white sheet flowing loosely below but gathered together at the top in a clearly delineated rounded head motif by installing the required wadding and utilizing an unseen band at the neck. They were somehow controlling this from above with piano wire or something to make it flit about. So there was the Lord and His disciples and some other hangers on all in the usual Biblical dress with robes and head wrappings and whatnot and among them flitted this “Holy Spirit” ghost thing, in appearance pretty much exactly like a ghost and invoking memories of Halloween. As far as I remember this person of the Holy Ghost had a non-speaking part, which, when one thinks about it, probably did much to further the notion of etherealness and spiritual distance from lower level humans. But I think it might have been just this side of awesome if this depiction of the Holy Ghost did speak just to see how far they might have taken it.
I would think if this is the real Holy Spirit no one should have anything against Him. It has been opined in the past that if Jesus was the super cool hippie dude as often presented by the know-nothings, why would anyone hate Him? Who in their right mind would crucify Mister Rogers? But again, Scripture is quite clear that the Israelites in general and the Israelite religious leaders in particular really hated the Holy Spirit pretty much the same way they hated the Lord Jesus (clue alert). And I guess since we’re on the trinity theme they must have also hated God the Father.
HEART CIRCUMCISION (OR NOT)
Stephen told them what their problem was. He said their hearts were each encircled with a fat encrusted infected mass that also had metastasized to their ears. Now, the concept of fat encrusted infected masses on human hearts was not a new thing. It too, as the previously mentioned stiffneckedness, was spoken of in the vast distant past in Old Testament lore which came to the fore through Moses (15th century BC):
“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” [Deuteronomy 10:16]
Jeremiah (late 7th to early 6th century BC), brought a prophetic explanation to the issue 800 years later in the following:
“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” [Jeremiah 4:3-4]
Imagine then, a thick foreskin-like wrapping encircling the heart encrusted and hardened like sun-baked fallow ground impervious to plows. Then imagine the stiffest of necks reinforced with #18 rebar. Then imagine ears plugged with epoxy and spiritual eyes sealed with super glue. How is a loving God supposed to get through to such evil people? How are such spiritually diseased people to apply a remedy? What concoction from great grandma’s dusty cupboard might do the trick and heal the sick?
In the few more explanatory Bible translations we get a fuller academic meaning of the word stiffnecked. A more expository definition of the Hebrew and Greek originals results in the well known English word obstinate. And if you’re wondering how that plays out consider the thesaurus entries of this word from Misters Merriam and Webster:
- unwilling to submit (as to reason or control) <he had an obstinate determination to live as he pleased>
Synonyms: bullheaded, closed-minded, deaf, hardheaded, headstrong, incompliant, intractable, intransigent, muleheaded, muley, mulish, pertinacious, perverse, pervicacious, pigheaded, refractory, self-willed, ||sot, stiff, stiff-necked, stubborn, tough, unpliable, unpliant, unyielding, willful, wrongheaded; Compare UNRULY 1
Related: resistant, unsubmissive, withstanding; contrary, crabbed, recalcitrant, renitent; inexorable, inflexible, obdurate; opinionated; resolute, staunch, steadfast, unbudging 
Yikes. Now that we have a greater understanding of the heart, neck, eyes, and ears condition of those on the other side of rightness with God, we must get to the (ahem) heart of the matter regarding Christian religious prejudice against the Lord’s teachings and spiritual ways of operating. Again, the Pharisees and those guys in powerful opposition to the Lord were certainly bad enough but the later Christians who subverted the New Covenant were in my opinion far worse. Once the Light has come there is no longer any excuse for darkness. Once the first guy way back when decided to reject particular aspects of the New Covenant and opened the door for later anti-Christian hordes successfully masquerading as pro-Christian to further undermine and sabotage real Christianity to the nth degree and coerce millions to follow accordingly (or else), the die had been cast as it were and evil gained a great upper hand. It would do all Christians good to admit there is a devil and that he is extremely good at what he does. And it should not be so difficult to believe he has power to convince anyone to follow him and believe his tripe. And furthermore it must follow that there is only one cure for his great ability to deceive and if that one cure is not applied then one has no chance.
THE DEVIL GOES TO CHURCH
Many years ago there was a popular minister who pastored a very large denominational church, one of those “First” churches located in a large metropolis. He used to shout from the pulpit something to the effect that if one didn’t like something in the Bible then just tear it out! I am not sure if he only pretended to tear pages out of his Bible or just acted like it but he made his point very clear. Of course, this man also had his extreme prejudices against holy writ and had effectively already torn much from the New Testament, but this mattered little. No one among his own ever called him on it because they all believed the same. His church had a membership role in the tens of thousands. His denomination consisted of thousands of churches. Except for the ever-present minor squabbles among those otherwise perfect Christians they all believed basically the same thing. Isn’t that why they call them denominations?
Anyway, this particular minister apparently made a definitive anti-Pentecost statement at the forefront of the Holy Spirit outpouring of the early 1960s which I’ll get to shortly. A little background: The Lord had begun blessing Protestants with the infilling of the Holy Spirit at that time. Before then, due to religious prejudice, this experience was only possible for the most part among Pentecostal Christians. The new outpouring of the 20th century dated back to the Topeka, Kansas event in 1901 and the Azusa Street Revival which began in 1906 in Los Angeles. In the 1950s a few Protestants from various denominations began receiving the experience and their influence spread the word among their own. By about 1960 the movement had started to spread throughout Protestant churches and by early 1967 the movement even found favor among Catholics. Catholic priests and nuns were suddenly speaking in tongues, which brings me to the statement apparently made by the minister in question:
He supposedly said “Tongues are of the devil.” This was very well known at the time in Pentecostal circles. After all these years we must attempt to understand that “speaking in tongues” was a huge cutting-edge issue at the time and extremely divisive. Nevertheless, and despite the shenanigans of more than a few within the movement, the overall historical Pentecostal outpouring of the 20th century was decidedly very real. It has since spread all across the planet. Multiple millions have received the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Returning to our origins then, what happened on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem in about 32AD was clearly unprecedented. Also, in true Gideon paradigm form, many thousands of the Lord’s one time followers were eliminated from participating in the Upper Room Experience by their own unwillingness to walk with the Lord to the finish line and were reduced to a relatively microscopic 120 ever-faithful ones. In line with Gideon’s retort to God, how could the Lord’s future ministry, after so much work and spiritual achievement, possibly be successful with so few remaining disciples? The point here is that many were called but few were chosen. To put it another way, real disciples were not only called, they were also chosen and remained faithful, no matter what. That last part is really tricky because a Christian’s faith in the Lord Jesus will be tested greatly, far beyond the point one ever would have previously thought. The remaining 120 had been through the ringer. They were threatened always and sometimes with death. The disciples knew the religious leaders were out to stomp them into the ground. Sound familiar? The others could not handle it. It was simply too much. There were various reasons for departing, all involving some form of fear. For the most part it was simply because they either refused full obedience or could not bring themselves to the 100% commitment level. They were concerned about their status and livelihoods unlike the 120 who pretty much lost everything and had their reputations destroyed. It was the cost all real disciples must pay and are willing to pay.
But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:62]
THE FINAL MEMBER TO YIELD
The Lord’s brother James, in the third chapter of his noted epistle, taught that the unregenerate human tongue is evil. It is a condition, of course, that every human has in common prior to spiritual regeneration and commitment to the Lord. Whereas the tongue is a miraculous creation with great abilities and is capable of many astounding achievements, it is also responsible for the worst atrocities. The following are the descriptions James used to define the tongue:
- A boaster of great things
- A fire
- Able to create allegorical forest fires
- A world of iniquity
- A body part that defiles the entire body
- It sets the course of one’s life on fire
- Is set on fire by hell
- A restless evil
- Full of deadly poison
Wow. James certainly didn’t stutter. Everything he wrote, however, is absolutely true though not often acknowledged. It is clear then, that this body organ we call the tongue is the most powerful organ we possess. Of course, James is referring to human speech. He gives the cure in chapter four and it essentially comes down to giving one’s all to the Lord Jesus in total surrender. This is actually what a real believer is. One either gives 100% to the Lord or one does not. If one never submits completely then one’s tongue is never tamed. Why? Because only the Lord can tame the tongue. Only He can bring it out of subjection to sin. And this means He must be in total charge. Any remnant of remaining human control will subvert the process.
It is thus completely within the realm of spiritual rationality that there must be a universal sign that the most unruly, rebellious, and sinful member of the human body has been tamed and brought under control. The New Covenant writings, especially the Book of Acts, reveal this sign. Paul mentions it directly in First Corinthians 14. In the recorded historical events regarding the infilling of the Holy Spirit it was not only the event that proved something profound and miraculous took place, but also that each one additionally proved in some way the taming of the tongue and a brand new use of human speech never utilized before. Just as the human heart must be spiritually circumcised to remove the fat encrusted infected mass encircling it so must the human tongue be cleansed of evil. Both are a vital part of the sin removal process. Both require the hands on participation of the Lord Himself. Only He can do it. Our part is to fully surrender to Him so He can. The tongue is the last member of the body to submit.
Though most Christians probably look for long term evidence proving one’s genuine relationship with God, from a New Testament perspective there was also immediate evidence. Just as there were immediate healings, immediate miracles, immediate answers to prayer, and immediate occurrences of deliverance, so were there immediate transformations of heart and tongue. These things did not have to take long. They did not need to be drawn out. It was simply a matter of the Lord Jesus taking authority. He has ALL authority on earth and in heaven but will never force anyone to do anything. Thus, a person must simply submit to His authority. When the Lord Jesus is given authority to act on one’s behalf by that person then all things become possible according to His will, and it is certainly always in His will to excise the evil from one’s heart and tongue. Once a person has been spiritually cleansed and becomes a clean vessel the Holy Spirit can then take up residence.
For perhaps most Christians, this is an entirely new definition of faith in Jesus. It demands total trust. And this demands the complete abdication of our own personal opposing authority which makes His work on our behalf impossible. When we allow Him to work, miracles happen. Always.
Happy Day of Pentecost everyone.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. [Acts 2:1-4] 
© 2021 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 ©1997, 1996 Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary/Thesaurus. Zane Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Sivan 7: The Day Of Pentecost
The following is an excerpt from Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church:
THE UPPER ROOM
Why did Jesus create His community of called-out ones in the humble upper room? For starters, He had to have a place off the beaten path, so to speak. It would have to be owned by a disciple or a disciple’s family who was sympathetic to the cause. It could not be a public place, such as the temple complex, but private, to allow for complete unity of spirit and purpose. It had to be a place big enough for 120 people to pray and seek God for about ten days without interruption. In short, it had to be a house. In reality, it was a house.
Though we cannot yet be positively certain, particular statements in Scripture lead one to the strong conclusion that it was located on Mount Zion, Jerusalem’s highest southwestern hill, and that it was probably the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. If placed on Mount Zion, this house would be located roughly a half mile due southwest of the Temple Mount, approximately five hundred feet south of the present Zion gate. At the time of the Qahal’s creation, however, this house was within Jerusalem proper since the southern wall of the city was located further to the south. Therefore, though Jesus was betrayed, died, was entombed, and rose again outside the city walls, He created the Church inside the city. Not only that, He created the Church in a house.
Why did He create the Church in the city that condemned Him to death? If it had to be within Jerusalem, why didn’t He create the Qahal in a place of high honor, such as the temple? Was it because He was rejected by the ruling hierarchy? Was it because there was no place of high honor for the Lord of all Creation? Or was it because Jesus simply created His community in the most appropriate of all dwelling places, a place which had been foretold in Scripture?
You will bring them and plant them
in the mountain of Your inheritance,
The place, O LORD,
which You have made for Your dwelling,
The sanctuary, O LORD,
which Your hands have established.
The LORD shall reign
forever and ever. 
THE HOUSE OF GOD
From the untold millions which had descended from Abraham by the first century A.D., only the upper-roomers were present when this scripture was fulfilled. Each and every one of these original 120 were Jews. On the birthday of the Lord’s Qahal, Jesus established a sanctuary, a dwelling place on His own mountain—Mount Zion. On this mountain, the 120 were planted, both in the Lord and by the Lord, and functioned as the ovum fertilized by the Holy Spirit which would eventually develop into a body—the body of Christ. Before the sun went down that first day, the original 120 grew by twenty-five times to three thousand—all Jews, all descendants of Abraham, all devout and God-fearing, from every country under heaven to which they had been dispersed. Even though Luke, the author of the book of Acts, doesn’t say so specifically, can there be any doubt that each tribe of Israel was represented in the initial outpouring?
This was the mysterious destiny of the house of Israel—to one day become the actual dwelling place of YHWH!
When Abraham was first called forth and told he would be the progenitor of many people, God had His own future residence in mind. Later, He revealed this truth to Moses, who led God’s people to the land of promise. The house of God would only be a home for the obedient, however, since they would be sharing quarters with God Himself. The structure of the tabernacle of Moses reveals to us The Nature of the Church. The tabernacle was a tent, mobile, following after the Lord as He moved onward into the future. It was filled with His presence. It was where the ark of the covenant was kept. The priests would minister in its midst. Sacrifice was called for. Repentance, baptism, and the infilling of His Spirit were all typed into its construction. It was pliable and moveable, built for eternal purposes.
The tabernacle and all the rites associated with it continued to the time of David. It was then that God revealed to yet another generation the purpose of the tent, and the great revelation of its underlying meaning. After building his own house, David desired to build a house for God. But the Lord would not. God’s plans had not changed, nor would they ever. His eternal purpose was wrapped up in the illustration of the mobile tent. In the future, His dwelling place would be similar—it would be within humanity. 
 Acts 12:12
 Exodus 15:17–18
 Pages 281-284 Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.