S A N D
Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:
Sand. Spiritually, sand is the opposite of rock. Since rock is Scripture, sand must be non-Scripture. Sand is something else – foreign words, other gospels, tales of deception, vain imaginations. Obviously rock and sand are authored by opposites.
Rock and sand. In you (and all) are both. In your spiritual tummy resides truth and lies. Both don’t reign but both affect. Both bear fruit through your life – good fruit, bad fruit. If you had more truth and less deception you would be happier. The angry woman contains more myth than fact, the content man more truth than untruth.
See yourself for what you are, a container of both rock and sand. Before conversion you had a scarcity of truth and an abundance of untruth. After, truth began to crowd out lies, but there are still some there. Your demeanor, at times, reveals it.
Rock and sand. How much of each is a result of the life you have lived, a product of your priority list. The one spending two hours in The Book has more truth than the one going days without opening it. Words have power to bless and to harm. Words bring truth that sets free and untruth that confines. The man who believes that God merely tolerates him will live in contrast to the man believing Bible words assuring God’s passionate love and doting oversight. The woman hoping the Lord will forgive her after another failure will bear less fruit than the one accepting her forgiveness immediately after repentance.
Pharisees were back then and pharisees are here and now. Always were and always will be. They are in the world and they are in the church, preferring the pulpit to the pew. It seems, however, pharisees back then were super-pharisees whose capacity for evil was so ingrained in their bitter souls they actually plotted the murder of Immanuel, God-with-us.
Most of us fretfully work at appearing to be someone we are not. We are defiled by a world thoroughly steeped in imagery whereby what/who I appear to be matters much more than what/who I am. When sad I put on happy, when afraid I put on brave, when envious I put on well-pleased. Appearance is what matters. But pharisees are big-league pretenders. For some reason they have an uncommon need to be envied and approved and regarded. Jesus loves pharisees but loathes the pharisaic spirit.
Becoming a bona fide pharisee, like becoming a genuine tradesman, is not an overnight happening. It takes years for integrity to be broken down, dishonesty a must-have qualification. Many times the candidate when faced with him-or-me chose me, driven by a twisted ambition. Each selfish decision has chiseled away at his honor until attaining reverence meant more than giving it, and associates were used as stepping stones to greater glory. Constantly rebuffing the conviction of the Holy Spirit to repent, to turn from self and become a disciple of Christ, caused their hearts to contract. As Adam and Eve hid, so must this hardened, skillful controller conceal his true person. He masks himself, expertly appearing to be what he isn’t. A bona fide hypocrite has evolved. Angry and miserable.
Pharisees in our midst, like the ancients, are Adders and Subtracters, Negotiators and Compromisers whose concern for prominence far surpasses the need to obey and the need of the sheep they insist on governing. The underling trespassing traditions that give them preeminence, or, equally so, the one threatening the flow of money that finances their supervision is, understandably, the enemy.
Jesus accused the ancient pharisees of “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”. They knew teaching the commandments of God would make their minions followers of God. Their reverence would be directed away from them to another. Can’t have that.
Jesus challenged, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father and mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatsoever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple” – ‘is released from honoring his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”
God said honor your parents, the pharisees said you don’t have to honor your parents. So why did they pervert the command of the very God they claimed to represent? Notice the issue was money. They profited from that which was “dedicated to the temple”. Perhaps tithe money wasn’t enough to cover salaries and perks. Remember, these are the guys “who devour widows’ houses”. Undoubtedly they got a huge cut from “those who bought and sold in the temple”, you know, the ones who encountered the wrath of Jesus.
And there is another reason. Do you remember Jesus saying, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”? One’s allegiance will follow his treasure. Giving money – money that should have gone to aging parents – “to the temple” had the effect of shifting allegiance from parents to the keepers of the temple.
Today’s mini-pharisees lack the deep anger and ferocity of their fathers, but nonetheless demonstrate finesse at controlling the numbers. Their faithfulness to tradition, while not admirable, is certainly impressive. They have thoroughly persuaded the masses to build on the same sand their houses are built, to bow to their lords, to finance their projects.
Let’s call the common folk who were witnesses of the many confrontations between Jesus and the super-pharisees what they would be called today – laymen. Four questions for consideration:
1. Were laymen individually responsible to compare the doctrines of their elders with the doctrines of Scripture?
2. Were laymen responsible to obey the word of the Lord (“Honor your father and mother.”) over the traditional teaching of the elders (“You really don’t have to if you direct that money ‘to the temple’.”), even though they would surely offend leadership?
3. Would the layman choosing obedience to man over God be less hypocritical than the pharisees?
4. Will that layman’s house, though built on sand, be protected because he was victimized?
There is most definitely a parallel between the pharisee-layman relationship and the priest-charismatic relationship and the evangelical-pastor relationship. Any alliance resulting in disobedience to The Book is dangerous and costly. It is only faithfulness to Jesus Christ that brings every good thing.
TRADITIONS OF MEN
There are many traditions of men. Man has always been adept at creating rules and philosophies. All are sand, sand being that which is not rock, rock being that which God has said. Jesus declares those who build their life on sand are foolish. So much sand indicates so many fools.
The New Testament has many words synonymous to the word sand, such as: commandments of men…. evil thoughts…. error…. doctrines of demons…. yoke on the neck…. leaven of the Pharisees…. heavy burdens…. ignorance…. various and strange doctrines…. damnable heresies…. pernicious ways…. deceivings…. great swelling words of emptiness…. smooth words and flattering speech…. wisdom of this world…. persuasive words of man’s wisdom…. thoughts of the wise…. another gospel…. empty words…. cunning craftiness…. wind of doctrine…. corrupt communication…. philosophy and empty deceit…. basic principles of the world…. blasphemy…. strong delusion…. fables and endless genealogies…. old wives fables…. profane and vain babblings.
Obviously the early church was seriously infected with sandy doctrines. Unfortunately their malady is our malady. They had their “various and strange doctrines” and we have ours. “Smooth words and flattering speech” were common then and now. Only the spiritually incapacitated cannot see the similarity between giving “to the temple” and tithing to the local assembly. Of calling a man “Rabbi” and calling a man “Reverend”. Of considering oneself “of Paul” or “of Apollos” or “of Cephas” and considering oneself to be catholic or pentecostal or baptist.
Most charismatics and most evangelicals build, to a large degree, on “commandments of men”. They have the same confidence in their respective systems, c/w its officers, as the ancient laymen had in theirs. Let us examine a few doctrines on which typical charismatics/evangelicals build their house:
UNITY VS DIVISION
A Jehovah witness, a young man, once suggested to me that the unity of their membership is an indication their organization is indeed God’s true spokesman on earth. They are not like so-called christians divided into several denominations. I asked if his organization was, in the past, united on matters they themselves have since found to be erroneous. “Yes”, he replied, “but it is better to be united in error than divided over truth!”
I am using that young man as a mirror. Charismatics/evangelicals often equally insulate themselves from truth by the same bizarre logic. In the People of Faith community – having embraced a popular persuasion transmitted throughout the charismatic movement via book writers, etc. – unity was emphasized much more than the need for truth. Unity was considered a good fruit, and one upsetting the peace with valid questions was an annoyance. So no one questioned.
And unity is equally emphasized from evangelical pulpits, each preacher assuming his denomination has it altogether, challenges not welcomed, thank you. The evangelical preacher, the charismatic prayer group leader and the watchtower society overseer actually have much in common – all are doctrinally sound…. in their own estimation. None want to be challenged. Unity is founded on an agreement to agree. So we have three enormous organizations opposed to most of each other’s beliefs, yet united within – united in truth and united in error.
Challenging is something we don’t do enough of. We are so keen on being nice and accepted, we compromise our understanding of truth. Everyone wants to fit in, and our need for acceptance prevents us from hearing the contrary voice of the Holy Spirit. Sensitivity to christians eclipses sensitivity to Christ. This is sin, and sin always brings negative consequences.
Paul the apostle, when in Antioch, was in an awkward predicament. He and Barnabas were in the company of Peter and other believers when a group “of the circumcision” came by. Peter had no reservation about eating with the gentile converts, but now, Paul noticed, he began to withdraw from the gentiles “fearing those who were of the circumcision”. “And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”
This is a perfect picture of public peer pressure. Those “of the circumcision”, simply by being who they were and by their presence, applied pressure on Peter. Which had the effect of Peter compromising. Which added to the peer pressure on others. Which had the effect of “the rest of the Jews” compromising. Which added to the peer pressure on others. Which had the effect of Barnabas compromising. Which added to the peer pressure on the only man who had not capitulated – Paul. (But, praise the Lord!, he didn’t, instead confronting Peter “to his face…. before them all”.)
That’s how peer pressure in the church (in the organization, in the social gathering, in the family) works. One influences another and, now united, the two together are more powerful to influence the third, and, now united, the three…..
Let’s again look at Peter in the hopes of seeing ourselves. It is written, “When they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.” Why was Peter afraid? Why did Peter need the approval of man when he already possessed the approval of God? Why would Peter offend the Lord to gain acceptance of those walking immorally? Perhaps unity meant more to Peter than integrity. Perhaps, like the young Jehovah witness, he reasoned, “It is better to be united in error than divided over truth!”
Peter was a disciple of Christ and yet he compromised. Though an apostle, he bent to peer pressure. He walked with Christ for three years, yet he buckled under pressure. The Lord Jesus personally commissioned Peter to “Feed My sheep”, yet he betrayed those sheep. Such the power of peer pressure upon Peter. And upon the others. And upon you and me.
You have got to see it. Compromise is what charismatics do. Compromise is what evangelicals do. You are surrounded by compromisers. Unless you are exceptional, you have already bowed to the persuasions of those “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”. Long ago you went the way of the many, forsaking the way of the One. You have got to see it.
Galatians chapter five lists nine fruit of the Holy Spirit. Unity is not one of them. John taught, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” Which means, “If we walk in truth we will have unity.” But it is also true that “Those who do not walk in the light have fellowship with one another.” Which means, “Those walking in darkness are united.” Unity, then, is not necessarily something to boast about. We ought not concentrate on unity, but rather walking “in the light as He is in the light.” We want to be united with Christ and with those who are united with Christ.
Misapplied unity helped make us the dependents we are. The student of the Word must know true doctrine will always find an example in Christ. The Bible not only declares the love of Jesus but also the inelasticity of Jesus. He never compromised the Father’s ways. If you want to be united with Him you have to do things His way. He doesn’t meet you halfway.
COMMITMENT TO WHO?
Upon entering evangelicalism, I discovered charismatics were not the only ones emphasizing commitment to the group. The obvious – placing one’s commitment onto fellow christians necessitates removing that commitment away from Jesus – escapes most.
The Bible only speaks of commitment to God. Solomon: “Commit your works to the Lord.” David: “Commit your way to the Lord.” Paul: “Owe no man anything but to love one another.” None of the Bible writers encourage commitment to christians. Yet many preachers mangle The Book to make it appear to say something it does not. Perhaps because their motive is blemished. The preacher is the leader of the group, so his call for commitment to the group is really a call to commitment unto himself. Dangerous.
A christian is one who has entered into a covenant relationship with God. Only with God. A covenant is a contract or agreement. In this everlasting contract between God and man in which Christ is the mediator, both parties are committed to each other according to the terms of the contract. In this contract God shares His possessions with the born-again believer and the believer is to hold back nothing of herself from God. It is a forever commitment. The cost of this covenant is the blood of Christ. It is sacred and priceless.
There is no room left in one’s heart for a second commitment, not to country, not to the brethren, not to a cause. It would be like a man having two wives – both will demand his loyalty. Or like a man swearing allegiance to two countries; in the event of war between the two, he is obliged to both defeat and defend both.
It is not uncommon for charismatics to enter into a covenant relationship with each other, thus entering serious spiritual bondage. The Holy Spirit would never lead His kids into such a relationship. The Word teaches a responsibility for each other, not to each other. We love and support our brothers and sisters because of our commitment to Christ. It is Christ we obey. He is our savior, teacher, lord, mediator, judge and king.
A somewhat resemblance to this ungodly contract within evangelicalism is church membership. Membership, often, is committing oneself to christians instead of the governance of the Holy Spirit. A member is expected to give financially, usually ten percent minimum, without consulting Jesus on the matter. There are rules to follow, written and unwritten, meant to boost the influence of the local church and its overseeing denomination. Life of a dedicated member is certainly inferior to the life dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
VISIONS AND PROPHECIES
Jesus will never be insulted by the christian testing any and every vision and prophecy. It was Jesus who commanded the believer to build on His words, and He will not be offended by the student prudent to do that very thing. Visions and prophecies are not all from God, and the ones that are can be misinterpreted. One person shared a vision he received before a large group of catholic charismatics – for which the people enthusiastically praised and thanked God – of Mary, the ‘queen of heaven’ seated in triumph and splendor in the heavens, invoking her children to turn to her. (It is not coincidental that the person with the vision prayed the rosary and listened to praise songs to Mary.)
Prophetic bondage, an ailment of many charismatics, is fear of going to the left or right without first hearing from a local prophet. Evangelicals, on many issues, must have the endorsement of ‘their’ pastor. This is done in a slippery manner, convincing themselves they are merely seeking his advice.
All should be appreciative of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit through visions and prophecies. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to “desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy”. He admonished the Thessalonians: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.” But then he added: “Test all things.” John cautions: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.”
Baptism is not an invitation; it is a command. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” He commanded the eleven, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Peter commanded the three thousand, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized.” (Since believing and repenting precede baptism, there is no basis for infant baptism. And of course there is no Bible precedent.)
Baptism should immediately follow conversion, the first act of submission to the Lord Jesus. Refusing baptism to appease others is a poor way to begin one’s christianity.
Baptism can break the charismatic cycle. A decision to obey Jesus, even if five years late, could cause revival, the first step in rebuilding one’s life, this time upon the rock of Christ’s words. Some charismatics get baptized in secret so as not to fall out of favor with the group, this an insult to the Lord and unfair to those who might have followed them in baptism. Jesus reasoned, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket, or under a bed?”
It is an evangelical absurdity that only the pastor baptizes. Is not the command of Christ – “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” – directed to the entire church, every christian?
Obedience is wisdom and obedience bears good fruit and obedience is possible and obedience is rewarded. Jesus will help the one determined to build on His sayings, even though he/she will have occasional upsets. God is the God of another chance. He will forgive seven times seventy times. Solomon: “The complacency of fools will destroy them; But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure.”