12But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. 13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2Cor 11:)
I came across a website the other day that had a multitude of pages, I suppose all added up it puts mine to shame. By the dates on the articles the writer has been at it for many years, which indicates to me he is serious about what he is writing about. And what is it that he is writing about?
Everyone. That is, everyone who is now or has been part of his own denomination.
He has a lot to say about each and every one of them who he figures has gone astray - too much in my opinion. I'm thinking that if I give you two or three good reasons why you should look both ways before crossing the street, anything more is overkill. Once I have told you what I believe, it is up to you if you want to run into the street without looking.
The writer of this website, it appears to me, is on an overkill mission. Concentrating on the negatives of certain people for years is an awesome task, and one that cannot be good for one's psyche, nor one's Spirit. Jesus, as I see Him, condemned the Pharisees and their doctrine, then turned His attention to the people they were influencing in effort to direct them away from the false teachings. I don't see Jesus or the Apostles following behind the Pharisees trying to find their faults. Quite the contrary in fact. The Pharisees followed Jesus and the Apostles trying to undermine their teachings.
Of course I am not writing this little piece in effort to expose the possible weakness of others. I have plenty of my own I must deal with. My effort is to make sure I am not following in the footsteps of the one I am criticizing.
I do a lot of griping and complaining and often out-'n-out condemning of what I consider the Pharisaical teachings of the churches. I try not to pinpoint or name any specific preacher, doctrine or theologian, except as a reference of their work in order to demonstrate a point I am trying to make. What the theologians, or the preachers, or the churches want to do is their own business. If they want to blindly follow one another into oblivion, who am I to try and stop them?
But when these same people make a great effort to drag with them unsuspecting and trusting "lambs" that the Lord has entrusted to their care, I balk. The reason I balk is that some of those sheep they lead astray are my friends and family, and until recently, I myself.
These Ministers of the Word present themselves as a beacon of God's light set high on a hill, telling the rest of the World they are in darkness and in desperate need of their light.
We do not need their light. Nor are they to be a light unto the World (or the church).
Jesus, through the Holy Spirit is to be the Light, the Oil which is the source of our light. If the Holy Spirit is not our light, then we are darkness posing as light.
And if we are a dispenser of Light, then we are not to draw people to our light, like moths to a flame that will consume them. We are to direct all who will listen to the Source of the Light; which is the Lord and His Holy Spirit.
This is my message. My efforts are for the sake of the sheep, not the shepherds. So if it sounds like I am condemning you, or your denomination, or your doctrine; I'm not.
But if the shoe fits. . . . . . .
REASONS NOT TO BELIEVE
There are stacks of books available giving reasons not to believe in the Bible, or that it cannot be counted on as fact. The reasons given range from tiny things like the dot of an "i" missing on a word, and from Mark saying that two lepers were healed where another writer says there was only one - to huge incompatibilities in the way God is perceived, that is He seems to range from a loving God who wouldn't hurt a fly, to a violent God who loves to make people miserable and burn them forever in hell.
I'm not going to get into any such a subjects here; I do plentyof that in other studies. No, I want to look at the Bible from Man's perspective rather than from God's.
I think one of the biggest reasons not to believe in the Bible is the way supposed "Believers" treat those who are not. The Bible tells us that we as Believers are to have compassion on unbelievers, letting God's Light shine through us, thereby showing the Glory of the Lord to the World. Instead "Christians" act superior to non-believers, thinking that they are "King's Kids" instead of the unworthy worms God told us we must be in order to be a "King's Kid."
Another reason for not believing the Bible is the way "Christians" treat one another. If one "Christian" doesn't attend their church and do it properly and fully in the way they think it should be done, then they are discounted as less than Non-believers.
A third reason to not believe the Bible is the countless number of denominations there are in the world. In two thousand years the church has sprouted well over a thousand branches all warring against one another and either trying to knock the others off of the Vine, or meld them into one wimpy off-balanced branch that neither serves the God it supposedly believes in, nor possesses any form of "Faith" whatsoever.
Along with this massive number of denominations is the ever more massive number of opinions as to what the Bible says and means. If the supposed Holy Ghost filled "Believers" don't have a clue as to what the Bible says or means - then how in the World can anyone expect a carnal None Believer to believe?
In fact, if there are so many different opinions that one can pick-and-choose to believe in - how can anyone really believe any of it?
My suspicion is that there are very, very few true Believers, that is, those with and being led by the Holy Ghost; and many, many Non believers playing church and merely accepting that doctrine presented to them as they walk in the door of whatever church.
WHO IS SERVING WHOM?
Adam and Eve believed they should know what God alone knows. They were kicked out of Paradise and allowed to turn back to dust.
Our pre-flood ancestors thought they should get to do whatever they wanted to do. They never became post-flood ancestors.
The Hebrew children in the wilderness of Zin believed that God, and Moses, should do things their way. They died in the wilderness.
In Israel the Jews thought they should get what they wanted, and if God didn't supply it, they would serve a wicked god who would give it to them. They were obliterated from the land.
The Jews in Jesus' day believed God should follow their laws and traditions instead of them following God's. They were destroyed and once again kicked off the land.
During the War-to-End-All-Wars the Chinese did not have sophisticated weapons as did their enemies. But they did have an overabundance of people. In order to compensate for their lack of weapons, and to dwindle the multitude, the people of China were taught to believe that self-sacrifice would bring them eternal rewards. So these deluded people by the millions literally threw themselves at the enemy creating a wall of corpses.
Japan, possessing the technology and the weapons also used the philosophy of the Chinese to persuade their pilots (kamikazes), laden with explosives, to do the same, that is, destroy themselves.
Sunni Muslims of today literally blow themselves up with full expectation of gaining eternity in heavenly bliss.
Did any of these, in your opinion, achieve that which they were promised and fully believed they would receive?
America's Armed Forces, and I assume other Allies as well, used a different philosophy. Being a "Christian" nation unlikely to fall for the doctrines used by the Chinese, Japanese and the Muslims, they called for a "Few Good Men." These few and the proud were highly trained and sent off to serve their country in much the same manner as the Kamikazes and the suicide bombers. They did not intentionally allow themselves to be killed, or kill themselves, but they threw themselves heart and soul into the mission assigned them, full well knowing they may not survive, without hope of rewards or promises of eternal bliss.
These self-sacrificing Few Good Men were able to accomplish for their country far more than the self-deceived and self-seeking Many they had to battle.
The churches today (today having begun even before the passing away of the Apostles) appeal to the Masses. They, like advertisers on the boobtube, tell each and every one of us what we will get out of serving God. Some churches use the works method stating that if you follow all the rules they have laid down you will reap the rewards. Others make their ads more appealing by stating that all you have to do is say a few words and your Eternal Rewards are sealed forever.
Both of the above appeal to the same part of Man - his self-serving Ego. "We have what you want; come and get it."
If Tradition follows the same path it has since the creation of the world; and if the scenarios presented above hold any validity at all - what do you suspect will be the final outcome of these churches?
"A Few Good Men." God is not after a multitude of self-seeking people with their hands in His pocket. He proved that very clearly in the wilderness. God wants the few who are willing to sacrifice themselves, their reputation and their desires in order to serve Him. God seeks those who have "counted the cost" and willingly follow Him to the cross in order to help Him fulfill His mission.
In the beginning of the Church God had a Few Good Men. They set the example of what God is seeking in those who follow Him. Then for three hundred years others followed the Spirit into the mouth of lions and onto crosses of flaming torches.
Then Christianity became the accepted norm, and the Few Good Men became fewer and fewer. "Good Men" were no longer the self-sacrificing, but the self-seeking, trying to win a place in the World by pushing fancy words and appealing doctrines. At one time opposing the accepted norm in the church was a highly dangerous occupation. Those who did so were sincere in their search for Truth. They may have been sincerely wrong, as were the Kamikazes, but sincerity can be seen as its own reward. I say this because if sincerity and risking death and persecution are signs of Godliness, then the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Millerites have it all over the Mainline churches.
Today, in "Civilized" countries there are no particular consequences for choosing one church or doctrine over another. We can jump from one church to another holding a completely opposite views without fear. The churches have become so diluted and deluded that one error is no better nor worse than another. The only real difference is their size and their complexity.
13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Mat 7:)
Did you notice the words "Narrow," and "Few"? Have you looked around you to see the crowd of people attending church? How narrow is the road you are walking on? How many people seem to be going your way? How difficult is it to talk about the Lord in the society to which you belong?
Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by "narrow," and "straight," and "few"? Let's take a look, shall we?
"Straight" G4728 ´ stenos sten-os'
Probably from the base of G2476; narrow (from obstacles standing close about): - strait.
"Narrow" G2346 ´? thlibo¯ thlee'-bo
Akin to the base of G5147; to crowd (literally or figuratively): - afflict, narrow, throng, suffer tribulation, trouble.
"Few" G3641 ?´? oligos ol-ee'-gos
Of uncertain affinity; puny (in extent, degree, number, duration or value); especially neuter (adverbially) somewhat: - + almost, brief [-ly], few, (a) little, + long, a season, short, small, a while.
(Quoted from Strong's Concordance)
Here's a few more verses that speak of that "flowery" path:
33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:)
22Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:)
2And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: 3That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. 4For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. (1Thes 3:)
13And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. (Rev 7:)
Does your church teach you that God is anxiously awaiting your approval to shower you with blessings?
Or does your church inform you that God is seeking the Few Good Men and Women who will surrender everything and live their life for Him?
THIEF IN PARADISE
A thief is hung on a cross near Jesus. My guess is this thief was a murderer as well since it would appear that the one who was supposed to be hanging beside him was Barabbas, who we know by Mark 15:7 was a thief and a murderer. I would also take from this that the three thieves were partners in crime. You don't agree? Am I stretching facts here? Yes I am, and none of this is of any importance to this study; it merely adds emphasis to it, and a little thought-provoking as well.
According to one account of this incident (Luke 23:39) both thieves railed on Jesus, then the second thief had a change of heart. He said to Jesus;
39And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (Luke 23:)
To which Jesus replied:
43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
It's amazing to me that after all the crimes this man must have committed, and apparently doing nothing or little in effort to satisfy the laws of the Jews that God presented through Moses; this man heard from Jesus what none of the Pharisees, His disciples, the rich young ruler, nor anyone else had (or has) ever heard.
I would say this very short passage of Scripture is worth investigating. Let's see what the Theologians have to say about it.
First I am looking into the Nelson Study Bible. It says:
"Only Luke gives this information. One of the thieves apparently had a change of heart, and with his faltering understanding, cast himself on Jesus' mercy. He is amply rewarded (v. 43). He seeks eternal life in the hereafter, and receives assurance of everlasting blessing, starting that very day."
Isn't that interesting? This team of Theologians (according to the list of contributors given, there were thirteen of them with Letters behind their names that go around the block) deduced all this from two short sentences:
1. "With his faltering understanding"
2. "Cast himself on Jesus' mercy"
3. "He seeks eternal life in the hereafter"
4. "Receives assurance of everlasting blessing"
5. "Starting that very day"
Let's take a look at each one of these expert observations. This should be a simple task since all the evidence is presented to us quick and concise, not spread throughout the Bible as are most.
1. "With his faltering understanding." Now, this is the thief's entire statement: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Let's see now, the thief called Jesus, "Lord." I see nothing "faltering" about that. Do you? He said, "Remember me," which to me indicates he understood that Jesus was going to be resurrected, something even Jesus' disciples didn't know, even though they had been told many times. I would say that kind of faith and understanding stands toe-to-toe with Peter's confession that Jesus was the Son of God when asked.
2. "Comest into thy kingdom." What a statement! This apparently uneducated thief understood a concept that even the Sadducees, with all their education and sanctimony did not accept (the Sadducees did not believe in afterlife, heaven or angels Acts 23:8). And to say "come into your kingdaom"? That means the thief recognized Jesus as the Messiah! Who else did as much?
I think there is a "faltering understanding" here ok. But I don't think it was the thief's.
3. "Cast himself on Jesus' mercy" I don't know how to respond to this one. I think of casting oneself on someone's mercy more like the Publican who beat his breast and cried out to God for mercy, admitting himself to be a sinner (Luke 18:13). Or even the Samaritan woman who admitted to being a "dog" in order to get her daughter healed (Mat 15:26). Here the thief merely made an almost casual admission (to the other thief) of his receiving a just reward by his crucifixion, whereas the woman and the tax collector reached down into their heart for their confession. Besides this I see no hint whatever of him asking for any kind of mercy. Possibly I just missed it. Did you catch it?
4. "He seeks eternal life in the hereafter" What!? Again. I missed this one completely. I see no hint of the thief seeking anything but to be "remembered." Nor do I find a scrap of evidence of him even thinking about a hereafter or eternal life! The thief asked to be remembered by Jesus when He, the Messiah came into His kingdom. And what is the kingdom that the Jews were waiting for? Was it some mansion floating around on a big cloud like most of the churches believes it is? No, the Jews were waiting for the same kingdom Jesus told His disciples to pray for: "Thy kingdom come."
5. "Receives assurance of everlasting blessing" Again. I caught no hint of anything being "everlasting." This seems to be one of those instances where the Theologians use circular reasoning. They use these short verses to prove that "Paradise" is everlasting and immediate; then they use their theory to explain this verse.
6. "starting that very day" Is that right? You mean to tell me that the thief is going to go to Heaven that very day? It does sound that way, but if the thief is going to be in eternal Heaven as is described by the churches, then the thief will be there before Jesus. Had you ever considered this? Jesus will be laying in a tomb for at least 2 days before His resurrection. And without Jesus, the Firstfruit being resurrected, how is the thief going to get to Heaven? Besides this, after Jesus is resurrected He spends 40 more days with His disciples before His ascension.
It could be that these Theologians were referring to Paradise being a part of Purgatory, as the Catholics and others believe it to be, known as, "Abraham's Bossom." However, according to Rev 2:7 Paradise is where the Tree of Life is. And according to 2 Cor 12:2-4 Paradise is the Third Heaven. Isn't the Third Heaven where God dwells? Does that mean God was in Purgatory until Jesus was resurrected? I think something has not been fully thought out here.
Maybe I'm missing something? Or could it be that somebody added something to the Scriptures that it doesn't say?
I'm not going to go into what "Paradise" is in this short study. See New Jerusalem for more on that subject.
With further investigation, I am now looking at the MacArthur Study Bible's take on these verses. This Bible study ventures the same supposition on this incident as did the Nelson Study Bible, using many more flowery words. But along with the above it also offers some enlightening information. It reads thusly:
"Paradise. The only other places this word is used in the NT are 2 Cor 12:4 and Rev 2:7. The word suggests a garden (it is the word used for Eden in the LLX), but in all 3 NT uses it speaks of heaven."
Again, more on that in New Jerusalem.
Not everyone sees the same thing in the Bible; that is why there are thousands of denominations. For instance, here is what the New Oxford Annotated Bible has to say:
"The robber's appeal may be based on the charge against Jesus vv. 2,3,38); he thinks in terms of 21:27-28 [like the Sadducees]. Jesus promises him much more than he had asked, intimating also that God's kingly power is a present reality, not merely future (Mt. 6:10). Paradise (like "Abraham's bosom" in 16:22) was a contemporary Jewish term for the lodging place of the righteous dead prior to the resurrection."
The New Jerusalem Bible and the Concordia Self Study Bible say essentially the same as has already been stated.
The Life Application Bible elaborates on the subject, and I believe, without as much speculation that others have added. This is what it says:
"As this man was about to die, he turned to Christ for forgiveness [they have to speculate. I guess that's a requirement for being a theologian], and Christ accepted him. This shows that our deeds don't save us - our faith in Christ does. It is never too late to turn to God. Even in his misery, Jesus had mercy on this criminal who decided to believe in him. Our lives will be much more useful and fulfilling if we turn to God early, but even those who repent at the very last moment will be with God in paradise."
Interesting, thought provoking, and certainly a concept commonly held. How be it, I have to once more jump on a word used that I don't see applying to the thief. I see no evidence of the thief "repenting" anything. As far as we know if he was able to escape the cross he would have done exactly the same thing he was doing that got him on the cross. The word "repent" means to "think differently." Did the thief "think differently"? Maybe. But what evidence are we given that this thief did so?
Another thing I find interesting is the word "decided." According to these Theologians the thief "decided" to believe on Jesus. That infers Free Will, does it not? That is certainly something to consider since it conflicts with the doctrine of Election and Predestination, does it not? Can someone believe the thief "changed his mind" and yet still believe the thief was predestined to believe, and was called?
Just another confusion presented to add spice to this whole conflicting doctrine thing.
Did you catch the circular reasoning used by the theologian(s) who wrote this last passage regarding the thief? If not, read it again and see if you catch it this time.
"As this man was about to die, he turned to Christ for forgiveness, and Christ accepted him." Obviously this man did not ask for forgiveness, and we have no way of knowing if Jesus "accepted" him or not. But now this principal has been laid down in print and is accepted as "doctrine." Now notice how this "doctrine" is used to further prove another doctrine.
"This shows that our deeds don't save us - our faith in Christ does. It is never too late to turn to God."
Does this in fact show such a thing? Of course in the minds of those who already believe in the doctrine it does. But that is merely because they don't want to question something they wish to continue believing.
Please understand; my point is not to question the doctrine as such, but they way it was manipulated and presented.
In the early days of TV (and the late days of radio) there was a program called Dragnet. This program was very popular, and very dry. Even emotional situations were unemotional, flatly expressed events. This program was known for one expression Detective Joe Friday always used. When someone began to ramble on or add opinion to their story, he would interrupt with "Just the facts, Mam."
I wish someone would teach these Theologians and preachers that message.
Although I do not totally agree with what the last Bible commentary had to say on our Scripture in question, there is a parable Jesus taught that lends support to one aspect of it. Jesus told the story of some farm laborers who started early in the day, and some who started at the very end of the day, yet they all received the same wages. (Mat 20:1-16). It certainly sounds like that parable might apply here, might it not?
I happen to have an old moldy copy of the Abingdon Bible Commentary. This commentary rather lightly skips over what the others have expressed and tells about "Revolutionaries" and how they behaved toward the Romans. This, of course, referring to the thieves on the cross. One thing it mentions as well, is the name of the thief. Yes, yes indeed. We even know the name of this man who was appointed but a fleeting moment in the Bible. Is the thief's name in the Bible? No, but Tradition has not left this man to settle in the dust.
In fact, the Catholic church has such a high opinion of this thief that they have raised him to Sainthood! Ah, what would we do without Tradition? History seems to lose the highly valued Sacred scrolls that are reproduced by the thousands meticulously scribed by hand, yet somehow it seems to "find" obscure copies of obscure books that then are given the same high credibility as our God- breathed Bible.
Are you waiting to find out the name of the thief? His name, so says tradition, is Dysmas.
Years ago I used to live just south of Los Angeles, California near a small town called San Dimas. In case you haven't guessed it, Dimas is another spelling of Dysmas. That's right: Saint Dysmas.
And you thought there was nothing to learn on this website.
There were two other Scriptures given that referenced "Paradise." let's take a look at them.
1It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2Cor 12:)
7He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev 2:)
There's one more point I would like to add before concluding this study. It concerns the doctrine that uses this episode with the thief as evidence that Salvation can be given to those who appeal for it at the last moment without having done anything to warrant it. I am not trying here to dispel the doctrine, just point out that such a theory can not be proved by this passage of Scripture. Here is why:
14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. 17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Rom 9:)
Should I knock Theologians and Pastors and other Ministers of the church? Isn't that kind of like a Sacred calling that God has presented to them, which we should respect and hearken to?
It would seem so - especially to hear them tell it.
I will make just this one observation, then I'll let you decide:
Fundamentalists have Theologians and Preachers.
Pentecostals have Theologians and Preachers
Catholics have Theologians and Preachers
Lutherans have Theologians and Preachers
Mormons have Theologians and Preachers
Adventists have Theologians and Preachers
Universalists have Theologians and Preachers
Humanists have Theologians and Preachers
Hindus have Theologians and Preachers
Buddhists have Theologians and Preachers
Muslims have Theologians and Preachers
Shall I go on?
There are well over 33,000 Protestant denominations, not even considering all the others. And each has their own set of Theologians who don't agree with one another, Consider the Protestant's extreme conflict between the Calvinists and the Arminians.
Should the Theologians be contradicted and corrected? Or are only the Theologians, the many thousands of them, be allowed to contradict one another?
Where do you stand?
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