Peter makes it clear that it's our faith that is to be tried. What did you think would be tested during these manifold trials? Why do you think God has established a system here on earth where His people, those who make a contract with Him, would suffer persecution and heaviness? Have you ever thought about this? Have you ever been told what it is God is placing in His people? If not, give it thought now. It is important that you know and understand.
31And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place. 32Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God, 33Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to show you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. (Deut 1:)
8For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; (2Cor 1:)
9This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. 10For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. 11These things command and teach. (1Tim 4:)
18That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 20O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: 21Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. (1Tim 6:)
My dictionary adds to the definition of belief: "Trust, confidence." It's our trust in the Lord that is being tried. Belief is not an intellectual assent to the existence and the reality of Jesus. Belief is a full reliance on His Words, and His willingness and ability to do what is best for us. In addition to this, as we can see in the lives of the Apostles: It is not our interest that God is concerned with our learning to trust Him. It's the total purpose of God, His eternal plan that He has before us He is primarily concerned with. We are a tool that He uses to fulfill that plan, just as Jesus was. What's in it for us if we allow ourself to be used (and abused by the world) as a tool? We will be given eternal life with our Eternal God. I for one think that is a good trade-off. How about you?
We live a life of disbelieving in miracles, of doubting the Bible and everything in the Bible because our society, our schools, our media, and even our government rejects the Bible and scoffs at it. "God is dead" we hear, if He ever existed. Man is god. This life is all we have, live it for all it's worth. Go for the gusto.
Then one day someone convinces you to become a Christian. You take the oath, you're baptized, and ZAPP, you're now a full-blown believer.
What is belief? What is faith? A child fully believes the Bugs Bunny cartoons are as real as you and I. Does that belief make the false a reality? Neil Armstrong took a flight to the moon. Who's belief in the reality of the moon do you suspect holds the most credence, his, or ours?
It's through experience we gain faith, that we learn to believe. And it's the hard knocks we as Christians take that we gain the experience that brings on belief.
When we say we want Jesus to give us faith, to make Himself real to us, what we're asking for is the experiences the disciples endured, both before and after the crucifixion. We're asking to be tested, to be tried, like in the song we sing so freely and easily.
9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2Cor 12:)
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2Tim 4:)
Unapproved? Castaway? I think it might be a good idea to see if we're really in the faith, or if we're merely deceiving ourself. What do you think?
"I invite Jesus to become my Savior and the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward." How long do we mean by "This day forward?" Are we saying we want Him to rule over our life until He says we must stop delving into the things of the world, the things that entertain the flesh rather than the Spirit? As I read the Bible this was a requirement from the get-go, that is, that we separate ourself from the world and the things of the world.
I think most of us have no concept of that it means for Jesus to rule over our life, nor do we even believe He will. If the teachings of the modern churches, those traditional and mainline churches are to be believed, then we have no way of knowing if the Lord is leading us or not because we don't have to change anything about our life. It's always been my understanding that a changed life, the evidence of a person's salvation which gives us confidence of our conversion and salvation, is that person's movement away from the life they once lived. Is that your understanding? If so, what is there about your life that demonstrates such a change?
As demonstrated above, we need to examine ourself, and our life to see if we are actually one of the Lord's sheep, or if we're merely one of the world playing church and fooling ourself.
2I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. (John 16:)
18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:)
The pastor tells you that you are now a child of God. You're an heir to the Kingdom. Nothing can steal that reward away from you. You can't even leave the Father's hand even if you wanted to.
Ok, you accept that. It doesn't cost you anything to believe what you're told, just as long as you don't have to miss any of your golf days or your ball games on the tube. That would be costly. Maybe even too costly to achieve eternal life.
Jesus was born, performed many great miracles, was crucified and resurrected Himself. We have a three year span of time, even more counting the lives of the Apostles, wherein the most amazing things ever to be recorded was accomplished, yet there is very little, if any, scientific or historical evidence of this occurring. Yet you believe it nonetheless. Ok, you'll bite. It costs nothing to "believe." So believe you do. At least your family will get off your back and quit hounding you to join the church.
Jesus was born of a virgin. Sounds kind of farfetched, but you've heard stranger things than that on U-Tube and in Science Fiction movies. So again, you won't balk at the idea.
Jesus is God. There is one God, but there are three Gods all rolled up into one package. Hmm. Odd, but it doesn't cost you anything to believe this, even though the explanations for such a thing makes no sense to you and disagree with all logic. Ring up another sale on the "Belief" receipt.
There is a Spirit that will come and guide you for the rest of your life, a Spirit that you can't see or feel, and that you have no way of knowing if He is there or if He is a fairy tale. Now, just hold on here! That's going a little too far! Who can believe such a thing? But you're told you have to believe this unbelievable thing or else you can't reap the rewards offered the "converted" Christian. Well, it doesn't cost anything to believe, so why not? Ok, you add this to the unbelievable things you believe.
Does this describe your "conversion" to Christianity? It does mine. And I suspect it describes many other conversions as well.
Consider: one aspect of the conversion process is that we suddenly lose the freedom of choice we had as a none believer. We had total free will, then all at once the Holy Spirit takes over and we are not our own any more. Does this fit with your understanding? Tell me, are your actions, your interests, your direction any different than they were when you had free will? Who, then, is in charge of your life? Remember, you've lost your free will. Your will is now the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. This means that all your thoughts, your attitudes, and your mistakes are the fault of God, not of you. You haven't failed when you sin, God has failed. Is there a hole in my logic do you think? I think there is, and that is why I'm not going to say that God has taken over my will, but that I still retain it, and my errors. When I falter, when I go astray, when I rebel: I am the one who has to correct my ways and return to the Lord for correction. We're told that those who endure to the end will be saved (Mat 10:22; 1Peter 3:17-18; Rev 2:10). Yet we're taught in the churches that there is no possibility of our failing if we've been "converted." Do you see a conflict here? Or is it just me?
Jesus referred to His followers as "sheep." Sheep are a herding animal. They will follow their leader wherever that leader takes them. Sheep also have an instinct similar to a dog. Dogs know their master and they trust their master. If they hear the voice of someone other than their master they sound a very audible alarm and work to protect their master. Sheep do not have such a brave or loyal nature, but will instead run away if they sense something or someone other than their master.
We by nature are followers. Those who desire to take the lead, such as politicians and the like, are inclined to have selfish motives for doing so. Being sheep, we do not look to lead, but we look for someone to follow that seems to know where they're going. We want someone to take the responsibility of thinking off of us. We want someone to tell us what is right and what is wrong. And if someone comes along who will take such a lead, we will follow that person to the pit if necessary.
Cultures are made up of two elements: there's the fashion setters, and there's the fashion fans. The fashion fan only desires to be in fashion. If that means thrusting a bone through the nose, then so be it. If it requires one to run naked through the street, "streaking" we used to call it, then that we will do as well. How about Tattoos? TV programs? We do what is popular. When I was young it was all the rage to stuff a group of us in small areas such as Volkswagens or a telephone booth. They still have telephone booths, but the only one who uses the booth it seems is Superman. What happened to all the telephone stuffers? The fashion has changed. It's not the "thing to do" anymore.
The other group of people we find are the trend setters. Of course we all know the trend setters have their client's best interest at heart (here's where you give the old belly-laugh folks. Don't let me down.).
Watch in church. Someone says "stand," and everyone stands. "Sit," everyone sits. "Sing," we all sing. "Wave your hands in the air." "Roll on the floor and speak in gibberish." What if someone behind the podium said "Simon says everyone jump." What do you suppose would happen? You'd see everyone jump in spite of their crutches and their wheel chair. That's just the way we sheep are. We don't like to think.
What if I feel like standing while everyone is sitting? All eyes turn toward me as if I was an oddball. Because I don't want to be considered an oddball, I remain sitting even though the blood is being cut off from my feet by the seat. We are sheep, and we do what we're told, whether it makes any sense or not.
In the Army I learned to stay exactly in step with the fellow in front of me. Did he know where he was going? Or why? Not at all. He was staying in step with the guy in front of him.
From a child we're told to do what we're told to do, and not to question what we've been told. My father used to say: "When I jump, you holler!" Being a rebellious and free thinking type of person, I found myself in trouble a lot. If you don't want to be in trouble a lot, do what you're told, in spite of the consequences.
If those we associate with say there's a ghost inside of us, directing our every move, and telling us about the future, then we accept this as fact, even though we don't believe a word of it.
Have you been told the future by your guiding Spirit? Have you been led into a better understanding of the Bible by the One you have received? Do you feel Jesus and the Father within you? Don't you think such an occurrence would make quite a change in your life? Has it? If none of these changes have taken place, then what in the world are you placing your "belief" on? Does your belief come from the words of a man standing behind the pulpit who seems to exhibit no more signs of having such an experience than you have? Or are you one of the very few who are following the commandments of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, to surrender your lusts and desires and take up you cross daily, to study the Word and instill it in your heart? If you feel driven to make these changes, then just maybe you have in fact received the Holy Spirit and you understand what I'm telling you.
Why the "Just maybe"? Because just maybe you belong to a church that Simon says that's "The thing to do," and therefore you do as Simon says.
When you took your oath you said you wanted to be convicted when you sin. What is sin to you? Do you really want God to tell you that the things you're doing, the things you like to do, is against His will, and He wants you to stop it?
As you sit back enjoying your day, you feel a pang of guilt surge through your body. You think a moment, and you wonder what you're experiencing. Maybe it's just gas you think. So you continue on with what you were doing. The pang grows stronger. You take an antacid tablet. The pang continues. What do you do? If you continue on the path your on, which you probably will, the pangs of conscience will eventually disappear, and you'll feel you're home free. You might even conclude that God accepts what you're doing because He hasn't struck you with lighting. This is what is called the state of having one's conscience seared as with a hot iron. You've successfully integrated the world with your Christianity. You've "Quenched the Spirit." You are no different than the world, than you were before your conversion, but you feel totally confident that you are securely in God's hand. And you have many people, all good church people, supporting you in your confidence.
Seen from this perspective, does this position look all so secure as you imagined it to be? How does this state of being fit with the oath you took?
14Follow peace with all men, and HOLINESS, WITHOUT WHICH NO MAN SHALL SEE THE LORD: 15Looking DILIGENTLY LEST ANY MAN FAIL OF THE GRACE OF GOD; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (Heb 12:)
7Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18But GROW IN GRACE, AND IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2Peter 3:)
By grace are ye saved through faith; Grace and faith go hand in hand. We looked at faith and found it not to be such a simple thing as is taught. Faith is something we work at, not something we've been given full-blown at our baptism. Grace we will see is the same way, it must grow as well.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Why were we created? So God can spend His days trying to satisfy our selfish needs? What are our works that will be judged in the end? The Bible demonstrates, and fully explains what the "Good works" are that God will be looking for in us. Are you performing these good works? Or have you been taught that works don't count in the game of Christianity?
Follow .... holiness, without which no man shall see the lord: We're taught that we're automatically made holy when we're baptized and said the sinner's prayer. Is that the impression you're getting as you read this study? If you are getting that impression, then I'm failing in my responsibility.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of god; Fail from the grace of God? Did I read that right? Maybe you'd better check it out in your own Bible. Maybe mine has a misprint. That can happen you know. If it wasn't a misprint, don't you think it's something to look in to?
As Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. What morsel are you selling your birthright for? Is it your TV show? Maybe it's your seat at the Superbowl. Or maybe it's your career or your position in the community. Or maybe it's your family? What is it you place ahead of your Lord. Is it your church? Maybe its your good works, your volunteering your services, or even your giving up all you have to the poor:
6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. 7And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. (Isaiah 64:)
There are none righteous. And more than this, there are none that call upon His name. We, each of us, have to change this picture the best we know how. If we, from our heart, work toward that goal, God will take us the rest of the way. The disciples, as we see, tried to achieve this goal on a human level, even with the support of Jesus at their side day and night. They were able to perform the function of Jesus' mission such as raise the dead and cast out demons, but they couldn't be like Jesus until they received the Holy Spirit and followed the Spirit's direction. We have this same advantage. What stops us from fulfilling this purpose is our unbelief. And we will retain our unbelief until we learn to recognize and admit that our belief is woefully lacking.
Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. Being told you're in the wrong by striving to work past the doctrines of the church, and to recognize there is far more to the Christian experience than is being taught, is one way a person can be held back from their steadfastness. Jesus said:
We see from this that those who play both ends against the middle are blind to their condition, and they need to repent and become zealous for God. Jesus gave us the parable of the sower and the seed to demonstrate that some people can be zealous in the beginning, but after a time, for one reason or another, fall away from the faith. Our teaching today, all too many of them, teach that this can not happen, that once saved always saved. I can't see that picture in the parables or in the teachings of the Bible.
Lukewarm is the state of the Church today, and it will grow worse. There are some churches, such as those called the cults, who are much hotter than are the others. But they lack what it takes to be hot off the griddle as well. If this be so, where does it leave all the other churches that the cults far outstride in the area of zeal and sacrifice?
Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our lord. Do you think this might also be a misprint? Grow in grace? How can we grow in something that we've been fully given?
We saw that faith was given to us in a less than perfect form. The faith itself, just as the grace, might be perfect, but we, the vessel these have been placed in, are not perfect. Grace and faith grow as we allow ourselves to be taken over by them, and they are perfected in us.
Concerning the flesh and the Spirit. There's a story about a man who had two fighting dogs. One dog was white, and the other dog was black. A man asked the owner of the dogs which one would win in a fight. The man said: "The one I feed."
This is true of us as well. if we're feeding on things of this world, satisfying our lustful desires, the flesh will overcome us. If on the other hand we're zealously seeking the things of the Spirit, then the Spirit will overcome us and we will then have become overcomers. What is an overcomer? An overcomer is a person who has overcome the world, the desires of this world, just as Jesus did. All rewards go to the overcomer, not to the one who allows the world to overcome them.
If we fail to serve the Lord as His ambassador here on earth, in public and in private, what are the chances that we will not be welcomed by the One we promised to represent to His people?
I now rededicate my vow every week, and I re-examine myself day by day, moment by moment. I try to remain at point zero in all aspects of my life so any deviation will be noticed and dealt with immediately before it progresses into the next stage. So far this is working. But because I am such a weak, self-willed person I can't assume I will continue on this path as I should. I'm tired of failing. And what's more, I know the consequences I must face for my failings.
Mine is. And he openly states that he is high in the Freemason organization.
What's your impression of the Masons? Do you know anything about them or other such secret organizations? It's not my purpose here to point the finger at the Masons or any other organization. They all do good work helping mankind. And so do the Humanists, which is their purpose and goal, the betterment of mankind. What I want to point out is that the Masons, as do all other organizations, take an oath:
Notice the use of the word "God." Like our courts, the Masons do not recognize a god per se. That is, you have to believe in a god, but it can be any god you choose. Also, you place your hand on a sacred book, but it can be of Hindu origin, or voodoo, or even a Christian Bible. They don't care about your religious belief, only that you believe in something.
There's a lot said about the Masons, how much is true I don't know. Nor am I going to speculate. What you've seen here is the tail end of the oath the Masons take. If you want to investigate farther that's up to you. I understand that the oaths become more explicate as a person progresses in the organization.
My point is, people take oaths. Sometimes those oaths are taken when very young, too young to know what the oaths mean, nor do they even know they have taken an oath. Babies baptized before thy can even confess their sin, or know what sin is, is one example of such a procedure. Another is the implanting of a chip in a child so they can be found if lost. What if that chip turns out to be the Mark of the Beast as is so popularly believed? What chance does that person have to escape the eternal penalty for having the mark thrust upon them?
Children grow up in cultures. The culture and the family train that child to conform to the society they live in. To be different, in some cultures, and during certain time frames, meant death. If a child grows up in a Humanist home, they will become a Humanist regardless of what they may see against Humanism in their own life. A child who grows up in a Christian home, let's say a Catholic home, will naturally be a Catholic. We "raise up a child in the way we think they should grow." If we're wrong, the child suffers our error as will we. If we learn later in life that we've been wrong, and we try to correct that erroneous thinking in our child, we find it's too late and they now see us as a heathen and lost because we left the belief we taught them.
We can't treat our beliefs and our oaths lightly. We are bound by them in spite of our having changed our mind in regards to the substance of the oath(s) we've taken. This is one of the reasons I am against the practice of the churches whereby they offer free salvation to any and all who take the oath or sign a pledge without a full understanding of what they are taking on to themselves. And the way the churches stand today, they are unable to give a true picture of what is to come of those who take such an oath because they do not know the consequences, or the facts themselves.
15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Mat 18:)
13Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. (Titus 1:)
15These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. (Titus 2:)
5To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1Cor 5:)
16Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. 17And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. 18Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. (Mal 3:)
11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Rev 20:)
25There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, LIKE A ROARING LION RAVENING THE PREY; THEY HAVE DEVOURED SOULS [see 1Peter 5:8-9; Rev 12:8-14] ; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. 26Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. (Ezek 22:)
20Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! 22Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: 23Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! 24Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, (Isaiah 5:)
3Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, TURNING THE GRACE OF OUR GOD INTO LASCIVIOUSNESS ["Filthy, wantonness"], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. (Jude 1:)
What is your feelings about the condition of the churches? Are you appalled? Are you thankful that "liberty" and "Acceptance of everyone, sinful or righteous" has now permeated the churches? There are those churches that are proud of their lack of restriction, feeling they have fulfilled the true purpose of Christ's death on the cross.
Paul says to speak out against such people, those who have compromised the churches. But where does one speak out against something that is all-invasive? I see it much like speaking out against Nazism while living in the midst of a Nazi regime.
The modern concept of Christianity is so widespread and cemented into the thinking of Christians that to even mention the idea that their doctrines might be wrong brings about closed ears, if not outright anger. I find it useless to say anything to the ones who are under the sway of the potentates of the churches.
What about the elders of the churches? Maybe the pastors themselves would be open to the possibility that they have their doctrines a little off. After all, we see very clear signs of the result of dogmatism in the Pharisees, and in the early Catholic church, and where such thinking can lead. I should think this would be so, but I haven't found it to be as I would assume.
1Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 2The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. (1Tim 5:)
17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:)
No, trying to work with the heads of the churches has proven less than useless. All I can do if I want any influence at all is to attend a church and present a good example.
I have had the misfortune of having to go through intense psychotherapy. And I've had the great fortune of going through psychotherapy. No, I didn't stutter, though I dread the reason for my having to go through the therapy, what I learned from the experience was invaluable.
What I learned was the importance of self-examination. I learned that if I want to change, I have to take a look at the deep, dark chambers of myself I hate to admit exists, even to myself. It is in those dark corners where the true me actually resides. It's in the lustful, the selfish parts of me where demons hide and wield their powers.
It's taken a lifetime of self-examination to even begin to understand who and what I am. And I suspect it will take several more lifetimes (no, I don't believe in reincarnation) to alter the person I have become.
But I'm trying.
Trying is the big word, and an even bigger word is recognizing the necessity to examine one's self and see what needs changed.
The Bible is very clear on the subject of self-examination, of making changes that will bring us into conformity with God's will, and God's own personality. But instead of obeying the injunction to make these changes, we change God's Words to say such self-examination and change is unnecessary, and even evil in some churches.
6My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. (Jer 50:)
And, how does all this fit with the oath we took?
It's my friends, my family, and me before I recognized what was happening that has been blinded by the waving of this magic wand. And it makes me angry to think that those who wield such a wand, such power over the eternal destiny of those who follow their pernicious ways are not even willing to look into the possibility that they are dooming possibly thousands of people to the very same fate they claim to be saving them from.
cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2Peter 2:)
In my search for oaths, I specifically tried to find an oath given to those in the ministry. Other than certain Catholic oaths, I found none. I find it strange that a Boy Scout with nothing but a grade school education has to take an oath, yet a pastor with numerous years of intensive study does not. Here we have a man (and now even woman) who hold sway the very eternal souls of many people, who insist that a person under their jurisdiction listen to, agree with, and follow their every dictum as being the Word of God. Their job, their responsibility, the career they have taken upon themselves, is to teach the Words, the purposes, and the demands of God. Yet they themselves do not make an effort to insure that what they teach is in fact the Word of God and not mere denominational doctrine and tradition. Is this not the error the Pharisees made that Jesus condemened? Didn't they place blinders upon themselves that prevented them from looking beyond what they already accepted as true?
No, the only oath any of us have any control over, or should be concerned with, is the oath we ourselves have taken. We will rise or fall according to our own actions and intents of the heart. Having a perfect pastor, one possessing all skills, knowledge and understanding of the will of God will not help us in any way if we aren't doing what we have been instructed to do, both in the Word, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God.
17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:)