Friday, October 24, 2008

We Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood

Joseph Herrin (10-24-08)

Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Although I have written some concerning my recent experience traveling with David Weber, and I have shared some things that are a grief to me, I want to spend a moment making something clear, lest there be any misunderstanding. David Weber is not my enemy. In truth, I consider him a brother in Christ. Any honest saint will admit that relationships among brothers and sisters in the body of Christ are very often marked with conflicts. This is bound to be the case because none of us are yet perfected in Christ.

Conflict itself is not sin. There need be no failure of love when we have a conflict. Conflict only becomes sin when there is a failure of love. A conflict may reveal that one or more believers have embraced some error, but as long as the error is addressed in a spirit of love, then there need be no transgression present. Let me cite a Biblical example of this.

In the New Testament we read of certain apostles and believers embracing the erroneous teaching that in addition to faith in Christ, believers must also observe the Law of Moses. Peter and Barnabas got caught up in this error, and it necessitated that a correction be spoken to them by the apostle Paul.

Galatians 2:11-14
When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Note that Paul described the behavior of these men as hypocrisy. Some might think this was uncharitable of Paul, or that he was too forceful in his presentation, but I do not believe he transgressed in this matter. The Greek word for hypocrite may not have held the same degree of harshness that we associate with it today. The word actually was a theatrical term that spoke of one who played a part in a play. It means “play-actor.”

Paul asserted that Peter was living one way when the Jews were not around, but when Jewish believers came from Jerusalem, Peter began to act in a way that was very different. Before, he did not have any qualms about eating with Gentile believers, but when the Jews came he held himself apart from the Gentiles. He was acting like a good, Torah observant Jew. This was hypocrisy.

It was necessary to address this error publicly because other Jewish believers were getting caught up in it, including Barnabas, which evidently surprised Paul. Many believers stood to suffer in varying degrees if the error was not corrected. The Gentile believers were made to feel like second class citizens of the kingdom of God. Some felt compelled to embrace the Law in order to be fully accepted, and this was great error. So Paul stepped in and confronted the situation boldly, naming names, and calling people to account, and repentance came forth.

There were no lasting hard feelings among the brethren, for this conflict was necessary to lead men to repentance, and no personal injury resulted. We read later of Peter mentioning Paul in one of his epistles, and there is no hint of any offense or bitterness.

II Peter 3:15-16
And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Note that even after he had been publicly rebuked by Paul, Peter calls Paul “our beloved brother.” The Scripture is true, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Paul meant no injury to Peter. He sought to see all the people of God walking in truth. This was also the desire and hope of the other apostles.

III John 4
I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

There was no one more renowned for love than the apostle John, but we also find him naming names and making public rebukes to the saints who were walking in error.

III John 9-10
I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

It is never appropriate to revile a brother or sister in Christ. When we enter into conflicts we must be careful to not be carried away with emotion. We must resist the urge to adopt a defensive posture that will not consider the words of another, or to begin attacking another as if they were our enemy. Flesh and blood are not that which we war against, but our warfare is against lies and the lying spirits that spread the lies.

II Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ...

The Father often teaches me deep truths by bringing me into conflict with others. He also uses these conflicts to direct my attention to some area that is a danger to the body which He would have me to speak on. In this post I will speak of such a matter. Although I will relate to you more of my recent experience with David Weber, I want you to know that David is my brother in Christ. The Spirit bears witness of this. I seek his welfare. If you read this post and are not led to conclude that I view David as my brother, then you have not properly discerned the spirit in which it is written.

I fear acting in an uncharitable manner toward another, knowing that “by the judgment you judge others you will be judged.” A day may come when the Lord brings a brother to address some error I am walking in and I would hope the correction might come attended with mercy and grace.

Galatians 6:1-2
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

David and I met up in Cleveland, Ohio and rode together in my van for a thousand miles. During this time we had much time for conversing. As brothers do who have not met personally before, we both shared significant portions of our testimonies with one another. David shared many experiences from his days spent on the streets of Toronto, Rochester, San Francisco and other places. There were many things that David shared that moved me deeply, as I sensed the Spirit working in and through his life in the many experiences he has encountered. We share many experiences in common, and I recognize that the same Father has been guiding both of us.

There was one part of David’s testimony that appeared repeatedly that was uncharacteristic of my own experiences, and I pondered this greatly. David spoke of encountering a myriad of people with whom he had great success in sharing the gospel with them. He spoke of seeing many lives transformed by simply loving on people and showering them with the love of Christ.

David said he avoided doctrine when he encountered people, and rarely even mentioned the obvious areas of sin in a person’s life, whether the person was a homosexual, a drug addict, prostitute, etc.. He said he preferred to just lead them to the love of Christ and let God convict the person of their sin in His time.

In example after example David shared with me how he had made a friend and shared Jesus with people, and how multitudes have been impacted in this way. David shared with me about having met a Hindu woman and the wonderful fellowship he had with her. He spoke of speaking with Muslims and Catholics and sensing more spiritual life in them than he had in many Christians.

David shared with me his belief that many people are connected to God while not knowing the actual identity of God. He said the person might be a Hindu and be a lover of God while not knowing who that God actually is. I have heard similar statements of belief before, even from Christians as renowned as C.S. Lewis, but I had never been able to embrace these conclusions. Can a person be praying to Allah, while actually conversing with Yahweh? C.S. Lewis even incorporates this message into one of his children’s books in the series The Chronicles of Narnia.

I see in such a concept the seeds of a one world religion where it is taught that there are many paths to God. The Rosicrucian belief teaches that all religions are simply different petals on the same flower. I am not suggesting that David Weber is teaching this at all. He would probably be appalled to hear me making a connection between these beliefs. Sometimes we need extrapolate things out to a far distance to see where a belief might be leading us. We can drift into error by small degrees, and before long we will find ourselves far off course.

Can a Christian truly have fellowship with a Hindu who has not yet been born again of the Spirit of Christ? Is there spiritual life present in a Muslim?

II Corinthians 6:14-16
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God...

I certainly believe we can have a friendly conversation with another person who has not yet been born again of the Spirit of Christ. But we should not assume there is spiritual life present if the person has not yet come to know the Son of God, and have been regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes emotional interest can be perceived as spiritual life, but true life in Christ will be attended by a knowledge of Christ, and an acceptance of the doctrines relating to Christ.

When David and I arrived in Macon I took him by the Rescue Mission and I introduced him to a couple of people. One was a young man named Stephen who used to be heavily involved in Satan worship. Stephen has had some type of religious experience in the past year and speaks of God a lot. While I was still at the Mission the Lord directed me to press in with Stephen to ascertain what he really believed. It seemed that something had happened in Stephen’s life, and I felt led to identify it. Stephen was speaking about God a lot, but I did not notice him speaking of Jesus. I wanted to know if he was truly grounded in Christ.

Stephen and I got together and I began asking him pointed questions about the Son of God. Stephen told me that he was not convinced that Jesus was actually the son of God, or born of a virgin, or other things the Bible speaks of Christ. He said that when he was a satanist that they were taught to look for inconsistencies in the Bible, and they used them to bring confusion to the minds of immature Christians and to lead them away from Christianity into satanism. He said he was quite successful in doing this, especially with Baptists.

Stephen said he was ashamed of what he had done formerly, but he still was troubled by many of the inconsistencies in Scriptures, and did not consider the Bible to be the authoritative word of God. What I came to see was that Stephen had some type of religious experience, but he had not been born again of the Spirit of Christ. Stephen made up his mind that he wanted to be a good, religious person, and he was trying to modify his behavior. He was even emotionally excited about his new focus, but he was a foreigner to the life of Christ. There are many people in this world who seem "spiritual," but we must test all things carefully to see who is truly in the faith.

I love Stephen very much. I speak to him every time I visit the Mission, but I have discerned that he is not a partaker of the Spirit of Christ. I would not have known this if I had not slowed down, heeded the voice of the Spirit, and began asking Stephen some very pointed questions about Christ.

Stephen was disturbed that I had pressed him on the topic of his beliefs concerning Jesus Christ. He later told Randy that he did not know why I had picked him out to press him on this topic, and he has declined to seek to know anything further about Christ.

I introduced David Weber to Stephen, and Stephen stood up and gave David a hug and spoke to him for a brief moment. David later told me that he sensed spiritual life in Stephen. I know the Lord orchestrated this entire event to reveal something very profound to me. Stephen would fool a lot of Christians today. They would hear him speak about what God has done for him, and how much he loves God, and they would think this man has experienced a wonderful conversion. Unless they slow down and examine things closely, they would not discern that Stephen does not believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior. To know the truth requires patient discussion, and a willingness to speak about “Doctrine,” which is something David avoids and finds to be divisive.

People of God, it is true that doctrine is divisive. The truths of the kingdom of God will separate the sheep from the goats. Doctrine is not a dirty word. I have people charge me with error for focusing upon doctrine very frequently. The reason is that the truth offends. True doctrine also leads people to a cross, and the cross is despised in these days.

I Timothy 6:3-4
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing...

The true doctrine of the kingdom of God is always spoken of in the highest way. It is never despised. Those who avoid doctrine will be led astray into error, and they will falsely suppose they are making great advances for the kingdom of God when they are accomplishing very little.

I shared with David that in my three years at the Macon Rescue Mission that I could probably name no more than five or six men whom I knew to have have experienced a real transformation. David seemed very surprised at this, saying that the men just needed someone to love them.

People of God, if we go around telling everyone that Jesus loves them, but we avoid speaking to them of the need to repent of their sin, and we avoid doctrines of the Christ that appear to be divisive, we will certainly find that many people warmly embrace both us and our message. This was never the pattern of Christ, however. When crowds began to gather He would speak a word of truth to separate out those who were truly willing to pay the cost of being a disciple from those who were merely hanging around hoping for some blessing.

John 6:59-66
These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble?..." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.

What divided the people here? It was doctrine. Yahshua could have just loved on the people and they would have all stayed, but He was not focused upon drawing a big crowd or winning a lot of converts. He was interested in gathering those to Himself who would walk in truth.

Many saints today would condemn Christ for doing what He did. How do I know this? Because they will not allow themselves to even consider that God might have them speak a truth that will turn people away. I am frequently lambasted by people who take issue with the fact that I teach the saints to walk in truth. These truths bear a cost. How can a man take Christ as his head in all things without first embracing the cross and dying to his own desires? How can a woman take man as her head unless she embraces the cross? Christ will lead all of His disciples to sorrow and suffering in this life, and I am frequently decried as being divisive for proclaiming doctrines that are unpopular.

People of God, do not be deceived. There is a very high cost to following Christ. If we fail to tell people to count the cost when we are telling them how much Christ loves them, then we are deceiving them. Christ told all who would be His disciples to count the cost BEFORE they committed themselves to following Him.

It sounds wonderful to speak of going around telling people how much Jesus loves them, while leaving it up to God to convict them of their sins in His time. How can we lead anyone to Christ without speaking of sin, repentance, and salvation? People need a Savior because they are in bondage to sin. If we avoid speaking of sin we will surely make a lot of friends, but we will not lead people to victory in Christ.

David mentioned to me when God was first indicating that we were to get together that he has just read The Shack. A little bell went off in my spirit when I heard this, but it didn’t raise any great alarms, so I tucked the thought away in the back of my mind. It has come back to me recently. I mentioned in a couple of posts written in Fort Wayne that on the last day of my speaking to the discipleship group there that one of the young women present had this same book with her. Another member asked her what she thought of it. She said it was one of the best books she had read, saying, “It shows that God is such a happy God. He is happy all the time.”

Upon hearing this I shared with the young woman that her saying this troubled me. I told her that the Spirit of Christ has been testifying that great judgment is about to fall upon the church and the nations because He is indignant toward their sin and idolatry. God is not happy all the time. These young people were involved with the local International House of Prayer ministry, and Christ is portrayed there as one who is all love and mercy and tenderness. The more difficult and uncomfortable aspects of God’s nature are glossed over. This has produced a lot of doe-eyed young believers who lack a reverential fear of God.

I believe this is one of the spirits that we must wage war against. I also see that this spirit has influenced David. He wants to focus upon love all the time, and avoids the uncomfortable doctrines of Scriptures, declaring them to be divisive. This is a very dangerous attitude, and it will lead to an acceptance of many false brethren and false teachings. In an hour when we are warned that many lying spirits will be present, and they will be given great authority so that if possible even the elect might be deceived, we need to guard against anything that will lead us to assume that doctrine is unimportant.

When we speak to people we encounter with an aim of leading them to Christ, we need to tell them and show them that God loves them. We are not to stop there, however. We are told to “speak the truth in love.” It is not love to simply speak compassionate things to people while neglecting to tell them of the judgment to come, and their need of repentance and forgiveness. We must also tell those who express interest in Christ of the high cost of being a disciple.

I spoke to hundreds of men in my three years at the Macon Rescue Mission. I told them there was hope in Christ to be delivered from their sins. He came to set them free. I also told them that there was a high cost to following Christ. There is a cross to be borne. A man must hate his own life in order to be a disciple of Christ. I know a few men who have entered into a transformed life in Christ as a result, but most were not looking to make such a radical commitment. They just wanted their life to be made better. They wanted the blessings and benefits of Christ, but they did not want to obey Him in all things. They despised the message of the cross.

I have weighed these things carefully in my spirit since David and I spent time together. I am not sensing that the Spirit would have me cease proclaiming these divisive doctrines. We cannot merely proclaim the favorable parts of the gospel, while leaving the difficult parts for the Spirit to perform. Listen to the example of the apostles.

Acts 3:19-20
"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you...”

Note that repentance from sin PRECEDES the Lord being sent to the people. How can we lead people to Christ apart from proclaiming the need to repent of sin? Many preachers are going around telling people that God loves them. They are leading people to ask Christ to come into their hearts. There is no such pattern ever found in Scripture for such an approach to evangelism. Godly sorrow over sin precedes salvation in Christ.

Our preaching should be such that men are made aware of the peril of their falling under the wrath of God. They should cry out, “What then must we do to be saved from the wrath of God?” Then they will be willing to repent of their sins and commit to following Christ. Peter preached true doctrine on the day of Pentecost under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ. The people were moved with the knowledge of their peril, and cried out.

Acts 2:37-38
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.”

Repentance and forgiveness of sins precedes the giving of the Holy Spirit. If we are not leading men and women to perceive their sins, we are not leading them to Christ. We are giving them a false comfort and false hope. Oh, you will avoid being viewed as divisive if you do not speak of sin and the need to repent, but you will not be proclaiming the whole counsel of God.

Acts 17:30-31
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness...”

Acts 26:19-20
"So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”

John the Baptist was the precursor to Christ. He was sent to prepare the way. He proclaimed the people’s sin and their need to repent and receive the forgiveness that is found only in Christ.

Matthew 3:7-10
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance... The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

I don’t believe John received a lot of hugs and touchy-feely support, but he did prepare men and women for an encounter with Christ. Preaching a message of sin and repentance is not popular today. It will not make you the friend of every man and woman on the street, but we dare not avoid it to avert appearing divisive. If men and women are not coming to Christ to be forgiven and loosed from their sins, then they are not yet ready to come to Christ.

People of God, one of the deep messages God has been proclaiming through my recent encounter with David Weber is that we must slow down and examine closely our message and our preaching. We must not be fooled by emotional responses from people who have been told that Jesus loves them. Unless these people have discerned their sinful state, the judgment that awaits them, and God’s provision through Christ Yahshua for them to walk free of sin, they are merely manifesting a soulish excitement and not true spiritual life. We must tell people that God has a wonderful plan for their life, and that plan involves suffering and a cross.

David has manifested anger at me because I will not lay aside doctrine in favor of simply loving people. I cannot do as he desires. I have no witness from the Spirit that I am to depart from an emphasis on sound doctrine. I believe instead that the Father is seeking to lead him to slow down and consider his ministry and the encroachment of a false philosophy that declares that all we need is love.

I found it very difficult to proclaim a message of suffering and the cross to the group of young people in Fort Wayne. The week before I arrived they had a woman who was asked to speak to them. She proclaimed a message of God being all about love. She stated that God had never disciplined her, for a loving God does not seek to inflict suffering on His children. The writer of Hebrews tells us that if we have not experienced the discipline of God then we are illegitimate children and not sons.

The Spirit of Christ spoke to me back in April about the call of a Joseph Company in these last days. They will be called to prepare the body for burial that they might attain to resurrection life.
http://parablesblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/joseph-preparing-body-for-burial.html

I have no doubt that many will react negatively to this ministry. Preparing the body for burial means that the body of Christ must be brought to embrace the cross. I have at times been accused of being harsh in my teaching. This is a common reaction from those who hear the message of suffering and the cross presented to them. Many do not want to hear difficult words, and as a result they attribute negative motives to the one speaking. I proclaim the message of the cross because apart from it no one will ever be brought to conformity to the image of Christ.

This can be a thankless ministry, but I am not complaining. Enduring such things is a part of my own cross, and it is intended for my good. If I can be reviled and not revile in return, then I am coming closer to the image of Christ.

I received the following words today from Andrew Eberly, the brother in Christ who opened his home to me in Fort Wayne.

A year or so ago, (a brother) had been talking to a troubled youth who became very excited about Jesus and started attending the fellowship. (This brother) believed that he had won a convert, but I discerned in my spirit that much of what this young believer was espousing was emotion and not rooted and grounded in the foundation of Christ. It wasn't until I began asking him pointed questions about his professed faith and conversion that it became apparent to both me and (this brother) that this young man had not truly been born again of the Spirit of Christ.
I was just listening to a message from Art Katz and he said something that I believe will become more and more prevalent in days ahead. He said that, "We're going to see formed the very elements that make up the church that is persecuted and a church that is its persecutor. We need to know now that we're moving toward one or the other. There will not be a neutral ground. The logic of true faith is persecution." Although it will be difficult, I can tell you right now that I want to be in the church that is being persecuted and not the church being the persecutor. All who will live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
I agree with Andrew’s thoughts here. It is better to be treated poorly at the hands of professing believers than to be the one treating them poorly. There is much grace given to us when we suffer for the sake of Christ. There is truly a fellowship in His sufferings. A sister in Christ, Kathy Furman from Arizona, writes:

Now to the things that are happening with us that seem to reflect on your experiences. Last week Randy cracked a tooth. The transmission in our van has been slipping. It seems to be related to the overdrive. I have been painting on river rocks... The second picture shows what is written on the back of the blue rock. The next one was going to have the words "slow down" on the back.






































We agree that Yahweh is saying "slow down." We need to be patient and listen carefully to what He is directing us to do during these crucial times.


This couple from Arizona very frequently find that the Spirit is dealing with us on similar themes and topics. That Randy has chipped a tooth and finds the transmission on his van slipping in overdrive is an amazing parallel. On top of this to find that Kathy is painting turtles, a symbol of a “slow and steady” spirit, and was about to paint the message “slow down” on her next rock is amazing.

There are so many things we need to slow down and examine. We will be spared much that is costly in coming days if we will be still and listen to the voice of the Spirit of God. None of us want to find that we have been laboring in vain, but staying on course with the Lord requires that we do not act hastily. We must not flee away when He brings us to an uncomfortable correction.

People of God, I do not share these experiences with any judgment in my heart. I know how much my own soul recoils when I am faced with a cross, or some suffering. I need God to daily give me courage. What God is speaking applies to all of His children, and I know very well that it applies to me. It was my tooth that broke, my van that would not go into high gear, my watch that slowed down, etc..

It is an hour to examine all things carefully. We must not be hasty in our words or actions. Let us be very thoughtful about all that we do. Do not allow the desires of our soul to lead us away from the will of God. Do not judge people, ministries, or things by appearances. Let the Spirit of Christ guide you that you might judge things rightly.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: http://www.parablesblog.blogspot.com

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

2 comments:

Grandma Carol said...

I've been reading your blogs for 3 days now. I thank God for you, Joseph! You are my brother!!!

Pam said...

I love your blog. I don't have a blog of my own, (my daughter's is the "headingtowardthehighplaces" blog), but was googling the verse, "we war not against flesh and blood" and found your blog. Thanks so much for sharing and encouraging the body of Christ in area of importance of doctrine. Pam