Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Prison Apologetics

Joseph Herrin (09-29-2015)

What follows is an exchange with a man who is serving a term in a Georgia prison. To read a previous exchange with this same man, see the following blog post.



Thank you for getting back to me so quickly and thoroughly. Your answers have given me much to contemplate and the book on the Bible (Yahweh’s Book) has much to be digested. Your argument regarding the “Lord’s Supper” being a parable certainly clears up any confusion I had and rings true to me as something God had intended to say.

My eyes are being opened to the ways we turn over our faith to other men, almost like we are outsourcing the care of our souls to men we deem more knowledgeable or powerful.

My friend in the free world sent me some information, very limited, about the gnostic gospels and a list of other gospels and epistles and stories of Jesus’ infancy that were not deemed canonical by the powers that be. This author’s argument was that this sect of the early church were the winners, most willing to play ball with the Romans, so they were able to prosper and as a result they wrote history as they believed it and that is the New Testament we have today. They emphasize the “Gospel of Thomas” and a book called “The Shepherd of Hermes.” I have not read these, but supposedly they speak of a more human Jesus and not Jesus as God.

The argument that Jesus came as the sacrifice to justify the penalty of death seems valid, but only for the Jews. God gave the Law and the practice of sacrifice to cleanse sins to the Jews, not to all of humanity, so isn’t the idea of Jesus being the once and for all sacrifice only applicable to the Jews? The rest of humanity died from sin because they lived in the flesh, but if we live by the spirit we will have eternal life, sacrifice or not. This brings up the topic of those outside the Law before Jesus, and what happened to them, but I don’t want to delve into that right now.

A few months ago you mentioned astrology and said that astrology was used for selfish practices and self gain. I realize that newspaper astrology is not true astrology. I’m not even certain what true astrology is, but I gather that the forces of the planets (be they spiritual or physical in the form of gravity or electromagnetic) have influences on human life much like the moon on the tides. If this is true, wouldn’t God want us to understand and use this information as it pertains to the forces of nature in our lives? We have and understand seasons and they are governed by celestial bodies, and by them we set our calendars and planting seasons. Wouldn’t it be wise to know when a good time to conduct business in my personal life would be, just as I need to know when to plant a seed or water the yard if I know it won’t rain?

You could say when and where we were born is a location in time, and knowing the seasons and weather of that location through astrology would be wise and practical, just as a farmer knows the climate and the seasons. Just another tool God has given us, yes? I could be mistaken as to my understanding of astrology.

Lastly, I guess my biggest hang up with Christianity is the divinity of Jesus. Without the Bible and Churches one can arrive at the knowledge of God’s existence. Civilizations and man alone has done this throughout existence. But the divinity of Jesus is not known outside of a corrupt book and corrupt church. I don’t know what motives would cause one sect to favor one divinity over another other than the same convictions that drive people to do extreme things for personal beliefs under the banner of “I’m right.” Ego and self-righteousness are powerful drivers! I’m not sure I can be convinced otherwise, but like you said it will be up to the Lord to reveal Himself to me if that is His will. I will continue to learn about and love God and seek truth! Hope all is well. Thank you again for taking the time to write. I’ve enclosed some stamps.

Your brother,


Hello Alex,

It is good to hear from you again. You always raise some interesting points for discussion. I am glad to see that you are taking the time to consider spiritual matters. Although you are still uncertain about the identity of God, I do encourage you to pray to Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you and to lead you to the truth. There is a famous passage in the Bible in The Acts of the Apostles where Paul addresses a group of men gathered in the city of Athens, Greece. In this ancient city there was a forum called the Areopagus where people gathered for no other purpose than to hear something new. It was discovered that Paul was proclaiming a new message of God having a Son who was sent to earth to ransom men from their sins and the people of the place wanted to hear this message. Paul began by stating the following.

Acts 17:22-28
“Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said,' For we also are His offspring.'”

As you noted at the end of your letter, it is true that no man can come to Christ unless the Father grants it. Yet at the same time, the Bible speaks favorably of men seeking after God, groping as it were, that they might discover His identity and enter into a relationship with the Creator who formed them. Based on this testimony of the apostle Paul, it seems appropriate to encourage men such as yourself to not only search for the “UNKNOWN GOD,” but to pray to the God you know exists, asking Him to lead you to the path of truth and life.

In your letter you started out by speaking of writings that did not get included in the canon of Scripture. You specifically mentioned The Gospel of Thomas, considered one of the Gnostic Gospels, and The Shepherd of Hermas. The argument presented in the material you were sent, that these writings are authentic, but did not get included in the Bible because another sect of Christianity triumphed, being willing to “play ball with Rome,” is a clever argument, but it does not stand up to scrutiny.

From its inception, Christianity was very much decentralized. Although there were a group of “Elders” in Jerusalem whom we see meeting together in the book of Acts to determine what message should be shared with the Gentiles who were coming to faith in Christ, we see that the guidelines they set forth, and the oversight they exercised, was very much restrained.

Acts 15:22-29
Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas - Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them,
"The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."

The need for this meeting arose due to certain men from the Jewish sect of the Pharisees troubling the Gentile believers by telling them that in addition to faith in Christ they must receive circumcision and agree to follow the Law of Moses. Those who were recognized as church leaders (including the apostles Peter and Paul, and James the brother of Yahshua) met to decide the matter and to send a letter of instruction to the various Gentile churches.

Such convocations were evidently rare. There is only this one which is mentioned in the New Testament. The hierarchy we see in the Roman Catholic Church where a centralized religious authority dictates to every other church and Christian on the planet is a gross aberration of will of God. It is taught in the New Testament, and has always been the principle of the true church, for all men to have Christ as their head, rather than a man, and to receive instruction by the Holy Spirit rather than edicts and encyclicals from Rome or some other religious center.

I Corinthians 11:3
I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

John 6:43, 45
Jesus answered and said to them..., “It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”

John 15:26
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me...”

John 16:12-13
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth...”

When the church first started there were no New Testament Scriptures. Christ appointed men to be His apostles, and the Holy Spirit moved upon men to function as teachers and prophets and evangelists and pastors to those who were coming to faith in Christ. Men were Christ’s witnesses, and the Holy Spirit attested to the veracity of these witnesses through signs and wonders as well as by placing an anointing upon these men so that their words were attended with conviction and power. The role of the Holy Spirit has ALWAYS been central to the life of the church. Those who are born again of the Spirit of Christ have resident within them the life of the Spirit. One function of the Spirit is to disclose both truth and error to people.

I John 2:26-27
These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Alex, these words written by the apostle John reveal that the Spirit resident with the Christian will expose deception and testify to truth. Over the course of some decades the Holy Spirit moved upon some men to set down in writing the testimony of the Christian gospel message. We have the four gospels, written either by apostles (John and Matthew), or by men who walked with the apostles (Mark and Luke). We also have the writings of apostles, with Paul writing the majority of them, but there also being writings from the apostles Peter and John, and other church leaders such as Jude and James. These writings became disseminated among the churches. We even find in a number of Paul’s writings that he tells those to whom he is writing to share his letter with the other churches and to in turn read the letters he sent to the other churches.

Colossians 4:16
And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.

It didn’t take long for deceivers to begin seeking to sow confusion into the church, for Satan has ever been the adversary of Christ and of the truth. The apostle Paul revealed in one of his letters that there were deceivers who were sending out false writings in his name, and thereby troubling the faith of some people.

II Thessalonians 2:1-2
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

The churches had to exercise spiritual discernment, being attentive to the voice of the Spirit of Christ resident in them, to recognize what was true and what was false, what was authentic and what was counterfeit. Over time the churches embraced a group of writings as authentic, recognizing the evidence of the breath of the Spirit of Christ upon them. There was no ecclesiastical meeting which determined which books were approved and which were not. It was the Spirit at work in the hearts of the Christians that led to the adoption of what we recognize today as the canon of the Scriptures of the New Testament.

An agreement on the 27 books of the New Testament which we recognize today did not occur all at once. It occurred over time, with all 27 books being adopted in some areas centuries before they were adopted in others. F.F. Bruce, a Bible scholar and historian has provided an account of the adoption of various New Testament writings. I am going to append that writing to the end of my letter to you. I will just mention a few brief items from that writing now. F.F. Bruce relates what some of the early church fathers wrote about the books of the New Testament which were recognized.

Origen (185-254) mentions the four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen Paulines, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation as acknowledged by all; he says that Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James and Jude, with the 'Epistle of Barnabas,' the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the 'Gospel according to the Hebrews,' were disputed by some. Eusebius (c. 265-340) mentions as generally acknowledged all the books of our New Testament except James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, which were disputed by some, but recognised by the majority. Athanasius in 367 lays down the twenty-seven books of our New Testament as alone canonical; shortly afterwards Jerome and Augustine followed his example in the West. The process farther east took a little longer; it was not until c. 508 that 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation were included in a version of the Syriac Bible in addition to the other twenty two books.

Note that Origen who lived from 185-254 A.D. mentions some books as “accepted by all,” and some others as disputed. Among the disputed books is The Shepherd of Hermas which you mentioned in your letter. What should be noted is that Origen does not mention The Gospel of Thomas at all. There are two reasons why this may be so. Either the book did not exist at the time, or there was no significant segment of the church who thought it was an authentic writing inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The same thing occurs with Eusebius and Athanasius nearly a century later. Once again we find that there is some disagreement regarding some of the 27 books now recognized as divinely inspired Scripture, but The Gospel of Thomas is not mentioned. If, as the article you read suggests, there was a legitimate sect among the Christian church who believed The Gospel of Thomas was divinely inspired and was an authentic writing of the disciple of Christ known as Thomas Didymus in the Gospels, it would surely have been mentioned in the writings of these early church historians and teachers.

F.F. Bruce ends his history of the canon of the New Testament with the following words.

One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognising their innate worth and general apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities, but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities. 

This is an important point. The argument that a segment of the church that was willing to play ball with Rome ultimately decided which books would be in the New Testament is false. The ecclesiastical councils mentioned merely acknowledged what the judgment and practice of the churches had already concluded. Christians, being led of the Spirit of Christ, exercised discernment as they tested various writings to see whether they should be granted the honor and authority of being recognized as divine Scripture. The truth is that Rome eventually adopted 15 or 16 additional books that the rest of the churches rejected as failing the test for divine inspiration. These books are referred to as The Apocrypha, and you will find them in Roman Catholic Bibles to this day.

This leads me to your next point. You wrote:

The argument that Jesus came as the sacrifice to justify the penalty of death seems valid, but only for the Jews. God gave the Law and the practice of sacrifice to cleanse sins to the Jews, not to all of humanity, so isn’t the idea of Jesus being the once and for all sacrifice only applicable to the Jews?

The subject you have raised here also ties in with the last thing you mentioned.

Lastly, I guess my biggest hang up with Christianity is the divinity of Jesus. Without the Bible and Churches one can arrive at the knowledge of God’s existence. Civilizations and man alone has done this throughout existence. But the divinity of Jesus is not known outside of a corrupt book and corrupt church.

Yahweh’s desire goes far beyond man recognizing that He exists. Only those who are fools can look at the creation and fail to observe that there is a God who has designed it all, and who guides and holds it all together. Only a fool can look at their own existence and conclude that they are nothing more than a product of time and chance.

Psalms 14:1
The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God."

There are many who consider themselves wise in this world who have concluded that there is no God.

Romans 1:21-22
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools...

Men of science have assigned to their own race the name of “homo sapiens.” This Latin phrase means “men of wisdom.” Is it not great folly that many of these “learned men” of science have concluded there is no God? “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Truly the heart of man has become darkened. Men today not only fail to honor God and give thanks to Him for His many blessings, but they deny His very existence.

Historically it is true that men from all cultures and eras have acknowledged the existence of God. Many became futile in their speculations, however, and imagined a god who was corrupted like themselves, or a god in the image of four footed beasts, winged creatures, and even insects. Yahweh is not satisfied that men merely recognize that a god exists. He created men that He might have sons in His image and likeness. He created men that they might have fellowship with Him and know His mind and His ways. Yahweh’s determined purpose is that man might share His holy and righteous character.

It should be evident to you in prison that natural men, those who have been born of woman, have failed to arrive at a state of holy and righteous living. The apostle Paul provided a list of the character qualities the Spirit of God seeks to form in mankind.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...

We see the opposite of these divine characteristics listed in the Law of God which states, “You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not lie. You shall not covet. Etc.” The apostle Paul further expands on the list of Spiritual fruit as he defines what love is.

I Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...

There are more than 600 laws listed in the Old Testament. 365 of those laws are prohibitions against some act that God condemns. Jesus Christ/Yahshua the Messiah summed up all of the laws of God in the following words.

Matthew 22:37-40
And He said to him,  "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

The apostle Paul taught the same truth.

Romans 13:8-10
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Alex, the prisons would be emptied if men exhibited the character of God in their lives. If all men ruled their lives by love, seeking the welfare of others above themselves, there would be no need to jail anyone. One thing Yahweh desires for all men to recognize is their innate sinfulness. He wants them to recognize and admit that the ability to do good, to live godly lives that satisfy His standard of righteousness, is not present with them. No matter how much a man wills it, he will always fall short of the standard of Yahweh’s holiness.

Romans 3:9-18
For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes."

God gave the Law to man, specifically to the Jews. Many people have the mistaken idea that God gave the Law to man that man might be able to know what their Creator expects of them so that man might amend his ways and find approval in God’s sight. Such a concept is misguided. The reason God gave the Law to man was to demonstrate to humanity that they could never attain to His standard of righteousness. The Law was given to reveal a fundamental deficiency in man. Man did not have the desire or the power to live a righteous life. No matter how hard a man might try, the selfish, sinful desires within would assert themselves and man would fall short of God’s character. This is what the apostle Paul stated in one of his letters. Paul is writing the following words as a description of his woeful condition BEFORE he received the indwelling Holy Spirit and became a disciple of Christ.

Romans 7:7-25
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

To summarize, Paul is stating that the Law is spiritual, but he was not. Only a spiritual man can fulfill the requirements of a spiritual law. No matter how much Paul wanted to do what was right, he found that there was an evil dwelling in him that would cause him to do wicked things. This evil is called sin. Because of the transgression of Adam in the Garden of Eden, all of Adam’s descendants fell under the curse of sin and death. Adam had not yet had any offspring when he sinned. Thus all of his descendants were still in his loins as his seed. When Adam fell under the dominion of sin, all of his descendants fell under the dominion of sin with him. Every person born as a descendant of Adam is born a sinner. They sin instinctually. Men are selfish, rebellious, and prone to evil works such as lying, stealing, adultery, coveting, and murder.

God gave the Law to Abraham’s descendants to demonstrate through a chosen people that no one could measure up to His standard of righteousness. David was declared to be a man after God’s heart, yet David in a moment of fleshly lust committed adultery, and then when the woman became pregnant and he was afraid of being discovered, he had her husband murdered. David’s life after that was a living nightmare. He was racked with guilt. He was grieved that his fellowship with God had been broken. He was sorely vexed that he had committed such a great sin against God.

David was among the best of men, yet he fell. Paul desired earnestly to attain to the righteous standard of the Law, but he found that the Law’s commandments made him want to sin all the more. This then is the purpose of the Law. It was given to reveal to mankind his spiritual bankruptcy, his lack of divine character. Men have a tendency to foolishly compare themselves to one another. They reason, “Well, I am not as bad as that other man, so surely God will approve of me.”

II Corinthians 10:12
But when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.

God therefore gave man a standard to measure themselves against. It was a divine standard, not a human standard. In the 1,500 years from the time the Law was delivered to Moses, until the time Christ was born, not one man ever was able to attain to the righteous standard of the divine Law.

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...

The apostle Paul further reveals that the Law was given to show man their need of Christ. God sent His Son into the world because He alone had the spiritual life within His being to be able to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the Law. Christ ever lived to love God and love mankind. He never acted selfishly. He never gave into a wicked desire. The Bible declares,

Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

An inviolable law of Yahweh’s creation is that sin always results in death. The Bible states:

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death...

Ezekiel 18:4
The soul who sins will die.

Yahweh warned Adam that the day he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die, for to eat the fruit was a violation of God’s will, and this is sin. The reason death is present in creation is that all creation has fallen under the curse of sin. We can know that we are sinners because our physical bodies all perish. Where there is death, there is sin. Where there is sin, there is death.

In His grace Yahweh established another law. This is the law of substitution. The wages of sin is always death, but Yahweh will allow the soul of one creature to die that another soul might live. In the Old Testament Yahweh permitted men to slay a lamb, a goat, a bird, or a bull. The sins of the man would be transferred to the animal. The animal would serve as a substitutionary offering for the man. The animal would forfeit its life that the man might live.

These sin offerings had to be presented year after year for men continued to sin. Only a man who lived a sinless life could offer himself up as a perfect sin offering for fallen mankind. This sinless man was the Son of God, Yahshua the Messiah.

Here is another area where both Christians and non-Christians do err seriously. They focus exclusively on the sin offering Christ became as He offered up His life on man’s behalf when He was crucified on the cross of Calvary. If this were all Christ came to do, man would still be left in bondage to sin. Man would be forgiven as he confessed his sin and accepted by faith the substitutionary offering of Christ, but man would still continue to be ruled by sin. He would have no power to live a life of divine righteousness.

Christ came to do a far greater work than merely paying the penalty for man’s sin. After living a sinless life, dying for mankind, being resurrected and ascending to the Father, Yahshua sent forth His Spirit to indwell mankind. Those who believe receive the Spirit of Christ into their physical body. They are born spiritually just like they had been born physically. This second birth produces in them the divine life they formerly lacked. This spiritual life they receive produces in them both the desire to live a life pleasing to the Father, and the power to do so. They are no longer slaves to sin. They become servants of righteousness.

The great deficiency of the Law was that it could only reveal the standard of Yahweh’s righteousness. It could not impart divine life to man so that he could attain to that standard. Paul declares this deficiency of the Law in the following words.

Galatians 3:21-27
For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

To paraphrase Paul’s words, the Law could not give man divine life, but Jesus Christ/Yahshua the Messiah can. Those who have been made one with Christ by faith receive not only the forgiveness of sin and the cancellation of the death decree against them, they also receive the Spirit of Christ to indwell them. It is the Spirit who empowers men to put to death the sinful flesh with its evil passions and desires, and it is the Spirit which enables them to manifest spiritual fruit instead. The man who was a liar is able to stop his lying and speak truth. The man who was covetous of his neighbor’s possessions is able to live a life of contentment, being satisfied with what God has given to him. The man whose heart was full of adultery is able to stop engaging in sexual immorality and to manifest self-control and selfless love for his fellow man.

When Christ arrived on this earth in the form of a man 2,000 years ago, the Jews had failed to learn the lesson the Law was intended to teach them. They deluded themselves, pretending to be keeping the Law of God when in fact they were violating it continually. Consequently, they did not acknowledge their lack of spiritual life. They did not perceive that they were spiritually dead and needed to be made alive. One evening a teacher of the Jews came to see Jesus. He declared to this teacher the truth which men had failed to grasp. Christ informed Nicodemus that all men needed to experience a spiritual birth just like they had experienced a physical birth.

John 3:1-10
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?”

Alex, you mentioned that you could see how Christ had to come and offer His life as a sacrifice for the Jews, but that this did not apply to other men. Allow me to show you that you are mistaken about this. From the opening chapters of the first book of the Bible we are told of events that preceded the time of Moses and the Law by 2,500 years. We are told of the sin of Adam and Eve and what Yahweh did for them immediately after they had sinned.

Genesis 3:21
Yahweh God made coats of skins for Adam and for his wife, and clothed them.

Do you remember what we read in Paul’s letter to the Galatian believers? He stated, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” When Yahweh made garments of skins for Adam and Eve He was demonstrating through a type or shadow, what He would do 4,000 years later when He sent His Son to die for mankind. God had to slay an animal to make garments of skin for Adam and Eve. Adam’s name means “man.” All men were also in Adam as his seed. Therefore when Yahweh provided a covering for Adam, He was demonstrating through a symbolic means what He would eventually do when He sent forth His Son to become a merciful covering for all mankind.

We are all born sinners. Consequently, we all need the sacrifice of Christ. We also all need to be born of the Spirit of Christ and receive His divine life within us. Apart from becoming a partaker of His Spirit, nothing changes in our lives. It is only through the divine Spirit being given to man that they receive the desire and the power to do the will of God.

Philippians 2:13
For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Alex, although men from other cultures and religions may have come to understand that God exists, none of them have understood their need to be born of the Spirit of God. Only through Christ is this truth revealed, and only through Christ is the Spirit given to mankind. Christ said,

John 14:6
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

Do you recognize in yourself that you lack the divine life needed to live according to the righteous standard of God? Do you understand that no matter how much you may desire it, you are incapable of fulfilling the divine commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself”? In our natural condition we lack the divine life and love of God within us. We may do some things that are loving, but as much as we may be resolved to not act in a selfish or unloving manner, we will find ourselves doing so again and again. Only by receiving the life of the Spirit of Christ within our members can we overcome the sin which dwells in our flesh and live a godly life in this world.

This is the message God wants men to hear and receive. This message is not proclaimed among the Hindus, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Roman Catholics, or any other false religion. It is only made known through Christ as it is proclaimed in the Bible, through the mouths of Christ’s disciples, and by the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Because I have been born of the Spirit of Christ, I have the Spirit present with me. The Bible describes those who have been born spiritually as temples of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit within a man reveals the thoughts and words of God.

I Corinthians 2:11-15
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

This brings me full circle back to the subject of false writings. I have read the apocryphal books. I have read some of the gnostic gospels. I have read more recent false teachings such as the Book of Mormon. When I read them I do not perceive any spiritual life present in them. The Spirit of Christ in a man reveals what is true and what is false. I don’t need other men to tell me which books are divinely inspired and which ones are not. The anointing, which is the Spirit of Christ within me, testifies to that which comes from God. This is how the early believers knew which writings were authentic and “God-breathed” and which ones were not.

Alex, the great need of all men is to receive the divine life of God within them. To do so they must be reconciled to God, for sin has made a breach in their relationship. Christ came to repair the breach. He gave His life as a substitutionary sacrifice for man that our sin guilt might be done away with in order that we might approach God, and do so without fear. As we approach Yahweh we may then ask Him to grant to us His divine Spirit that we might receive the spiritual life we lack. Christ spoke the following words:

Luke 11:11-13
"Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

Christ testified that when we come to God to ask for the divine life we so badly need, we must come confidently, fully assured of our need and of God’s willingness to give us what we request. Yahshua  told men to persist in asking God for the Spirit that they might have life. He will test men to see how intent they are on receiving that which they so desperately need.

Luke 11:5-10
And He said to them, “Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and from inside he shall answer and say,' Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.”

In the Greek language which this was written in, the actual sense of the words is “keep on continually asking; keep on continually seeking; keep on continually knocking.” In other words, be determined that you are not going to leave until God gives you what you need, and He will surely give you His Spirit to indwell you and produce spiritual life in your body.

Alex, I have a book I have written that explains these things in more depth. It is the very first book I normally send to men who sign up to receive the Parables Bookshelf Newsletters. If you want to receive these writings, just write back and let me know. I will be glad to send them to you.

One thing I did not address in this letter is the subject of astrology that you brought up. I have a book titled Foundations in which I have written four chapters on the subject of astrology. If you want to receive that writing, when you write back mention the book Foundations and I will set it up in the queue so that it will be the second book of the newsletter series that is sent to you.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days,
Joseph Herrin

The Canon of the New Testament
By F. F. Bruce
Chapter 3 in The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (5th edition; Leicester: Intervarsity Press, 1959).

Even when we have come to a conclusion about the date and origin of the individual books of the New Testament, another question remains to be answered. How did the New Testament itself as a collection of writings come into being? Who collected the writings, and on what principles? What circumstances led to the fixing of a list, or canon, of authoritative books?

The historic Christian belief is that the Holy Spirit, who controlled the writing of the individual books, also controlled their selection and collection, thus continuing to fulfil our Lord's promise that He would guide His disciples into all the truth. This, however, is something that is to be discerned by spiritual insight, and not by historical research. Our object is to find out what historical research reveals about the origin of the New Testament canon. Some will tell us that we receive the twenty-seven books of the New Testament on the authority of the Church; but even if we do, how did the Church come to recognise these twenty-seven and no others as worthy of being placed on a level of inspiration and authority with the Old Testament canon?

The matter is oversimplified in Article VI of the Thirty Nine Articles, when it says: 'In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.' For, leaving on one side the question of the Old Testament canon, it is not quite accurate to say that there has never been any doubt in the Church of any of our New Testament books. A few of the shorter Epistles (e.g. 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James, Jude) and the Revelation were much longer in being accepted in some parts than in others; while elsewhere books which we do not now include in the New Testament were received as canonical. Thus the Codex Sinaiticus included the 'Epistle of Barnabas' and the Shepherd of Hermas, a Roman work of about AD 110 or earlier, while the Codex Alexandrinus included the writings known as the First and Second Epistles of Clement; and the inclusion of these works alongside the biblical writings probably indicates that they were accorded some degree of canonical status.

The earliest list of New Testament books of which we have definite knowledge was drawn up at Rome by the heretic Marcion about 140. Marcion distinguished the inferior Creator-God of the Old Testament from the God and Father revealed in Christ, and believed that the Church ought to jettison all that appertained to the former. This 'theological anti-semitism' involved the rejecting not only of the entire Old Testament but also of those parts of the New Testament which seemed to him to be infected with Judaism. So Marcion's canon consisted of two parts: (a) an expurgated edition of the
third Gospel, which is the least Jewish of the Gospels, being written by the Gentile Luke; and (b) ten of the Pauline Epistles (the three 'Pastoral Epistles' being omitted). Marcion's list, however, does not represent the current verdict of the Church but a deliberate aberration from it.

Another early list, also of Roman provenance, dated about the end of the second century, is that commonly called the 'Muratorian Fragment,' because it was first published in Italy in 1740 by the antiquarian Cardinal L. A. Muratori. It is unfortunately mutilated at the beginning, but it evidently mentioned Matthew and Mark, because it refers to Luke as the third Gospel; then it mentions John, Acts, 'Paul's nine letters to churches and four to individuals (Philemon, Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy), Jude, two Epistles of John, and the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter.' The Shepherd of Hermas is mentioned as worthy to be read (i.e. in church) but not to be included in the number of prophetic or apostolic writings.

The first steps in the formation of a canon of authoritative Christian books, worthy to stand beside the Old Testament canon, which was the Bible of our Lord and His apostles, appear to have been taken about the beginning of the second century, when there is evidence for the circulation of two collections of Christian writings in the Church. At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection. They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John. This fourfold collection was known originally as 'The Gospel' in the singular, not 'The Gospels' in the plural; there was only one Gospel, narrated in four records, distinguished as 'according to Matthew,' 'according to Mark,' and so on. About AD 115 Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, refers to 'The Gospel' as an authoritative writing, and as he knew more than one of the four 'Gospels' it may well be that by 'The Gospel' he means the fourfold collection which went by that name.

About AD 170 an Assyrian Christian named Tatian turned the fourfold Gospel into a continuous narrative or 'Harmony of the Gospels,' which for long was the favourite if not the official form of the fourfold Gospel in the Assyrian Church. It was distinct from the four Gospels in the Old Syriac version. It is not certain whether Tatian originally composed his Harmony, usually known as the Diatessaron, in Greek or in Syriac; but as it seems to have been compiled at Rome its original language was probably Greek, and a fragment of Tatian's Diatessaron in Greek was discovered in the year 1933 at DuraEuropos on the Euphrates. At any rate, it was given to the Assyrian Christians in a Syriac form when Tatian returned home from Rome, and this Syriac Diatessaron remained the 'Authorised Version' of the Gospels for them until it was replaced by the Peshitta or 'simple' version in the fifth century.

By the time of Irenaeus, who, though a native of Asia Minor, was bishop of Lyons in Gaul about AD 180, the idea of a fourfold Gospel had become so axiomatic in the Church at large that he can refer to it as an established and recognised fact as obvious as the four cardinal points of the compass or the four winds:

For as there are four quarters of the world in which we live, and four universal winds, and as the Church is dispersed over all the earth, and the gospel is the pillar and base of the Church and the breath of life, so it is natural that it should have four pillars, breathing immortality from every quarter and kindling the life of men anew. Whence it is manifest that the Word, the architect of all things, who sits upon the cherubim and holds all things together, having been manifested to men, has given us the gospel in fourfold form, but held together by one Spirit.

When the four Gospels were gathered together in one volume, it meant the severance of the two parts of Luke's history. When Luke and Acts were thus separated one or two modifications were apparently introduced into the text at the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts. Originally Luke seems to have left all mention of the ascension to his second treatise; now the words 'and was carried up into heaven' were added in Luke xxiv. 51, to round off the narrative, and in consequence 'was taken up' was added in Acts i. 2. Thus the inconsistencies which some have detected between the accounts of the ascension in Luke and Acts are most likely due to these adjustments made when the two books were separated from each other.

Acts, however, naturally shared the authority and prestige of the third Gospel, being the work of the same author, and was apparently received as canonical by all except Marcion and his followers. Indeed, Acts occupied a very important place in the New Testament canon, being the pivotal book of the New Testament, as Harnack called it, since it links the Gospels with the Epistles, and, by its record of the conversion, call, and missionary service of Paul, showed clearly how real an apostolic authority lay behind the Pauline Epistles.

The corpus Paulinum, or collection of Paul's writings, was brought together about the same time as the collecting of the fourfold Gospel. As the Gospel collection was designated by the Greek word Euangelion, so the Pauline collection was designated by the one word Apostolos, each letter being distinguished as 'To the Romans,' 'First to the Corinthians,' and so on. Before long, the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews was bound up with the Pauline writings. Acts, as a matter of convenience, came to be bound up with the 'General Epistles' (those of Peter, James, John and Jude).

The only books about which there was any substantial doubt after the middle of the second century were some of those which come at the end of our New Testament. Origen (185-254) mentions the four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen Paulines, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation as acknowledged by all; he says that Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James and Jude, with the 'Epistle of Barnabas,' the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the 'Gospel according to the Hebrews,' were disputed by some. Eusebius (c. 265-340) mentions as generally acknowledged all the books of our New Testament except James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, which were disputed by some, but recognised by the majority. Athanasius in 367 lays down the twenty-seven books of our New Testament as alone canonical; shortly afterwards Jerome and Augustine followed his example in the West. The process farther east took a little longer; it was not until c. 508 that 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation were included in a version of the Syriac Bible in addition to the other twenty two books.

For various reasons it was necessary for the Church to know exactly what books were divinely authoritative. The Gospels, recording 'all that Jesus began both to do and to teach,' could not be regarded as one whit lower in authority than the Old Testament books. And the teaching of the apostles in the Acts and Epistles was regarded as vested with His authority. It was natural, then, to accord to the apostolic writings of the new covenant the same degree of homage as was already paid to the prophetic writings of the old. Thus Justin Martyr, about AD 150, classes the 'Memoirs of the Apostles' along with the writings of the prophets, saving that both were read in meetings of Christians (Apol i. 67). For the Church did not, in spite of the breach with Judaism, repudiate the authority of the Old Testament; but, following the example of Christ and His apostles, received it as the Word of God. Indeed, so much did they make the Septuagint their own that, although it was originally a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek for Greek-speaking Jews before the time of Christ, the Jews left the Septuagint to the Christians, and a fresh Greek version of the Old Testament was made for Greek speaking Jews.

It was specially important to determine which books might be used for the establishment of Christian doctrine, and which might most confidently be appealed to in disputes with heretics. In particular, when Marcion drew up his canon about AD 140, it was necessary for the orthodox churches to know exactly what the true canon was, and this helped to speed up a process which had already begun. It is wrong, however, to talk or write as if the Church first began to draw up a canon after Marcion had published his.

Other circumstances which demanded clear definition of those books which possessed divine authority were the necessity of deciding which books should be read in church services (though certain books might be suitable for this purpose which could not be used to settle doctrinal questions), and the necessity of knowing which books might and might not be handed over on demand to the imperial police in times of persecution without incurring the guilt of sacrilege.

One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognising their innate worth and general apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities.

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws    

Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com    

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Exceedingly Abundantly

Joseph Herrin (09-24-2015)

In this post I want to share one man’s recent experiences of how the Lord has answered prayers through unexpected ways. In some past posts I have shared some of the spiritual journey of a brother in Christ named Jeff Higdon.

A Testimony for the New Year (2012)

Tornado Alley - Navigating Storms by the Spirit of Christ

Storm Haven

Can a Christian Be a Prepper - Part 2

I have been very blessed to know Jeff for a number of years now. Though we have never met face to face, we have corresponded frequently, and spoken on the phone. I recognize in Jeff the heart of a man who sincerely loves the Father and desires to live a life pleasing to Him. Jeff yielded to the Lord’s guidance and moved his family from Texas to Northern Idaho a few years back. This past December Jeff suffered a severe concussion when he stepped out of his log truck onto a patch of ice and fell, striking his head sharply on the pavement. He has suffered with migraines and other effects of the head injury since then. He is making improvement, but still has a way to go before the doctors will release him to return to work.

Since the injury, Jeff has used his time off from his trucking job to get some things done around his property. With limited financial resources coming in from his Worker’s Compensation checks, Jeff has faced a reduction in his income, and has not had much money available to make improvements to the land he, his wife, four of his daughters, and son-in-law live on. Yahweh has demonstrated to Jeff that He is well able to provide through a variety of ways. The saying is true that “when we are weak, He is strong.” Yahweh has certainly shown Himself strong on Jeff’s behalf. You can read some of the other posts linked above to read of Yahweh’s past provision and grace that He has demonstrated to Jeff and his family.

A week ago Jeff sent me the following e-mail.

Hello Brother Joseph!

Do you remember me saying I felt the Lord wanted me to prepare the diesel tank so it could be filled?  Yesterday I was given 55 gallons of off road diesel!!

I got 40 gallons of Sherwin-Williams enamel paint off of Craigslist that was listed for free.  It is $70 per gallon paint. I figure I've spent over $100 in the last year on paint so I could use that. When I got there, there was over 60 gallons of paint!

As I was loading up the paint Don, the man giving me the paint, asked if I'd like a pallet jack that needed some repair. I said yes, figuring I could fix it and make some money off of it.  However, I had no way of hauling it so I told him I would come back in the evening with a trailer. 

When I came back he kept on giving me more and more stuff until my trailer was full!  Today I have to go back for at least another trailer load, maybe more. I can't begin to name it all but here are a few highlights:

10 gauge 240v extension cords, maybe 100'-200' worth. 
Large NAPA battery charger
Milwaukee Hole Hawg drill
Tons of mixing paddles and caulk guns
Makita sawzall
Orbital sander
Electric hand planer
Full size air mattress
Makita air compressor
4 drawer file cabinet
Pallet jack, needs wheel
Oil filled heater
Garden cart wagon
5 gallon and a 7 gal propane tank
Oils and lubricants
Rolls of various grit sand paper
And much more!

Today I'm going back to get a cord of seasoned firewood, applewood for smoking, two extension ladders, 55 gallons of diesel, rolls of new wire on spools, a tent, and who knows what else, I don't remember it all. 

Also yesterday we were blessed with a lot of fruit, 25 gallons of fuel for car, and ...... My head is reeling. Can't remember it all but we were extremely blessed! I'll take some pictures and send them. 


It turned out that the man getting rid of the material was under a deadline to move from the property he was occupying. He had to remove all his material by a close deadline. Some of the material he had consisted of 5 gallon buckets of floor stain and finish. It is difficult to sell, or even give away a large quantity of floor stain in a short period of time, and the local landfill considers it to be hazardous waste. The landfill will accept only a single 5 gallon bucket of such material per day from an individual. This put the man (his name is Don) in a quandary. Jeff talked the matter over with his wife Mary and they decided to take all of the buckets of stain from Don and to take them to the landfill one per day until they disposed of whatever they could not use, sell, or give away.

Don was greatly relieved at this act of kindness from Jeff, and reciprocated by giving Jeff even more good material at no cost. Following are some pictures of the items Jeff was given free. I saved the biggest gift until the end.

Jeff needed a grill for cooking outside. He had been looking for more than a year for a grill he could afford with a burner on the side. He was given this nice Kenmore model with a side burner, and it came with a propane tank as well.

A large, high capacity 12 volt battery charger was another item Jeff received. Jeff wrote, “With my new battery bank I needed a bigger charger. I went to Napa and looked at this charger a couple weeks ago but couldn't afford it.”

Jeff’s comment: “Specific things I needed: extra pointed shovel (prayed for), snow shovel (ours broke), was wanting a broom to sweep off the trailer, the green handle is a push broom. An ice scraper, needed. The black four drawer file cabinet I have been looking for to make a smoker out of it.”

“One of the two 25 gallon propane tanks I got, this one is full. I was praying about propane to store.  In the background are two shelves for storage.”

The next picture shows something that is quite remarkable. Jeff is a large man with correspondingly large hands and feet. He wears a size 17 shoe. Incredibly, Don had a pair of size 17 Nike tennis shoes that he gave to Jeff.

Jeff wrote:

“Size 17 Nike tennis shoes!! This was the stamp that made it absolutely clear this was God. I have never seen a used pair of these in my size. In this shoe I wear a 17. Don said he picked them up years ago in a gym he was redoing. He wore them when he was fishing on his dock.”

Cedar picket fencing. Jeff and his family have goats, and they needed some additional fencing.

More items, including 60 gallons of paint, an oil filled radiant heater, an industrial sized fan, an 11 HP air compressor with a Honda motor, 2 deep cycle batteries, a better cart for his oxy/acetylene tanks for welding, and much more.

And to top it all off, this man that Jeff just met through Craigslist gave him a late ’70s, or early ’80s model, one-ton, Chevrolet pickup truck with dual wheels on the rear. The truck has 6 like new, snow tires, and cranks and runs beautifully. Don called the truck "Mighty Whitey!"

Well, if Yahweh can move on the hearts of 5 Christian brothers, some who have never met me, to purchase a Toyota RAV4 for me, why can’t He move upon the heart of a perfect stranger to give Jeff a one-ton pickup truck free? Our God does exceedingly, abundantly, beyond what we ask or think. At a time when Jeff did not have the money available to even purchase a set of tires, Yahweh gave him new tires and a truck attached to them. We serve an awesome God!

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws    

Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com    

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Meditations on Music Ministry

Joseph Herrin (09-22-2015)

In recent weeks I have posted a few writings on the subject of music.

Music Quest

Crossing the Music Minefield


When I was younger, music had a large role in my life. I have never been musically talented, but I have enjoyed music tremendously, sometimes for the wrong reasons. In my youth I was not aware that music appealed to man on the various levels of his being: flesh, soul, and spirit. Consequently, I at times reveled in music that was appealing to the flesh and/or soul, but which did not elevate me spiritually.

For the past ten years I have largely been on a music fast. I have come to enjoy quiet and solitude, finding them conducive to a reflective and meditative lifestyle and to the performance of my responsibilities as a writer and teacher. Music has a definite place in the kingdom of God, and it is a significant one. The Scriptures are filled with references to music and the central book of the Bible is the book of Psalms, this also being the book with by far the most chapters. It is certain that Yahweh desires that His people have an informed understanding of music and its place in their lives. He does not desire that men employ music in a carnal manner, to stir up fleshly passions and to promote godless and unrighteous messages. Neither is it His will that His people abstain from all music.

I sense that the Father, in drawing my attention back to music at this time, serves a larger purpose than reintroducing music to my life. The very act of trying to find music that speaks to me, elevates me spiritually, and fulfills the functions Yahweh designed it for, has revealed to me the terrible state of music in the church and in the world today. Satan has laid tremendous emphasis upon using music to spread spiritual darkness and a spirit of rebellion toward God among mankind. The effect of this Satanic activity is rampant sexual immorality, drug abuse, selfishness, idolatry, deception, violence, hatred, and all forms of moral decadence. Satan’s employment of music to transform the mind and character of entire societies, indeed the entire world, reveals the power inherent in it.

The church at large has neither comprehended the proper role and employment of music in the kingdom of God, nor have they produced music that is divinely inspired and infused with a heavenly power to promote holiness, pure worship, and the spirit, soul, and body health of the individual. Most “Christian” music imitates the sounds of the world, songs which are devilishly inspired and demonically influenced. Few Christians have developed the discernment to divide between soul and spirit. They do not know how to judge music. They are unable to define what form of music is acceptable and approved in the mind of the Creator.

Some would protest that the Contemporary Christian Music produced today is not evil, yet one way to judge is to look at the lives of those who are producing and performing it. Are they spiritual men and women? Do their lives show forth the holiness of Yahweh? Are they walking in the fear of God? Do they lead lives of self-control, moral purity, and spiritual excellence? Yahshua said:

Matthew 7:16-18
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.”

Can you go to men and women who are leading dissipated, immoral, sensual lives and expect to find them producing music that Yahweh declares to be “good”? If a man or woman is a friend to the world and a slave to fleshly passions, it does not matter how skillful a musician they are, or how talented they are as a singer; their music will not be spiritually elevating. Music produced by such individuals may excite the soul. It may produce goose-bumps, elation, or good feelings, but it cannot avoid revealing its deficiency by failing to produce spiritual life.

In one of the recent blog posts on the subject of music I asked readers to send in recommendations for spiritually uplifting and skillfully performed songs. I mentioned that I was particularly fond of Scripture songs. At the very least, one avoids the possibility of godless lyrics if the words of a song are taken from the Scriptures. A number of readers responded by recommending to me the group Sons of Korah, and I myself gave a recommendation of the group in a follow-up post. I ordered all 8 of their albums, and my initial response to their music was quite favorable, though in the back of my mind I had some concerns.

My first concern arose when I read of the groups emphasis on purchasing their music through their own website so that they could receive the highest possible compensation.

Our music is available in digital format directly from our own online store – 5ive. By purchasing through our site you maximise the return to the band and therefore the funds available for future recordings.

The music was not inexpensive, either. The group’s prices are significantly higher than industry standards. They charge $25 for a CD (plus shipping costs), and $20 for an album download. It costs nothing to distribute albums through the Internet, so the money collected is all profit. Some niggling thought arose in my mind that something was not right about this emphasis on pecuniary reward, but I considered that there are expenses involved in producing albums and putting a band together. I did not want to be overly critical if they chose a worldly pattern of music sales to support themselves, rather than embracing a pattern of faith and giving. There are very few musicians or groups today who have adopted what I would define as a Kingdom form of music distribution.

Luke 6:38
“Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.”

II Corinthians 9:6-8
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed...

Proverbs 11:24-25
There is one who scatters, yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.

Ecclesiastes 11:1
Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.

In giving my endorsement of this group I violated an admonition that I frequently share in my communications with others.

I Timothy 5:22
Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

The laying on of hands is a form of endorsement. It is giving one’s approval to another in a public manner. The apostle Paul cautioned to not give such endorsements hastily. The character of a man’s life and actions should be proven first. I was careless, however, for I reasoned, “What could be wrong with a group that sings almost exclusively the Psalms found in the Bible?” I listened to their music, and although I did not like all of it, there was a significant amount that I enjoyed. As I listened to the group’s albums, I did think that the music failed to match the message being conveyed in the Psalms on a number of their titles, but I did not scrutinize them with the patience the matter deserved.

A brother in Christ who looked at the band a little more carefully than I did, noticed one of the band members wearing what appeared to be a Maori ornament around his neck. Such ornaments often have an idolatrous origin. In trying to identify the ornament, and the spiritual character of the band member, I stumbled upon some information that was, to put it mildly, disappointing.

The lead guitarist for the group is Bruce Lee Walker. A search led to his Twitter account. I figured looking at a person’s Twitter comments is a good way to get an idea about a person’s spirituality. I was quite startled to find that a fair percentage of Bruce Lee Walker’s tweets, or more correctly re-retweets, consisted of sending out comments, images, and links of scantily clad women. The links led to pages where the women posted photos where they were in varying states of undress. Such images are what people often refer to as NSFW (Not Safe For Work). They are not something you would want to have pulled up on your work computer when your boss walks in. It extrapolates out that they are also images you would not want to have to explain to the Father on that day when we must all give an account.

Under Bruce Lee Walker’s name on his Twitter page he has the words “Christ follower, God worshipper, son of korah.” What this confession does, when combined with his unabashed sharing of risque images of women, is to promote the idea that it is not contradictory to call oneself a Christian and a God worshiper, or be a leading member of a Christian band, while publicly failing to rein in the lust of the flesh. Bruce’s Twitter account includes comments to and from his teenage daughters and his wife, which leads one to consider what his sharing of images of scantily clad, sexually provocative women are communicating to his wife and daughters. Are they not being informed by a spiritual leader in their life that it is desirable to present oneself as an object of sexual lust to others? What is a Christian man doing posting links to HustleBootyTempTats and HumpDayHottie followed by the declaration “Extraordinaire!”?

On the same Twitter page Bruce Lee Walker has retweeted a link to Kendra Lust’s LustArmy, and updates on the tours of the Sons of Korah group.

Bruce Lee Walker retweeted Kendra Lust

I apologize if some of this is troubling for male readers who struggle with sexually impure thoughts. I believe the subject is important enough that it needs to be discussed. I want to demonstrate the incongruity of Christians getting on stage and leading others in song while they are acting in publicly godless ways while off-stage. Following are two tweets by Bruce Walker that he seems to have forgotten.

What seeds are being planted by this man? It is a contradiction to stand as a public figure, performing the Psalms of Scripture set to music, and on your Twitter page that fans of the group will surely be drawn to, to promote sexual lust. I am reminded of the following Scripture.

Proverbs 11:22
As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.

The same could be said for a talented man who lacks discretion. For the sake of substantiating every claim, and providing a means for readers to test what is being shared, I am providing the link to Bruce Lee Walker’s Twitter page.


One thought that came to mind when I discovered the material on this page is “Why have the leaders of the Sons of Korah group not objected to a member advertising that he is affiliated with them while posting images that are unworthy of a Christian?” When I saw that two other members of the group are mentioned on this man’s Twitter page, and Spike Lee Avery, the bass player and drummer for the group also has a Twitter page linked to Bruce’s, it became untenable to imagine that the other group members were unaware of the content of his page. There are also troubling posts on Spike Lee Avery’s Twitter page.

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged.”


Fear of gay people doesn’t just arise because we don’t know or understand them, it also comes from the harmful attitudes we have absorbed from centuries of negativity and discrimination. Historically speaking, gay people have rarely been given a good rap. In fact quite the opposite: they have been stigmatized, set apart for ridicule and prejudice, often beaten up, sometimes involving serious crimes. It’s only really been in the last few decades, along with our increased understanding of homosexuality, that societal attitudes have begun changing. The only tragedy about this is that it hasn’t been the church leading the way.”

There is a great deal wrong with the quote above. It is a common, bu deceitful ploy, of the homosexual lobby to refer to those who oppose the practice of homosexuality as “homophobes.” And what are these “harmful attitudes” that view homosexuality as “negative” and “discriminatory”? The Bible, indeed Yahweh Himself, describes homosexual behavior as “an abomination.” How then can a Christian give “gay people” (aka Sodomites and homosexuals) “a good rap.” Are Christians to speak of such practices in a favorable light? I concur with the word of God that homosexuality is a wicked practice. This does not mean I “fear gay people” anymore than I fear drunkards, or those who practice bestiality. It simply means that I agree with Yahweh’s definition of righteous and unrighteous behavior.

Mr. Avery has multiple tweets on his page which reference statements from the book Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality by author Debra Hirsch from which the prior quotation was taken. The book also contains the following words:

Our young people don’t need fear-based counsel that compounds the shame they already feel. This only keeps their sexuality in the dark. Suppressing sexuality doesn’t help anyone; transformation starts with acceptance and integration. In marrying sexuality to fear, shame and guilt we have not only tainted God’s gracious gift but we have imprisoned his people. All humans are profoundly sexual as well as deeply spiritual creatures—at the same time. Failing to integrate the two can cause us to live a fragmented life that operates at two contradictory levels: a disembodied spirituality that floats two inches above the earth, and a suppressed bodily sexuality that seeks to find expression in illicit relationships or in sleazy porn.”

One review of the book on Amazon provides the following information about the author.

She brings to the topic of sexuality twenty-five years of ministry experience to and with the LGBT community. The church that She and (her husband)Alan planted and led in South Melbourne had about 40% of its members come from the LGBTQ community. When Debra came to faith in Christ, she was living and identifying as a lesbian.

To say that the book is soft on sin, and particularly on homosexuality, would be an accurate statement. Although Mrs. Hirsch states that sex should be experienced within the union of a marriage and between a man and a woman, she advocates a non-confrontational approach to dealing with homosexuality. She espouses the idea that Christians should just love everyone, and let God handle the issues of sin and conviction. She has no problem with people in lesbian and homosexual relationships being active members of the church. This approach flies in the face of apostolic instruction.

I Corinthians 5:9-13
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

Once a person professes faith in Christ and is baptized, there must be a corresponding turning away from immorality.

I Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

Churches cannot take a hands-off approach when members are embracing an immoral lifestyle. Those who profess to be brothers and sisters in Christ must walk as saints of light. To allow members to continue to walk in spiritual darkness and immorality is not love. It is apostasy. As Christians we can never set truth and love against one another. They are intended to always be joined together. A proverb I frequently quote is the following.

Truth without love is tyranny.
Love without truth is apostasy.
Speak the truth in love.

The line that Spike Lee Avery has on his Twitter page, “Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged,” could well be the theme for the seeker-friendly church. It is a theme embraced by the Joel Osteens, the populist megachurch pastors, of the world. Such men seldom, if ever, speak of sin, righteousness, and judgment, but these are subjects that God Himself does not avoid.

John 16:7-8
“I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment...”

As Christ’s ambassadors, we are to be proclaiming the message He has delivered to us. Our goal is not to bring massive numbers of individuals within the folds of the church. Success in the kingdom of God is not measured by nickels and noses. The church is successful as it overcomes sin, Satan, and the world. It is successful as it functions as salt and light in a dark and putrefying world. Is Spike Lee Avery being salt and light by promoting the godless show The Simpsons on his Twitter page? Are not he and Bruce Lee Avery promoting publicly the idea that it is okay to be a friend of the world and a friend of God?

James 4:4-5
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?

Brothers and sisters, when we begin to test the music that the church embraces, and the men and women who produce it, we will quite frequently be met with disappointment. The words of Solomon certainly apply to this subject.

Ecclesiastes 1:18
For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

The more you or I investigate the Contemporary Christian Music scene, the more sorrow we will experience. I find it difficult to enjoy a song, no matter how skillfully it is performed, how pleasant the music or how Biblical the lyrics, if I know the person performing is living a life that brings disrepute to Christ. “To whom much is given, much is required.” For far too many Christian artists, music is little more than an occupation, and a form of entertainment. They may honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him.

I have been communicating with two Christian brothers who are relatively new to the faith. They have been going through a process of purging, and this cleansing process has encompassed their love of music. Before they were walking with Christ, both of these men played together in bands. They had written and performed music that they had poured themselves into, but now they find that they must cast it away as that which is unworthy of Christ.

As one brother has gone through this purging process, he recently told me that he is down to 23 artists, and even the music from the bands he formerly played in has now been discarded. I asked him how many songs he started with. He replied that he began with more than 6,000. At present he is down to 474 songs and he is still testing those that remain. He wrote:

My attitude is "better safe than sorry," with more of an inclination to get rid of something if I’m not sure. I don’t want to be exposed to any unclean influences that might sneak into my music. I find myself listening to barely any music anymore, just working on my own.

The brother who wrote these words is Jonathan Adams. I have mentioned him in previous blogs when he came to visit me and has helped me with some projects on my bus. Jonathan has been walking with the Lord, and experiencing a purging process, for about the past 2 years now. He thought that music was a part of his old life that he had to leave behind, but on his birthday this past June, the Father gave him a great gift by releasing him to begin recording music that would glorify Him and minister spiritual life to others.

This music (so far) is entirely instrumental, but there is a prophetic element to every song as Jonathan is expressing spiritual experiences through music. He has Scriptures linked to most, if not all, of his songs. You can visit Jonathan’s new blog where he has his songs posted at the following links.





You can also find all of Jonathan’s music posted in one place on his SoundCloud page.


To wrap up this blog post, I will mention that I have sensed that these separate blog posts on music are inadequate to address all that the Father wants me to share on this subject. He is calling me to a deeper examination of music and how it should be understood by those who are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. I am embarking on an in depth study of various aspects of music, including: its effects upon human physiology and human psychology; what constitutes spiritual music; when and in what ways it is appropriate for music to speak to our body and soul; what instruments and musical styles/genres are approved by God, etc.. In truth, I don’t yet know what revelations and insights I will receive to many of my questions about music, but I anticipate the Father guiding me by His Spirit that I might apprehend truth and know His mind. I have been collecting a number of books which I will be studying in order to gain insight and understanding of various aspects of music.

Some of the Books I Have Purchased to Aid My Studies

I will mention that I have not looked into the personal lives and beliefs of the other members of the group Sons of Korah. Unless they have a social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, Blog Site, etc.), it is at times difficult to discover information about a person’s life when they are not on stage. I will say that what I have shared about the two members whose information I did find is quite mild compared to the conduct of many “Christian” musicians and singers. There is gross immorality and rampant apostasy among Christian performers. These things should not be.

I would appreciate your prayers that I might be granted understanding and revelation as I proceed in this new area of study.

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

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws    

Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com    

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