Click here to get your own player.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Conqueror Plus One

by Aaron Ireland

Rom 8:31-39

" all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us..."

More than a conqueror

No matter how great the conquest, the greatest title given to the victor is "conqueror". To conqueror implies that the war is over, and the enemy is defeated. In other words, successive "battles" are won until there emerges a final victor who is known as the "conqueror".

When the conqueror emerges from the war there is no more fighting to be done. There is nothing more to be added to the conquest. To attain greater conquest, would mean starting the war again, which would mean that we cease being the conqueror until the war is won again, at which point we go back to being the conqueror.

In other words, the only way for us to taste something "more" would be to taste defeat. Then we would cease to be the conqueror (ie, become "less" than a conqueror). In warfare, there will always be a winner and a loser ("conqueror" and "conquered"), at the end. The only exception would be in the event that diplomatic resolution leaves both sides equally victorious, in which case there is neither "conqueror" nor "conquered".

Victory through Christ's defeat

So what could it mean to add to conquest? Could it possibly be "conquest through defeat"? Although this seems contradictory, consider the cross, where Christ is "conquered" by the ruling religious and secular leaders of his day, and based on his 'defeatedness', he obtains Victory over sin and death.

In the same way that Caiphas, Herod, and Pilate (and all that they represented) were enemies of Christ, so too are we. We would have been crying out for his crucifixion also, as Jesus had displayed a blatant disregard of human morality (Matt 26:63-65; Mark 14:61-64; Luke 22:67-71; John 18:19-23; religion), democratic choice (John 19:10-11; politics) and curious enquiry (Luke 23:89; science). These attitudes are among the chief causes of indignation when they are directed at us, as they imply that we are corrupt and incompetent, while denying analysis of the evidence, in order to the "de-vilify" our reputation.

Not only that, but Christ's words, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" rub salt in the wounds of his "taunts", as they not only confirm our wrong doing and ignorance but imply that he is both smarter and holier than us. "How dare he claim this? Doesn't he know that 'all men are created equal'?" we cry from every pore of our consciousness. "Even though I'm not perfect, no one is greater than I!!!" This is the war cry of selfishness and it is implied when we object to having of faults revealed. Selfishness is our crime. And this selfishness is what we are charged of and because of this "selfish nature" we share in the guilty of Christ's murder, as accessories. It's charge that shares equal responsibility with the one whose hand took the life of the victim, for without us; there would be no reason for Christ to have died.

Our Conqueror becomes our Advocate

Consider now the contradiction between Christ being both our "condemner" and "intercessor" (v34) in our murder trial where he is also the "victim". Literally, Christ is both "prosecutor" and "defence" in this trial. How can he be both "for" and "against" us at the same time? Wouldn't this create a conflict of interest? Verses 35-37 give us a clue by presenting a woeful situation of us being counted as "lambs for the slaughter, killed all the day long for (His) sake", and then while looking at this lamentable situation, declaring us to be "more than conquerors" with the qualification of this being that we are "in all these things", and all this in response to the question of "Who can separate us from the love Christ?" Even this "answer" raises enough questions to drive one to the brink of insanity. This perplexity shows that are yet to realise the "mind of Christ" that has been "freely given" to us (1 Cor 2:16).

We have to realise that true victory is attained through our own defeat. Christ "condemns" our "selfish nature". Christ also "intercedes" in order to liberate us from that same "selfish nature". Essentially we are being liberated from our own selves. When we begin to grasp this, we can see how "neither death, nor life"...etc can "separate us from the love of God", because all these are God's salvific agents in delivering us from ourselves. In this we can see that it is we who are conquered in Christ's victory, which he has bestowed upon us as a gift. In other words the basis of our victory is in that we have been in our "defeatedness".


To summarise, when my enemy is myself, my defeat becomes my victory, and I am "more than a conqueror" but when self wins, my victory becomes my defeat and I become "more than vanquished".

Mat 16:24-25 "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

©2006 Aaron Ireland - Non-commercial (free) distribution is both permitted and encouraged provided this notice appears.

For further information on the themes discussed feel free to email the author at

The Pontification of the "Modern Church"

By Aaron Ireland

A Search Begins

Over the past year and a bit, God has been systematically pulling down every falsity in my life, and establishing truth. I'm by no means "there yet", but I'm now on the road that leads to life. I was already a Christian and a leader in the church, already understood the "doctrines of the Faith" and principles of revival, yet there was still something in my understanding of God that was a little "off". My "pilgrimage" all began with a deep seated knowledge that the Body of Christ, in general, is living a lie (myself included), and unless we come into the truth, in it's naked form, we may find ourselves utterly condemned on Judgment Day (John 3:16-21).

A year and a half ago, I would have been deeply offended by anyone who would in any way imply that there is anything wrong with the church. I would have risen up in "righteous indignation" toward all who would "disrespect" Christ's bride. Now I understand that most of those, who joint out these "faults" are like the "friends of the bride" who have noticed that she has unwittingly tucked her dress into her undergarment after finishing on the toilet. They simply want to spare her the shame of having her nakedness displayed to all as she walks down the aisle. Not only would her Groom respect this "rebuke" from her friends, but would also appreciate their intervention, as would she. It is with this heart that I write this.

The Death of the Pontiff

Allow me to present a little background, before stating the issue I hope to address. On Sunday the 3rd of April 2005, I awoke to the news the Pope John Paul II had passed away. Ordinarily this would have passed over my mind as any other world leader's departure, like that of Princess Diana, Ronald Reagan, or someone like that, but I had just completed an ankle deep exploration of the history of the church, in which I learned the meaning of the "Throne of St Peter", Pontiff, and Papal Infallibility. Combine this with a recent learning of the Polish participation into the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews, and you have a significant lump of clay awaiting Divine digits to mould into revelation.

Among the titles of the head of Church of Rome (for clarity, I'll refer to as the Roman Catholic Church) are Holy Father, Pope, Vicari of St Peter, and The Pontiff. Historically, the connotations of each of these titles have been major catalysts of the Protestant Reformations, which led to formation of what is now known as the Evangelical (or Born Again Christian) Church. Reformers, such as Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, and Calvin all took particular issue to the idea of "Papal Infallibility", and this was the major contributor their reforms.

Papal Infallibility

Papal Infallibility is the idea that God will not allow the Pope to be wrong in his decrees made from the Throne of St Peter. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, Jesus assigned the power to "bind and loose" in "heaven and earth" and gave the "keys to the Kingdom of Heaven" to Simon Peter directly, who He called the "rock" on which He would "build His church" (Mat 17:15-19). If this is true then St Peter is like a "liaison officer" in heaven, and a point of contact for earth, representing God. The Vicar of St Peter is therefore St Peter's equivalent on earth, sharing his thoughts and feelings. If Peter can bind and loose, both in heaven and on earth, so can the Pope, from his office. This makes papal decrees as good as God's words, just as an ambassador has the ability to make presidential decrees in foreign nations.

This authority is also implied in the title "Pontiff" inherited from the Roman Imperial title "Pontiffus Maximusii". Emperor Augustus claimed this title of the supreme priest of the ancient Roman religion. It was a logical progression, that if there were a "godiii" walking on earth, he would be the most, suitable choice for high priest. Once christianity became the Roman state religion, and the emperors considered the reasoning behind this title, it was handed over to the Vicar of St Peter (Pope), for after all, He "is" the "bridge maker" between God and man, through his association with St. Peter.

Please consider the ramifications of this line of thinking. If the Pope is the Pontiff, then he is God's appointed means of interaction with man. All our attempts of communication with God require the Pope as a go between. He would be the only qualified world ruler. If he said that you weren't going to heaven, then you're going to hell, period. The main point of issue that transcends all of this is this, if scripture and the Pope contradict each other, then the Pope is right!


In this day and age, we are experiencing a time, which is a prequel to either a great apostasy or a great revival. As David Wilkerson teaches, every time God is about to do something, the devil hurried sets up a counterfeit. This counterfeit seems to be taking the form of the pontification of the church. To pontificate is to speak as if your word is dogma (dogma being the Roman Catholic term for undisputable doctrine). We've all, no doubt been in a situation where some opinionated person corrects everything you say as if they're always right and you never are. This is what it is to pontificate. Essentially, to pontificate is to be dogmatic. The idea of pontification comes from the idea of papal infallibility. One who pontificates is one who, like the pope, seems to believe that his opinions are infallible.

Truth, Lie or Fad

The issue of pontification is that of truth. We cannot create truth; it simply is, as God Himself is, because God is truth. There is a word for truth that is created and that word is LIE. As I've already stated, truth cannot be created. It can only be discovered and described. The discovery of truth is called revelation and the description this revealed truth is called prophecy or preaching. Note that the truth was always there, only now it is understood, to a degree. This is why Christians are to base all of their understanding of truth on God's Word, as revealed in scripture (Rom 10:14-17, 2 Tim 3:16). Just as something that is "not known" is "unknown", and something that cannot be explained by a "precedent" is "unprecedented", something that is not found in "scripture" is defined as "unscriptural".

A high proportion of the Body of Christ has succumbed to a cancerous deceit that says, "Just because it's not in the Bible, doesn't make it unscriptural". This mentality has led to a humanistic Christianity being preached, where man's happiness becomes more important than God's glory. The only logical end of this train of thought is a life that is governed by whimsical fads as the last "next best thing" stops working (Eph 4:14). The "five fold ministry" (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) are meant to be God's appointed method to protect us from being "tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" until "we all come to the unity off the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" unto the "stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:11-14). Ironically, the same people who bring these "new truths" (ie, lies) to the church, use these "revelations" as the basis of their claim to be "five fold ministers". We seem to constantly hear the claim that "God is doing a new thing"; meaning the truth has changed, while the expression of that truth (ie, the methods used) continue to stay the same, in spite of claims to the contrary. This is opposite to the nature of God, who is truth, and is the same "yesterday, today and forever", but changes the way His truth is expressed from generation to generation.

The Timelessness of God

The nature of God is timeless, and any description of Him needs to be consistent from before the beginning of time, till after the end. This is the reasoning behind the wickedness of idolatry. It is impossible to accurately represent God as an image. Any attempt will require us to minimalise Him, rendering it grossly inaccurate (Acts 17:24-25,29-30). The only thing that we can do, is illustrate an attribute of His nature, by comparing it with something tangible. This is one of the reasons that Jesus spoke in parables.

The Lord of heaven and Earth: The Judge of All the World

While this may seem a little confusing so far, allow me to illustrate from scripture. When Israel was in their desert wanderings, God revealed Himself as someone who would lead them, care and provide for them, and protect and fight for them. Their came a point where they began to take Him for granted, and forgot that He was worthy the respect due to the "Lord of heaven and earth". They expressed this by grumbling and complaining about the way in which He provided for them, thereby claiming the right to rule over Him.

God could not allow them to think this acceptable for them to do, as it would mean that other nations would consider the "Judge of all the earth" to be a pushover. The ramifications of this misunderstanding would be countless souls going to hell, due to complacency on God's part. So rather than simply waiting for Judgement Day to display to the world that He neither can, nor will tolerate insubordination, He mercifully displayed His attribute of justice by releasing judgement upon the camp. The Bible simply says, "much people of Israel died" from bites inflicted by the fiery serpents that the Lord sent among them.

The Brazen Serpent: Illustration of God's Judgement and Mercy

When the Israelites confessed their sin and cried out for mercy, God commissioned Moses to form an image of a serpent made of brass, and lift it up on a pole, for everyone to look at so they wouldn't die. The purpose of this was for them to understand that the source of the judgement was God, and in order to receive mercy they had to look to recognise Him as judge. The brass serpent was made to illustrate an attribute of God. It was not an image, because neither He nor Moses claimed that God had the form of a serpent, but pointed toward the image as a symbol of an attribute of His nature. The serpents were God's instruments of judgement, and in order to be exempted from the consequences of this judgement, the Israelites were instructed to look toward a symbol of God, in the form of His instrument of judgement. Jesus himself made this connection in referring to this event as a type of his coming crucifixion, as his bearing their punishment in order to display the instrument of God's judgement by taking on is form (John 3:14-15).

The Symbol Becomes an Idol

Centuries later, the Israelites began burning incense to this serpent, considering it to be their Deliverer, rather than the means of their deliverance. Now the tool that God has commissioned to illustrate an attribute of His nature, was considered to be an image of His being. Rather than God being understood as a one Who "in judgement remembers mercy", He was considered to have the appearance and form of a serpent, which is a type of satan. This misrepresentation led to Hezekiah considering this divinely inspired artefact to be nothing but a "piece of brass" and break into pieces.

Misconceptions About God

This illustration shows us how easy it would be for our narrow understanding of God's character to distort our knowledge of who He actually is. Sadly, many christians become satisfied with knowing about God rather that knowing Him in Himself. Sadder still, many christians claim to have a knowledge of God, while at the same time knowing little or nothing about Him. The two are inseparable and just because we have understood one part of His character, doesn't guarantee that we understand or have even considered another.

Ignorance of the Past

We live in a time that is commonly referred to as the post-modern era. This is an era that is ruled and dictated by a mentality of "modern is good, old is outdated". To paraphrase J. Edwin Orr, "Most people think that history is a bore. I, however consider those who think that 'history is a bore' to be a bore." As I earlier stated, the Protestant Reformation sought to rectify the errors of papal infallibility. Over time, reform theology took on an air of complacency, which assumed that every one who attended a church was a christian. This led to the Revival Era, of Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards, Finney, etc who attempted to correct these errors, highlighting the need for the recognition of sin for salvation. Over time, revival theology led to the belief that anyone who said the "sinner's prayer" was a christian. Which is where we are now. My point is to say that no matter how correct you think your doctrine is, it's only a heartbeat from being heretical.

Birth, Death and Rebirth of a Lie

Catholicism led to a distinction between clergy and laity, which seemed to imply that the priest alone had direct communion with God. Protestant christianity led to the understanding that every believer has access to the throne room of God, clergy and laity alike. Revived christianity led to the understanding of the Holy Spirit's involvement in salvation. Catholicism threw out the Word of God. Protestant Christianity returned to the Word of God. Revived Christianity returned to the Holy Spirit of God.

Understand this, Roman Catholics do acknowledge the Bible with their lips, yet in action, consider papal decrees as authoritative. In the same way, many Pentecostal/Charismatic christians of today acknowledge the Bible in theory, but ignore it in favour of one who comes with a "revelation from the Holy Spirit". The proof is in the living.

The Remnant

On a positive note, throughout every church age, God has kept a remnant pure. Centuries before Wesley was converted, while listening to Moravian preaching on a transatlantic ship, Martin Luther was penning the sermon they were reading from. Half a century before Luther was born, John Hus, who's writings inspired him, was hanged as a heretic. And the list goes on and on right back to Jesus.

Bible? What Bible?

The gross error of the "modern church" is one of scripture neglect. This resulted in two tragic things. In the pew, a lack of discernment, resulting in their acceptance of anything delivered from "recognised ministry". In the pulpit, a distortion of truth which has allowed humanism to rule in the church. The way this all manifests is that, rather than preaching "scriptural sermons" that risk being offensive because of their uncompromising adherence to truth, we preach "soothing sermons" that are "rationalised using scripture". The distinction between being "scriptural" and being "explained by scripture" is extremely subtle, and that's what makes it so dangerous. The former is a presentation of what God has been revealing to the preacher as he "studies to show himself approved". As God deals with his heart, he becomes a vessel, which not only preaches the sermon with words, but actually personifies the message. The later, on the other hand, is the preacher attempting to "trouble shoot" an issue that "he" thinks needs addressing, which leads to him searching the Bible for verses to refer to. Perhaps the preacher is seeking to have people attend meetings, get "revved up", or some other motive that will lead to his self-satisfaction. On the other hand, the scriptural preacher's sole motive is that God will be glorified, regardless of the sermon's affect on him personally. Better to have the congregation run from him, and to run to God, than for him to win their heart away from God. This is his constant fear.

It is entirely possible for a "scriptural sermon" to have little, or even no actual reading from a "Bible", as the preacher expresses the heart of God. He may even present some things that aren't entirely "correct" and yet truth is presented, because the hearer is directed to scripture to judge the words of the sermon. However, it is also possible for an unscriptural sermon to be riddled with Biblical quotations, which are taken out of context, therefore rendering the sermon a lie.

So What is a Lie Anyway?

Satan demonstrated this fact in both his temptation of Eve and Jesus. In both situations, the statements were factual (with Jesus, he even quoted scripture), yet the things that he said were to be considered lies, due to glaring omissions. As I've already stated, any statement claiming to be "truth" needs to be timeless. If there is a statement in scripture that appears to contradict another, then that shows that you have interpreted one of these statements wrong. God is utterly consistent, and if His Bible begins with "In the beginning. God...", without explanation, then any opinion to the contrary must be wrong, and therefore is a lie. This may seem rudimentary, but tell that to an atheist. In the same way that an atheist weeds out of the Bible references to God, leaving nothing but an excellent moral guide, the modern christian weeds out the statements that contradict his "humanistic gospel", by calling them "hard sayings" and ignoring them. This in effect is the same as what the Popes do, when they encounter scriptures that contradict their doctrines. If something doesn't change soon, we'll find ourselves at the point (if we're not there yet), where every believer will be his or her own "pontiff".

Too Judge...Or Not To Judge?

Consider the widely believed doctrine that says that Christians are not permitted to judge. This is often justified by referring to Jesus' words "Judge not". However, Jesus didn't stop there. He said, "Judge not, that ye may be not judged, and with whatever measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matt 7:1-2) This could be understood as an incentive not to judge. Why then did he command us to "Judge not by appearance, but judge righteous judgements"? (John 7:24) Also, Paul wrote, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Cor 11:31), but then, "..I judge not mine own self" (1 Cor 4:3). Now Paul seems to be contradictory. Either the Bible has an inconsistency or I do, in my opinion of what it says. I need to ask God to show me where I missed it, so He can change my mind, because He won't change His. The answer is in 1 Cor 11:32 - "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world".

Sweet Merciful Judgment

Now we see something of a principle of judgement. Judgement in this lifetime is really an expression of mercy, because His judgement leads to His chastening, which in turn leads to our repentance. It's our repentance that is God's only condition of forgiveness. We will not be judged, unless we judge. In order to keep us from becoming prideful, in our judgement, He warns that He will use the same measure that we used on our brethren, when His "merciful judgement" comes on us. Therefore, to prohibit christians from judging others is to use a measure that says, "I have no need to repent". Any christian that refuses to "judge righteous judgements", according to Christ's command, is as negligent as a christian who claims to love the lost, yet fails to warn them of hell. They are denying another the right to repent, while at the same time denying their need to do the same (see Rom 1:32). To quote David Wilkerson, "Any man that has sin in his life will not talk about in the camp." (Reproach of the Solemn Assembly - available for free download from

The Kingdom of God ... Or Utopian Counterfeit?

This issue of the doctrine of judgement is but one example of this pontification. The major issue of deception in the church right now is the present teaching on the Kingdom of God. This teaching isn't new, in fact it was a major catalyst for the introduction of the humanist mindset into the Body of Christ, around the turn of the 20th century, and in the 1960s and 70s it was called "Kingdom Now" theology. The teaching goes like this, the church is called to establish the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. We are to influence the world with christian values, so that business and government become godly in their practices. We'll do this by raising up believers into positions of influence, so that we can make the world "christian".

This teaching is sinister in the subtlety of its error, and history has revealed instances when these things have happened and in turn hindered the work of God. Constantine was the first to "legislate christianity" and the progression that followed this led to the whole "papal fiasco" in the Church of Rome. A thorough study of Jesus' discourse with Nichodemus, in John 3 will reveal that God is not concerned with "society being converted" but with "people being converted". The Bible teaches that the "sinner" is lost, and the only way to save him is to alert him to the fact. Paul wrote, "our righteousness is as filthy rags".

Christianising vs Conversion

It would do more damage to a sinner to "teach him to be good" than to let him continue in defiance until God was to stop him. Consider how hard it is to see a "good man" converted, when compared to a "dirty sinner" who's hit rock bottom. What "favours" do you think would you do by "cleaning up" the sinner at the point where he is ready to receive forgiveness from God? Like the Pharisees, you'd "stop up the way of salvation" to them. To quote Art Katz "There is more hope for a man in error, who's been persuaded of his rectitude, but is in error, but is going some place in his error, ... in his well meaning intention & zeal, however wrong, .... than some starchy stick in the mud pew sitter, who has the technical qualification and can recite its credo, as a phraseological saint, but is not in motion." Sin is meant to be ugly. What an insult to God to attempt to "beautify" this sinful world, by creating a "utopian society" and calling it the "Kingdom of God"?

Kingdom Sought vs Kingdom Built

Am I claiming that God doesn't want to influence society, or that there is no place for moral laws? Am I saying that christians should be prohibited from public office or management positions? Of course not. Am I claiming that we shouldn't be "seeking the Kingdom of God"? Ahh... Here's where we get to the point. Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom Of God, and all of His righteousness", he preceded this statement by saying that we aren't to worry our food, clothing and shelter, and followed it by saying that the food, clothing and shelter will all be sorted out if we did it. Rather than agreeing with the words of Jesus, the teachers of this "false Kingdom" teach that we are to attain wealth so we can earn respect from the world, in order to influence them, and by doing so, we'll "build the Kingdom". Jesus said, "seek", where they say, "establish". "Who cares?", you say, "What difference does it make?" Well, christian, let me ask you this. Did you "find" God, or did you "establish" Him? You "found" Him when you "sought" Him, because He was already there, waiting for you to seek Him (Acts 17:27). In the same way, we can't establish the Kingdom of God, because it's already there.

We tend to think of kingdoms as geographical boundaries. In reality, a kingdom is a realm of influence. To have a kingdom, requires there to be a king and subjects. Not only that, but the king expects obedience to his laws, disregarding those of surrounding kingdoms. The key to this idea, is Jesus tying together the seeking of "His righteousness", with His Kingdom, and Paul separating the "righteousness off God" from Israel's perception of what they merely assumed it to be, all the while having a "zeal of God, but not according to knowledge" (Rom 10:1-3). The validity of a kingdom is only as good as the allegiance of the subjects. History is riddled with rebellions that were either quashed, or established the next regime, to illustrate this point. Therefore, His Kingdom coming "on earth, as it is in heaven", is about us, as God's subjects obeying Him, as the angels do in heaven. This obedience is entirely dependant on our considering our life as dead and yielding to the Spirit of God to "guide our paths in righteousness for His name's sake" (Gal 2:20). This kind obedience would require us to disregard the laws of the kingdom of the world (where we are but transient, and sojourners) when they contradict God's commands, even when they appear to be "righteous" in nature. Therefore we pay taxes, but we don't pay homage to idols. We do all that our earthly masters request, but we stop short at lying, cheating, stealing, etc, even for "noble reasons". If every christian obeyed God, in this way, then the Kingdom of God would come on earth as it is in heaven, because we would be living Jesus' life on earth, by the direct leading of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit. The people would request laws that reflect God's values. There wouldn't need the values to be forced on them by a "christian president", because God's values are now their values. If employers saw this silent witness from employees who are sold out to God, they would be forced to see that God has "set them in slippery places...utterly consumed by terrors" (Ps 73:18-19) and have to "choose this day whom (they) will serve" (Josh 24:15). This is why both John the Baptist, and Jesus hit the ground running with, "Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand." It has an air of, "God's officially in charge again! Choose to bow your knee now before the choice will be made for you! Don't say I didn't warn you!" not, "Please be good, or God will get you." As Leonard Ravenhill put it, "Jesus didn't come to make bad men good, bat to make dead men live."

Godliness or Comfort

The other test is, what's in it for us Christians? Are we seeking comfort so we can be at "ease in Zion"? The apostle Paul, rather than running for emperor, to quash the Roman persecution of the church, ran around warning the christians that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution". Is it possible that the fact that we aren't suffering for our faith means that we aren't living godly? Why then do we seek to improve our conditions, by electing godly government? Whether the ruler is godly or ungodly, God will lead the nation through him. In fact, an ungodly ruler forces us to resist our flesh, that wants us to play along with ungodly practices, where a godly one presents a temptation to be complacent toward God. I only say this to bring out the old christian cliché, "just because it's good, doesn't mean it's God".

The Seed of the Deception

How could we fall for such a lie? Simply because what God asks seems to be "too hard". We say, "Yeah, I know I have to submit my life to God, but surely He understands me holding onto this part of it. After all it is really important? He would know that I couldn't live without it." By permitting this thinking, we display either a belief that God is a liar, or that He is a "hard taskmaster" who expects too much, and that there must be another way. "But, isn't it much better to delegate the role of authority figure to someone on earth? After all, everyone always says, 'I wish God would just step down from heaven and Speak audibly.' And anyway, doesn't yielding one's life to the leading of the Holy Spirit show an immaturity that says, 'I can't do what God asks?' And isn't this a shifting of the blame for my disobedience?" Although this appears to be a noble assertion, and highly proactive, it ignores the fact that the cross is all about the fact that we are selfishly immature and need to shift the blame for our sins onto Jesus, to rectify the problem.

As Paris Reidhead put it in his sermon, Ten Shekels and a Shirt, "If you've ever seen yourself, you'll know that you're never going to be anything else than you were, because in me and my flesh there is no good thing." We need the Spirit of God to take the steering wheel of our life in order to obey Him. There is no other way. Christ's own prescription for the church is, "Take up your cross and follow me." Follow him where? Up the proverbial hill to the place of the skull, that we "might KNOW HIM, in the fellowship of his SUFFERINGS". There is no other way!


In conclusion, the present "fad teaching" on the Kingdom of God, is a subtle satanic counterfeit to God's Kingdom coming upon earth as a result of a massive end-time harvest of souls, which is being spread by well-intending preachers and businessmen alike. The effect of this teaching is a great rush to accumulate wealth, rather than to save souls. To teach people to be good, in order to make the world a better place, rather than to teach people that the world is doomed, and they need to flee to Christ, while he will still take them.

I am not claiming that money is evil, only that it shouldn't be the priority of our affection. As Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". It you're spending more time scheming to win a buck, than to win the lost, then that says more about you're heart than any words can. We still need to be "good stewards" of what we have and we do have needs, but Jesus promised that if we faithfully seek God's Kingdom, and all of His righteousness as our number one priority, He'd sort all that out for us.

The overall point is, let the Bible lead you into truth and obedience, and beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.

Copyright - Aaron Ireland (2005)

This article has been copyrighted to prevent misuse. It should not be reprinted or translated without written permission from the author.

Permission is however given for this article to be downloaded, printed or electronically transmitted provided it is for FREE distribution, provided NO ALTERATIONS are made, provided the AUTHOR'S NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS are mentioned, and provided this copyright notice is included in each printout.

Any question or criticisms concerning any issue that has been raised or any implied themes associated with this article may be forwarded to the author personally at Please allow up to a month for any responses, which will be sent at the earliest opportunity.

i From adj. vicarious, which has connotations of sharing imaginations and feelings of another person.

ii In Latin, Pontiff meaning "bridge maker", and Maximus meaning "supreme". Therefore "the supreme bridge builder between god and man"

iii Roman emperors were worshiped as gods

Righteous Sumission vs Zealous Obedience to Principle

The following thoughts came to me after meditating upon Rom 10, particularly v1-4:

1 Brethren, my heart desire and prayer to God for Israel, is that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knoweldge 3 For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For, Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness, unto every body that believeth.

To set the scene for my train of thought, I'll include a number of assumptions that can be made.

Paul, being a pharisee, knew what Isreal considered to be righteous.

Paul had not given up on Israel.

Israel, as a people, were particularly zealous for God.

Rather than trying to find the heart of God, they distilled all the statements of Moses and the Prophets into a detailed list of "dos and don'ts".

Christ's purpose is that people would cease to follow these letter of the Law, and being to operate out of a heart for God.

This is really, baby christian stuff, however, it seems to me that often times, this truth is agreed to with mental assent, but not with lifestyles.

Let me explain. As finite beings, life seems impossible without knowing what we are doing at anytime. We need to know that our deeds are in agreement with a prescribed principle, rather than acting out of the nature that God has placed within us, being cultivated through perpetual communion with God, emanating from regular and consistant quiet times with God.

This "nessesity for principle" can appear to one to be righteousness, while to another, the absense of this "safety net" can appear to be a licence to commit any kind of immoral behaviour. Please understand that I am in no way trying to promote a kind of "until God 'convicts' you of a specific sin, you can disobey scripture". What I am essentially saying is that "obedience" that is spawned from a bregudged heart, is in fact disobedience.

A pass over the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5-7), particularly the beatitudes (Mat 5:3-12), will reveal the priority of the heart attitude over the action. This is not to say that actions are irrelevant, but that internal agreement with God is of higher importance.

Consider Jesus explaining obedience of heart (particularly Mat 5:17,21-22,27-28). We can see this as a "raising of the bar" - It's not enough to control your actions, but you need to control your thoughts. Could it be, that like Israel listening to Moses, in coming to this assumption we are "establishing our own righteousness", rather than coming to a greater dimension of the knowledge of God?

I believe that Christ is saying to us, "The problem isn't that your killing and adultering, but that you want to be a murderer and adulterer." After all, you're not going to do something you really don't want to do. How many are fighting an urge to go out and buy drug and get high while reading this? The next question would be, how many of those that answered "No" to the last question, have ever had a desire to do drugs? Hopefully, the people who answer an ashamed "Yes" to the second question, answer an indignant "No!!"to the first.

For me, being a reformed addict, drugs are no longer an issue, and not their temptation is even on the proverbial menu of sins for my flesh to select. Sure it appears periodically as a "special of the day", but not with the regularity of things like lying, lustful thoughts, anger, and laziness, which are "specialties of the house". To be honest, the only struggle I have with drugs is fighting the urge to look down on addicts as second class citizens.

Does this mean that I desire to be angry, lustfull...etc? Of course not, but reality is, is have not quite developed the desgust with my behaviour that will lead to complusive obedience in these areas. Does that give me licence to fulfill these lust? Of course not. Am I ashamed of my "ever present sin"? Of course. Then why is it there? Mmmmm...can I answer that honestly. Probably not. Is it I don't pray enough? Is it that I don't spend enough time in the Word? These are "real life" issues to be confronted. Do I have the answers? To be honest, not really. I may be able to present alot of hypotheticals, but answers...if I had them, I wouldn't have the problems.

Before people accuse me of absolving people from their God given responsability, let me point toward Eph 2:8-10.

8 For by grace are we saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

From this, we can see a progression:

  1. Salvation is by grace alone.
  2. The mechanism for receiving this grace is trusting God (faith) as the only one "rich enough" (Rom 10:12) offer this saving grace.
  3. Even the actual faith isn't our doing, as it can only be given to us, as God Himself reveals His truth to us (Rom 10:17).
  4. Becuse of all this, we can take no credit for our salvation as coming about by our own doing.
  5. Once the salvation issue is settled, we display our salvation, by fulfilling His righteous requirements, and obeying His directions.

While this can sound like a "I have faith, you have works" kind of thing, the truth of the matter is, that "good works" are the only logical option for a person. After all, a man who has been made aware of the seriousness of his rebellion against God, by the convicting light of the Holy Spirit, could not in good conscience wilfully rebel against Him again (Mat 18:23-35). Surely it would break his heart at the very thought of dispointing his Saviour that "...loved (him) and gave himself for (him)" (Gal 2:20b).

My one and only point is that there is little point splitting hairs over details of our rebellion against Deity. In the end, it is all disobedience from dishonesty to genocide. Albeit, we commit our sins one at a time, so therefore we must confess them likewise. My heart in explaining the whole obedience to "Principle" vs "Deity", is that splitting hairs over the principles, will inevitably lead to excusing sin.

If we consider ourselves to be "spiritually and morally bankrupt", and that leading to our "mourning" over our personal lack, we will begin to comprehend "meekness", and develope a true "hunger and thirst for righteousness". If after all that, we are not "merciful" toward others, then perhaps the love of God isn't in us. This mercifulness that eminates from an earnest desire for righteousness, is true "purity of heart". Who else would be qualified to be a pure motived "peacemaker", between God and man? Who else will be able to "rejoice and be glad" in the midst of "persecution", but them that have "seen God"?

Am I declaring a "cheap grace" or "legalistic" message here? I'll leave that for you to decide.

Appropriate Affection Toward the Enemy of God

(Note: This article was written in 2006. Perhaps if it was written today, it would be slightly different. Having said that, this would have to be the most comprehensive statement that I have made regarding evangelism, thus far. - AI - 2008)

A consideration of the existence of proper 'Methods' and 'Motivation' in Evangelism, written for the Truly Converted.

by Aaron Ireland

John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

Mat 7:13-14 "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

"Then said Evangelist pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder Wicket-Gate? The man said, No..." - John Bunyan (Pilgrim's Progress)

Most Christians suffer conflicting emotions when it comes to sinners. We are torn between compassionate longing for our loved ones to be saved, and a vengeful desire to see the 'hideously wicked' come to justice before God. We cannot grasp that God can reserve the 'Lake of Fire' for those who have done something as trivial as 'lying', while at the same time extending mercy to paedophiles and murders. How do we reconcile this? The purpose of this essay is to answer this question as clearly as possible, so that the reader may know how to express the appropriate affection toward sinners.

"If we loved the world the way God does, we'd never have to worry about loving it the way we shouldn't." - Vance Havner (The Christian in the World)

We require here an understanding of God's love, in contrast with worldly affection. Worldly affection says, "I want to be with you and do good things for you because there is something about you that I like." This is the definition of the Greek word 'phileo'. Phileo is not a bad thing. When we direct this 'phileo' affection to another it is often one of the greatest compliments that can be given, as it implies that there is something worth loving in the receiver of the affection. Phileo could be well translated as 'friendship'.

God's love on the other hand is unconditional. It seeks the good of all, whether ally or enemy. The Greek word for this kind of love is 'agape'. In the King James Version, this word is often translated as 'charity'. Charity in modern usage is to extend a gift with the expectation that nothing whatsoever shall be given in return. Its sole focus is the benefit of the receiver, at the expense of the giver. It is the kind of love expressed to the beggarly, and implies a degree of poverty in the recipient. This is the kind of love that God loves the world with. Agape is the hardest expression of love to give, because it costs us all and the most humiliating to receive because it refuses repayment. So in other words, where phileo affection is geared towards the self esteem of the receiver, agape charity would be considered insulting toward all but the truly humble (John 15:13; Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 1:23; James 4:6).

Mat 5:43-46 "Ye have heard that it hath been Said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?"

Literally, Christ is saying here that we are to love our neighbours and love our enemies equally and that we are to follow God's example as he "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust". This kind of love does not stop short of extending crumbs to starving dogs at the expense of seeing our own children go hungry, in spite of it being "not meet" to do so (Mat 15:22-28; Mark 7:25-29).

Psalm 73:12-14 "Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."

I have heard many claim that "things happen when we pray", but I once heard a Baptist minister say, "When we don't pray things happen". When as Christians, we are obedient, things just tick along harmoniously, and we are almost ignorant that things could possibly be another way, but when we disobey, whether by commission of evil or omission of good, then things start to fall apart. Bear in mind that at times the 'harmony of God' will appear chaotic to us and the 'erosive' will appear stable, because the long term effects may not be evident. It is like this, God punishes His own children for being naughty (Heb 12:4-7) and not only leaves those that are not His children unpunished (Heb 12:8) but gives them over to their sin (Rom 1:21-25).

Asaph put it this way, "Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches" while contrasting himself, as a godly man, by saying, "all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning" (Ps 73:12-14). It is hard to consider this principle of prosperity for the wicked and chastening of the righteousness while at the same time maintaining a view of God as 'good'. The reality is that this consideration is absolutely essential and without it, His goodness can never truly be seen (Ps 73:1). We can even go as far as saying that it is impossible to actually "see God" without being chastened by Him (Heb 10:12-14). This is what is known as "seeing him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27) as opposed to ignoring that which "clearly seen" (Rom 1:20-21). The question that begs to be asked is that if only the 'chastened' can actually 'see God', would that mean that the 'god' that the 'given over' acknowledge is realy an idol?

"How many are hearing me now whose minds are either a battlefield or a playground for all kinds of things. And I'll tell you that if you've graduated from Playboy and Sports Illustrated and other kinds of worldly things that our minds love to fasten upon, they will, if you give them no other alternative, even fasten upon things spiritual and religious so long as they can be occupied." - Arthur Katz (And They Crucified Him)

Thus the basis of idolatry is the natural principle that says, "Nature abhors a vacuum". Like the Israelites in the desert, we create a god after our own image to replace the One who took too long on the mount (Ex 31:2). Like Saul we invent alternative plans when our Samuel stretches our patience (2 Sam 13:8-13). Note that in both these examples the idolaters considered what they were doing to be valid expressions of worship to Jehovah. Man cannot tolerate his own ignorance and would rather believe a lie than not know something.

Therefore, the real crime of the sinner is not the actions of his behaviour, as much as the setting up of his own god to serve. Whether this god is 'named' or not, or even if they call him Jesus or Jehovah for example, by ignoring the plain revelation of Christ in scripture they are effectively putting their own words in His mouth. So in other words idolatry could be defined as an attempt to make the 'invisible' characteristics of God 'visible' by the device of man (Acts 17:29), rather than seeing Him by the revelation of His Son (Luke 10:22). Unfortunately for the idolater, in prior "... times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness ..." (Acts 17:30-31)

Job 42:3-6 "Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

As we have already seen, purity of heart is conditional on enduring suffering (Heb 10:12-14; Mat 5:12; Ps 73:1). In fact earthly suffering, put into context of eternity, is temporary punishment with the view to avoiding permanent suffering. This principle exposes the darkness of "loving the world" (1 John 2:15). In light of this, we can see that any attempt to express our love toward sinners by shielding them from the suffering that comes from realising the truth of their "enmity with God" (James 4:4) is actually removing the possibility of them having the opportunity to "see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Is 6:10). In other words, our idea of 'loving them' is effectively signing their death sentence.

Jesus is the answer to every need. The only problem is that that most sinners are unaware of the existence of their need of him, after all they are not so bad. They conform to the requirement of 'their god'. And why would they want to go against someone who changes the standard of morality based on their own hearts desire. Something may be 'sinful' today, but tomorrow it is good because, "I want to do it!" The benefits of being their own boss far outweighs any desire to submit to Someone that they consider to be a "hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed" (Mat 25:24) who actually requires something of them.

Mat 15:15-17 "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."

If sinners are ever to see their need of Christ, then we are going to have to 'show it to them'. It is not enough to 'tell them'; they must be 'persuaded'. How can we persuade a sinner of his sinfulness when he is convinced of his own righteousness (Prov 16:2)? It is a woeful thing to call evil 'good', light "dark" and truth 'lies', as it insures the wrath of God, not only for the action, but also for those of the people inspired to do likewise (Is 5:20-24, Mat 5:19).

The tragedy is that sinners will never know their state unless they are confronted with the Holy Standard of righteousness (Rom 3:20;7:7). Our testimony to the world must be consistent with that of the Holy Ghost, who reproves "... the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: ... because they believe not on (Christ); ... because ... ye see (Christ) no more; (and) ... because the prince of this world is judged" (John 16:8-11). In other words, our message must convince them that they will stand in judgement for submitting to the "principles of this world", rather than "trusting in Christ", who they can't see. The problem is that "flesh and blood" cannot reveal this to us (Mat 15:17) because the "gospel be ... hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Cor 4:3-4).

Gal 3:22-24 "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

So what is the answer? We need to use the only prescribed means "to bring us unto Christ". That is the Law (Gal 3:24). After all, we know that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8), but that would make no sense to those who have not the "knowledge of sin" which comes to us "by the law" (Rom 3:20), due to the fact that "where no law is, there is no transgression" (Rom 4:15). The sinner needs to be brought to the realisation that 'his sin' is actually 'sinful' (Rom 7:13).

Paul's personal experience of this principle at work is seen in his words, "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Rom 7:7). For Paul it was, a matter of realising that what he thought to be a healthy desire for recognition and success in his 'patriotism', God considered to be 'lustful covetousness'. He knew of the 'existence of sin' but was ignorant of his own 'participation in sin'. He could point out the 'misdeeds of the publican', while at the same time boast of his 'consistency of fasting and tithing' (Luke 18:10-13). He could justify his persecution of the church by citing his "zeal for God" (Phil 3:6) but he had to face the fact that his zeal was "not according to knowledge" (Rom 10:2). Once he was confronted with the question, "Why persecutest thou me?" he could come to no other realisation than that "... it is hard ... to kick against the pricks" (Acts 9:3-6), for he "being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish (his) own righteousness, (had) not submitted (himself) unto the righteousness of God" (Rom 10:3).

In other words, he had to realise that when he was presented with vacuum of his own ignorance "of God's righteousness", like the good Pharisee that he was, he had 'chosen' his own Talmudic substitute and 'allowed' it to persuade him that his actions were justifiable and even profitable for the furtherance of his beloved Judaism. He could even claim that his behaviour was evidence of his own (dare I say it) 'righteousness'. Until he could count this replacement, and every benefit that he had received from his submission to it, "as dung" he could not "win Christ" (Phil 3:7-8), who came not "to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mat 9:13). Thankfully, that is exactly what he did.

James 4:2-5 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

We must never forget that sinners have deliberately chosen to be the enemies of God (John 3:18), and therefore we need to choose sides: For God and against them, or for them and against God (Ex 32:26-27; 1 Kings 18:21). The enemy of God is our enemy also. James relates "friendship with the world" to adultery (James 4:4). John tells us clearly, "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16). These two statements make up the clearest definition of what it is to "love the world".

A lot of evangelism is based on the benefit of people. For example: receiving family members and loved ones to fellowship with (lust of the eyes); desire to not be 'unequally yoked' to a prospective marriage partner (lust of the flesh); and then there's the 'numbers game', with the associated prestige of being known as a successful evangelist (pride of life). When we consider this in the light of 1 John 2:16, we have to face the fact that our motivation is often "not of the Father, but is of the world". If this is the case, then we also have to face the fact that, for the most part, our evangelism is as adultery in the eyes of God and that we are setting ourselves up as His enemy.

Col 3:1-2 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

When I first came to the place where I could honestly say that this mindset went from being a 'titillating concept' to a becoming a deep 'revelation of God's truth' that had invaded the very DNA of my being, I could cry with Asaph, "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me" (Ps 73:16). I had just been witnessing to someone who was 'open to spiritual things' but was 'resistant to the truth of Jesus Christ'. In response to him asking why God would send someone to hell, I laid out a flawless exposition of the Ten Commandments in order to show him that, he not only shared the same values as God and had to admit that they were the perfect expression of fairness, but that he had violated every one of them making him a hypocrite. To this he could only reply, "I see where you are coming from, but I still don't think it's right." As I left the encounter, I clearly made it known to him that he had just deliberately rejected God's right to rule over his life, and that unless he repent he would perish (Luke 13:3).

Driving away with tears streaming down my face I sobbed in prayer, "Father, if the sole reason that you want me to preach the gospel is so that sinners won't be able to plead ignorance on the Day of Judgement, then fine. I'll do it. Just don't expect me to like it." All of a sudden I had a deep sense of the loving sorrow of my Jealous Saviour, as He seemed to say to me, "How do you think I felt when I was on the cross?" The intention of my witness is that the hearer be saved. However, more often than not, the effects were that the sinner succumbed to the temptation to deliberately reject the gospel and choose to follow their imaginary god (John 3:18-20).

Then the rest of Asaph's words became clear, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction ... For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee." (Ps 73:17-18,27) Since then I have had a sense of "holy empathy" toward the victims of sin and a "righteous indignation" toward the proponents of it, always mindful of the fact that the number one victim of sin is God (Ps 51:4).

2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

It is not about comforting God by punishing the sinner, but comforting God via providing comfort to the mortal victims of sin, and comforting God by meekly "instructing those that oppose themselves" (2 Tim 2:21) with their own sin of the opportunity to be reunited with God through "repentance from dead works, ... toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ ... and (doing) works meet for repentance." (Heb 6:1; Acts 20:21; 26:20). In other words, we love God through people because loving our neighbours is "like unto" loving God with our whole being.

Matt 22:37-39 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

We must get the idea out of our heads that evangelism is about 'protecting good people from a bad God', who wants to send them to hell. As we have seen, if we use a 'method' for evangelism that seeks to comfort the sinner rather than alert him of impending judgement, we are displaying our hatred of them by hiding them from the God who not only wants to save them (John 3:17) but is the only means of salvation from that judgement (John 14:6). And if our 'motivation' is based on personal affection or gain, then we are displaying contempt for God that is comparable to adultery.

Rom 5:6-10 "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."

We are not to be motivated by a desire to spare sinners from hell, but that God would have his "many sons" gloriously reconciled unto Him (Heb 2:10). I recently walked through shopping center when I heard a lady cry out, "Oh no!! Somebody's taken her!!" She had turned around to find her daughter missing in a crowded walkway. Everyone turned to see if they could find her, when another lady said, "It's okay. She'd just wandered off." The two year old was 'disobedient' in exploring out of sight of her mother in a crowded shopping complex. There would be no need to punish her if someone had taken her during her 'rebellious adventure', as the consequences could be potentially life shattering. Note that "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8) in like manner to predators of children awaiting their separation from their parents.

Isaiah 6:5-7 "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."

The sinner is lost and hell is too good for them. They have chosen not only to be the enemy of God (John 3:18), but by implication, they are our enemy also (2 Cor 6:14-15). In spite of this, we are to love them, as we are to love our other enemies (Mat 5:43-46), even being prepared to be "accursed" in their place (Rom 9:1-3). It is God's business as to whether or not He extends mercy to them. Like that frantic mother, our Father in Heaven is seeking one whom He can send to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Is 6:8; Luke 19:10). Once we've seen the holiness of the Lord (Is 6:1-3), realising the impurity of the world and our participation in it (Is 6:5) and have been purged of it (Is 6:6-7), how could our response be anything but, "Here [am] I; send me." (Is 6:8) Ours is to plough, plant and water the seed of truth (1 Cor 3:5-7), and the basis of our motivation is that "the Lamb that was slain may receive the reward of his suffering".

Our message needs to be clear and succinct, as does their response:

Josh 24:15-16 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;

After all, our message is not really our message, it is 'His'. And their response must be our response, or we have fooled ourselves into believing that we are not one of them (Rom 7:18).

©2006 Aaron Ireland - Non-commercial (free) distribution is both permitted and encouraged provided this notice appears.

For further information on the themes discussed feel free to email the author at

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Sin of Speculation

by Aaron Ireland

Mat 6:25-34

v34 - "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

Perhaps calling speculation "sin" is a slight overkill. It is not my intention to paint every kind of hypothetical thinking as sinful, but to highlight the notion of the existence of a sinfulness that exhibits itself as distrustful speculation and consider the ramifications of our entertainment of it. These are my own thoughts that I desire to have placed on record in order to open them up to the scrutiny and discernment of the Body of Christ in light of 1 Cor 14:32. I believe that they are both based in scripture and shared by others. In light of this I bring this offering and from here we will begin.

The tendency of fallen man is to lust for knowledge and the center of this lust is the speculation of how things "might be" at the expense of how they "are". It is a kind of fantasy realm of thought which has the potential to elevate boredom while at the same time create a sense of safety as we plan for unseen and potentially dangerous instances as well as dream of preferred futures that may or may not happen. While this may seen innocent, in extreme cases speculation this can lead us to question everything to the point of inducing paranoia. These questions can be crippling to a Christian as they can create doubts in the goodness and mercy of God and can also lead us to lazy from of philosophical entertainment (Acts 17:21).

Questions in themselves are not bad, however it would be wise to be careful of ones that start off with "What if..." and "Why..." Also, we should always be prepared to receive an answer that we won't like and beware of the compulsion to demand an answer for our questions. Often times "silence" will be your answer, although experience says that few can truly appreciate "silent answers". The ability to ask questions are a gift from God, and His tool for leading us into truth.

"The true Christian insists upon stripping things down to the hard core of reality. He wants to know truth as it is: About life. About sin: Whether it is; What it is; How to get rid of his. About his relation to God: both possible and actual. Where he stands with respect to judgement to come. About heaven and about hell" - A.W. Tozer (The Voice of Reason)

Regarding eternal matters, beware of questions that are not answered in scripture.

"If you tell me 'why' 100% of all the people before the Fall sinned, and I'll tell you why 100% of the people after the fall have sinned. And the scripture doesn't tell us 'why', it tells us 'that'. And how much time is wasted on trying to produce 'why's that the scriptures don't give answers to? If the scripture doesn't tell us why, let's not discuss it. Let's stick with what it says." - Paris Reidhead, commenting on St Augustine's doctrine of "Original Sin" (The Right Use of the Law

As we consider our text, we find that we are exhorted to "seek ... first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness", with the promise that "all these things shall be added unto (us)" (Mat 6:33). What are "all these things"? Provision of necessities, viz. Food, Drink and Clothes (v31). Notice also that we are to "behold the fowls of the air" and notice that our "heavenly Father feedeth them" in spite of the fact that they "sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns" (v26). As an extended interpretation, could it be that "perceived necessary explanations" could be included in the list of "all these things"? After all, this is another thing that "the Gentiles seek" (v32) Perhaps God is often waiting for us to allow Him the right to decide the difference between what is a "necessary explanation" and what is not, before He gives it (1 Cor 2:14-16).

Many of us tend to "gather into barns" our own "crops" of opinions, ideas and philosophies, at the expense of memorising scripture itself. And this at the expense of awaiting God's explanation.

"Wherever man attacks the concrete Word of God with the weapon of a principle or idea of God there he has become lord over God." - Dietrich Bonhoffer

So, what's the big deal about "speculation" anyway? Speculation puts words and events into "future" history that don't belong there, out of a fear of what "might be" based on what "could have been" (see Rev 21:8). It could be said that oftentimes the root cause of speculation is the "fear of the unknown" and is evidence of the existance of a distrust of God. Consider this in the light of Heb 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

Speculation says, "Imagine if God did..." (Past) Faith says, "Look what God is." (Now) Speculation says, "What about if God does..." (Future) Faith says, "Look at who God is." (Now)

God dwells in the eternal "Now". This may be a little confusing, but here goes. "We" pass through "Now" from the "Future" to reside in the "Past". If I were looking into the future from 200 years ago, you would exist in the future and not yet in the past or present (unless you're really really old). Looking now into the past back from 200 in the future, you would exist in the in the past, but not in the present or future (momentarily putting aside millennial doctrines and the resurrection). God, on the other hand, is present in every moment that can be called "Now" (Rev 1:8) and not only that, He is the exactly the same at everyone of these moments (Jas 1:17). This is why He introduced Himself to Israel as "I AM" as opposed to "I was" or "I will be" (Ex 3:13-14).

Based on this "fact", there is no need to speculate as to what God "might do" as we only have to look at what He "has done" throughout history (as described in Scripture) knowing that He will be consistent with what He has done. Not only that, but we also know that He "does" what He "says He will do" (Heb 6:17-19). Because of these facts, "faith" could be defined as having confidence that what God has "already provided" in the past, will "manifest itself" in the future, in spite of it being "not visible" now, in spite of having "no other proof", than His Word and His Prior Acts (Heb 11:1). Consider our salvation, for example. God provided our salvation in the event of the crucifixion of Christ, before we had even sinned. At a fixed point in time, we appropriate that salvation by repenting of our sin, putting our trust in Christ, being baptised and receiving of the Spirit of Life. There was a point where we didn't "possess" the salvation that was given at Calvary. We made a choice, in our unsaved condition, to believe that God had already provided this salvation, that was not yet manifested in our life, but based solely on a glimpse of his integrity, with no other assurance that we would or had received it until after we had actually received His Spirit (Rom 8:16). That is saving faith (Eph 2:8-9). Either He provides what He said He will provide or we are going to be left looking silly.

How far does His integrity go? Consider now the case of God's threat to wipe out Israel and make Moses into a nation (Ex 32:7-14) to answer this. It would appear that this instance contradicts the integrity of God. God had already promised that the "sceptre shall not depart from Judah" (Gen 49:10) but here He is telling Moses, "let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation." Here we have God, as a husband catching his wife in the very act of adultery, reacting to the event of the blatant idolatry of His betrothed Israel with their self-made Golden Calf, which they had even named "Yahweh". In His understandable jilted jealousy, He expresses His desire to not only divorce His people, but to wipe them from the face of the earth, every tribe, including the aforementioned Judah. He then offers to make a new and great nation out of one that did not participate in the idolatry. Now, considering that Moses was of the tribe of Levi, and the sceptre would not depart from Judah, and God for all intents and purposes was about wipe out Judah with the rest of Israel, it would seem that God had painted Himself into a verbal corner. How can these two statements be reconciled while keeping God's integrity intact?

In order to illustrate the answer to this question, I will relate a true story. A family was driving through the country and the children started acting up in the back seat. The father turned around in a fit of rage and roared, "Right! The next kid to make a noise is getting out and walking home!" Suddenly the gravity of his words hit him, and he began to silently pray that they would remain silent so he wouldn't have to follow through with his threat while at the same time retaining his integrity before his children. Thankfully they didn't call his bluff.

Now obviously every illustration breaks down at a point, but consider that God knew Moses and trusted that the heart He'd formed in him over 40 years of tending sheep in the wilderness wouldn't call His bluff. If we reread God's words to Moses, we see that the condition that God attached for Himself to be able to wipe out Israel was for Moses to "let (Him) alone" (see also Is 45:11). In an incredible display of His omnipotence and omniscience God entrusted the validity of His redemptive plan to the decision of one man. And apparently it was in safe hands. In short, he took advantage of an opportunity to display His mercy, maintain His integrity and prove Moses character all at the same time.

So we can see that God is utterly consistent, even when at time He appears erratic. All the more reason to be ever vigilant to distinguish between placing our trust in our "speculations" of what God "might do" and the "facts" of what God "did do" and "is doing", knowing that He is the same "yesterday, today and forever". We can do this by considering where our opinions have their origin, in the light of scripture, out of our vital union with Him (Heb 4:9-13), be they "eternal" or "internal", "heavenly" or "carnal", as opposed to "good" or "evil", "efficient" or "wasteful".

"The man who lives under the sign of the tree of life, cannot know of himself, that which he must know, and which has therefore to be told him (to be explained and interpreted to him). The reality of Divinely given life speaks for itself. The possibility of Divine likeness does not do so. It obviously does not commend itself. Man has to be told specifically and in fact is told that from that tree he must not eat. It's not an opinion. Not an evaluation he makes, he needs to be told, and to receive the word that comes to him, from God, as being the statement of the Lord. This is the relationship that God has wanted to establish, from the first in the garden, that man is not to make his own independent assessments or determinations by the operation of his own mind, which is eating of the wrong tree, but that he recognises that there are things that he can not know." - Karl Barth (as quoted by Art Katz in "Gleanings From The Garden")

Knowledge that may have been beneficial in leading us out of yesterday's defective opinion, may be merely a "lesser deception" compared to the undiluted truth that God is leading us toward. Therefore that same knowledge that helped us I can be toxic to our walk tomorrow.

How then can we be safe from deception? Paul mentions a healthy attitude, "...let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged" (Rom 3:4). In other words if you never allow yourself the luxury of thinking that "any man" has a handle on truth, but always consider the possibility of them being wrong. Be prepared to judge their words in the light of scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17), their behaviour in the light of the "fruit of the Spirit" (Mat 7:15-20; Gal 5:22-24) and the "spirit" of their work (1 John 4:1-6). If we do this, then the possibility that our words and deeds will stand under scrutiny will be greatly increased. [A thorough study of 2 Timothy and 1 John would be most beneficial in this area.]

Note, that it is not my purpose here to turn people into "heresy hunters", but to exhort cautiousness in our choice of who we entrust with our spiritual input. It is possible that God can conceal truth in the most unlikely places, however it is unwise to run with a philosophy that says that "every bush is burning, but only those who take of their shoes will hear the voice from the flames". There are times that the our shoes must be left on in order to "shake the dust off" them (let those who have "ears to hear" these comments hear them). Remember, it is not about how God "can" speak and what He "would" say (speculation), but how He "is" speaking and what He "is" saying (fact).

Bear in mind that you are to judge yourself by the same standard, knowing that you come under the "every man" category also. Even Christ rebuked someone for referring to him as "Good Master" saying "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (Mat 19:16-17). We all know that the "punch line of this joke" is that Christ is God, but because this young man wasn't privy to this revelation, Christ applied this "eternal standard" which was later to be revealed to us through Paul's epistle (Rom 3:4). Such was his integrity. If Christ would apply this principle to himself, then who among the rest of us under the category of "every man" is exempt from being known as a "liar" apart from where his words are consistent with God's?

Why would people speculate?

Overcaution (Deut 12:32)

Some people form a hypothetical "safety barrier" around that which is clearly presented in Scripture as sin (eg. Gen 3:1-3 - Eve adds "neither shall ye touch" to God's command to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge).

Seduction (2 Tim 3:13)

Some seek to avoid responsibility to obey by rationalising. In reality they are oftentimes deceiving themselves (eg. 1 Sam 15:13-15 - King Saul justifies his allowing Amalekites to survive).

Arrogance (Is 5:20-23)

Some fail to recognise that their "righteousness is as filthy rags" (eg. 2 Sam 6:6-7 - Uzzah touches the ark to steady it, considering his hands to be cleaner than the dirt; Acts 8:18-23 - Simon the sorcerer offers money to receive the Holy Spirit).

Whether by overcaution, seduction or arrogance, speculation tends to result in self preservation. Consider the words of Jesus in Mat 16:24-25, "...If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

Being speculative is like riding a bike with training wheels. As one is starting out, confidence is increased due to increased stability. However, as they get used to riding the bike they find that the training wheels reduce maneuverability. Then as speed is increased the wheels become dangerous as the rider attempts to lean into corners. The same training wheels that helped at the onset, now hinder greatly. This "speculative protection" denies the realisation that there is "no good thing" in human flesh unless God put it there (Rom 7:18). Mankind is in need of "total redemption" and there is nothing that can be added to it (Deut 12:32). Any attempt to do so "adulterates" so "great a salvation".

So what's the answer? First, acknowledge and confess your sin calling it as He calls it (1 John 1:8-10) It's okay to disagree with God's word, if you're prepared to admit that your argument is wrong and choose God's side in your disagreement (Ps 73:25-26). Secondly, remain as humble as a child in the midst of adults (Mat 18:1-4) You don't have all the answers and that's okay because if you did, they'd probably be wrong. Thirdly, see things as they are, as opposed to how they "should be" (Prov 3:7). God knows how things are and doesn't need us to tell Him how "we think" they should be. And lastly, trust the Lord as the only one adequate to guide you through the mess that is this fallen creation, one step at a time (Ps 73:23-24): in thought (Is 55:7-9), word (Mat 10:19-20) and deed(Pr 3:5-6).

In short, in the light of all we have considered "I beseech you ... by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom 12:1-2)

Does this describe you?

"His one purpose is the glory of God. And he's heard Christ say, 'If any man doesn't take up his cross, he cannot be my disciple.' And he's gladly gone with Christ out to the cross. And there he's brought his ego and his ambition and his vanity and his pride and all the things that once motivated him and controlled him to the cross. He has no plan and no purpose but the glory of Christ. This is the one that has heard Christ say, 'If any man does not forsake all he hath, he cannot be my disciple.' He doesn't give a seventh of his time and a tenth of his money. He holds everything as Christ's. All is Christ's." - Paris Reidhead (Agree)

If it is not, then why is that?

Recommended Reading and Listening:

"The Spirit of Truth" (text) Art Katz and Paul Vaulk

"Spirit and Truth Together" (audio) David Pawson

"The Voice of Reason" (audio) A.W Tozer

"The Right Use of the Law" (audio) Paris Reidhead

"The Timelessness of God" (audio) Ian Thomas

"Beyond Categories" (audio) Art Katz

"Gleanings From the Garden" (audio) Art Katz

"Agree" (audio) Paris Reidhead

"Prophetic Reality vs. Fantasy" (audio) Art Katz

"Romans 6 to 8" (text) Norman Grubb

"Apostolic Foundations" (text) Art Katz

"The Normal Christian Life" (text) Watchman Nee

"The Meaning of Life" (audio) Norman Grubb

Most audio listed is available free for download from with few exceptions. If you are experiencing any difficulties locating any of these materials feel free to contact the author at and I will be happy to assist you if I can.

©2006 Aaron Ireland - Non-commercial (free) distribution is both permitted and encouraged provided this notice appears.