Don’t Follow The [RELIGIOUS] Crowd

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            Have you ever heard someone say “Everyone else is doing it”? It’s an interesting statement. Often this is a declaration made by those who think that because people are doing a particular thing it must be the acceptable thing to do. Why else would a majority be doing it if it wasn’t the right thing to do? So is the ideology of the world.

            One of the things that has long baffled me about modern-day “Christians” is when they go along with what everyone else is doing. There is a mentality among religious folks today that seems to indicate a belief that if God does not smite someone with His immediate wrath it must be a show of approval that whatever they are doing meets His acceptance.

            But doesn’t it seem that the logical way to know what Christianity is all about is to follow the lead of those who have been “Christians” longer than you have? After all, when you begin any new undertaking, be it a new job or a hobby or something else, you are taught how to do the involved tasks and duties by someone who is already skilled in that area. So it would stand to reason that the same would hold true of Christianity, right?

Following God, however, is an interesting thing. The ways of God and His Kingdom are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive to everything else in this sin-cursed world we live in. You can’t learn biblical faith from just following other “Christians”—you have to learn it from The Bible and God’s Holy Spirit. In fact, because the Kingdom is the opposite of the world, it seems much of the time the reason God may have allowed the “modern church” to develop is so the true Believers would have a model of what not to do. So join me on a short journey as we look at the dangers of doing whatever you see everyone else doing, including, and perhaps especially, those in Churches who claim to be saved.

Taking Context Out Of Context

Crowd 1            So much of the time when I hear people addressing problems and concerns with doctrinal errors they refer to a unique and powerful word: context. But as I was sitting and contemplating on this word I started to ponder a question in my mind: Is it possible to take the word “context” and use it out of context itself?

            Context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms that can be fully understood and assessed. Taking something out of context, in relation to a literary work, would mean that you use a word or phrase taken out of the larger body and apply a meaning to it that is not in harmony with the overall message from which the word or phrase was taken. This can prove very problematic when Scripture or even statements from religious teachings of Christianity outside of The Bible are used in an out of context manner.

            But what about this idea of using “context” itself out of context? What do I mean by that? Well, as the thought came into my mind I was struck by a plethora of examples I see all the time where people use the term “context” in such a way as to justify something that they should not be doing, particularly in regard to Scripture and the practicing of the faith. Let me give you a couple of examples that might help clarify where I am going with this.

            In the past I have spoken on numerous very specific topics that involve individual commandments, such as the food laws (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14), the Feasts of Yahweh (Leviticus 23), and even The Sabbath Day (Genesis 2, Exodus 20).

            Another such commandment is that found in Leviticus 19:28 where a prohibition against tattoos is offered. I have covered this matter in much greater detail in a message titled The Mark Of God, if you would like to get a deeper understanding of why I stand where I do on the matter you can find it in that message either before continuing on here or after you have finished reading this article. What I want to point out here is that all of the “Christians” who favor the practice of getting tattoos claim that they have studied out this passage, as well as the very small number of other verses related to the matter. They have then concluded that there is a context to the statement in Leviticus 19:28 that limits the prohibition to a certain time in history or to a more specific practice of getting a tattoo or marking on your body “for the dead” (as a part of pagan ancestral worship) or as some ancient form of witchcraft. As such, they will argue that getting a tattoo as a form of expressing your faith in Yeshua—such as having a Bible verse, a cross or some other Christian symbol, or a picture of the traditional “face of Jesus” tattooed on some part of your body—is perfectly acceptable because it is “outside of the context” of Leviticus 19:28.

            This all sounds really good when you sit and listen to someone present on it, especially if you want to follow the modern trend, even among “Christians”, to get a tattoo. There are, however, a couple of major problems with this. First of all, there is no absolute certainty or even agreement among leading scholars that such a context exists. Second, there are other contextual arguments that must be weighed against this and they indicate a very different conclusion on that matter (this is all discussed in my aforementioned article). Lastly, considering both of these points together, it presents a huge question that hangs over the head of those who choose to engage in this practice: What if you’re wrong?

            You see, if the “Christians” who are going out and getting tattoos are wrong, then they are wrong in outright defiance to a pretty clear commandment against getting them, and that commandment is right out of God’s Torah. This means that being wrong about something like this would result in such a person risking being told by God Himself at the judgment, “Depart from Me, I never knew you, worker of LAWLESSNESS.” That word LAWLESSNESS, as I have pointed out in the past, literally means “Torahlessness” or “someone who does not keep God’s Torah”.

            Since the plain commandment against getting a tattoo is found in Torah and any “context” in the passage that would override the plain commandment has to be read into it, those who choose to do this are gambling with God’s commandments and may be rendering a context that is itself out of context. Remember, the overall context of The Bible is to obey The Bible. So, rendering a context to a commandment that overrides the context of simple obedience would be taking context out of context.

            Another example that I think illustrates this very well is a scenario with a friend I have who is very knowledgeable in The Word of God but also has a fascination with secular movies. Now, to be clear, I don’t have a problem with all cultural entertainment, including some secular movies. But it is very obvious that many such forms of entertainment in this category are not in harmony with the way Scripture says we should live and what we should be entertained by.

            Such was the case with one movie I noticed he was talking about going to see. It is a movie released by the Walt Disney Corporation titled Malificent. It is a film about a witch dressed in all black with “devil horns” on her head. In promotional material for the movie a song was playing in the background with lyrics stating “must be the season of the witch”. Clearly, based on the promotional trailer of the movie it did not sound like something a follower of Yeshua should be attracted to. But my friend, upon someone confronting him about it, said: “Context, context, context”.

            His argument, it seemed, was that this is the backstory of the villainess from the famous 1959 Disney animated film Sleeping Beauty. Therefore, since this was the witch from a children’s cartoon movie about a princess where the villainess was clearly portrayed as the “bad guy” in the movie, it must be OK “understanding the context” to go and watch this very dark movie seemingly tailored more toward adults who grew up with Disney cartoons where the main character is no longer the good princess but the evil witch.

            Let me help you understand why this line of thinking is very dangerous and can easily have you crossing the line of what is acceptable and unacceptable to God. The Bible speaks about Satan, right? Clearly he is a central character throughout Scripture and, much like the witch in Sleeping Beauty, is portrayed as a villain, the ultimate villain of this world for that matter. So, because Satan is in The Bible, does that mean that we as Believers should go out and get ourselves copies of The Satanic Bible, study its teachings, and apply those beliefs taught in it to our lives and our faith?

            Of course most people would think such a suggestion ludicrous, as they should. But how is that really so different from wanting to argue that watching the witch movie is OK simply because the witch was originally a character—the “bad guy” figure—in a classic children’s cartoon? And lest you say it’s not really the same thing, I’ll remind you that your actions influence others. You might not go out and get The Satanic Bible, but what if your watching the witch movie or something similar caused someone newer in the faith to actually think such a thing is OK?

            You see, it so happens that I also engaged in some discussions with someone who was mentored as a student by my friend. This person held a very liberal view of Christianity and seemingly blended their faith with all sorts of other religions. At one point I saw on their social media account that they were celebrating a Hindu festival, even dressing the part. On another occasion this person shared a picture that looked like they were engaged in some sort of actual witchcraft. Now, while this all took place before my friend was promoting the witch movie, it makes you wonder if other actions of his or other movies he may have expressed interest in may have influenced this other person to believe that if it’s OK to watch a movie like that it must be OK to celebrate a pagan Hindu festival—outright literal idolatry.

            But we can just say “Context, context, context”, right? Let me ask you a serious question: When you are standing before God, and you WILL stand before God, and He looks at you with fire in His eyes and asks you about your tattoos or the movies you watched or taking your kids “trick-or-treating” on because the local “church” was even conducting some Halloween alternative, or anything else, are you going to look Him in the eyes, with the gates of heaven on one side and the pit to hell on the other, and say, “But God, context context, context”? I doubt that’s going to fly. Neither will “But everyone else in church was doing it” or “They never taught me about THAT in church” for that matter.

But, Everyone Else Is Doing It

Crowd 2Do not follow a crowd to do evil.
~Exodus 23:2a (TLV)

            Many today seem to take exception to quoting partial verses, but there are times like this where it is quite acceptable. You see, while there is more to verse 2, this is a stand-alone declaration within the context of the text. In some cases like this, because such statements seemingly come out of nowhere, scholars sometimes think they were later added to the record. Of course, I am not necessarily endorsing such theories about Scripture, merely pointing out that this may be one such statement.

            Exodus 23 is a very interesting chapter. It begins with a statement about not lying and not being slanderous. Then out of nowhere it gives us this very short but powerful piece of advice against following a crowd to do evil. From there it goes into a number of statements about doing the right thing and then moves into teachings on Sabbath and the Feasts of God before moving on.

            So, contextually this statement says what it means and means what it says as a stand-alone phrase. Don’t follow people to do what God considers evil. Simple. Yet so much of the time I see “Christians” who never read their Bible guiding their life off what they see other “Christians”—who also never read their Bible—doing. You would think that this would be viewed as an absurd practice among people who claim to believe in the God of The Bible. Yet, it is the common practice among “Christians” today. But much like the writer of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun.

            If you proceed to read through The Bible, looking at it from a bigger picture bird’s eye view, over and over and over again we see story after historically recorded story where everyone was doing what was evil in God’s eyes while only a few people, in some cases only one person, was doing what was right in God’s eyes. We read these accounts over and over again, from cover to cover, and yet people today somehow think Christianity is different and what Christians do must be right because they are Christians and they go to Church faithfully.

            Look at Genesis 6. It describes all of humanity as embracing evil. Then we get to verse 8 and it says that Noah found favor/grace in God’s eyes. One guy. It doesn’t even say his family found favor with God, just Noah. Sure, we assume from the rest of the story that his wife, his sons, and his sons’ wives followed his lead in doing the right thing. But in verse 8 it puts everything on this one man who did not follow a crowd to do evil. And this one man and his immediate family are the only people God allowed to live when He rebooted Creation.

            Many scholars estimate that the human population at the time of the flood could have been in the tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or with longer lifespans considered as much as four billion. To put that in perspective, today’s population is between seven and eight billion people. And God only saved EIGHT PEOPLE out of a potential four billion. Why don’t you take a moment and ponder that. What are the odds you are going to make it to heaven if you are not radically on fire for God—a complete religious fanatic—as a result of receiving Yeshua as your Messiah? Do you think you will find the same favor in God’s eyes that Noah found if you are embracing ungodly worldliness?

            Then we come to Abraham. Starting in Genesis 11 we find humanity once again embracing evil and this one guy, who was born and raised in a pagan community, decided that he would follow the call of God instead of doing what everyone else was doing. He did not follow a crowd to do evil, but responded instead to the voice of God. This man became the father of God’s chosen people and to this day is venerated with the highest levels of respect among both the Jewish and Christian peoples.

            There is also Abraham’s nephew Lot, whose family were the only righteous people left in Sodom and Gomorrah. God said he would spare the city if He could find even ten righteous people. Lot and his immediate family, like Noah, were the only ones spared when God rained down fire and brimstone on the place. Then Lot’s wife looked back because she didn’t want to let go of the worldliness and she too was consumed in the wrath. Lot may have lost his wife in the ordeal, but he did not follow a crowd to do evil.

            We can also follow so many of the kings of Israel as listed in the books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. After the reign of Solomon, when he did what was against Torah by marrying women from pagan nations and allowing them to bring their cultural idolatry with them, we see the natural assimilation of this idolatry into Israel. From there we read about king after king and all the people of Israel doing what was evil in God’s eyes by raising up Asherah poles, burning incense in high places, molding golden calves, and building altars to Baal. Only a couple of Israel’s kings stood against these practices, the majority of the kings and the people engaged in what they certainly considered “harmless cultural traditions”. Very few did not follow a crowd to do evil.

            Think about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, three young Hebrew men who refused to do what everyone else was doing. Surely you are familiar with their story, it’s a popular section of Scripture recorded in Daniel 3. The pagan king of Babylon made a giant statue of himself and ordered everyone to bow to it. Everyone did, including all of the other Israelite captives—just like how so many who go to Christian Churches today bow down to the edicts of modern society, even though they conflict with the commandments of God. These three men, however, did not follow a crowd to do evil and as a result were thrown into a fiery furnace. But, as we know, God protected them because they were the crazy, radical, fanatical, extremist few who decided to stand for God when everyone else was bowing to the culture and embracing worldliness.

            We also see a similar account with Daniel from the sixth chapter of the same book. A different king, Darius, was in power and corrupt men persuaded him to make an edict that forbade anyone to pray to any god or man, including Yahweh the true God, except for Darius for 30 days and those who did not follow this “law” would be sentenced to execution in the den where the lions were kept. Daniel continued to do the right thing, he did not follow a crowd to do evil, and was cast into this den of starved lions. But God protected him too and Daniel was brought out the next day without even a scratch.

            We can also turn to the story of the Maccabees. While not accepted as the canon of Scripture, this is still a very important historical record that tells us of the restoration of Yahweh’s Temple in preparation for the coming of Messiah. One of the fascinating elements of this record is that the pagan rulers of that time were forcing the Hebrew people under their domain to eat pork, and if they did not they would be put to death. 2 Maccabees 6:18-31 describes a priest named Eleazar who refused to eat the swine’s flesh and was executed. It says that his death was an example of nobility and a memorial of courage. Then in the next chapter a mother and her seven sons were taken and being tortured in an effort to make them eat pork. One of the brothers said, “For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.” For this act of defiance they cut out his tongue, scalped him, and cut off his hands and feet in front of his mother and six brothers. Then they took him, still alive, and fried him in a pan.

            The story goes on to describe how the brothers were tortured one by one in like manner, until they got to the youngest son. Then it was no longer just a matter of a refusal to defy God’s Torah and eat pork. Now Antiochus, the evil pagan king, offered the lad great riches and a place of high honor in the kingdom. The offer was no longer “eat the pork and you get to live, refuse and you will die.” The new offer was “eat the pork and not only will you live but you will live with wealth and power, but refuse and you will die.” What happened next is mind-blowing. It was the mother who intervened, having already watched her other six sons brutally tortured and killed, who told her last and youngest son to embrace death, but do not defy God. Today’s “Christian mother”, in contrast, seems to just want their children to fit in with the godless society of the day. She—the mother—said, “Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers.” So, having refused the pork and the riches and power this youngest son was tortured more than all the others before being slain. Then they killed the mother. Many were those who chose to eat pork and live rather than obey God. But Eleazer and this unnamed family of eight did not follow a crowd to do evil.

            And what about the Apostles, most of whom were the direct disciples of Yeshua during his earthly ministry? Traditions and legends tell us that Peter was crucified upside down, Andrew was crucified, Thomas was pierced with a spear, Philip was executed, Matthew was stabbed to death, James was stoned and clubbed to death, Mathais was burned, Paul was beheaded, and John was exiled to an island after unsuccessful attempts to boil him in oil. These were the men who paved the way for the new covenant in Yeshua. They were men who lived in obedience to God’s Torah, following the ways of Yeshua their Messiah, and refusing to follow a crowd to do evil.

            There are so many others as well of which I cannot take time to share. I am reminded of men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who did not follow a crowd to do evil when Nazi Germany was executing 6 million people for the sole reason that they were Jewish—God’s chosen people. Likewise we have William Tyndale who decided to translate The Bible into English so everyone could read it. He was deemed a heretic and executed! Even Luther, despite that I have a lot of issues with his beliefs, had enough sense to know that the majority of religious people were wrong and he needed to take a stand.

The Cultural Assimilation Of Ancient Israel

Crowd 3            Having discussed those who stood against the crowd, often as mere individuals among the masses of the lawless ones, I want to turn our attention to those very people who did not do what was right in the eyes of God. They are, throughout Scripture, the majority of the people.

            Although I mentioned such communities as that of Noah’s time, the period of Israel’s Babylonian captivity, and other time periods I want to zero in on what I mentioned regarding the period of the kings in Israel/Judah. You see, it is at this time that we see a very clear picture of cultural assimilation as a result of allowing people from other nations to become a part of Israel without conversion to the ways of Israel’s God.

            This story begins with the reign of Solomon, the man chosen to build God’s Temple in Jerusalem. In 1 Kings 11 it is described that he took for himself wives of foreign nations, something that is prohibited by Torah, and then opened the door for them to bring their pagan cultures with them. Yes, the record draws attention to their pagan gods, but ultimately those gods are simply an extension of the overall pagan culture that each wife brought with them. And Solomon had a lot of wives according to the record, roughly one thousand. I encourage you to take time to read 1 Kings 11, but for the sake of space I’ll not cite it here. In commenting on all of this Nancy Nam Hoon Tan, in her book The ‘Foreignness’ of the Foreign Woman in Proverbs 1-9: A Study of the Origin and Development of a Biblical Motif, says:

1 Kgs 11:1 specifies the ethnic origins of King Solomon’s נשים נכריות: [foreign women] from the nations of Egypt, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Sidon, and from the Hittites. The DtrH [Deuteronomistic History] notes significantly that they are the very peoples whose women Yahweh prohibits Israel from marrying (v. 2). Solomon’s apostasy is shown as starting with the problem that he could not help loving the many foreign women, and collecting them in his harem. There are no further details given about the women in Solomon’s harem, except some references to his Egyptian wife, a daughter of Pharaoh Neco (1 Kgs 3:1; 9:16, 24) and his son Rehoboam, who was born to him by Naamah an Ammonite (1 Kgs 14:21, 31). There are also no details of the other children he may have had through this large harem, although we are told that he did give two daughters away in marriages to district governors.

The DtrH accuses Solomon’s foreign wives of turning his heart away from Yahweh ot other gods (1 Kgs 11:4): not only does he build high places for the foreign gods of his wives, but he also participates in worship of them (vv. 5, 8). As if the reputable and chief foreign deities of Ashtoreth of the Sidonians, Milcom of the Ammonites and Chemosh of the Moabites, are not enough (vv. 5, 7), the DtrH adds that Solomon does the same for his other foreign wives (v. 8). In view of his large harem of one thousand wives altogether (v. 3), the DtrH implies that there are uncountable deities being worshipped and their high places established all over the kingdom.

            It is from this chapter that we see a chain reaction begin where many of the kings to take the throne in both Israel and Judah (as the kingdom split after Solomon’s reign) did what was evil in God’s eyes. We see descriptions of them molding golden calves, building altars to Baal, burning incense in high places, erecting Asherah poles, passing their children through the lap of Molech, and numerous other things. So often we look at this record and view Israel as being engaged in gross idolatry, and while they technically were it was ultimately a result of a cultural assimilation that began with Solomon.

            Think about it for a little bit. Solomon had roughly one thousand wives, many of them from pagan nations that he was never supposed to marry in the first place. They all bring their pagan culture and pagan gods with them and receive permission to worship them IN ISRAEL. These women had children that they raised to worship these gods, and so now you had Israelite children being raised together with heathen children—does that sound vaguely familiar, American Christian? Everyone had to get along because, after all, these were the children of the king’s wives, so they had to ☪☮🕉☯✝ (COEXIST) with each other—do you see where this is going yet?

            Then we notice something very interesting, also noted by Tan, that the successor to Solomon’s throne in Judah was his son Rehoboam, a young man born to one of Solomon’s foreign wives. Something interesting is seen going forward in the kingdom of Judah from this point forward. There were a lot of kings who did what was evil in the eyes of God and then there were others who came along and did what was right; tearing down the idols and the altars to pagan gods.

            When we look at these kings, there is a potential trend that presents itself. While there is not enough information in The Bible to draw an absolute conclusion on the matter, it appears that those kings who did what was evil in God’s eyes were born of foreign women from the pagan nations and those kings who attempted to restore Israel to the worship of Yahweh alone were born of Israelite women native to Judah. But there are, as I said, key pieces of information missing to draw an absolute conclusion on this. For example, there is no record of the names of the mother of Asa, who did what was right in God’s eyes (1 Kings 15:11), or of Ahaz, who did not do what was right in God’s eyes (2 Kings 16:2).

            Something else worth noting is that king Jehoiachin was the only king of Judah that we know for sure was both born of a mother native to Jerusalem and did what was evil in God’s eyes—carrying on the pagan worship of his fathers (though Ahaziah was born to an Israeli woman, from the northern kingdom, that had long deviated into gross idolatry of its own). Interestingly, it was Jehoiachin who surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, ending the reign of the kings in Judah (aside from Zedekiah who was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar as a pawn during the transition). It’s almost as if this was “the straw to break the camel’s back”, the corruption of a king born to a native woman perhaps causing God to say, “That does it, I can’t put up with this anymore,” and removing His hand of grace and mercy over Jerusalem for a season.

The Cultural Assimilation Of Modern Christianity

Crowd 4A new moral power will flow back into the Church when we stop preaching social adjustment and begin to preach social repudiation and cross carrying. Modern Christians hope to save the world by being like it, but it will never work. The Church’s power over the world springs out of her unlikeness to it, never from her integration into it.
~A.W. Tozer
(taken from the book CULTURE: Living As Citizens Of Heaven On Earth – Collected Insights From A.W. Tozer)

            What we need to do is come to our senses as Christians—or Believers if you prefer as I know the term “Christian” has become less desirable as a badge of identity to those truly sold out to Yeshua today—and realize that the state of the modern “Christian Church” is really not that far different from that of ancient Israel throughout the record of the kings as documented from 1 Kings 11 forward to the end of 2 Kings.

            When we read through the record of the kings we view it as some type of gross idolatry. I mean, these guys, and all the people who followed their lead, were worshiping pagan gods. They were raising Asherah poles and building altars to Baal. They were passing their children through the fires of Molech. Think about it: These people were doing some really bad things, right?

            Do you think that God’s people with the history of the exodus and the miracles that God had shown just woke up one day and said “Hey, I got an idea: Let’s start worshiping other gods! Wouldn’t that be fun?” As I have pointed out, this was a result of generations of cultural assimilation that resulted from the invitation of pagan cultures into the land of Israel. So, what do you think happens when Christians invite pagan cultures into the “Christian Church”?

            I’ll tell you what happens. The “Christian Church”, as a result, today celebrates secular-pagan festivals—filled with traditions of other religions—like Christmas, Easter, and even Halloween instead of the Biblical Feasts of Yahweh listed in Leviticus 23—the Spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost and the Fall Feasts of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles, along with the minor Biblical festivals of Purim and Hanukkah (and possibly others like Tu B’Shvat, a great “Earth Day” or “Arbor Day” type celebration based on Torah principles). Christians today engage with the culture, drawn to the gods of other religions that appear as comic book superheroes and cultural icons like Thor (a Norse pagan god), Wonder Woman (inspired by Hippolyta, a Greek goddess), Aquaman (inspired by Neptune/Poseiden the Greek-Roman god of the seas), and Santa Claus (the Norse pagan god Odin). These are the things that have happened by Christianity’s blending with the surrounding culture.

            In the books of the Kings we find the statement repeated over and over again, in some form: And king _______ did what was evil in the eyes of God. He raised Asherah poles, built altars to Baal, and burned incense in the high places. Today, the same would be said of many “Christians”, pastors and parishioners alike: And Pastor Worldliness did what was evil in the eyes of God. He led his “Church” in the celebration of Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. And he persuaded the people to do this by saying it was “bait” to attract the lost. And Brother Backslidden and Sister Compromise did what was evil in the eyes of God. They worshiped Thor, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and the witch from the Disney movie and never read their Bible.

            The modern preacher will look at the stories in The Bible and boldly declare, metaphorically, that we need to come out of Egypt, come out of Babylon, come out of Rome. But then they assimilate their Church practices to fit American culture or whatever other worldly modern culture may be relevant to them. They tell you to come out, but it’s all a smokescreen. Embracing worldliness is the same today as it was in ancient Egypt, ancient Babylon, ancient Rome, and all other ancient cultures that ancient Israel was commanded against assimilating with.

            Let me ask you a question, “Christian Pastor”: How in the world do you think you can win the world by offering the world what the world already offers the world? Do you really think that the way to lead people to Yeshua is to give them what they already get from Satan?

            QUIT BEING STUPID!!!

            Does the “American Church” just simply not understand that the world does the world way bigger and better than the Church will ever do the world? Not to mention what 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” You know, the opposite of love is hate, and so we could render the latter part of that verse: The person who loves the world hates God. I like what Francis Chan says in his wonderful “must read” book Letters To The Church:

Our job is to reveal God to people. He is present in His Word, fellowship, Communion, and prayer. Rather than creating our own pep rallies, our calling is to simply put Him on display and watch as He draw people to Himself. If they are not interested in Him, what do we think we’re accomplishing by trying to lure them by other means? We have to accept the fact that not everyone is interested in God. We just need to make sure that it’s really God we are putting on display. Otherwise we run the risk of people attending our services who have merely fallen in love with us.

            Sadly the use of worldly attractions and gimmicks today runs deep. Churches will offer every worldly thing they can concoct—from circuses to carnivals to bingo nights and so many other things—in their “service planning meetings”, having surveyed what is popular in the modern demonized culture and deciding how to tailor it to be “a little more Christian” in its presentation. And if they offer something actually Biblical, like the Feasts of Yahweh, they only serve as some “gimmick” to raise an offering. I have literally watched as some ministries twist the meaning of the Feasts into a “special offering” (of money, not what was actually offered for the Feasts Biblically) while they carry on with their demonic Satan Claus and Easter rabbit parading around their “Church” during the culturally acceptable holidays. And if that’s not bad enough they will even offer a “Trunk-or-Treat” Halloween alternative to celebrate the most Satanic festival of the entire pagan year.

            If only they knew that they have a Biblical alternative to Halloween, it’s called the Feast of Tabernacles and it’s an eight day celebration called “The Season Of Our Joy” because it’s a time of crazy praising and rejoicing. Hanukkah is said to be modeled after Tabernacles, which is why it too is eight nights of intense celebration. You know, you don’t have to give “Church kids” a demonized costume party as an “alternative” to the world’s Satan-festival. And if you really feel the need to give the kids a costume party, one of the traditions of the biblical festival of Purim is to dress in costumes—and Purim is on the entire opposite side of the annual calendar from Halloween. Just think of it like this: Purim=PURE, Halloween=HELL. You can do Bible things in Bible ways. Imagine what could happen if Christian Churches actually started doing what is in The Bible instead of trying to fit in with the demonic culture around it! Perhaps then we would have experiences like that which Witness Lee describes in is short booklet Preaching the Gospel on the College Campuses:

When we go to the campuses, we have to go by the Spirit. In the book of Acts, the early believers did everything by the Spirit. We have to exercise our faith to believe that, according to the New Testament revelation, we are in the Spirit. First Corinthians 12:13 says that “in one Spirit we were all baptized.” … The power to preach the gospel is in the Spirit, and we all have been baptized in the Spirit. We should not be concerned about failing. Because we have the Spirit, we have the power to boldly preach the gospel.

In contrast, I have to point out the shortcomings of the present situation in the charismatic movement. In charismatic meetings, they sometimes use rock music, dramas, and all kinds of performances to attract people. These are all gimmicks. The use of these gimmicks shows that the power of the Spirit is lacking. If we have the real power of the Spirit, we do not need any gimmicks. The early disciples did not use any gimmicks, but they had power (Acts 1:8; 4:33; 6:8, 10). On the island of Taiwan, no Christian work can compare or compete with the work of the Lord’s recovery in the preaching of the gospel. There is no use of gimmicks, but the power of the Spirit is there.

Any proposal to use gimmicks to preach the gospel is a strong proof that we have not exercised faith. If I only exercised my mentality in the speaking of my messages, my speaking would be poor. I must exercise my spirit to believe that I am in the baptism in the Spirit and that the Lord will speak through me.

You do not need any gimmicks to preach the gospel…

I have seen many newly saved ones who were bold, strong, and powerful in the preaching of the gospel. I have also seen ones who became old in their experience of the Lord. When they preached the gospel, they did not have any power. Then they turned to gimmicks and exercised their cleverness to convince people. You do not need to use crafty words. As long as you are in the Spirit, you should be frank and strict with your words.

We all have to be rescued from the concept that we need gimmicks. This thought has to go. We do not need any gimmicks like rock music, movies, or dramas. The demons are not afraid of gimmicks. The demons are afraid of our faith. If we exercise our faith, we will have the power to preach the gospel.

            If you have never heard of Witness Lee, he was a ministry partner with the more well-known Watchman Nee. Both led powerful ministries in the Asian nations, Lee having led hundreds of thousands to faith in Messiah throughout Taiwan. The book I just cited from was published in 1989. Things are far worse in “churches” today.

            Romans 8:29 tells us that we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Messiah Yeshua. Romans 12:2 then admonishes us to not be conformed to this world, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Two categories of conformity are mentioned, one being that which we are called and even predestined toward and the other that which we are compelled and commanded to avoid. Why, then, do so many Christians, the overwhelming majority, seek conformity to the ways of the world, shunning the ways of the One they claim to be their God?

            Leonard Ravenhill, that great powerhouse for revival of a previous generation, once said, “The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church, grieved at the blindness of the Church, grieved at the corruption in the Church, grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church.” There’s an old saying that says you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Some may be inclined to think that if you offer that which appeals to the flesh the people will come, but if you try pushing the rigors of religion alone it will never attract the masses. What they don’t realize is that you can catch just as many flies with dung as you can with honey. Stick to the truth alone—The Bible, the name of Yeshua, and the power of the Holy Spirit in demonstration—and you will lead people to The Land of Milk and Honey. Offer worldly attractions to draw people in and you will lead them to the cesspool of worldly filth—which is, quite frankly, what many of today’s “churches” have become.

            So often I am left in awe of the “Christian Church” wondering if Christians actually even believe The Bible at all. Of course, it’s certainly a challenge to believe a book you’ve not read, and statistically most Christians will never have read The Bible in its entirety even one time in their entire life. Do you know that one of the top statements I hear from people who have begun to follow Torah, regardless if they have taken to a Messianic theology, the more controversial Hebrew Roots theology, or simply a Torah-positive but otherwise mainstream Christian theology is?

I used to do what all the other Christians do, but then I got a Bible and read it for myself. I could not find any of the things Christians are doing in their Churches in The Bible. And I found many things that The Bible says to do or not to do that are contrary to what Christians and Christian Churches do or don’t do.

            It should really bother us that we cannot find so many of the things done under the banner of “Christianity” in The Bible while simultaneously not being able to find so many of the things from The Bible being practiced in Christian Churches or in the lives of individual Christian people. Consider the following statements from the book Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna:

The normative practices of the first-century church were the natural and spontaneous expression of the divine life that indwelt the early Christians. And those practices were solidly grounded in the timeless principles and teachings of the New Testament. By contrast, a great number of the practices in many contemporary churches are in conflict with those biblical principles and teachings. When we dig deeper, we are compelled to ask: Where did the practices of the contemporary church come from? The answer is disturbing: Most of them were borrowed from pagan culture.

Does it surprise you that most of what we do in religious circles has no precedent in Scripture? This includes many of the activities within church services, the education and ordination of clergy, the routines commonly used in youth ministry, the methods of raising funds for ministry, the ways in which music is used in churches, even the presence and nature of church buildings.

            Just take some time and let that sink into your mind a little bit. So much of what is done at the typical church today is both not in harmony with what we read in The Bible and is rooted, in all likelihood, in the practices of pagan culture and, I might add, pagan religion. Could a religion be doing anything more backwards than what modern Christianity is doing?

            One thing that the authors of Pagan Christianity do point out after that first citation I gave is: “the fact that many of our church practices have pagan roots doesn’t make them wrong in themselves. But it does mean they are not sacrosanct.” If you are not familiar with the word sacrosanct it is basically another word for “holy”. I often find myself telling folks that we should always ask the question: Is it holy? And if something is not holy, we should really ask in all seriousness if we truly feel we need to have it as a part of our life and our faith.

            An easy example of this is our choices of music. We can easily identify music that is “holy” in that it is music that is produced for the specific purpose of worshiping God. Secular music does not do this, so it is not “holy”. So, with all of the songs you can find that would be “holy” in that they offer up worship to God, why would you want to listen to secular music at all and where would you find the time to listen to secular songs? Personally, I can’t understand why someone can claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit and still want to listen to music that is not holy. In the past I have tried to do this and I just never have felt totally comfortable listening to songs that praise the culture and world instead of songs that worship God. Sure, not every secular song is evil, many are just “good” songs about life or nature. But they are not holy, and that should matter even regarding songs that aren’t necessarily evil or recorded by people claiming to have sold their soul to the devil (as artists like Katy Perry, after being raised in a Christian home, has declared to have done).

            While it’s true that something originating from a pagan culture or even a pagan religion does not in itself make the thing wrong, there are many things that clearly are wrong BECAUSE they come out of pagan culture and religion. Take the various secular-pagan holidays and biblical holy days I have already mentioned. Are Christmas, Easter, and Halloween holy? Meaning, are these “holidays” set apart and sanctified in The Bible? Well, they are not even in The Bible, so how can they be set apart and sanctified? In other words, these “holidays” are not holy.

            In contrast, take the Feasts of Yahweh. Excluding the minor festivals of Purim and Hanukkah (as these are only endorsed in The Bible, nut not set apart as holy through a commandment to keep them), the Spring and Fall Feasts listed in Leviticus 23, among other places, are set apart and sanctified because keeping them is part of keeping Torah. The minor festivals are at least mentioned in The Bible, one instituted in the Book of Esther and the other mentioned in John’s Gospel. Indications are that Yeshua even celebrated both of these festivals, as He also clearly celebrated the commanded Feasts. This would mean that the Spring and Fall Feasts are set apart and sanctified by The Bible—they are holy—and even the minor festivals of Purim and Hanukkah, being mentioned in The Bible and likely celebrated by even The Messiah, may be considered set apart and sanctified (holy) but are certainly acceptable to celebrate regardless.

            Do you see the problem here? Almost every person on the planet today who claims to be a Christian celebrates “holidays” that are not set apart and sanctified by Scripture and are most likely rebranded from the festivals of pagan religions while they remain, for the most part, oblivious to actual holy celebrations that God gave us. I know for the sake of illustrating this point I am putting much focus on one topic, but the reality is that this applies to so much of modern Church practice.

            As Viola/Barna have pointed out, most of what we do today as Christians has developed from adopting pagan cultural and religious customs and practices while very little comes from The Bible. In addition to that, so much of what The Bible says we are supposed to do—like keeping God’s Feasts, keeping The Sabbath (on The Sabath, not Sunday), not eating unclean things, and so on—is foreign to the modern Christian to the point where many don’t even know that these things are even instituted by Scripture.

            Do you know that many Christians today think a refusal to eat pork is a Muslim religious practice? They don’t even know that The Bible is where this originates and that Muhammad took this principle, as he did with many others, from the teachings of Yahweh’s Torah. I have literally seen and heard Christians make very ignorant statements about Muslims and pork, apparently not realizing that it is from their Bible where the prohibition originates.

            We need men full of the power of God to stand against the culture instead of conforming to it and like Hezekiah, one of the righteous kings of Judah, who tore down the high places, smashed the pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles throughout the kingdom (2 Kings 18:4). We need bold prophets who, in like manner, will also stand up today and lead people to renounce things that are opposed to Scripture. Like it or not, all indications are that the celebrations of Christmas, Easter, and most definitely Halloween are idolatrous practices that God hates. Regardless of what religion has told you, eating unclean things like pork and shellfish is a violation of God’s Word. The Sabbath Day—the seventh day of the week, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday using a standard modern calendar—and the Spring/Fall Feasts of Yahweh stand as pillars of our faith and are to be celebrated instead of these “secular-pagan cultural alternatives”.

Your Lifestyle Declares What You Really Believe

Crowd 5You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. It is clear that you are a letter from Messiah delivered by us—written not with ink but with the Ruach of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
~2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (TLV)

            We’ve all heard this phrase at some point in our lives: Actions speak louder than words. That is the sentiment Paul expressed here in his second letter to the fellowship of Believers in Corinth. He was reminding them that what people see them doing has far greater power and influence than whatever they might be saying. And with regard to the masses who have not the spiritual maturity and discernment to see through the façade they will quickly be misled to think that if everyone at Church is doing it then is must be an acceptable Christian practice. A preacher can shout things like “Kingdom over culture” until they are blue in the face, but when they are offering every type of cultural attraction at their Church they can dream up, regardless if they are calling it “bait” to attract the lost or anything else, actions speak louder than words. Be careful, preacher, your actions can easily and quickly turn your words into lies—and all liars will have a place in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).

            So much of the time we forget that Yeshua told us about the tare. You’ve likely heard the parable before. If you have not, it is recorded in Matthew 13:24-30. A man planted a field of wheat, as the parable goes, and when he was asleep his enemy came in and sowed tares among the wheat. The workers wanted to go into the fields and gather the weeds, but the master of the field was concerned that doing so would also uproot the wheat. He decided it would be best to allow them to grow together and take care of the problem at the harvest. First the tares would be gathered and cast into the fire, and then the wheat would be harvested and prepared. Of the tares among God’s people, the late Pentecostal preacher B.H. Clendennen is quoted as saying: “Satan’s most effective weapon is not the modernist or the atheist; it is the tare. This imitation saint has rendered the church impotent in these last and wicked days.”

            I fear that we have come to a time in the history of the faith when the tares have overwhelmingly outnumbered the wheat. While there have always been tares among the wheat—Scripture declares it so—the state of the modern Christian faith indicates that as few as one half of one percent of those who claim to be Christians are indeed actually saved (see my article The Narrow Path: Part 1). And that statistic is based on research that was done roughly forty years ago, so it may be even less that a half percent of professing Christians today who will even stand a chance of being accepted into heaven.

            The tare is truly the enemy of the faith more than any other. It is the tares among the wheat that seek to lead others astray. And the worst part about it is that the tares do not even realize they are deceivers. They are integrated into the wheat field of the Body of Messiah, and they honestly believe that because they are in the Body they must be of the Body. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

            It is said that tares closely resemble wheat, even in the grain that they produce. Yet the tare is bitter in taste and can be poisonous. That could be a whole message on its own.

            How, then, can you identify a tare? Well, I believe it’s a relatively easy thing—if you have the true Ruach HaKodesh (Spirit of Holiness) living on the inside of you. In regard to people within Christian circles, wheat is holy; tares are not. Wheat are those people who seek out whatever they can find commanded in The Bible and obey it, tares are those who laugh at the commandments of God and say such things as “We’re not under The Law” and “I’m not Jewish”. Tares celebrate Christmas and Easter. Wheat keeps the Holy Feasts of Yahweh. Tares eat pork, shellfish, and all manner of things called an abomination in Leviticus 11. Wheat follows the biblical food laws. Tares think The Sabbath is a burden and a curse. Wheat knows The Sabbath is one of God’s greatest blessings to His people. Tares are all about integration and assimilation. Wheat are all about “Come out from among them, and be separate”.

I like what I recently heard one popular high profile preacher, Pastor Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, look into his television camera and boldly declare: “I AM A JEW! Grafted into the Body.” I stand in absolute agreement with the Pastor on this one, as any true Believer understands that they are, as the Apostle Paul declared, grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel and as such is drawn to those BIBLE THINGS that much of Christianity has deemed “outdated Jewish customs and rituals”.

Beware of the tare!

Tares are those preachers who say one thing from their platform but do another.

Tares are those church-gossips who talk bad of the “extremist” who actually lives according to The Bible or whose slanderous speech drives spouses apart.

Tares are those who use The Bible as a way to justify rejecting The Bible, twisting the words of Paul and others (2 Peter 3:15-16), telling you that we no longer have to obey certain commandments that just aren’t very popular among the masses.

Tares are the “worship leaders” who spend their time filling their spirits with the demonic messages of popular secular music and then releasing those same demon spirits, riding on the waves of sound, into the congregations of their Churches while “leading worship”.

Tares are the multitude of Christians in love with worldliness, ignoring the teaching of Scripture that says being in love with the world makes you an enemy of God and likening a love with worldliness from the professing Christian to adultery (James 4:4).

And if you are not careful, the tares will entwine their roots with whatever little bit of faith you might have and when they are pulled up to be cast into the fire, you will be pulled up with them and cast into the fire meant for them.

Beware of the tare!

Narrow Is The Gate

Crowd 6            I don’t know if I will ever truly understand how anyone can read The Bible and think that the right thing to do is to follow whatever the majority of the religious crowd is doing. More than anything what I have learned by “going to Church” is that it is at the Church where I can learn what not to do. And that not so much from the message by the preacher of the day, even if he or she is preaching true standards of holiness. It is, rather, from simply watching what other Christians—including that preacher—are doing. It is confirmation in my spirit when I see “Christians” doing things that outright oppose the commandments of the God they claim to serve that narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:14).

            I truly believe that most “Christians” I have met in my life aren’t actually saved. This includes a great many who seem to have a true zeal and passion for God. It includes a multitude of people who commit much time to whatever they consider “serving God”. It includes a good number of people who have traveled into remote places for “foreign missions”. It includes many who have taken up what they believe to be a call to preach the Gospel. Believe me when I tell you that a great many of these people will not be accepted into heaven’s gate. If they were, then Yeshua would be a liar for having said narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

            Do you know that the moment a person believes that they have accepted Yeshua (or “Jesus”) into their life as Messiah they are statistically less likely to make it to heaven than someone who has yet to accept Him? You might wonder how I can make such a statement, but it’s very simple actually. The moment you accept faith in Yeshua you have a decision to make: Are you going to guide your life and your faith by what The Bible says or by what you see other “Christians” doing? Sadly, statistics show that as many as a potential 99.5% of all Christians follow the crowd instead of The Word of God. That means that a person who has not converted to the faith yet still has not made this decision and therefore still has a greater chance of making it to heaven than those who have already made their choice and guide their faith by doing whatever they see other Christians doing.

            Something else I have noticed is that the relatively few people I have met, most of them having become close friends of mine, who probably are truly saved generally don’t hang out with a lot of “Church people”. They go to Church, but they are kind of like outcasts within a body of professing Christians. I believe this is probably because someone who is truly seeking holiness will never “fit in” with the masses in religious circles who are just engaging in dead religion and blending their religious practice with worldliness. Those who are truly saved are generally shunned and scorned by the majority of Christians because they are a threat to what is accepted by the religious. I stand in agreement with this sentiment offered by Smith Wigglesworth, one of the pioneers of the Pentecostal Movement in the early 20th century, as recorded in his book Greater Works: Experiencing God’s Power:

I find nothing in the Bible but holiness, and nothing in the world but worldliness. Therefore, if I live in the world, I will become worldly; on the other hand, if I live in the Bible, I will become holy. This is the truth, “and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

            I’ve mentioned in the past that 2 Corinthians 11:4 offers a warning against three counterfeits that many today have fallen victim to. These are counterfeits of Yeshua Himself, counterfeits of the Gospel message, and counterfeits of the Holy Spirit of God—the Ruach HaKodesh. Most Christians today, because they have chosen to follow the religious crowd, have embraced these counterfeits because the only way to discover the real Messiah, the real Gospel, and the real Holy Spirit is through the Word of God, untainted by religious opinion.

            Sadly, most “Christians” today believe people like me are off our rockers by saying the type of things I have presented in this and other messages I have published. Even though I have shown throughout the history of the whole Bible that it is only ever a few, often only one or two, who have found the truth in the midst of the crowd, many will still follow the crowd—including the “religious crowd”—to do what God and The Bible calls evil. Many Christians have bought into the lie that a crowd is an indicator of the presence of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. If that were true football games, secular music concerts, and professional wrestling shows—where people literally act like the devil—would be more anointed and filled with the presence of God than most Church services. Be careful about that! While there is often solid teaching in many Churches, even a few of the bigger ones, I have also found that the bigger the Church the less of God’s presence and the less of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is actually there.

            Do not follow a crowd to do evil. Absolutely, positively, whatever you do, DON’T guide your life and your faith by what you see most “Christians” doing. It seems so simple, and yet very few actually figure it out. So many people seem to think that whatever happens in a Church or whatever they see “Christians” doing must be right, because after all they are “Christians” and it is “The Church”. Don’t follow the crowd, even the “Church crowd”. Follow The Bible. For only in doing that can you find the true path to life in God’s eternal Kingdom.

~Blessings and Shalom~

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