By Grant Marshall
1 Timothy 4 But the [Holy] Spirit explicitly and unmistakably declares that in later times some will turn away from the faith, paying attention instead to deceitful and seductive spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 [misled] by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared as with a branding iron [leaving them incapable of ethical functioning], 3 who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from [certain kinds of] foods which God has created to be gratefully shared by those who believe and have [a clear] knowledge of the truth. 4 For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified [set apart, dedicated to God] by means of the word of God and prayer.
6 If you point out these instructions to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished [through study] on the words of the faith and of the good [Christian] doctrine which you have closely followed. 7 But have nothing to do with irreverent folklore and silly myths. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness [keeping yourself spiritually fit].
What such creatures of habit we are! Are we not allowed spontaneity in life?
Why can’t we for one moment allow space for any member among the brethren to bring a teaching or a word? After all doesn’t the scriptures tell us that that is how we must respond in our gatherings? Are we not all capable of teaching to some degree? Are we not all able to encourage and edify one another? Yes we are, and yes we should.
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then is the right course, believers? When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation (disclosure of special knowledge), a tongue, or an interpretation. Let everything be constructive and edifying and done for the good of all the church. AMP
We rest far too much on the ministry of the gifts and upon those who we believe have been gifted by God to dispense them. In doing so we fail to see the richness of the gift in us.
Some people simply do not have a clue as to what ministry they are called to and if indeed whether they have one. Gathering together for prayer and worship is the field in which we learn to recognise our gifting, but often even the gathering is too much of an effort, it would seem. If we want what God has for us, then we must respond to His grace and go after Him. Such audacity and disrespect when we expect that it should be the other way around!
There is a time when babies no longer need to feed themselves. Imagine if the need to be fed by someone else continued into later life. If it did, we would all be starving. You might however argue that there are of course people out there who through infirmity, misfortune, famine and war and even idleness, really do need to have their meals supplied for them. However, the capacity to create a nourishing meal is not a common trait. On the other hand we do not remain ignorant that through some form of serious incapacity or infirmity, there are those who really do need help. In this, I am reminded of my years working in dementia. During meal times, I had to manually feed those in my care who were unable to feed themselves. There is a condition that occurs in the brain in some forms of the disease that signals to the body that it has been fed when it hasn’t and vies versa.
Dementia is not really a disease as such, but a breakdown in the brain that causes cognitive degeneration. This degeneration manifests in many forms. It can affect the world we see around us, through hallucination or regressive periods of memory. It is a terrible malady that affects mind and body.
It is also very clear that the manifestation of the condition has spiritual counterparts. In dementia, we can clearly see the outward appearance, which includes the physical analysis of the human brain.
When I used to take the small church services in the homes, I used to ask that the residents who had a faith or were once active in church life, to be brought to the sessions. The times of worship and the singing of the old hymns, brought about a shift in the demeanour of those who attended. It would be hard for a layman to tell between those who were compos mentis and those who were not. The reaction of the residents under care, even surprised the carers. But almost immediately after the session, people would soon return back to their unnatural state. I asked the Lord on this perplexing issue and He informed me that the spirit and the body are separate. The body decays but the spirit does not and it is the spirit that worships Him.
In reality, if we are living outside of the spirit, we are not seeing things as they truly are. We are semi functioning, or dysfunctional you might say, and this is the case when we look at the condition of a believer in Christ, who fails to live according to the spirit. Living in this physical world, means that we, along with it, are decaying because it has been corrupted. It no longer lives in harmony with the law of God but is only in a state of existence. We therefore exist because of what we can gain from it. We are extractors and consumers of our world. Though we have the ability to survive in it, we look to those who are more capable than ourselves to help, or so we assume, to give us what we need when we need it. Our lives and futures are therefore placed in the hands of others.
As believers, we profess that all things come from God and that we lack no good thing. However, our needs are met because God loves and cares for us; His mercies are new every morning but they come at a price. The grace and provision of God has followed us since we left the garden —we often forget that.
Christ died for us because of the Father’s great love for us and in this great act, the gift of grace could be given. Eph 4:7-17. The gift of the word of God, and guidance and life we find in Him were given so that they would shepherd us in this world and that God’s people could maintain the bond of unity and love with each other and with Him. The gifts were to be administered with words and actions, but primarily through the spoken word.
We have read in the book of James chapter 3, that the tongue is a powerful thing. We learn that it can change the course of events; that it can bless God and curse humans; that the pathway of lives can be affected.
Thus, we need to be diligent in study and vigilant when the wolves in sheep’s clothing enter the flock, as they will do. The sad truth is that the body has been very lapse in doing both of these, and thus it is reaping what it has accepted as truth.
It has accepted entertainment value more than the saving need, the sticking plaster instead of the healing balm of the word of God. It has turned to the false prophet and the hireling priests instead of those to whom God has truly anointed. Jesus called those who lead His children astray, ‘workers of iniquity’. He describes them as never knowing the truth or having a relationship with Him. Thus adherence to and the chasing after of such teachers leads the people into spiritual blindness and the inability to recognise sin — their eyes have come blind to wickedness.
However, times are changing. False altars, fake news and the stages of entertainment in the churches are crumbling and the priestly attitudes and the sins hidden within the cloisters are being exposed. Unfortunately, the people will suffer more as a consequence, and the sheep will continue to be scattered. This scattering also includes the departure from the faith of many. People will experience a great loss, and the sense of their identity will bring confusion of mind and hopelessness. Believing the lies will remove them from the destiny that God has planned for them.
Why do we see this present scattering? I believe that our attention has been directed to Babylon and not to the house of God. Babylon is a scriptural metaphor as well as an historical place. It represents a place of harsh treatment - a place of lack, famine and the painful discipline of the Lord upon a rebellious and unfaithful people.
Babylon, however, takes on many shapes. It represents captivity and the removal of freedom. People become lost because they forget their identity. The prisoner is given a number and his heritage is removed. Living in Babylon exists to remind us of our wickedness, unfaithfulness and ingratitude to the Most High.
God commands those who are justified to live by faith but when we don’t want the Master to teach us the Lord gives us other voices to listen to. Our faith is turned away.
Prophecy tells us that knowledge will increase in the latter days and so it has. However, our eyes and ears seek out other teachers whose words are so harsh, and bring a different light hearted approach to the severity of God’s word. The neglect of adhering to the sanctity of God’s house and only approaching the word if it has significant relevance to our own understanding has corrupted the most holy of things.
Jesus for us, is the Master teacher. He is the full deal. He is what He teaches and thus the teacher and the teaching are synonymous. Timothy 4 tells us that in the latter days many will run to those who will teach false truths and fables that will tickle the ears of the many and pamper to the desires of childish wants, and many will not, therefore, heed sound doctrine.
James 3 tells us that one should be aware that teachers come under a greater judgement. How sad that many who stand at the heights of this type of ministry, fail to remember this.
Matthew 18:5-6 warns us about causing others to stumble, or in others words, leading others astray. Jesus not only speaks to us about the humility of a child but about their vulnerability to be led astray. Mark 9:42.
Again in James, we read about the power of the tongue and how it can change the life course of a person.
Today, it is indeed a fact that many rush to their teachers, putting more value upon them than upon what they teach. We are admonished to not lean upon the wisdom of men or upon our own understanding. Proverbs 3:5. Our tithes and offerings, somehow qualify our investment and so we assume that we are getting our money’s worth. In doing so we lean upon the power of the tongue of the teacher believing that every word that issues forth is sacrosanct.
There is however, nonetheless, a great pressure that is put upon the teacher. He must come up with the goods because the people are paying for it. This may sound critical, but unless the student applies due diligence he will stumble when what he has learned is tested.
Now to another matter. John 4:6 gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ humanity. After journeying and ministering, He was weary and needed rest.
Though Jesus was a perfect man, His body needed nourishment and rest just like all of us.
He likens himself to us all in our vulnerability and admonishes us to pay attention to the needs of one another. Matthew 25:35-40
up to the plate when the need arises. Remember the Samaritan woman at the well; she was willing to bring water to Jesus to quench His thirst after week’s of ministry. Her blessing was to have a private encounter with the Master and to be remembered in scripture.
Ministers who are called to live by the gospel must draw from the wellspring of those who receive their gifting. Sometimes the giving stream gets a little low from both sides. Ministers need to understand that resting from the crowd is needed, just as Jesus did.
Sabbaticals offer times of not only physical and mental respite but periods when the noise and busyness of ministry can be quietened for a while. It’s offers the chance to hear the voice of the Lord and to receive ministry from Him. But the lack of human progress and the immaturity of those who are lead bring increasing demands upon the person in ministry. Paul speaks about the believers maturing and yet still needing to be taught
1Peter 2:2 like newborn babies [you should] long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may be nurtured and grow in respect to salvation [its ultimate fulfilment].
In frankness, the lack of personal scriptural study and prayer has brought about the habit of running to and frow to a myriad of teachers. It is far easier to listen to a media program that sit down for the equivalent amount of time and pray and study. It is far easier to sit in a room and attend a group meeting via some social platform than to make the effort to come to church and worship with real people. It is far easier to stay than move. AMP
1 Corinthians 3: 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.
Even now you are still not ready.
Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers [because of the time you have had to learn these truths], you actually need someone to teach you again the elementary principles of God’s word [from the beginning], and you have come to be continually in need of milk, not solid food. 13 For everyone who lives on milk is [doctrinally inexperienced and] unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a spiritual infant.
Friends, if people aren’t being equipped to grow in understanding and wisdom of the scriptures then there is failure somewhere along the line.
The Covid pandemic, has brought us into a period of the church, when we are seeing numbers decline. Yet we are taught not to forsake the gathering together for worship. Being confined in our subtle Covid curfew should have brought the faithful closer in personal relationship with God but the weight of the daily minute by minute lies of the media engaged our thoughts with other things. We wanted our lives back; we wanted a return to normality; we wanted freedom. Our dependence turned from the instruction of God to the instructions of the government. God offered us the chance to draw closer to Him but our preoccupation was upon the problem. A time of great repentance must come for this forsaking. The Great teacher teaches us that if we do not find the solution in Him then we have turned into a faithless and rebellious breed.