October 17, 2017

Fire In My Heart: Saga Of A Spirit Stirred

Larry Ray Hafley

"Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (Jer. 20:9).

Those were the words of Jeremiah as he wrestled against spiritual wickedness and political powers in high places. They are the words of a man, yet spoken with the voice of God. They throb with indignation and frustration. They thunder with determination.

Truth--ceaseless, relentless truth--may be despised and rejected of men, but it will not go away. Present principalities and powers may disdain the man of God, but they cannot chain the word of God. "I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound" (2 Tim. 2:9). While the messenger, may be imprisoned, his message, though withstood, cannot be withheld. David felt the same divine compunction. "My heart was hot within me; While I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue" (Psa. 39:3). So did the apostles. "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

Opposition Is Certain

Jeremiah had been told to expect opposition-"they shall fight against thee" (Jer. 1:19). So testify the prophets. There are those "who cause a person to be indicted by a word, And ensnare him who adjudicates at the gate, And defraud the one in the right with meaningless arguments" (Isa. 29:21). "They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly" (Amos 5:10). From Abel to Amos, from Jonah to John, sacred history's pages are blotted and dotted with the tears and fears of those who suffered at the hands of "unreasonable and wicked men."

It is no less true today. We see the victims of those who hide daggers of death and harm beneath smiling cloaks of grace and charm. They speak great swelling words, "having men's persons in admiration because of advantage" (Jude 16). They gush "good words and fair speeches" and splash them over unsuspecting souls. Yet, their tart tongues, poisoned pens, and carnal keyboards are piercing spears and pointed swords against those whom they cannot answer in fair and open discussion.

We must be wary, brethren, lest we become weary in well doing and faint in our minds. As the experiences of Elijah and Paul prove, it may happen to the best among us (1 Kgs. 19: 2 Cor. 1:8-11).

Ways To Dampen The Heart Aflame

"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled" (Heb. 12:15).

1) David, Fleshly Lusts: As Psalms 32 and 51 indicate, David was long troubled by his private, personal sin, his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11). It wore him down. It tortured his mind, heart, and conscience with tears, fears, and silent screams of guilt and despair. His response was repentance, confession, and prayer. So it must be with all who are overtaken in sin. There can be no rest to the heart that seeks to harbor the word of God while providing haven for sin. When some depart from the faith, seemingly without a cause, it may well be that secret sin is the termite that has eaten and consumed the vitality of their faith and undermined their hope.

2) Demas, Worldly Spirit: "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). Many have quenched the spirit's flame by dousing their souls with the water of this world's wealth. No, it is not wrong for a Christian to be rich in this world's goods. Barnabas and Philemon may have been men of means, monied men. However, the admonition of 1 Timothy 6:8-12 applies to all who would not have the fire of zeal extinguished by the gold, goods, glitter, and glamor of this world.

"And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be

rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which

drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all

evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things;

and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the

good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:8-12).

3) Diotrephes, Dominating Defiance: Perhaps Diotrephes had a number of outstanding character traits which endeared him to many and blinded them to his pursuit of power and preeminence. Whether that be true or not, this we do know: "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church" (3 Jn. 9, 10).

Obviously, such an attitude will hinder and destroy the ability and influence of any man. However, it is often the case that such intractable, selfish, ego centered men are the cause of the loss of those who see no way to deal with them and, so, they give up. The fire in their bosom flickers and dies. We are speaking here of those who were cast "out of the church" by Diotrephes. What became of them? Were they recalled and reclaimed by the apostle John when he came and confronted Diotrephes? Or, were they disconsolate and bitter and made reprobate to the faith? Eternity alone will reveal the damage done by the spirit of Diotrephes in quelling the flame of salvation in the hearts of those whom they cast out.

4) Demetrius, Weapons Of His Warfare: Though the weapons "of our warfare are not carnal," the weapons used against us often are (Acts 19:23-29; 2 Cor. 10:3-5). The carnal weapons of the wicked can hurt the righteous deeply. We cannot respond in kind "with malicious words." We cannot use the allurements and enticements of this world to appeal to lost souls, but Demetrius can do so! He is not bound by the strictures of the Scriptures. Thus, he can offer security while we present sacrifice. He extends moral compromise and complacency while we demand courage and conviction. He can offer excuses for the pleasures of sin and justify it to the fleshly mind. We, on the other hand, can offer, not acceptance of sin, but repudiation of it, or else eternal condemnation for it (Gal. 5:19-21; 6:7, 8). With the odds stacked against us, the hearts of many grow cold. Unable to resist carnal weapons, they surrender their own, and the flame of their heart is put out.

Jeremiah felt all these pressures and more. He lamented his lot. "For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long" (Jer. 20:8). False prophets spoke of "peace," while he spoke of "violence and destruction." Which message would you rather hear? So, they mocked him for his constant "gloom and doom," "the sky is falling" message (Jer. 20:10).

Still, he could not relent. Jeremiah could not keep silence. He could not, yea, he would not allow the burning fire in his heart to be stifled and smothered! Like Paul, his spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city and the nation "wholly given to idolatry" (Acts 17:16, 17). Likewise, today, we must "keep not silence." "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence" (Isa. 62:6).

Kindling For A Spirit Stirred

A. In The World:

Can one look about in today's society, in our homes, schools, and neighborhoods, and not have his heart and soul set ablaze for the righteousness of God?

Isaiah 5:20 is as appropriate for our generation as it was for the one in which it was spoken. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" If one is opposed to homosexual behavior, he is a "homophobe." If he campaigns for that lifestyle, though he partakes not of it, he is "good." It is morally and politically correct to say, "Let us kill the unborn child, but let us never execute a murderer." We can slay the child, but we must save the murderer of his mother! We may not teach children in schools that fornication is wrong, but we may tell them that drugs are. We cannot pass out Bibles to students, but we can pass out religious material about Islam. We cannot pray in schools, but the school nurse can provide condoms for students who request them. The life of Christ cannot be mentioned in a high school graduation speech as a pattern for our behavior, but the latest hedonistic, immoral, reprobate, rock star can be praised in the same forum. High schools may not be allowed to have a prayer before a high school football game, but they will be sued by the American Civil Liberties Union if they do not allow homosexuals to establish their own independent club to promote their sexual agenda (Pikeville, KY, Houston, TX, 2003). What is wrong with this picture?!

The social-political nature of false religion, with its rituals and holidays borrowed by Catholicism from pagan feasts, and adopted by mainstream Protestantism, continues unabated. Such institutions are wrought with unbelief and ungodliness. They are carnal to the core in philosophy and offer no true spiritual hope for souls lost in sin. The churches that still claim to be led by faith in the blood of Christ, who say they still believe in his actual death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, have been so caught up with the emotional frenzy of Pentecostalism that they view their feelings and emotional ecstacy as the only real truth. If they have "felt" it or "experienced" it, it is the truth, no matter what the Bible teaches. They profess that they know God, but their illusions and delusions of spiritual fantasy have blinded them to objective study and understanding.

As a result, moral relativism guides a society with laws which have no anchor or base in established truth. Thus, they are laws which may be changed by the lusts of their makers. For example, physicians once took an oath which, in essence, forbad abortion. Psychologists once saw homosexual behavior as being perverse. Now, because the lusts of men rule, and because a law is what men desire, and not what objective truth demands, long established laws, such as those regarding abortion and homosexuality, are rendered null and void.

The same pattern has been followed in religious life. There is no certain, absolute truth. Jesus is who you want (rather, "feel") him to be. Faith is a blind leap in the dark. If you say you believe it, and if you act enthusiastically enough, then whatever it is that you believe, it is "truth" for you. Preachers, pastors, and priests used to know what it meant when we said to them, "You don't have 'Bible' for that." No longer. Today, the Bible is an archaic relic, full of mythological stories and legends that have no real basis in fact. The creation, Noah, Jonah?-- Such men never lived and the events associated with them are ancient lore and idle tales. If, though, as noted earlier above, some are found who believe the Bible, they generally are so bound and blinded by their mysticism, a mixture of Pentecostalism and subjective superstition, that they cannot see, hear, or learn.

It was to such a world of confusion, idolatry, and superstition that the Savior came. It was into such a world, blind and having no light, the Lord sent the apostles. Before them, it was Noah who preached to a world gone mad with evil. "Every imagination of the thought of (their) hearts was only evil and that continually" (Gen. 6:5). "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence" (Gen. 6:11). If God expected Noah to preach to such a generation, surely he demands no less of us.

Brethren, do these things not blow the flickering coals of your heart into flame? Some may say that such considerations are defeating and discouraging. No! Rather, they are like the shoe salesman who went to a far country to sell shoes. When he saw that no one in the country wore shoes, he immediately came back home dejected. Another shoe salesman went to the same land and quickly ordered a ship load of shoes because, as he excitedly explained, "No one over here has any shoes to wear!"

B. In The Church:

Obviously, one must have a love for the lost and for the Lord in order to be properly motivated. "Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law....Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law....I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word" (Psalms 119:53, 136; 158).

Some say that this only applies to a love for the alien sinner. They say, "We need to quit trying to resolve 'brotherhood issues' and get back to teaching the lost." (1) Perhaps someone should have given that advice to the author of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Hebrews! Who would charge that Paul was too busy "trying to save the church that he had no time to teach the lost"? (2) Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus for the express purpose of commanding some that "they teach no other doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3). "Paul, you should have sent Timothy to teach the lost and not to dictate to the brethren concerning what is to be taught. You're causing Timothy to violate 'church autonomy'." Again, who would say such a thing to Paul? Not me! Yet, we often hear such reprimands. (3) The apostle Peter wrote two letters to brethren and churches scattered over a large geographical expanse. He warned them about false teachers, commanded them to cling to the words of the apostles and prophets, and sounded like he thought that even the elders of the churches needed to be exhorted to do their work (1 Pet. 5:1-3; 2 Pet. 2:1, 2; 3:1, 2). If this is not part of the work we are to do, why did Paul say for us to follow his ways and for Timothy to encourage other faithful men to do likewise (1 Cor. 4:16, 17; 2 Tim. 2:2)?

The reason that some would deny us the right to do such work is because their liberal agendas are being deposed and disposed of. Rather than attempting to defend their errors, they shriek, "If you were busy teaching the lost, you wouldn't have time to trouble and divide churches." When that cry is heard, you know two things. First, that you have "gigged" what needs to be "gigged," and, second, you know that it is time to increase the pressure of truth with even stronger preaching (Isa. 58:1)!

What factors have revived the spirits of many among us today? (One might say that the items cited below have been a bane, a discouragement to the people of God, and so they have been. However, as the persecutions of the saints, designed to smother the gospel, served rather to spread it, so the spirit of softness and compromise has hardened the resolve of many.)

First, languid hearts were kindled anew when the full import and impact of brother Ed Harrell's version of "unity in diversity" was proposed in a series of articles in Christianity Magazine, 1988-1990. Though fellowship with brother Hailey's error was later disavowed by some, the principles were not. Second, our hearts did burn within us when those same principles, however unwittingly, were applied by brother Ferrell Jenkins to the error taught with respect to creation and the days of Genesis one. As brother Harrell had advocated fellowship with brother Hailey, so brother Jenkins did not find the error of Shane Scott on the days of Genesis a sufficient cause for a lack of unity and fellowship (Florida College, 2000). Third , the late brother Homer Hailey, in a book published posthumously, says, according to F. Lagard Smith in his introduction, that "Hailey reaches the interesting conclusion that for the wicked the soul ceases to exist, as it is destroyed in hell" (emphasis mine, LRH).

Does the knowledge of these facts not stir and stimulate the fire in your bosom unto greater zeal? Neither the "everlasting fire" of hell nor the singeing, scorching flames of the everlasting gospel shall be extinguished. That "word like as a fire, saith the Lord," shall burn the chaff of error with unquenchable fire, so help us God (Jer. 23:29).

Note, brother Hailey's advertized error is called an "interesting conclusion." Earlier, as brother Harrell did not consider brother Hailey a "false teacher," and as brother Jenkins cannot say that the days of Genesis one, when considered as epochs of time, represents false doctrine, we are made to wonder if brother Hailey's posthumous proclamation concerning the annihilation of the wicked in hell will be regarded as simply an "interesting conclusion," rather than a false doctrine. (Author's Note: See the addendum for further details regarding brother Jenkins' comments alluded to above. ) Brother Harrell later said he could not call brother Hailey a "false teacher" because, in his words, "I am persuaded by his conduct & his arguments that he honestly believes that he is faithful to God's teaching on the subject" (Divorce & Fellowship , FC Open Forum, Feb., 1991). Will the same be said concerning brother Hailey's views regarding eternal punishment? You may count on it!

What next? Jonah is just another fish tale, and heaven is not going to last as long as we thought it would (Matt. 25:46)? If a prominent brother were to teach such concepts, would he be given a wink and an understanding shrug of acceptance, while those who expose and oppose him are treated as malicious, pernicious outcasts?

We are told that the controversy over the days of Genesis one "is not a salvation issue." Again, what of Jonah? Is the virgin birth a "salvation issue"? Is brother Hailey's false teaching on hell a "salvation issue"? May one teach that the days of Genesis one are epochs of time, that Jonah was not swallowed by a great fish and put back upon earth in three, literal days, that the virgin birth of Jesus is not true, and that hell is the annihilation of the wicked, and be received as a faithful preacher of the gospel?

If so, brethren, expect that the next generation among us will accept and tolerate instrumental music in worship for the same reason. Namely, it is not a "salvation issue." The "how and what of Bible baptism" will no longer be a concern. For them and to them, the "mode and method" of baptism will not be a "salvation issue." The taking of the Lord's supper and a contribution into a church's treasury upon the first day of the week will cease to be areas of concern (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). The importance of the nature and character of Christ and his kingdom will be denied on the very same basis; that is, that those are not "salvation issues." If you doubt these fatal forebodings, look at the history and evolution of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. Look, too, at Rubel Shelly and Max Lucado. One does not have to be a prophet to see what will occur when men begin to apologize, sympathize, and compromise with error. On such matters, we must learn from history, both sacred and secular (1 Cor. 10:1-13; Heb. 3:7-4:11; 2 Pet. 3:5-7).

Will those who take their pen and tongues against the error taught by brother Hailey on the doctrine of eternal punishment be castigated for slandering a great man who has gone to his grave? If the future is anything like the past, here is what will transpire. With a sad countenance, some will express their "sorrow" that brother Hailey's "peculiar" or "disputed" view has come to light after his passing. (They will not classify it as "false doctrine." Instead, it will be referred to as a "peculiar" or "controversial view.") They will disavow agreement with brother Hailey and then proceed to blast those who are "using the bones of a great man to further their standing as defenders of the faith." Audible "amens" will resound. There will be applause in some circles. Meanwhile, the distinguished one will have padded his own dossier as a sophisticated "defender of the faith" among those who believe that a real defense of the gospel is beneath their dignity. The truth will be an after thought and those who stand for it and contend for it will be made to appear as "little men" with "contentious hearts" who pick over the dead bones of honored men in order to gain "brotherhood notoriety." Brethren, the very thought of such snide, disingenuous condescension ought to kindle Jeremiah's fire in our bosoms as the idolatry of Athens stirred Paul's.

Fourth, one of the most blatant statements, showing that there are, indeed, as brother Connie W. Adams has said, "two mind sets" among us, was printed in Christianity Magazine inNovember, 1986, in a letter to the editors (Ed Harrell, Dee Bowman, Paul Earnhart, Sewell Hall, Brent Lewis). The letter was published without comment. Though its author did not mean it to be so, I believe it represents one of the most dangerous, destructive views regarding the nature of preaching that I have ever seen. Below is the letter to which I have referred. It is in italics. My comments are interspersed in brackets within the letter.

"I Got'em Told"

"One of the different attitudes portrayed by Christians today is that of 'getting them told.' This attitude of 'Sin is black, hell is hot, and that's where you are going,' is making people think that members of Christ's church are soul haters.

[First , can someone document this charge? Assuming the negative twist to the words, "getting them told," can someone cite a specific example? Surely, with all the recording of sermons today, if there is such an attitude being "portrayed by Christians today," there ought to be evidence of such an attitude on display. Where is it?

Second , is the author's letter a case of trying to "get'em told"? Since he is striving to expose a bad attitude among brethren, is he guilty of trying to "get'em told"? Do his efforts to "get'em told" make people think he is a soul hater, too?

Third , (without presuming a negative connotation of telling someone the truth), yes, it is the object of faithful preachers and teachers of the gospel to "get'em told" (Isa. 58:1; Ezek. 3:17-21). Paul was pure from the blood of all men because he "got'em told" (Acts 20:26, 27). In effect, 2 Timothy 4:2 says, "get'em told." "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." In essence, if that text does not say, "get' em told," what does it say?

Fourth , note, "This attitude of 'Sin is black, hell is hot, and that's where you're going....'" Isn't it? Is sin black (darkness)? Is hell hot? Is hell where the unrighteous are going, or have I missed something (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; 6:7, 8; Rev. 21:8)? Evidently, words along that line-"Sin is black, hell is hot, and that's where you are going"--were used by the apostle Paul. Why else would Felix have trembled (Acts 24:25; Heb. 10:29)? "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:11).

Fifth , the fact that some may erroneously conclude that faithful preachers are "soul haters" does not necessarily impact what is preached. Some say that Christians believe in "water salvation." Does their charge prove there is a flaw in our preaching? They say we do not believe in the Old Testament, nor "in the power of the Holy Ghost." Do their charges prove the fault lies with us? While we must examine ourselves, let it be understood that the scurrilous taunts of unbelievers are not proof that Christians are "soul haters" (Acts 24:5; 1 Cor. 4:9-14; 2 Cor. 10:10-18; 13:5; 1 Pet. 3:15). Likewise, the misguided charges of our own brethren to the same effect do not prove that we are "soul haters."

Sixth, would the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:33 be like unto one who would say that "Sin is black, hell is hot, and that's where you're going"? Jesus said, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" If not, please distinguish between the two statements and show why one is proper, but the other is not.]

"Do we truly know the value of a soul? The gospel of Christ is positive and exciting."

[Yes, "The gospel is positive and exciting." I suppose this is why the Jews in Acts 7 were cut to the heart and stoned Stephen. It also explains why Felix "trembled" (Acts 24:25). It is why Paul was chased from town to town and faced with death nearly everywhere he preached. It must have been that "positive and exciting" gospel that he preached that caused him to be in such physical jeopardy (2 Cor. 11:24-28)!

Did the Lord "truly know the value of a soul" when his words caused some to turn away (Mk. 10:17-22; Jn. 6:60-66)? Did Paul "truly know the value of a soul" when he preached "the gospel of God with much contention," so much so that he had to flee town under cover of darkness (Acts 17:10; 1 Thess. 2:2)? Worse, did some think him to be a soul hater because of his arguments against evil men and their errors (Acts 22:22, 23; 24:5, 6?)]?

"When we go out in to the world we are to be lights in the darkness. What we so often find is that many are just a thick fog to add to the gloom. We should be showing the world that we are a very blessed people by our actions and that God shows mercy and goodness to those who serve Him."

[While it is certainly true that "we are to be lights in the darkness," and that we should show ourselves as the children of light, I wonder if the author is following his own advice. Is he a light to those whom he criticizes or is he "just a thick fog to add to the gloom"? He says that "many," not a few, but "many are just a thick fog to add to the gloom." How pervasive is this "thick fog" and "gloom"? Since "many" are involved, it must be fairly extensive. When he speaks of it in this fashion, is he trying to "get'em told" again? Is he but "just (another layer of) thick fog to add to the gloom"?

Observe how "nice" they are who speak against those with whom they disagree. It is alright for them to speak of "many" people as being "a thick fog to add to the gloom," but if we dare to say that "Sin is black, and hell is hot, and that's where you're going," we are "soul haters." When they speak of the bad attitude of "many," they are "good guys," but if we challenge their assessments and judgments, we are the "bad guys." When folks invent a game, I suppose they may play by their own rules.

Yes, we should show the world "that God shows mercy and goodness to those who serve Him." It is also true that we should show the world the other side of the coin, that God shows his wrath to those who fail to serve Him. "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off" (Rom. 11:22). I wonder if Paul was "just a thick fog to add to the gloom" when he dared to show the "severity" of God as well as his "goodness"?]

"It is so discouraging to go to a worship service where Christians are singing as though their next breath may be their last. Then one of the men who calls himself an evangelist (a bearer of the good news?) proceeds to blast denominations for using mechanical instruments and for unscriptural baptism."

[The next time you go to a worship service and sing songs of praise and listen to a man who "proceeds to blast denominations for using mechanical instruments and for unscriptural baptism," remember that you should find that experience "so discouraging." Again, it would be good if someone could document such a "discouraging" experience. Where is the proof that such a "discouraging" event has occurred? Where is the example of it? At which congregation did it occur, and who was the preacher when brethren sang heartily and then the preacher ruined it all by "blast(ing) the denominations for using mechanical instruments and for unscriptural baptism."

Preacher friends, after a great song service, if any of you have ever dared to get up and "blast denominations for using mechanical instruments and for unscriptural baptism," remember that there is some doubt about your credentials as an "evangelist." You may not truly be an evangelist if you do such a thing. No, you may be one who just "calls himself an evangelist (a bearer of the good news?)" Note the question mark. If you, preacher, have ever spoken against denominational error with respect to mechanical instruments and unscriptural baptism, you are not a real "evangelist." No, according to the question mark, when you preach in that manner, you just "call" yourself one. You are not a true "bearer of the good news."

Was Jesus a "bearer of the good news" when, after being asked a question, he proceeded to "blast" the Pharisees for their vain worship and human traditions (Mk. 7:1-13)?

Were the apostles "bearers of the good news" when they proceeded to "blast" the Jews for their misunderstanding of the nature of Christ and their unscriptural use of circumcision? Was Paul a "bearer of the good news" when he began his letters to the Corinthian and Galatian churches with kind words and then proceeded to "blast" them for their evils and errors? He even blasted the apostle Peter "before them all." Should we call him, "Thick Fog Paul"?

Occasionally, we are reproached for the use of sarcasm (1 Kgs. 18:27). However, notice the use of it above-"one of the men who calls himself an evangelist (a bearer of the good news?) . See how subtle is the implication that those who preach the truth against denominational error are not true "evangelists" and bearers of the good news?

Once again, it appears that the author was trying to "get'em told." When he uses such verbal barbs is he showing that he is a light in the darkness, or is he "just a thick fog to add to the gloom"?]

"The world is full of hungry people, and the gospel is the recipe that will fill them up. Jesus Christ had a very powerful and positive ministry. He knew there was a time to be tough, but if we are sensitive to people's feelings, we will notice that they hardly ever respond positively to something put negatively. What we Christians need to do is put to practice what is generally known as "The Golden Rule" and treat people the way we would like to be treated!"

[Yes, "Jesus Christ had a very powerful and positive ministry," but remember it was that "powerful and positive ministry" that caused him to be put to death!

So, though the author says there is "a time to be tough," we know that he does not mean that in being "tough" that one should "blast the denominations" for their vain worship and false doctrines. Nor does he mean that by being "tough" that we should warn people that "Sin is black, hell is hot, and that's where (they're) going" if they do not repent. Seeing that one must "be tough" at times, we should like to know his definition of being "tough." What, exactly, would one do in order to be "tough"? We know what he cannot do. He cannot rebuke error and specific false doctrines, nor plainly tell the lost the nature of sin and its eternal consequences. Therefore, we should like an example of how one could "be tough" without being "just a thick fog to add to the gloom."

Note this rule, "if we are sensitive to people's feelings, we will notice that they hardly ever respond positively to something put negatively. "

Was Stephen insensitive to the feelings of his audience? Is that why he was stoned to death (Acts 7:51-60)? Was Paul equally insensitive? Is that why he was constantly fleeing town by night, being let down over a wall in a basket, and being conveyed under armed guard from one court room to another? How sensitive was Jesus "to people's feelings" as indicated by their reactions to his preaching? He "offended," "shamed," "insulted," an angered his audiences (Matt. 15:12; Lk. 4:28; 6:11; 11:45; 13:17).

Since insensitive people do not notice that people "hardly ever respond positively to something put negatively," is this why Jesus said:

"Except ye believe that I am he ye shall die in your sins" (Jn. 8:24)?

"Except ye repent, ye shall die in your sins" (Lk. 13:3)?

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3)?

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21)?

How sensitive was Paul to the feelings of his shipmates when he said, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 27:31)? Did he expect them to "respond positively to something put negatively"?

No one would argue that we ought to violate "The Golden Rule." No one believes that preaching always must hurt and harm before it can help and heal (Acts 2:37; 7:54) . The situation must be considered. "And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh" (Jude 22, 23). "And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men" (1 Thess. 5:14). At times, "sharpness" must be used (2 Cor. 13:10). When it is called for, "The Golden Rule" is not being ignored.

"For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:15-17).

The message we preach is the fragrance of Christ. To the saved, it is the aroma of "life to life." That is, it is the aroma of spiritual life in Christ here, and eternal life in heaven after awhile (Mk. 10:30). To the lost, it is the aroma, the odor, of "death to death;" that is, the gospel tells them that they now are dead in their sins and that, ultimately, they will be cast into hell, "which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8). "Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.' And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:29-31). "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). That may not sound "positive and exciting." It may be seen by the lost as "a thick fog to add to the gloom," but it has one advantage; namely, it is the word of the truth of the gospel.

Conclusion: Jeremiah is well known as "the weeping prophet." Every faithful Christian can identify with his tears. Only a burning bosom can shed tears of sorrow and consternation. Only the heart burdened with love and concern for the wayward and the wandering can weep for them.

Despite his love and faithfulness, Jeremiah was unpopular. He would not join the false prophets in their predictions of peace. He spoke of "violence and destruction." Therefore, "Now it happened, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, 'You will surely die'!" (Jer. 26:8). Jeremiah did not flinch nor flee. Rather, said he, "As for me, here I am, in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you" (Jer. 26:14). Thus, it was that unto the end the word of God burned with triumphant zeal in the heart of Jeremiah. May the same flame of faith and torch of truth burn in the hearts of many today.


Addendum

Days of Genesis One-Does It Matter?

Larry Ray Hafley

The following questions may be of interest to some:

Could you explain why it is important not to believe that it took eons of time for God to create the earth? How do I answer someone who says, "Why does it matter what one believes about creation? It is not a matter of salvation ."

It Matters Because:

(1) Twice, Moses argued that since the Lord created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day, so Israel was to work six days and rest on the seventh day (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). If the days of Genesis one were not six days, in the same sense that the days of Exodus 20 and 31 are six days, the basis of the argument for the Sabbath rest is eroded. Does that matter? If the days of Genesis one were "eons of time," does it matter that the props are knocked out from under the argument of Exodus?

(2) Jesus said that Adam and Eve were created "in the beginning" (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:4, 8). "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female" (Mk. 10:6). However, if the days of Genesis one were multi-millions of years, and since God created them on the sixth day, they could not have been created "in the beginning of the creation," but, rather, toward "the end of the creation." Does that matter? Does it matter if the Lord was wrong about it? Does it matter that male and female were not created until "eons of time" after the beginning of the creation, if it be so that the days were hundreds of millions of years in duration?

(3) Jesus spoke of "the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world " (Lk. 11:50, 51). Then, he named Abel as the first--"from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias." If, though, the creations days were "eons of time," and if Abel was not born until after those "eons," how could it be said that the blood of prophets had been "shed from the foundation of the world?" Hence, the Lord was wrong about their blood being shed "from the foundation of the world." Does that matter?

Do Other Items Matter?

Does it matter whether or not the flood was universal or local? Scripture declares it to be universal (Gen. 6:17; 7:17, 19, 21; 2 Pet. 3:5-7, 10-13). Many of the same modernists who deny the days of Genesis one also deny the universal flood of Noah. Shall we say, "What does it matter what one believes about the flood? It is not a matter of salvation?" If we may set aside and dismiss the days of Genesis one, upon the same basis we may disavow the flood.

Jesus spoke of Naaman's healing of leprosy (2 Kgs. 5; Lk. 4:27). If a brother were to question the reality of Naaman's cleansing, or if he were to declare that the seven dips Naaman allegedly took were actually seven days of "praying through" for his healing, would it matter since it has "nothing to do with our salvation"?

Jesus spoke of the "three days and three nights" Jonah was in the belly of the great fish (Matt. 12:40). Suppose a brother begins teaching that the story of Jonah is another "fish story." Should we give the brother a pass and shrug it off, saying, "What does it matter what one believes about the flood and a literal Jonah? It is not a matter of salvation."

Too, if the days of Genesis one are not real days, or it does not matter if they are or not, does it matter if Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish? Could he have been there (if he was ever truly there at all), for three years, rather than three days, or must those three days be literal? If a brother teaches that Jonah was there for three years, and not three literal days, shall we refuse to correct him and charge that those who disagree are full of hate and only want to divide brethren, and make a name for themselves?

Jesus endorsed the serpent of brass lifted up by Moses and compared it to his own lifting up on the cross (Jn. 3:14-16; Cf. 12:32, 33). Now, if Jesus could be wrong about the first couple being created "in the beginning," and if he could endorse a mythical fish story, could he also give credence to a snake healing that never occurred? "What does it matter what one believes about the serpent of brass and the healing of many in Numbers 21? It is not a matter of salvation."

Jesus expressed belief in the events regarding the destruction of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom (Matt. 11:20-24). He endorsed the prophetic description of their doom. Indeed, he based the reality of judgment against the cities of his day on the judgment those towns had received. Suppose a devout and talented brother should deny those cities were doomed by divine fiat. Should we accept him and his error and criticize those who try to correct him? "What does it matter what one believes about those cities? It is not a matter of salvation?"

May one deny the days of Genesis one, Noah and Naaman, question the certainty of the brass serpent, jumble Jonah, and impugn the reality of Sodom's judgment and justify it because those facts do not pertain "to salvation"?

If So, Where Does It End?

In order to help us see where such things may lead, let me cite the words of an esteemed brother in the Lord which typify and unwittingly help to justify the position reviewed above. At the Florida College lectures in February, 2000, brother Ferrell Jenkins addressed the days of Genesis one controversy and made these comments:

"Now, I think we run into a problem when we say 'must,' one of these views must be correct. And I've got a good brother friend who said one place that these must be long ages, and I can't say that. But on the other hand, I can't say they must be 24 hour ages. There were some arguments made for that like Exodus 20 and some arguments I didn't have time to deal with that I did have them in my notes here. And you can argue, you know, you can make a good case either way for that, all of those things like that.... And there is nobody in our brotherhood who can say, 'This is it, and you've all got to agree with my view.'

"Now brethren, that's the history that we come from. And I'm sad to say that those who are younger and who may only be 10 years old or 15 or 20 years old, because it's been always a certain way in your life doesn't mean its always been that way. And its time people who were older spoke up and said, 'Look, what goes around comes around.' Not to be wishy-washy, not to compromise on any biblical truth, but to say there are just some things so difficult that I may not be able to draw the same conclusion you've drawn on those and then to give that opportunity for people" (Ferrell Jenkins, "Making Sense Of The Days Of Creation ," Florida College, February 8, 2000).

Below are some parallels to brother Jenkins' comments. I do not attribute them to him, but they are comparable to his preceding statement. Suppose one were to speak of the Genesis flood as brother Jenkins spoke of the days of Genesis one.

First Parallel : Now, I think we run into a problem when we say "must," (that) one of these views must be correct. And I've got a good friend who said that the Genesis flood was a local, not a world-wide event, and I can't say that. But, on the other hand, I can't say it must be a total flood. There are some arguments made for a world-wide flood like Genesis 6-8, and some arguments I don't have time to deal with. And you can make a good case either way for that, for all of those things like that....And there is no body in our brotherhood who can say, "This is it, and you've all got to agree with my view."

Now, brethren, that's the history that we come from....Not to be wishy-washy, not to compromise any biblical truth, but to say there are just some things so difficult that I may not be able to draw the same conclusion you've drawn on those and then to give that opportunity for other people, too.

Second Parallel: Now, I think we run into a problem when we say "must," (that) one of these views on marriage, divorce, and remarriage must be correct. I've got a good friend who said that one may divorce for any reason before he becomes a Christian and keep his second wife after he obeys the gospel, and I can't say that. But, on the other hand, I can't say divorce must be for fornication. There were some arguments made for that like Matthew 5:32; 19:9 and some arguments I don't have time to deal with. And you can make a good case either way for that, and there is no body in our brotherhood who can say, "This is it, and you've all got to agree with my view."

Now, brethren, that the history we come from....Not to be wishy-washy, not to compromise on any biblical truth, but to say there are just some things so difficult that I may not be able to draw the same conclusion you've drawn on those and then to give that opportunity for other people, too.

Third Parallel: Now, I think we run into a problem when we say "must," (that) one of these views on polygamous marriages must be correct. I've got a good friend who said that one may marry multiple partners, and I can't say that. But, on the other hand, I can't say they must not marry multiple partners. There were some arguments made for one marriage partner like 1 Corinthians 7:2 and some arguments I don't have time to deal with. And you can make a good case either way....And there is nobody in our brotherhood who can say, "This is it, and you've all got to agree with my view."

Now, brethren, that's the history that we come from....Not to be wishy-washy, not to compromise on any biblical truth, but to say there are just some things so difficult that I may not be able to draw the same conclusion you've drawn on those and then to give that opportunity for other people, too.

Fourth Parallel: Now, I think we run into a problem when we say "must," (that) one of these views on baptism, music in worship, the organization and work of the church, must be correct. And I've got a good friend who said one time that these things are not essential, and I can't say that. But, on the other hand, I can't say they must be essential. There are some arguments made for baptism, singing, like Acts 2:38 and Ephesians 5:19, and some arguments I don't have time to deal with. And you can make a good case either way for baptism, music in worship, all of those things like that....And there is nobody in our brotherhood who can say, "This is it, and you've all got to agree with my view."

Now, brethren, that's the history that we come from....Not to be wishy-washy, not to compromise any biblical truth, but to say there are just some things so difficult that I may not be able to draw the same conclusion you've drawn on those and then to give that opportunity for other people, too.

Where does it stop? Or, does it even matter? "Is it nothing to all ye that pass by? "

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