Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

       If you happened to witness a man of God do what the scribe Ezra did in front of the people, you just might shrink back in fear, and conclude that he was a maniac. The question is when was the last time you saw a Christian leader so distressed over sin in the Church that he or she tore up his or her clothes, yanked out his or her hair, or ripped out his beard and sat down astonished? Some of us may almost feel a surge of this type of passion at times due to the accelerating wickedness, evil, injustice, and downright idiocy manifesting itself in our nation’s godless leaders—not to mention the horrors and atrocities that are taking place all around the world. But, when was the last time (if ever) your spirit was stirred up and aflame with the same passion towards sin in the church? Or are you content to ignore it, passing over it as “normal” and acceptable, content to tolerate it in the name of unity and love?

       Listen with your “spiritual ears” to Ezra the scribe because there is a powerful message here for God’s people today: “Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass” Ezra 9:1-2. No doubt some of you are thinking, What? Are you daft? Nobody has seen these ancient people with their strange gods in our modern churches. Besides, Ezra lived about 500 years before Christ. At this point we need to remember what the Bible says about the Bible, and I do mean both the Old and the New Testaments. Today there seems to be an attitude in some professing Christians that we don’t need the Old Testament any longer—just the New Testament. I’ve had silly people spout off to me, “Well! I don’t need the Old Testament! I’m a ‘New Testament Christian.’” In my book that’s about as idiotic as buying a two-piece pantsuit, and then wearing the jacket without the pants.

       A.W. Tozer said, “We should banish from our minds forever the common but erroneous notion that justice and judgment characterize the God of Israel, while mercy and grace belong to the Lord of the Church. Actually there is in principle no difference between the Old Testament and the New. In the New Testament Scriptures there is a fuller development of redemptive truth, but one God speaks in both dispensations, and what He speaks agrees with what He is. Wherever and whenever God appears to men, He acts like Himself. Whether in the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Gethsemane, God is merciful as well as just. He has always dealt in mercy with mankind and will always deal in justice when His mercy is despised. Thus He did in antediluvian times; thus when Christ walked among men; thus He is doing today and will continue always to do for no other reason than that He is God.” What we need to remember is that the Old Testament is Christ concealed, and the New Testament is Christ revealed.

       The Old Testament gives us types (examples) and shadows of what was to come in the New Testament. For example, speaking of the Levitical priests, the writer of Hebrews stated, “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” Hebrews 8:5. [Emphasis added.] “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” Colossians 2:16, 17. [Emphasis added.] In 1 Corinthians 10:6 we are told that the events that took place in the Old Testament are for our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” [Emphasis added.]

       The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament, and teaches us God’s principles and precepts so that we can gain the wisdom we need to conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of our Holy God. God did not throw off His holiness once the work of the cross was finished so that anyone can carelessly barge with pride into His presence wearing his or her old filthy garments of the flesh and find acceptance with Him, even though this attitude is prevalent today. Any such notion is grave error at best and blasphemy at worst. It is only through the blood of Christ which washes away our sin that we are made fit to approach our holy God with confidence. An illustration of this can be found in the parable of the marriage of the king’s son where we read, “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” Matthew 22:11-14. Jesus was undoubtedly referring to the wedding garment which is the robe of righteous that only born again saints wear that we read of in Isaiah 61:10, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteouness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” The bride, the Church of Jesus Christ, must be holy “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:27

       Interestingly, these pagan nations can serve as types and examples to the modern Church, which will be discussed in Part Two of this article. As Rayola says, “People will never come higher than their idols.” John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) said, “The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers – the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called “nominal Christianity.” In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.”

       We are given powerful examples in Ezra 9 of the separation that must take place if a Christian is to truly be converted to the ways of righteousness. Here we read that God’s people, “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations….” And it goes on to list pagan societies. Apologetics press reports, “The biblical record, together with archaeology, reveals in Canaan a degraded society that practiced any number of atrocities in the name of religion. These nations engaged in ritual prostitution, self-mutilation, and human sacrifice. Their societies were filled with incest, idolatry, and violence. As a result of this immorality, God weighed them in the balance and found them wanting.” According to Leviticus 18, 20 the sexual immorality of the Canaanites, and Egyptians was basically what we see every day in our own world, including homosexuality, orgies, bestiality, pornography and every type of perversion imaginable. These pagan nations also practiced sorcery, necromancy (contact with the dead), fortune telling, witchcraft, and infanticide among other shameful abominations. Most of these people were descendants of Ham, while the Moabites and Ammonites descended from Lot. God warned the Israelites “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them” Numbers 33:55, 56. No wonder then that Ezra reacted so strongly, as it is written, “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied” Ezra 9:3.

       The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, [God’s people] have not separated themselves…” Ezra 9:1a. God is saying that it is up to His people to “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. We all get excited about God “receiving” us as his sons or daughters, and Him being our “daddy” who thinks we are oh-so-wonderful, and is “crazy” about us, and dotes on us, and all that unscriptural mush, as we skip right over the condition God lays out for such a relationship; that is, separation. Jesus is returning for a Church that is separate from sinners, separate from the filth of the world, separate from the love of money, separate from the works of the devil, and separate from a counterfeit Christ-less religion. Jesus didn’t die for us because there was some “good” in us, or that we are “worthy,” but because we are hopelessly lost sinners who need to be reconciled to God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” Romans 3:10-12. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6:23.

       Now concerning Christians and the organized, institutionalized, traditional, man-centered, liberal, seeker-friendly, Patriarchal (prejudiced against women), respecter-of-persons, Nicolaitan, cold, dead, lukewarm, prideful, self-serving, social gospel “churches,” that pander to sin in the camp; that is, pandering to the unrepentant, lovers of the world’s systems, the dabblers in the occult, the idolaters, the fornicators, the rebellious, the unclean, and the perverted, including heretical teachings, and unbelievers, let me ask you, where in the Bible does it say that in God’s universal Church that make up His Body that there must be a special place for the wolves, the swine and the goats? Is not the true Body of Christ made up of His sheep that are all equally received by Him who believe and who are partakers of His divine nature? Peter wrote, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” 2 Peter 1:2-4. True believers that make up the Body of Christ must come out and be separate from the world and its ways, or suffer shame. The Laodicean churches of these end days must obey Jesus, be zealous and repent, or suffer shame. Matthew 25:31-34 is clear that the day is coming when the King shall separate the sheep from the goats.

       Listen to the heart of Ezra, “And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God” Ezra 9:5. Can you get a picture of the anguish and shame that overwhelmed this man of God? When was the last time you felt this way over the state of the Church in America, or over your own sin and fell on your knees before God in shame? Then he said, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens” verse 6. Ezra was ashamed and blushing over the sins of Israel whose moral deviations equaled that of the pagans, and whose trespasses against God’s commandments were great.

       Shame is a terrible thing that began with our first parents. Adam and Even were ashamed after they sinned and sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. (Genesis 3:7). King David wrote many verses about being ashamed, including “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Let me not be ashamed O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave” Psalm 31:1, 17. There are many who claim to be Christians, but when it comes to confessing Jesus to the world, they shrink back in shame. Think on His words from Mark 8:34b-38, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” [Emphasis added.] Have you considered the great shame that Jesus endured for us? “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2.

       America is guilty of the same level of wickedness that grieved the heart and soul of Ezra. How can we any longer say, “God bless America” when America has been given over to her greed, lust, lewdness, godlessness, fornication, occultism and idolatry? Why would our holy God choose to bless a nation that has heartlessly slaughtered over 50 million babies since Roe vs. Wade? On top of this, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates that there are about 9 million Americans who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Why should God bless a nation that throws God out of its educational system from pre-school to higher halls of learning while hailing an atheistic, deluded nut like Charles Darwin as some super genius of truth? While it is true that God has a remnant of people in this nation who have not bowed the knee to Satan, nevertheless, we have passed the tipping point, just as Sodom and Gomorrah did. There is a time when the cup of iniquity overflows and judgment is imminent. America is being destroyed from within just like the British Empire. The British boasted that God was on their side, blessing their armies and navies. But in 1659, Puritan watchmen were warning of the self-destruction of the British Empire. They were being raised up by God to warn of the self-destruction coming upon them because of rampant sin and godlessness. The British Empire was crumbling left and right, and what was ruining them was decay from within.

       Thomas Hall wrote: “The sins of England I fear more than all the enemies of the world. It is not Spain, or Italy, France or Turkey, that I fear… it is the atheism, blasphemy, apostasy and the profaning of all that is holy, and contempt for the gospel…. If anything destroys us, it is these abominations that reign among us.”

       When the empire crumbled, another Puritan writer commented: “God humbled us with sickness, plague, poverty and decay of our economy… we threw off the yoke of Christ and now we have on us the yoke of pestilence and disease.” The Puritan Watchmen were crying out the same message that Hosea delivered to Ephraim: “Thou hast destroyed thyself!” (Hosea 13:9).

       Then there is the issue of Israel. Concerning Israel, God says, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” Genesis 12:3. It is no secret how the United States is turning against Israel (except for a handful of faithful God-fearing believers.) The scales are tipping, and it is not in favor of Israel. God warns, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” Zechariah 12:9.

       In closing, I tearfully must confess that there was a time when being an American was something I was proud of, because America, as a whole, stood for something. She wasn’t ashamed of God, she wasn’t ashamed to be identified as a nation populated by churches full of God-fearing Christians. America stood for freedom, for right over wrong, for equal opportunity, for respect, decency and dignity. But over the past few years I have felt more and more ashamed to be associated with an America I can no longer recognize—the Normal Rockwell America—an America that no longer exists.

       Are you beginning to get an inkling of the fire that burned in Ezra? Can you understand how grieved, astonished and ashamed he was? Ezra 9:4, “Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.” Where are the people of God today that tremble at His Word? Look what is happening to America! Look what is taking place in the world today! Are you trembling yet over the judgment of the Almighty? God is starting to shake this world. He is shaking America. He is going to shake this nation until all that is left are two choices: either put away all your sins and silly foolishness and get real with God and worship Him and Him alone, or sell your soul to the devil by trying to hang on to your temporary life with its temporary pleasures and temporary lusts and end up in an eternal hell. God is going to shake His Church “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God” 1 Peter 4:17? He is going to purify it through the fires of adversity until she is holy and prepared for His coming. When Jesus comes, when you stand before Him, when his eyes of fire search the very depths of your soul, are you going to be ashamed?