Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Word vs. Emerging Idolatry

It is the power of God's word which men and devils oppose and hate, as being the only weapon which they really dread. To them the mere 'letter of the word' is as straw—and a mere 'form of godliness' as rotten wood. Such darts are counted as stubble, and they laugh at the shaking of such a spear. (Job 41:27, 28.) But they dread, though they hate, the 'power'—because it is the very voice of God. By the power of the word the dear Redeemer foiled and defeated the tempter in the wilderness. (Matt. 4:1-11.) By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony the ancient martyrs overcame the accuser of the brethren; and the remnant of the seed of the woman with whom the dragon made war, were such as kept the commandments of God, and had the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:11, 17.)

It is against the authority and power of the word that all infidels, unbelievers, and erroneous men set themselves. What are such infidels aiming at—but to destroy the authority and power of God's word, by undermining its authenticity and inspiration? If not authentic, if not inspired, it has no power; and if it has no power, it can have no authority. The two are proportionate. What gives authority to a magistrate? The power to execute his decisions. Strip him of this power, and his sentences are not decisions, but opinions. So with the word of God. Take away its power by denying its authenticity and inspiration, and its authority to bind and loose, condemn and justify—is gone at once.
(Sermon by J.C. Philpot, "The Authority & Power of the Word upon the Heart,"

Much of what is happening in the neoevangelical church today can be viewed as a precursor to open idolatry. By setting up a "Jesus" who is a "representative" of what they desire to worship, instead of the authentic biblical Jesus (see Herescope post 9/12/06, e.g.), neoevangelical leaders are rapidly encroaching upon the highways of idolatry. By creating new theologies, new terminologies, new structures, and new eschatologies, a surrogate "Christianity" is being formed -- an idolatrous sytem of pseudo-worship.

J.C. Philpot, who delivered solidly biblical sermons in the early to mid 1800s, once noted the proclivity of mankind to work himself towards idolatry. It is interesting that he wrote this well over a hundred years before the humanistic psychology doctrine of "felt needs" entered the church like a flood:

"We want a Person to be the object of our faith: for faith needs an object, and especially in the matter of worship or service, a personal object. Do you not feel that you want some personal object to believe in, to hope in, to worship, to adore, to love? The feeling of this want has been the source of idolatry. When men had lost the knowledge of the only true God and could not look forward in faith to the Messiah who was to be revealed, they set up a visible idol that they might have a personal object to worship--a visible representation, as they conceived, of invisible Deity." (Sermon "The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the Knowledge of Christ.") [emphasis added]

Today, the godly sermons of J.C. Philpot and others of his genre are available in print and on the Internet for anyone who is thirsting for the true, authentic Christian faith. In fact, so much of this old material is available that you are without excuse who proclaim that you are too busy, too overwhelmed, too bothered, too weak, too "without a church," too uneducated, etc. to learn the old paths.

J.C. Philpot taught that the Word of God is an antidote to idolatry, and it is even more urgent in our day to heed this lesson. Speaking on this verse —"For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12.), Philpot expounded :

This sword has two edges, and therefore cuts as it goes, and cuts both ways at one and the same stroke. (Rev.1:16; 2:12.) It is not sharp on one side and blunt on the other, like a table knife, which cuts but does not pierce, but it severs as it enters with both its edges at once, and thus effectually divides asunder soul and spirit, separating, as nothing else can, the natural religion, which is of the soul, from the spiritual religion which is of the Spirit.**

** If any consider this interpretation forced, let them consider the following points—Paul draws (1 Cor. 2:14,15) a distinction between the "natural" man and the "spiritual" man. Now the word there translated, "natural," is literally, if we may coin an expression, "soulish;" that is, the man has a soul, but not a spirit, as not being born of the Spirit; for "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." His religion, therefore, in this state is natural, its seat being not the new man of grace, but the mere intellectual, mental part of man—the soul as distinct from the body. So James, describing a carnal, earthly religion, says, it is "sensual," ("natural," margin,) or "soulish." Similarly Jude speaks of certain ungodly characters, and says of them that they are "sensual," using precisely the same word as is rendered "natural," 1 Cor. 2:14, and "sensual," Jas. 3:15.

The word thus also becomes "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," laying the inmost movements of the mind, whether in imagination or intention, naked and bare before the eyes of the omniscient Majesty of heaven. Before this entrance of the sword of the Spirit, it was not known or felt that "the thought of foolishness is sin," (Prov. 24:9,) and that "every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is only evil continually." (Gen. 6:5.) Heart sins were not seen or regarded. As long as the outside of the cup and platter were made clean, the inward part might be full of ravening and wickedness. (Luke 11:39.) As long as the whited sepulcher appeared beautiful outward, the dead men's bones and all uncleanness within were considered of little significance.

But God searches the heart. And how? By his word. (Prov. 20:27; Psalm 45:3-5; 139:1, 2, 23, 24; 1 Cor. 14:24, 25; Rev. 2:23.) This searching of the heart is effected by the entrance of the law into the conscience, for "by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:20.) This is the coming of the commandment in its spirituality and power, armed with all the authority of God, and discovering to the awakened conscience that to lust is to sin, because God has said, "You shall not covet." (Rom. 7:7-9.) The light which attends this entrance of the word (Psalm 119:130; Eph. 5:13) reveals his character as a just and holy, righteous and inflexible Judge; the life which accompanies it makes the conscience bow and bend like a bruised reed, or a tender plant beneath the stroke; the power which clothes it awes and impresses the mind with solemn and ineffaceable convictions that it is the voice of the mighty God who speaks, for his voice is now upon the waters of a troubled heart, and as such is powerful and full of majesty; (Isa. 29, 3, 4;) and the knowledge of the only true God which it communicates (John 17:3) fills the soul with godly fear before him. (Hab. 3:16.)

It is in this way that the authority and power of the word become established as the lord of conscience. This is the grand point of the Spirit's first work—to make the word master of the heart. Before, it was rather the servant than the master, a book like other books, which we could neglect or despise or criticize at will; air it, perhaps, on the Sunday, and lay it on the shelf or lock it up in a drawer for the rest of the week. But no more neglect, no more cold arrogant treatment, no more secret if not open contempt, no more Pharisaical reading of it now. If we neglect it, it will not neglect us; if we struggle against the convictions it produces, and seek to draw away soul and spirit from the word, there it is firmly fixed; and the more we plunge, the more deeply it penetrates and sharply it cuts. (

Take the time today. Bless yourself and others. Read the rest of this sermon, before and after this excerpt, and be encouraged to hold steadfast to the Truth.

The Truth:

"Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part You shall make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalms 516-7)