Here is the continuation of last month's straightforward article on OVERCOMING. Read it — and ACT. "BUT be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22). There are many times that all of us in God's Church have used this scripture in referring to the people in the world to prove that they should obey God's law. Now let us apply it to ourselves, individually, as members of the Body of Christ — since it is direct instruction from Almighty God through His Apostle James to us.
If you read last month's article, "You Are Your Own Worst Enemy," and have done nothing about it until now, you stand on this dangerous ground described by James — that of self-deception. If you have done nothing about this article which requested direct action on your part, then chances are that you have done nothing about many of the articles which have appeared in both The GOOD NEWS and The PLAIN TRUTH!
Self-Deception Let's understand! Actions do speak louder than words. It doesn't matter how much knowledge you have concerning God's plan of salvation, if you don't live according to that knowledge.
Knowing that the world is going to end in catastrophe as described by the startling prophecies revealed in your Bible and yet not doing anything about it to insure your safety from that end-time destruction is desperately dangerous. God has revealed the truth to us concerning this end-time turmoil and His coming Kingdom as a WARNING! The knowledge of these things that are going to come to pass is not of itself our passport to safety and freedom. It is only the initial incentive to shock us into recognition of reality and an understanding that we personally must change OUR lives — OUR daily living!
Yet many times we kid ourselves. We accept the outstanding changes that God requires of us, such as Sabbath-keeping and abstaining from unclean meats, but do not go beyond that surface change to completely renew ourselves, to scour out our minds and renew the very way we think. Self-deception is a subtle and a bitter enemy. We think we are doing all right because of the knowledge we have. This is a dangerous prelude to Laodicean thought and non-action.
Knowing the schedule of prophetic events, we sometimes enjoy smugly talking to our friends and warning them of what is going to take place in Europe — of how the United States is on its way down and out. We are like a man standing in the middle of the railroad tracks proclaiming the imminent arrival of an express train. He loudly proclaims to everyone that the train is about to come and warns them to clear the tracks! Few pay any attention to him but he quietly assures himself, saying, "Just wait, you'll see who was right when the train does come through!" Then the train comes with sudden fury, 90 miles an hour, bearing down with incredible, awe-inspiring speed that freezes him in his tracks despite the fact that he knew the train was coming! He tries vainly to leap out of the way — now he's spurred to desperate action! But, his action is too late and too little. He dies under the relentless onslaught of the train, though he knew the schedule!
He had knowledge that the train was coming. He believed in this knowledge. He was convinced of it. He tried to tell others, to warn them to get out of the way — hut he himself refused to budge!
A Present Problem From the reports of those working with local and scattered churches, ministering to you brethren, come these suggestions for sermon topics: "Self-righteousness and How to Detect it — Self-righteousness and the Book of Job — Self-righteousness Conquered — Self-righteousness!" An excerpt from one report reads: "Family dissensions continue to present problems, but the SCOURGE OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS is probably the most prevalent!"
Another comment starkly outlines the desperate need of personal, individual, deep, heartrending, soul-wrenching, inner-being CHANGE! This minister states: "Some of the members are beginning to exhibit a comfortable 'we've-found-our-niche' attitude. Good habits of prayer, Bible study and church attendance, coupled together with faithful tithing have been established. Yet, the expected change in their lives is not evident. They appear to feel that once they have fulfilled the 'letter' requirements, they can then proceed to worldly pursuits such as: acquisition of material goods, obtaining social status, and catering to the physical senses. They need to be jolted into realizing the 'letter' requirements are only the basis for desirable growth in the FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT!"
This whole world is deceived! Satan has deceived it! The many millions following the different ideologies in the world today consider themselves to be the ones who are living correctly.
Those of us who have been called out of this world by God's Holy Spirit have had that deception stripped from OILY eyes! We are no longer deceived into thinking that any way but God's way is the right way. But that is just the FIRST step! If we now allow the pull of human nature to deceive even us — if we just hear the good news of God's Kingdom, even if we understand and believe that we must live according to God's government and His ways — and yet do not COMPLETE CHANGE clear to the core by active overcoming of self, we will end up in the SAME DESTRUCTION prophesied for this deceived world!
God's warning to us is: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he FALL." The one who is going to gain God's Kingdom is the one who implores God for the power to overcome constantly! The one who is so shocked by his own weaknesses and infirmities that he is driven to cry out and ask God's constant strength and help to battle daily HIS OWN carnality, the world around him and Satan the Devil!
Don't let yourself think for once that you've got it made!
Andrew Jukes in his book, The Law) of the Offerings, carnal-minded as he may be, could see this problem as he studied the meaning of the offerings made in the Old Testament: "... how much less perception is there of sin than trespass: he [the individual] has done this evil, or that evil, or the other; he has scarcely learnt as yet that in himself he is evil!" Since we just are that way, of ourselves, we desperately need God's Holy Spirit actively working in us continually every minute of every day — and we will never be able to say "it is done" until we stand born as God's very sons, divine spirit beings!
Self-Righteousness This lethargy is a current problem with the baptizing teams who are visiting people around this nation and around the world. The people whom they are visiting have listened to The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast, received The PLAIN TRUTH magazine and studied the Correspondence Course for perhaps years. They have requested God's representatives to come to them and bury them in the death of Jesus Christ!
Yet the very essence of the carnal mind and the influence of this world around us which makes us callous to wrong and evil brings this representative report of the tours: "We are still running into a great deal of self-righteousness. People just do not seem to see that their sins are very great. When we asked them how they feel about their lives in the past, as far as God is concerned, we have to sit through a long explanation about how they have never done anything 'really bad' that they must repent of now. This experience has helped us to see why God hates our self-righteousness so much!"
Our human minds tend to lull us into the false security that we are all right, that we are not ton bad! It puts us into an attitude of lackadaisical obedience that grieves God and His Holy Spirit!
Realize the Enormity of Sin If you had lived in the time when Jesus Christ walked this earth as a man, could you picture yourself as the one who — while Christ hung on that stake in agony after long hours of physical tortures and mental anguish — callously seized a Roman spear, and violently thrust it into the heart of our Saviour?
"Oh no!" You recoil! You could not have done a thing like that!
Or how about you who are women — can you picture yourself as a harlot, a prostitute, selling your body to make your living? "I've done lots of things that were wrong, but I would never do anything that bad!" is an approximate answer that many would give.
Brethren, let us understand the enormity, the horror of our personal responsibility in the death of our Saviour, Jesus Christ; and also the extent of the filth and the mire in which we ALL sunk before God redeemed us from it, washed us of our sins and accepted us before His throne as His children through the blood of Jesus Christ! Let's read what the apostle Peter said on that Day of Pentecost in 31 A.D. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, WHOM YE HAVE CRUCIFIED, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
Peter was here talking to more than 3000 men, many of them devoutly religious, coming to Jerusalem from all over the world to observe one of God's Holy Days! There were undoubtedly some, if not many, in the crowd that he was speaking to who had personally said just a few weeks prior to this sermon, "Crucify Him! crucify Him!" in reference to the very Jesus that Peter was preaching. Yet, surely not all of these men were personally responsible for the crucifixion of Christ! None of them had personally, seized the spear that ended His life. None of them had helped nail Him to the stake! Yet, Peter said to them, "... whom YE have crucified!" (Acts 2:36.)
The same message is for us today! It's been nearly 2000 years since Jesus Christ shed His blood here on this earth. But this does not excuse us from our responsibility for His death! We have been just as much a part of His crucifixion as was Pilate, the Sanhedrin or the Jewish mob that cried for Him to be crucified, or the Roman soldier who thrust Him through with a spear! BY THE ACTION OF PLACING OUR SINS ON CHRIST — OF ACCEPTING HIM AS OUR PERSONAL SACRIFICE — WE CRUCIFIED HIM!
If no other individual had ever lived but you, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His death, and His bearing of your sins on the stake in His body, the pouring out of His lifeblood, would have been necessary for YOU alone to enter into eternal life!
The penalty for sin is death! Sin is the transgression of the law! The same law that says that "Thou shalt do no murder" says "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy!" The same law that says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" says, "Honour thy father and thy mother!" ONE SIN REQUIRES THE SAME PENALTY AS ANOTHER!
Yet, because we are human, we tend to look upon Sabbath-breaking as far less an accusation against our character before God than murder! We tend to soften the attitude of disobedience we had toward our parents and not think to compare it to the act of adultery! In weighing our sins in this human balance we misunderstand the ENORMITY of our PERSONAL transgressions of the laws of our Divine Judge!
The Physical Type of Christ's Sacrifice Let us understand the way in which the sin offering of the Old Testament pictured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. All the way through Leviticus 4 you will notice that whether it was the Priest (verse 3), the elders (verse 15), the rulers (verse 22), or even one of the common people (verse 27), who had committed a sin against God, it was necessary for that individual to slay the sacrifice! "And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and SLAY the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering" (Lev. 4:27-29).
Now let's notice a New Testament statement regarding the ultimate fulfillment of this type of sacrifice in the body of Jesus Christ. "For he [God] has made him [Christ] to be sin for US [the correct translation here should be 'a sin offering for us']" (II Cor. 5:21).
When we repent, we recognize our sins and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay for them. This is as much a recognition on our part that the sacrifice of Christ is necessary for the payment of OUR sins. OUR sins, then, directly caused the death blows to fall on our Saviour!
Let's notice Jesus' own explanation of the meaning of the depth of the forgiveness offered to us through His sacrifice.
In Luke 7, beginning in verse 36, there is an account telling of a time that Jesus went to have dinner with a certain Pharisee. This Pharisee's name was Simon, and he was a leper. There was also a woman present at this dinner who was an obvious sinner — perhaps a street woman, a harlot! "And [she) stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (verse 38). Now this Pharisee, obviously a religious man, shrank at the thought of Jesus allowing this obvious sinner even to touch him! Reasoning in his own mind, he said, "... This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner" (verse 39).
An Important Parable Christ perceived this attitude of Simon's and gave him advice through the following parable: "And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."
This incident is not recorded in your Bible in vain. Let's understand its present day meaning for yon. Was Jesus trying to tell Simon that he had but fifty sins to be forgiven, but this woman obviously had five hundred sins? No!
There is a much deeper meaning: Simon was a leper, therefore he had committed physical sins which brought this upon him. Simon was a Pharisee, one of the "snakes" in the "generation of vipers" whom Jesus had so plainly labeled as sons of the Devil! (John 8:44.) He was obviously a man well-off, perhaps rich, as he was able to entertain Christ and as well because of the type of parable that Christ used. Because of this, he was undoubtedly involved in m m y "little" sins. Yet, he could not see these. He was self-satisfied, he was self-deceived, SELF-RIGHTEOUS! He was like his brother — Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican" (Luke 18:11). He could see the sins of others, but was blind to his own!
He could see no imperfection in himself, but was highly indignant at others. He would not deign to classify himself as a "real" sinner! He could not realize the immensity of HIS sin nor the immensity of the sacrifice that would be needed to pay for that sin on the part of his Saviour!
The woman, on the other band, be cause her sins were obvious, recognized to be sins by both man and God, could readily see and eagerly repent of them. She knell' SHE was a sinner and she knew an AWFUL PRICE would have to be exacted to pay for those sins, therefore she was deeply grateful and expressed it in outgoing love to her Saviour.
The meaning for us today is for each of us to weigh and measure the immensity of OUR sins by GOD'S SCALE and not by our own! We should realize how they look in the sight of God, and how overwhelming a sacrifice it was that Christ made for us individually.
Once we have achieved this viewpoint, we should not only be deeply thankful for the sacrifice of Christ but recognize the weighty responsibility that the application of that sacrifice places on us once it has been applied! Now we can see how terrible ANY sin is. This makes us abhor and shrink back in terror from committing again the things which displease our Creator and grieve His Holy Spirit.
A Carnal Pitfall Once you understand the meaning of the above parable you will be able to avoid the favorite carnal pastime that your mind is eager to engage in. "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (II Cor. 10:12). Pointing out someone else's sins often makes you feel more righteous! When you are able to stand back from somebody else's life objectively and pick out his faults and mistakes, and describe these to yourself or to others around you, the fact that you do not practice these same sins makes you feel superior!
Here's how it works: (1) in your conversation you explain what is the right way to do a certain thing; (2) you also add incidentally that you always practice that right way; (3) you show how someone else has done it a different way, proving him wrong — and at the same time proving yourself right, and "more righteous" than the other fellow. The fourth step is the clincher: (4) you say with shocked, open-faced, indignant innocence that yon do not understand how this other person could have done the thing he did the way he did!
The sad thing about this human trait of comparing yourself with others is that you need someone to agree with you, to sympathize with you — A STOOGE! Therefore, your physical friends are dangerous — if the reason for your association is mainly physical. In order to overcome this, you need to be close to God in prayer, consciously asking His help so that you will not make these careless statements about other people.
And by all means do not descend to being somebody else's "stooge"! IF this type of downgrading another person is being practiced in your ear, have the spiritual fortitude to suggest another topic of conversation.
Spiritual Pride God says: "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" (Eccl. 7:16). The Pharisees of Jesus' day had added sixty-five do's and don'ts to the keeping of the Sabbath. They had reduced the spirit of keeping the Sabbath holy into carnally understood and physically defined laws of their own. This is why there was such a stir when Jesus went through a wheat field one day and plucked a few ears of grain to eat. The reason the Pharisees were so disturbed was because one of their rules was that on the Sabbath day it was permissible to pluck one ear of grain but to pluck two or more would be considered reaping and therefore work, which was banned on the Sabbath day. They even went to the extreme of declaring that it was unlawful to catch a flea on the Sabbath day, with the added condition that if the flea bit you then you were free to catch him and exterminate him!
Because of this show of righteousness of theirs, they wondered when they saw Jesus eating with and talking to "Publicans." They couldn't understand how a holy man would think of associating himself with a sinner. Jesus' plain answer to them was that answer which we can apply in our lives today: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32).
That is, those who recognize that they are indeed sinners!
The natural minds that we are born with cause us to have self-righteous tendencies today in God's Church. We tend to equate the righteousness which comes by God's Holy Spirit to righteousness that we can understand physically. We begin to reason with our carnal minds and leave God out of the picture.
Once we learn about the benefits of certain "health foods" we are highly indignant of those who still remain in ignorance. We are shocked when we hear that a member has used "white sugar," and are driven to our knees about the brother who has not yet learned the evils of hydrogenated oil. Our carnal minds dwell on such things as fasting and diet rather than allowing God's Spirit to keep our thoughts on healing and forgiveness.
Our carnal minds lead us to think about the minister and his "speech" rather than the ministry and its message! We dwell on the physical circumstances rather than the spiritual hope!
Religious Reasoning Perhaps we even go so far as to give spiritual-sounding reasons for doing and justifying wrong acts that we commit. An example might be: "I think we all ought to have more love, yield more to God's spirit." Now, since this is a truism — that is, of course we all ought to have more love and we ought to yield more to God's Spirit — this then allows the individual who has made this statement to go ahead and criticize, condemn and gossip about other brethren and perhaps even the ministry.
Here is an example from real life:
"We should give everything we can to the Work of God." This statement is true. It is irreproachable. No one would dare deny the fact. But the reasoning that was used to exemplify this spiritual-sounding phrase was incorrect totally!
The reasoning was this: "It is wrong for Brother So-And-So to give more support to his divorced wife than he gives to the Work of God." This whole situation gives a spiritual-sounding reason for the individual to be more righteous than God Himself! God has demanded ten percent of the increase that He blesses us with for His Work. He has asked us in addition to this to give generous offerings.
But a wife in God's eyes, divorced or not, and especially if demanded by the laws of the state, is to be supported — which would probably amount to more than ten percent. Only discontent and hard feelings can come from reasonings such as this which stem from spiritual pride.
One of the easiest ways for the carnal mind to justify itself is to believe that it is "misunderstood." How many times the ministers of God have heard that statement come from the lips of those they have counseled!
On one occasion, a minister was speaking with an individual for nearly an hour trying to explain to him in English that he should not work on God's Sabbath after sundown on Friday night. The individual spoke Spanish, but understood English well enough to get the point. However, to justify his own carnal feelings about this subject, he said that he did desperately wish he could speak in Spanish, because he knew that if he could but express himself in his native tongue he would be "understood."
This minister then answered him in Spanish and said that he would be glad to discuss the matter. Another forty-five minutes ensued in the Spanish language, going over the same points, until the carnal mind was again trapped. But then the excuse was that the minister was too young and could not "understand" how difficult it was for an older man to get a job!
Let us UNDERSTAND one thing: GOD will never be satisfied with the excuse: "YOU just don't understand!"
Pure Religion "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:26-27). You will notice as you turn to this scripture that we have quoted the 22nd verse of this chapter of James before. Here, in the last portion of James 1, is an overall summary of both the problems that face us and the solution that comes by APPLYING this scripture directly to ourselves as individuals.
You will notice that neither hearing the truth nor talking about the truth, as verses 22 and 26 explain, is what God considers to be pure religion. Only the actual fruit of selflessness, of giving of yourself to others in outgoing LOVE, a witness of your actions, not of your lips, a changing of the complete man from the very inner-being — this is what God considers to be pure religion!
There are many other pitfalls that we fall into as human beings because of the downward pull of our human nature. Perhaps going over these few in this article will give you a more specific idea of what to look for, to fight against in your own carnal nature. Don't stop here, but go on with the help of God's Spirit to discover the other tactics that your carnal mind uses against YOU to bring YOU into subjection, to bring YOU to death, to deceive YOU!
Really dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to overcoming your "self"! The power of God's Holy Spirit is the only power that can overcome your problems. So don't forget to be instant in prayer, to constantly think first of God and ask silently or out loud as the occasion permits for personal, direct contact with the POWER and the MIND of, Almighty God who chose you out of this world to become a new creature!
Notice that pure religion as defined by God through His apostle James also includes that the individual must "... keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). In the next article, we will find out how to do this.
The second great enemy that we have in fighting our way in this battle of overcoming, in the "total war" of becoming perfect, is that of overcoming this world, its society, its ways of thinking, and the pulls it has on us to detract us from our goal, to fight us in every way to keep us from becoming the born sons of God. You need to recognize this enemy in order to be able to fight it with God's power in a way that will make you MORE THAN A CONQUEROR!