Now more than two thousand years later, in my generation, the pattern of useless words has persisted and again the kingdom is taken away -- this time from the o.v. church:
"You were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. But when I gave you the world as your pasture, your heart became proud... and when your heart was lifted up, your spirit behaved arrogantly; you determined not to be subject to Me. You said, 'I will not serve.' You thrust Me aside and rejected Me, executing plans but not Mine, making alliances but not of My Spirit, substituting your own doctrines, works, traditions for My word, My works, My way. Did you not know you had joined hands and heart with the spirit of lawlessness?
...There is no longer any healing or remedy -- you have crucified My Son again and put Him to open shame. This time you drew the lot for His robe, this time your hands offered Him the sour wine...
The kingdom has been taken from you and given to a people who will bear the fruit of it. I have left you desolate. The age of the church is over."
Message to the Churches (Handbook 2)
Was there no warning? Should the churches have known better?
Jesus sent words (letters) of both commendation and condemnation through John to the seven churches in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. The letters contained warnings if corrections were not made:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
And there were many men and women through the centuries who spoke or wrote "warnings" to their congregations. (Many of them I have quoted in the Christian Handbooks.)
So the announcement in Handbook 2 that the Holy Spirit no longer strives with the churches should have come as no surprise.
A Personal Note by a Fellow Journeyman
I want to share some of the spiritual insights God has given me lately. I have been reading the Gospels and I'm currently in Luke. As I read about Jesus' assessment of the Jewish religious leaders, I can't help but be reminded of the Catholic and Protestant denominations of our day. It seems that the Gentiles are destined to make all of the same mistakes that the Jews did when it comes to their relationship with God.
The traditions and false doctrines have been recreated. Some churches worship Mary and the saints like the Jews worshiped Moses and Abraham, trusting that in them as intermediaries, their salvation is secure. Priests and clergy, mega-ministers and bishops, many dressing themselves in garb fashioned after finery of Aaron and his sons, stand between God and the Gentiles so the people can outsource their religion to someone else. Cathedrals and church compounds rival the Jewish temple in their splendor and the people lose sight of God's spiritual temple in the shadow of these ornate physical structures. Churches and ministries sell products to pay for their buildings and programs like the money changers that Jesus, in His zeal for His Father's house, expunged from the temple.
It seems that the church of the Gentiles has replaced everything that Jesus came to remove and abolish and free us from. The only difference is that it is in the name of Christianity instead of Judaism.
I'm intrigued by this "full circle" phenomenon. Is it human nature or God's plan or both? The Jews had to fail for God to offer His gifts to the Gentiles. Did the Gentiles have to fail for God to justify the Jews? The Scripture talks about a remnant chosen from among the two groups who become God's people, Israel. (See Romans 9)
One last note: The Scripture I read today (Luke 21:20-24) confirms that there was a "time of the Gentiles" and it seems that is now over.
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Why didn't those of us in the o.v. church (and I include myself -- I was part of the church for many years) listen to the following parable? Why couldn't we "hear" until it was too late? No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, "The old is good enough."
It seems that last sentence was our response to the gospel: "The old is good enough!"
My Church Years: First, the later years, then the early years.
During the later years that I was a member of an o.v. church, I began to notice many traditions, doctrines, creeds, organized works and methods that did not match the Scriptures. (And I now realize that in some small measure I had been "coming out" of the o.v. church, rather that He had been drawing me out, for some time before His pronouncement in Handbook 2.) And when He gave me opportunity I spoke up about these things. But the congregations I belonged to or visited, had built strongholds around their beliefs and they closed their ears. If one or two did consider what God had given me to say, they would tell me, "If I accept what you are saying, it would destroy me -- it would shatter my faith."
Their traditions and doctrines had become the foundation of their faith.
And not a few began to separate themselves from me. But because these congregations were true to the Word in some things I did not separate myself from them -- at least that is why I thought I stayed. I tried instead to find within the Christian community smaller, home-style, Bible-study groups, many who seemed to be searching. But sooner or later, even there, I found myself, unwelcome; I was viewed as causing dissension, accused of disturbing the faithful, or in the extreme, being an unwitting emissary of Satan.
However, God gave me people of like-mind and spirit among Christian writers (His messengers) from past generations and I learned that God had been warning His people over and over through the centuries -- His correction was not something new to my generation. (I have quoted many of these writers in the first two handbooks:. Martin Luther, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Charles Spurgeon, AW Tozer, Watchman Nee, Charles Finney, Oswald Chambers -- Christians who were grieved by the error and deceptions practiced in their congregations -- they tried like John the Baptist to make His paths straight.) God was faithful to them and merciful to me:
"He confirmed the word of His servants, and performed the purpose of His messengers (in me!)."
Through the "witness of their walk" with God, I "unlearned" many spiritually destructive ideas that I had accepted as Truth when I was a spiritual "babe."
"It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials, what God wants for us is to un-learn. God is all the time bringing us to the place where we unlearn things. How many of us can unlearn? This has nothing to do with the faculty of intelligence. It has everything to do with our heart before God, becoming poor in spirit. What do we lose? Useless spiritual information, that is what we lose. We can't just add facts to an improper foundation, or to no foundation at all. First we must get down to the only foundation, which is Jesus Christ. But isn't that odd; It is not learning but unlearning. It is un-teaching. This is the biggest problem."
And part of my unlearning was to repent. Repentance takes individual responsibility for embracing error, for laying another foundation than was laid.