An article from SVM Summer 2017
By Darren Connery
The following article appropriately follows on the heels of the last issue of SVM and the article The Independent Ministries of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. That article exposed secular and sectarian behaviors of corporate and denominational churches that are contrary to the ministry examples and teachings of Jesus Christ. The following article Monumental Mistake, takes the understanding further so that we can avoid making the same mistakes of the past. Author Darren Connery takes biblical history and puts it in context with our contemporary behavior and experience. Christ is the Head of the Church, and it is evident He has allowed, and made provision for, mistakes in our interpretation of the Work and our place in it. The real test is if we learn from our mistakes, take personal responsibility for them, and glorify God for showing us the correction and His grace that got us to come to terms with it. – Jim Patterson, Managing Editor
I remember as a kid in school when they sold jumbo erasers, one brand had written on it “For Big Mistakes.” I am not so sure they sell them anymore given the use of computers and tape erasers, but mistakes just as big occur.
Have you ever made a big mistake in your walk and/or your ministry? Admitting to a mistake is a fundamental part of the faith, but some have not yet come to terms with past mistakes, their own and others; trying to make the mistake work. They also point to the mistakes of others to excuse their OWN current situation.
We all make mistakes, but God is not fooling around either, especially with His reputation. He is sensitive to those who were bought with the precious blood of His Son. We as a people need to be sensitive to what the Spirit speaks to us, and what the Bible says about those who have made mistakes, but whom God has redeemed or is redeeming!
There are those who are very persuasive and confident in their message to have many in the Sabbatarian community look to them as a beacon to salvation. They tell their listeners and readers just how to interpret the Bible, whom God is working with and to whom they must listen—to them of course. They are so persuasive that some will overlook scriptures that contradict their message and undermine their authority altogether.
We as a people can get caught up in a situation where we no longer recognize how the scriptures warn us against making the monumental mistake of falling away from the Father.
The Bible was not written to be a history book, as so much of human history is not covered in its pages. So when certain historical events are presented, we should take heed to learn what they might mean to us when they are presented, and not to assume they are only given for informative reasons. They were given for our edification. Let us look at a few Monumental Mistakes and relate them to our present experience.
Let Us Make a Name for Ourselves
Genesis, Chapter 11 is a very interesting body of scripture for a number of reasons. The account of the story of Babel, as with most scripture, is compelling in every aspect down to its placement within biblical timeline.
At one time the whole earth had the same language and vocabulary. As people migrated from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, and let us make oven-fired bricks.” They used brick for stone and asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come; let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-9).
Condensed in these few verses we can make some very compelling observations in what was occurring. Firstly, let us look at “Let’s make a name for ourselves.” As we have read, everyone was spread out and migrated to this place called Shinar. They settle and begin to build their city, and in this city they begin construction of a tower. Notice where their priority seems to lie: build “ourselves” a city. Make a name for “ourselves.” Punctuated here is their disregard for one of God’s initial commands to man before and after the flood, which was to go forth, to subdue the earth, to replenish it, and to multiply. God wanted His image to be spread throughout the earth:
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 HCSB).
At the end of verse 4, scripture quotes them in such a way as to apply a negative connotation to God’s will, by warning themselves that they will be scattered over the face of the whole earth. They overrode God’s wishes regarding social development.
We need to understand the problem here. God doesn’t have a problem with cities, or construction, or ingenuity. He doesn’t have a problem with people coming together; he rather encourages it in many places. In the work of the Church, there are no prohibitions in God’s Word against collectives coming together to pay ministers or to register as a charity.
This has to do with why they were building their city and tower. They were coming together in opposition to how God wanted man to unite in general. In fact, this is largely about their attitude—and fear was used as a motivator.
God will not share His glory. If you want to get negative attention from God, then you can do that easily by trying to take His Glory away from Him. This is a mistake,—a mistake we must be careful not to make.
“I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).
This includes whatever great work men might be doing in His name. It does not matter how great the results it would appear to have.”
So we see this city in Shinar with its tower as an idol, a monument of human construct, for human purposes. What can we glean thus far from this account?
- The statement “let us make a name for ourselves” indicates that they were comparing themselves to other people.
- They wanted to stand apart based on their own achieve3ment, crediting themselves and not God.
- They were concerned for their place in world opinion.
- The Hebrew for “name” is shem (Strong’s H8034) which is defined as: “renown, fame, infamy, or being of rapport”.
- They were not interested in sharing glory with God much less giving Him all the glory.
Then the Lord came down to look over the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said,
“If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech. So from there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name is called Babylon, for there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-9 HCSB).
In the Bible, a “Coming of the Lord” or a “Day of His Visitation” is anytime He pays a person or groups a visit. This is noteworthy for anyone claiming to be in His service, or who has made big plans to create societies and nations. God has the ability to look in and see whatever He wants to, from wherever He is, and for any reason He sees fit.
This speaks to the importance of having an honest and pure heart— even among those that may slander us—and a record of “good works” done in the name of God. Everyone will have a “day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). The Greek for “visitation” here is episcope, the same word used for “overseer” or “bishop”. As men oversee congregations, so God is overseeing them!
… then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
Again it would appear that God is speaking to their mindset, and their imaginations. We should note that it is not that no actual thing would be impossible, but rather, anything in their mind they felt could be possible, or withheld from their feelings of aspiration and notoriety.
Anything they set out to do would take on an aspect of “the sky is no limit”—They were excited for themselves, and not their Creator. This is the genesis of a monumental mistake.
Their directive would be to set themselves apart and above. God is aware of all human proclivities, and setting ourselves apart is one of them—He knew that this would spread and metastasize. It is our best to trust God to set apart whom He decides to set apart, not men.
Their opposition or competitiveness with God was setting them across from or at some physical parallel with God—at least in their minds. Not that God’s plans could be thwarted, but it’s an uphill battle when dealing with human vanity and hubris. They wanted to make a name for themselves in spite of God. So God took some extreme action to make sure his plans were not thwarted—he divided people up by giving them many languages—the effects of which are still present with us to this day.
We should notice in verses 6 and 7 that a conversation is taking place.
God is making points to someone other than the reader here, but we are being made privy to it. In verses 7 to 9 we see God’s will is dictated and implemented.
- The language was indeed confused, and they became confused.
- They were scattered.
- They stopped building the city.
- God gave it the only name that He deemed worthy which refers to confusion.
- He again re-asserted His will in having them scattered.
Historically we should see this as a compelling narrative of God directly intervening in society’s endeavors. Our general instinct is to distance ourselves from these stories (i.e. “Who did they think they are (were)?!”), seeing in our own minds that any lessons would apply to other groups of people and their secular or religious organizations. I would suggest however that we need to apply this to ourselves as individuals first, and to heed the warning that is within the words of these verses.
A Scattered Church?
This account of Babel should come as a warning, both to nations and to all those who come in Christ’s Name. We need to check our personal attitudes toward God’s instructions for us against scriptures such as these.
It speaks against those who will come in the name of Jesus Christ, but over time actuality set out to insert and prop themselves up as having Christ-like authority in power and judgment, to over-ride His Will and assert their own on others instead. They point to the Pope and make the same accusation of him.
Understand that as church attendance in most cases is on the decline, and delusion on the incline, those whose priorities are questionable will likely come knocking, looking to prey on those looking again for a place to belong. This is happening.
While holding onto hierarchal training and Church government mandates, these groups will try to discredit others who do not aspire to their brand of church and label them as Congregationalists, liberal, and accuse them of spiritualizing away the scriptures. Some will tell you that God only ever worked through one man or an apostle at a time to spread the gospel. They will claim a human line of leaders from Paul, Peter, and James etc., extending to the leader of their church today. Some will claim an unbroken line of doctrinal purity, though any church group with written records has always demonstrated doctrinal changes. They may claim the Church is broken up into seven “eras” (Revelation 2 & 3), even though the word “era” never appears there, but rather the opposite instruction is repeated seven times: everyone is to listen to every message to every church. Some even think they find their place in Biblical prophecies of Ezekiel, Hosea, Daniel and Malachi.
Many have left small congregations to return to larger more authoritative groups, seeking a security in their numbers and in the self-assured message of their leaders. Why is this occurring? We are not left without Biblical lessons.
Give us a King (or a Pastor General)
In the time of the Judges the people lived free from autocracy. Their government was a theocracy and God was their King. They had the law of liberty which had little to do about its enforcement. Judges arbitrated over them as necessary but did not police their lives. The judges had authority as people came to them for decisions—they did not constantly invent new laws to rule the people. Their security was in God and their obedience to Him and His laws. Their government structure was decentralized. Elders governed cities, towns, and communities. Cases were brought to a national judicial body only when the local government found them “too hard” to solve (Deuteronomy 17:8-13).
The Biblical example is that freedom has a price. They would appear to have vulnerabilities, and thieves outside of their tribal systems tried to pilfer them, and these had to be defended and guarded against. There were also other organized governments that had to be fought off.
God fought for them, but not without their own participation in fending off intruders. They had to go out in the field and fight for their freedom. As long as they stayed faithful to God, society worked. It wasn’t easy, and not without consternation, but this comes sometimes in maintaining freedoms. Practicing the law of liberty to serve God takes work and trust. Freedom has a price, but it is a price we must always be willing to pay. They were able to have a community that considered God’s laws first over any other imposing authority that may have been put upon them.
Over the process of time, mostly due to their own failures, freedom for these people was becoming a burden too heavy to bear. They decided the solution was a King, so they came to Samuel and insisted on one
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not follow your example. Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.”
When they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” Samuel considered their demand sinful, so he prayed to the Lord. But the Lord told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshiping other gods. Listen to them, but you must solemnly warn them and tell them about the rights of the king who will rule over them” (1 Samuel 8:4-9, HCSB).
The Children of Israel decided it was time for a change and wanted a King! They got one, the best even He could find for them. You will find a king if you want one.
It must have been an attractive thing for them to look at neighboring kingdoms that provide security and comfort for their subjects, at least from their standpoint. It is equally attractive for Christians to look to organizations with a self-assured head or council, surrounded by supportive ministers, a media program or a fancy headquarters. Instead of working harder and looking to themselves and finding security in Jesus Christ, many go to these groups because those groups will gladly “tell you what to do,” and will always reassure you that you are with the right group.
They have the numbers behind them, so there is a comfort built into being part of a large organized corporation that seems to have more ability to penetrate and get the word out. To do the work. But does this add up?
An unfortunate by product is that personal responsibility to read and respond to the scriptures tends to be swallowed up in the system and the authority structure. Some groups will not allow Bible studies without a minister present.
We use Genesis 11 and 1 Samuel 8 as a backdrop because some church groups have used terms like:
“Our church should be the safest church to be in” (this is not a scriptural tenet)
“Our church should be the envy of other churches”
“Our church won’t be a valid organization until we have the same operating budget as another church”
Do we see it—“Our Church?”
One group advertises on-line with the tag line: “Are you searching for the original [followed by the name of a defunct church group]” Does not it occur to them that if God allowed a certain group to end, that recreating the exact same group would produce the exact same result again?
These all add up to the same values as that group of people who met in Shinar and set out to make “a name for ourselves.”
Christ made it explicit that ownership of the Church is His. When promotion of the Church of God is done with the kind of rhetoric we list above, desiring to make a name for themselves, individually or as a group, Jesus Christ has the prerogative to allow them to get what they want, or He will pay the offenders a visit when the time becomes necessary, and He has already done both in the last few decades.
God’s Unchanging Plan Despite our Efforts
The reader should notice the placement of Genesis 11—it is right in between the post flood period of Noah and his sons, and the beginning of the lineage of Abram.
It is an interesting comparison when we see that Noah, having found grace in God’s eyes, sees his post flood descendants begin to carry out God’s will according to His plan. Somewhere along the timeline, a significant segment of humanity allows itself to drift away from that plan culminating in a monumental mistake with the building of a city and tower which defied God.
After the dispersal and confusion that lead to the halt in production at Shinar, and with God’s will re-affirmed, the Biblical narrative then changes the focus as God’s will reestablished with Abrahamic covenant. As God tore down man’s will and direction, He asserted His original, unchanging will and plan.
Some can make a connection from the story of Babel to the history of churches today. Some however cannot, being blinded and manipulated, without an ear to hear or eyes to see God’s judgment— unwilling to give God the glory— holding on to man-made and un- Biblical tenets of church structure and objectives. When the priority changed from glorifying Jesus Christ to promoting a man or at the very least a man’s institution, God allowed it to fall to confusion. The building of that institution stopped, the foundation was wrong—it could not hold itself together. It is evident that many are being manipulated to believe differently, that the wrong guy got the top job, or that because of the lack of adherence to the will of a supposed “appointed” man, that the Church has been punished by the scattering of brethren and that our aim should be to come together in subjection to a new modern-day Elijah or prophet etc. This is trying to build on that wrong foundation, using the ruins as cornerstones.
As when the Lord scattered the people from Babel, He did so in His mercy so that they could find Him again, not find a new leader.
Know the Scriptures — The Apostles Warned You
The apostles implored the followers of Christ to individually seek God’s guidance and be sensitive to when the Holy Spirit is speaking to them. Why do we not then seek what the Holy Spirit is saying to us today?
Heads of Church groups—whatever their titles may be—often do not appreciate certain scriptures being read and applied to either themselves or their followers. It takes away from their authority, and instinctively they know their authority must be held at any cost! To “permit” their application, it would cut into their authority and their ability to own your hearts, minds and ultimately your tithes through fear. They know that what got them there in the first place was that faith must be built up in a man, and that man knows it, both in himself or of his predecessor. He will give you what you need to maintain that faith. Ultimately all who build a faith in a man risk eventual shame before the Father instead of repenting, and risking possible shame before men.
Let us examine a few passages of threatening scripture. We say threatening, but only from the point of view one may be looking at them. We can step back and listen to the type of language that can be found in the letters of the apostles and compare them to those claiming to come in His name.
If we still have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying, and have not drowned it out with filters that support our prior emotional investments or loyalties, we can escape the mistakes so many have made before us. We must hear the voice of the Shepherd.
Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:1-2).
The opening verses of the epistles should not be quickly read over, particularly this one in 2 Peter. There are things for us to notice:
Peter says he is a slave and “an apostle”, not “the apostle”. Nor does he claim to be a pre-eminent apostle, or claim a special lineage. Peter, speaking to those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege not apart from the apostles but, as he puts it, “with ours”—the same as the apostles.
They received the privilege the same way, in faith, not through a man or an organization, but through God’s righteousness and the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Notice no reference to knowing or falling in line under a man’s dominion. Rather notice verse 2 alludes to our overall grace and peace being multiplied by knowing our Father God and His Son.
It is worth now continuing with Peter’s flow of thought:
His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires (verse 3-4)
If Peter, an apostle, a physical and spiritual friend of Jesus Christ, (one who was witness to the crucifixion and the transfiguration) is expressly making the point to those he was writing to, and subject to, and in line for the same privileges through conversion that God had promised to Peter, then how can we look at someone now and buy into the notion that we are spiritually and fundamentally lost, unprotected from the coming tribulation, if we do not subscribe to their idea of God’s Government on earth or any other anointing they have otherwise?
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self- control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love (verses 5-7)
Which one of these traits best describes the corporate mentality or encourages one to make a name for themselves?
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you (verses 8-11).
Notice that verses 8 and 9 speak to what our responsibility is and Who that responsibility is to.
Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you have. I consider it right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, knowing that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has also shown me. And I will also make every effort that you may be able to recall these things at any time after my departure (12-15).
These words indicate that the only means by which we will take part in the Kingdom is through adherence to actions, behavior and attitudes which emulate Jesus Christ, not our associations with churches.
Peter makes the point that we need to be reminded of these things even though we may already know them, or claim to know them. Why?
Because there will always be wolves in sheep’s clothing. There will always be those who come in God’s name but will actually be serving themselves by turning your confidence in God to confidence in them. They will often try to be all things to all people, and offer safety. They need you to depend on them for that, you do not need them. He was encouraging them to move forward on their own— listening to and following God.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep (2 Peter 2:1-3).
The way of Truth has been blasphemed by God’s Government on Earth, doctrine of church eras, sectarian preaching and false use of Old Testament prophecies. As Peter warned, many have followed them and have been exploited. Christ is merciful; he will give the many a witness if they still have ears to hear.
To consider or mandate otherwise is to perpetuate man’s monumental mistake. We say man’s monumental mistake because the church does not have a monopoly on the mistake.
We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:13-16 HCSB).
It is important that we do not accept or reject things based on only the human perspective or comparative reasoning to support tempting ideas in regard to furthering the Gospel that are not Christ ordained. Centralizing with strength in numbers, finding security within a human organization, claiming larger resources and international notoriety can lead to a monumental mistake that is not without consequences. We need to evaluate all our activities and aspirations as Christ would.
As we said before, if you want a king, you will find one. There are those that are more than willing to have others worship them (see Kowtow article this issue).
In the time of the Judges, God was their king, and although that way of life brought difficulties, it brought about the environment of learning, and a way to find sufficiency in Christ and not in men. To know that Christ is sufficient for our needs takes work, difficult introspection, knowing our insufficiencies—experiencing how we depend on Him for life. If we follow in the ways of the people at Shinar, or look for self-assured leaders claiming a special anointing, we will lose the experience of finding our sufficiency in Christ. We will not succeed in making a name for ourselves; God is making a name for Himself. We want to be named with Him and no other.