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The Called Out Ones



There are so many religions, let alone Christian denominations, how can anyone know what to believe?  And even if Jesus is the truth, which denomination can honestly claim to be the "closest" to the truth?  Who are the real Christians?


Everything is Counterfeit Christianity

For starters, it is important to understand that Judeo-Christianity predates all modern religions, beginning in the 20th century BC when Abram heeded God's call to migrate to Canaan.  His monotheistic faith not only set the stage for the Bible to be written, but also for the coming of the Messiah (the Redeemer of mankind).  Judaism proper—adherence to the Law of Moses—came about in the 15th century BC when the Israelites escaped Egypt and their earthly leader Moses received God's instructions (the first five books of the Bible, called the Torah or Pentateuch).

All other modern religions came later: Hinduism circa 1000–500 BC, Zoroastrianism circa 600 BC, Buddhism in the 5th century BC, Taoism in the 4th century BC, and Islam in the 6th or 7th century AD.  Judeo-Christianity preceded all of these by at least 500 years.

But Christianity didn't become a "thing" until 32 or 33 AD, right?  Actually, not really and that's why I'm using the term Judeo-Christianity.  The central theme of all the ancient Hebrew texts is the belief in a coming Messiah who would redeem God's people.  This Anointed One/Christ/Messiah would fulfill the Law, Psalms, and Prophets, save the lost, and establish an everlasting Kingdom.  The very first prophecy given in the Bible is about Him (Gen. 3:15) and the Old Testament (called the Tanakh in Judaism) is replete with descriptions about Him and what He would do and accomplish (e.g. Deut. 18:14–22; Job 19:25; Ps. 2; Ps. 22; Is. 9:1–7; Is. 53; Zech. 12:10–14; 14:3–4).  The Old Testament is about Christ and His people the Israelites.  It's proto-Christianity in the truest sense.

The source of monotheism and religion itself is Judeo-Christianity.  Common religious concepts like Godworshipritualfaithforgivenessgrace, and redemption all stem from the Bible and the revelations contained therein.  All other religions are sad and twisted imitations.



The Bible is Uniquely True

In secular circles it is common to speak collectively of books like the Bible, Koran, and Bhagavad Gita as "holy texts" or "holy books," but the term is comparing apples and oranges.  It muddies the waters.  By very definition the terms equate all truth claims and neglect objectivity.  Each of these books contain numerous mutually exclusive tenets and statements presented as facts.  Not all are true and not all are holy.  For example, the Bible repeatedly claims that Yahweh is the only God (Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; 32:39; 2 Sam. 7:22; 1 Kgs. 8:60; 2 Kgs. 5:15; 19:15; 1 Chr. 17:20; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 18:31; 86:10; Is. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:21; 46:9; Mk. 12:29–34; Jn. 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:4–6; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 2:19) and that Jesus is the only source of salvation (e.g. Ps. 2:1–12; Jn. 3:18, 36; 8:24; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Jn. 5:11–13).  Allah, Brahma, Zeus, and Ba'al can't be gods and neither can Islam, Hinduism, or the Buddha be sources of salvation if the Bible, is, in fact, true.

A foundational belief of the Judeo-Christian faith presented in the Bible is that reality itself is rooted in the self-existent God (Yahweh/Yehovah, whose Name means "I Am that I Am" or "The One who is, who was, and who is to come") and only God's revelations to men can be regarded as objective truth.  From the very beginning of the Bible we discover that the book presents the Deity as self-existent, existing before time, transcendent, and personally involved in His creation—both before and after His creative activity.  Therefore the Bible and the Noahic-Abrahamic traditions that preceded it proclaim monotheism to be objective truth.  This necessarily rules out pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, animism, and deism—the bulk of all other religions.

Is the Bible's claim about the Deity correct?  Yes, and demonstrably so as this collection of articles and discourses clearly shows.  The cosmological, teleological, and ontological arguments, in addition to numerous other arguments, are indisputable rationale for the existence of a transcendent, self-existent Being.  This scholarly and philosophical foundation is unique to monotheism among all other religions and belief systems.  God is the simplest, most logical, and most rational explanation for all that we see around us and even Stephen Hawking admits as much as I explained several years ago.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
- Romans 1:20


You were shown these things so that you would know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides Him.
- Deuteronomy 4:35


But how do we know the Bible itself is true?  The correct answer is because the Bible is God-breathed.  In its original manuscripts it is inerrant and infallible.  The true God spoke true words audibly, and sometimes into the minds, of fallible human beings.  See 2 Timothy 3:16–17 and 2 Peter 1:20–21.  But that answer will [understandably] not satisfy the skeptic.  The question that should instead be asked is, "is there evidence for the Bible's authenticity?"  The answer is an emphatic "YES!"  Here are six key points that vouch for the Bible's authenticity (unique among all religious texts):

1. Every claim in the Bible that can be demonstrably tested has been verified.  In other words, if we presently possess some scientific know-how, archaeological discovery, or corroborating text that can directly test a specific claim from the Bible, the claim has been verified.  As a matter of fact, this truth has been a great source of humiliation for secular historians over the past several decades as discovery after discovery has proven the Bible true even after historians had said "it just can't be."  Whether it be the fallen walls of Jericho, the reign of King Hezekiah, or even the existence of a Jewish temple, every bit of physical evidence that has turned up to answer the Bible's claims has proven the Bible true.  You can read about the reliability of Scripture here and the age of the earth here (by the way: I'll be addressing the age of the earth in the near future).  Also, here is just a small sampling of recent archaeological discoveries that have verified the Bible.

2. We have more ancient manuscripts of the Bible than any other ancient text.  See herehere, and here.  Furthermore, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946/47 blew a huge hole through the theory of that generation's textual critics.  They had taught that the Old Testament was composed much later than Jews and Christians believed and had undergone a significant evolution in content.  Not only did the Dead Sea Scrolls disprove that claim, showing that the Old Testament we have today is equivalent to the one used by Christ and His disciples, but they also provided rock-solid evidence that certain prophecies about Jesus Christ were written before He was born.

3. The Bible contains some sort of self-verifying mathematical and thematic codes underlying the text.  This is a more recent discovery and is absolutely mind-boggling.  You can read about this herehere, and here.

4. Despite having been written over a period of 1,600 years by 40 different authors, the Bible forms a single metanarrative.  The Bible's many authors didn't just sit down in a room together one day and decide to invent a single, continuous story with a clear beginning, ending, climax, protagonist, antagonist and complex, repeating themes that recur in almost every book.  To the contrary, the authors' lives were separated by many centuries, occurring on three different continents, and in several different ancient cultures.  Yet, for some odd reason (hint, hint) this incredible collection of history, poetry, prophecy, and letters forms a single, overarching story from beginning to end.  The protagonist and antagonist show up at the beginning of the story, continue their parts throughout, and reach a climactic moment, culminating with a final showdown at the very end.  Dozens of themes, symbols, and patterns recur through the entire text, from Genesis to Revelation.

5. The Bible forms a doctrinal hologram.  Typical [inauthentic] "holy books" are one or two dimensional.  Take out a passage from the text and you fundamentally alter the religion—removing key doctrines.  It's like a painting on a canvas—mar a section of the picture and you can no longer see the "whole."  Strangely, the Bible is different.  From a doctrinal perspective it forms something analogous to a three-dimensional hologram.  You can remove any piece of a hologram, move to a different viewing angle and still see the "whole."  Why doctrines revealed in the Bible are spread out across the entire book, like an interconnected web, is strong evidence that the book's underlying author intended His message to get through even if someone tampered with the text.  A couple examples: 1. The detailed accounts of Christ's death and resurrection—there are four different descriptions in the New Testament and several in the Old Testament (e.g. Ps. 22; Is. 53); 2. The rapture—take out 1 Thessalonians 4 and you still have Isaiah 26, John 14, Revelation 3–4 and 12, and a whole host of other supporting Scriptures.  This complex web or layering, if you will, is hinted at in Isaiah 28: "...precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little."

6. Prophecy is unique to the Bible and is its watermark of authenticity.  That is not to say that other religious texts don't contain "prophecy," but that unique to the Bible are very specific prophecies that can be demonstrably proven to have been written before the events occurred.  Isaiah 53 is a prime example.  Other examples can be found here and here.



The Original Message was Evangelical

Contrary to the postmodern claim that all religious beliefs are based on blind faith, it can be demonstrably proven that 1. God exists and 2. Biblical Christianity is the only legitimate religious truth, as shown from a few examples in the previous section.  It can also be shown, based on the strong preponderance of evidence, that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead (see herehere, and here).  That leaves us with the question of what "flavor" of Christianity is the right one.  After all, there are hundreds of denominations, so how can anyone really know which one follows the Bible?  Who are the real Christians?

To answer these final questions we must lay a proper foundation.

First, if we can agree that God is real and the Bible is true, we then need to decide how one should interpret the Bible.  If the Bible is divinely inspired truth and men are fallible, there is only one proper way to understand it and that is by using exegesis—"drawing out" the meaning of the text—as opposed to eisegesis, which is "reading into" the text.  In other words, we want to understand and believe what the Bible is saying and not add our own interpretations to it.  For this reason, allegorical systems of interpretation must be dismissed out of hand.  We must speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent.  This necessarily leads us to a prima facie or historical-grammatical method of Scripture reading.  We must accept what was plainly written for its literal meaning, bearing in mind context and idioms.  Symbols and allegory are defined by the text itself.  You can read more about how to read Scripture here under the section "When to Unite: A Theology of Everything."

Based on this foundation alone, we can conclude that 1. God created the universe in six days (Gen. 1:1–2:3; Ex. 20:11), 2. Mankind was present from the beginning of creation (Mk. 10:6), 3. Jesus died as a substitutionary sacrifice for sins (Is. 53:4–6, 11; 1 Cor. 15:3; Col. 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:24), 4. Jesus rose bodily from the dead (Mt. 28:6; Mk. 16:6; Jn. 20:26–29; 1 Cor. 15:12–22), 5. There will be a future bodily resurrection of believers (Jn. 11:21–27; 1 Cor. 15:12–58; 1 Thess. 4:16–17; Rev. 20:4), 6. Believers alive at that time will be transfigured and raptured into the sky (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51–52), 7. Jesus will return physically to the earth (Zech. 14:3–4; Acts 1:10–11), and 8. There will be a future 1,000-year period in which Christ reigns over the nations of the earth from Jerusalem (Is. 2:1–4; Mic. 4:1–8; Rev. 20:1–7).  Through simple deduction we can then conclude that key pieces of the soteriological and eschatological doctrines of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and liberal Protestant churches are false.

Second, we can compare the doctrines and practices of modern churches to the truths and customs espoused by the Bible's apostolic witness and New Testament authors.  We can also compare to Early Church history (1st and 2nd century AD).  Here is what we learn about the Early Church:

  • They valued and prioritized holy living
  • There is scant evidence for any sort of ritualism or formal liturgy aside from partaking communion
  • The trimmings and trappings of modern high church liturgy were almost completely absent
  • They proclaimed the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and His physical resurrection from the dead
  • There was a significant debate over whether or not salvation came through faith alone or if keeping the Law was also necessary, but faith alone won out (e.g. Acts 15:1–35; Gal. 2:11–3:14) and the Early Church Fathers attest to this (although the doctrine of Sola Fide was not systematized until later)
  • They were not separated into classes of clergy and laity, holding instead to the "priesthood of all believers," although church leadership was strong in many areas; and it should be emphatically pointed out that in the New Testament the term "priest" (hiereus) was used of 1. Christ and 2. all members of the Church, not just specific individuals
  • They met together physically and frequently for interpersonal edification—encouragement, Bible study, communion, and worship—not impersonal ritual
  • They immersed/bathed new converts in water as a testimony to the Gospel (note that baptism is a transliteration, not a translation; see here), but by the time the Didache was written, some Christians poured water in lieu of immersion if there was not enough water to immerse
  • The Christian community lived sacrificially, under intense societal and religious persecution
  • In the earliest years Christians largely avoided political issues, focusing instead on their own religious message (evangelism), but also stood firm against societal sins
  • Their religious outlook was entirely evangelical in the sense that sharing the Gospel message of reconciliation with God through faith in Christ was seen as the primary message of the Church (as attested to by the Book of Acts and the Epistles)

In summary, the Early Church looked almost nothing like modern liturgical/high church Christianity.  It looked a lot more like evangelical house church movements in Africa and Asia, albeit with a stronger leadership style and a bit more iconography.



God's Enemies Infiltrated the Ranks

You have to understand that satan was very quickly overwhelmed by the several thousand Christ followers let loose after Pentecost.  This was like no other challenge he had ever faced.  Because they were Holy Spirit-indwelt the Christian sect literally had omnipotence living inside them.  They were casting out demons right and left, healing the sick, and breaking out of thick iron bars to preach the Gospel without exerting any effort.  In the past, satan only had to deal with one or two stalwart warriors at a time—Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, Christ.  Now he was dealing with thousands of "mini-Christs" who were running spiritual offense against the entire spiritual power structure he had carefully erected in the world's only superpower—Rome.

So he did what he does best—fight from within his enemy's own ranks.  His minions infiltrated the many local churches that were scattered throughout Italia, Greece, Asia Minor, and Judea.  Many churches were flooded with faux-followers who had different levels of religiosity, but no genuine faith in Christ as the Son of God and God in the flesh.  Gnosticism, Arianism, and self-righteous legalism spread like a cancer in susceptible churches, but there were still faithful churches that stood strong, holding onto the Gospel and the truth of God's Word.

The faithful churches were able to hold overall sway for several hundred years and kept these errant doctrines at bay—or at least prevented them from overtaking the whole movement.  It was during these first few hundred years that the Church fleshed out some of the biblical truths we now take for granted like the Trinity, Incarnation, and the canon of Scripture.

Yet by the 4th century Christianity had moved from spiritual domination to political domination and now had the reins of power in Rome.  It had been several hundred years since the disciples were first set loose on the world with their message of good news and the soon [re]appearing of Christ and it looked like Christians wouldn't need Jesus to come back after all.  Theologians thought they were doing pretty well down on earth without Him and they began to question the literal truth of prophecy.

In the midst of this doubt and reinvention, Augustine wrote The City of God, which promoted the idea that prophecies of Christ's second coming and "end things" were somehow different than the rest of Scripture.  They weren't literal truths to be read and accepted as-is, but allegorical, symbolical truths that were open to private interpretation.  Biblical eisegesis, Christian allegorism, and Roman Catholic eschatology were born out of this 5th century shift.

For perhaps the first time, major doctrinal errors were accepted by Christendom at large, rather than just the schismatic churches that satan had already infiltrated.



The Universal Church was Still Doing it's Job

But despite the false teachings that were now beginning to take hold of Christendom, there were still a great number of faithful churches and the evangelical message was still spreading.  The Gospel reached far and wide—Ireland, northern Europe, Russia, and further east into Asia.  The Church was still preaching the Gospel and, as a matter of fact, the 5th century Council of Orange codified evangelical teachings like Sola Fide and Sola Gratia (though these were not systematically fleshed out until later).  In essence, the Catholic Church, which was the universal form of Christianity at the time, was still the institution in which true believers dwelt, but like several of the churches to which Jesus sent messages in the Book of Revelation, there were "good" Christians (believed in the Gospel, faithful to Christ) and "bad" Christians (didn't understand or rejected the Gospel, unfaithful to Christ).  This mixed and murky church stage persisted from the 5th to the 10th centuries.

However, as the new millennium began, Christendom split into western (Roman Catholic) and eastern (Orthodox Catholic) halves over mutual excommunications.  In the subsequent 500 year period, Papal power became much more political and centralized and Roman Catholic doctrine as we know it today began to develop more rapidly.  True believers, the called out ones, became sidelined and persecuted within the institutional church itself.  Many, such as the Waldensians, were even martyred.  As the halfway point of the second millennium AD approached, it became clear that the Roman Catholic Church was no longer Christianity in the biblical and apostolic sense.  Instead, it was a deviant religion that broke the commandments, changed dates and times, persecuted evangelicals, and rejected the simplicity of the Gospel.



Reformation, Not Protestation

It's an important fact of history that the Protestant Reformers did not set out to cause a schism with Rome (as their writings clearly attest), but instead to restore the institutional church to biblical Christianity—the faith of the Apostles.  They originally wanted to restore, not protest, and Luther's 95 Theses was less a statement of condemnation of Rome and more a call for public debate regarding how the Catholic Church had shifted away from God's Word.

But Rome's condemnation was swift and the real spiritual schism was caused by the sixth session of the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s when Rome formally declared the Reformers to be heretics.  The Pope and his allies made the conscious decision to reject biblical Christianity once and for all.  Sola Fide and Sola Gratia, doctrines explicitly supported by the New Testament, the early Church Fathers, and even Augustine and the Council of Orange, were now anathema.  The Roman Church essentially turned on itself.

Following the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church became increasingly anti-evangelical.  Despite Rome's charge that the evangelical faith was invented in the 16th century, it was actually Rome that changed.  Only in the last 500 years, as a response to the Reformation, did the Roman Catholic Church actually codify all of these patently unbiblical doctrines:

  • Declarations of anathema against Sola Fide and Sola Gratia, and, to some extent, Solus Christus, and Sola Scriptura (mid-1500s)
  • The Immaculate Conception of Mary (1854)
  • Assumption of Mary (1950)
  • Mary, Queen of Heaven (1891/1954)
  • Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces / Mediatrix of Peace (1854/1883/1921/1954)
  • The "deposit of faith" held by the Church leadership alone (1950)
  • Macro-evolutionary theory (Darwinism) not inherently incompatible with Scripture (1950/1996)

No doubt the seeds of many of these false teachings were planted early on, with some, particularly a couple of the Marian dogmas, tracing back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, but they were matters of individual belief, not official Church doctrine, until just the last several hundred years.  And when reading Scripture prima facie, several other ancient dogmas held by the Roman Catholic Church are false on their face such as the perpetual virginity of Mary (c.f. Mt. 1:25; 12:46–47; 13:55; 27:56; Mk. 6:3; 16:1; Gal. 1:19).

In short, the Reformation was a movement of imperfect men within the Catholic Church who [often] had a genuine faith in Christ and the Gospel and wanted the Church to return to its roots.  It was a call to remove the trash and leave the treasure.  And it was preceded by a continuous, unbroken line of faithful believers, evangelicals, if you will, that stretched all the way back to the Apostles themselves.  The evangelical faith was weakened in the Middle Ages, but even during that dark time there were still communities scattered around, today known as proto-Protestants.

The group of Holy Spirit-indwelt persons, new creations in Christ Jesus, freed from the chains of death, who have held fast to the Gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ, are called out of the world, now spiritually, soon physically, to be a mystical body, a spiritual temple, holy and pleasing to the LORD.  They trust in Christ alone for salvation, casting any hindrance to that belief aside, and can be found in almost every denomination on earth.  With the exception of the Laodicean church, all of the churches Jesus sent letters to in Asia Minor had true believers, but some had fewer than others.  I take it on faith that today is little different than then.

The enemy seeks to divide Christendom with labels: "Methodist," "Baptist," "Evangelical," "Dispensationalist."  He's been extremely successful.  Once you label you can then sever, isolate, and dismiss.  It's a powerful, Machiavellian tactic, but in the end, it can only divide the institutional churches, not the capital 'C' Church—the mystical Body of Christ.

To counter his attack, we need to use the labels that the Bible provides—believer and unbeliever—and we know full well how those labels can be defined:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
- John 3:18


Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
- 1 Corinthians 15:1–4


At some point in their life every believer heard the simple truth expressed above, acknowledged their wickedness, accepted Christ's payment, and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead.  And when they did that they were baptized by the Holy Spirit and irrevocably saved.  For me it was in a Church of Christ.  For others it may have been in the back of a Catholic Cathedral in France.

No doubt that some denominations have so compromised and twisted God's Word with legalism or lawlessness that the Gospel message is rarely (if ever) heard, but wherever the Gospel is preached, salvation can happen.

As for me, you can label me whatever you wish—evangelical, non-denominational, Judeo-Christian, dispensationalist, pre-tribber, lunatic, cultist—I really could care less.  I care only to know what God's Word plainly says and believe it.


Post A Comment

67 comments :

  1. Gary,

    These are VERY important questions that we should all ask at some point in our journey of faith. Faith in what? Faith in who? Which faith is right and of the choices, which one is the right interpretation of that faith?

    Purity of faith must look something like the relationship G-d established with Adam in the garden. There was no religion, no denomination, just relationship and a simple law.

    Is this not what our Father wants of us today? Is this not what Christ gives us?

    So simple. Just not easy.

    Thank you for putting this out there Gary! Very important and foundational for those who come after us.

    Pastor Rich

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    1. Good thoughts and questions, Pastor Rich.

      "There was no religion, no denomination, just relationship and a simple law."

      Amen to that!

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  2. Certainly, for me, a work of the Holy Spirit. I've just been commanded to prove the truth of Christianity as opposed to Deism and had begun my research on Deism. As always, Holy Spirit is ahead of and never behind the curve. Thank you for the head start Gary! Blessings - Sherry

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  3. 1 Peter 2:9

    But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

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  4. As a former Catholic I really appreciate this article.

    I joined the USAF on my 17th birthday in 1972. The day I left for basic training all enlistees for all branches of service received a little care package with letter writing materials, shaving kit, and a Gideon's NT with the plan of salvation written on the inside covers.

    After reading through my pocket NT a few times, the truth about Catholicism became obvious to me. What God made plain and simple in His Word, Rome corrupted and turned into a perverted false system of hopelessness.

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    1. I love your testimony. Hey, check this out:

      You were 17 when you became a believer. You've been a believer for 46 years.

      Strong's 17 - "Doing well"

      Strong's 46 - "Strong"

      And the 46th book of the Bible is 1 Corinthians. The 17th verse says:

      "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect."

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  5. Thanks for this artical Gary. Might you be willing to weigh in with your thoughts toward dispensational Bible study? I was personally introduced to this from a "Mid-Acts Pauline" believing church, but have through personal study been persuaded towards "Classical Pauline dispensational" beliefs. Here is a decent summary of the typical beliefs associated with this group.

    http://withchrist.org/pauldisp.htm

    Thanks for any guidance that you may be able to offer on this topic.

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    1. I thought this link did a good job at summarizing the primary dispensational segments. It's rather funny that I just got drawn into studying this topic last night, and here you are today posting your artical! =) Please teach me further... and thank you for your help.

      http://www.oocities.org/jeremyandrobin/systemsoftheology.htm

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    2. This would be a wonderful topic for Gary. I'd love to read it, too!
      PS...maybe an article on the extra-canonical books, also. Gary, maybe? If you're led?

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    3. Hillary -agree...as long as the Rev12daily crowd can participate, as we have had some doozies with that subject (especially with our sis from Germany!)

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    4. @Brandon, I'll check that out!

      @Hillary, that's a topic I've been wanting to cover. It's definitely a sensitive subject for some and I have to tread carefully, but it's important.

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    5. Ken Johnson on youtube does some great studies on the extra canonical books. worth having a look.

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    6. If you elect to dive into this subject, I highly recommend Ryan Pitterson's book as a resource, Judgement of the Nephilim. I've found his research and in-depth work, mostly from Scripture uncovers things on the topic which I had not tied together before. Always when that occurs and Holy Spirit is the driving force you then cannot see how you "didn't see" before. I bring this up in this regard - he has a chapter on the extra canonical or pseuda-pygrapha Book of Enoch rather harshly. I've enjoyed the books previously, but he makes some very clear points about their disputation of the Word of God. His point is there is abundant material within Scripture itself to be exceedingly accurate about what occurred during that time frame without going off into the weeds where you know you are facing absolute error in some, if not all, portions. I had not looked at it from that angle and can certainly see his point. I'll just spend more time in the Scripture henceforth! Blessings - Sherry

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  6. What an incredibly rich and in-depth article, Gary! If we are "still here" maybe you would consider turning this into a book? I think it would serve the body well. Thank you for this powerful resource! God bless!

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    1. Thank you! I've been thinking about compiling some of our apologetics and prophecy-related articles into a book since publishing 500 Years. I like the suggestion!

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    2. Gary,

      The book I compiled last year was an attempt to say almost everything you said in this post:

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5VGgIHi9FR3RHpsVzRVM2F3Zjd5TzR6b2YtamxrYUktQU1B/view

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    3. @JCK, that's AWESOME!! That looks like it took quite a bit of time. It's organized beautifully. I'd almost call it a Evangelical Catechism. When I get some more time I'd like to study it more and maybe post the link under "links."

      Here's a clickable link if anyone is interested:

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5VGgIHi9FR3RHpsVzRVM2F3Zjd5TzR6b2YtamxrYUktQU1B/view

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    4. Kenneth, what a treat. I look forward to going through your book thoroughly. Gary, please consider the compilation project. The 500 Years book you did is absolutely terrific and one should not be without it. When you run into those folks who are really seeking and willing to do some further research to get themselves out of "denominational systems" and into the Word of God and find truth, it is excellent. This effort, I'm sure would take it another step. Encouragement to you - Blessings - Sherry

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    5. I just uploaded a new version of the book, at the same link above. A few typos were fixed, and several paragraphs where the end was cut off have been fixed.

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  7. https://endtimesdarknessdescending.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/dead-sea-scroll-of-the-gospel-of-mark/

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    1. What an article! Look's like you've done your homework and know a thing or two about the DSS.

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    2. It's quite remarkable what surfaces when one just takes the time and looks.

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    3. Even as Israel had a visible pillar of cloud and fire to guide and give them evidence of the reality of God in the desert, they still rebelled...so we shouldn't be surprised that man will continue to (out of pride) reject God even when the evidence (NT findings with the OT) is stacked up totally in His (and our) favour.

      The awesome thing is the fact that 'Mohammed' discovered the DSS, a possible prophetic indication that the 'Mohammed's of the world will find Jesus en masse in these last days and through Tribulation events. Here's hoping anyway...

      Ryan

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    4. Both of the articles you've posted in these comments are wonderful and well worth the time to read for all here. Great addition to our knowledge base. Thank you again. Blessings - Sherry

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  8. Awesome Gary - as I was reading this, I could almost hear Ravi Zacharias, Dave Hunt and James White all giving a resounding 'Amen!' to what you have written!!!

    Ryan

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  9. The recent spate of articles reminds me of the final minute of independence day fireworks. Thanks for manning the rocket table Gary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, wow, love THAT analogy. Sometimes I get the sense it will be my last article and I better make it count if you know what I mean!

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    3. Cy and Cy & Gary...I can't believe you are saying this because I've been feeling / sensing this exact thing! Wow.

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  10. Here is an interesting article from Rapture Forums regarding God's pictorial description of Catholicism...
    https://www.raptureforums.com/roman-catholicism/a-city-on-seven-hills/

    Nate

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  11. But where was God when these enemies infiltrated the ranks? Because correcting this (the Reformation) took a while. And meanwhile millions of people took the wrong turn, and still do... I do understand what is being said here but where is our personal God in this? Or does God have an other plan with the world, with humankind? It is the same story with what happend to the Middle East. First partly and sometimes mostly, Christian, it is being taken over by islam...

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    Replies
    1. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 0 Matt 13:30, KJV Maranatha!

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    2. Rebellio, much could be said here, but it's not a cop out to say that God's plan is much bigger and grander than we can currently comprehend. Trust Him. He's good. Really, really good, in fact.

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    3. Rebellio
      “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”
      ‭‭Romans‬ ‭9:16-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬
      http://bible.com/111/rom.9.16-21.niv

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  12. I think you come down a bit hard on liturgy. I am no scholar and cannot say how much liturgy the early church used, but I am pretty sure they also did not have rock bands, power point, and video clips.

    The question I would ask is not what exactly did the early church do in their worship services, but whether what we do today is Biblically based and glorifying to God. There are plenty of liturgies used in denominations with Evangelical Christians that are based on Biblical texts and which aid in focusing the worshiper on the eternal truths of the gospel.

    For many people, the more predictable and focused worship serviced patterned on a liturgy can be a better conduit to worship than an unstructured extemporaneous format that can be full of distractions. Biblically based liturgies can also anchor the worship service in right doctrine whereas less structured services are more captive to the pastor in charge which can be problematic if he veers off into unbiblical teaching.

    Just my two cents.

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    1. Hey Bruce, I respect your concern. It's a very valid point.

      To be clear, I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with liturgy, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with rock bands or PowerPoint.

      My concern was more about understanding what the Early Church more closely resembled, and it definitely was not like very liturgical/ritualistic church services of today (and like you pointed out - didn't feature rock bands or video clips, either (; )

      I do take issue with the overuse of ritualism though, which in some denominations has almost replaced the faith itself. Christianity isn't about rituals. It's about breaking chains and saving men's souls before the clock strikes midnight.

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    2. Thanks for the response. I agree on the over use of ritualism. I have been to churches where the ritual seems to obscure the gospel more than illuminate it. On the other end of the spectrum, though, I have also been to non-liturgical churches where, in an apparent attempt to be relevant, the church pulls out all of the stops with multi-media and turns the whole service into an entertainment spectacle. Worship and entertainment are not the same thing. A worship service ideally should help us to understand our right relationship with the true God by reminding us of who God is and what He has done for us. This is usually done through music, prayer, scripture, and a sermon. I personally think that ordering the music, prayer, and scripture into a liturgy can be helpful if the purpose is kept in mind, but it isn't always necessary.

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  13. You write:
    “For example, the Bible repeatedly claims that Yahweh is the only God”


    However, Christians believe that God is a triune god, and that Yahweh is part of that trinity, whereas Jews believe that Yahweh is one, there's no trinity.

    Well God doesn’t change—and He cannot be both a “trinity” and “one” at the same time

    So if God really is a trinity—father, son and holy spirit, then He must always have been that way right through eternity.

    That means then that the god of the Old Testament must also be a trinity--that, as Christians believe, Yahweh is one part of a triune god.

    In that case you would expect that God would have made this plain to each and every one of the Old Testament prophets and commanded them to teach the people about His triune nature.
    And He would have commanded them to worship not only Yahweh, but also Jesus and the holy Spirit.

    And just as the Old Testament contains many many verses that explain the oneness of God (as your list shows) it should be likewise overbrimming with verses that explain that by “one” God actually means “three in one”-- that he is actually a trinity

    But this isn’t the case—the Old Testament prophets taught about the oneness of God.
    The Jews understood Him to be one and worshipped Him as one –Yahweh.
    No son, no holy spirit, just Yahweh.

    How do you explain this contradiction?

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    1. Muslims often use the straw-man argument “Christians worship three gods!” But whether or nor Christians are right about the Trinity, you must first acknowledge what they actually believe.

      Christians do not believe in three gods or in a three-part god. We believe in One God (Yahweh) in three persons. God isn't parts. He is one being and essence who subsists in three persons.

      Don't think of a three-leaf clover. Think instead of 3D space: height, width, and depth. It's a slightly better analogy.

      In any case, it's true that 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, but that's *parts*. God is more like 1^3, which equals 1. The Trinity is the eternal, mutual indwelling of the Three Persons. Jesus (the Logos) and the Holy Spirit are also Yahweh (see what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Jn. 8:53-59).

      As for the Old Testament, there is plenty of support for the Trinity. Here's a little video that might help:

      [youtube width="320" height="266" src="f_Zrzs1QEzY"/]


      Blessings to you.

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    2. I've found that it helps also to think of the term God as a title. Such as King or CEO... It's the Title above all titles though. This one True God has appeared to humanity in at least three forms, but they are all Him. The old testament makes it seem like you could meet Him physically. Abraham saw Him face to face. Moses saw Him as both a burning bush and from behind on the mountaintop. The prophets saw Him as the 'Ancient of days.' Jesus Himself said, 'If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.' Now in the Church age, He has been indwelling with us in our hearts, showing His presence in a multitude of ways. Changed lives, random acts of kindness and miracles, and an overall better world (though it could use a lot of improvement still. I guess we'll have to wait for the millennial kingdom for perfection...)

      Reading that Stephen Hawking article linked above, He even appears in their theories as the 11th dimension. I am reminded of the 10 commandments, and Jesus' additional commandment (Love one another) Our God is up to things we can't even begin to imagine.

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    3. @Gary

      Thanks for your reply and the video
      I have always understood that the Christian belief is of God being three individual persons, each is fully God and that God is a unity—me saying that God is “part” of the trinity simply meant that He is one of its members, sorry to confuse.

      However, you haven’t addressed my question, which was why didn’t God reveal His trinitarian nature to the Jews during the course of their thousands of years history?

      Your video say that the future revelation of the trinity is foreshadowed in the old testament---yes, I have come across these arguments before—that “elohim” denotes plurality, the use of “echad” rather than “yachid” in Deuteronomy 6:4 and various references to a son of God in other parts

      Remember though that the people who received these scriptures received them in their own language—they understood very well what elohim and echad meant, and so did their prophets, and yet they continued to worship God as one, not as a trinity.
      They didn’t question why Yahweh should keep referring to Himself in the plural or why they occasionally see a reference to a son of God-- so I think the matter isn’t as clear cut as you seem to think.



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    4. I believe that the Old Testament has *numerous* allusions to the Trinity—many passages that don't fit well with unitarianism. That said, I also agree with you that the doctrine is harder to ascertain in the OT vs the NT, but many (myself included) believe that this was intentional. In part, because this was God's plan from the beginning to reveal Himself in a progressive, dispensational sense. In other words: Adam -> End of OT = God reveals Himself as Father; Christ -> Ascension = God reveals Himself as Logos/Son; Pentecost -> Rapture = God reveals Himself as Holy Spirit. Only after all three revelations are complete will Israel finally return to God fully.

      Blessings.

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    5. But God is completely truthful.

      For Him to reveal Himself to be one person, when really He is three persons(in one)--that doesn't strike me as being completely truthful.

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    6. Ice, Water, Steam. They are all H2O molecules, just in different forms/arrangements/energy states. I even think God made this molecule specifically as a way to try and explain His nature, and set it as the foundation upon which all life relies upon... We even need it in the air we breathe or else our lungs begin to dry out and faster dehydration and overheating are not far behind.

      If He appeared as an Iceberg and proclaimed, 'I am water,' I don't feel like that would be untruthful. No matter the form, at the most basic level He is still water. If He then changed into a Lake or a Cloud, it's still Him... and He's still water, just in another form.

      So just as water is the title for the life sustaining and enabling molecule, God is the title for the Being above all beings. Looking back in the old testament, we see plenty of evidence that He took different forms then too. As a physical man, He talked to Abraham and wrestled with Jacob. As a burning bush and a being of light, He spoke to Moses. It appears He walked physically in the garden of Eden and spoke face to face with Adam, Eve and the serpent... He appears in Babylon as a disembodied hand writing on the wall, and as the 'Son of Man' in the fiery furnace.

      Jesus proves He is able to change His form as well. First on the mount of transfiguration where He showed His light being form, and also disguising His appearance on the road with His two desciples. Post resurrection, He was even appearing out of thin air, much to everyone's surprise. On Pentecost, I'm willing to bet those fiery tongues were Him as well, and that He can directly work through us to effect miracles now. After all, the Holy Spirit/Ghost appeared as a dove when He was baptized...

      He is God. Let Him do things as He wants to do them. Our part in this is to trust Him, believe in Him, and do our best to follow His commandment. Love one another. <3

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    7. Nafeesa - I would highly recommend you take take the time to read Michael Heiser's book The Unseen Realm. He is an Old Testament scholar and shows clearly there was a time when Judaism understood the multi-faceted nature of Yahweh. As occurred in many other instances, this was stamped out in later times to refute Jesus' claim as part of this tri-une nature. He approaches the subject strictly from Old Testament and I sense that's where you would like to see it. He has many other resources and his Old Testament Bible Studies on Naked Bible Podcast are just not to be missed. With that being said, he is admittedly horrible when it comes to the prophetic. We would all do well to recognize and accept the strengths and weaknesses in our scholars as well as our churches. It is unnecessary to "throw out the baby with the bath water". To someone else's point about liturgy - can it be too much - absolutely. Is it necessary to do away with all of it - certainly not. Do evangelicals and charismatics go too far over to the extemporaneous side of the road and get off in the ditch? Most assuredly. We are all meant to be parts of ONE BODY. Truth is held within each part. When we hyper divide as denominationalism has done we see the Body as a box with Evangelicals in One Corner, Full Gospel in another, Catholic in another, etc. That is not the pattern we are given. We are to be a Body with flow through of blood and oxygen to each part allowing the truths to be shared and the error eliminated or at least minimized. We have organs of this body who are dying from lack of the gifting in other parts because we are a closed-off system. Each "organ" rather than a room, will have its strengths and its greater focus but should be sharing with and part of the other "organs". Many evangelicals have lost the Majesty and Glory wrapped up in the liturgy. Many Catholics have lost the Holy Spirit, by appealing to false spirits and it goes on and on. If the blood flow and oxygen were occurring the truth would move around the body - not be stopped at the doors. Sorry - off on a tangent. Never forget Jesus Himself tells us there are overcomers in all the churches. Are we approaching a time when the call may come to "Come out of her" - yes. Right now, though, each holds some tiny element at least of truth and we accept the truth and get rid of the detritus. Hard to make folks see and understand, but it would be so beneficial. Blessings - Sherry

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    8. @Kris Thank-you for your reply

      I don’t really think you’re making an accurate comparison though.
      At first glance there is a similarity:

      -- H2O molecules can manifest as solid liquid and gas, and these three states can exist side by side
      -- According to Christian belief, God can manifest as Father Son and Holy Spirit, and these three exist side by side

      The difference however is that H2O molecules can exist in any of the three states
      They are completely interchangeable-- they do not have a fixed identity, they simply combine to form solid liquid or gas depending on the circumstances.
      Ice can become water can become vapour can become water and so on.

      On the other hand, the three persons of the Trinity are three specific individuals, each having a unique identity that is not interchangeable with that of the other two persons.

      God the Father exists eternally and never changes-- He is always God the Father, never God the Son or God the Holy Spirit.
      And the same goes for Jesus and the Spirit—they never swap identities.

      So even though an iceberg can become water and vapour, God the Father will never become God the Son etc.

      The doctrine that God is one person- Yahweh- is not the same as the doctrine that God is three persons in one
      The first doctrine does not basically have the same meaning as the second, as I think you were suggesting.

      In fact I’m quite sure that if someone asks you about your belief in God that you would not consider an answer such as “God is one person,Yahweh, and that is all|”-- to be a truthful one.

      .....

      @Sherry, thank-you also for your reply

      I might not be able to get hold of a copy of Michael Heiser’s book very easily, but I see that he has put up some very long videos on various subjects, which look very interesting—along with the podcasts you mentioned.

      So I’ll have a look at all that and hopefully it will be useful-thanks again.

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  14. The beginning of this article focused on the evidence of Christianity's authenticity as being the only God-breathed revelation of who he really is, and by default, explains the creation and why we are here. God has indeed given us much evidence through fulfilled prophecy and various other means. One of those means, believe it or not, is the duplication of design that one sees in two of the Bible's most forefront books, written by the same author. Take a look.
    https://endtimesdarknessdescending.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/duplications-of-design-between-john-and-revelation-is-it-by-divine-design/

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    1. Loved both of the articles you've suggested in these comments. Thank you.

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    2. You have some really intriguing articles, btw. I wish I had stumbled across those sooner!!

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  15. 5*'s A very enlightening article. You touched on a topic that has confused me for some time. You said, "At some point in their life every believer heard the simple truth expressed above, acknowledged their wickedness, accepted Christ's payment, and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. And when they did that they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and irrevocably saved." Does the baptism of the Holy Spirit happen immediately upon believing/accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior or does it require the laying on of hands? I've read both ways with scripture to backup the author. Thanks for all of the encouragement your website provides!

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    Replies
    1. Dear Gary Ramey, to quickly answer your question: a) Yes, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is directly connected with the act of salvation and b) No, no laying on hands is needed by men.

      To clarify though, the PROCESS of salvation can differ individually. You may e.g. know about the healing of the blind man in Mark 8:22-25 so he took two attempts to be fully restored. But this is not about how unsuccessful Jesus was. It may have been the blind man still doubting or his heart wasn't yet prepared to believe (as he didn't come to Jesus by his own but others carried him there, possibly against his will?).

      Either way, if someone is truly saved he will remember when it happened like the blind man in John 9:25 and never forget. It will also be followed by the immediate act of obedience and recognition of the LORD God Jesus Christ (John 9:38). On the other hand, no man can speed up his own salvation by his own, it is always the sovereign work of God. John 3:8 / John 1:13

      Blessings to you! MARANATHA!

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    2. @Gary Ramey, very important question. I agree with Annabel here. Both from a biblical and historical perspective, the Church has never taught that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was something subsequent to salvation. The gift/giving of the Holy Spirit is clearly connected to the moment of saving faith in several passages.

      I break this down into more detail here, if you're interested in a deeper dive: http://www.unsealed.org/2017/09/all-about-baptism.html

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    3. Thanks Annabelle and Gary for your responses. The article about baptism was very good. I learn something every time I visit your website. Maranatha

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    4. @Gary Ramey - I agree with Annabel and Gary on this. One thing I might add, which I believe often causes the confusion which leads to these questions. I was Saved and Sealed as a very young girl and knew then and now unquestionably I was saved. After I grew to my teenage years and my father passed away I was backslidden for about 12 years. At the end of this time I was supernaturally "infilled with the Holy Spirit" which I did not understand, having been raised in a Southern Baptist Church. I was able to remember reading the scriptures which described the experience perfectly and questioned my Mother who had been my Sunday School Teacher. She assured me she had always been taught this "infilling" no longer happened and had ceased "in the previous dispensation". I now knew this was not correct because it happened to me. This was not a second sealing, but a filling to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. It was not induced by man, but was accompanied by the Laying on of Hands - which again I did not understand until I researched the scriptures and saw it happening there Word for Word. Don't confused Sealing and later Infilling to Overflowing - I think that's where people get confused. Is it necessary for Salvation? No. Is it immensely beneficial for life and holiness? Yes. I know it to be true for it happened to me with no explanation or intervention of mankind, thus I can speak directly to the truth experientially. Blessings - Sherry

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  16. Thanks for the time and effort put forth here, Gary. Excellent article! I appreciate this site, dearly.

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    1. You're most welcome, Brother Chad. It's my great honor (:

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  17. Amazing article, helpful comments, blessings abound. Amen!

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  18. Once again Gary, you have outdone yourself, you can really see the Holy Spirit shine through!

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  20. "As for me, you can label me whatever you wish—evangelical, non-denominational, Judeo-Christian, dispensationalist, pre-tribber, lunatic, cultist—I really could care less. I care only to know what God's Word plainly says and believe it."

    Thank you so wonderfully stated.... I've felt this way my whole life..

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    1. Oh, Tia, I hear your heart's cry for it is mine. I do not care which element of the Body holds revealed truth given by Holy Spirit. I want truth. Truth is God's Word - the whole council of it and if we would just stop with the defense of man's systems and defend only the Truth of the Word of God as plainly written, we could accomplish so much more. The choice to do this must be a conscious one, wherein we humbly pray - "Lord I just want your truth, the whole truth as revealed in scripture, with all the man-made attachments stripped off. I want to be one with ALL my Brothers and Sisters in Christ for we are His Body." Yes we have different gifting and different strengths and we will never all be THE SAME. The heart is not a lung, the liver is not a pancreas - but when we finally wake up and can say with all our soul and strength. I do not understand everything about the lung, but I know it is necessary and I don't need to be exactly like it, but I want to understand it and work with it in the system called The Way. What a day of rejoicing that will be! That willingness alone will ultimately flush out the error and remove the dross while leaving the purified Gold of the Word of God for everyone within the Body. Blessings - Sherry

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  24. After reading some of the comments I thought it appropriate to post this...we need to heed God's call to cherish His Word above our beloved ideologies and pet doctrines. "We are to submit to the Word of God! Why do you refuse it, and cling instead to your cherished ideology? Without study you have declared an opinion. Without diligent searching, you have reached a conclusion? For this reason many perish in their confusion! You have spoken when you have no foundation to stand on. Your opinion is based on another's study, or on what you have learned by osmosis. Why is your faith in the words of a man rather than in the Word of God? My Word is there for the taking if you will devote the time and present your heart to Me. I long to speak to you, to have fellowship with you, but you refuse me and then you say you love Me. Your heart is deceived with flourishes and fantasies of how your group thinks it 'should be'. I am the Lord. I declare the end from the beginning. I know all things, and you are to simply believe Me. I will correct your mistakes and your errors if you ask Me to. Come to Me and let me renew your thoughts. Let Me tell you the hidden things that I have kept secret from the foundation of the world. Things that angels have desired to look in to. Let Me declare my love to YOU. I have loved you. But, you keep Me at arm's length when you refuse to hear what the Spirit is saying in favor of your own mythology".

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