RIVERS PFN: THOSE CREATING DIVISION AND QUESTIONS THEY SHOULD ANSWER(2)
Division Is a Sign Of The End Times: Jesus prophesied splits and conflict within the church in the last days. He said It would be a sign for us so that we could recognize the season of His return. Matt 24:10-12 “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Brothers will be offended with one another, false prophets will arise, the love of many growing cold, spells one thing - division and conflict in the church. You can call it betrayal, you can call it a pervading indifference, it makes no difference, it will ultimately lead to deeply rooted, well established division. Divisions are on the rise and increasing each year. Judgment shall begin at the house of the Lord. In Thessalonians Paul warns the church, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first….” (II Th 2:3) The writer of Hebrews also alluded to this end time phenomenon in Hebrews 12:26-28. A time when things that are not founded in truth or reality will not be able to withstand the shaking. Wheat will be separated from the tares. We will lack a love for the truth and henceforth be led by “strong delusions” and “believe a lie.” Satan will work twice as hard because he knows he has a “short season.” He will come as innocence, an “angel of light,” he will delude leadership, he will compromise truth, but he will use every effort to divide us and remove us from the grace of God.
Forgiveness, mercy and love will be out the door. Faultfinding and criticism will be in. God's chastening will be so severe that many will not be able to stand, regardless; God will find a remnant, a few who will stand on the unshakable truth of His word. They will love and want the truth at any cost. They will have trust and faith in every trial. They will love and forgive and unite with all their brothers. This is God's plan for the end: a glorious church without wrinkle or spot.
(III) Judging the Source by Its Fruit: Matt 7:15-16 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? This scripture uses the nature of the wolf also, but adds the words “in sheep's clothing.” It is hard to detect a wolf in sheep's clothing from the outside. By all appearances he is one of us. How would you perceive a false prophet? By his appearance? No! He is wearing sheep's clothing. Would it be by his heart? No again. You have no idea of the thoughts he has formulated in his heart. Well then how? Purely and simply by his actions. One cannot bring forth grapes and figs from the source of a thorn bush and thistle farm, can he? I can conclude who is a false prophet by his fruit or actions. One cannot gather good fruit “from” thorn bushes and thistles. Nothing good will come from the man whose source is in the carnal nature. In Galatians five, we are given a list of the fruit derived from the flesh and the fruit derived from the Spirit. false prophetic attire makes it difficult to identify them, they will only be known by the fruit they bear and not the package they send it in. We are often mislead by apparel of mannerism and smooth sincere sounding talk. People tell me, “You just don't know the brothers heart, I've seen it and I know you are mistaken.” That is true, I don't know his heart, but neither does any of us. We are commanded not to judge one another's heart, but we are to unbiasedly examine the action or fruit. It is the fruit that identifies the source of their decisions. One who causes division is not one drawing from the source of the Holy Spirit, I can scripturally guarantee it. A man who gathers his fruit from thorn bushes and thistles, will not be able to offer grapes and figs to the church.
Division is clearly not the fruit from the vine and fig tree. A true prophet is one who speak from God and for God and is in harmony with His word. If what a person is saying, God is not giving the Amen to, he is misrepresenting Him. Now if what he is “saying” leads to others falling into error also, then he is a false prophet by the definition of the scriptures. That person is misrepresenting God and thwarting His plan and purpose. God must be our source or we are in serious danger of further deception. If we are not fellowshipping with the son, we will not have the source to fellowship with one another and “maintain the unity.” “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that you also may have fellowship with us: and our fellowship is with the Father, and with the Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). God creates fellowship between us by bringing us into fellowship with himself. When the work of God through the Cross is ignored or forsaken, no fellowship is possible, for there is no power to create it. Remove God as our source of fellowship and we have opened a Pandora's box that can lead to further deception and division. We have advocated and maintained a deceptive seed that will some day bear its fruit and destroy us.
(IV) The source of those causing division. Fruit indicates source. The fruit tells the tale. Let us ask ourselves this question: “Is the person we are listening to scattering or gathering the flock?” the answer to that question will indicate the source: God or Satan? The true shepherd will not scatter the flock, since his source is the Holy Spirit. Listen to what Jeremiah had to say to the backslidden shepherds of his time: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture! Declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds, declares the LORD.” (Jer 23:1-2) How can those tending His flock destroy and scatter His sheep? There is only one response to that question: They are drinking from the wrong source and God Himself will “attend” to their evil ways. Scattering is an unauthorized decision and bears fruit from another source, it is on that basis you can judge the source. It has nothing to do with personalities or right or wrong, those are only smoke screens by Satan to do his destructive work to Christ and His flock.
(V) The position of those causing division. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matt 12:30). Your position is important, it is the “where” you stand and with “whom” you stand that is important. When the children of Israel built a golden calf and God was about to send His judgment on them, Moses cried out, “Whoever is on the LORD'S side, come to me.” (Exod 32:26). The person we choose to stand with often indicates the belief we embrace. “With” and “against” show not just source, but position in relationship to Jesus. Men often will stand with a friend and without realizing it, will find themselves standing “against” God and His word. Deception and division has its source, but it is also revealed in our stand. We need to respect God more than man.
We are given this promise: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) When the Lord stopped Saul on the road to Damascus and said “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul had unknowingly set himself in a position against the Lord by persecuting God's flock. Men who scatter the flock of Jesus are clearly “against Him,” whether they chose to believe it or not. In most cases they are caught in a spiritual storm that takes them by surprise. They focus on issues and lose sight of the source behind those issues. They often permit themselves to become confused and frustrated and unconsciously permit themselves to accommodate their deep seated desires of revenge and follow their selfish ambitions. Others can not deal with the surrounding war and so they try to escape the battle by running…. they scatter. They deceive themselves and in turn deceive others, gossip replaces the gospel. It eats on a fellowship like a devouring cancer. The only answer is to eradicate it. It is often said, “The man wants to go and start his own ministry and take some of the sheep with him.” Or he may say, “He doesn't want to start his own church, but then later on does it anyhow.”
We are dealing with motive and actions here. What is the reason for doing such a thing? What will it accomplish? What is the source? It becomes a question of the source that is motivating him, whether he sees it or not, it is a question of the plan and purpose of the source. His leaving and scattering the sheep reveals both the source and the position of his decision. We may have to give it some time before you can judge the source, but when an individual makes a decision on his own without the counsel of outside pastors, he is bound to get caught in the reasoning process that “saves his own life.” Again: source, position and scripture will indicate the fruit. If a man feels he is being compelled or led to leave the congregation and refuses to hear otherwise, it would be better for him and the unity of the fellowship, for him to move out of the area and go to another place. But his best option would be to calmly and discretely, through the Holy Spirit, spend much time in reconciliation rather than division…. that would be pleasing to the Lord. Let us now look in John's gospel and here we are dealing more with the accountability and responsibility of the shepherd, or in this case the “hired hand.” “The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” (John 10:12) We are still dealing with scattering the sheep, but this time, we are dealing with the one who is more concerned with preserving his life than laying his life down for the sheep. Money is not the only pay that men receive for their action, sometimes it is prestige, sometimes it is power, sometimes it is ego, and sometimes it is position. The hireling is identified by his behavior, when the Accuser of the brethren comes in to attack the flock and starts by throwing accusation about; the hireling flees rather than defend the best interest of God's flock. He is a self-center, self-preserving, self-serving shepherd. “Then, the wolf comes in and devours the sheep.” The purpose of the wolf in this analogy is to cause the hired hand to flee, once he is removed, “then” the wolf is free to devour and scatter the flock. Scattered sheep are vulnerable as they are scattered throughout the terrain, many do not find a shepherd to protect them. We need solid men of the word that will no leave the sheep. It is true that division exists all around us, however you will find no division among those who truly know God and where you have shepherds who remain with the flock. Those who know God grow in unity of mind, spirit and heart everyday. This happens because they have surrendered their minds, spirit and heart to Jesus and for His sake.
(VI) The method of those Causing Division. Matthew at this point deals with the method employed by the devil in scattering the sheep. “strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Matt 26:31) “Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”( 1 Chr 16:22 KJV) David knew that if he touched the Lord's anointed (Saul) he would scatter the flock. It is true that we are all the Lord's anointed, but there is one that God appoints over the flock that is vulnerable to the attack of Satan and attacking him will scatter the flock. The anointed and prophets are established to maintain God's government and God's word. Satan wants to divide and scatter the sheep. Satan's kingdom is united for that purpose and he must find leaders in the church that he can use to bring down the shepherd to scatter and divide the flock. Satan goes for the shepherd that is his method and strategy. Jesus stated this principle in another way: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house (or church) is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man (the pastor or anointed one). And then he will plunder his house (Christ's church).” (Mark 3:24-27).
Paul warned of the Devil's strategies: “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles (Strategies or methods) of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (it is not with each other), but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ” (Rom 6:11-12). We have discussed the source, the position and now we are looking at the method. to scatter the sheep, one must first “smite” the shepherd or bind the “strong man.” This usually happens when men transfer the warfare to flesh and blood and by discrediting and finding fault in the shepherd. They often rob a man of his God given ministry and they build on his work. In the normal pattern, it starts with a discontented leader. Many factors can come into play at this point, jealously, pride, a superior attitude, etc.. His discontent makes fertile ground for Satan to come in and deceive him. He then becomes hardened in his determination and his discontent spills out to others. Others take up his stand and they then are left with a class “A” war. Those with deep seated animosity and jealously come virtually out of the walls. His success is based on his credibility and a measure of his believability. It is on this basis that the enemy is able to come in and do his destructive work. Accusations, judging and confusion arising from this situation. Fault is held up as evidence and unforgiveness follows. Everyone joins the crusade to oust the integrity of their leader. No one at this point is able to really hear the other. Even knowing that Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” alarms no one. Knowing that people are being led to gossip is of no concern. Confusion and fighting is totally ignored. No on stops for a moment to check the source, the position, the method, the scripture, and most of all the heart of Jesus. All of that is unimportant to those driven by unseen demonic forces to finish what they started in heaven. They are driven by an unseen compulsion, everything is out of control, and no one can hear. It is like a nightmare that no one can wake up from. It moves calculatingly and forward to divide and no one seems to take the time to judge the fruit.
Issues and not scriptures are brought to the forefront. The sheep are thrown in the middle of this conflict later and they too get caught up in personalities rather than source, position and method. Discontent spreads like wild fire and before long everyone is focused on the fire and not the one holding the match….Satan. He laughs as the church cries.
The one leading the swarm can at this point back off and let the fire do its work, but the damage has already been done. The seeds of discontent are passed from him to others and it works well for him at this point. All of this is employed to “smite” the shepherd and scatter flock. No one is able to see beyond the veil of deception. Satan knows that no matter what advantages “appear” to be gained through the division, they will ultimately end in compromise and defeat. The wisdom, the purpose and the counsel of God at this time are shunned by God's own people. We have war, where there should have been peace. No wonder we do not have power and “many are sick and sleep among us.” Every time they take communion it is a curse on them, it is blaspheme against the unity of the body of Christ. They drink in the curse of division by destroying His Body. David said, “But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days (sick and sleep).” (Ps 55:23, NKJV).
So far at this point we have looked at the scriptures foretelling of these events to come, we have looked at the false prophet and his source, his position and methods employed. On the other side of the coin, we as sheep have been able to discern the difference between the false and true prophet based on their action or fruit. Now let us turn our attention to Jesus' heart, continuing to use his Word, since he is the final Word on this subject of unity. Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.” Prov 6:12-15.
Not done, read next issue. You are blessed for life. Have question, you may call: 08033399821 or write: [email protected] Stay blessed.
Dr. Lewis Akpogena, a Christian Devotional Writer/Minister,
Education Management and Media Consultant write from Port Harcourt.