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Up Way Publications 35th Anniversary

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Followers of Jesus Christ Ministries/ UP WAY PUBLICATIONS       P.O. Box 1015    Kailua, Hawaii  96734
VOL.06                                                                                                      No. 04

Jeremiah's Warning To Pastors

Dear Fellow-laborers in the Kingdom of God:

Although I had read the Bible through many times including the entire book of Jeremiah I never noticed the significance of the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah until a time many years ago, while I was ministering in the Chicago area,  and after having had a prayer burden for a fellow minister all day, I went to our usual gathering place and there mentioned to another younger minister of our group that I had had a burden for this person all day. 

"Oh, Brother Sam! You mustn't say that!" 

"Mustn't say what?" I asked.

"Mustn't say you have the burden of the Lord. God says He will cut you off and cut you off utterly if you say that!" he replied quite seriously.

Now to an average church member, the fact that a minister had said that would be all it would require that they believe they must never say they have a burden of the Lord, but I instantly remembered,  "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,"  and I reminded him of that verse and asked where he got the idea that we must not say we have a burden of or from the Lord. He could not recall nor find the passage for at least two weeks during which entire time, every church or mission our evangelistic team went to, this minister testified how the Lord had given him this great revelation and how serious it was in God's eyes - "The Lord will cut you off! Cut you off utterly!" he would urge.

Then came the day when I came in and he said, "Brother Sam, I found it!" 

"Found what?" 

"Found the verses about the Lord cutting off those who say they have His burden," he replied with great excitement. In fact, he declared that it was even more serious than he had said before. So we turned to the 23rd Chapter of Jeremiah. He went, of course, right to the verses he was quoting, verses 33-36 and 38-40. And they are very strong in saying that the person to whom they are addressed must NOT say he has the burden of the Lord! At that point it might seem the young minister was right. He had several verses of scripture to back his point. But what of the verses between? What of the verses before and in the following chapter? I read these aloud to him and then went back to the beginning of the chapter and read verses 1 and 2.  "Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD."

"Brother, am I a false prophet? " I demanded.  He said "no" and I then demanded, "Are you?"  He immediately saw and admitted his error and to his credit went to every place where he had told about his great "No burden of the Lord" revelation, admitted his error and pointed out the importance of context to a right understanding of scripture. 

So what does this all have to do with us as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Jeremiah was in the Old Testament and prophesied to the backslidden children of Israel. We live under the New Covenant; we are no more under law, but under Grace. We don't have to make sacrifices of lambs, bulls, goats, turtle doves or young pigeons. Jesus paid it all for us and all to Him we owe. 

That is all true enough, and we must never forget to thank God that Jesus did pay not only for our sin debt, but also for our health, healing and peace. But don't forget that the Apostle Paul had only those same Old Testament scriptures available to him when he wrote, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16, 17);  so Paul is saying that the Old Testament scriptures are inspired of God and are profitable to us today.  As such, we cannot just skip over them.

So as pastors and other ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we need to heed the scriptures in Jeremiah as God warns those who are pastors and shepherds of His flock that they should not scatter His sheep and dedicates much of Jeremiah 23 to making that fact clear.  In verses 1 and 2, He declares, "Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD." 

Now lest Apostolic ministers start pointing fingers at denominational ministers, it does not matter what you CLAIM as the burden of the Lord, if it does not add up, if it is not in full accord with what the writer of any verse of scripture was saying to those who were his intended readers, then you may well be preaching or "prophesying" in the context of Jeremiah 23, a thing that the Lord would say to you that He has noit spoken. And if, by what you speak as from the Lord, you cause one person to stop coming to church, the House of the Lord, then you are in the same group Jeremiah is addressing in verse 1 of Chapter 23. While it may be argued that "holiness standards" are not a "salvation issue" in an immediate sense, if those standards are more strict than the Bible really teaches and cause someone to leave or refuse to come to the church that otherwise teaches all truth, it does, in fact, BECOME a  "salvation issue". It causes a scattering of the sheep. Or as Jesus says, it offends one of His own "little ones."

Jesus uses children rather than sheep to emphasize the point when He says, "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Matthew 18:6-7).  As pastors, we are looked to by those who come to hear us preach and teach as the Lord's undershepherds who will guide them, His sheep, into green pastures and beside still waters and to restore their souls. When we do this lovingly as to the Lord with a sincere love for the Lord's sheep and the prayerfully following the leading of the Holy Spirit, we need not fear pastors whom others call "sheep stealers," because our sheep in the flock the Lord has entrusted to us know they can trust us to lead them into those green pastures and beside still waters and to restore their souls.  In fact, other pastors who are not doing this effectively may call you a sheep stealer because members of their flock leave them and come to you. However, if you are not doing it to take their members, but to lead as many as possible of the Lord's sheep into green pastures, beside still waters and to restore their souls, you are only doing your commissioned stewardship which apparently they are neglecting to do. But don't forget the rod and staff, either! 

So what is the situation in the world of the early 21st Century?  I believe it is safe to say that between seven (7) and nine (9) out of every ten (10) church members will believe any doctrine their pastor preaches. After all, he studies the Bible all the time and has the responsibility to preach and teach them sound Bible doctrine that will provide them with the best life on earth AND the promise of an eternity walking on golden streets in heaven. Additionally, many pastors preach Galatians 1:8 and 9 as though the Apostle Paul was speaking of what they first preached to that congregation in the present time rather than what Paul first preached to the churches in the region of Galatia in Turkey in the First Century AD.  Any pastor who does this is a deceiver and needs to realize he is in the danger Jeremiah pronounced against those who do these things as well as the ApostlePaul's own warning in Galatians 1.  Pastor, be aware that the only sure record we have of what the Apostle Paul FIRST preached anywhere is to be found in the Book of Acts. EVERY Epistle was written either to an already established church, the elders of a church or individual Christians Paul knew and were intended either to correct errors being taught to them by others; to encourage believers in the Grace, Love and Mercy of the Lord or to rebuke backsliders, etc. Not one of the Epistles, by Paul or any other Apostle contains the instruction for the Plan of Salvation. They may include explanations of the Grace of God that makes the way of salvation possible, but NOT the actual plan of Salvation.

The Almanac of the Christian World 1991-92 Edition states that there were 1670 plus church denominations and organizations that call themselves Christian. Some few are very close to Bible truth, while others are far from anything the Original Apostles would recognize as Christian or like the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These are what the apostle Paul calls "teachers having itching ears."

In the late 20th Century and early 21st Century,  the vast majority of churches naming the name of Jesus Christ are pastored by pastors of whom the Lord would warn, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.   [22]   But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my  words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings." (Jeremiah 23:21, 22). When people believe your sermon, sir , and as a result of that belief feel conviction of the Holy Spirit and come to the altar, DON'T tell them to just believe and they are saved nor pray this simple prayer and "accept Christ," leaving them in their sins or as Jeremiah puts it, in the evil of their doings.

We have far too many ministers like Ahimaaz as the story is told in 2 Samuel 18:9-33,  who run with a partial message as though they had it all and right.  Sadly, there are only a few who have taken the time to learn what the Bible really says in the context in which it says it. Most simply take what their pastor, then Bible college or seminary teach without questioning the real contextual scriptural validity of the teaching. They are much like the mother who always cut of the shank of the ham at great labor until her daughter questioned the practice and she learned that her great grandmother's roaster was too small and the shank had to be cut off to make it fit. The tradition was carried on for generations before reason overcame it. 

Sir, Ma'am my fellow minister of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, I could not care less if you have spent eight or sixteen years in some university or seminary learning all the church history and nuances of grammar and points of your denomonation's teachings and how each of these differs from another denomination's teachings. You may have made straight "A's" at your seminary in eschatology, be an expert exegesist, thoroughly know your hermeneutics, and be skilled in your homiletics, holding both a DD and ThD after your name, but if your message is not the one and only message of salvation validated by the New Testament scriptures, you are like Ahimaaz instead of like Cushi and you might better be a Buddhist or Shintoist or follower of any other religion than telling an error about Christianity. Please heed Jeremiah's Warning.

Yours for Jesus' sake,

Bro. Sam
ENDNOTES:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24 In context: Galatians 3:22-27).

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2 In context: Galatians 6:1-3).

      Whole Chapter Jeremiah 23
 1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
 2   Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.
 3   And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
 4   And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.
 5   Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
 6   In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
 7   Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
 8   But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
 9   Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.
10   For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
11   For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
12   Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.
13   And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.
14   I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
15   Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
16   Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
17   They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
18   For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?
19   Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
 20   The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
 21   I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
 22   But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
 23   Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?
 24   Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
 25   I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
 26   How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
 27   Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.
 28   The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.
29   Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
30   Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.
31   Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.
32   Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.
33   And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.
34   And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.
35   Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
36   And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.
37   Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
38   But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD;
39   Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence:
40   And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 23:1-40).

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.  But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matthew 18:1-7).

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Timothy 4:3 In context: 2 Timothy 4:2-4).

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; (2 Peter 3:15 In context: 2 Peter 3:14-16).

See Psalm 23; Psalms 23:4

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