One of the most ghoulish, detestable sins of all is the sin of trafficking in other's sins. Satan the devil is the "accuser of the brethren." It is time those who deal in spiritual graves robbing understand that their fate is a lake of fire; that they are robbing themselves of eternal life in God's Kingdom! What you are about to read is DANGEROUS knowledge. It comes directly from the sacred Word of God Almighty; the righteous Judge of us all.
By Garner Ted Armstrong
The very first step toward salvation is repentance of sin! "Repent ye, and believe the gospel," said Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15). Peter, speaking to the shocked perpetrators of Christ's murder, said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, (Acts 2:38).
Think of it! Our great and merciful heavenly Father offered repentance FIRST to the very ones who had murdered His Son! The FIRST opportunity for brokenhearted repentance of sin was extended to the people who had loudly chanted "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" less than two months previously! Yet, in spite of their vicious mob mentality, and their cruel murder of the Savior of the world, God extended to them the FIRST opportunity to repent, and receive His Holy Spirit -- to become SONS of God and BRETHREN of Jesus Christ!
God Almighty reserves to Himself the exclusive right to deal directly with sinners! He powerfully condemns any who would interfere with Him when He has taken a hand in someone's life! How thankful we should be that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful God -- that He will forgive and forget our sins when we repent!
To repent means to be deeply contrite. It means one is broken up, emotionally, with remorse, shame and self-loathing; that one sees oneself in contrast to the righteous perfection of Jesus Christ, and earnestly begs God for forgiveness. One of the most important examples of repentance is that of Job. Job's sin was the sin of self-righteousness -- the most common sin among the posturing Pharisees of Jesus' day. Finally, when Job came to see himself in comparison with the glory and majesty of God, he said, "I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
"Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not... I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
"Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:2-6).
Previously, Job thought he "knew" God. He was a law-abiding man; righteous in every degree. Yet, he did not realize he had become self righteous. He had never come to that depth of repentance which sees the self as utterly worthless; as a filthy, unfit, detestable piece of trash beneath a garbage can in comparison with the brilliant, flawless righteousness of God. Now, Job saw himself in the true light of God's awesome perfection and power. Now, he realized how truly GREAT is God, and how pitifully worthless and insignificant every human being is. This was deep, heartfelt repentance.
David likewise came to this deep repentance. He was filled with self-revulsion over his sins of adultery and murder. He prayed, "Have mercy upon me, 0 God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
"Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
"For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me [he agonized over the mental pictures of his own sins, and cried out to God for forgiveness!].
"Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest" (Psalms 51:1-4). Later he said, "Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
"Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me.
"Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
"Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee" (Psalms 51:9-13). There are many profoundly important lessons to be learned from these inspired passages of God's holy Word. David recognized that he had allowed himself to drift away from God; that he had been in a wrong spirit. He also knew that all sin is against God. He said, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned."
David knew that others would suffer from the consequences of his sin, but he understood that sin is against God. Therefore, David repented toward God. He was not required to repent before the nation. David knew one is not forgiven proportionate to the degree one spreads knowledge of one's guilt! He knew he could not wash his dirty linen in the public eye in order to be forgiven, but that he could only go directly to God in heartbroken prayer.
David knew that no one was better qualified to speak out against the agonizing consequences of sin than the repentant sinner. Notice that he said that, once forgiven by the Eternal God, then he could be better equipped to teach other transgressors God's ways --that other sinners would become converted!
Repentance from sin is between the sinner and God. It is deeply felt -- soul-shaking, emotional, heartfelt. Sometimes, as in the case of Job, it reaches the point of total self abhorrence; of such sickening disgust and revulsion at what the repentant sinner sees in himself or herself that it literally causes physical sickness!
Once this kind of repentance has occurred, notice what our loving heavenly Father tells us about His response: "Bless the LORD, 0 my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
"Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies" (Psalms 103:2-4). In this beautiful Psalm of David, we learn of God's wondrous forgiveness; of His love toward those who become ensnared in their own sins, and who need His deliverance. David wrote, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
"He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever.
"He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities [if He had, we would be dead, for sin is the transgression of God's laws (I John 3:4), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)],
"For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him" (Psalms 103:8-13).
It is axiomatic that God FORGIVES when we repent, and then He FORGETS our sins -- removing them from us completely. But man almost never forgives, and never forgets!
God says, "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
"All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.
"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" (Ezekiel 18:21-23).
In the light of all these beautiful promises of forgiveness, how would we feel if God placed in His Word a passage such as this: "No matter how much you repent -- no matter for how many weeks, months or years you cry unto me with tears; no matter how long you try to 'live down' your sins, and turn from them, I WILL REMEMBER them! I will carefully catalogue each and every one of them. Then, when I wish to intimidate you, or savagely attack you, defaming you to your friends who do not know of your sins, I will dredge them up, and hurl them upon you! I will tell others what you have done! I will write letters, EXPOSING your sins that you thought were buried under the blood of Jesus Christ; sins you THOUGHT I had forgiven you!"
How would any of us feel if God Almighty made such threatening promises?
Yet, this is EXACTLY how many vicious, hating, unforgiving people act!
These are the ghoulish "spiritual graves robbers"! These are the people who use other persons' sins as a kind of spiritual blackmail, remembering them, waiting for the time when they feel they need to viciously attack! Then, they bitterly recount long forgotten sins -- sins which God has long since forgiven! Little do they realize they have arrogantly presumed to JUDGE GOD! He has forgiven, but they will not!
Make no mistake! God Almighty will NEVER admit such a person into His loving, forgiving family! No person who revels in other men's sins will ever inherit the Kingdom of God! They will suffer, instead, the most horrifying fate one can imagine--how tragic that those who engage in such vituperation will see the very ones they hated IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and they, themselves, cast out!
Jesus said so! He said to the Pharisees, those self-righteous, vicious "judges" of every human failing, that they would SEE Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom, and they, themselves, cast out!
God's Greatest Desire Toward Mankind
God's greatest hope and desire toward all of His creation is that they will repent of sin; that they will turn away from the ways of Satan, this evil world, and their own carnal tendencies, and turn to His ways. The very purpose for Christ's sacrifice is because God so LOVED His creation; His own handiwork, humankind, lost in sin, "...that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
"For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16). Unfortunately, far too many self-righteous people who think they are spiritual take delight in condemning others!
Ezekiel wrote, "Therefore I will judge you, 0 house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
"Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?
"For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye" (Ezekiel 18:30-32). God knows that sin will eventually be the ruin of every sinner. Any parent who sees his child take up smoking or drugs, or who starts running with a gang, or who begins to steal, knows that these sins will be the ruin of the child; that it will wreck his health, wreck his chances for a successful life, a happy marriage and parenthood; perhaps cause him to die of agony from emphysema or heart disease, or perhaps be committed into prison! Because the parent deeply loves the child, the parent wants the child to avoid these things, or, once having begun them, to repent, and turn from them, and live!
The loving, concerned parent does not hate the child; does not bitterly say, "I hope you get what is coming to you!" No, the loving parent does all within his or her power to dissuade the child from doing things which will hurt the child -- perhaps destroy his life.
Not so the self-righteous spiritual graves robbers! No, those who delight in accusing, condemning, gossiping about each other's sins actually revel in evil! They enjoy exhuming rotting old corpses of past sins - sins which God Almighty has already forgiven.
Bitter, hateful Pharisees HAVE PLEASURE in the traumas and suffering of sinners! They delight in seeing others "get what is coming to them." Self-righteous, judgmental hypocrites love to accuse others in order to divert attention from themselves.
The Pharisee And The Publican
All too often, when one has repented and begun to live a Christian life, one realizes how much sin is in the world; how much our human natures cause us to yield to the manifold temptations that confront us every day. Once we have escaped from Satan and the world, we become keenly aware of the sin that is everywhere around us: The person next to us in the restaurant who is smoking; the person in the cafeteria line with pork chops or shrimp; the loudly cursing taxi driver; the rude driver who cuts into line -- we know we would no longer do these things, and so we are tempted to become outraged when others do them. We learn that it is the narrow, difficult path that leads to life, and the broad, well-lighted avenue of sin that leads to death. We begin to change. Where we used to curse and swear, we are tremblingly afraid to use blasphemous words. Where we used to eat unclean things, and were careless with our appetites, we strive to eat only those things God tells us are fit for human consumption; to adhere to a diet of healthy foods so we can avoid sickness and disease.
We learn to pray, to study our Bibles, and to attend church, fellowshipping with others of like mind. We strive to overcome habits, such as drugs or smoking. We strive to be an overcomer, because we know it is only those who overcome who will be saved (Revelation 2:26; 3:21).
Yet, if we are not very careful, we can fall into Satan's trap of self-righteousness; that of judging others! Now that we hold ourselves to higher standards; now that we have become abstemious instead of profligate, we must be careful not to look down our noses at others who have not progressed very far along the road to spiritual perfection, or those who are weak, and who slip and fall now and then.
Christ gives us a profound lesson in this quirk of human nature. "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
"I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:9-14).
How incredible! Notice that the self-righteous Pharisee DESPISED others! Preening in his own hall of mirrors, he continually reminded himself of his "spirituality"; of his "righteousness." He saw the sins of others only in comparison with his own righteousness, not in comparison to God. There are many modem Pharisees who DESPISE others who have been caught up in sin, and who have gone to God in heartrending repentance. Some of them not only prate and gossip about long-forgiven sins of others, they write them down in articles or books, so succeeding generations can read about them! Thus, they judge God! They say to Him, "Well, God, I know YOU forgave this sin, but I WILL NOT!" Little do they realize they are throwing away their own forgiveness -- that they are headed straight toward a lake of fire burning with brimstone! Not only do self-righteous Pharisees despise others, they are delighted when they can point the finger of guilt away from themselves! They enjoy wallowing in the sins of others!
The repentant publican, on the other hand, was filled with self-revulsion to the point that he struck himself on the chest, as if knowing he deserved the blows! He cried out to God because of the shame and humiliation he had brought on himself because of his sins!
How should the Pharisee have prayed? He should have prayed to God! Instead, Jesus said he prayed "within himself." He should have said, "God, I thank thee, that thou hast forgiven me for my sins. How thankful I am that I am no longer an extortioner, unfair, an adulterer. And, Father, please forgive this publican standing here, who is in such obvious self-contempt, that he can be forgiven! Forgive him, Father, even as you have forgiven me!"
The Pharisee could have felt deep empathy toward the publican. But no, he remained contemptuous of the publican. He felt spiritually superior. Therefore, his prayer was an empty exercise. God was not hearing him. Though he pridefully recounted his righteousness, he left the temple "unjustified, " meaning unforgiven! What a contrast!
Notice the parable carefully! The Pharisee spoke the truth about himself! He truly was NOT sinning in any of the ways he mentioned. He truly DID fast twice weekly, and he was careful to pay his tithes! Yet, his sins remained UNFORGIVEN. It was the publican who left the temple "justified" in God's sight! The proud Pharisee left the temple still laden with sins, because he had not truly come to repentance!
As we saw earlier, once repentance has occurred, God our Father says He will never again mention our sins to us!
Then HOW DARE any one of us rise up in "righteous" wrath, and accuse a brother or sister of SINS LONG SINCE FORGIVEN? Do we believe we can mount up to the very throne of God, depose Him from His throne, and judge God? Be careful! There are those who pose as Christians, including those who claim to be ministers of Jesus Christ who bitterly maintain their contemptuous hatred toward others whose sins they continually remember! There are those who constantly gossip, rumor-monger, and whisper dirt and filth about others in order to destroy reputation, and get a following for themselves!
"Oh, HIM!" They might say, when another person is brought up in conversation. "Well, did you know what he did?" Then follows a vicious attack on someone else, whom they hate. This is STANDARD FARE in the conversation of hundreds of those who THINK they are converted Christians!
Instead, they are eager cohorts of Satan himself.
Water Baptism--Spiritual Burial
Once God has led a sinner to repentance, He demands we be baptized -- completely immersed in water, as a symbol of our death, burial, resurrection, and as a symbol of having our sins "washed away" by water.
Paul put it this way, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized unto His death?
"Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk [live] in newness of life" (Romans 6:3,4).
The Greek word baptizo means to "plunge into," or to "immerse." The rich symbolism of baptism is as follows:
Sin is the transgression of the law.
The wages of sin is death.
Christ has died in our stead.
Therefore, in symbol, instead of fact, we are "buried" in water, and considered "dead" insofar as the law is concerned. But we do not remain buried, for we are brought up out of the water in only a second or two. This symbolizes our "resurrection" to live a new, and different kind of life. It is the death of the "old man" of sin, and the resurrection of the "new man" to live according to God's laws.
Paul wrote, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds: "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Colossians 3:9,10).
One is hardly "buried" by having a few drops of water spattered in one's face as a tiny infant at a "christening." One is hardly "buried" by having a bit of water poured over one's head! Baptism is by complete immersion!
When sin is expiated, it is "buried," to become a rotting corpse! God says He forgives, and He FORGETS our sins! He says He will never again mention them to us! But, some will ask, "How about after we become Christians? How about after we have been baptized?"
Can A Christian Sin?
John, the apostle Jesus especially loved, was inspired to write three short books near the end of the New Testament, as well as his well known gospel and the book of Revelation. John was brother to James, son of Zebedee. He lived to a great age; was the bishop of Ephesus, and was given his apocalyptic visions on the Isle of Patmos, near the end of the first century.
John was a deeply converted man -- a righteous old patriarch, when he wrote to the brethren of God's church about love. Notice what he wrote to fellow baptized Christians about sin and forgiveness: "If we [we who are Christians!] say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
"If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
"And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only [converted Christians!], but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 1:9, 10; 2:1, 2).
The function of Jesus Christ as our High Priest is to make DAILY intercession for us. Every converted Christian falls short in some way or another every single day, whether in thought or deed, in hidden lusts, hatreds, attitudes, or in sins of omission, such as failing to pray, or failing to help brethren in need. No one lives a perfect, sin free life!
The entire book of Hebrews expounds the beautiful types of the Levitical priesthood; the offerings and sacrifices, in contrast to the spiritual priesthood of Jesus Christ, who is our daily High Priest at the right hand of God.
By analogy, think of heaven as a courtroom. God the Father is the Judge. Jesus Christ is the attorney for the accused. Satan is the prosecuting attorney. You, or I, are standing there, accused of sins of which we have brokenheartedly repented with strong crying and tears. Jesus Christ turns to His Father, and pleads: "Father, I have shed my life's blood so that this repentant sinner can be forgiven! The law demands his life, I know. But MY life has paid the penalty! Therefore, the law is satisfied! I ask that you pardon this repentant sinner -- that he be free to go."
But Satan then speaks up. He says, "Oh, but he did this, and that, and the other thing! Why, I remember how, THIRTY YEARS ago, he did..." On and on Satan prates, gossiping, pointing the finger, defaming, accusing!
What, according to your Bible, is the righteous Judge's decision? We have already read it! God says, "NOT GUILTY!" Then, smiling, He says, "Your sins are forgiven -- you are free to go!"
It is SATAN who is the accuser of the brethren! John, in vision, saw Satan cast from heaven. Notice, "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Revelation 12:9-11).
Satan is unrelenting in his accusations! He keeps at it nonstop! Those who become accusers of others are direct cohorts of the devil! They are agents of Satan himself! They are expressing his opinions; voicing his own bitter accusations! Satan loves them. He has his arms around them. They are his own people -- doing his evil will.
You need to understand the enormous influence of Satan in this world, and his wicked influence which can affect brethren in God's church!
Satan delights in EXPOSING sin! God delights in covering it, burying it, doing away with it -- forgiving it, and forgetting about it!
The Tabloids And Scandal Shows
You live in the time described by Paul to Timothy. He said, "This know also, that in the last days [that is our time, now!] perilous times shall come.
"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
"Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
"Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away" (II Timothy 3:1-5). Study this remarkable scripture carefully, and apply it to the world around you, and, to a few who are, unfortunately, claiming to be converted Christians -- "having a form of godliness."
Notice that they are bereft of the normal sympathy, or feelings of compassion toward others! They are "without natural affection!" They have no ability to truly be empathetic toward someone who is suffering because of sins! Notice how like Satan, they are "false accusers"! Notice that there is a ferocity -- a hate-filled, vindictive spirit of vengeance in their hearts. They are "fierce, " and despise those who are striving to live a good life.
The public appetite today is described here, and in many other scriptures. It is the voracious appetite for scandal, dirt, filth, murder, and violence that makes many, many people into multi-millionaires!
With the death of Princess Diana of Great Britain, the very same people who had eagerly gobbled up every juicy bit of scandal and gossip about her, making tabloids wealthy in the process, now wept and wailed, heartbroken that she had died in such a horrible fashion.
Literally "hounded to death" by pursuing "paparazzi," or freelance photographers who sell their pictures to the tabloids for huge sums of money, she was groaning inside the mangled Mercedes while some of the very ones who had chased her automobile elbowed police out of the way to take close-up pictures of the dying princess! Reportedly, one of them was paid at least one million dollars for his pictures!
Quickly, the scurrilous yellow journalists; the purveyors of every scandalous bit of filth they can publish, sought to distance themselves from the tragedy. Two of the largest, Globe and The National Enquirer announced they would not publish pictures of the accident; that they would not purchase such photographs. But others did. At least one such prurient rag, a scandal sheet in Germany, quickly went on the streets with pictures taken while Diana was dying!
Like squealing, grunting, slobbering Yorkshire hogs, millions in the general public slaver, "I want to KNOW!" and beat a path to the stores to gobble up the latest juicy bit of scandal about politicians, movie stars, or "celebrities."
Filth sells. What sells in the movies today, and on television is non-stop violence, murder, explosions, sex, dismemberments; the blockbuster films are those which show violence on a gigantic scale; thousands dying at once; buildings being blown up, cars blowing up, people blowing up -- the public cannot sate their appetites for filth and violence.
For many years, I protested, "Just because it floats by in the sewer doesn't mean you need to collect it in a plastic bag, and show it to the lady who lives next door!"
It is this Satan-inspired lust for filth and violence which makes the yellow journalists filthy rich! After Princess Diana's funeral, two of the major tabloids which had published pictures and articles about her for many years came out with large, special editions, with dozens of pictures. No doubt, millions of dollars were now being made by the tabloids over her death, just as they had made millions photographing every possible moment of her life!
The ultimate cause of all this is the public appetite!
Look again, more closely, at what your Bible says about the nature of people living in the last times just before the Tribulation: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
"Without natural affection [cruel, heartless, without empathy for others], trucebreakers [combatants, antagonists, who break their word], false accusers [like Satan, the "accuser of the brethren"], incontinent [intemperate; without self-restraint], fierce [hateful, angry, not having the love of God], despisers of those that are good [they hate one who is trying to live God's way!], traitors [they turn on friends or even family members!], heady [headstrong, self-willed], highminded [supercilious, vain], lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
"Having a form of godliness [they make a pretense of being "Christians"], but denying the power thereof [including the power of God to forgive sins!]: from such turn away" (II Timothy 3:1-5).
The apostle Paul knew quite a number of men who no doubt inspired him to write these words! On trial for his life in Rome, Paul found that some of his most loyal and trusted "friends" DESERTED him in order to save their own skins! He was betrayed by some of the very men who had traveled with him; who had even been ordained by him!
He wrote to Timothy, "Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:
"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
"Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
"And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.
"The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.
"Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
"Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.
"At my first answer [before Nero -- on trial!] no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid at their charge.
"Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion" (II Timothy 4:9-17).
Taken at face value, this means either that Paul was spared from being thrown into the Roman Coliseum to be eaten of lions, or that he was actually put there, but caused the lions to do him no harm, just as Daniel was protected. In either case, God intervened on this one occasion. Later, Paul was martyred, perhaps by this very method. How heartbreaking it must have been for Paul, facing a demented emperor, on trial for his very life, to be deserted by his close friends! He took strength from his intimate knowledge of Christ's own betrayals, and, like his Savior, prayed that the traitors be forgiven.
Study the "pastoral epistles" of Paul, written to his young evangelist protegee, Timothy, and to Titus. Continually, Paul shows the vicious, hateful spirits of the posturing, self-righteous "religious Pharisees" who were plundering God's church.
Notice this especially interesting passage in Paul's letter to Titus: "For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision [Jewish "converts" who were attempting to talk people into reverting back to Judaism, or into other false doctrines]:
"Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses [they disaffected members of the church -- whole families, with their gossip and false doctrines], teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake [their real motive was MONEY AND POWER].
"One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [lazy gluttons].
"This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
"Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
"Unto the pure all things are pure [their minds are not continually dwelling on scandal and gossip!]: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled [their minds are not focused on God's Word; not filled with God's Holy Spirit of love, joy and peace -- but filled, instead, with evil, because of their guilt!].
"They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:9-16). The word "reprobate" means "unprincipled scoundrel!" Such men have no sense of principle. They have no desire whatever to be decent and good, but are wholly corrupt in their minds and spirit!
As Paul was nearing the end of his brief letter to Titus, he said, "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
"To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.
"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" (Titus 3:1-3).
How sick. How tragic, that there are those who like to deceive themselves into believing they are members of God's church, yet are possessed of these very emotions!
Gossiping And Talebearing
How pitiful it is that the church becomes the very environment where gossip and evil talebearing flourishes like mushrooms in a hothouse! Is there any organization, any company or corporation where large numbers of people are thrown together where there is any more vicious a climate of judgmental criticism and gossip than a CHURCH?
God caused wise old King Solomon to write much about malicious talk. Notice some of his powerful proverbs: "The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
"Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Proverbs 10:11, 12).
Does it ever! Some of the WORST TIMES OF MY LIFE have been in situations that arose when vicious hatred stirred up strife between those who were SUPPOSEDLY FRIENDS!
Suppose you have several close friends, who like you, who like to be with you socially. Human relationships can become very complex. Let's label your friends, three of them, "A," "B," and "C." You and "A" have a special relationship. As a matter of fact, you are so close to "A" that, when "B" and "C" are not around, you are comfortable discussing either "B" or "C." Likewise, you should understand that when you are not with them, "A" and "B" will be discussing you, as well as "C." This is human nature. This is why God tells us "listen not to every word that is spoken, lest you hear your servant curse you."
All of us can see idiosyncrasies and weaknesses of those we like; those in our social circle. It is a temptation to talk about them. So long as such talk does not destroy character, and does not transgress God's law by becoming ridicule and gossip, perhaps there is nothing sinful about discussing "the way they are" in matters of habit, taste, and dress. People, after all, talk about other people. But let's assume something occurs which spoils the friendship of "A" and "C." They become toweringly angry at each other. "A" still likes you, but now, "A" and "C" are bitter and hateful toward each other!
Because each one of them wants you to SIDE WITH THEM against the other, YOU end up the object of their scorn! Now, "A" is furious with YOU, because you will not break off your relationship with the other! You feel like a hooked salmon -- two huge fishhooks are piercing your body -- one is pulling mightily in one direction, the other in the opposite direction, and you are in the middle!
As surely as the wringing of the nose brings blood, and the forcing of wrath brings strife, you will find that your former friends will turn on you because they are mad at each other, and can't believe you will not side with either one of them! Rather than philosophically understanding that it is perfectly all right for you to remain the friend of their enemy, they will do everything in their power to destroy your relationship with the one they hate!
One of the most hateful sins is that of betrayal of friends and family! Surely, God's Word through Micah, speaking of the time of the end, is applicable: "The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.
"That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh [asking for favors -- a bribe], and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.
"The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge [being involved with them is like leaping into a thorn bush]: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.
"Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.
"For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house" (Micah 7:2-6). Jesus Christ quoted these words, warning us that, when it comes to religion, even close family members sometimes betray one another (Matthew 10:21, 22).
Jesus Christ of Nazareth was pure. He was righteous, holy, and perfect! Yet, He was betrayed by Judas, and forsaken by His beloved disciples! I would never compare myself to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Yet, so far as experiencing betrayal is concerned, I can understand what He suffered!
Nothing hurts quite so much as rejection! A divorce is a painful, traumatic, horrible thing! When two people have shared such complete intimacies as marriage; have told each other again and again how much they love and care for one another, and then begin to brawl and fight, and become bitter enemies, it is an agonizing, soul-shaking thing!
When a mate has turned on a mate, and left a marriage, it is like the stabbing of a knife to the vitals! It wounds deeply. It hurts!
When a beloved brother or sister turns viciously on another, it is a very painful, traumatic thing! It can cause nightmares, insomnia, high blood pressure, angina, rashes, night sweats, constant worry, fear, deep depression, loss of appetite, hair loss, weight loss, and many physical debilities like heartburn, listlessness, and hopelessness.
Solomon listed two complete OPPOSITES. Those who are carnal, vicious, unrepentant and self-righteous will HATE the words, "love COVERS all sins!" To them, such a scripture would only be used by someone who desperately wants his sins COVERED, instead of revealed for all the world to see? WHY would anyone want his sins covered? As Paul said, "I speak foolishly." Of course, everyone wants their sins covered up! When one repents, one wishes his sins to be buried, and forgotten! But the ghoulish spiritual graves robber, standing over the headstone with a shovel in his hand, wants to dig up sins, not cover them!
Does not EVERY human being, from murderers on death row to a teenager who stole a bicycle, want to be FORGIVEN of sin, and have the consequences of his sin removed? Is that not what repentance and forgiveness is all about?
Yet, there are some twisted people who seem to think the sin is forgiven only in direct proportion to how many people know about it! To some demoniacal, God-hating people, it is not through the blood of Jesus Christ we are forgiven, but by hanging our dirty laundry out the window for the world to see! Like leering, lustful perverts who want to witness a public hanging, they lust to see other's sins exposed!
How comfortable they are, when the spotlight of righteous outrage is pointed at someone else, and not at them! There are those who "hide their hatred" by couching their slanderous talk in "spiritual" terms. They "confide" in a friend about someone else's sins, saying "So and so has a difficulty I want to tell you about -- we really need to pray about this!" Subtlety is the hallmark of Satan. In subtle, indirect ways, people "hint" about the sins of others. But God tells us, "He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18). By lying, and pretending to "love" the object of their scorn, they subtly slander him instead.
All such talk destroys lives! Did not Jesus Christ tell us that anyone who causes one of His "little ones" with whom He is working to stumble should be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck?
God says, "An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered" (Proverbs 11:9).
To some, their most cherished pastime is gossiping about the sins and faults of others. God says, "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (Proverbs 11:13).
"Be Ye Angry, And Sin Not... "
I have never seen it fail. When emotion walks in, reason walks out. When people become violently angry with each other, it is virtually assured they will dig deep into their memory, hurling vicious accusations at the one who has angered them. Suddenly, all logic is gone, and frenzied anger is present.
Sometimes, they will dig back into the past for twenty or thirty YEARS in order to hurl accusations! Sins long repented of; sins buried under the blood of Christ; sins that God Almighty has forgotten are dredged up from the fetid trash pile of hateful human memory and hurled at another. Like a ghoulish graves robber, standing there with a rotting, decaying corpse, the spiritual graves robber will always DIG UP something from the past!
"You ALWAYS do so-and-so..." he says. "You NEVER do so-and-so" she says.
When emotion floods the mind, logic, reason, rational thoughts are completely gone. When one is lost in a frenzy of anger, one is perilously close to committing some of the most heinous sins. Child abuse, spousal abuse, fist fights, even murder can result. I am reminded of a tragic story I told on a radio program several decades ago about an uncle and his nephew who began arguing about the Bible over their Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
When it was over, the nephew had grabbed the carving knife out of the turkey, and stabbed his uncle to death with it! This murder resulted from a "Bible study"!
The old saying, "All's fair in love and war" is a completely carnal, satanic saying, but it is certainly utilized by most. And make no mistake, when friends fall out, or when spouses become bitterly angry at each other, it is like a war and hang the Geneva Convention!
Jesus Christ commands us to love one another, and to forgive one another! Peter asked, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him "till seven times?
"Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21,22). In other words, Jesus Christ commands each one of us, "You WILL forgive your brother or sister, just as I have forgiven you -- or you will never be in my Kingdom!"
By their actions, there are many so-called Christians who say to Christ, "Oh, no I WON'T!" They have their reward. In the judgment, they will suddenly, like the rich man who saw the wall of flame approaching, have a change of heart! But then, it will be much, much too late.
Paul wrote, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
"Neither give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26,27). All of us become angry over some slight, some misunderstanding, some evil deed another might do to us. But we must control our anger. We are commanded not to retain our anger, even for a twenty-four hour period! What happens if we disobey this command? Obviously, God will take away His forgiveness from us! We are grieving the Holy Spirit when we remain angry; when we seethe with rage, and a vengeful desire to "get even" with someone!
We are "giving place" to, or providing an entry for, Satan the devil!
Paul went on to say, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." Does gossip and slander "minister grace " to those who hear it? He said, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you " (Ephesians 4:29-32). To angry spiritual graves robbers, these beautiful words of scripture are like a red flag in front of a bull. "NO!" They shout out, by their gossiping mouths and their actions, "I will NOT forgive!" The instant they allow themselves to be possessed of such an attitude, God Almighty removes His forgiveness from them! The publican, whom they hate, is forgiven. The Pharisee who is unforgiving, is unforgiven!
Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering [great patience!];
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
"And above all these things put on charity [this is the agape love of I Corinthians 13. Read that inspiring chapter!], which is the bond of perfectness.
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Colossians 3:12, 13). How utterly different are these wonderful, gentle, godly emotions than those of rancor, vengeance, bitterness, and strife!
The book of Jonah conveys a powerful lesson about the human desire for vengeance. Jonah had undergone a terrible trial, attempting to run away from God and the commission God wanted him to fulfill. He was forced to do God's work of witness and warning to Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria. When the Assyrians repented; when their king declared national fasting and prayer, Jonah was furious! He wanted the Assyrians to "get what was coming to them!" He had suffered so much -- endured so much, he wanted to see God's wrath fall upon the people of Nineveh.
Notice it in Jonah 3:10, "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not.
"But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry " (Jonah 3:10; 4:1).
Jonah went to a nearby hillside, where he sat with his chin in his hands, glowering at the city. The sun came up, and he was nearly fainting with the heat and dehydration. God miraculously caused a kind of a rapidly-growing castor bean plant to spring up and shade him. Thus Jonah was saved alive. Yet, the next morning, God caused a fierce, dry wind to blow, and the "gourd" or the castor bean plant wilted, leaving Jonah exposed to the sun. Notice what happened: "And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
"And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death." Jonah was furious that the people of Nineveh were spared! He was sorrowful for the beautiful plant, with its big, green leaves which had shaded him the day before. He looked upon the plant with pity. But his anger burned toward Nineveh, and toward God whom Jonah held responsible!
"Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
"And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:1-11). We are never given Jonah's answer. Perhaps there is a very important reason. We will not know if Jonah repented of his grievous desire for vengeance; his hostility toward God, until the Kingdom. But the lesson of Jonah is plain. God's loving nature is the desire to FORGIVE us when we acknowledge our sins, and to remove them from us! His is not the desire to carry out the death sentence upon us, but to save us from a horrible death! How is it then, that sometimes those very ones who are being used in God's work -- the Jonahs among us -- desire vengeance over forgiveness?
Study carefully Romans 9, 10 and 11, and see how Paul labored with the Greeks and Romans over their contempt for the Jews! Paul said he could wish himself accursed if it meant the saving of the Jews. He told them how the Jews had been like an olive tree which had been cut down, and a wild olive tree, the gentiles, grafted onto its roots. He told them, "What shall we say then, is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
"For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Romans 9:14, 15). He was referring to Pharoah, whose heart God had deliberately hardened to work out His purpose in human affairs. The point was, God Almighty exercises His perogative in FORGIVING people -- in having MERCY upon them!
Human nature, influenced by Satan, RESENTS God forgiving certain people! A self-righteous spiritual graves robber would say, "Well, God, I know YOU might forgive so-and-so, but I NEVER WILL!"
This was Jonah's sin. Instead of rejoicing that God had spared Nineveh; instead of feeling that his witness and warning to Nineveh had been a SAVING work, Jonah wanted them dead! Such is the attitude of some intolerant people. Passing over their own sins and faults, they bitterly hope others will "get what is coming to them." They live in glass houses, and unknowingly, when they pick up stones to throw, they are shattering their own house!
God inspired Solomon to write much about gossip and slander -- about spiritual graves robbing. There are those who "keep" the knowledge of other's faults and sins for their own purposes. It is always because they are determined to USE their evil ammunition when worse comes to worse -- use it to destroy someone. Solomon wrote, "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends" (Proverbs 17:9). How true. Close, loving friendships have been completely destroyed by those who deliberately keep evil information about someone.
Solomon wrote, "An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.
"A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
"A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.
"He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass" (Proverbs 16:27-30). When one is digging, one is laboring hard! It takes work to "dig up" evil! It takes many phone calls, letters, conversations -- careful research! "Did she say what she said?" And "Did he really tell you that ... ?" Eventually, once an evil, ungodly man has dug up enough evil, as if hunting for buried treasure instead of rotting corpses, he will USE the evil he has uncovered in order to destroy!
The "shutting of the eyes" to devise evil things means real concentration! This is depicting someone who loves to wallow in sin; who delights in pointing the finger of blame.
Such is the stuff of spiritual graves robbers. They are headed straight toward Gehenna fire even as they delight in consigning others there! As they throw stones, they shatter their own spiritual house. As they accuse, they are condemned. As they gossip, they are abandoned of God. As they dig a pit, so shall they fall into it. As they dig up evil, so shall evil come back upon them.
David prayed about this. The beautiful 69th Psalm is at once a prayer and a profound prophecy. Much of it applies to Jesus Christ, even as He died on the stake. It applies to Judas and his ilk -- the traitors of the world, who viciously turn upon their own friends and family. Read the entire chapter slowly and carefully, pondering each word. Here are a few excerpts: "Save me, 0 God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
"I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
"I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
"They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty [David knew there were those who coveted his throne; they hated him, worked behind his back to destroy him]: then I restored that which I took not away.
"O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee" (Psalms 69:1-5). David KNEW God had seen each and every foolish sin he had committed! How he had PRAYED to God for forgiveness! But his vicious enemies had not heard his prayers. They were, instead, ASSUMING he had been congratulating himself that he had "gotten away with it!" They had no idea of the depth of David's soul-shaking repentance! Furthermore, they would have resented it if they had known! In their mind's eye, they saw David as an obstacle to their own desire for power. They could not see him as a brokenhearted, crying, praying man, with tear-streaked eyes looking up to heaven in deep repentance.
David had cried out to God day and night, praying until he was exhausted, begging God's forgiveness. Yet, his enemies hated him. Notice further, "Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee.
Reproach hath broken my heart [how utterly devastating to be king, and to have the whole nation speaking about his sins]; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
"They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink [this is a prophecy about the sufferings of Christ].
"Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap" (verses 19-22).
Truly, those who dig a pit for others shall fall into the pit themselves.
There are those who believe they are Christians who would have been among David's enemies if they had lived during his time. But how I would fear and tremble, had I been one of David's enemies! He wrote, "Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually shake.
"Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.
"Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents [Peter was inspired to apply this to Judas (Acts 1:20)].
For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded." In other words, they were attempting to usurp GOD'S OWN JUDGMENTS. God Himself was dealing with David! God was causing him anguish and shame; humiliation and self-abhorrence. But God was also forgiving David! David's enemies, sinners all, wanted his head! They wanted him to be deposed! They wanted him dead!
"Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.
"Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.
"But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, 0 God, set me up on high.
"I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving" (Psalms 69:23-30).
Notwithstanding the hypocritical judgments of bitter spiritual Pharisees, David knew that a deeply repentant sinner was better qualified to teach others about the terrible consequences of sin than anyone else.
David did not spend his time in viciously digging up the sins and faults of his enemies. Rather, he cried out to God in an agony of remorse for forgiveness of his own sins! No wonder David was a man after God's own heart. No wonder he will be, KING over all Israel during the one thousand year reign of Jesus Christ!
How tragic it is that some who profess to be Christians have forgotten the most fundamental truth Jesus Christ taught -- that of forgiveness! Christ tells us to pray "....... and forgive us our trespasses [sins] AS we forgive those who, have trespassed against us." He. said, at the end of His famous "Lords prayer," "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive YOU. But if you forgive NOT men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:12-14).
Are you one who has gossiped; who has slandered a sister a brother? Are you one who has been a "spiritual graves robber" in the past? Do you remember the sins and faults of others with 20/20 clarity? If so, in the light of the foregoing -- all the wonderful words of God Almighty about His love and forgiveness toward us -- what do you intend doing about it?
Do YOU want to be in God's Kingdom? Do you want to be forgiven for all your sins?
You can be. God tells you that. Whether or not you WILL be is contained in how you answer this final question.
Is there anyone you have not yet forgiven?
If so, go to your knees in a private place, and FORGIVE right now!
The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association
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