Update 203


The Mercenaries

On Saturday, July 23, 2005, Dave Harris will be giving the sermon, titled, “The Mercenaries.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Do We Now Possess "All Truth"?

by Edwin Pope

The Spirit of God is our guide to “All Truth”! Christ told the disciples in John 16:13, “…when [it], the Spirit of truth, has come, [it] will guide you into all truth…” Without God’s Spirit, we cannot come to “All Truth.”

God revealed to Timothy, through Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, that “…the house of God, which is the church of the living God…” is “…the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

God uses His ministry within the Church of God to teach and instruct His “called out ones” in the Way of His truth! And yet, we know that none of us possesses “All Truth” at this time. Each of us has been called to grow in God’s Way, but we understand that this growth will continue only as long as we are faithful to the teachings God reveals to us. Only Jesus Christ has attained “perfection” in this life; and though that is our objective, we will attain such perfection only if we remain faithful to the calling we have received.

As a youth, I was taught that once I accepted Christ and was baptized, I was “saved.” The teaching was even more assuring, in that “once saved, always saved.” Thus, at the age of ten, I knew I would go to heaven when I died, rather than being tormented forever in “hell fire”! There was much comfort in that teaching. But it had nothing to do with “All Truth.”

I have been in the “Way of Truth” now for over 40 years of my life. Yet I find myself at times being diverted from “the Way” in my thinking and in my actions as I live in this world of sin, which is under the influence of Satan the devil. It is comforting for me to understand, however, that I am not by myself in this dilemma; that Jesus Christ, alone, has been successful in living His life totally and completely according to God’s Way; and that when I go to the Father through our Advocate, Jesus Christ, He is faithful to forgive me my sins.

I observe, from time to time, some who seem to think they have already achieved “All Truth,” and who assume that they are living their lives in perfect accordance with that Way.

And yet, I have come to understand that God is continuing, through His Spirit, to lead us into even more of His Truth; and even now, after these forty years in the Way, I am astonished to see more of His Truth revealed to His “called out ones” on a regular basis.

How long will this continue, brethren?

As long as we remain faithful to those things He has revealed to us, and as long as we continue to seek Him, asking for more of His Spirit and His Truth in our lives, God will reveal greater knowledge and understanding to us who love His Way!

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Witches on the Rise

As AFP reported on July 21, 2005, “Sorcerers, fortune-tellers and other pagans will be able to cast their spells without fear in the Australian state of Victoria after local authorities moved to repeal a 200 year-old anti-witchcraft law… ‘The times have long since passed when witchcraft and fortune-telling represented a danger to law and order, or a focus for criminal activity,’ [said Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls]… A pro-witchcraft group called the Pagan Awareness Network hailed the death of the Act, which it said was the last law on the books in Australia to outlaw sorcery. ‘There’ll be several thousand pagans in Melbourne celebrating this news under the full moon tonight,’ said network spokesman Gavin Andrew.”

According to the Bible, the alleged foundation of professing Christianity, including Australia, sorcery and witchcraft are an abomination to God, and works of darkness. The Bible attributes sorcery and witchcraft to Satan the devil and his demons. But, in our “sophisticated” modern societies of falsely-understood tolerance, we have become accustomed to accepting as “good” what God condemns as “evil.”

New German Elections in September?

As Reuters reported on July 21, 2005, “President Horst Koehler agreed on Thursday to dissolve parliament and allow early elections, putting Germany on track for a September vote that polls suggest will usher in a new reform-minded conservative government. His decision removes the key hurdle to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s early election plan, which he sprung on a stunned nation on May 22 after a humiliating loss for his Social Democrats (SPD) in a regional vote.

“The federal election could still be thwarted if Germany’s top court finds that Schroeder’s unconventional plan, which involved the deliberate loss of a parliamentary vote of confidence earlier this month, is unconstitutional…. All the major parties support early polls and a survey this week showed 73 percent of Germans want them… Germany’s constitutional court is now the last remaining hurdle to a Sept. 18 election.

“Werner Schulz, a member of the Greens party in parliament, plans to file a legal suit in the coming days to prevent an early vote, meaning the court will have to decide on the plan.” [In addition, Jelena Hoffman, member of Schroeder’s party, SPD, as well as several small parties, also announced that they will file legal actions.]

Reuters continued that the Constitutional Court “would most likely rule within three weeks, so definitive confirmation of the early vote could be delayed until mid-August, just one month before the presumed election.”

Bild Online questioned, however, whether new elections could be held on September 18. The tabloid stated that it was uncertain how quickly Germany’s constitutional court would render a decision.

Some observers feel that Koehler gave in to the will of the German people and all the major parties, while violating the law. Der Spiegel Online quoted Schulz as saying on German public TV station, ARD, that he was not surprised by Koehler’s decision, and that Koehler was unable to stand up to political pressure.

Canada’s “Gay Marriages”

As The Associated Press reported on July 21, 2005, “The Vatican newspaper on Thursday attacked Canada’s legalization of gay marriage, calling it a distortion of God’s plan for the family. Canada became the fourth nation to grant full legal rights to same-sex couples when the Supreme Court’s chief justice signed legislation Wednesday. ‘The distortion of God’s plan for the family continues,’ said L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily. ‘In Canada, homosexual unions have become equal to marriage.'”

The Pope and the Terrorists

The Associated Press reported on July 21, 2005: “Pope Benedict XVI said terrorism is not the result of a clash of civilization between the West and Islam but the action of ‘fanatics’… Benedict respond[ed] to a question about the July 7 London bombings. He added that ‘dialogue between the three monotheistic religions is very important.’ The pope will visit a synagogue in Cologne, address Muslims and meet with representatives of other Christian denominations during an Aug. 18-21 trip to his native Germany… Days after the London bombings, Benedict expressed ‘profound sadness’ for the ‘atrocious terrorist attacks’ and told bombers and other terrorists to ‘stop in the name of God.'”

New Terrorist Attacks in London

However, the terrorists did not listen to the pope’s pleas.

As Reuters reported on July 21, 2005, “Four small explosions hit London’s bus and underground train network on Thursday, without causing major casualties, exactly 2 weeks after bombers killed more than 50 people in the capital. A large part of the underground train network was suspended… The emergency coincided with a memorial service for the attacks of July 7. Then, four young British Muslims detonated bombs in three underground trains and a bus at morning rush hour, killing more than 50 people… Those bombings confronted Britain’s people and politicians with the prospect the country could be nurturing its own generation of the type of Islamist militants loyal to Osama bin Laden who had already inflicted carnage in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, in Bali and on Madrid trains last year. All four bombers died in the July 7 attacks, leading most people to assume they had been suicide bombers.”

Wild Fires Plague the USA

The Associated Press reported on July 21, 2005:

“A fast-moving wildfire forced the evacuation of about 50 homes near Denver on Wednesday as flames blackened a landscape of rolling grasslands and ponderosa pines…Two air tankers were dropping fire-retardant on the 800-acre blaze… Firefighters were hampered by relentless heat. Denver reached 105 on Wednesday, tying the all-time record for hottest day, set on Aug. 8, 1878, according to the National Weather Service. It was the second straight day of triple-digit temperatures, far above the normal highs in the upper 80s… Elsewhere Wednesday, fire crews battled two blazes near Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado… “

The article continued:

“A nearly 200-acre lightning-caused fire on the Ute Mountain Ute Indian reservation was 70 percent contained, and a second blaze on the reservation covering 2,318 acres was 85 percent contained… In southern Arizona, a 22,500-acre fire was about 75 percent contained, thanks to burnouts and heavy rain, lessening the threat to about 30 homes and cabins and wildlife habitat in Madera Canyon… In northern California, firefighters contained a wind-blown wildfire that grew to more than 10,000 acres early Wednesday but burned past a nuclear weapons laboratory and some 500 homes without causing major damage… In Oregon, firefighters battled a 5,000-acre blaze on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The fire was not threatening any homes, but ‘it’s got an awful lot of potential,’ said Gary Cooke, fire administrator for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs… The National Interagency Fire Center said 36 large fires were active Wednesday in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Nearly 3.9 million acres of land has been burned so far this year, compared with 4.4 million at this time last year.”

China Threatens USA

London’s Financial Times reported on July 14, 2005:

“China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the US if it is attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan, a Chinese general said on Thursday. ‘If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,’ said General Zhu Chenghu…He added that China’s definition of its territory included warships and aircraft… Gen Zhu is a self-acknowledged ‘hawk’ who has warned that China could strike the US with long-range missiles. But his threat to use nuclear weapons in a conflict over Taiwan is the most specific by a senior Chinese official in nearly a decade.”

The New York Times added on July 16, 2005:

“‘War logic’ dictates that a weaker power needs to use maximum efforts to defeat a stronger rival, he [Gen Zhu]said, speaking in fluent English. ‘We have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States,’ Zhu said. ‘We can’t win this kind of war.’… China has had atomic bombs since 1964 and has a small arsenal of land- and sea-based nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States, according to most Western intelligence estimates…. Beijing has said repeatedly that it would use military force if Taiwan declares its independence. President George W. Bush has made clear that the United States would defend Taiwan… the comments by Zhu suggest that at least some elements of the military are prepared to widen the conflict… ‘If the Americans are determined to interfere, then we will be determined to respond,’ he said. ‘We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.'”

Europe’s Far Right

In a recent article by the Economist, dated January 20, 2005, which was republished on July 21, 2005, the following was stated:

“Xenophobia and racism in Europe are resurgent, according to hate-watchers. In Britain, which saw race riots in 2001 and 2003, the British National Party has gained a foothold. Skinheads have also gained popularity in ex-communist Central Europe, where hate crimes often go unreported and are rarely prosecuted.

“Meanwhile, far-right politicians are rising in prominence. The inclusion of Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party as a junior partner in Austria’s coalition government in 1999 led EU countries temporarily to impose diplomatic sanctions. (Mr Haider, though no longer the Freedom Party’s leader, bounced back in March 2004). In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front scored a shock victory in the first round of the 2002 presidential election and is still attracting a lot of support. And, despite its leader’s murder, the anti-immigration Pim Fortuyn List did surprisingly well in the Dutch general election in May 2002. A ban on the country’s far-right Vlaams Blok, approved in November 2004, is likely to backfire–as would an EU-wide ban on Nazi symbols.”

Europe Must Go On

The EUobserver reported on July 15, 2005:

“The presidents of Germany, Austria, Italy, Finland, Poland, Portugal and Latvia have written a common article, discussing the future of Europe and stressing the need not to give up on the European project. ‘Now, the most important task is to increase trust in European policy… There is no reason to doubt the European project’, reads the article… The article was signed by Austria’s Heinz Fischer, Finland’s Tarja Halonen, Germany’s Horst Köhler, Italy’s Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Latvia’s Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Poland’s Aleksander Kwaoniewski and Portugal’s Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio. It was published on Friday (15 July 2005) in major newspapers of the seven presidents’ countries.”

Europe and the Middle East

On July 11, 2005, Der Spiegel published an interview with European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. In the interview, Solana talked about Brussels’ role as an intermediary between Israelis and Palestinians as well as how the EU will assist in the Gaza Strip. He insisted that ‘what happens in the Middle East affects us all’ and that Europe will play a major role in seeking peace.

Solana stated:

“Europe plays an important role in the Middle East peace process, perhaps the most important role next to that of the United States… European law enforcement experts are helping train the Palestinian security forces… There haven’t been any international initiatives relating to the Middle East without significant input from Europe. Besides, the Israelis now understand that the Palestinian conflict isn’t just a regional problem. It’s a conflict that is unfolding on our doorstep and has global implications… We will not have any contact with Hamas as long as it’s on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations… Hamas, like any other organization, must accept the fact that in an officially-accepted state, which Palestine wants to become, there can be no place for warring militant organizations. There will only be room for political parties that quarrel with words, not weapons.”

German vs. European Law

On July 19, 2005, The Denver Post reported about an interesting conflict between German and European Law. The article stated that an “Al-Qaeda suspect” was “freed by [a] German court ruling,” as the “EU arrest warrant violates national law.”

The article explained:

“An al-Qaeda suspect was freed Monday after the country’s high court blocked his extradition to Spain, ruling that a European Union-wide arrest warrant–heralded as a key step in fighting terrorism–does not yet comply with German law… The ruling… deals a blow to the EU’s post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism plans and highlights the difficulties Europe faces in rushing through anti-terrorism laws frowned upon by the courts and at times angrily contested by civil liberties… Specifically, the German court said the legislature failed to provide a mechanism for appeal when making the EU legislation national law, and also had not gone far enough in considering suspects’ fundamental rights.”

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What did Christ mean when He said that we are to take up our cross, when we want to follow Him?

Christ used the metaphor of taking up the cross in numerous places, for instance, in Matthew 10:38 and in Matthew 16:24; in Mark 8:34 and in Mark 10:21; as well as in Luke 9:23 and Luke 14:27.

Especially Matthew 10:38 is interesting, in view of its context with verse 39:

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

We may understand WHY Jesus uses this particular analogy, because He did literally bear His own “cross” as He was led to His own execution! We read in John 19: “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him…” (verses 17-18).

The “Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible,” in its explanation of the cross, states: “Those sentenced to death on a cross in the Roman period were usually beaten with leather lashes–a procedure which often resulted in severe loss of blood. Victims were then generally forced to carry the upper crossbeam to the execution site, where the central stake was already set up.” We know that Jesus had even been beaten before His judgment by Herod (compare Luke 22:63-65). Then Jesus was also flogged by the Romans in preparation for His execution: “Then he [Pilate] released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26).

Adding to this, Jesus was further tortured by the soldiers as the account in Matthew 27, verses 27 through 31, reveals. Although Jesus evidently attempted to carry this crossbeam for a little while, He was so severely weakened by the beatings He had undergone that He was not able to do so: “Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross” (Matthew 27:32).

In discussing Christ’s statement in Matthew 10:38, the Nelson Study Bible points out: “Taking up a cross here stands for commitment to the extent of being willing to die for something.” Although not incorrect, MUCH MORE is meant by Christ’s statement.

The parallel Scripture of Luke 9:23-24 sheds additional light on the meaning of the phrase, “taking up the cross.” We read Christ’s words: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him DENY himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

The Nelson Study Bible comments: “Although Jesus offered salvation as a free gift (John 1:12; 3:16-18; Eph. 2:8, 9), He also warned that following Him would entail suffering and hardship (Matt. 5:10-12; see also Rom. 8:17; 2 Thess. 1:5).”

This explanation is also correct, but, again, it does not convey the fullness and richness of the intended meaning. A more comprehensive understanding has been stated in the Broadman Bible Commentary. In focusing on the fact that the cross is mentioned in the context of SELF-DENIAL (compare, again, Luke 9:24), the Commentary states:

“The cross is the utter self-denial and self-giving, first in Jesus himself and then as a transforming principle in those who trust him… The one who, under trial, seemingly saves his life by renouncing Christ actually loses it. The one who suffers martyrdom as the price of acknowledging Christ seems to lose but actually finds his life… [In] principle [one] accepts his cross or rejects it… one finds life by surrendering it to Christ or forfeits it by his self-trust, self-love, and self-assertion.”

In discussing Christ’s words in Matthew 16:24 (“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him DENY himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”), the commentary points out:

“Having accepted the disciples’ confession of him as the Christ, Jesus moved next to indicate the way which was his and theirs to follow. Matthew records that Jesus… declared that it would be the way of the cross, the way of utter self-denial and self-giving… The cross could prove to be literal for disciples as well as [the] Master. Whether literal or not, it represents a real way of life through ‘death to self’ for each disciple [Please note that Paul later said that he was dying DAILY, compare 1 Corinthians 15:31]. That the follower of Jesus deny himself is not optional within discipleship… Denying self is not to be confused with denying something to oneself, whether material things, pleasure, or whatever. Wicked people often deny themselves many things in order to achieve their selfish goals or conquer their enemies… What Jesus meant by self-denial is far more radical than denying something to oneself. He meant that one must say no to oneself. He meant the opposite of Adam’s yes to self and no to God… All man’s sin and self-destruction centers in self-love, self-trust, and self-assertion. The cross means the opposite… One for the first time becomes what he was made to be when he denies himself.”

When we are in Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The “old man” of selfishness and evil desires, of sin and death, died in baptism and has to stay dead (Romans 6:3-6). But the “old man” does not want to stay dead. That is why we have to continually see to it that we are taking our cross of self-denial and conquer the old man, by “putting on” the “new man which was created according to God” (Ephesians 4:20-24; compare Colossians 3:9-10). To follow Christ means to follow Him completely and without reservation. It means that we are willing to take up daily our cross of self-denial. When we look back, wanting to return to what we left behind, including our selfish desires, we are not worthy or fit for Christ and the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). The act of profound obedience by Jesus Christ to His Father’s will stands as our example (compare Philippians 2:8 and Hebrews 12:2). Like our Savior, we must be willing to entrust ourselves completely to God’s purpose in each of our lives–regardless of the personal sacrifice we are called upon to make!

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