A documentary presents facts — the objective evidence for the case it presents. A case must be made for why the Son of God came to earth because of the rampant confusion that surrounds Him and His message. Although the New Covenant is clear, an overlooked but supremely important reason stands behind all the confusion. No amount of evidence will ever overcome a person's unwillingness to do God's will.
If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17)
The gospel does more than present us with the knowledge of our sin and the atoning sacrifice He made to extinguish our guilt. It rightly informs us that we will not be forgiven if we do not trust Him with our whole lives and do His will. That is the stark reality that sent the rich young ruler away sad -- he would not obey the Savior.1 Those who were willing to do His will, however, experienced forgiveness and the abundant life that goes with it.2 Salvation made a home in their hearts that day in Jerusalem -- the Day of Pentecost in 30 AD.
Thus, Yahshua began to fulfill His prophecy that He would make a place for them. That place was only available to those who hated their lives in this world.3 Those who loved the world and the things of the world, like the rich young ruler, found no home there. Those who loved Him rejoiced and willingly shared all things in common.4
They escaped the burden of the law their countrymen, and indeed, the whole world was under. They did so in the only way possible then or now: they loved the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength.5 They loved with the love He poured out in their hearts.6 There is no other way possible to obey His commandments -- and so bring about His rule, His kingdom on the earth.
He gives His love, His Spirit to man for one specific purpose, which can only happen in community. We are to love one another as He loved us. This love is the witness disciples give the world. There is no other witness. His love and unity among a people makes up the witness of the kingdom. That witness must be given to all the nations before the end of the age can come.7
What should we do if we read the first letter of John and realize that we do not love our brothers in deed and truth?8 A liar, according to John, is one who does not keep His commandments but still claims to know Him.9 And 1 John 2:15 tells us something very serious that we have to face. If we love the world -- its culture, sports, and above all, money10 -- the love of the Father simply cannot be in us. But John also gives us hope:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
Every honest and sincere person who truly wants to know Him and do His will can judge himself by First John. He can know whether he has passed out of death and into life by the assurance the Holy Spirit gives him when he is loving his brothers in deed and truth.11 This is not something anyone can do in the world -- not if the standard is First John. The love of God does not dwell among so-called "believers" who live separated, divided lives. One can only love with His love in true community.
There is a fascinating but deeply disturbing shift in the documentation when going from the New Testament era to that of "church history." The former presents the story of the Savior's life, the acts of the apostles, and the letters written to the churches. The time frame is roughly the first century. All of these documents lay great stress on His foremost command: "Love one another."12
Yet it is little noticed that the tone throughout the New Covenant is one of increasing concern. Something was obviously being lost. The words to the church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation, in contrast to Paul's letter to them some forty years earlier, highlight this trend:
Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Ephesians 6:24)
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Revelation 2:4-5)
The change is shocking, and the way back to their first love is clear: "repent and do the deeds you did at first." Did they go back to their first love? What does history say? You, dear reader, must be the judge. The verdict is significant.
Love is clearly the height the "city on the hill" is to be built on; it is the place from which the light emanates.13 Did the early church continue to build on the heights of love? What does the documentary evidence say? Many other examples of this growing, even ominous concern on the apostles' part could be cited. Something was at work in the early church to extinguish the light of love. And love was the light of the world.
Long before the message arrived in Ephesus that they had left their first love, Paul had written a similar letter to the Corinthians. In it he caustically warned them that they were "bearing with" another Christ, another gospel, and another spirit "beautifully."14 So perhaps it is not surprising that when we get to church history, the love of the brothers, living together, and everyone being outspoken in the assemblies were not topics of concern. They were barely even discussed:
Out of the fifty "Early Church Fathers" whose writings remain, only two make even a passing reference to the commandment of our Master to "Love one another as I have loved you." Obviously, beginning in the second century, creeds and catechisms of faith assumed the dominant roles they still play in the Christian faith. Surprisingly, none of these "fathers" contains a single reference to the Master's "new commandment" or the two greatest commandments on which hang all the Law and the Prophets. In fact, even the words, "love one another" are strangely absent from all of them.15
The strange shift away from spiritual life and toward doctrine in those documents is astonishing. The whole of church history from virtually the second century on is concerned with doctrines, creeds, controversies, and finally church councils. Greek philosophy and even politics begin to play a part in the "life" of the church. Something had profoundly changed -- a paradigm shift in what faith was and what faith did in the lives of believers. A world religion was being born. This trend is more than puzzling. It is the documentary evidence of darkness covering the earth again.
As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4-5)
Night had fallen; love was extinguished. All love? No, men still loved their wives, families, and close friends. Phileo love lived on. But the love of God, agape/ahavah love, was gone. God's love had no home. No more was that love being shed abroad in believers' hearts.16 No one received the Holy Spirit at baptism once the candlesticks were removed. How could they after Love had left the church? He was obviously not welcomed when they stopped encouraging one another daily,17 stopped having the same care for one another,18 when there were both rich and poor in their midst.19 In other words, when the commands of the Savior such as "You must give up all your own possessions in order to be My disciple,"20 became optional and inconsequential, then the Spirit left the church, too. For what reason could or would He possibly stay?
Messiah stopped being head over that house. The people stopped being outspoken and the preachers began to dominate the gatherings.21
But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
We have to know this: in the house over which Christ is head, the people have confidence to speak. All are free to share, according to Paul -- not just the leaders.22 And in the Greek language, confidence means "freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech, openness, frankness, boldness, and assurance."23 When that confidence was lost, all was lost. The early church, then, must have become someone else's house. The light in it became darkness, and how great was that darkness! The fall of the early church, then, gave a name to an entire era of the world's history: "The Dark Ages."
Messiah gave new Israel the new commandment of John 13:34. It expressed the heart and purpose of the New Covenant. Certainly, old Israel had a great calling: "Love your neighbor as yourself."24 But the newness and the greatness of the New Covenant expressed itself in its foundational law: "Love one another as I have loved you."
The divine Word was incarnate in Messiah as He walked the earth, and that same love was incarnate ("made flesh") in the Community of Jerusalem as well.25 This new commandment signaled a momentous spiritual change. It inaugurated a new kingdom of priests, a new holy nation. This new Israel was a twelve-tribed priesthood, just as old Israel was meant to be.26 They were charged to be no less than a witness of God's love to all the earth.27 When this love ruled in their lives, the fulfillment of all prophecy was at hand.28
This happened one thousand four hundred years after the disaster of the golden calf.29 Idolatry in Israel put an end to the priesthood of the original twelve tribes,30 yet Israel as a nation of priests is dear to God's heart. He had to look beyond the borders of natural Israel, though, to get it. He had to gather a people from among the nations.31
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. (Matthew 21:43)
This new, spiritual Twelve Tribes was drawn from the many nations of the Roman world. They earnestly served God night and day, doing it on behalf of old Israel, the seed of Abraham, with whom God had made a solemn covenant long before.32 Thus, the New Covenant priesthood has a "Servant Theology," not a "Replacement Theology."
And now it is for the hope of the promise made by God to our forefathers that I stand here on trial, which promise our twelve tribes, by devotedly worshiping day and night, hope to see fulfilled for them. It is for this hope, your Majesty, that I am accused by some Jews. (Acts 26:6-7, Williams New Testament)
So with this heart in the tribes, Peter didn't simply "quote" the Old Testament in 1 Peter 2:9-10. He wasn't spouting doctrine. His words described an actual "royal priesthood" that existed and served night and day during his lifetime. This priesthood was what Messiah suffered and died for, what He paid for with His blood. Israel's God will never rest until He has such a priesthood again.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
This is the work of God in the last days of this age. The message of the gospel which the thousands heard on Pentecost must be restored.33 The "apostles' teaching" of Acts 2:42 consisted of "teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" during His life on earth:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
No strange, dysfunctional kingdom was born that day. The members of this kingdom obey their King! The apostles' teachings produced a new social order, even a true counter-culture. They brought forth a new lifestyle altogether. A new life is what the Great Commission always produces, not pointless evangelistic crusades that perpetuate the same worldly cultures their converts came from.
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)
His blunt words deny even the possibility of what so many have tried to do: serve two masters. But you cannot serve God and Mammon. You cannot serve the Savior and the evil spirit that is behind the love of money.34 Teaching that you can do so is the lie which the popular religions of this world actually preach, including Christianity. The worship of Mammon is the most well-attended and enthusiastic religion on the planet. Wherever self-seeking and selfish ambition is found, Mammon is sure to be there.
Millions patiently toil through universities, eagerly awaiting the lifelong rewards of ease and prosperity promised them since childhood. Mammon is the spirit behind the glory of human culture, behind the exalted ones the world idolizes. They are even called idols. Mammon loves and stands for the things God detests, as do all His true followers.
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God." (Luke 16:14-15)
With His sharp words in Matthew 6 and Luke 16, our Master was warning His followers that it would not be through their beliefs that their life would be seen by God. He knows our hearts, it is true. That is why He sees our beliefs through our life, and that is why He said that your heart is where your treasure is, and not the other way around.35 If our treasure is on the earth, so is our heart! God sees what we love and trust in by what we do. He doesn't pretend that what we do is what we claim to love and trust in.
He commanded all His disciples to give up everything on earth.36 If they did so, they could have treasures in heaven. Then they would know, the world would know, and God would know where their heart was. Otherwise, they would be deceiving their own hearts. James said it so clearly. His words go along perfectly with what John said in 1 John 3:14-18 about whether or not we have the love of God in our hearts, as James also says:
What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:14-18)
As human beings we only have so much emotional energy. Can we give the Savior our leftovers? Is that what He is worth? We have our life, yes; it is all ours. Our time, our energies, and our possessions make it up. After we have spent ourselves, and given our soul over to our passions, do we really think He wants what is left over? Maybe on Sunday mornings?
People who think so have no idea what God's purpose and will for their lives is. They certainly have no idea that He said they have to hate their lives in this world!37 He speaks a lot about how people live their lives, but He makes no mention of their beliefs. Does God have any purpose for His people? Is it just to be good people and go to church on Sunday? Is that all there is?
If you enjoy too many "bad things" during the week you feel guilty at church. Wednesday Bible studies make it worse -- another feel-bad day. Does this describe you? It described my life as a young Christian pretty well. Often I exceeded my "allowable" quota of bad things (how much I could do before I felt really bad about myself). My life was full of such defeats. It took me a long time to realize that I was in the kingdom of defeats. Tasting death was part of my daily fare. I wanted a new menu to choose from.
Going to college, going to church, going to work... nothing helped. What did it matter to know that the American culture was degrading when I was degrading? If I didn't do something about it pretty soon, I knew I would cease to care. Eat, drink, and be merry after all, for tomorrow I would die. It was hard to face, but I loved my selfish, passing pleasures. Being in or out of the "Church" made no difference. I was serving one master -- both in deed and in truth, just not in word, and it wasn't the One I heard about on Sunday morning. My whole life made that very clear. Probably no one can be saved until they admit that.
What we invest in the culture of this world is used up and unavailable for God's Kingdom. Every person reaps a "reward" from what he emotionally invests himself in. The Savior put it this way: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."38 Religions preach, however, that wherever your heart is (or so you think), that is where your treasure is. This lie is for those who deceive their own hearts. I was such a one. As long as I didn't do any really bad things -- things that even "the world" saw as bad -- I was okay.
But a disciple does more than acknowledge that the words of his teacher are true. He lives by them. He extols and praises them. He tells others about them. And this is what a disciple of Yahshua knows: You cannot serve God and Mammon. You only have enough emotional energy to invest in the things of God. No one has enough for both God and the things of this world. It's one or the other. The great question must be faced, then, by all who claim Him as their Lord and Savior: Is Colossians 1:13 fact or fiction in your life?
For He has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved son. (Colossians 1:13)
My years of believing fiction are over. My "talents" -- the grace and faith I have -- activate the gifts I have.39 They are put to use doing the works set apart for me in His kingdom. I live as part of a covenanted people, and we are all deeply immersed in the true values of this new life and this new culture. No longer are we wasting our time and emotional energy on the things of the world. We wake up each morning determined to obey our constitution. Its preamble tells us how all our needs will be met:40
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
This goes along with not serving two masters -- you can only serve in one kingdom. You cannot drink from two cups, either.41 Our Master demands exclusive loyalty. If we are His bride, as Paul taught, how could we think He would "share" us with any other spirit? That is called adultery. With Yahshua, it is all or nothing. The Christian Jesus seems to tolerate a large middle ground with many shades of gray.
Those who have died with Him rise to new life with Him in baptism.42 He died on the cross, which is where His gospel leads us to as well -- daily. And it is at the cross that our "old self" is crucified. A person going to his execution has invested all he has -- his wealth, reputation, and his life -- in the cause for which he is dying. There is no future separation from that cause. The matter is settled in his heart. This is the total commitment to which Yahshua calls all of His followers.43 He will never leave or forsake such committed ones.44 They serve Him where He is.
He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:25-26)
Such service is the investment of all your abilities, by the grace that He supplies, to do all your works to build up His kingdom. The world's kingdoms are not even in the picture. Such a servant constantly attends his Master, the One who resides in His people. He follows and serves Him there -- where He is -- and there he is honored by the Father. These are the kind of disciples who make Acts 26:6-7 fact and not fiction.
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. (Acts 26:6-7)
This earnest service, where He is -- in the Communities where all who believe are together and share all things in common45 -- is a portrait. It is a picture of the human beings who are highly esteemed by God. They are bondslaves46 -- free to go, but choosing to stay. They refuse to leave their Master, whom they love. This service cannot be done independent of the Body, and must consist of the works prepared for us to do.47 Such a man has riches in heaven because "he is rich toward God."48
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:20-21)
Nor do we wish to leave you hanging about the fate of those who trusted Billy Graham. It was natural for people to trust the one whom the world presented as a "great man of God." Those who did so will be judged fairly by the God, who shows no partiality.49 That judgment will be based on their deeds, as many Scriptures attest. It will not be based on their faith, as Billy Graham falsely taught them, because their faith did not produce the same life of love -- the same works of love -- as when the gospel was first preached.50 Their faith was based on another gospel.51
Here is a Scripture about that judgment, both for those who trusted Billy Graham and for him, the man in the limelight:
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-11)
The glory, wealth, and fame he sought was revealed to the world when he received his star on the Hollywood sidewalk in 1989. What he refused in 1959 as "self-aggrandizing" he accepted in 1989, proclaiming that it would forever be his hallmark. The "gospel" that brought him a constant audience with the rich and powerful of this world is and will be what he is known for.
Yes, Billy Graham was a star and deserved a star among all the other stars of Hollywood. He rightly allowed Hollywood to recognize him as one of its own. Like the stars of Hollywood, he promised what he could never deliver -- an image to fall in love with, but one without substance. His life was far away from the ordinary lives of his hearers. They innocently supposed the image to be real.
But there is hope for those who listened to him and took hope in his message -- if they lived good lives, were honest and hard-working. May they be numbered among those who "by patience in well-doing sought for a godly glory, honor, and immortality." To them the God who is just and fair will give eternal life. This will be, as Paul's gospel teaches, on the basis of their deeds.52
In death they will pay for their own sins, since they never "reached His blood" by obeying the gospel.53 He only grants forgiveness to His disciples, who make a covenant with Him on his terms. Luke 14:26-33 is a bold and precise summary of the terms of peace Messiah offers all who hear the gospel from a sent one. This gospel no Christian preacher, including Billy Graham, has ever preached.
And what of those who came forward at the altar call and sincerely "accepted Jesus into their heart," but continued to do the evil deeds the Bible condemns? For them there will "be wrath and fury." Those footsteps down the stadium stairs made no lasting change in their lives. They went on to lose, deliberately, the human worth they were created with. Their sins could not be atoned for by their own suffering. So their judgment, too, will be based on their deeds.
But Billy Graham is different from his hearers, good or bad. He claimed to see. He claimed to be able to lead many to eternal life. He claimed to know God and lead others to know God. He claimed publicly what he knew privately to be false, living in terror of sickness and death.54 And rightly so, for in the Master's words, "Woe to him," as one of the rich, for he has received his "comfort in full."55 He will have none left over for the life to come. Billy Graham's guilt will remain forever and ever as one who claimed to see.
Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9:41)