(Editor’s note: Two weeks ago the Metro Manila Mission Team – led by the valiant leaders Kyle & Joan Bartholomew – will be sent out by the Holy Spirit! Excitingly upon their arrival in the Philippines, Kyle & Joan will not only be planting the Ninth Crown Of Thorns Church – the Metro Manila International Christian Church – but they also will be establishing the extension school, the International College Of Christian Ministries (ICCM) – Manila! Kyle’s growth as a man of God in understanding and teaching the Scriptures has been a tremendous joy to the entire ICCM and to me personally. This incredible article underscores Kyle’s remarkable insights into God’s Word! KM)
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by BEING LIKE-MINDED, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2
There is no doubt that the biggest obstacle in accomplishing Jesus’ dream to evangelize the nations in any generation, is getting Christians to work together! I find it amazing that Jesus gave us a task that can only be accomplished through the organized and unified efforts of “like-minded” disciples.
This past year, I was blessed to be able to participate and graduate from the ICCM Master’s Program. As part of our curriculum, we were required to read all four volumes of The Search For The Ancient Order, which is a historical account of our roots – The Restoration Movement – from the late 1700’s to the 1900’s. I found myself most fascinated with their dream of establishing an American Christian Missionary Society in the mid-1800’s. The prevailing thought was that a church could do more than a disciple, and a group of churches could do more than a single church. In 1850, their dream was realized as the first church was sent out by the Missionary Society to Jerusalem. Although having some success as a number of additional church plantings were to follow, this society was short-lived as the cooperating congregations never renounced autonomy, and as a result, each church went back to doing only “as each saw fit!” (Judges 17:6) While attempts were made to preserve the idea of this society as several smaller cooperative efforts were initiated, they too eventually “fizzled-out.”
We understand from Philippians 2:1-2 that “being [spiritually] like-minded” is a quality that can only come from “being united with Christ.” A leader can only receive this quality by walking with God and then passing it on to his people. In the event that a leader becomes unspiritual, he no longer has the capacity to be “like-minded.” In turn, his unspiritual guidance and independent spirit can lead a group of disciples or even an entire congregation adrift, further frustrating the dream of Jesus. This has been a scheme of Satan dating far back before the beginning of the Restoration Movement. While speaking to the Ephesian elders, Paul stated, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:29-31) It is sobering to consider that the extreme persecution from outsiders served only to strengthen the early church, while preachers that rose-up from within the movement and later defected were far more successful at destroying it! Some scholars estimate that by approximately 150 AD two thirds of all Christians became apostates. Sadly, these misguided brothers and sisters listened to the growing number of false preachers and were enticed by various offshoots of “heretical Christianity!”
There are many reasons why a Christian who was once spiritual can become unspiritual. We will focus on just four reasons and four leaders that Satan successfully led astray!
Simon the Sorcerer – Sin of Discontentment
“When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the Apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.’”(Acts 8:18-23)
Here we find a story in which Phillip, a recently appointed “deacon,” travels down to Samaria and converts the most powerful man in the city named Simon the Sorcerer! This man was so influential that he was nicknamed by the people – “The Great Power!” Yet, when Simon saw the miracles of the Holy Spirit, which was an even greater power alive and active in the life of Philip, Simon was drawn to it and was baptized. It could not have been too long after Simon’s conversion that he realized Philip had now succeeded him as the most powerful man in the city. To Simon’s dismay others had also noticed that Philip possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to him at the laying on of the Apostles’ hands during his appointment as a “deacon.” (Acts 6:6) This most certainly did not sit well with Simon who secretly grew discontent with his role, while subjected to watch Philip grow in power and influence right before his eyes. Sometime thereafter, the Apostles Peter and John came to Samaria and began laying their hands on some of the disciples. Though the Samaritan disciples had received the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” at baptism, the Apostles gave the ability to some of the Samaritan disciples to also do miracles just like Philip. (Acts 2:38; Romans 8:9 KJV) The Samaritans needed the miraculous gifts such as tongues to preach to the lost and prophecy to strengthen the disciples since the New Testament had not yet been written. (1 Corinthians 14:22)
—KYLE & JOAN BARTHOLOMEW – THE PACIFIC RIM WORLD
SECTOR LEADERS – ARE THE METRO MANILA MISSION TEAM
LEADERS! GOD’S GRACE ABOUNDS AS JOAN, A NATIVE BORN
CITIZEN OF THE PHILIPPINES, RETURNS TO SAVE HER PEOPLE!
It was at this moment that I believe Simon saw an opportunity “to vault” himself past Philip and regain his former position of prominence. Philip had the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, but that’s not what Simon asked for. He wanted the ability to distribute the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, an ability that even Philip did not have. Peter sees through Simon’s selfishly motivated request and rebukes him for his bitterness. Sadly, according to Christian tradition, Simon never repents and goes on to become one of the founding fathers of Gnosticism – a heretical sect in the first century that believed salvation could be gained through “secret knowledge.” Gnosticism is derived from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “to know.”
It cannot be understated that we as Christians must guard our hearts against discontentment. It is easy to become dissatisfied with our role, who is chosen to disciple us, what church we lead or serve in, etc. We must always remember we serve a sovereign God, “Who created us in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Not accepting God’s sovereign plan for your life leads to discontentment, discontentment to bitterness, and bitterness will not only kill us spiritually, but also the people we influence! (Hebrews 12:15)
Nicolas of Antioch – Undealt With Baggage
In addition to the Gnostics, the Nicolaitans were another dangerous offshoot of Christianity. The Apostle John writes, “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6) This group spawned several splinter groups with a wide range of teaching as all unspiritual groups do, but most believe the original intent of this group was to bring Judaism back into Christianity. It is very interesting that according to Christian tradition, Nicolas of Antioch is considered to be the founder. Nicolas knew Philip well as they were both appointed “deacons” on the same day! “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.” (Acts 6:5)
It is hard to understand how a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” can become a heretic. However, I have learned throughout my 13 short years as a Christian that everyone brings some type of “baggage” into the Kingdom upon their conversion… and baggage if undealt with, can have devastating consequences. Nicolas was a convert to Judaism prior to becoming a Christian and so there is little doubt that he brought “doctrinal baggage” with him. He probably had qualms and silent reservations for years and, because he did not deal with them, they ultimately led him astray!
Every “remnant (veteran) disciple” including myself must understand that we too carried baggage into the New Movement from our former fellowship. I am certain that I personally ingested large doses of satanic poison from the pulpit for at least the last three years I attended from 2003-2006. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) Every Sunday there are countless numbers of “Satan’s servants” that wake up, put on their suit and tie while preparing to preach a sermon to their congregations, never realizing they are serving Satan rather than God. During those three years, I sat and listened to sermon after sermon that produced doubt rather than faith! Questions were being asked from the pulpit the same way Satan questioned Eve in the Garden: “Did God really say that?” (Genesis 3:1) Do we really have to go to midweek? Do we really have to give a contribution? Must we really go to all nations? All the while implying that we do not! These questions produced a doubt in me for years that was only alleviated when I made a decision to let go of what I had heard, and to hold on to the infallible Words of God found in the Scriptures!
Diotrephes – Disdain Toward Authority
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” (3 John 9-10)
It is clear while reading 3 John in its entirety that the Apostle John served as an overseer of this congregation. What is also made clear is that Diotrephes, who was one of the leaders if not “the” leader, refused to submit to John. What was the reason for this rebellion? John simply stated, “He loves to be first.”
We as Americans live in a country that understands rebellion towards authority all too well. In fact, our country was started out of a rebellion toward not only the Kingdom of England, but also the idea of a kingdom itself! Out of our fear of tyrannical rule, we gave the power to the people, calling it democracy! Yet, the structure of church government that we see in the Scriptures is not modelled after a democracy but rather a kingdom!
Over the years, I have found that those who have the hardest time submitting to a higher authority in the church are actually many of the leaders themselves. They have been spoiled by having church at a time of their preference, instructing the song leaders to pick songs that they enjoy, and even preaching in a style that they want to be preached to. The reality is: Every leader leads the way they think is best. Yet, what they think is best, so often is merely just their opinion… And when someone over them has a different opinion, they quickly cry out, “DEMOCRACY! DEMOCRACY!”
Rebellion is a temptation for every leader, and an underlying American value, but according to the Scriptures it is “like the sin of divination!” (2 Samuel 15:23) For Satan himself was cast out of Heaven for his rebellion toward God. Diotrephes simply followed in Satan’s footsteps wanting “to be first,” forgetting all the while that it is God who is first and that “there is no authority except that which God has established!” (Romans 13:1)
—KYLE & JOAN BARTHOLOMEW ON THE UNIVERSITY OF PHILIPPINES CAMPUS!
DEMAS – Secret Sin
“Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” (2 Timothy 4:9-10)
As Paul neared the end of his life, he longed to have his closest friends and fellow preachers by his side. Sadly, a man named Demas, who is also referenced in the books of Philemon and Colossians as a fellow laborer and preacher in the Lord, was no longer with Paul as he had fallen away. I highly doubt that Paul was aware of what was really going on in Demas’ heart and mind until it was too late. Like Judas before him, Demas decided to fight his spiritual battle alone… And like all who are not honest about their lives, he was overpowered by Satan and his demons!
It is true that every disciple, no matter how strong he may be, is constantly fighting against his attraction to the world. When we are not honest about where we are at spiritually, even the best discipler cannot help us. I have found over the years that most disciples and especially leaders struggle in this area. This comes from our desire to look better than we are, rationalizing that our sin will cause those we lead to stumble, and ultimately trusting our own human wisdom rather than the perfect Word of God. Therefore, it is vital that we all remember no matter what role we play in the church, that honesty is God’s policy and more importantly the only path to Heaven! The life of Demas should be a sobering reminder for all of us that Satan has always worked to dishearten God’s people by taking out godly men and women that in turn cause devastating “ripple effects!”
It is quite significant that although Simon, Nicolas and Diotrephes never repented, this may have not been the end of Demas! The name Demas was often used during this time as a shortened version of the name Demetrius. Some have suggested that Demas was the Demetrius of Ephesus, a former persecutor of Paul who later became a Christian! (Acts 19) It is also the opinion of many that the last words written about Demas were not by Paul but rather the Apostle John, “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone – and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.” (3 John 12) This is an attractive opinion indeed, because if true, it would prove that Demas learned to crucify his flesh and was restored to the Lord sometime after Paul’s death! He may have joined Simon, Nicolas and Diotrephes by being unspiritual for a time, but prayerfully he did not share their same fate. Let us never forget that even the most non “like-minded” disciples can repent and re-join us in our quest to win a lost world for Christ! To God be all the glory!