By L.A. Watson
The magician has no mystical power, but rather he has mastered the art of illusion. One of the tools of his trade is the smoke screen. While performing his act, a large plume of smoke may suddenly appear with a
loud poof. Every eye is involuntarily drawn to this swirling cloud. While their attention is arrested by this diversion, the magician works, accomplishing his trickery.
In combat, smoke grenades are used to cover retreat. The grenade is cast in the direction of the line of intended retreat; and when the smoke screen rises, it provides the needed cover.
Unfortunately magicians are not alone in the use of the smoke screen to divert attention from their actions, and military personnel are not the only ones who use its cloud to cover their retreat. Satan is most certainly the greatest master of illusion of all time. If we are not careful, we may be seduced into employing these deceitful crafts to divert attention from our actions and cover the line of our retreat from the old paths. Please bear with me as I provide a couple of examples.
The land has been filled, it seems, with prophecy-mongers. So-called prophets can be heard babbling over the radio airways, selling their self originated prophecies to the blind and the gullible. I know of
some assemblies who have abandoned biblical church government and now operate their services by prophecies. Admittedly, masses of people have been deluded by improper use of the gifts. Some have even elevated the gifts above preaching. It is amazing that so many have fallen for such a transparent error.
The Apostolic ministry met the challenge of this radical element head on. Standing on the scripture, we have driven this sham far from our beloved flocks.
The problem is WHERE NOW ARE THE GIFTS? The teaching of I Corinthians chapter 12 leaves no doubt that God has placed the gifts of the Spirit in the Church for our edification. How long has it been since tongues and interpretation operated in our local assembly, for example? The fact is that the operation of the spiritual gifts are nearly non-existent in many of our churches.
If a preacher among us would challenge our hearts and contend for a renewal, would we respond by admitting our need and seeking the restoration of the gifts? It is never pleasant to admit that we may not
have all that we should. After all, we are the Church, we have the message. Are we rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing?
We need not confess our lack, for we can simply point to the radicals and abusers of the God-given gifts. We can seek to pin the radical image on anyone who contends for a renewal by associating them with the
prophecy freaks. Every eye will be captured by the mental picture of the radical. Every mind will be diverted from our need. Oh yes, Brethren, we can smoke screen until the skies are filled with the cloud. Possibly nobody will notice our lack and we will have effectively covered our retreat from the God-given gifts.
Some have declared that the modern Apostolic ministry has matured and we no longer need the gifts. Brethren, in spite of all of our excellence, I think it doubtful that our ministry has become greater
than the Apostle Paul who taught us the use of the gifts.
When the smoke clouds lift, the facts will remain. The gifts of the Spirit are given unto the Church. The fact is the radical misuse of the spiritual gifts does not change the validity of the proper gift. The fact is everyone who contends for the renewal of the gifts is not a radical. Along with the facts remains a question which seals the indictment. WHERE ARE THE GIFTS?
As long as the Church has been in existence, the spirit of the Pharisee has been lurking about. These exact standards of exterior holiness to promote the idea of their own superior purity. They are filled with
their own righteousness. Most often, they seek to excel by their super-holiness because they feel inferior in ability or esteem. They need this crutch to bolster their ego. They are easy to pick out because they are critical of everything and everybody. Anyone who doesn’t submit to every one of their perceptions is labeled <169>loose<170>. To hear them talk, you would think they were the very fulcrum of balance.
The sad fate of these misguided souls is all too often isolation and ultimately delusion. I have known a few men who totally lost out with God because of radical views of holiness.
But while I have known of a few who have fallen by the wayside because of radical views of holiness, I have witnessed the spiritual demise of literally thousands who have been saturated and overcome by worldliness.
The trend of recent years does not seem to be toward stricter standards of radicalism. In fact, to the contrary, the trend seems to be one of conformity to the fashions, trends and hairstyles of the world. Would it seem that our young women are becoming more and more modest to the point that they are in danger of becoming radical? Does it appear that our young men are dressing too conservatively? Is there a danger that they may become too manly? No, it wouldn’t seem that we are in danger of being swept away by radical holiness any time soon.
The fact is that the trends of the times are more inclined toward conformity and worldliness than toward radicalism; and souls are hundreds of times more likely to perish from saturation of worldliness than being overboard on holiness. Why then do we hear so much preaching about radicals and so little about holiness?
The answer is simple: By seeking to associate those who contend for a renewal of old-fashioned holiness with the radicals, we can divert attention from what we are doing. While every eye is fastened on the
mental image of the holier than thou ancient Pharisee, we can make good our retreat from the old paths.
It’s much easier to smoke screen than to admit our fault. It’s certainly a route less likely to cause offense to our friends. But when the cloud clears, the facts remain and the indictment still stands. Old-fashioned holiness of the flesh and spirit are on the decline. See II Corinthians 7:1.
In the 28th chapter of the book of Exodus you will find the detailed attire provided for the ancient priest. God instructed that a plate should be made to be placed upon the mitre and worn upon the priest.
This plate was to be engraved with engraving like unto a signet. A signet was a plate or ring engraved for the purpose of sealing or stamping a contract or legal document. The mark of the signet guaranteed the authenticity and validity of a covenant or decree. The words Holiness unto the Lord were to be upon this seal. The priest had to display this seal in order to present the gifts and sacrifices of the people unto the Lord and to guarantee the acceptance of the people before the Lord. According to Hebrews chapter 9 their covenant included a worldly sanctuary and all the instruments of worship. They had the altar and the laver. They had the ark with the mercy seat; but without the priest bearing the seal, there could be no acceptance. Without the seal, Israel possessed an unsigned contract; for their covenant had to bear the seal of Holiness unto the Lord to guarantee its validity.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Though we are the recipients of a new and better covenant, God still requires the covenant to be sealed with Holiness unto the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
plainly tells us that without holiness we cannot see the Lord.
It is a fact that everyone who appears holy on the outside is not always holy inwardly. It is also a fact that anyone who is not outwardly cannot be holy inwardly. There is a need for inward holiness of the heart and an outward manifestation of holiness in our dress. In fact, to fall short is to go about boasting of the blood covenant of Christ while we possess an unsigned contract.
I pray that we will face our need and cry out for a renewal of spiritual gifts and old-fashioned holiness. Let us not be diverted from the truth using the smoke screen to cover our retreat from the old paths. May we earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.