"... the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the IMAGE OF GOD, should shine unto them." (2 Cor. 4:4)
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the IMAGE OF CHRIST from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Co 3:18)
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither the IMAGE OF THE BEAST, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Rev. 20:4)
The Bible speaks of two images:
The image of Christ (who is the image of the Father).
The image of the Beast.
And it further states that we all are being changed into the likeness of one of these two images. There is no middle ground here.
In the first instance, the process that leads us in life to the image of Christ begins with (1) regeneration - specifically, when we are "born again," and our spirit is regenerated and becomes once more alive to the leading of the Holy Spirit; then (2), as we "behold and reflect" the Lord in our spirit, we are (3) changed into Christ's image (2 Cor. 3:18) [who is the image of the Father (2 Cor. 4:4)]; and (4) as we are changed gradually and in the "growth in life," we are brought into unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ; and this unity produces (5) the church; and the church produces (6) Christ's testimony in the earth. (John 17:21). And ALL this is accomplished through the operation of God's grace.
Moreover, in connection with this great truth, we must always bear in mind what GRACE is: GRACE MEANS THE UNMERITED, UNRECOMPENSED FAVOR OF GOD; GRACE cannot be earned; add even the slightest effort on the part of man, and grace is no more grace. (Rom. 11:6)
THIS IS A PROCESS OF LIFE THAT BEGINS DEEP WITHIN US - IN "OUR INNERMOST BEING" (i.e., OUR SPIRIT), AND THIS PROCESS IS PREDICATED SOLELY ON THE LOVE OF GOD:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
AND THIS PROCESS FLOWS OUTWARD FROM OUR SPIRIT TO THE WORLD, AND AS IT FLOWS OURTWARD TO THE WORLD, IT PRODUCES CHRIST'S TESTIMONY, BOTH IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH. This is the "good pleasure" of the Father's will:
"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times HE MIGHT GATHER TOGETHER IN ONE all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." (Ephesians 3:10)
Contra wise, the image of the Beast is produced in EXACTLY the opposite fashion: it is the result of an action that operates from the outside inward, and it operates according to the Law. As C.I. Scofield writes:
"Law is prohibiting and requiring." (Ex. 20:1, 17) It forces its oneness on others by compulsion and coercion. It's the kind of oneness that is produced by brutality and cruelty.
"Law is a ministry of condemnation." (Rom. 3:19) It operates by the ministration of GUILT. (Ex. 20:18-19, and Phil. 3:4, 9) It motivates its adherents by guilt, not by love.
Law produces the kind of oneness that is achieved by an IBM or a General Motors; the kind of oneness that is produced out of a rule book and a set of regulations - of "DOs" and "DON'Ts." It's the kind of oneness produced by the "scribes and the Pharisees" of today's Christianity who trust in the Law and -
"... compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Matt. 23:15)
This is the kind of oneness that produces the "image of the Beast."
The question is, what kind of oneness are you producing: the kind that is based on producing GUILT in your brothers and sisters in the Lord? The kind of oneness that is based on rules and regulations: get up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning; pray alone in your room until 7:00 a.m.; have breakfast precisely at 7:30 a.m.; etc., etc.? The kind of oneness found in monastic orders such as Opus Dei, and the Franciscans? The kind of oneness where your every waking hour is governed by this or that regulation? IF THAT'S THE KIND OF ONENESS UPON WHICH YOU ARE RELYING, BE SURE THAT YOU WILL NOT PRODUCE THE CHURCH, BUT INSTEAD YOU WILL PRODUCE THE "IMAGE OF THE BEAST."
The Bible says:
"FOR CHRIST IS THE END OF THE LAW FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVETH.” (Romans 10:4)
And it goes on to say to ALL those who would set themselves up as HOLINESS POLICEMAN over "God's heritage" (the church):
"Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
"For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
"LET US NOT THEREFORE JUDGE ONE ANOTHER ANY MORE ..." (Romans 14:10-13)
The Bible says that those brothers and sisters who feel that they have been called as God's "HOLINESS POLICEMEN" (i.e., those who live by the law and force others to live by the law as well) -
"... are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, TWICE DEAD, plucked up by the roots;
"Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." (Jude 1: 12-13)
Now think about what is being said here: People who set themselves up as God's "HOLINESS POLICEMEN" are -
"Spots in your feasts of charity [love]" - without love; hateful; hurtful.
"Clouds without water" - promising much, but delivering nothing.
"Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, TWICE DEAD, plucked up by the roots" - "TWICE DEAD!" Think about the horrible implications of that phrase!
"Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame" - raging against others, and as they do so, revealing their own shameful condition.
"Wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
And there is something more! - When you "RAGE" against your brothers and sisters in Christ, when YOU attack their character (as those who have "RAGED" against us in Antipas have done) you identify yourself with Satan. Why? - because he is called -
"... the accuser of the brethren." (Revelation 12:10)
And if that's so, whose side are YOU really on when you accuse your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Christ's or the devil's?
When you bring such accusations against them, you reveal the fact that you have no idea what SALVATION is all about; you have no real comprehension of what Christ did for you on the cross - which is a pretty serious matter insofar as your Christianity is concerned.
Darby says that those who accuse their brethren according to the Law -
"... act only to do evil."
In other words, they intend to hurt and bring harm to their brothers and sisters in the Lord, and this is so regardless of their protestations to the contrary. And there is something more to be remarked on here: Those who involve themselves in this kind of wicked activity are more than cognizant of the fact that accusations are easily accepted by most people if they are repeated over and over again; that once such calumnies and defamations become widespread, they take on a life of their own - they spread like an "infectious DISEASE," and so much so that they are able to entrench themselves into the thinking of people without any real proof as to their veracity. As a result, they are subsequently able to withstand all the objections, criticisms and denials of those against whom these calumnies and defamations have been directed. The herd instinct in man then has its heyday, and even the most independent souls tend to follow the "great majority." But the so-called "great majority" will NEVER be on the side of God.
It is not without reason that the Bible says:
"Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and MANY there be which go in thereat:
"But strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
Dr. Ernst Simmel of the University of California calls the force that animates this DISEASE a -
"... PATHOLOGY of defamation and calumny."
In other words, when the target of such defamations and slander is subjected unrelentingly to vilification, and when the people who listen to what is being said do not IMMEDIATELY remove themselves from the influence of this slander, it will INEVITABLY take hold on them.
Brothers and sisters, I tell you the truth: we must guard our tongues carefully insofar as our brothers and sisters are concerned. Oh, what powerful things the words that flow from our tongues are. The Bible says that with the tongue we -
"... bless God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God." (James 3:9)
And when our tongue is used to curse men - believer and unbeliever alike - it becomes an instrument of Hell; IT SETS ON FIRE THE COURSE OF NATURE. That's what the Bible says:
"The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and SETTETH ON FIRE THE COURSE OF NATURE; and it is set on fire of hell." (James 3:6)
Now, note carefully what the Bible is saying here:
The tongue is a fire.
It is a world of iniquity.
It defiles us.
It is set on fire by the forces of Hell.
IT SETS ON FIRE THE COURSE OF NATURE.
The Bible continues:
"Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
"Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. BEHOLD HOW GREAT A MATTER A LITTLE FIRE KINDLETH!
"For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
"But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, FULL OF DEADLY POISON." (James 3:3-5, 7-8)
Listen, dear brothers and sisters in Christ: When you speak evil of people, especially on a PERSONAL level, when you bring "railing accusations" against them - even in the name of God - BE SURE, IT IS NOT GOD THAT IS DIRECTING YOU, even when you think you are right! And this is true not only of your brothers and sisters in Christ, but of your enemies as well: Consider the Archangel of God, Michael, when he disputed with the devil -
"... durst [dared] not bring against him a railing accusation ..." (Jude 1:9)
And one would think that if anyone deserved to be "accused," certainly it would have been the devil; and if anyone had the rank to do so, certainly it would have been Michael. But if Michael would not do so, then who are you to speak evil, even of your enemies? When you participate in such defamations, you "CORRUPT YOURSELF," speaking -
"... evil of those things which ... [you] know not: but what ... [you] know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things ... [you] corrupt ... [yourselves]." (Jude 1:10)
"... whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, SHALL BE IN DANGER OF HELL FIRE." (Matthew 5:22)
And why is that? - because when we criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ, when we "bring them down" because they fail to "measure up" to our standard of righteousness, we tear apart the Body of Christ, and that is something that the Lord will NOT tolerate!
Again, our testimony to the world is our ONENESS. Jesus prayed:
"THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME. (John 17:21)
But when we tear each other apart by our incessant criticism, we destroy that oneness. The fact is, no matter how hard we strive, no matter how much we try to please others and demonstrate our worthiness to them, there will always be some whom we cannot please, and their ceaseless criticism will eventually wear us down and destroy us. This is what invariably happens when we are forced to "live up" to someone else's standard of what holiness is all about. I say again, it is NOT rules and regulations that produce unity in the church; as we have already indicated, this is how corporations achieve oneness; but this kind of oneness is of the flesh, and will only bring us misery and failure as anyone who has been subsumed in a "corporate culture" knows.
This, however, is NOT how the church produces oneness. The church's oneness is not based on rules and regulations, but on the life of Christ, and that life is not something that can be forced or coerced. The unity which Christ gives is ours as a natural by-product of our "abiding in Christ:" Again, as we abide in Christ, and as we -
"... behold ... the Lord [daily in our lives] as in a mirror ... [we] are changed into the same image [i.e., Christ's image] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18)
In other words, as we are changed into the likeness of the Lord, we reflect His glory, and His glory brings oneness among the brothers and sisters; then THIS ONENESS PRODUCES THE CHURCH, and THE CHURCH PRODUCES CHRIST'S TESTIMONY IN THE EARTH and answers the Lord's prayer when He prayed -
"That they all may be ONE ... THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME.” (John 17:21)
Brothers and sisters, you must ask yourselves what kind of an image is it toward which you are pressing? If you are building the church of God by means of rules and regulations, if you are judging your brothers and sisters by a holiness standard that you believe is the "measure of God," if you govern your life by "outward appearances," then be sure that what you are building has NOTHING to do with God. Indeed, you will find on THAT DAY that what you have produced is the IMAGE OF THE BEAST. Now you must be honest with yourselves here! You can't fool God on this point. Maybe everyone else, but surely not God. The Bible says:
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." (I Cor. 3:13)
Again, the Bible says,
"FOR CHRIST IS THE END OF THE LAW FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVETH.” (Romans 10:4)
If, on the other hand, you - in the course of your daily life - make it your business to simply "behold and reflect" the Lord in your spirit, then you will find that there will be shed abroad in your heart a love of the brethren - the kind of love that the Bible speaks of in I Cor. 13:4-7:
"Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
"Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
"Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
"Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (I Cor. 13:4-7) [Interestingly, the King James Version of the Bible uses the word "charity" rather than the world "love;" and this is because "Old English" differentiated between "passive love" and "active love." CHARITY MEANT “LOVE IN ACTION.”]
This is the kind of love that only the life of Christ can produce; there are no rules and regulations that can bring about such a result. And this love produces oneness, and that oneness produces the church, and the church produces the IMAGE OF CHRIST, which is His testimony in both the heavens and the earth.
Now this does not mean that when you see a brother in "harm's way" (so to speak) - and I have reference here to REAL harm, not imagined harm - you should leave the matter alone. But when you go to such a brother (or sister) you must go with an attitude of humility and compassion, remembering all the while that with "what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matt. 7:2). God HATES a self-righteous person. Jesus -
The publican and the Pharisee at the Temple.
"... spake this parable concerning certain [men] which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others [And, oh, I tell you, I have known countless numbers of such people over the years (people I call "HOLINESS POLICEMEN") - many of whom visited our ranch and had to be told to leave; it is a sickness that seems to be inbred in American Christians - even many who have associated themselves with the ministry]:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican [a common person].
"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 (i.e., THE PUBLICAN) 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)
Moreover, when we go to our brother, we must go believing the very best of him ["love hopeth all things" (I Cor. 13:7)]. In addition, we must go PRIVATELY; we must speak to no one else; we must NEVER talk behind our brother's back. (cf. Matthew 18:15) ["Love suffereth long, and is KIND; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, THINKETH NO EVIL ..." (I Cor. 13:4-5)]
In connection with this, we would do well to remember the KINDNESS of Joseph toward Mary when she "was found with child:" The Bible says:
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together [sexually], she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
"Then Joseph her husband, being a JUST MAN, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away PRIVATELY." (Matthew 1:18-19)
Oh, I tell you the truth, what a wonderful thing to be called a "JUST MAN" by God! And why was Joseph called "JUST?" - because he had compassion on Mary, even though he believed she had been unfaithful to him sexually. He did not want to make her a "public example" - as so many of our brothers in Christ like to do when - as they see it - they "confront evil in the church." These are those people who would have felt quite at home with Torquemada during the Spanish Inquisition.
So I say to you, when you go to your brother or sister in Christ, you must go with the mind that was in Joseph; you must NEVER go as God's "HOLINESS POLICEMAN" like the scribes and Pharisees who brought unto Jesus -
"... a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
"They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
"Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
"This they said, tempting him, that they might have to ACCUSE him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
"And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
"When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine ACCUSERS? hath no man condemned thee?
"She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, NEITHER DO I CONDEMN THEE: go, and sin no more." (John 8:3-10)
"God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)