2 Samuel 6:6-9

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’S anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. Then David was angry because the LORD’S wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”

Times Have Changed–God Has Not

We will certainly find difficulty reconciling the above text with our “laid back” approach (read: worldly and irreverent) to the subject of proper worship and adoration of the LORD God Almighty within an alarming number of churches here in pagan postmodern America today. No doubt our foolish reaction to what God did above would likely be the same as David who “was angry because the LORD’S wrath had broken out against Uzzah.” And this is because as we have moved further and further into our attempting to please the flesh, rather than pleasing God, we have now turned love backward. Remember, God is love (see–1 John 4:8), and so what we just read about was an act of love by the LORD God. Whatever Uzzah’s place was before Yahweh Elohim, he dared to disobey His Creator and the Lord struck him down. In our soft and lazy spirituality (read: compromised and carnal) of today we would say God was being overtly harsh. Some would say: “Oh no, I think the Lord should have taken into account Uzzah’s honorable intention to keep the Ark from falling and getting dirty.”

No doubt many of our women “pastors,” already holding this position in violation of Scripture, would tell us that “he was only trying to be good.” By the way, when you carefully study this issue you will see how denominations that ordain women to the pastorate very quickly abandon the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. However, in this case, we are clearly instructed in Numbers chapter 4 that no one was to touch the holy things (including the Ark), or they will die (v.15). In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, a classic Evangelical commentary set, well respected Bible scholar of the Old Testament, Dr. Ron Youngblood points out:

Sensing that the oxen pulling the cart were stumbling (v.6) and might therefore cause the ark to fall to the ground, Uzzah “reached out” (elliptical for “reached out his hand,” as in 1 Chronicles 13:9, 4QSama, and several ancient versions; cf. Ulrich, The Qumran Text, p. 195, and BHS) to steady the ark. In so doing he “took hold of” it, and thus his doom was sealed despite whatever good intentions he may have had. The wrath of divine judgment fell on Uzzah “because of his irreverent act” (v.7) (2 Samuel, CD-Rom)

What we also see here is that Uzzah obviously took it upon himself to decide what is a good intention, and what is not–thereby usurping the LORD’S authority–when instead he should obeyed God’s command not to touch the Ark. Also Matthew Henry’s superior godly insight is very valuable here as he adds:

Uzzah’s offence seems very small. He and his brother Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, in whose house the ark had long been lodged, having been used to attend it, to show their willingness to prefer the public benefit to their own private honour and advantage, undertook to drive the cart in which the ark was carried, this being perhaps the last service they were likely to do it; for others would be employed about it when it came to the city of David… By some accident or other the ark was in danger of being overthrown. Uzzah thereupon laid hold of it, to save it from falling, we have reason to think with a very good intention, to preserve the reputation of the ark and to prevent a bad omen. Yet this was his crime. Uzzah was a Levite, but priests only might touch the ark… Uzzah’s long familiarity with the ark, and the constant attendance he had given to it, might occasion his presumption, but would not excuse it.

Honorable Intentions?

Let’s stop here for a moment and apply this text to our times of lowering standards in Christ Name in favor of our quite irreverent seeker sensitive purpose driven emerging “worship” so common today. I offer that, in what might have begun as good intentions, we are now making the exact same mistake that Uzzah made. Evangelical leaders and pastors have decided for themselves that our Lord understands how our arrogant and capricious culture doesn’t like “formal” worship, so we took it upon ourselves to make a few changes. Perhaps it was due to “long familiarity” with the indwelling Spirit of God that so many Evangelicals made these “adjustments” in the biblical standards of the New Testament church with the “good intentions” of getting more people through the doors. But this of course would have nothing to do with a desire to be able to talk favorably with other pastors about the size of your own local church and/or to increase the revenue therein, would it? O indubitably this whole seeker sensitive “touching the Ark” of our Lord’s Church, and the encouragement of such gross displays of irreverence within His House is strictly motivated by a holy and reverent desire to reach more people “for Christ.” Well, don’t you look now Pinocchio but that nose grows ever larger.

And without a doubt the “bleeding hearts” among us in these libertine times will cry that it was a bit extreme for the LORD to simply strike Uzzah dead on the spot for such a minor offense; as we stated previously, he was only trying to keep the Ark from falling. However, the humble reverence of a true man of God, from a healthier spiritual time, brings out something else as Henry further observes:

His punishment for this offence seems very great (2Sa_6:7): The anger of the Lord was kindled against him (for in sacred things he is a jealous God) and he smote him there for his rashness, as the word is, and struck him dead upon the spot. There he sinned, and there he died, by the ark of God; even the mercy-seat would not save him. Why was God thus severe with him? 1. The touching of the ark was forbidden to the Levites expressly under pain of death – lest they die; and God, by this instance of severity, would show how he might justly have dealt with our first parents, when they had eaten that which was forbidden under the same penalty – lest you die. 2. God saw the presumption and irreverence of Uzzah’s heart. Perhaps he affected to show, before this great assembly, how bold he could make with the ark, having been so long acquainted with it. Familiarity, even with that which is most awful, is apt to breed contempt.

Here we will shift gears a bit in focus as we contemplate what Matthew Henry has just said about God seeing “the presumption and irreverence,” and his correct observation that familiarity “is apt to breed contempt.” But this can’t really happen to Christians today can it; I mean there couldn’t be any way for something like this to have occurred among us sophisticates of society here in postmodern America, could there? Why we would never become so “familiar” with the way things have become as we “do Church” in this narcissistic nation that we could actually have been slowly conditioned into irreverent acts like removing the Cross of Christ from His Own Gospel. And yet this is precisely what has happened as people such as the late Peter Drucker would continually espouse worldly business philosophies that his devoted disciple Rick Warren would then decide should be incorporated among the “traditions” of the new evangelical cross-less Christianity Lite. Tragically we have arrived at a time where the timid interpretations of clear Biblical passages from many of our tepid Evangelical leaders have grown so foggy that we now find the American Christian Church has itself become a “religious” people to whom our Lord is saying – “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:6-8).

The New Reformation Emerges

And herein lies another point that needs to be addressed as we sit by and watch this lowering of standards in Christian commitment because we are allegedly trying to reach today’s fickle postmodern society. We are currently praying here at Apprising Ministries for the Lord to increase support that I might have the time to finish writing an upcoming article where I will clearly show that the theology behind the Emergent Church movement has no intention whatsoever to preach the true Gospel of the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Rather, this Trojan Horse within the walls of Evangelicalism is actually bent on reemerging as what the late Dr. Walter Martin once labeled “the Cult of Liberal Theology.” So far men like Brian McLaren, one of the leading spokesmen of this growing pagan-Christian cult, have written much about the need to be “missional” and to bring “the kingdom of God” to people. Watch out for those terms because, just as Dr. Martin would tell you if he were still among us, theologians in the Emergent Church movement have emptied out the original meaning about what the Church has always taught concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have actually replaced it with the old Social Gospel of liberal theology.

So what has been happening–particularly since Robert Schuller’s “New Reformation” took its satanic root within Evangelicalism–is that the Christian Church in America, in a wonderful impression of the frog in the kettle, hasn’t noticed that it is in fact being “boiled” to death in aberrant and heretical doctrine. O so slowly small “adjustments” have continually been made to lower the standards of the true and difficult message of self-denial preached by the Christ of Biblical revelation in favor of the seeker sensitive personal “Jesus” with his New Reformation “gospel” of self-fulfillment. So complete has this New Reformation been within the Body of Christ that Evangelical Protestants are now actually working diligently to place themselves back under the bondage of the apostate Church of Rome! One wonders if people who claim to be Christian could possibly be any denser spiritually. As succinctly as I can put it: Five hundred years ago Reformers working within the mendacious Roman Catholic Church are finally led by God the Holy Spirit to break away from the corruptions and man-made traditions of Papal Rome. In the meantime the Church of Rome deliberately studies and elaborates on her doctrines for some eighteen years in the Council of Trent. And now, since not one single core doctrine that led to the Protestant Reformation has been changed at all, apparently the Lord has now said the ecumenical time has come for “separated brethren” to return back home to Rome.

Let us see if we can think this through: A) The Spirit of Christ raises up Reformers to break away from corrupt Roman Catholicism and to return His Church to Biblical principles; plus B) The apostate Church of Rome hasn’t changed at all since that time; equals C) The unchanging God of the Bible now wants His Church back under the rule of the exact same corrupt Roman Catholic Church. No, it doesn’t add up; but this is the logical conclusion as to where these lower standards of seeker sensitive “effeminate” Christianity, compromised as they are by what Dr. R. A. Torrey called “women in men’s trousers,” have now led us. If this lily-livered approach to the glorious Christian faith had been the methodology employed by Christ’s Apostles–gallant men who gave their lives to proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in a society of religious pluralism–the true Gospel message would most likely be lost in myths and circular reasoning of Greek philosophers. Wait a minute; on second thought, it would appear that this is exactly what is happening in ever increasing sections of the Church in America today!

However, as we turn to the Bible we see that the Lord has given very specific commands to his true ministers, and even a cursory look at the historic record will show–we do thank God–there were no purpose driven Rick Warrenites, nor were there any Brian McLarens with their emergent “gospel” of inclusivism. One need only look at Acts 4 where the Jewish religious leaders of that day – were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. The absolute truth is that no matter what a given society’s views regarding God may be–though they are free to have them–it is Christ’s command that His pastor-teachers – must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:9).

Unfortunately today the Church is not willing to refute those who oppose sound doctrine and instead has become more like Peter was in Mark 8:33, which led to a most startling rebuke from our Lord, Who clearly told His disciple that he actually held a view that originates from Satan – “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” In fact this comment from respected Evangelical scholar Dr. D.A. Carson will prove enlightening to those who have ears to hear:

Jesus’ words to Peter were not only very severe, they were deliberately spoken in the presence of the other disciples (“Jesus turned and looked at his disciples”). They probably shared Peter’s views and needed the rebuke, too. The severity of the rebuke arises from Jesus’ recognition in Peter’s attempt to dissuade him from going to the Cross the same temptation he had experienced from Satan at the outset of his ministry. Satan offered him the option of using the world’s means of accomplishing his mission (cf. Matt 4:8-10). On that occasion Jesus rebuked him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matt 4:10). Here, too, Jesus recognized the satanic opposition in Peter. “‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. `You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'” Peter was opposing the divine will. He had in mind a popular messiahship. That was the way the world thought; it was not how God had planned Jesus’ ministry and mission (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Matthew, CD Rom, emphasis added).

So you see, it’s not as if we haven’t had the chance to listen to the Spirit’s subtle warnings not to think like men and then try to preach the Gospel the way men think it should be preached in this biblically foreign mission field of fading postmodern America. For those who have eyes to see, it really is right there in the text of Scripture, and even our own biblical scholars have said it–though apparently they haven’t realized God the Holy Spirit is using them to speak. Or is it only bored indifference and a false humility as we pray: “Lord use me as Your vessel.” And I do wish the reader to know I fully understand there are many who ignore my warnings and consider me some kind of radical kook; but I offer it might not be wise to so easily dismiss what I say. O without a doubt the accepted way of writing today is to do a kind of “plus-minus” assessment of a given subject; but I wonder have we really considered this from the Lord’s perspective, or is this rather the things of men in secular academia? Suppose I were to write an article about cancer, would I really need to elaborate on some of the more “positive” aspects of this terminal disease, like say, how quickly and suddenly it can metastasize and just how completely it kills a body?

A Critique Of Gnosticism?

But is this type of plus-minus writing regarding false doctrine what we find in the Bible? Let’s take the example of Gnosticism; although purveyors claimed to be Christian teachers, where in Holy Scripture do we possibly find true Apostles of Christ saying:

Oh yes Cerinthus; what a charming and erudite fellow, and a very articulate spokesman for Christian Gnosticism. I preached on the same platform with him at the last Compromisers For Christ Conference in Caesarea. And I really got to know him quite well, and I do have to say that in his new book The Real Christ: Rethinking Jesus Through The Eyes Of A Gnostic it was actually very skillful how he was able to marry central Gnostic teachings to those of our Lord Jesus. It’s a very scholarly work; after reading this book from our brother–after all he loves Christ as well–perhaps we do need to reexamine our approach to the Incarnation itself. On page xlii Cerinthus explains how the all-containing unknowable god, the good of Pleroma–the spirit world–runs into a problem when one of his lowest aeons, Sophia attempts to be like god and produces an aeon of her own–the evil Demiurge. Cerinthus then masterfully weaves a very compelling argument from repainting history as he tells us that one of these aeons was actually ‘the Christ.’ This aeon he presses forth–nearly convincingly–then decends on the man Jesus of Nazareth at his baptism. Now this aeon, he enlightens us from his obviously thorough research, did not come from the evil Demiurge, who is in stark opposition to the good force, the utterly unknowable/god consciousness. As any fine scholar, Cerinthus–who is also a follower of Jesus–then documents through his detailed scholastic analysis from numerous Gnostic teachers (complete with copious footnotes), that it is this Demiurge that actually created this evil material world in the first place.

And then, in what might be considered a quite novel (I’d say refreshing) approach to the emerging Gnostic-Christian faith, Cerinthus then elucidates for us a rather tricky question that had previously not been covered conclusively by our brothers in the Docetic Movement concerning whether Jesus was actually a man, or whether He just seemed like one. Peter presented a fascinating discussion of this topic in his best seller Jesus Was Here–Or Maybe He Really Wasn’t, though I would quibble a bit with his rather didactic approach in actually reaching a conclusion; that is, if I might be allowed to call it that. Cerinthus on the other hand, understands that ours is clearly a culture of oral storytelling, so he is better able to draw from numerous religious sources, and then amazingly tie them all together as he explains that this aeon/Christ itself never had to suffer because it left this man Jesus before He was actually crucified. Just a brilliant stroke of scholarship that I would recommend we examine further before we so quickly write off Cerinthianism in favor of Docetism–though I don’t completely opt for either form of Christian Gnosticism–having been almost persuaded that a somewhat higher Christology might be in order from what I have read in that rascal Paul’s writings. Now, I also must say, I’m still not quite sure of course, as these Scriptures are hard to understand. Perhaps we should reserve our judgment until someone can come along with another view on this important subject of Gnostic Christianity. We must never forget that despite our differences, and I freely admit some of them still remain significant, we are to love one another.

In closing, I remind you (gently, as I don’t wish to upset you) we certainly do not want to do anything to bring division into the Body of Christ–whatever they are and whoever He may actually prove to be–not withstanding that we ever do discover such a thing, which I refer to in my book What I Might Believe As A Christian (Maybe), as “a knowable truth.” As another learned brother has said, truth is an irreducible plurality so, I might suggest, we never arrive at truth because it continues spinning back around. That aside for now, certainly Cerinthus’ fine critique of Docetism and Apostolic Christianity presents a formidable argument that is emerging in favor of us all living together as friends of each other’s religion; seeking God in the other sails as it were. For as I have said before if we will only learn from the sameness of our differences, leaving the differences in our differences behind, then we will be able to just let God sort it all out in the end. For as we grow in our new understanding of the truth, that indeed no one can truly claim to understand, then it really could be, probably anyway, as I think that our brother Cerinthus may have observed in “The Brotherhood of Gnosis.” Yes, remember in that charming final chapter of his book where he writes: “The brotherhood of man must melt together into the unknowable Pleroma that is god/spirit consciousness to then be born through the ultimate goodness of its message that we must be caring for our fellow travelers along the road back into that blessed nothingness.”

It’s Christ Or Antichrist

Sure, and maybe we all remember that great second century apologist Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, and his classic “Against Brothers I Have Significant Differences With.” Actually Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp–who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John–wrote a five volume stern refutation of Gnosticism called On The Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, better known as Against Heresies. And along this line, I am also aware that there have been those who have expressed I don’t know what I’m talking about as I run together the various aberrant and heretical movements mentioned earlier, i.e. when I refer to the “ecumenical new evangelical purpose driven emergent word faith church.” Let me assure you that as one trained in Comparative Religion I know very well how to study and evaluate the doctrinal beliefs of a given religious system. However, as a pastor-teacher the Bible tells me there are times I have to – command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer (see-1 Timothy 1:3-7) and I am also not afraid to speak the truth from God’s perspective – “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).

And so, in spite of the conveniently comfortable way in which the modern/postmodern Evangelical church as assimilated itself into the pragmatic business methods of the world, when we are shown from the Bible that these practices are not in line with what God Himself would have us do, and since the only other source left is that of the Devil himself, I am actually quite justified in lumping together what–despite many variant levels of compromised, aberrant, and/or heretical doctrines–ultimately originates from the same root in antichrist. For they come from the same serpentine source as they merge onto the way that is broad, and they–and all who follow them–will arrive at the same eternal destination. Laugh at me if you will, but no matter how much we’d like to try and convince ourselves that God understands; He’ll just sort it all out in the end, etc., the absolute fact remains that Jesus has left us here as His ambassadors (see–2 Corinthians 5:20). In John 20:21 our Lord clearly says – “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Logically then, just as it was also once a part of His job, the Master has now entrusted us to tell those who are warn people in sin–and particularly those in the Body of Christ–to leave that practice immediately. Sin means “to miss the mark” of Christ, and when we do miss this mark it is God’s Name which is sullied and it is His Church that is mocked.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ministers of the Gospel are instructed by the Apostle Paul that regardless of prevailing opinions in whatever culture our Lord sends to – we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. Well, my brother ministers, this isn’t a drill; to be a pastor-teacher is not a game, and some of the saddest words in the Bible are – Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me (2 Timothy 4:9). And how it breaks our Lord’s heart today there are far more Demas’ in His Church today than there are Pauls. My prayer in this article is that perhaps it will reach some of the younger ministers on pastoral staffs who–before their own hearts harden as well–hadn’t yet seen the “business as usual” that American Evangelical Christianity has become. The fact that will arrive with devastating consequences as this new evangelicalism rots is that not many senior pastors are going to listen, what with their book deals and multi-million dollar corporations to protect. And you can shoot the messenger, but it will never change the truth.

But be that as it may however, it will prove time well spent for these portentous pastors to reexamine the following from Proverbs 7:

Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent (v.10)…With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life (vv.21-23).

Do you really think this proverb is only about adultery in this world, or could it also be there is still such a thing as the spiritual adultery that we so often see our Lord rebuking His people for; that continual condemnation of compromise we read about in the writings of His true prophets? Is it possible, that as a senior pastor who ought to know better, God is now warning you that the allure of “success” in the ministry has become your own personal prostitute, about whom you justify yourself? I encourage you in the Lord to ask Him if it is not you that the Spirit speaks of when He says – “Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death” (vv. 24-27).

It is also written: For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Corinthians 7:10, KJV). Men and women, this is the cost of the cheap grace as we have lowered the standards of the Christian faith, a grieving of the Holy Spirit and no power in our witness to truly convert anyone. And A.W. Tozer was speaking about the rotten root of new evangelicalism when he said years ago:

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” embraces a great deal more than an offer of free pardon–it is also a message of repentance! It is a message of atonement–but it also a message of temperance and righteousness and godliness in this present world! It tells us that we must accept a Savior–but it tells us also that that we must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts! The Gospel message includes the idea of amendment–of separation from the world, of cross-carrying and loyalty to the kingdom of God even unto death! These are all corollaries of the Gospel and not the Gospel itself; but they are inextricably bound with the total message which we are commissioned to declare. No man has the authority to divide the truth and preach only a part of it. To do so is to weaken it and render it without effect!

We are all the way out on the broad path that leads to destruction! These “new” streams of Christianity are not compatible with New Testament Christianity at all. This is a pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh. That was never the testimony of the New Testament; that was never the way God did things–never! The Father in Heaven has revealed that the proof of your salvation lies in an invisible, unseen but powerful energy that visits the human soul when the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, and repentance brings godly sorrow–the Holy Ghost! The final power that introduces your heart to Jesus must be by the illumination of God the Holy Spirit Himself, or you have not been converted to Christ at all.