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Jesus said, “I will build My Church…” There is a single organization that teaches the entire truth of the Bible, and is called to live by “every word of God.” Do you know how to find it? Christ said it would:

  • Teach “all things” He commanded
  • Have called out members set apart by truth
  • Be a “little flock”

The Danger of Spiritual Viruses

Are You Immune?

by Bruce A. Ritter

No matter where you go—no matter where you sit, eat, walk or run—they will find you. They search for the vulnerable. They probe for the weak. They hunt for a suitable host in which to thrive and multiply. You cannot hide from them.

Some people are infected and don’t even know it. Others think, “It could never happen to me!”

But it can—and will.

Just as there are physical viruses (SARS, Ebola, HIV, etc.) that plague mankind at every turn, spiritual viruses seek to plague the minds and lives of all true Christians.

But what are spiritual viruses? Who do they infect? How do they spread among God’s people? Why are spiritual viruses so deadly?—and how can we become immune to them?

You cannot afford to let these questions go unanswered!

What Nature Reveals

Studying God’s physical creation can reveal many spiritual principles. For example, we can better understand what Jesus Christ meant in John 3, regarding the process that leads to becoming “born of the Spirit,” by studying how a child is begotten and grows in a mother’s womb.

Similarly, by examining how a physical virus infects a human body and quickly spreads to others, we can better comprehend how spiritual viruses can infect Christians and spread to others of God’s people within the body of Christ.

(Remember that all analogies have a reasonable limit and will eventually break down.)

In nature, a virus is a microscopic infectious agent (too small to be perceived by the human senses) that replicates itself within the cells of a living host. A virus cannot thrive and spread without a host. Varying in shape and complexity, viruses are present in homes, schools, workplaces—anywhere in our environment—waiting for a host to come along. They look for a way inside a body (nose, mouth, breaks in the skin). Once inside, the virus uses a type of protein on its outer coat to “feel” or “recognize” suitable host cells to infect.

When a cell is infected, the virus replicates itself within the host cell. It then breaks free from the cell, either by breaking it open (thus destroying it), or by pinching out from the cell membrane, breaking away with a piece of the cell surrounding the virus. (In the latter case, the host cell is not destroyed.) The virus then spreads throughout the body, multiplying itself, and attacking and infecting other cells.

The body’s immune system responds by producing chemicals that cause the body’s temperature to increase (i.e., a fever). Other symptoms may include congestion, coughing, sore throat, etc. The immune system’s job is to eliminate the virus from the body.

A Spiritual Analogy

Just as there are many physical viruses, Christians are at risk from a variety of spiritual viruses: Wrong attitudes, wrong conduct (sin), wrong use of speech, and wrong teaching, or heresy.

As the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4), Satan tries to use these four major “viral strains” to poison our thinking and destroy our lives. The devil constantly searches for ways to trip us up, to veer us off the path that leads to God’s kingdom. Throughout Church history, many tens of thousands have failed to actively guard their minds from the poisonous venom of spiritual viruses.

The “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) broadcasts attitudes of bitterness, envy, jealousy and self-righteousness to get us off track and cut us off from God. Satan hunts for whoever is most vulnerable—a suitable “host.” His goal is to infect your mind with wrong attitudes, thoughts, desires and feelings. If he succeeds, his many spiritual viruses will incubate within the mind and grow. Unless repented of, this will lead to even more carnal attitudes. Sooner or later, the infected “host” will pass his sickness to whomever he comes in contact with. The virus will then spread from one Christian to the next, infecting the body of Christ and weakening the Church.

These “viral agents” come in various disguises—gossip, whispering, backbiting, rumor and innuendo, debates—and will eventually manifest themselves in words and actions: Coarse jesting and foul language, lies, false accusations, along with “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings”—the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).

Like the 24-hour flu, some physical viruses manifest themselves right away. But some, like HIV, may not show symptoms for several years. Likewise, some brethren are infected right now, at this very moment, but the symptoms are not clearly visible. They may not show for years. But when they do, watch out! The infected will “go off” like spiritual homicide bombers—suddenly—without warning—destroying and maiming those around them!

Recall that a person’s immune system is designed to eliminate viruses from the body. Similarly, the Church must “cast out the scorner,” “mark those that cause division,” “stop unruly mouths,” and remove those who cause harm to the body of Christ.

I Timothy 6:3-5 states, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw yourself.”

The Greek word for doting means “to be sick” and “a diseased appetite.”

The apostle Peter warned that our adversary, the devil, is “a roaring lion” who “walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8).

Nature teaches us that when lions hunt for prey, they always go for the easiest targets. Why? Because, though they are incredibly strong, powerful and swift, lions lack an important attribute: Endurance. They simply cannot muster enough sustained energy to chase after prey over long distances. As a result, they hunt for prey that can be easily caught.

And so does Satan! He hunts for easy targets—the weak, the sickly, the old and weary, and babes.

The Spiritually Weak

In Matthew 25, Christ warned that, in the latter days, His people would fall asleep while awaiting His Return (vs. 1-5). This is already occurring, and has been for some time. In order to be a Philadelphian, zealously holding fast to the full truth of God, Christians must WAKE UP from this lukewarm age of doctrinal imprecision, and exercise real faith. They must “trim their lamps” (vs. 7)—study their Bibles (Psa. 119:105), examining themselves (II Cor. 13:5) to gain God’s approval (II Tim. 2:15). Like the Bereans, they must search God’s Word daily for “doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (3:16).

Of the few who survived the apostasy of the late 1980s and early 1990s, most ignore II Corinthians 5:7 and walk by sight, not by faith. Believing that there is safety in numbers, they align themselves with large splinter groups that blatantly compromise with the truth.

Those who regularly look into God’s spiritual mirror and “try” themselves now will be spared later from the worst time of trial and suffering ever to come upon the earth.

The Doctrinally Sick and Diseased

Compromising with God’s Word and watering down the traditions of His Church always lead to doctrinal unsoundness. And this lays fertile groundwork for sin to take root. Wrong teaching gives birth to wrong conduct—sin. As iniquity (and the tolerance of it) spreads, brethren’s zealous love for God’s truth—and Way—grows cold (Matt. 24:12). Therefore, Satan hunts for the doctrinally confused.

The multiple internet message boards and chat rooms of today are a testimony to the doctrinal confusion that has poisoned the minds and lives of God’s people. No longer believing nor understanding that the Church is our spiritual mother, which feeds, nurtures and protects God’s begotten children, most brethren let themselves be fed—and doctrinally poisoned—by just about any organization that names itself “Church of God.”

Twenty years ago, when Herbert W. Armstrong was alive and God’s Church was “on track,” we all believed and taught the same thing.

But not today.

Voting, marrying outside the Church, birthdays, makeup, divorce and remarriage, enlisting in the military and virtually all doctrines that were restored by Mr. Armstrong have been “tweaked,” “modified,” “clarified” or liberalized in some way—or even done away with altogether!

So many have forgotten—or ignored—the apostle Paul’s warning: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9; I Cor. 5:6). Like leavening, heresy—wrong biblical teaching—spreads until it FILLS its host, just as cancer spreads until it KILLS its host. Satan uses the virus of false doctrine to infect whomever he can, rendering them spiritually diseased. Unless they repent and return to the full truth of God, those infected will meet a horrible fate.

The Old and Weary

Among the tiny few who survived the apostasy are longtime veterans, those who have loyally held fast year after year, decade after decade; “old hands” who have both witnessed and experienced the never-ending highs, lows, trials and tests of true Christianity.

Unfortunately, some of these veterans have become spiritually shell-shocked—battle-fatigued. They have fallen prey to “seen it, done it, been there” attitudes. They may go through the motions of being Christian—they may keep up appearances of walking after God—but in reality, they have grown calloused, even “past feeling” (Eph. 4:19). Weary of striving to overcome and waging spiritual warfare day after day, year after year, decade after decade, they find it easy to simply let go—relax—and not worry about the details of doctrine. They have grown tired of sacrificing, tired of serving, tired of exercising the tools of Christian growth and rejecting the pulls of Satan, this rotten world and the flesh.

They eventually get set in their ways, and become immoveable. God can no longer work with such a mindset—or mind.

But Satan can—and will!

Study the example of ancient Israel. Rather than receiving the Promised Land all at once, the Israelites had to continually wage war against their enemies. They had to go up against walled cities or march out onto battlefields, many times facing overwhelming odds. They had to raise their shields, wield their swords, stand their ground, and FIGHT! The Israelites had to do their part, while relying on God to deliver them the victory. And with Him on their side, success was always guaranteed.

Yet, despite this, carnal-minded Israel grew tired of having to wage war. So the Israelites took the easy way out. Instead of utterly destroying their enemies, as God had commanded, Israel made peace treaties with them. The Israelites actually thought they could bring about peace and prosperity on their own terms—yet their lack of faith, diligence and perseverance ensured that they would not enjoy lasting peace in the Promised Land.

But we can learn from Israel’s disastrous mistake. As spiritual Israelites, we must never give up the fight against our three enemies—Satan, the world and the flesh. These stand in our way of claiming our eternal inheritance in the kingdom of God. We are soldiers. We must persevere in waging spiritual warfare. Our “tour of duty” in this life only ends when: (A) We endure until Christ returns; (B) we endure until our death; or (C) we surrender to one or more of our three deadly enemies.

If you are determined to endure to the end, option C is out of the question!

Spiritual Babes

We must understand that “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Every human being is born foolish. Our human nature deceives us into believing that we can determine for ourselves the path that leads to lasting, abundant success and prosperity.

But, just as it takes a father’s loving correction to keep his child from getting into mischief, our Father in Heaven must chastise us and replace our carnal foolishness (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 8:7; Prov. 21:2) with His Spirit and holy, righteous character (see Heb. 12:5-13).

This does not happen overnight. It is a lifelong process. Therefore, when a person is new to God’s truth and newly baptized, there is more foolishness to remove from his life than if he had grown in God’s “grace and knowledge” (II Pet. 3:18) for three or four decades. (However, this does not necessarily mean that all brethren who have been in the Church for numerous years are automatically wiser than those who are newly baptized. God gives each Christian a certain measure of His Spirit; it is up to the individual to grow and develop with what he has been given.)

The devil knows this. That is why he is always ready to pounce upon spiritual “babes.” Because they are inexperienced and relatively new to God’s teachings and the trials that come with Christianity, Satan knows that spiritual babes are easy to confuse and deceive.

This is why God does not ordain men into the office of deacon, elder or pastor until such men have gained many valuable years of experience, growth and training.

Remember, God does not call the Bill Gates and Stephen Hawkings of the world. “But God has chosen the foolish things [Greek: dull, stupid, blockhead] of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things [more feeble, impotent, sick] of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things [without kin, of low birth] of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence” (I Cor. 1:27-29).

Always be on guard. Strive to grow up fast, and remain close to God.

Immunize Yourself

Just as a virus cannot thrive and multiply without a suitable host, spiritual viruses cannot thrive and spread throughout the Church if we all spiritually inoculate ourselves.

Here is how you can become immune:

Study the Bible daily. Study “the word of truth” daily to receive God’s approval. Regularly look at yourself in God’s spiritual mirror and study to seek His will. Allow His Word to correct (straighten) your path. Know the Bible, which reflects the mind of God, so that no one can deceive you with false doctrine.

Also read the Church’s literature—carefully. It thoroughly teaches and explains the finer details of doctrine.

Pour yourself out in daily fervent prayer. Make it a point to get on your knees and talk to God about your attitudes, your shortcomings. Ask Him for more wisdom, understanding and mercy. Ask Him to help you think the way He does, and to seek His will, and not your own. Pray for the needs and concerns of others (this will help you to stop focusing so much on yourself). And ask for more of God’s Spirit.

Meditate. Take—make—the time to think about the big picture. Strive to see life from God’s perspective. Take every petty thought, feeling and attitude and compare it to the glorious future God has in store for you in His kingdom.

Fast. Deny yourself in order to seek God’s will first in your life. Humble yourself through regular fasting. In this dominant Laodicean age, most Christians—perhaps even the great majority—have not fasted since the Day of Atonement! Hopefully, this is not the case in The Restored Church of God. Remember that fasting binds Satan, the “prince of the power of the air” and keeps him from influencing our minds and lives.

Exercise God’s Holy Spirit. Bible study, prayer, mediation and fasting are only effective when you put God’s truth into action. Exercise the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). Turn the other cheek; “rather take wrong” and “suffer yourselves to be defrauded” (I Cor. 6:7). Submit to God’s government. Err on the side of mercy. Help the spiritually weak and “feeble-minded.”

Take all wrong thoughts, attitudes and feelings, and bring them into submission to Christ. Remember: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Resolve to never trust your feelings or personal opinions. Never trust in yourself. Rather, trust God’s Word and apply it!

Diligently apply the five tools of Christian growth, and you will powerfully boost your spiritual immune system. It will ward off and destroy the viruses of the devil. Though physical viruses can cripple or even destroy temporary, physical lives, spiritual viruses are far deadlier. They can destroy one’s chance for eternal life in the kingdom of God!

Set this in your mind and make sure it never happens to you!