THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS - PART II
Matt.6: 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
I Thess.5: 17 Pray without ceasing.
If I could express one area in which I seriously lament over the last forty years it would be prayer. I believe the church including myself has devalued prayer and therefore missed great opportunities to know Christ, and to receive His power, and to understand just how futile it is to serve God in the flesh. The early church made prayer a significant part of their gatherings. Today the preacher recites some “bless this nation” prayer which lasts less than two minutes and then let the show begin. And our children learn that prayer is an option and a perfunctory exercise which usually asks God to bless what we already have decided to do.But true prayer pierces the spirit world and pursues the very face of God. It is not a stilted recital constructed for public consumption. It cannot accomplish God’s will in a few minutes or with a distracted heart. True prayer will not be distracted until one knows we are in His presence. And once in His presence there is a mixture of repentance and joy and wonder and awe and humility and a thousand unspoken emotions all of which emanate from His glory. Oh what a shame it is that most, and I mean most, professing believers have no idea what I am speaking about. And the average gathering is little more than spiritual treason which has a form of godliness by denies the power of God.
How the world may have impacted if we would have only unleashed His power instead of our own strategies! “Without Me you can do nothing,” says our Lord. When will we truly believe it? Prayer changes things. Prayer changes us. Prayer fills with power. Prayer breaks us from us. Prayer is a portal to worship. Prayer is a sacred gift from God almighty. And yet prayer takes a back seat to almost anything. All night prayer gatherings are things of the unsophisticated past. I can remember my mentors in the Christian and Missionary Alliance church calling for elongated seasons of prayer. And men and women of God prayed as if their lives depended upon it. They wept openly and unashamedly and confessed their sins publically before God and man. As a Bible school student I can remember thinking, “These people know Jesus in ways I do not.”
We have lost prayer. We have wonderful music, and wonderful organization, and wonderful speakers, and wonderful teaching aids, and wonderful pageants, and wonderful prophetic timelines, and wonderful glossy materials, and wonderful advertisements, and wonderful buildings, and wonderful sound systems, and wonderful CDs, and we have all the modern accoutrements money can buy. But with all these the church continues the same redundant rituals which by design keep the Spirit of God at bay and allow our presentations of ourselves to suffice.
And yet there is no hunger and thirst for prayer. And where there is no hunger and thirst for prayer there is no hunger and thirst for Jesus. This is no small matter. This is a monstrous indictment to the church which exposes our ecclesiastical institutions as manmade and not passionate conduits to enter into the presence of God. Music is now the conduit for God’s presence and not prayer. A great swelling song which changes key at the right moment creates an emotion which passes as worship. The pews are filled with members who have not prayed at all during the week but raise their hands in worship? What have we constructed here?
Do you understand how deep is our need for repentance in 2015? Unless we have a revival of prayer we will remain basically as spectators rather than broken vessels that are broken by prayer and filled by prayer. When we turned our backs on prayer we set out on a course to walk according to the dictates of men. This is no game. This is no minor adjustment. If we personally do not seek to allow the Spirit to lead us into sacrificial seasons of prayer we will only be fooling ourselves. There is a reason why the devil fights against prayer and why he will present you with all sorts of situations which demand your attention so that prayer will be an afterthought. The devil does not fear what you can do. He fears what God can do.
Matt.8: 5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
This is an incredible teaching and one that has many layers. Of course there is this centurion’s faith in the Word of Jesus. He expresses a belief in its power and its expanse. Jesus can speak a word and that power can have its effect over many miles. That seems so cliché among doctrinal believers so much so that in and of itself has lost all meaning. What I am saying is that we have projected almost everything divine and powerful about Jesus back into His time here on earth. We are willing to embrace to some extent His power if it remains within the gospel narratives, but to fully and with passion embrace the power of His words today is all but gone in most of the church.There are those who call themselves evangelical who go around decreeing things and using God’s Word as their own Genie. That is sacrilege. But God’s Word has power woven into it, and that power is inherent regardless of the language in which it is expressed. And to begin with that power can change us from the inside out. I have experienced it many times and is it not wonderful in His sight! There is quite a difference between turning over new leaves and having the Word of God enter your mind and heart and experiencing that power to change your heart and seeing your mind and body follow suit.
I can remember being convicted by the Spirit concerning violence and allegiance to an earthly nation. And armed with that conviction I went searching the Scriptures. And to my surprised I had been duped. It wasn’t something that lived under the radar or something that would take years to uncover. No, there it was clearly and unambiguously. And from that day tow things happened. I would never again lend any part of my heart to any fallen nation, and I also set our to reread the Scriptures and allow the Spirit to illuminate my minds as to any other falsehoods I had mistakenly embraced. It was a wonderful journey filled with repentance.
But there is another teaching inherent within the exchange between Christ and this centurion. Notice the man sheepishly admits he is entangled with earthly authority both as one under and one over. This is an incredible expression of humility and one that we should mimic. No one can understand the scope, the sacredness, nor the power of God’s Word unless he is humbled and broken. God resists the proud. But we live in a fallen culture which revels in pride and eschews humility. We teach pride to our children and then they teach it to their children.
Go to a so called Christian conference and hear the applause for some singer or speaker. Read their CD or their book covers and you will find words like “gifted” and “inspirational” and “unique” and all kinds of personal platitudes which refer to the person and not Christ. You see, we are wallowing in pride and we do not even realize it. The pastor preaches a message and after the “service” people shake his hand and thank him for such a wonderful message. This phenomenon cause Charles Finney to say that when you preach truth and people congratulate you it is little more than a performance. The entire ecclesiastical construct centers upon personality, performance, and celebrity. And all of it is wrapped in pride. That is to say nothing of the hubris and pride openly expressed by believers because they are Americans. And that kind of blatant disregard for God’s Word is not only excused it is embraced because nationalism trumps God’s Word. And yet the church claims God’s Word has power?
You and I will have to remain steadfast personally since we live in a time where compromise is rampant and embraced.
Heb.10: 32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
I exhort all of us to remember often the illuminations of the Spirit and stand upon those gifts of grace. And all of it was because the Spirit opened your understanding and you were changed by His Word. You will have to walk contrary to the ecclesiastical norm. Friends and family may keep you at arms length. But when truth finds a permanent place in your heart it is precious to our God. Jesus said His words are spirit and they are life. Let them be that to us today as we humbly fall upon His threshing floor and feel the wind of the Spirit blow the chaff away.
And if you are like me I have much chaff that needs to be blown away.
“You have heard…but I say unto you.”II Tim.2: 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Jesus often presented His teachings as absolute and as being the definitive truth even when compared with Old Testament teachings. And here we must be completely honest and refuse to hold onto certain doctrinal mores and admit that the teachings of Jesus seem to supersede and even add elements of correction to the Old Covenant teachings. That does not diminish the Old Covenant revelations, however it does mean that all truth and all revelations of God must be exclusively derived from the New Testament. There can be no mixture and without the Spirit there are some incongruencies as the natural man understands them.So how can we reconcile certain teachings in the Old Testament and when Jesus says “But I say unto you…”? The answer is we don’t. That is not our calling and like many other things it falls under the heading of faith. The Old Testament’s place in the church age is to provide a looking glass into Christ and His redemption. It is disingenuous and even dangerous to cull out certain Old Testament teachings and force feed them into the Covenant of the Spirit. Is the Old Testament God’s Word? Absolutely. But the New Covenant is now the complete revelation and the undiluted and exclusive authority for all who believe in Christ.
Now and then I watch some of the television hucksters and often I see them use Old Testament references to convince people that God desires to make them wealthy, and that money is the seed and their ministry is the soil which will produce a harvest. But be very aware that when preachers use Old Testament verses they can make them say whatever they desire. They often use them to perpetuate lies. How often do they quote “With food and raiment be content”? How often do they quote “God has chosen the poor rich in faith”? How often do they use the earthly life of Jesus as an example for us?
Settle it inside your heart…Jesus is the final and complete revelation of God and He alone is our example. Only in a fallen capitalist culture could preachers get away with preaching prosperity and exhorting people to give money and God will open the windows of heaven and make you wealthy. Go ahead and read Spurgeon or Wesley or Luther or Moody or Ravenhill or Wilkerson and see if you can find even a hint of such doctrinal treachery. In fact, read the words of Jesus. There are many believers all over the world who have deep prayer lives and who serve Jesus and whose lives are in great danger but are very poor.
The New Testament is the revelation to the church of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament contains shadows and types and mysteries which the Spirit can use to illuminate our hearts concerning Christ, His redemption, and His church. But the Old Testament must be supportive of the New Testament and as it applies to revelation the Old Testament is subordinate to Christ and His New Covenant. This is an extremely important principle which can keep you from error. That is why posting the Ten Commandments on certain walls compromises the gospel and presents morality as redemptive. That is why the Law of Moses has been done away with in light of the glory of Christ.
There can be no mixture. There can be no integration. And if you desire to embrace the Old Covenant as an equal partner to Christ and His New Covenant then you are a debtor to obey all of it. And if you follow that path you will stumble and fall and the Law of Moses will slay you forever. That is as serious as it can ever get.
“You have heard, but I say unto you.” Amen.