THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS - PART IV
Matt.24: 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
The end is upon us. Receive that as melodramatic, religious talk if you must. But Jesus outlined specific events that would herald His second coming. Most of these events can be found among other time periods, but taken as w whole and with the potential of nuclear war, it is clear this is the era to which He referred. If you have been “in church” for many years you have be numbed by the prophetic charts and the slick theatrical presentations and now with the events cascading all around us the church seems disinterested in preparing for His coming.The arguments over the rapture and its position as it relates to the tribulation are mostly religious talk. I know people who espouse all the different positions and there are no remarkable distinctions in lifestyle among any of them. The real prophetic trumpet is not over placing the tail on the timeline donkey. The trumpet must sound out a call for prayer, fasting, and repentance. If you actually knew you would stand before Jesus this coming Monday would it change what you planned to do this weekend? Well that is a distinct possibility.
But the fact is that Jesus is coming again. And He asked rhetorically, “Will I find faith?” That alone should present us with a startling revelation. In an age where there are more Christian books, more Christian television, more Christian radio, more Christian CDs, more local churches, and more Christian teaching tools than in any time in history, and yet Jesus wondered if He would find faith.
You will not answer for anyone else but yourself. Prepare your hearts and the King prepares His entrance. And it will be glorious and horrific.
Matt.11: 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
You are running the rat race. You are worrying about the future. You are counting your money. You are liking and hating people. You have many burdens. You are seeking some kind of success.But somehow you begin to hear a still small voice. It ebbs and flows but it is always there. The voice gets louder and it begins to occupy a space in your mind. The name of Jesus somehow becomes a source of interest in a way it never had before. And then, in one glorious moment, you believe on the Lord Jesus and you are changed. And one by one the burdens are shed, and you find a peace you never dreamed existed. You no longer need success or worldly affirmation. In fact, the more clearly you see Jesus the more you are humbled.
Matt.11: 16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
The Spirit has called the church to repentance and for the most part the church has no ears to hear the Spirit. Like a wild ass the visible church kicks up its heels and frolics in the meadows of the world. Sweet melodies are offered from pulpits occupied by prisoners of the fallen culture. Music has become a god. Organization has muscled out the Spirit. Prayer is a perfunctory embarrassment. Repentance is feeling sorry. And the entire ecclesiastical construct from the salary packages to the 501c to the debt leveraged buildings to the “Dr.” moniker for pastors has all been learned and copied from the world. And satisfied with that self serving hollowness the church does not even seek the Christ nor does it know it should.
The visible church wallows in deception and yet is clever enough to take the elements of deception and construct organizations which include the title “church”. What if Christ came down personally and told us all that everything, and I mean everything, about the western church is against Him and is an abomination to the kingdom of God? Would that affect you? And after Jesus left how many churches would observe a small season of introspection but quickly resume what they did before? Oh the treachery of the human heart, and most treacherous when that same heart pretends to be religious!
But by God’s grace the Spirit is still calling individuals. Some have come to understand the situation and are seeking Christ within a small community of friends through personal relationships and through media which spans the miles. And again, by God’s grace, the Spirit is correcting us and leading us to many avenues of repentance. We are challenged to not only reject self righteousness but to lay hold of humility. We have found new doors of understanding of God’s Word and especially the teachings of Jesus. And when we read Scriptures that we have read and heard many times we are embarrassed and ashamed because we see now just how hard of hearing we were.
But in the end something is abundantly clear and something that will remain for all eternity. Those who have heard the pipes and have mourned and danced have done it solely by God grace. Lest we boast in our intellect or labor, we bow completely to Jesus and say “Let all the world praise His name for He alone is worthy!”
Matt.10: 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
I received a generic e-mail from a charistmatic/dominionist church which was holding a conference. It encouraged women to come so they can break loose from the chains of bondage and find in themselves influence, power, and strength to be in authority over all your situations. That is straight from the devil’s playbook who offered Jesus the keys to the kingdom even though he did not own them. It is carnal and worldly and self centered. In fact it is philosophy and humanism. But this ecclesiastical genre is not alone. The visible church in general in America has become infatuated with itself.But here we have the truth proceeding forth from our Lord’s lips. To count Jesus as Lord and as everything and ourselves as servants for His sake is the life of a disciple. Any hint of self appreciation or elevation countermands the spiritual essence given in Scripture. The only worth we have is of Him and in Him we are made perfect. Without Him we are undone. But as the previous decades passed it became evident that man had ascended the throne and invited Jesus to sit at his right hand.
The most powerful experience a believer can have is when he dies to himself and surrenders to the Lordship and supremacy of Christ. I do not mean looking at an unpleasant situation and “leaving it in God’s hands” because you have first exhausted all your strategies. This does not even pertain to any situation. This covers everything within and without and for all time. This is taking a clever bully called self and through prayer and fasting and consuming the Word we take ourselves and nail ourselves to the cross and die. Does that sound too poetic and lofty? Do you receive it as some metaphor which practically has no real manifestation?
Well, as with all the teachings of Jesus, they have powerful applications but are realized and understood in the Spirit. And why are most professing believers ignorant of their meaning and power? Because they can only be understood through the Spirit and most professing believers have no relationship with the Spirit. You can only hear the Spirit through prayer and the Word, and one without the other is a door without hinges. It takes an offering of one of the most precious commodities we have. Time.
If we do not seek Christ with sacrificial time then He will not reveal Himself. Jesus will not be part of your busy and well rounded schedule. If your job sent out a memo and said for the next month all employees would be required to work ten hours overtime you would probably find a way to work those hours. If your son was playing Little League how many games would you attend? Do I really need to make a spiritual application? If your father or mother was very sick and needed you to visit and help them for the unforeseeably future you would make the necessary arrangements.
Do I even have to make any spiritual applications?
Matt.9: 10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Here we have a teaching that flies in the face of modern Christianity which prides itself with its moral phylacteries. Oh how smug we sometimes are! Heaven forbid we are seen breaking bread with a know gay person or some pro-choice liberal. That would tarnish our conservative portfolio. We would much rather sign a traditional marriage petition rather than share a meal with these annoying miscreants. And yet Jesus, who should be our example, did just that. And yet we reject His example and create our own?But if you were seen eating in public with some outspoken gay individual your criticism would come from the evangelical Bourgeoisie. And if you invited that same person to eat at your home you may be ostracized by the evangelical community. You see, we have our enemies and our friends and never the twain shall meet. But again, we have not learned that from Christ.
Our isolation has hindered evangelism, and has also misrepresented the love of Christ. Many sinners believe they must clean up their act and support conservative causes before they can be considered for acceptance in Christianity. That, my friends, is a colossal lie! Christ came to call the sick and not the well. And we were called out from among the sick and we were made well by the grace of God. So how can we sit with a scornful heart when we stand by grace and by grace alone? What do we have that we can brag on except the love of Christ and the grace of our Wonderful Lord?
But sinners are an easy target. And when we have conveniently constructed a file for certain sin then a mob mentality arises. “Homosexual behavior is a sin!” and the amen’s rise with loud conviction. But when we hear “be clothed with humility!” there is not the same amount of self righteous energy. How long has the church seen lost sinners as enemies? And we who are ex-enemies of God have the right to see others as enemies and undeserving of gospel love? That is not true Christianity. It never has been and it never will be.
But let us investigate what our Lord meant when He said “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” In today’s evangelical parlance Jesus could say, “I will have mercy and not your self righteous brand of separation from sinners”. You see, most evangelicals measure their spiritual status by a few moral dictates, or their faithfulness to a local church, or their baptism, or their belief in the Bible as God’s Word. But if we use Jesus as our template, then one of the most obvious ways we can measure a persons’ spirituality and how he follows Jesus is how he loves and treats sinners.
And there is no shortage of sinners upon which to show how you follow and emulate Jesus.
Matt.22: 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Those who demand a mix of law and grace seem to gloss over these words of Jesus. In this chapter the religious rulers were attempting to trap Him. And when they inquired as to the greatest commandment Jesus gave a startling answer. While men were still religiously obeying the Law of Moses and the traditions of men they were completely ignorant of the heart of God. While they were busy obeying ceremonies and animal sacrifices the eternal Sacrifice was standing right in front of them.I must confess that I do not believe I have ever loved my neighbor as I have loved myself. And this Scripture is part of what we have been studying. It cuts to the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. Memorizing much Scripture and be doctrinally proficient is not enough. In fact if you lean on that as your proof of discipleship you have been misled. Recall the words of Jesus. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”.
But part of loving the Lord with all your heart is also loving your neighbor as yourself. Have you ever stopped and consumed those words and meditated prayerfully as to their meaning and application? I wonder what would happen if every church posted these two commandments upon their front doors? But instead we want the Ten Commandments posted upon heathen institutions. But these words constitute the gospel itself.
Jesus submitted to the Father and He loved His neighbor even to the death on the cross. Let us use that as our example and not some self serving list of moral tenants. It is light years easier to be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage than it is to love your neighbor as yourself. Oh how we love to create costless doctrinal shelters under which we can retreat and cast stones at the passing world. But these truths, these exhortations from our Lord’s lips are labors of love, but make no mistake they are labors.
The flesh despises and resists such things. Let us embrace a doctrinal list and call ourselves “orthodox”. Let us tout a few choice moral issues. Let us embrace the Scriptures as inerrant. Let us embrace the name of Jesus. Let us cling to a Judeo-Christian ethic. But to love our neighbor as ourselves? Let us run quickly and quietly from such a monumental challenge. Let me remind all of us that the same lips 2which spoke Jn.3: 16 spoke these words. This is no Scriptural smorgasbord where we take what we want and leave the rest.
You see, this love thing makes us very uncomfortable. It is easy to detest and hate some gay person screaming during a gay pride march. It is easy to despise some pro-choice advocate. It is easy to hate Muslim extremists. Hate comes easy and naturally. Love is only birthed with many labor pains. And then when you see the cross as the ultimate expression of love, well then, we now have made Jesus and His sacrifice as our example. The implications and applications of that premise are mindboggling. But that is what is before us.
And that alone follows Jesus.