Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Teachings of Jesus - Part V

Matt.13: And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Mk.4: 13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

This is an extremely important parable, and Jesus intimated it was foundational. So many people are ignorant of the power of God’s Word. But this is a great mystery which permeates the kingdom of God. No one can be saved but by the Word of God which is the Word of truth. It does not matter what translation you have or if you quote verses verbatim. The power of God’s Word is evident and observable and eternal. It goes into the deep recesses of men’s hearts and exposes the thoughts and intents.
Please do not limit the power of the Word to certain translations. The spirit contained within God’s Word is not limited and souls have been saved through many different translations. I usually quote the King James version only because it is to me poetic and familiar, but I use many different translations. But if you argue a man into a profession it is worthless, and if you manipulate him with slick presentations it is worthless as well. But when God’s Spirit takes God’s Word and pierces a sinner’s heart then and only then can that sinner respond in faith.
But after a sinner is born again by the power of God’s Word then that same Word must be a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path. But even more profound is how that Word begins to remold us into the image of God’s Dear Son. It is the mystery of all mysteries that a human being can be changed from the inside out not because he turned over a new leaf, but because of the power and ministry of the Word. If you are to be a follower of Jesus you must be a student of the Word as well as obedient to that Word.
The Word is described in many ways and many metaphors. It is a mirror which shows us ourselves as well as a looking glass which shows us Jesus. Oh what a gift of grace! Without the Word we would be wallowing in men’s thoughts and opinions, and even with the Word of God in our hands so many still prefer men’s thoughts and opinions. The organized church today is so ignorant of the Word that professing believers by the millions will believe and follow men and women who teach things unholy and at odds with God’s Word. This can be traced to seeing the Word as an instrument that can catapult man into earthly success or a book of moral rules rather than the spiritual building blocks that can change a heart and transform a life.
But this metaphor Jesus called the “seed” is almost perfect. When the Word id planted in a spiritual heart it begins to grow. It gains strength and power and it opens doors of revelation. There is much mystery here, but all of it is astounding and exciting. Revelation is when the Spirit illuminates your mind and you see and understand the Word in ways which are shut out to your natural mind. And sometimes you can understand a part of the Word with your natural mind but the Spirit reveals it to you with the same basic definition and yet it becomes revelation because you now just don’t understand its meaning but you understand its power and design.
And this Word can be nourished and watered once it is implanted into the soil of our hearts. You see, even the most basic elements of the Word of God are filled with caverns of revelation and power which stand alone on one truth but which also are intertwined with all other truths throughout the eternal Word. And in a mind boggling truth the Word is Jesus and Jesus is the Word. That does not mean that Jesus is the King James Bible. No, it means that the entirety of the Word in its perfect spiritual essence and its complete and eternal truth comes from and returns to Jesus. Jesus IS the Word. This, my friends, is a great and soaring mystery indeed!
We are to be sowers of the Word both in our witness to others as well as sowing the Word in our own hearts. But the true Sower is the Spirit of God. We are to be used of Him to be sure, but again without the Spirit all we have are words of stone spoken like we are reading a newspaper. But oh what an incredible miracle of grace it is when our own lips speak God’s Word and the Spirit takes that and brings them to a human heart whether he be a saint or a sinner. I can recall preaching a message in which I stumble and stuttered and I forgot some of what I had planned and at the end I was almost embarrassed because I had delivered such a disjointed mess. But after that message here comes a lost sinner and he was gloriously saved!
Oh may God speak through our hearts and lips! And may the everlasting Word grow in our hearts and bring forth fruit that remains! Let our hearts be good soil and let the cares of this world disappear in the glory of that Word. I can still remember taking my first Bible out of the box and carefully reading the words in red and placing it back in the box. And I was surprised and overjoyed that I could not only understand what I was reading, but that Word stuck with me and provided meat into the future. And in almost forty years the thing which I am most grateful for is that the Spirit has taken God’s Word, changed me, and has pieced that Word together in my heart and revealed Jesus to me. That is an unspeakable gift and full of glory!
Mk.6: 51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

Jesus had just taken five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand people with twelve baskets left over and yet the disciples were fearful when a storm arose in their boat. How easily we forget what God has done in the past! We demand constant proof that He is present and that He knows our situation. But it is in the midst of these storms when faith becomes all the more powerful. And when we demand sight we limit faith and sometimes even mock God.
Storms will come and trials with them. But what separates the disciple from the church member is that he keeps stoking the spiritual embers burning in his heart when there is no strong storm so that when a storm arrives that fire is already burning with a faith which will not waver. He may shed tears and experience some anxiety, but his faith in God is a strong tower and cannot be besieged. Unlike the world, the ebbs and flows of life are just waves upon the sea of life. And for the deep disciple storms are opportunities to exhibit the love and strength of our God.
Like the Hebrew children’s proclamation we believe in the Lord our God and His ability to deliver us from any trial, but if in His wise love He should decide not to deliver us we will still bow before Him and say, “Blessed be the name of our Great God!” One of the greatest witnesses for this lost world is when a believer has peace and faith in the midst of the most turbulent affairs of life. It is that manifestation which causes unbelievers to inquire as to our hope. And with an already solid faith and determined servanthood we walk with an unshakable allegiance which proclaims, “Though He slay me yet will I serve Him!”
Today’s shallow Christian construct looks to avoid trials and false teacher across the evangelical landscape share secrets of how to make trials disappear by commanding them and rebuking them. They render themselves foolish and have no understanding of Scripture or the Spirit who wrote it. All men are happy and content when circumstances are favorable and the future seems positive and certain. But the man who is content and by faith worships His Lord while he is in the fiery furnace, well that man is a great reflection of the Christ he serves.
So when the storms of life come, and they will, do not forget the loaves and the fishes. People change, circumstances change, finances change, health changes, but “I am the Lord God, I change not!” Hold fast to the Anchor of our souls and you will find peace in the midst of any storm.

Matt.12: 18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.
19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

The mystery of iniquity meets the mystery of the Scapegoat. Over the centuries the church has become familiar with the name of Jesus. That name no longer carries a sacred mystery to us who know all about Him. But do we really know Him? In reality, spiritual reality, that name should make us tremble with joy and awe and wonder and even a healthy and reverent fear. And yet His name is commonplace and rolls off the lips of sinner and saint alike as if we were saying our own name. We have lost the sacred majesty of our Lord and Savior.
It is great mystery and a great truth that Jesus is Lord of all and yet He is a friend to those washed in His blood. Watch as earthly sovereigns parade around as if they owned everything, and no one can legally touch them. What a sham! But Jesus is the Creator of all there is and all there ever will be. And that Sovereign now beckons us to touch Him and commune with Him and dine with Him! And though He is a friend which sticks closer than a brother He still remains our Sovereign Lord and Master. It is a divine act of grace.
The Scriptures declare that it is of the mercy of God that we are not consumed. And in this age of gospel grace the mercy of God is offered to all through Christ Jesus. There is coming a final judgment, but until that day the Spirit says, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” But what is man that God should even take notice much less redeem our sinful and rebellious souls? And even we Gentiles who were with a covenant are now invited into a new and better covenant. This is Jesus. And just the whisper of His name should arrest our beings and derive us to praise and worship.
That name, that Person, is our very life. There is no other Savior and there is no other Lord. Oh yes, He is our Friend, but He is also our master and Lord. And we must show Him the honor He so richly deserves. There is a sacred conundrum between being a Lord and a Friend, and only the Spirit can make sense of it. But it cannot be denied that in this self absorbed culture the church has brought Jesus down to earth and made Him a buddy and a chum and a genie who lives to make us happy. But that is not Jesus. Jesus is the Lord of all Lords and the King of all Kings and by the Word of His mouth the universe was made and still exists.
Paul saw a glimpse and was blinded. John had laid his head upon His chest but when he saw the Risen Christ he fell at His feet as though dead. So how many of us have caught such a glimpse of Christ that we sometimes fall at His feet as though dead? There is an intimacy granted to believers where Jesus becomes our Counselor and our Friend and our Elder Brother. But let us never lose the awesome magnificence and exalted sovereignty that clothes He from whose face the worlds fled.

Matt.15: But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

Matt.15: Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

We live at a time where men and women have made a golden calf of their traditions and through vain lips do they go through the motions of worship. Of what traditions do you speak, you ask? This is a subject that requires time and patience since most of the western church wallows in tradition in so many ways. And these traditions do not just apply to the high church or the stuffy liturgical churches whose membership is mostly retired people. This admonition applies to the most “hip” church with lights and sound effects and the loudest and most spectacular music and whose membership is very young.
In a general sense the word “tradition” means anything that men have created and practice which does not come from Scripture. They have taken unholy liberty and set up religious constructs which appeal to the religious flesh and not the Spirit. But we cannot understand what has happened until we reject almost everything and begin anew with Scripture. And in that vein the way we come together and enjoy a church “service” is at its heart a man made construct which has no resemblance to how the early church learned and prayed and worshiped God. And if that is even partly true why are we not concerned?
When a tradition gets started, and when it is observed and practiced over many years, no one questions its validity. We grow accustomed and even fond of them and we even defend them and make room for their divine approval. It is quite the phenomenon. But do we truly wish to please God? And do we truly wish to honor and worship Him? This is no smorgasbord. This is holy and sacred in God’s eyes. In the Old Covenant men would be killed for bring strange fire into the tabernacle. But even though God does not do that today should our desire to please Him be any less passionate?
The church has watched the world and become infatuated with all their ways. Most of the church members have been to rock concerts or seen such on television, and most have listened to professional music on records or cassettes or CDs. And most of us have felt good emotions from some of that. And in an effort, either with or without knowledge and intent, to reproduce that emotion we have created church “services” which resemble what the world practices. Even the announcements and congregational greetings are designed to make people feel at home. And indeed they do.
That does not mean we should not be friendly or that we should not have music which honors God, but let us understand some things which reveal a disregard for the Scriptures or the direction of the Spirit. I would suggest that the offensive way in which prayer has been relegated to an aside in these gatherings is perhaps the most obvious revelation that then church now relies on its ingenuity, creativity, and organization rather than the power of God. And make no mistake, in order to please God you must diligently seek Him in all His ways.
Aberrant practices soon become traditions and before long we are used to things even though they are not of God. And the subtlety of the flesh is such that we can practice things which displease the Spirit and yet believe that we are pleasing and worshiping God. It is not complicated but it must be Scriptural. We have never been given license to pick and choose ways to worship God, and let us be honest here. How many church members have walked without God the entire week and yet pretend to worship Him on Sunday mornings? And the “service” construct lends itself to such deception by stroking the emotions with upbeat music and upbeat and humorous messages. And after the “service” has ended people file out feeling good inside as they make their way back to their self serving lives.
And like a narcotic this western church construct has anesthetized the masses. And we have multitude travelling back and forth every week and yet where is the light? Where is the salt? Where is the power? We have lost God’s power because we have sought our own ways and not sought His face. We have many wonderful and moving and ingenious traditions which have rendered the Word of God as poetic comfort food but not the force which brings the Son of God.

But we have T-shirts and bracelets and CDs and hats and advertisements and even, sometimes, Jesus on our lips. But where are our hearts?

Jn.8: 28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.

If we truly desire to be like Jesus we should be passionate about pleasing Him. The next two verses say,

Jn.8: 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

There are so many connections here. Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the truth. Jesus and the Father are one. All these and more are inseparable. But here Jesus reveals His motivation which is to please the Father. Now if we are to be like Jesus we also should live as to please the Father and to please the Son. And Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us in that commitment.
Our desire, our passion, and our sacrifice is to do that which pleases God. And before we can do that we must know what pleases Him by the revelation of His Word. Jesus said that we must continue in His Word if we are to be His disciples. And that truth shall make us free. Free to do what? Free to please Him!
Regardless of what good works anyone does they cannot please the father unless they are in the Spirit, and no one can be in the Spirit unless he has been born again through that same Spirit. But just what does please the Father and the Son? Can we give burned sacrifices? Should we engage in self flagellation? Should we deny ourselves food and water? Shall we cut ourselves?

Mic.6: Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

These three things when taken as a whole point us to something much of the church has long since left. We may espouse our way of doing justly which in these days is many times an exhibition of self righteousness. But we love mercy when it is shown to us but do not embrace that same passion when mercy is required for others. And walking humbly is not even sought anymore. The core of it all is to love God and love sinners which are the two tenants Jesus said comprised the entire law. You can avoid worldly practices, and you can have orthodox theology memorized, and you can be ordained and preach the gospel, but if you do not exhibit an uncommon love you are not pleasing to God.
I sincerely believe that the first step to pleasing God is humility which borders on humiliation. Unless we count ourselves as nothing then we cannot count Him as everything. And that kind of humiliation is very elusive even when we pursue it. He that humbles himself will be exalted. And he that is exalted will glorify God and not himself. The question remains. Do we with all our hearts desire to please God? And if the answer is “yes” then that is the beginning of our mission. Everything we do and say, whether it be missions or music or worship or witnessing or praying, all of it must be done to please Him. And all of it must be constantly with the knowledge that we walk by His grace alone.
The truth of God’s Word and the truth found in Jesus will set you free. How? The prison doors called sin and self have swung wide open and we emerge from that prison. But those who come out from spiritual incarceration also know something significant. When we are set free we come out changed. We no longer are who we used to be. You see, we have been crucified with Christ and we have resurrected with Christ and we are new creations. Amen!

Matt.16: The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

The western mindset is geared for excitement, sensationalism, and entertainment. So it is no surprise that many in the church are enchanted by so called “signs and wonders”. You can watch all the dog and pony shows on “Christian” television or go to some church service which whips people into a frenzy. It is a product of this American mindset which accommodates the desires of man.
But Jesus said the generation which seeks signs is “wicked and adulterous”. Can it be any clearer? Christ told Thomas that those who have not seen and yet believe are more blessed. So once again you have a movement and a belief system which ignores and countermands the Word of God. And this fascination with miracles is not spiritually benign. It casts the focus away from Christ and His cross even while giving lip service to Him. And you have healing lines where people testify their back pain or headache has disappeared and the crowd applauds. It is in many ways a form of hypnotism.
It is interesting that Jesus pointed them to the gospel through the narrative of Jonah. His death and burial and His resurrection was to be our focus. But that is not enough for the American taste. We must have something visual to stroke our religious flesh. And charlatans by the thousands create atmospheres which lure carnal hearts into a realm where subtly the focus is both on the so called sign as well as the human instrument. Yes, it is another ingenious and nefarious way to use Jesus’ name while drawing hearts away from Him.
But the greatest miracle is the one Jesus came to bring. When a lost and rebellious sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and becomes a new creature, well that is the miracle of all miracles. That miracle will last for all eternity. But men have even tampered with that through slick presentations and aggressive ministers and an obvious manipulation that guides the sinner to say a prayer and then quickly showers him with all kinds of affirmation. And that sinner is added to the soul scalps for that church or minister. Eli Whitney has found his way into the church.
But again, we are to seek Christ. And so many times Jesus eschewed the crowds and any hint of popularity. Sometimes His words caused the crowds to walk away. Can you imagine a modern preacher saying anything that would make people walk away? But the way of the cross does have many signs. It has lacerations. It has thorns. It has mocking. It has punches. It has a spear. It has nails. It has suffering. It has pain. And it has much blood. Much blood. So if you desire to be entertained and amazed be aware that you will not be walking the way of the cross. But if you desire to follow Jesus you will encounter all those things that cause distress to the flesh.

And there is one more thing you will encounter on the path of the cross. Great glory.

Mk.3: 32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.
33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

This is truly startling and amazing! What could Jesus be really saying here? And if Jesus considers allegiance to God’s will higher than His earthly family then what does that say to us? The calling to obedience for a true disciple must rise higher than our affection for even our mother and father. That, my friends, is some statement and some spiritual truth.
But if we unpack that truth we should find that the faith today is a watered down facsimile rather than the pure stream of power and glory it is meant to be. Today’s pulpiteer will tell you that your priorities are God, family, and country. That is a humanistic lie perpetrated by the fallen culture. If our allegiance is solely to Jesus Christ then what should that look like in the midst of such utter darkness? Should not our lives be remarkable beacons which unbelievers cannot ignore? We should either elicit scorn, curiosity, or acceptance.
However today’s picture of a disciple entails all kinds of cultural practices and mores. Patriotism and moralism and political involvement are what constitutes the modern discipleship. But if Jesus said that loving and obeying Him should have no rivals including our loves ones, then how much more anything upon this earth. To watch as a professing believer in Jesus places his hand over his heart and pledges allegiance to a wicked earthly nation is an abomination and even more so in light of these passages.
One of the most amazing things Jesus said is that His disciples were His family, in fact His mother and His father. What kind of grace is that being offered to us? It is beyond our imagination that we are the family of Jesus. Many church have an emphasis upon the earthly family, but how many emphasize the family of Jesus? There is no higher calling that to love Jesus and keep His Word. And you would think that in light of this the words of Jesus would be a constant teaching within the church.
But you would be wrong. Sermons are now performances and exhibitions of oratorical prowess as well as instruments used to keep the masses satisfied. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Those preachers who will not challenge or rebuke and preach hard things are not your friends. The Osteen-esque brand of preacher is not a preacher at all. This idea that God exists to make you successful and significant and wealthy upon this earth is a humanistic lie. God’s desire is to mold you into the image of Christ. And that is completely contrary to the image of earthly success and prosperity.
Once we have surrendered to the will of God then we must set out on a course to daily learn more and more about His will. And empowered by the Spirit we become servants and imitators of our Elder Brother. There is no greater “success” than that, and one day in eternity we will understand what a glory we have been given.

Mk.2: And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

Please note that this sick man had at least four men who loved him so much they were willing to break a man’s roof and interrupt the church “service” in order to get him to Jesus. It is astonishing in and of itself. They were more concerning about their friend than they were about being embarrassed or scolded or even that their friend may not be healed. They were relentless and bold and were willing to take the time necessary to bring Him to Christ. And to be honest, these four men most probably did not have a full revelation about who Jesus was. That is some commitment and love.
This scenario has not been recorded in Scripture just as history. There are several profound lessons within this story. We should be exhorted and convicted by the passion of these four men. This in many ways is an indictment to the milquetoast attitude professing believers have toward the souls of men. Passion? Commitment? Relentless? Where are these in the church today? People are passionate about their worship services or their preacher or their church or their new building, but who is passionate about the souls of men? Before we can be passionate about souls we must humble ourselves to such a degree that like these men we will endure embarrassment or criticism or inconvenience or spiritual labor both inside the prayer closet as well as in the whited fields.
When and if we gaze upon the cross we see unimaginable love and sacrifice and grace, but we also should see souls. Have we not seen our own soul gushing forth from those crimson wounds? And should we be content with our own redemption alone? Or has our Redeemer exhorted, yea commanded, us to go without the camp and reach lost souls? But are we fearful of being seen as a goofball or a fanatic? I would confidently suggest that we are not close to wearing a legitimate pejorative of “fanatic”.
But also in this narrative is a divine truth about spiritual priorities. Can you not see what Jesus was teaching and emphasizing? The forgiveness of sins cannot be offered by any human. So not only does that have direct implications as to the nature of Jesus, but He publicly makes it the paramount spiritual truth. Jesus later will say that it would be better if your whole body be lost and your soul be saved. Or that we should not fear he who can kill the body, but we should fear who has the power over the soul.
This thing we so glibly call the “forgiveness of sins” is a divine power which has no equal. Jesus created the universe with a Word and yet to forgive our sins He had to suffer and die. Think on that Meditate upon that. Open your heart to that. Your sins, yes your sins, were so vile and so wicked that the Son of God had to suffer and die for you. Have we become so callous that it no longer moves us? Has the cross become passé and have we so minimized our sins that we have moved passed it all? What kind of faith is that?
But the true faith has the forgiveness of sins through the death on the cross as front and center. It is not elementary. It is the deepest of all truths. That God could and would die is a sacred mystery which beckons us to seek and understand little by little. And no man can forgive sins regardless of any confessional booth or manmade absolution. That is all blasphemy of the highest order. There is One who can forgive sins and only One who has paid for them. This is Jesus, the Christ of God. Praise His matchless name for His redemption for whosoever will believe.
One day we will know even as we are known. And on that day we will realize what sin had done. And we will look into the face of He who knew no sin but became sin in our place. And we will have all eternity to dig deeper into that mystery and to worship the Lamb that was Slain. Perhaps the reason we make so little of forgiveness is because we make so little of sin. Except for a few major sins all the rest are treated like little white lies. But take another look at the cross and there you will see the love of God draped in the scarlet robe of our sin. And who can make so little of that?

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