Saturday, January 17, 2015

Teachings of Jesus - Part VI


Lk.16: And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

This parable reveals the heart of the gospel as well as the heart of a true disciple of Jesus. To understand a appreciate the depth of our sin will lead to an appreciation for the depth of His sacrifice. And with that knowledge how can we condemn others and not walk in utter forgiveness? It also deals with how we see the things and riches of this world. Perhaps there is nothing so strong and deceptive than the allure of riches. It finds a place in our hearts, and slowly but determinedly it begins to occupy more and more space until it begins to dictate our thoughts and eventually dictate our lives. The love of riches is totalitarian and if given a chance it will search out and destroy any vestige of the Spirit in our hearts. It is a killer.
The love of money produces schemes, lying, unforgiveness, manipulation, lusts, and many other carnal attitudes. It is a relentless force which will not take no for an answer. It clouds any wise thinking and it is completely at odds with anything eternal. Have we all not experienced the love of money at some point? It loves to worry and find some quick solutions only to dig an already deep pit even deeper. One ounce of the love of money is more powerful than a pound of earthly wisdom.
The capitalist culture breeds the love of money. It is why it exists. In so many ways God cannot trust His people with financial prosperity. We tend to up our living standards to mirror our prosperity. I mean who experiences a significant increase in their personal wealth and instead of moving or buying things sends the increase to missionaries overseas? And it isn’t just the prosperity hucksters who think like capitalists. It is the overwhelming majority of evangelical church members and preachers. They think like American capitalists and they force feed that mindset upon the ecclesiastical culture.
If we only could see heaven in the Spirit we would never lust after anything in this world again. But we can see things by faith and by the revelation of God’s Word. Spurgeon once said, “The moment we lay eyes upon the Risen Christ we will think ourselves a thousand fools for ever desiring anything of this earth.”

Matt.16: 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Who do men say Jesus is? Some say He is the key to prosperity; some say He is the key to success; some say He elevates us; some say He gives complete health; and some say He is one of the founding fathers. Ok, but who do YOU say that I am? Unless you are leaning upon your own opinion you have only one source for the answer. That is the Word of God.
Only a lying spirit can suggest that Jesus was not God in the flesh. It is clear throughout the New Testament and there are shadows of it in the Old Testament Scriptures. No one can be saved who does not believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and that He existed from eternity past to eternity future. He was not created, and in fact He was and is the Creator. There are saved people who are somewhat mixed up about the Trinity, but if that confusion means they deny the deity of Christ then they are not saved.

Matt.17: 24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

It is so unseemly to hear Christians complain about paying taxes. That is the business of the kingdom of darkness and we are commanded to pay them regardless of how much. This nation was born out of violence over taxes and yet professing believers claim God was in charge of all that. Have they ever even read what Jesus said? It is amazing, literally amazing, that people can read or hear the words of Jesus and yet render them subservient to nationalism, patriotism, and economic concerns.
There is no ambiguity here. It is plain, practical, and deeply spiritual. In fact all His teachings are infinitely deep, but how many are relentlessly digging into their unsearchable treasure and by so doing they lose themselves and gain Him? The Father and Jesus and the Spirit are interconnected in a great mystery and God’s Word empowers and illuminates and reveals them to us. But spiritual truth in all its glory can never be understood and embraced by a paltry and shallow reading of words on a page, to say nothing of not reading them at all.
But I have found something in forty years of knowing Jesus and studying God’s Word. There are many times when God’s Word blesses our hearts and gives us direction. There are some times when the Spirit gives us revelation and we see things the natural man could never see. But if we are diligent, there are a few times when God’s Word comes alive in such a way that God’s glory fills us and many times fills the room. I cannot explain it nor can I orchestrate it, but I relish those times. They literally break open your heart and remold it again to be more like Him.
I can remember hearing the Bible recited in my church growing up and I felt nothing at all. I was unmoved and careless. But when you have the Spirit everything changes. That alone should tell us the abject uselessness of approaching God’s Word with our own wisdom. And without the Spirit we can manipulate, twist, and even ignore the Word even while reading it from behind a pulpit. All we have then are enticing words of men’s wisdom.
Make no mistake, the thoughts of men are logical, practical, and reasonable. But they are not spiritual and they are not the truth of Jesus. In the end we are free children and our giving of taxes is in obedience to our Master’s direction. And we must obey our Master without murmuring and complaining. We are strangers and pilgrims as we walk through this world so when we hold onto things we impede what the Spirit wishes to do in us as well as being in direct violation of His Words. And even though the tax thing seems minor in the scheme of things the principle of complaining can permeate almost every area of our lives. The tongue is a world of evil if we allow it to be.

Jn.9: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

Many people get saved through the gospel witness in their church. But many, like myself, were saved outside the church because there was no gospel witness in the organized church in which I grew up. And when that happens, as millions can testify, you are acutely aware that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and that you had been walking in utter darkness. And although you are a babe in Christ you begin a journey and you begin to hear His voice in many ways. The Word of God becomes more than ink on a page, and the Holy Spirit can speak and impress and lead and correct you through the Word and sometimes through circumstances and other people. It is a marvelous journey which will culminate before His throne.
And if you grow in God’s Word you also grow in discernment. That means you begin to see and hear preachers and teachings which do not ring true. And as you search the Scriptures you start to understand that there is much error in the “church” world and it is sometimes open, sometimes hidden, but all the time it is diabolical. It promises success and freedom but it enslaves people. You can watch preachers on television as they strut their stuff and people by the thousands cheer and applaud and get as excited as if they were at a Nuremburg rally.
In these last days the phenomenon of preacher celebrity has become powerful and widespread. These thespians set out every message to stimulate and elicit a euphoric response. The crowd gets into a frenzy and waves and cheers and points and screams. There is no spirit of repentance or sacredness or a deep meditation concerning Christ and His Word. It a show to be sure and it has made billions of dollars. While faithful missionaries struggle around the world with funds these charlatans line their pockets and live off the fat of the land.
But when you are truly humble and seeking the face of Christ you quickly understand just how wrong all of that is. Jesus is the Great Shepherd and we are His needy sheep. We do not need to watch rich men perform and tell lies that are obviously at odds with God’s Word. We need the Bread of Life and the Living Water. We need more and more of Jesus. And we need correction, guidance, and spiritual sustenance which empowers us to follow and imitate our Shepherd.
I do not know who belongs to Jesus and who does not. But I fear that many who follow and believe a wrong message and as false Jesus are in great peril. Let us hone our hears and seek His voice and then quickly obey.

Jn.6: 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.

Phil.2: 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

There is much truth in these verses. Here again we are tempted to lick the frosting and leave the rest. As I have said with consistency the Word of God has treasure, power, and correction embedded in  the spirit which are those Words. Our fast paced, distracted lives have kept us from the pure honey while we have become contented, yea even addicted, to dancing upon the surface and call ourselves “orthodox”. Have you ever wondered how can the Word be taught in tens of thousands of churches with so little impact upon people to say nothing of impacting the darkness?
There seemed to be a constant murmuring about Jesus. His words and His deeds were objects of judgment and scorn and people would murmur among themselves. Murmuring has become an art form. Today we call it complaining and it is quite an American pastime. Of course verse 14 commands us to put away such things. That has always been the case.
But look at verse 13 and we can see something that so often we miss. Everything that happens in our lives may not be orchestrated by God, but everything can be a divine tool used to mold us into a better reflection of Christ. Think about that for a moment. The people who significantly rub you the wrong way; that irritating and unfair boss; that cranky neighbor; that chronic health issue; offspring disappointment; our own failures; God desires to use everything for His glory in your life. The key is our willingness and our surrendered heart to the desires and designs of the Spirit. While it is true that sometimes the corrective ministry of the Spirit is unpleasant especially to our prideful flesh, but in the end it is glorious in His sight.
Blameless and harmless. Do we understand the significance of those two words and do we seek to be such? Are we to engage in worthless earthly fights and yet claim we are harmless? Here we once again enter into the core of what it means to be a disciple and once again we see just how incongruent the current concept is with God’s Word. In fact in many ways what is preached and accepted is so unrelated to Scripture and the life and teachings of Jesus that it is literally at odds with Christ. That, my friends, is a mind boggling thought. In other words what the western church teaches in Jesus’ name contradicts what Jesus said. Wow, just wow. (He shakes his head.)
So how are we to live within a perverse and crooked nation? Well the first step is recognizing that this and every other nation on earth is crooked and perverse. We sometimes get this idea that America is spiritually better than let’s say North Korea. That may be true if you compare it with earthly freedoms and earthly issues, but spiritually America is just as fallen as North Korea. If that disturbs your patriotic sensibilities then you have a spiritual problem. But take a look at the divine will for confronting this sinful world. Blameless…harmless…without rebuke…and we must shine as lights. We have listened to evangelical mantras which exhort us to “take a stand” or be a “champion for righteousness”. And our western mindset processes that to mean fighting against evil by voting and speaking out and by gatherings political support and by a return to the former God fearing days. But that is not only a misnomer it is in the opposite direction to which the Spirit is leading.
But God is the Great I AM not the nostalgic I WAS. And here is something which may unsettle us altogether. God desires to use a fallen and even antichrist culture to make us more like Jesus! If we could only understand and fully embrace that truth it would revolutionize the way we see the fallen culture and the way we see and understand our Master. Oh the freedom there is when we walk with our ears opened to the Spirit and when we understand evil itself as a teaching tool that can make us shine brighter in this crooked and perverse nation/world.
But read verse 16 once again. Do you see it? I mean it sounds nice but can you see what the Spirit is literally saying? So often our church minds see people waving Bible in the face of unbelievers or just plain waving Bibles. But there was no New Testament at this time and this has nothing to do with the written Word of God as precious as that is. This exhortation speaks of us! It has nothing to do with handing out tracts or pulpiteering or even verbal witnessing all of which are valid spiritual conduits for the gospel. This speaks of our lives being the living Word of God because we are speaking and living as a follower and as an imitator of Jesus. Selah.
The evangelical church in America has devalued a life which imitates Jesus and instead has lifted up its doctrines as proof of our discipleship. That is a profound statement which carries with it many spiritual implications. No longer do we search the Scriptures to see what Jesus said and lived and where we fall short and need repentance. Today we can create wonderful statements of faith which soothe our consciences and attract like minded letter transferers. But the Spirit teaches otherwise.
Our thoughts and our speech and our lives are to be our statements of faith. Blameless and harmless and shining lights and even the Word of Life are to be obvious monikers for us based upon indisputable evidence. Paul through the Spirit is teaching the power and divine authority of a humble and surrendered life without rancor or condemnation or a list of enemies. Accusing and condemning are the ministries of the kingdom of darkness not the Kingdom of Light. We must not be the spiritual Gestapo who identify enemies of the state. We are to be ministers of Christ whose lives are salt and life and are shining cities on a hill.
Holding forth the Word of Life. That is our calling, that is our mandate, that is our life, that is Jesus. And that can never happen if bitter and sweet water proceed from the same lips.

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