THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS - PART X
Jn.11: 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
Phil.3: 10 That I may know him…
Let us look at terms first. The word translated “know” in that 10th verse in Philippians is the same word the Spirit used in Matt.1: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. That is the level of intimacy to which the Spirit refers. But how can we be that intimate with Christ? How can you communicate the depth of intimacy we have with a Person we have never seen and never touched and never heard? To the natural man it is complete foolishness and is a product of an unbalanced life. We all have had earthly relationships which meant much to us. We have shared emotions and feelings and secrets and we have loved with vulnerability.But there is a spiritual intimacy available with Jesus to every true believer that the world cannot know. In fact most professing believers are also ignorant of that kind of relationship. But as with serious earthly relationships it requires time. Can you remember falling in love with someone and you thought about them constantly and could not wait to be with them again? And when you were able to be with them were you in a hurry to do something else? Did you look at your watch and think about cleaning the oven or did you gaze into their eyes hoping time would stop? Oh that we would understand Jesus desires to have that kind of love relationship with us.
I do not suggest we see Him as we see an earthly lover. No, but I am suggesting we treat Him with far less intimacy and hunger and thirst than we do with many earthly relationships. And the mystery and miracle of grace is such that we can see Jesus with that kind of love and intimacy without compromising how we see Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is an incredible and sacred gift. And when you experience even a few minutes with Christ with that kind of intimacy you can never be satisfied again with a long distance relationship which is heavily weighted on organized doctrines and not that which comes from prayer, fasting, and more prayer filled with the spirit and essence of God’s Word.
But the intimacy of our relationship with Jesus surpasses anything here on earth. Words are barriers as we try and describe that intimacy. How can you communicate the ministry of the Spirit when He opens the innermost part of you being and Jesus steps in? Oh I know, it sounds like some syrupy religious rhetoric but it is the power of God. And this kind of heart rending intimacy changes you. It affects you in many different ways. It is different than loving a girlfriend or a spouse or a mother or even a child. How is it different?
Well, I can't really tell you if you don't already know. All I can say is that it is very different. Eternally different. And you will never be able to understand until you experience it. And then you will need no explanation. But as you walk further and closer in this relationship you will be granted revelation about which you could not understand before. The Spirit opens doors that are only opened to born again seekers.
Matt.13: 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
Even unbelievers can read English words and understand their common meaning. And professing believers by the millions sit in churches and listen to preachers and they understand what He is saying but they are deaf to what the Spirit is saying. Many carry Bibles and follow along as the preacher reads some passage and they understand what is being said in English. And they can also understand some of the applications made by that preacher and they may even be interesting. But how many have walked into the gathering filled with the Spirit and with their hearts and ears open to His voice? English is common to man, but the Spirit chooses surrendered hearts.But most will walk content with their baptism and their church membership and their doctrines. But most will not know, much less pursue, the fellowship in the Spirit with the Lord Jesus. Over the years the church first lost prayer, then it lost intimacy, then it lost the desire, and finally it lost the knowledge that once was even exists. And when that happens the church can only walk in a redundant practice and an earthly mindset which has traded intimacy for programs, morality, and a love for country.
And they shall hear and not understand and they shall see and not perceive.*****
Would you follow Jesus if He saved your soul but would not be involved with your earthly life at all? If not then your discipleship is self centered.
Lk.14: 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
I wonder what that means. I wonder if we even wonder what that means. I wonder what the preacher would say if you asked him what that means. I wonder if we even care what that means. Well if you have a moment you can waste, I wonder if you could spend it with me uncovering some rocks and opening some drawers and asking some penetrating questions in order to flush out some of that verse without first making sure we have safely hidden away anything that might be uncomfortable or costly or embarrassing.That 33rd verse is rather astounding if taken literally. But who takes the teachings of Jesus literally? Even those who parade their “I believe the Bible is literal” credentials shrink from that confession when it comes to His words. And the “great” Bible teachers of our day are adept at compartmentalizing and emasculating the words of Jesus because if taken literally, or even close to literally, they would have dramatic consequences in the way we live. And the church desires people to stop smoking and taking drugs and committing adultery, but it must shy away from dramatic changes in the way we live, especially if it involves money and material things. And that phrase “all that he has” is shocking and attacks our common sensibilities. I mean come on. Let’s get real here.
And that word “forsake” must have some spiritual meaning since it cannot mean what it would generally mean. I can recall many preachers say “It’s alright to have money and wealth as long as it does not have you”. There are two problems with that. For one much money always has the one who has it. And secondly that goes against the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament in general. Imagine sitting in a college classroom where science was being taught. The professor says that the Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the Moon. He says that will be on the upcoming test.
At lunch you are speaking with other classmates and they are discussing what the professor taught and they mention Neil Armstrong’s walk on the Moon. One of the boys at the table says, “That was just a metaphor. Don’t take that literally.” The whole table turns and looks at this kid like he is crazy. But the kid sticks to his gins and insists Armstrong did not walk on the Moon and it was a literary device meant to teach the possibilities of exploration anywhere. You would dismiss that kid as unbalanced and not in touch with reality. So when Jesus says “forsake all that he has” and preachers reject it as literal and mold it into some ethereal life lesson why do we embrace him as a great teacher?
So, you say, does that mean we should sell everything we have and follow Jesus? Does that mean we should give everything we have to the poor and the cause of the gospel? Well, does it? Ok, now we are getting somewhere. The first step into taking a fresh look at the teachings of Jesus is to get us all off of our comfortable interpretations and dare to pray for deeper understanding. To retreat into well worn and safe mantras plants nothing, waters nothing, and harvests nothing.
We must search our hearts. Are we serving Jesus at all according to His words? And if so are we serving Him because of His benefits or how it makes us feel? Or are we committed to serving Him because of His majesty and glory and because He is worthy? I realize we love Him because He first loved us. And I realize He gave His life for us and that alone should propel us into His service. But the highest form of service should always be because of who He is and not just because of what He has done.
Discipleship is all about Him and less about us. If we make discipleship about Christ then we will follow. Rules have energy which quickly fades or they become traditions inbred with self righteousness. But when Christ is exalted and His words become reflections of Him, then we will have the will, the desire, and the power to follow Him. What did we forsake when we came to Christ? Was it only things that were destroying us? Was it only some major sins? What of great value to us did we forsake? What did it cost us to follow Jesus? What does it cost us today?
Today’s Christian can attend filthy movies. He can join hands with unbelievers in politics. He can use inappropriate language. He can hate certain sinners. He can save up large amounts of money for himself. He can go into debt. He can spend his money on the same accoutrements as his neighbor. And he can spend enormous amounts of time on sports and recreation and entertainment and almost no time in seeking the face of Christ through much prayer and meditating within the Word of God. So just what does he forsake?
Does the average church member suffer for Christ? Oh it rains on the just and the unjust and there are temptations and sufferings that are common to man, but what sufferings are within the fellowship of His sufferings? Ok, I will admit that when you understand the teachings of the New Testament we can have family and a job and a dwelling place and clothing. But what then do we forsake? Is that not a legitimate question given the words of Jesus?
But allow me to take us a step further. Here is a man on a very large ship. He has fallen overboard and is now flailing way in the midst of large ocean waves. The captain signals the man overboard siren and all hands on deck. The sailors pull down a life preserver and throw it out to that drowning man. As he bobs up and down he is swallowing water and he is getting very weary. The life preserver is right next to him, however he cannot grab it unless he forsakes his own flailing. He must forsake his own efforts and then he can reach for that life preserver.
You see, we cannot lay hold of something unless we forsake what is already in our hands. So if we are unwilling to forsake all then we cannot lay hold of Christ, and then we cannot be His disciple. I do not profess to know completely what that entails as it pertains to a western life, but I do know this. We are all supposed to seek the answer to that and then joyfully forsake all and follow Him. Be definition we cannot embrace our own life and live His as well.
Forsaking does begin in the heart and mind. Repentance is a change in your mind and it can only come by the power of His Spirit. And when our minds are changed concerning the Lordship of Christ, then they are by definition changed as it pertains to our own lives. We now are servants and even bond slaves to our Wonderful Lord. And the Spirit desire to lead us to a place that we do not count our own lives as dear. And then the Spirit desires to lead us to count our lives as belonging to Him. And then, if we are relentless in our prayerful pursuit, the Spirit just may be able to lead us to the place where our lives ARE His. But before you get to that place please remove the sandals off your heart for you will be walking on holy ground.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE FAITH
Jn.8: 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Contained in this statement from our Lord is the very basis for our faith. Yes, it proves the deity of Christ and His eternal existence, but it goes further than that. You see Jesus wasn’t just interested in some study of Christology. And Jesus was not just a representative of God the Father. Jesus came to die and in that death would be two interconnected and eternal truths. And both these truths are foundational and in a mystery they are actually one and the same. Jesus is the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world, and Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone of the church.Listen carefully to what I am going to say. It is not enough to believe in the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross and that only through faith in Him can eternal life become possible. That, of course, is foundational and nonnegotiable. But it must also be foundational that Jesus is the Head of the church and what he taught are commands to His church. In many ways the evangelical church has embraced the former and compromised the latter. But Jesus is not only Lord of our salvation, but He must be Lord of our new lives.
And given the current state of the church we are in desperate need of a spiritual resurrection of the faith which believes in and also follows Jesus. If you believe we can tweak the current church system and please God you are greatly mistaken. The situation is so dire and has taken a self serving journey which is so far from Jesus that to return to a Christ centered experience and practice is a monumental task. In fact it requires a level of repentance most of us have never known. We have experienced a repentance which is aimed at unkind words or some sinful habit or other personal attitudes.
But this repentance is the portal through which we return to the true faith which follows Jesus and His teachings. And to follow Jesus without following His teachings is to not follow Him at all. That sounds so simple and it sounds like something you might hear in a sermon, and in reality it is. It is something we have heard. But through the years the essence of that truth has been lost within a maze of religious rhetoric, ecclesiastical organization, and the power of a fallen culture. And the repentance necessary to begin a return must begin with a profound seeking of the Spirit which begs Him to open your eyes. And as you beseech Him for such an awakening you must first place everything on the table. Nothing can be stored or defended or protected from His searching power.
And that is just the beginning of a painful yet marvelous journey. Ok, you ask, just what are you saying here? I am saying the western church for the most part believes in Jesus the Savior of our souls, but it no longer follows Him.
In magic, especially cards tricks and the like, the move known as the “sleight of hand” is employed. It uses misdirection and an amazing dexterity to imprison the eyes and build upon what the mind understands as normal and real and then reveals the unexpected and the unexplained through confounds normal logic. And false teachings use the sleight of truth by misdirection and reason. I have heard preachers quote some portion of Scripture and then lead his audience to a well known reality in their lives, and from there he takes some spiritual and eternal truth and cleverly hides it within an earthly truth. And then he teaches an earthly truth as if it were an eternal truth. The switch had been made, and because the hearers can identify with that earthly truth and because the speaker has used his personality and persuasiveness to elicit affection and trust, the hearers understand the connection he is making and they embrace it as God’s truth.
And there is a tangible psychological phenomenon evident here as well. An audience desires to be approved of by a speaker who they recognize as wise and a profound spiritual conduit. They naturally listen eager to understand and enter into agreement which subtly allows them to feel they understand on the speaker’s level. So when the speaker says something and then looks at the people expectantly they respond regardless if they fully grasp what he is saying. In fact you will hear some speakers say, “I wish I could get a witness in here tonight!” or “You’re not hearing what I am saying!” which is also a psychological tool meant to nudge the audience forward into full and even effervescent agreement with the speaker. I mean who wants to be left behind and seem ignorant?
In the end that speaker can almost preach Popeye and the crowd will clap for joy and more importantly empty their wallets. The speaker has used all kinds of different truths and made unholy alliances with earthly logic and Scriptural truth and he now leverages them to control the listeners. The speaker has used a sleight of truth and by the power of his personality and performance he has cleverly and pleasantly deceived the people.
And this is what has happened in the western church regardless of how orthodox they are in theology. The church is Christocentric in is soteriology (doctrine of salvation) but Christ and His teachings are no longer embraced in understanding and practice. The switch has been made by cleverly directing our eyes to orthodox doctrines about Jesus and about salvation while deftly discarding the full weight and implications of His teachings as they apply to the lives of believers. This is a deep and serious issue if we are to take the faith seriously. Can we embrace Jesus as the I AM for salvation and then walk in WE ARE after salvation?
The western church for the most part believes in Jesus the Savior of our souls, but it no longer follows Him. But do not assume that once you reach that conclusion that you immediately are following Jesus. Oh no, my friend, your journey has just begun. And this journey back to Jesus will be filled with many levels of repentance, many levels of humility, many levels of sorrow, many levels of joy, many levels of understanding, many levels of confusion, many levels of correction, many levels of glory, and in the end you will recognize that this journey will only end when you leave this life and enter the life to come. And then I believe we will enter a completely different journey filled with many levels of worship for all eternity. Oh my...dear Jesus.
If we are honest and do a complete and thorough examination of everything the church practices and how the professing believer lives against the foundation of the literal teachings of Jesus what will we find? Of course I do not expect the church at large to even entertain the question, much less embark on such a quest. But there remains this issue in this modern church era. The industrial revolution gave birth to a materialistic culture and the average man was no longer a lowly farmer. Now people could make enough money to buy many things and enjoy the comforts of home, and the list of those comforts continues to grow every day.
And so under the weight of the culture the church began an inconspicuous shift in its belief system and practice. Many churches deemphasized doctrine while many others made doctrine their one legged foundation. And the casualties were the teachings of Jesus. One church reconfigured Jesus into a servant and entertainer of man while the other church admired Him in a gilded doctrinal cage. And the teachings of Jesus fell through the cracks and were absorbed by the religious culture. So the church was considered orthodox if their theology was Christocentric even if their practice was not. And that created a brand new view of orthodoxy.
I have posted nine chapters of a series I called “The Teachings of Jesus”. The first step is to recognize how earthly and self centered the church has become. The second step is a journey of many steps to read and absorb and understand and submit and obey the teachings of Jesus. Until we do that we are adherents of another faith and a partial Jesus. Let us all resurrect a vibrant and passionate and inconvenient search for Jesus in all His glory and through the prism of His eternal teachings.
Matt.11: 2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Of course one of the reasons Jesus did so many visible miracles was to authenticate His divine status. But I am sure His compassion was also a wonderful element. It has always been curious to me that John the Baptist who proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!” would need more information later and more assurance. The only answer I could come up with for John’s question was that without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit it would be difficult to remain steadfast in one revelation concerning Jesus. That should alert us to the absolute necessity of the power, guidance, and revelation of the Spirit Who dwells in our very being. Let us never rely on the arm of the flesh or the power of our own intellect. Without the Holy Spirit we ourselves would be uncertain about Jesus and would need daily reassurance as to the most basic truths. In other words our faith as to Who Jesus does not require the initial revelation everyday because of the Holy Spirit. It is not by might nor by power but by His Spirit!All true believers understand the miraculous nature of Jesus’ ministry. He did miracles that no man could ever do even though lying preachers claim otherwise. Who among us have raised the dead after three days? And even in the face of such divine power and wonders men still desire to rob Jesus of some of His glory. They try in vain.
But my mind and heart zeros in on two distinct phrases from our Lord’s lips in these verses. The first being, “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” This is both revealing and powerful. It elevates the gospel to the place of prominence it deserves. Pay no attention to these prosperity liars that claim the gospel to the poor is the good news that God wants them rich. They will one day stand before Christ and give an account for their blasphemy. But it is curious that Jesus mentions the poor specifically.
Did Jesus not say “every creature” just before He ascended into heaven? So why does He single out the poor in this context? I would invite you to read the entire chapter of Matthew 11 and see the entire context. It does not say just why Jesus mentions the poor in the context of the gospel but he must have had a reason which can be ascertained by the overarching context of His ministry and teaching. The poor seem to have a special place in God’s heart. And the poor many times do not have all the trapping of this world that keep men from seeking God. Jesus said that it was very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. It isn’t because rich men’s hearts are any less fallen than an unsaved poor man’s heart. But the riches of this world often choke out the things of the Spirit.
That is why we should all be poor in spirit regardless of our earthly wealth or lack thereof. And within this culture of abject hedonism and greed we as believers need to constantly search our hearts concerning the riches of this world. Yes, there are believers who have wealth but they have a great challenge to not let that wealth affect and infect their spiritual lives. James warned about showing deference to wealthy people in the gatherings. The love of money reveals itself in many subtle and overt ways.
But that last verse speaks of being unashamed in our allegiance to Jesus. In these days where Jesus has been made an American patriot where is the offense? The church treats Him like He is on their “side”. They suggest He is a moral crusader who leads the charge against gays and liberals and Muslims because they are enemies of the state. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is on no one’s side. He calls us to follow Him. When you can live in such a demonstrably fallen and hedonistic culture, and when you claim to follow Jesus within that culture, and when your religious community is treated with respect and invited to have a seat at the table of the scornful, then you can be assured you are not following Jesus. Jesus was rejected of men, and yet today those that say they follow Him are a welcomed part of a worldly system that operates completely against the teachings of Jesus. What does that tell you, class? It tells you that either that worldly system actually loves Jesus or that the church does not. It tells you that either an earthly country is part of God’s kingdom or the church is not.