THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS - PART XI
Jn.9: 39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
There are many teachings of Jesus about which people refuse to do any personal research to find the essence of their truth. These verses are among them. Ask the average pew dweller to define what Jesus is teaching here and you will hear varying interpretations as well as many who will at least tell the truth and admit they do not know. The sad thing is that most cannot be curious enough to find out, to say nothing of being diligent. And among those who may even be able to exegete these verses how many will observe a self denying obedience to their words?But if we distill these words and pour them out as one pure revelation we will understand that we are called to a humility which rises way above the earthly definition. Sometimes we get the idea that when an Oscar winner stands and acts humble that is what the Spirit is saying here to us. It is far from that. Man’s humility is mostly pride dressed up as humility.
I Pet.5: Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
The Spirit exhorts us to be clothed with humility. We are not just supposed to show humility but we are to be covered and clothed with humility. As I take in these words I am not sure I have ever been clothed with humility. And when I think of the Scripture which says we should “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” and it goes on to compare it with Christ leaving the glory of heaven and coming down in the likeness of a man, well I am overwhelmed. I am a man with unclean lips who dwells among a people with unclean lips. Oh how we have lost the sense, to say nothing of the desire, for the kind of humility which resembles our Master.Watch as pompous showmen strut on stage as if they were an actor which in most cases they are. Listen to their words as they lift up man and lower God. Listen as they create in their listeners a longing for prestige and material goods. There is no humility in them at all, and in fact there is no Jesus in them either. The majority of the American church is American but not Christian. In the verses I first shared Jesus addresses those who lift themselves up and claim to be all knowing. People sit on the edge of their seats and clap and nod as if they were listening to a god, and in many cases they are. Watch as they jump to their feet and applaud and scream wildly in approval of that man’s performance. No tears, no repentance, no sacred awe. It is all thespian in nature and void of the Spirit.
These men and women claim they see things in the Spirit that the average person cannot see, Some liars even claim to have been to heaven itself and people by the millions believe them. Jesus says that those who say they see are rejected and those who say they do not are embraced. The teaching is clear. Jesus is using a Hebrewism to teach the humility to the proud. It confronts and dismantles the struts of the modern peacock preachers and gives grace to the humble. But let us not just compare ourselves with these false teachers and self absorbed Americans. That is low hanging fruit.
The humility of which Jesus and the Spirit are speaking is a great challenge to us. When was the last time you were offended? That is a sign. When was the last time you felt smart? Or better than someone? Those are all bad signs. But those are only signs of a surface problem. Remove your shoes and let us tip toe further into the Spirit of truth.
Phil.2: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Our Savior humbled Himself and became obedient to the cross. Oh my. Oh my. It was be a humility about which we know nothing just to understand that God became a man. That tests the human mind and finds it completely unable to process such abject humility. But to understand that God submitted Himself and became “obedient” to death, even the public and excruciating death of crucifixion is humility in its unimaginable and purest form. We are called to a depth of humility that experiences our own death and replaces it with His life. It is not enough to just imitate Jesus as we believe He is and was. We must die. And often we treat that as some kind of metaphor which just means we should not do or speak what we desire.That may reveal some of it but that only touches the surface. Unsaved people can watch their tongue and even direct their fallen hearts to have compassion for others. Gandhi was a professed unbeliever and yet he showed uncommon humility on the outside which was indeed much more than most professing believers in Jesus. But our calling, our mandate, it to die to ourselves and to allow the Spirit to resurrect the Lord Jesus within us. Oh does that not sound so metaphysical and out of touch with reality? Well, because the church no longer teaches nor endorses it then it might sound like so much mercurial philosophy. But in the Spirit it is a glorious reality.
I exhort you to read the Book of Martyrs with a prayerful and contrite heart and you will see believers walking to their death clothed in humility and full of Christ. There are many moving and convicting narratives in there. But there is one account of a believer who told his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that he would glorify His Savior while being burned at the stake. He told them that he would wait until the flames were climbing all around him and then he would raise up his hand with his finger pointing toward heaven. Crowds would gather around these horrific spectacles just as they used to watch hangings. Many of these martyrs sang on their way to the gallows or the stake.
The man was strapped to the stake and the faggots were set on fire all around his feet. People watched and his brethren waited for his hand to rise. But soon the flames became very hot and even covered his face until his brethren despaired because they thought he had died too quickly to lift his hand or even remember his promise. But from within those flames a scorched and blacked hand lifted up and pointed to heaven for two seconds and fell back down in death. It may not have seemed like much to others but to those who knew Jesus it was a miracle to the glory of God. I would have rather seen that blackened hand for two seconds the most of the sermons I have ever heard.
That, my friends, flies in the face of what passes for the faith in these self centered modern times. Oh that the Spirit would lead us all to our own place of death, and after we die men would see a nail scarred hand rise up and live in our place. The greatest enemy we face is when we try and live for Him without dying and allowing Him to live for us. But be aware, my dear brethren, that will take a cross.
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.
Every year a fallen nation celebrates what is commonly called “freedom”. That celebration remembers how America was released from British rule through a violent revolution. Many thousands died from wounds or infection from both sides including the Germans. That war was over unfair taxation. That war is now celebrated in America and July 4th is recognized as the day of independence.But millions upon millions of Americans who also profess Jesus see nothing wrong with embracing Jesus as well as the Revolutionary War. They have been raised from birth to embrace war and that America is not only on the right side of wars, but that God birthed America as His own. And in that convoluted thinking the line between earthly freedom and redemptive freedom become blurred and in many cases they are looked upon as one and the same.
But all that, and I mean all of it, compromises the price that was paid at Calvary and obscures the image of the Redeemer. It is probably impossible to overstate the damage that has been done to the faith because professing believers who happen to live in America have not only fallen in love with this fallen country, but have even woven a divine quality within it which they say began with its creation. This is no small issues and it has severely compromised the faith until the dilution has become grievous and in many cases a mortal wound.
But true freedom, eternal freedom is found only in Jesus. This must be our bedrock confession and the foundation of our faith. To celebrate earthly freedom is to make it a cousin, even a lesser cousin, to the freedom which was purchased at such a high price at Calvary. We are believers and followers of the one true Redeemer who paid the ransom in His own body and who has with an unsearchable loved granted us that ransom through grace and faith alone. Can you not feel the Spirit well up in you as you read these words? Remember, the same Spirit that was present at Calvary lives in you and me. He was there. He heard the groans. He saw the wounds. He saw the lashes. He saw the blood. He heard the last breath. And while human men saw a crucifixion that was common to men, the Spirit knew the price that was being paid. He existed with the Word now made flesh from eternity past. They and the father were part of the mystery of the Godhead. So when we speak of His sufferings the Spirit within us imparts knowledge and emotion and spiritual truth which we could not know in our own strength.
Let us never forget the bondage from which we came. Those of us who were saved as a teenager or an adult can remember vividly just how sin had imprisoned our hearts and minds, and how to this very day it beckons to imprison us once again. But the King had triumphed where we had so emphatically failed. Our father Adam had fallen just like we would have if it were us in that garden. And just so there was no mistake about that all of us born with Adam’s curse enthusiastically built upon his legacy with uncountable deeds of our own. I still feel the shame of it all.
But then He came. Born among animals. Born in our likeness. Fed from a fallen women’s own body and yet without sin. Who can know such a thing, and yet the Spirit enlightens us to that sacred knowledge. And He walks among us for over thirty years, and then in the space of hours he suffers and bleeds with a divine power the blood of animals could never know. God dies in our place. Oh my…what human mind deserves such knowledge? What human soul earns such a ransom? And in one small but genuine act of faith we were set free forever and forever. This is not some religion or spiritual philosophy. This is the everlasting gospel and it has set men free from the Day of Pentecost even unto this very day. Somewhere in the world today souls are being set free.
It may be in a church building. It may be on the street. It may be in a thatched hut. It may be in a hospital. It may be in Canada. It may be in Russia. It may be in Brazil. It may be in Nigeria. It may be a businessman. It may be a young mother. It may be a little child. It may be an old man. It may be someone dying of AIDs. It may be a gay person. It may be an adulterer. But the power of the gospel still lives around the world, and devout sinners like me are hearing the Spirit’s voice and responding. It is the miracle of all miracles. And who the Son sets free is free indeed! Halleluiah!
There should a word that is a greater and more revealing word for freedom. The freedom we have in Christ is unfathomable and without comparison. It is beyond our mental ability to comprehend a freedom from sin and all the fires of hell. That is freedom about which the world knows nothing. Millions of church members travel every Sunday to sit in church pews who know nothing of that freedom. Only God knows who are His but it is obvious that church members are consumed with money and politics and the economy and sports and employment and even the nation in which providence has placed them. But how many walk with the heart filling knowledge of the freedom in Christ we have? Until we get serious about the Word, and until we seek revelation knowledge about our salvation, it will all be so much religion and moral standards.
One day we will receive the fullness of our redemption. And we will understand in the eternal realm what the temporal realm never could. We were ransomed from eternal death and set free. But we weren’t just released from prison and sent to roam without direction. We were set free and we were placed into Christ by the Spirit of God. Rejoice all you who are in Him through no efforts of your own. Rejoice all you who deserved eternal damnation but received eternal life! Rejoice all you who were rescued from the penalty of death you so richly deserved! Rejoice all you prisoners of sin for you have been set free forever! So follow Him and His Word and do not return to bondage. Eat of His goodness and the milk and honey of His Person and beckon others to follow. This is the legacy of the redeemed.
And you are now free…free indeed!*****
36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,
37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
Matt.20: 25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
This teaching goes deep into the heart of the western culture and mindset. The entire culture is about power. Money and success and knowledge and material wealth and prestige are all interwoven with the hunger and thirst for power. And what is power in this fallen world? It is power over others. That is the essence of what is called power. That is why the cross of Christ is so widely rejected or minimized because it does not align itself with the human definition of power. In fact those that crucified Jesus are the ones who wielded power in the earthly realm. And much of the church subtly and openly aligns itself with the crucifiers rather than the Crucified.We have to ask ourselves some very serious questions if we are to ever be released from this fallen culture. Please recognize that our upbringing within this culture has shaped, and warped, our mindset. And most of that has impacted how we understand the teachings of Jesus. Unless we understand that we will not and cannot receive and understand the teachings of Jesus as taught by the Spirit. Confronting a problem is first recognizing that problem before it can be overcome. And until the church as a whole or individual believers recognize what has happened to us we will never be able to enter into the glorious truths spoken and lived by Christ.
This culture lusts after power. It demands power. It teaches power. It is built upon power. Political power; financial power; physical power; military power; media power; gender power; conservative power; liberal power; the entire culture seethes with power and the desire for more power. And that spirit has permeated every area of our lives including and perhaps most prominently our hearts and minds. And once that spirit has unpacked and made itself at home within our hearts and minds it is most difficult to evict it. Partly because it is cloaked in religion and reason and common sense, and partly because it hides among many peers and its voice is reinforced by others, and partly because it has sunk its teeth deep within our minds and hearts. And it then subtly affects how we perceive things. And even after we recognize on some level that it lies and must go that is no small task. It is not an overnight challenge.
When you speak of spiritual power you must reject earthly power. The two can never be partners. And the template will always be the cross. The church has used the cross for salvation purposes and then cast it off as a doctrinal relic that his no bearing on our earthly lives. Jesus speaks about taking up our cross. What does that mean? Is the church passionately on a quest to discover what that means? Why not? Living the cross of Jesus is a great and glorious mystery which can only be realized if we hunger and thirst for it. There is power in that death. And that power can only released when we die. But unless we seek more than interesting metaphors we still will be caught in an earthly labyrinth of human power.
Walking in newness of life and walking in the power of His resurrection requires our own death. Again, an interesting and striking metaphor which has absolutely no power until it is implanted in the heart and thereby controls the life. Few implant it, and then it needs water and more water and much water. There is power in relinquishing all earthly power and resting in the power of death…His and yours. But the flesh is very strong and has been made immensely stronger by the nourishment it has received by the culture. It is a miracle of grace that we can even see just how power hungry we really are. And then to see where Jesus desires to take us is another miracle of grace. But when those two perspectives meet it requires much more than just an accurate perception.
When you begin to watch for power struggles and desires in your life you are amazed at just how much you like and reach out for power regardless of how small it is. Power makes us feel strong and significant. Power helps us win arguments. Power makes us right. Power strokes our egos. Power helps us win in comparisons with others. Power gives us some contentment. And sometimes in an ingenuous element of the flesh power allows us to forgive or show mercy as long as we retain that power buffer lest we let others feel superior to us. Oh how the flesh is so diabolical!
But Jesus talks of servanthood and in verse 28 He once again turns to the cross as the standard. Now think about that for just an unguarded moment. Can there be any greater example of servanthood and the rejection of power even when He had all power? The cross undermines every vestige of earthly power and it points us to a power the world knows not. The cross was a once in history event but its power will last forever. And to anyone who truly meditates upon that cross it becomes obvious that earthly power and divine power are unequal enemies. The power that comes from the earth is sensual, carnal, self centered, and evil. But the power which flows from God denies self, is spiritual, is clothed in humility, and embraces the selfless death on the cross as its template and mandate.
So while others must be addressed as “sir”; and while church leaders have “Dr.” in front of their name; and while some set themselves as Biblical scholars; and while many receive the applause of men; the calling of the Spirit will always be to a hill just outside of Jerusalem where death met life and life won through death. And those who walk through that mystery by faith come out of that tomb as servants. And that is the highest calling of all.
Matt.15: 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
There are many applications here as well as a few different streams of thought. This is another attack on legalism and the outward appearance as opposed to the intents of the heart. It is light years easier to outwardly march to rules and laws than it is to allow the Spirit to create a clean heart within us. Even the unbeliever can obey rules, but only a surrendered believer can have his heart sanctified and pleasing the only One who can see it.So Jesus is clearly and unequivocally revealing how God sees things as opposed to how man sees them. Man looks upon the outward appearance while God sees the heart. Jesus is dealing with manmade religious traditions so this does not mean that things which go into your eyes and mind cannot be detrimental to your spiritual walk. We know that to be untrue. But to seek and maintain a clean heart is a labor of the Spirit. How many professing believers live every day with a view toward a clean heart? How many even know what that means? How many even care?
In spiritual terms your heart is you. Our lips can be such liars which create protections for some of our inward flaws. “As a man thinketh so is he”. The only way to cultivate a pure heart is through God’s Word and prayer, and I believe that is most powerfully measured in private. It is easier to lie to others and ourselves than it is to lie to God. Man looks upon the outward appearance but God ponders the heart. Sports and Hollywood and politics and even much of the organized church is fueled by the outward appearance and the power of human lips and the power of performance.
But the secret place of the heart is where the Spirit truly works. In the Old Testament God’s presence dwelt in the Holy of Holy upon the Ark of the Covenant between two angels. And only the High Priest was allowed to enter into that place and he only once a year on the Day of Atonement. But after Jesus died and rose again He sent the Spirit Who dwells within the heart of every true believer. And that makes a believer’s heart the Holy of Holies and we have access to that place every single moment of every single day. The blood of Jesus has been applied and the presence of God through the Holy Spirit abides within us. So what we say can only be authenticated by the Spirit for it is God Alone who lives in and tests our hearts.
It is a glorious miracle as well as a great responsibility.