Saturday, January 24, 2015

Teachings of Jesus - Part IX

Jn.6: 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

This is a hard saying and full of spiritual depth and intrigue, and yet how easily do we allow our eyes to read them and move on. The unbeliever suggests some form of cannibalism while some denominations make it fit into their ceremony as literal flesh and blood. Jesus spoke in parables and metaphors and yet the truth behind them all is literal. Jesus says He is the door but are there hinges and a doorknob on His body? Dig deeper and you will find truth and you will find Him.
There comes a time in every true believer’s life when he learns the glory of meditating and going deeper in God’s Word…or there doesn’t. That is such a sad situation. Millions of Bibles are carried or owned by millions of church members who never read them, or millions who read them sparingly and with an earthly understanding. It is tragic. Like a man who discovers a treasure chest filled to the brim with pure gold coins and he takes one or two coins from the top and parades them around to prove he believes in that chest. But just next door there is another man who finds the exact same type of chest filled with gold coins. That man, for years, takes one or two coins from the top and marches in the same parade as his neighbor.
But one day this other man sits next to the chest and reaches his hand into the mountain of coins and pulls a few out from just under the top layer. These coins seem to be shinier and they feel warm in his hand. They seem to make his heart feel warm. His curiosity is now peaked and he thrusts his hand deeper and deeper and pulls out all kinds of coins which get more and more brilliant and although they are coming out from the same chest and are made with the same pure gold they seem to be more brilliant and give off incredible heat and even affect his entire being. He feels a sense of joy and peace and humility and an overwhelming sense of gratefulness as well as an irresistible desire to dig deeper still.
That is a poor illustration but I believe it proves a point. Most evangelical church members, and dare I say pastors, are busy with the top layers of God’s Word and so they do not dig deeper. And after a while they lose any desire to go any deeper because the top layer will suffice. Oh but my dear friends the absolute treasure that exists under the surface is amazing! But the deeper you dig in God’s Word the more brilliant the truth and the more that truth challenges you and the more that deeper truth, like clay in the Sun, will either melt your heart or harden it. These deeper truths must affect you. They refuse to be our doctrinal toys.
So when Jesus speaks of drinking His blood and eating His flesh they are metaphors indeed but contained in those metaphors are glorious truths which will not and cannot float on the surface. It is more than just a representation of believing and more than just a passing reference to the Lord’s Supper. If you are impatient and must honk your horn as you wait in the doctrinal drive-thru line then you will miss it. But if you sincerely and passionately ask the Spirit to open the eyes of your understanding and if you are willing to wait upon the Lord the reward will be life changing. Why do you think most church members cannot identify with things like that? Why do you seem like the oddball? When you cry or feel a sense of deep conviction why are there so few who can fellowship with you because they too have been to that place?
Jesus uses what some call a “Hebrewism” which means a way of using shocking language in order to bring home a truth that needs more than a shallow explanation. Jesus says if your eye offends you pluck it out or if it your arm cut it off. Shocking? Yes, but it is meant to grab your attention so you will seek its true spiritual meaning. The same is true when Jesus insist we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. This is more than just the ceremony we call communion. This is the communion in the Spirit. This not only breaks the bread and the wine of His eternal Person, but this communion breaks our own hearts. This eating and drinking does not require our mouths to eat and to drink. This is a sacred communion that requires our hearts to eat and drink.
What, say most of the church world? But I can tell you from experience that place of spiritual communion feeds and nourishes and convicts the soul. You cannot eat from that table without desiring more, and you cannot drink from that table without it changing you and directing you to change more. It delights! It amazes! It astounds! It challenges! It impacts! It humbles! It enlightens! It strengthens! It brings revelation! It brings repentance! It brings holiness! It brings awe! It enlarges your heart and your understanding! It brings Jesus to you upon the wings of the Spirit in ways you could never experience any other way! And it invades your being with many thoughts and emotions and in ways really without words to convey. Again, it brings Jesus to you.
When you are young in Christ the Spirit will spoon feed you on some level. But there comes a time when you are responsible for your own spiritual journey. You can receive from preachers or teachers or devotional books or other people, but unless you are willing to do serious business in the Spirit you are at a standstill. You may know doctrine or some statement of faith and you may know all about Jesus and the doctrine we call Christology. But if you don’t eat His flesh and drink His blood all you have is head knowledge without spiritual power.
Do these words confuse you? Are you a little baffled? Then I suggest you begin by reading a portion of Scripture which was spoken by Jesus and pray and read and pray and read the same portion until the Spirit brings them to life in your heart and you are impacted by them far beyond their meaning in the English language. In fact in may take days or even weeks. But wait and read and pray and wait and read and pray. “How long shall I do this, Brother Rick?
Until you see Jesus and begin to understand you are eating His flesh and drinking His blood. And if when you get up from that table because you have godly responsibilities, and if as you walk through the day doing other things your heart is begging you to return to that table, then you will know that you really have been with Jesus. And as the Spirit digests Him within your soul you cannot wait to eat more. That, my friends, is the true abundant life.
Matt.24: 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

There have always been false prophets throughout the ages. But never before have there been so many that deceive so many through trickery, witchcraft, lying spirits, and with the help of all kinds of media avenues. One absolute kook can reach millions through television or radio and regardless of how absurd and bizarre there will be people who believe his words and respond to his schemes. A normal person could watch some of these men and women and see immediately just how preposterous and insane they and their messages are and yet thousands of people will send them money in hopes of getting something. It is an horrific spectacle which mocks and blasphemes God’s name while simultaneously claiming to speak for Him.
These sorcerers offer red oil, prosperity billfolds, miracle water, magic coins, anointed soap, healing cloths, and all kinds of other trinkets. They promise all kinds of things and tell lie after lie after lie. Most of us would reject them immediately and they mostly appeal to the poor and unlearned. But there are other deceivers who are much more sophisticated than these other men and women. Their deception lies in their appearance, their oratory, and the heresies they teach. They appeal to a wider audience and leverage the lusts of the human heart and the fallen human mind.
Well groomed men and women like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyer and many others present programs which are as professional as most secular shows. They offer books and CDs and pamphlets which they claim can bring you into a greater dimension of faith and spiritual knowledge. And the golden goose is when they get your mailing address. This has nothing at all to do with the faith which follows Jesus. It is not enough to say they are compromisers or they dilute the truth or even that they teach false doctrine. No, it has gotten to the point when we must understand that these men and women do not teach Christianity at all.
They teach another Jesus and another faith even though they may use some of the same terminology. Let us not step lightly here. They are the worst deceivers on earth and should be seen in the same way we see the Mormon Church or the Jehovah’s Witness Church. They are as much a cult as any other aberration. In some ways they are even worst since they claim to be mainstream evangelical and orthodox. And millions of evangelical church members watch them and support their ministries. I would recommend not supporting any ministry that is seen on Christian television. It is a literal cesspool of error and those preachers who are somewhat orthodox have no business paying for air time and thereby supporting these avenues of spiritual filth.
But there is a more subtle deception that has gripped the evangelical community. These are churches which would not support Osteen or Copeland or Jakes or others false teachers. These would be considered mainstream and orthodox within the evangelical community. Some of these churches may even teach against these deceivers and have discernment in that area. But many churches and many pastors who would not fall under the category of false teachers are still under the spell of this fallen culture. They do not offer trinkets nor promise instant healing or even prosperity on the scale as the other liars, but they still lead their flocks through paths which reflect the culture and the nation rather than Jesus.
In fact the majority of so called “orthodox” churches walk in deception in practice and in belief. And in reality when you practice and believe things that are not of Jesus that is called unbelief. I hope this series on the teachings of Jesus has at least opened our eyes and reinforced the reality that so many are blind to the spiritual state of the church which professes His name but will not obey His teachings. And when a preacher or a church refuses the teachings of Jesus either by ignorance or exegetical dilution or by life practices which defy His teachings then that can also be called false teaching.
Let us all strive to understand, embrace, and obey His teachings apart from the winnowing effect of the fallen secular culture as well as the fallen religious culture.
 Jn.2: 13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

In England each party is allowed to spend 250 thousand dollars in the election of a Prime Minister. In America 1 billion dollars will spent in the presidential election of 2016. What part does money play in politics? Now if this cesspool called politics derives it very life through money, and if the Scriptures warn us again and again about the love of money, then how can anyone who claims to follow Jesus be involved in that which Jesus hates? Of course I did not mention the infestation of lies, personal boasting, name calling, moral self righteousness, and even the using of one’s supposed Christian faith as a marketing tool. So once again I ask you, how can anyone who claims to follow Jesus be involved in that which Jesus hates.
The answer is they cannot so you draw the inference from that statement. Every you vote you are exercising your constitutional right as well as besmirching the holy name of Christ. The political process is saturated with the love of money. Not only does money run the entire spectacle, but most people vote for the person they believe will help their own pocketbooks. And that is an overt display of the love of money. The American culture runs on the love of money.
But much more serious is the love of money exhibited and even taught within the church. We should expect a fallen culture to love money but not those who claim to follow Jesus. And this dramatically reveals the immense challenge of living within a fallen culture and yet desiring to follow Jesus and His teachings. If we are not vigilant and even militant about remaining separate from the power, both subtle and overt, of the fallen culture it will slowly but surely find its way into the practices of the church, and it will eventually become part of our theology. I believe we have seen this come to pass.
How much of our thought life has to do with money and material things? The average evangelical church meets once a month or once a quarter in a business meeting which may last the better part of an hour and deals primarily with financial issues. How many hour long prayer meetings are held every month? And what are we to glean from that? I think it is obvious. The church in America has succumbed to the fallen culture and has incorporated its practices, its design, and its belief system.
The behavior of Jesus against the money changers seemed way of out character. But that only illustrates His deep hatred for the love of money, and even deeper for embracing the love of money inside His people and inside the places of worship.

“The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (I Tim.6:10)

So if the church is infected with the love of money then all kinds of evils will grow and flourish because of it. And it’s not just lust and greed and avarice. It breeds covetousness, self righteousness, condemnation, evil surmising, hoarding, and a complete devaluing of all that is truly sacred and holy. So a church which has succumbed to a money loving culture either subtly or openly is serving itself and stands in open defiance of Christ and His Word. Read that sentence again and allow it to pierce your understanding.
The issue of being culturally compromised is no small issue and especially when give the large scale in which it has infected the church. And front and center is the way the church understands money. The western church has long since defined God’s blessing in terms of money and material gifts. It has gotten so bad and so sordid that people will praise God because they were approved of a loan for a new car which will stretch the limits of their finances. It is insane. But such is the state of things within the visible church. The admonition to be content with food and clothing seems like a joke and an outdated suggestion rather than a door to devotion to spiritual things. Money drives our thoughts. Money is at the root of many commercials. Money tempts. Money lures us into bad decisions. Money makes us feel either secure or vulnerable. Money is at the root of most wars including the war that birthed America. Money drives Wall Street. Money is what drives prostitution and drug dealers.
And, sadly, money has become intertwined in the practices and mindset and even the theology of the western church.
Matt.7: 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

They who heard Him recognized the authority with which He spoke. That is an understatement. He who spoke those words IS those words. Jesus is the Word made flesh and His teachings are a revelation of Himself. This is a great mystery but glorious in its truth. Jesus’ Words are truth and Jesus is Truth and therefore Jesus is the incarnate revelation of the Eternal Word of God. Jesus had no beginning and likewise God’s Word is eternal from everlasting to everlasting. It is a sacred mystery into which the Spirit bids us come and dine.
But this parable reveals a bedrock truth upon which the true church and every individual believer must understand and build. This is not just some Hallmark card poetry. This is an eternal truth which teaches the primacy of Christ’s Words and the nonnegotiable command for obedience. So often this parable is reduced to believing that Jesus is the one and only Savior and that is of course true. But there is much more here than just some statement of faith doctrine. Notice the phrase “these sayings of Mine”. That is very telling and must not be glossed over.
Jesus is the Rock upon which we build our faith, but it goes deeper than just a study of who Jesus was and if you profess His divinity you can rest on your doctrinal laurels. No, Jesus Himself teaches otherwise. So there is a great disconnect and paradox evident within the evangelical community. On one hand orthodox believers strongly believe Jesus was God in the flesh and paid for our sins on the cross and was raised from the dead. Many can recite some generally accepted version of the gospel. But again, Jesus delivers words that point to a larger revelation of what He commands. And it is at this intersect where the visible church departs from the words of Jesus while having an orthodox dossier tucked neatly under its doctrinal arms.
I hope you can understand what I am saying here. There is a great chasm between embracing truth about Jesus and embracing the truth He teaches. And when we have been raised in a church which touts who Jesus is without deeply investigating what He teaches we end up being spiritually compromised. But since our compromise mirrors what we learned in church not only are we hesitant to question what we believe, but we are blind to our state and therefore have no idea that there should be any question. But if and when that door cracks open even slightly then all of a sudden we are faced with some confusion and discomfort which hopefully and prayerfully turns into a desire to seek more through the power and enlightenment of the Spirit.
And there comes a point in that kind of journey when the teachings of Jesus become literal commands to us as individual believers. And that is where spiritual labor actually begins. The parable I posted above is often reduced to Jesus being the Rock of our salvation. And what that means is that every baptized church member can say “Amen” to that truth, but they remain clueless to the depth of what that parable is actually teaching. Again, the church has condensed the teachings of Jesus into an orthodox doctrinal position concerning who Jesus is and the doctrine of justification by faith. But please understand that is so self serving and myopic in its depth and its scope.
I have found it very easy to be a Christian. I have found it very difficult to follow Jesus. Do you understand that statement? How convenient it is to study Jesus and yet walk in open defiance of what He lived and taught. You see, many of the teachings of Jesus are thought provoking and somewhat interesting. But until they become literal and visceral elements of our lives they will remain historical remnants of a thirty three year period which has long since outlived its relevance.
In this parable to wind and rain destroyed the house that was not built upon the teachings of Jesus. Does it not seem like believing in Jesus is inseparable from obeying His teachings? Do you see the current disconnect that exists within the ecclesiastical community? There is a great emphasis upon Jesus as Savior but little emphasis upon Jesus as Lord Teacher. And given the current state of affairs within the church I doubt we can overstate the need to return to the teachings of Jesus as the natural result of embracing Him as Savior and Lord.
So hear again the words direct from His divine mouth. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:”
Are we clear? There will be a test.
Jn.12: 20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.
23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

The Word of God is literally filled with metaphors and symbols and gleanings into truths that in the particular passage does not immediately jump out at you. You must seek and dig and pray. I love the narrative which says that Greek Jews came to worship and said to Philip, “We would see Jesus”. Oh how wonderful it would be if professing believers came to the gathering and desired to see Jesus. We need not see the singers or the speaker or even other friends, but our desire, our passion, our unquenchable thirst is to see Jesus.
And look at what happens. Philip tells Andrew and they both tell Jesus what these Greeks had said. And then Jesus does something amazing. Instead of setting up a book signing or standing in front of a long line and shaking people’s hands as they file by, Jesus immediately goes into the gospel. Someone desires to see Him? Well he shares the glory of the cross. In fact He says the hour of His death will be the hour of His suffering.
He speaks of dying. He speaks of being in the ground. He speaks of death fruit. He speaks of death and life. He speaks about His servants being where He is. Try and assimilate all that. It is a collection of sacred truths which find their source and destination in Christ and His passion. If we really step deeply into what Jesus is saying we immediately realize these are eternal truths which carry an eternal weight of glory!
Jesus speaks about hating your life while men profit from Your Best Life Now. So either Jesus is truth or men are truth. You cannot believe both. The cross is a path of both death and life. It is a paradox along with the first shall be last, and he who loses his life shall find it, and when I am weak then am I strong. The words that Jesus says in response to the Greeks desiring to see Him are telling. He is teaching the cross and the gospel and by that He suggests that this is the way to see Him.
Throughout the ages men have painted portraits of Jesus and no one has seen Him. But through the eyes of the Spirit every believer can see Him. He is truth and within that truth He lives. So the Greeks were right in desiring to see Jesus, but they had no idea concerning the gospel. The Scriptures tell us that the Greeks seek after knowledge and the Jews want a sign. But the sign is the gospel and the knowledge is the cross. It all goes against the spirit of this world and to the natural man it is so much foolishness.
So what shall we make of the words, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.”? So many of the teachings of Jesus require prayer and meditation to uncover the gem stones contained in them. This sentence has some mystery within it. How can we be where Jesus is today? Over the years I come to detest easy and quick answers when deep meditation is warranted. The current church climate quickly sees the utilitarian aspects of Scripture that can benefit us and it leaves the deeply spiritual aspects which require prayer and meditation and which may require sacrificial service to the Christ.
But the obvious truth is that the visible church does not desire to be where Jesus is, and it no longer serves Him. It would take layers of repentance before the American evangelical church could return to the pure faith which believes in and obeys the teachings of Jesus. Where is Jesus? He is in the prisons. He is in the nursing homes. He is in the streets. He is in the gay community. He is outside the abortion clinics. He is in the African jungle. He is in Muslim countries. He is in small house gatherings. He is in very small local churches. He is in many homes. He is in food pantries. He is in ministries to the poor.
And by His grace He is in things about which He does not approve. He is in some soldiers. He is in some liberals. He is in some conservatives. He is in some who have same sex attractions. He is in some women who have had abortions. He is in some rich people. He is in some patriots. He is in some Baptists and some Methodists and some Episcopalians and some Catholics and even some oddball denominations. Jesus finds His way into places and people which are deceived and embrace things that displease Him.
But make no mistake. Jesus is not in some Baptists and some Methodists and some Episcopalians and some Catholics. In fact Jesus is not in most of those. Jesus is not in some pastors. He is not in some elders. He is not in some evangelists. He is not in most television preachers. He is not in prosperity teachings. He is not in politics. He is not in patriotism. He is not in violence and war. He is not in gay behavior nor is He in heterosexual promiscuity and infidelity. He is not in most western church services. He is not in capitalism. Jesus is not in this fallen culture.
So where do we go to be where Jesus is? In general we go to the least of these. We go to the prisoners. We go to the homeless. We go to the poor. We go to the gay community. We go to the rejected. We go to the depressed. We go to those who mourn. We go to the downtrodden. We go to the needy. And as we go Jesus goes with us with compassion and love and the everlasting gospel. And how do we know we are where Jesus is?
If you’ve done it to the least of these you have done it unto me. In reality, Jesus is already there and waiting for us to arrive.

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