Tuesday, April 23, 2024

“Let Both Grow Together”

     Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.  And when the crop sprouted and produced fruit, then the tares also appeared.  And the landowner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where, then, did the tares come from?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy did this.’  Then the servants said to him, ‘So, do you want us to go out and pull them up?’  But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering up the tares, you uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest-time, I will tell the reapers, “Gather up the tares first and bind them into bundles to burn them up; then, gather the wheat into my storehouse.”’”  – Matthew 13:24–30

Over the millennia, it has vexed many a righteous soul that the wicked are blessed.  Jeremiah was puzzled by it:

Jeremiah 12

1. You are righteous, O Lord, though I complain to you.  Nevertheless, let me speak with you about matters of justice.  Why does the way of wicked men prosper?  All those who deal treacherously are at ease.

2. You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit.  You are near in their mouth, but far from their hearts.

3. But you, O Lord, you know me; you see me; and you have tried my heart toward you.  Drag them away like sheep to the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter!

It so frustrated David’s friend Asaph that he almost lost his soul because of it:

Psalm 73

2. My feet had almost slipped; my steps were almost gone.

3. For I was envious of those who are praised.  I saw the happiness of wicked men.

     . . . .

5. They are not in trouble as other men are; neither are they plagued along with other men.

     . . . .

7. Their eye stands out with fatness; they have more than heart can wish.

     . . . .

12. Behold, these are the wicked, always at ease; they increase in wealth.

13. Truly, I have kept my heart clean for nothing, and washed my hands in innocence,

14. for I am plagued all day long, and correction comes to me every morning.

It frustrated Jeremiah too much at one point.  He even dared to compare God to a liar:

Jeremiah 15

15. You know, O Lord!  Remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of my persecutors!  Do not defer your anger.  Receive me!  Acknowledge that for your sake, I have borne reproach!

16. Your words were found, and I consumed them.  Yea, your words were my joy and my heart’s delight.  Surely, I am called by your name, O Lord, God of Hosts!

17. I do not sit in the council of mockers and rejoice.  I sit alone because of your hand, for you have filled me with indignation.

18. Why is my pain unending and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?  You are like a liar to me, like waters that do not last.

Jeremiah had to repent for that, and he did.  But it was a hard lesson for him to learn, that whether the righteous like it or not, God is going to bless the wicked and the righteous together.  And when the Son of God came to earth, he commanded his followers to be like God in their attitude and conduct toward the wicked:

Matthew 5

44. I say to you, love your enemies; bless those who curse you; do good to those who hate you; and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,

45. so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.  For He makes His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust.

That reality teaches us that we cannot know who God loves by who He blesses, for He blesses all alike.  Some, like the unwise pastor in ancient Laodicea, judge themselves to be good in God’s sight because God blesses them.  But Jesus had a stern message for him and for all who think the way he did:

Revelation 3

17. “You say, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched, and pathetic, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

There is only one condition by which we may judge who God loves.  Jesus told that unwise pastor: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev. 3:19a).  Understanding this, Solomon gave his son this wise counsel:  

Proverbs 3

11. My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction,

12. for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights.

Jeremiah and Asaph grew weary of God sternness toward them when they had done what was right and yet, they saw God blessing the wicked.

It is a hard reality to face, but God in His wisdom has decided to let the good and the evil grow together in this world, drinking in the same sunshine and rain until the harvest.  Until the harvest!  That is the thought which shook Asaph and woke him from his foolish stupor, and made him glad that he was living right, even if he suffered:

Psalm 73

16. When I tried to understand this, it was hard for me

17. until I entered into God’s sanctuary; then, I considered their end.

     . . . .

21. When my heart was bitter [against you, God], my soul was pierced,

22. and I was brutish and did not understand.  I was like an animal before you.

23. Yet, I was always with you.  You held onto my right hand.

24. With your counsel, you will guide me, and afterwards, you will receive me to glory.

     . . . . 

27. For, behold, those who are far from you will perish.  You will destroy all who go a-whoring from you.

28. But as for me, the nearness of God is good for me.  I have made the Lord Jehovah my refuge, that I might declare all your works.

And so, let us continue doing the will of God, whatever our circumstance, knowing that at the harvest, the righteous and the wicked will no longer enjoy the same blessings as we do now.  In the next world, God will not command that the righteous and the wicked must grow together, but He will have them in very different places indeed.

Death Is Coming, but so Is Jesus

It is appointed to men once to die, and after that, the Judgment.

Hebrews 9:27

We have many times heard the famous biblical phrase, “It is appointed to men once to die, and after that, the Judgment.”  But when the man of God wrote that, the certainty of death was not his point.  He was making another point altogether.  We get the point only when we notice that the phrase is introduced with the words, “just as.”  So, the author was saying, “What I am about to tell you is as certain as death is.”  So, what was he about to tell us?

The entire thought is this: “Just as it is appointed to men once to die, and after that, the Judgment, so also, Christ . . . will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who earnestly look for him.”  His point was the certainty of Jesus’ return to earth. He was saying that just as surely as every man will die, Jesus is coming again.

Every death is a reminder from God that His Son Jesus is coming again.  Next time you read an obituary or visit a funeral home, then, let it remind you of the coming of the Lord, for his coming is as sure as death is for us mortals.

On Experiences

There is a strange doctrine taught by some which has gained some vogue in recent decades is the doctrine which warns against “going by experience”.  You won’t listen to very many sermons before you’ll hear a warning not to depend on your experience.  Is this not exactly what the serpent persuaded Eve to do in the garden of Eden?  Did he not say, in effect, “Do not make your decisions based on your experiences with God, but on what I tell you about God”?   Is that not exactly what happened?  Eve had walked with God on the earth; she had talked with Him; she and Adam had been the beneficiaries of incredible blessings.  They had been created in God’s own image, given dominion over an earth of great beauty and peace.  They had experienced God’s love and care beyond human expression.  But Satan, through a cunning use of words, persuaded her to make a foolish, fatal decision –– based on his lie, rather than what she herself had experienced with God.

“Not go by experience”?!?  How can anyone not base his life on experience?  What on earth is not an experience?  Being taught not to go by experience is itself an experience, and if there is an experience which one should not be led by, it is that one.  We all begin our earthly journey as fools (Prov. 22:15).  If we don’t learn from experience, we cannot grow.  Then why do some men teach against “going by experience”?  The answers are simple.  They do so because (1) They have experienced no ordination from God and (2) the doctrines they teach cannot be confirmed by experience.  Therefore, they tell their followers that (1) God no longer bears anyone witness, if he ever did (i.e., “trust me, not God ”), and (2) experience is an untrustworthy guide (i.e., “trust me, not yourself ”).

In seminary, one of my professors told us, “Brethren, if your doctrine is contrary to the facts, it is time to get a new doctrine.”  I thought that was an astute observation, but it is one that seems to be lost to both the liberal and conservative side of the religious spectrum.  Left-wing professors of theology deny the reality of the life of the Spirit on philosophical and psychological grounds, ignoring the fact of human experience with the Spirit’s baptism and its consonance with the Biblical record.  Right-wing fundamentalists deny the power of the Holy Ghost, ignoring the testimonies of many who have come from their own ranks.  Let’s be honest.  Both groups of Christians are just too proud to confess their need of a Savior who lives and offers an experience that sets men free from pride.  All their erudite, philosophical protestations on one end and Bible-thumping denunciations on the other are “red herrings”, thrown onto the road in order to divert the bloodhounds of conviction.

God has enough precious souls of every economic and social background who have experienced and testified of the power of the holy Ghost that no honest person anywhere can reject it.  “Whosoever will” may come if he will humble himself to Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.  God is an equal opportunity forgiver.

My dear friend, if you have been blessed by God with the holy Ghost, you need never be ashamed of the wonderful experience you have had.  In the kingdom of God, it is a dignified thing to feel the blessings of the holy Ghost, to raise your hands, jump for joy, and “speak with the tongues of men and of angels.”  You are blessed by what you have experienced, for all that really matters is that Jesus is pleased with you.  What is man,  God once asked, “whose breath is in his nostrils!  For wherein is he to be accounted of?”

When you take your first step toward the experience of new birth, when you kneel alone and sincerely ask God that first question, the things you will feel will not be the result of a psychological weakness.  It will be the result of doing something Jesus has wanted you to do for a long time.  And if you continue to follow those feelings, your own experience will teach you that it was the right thing to do.

Those of us who have managed, by God’s grace, to follow His call, are pulling for you.

On Feelings

One of the intriguing doctrinal developments in the past century is the oft-heard exhortation to ignore our feelings.  “Don’t go by feelings,” we are told; “just take it by faith.”  When one goes hunting in the Bible for similar exhortations, he returns to the camp with an empty bag.  There is no such animal found in the Scriptures.

Feelings are a precious and integral part of the kingdom of God because feelings are part of life as God has created it.    We all feel because we are made in the image of God, who is “of tender mercy” and who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”, though He be “angry with the wicked every day.”  God feels, and He wants to create in us His feelings and thoughts, which He does by the holy Ghost that Jesus purchased for us.  Even those who are dead and gone from this life feel things, whether they are in Paradise or in Hell.  Jesus leads us to God through our feelings, as Paul said: “Godly sorrow produces repentance (2Cor. 7:10).  And Jesus made it very clear that without repentance, a man will never see God (Lk. 13:1-5).  

Ministers warn their flocks not to go by their feelings so that they will pay no attention to how empty these ministers’ doctrines make them feel.  Jesus said, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled,” but men say, “Deceived are they who hunger and thirst for anything other than what we’ve told them they have.”  Peter said that the saints rejoice with “joy unspeakable and full of glory”.  Where do you see such joy now?  When is the last time you were in a gathering of the saints in which the joy was so great that it was virtually inexpressible?

Jesus felt grief, and he poured out his heart to God with “strong crying and tears.”  On other occasions, he “rejoiced in spirit”.  The Philippian jailor was moved with fear of God’s wrath, and then, after he was baptized with the holy Ghost, he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”  We are exhorted by Paul to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”  Whence, then, comes this strange notion that one’s feelings are not to be trusted or given expression?  What is left as a guide if feelings are removed from the picture?  “The Bible,” some will answer.  But to what does the Bible guide us, but to God, who first grants us the feeling of remorse for sin, and then relieves us of the burden (a feeling) of guilt, and gives us peace (a feeling)?

There are even those who suggest that there is nothing for us to go by at all except the Scriptures, that God no longer communicates with man, except by what man reads in the Bible!  One such denomination purchased space in my hometown newspaper some years back which proclaimed that the Bible is all we need for salvation.  Think of it.  No experience with the Lord.  No feeling of communion with the Father.  No guidance from the Spirit.  Just you and your Bible, you and lifeless pages made from dead trees and ink, covered with the dead skin of a dead animal.  Should you trust your eternal destiny to something you can hold in your hand?  Will you be saved from the flames of eternal damnation by something which itself can be burned up?  Jesus spoke to this issue when he found some of the leaders of Israel trusting their souls’ destiny to the Scriptures.  He said, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, but they are they which testify of me, and you will not come to me, that you might have life! (Jn. 5:39-40).

The Bible cannot give life because the Bible itself is dead.   Paul was referring to the Holy Scriptures when he wrote, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2Cor. 3:6).  This means, for example, that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians kills, and his letter to the saints in Rome kills.  Pauls and so.  But the holy Ghost which Paul had, and which the Corinthian and Roman saints had, gave life to both him and them.  This is what Jesus was teaching in John 6:63 when he said, “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The things that I am telling you, they are spirit, and they are life!”  It is the Spirit, not the Bible, that will raise up God’s saints from the grave (Rom.8:11).  The Spirit is life, Paul said (Rom. 8:10), and it makes us alive to God’s thoughts and feelings now so that we might be found worthy to live with Him forever.

Without the holy Ghost, every religion is false religion; without the holy Ghost, every sermon is a lie; and without the holy Ghost, every man is a hopeless sinner.  Without the holy Ghost, there is no righteousness of God, no peace with God, and no hope of salvation.

Ministers warn against “going by feelings” because they feel intimidated by the life that God’s Spirit brings to people.  The greatest threat to every ministry of man is the life of the holy Ghost.  It is no wonder that such ministers strive to keep people from it!  The liberty and joy and zeal that the Spirit brings exposes every man who has no credentials from heaven.  Many a soul has gone to a minister with a feeling of not being right with God, only to be told not to go by how he feels, but only to trust the Bible – as interpreted by that minister. 

It is a tragedy that multitudes – billions – are being told that they are prepared to meet God in the Judgment when they are not.  But the twist which makes it so frustrating is that many of them have feelings of a spiritual need, and when they ask for help, they are told to ignore what they feel and trust the Bible – again, as interpreted by their pastors.  God help us reach people with the good news that there is a holiness they can know about!  Their longing is for something that is there, that is real, waiting to be believed and felt – and Jesus has it!

Jesus did not come to start a religion so dead that men have to tell you when you have it.  If you can’t feel the spirit that a minister tells you that you have, trade it in for the one that’s alive!  Dead spirits can do nothing for you.  The Spirit of Christ brings eternal life into your soul.  Why, when it enters your heart, it starts off by making a sound through you so that you and others may know you have it (Jn. 3:7–8; 1Cor. 14:21).  How many times have we heard people say after receiving the holy Ghost, “For years, I felt there had to be more to God than what I knew.”  And to get that “more”, they had to overcome a thousand ministers telling them to ignore their feelings.

“Don’t go by feelings”?!?  How absurd!  Paul said that “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).  Peace and joy are feelings!  The fruits of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23, are essential to the health of the body of Christ, and what are these fruits?  “Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faith, meekness, self-control.”  Now, how in tarnation are you to know that you have joy unless you feel it?  Should you wait for a man to tell you that you’re happy?  And how in the world are you to know that you love, unless you feel it? Are you going to wait for a man to prove it to you by quoting scriptures?  Listen to what Paul said about those who are past feeling: “Having their understanding darkened, being aliens to the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the dullness of their heart, [they], being dead to feelings, have given themselves to licentiousness, to perform with insatiable desire every kind of uncleanliness.  But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard him and been taught by him, for truth is in Jesus (Eph. 4:18-20).  Notice, please, that Paul said the end result of denying feelings is a descent into moral wickedness.

God wants us to feel it when we are not on the right track.  That is our safety.  Men cannot keep God from doing that for us, but they will attempt to persuade us that listening to our feelings indicates a lack of faith in the Bible – as they teach it.

Beware, my friend.  Any man who would tell you not to listen to your feelings would have you to listen to him rather than to God.

The Apostles’ References to the Pre-existent Son

The revelation of the Son, that God had a Son with Him in heaven from the beginning of creation, is the heart of the New Testament.  The Son was unknown to anyone in heaven or earth before God sent His Son into the world.  The apostles must have been astonished to learn that the Son had existed with God all that time.  How many Old Testament scriptures were made new to them by that knowledge, for they read them with eyes that have been opened by the Spirit!  Below are all the places in the New Testament where the apostles proclaimed that exciting truth.  If you notice any verses that I may have overlooked, please let me know.

An integral part of that amazing revelation is that God had created all things through the Son whom He had kept hidden with Him in heaven.  Amazingly, the apostles mentioned that truth  in only three verses in the entire New Testament.  I have underlined those three places in the verses below.


John 1

1. In the beginning, the Word was there, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2. He was in the beginning with God.

3. All things were created through him, and without him was nothing created that was created.

1John 1

1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we beheld, and our hands touched: the Word of life.

2. And the life was revealed, and we saw it, and we are bearing witness and showing you the eternal life which was with the Father and was revealed to us.

Philippians 2

5. Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus,

6. who, although existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped after.

7. Instead, he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, made in the likeness of men.

Colossians 1

13. [God] delivered us from the domain of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of His beloved Son,

. . . .

15. who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature,

16. for by him were all things created, things in the heavens and things on earth, things visible and things invisible; whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities, all things were created through him and for him,

17. and he is before all things, and all things are held together by him.

18. He is also the head of the body, the Assembly of God; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything, he might be preeminent,

Ephesians 3

8. To me, the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach among the Gentiles the incomprehensible richness of Christ

9. and to enlighten all men as to what is the plan of the mystery that has been hidden from the Aeons by the God who created all things through Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 1

1. After God spoke in many and various ways to the fathers in olden times by the prophets, He spoke to us in these last days by a Son,

2. whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.

. . . .

8a. To the Son He said

. . . . 

10. “You, Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands.”

Revelation 3

14. “And to the messenger of the Assembly in Laodicea, write: The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God, says these things.

It Was God's Will, Not His

    When we were translating the Psalms, we came across the following verse, which surprised us.  It is the hidden Son of God talking to the Father before the Father sent him to earth:

Psalm 74

19. Oh, do not put the life of your turtledove into a creature, a creature among your afflicted people!  Do not ever forget!

We were amazed to learn that the Son of God did not want to come to this wicked world and be one of us, and suffer death.  This verse reminded me of the scene in the garden of Gethsemene, when Jesus was pouring out his heart to the Father, pleading with Him not to ask him go to the cross:

Mark 14

32. And they went to a place by the name of Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go pray.”

33. And then he took with him Peter, and James, and John, and he began to feel overwhelmed and distressed.

34. And he said to them, “My soul is grieved to the point of death.  Stay here and watch.”

35. Then, going on a little farther, he fell to the ground and began to pray that, if it were possible, the hour would pass from him.

36. And he said, “Abba (that is, Father)!  All things are possible with you.  Take this cup away from me!  But not what I will, but what you will.”

(Luke 22:43–44: Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him.  And being in anguish, he began praying even more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.)

37. And then he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping?  Weren’t you able to watch for one hour?

38. Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is certainly willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39. And again, he went away and prayed, saying the same thing.

40. And when he returned, he discovered them sleeping again, for their eyes were heavy, and they did not know what to answer him.

41. And he came a third time, and said to them, “Sleeping on, and getting your rest.  That is enough; the hour has come.  Behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

42. Get up.  Let’s go.  Behold, the one who betrayed me is near.”

Jesus did not want to be tortured by the Romans and then go through the agony of the cross.  What sane person would want to?  But his Father gave him the strength to go through with it, and so, he resigned himself to do it.  Jesus much preferred his Father’s will to his own.  What love and devotion!

That is how it was before the Son came to earth.  His will was very much not to come.  But his love for his Father and his desire to please Him brought him to the place that he could resignedly say when he left his happy, heavenly home: “Behold, I go to do your will, O God” (Heb. 10:7).

Jesus showed us his Father’s love for us.  My song, “The Love My Father You”, tells about it:

It’s not a love that comes and goes,

passing by the heart like wind.

It’s not a love that never grows,

or weakens like the strength of men.

It’s not a subtle game I play;

The way I love you has to show.

My Father loves you just that way

and sent me here so you would know.

My Father loved me, and I knew

His love was meant not just for me,

but that He wanted me to come

and give my life to make you free.

The pain made me cry,

and all I had to see me through

was the love I felt inside,

the love my Father had for you.