Friday, October 10, 2008

Just For A Few

"Enter through the strait gate
because wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction,
and there are many who enter through it.
How strait the gate and narrow the road that leads to life!
And few there be who find it
Jesus, in Matthew 7:13-14

Tonight I happened across a television movie telling the fictitious story of two elderly people reminiscing fondly about their grossly immoral romance of their youth. What a lie it is, that sin will leave you with happiness in your old age! What a powerful snare is laid by such movies for young people, as it leaves them with the impression that there will be no consequences for sin, even to the grave! But such is the mind set of many movie makers.

I turned the channel in disgust and there was James Bond, a completely wretched and depraved man, but portrayed in movies as a hero to be admired and emulated.

I again turned the channel in disgust, and there was a nationally televised ball game being played in a huge stadium, which was packed to the highest rows with screaming fans, despite the cold weather and late hour. (It is now 11:30 PM, and the game will probably not end before midnight.)

I turned off the television, heavy and discouraged, and talked to Jesus. We cannot compete against the movie makers, I told him, the clever men who make evil seem so good, and good seem uninteresting, and who make sin seem exciting and right and sincerity and purity seem old fashioned. Typically, announcers for the major ball teams have great talent for making it sound as if what is happening on the playing field is very important, when the truth is that life would continue if those men never even played the game. But the world lives by what it hears and what it sees, and worldly wise men know how to make their product look and sound good. How depressing it can all be!

But then the Lord reminded me of two portions of Scriptures. In the first, the prophet Jeremiah was completely discouraged by the popularity of the false prophets, and the Lord let Jeremiah know that He had been watching, and that He knew what the false prophets were doing and saying. He had heard their lies, and He had watched the false prophets cause His people to forget God with their phony prophetic dreams. Then, God got to the point:

"The prophet who has a dream [one that is really from God], he is to tell a dream. And he who has my Word, he is to speak my word faithfully! What is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord."

With this, God was telling Jeremiah that to the heart that is hungering and thirsting for righteousness, there is no comparison between the words of the false prophets and the words of the true. He was telling Jeremiah not to be concerned about the many false prophets in Israel, nor to be concerned about how many people were led astray by them. And God’s point is clear: False prophets exist for the multitudes of people in this world who want to hear lies. Somebody, then, must be there for the few who are searching for the truth.

The second Scripture Jesus brought to my mind was the one in which he told Pilate, "For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." (Jn. 18:37). Jesus, too, was outnumbered by false prophets, but that was neither here nor there to him. He knew that the multitude of false prophets were there for the entertainment of the multitude who were content with lies. But he also knew that he was there to bear witness to the truth, even in the midst of a thousand lies, for the sake of the few humble souls who wanted the truth. His job was to bear witness of the truth, not to look around a count how many deceivers were out there.

We need not be discouraged if the world does not hear us. Isn’t it to be expected that most people on this earth would be interested only in worldly things? Didn’t Jesus tell us, "The world loves its own"? But we are not of the world, and those, like us, who are not of the world will hear us, regardless of how many other voices may be talking. Jesus said his sheep hear his voice, and in reality, they are the only ones who can.

John wrote, "They who are of God hear God’s voice." And Jesus warned us that God’s way of salvation would be found only by a few. In other words, only a few people, relatively speaking, will ever truly be "of God" and receive the Word of God when it comes. But what the Lord showed me tonight is that those few who hear the Word are the only ones for whom the Word was sent in the first place! God does not fail, and His Word does not fail! The Word of God comes for His sheep, to feed and to show them the way home; it does not come for the world.

My friend, if you broadcast the truth of Christ, and just a handful of people ever receive the seed you have sown, rejoice! You have succeeded, for the seed you sowed was sent only for the ones who can receive it; the seed was not sent for the world. The world at large will never receive Christ. Our task is to proclaim the good news so that the few scattered sheep of God who are on earth can hear it and find their way home.

"Judgment Day"

“God has appointed a day
in which He will judge the world in righteousness
by that man whom He has ordained.”
Paul, in Acts 17:31

The phrase, “Judgment Day” can be a misleading term. That great and terrible day will not be a day of making judgments at all; rather, it will be a day of pronouncing of judgment. On “Judgment Day”, Jesus will not need to study the record of our deeds and then try to decide what to do with us. His decisions are being made now, while we live. We are all being judged right now, based on what we are doing right now. Then, what will happen on “Judgment Day” is the Lord’s pronouncement of our eternal judgment. May God give us the grace to receive an eternal inheritance “among the saints in light”!

Because of this truth, the upright can “rest in peace”. They who have kept the faith can peacefully “fall asleep” in Christ with great hope, knowing that Judgment Day is coming, and longing for it to come.

The Sabbath Is For Rest

“He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.”

Genesis 2:2

Jesus said he patterned everything he did after his heavenly Father’s example. He told people in John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing of himself except what he sees the Father do; for whatever things He does, these things the Son also does, and in the same way.” So, if we are going to be like Jesus, we’re going to follow the Father’s example and do things His way. Some may complain that living that way amounts to imitating someone, but what is wrong with imitating a perfect example? Paul exhorted the saints to “be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1), and those who heeded Paul’s counsel found perfect peace and joy.

In truth, everybody on earth is imitating others, and that is perfectly normal. One way we can tell if a person is from a culture different from ours is that he imitates, in clothing or mannerisms, others from his own culture. So, where is the harm in imitating God, or in imitating those who are close to him? Aren’t we exhorted to follow the faith of those who follow Christ? “Follow me,” said Paul to the saints, “as I follow Christ.”

How God Kept the Sabbath

What did our heavenly Father do on the first Sabbath day? And then, what did He tell us to do on the Sabbath? In the beginning, after God had finished His six days of creation, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made” (Gen. 2:2). Thousands of years later, when He established the Old Testament with Israel, God told them, “Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your foreigner who is staying within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and He rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

So the weekly Sabbath day was given to men as a day of rest. It was not originally intended by the Creator to be a day of worship. The question is, if we are to be like our heavenly Father, and He rested on the Sabbath day, what are we supposed to do? His later commandment to Israel let us know: we are to rest, just as He did!

Men transformed God’s Sabbath from a day of rest to a day of worship, and then, as their worship rituals became more elaborate, rules concerning the Sabbath became tools of oppression and left people with no day of relief. When Jesus came, he found that God’s people had taken their eyes off God; they had ceased from following God’s good example; consequently, they were in deep bondage to religious works. Jesus never stopped following His Father’s example, and that is the basic reason religious leaders hated him so much and killed him. Jesus told them at one point, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!” But they would not hear. His liberty to follow God’s example was a threat to their control of people’s lives.

In Western Culture, one result of men transforming the idea of a weekly day of rest into a day of religious activity is that it left no day of rest for man. Consequently, wanting their rest but afraid they would offend God if they did not devote themselves to worship on “His holy day”, men designated another day for rest. So now, we have a two-day “weekend”. Our weekends give men five days to work, one day for rest, and one day for God.
Following Jesus

Years ago, I realized that Jesus is not a Christian, even though I claimed to be one myself. I wondered aloud, on several occasions, why I was something that Jesus was not. But since everybody I knew in the Lord claimed to be a Christian, I assumed that was what I was supposed to be. But in May of 1993, Jesus let me know that he wanted me to be like him instead of being like people, even his people. He called me out of Christianity and delivered me from being a Christian so that I could serve the Father “in spirit and in truth” instead of after the traditions of men.

Do we really believe that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts? Jesus said, “What is highly esteemed among men is abomination to God.” Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.” When God reveals to us what He thinks about some of the things we regard as holy, it can be frightening. His thoughts really are not our thoughts! One sister testified that when God first started calling her (she was a dedicated Christian at that time), He spoke to her heart and revealed to her that everything she had always thought about Him was filth. (You can read her testimony at It was a stunning word from God, but it brought her relief, too, because she was already beginning to understand that she did not really know God (in spite of her college degree in Christian Education). But such a revelation is frightening only as long as we cling to our superstitions rather than simply trust whatever God says. When we do that, His word brings us peace.

The same is true about this revelation from Jesus to me concerning God’s original purpose for instituting the Sabbath day. We need not be afraid to rest if God’s will is that we rest! All we need is faith. When our loving heavenly Father gave us a day of rest, He commanded us to rest, not to worship, on that holy day. He loves us! Let’s obey Him! To have rest for our bodies and our minds is essential to sound physical and spiritual health. With oppressive religious activity, Satan has robbed God’s people a million times of much-needed rest. But God gives us rest; He does not take it away. This is one of the reasons that the Father is calling to all His children, “Come out of her my people!” He is calling us to come rest with Him!

The simple truth is that if we live God’s way, including resting whenever He says rest, we will have no time left over for anything false or evil. And if we work when he says work, we will be prepared to rest when His rest is offered.
There Remains A Rest
In Hebrews 4, we are told that there still “remains a rest for the people of God.” In that verse, the author is referring to the rest we will find on the New Earth which God has prepared for those who love Him. But in truth, there remains in this life a rest for the people of God, a rest which they have forgotten about, the spiritual rest of walking in the Spirit of God instead of in the traditions of men. Long ago, God lamented through the prophet Jeremiah that His people had “forgotten their resting place.” The same is true today. God’s people have drifted away from the life of the Spirit in order to fit into a form that is not of God and to help to carry on Christian traditions that are not of God. Their souls are tired. They are being used up. They need God’s rest.

One young saint from Louisville visited a Christian place of worship not long ago, and she said that as she sat there and watched the religious forms being carried out, all she could think was, “What about God?” and, “What about the Spirit?” The ceremonial worship she saw being offered to God there could have been performed if the Son of God had never even come to earth. There was none of God’s rest in what those worshipers were doing, and she was glad to go home, where she knew she could find it.

Being Like Jesus
If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be Christians, but we will all be good in God’s sight, and happy. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be “heavily laden” with the doctrines of men, but we will be excited and zealous about growing in the knowledge of God. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be confused as to what is right and wrong, but none of us will be proud and overbearing with the truth we know. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will live in fear, but none of us will be careless in our attitudes or speech. To be like Jesus is to have rest in our souls. And to have rest in our souls is to be holy and pure and to enjoy the true Sabbath of God.

The Only Right Response

From a conversation with Brother Bob Payne.
Brother Bob pointed out to me recently that whatever the Lord does to us ought to make us humble. No matter what God does, he said, whether He blesses or curses, heals or harms, praises or rebukes, rewards or chastens, the only right response from anyone to what God does is humility before God.

If being blessed does not make you humbler before God, then you probably need to suffer for a while. Seeing that, and loving you, God will no doubt provide that need in your life. Then, if suffering succeeds in helping you become humble, then your heavenly Father will no doubt bless you again because that is always His first choice for us. God takes no pleasure in seeing humans suffer, other than what good that suffering may do for our soul.

Remember! No matter what God does in our lives, He is right. And so, if we have a wise heart, whatever God does to us will only serve make us more aware of His greatness and, so, enable us to humble ourselves ever more before Him.

Eternal Life

"I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."
Jesus, in John 10:10

"The Spirit is life because of righteousness."
Paul, in Romans 8:10

The phrase, "eternal life" does not refer, in the main, to a length of life; time is irrelevant in eternity, and so "length of life" is meaningless in eternity. "Eternal life" refers primarily to a kind of life – God’s kind of life, which is holy, and good, and wise. If you would live forever, then you must simply live the kind of life that will last forever, God’s kind of life, without sin. Sinless life is eternal life.

The good news is that we can live God’s kind of eternal life! That is what Jesus came to make possible. "I am come that they might have life," he said, "and have it more abundantly." Without God’s kind of life, Jesus considered humans to be dead. When he saw a funeral, Jesus saw dead people burying other dead people (Mt. 8:22). That is how much greater, and different, God’s life is than man’s.

Delighting and Condemning, Part Two

“You are my Lord. My goodness does not extend to you
but to the saints who are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all my delight.”
Psalm 16:2-3

In Psalm 16, Christ spoke through David to reveal that all his delight is in the righteous. He used the word “all” because that is the truth about how he feels. He delights in the upright with all his heart; he has no joy left over for the wicked. All of his delight is directed toward those who love God and keep His commandments. If we would be like Jesus, we must feel as he does and, like him, delight with all our heart in those who love God and walk in His ways. If we do, we will not only rejoice in the upright, we will also condemn those who do evil. A few years ago, Sister Sandy had a startling dream from the Lord about the importance of not only loving righteousness but recognizing and hating evil. This was how Sandy told the dream:

In the dream, I went into a little shoppe. It was one of “ye ole shoppes” as in days of old – big wooden plank floors and a long counter where you went to check out merchandise. It was also dimly lit, as were the old shoppes in those days. I noticed as I walked into the shoppe, there was a man standing behind the counter. He was the owner of the little shoppe. He didn't say anything and was very business-like. He just continued doing what he was doing behind the counter as I began to look around. Suddenly, I saw there on the wooden floor the cutest little floppy-eared bunny. He had the most beautiful big brown eyes and the softest fur. I reached down to pet him, and he just sat there very still and made no motion to move as I touched him.

I looked over towards the owner of the shoppe, and obviously the owner of the bunny, and said, “This is the cutest little bunny!”
When I said that, he replied, “Yes, but I am going to have to kill him.”
With astonishment, I said, “Why?!!”
"Because", said the owner, “he has become too friendly, and will not recognize when the Enemy comes.”

There is no doubt that God has had to take some of His children home prematurely because they became too friendly with the world and became a danger to themselves and to the body of Christ. My father told me once that if you do not waste your money, the devil would try to trick you into giving it to somebody who will waste it for you. The same can be true in other areas of life. I have known sweet saints of God who would not have harmed the body of Christ for any amount of money. At the same time, these saints were so friendly with people who hated the truth and those who stood for it that the body of Christ was jeopardized when that over-friendly saint was among them.

When Jesus said, “Watch”, he did not simply mean, “Watch.” He meant, “Watch out!” Some very sweet souls in Christ watch very well; they see wrong spirits as well as right ones. But they make all spirits, the evil and the good, feel welcome to move freely in their presence; they do not watch out.

James said, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” With that wisdom, James warns believers throughout all generations that no matter how much we personally love the family of God, if we are companions of ungodly souls, if we make too much room for the ungodly in our presence, we may be used by Satan to do damage to the saints whether or not we want to. In that case, our loving heavenly Father, like the owner of the overly friendly bunny in Sandy’s “Old Shoppe”, may be forced to take us home, for the good of the body.

Be wise. The welfare of the body of Christ is far more important to the Father than the welfare of any of the body’s individual members.

Hold On To What You Know!

If you find yourself going through a hard time, it need not be that you have erred and are being punished for it. In fact, it may well be that you have been doing so well that your heavenly Father has judged you worthy of a trial that will perfect your faith and bring you closer to Him! Job suffered, and before his suffering, God Himself described Job as "a perfect and upright man." Jesus suffered horribly, and we know he was sinless. What are such things telling us?

In times of disappointment or any other kind of earthly suffering, one secret of surviving and doing well spiritually is to hold on to the things you know are true. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, for example, were extremely disappointed that Jesus was killed. They were dejected as they walked along the road home. When the Lord appeared to them along the way, but did not allow them to recognize him, they expressed their disappointment, saying that they had once been sure that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus’ death seemed to have proved them and the other disciples wrong; it certainly dashed their hopes.

But it is the other thing that they told Jesus, still not realizing that it was he to whom they spoke, that showed them to be the kind of people God loves. They were crestfallen because of Jesus’ death, but they refused to deny him as being sent from God. In spite of the danger involved (after all, they might still be arrested as being his followers), they plainly said that Jesus was sent from God and that he was a "prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people." They might have given up hope that Jesus was the Messiah, but they stubbornly clung to what they knew in their hearts; namely, that Jesus was good, not evil, and that he most certainly was sent from God to Israel.

They were disappointed; they were hurt; and they were embarrassed. It seemed that their faith had been misplaced by thinking Jesus was the Savior. Still, they would not deny what they knew in their hearts. Jesus was sent from God! These two humble men were the kind of people God loves. Even when they were confused, ashamed, and grieving, they were faithful to what they knew.

God doesn’t demand anything more from any of us than to be faithful to what we know. What we think might be, or what we hope, we can safely question. But those whom God loves are those who refuse to deny what they know in their hearts is true.

The blind man Jesus healed in John 9 is one of my favorite characters in the Bible for just this reason. When put on trial for being healed, he pretended to possess no more knowledge than what he actually had. He, too, was the kind of man God loves.

When the envious elders condemned Jesus and pressured the healed man to condemn him as well, he refused. And he refused, not because he knew Jesus was good but because he didn’t know whether he was good or evil. He suspected that Jesus was a man sent from God, but he did not know him, ands so, he couldn’t say. And he had the nerve to stand up against the men who tried to force him to say what they wanted him to say. He happily and boldly confessed in court, "Whether this man is a sinner or not, I don’t know. But one thing I do know. I was blind, and now I see!"

They excommunicated him.

But God loved him, and when the terrifying word spread through Jerusalem that someone had been cast out by the elders, Jesus heard of it, and he searched for and found the man (Jn. 9:35-38):

And Jesus said, "Do you believe on the Son of God?"
He answered, "Who is he, sir, so I can believe on him?"
Jesus said to him, "You have both seen him, and he is the one speaking with you."
Then he said, "Lord, I believe," and he fell down and worshiped him.

The important thing to remember in this story is that just an hour or two before Jesus, the mighty Son of God, went looking for this rejected man, the man had said of Jesus, "Whether he’s a sinner or not, I don’t know." Why is this significant? Because it shows that God is not touchy. He does not require us to pretend to know more than we really know. And at the same time, the healed blind man confessed openly what he did know; namely, that Jesus had healed him. Look at his pure heart! The despised man refused to let go of what he knew Jesus had done for him, even though it meant being cast of the congregation of God!

It is critical to your future happiness that you recognize the difference between what you know and what you believe. Preacher Clark tried to get this point across to us long ago when he told us, "Anything you believe could be a lie, as far as you know." That is true, and it is Ok with God for you to admit it. It’s Ok to be completely honest with yourself and others. God is not offended by it. Men often are.

Those whom God loves are the ones who "speak the truth in their heart." That means that they are thoroughly honest with themselves, willing to be wrong about anything they believe, and refusing to deny before men anything they truly know.

True "Justice and Equality For All"

“He is faithful and just . . .”
1John 1:9

Earthly justice is good, just as it is good to take care of the environment, get enough exercise, or eat a balanced diet. But good as those things may be, there are matters which carry much more weight with God and matter most to men’s souls.

There is an earthly, social justice, accomplished by earthly means, and there is a spiritual justice that is achieved only by the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God. Jesus did not suffer and die in order to make earthly societies just, but to make individuals pure and good in God’s sight, to justify them and transform them into living testimonies to the righteousness of God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The social justice that carnal men strive for has some earthly benefits, but that is all. Those benefits can change at any time, and they end with the grave. That is why Jesus, Paul, and other servants of God did not focus on changing societies. God did not send them to do that because it was the eternal part of man that needed to be secured, not the temporal conditions of nations.
This is why Paul commanded slaves to be good slaves, and masters to be good masters. Instead of what is called “social justice”, Paul preached the eternal justice of God, which is this: “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” This is a kind of equality and justice that carnal men cannot attain to, even if they manage to acknowledge that it exists, because the flesh cannot use God’s weapon to achieve it: the holy Spirit.

In the Spirit of God is where true and lasting justice is found. In the Spirit, earthly conditions, being transitory, become irrelevant. There is no bigotry among those who walk together in Christ because in Christ, none of the earthly differences that give rise to bigotry exist. That is why nobody walking in God’s Spirit becomes entangled in earthly social reform movements or earthly political movements. Such things are worldly and can only affect worldly conditions. They are unworthy of Christ.

The Savior was sent to deliver fallen man from sin and to make him a citizen of an eternal and perfectly just kingdom, not to change the external political and social conditions in which man lives out his vain, sinful life.