Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Offender, The Offended, and Jesus

I have edited this message which Uncle Joe (1915-1996) wrote in private almost half a century ago. As usual with the things he wrote, one can sense both his wisdom and his struggle with putting forth what he saw in words. Hopefully, with my few additions and clarifications, I have made the wonderful insight of his message more accessible to the reader. Uncle Joe and I were kindred spirits, and knowing what he meant to say made my task much easier than if I were editing the message of a stranger.

I hope you will enjoy this and other messages from Uncle Joe, written in private after he was healed of cancer in 1959, but that are now being salvaged from his papers, typed and made public. In this one, he is trying to describe a place with God that is only found in the Spirit.

The Offender, The Offended, and Jesus
Joseph H. Murray

As long as we are among those offending "one of the least of these" or among those being offended by "one of the least of these", we cannot be of help to either of those two groups. In fact, we are found to be in one group or the other, needing help ourselves.

Before one can be used of the Lord to help God’s people, we have to move from the stage of being an offender or from the state of being offended at every little thing that comes our way -- and move to the plateau of which Paul wrote when he said, “none of these things move me” (Acts 20:24).

It is written, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42). No one can be offended unless there is an offense in him, because we cannot reap anything that we do not sow. Therefore, we should depart from all sin so that no one could sin against us.

If we are liars, we should stop being liars so that no one could lie to us. We should stop deceiving others so that we could not be deceived. Again, I say, we can only receive into our basket what we have it open for, and what we already have in it. If a trash basket, we receive trash. If a vessel of honor, we receive the good things of God and things that are honorable.

Jesus never puts any one down but draws both the offender and the offended to the same level. When he was arrested in the Garden, this happened: “And one of them [Peter] smote the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. Then Jesus [rebuked Peter and] touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:50,51). Here, Jesus put Peter and the man whom Peter wounded with his sword on the same level. He rebuked his disciple and helped his enemy. They both needed his righteousness.

Again it is written, “Then said Jesus unto Peter, put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it” (John 18:11). Then said Jesus unto him, "Put your sword back in its place, for all they that take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).

On another occasion, Jesus stood on the stage of one of life’s tragedies, “And the Scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what do you say? This they said, tempting him, so that they might have something by which to accuse him, but Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
"And then again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground, and they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
"When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, no man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more” (John 8:3-11).

It is a pity that those Pharisees and Scribes did not stay around long enough to hear Jesus speak those consoling words to this wretched woman, for neither would he have condemned them for wanting to throw stones but not being able to. He would have spoken the same words to them: "Go and sin no more.”

In doing what he did on this occasion, Jesus demonstrated that, to him, the offender and the offended in this world were on the same level. And he was able to help them both because he was neither one.

The Law of the Lord was Prophetic -- And Still Is!

The Law of the Old Testament was God’s Law. It made God’s requirements clear for the lifestyle, worship, and justice system of Israel. The Law was a revelation of how God viewed right living, right worship, and good government. And God still thinks what He has always thought! What God thought was righteous conduct in Moses’ day, He still thinks is righteous conduct. And what God thought was righteous judgment then, He still thinks is righteous judgment. If God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is “the same today, yesterday, and forever,” then what is the Father? If you know God at all, then you know this:

1 - God has never learned anything.
2 - God has never had to correct anything He ever said or did.

The principal reason God gave His Law to Israel was to point them to the coming Messiah, His Son. Paul described the Law as Israel’s schoolmaster which led to Christ (Gal. 3:24). And that same Law, written on our hearts by the Spirit, is now doing for us what it once did for Israel. It is pointing us to Jesus Christ, preparing us for his coming, but this time it is his second coming, not his first.

Governing the Earth

A very great benefit of studying the Law of Moses is that the kind of judgments found in the Law are God’s kind of judgments; therefore, they are the kind of judgments that Jesus will render when he rules the earth for a thousand years. The Law is not a dead, worthless relic of the past; it is telling us what kind of government to expect from Jesus when he sets up his kingdom on earth. Jesus will rule over the wicked, “with a rod of iron”, and the “iron” judgments he will execute are the kinds of judgments found in Moses’ Law! The Law is still pointing to Christ and preparing God’s children to reign with him.

To prepare to reign with Christ Jesus means to learn to agree with him in judgment! We certainly are not prepared to reign with Christ if we disagree with his judgments. We are supposed to be in the process of developing the mind of Christ so that we judge as he judges, and feel as he feels about everything. We are in training. That is why God sends trials and temptations our way. Consider this description of the millennial reign of Jesus, from Zechariah 14:

16. And it shall come to pass, that every one who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
17. And it shall be that whoever will not come up of all the families of the earth to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
18. And if the family of Egypt that has no rain still does not go up, and come not [to Jerusalem to worship God], then there shall be the plague with which the Lord will smite the heathen who come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
19. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

At the present time, believers are given no authority to physically punish the wicked. For that, we must wait for the return of Jesus. It is sin for a believer today to become entangled in the political or military affairs of this world. We are citizens of a heavenly country, and we are here as ambassadors of Christ. This world’s social ills and political controversies are none of our business. Our king is coming to conquer and replace every government in every place. His kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit, and we who believe are in the critical process of learning to walk in the Spirit, judge in the Spirit, and stand in the Spirit against strong opposition. We are kings and priests to God, but not yet with earthly civil authority. That will come, though. Are you prepared to judge the world with Christ?

The Son of God occupies his position as well as he does only because he completely agrees with everything his Father thinks. How well we occupy our places in the kingdom of God will be determined by the same standard. Do we think what God thinks? Do we feel what He feels? I am only as good a pastor as I agree with Jesus. I am harmful to the body of Christ unless I judge as he judges. Any time I think one thing when Jesus is thinking another, I am wrong, and I have become a stumbling block to every saint under my care.

Because Jesus always thinks the way the Father thinks, Jesus is always right. The fundamental issue of life for every child of God is, Do we think the way our heavenly Father thinks? Jesus has the mind of his Father, but do we have the mind of Christ? The value of the Law of Moses is that it gives us a glimpse into the Father’s mind. Moses’ Law was the most precious insight into the heart of God ever known until the Spirit of God was poured out on the day of Pentecost. But what kind of thinking, what kind of judgments, did the Spirit bring into men’s hearts when it came, if not God’s kind of thinking and God’s kind of judgments? That was, after all, what God promised in Jeremiah 31:

31. “Behold, the days come”, says the Lord, “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah,”. . . says the Lord.
33. “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days,” says the Lord, “I will put my Law into their inward parts and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34. And they will teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord!’ For they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” says the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

That promise, that the Law would be put into believers’ hearts, was fulfilled when Christ ascended into heaven and the Spirit of God was sent to dwell within us and to give us the knowledge of God.

What about the Other Commandments?

We are all familiar with God’s moral commandments that are in the Law, laws such as “love your neighbor as yourself”, “thou shalt not steal”, “thou shalt not bear false witness”, “thou shalt not covet”, etc. Everyone agrees that God’s moral commandments are “holy and just and good.” But what about the other judgments of God revealed in the Law, the ones that reveal what God considers to be perfect justice? What about His commandments for the judges and rulers of Israel, the criminal judgments (perfect because the Giver was perfect) such as public whippings for wicked transgressors, or the execution of murderers, adulterers, and harlots, or the forced double or quadruple repayment of stolen property?

• Do we agree with God’s Law, that kidnappers should be put to death? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that the owner of a dangerous animal should be executed if that animal kills someone and the owner knew the animal was dangerous? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every witch should be burned alive? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every person who worships any God but Jehovah should be executed? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every homosexual should be put to death? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every adulterer and adulteress should be put to death? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every son or daughter who rebels against his parents and becomes stubbornly self-indulgent is to be stoned? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns. (Jn. 8:1-11).

The Law of Moses is telling us about the future reign of Christ! It is not a useless ancient document. It came from God and served a purpose to point people to Christ – and it still does, though now it points to his future reign instead of his suffering and death.

David offered the following descriptions of the Law and the judgments of God, from Psalm 19:

7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Do we feel as David felt about the Law and judgments of God? To the extent that we do, we have the mind of Christ and are prepared to reign with him. To the extent that we do not, we are carnally minded and unprepared to reign with Christ, and we will doubtless be a stumbling block to some child of God while we live.

God’s ways are not our ways, but they are right. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, but they are perfect and true. And only those who think as He thinks will reign with His Son when he returns to this earth.