Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hating the Judges at the Gate

All who watch for iniquity are cut off,
who make a man an offender because of a word,
who lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate,
and who turn aside the just for a worthless thing.
Isaiah 29:20-21

Sometimes it happens that a child of God drifts away from righteousness and returns, as Peter said, “to his own vomit”; that is, he returns to the ungodly ways of his past. The good that he learned to love in Christ, loses its appeal, and those whose judgment he learned to respect seem, to him, not so important any more. It never happens overnight. It begins as a seed that, left to itself, grows quietly, almost imperceptibly. But when its fruit finally appears, how very bitter it can be! How much strife and hatred it can engender!

Envy is a seed that can produce such fruit. Solomon said that envy is like “rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30b). This is true. Envy quietly but viciously eats away at one’s spirit like a cancer, whose end can be very painful indeed. Many thousands of people, this very moment, have the disease called cancer, but do not know it. Only when the cancer has grown to a certain size and begins to produce the fruit of bleeding or discomfort and pain will those with cancer learn that it is in their bodies.

Self-will can also produce such fruit. It can also quietly grow until it produces in a soul some of the most bitter of all strife and hatred. Many of God’s dear children suffer from this deadly spiritual disease and do not even know it. But if stubbornness is not recognized and dealt with in its early stages, it will grow and produce such horrible fruit in a life that God compared stubbornness to the sin of idolatry (1Sam. 15:23).

Such things as envy and self-will are invisible sins; they can be hidden in the breast. The thoughts and feelings they produce can be hidden, too, but not forever. If those spiritual weeds are allowed to grow in the heart, they will eventually produce fruit that cannot be hidden. This is why God’s people need pastors and teachers who know God and who have discernment. We all need spiritual “watchmen” who stand on the walls of the city and see things coming that we cannot see, and who warn of us things to come so that we can make the necessary adjustments in our lives to overcome the things that would destroy us.

In the beginning Scripture above, Isaiah mentions those who hate those who “reprove in the gate”. The judicial courts in ancient time were commonly found at the city gates, where respected elders of the city would gather and hear the complaints brought to them by citizens of the city. It happened then, just as it does now, that the guilty sometimes responded to judgments of the courts by confessing their wrong and repenting – and sometimes with anger and hatred. Just as now, sometimes those who are shown to be guilty continue to deny it, and cast aspersions on the character of judges who make right judgments. This evil response to right judgment is the fruit of the deadliest of all those quiet killers of the soul: pride.

Of all the spiritual diseases that can hide in the heart, unrecognized and, so, not cut out, pride is the most deadly because it is the most difficult to admit to. Confession of sin is anathema to pride. Pride would rather kill than confess, and this is why those afflicted with it will “lay a snare for those who reprove in the gate” instead of simply repenting when the judges point out their wrong. The judges who “reprove in the gate” are servants of God who judge without partiality, and historically, they have always been the targets of the wrath of proud people, men and women, whose deeds are evil and whose deeds are reproved.

Isaiah’s description of the proud is perfect. Instead of being healed and restored to fellowship by submitting to life-giving correction from the Lord, the proud turn on the judges at the gate like venomous serpents. They watch them like hawks, looking for anything the judges say or do that can be used to make the judges themselves appear evil. From the moment the proud are exposed by “those who reprove in the gate”, the proud carefully listen to every word that proceeds from the judges’ mouths – not to follow “the instructions of life”, but to see if there is even one word the judges speak that the proud can use to make the judges appear evil. If the proud had listened to the judges that intently when the disease of pride was still small in their hearts, they might have lived forever in peace and harmony with the saints. Now, instead of being healed by words of truth, they listen to those healing words for an evil purpose. How sad!

Pride compels those who are afflicted by it to strive, by any means available, to condemn the judges who reproved them at the gate. Otherwise, the proud themselves have to confess that the judges are right, and pride will never do that. The one goal in life of the proud who are judged is to justify themselves to the world, to win others to a worthless cause: the campaign to condemn those who dare to “reprove in the gate”.

There are a number of stories, old and new, which show that the proud can succeed for while in their craftiness. Sometimes, the proud do manage to move public opinion toward their cause. But I have also noticed, in those same stories, that the gates are never moved. The seats for the elders who sit in judgment remain in their places. And the judges whom God appointed to sit at the gate are still there, patiently doing their duty for God’s people, waiting for and trusting in the great Judge to enforce the judgments they have made.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

“What Is Truth?”

Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him,
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?’”
John 18:38

I doubt that Pilate was being sarcastic when he muttered his question at Jesus. It was an exasperating moment for the Roman procurator. He knew Jesus was innocent, but he couldn’t find a way to get the Jewish mob to agree that Jesus should be released. Pilate was trapped, and at that moment, he probably was sincere in his longing to know what “truth” really was.

We could answer Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”, simply by referring to Jesus’ description of it. Jesus said that the truth makes you free; therefore, whatever makes you free is the truth. The truth, whatever it is, is powerful enough to set sinners free from sin, set the confused free from their ignorance, and set the fearful free from fear.

Pilate needed to be set free from fear of displeasing the angry, evil mob that confronted him; he needed to be set free from fear to do with Jesus what he knew was just; that is, to release him. The love of God would have given Pilate the strength he needed to treat his innocent prisoner justly. Had he possessed the love of God within, Pilate could not have harmed God’s Son. That liberating love of God, Paul said, “is shed abroad in our hearts by the holy Spirit which God has given to us” (Rom. 5:5). So then, for Pilate, God’s love was the truth he needed in his heart, but didn’t have.

Because the holy Spirit sets men free from evil influences, such as the wicked demands which this world makes of us all, John called the Spirit itself “the truth” (1Jn. 5:6). The Spirit will give you whatever truth you need to be set free from whatever binds you. Jesus said that every truth would come by the Spirit (Jn. 16:13), which is to say, all liberty is found by following after the Spirit. Knowing this, Paul wrote, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Cor. 3:17). We might add to that, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is not, there is bondage.”

If the Spirit which makes us free is what leads us into all truth, as Jesus said, and liberty is found only where the Spirit of the Lord is, as Paul said, then we cannot be mistaken to say that those without the Spirit are still in bondage and are without the truth. This is certainly what Paul taught. He said that those without the Spirit of God were “none of His” (Rom. 8:9).

This message of the necessity of the holy Spirit is not given to condemn, but to enlighten and to liberate. If you have been taught that your sins are washed away, but you have not yet received the baptism of the holy Spirit, you need to be liberated from false teaching. The Spirit alone will do that, and when you receive the baptism of the Spirit, you will understand what I mean because your heart will be liberated from the influence of those who, too, need to be liberated from a wrong idea about the way of salvation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Makes You Distinctive?

There is neither Jew nor Greek;
there is neither bond nor free;
there is neither male nor female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

In Christ, NO earthly condition defines you. Do not allow ANY earthly thing to define you! Do not allow any man to persuade you to receive his label, for “you are complete in Christ”, and “he is our life.” You are neither a Jew or a Gentile in the world because “neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” and “faith, that works by love.”

In Christ, you are neither tall nor short, black or white, young or old, American nor Asian, British, African, or Australian. You are neither Democrat, Republican, or Independent. If you are a part of anything other than Christ Jesus that makes you distinctive in this world, the Father is crying out to you, “Come out of her, My people!” There is nothing human about your Father, and in Christ, you are no longer human either, but you are deathless sons of God and ambassadors of the Father’s kingdom in this dark world.

Do not join any of the world’s religious clubs that set men apart from one another. In Christ Jesus, you are neither Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, agnostic, or atheist. Anything that divides you from other people, except for Christ, is of the world and is not of the Father. Do not call yourself by any earthly thing, for all of God’s children are “strangers and pilgrims” in this life with Jesus. Do not join or partake of anything that sets you apart from others, for in Christ Jesus, “we are all “one body, and one bread”, and everything except Christ makes us different from one another in ways that are not of God.

Let the love of God be what defines you. Let His power and His truth be what defines you. Let the fruit of the Spirit be what makes you distinctive in this world. Let Christ live in you, and He will set you apart, in every way, from what is not good in God’s sight. The difference that God’s holy Spirit makes in us is the only difference that needs to be made.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Prisoners to Freedom

“The Lord releases the prisoners.”

Psalm 146:7

“How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning . . .

who opened not the house of his prisoners.”

Isaiah 14:12, 15-17

God is not a beggar. He and His ministers do not beg for money, and they do not beg for praise or for followers. “Whosoever will” means that those who want to follow Jesus are allowed to, but it also means that all who do not want to follow Jesus are allowed to follow their own heart instead. Jesus makes us so free that we cannot escape the liberty he has given to us.

Long ago, Jesus taught me to be like him and never put pressure on people to be a part of my ministry if their hearts were not in it. Consequently, I have never gone out looking for “members” or by any means attempted to persuade anyone to join in this ministry. Nor have I ever put pressure on the people God sent to be a part of this ministry to stay once they were here. Nor yet have I ever pursued after anyone who chose to no longer associate with me and my work. I leave all that up to God, and I thank Him for every one He sends to help, and for every one He takes away. Every person now associated with me in my work knows that if he or she chooses to leave, I will not ever chase after them, trying to change their minds. They know they are perfectly free to do what is in their hearts to do. I would not have it any other way.

In fact, decades ago, the Lord told me to offer a “money-back guarantee” to any person who became a partner here with me, but who – for any reason whatsoever – afterward regretted supporting this ministry with their tithes and offerings. God and His ministers are not beggars. And I have imitated my heavenly Father in making sure that every person working with me is doing so only because they truly want to, by making sure that they know (1) they are free to leave at any time and (2) if they want their money back, they can have it. (For obvious tax reasons, this refund can only apply to money given within the most recent fiscal year.)

The freedom with which the Son makes us free is so real and so all-encompassing that it can be frightening to consider. God is so much a God of liberty that He will have no unwilling servants. Of course, there will be dire consequences for unfaithfulness because every one of us will reap what we sow; still, God has determined that we be free to choose not to serve our Lord if we don’t want to. He will make real promises, but He will not manipulate; He will warn, but He will not threaten; and He will plead, but He will not hound those who turn from Him and go another way. God’s wayward children may be dearly loved and sorely missed, but when Jesus makes us “free indeed”, part of that gift of ultimate freedom is the freedom to cease from serving him if love for the world enters in. He will let us go if we insist on it. After all, he makes us “free indeed”, if we are not free to choose disobedience and rebellion, then we are not free to choose love and faithfulness. If we cannot turn from him and embrace eternal death, we are not free at all.

God willingly releases His prisoners if they want to escape from Him. He loves us too much to hold us against our will. He forces no one to serve Him, and if you feel discontent with Him, He would rather you feel content with someone else than to keep you bound in discontentment to Him. Only God really wants you to be free to live the way your heart wants to live.

Friday, February 5, 2010


So then, my dearly loved brothers,

be steadfast, unmoveable, abounding in the work of the Lord always.

1Corinthians 15:58

Thoughts inspired by chapter 7 of the book, God Had a Son Before Mary Did

In order for Satan to be able to move someone, to influence a person’s choices, that person must hold in his heart a wrong idea about God. Satan cannot deceive, intimidate, or influence anyone who possesses the true knowledge of God. When Paul prayed that the saints would be “unmoveable”and “rooted and grounded” (Eph. 3:17), what he was praying for is simply that they would attain to the knowledge of their heavenly Father. When Jesus said that the truth would make us free (Jn. 8:31-32), he meant that the knowledge of God would make us free from the power of darkness to influence our feelings, our thoughts, and our choices.

The Lord showed me in August, 1981, that the biggest enemy of His people is not the devil; rather, our biggest enemy is what we still don’t know about God. He said through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Satan knows how to use our ignorance against us. He works in places we don’t yet understand. He maneuvers in those spiritual areas where we are ignorant. He cannot work in the light, for in the light, he is exposed for what he really is. Jesus promised that all who trust in him will have the “light of life” (Jn. 8:12), which means that if we trust Jesus, he will lead us to a spiritual place where Satan has no more influence on our spirits because we provide him no place to hide.

The way to eternal life is simple. All we have to do is walk in the light of the Spirit that God has given us, and the light of the Spirit is the knowledge of God. That is why Jesus once defined eternal life as simply knowing the Father and the Son (Jn. 17:3). If we possess that life, that true knowledge of God that comes through the Spirit, we will be unmoveable, free from the influences of every ungodly spirit, whether human or otherwise.

The Prosecutor

Thoughts inspired by chapter 7 of the book, God Had a Son Before Mary Did

Ezekiel said that Satan was “full of wisdom”(Ezek. 28:12). With this information, we can understand that when Satan doubted righteous Job’s strength to remain faithful to God in adverse conditions, he was not being simple-minded. He was basing that opinion on many years of careful observation of human behavior. Satan had no doubt seen many righteous people over the centuries become discouraged and turn from righteousness when hard times came. Other heavenly creatures probably felt just as Satan did; that is, if God caused Job to suffer, then Job would turn from righteousness and “curse God to his face.”

In the Old Testament, Satan is depicted as having the disposition of an unbending prosecutor. He regularly acted in God’s court as the accuser of those who did wrong; as in the case of a high priest in Israel named Joshua (Zech. 3:1-2), and even with Judas (Ps. 109:4-6; Acts 1:20). Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren”, but what most people miss is the fact that, in the Old Testament time, what he accused people of, they had usually actually done! Satan was unrelenting in his determination to see to it that transgressors of God’s law were tried and punished to the fullest extent. But he was proud, and unlike God, he did not rejoice in showing mercy to those who turned from sin and repented.

When Jesus condemned certain rulers in Israel as “sons of the devil”, he was condemning them most of all for being like the devil in their attitude toward sinners. Those highly respected elders in Israel demanded, with merciless vehemence, strict obedience to their law and their traditions, and they did not rejoice in mercy. They were, indeed, exactly what Jesus said they were: physical representatives of the invisible personality of Satan.

In one case, those elders brought to Jesus a woman caught in the very act of adultery. They quoted Moses’ law, which condemned her to death for such a sin, and they demanded that Jesus concur with their condemnation of the hapless woman. Ironically, Jesus did agree with them, and with the law they claimed to stand for, which held that the fallen woman was worthy of death. But Jesus went beyond that. He didn’t merely agree with the law God gave to Moses; he agreed with God, and he did so by reminding those elders that those who execute God’s righteous judgments must themselves be righteous. When Jesus did that, he rested his case, and left the defenseless woman to her cruel accusers. But her accusers, elders in Israel and prosecutors of the law, were condemned by their own conscience and drifted out, one by one, leaving Jesus alone with the adulteress.

The humiliated, humble woman stood there, silent, amazed that she had not been dragged out to be stoned. Jesus gently spoke to her and mercifully sent her home, with this one commandment: “Go, and sin no more.” What love! What mercy! That is something Satan has never felt to say to anyone. Prosecutors don’t do that.

God does demand obedience, and He warns us of the dangers of disobedience. But He is not proud. He is merciful, “not willing that any should perish.” He can be stern, and He will certainly condemn the guilty if they do not repent, but His heart is more like that of a defender than a prosecutor. His first choice is always that sinners turn from sin. And if any sinner does repent and begin to do what is right, God has promised that his past sins will never be mentioned against him again (Ezek. 33:14-16).

Satan, on the other hand, and those who are like him, cannot stop talking about the past sins of people. He is obsessed with prosecution. He is proud and cold-hearted, able only to live by the letter of the law, the same “letter” that Paul says kills men. Satan cannot feel as God does toward the fallen because he is proud of how right he is. He judges by the book, and he knows it well, but he cannot judge by the holy Spirit of God because God is more concerned with being good than he is with being right.

Every wise person takes advantage of the mercy that God offers those who have done wrong. They, like God, rejoice in mercy, but they rejoice not only in receiving it, but they also rejoice, as God does, in showing it to others.