Tuesday, November 30, 2010


This is a message by G. C. "Preacher" Clark, from about 1965,

slightly edited by Pastor John for this BLOG

Sin, as we know, is very subtle and deeply imbedded in the nature of mankind. Of the three elements of which this world is made - “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1Jn. 2:16) - the lust of the flesh seems to be chief. Many of us who follow Jesus have been deceived by the spirit of lust and have made gluttons of ourselves. We have often denounced “the lust of the flesh” in other respects, but not in our overeating. Throughout the Bible, God condemned gluttony and drunkenness with the same degree of displeasure. Nevertheless, we find many among the followers of Christ who have failed to see this. All true children of God, I feel, are opposed to drunkenness. At the same time, many of these prohibitionists are inclined to eat too much.

After conducting healing campaigns and mailing out thousands of anointed handkerchiefs – since 1930 – I have learned that the greatest physical cause of sickness among the people of God is overindulgence in eating. Obviously, Jesus saw this deceiving demon at work when he enjoined his disciples, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be with overcharged with surfeiting [self-indulgence, or gluttony], and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Lk. 21:34). There have never been so many “overcharged” hearts as we find today, and not all of these heart failures are coming from drunkenness and cares of this life. Thousands of truly converted people are sick and are suffering with heart trouble or other ailments associated with overeating.

Did you ever wonder why artists have never depicted any of Jesus’ disciples as being overweight or of the fleshy type? It is because they know that no one could have followed Jesus very long and remained overweight. There were times when Jesus and his disciples could not so much as pause for a meal (Mk. 3:20). What about you? Some have gone so long without fasting and have gained so much surplus weight that the demon of lust will not let them fast. He makes them sick and nervous every time they try. No, the artists have yet to paint one drunkard or glutton among the followers of our Lord.

You remember that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a little “red pottage”. Oh, that demon of gluttony! Esau, of course, had plenty of good wholesome food, for he was “a man of the field” – a deer hunter; still, he craved “red pottage”, a thick soup made by his brother Jacob. Seemingly, I can hear his words now, as he cried to Jacob, “Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage” (Gen. 25:30). There has been a time when gluttons and drunkards were taken out by the elders of Israel and stoned to death (Deut. 21:18-21). It is fortunate for us that we live under this New Covenant of grace, for we might lose some of our good sisters and brothers in the Lord – not for drunkenness, to be sure, but for gluttony.

No artist could draw a more vivid picture of the gluttonous multitude which is in the body of Christ today than these following words, coming from the pen of the Apostle Paul in his description of some of the saints at Philippi: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind early things” (Phip. 3:17-19).

Reader, perhaps you are asking the question, “Am I among these gluttons who are making a god out of their belly?” The answer will have to come from you, my friend; however, I will ask you a few questions in helping you to form the correct answer. First, let me ask you, are you overweight? If you don’t know, check with some competent authority and find out. For instance, my weight once was one hundred eighty pounds, thirty pounds overweight. My height calls for one hundred fifty pounds, which I now weigh. So you see, I was thirty pounds overweight, or shall I say twenty percent glutton. Since bringing my weight back to normal, I feel like a new person, especially in body. I suffered many different diseases during my twenty years of carrying this surplus weight. But since my last healing, which was most miraculous, I have brought my weight down, as I was shown to do, through the great light on this subject: Gluttony.

God can and will heal any disease coming from the evil of overeating; however, His healings still carry the command, “Sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon you” (Jn. 5:14). That great man of God, the apostle Paul, turns this emphatic statement of Jesus’ into the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” The answer is obviously “NO”; for when God heals us, He wants us to cease doing whatever brought on our sickness. In other words, if sleeping in a draft gave you a cold, and God heals you of this cold, then He expects you to quit sleeping in the draft. Or if eating too much has brought on high blood pressure, heart trouble, or one of the many other diseases which come from being overweight, then God requires a reduction in your eating. Gluttony works just like any other sin. The thief must quit stealing, the liar must stop lying, the glutton must stop overeating. Children of God, let’s keep our bodies free from the sin of gluttony, realizing they are the temple of the Spirit of God. There is a place in God where sin and sickness cannot reach us. I know this to be true, even though we may not be altogether there. Yet, thank God for His promise and the desire we have to reach this place in Him. Listen to this promise of His: “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and will do that which is right in His sight and will give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you which I have brought upon the Egyptians [the world], for I am the Lord who heals you” (Ex. 15:26). Again, God says to His people, “And you will serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread, and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you” (Ex. 23:25). Don’t forget, God never changes. The preceding promises are as much for us today as they were for Israel centuries ago.

God’s power to heal is being increasingly demonstrated, as time approaches for the gift of healing, along with the other gifts, to be re-established as normative in the body of Christ. Every honest and sincere minister will declare the availability of God’s healing power. And, as we have stated, there is every reason why we should bring our souls, spirits, and bodies into harmony with the perfect will of God. Paul, in counseling his followers, said, “I pray God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless [kept sound] unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thes. 5:23). What precious promises are given to us – if we will only obey God!

The gospel of Christ has not only a forgiveness-of-sin quality but also a healing quality. But we must remember that to receive and retain either or both of these blessings, we must obey the command, “Go and sin no more.” May the Lord bless this message to the heart of every reader.

Monday, November 29, 2010

True Doctrine is a Testimony

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.”
Peter, in 1Peter 4:11

I’d have you to know, brothers, regarding the gospel delivered by me, that it is not of man. I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it,
but by a revelation from Jesus Christ.”
Paul, in Galatians 1:11-12

The only truth that exists is what the Spirit is saying this moment. Moses and Aaron found out, as did many other biblical characters, that what God commanded to be done in one situation was not the truth later. And because Moses and his brother did not learn that lesson in time, they sinned by keeping an old commandment and were forbidden to lead Israel into the land of Canaan. God said to them, “Because you did not believe me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (Num. 20:12). Moses did what God commanded him to do in an earlier, and similar, situation, but God had now given Moses a different commandment, and Moses and Aaron failed to obey it. We might say that they went by tradition rather than by a living faith.

Because only what the Spirit is saying right now is true, the relationship between God and His servants must be a living one. Otherwise, that servant will certainly harm God’s people by following an old pattern, one that worked at another time and in another circumstance. If a minister has no testimony of receiving his doctrine from God, stay away from him. He is only repeating a rumor about God that he has either heard from another man or that he has only read about in the Bible. He does not personally know what he is talking about.

If a pastor’s sermon is not a part of his testimony, if what he is saying is not the result of a personal experience with God, he is teaching falsely as far as he knows. The things that Paul taught the Gentiles were the result of a personal experience with God. He spoke of being “caught up to the third heaven” and of hearing things from God that were “not lawful for a man to speak.” And when his converts were being led astray by men who were teaching things of the past, Paul wrote them with tears, “Who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” Paul knew they had been fooled by men who could repeat much about what other men, such as Moses and the prophets, had received from God, but had no testimony of their own.

God is a living God. Therefore, the only issue of life is, what is God's Spirit saying now to the saints? Whatever that is, is the only truth that exists anywhere for God’s people, and everything else is a lie, no matter what great man of God in history used to say it and (as Moses’ story proves) no matter even if God used to say it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Friends Question:

Eating and Drinking in 1Corinthians 11

Pastor John

Thank you for your previous reply to my question about 1Corinthians 11.

It's true that we now worship God in spirit and in truth, but these believers were "physically eating and drinking" earthly substance without conducting themselves properly. That's the reason why Paul was correcting and instructing them on that matter. But why did Paul not explicitly explain to them to forsake those earthly, fleshy substance and partake in the real things of the spirit, as you explained to me?



Greetings, Brother Jerome.

Let's eat together this message from Paul to the Corinthians, one small bite at a time, and wash it down by taking a spiritual drink or two! The following is from our translation of 1Corinthians, which you can find on our web site: www.GoingtoJesus.com

¶ 17. Now, in the following instruction, I do not praise you, for you come together not for the better but for the worse.

NOTE: Their gatherings in Corinth were so out of order that it would have been better for them not to have any gatherings at all. But what was the problem? Paul explains:

18. For, first of all, when you come together as a congregation, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.

19. For it is necessary that there be factions among you so that those among you who are approved by God might be revealed.

NOTE: The root cause for their meetings being worse than worthless was the lack of unity that existed among them. Paul already addressed the issue of their divisions in 1:10-13, so there was no need to go into that again here. He refers to it here only as an explanation as to why it would be better to have no gatherings than to have the kind of gatherings they were having.

20. Therefore, when you meet together in the same place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

NOTE: The word "therefore" is key. "Therefore" means that the reason they cannot partake of "the Lord's supper" is what Paul had just said to them; to wit, they are divided. It is not because of their use or misuse of natural substances, such as bread and wine. Division among the saints is what prevents the blood of the Spirit from flowing from one to another; it prevents some from receiving the testimonies of others, and vice versa. We MUST have the blood of Christ flowing among us, or we should just stay away from each other.

The reason it was not the Lord's Supper wasn’t because of what they were eating, or how they were eating, but because of what they could not eat. Because they were divided, they could not eat each other!

21. For in eating, each goes ahead and eats his own supper first, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.

22. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for God’s congregation and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? I do not praise you.

NOTE: In these two verses, what Paul says was being done wrong was that the richer believers were bringing food to a meeting and eating it in the presence of hungry, poorer believers without sharing any of it (v. 21). That was cruel. The point of Paul bringing that subject up was to emphasize their divisions and lack of the love of God, and to command the saints in Corinth that if they wanted to eat physical food, then -- notice this! -- they are to eat it at home, not bring it to the gatherings of the saints! This is what Paul was talking about when he indignantly exclaimed, "What! Don't you have [your own] houses to eat and drink in?" In these verses, Paul is not trying to teach the saints how to eat and drink physically when they meet; rather, he is forbidding them to eat and drink physically at all when they meet.

One of the basics of building successful home meetings is to leave off physical eating and drinking. I have seen home meetings wrecked because meals and snacks became a regular part of the meetings. You may have noticed that I mention this issue in my instructions for a sound home fellowship, on the front page of the PastorJohnsHouse web site. This is what I wrote:

“I have never seen a prayer meeting succeed in becoming what it ought when eating and drinking becomes a part of it. Don't mix food with worship. The same can be said about ceremonies. Don't bring church into the home and then think it is not church. You can have church religion in a home as well as in a church building. Leave off snacks and leave off ceremonies. Just live in the Spirit together, and grow together in the light of God.”

23. For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread,

24. and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “Take and eat. This is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

25. Likewise, after supper, he also took the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood; do this, as often as you drink, in remembrance of me,”

26. for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

NOTE: Here, Paul explains that fellowship among the saints (receiving one another) is the bread we break, and that drinking of the Spirit is drinking of "the cup of the Lord". Paul has already explained in 1Corinthians 10:15-17.

27. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a manner unworthy of the Lord sins against the body and blood of the Lord.

28. Let a man examine himself; only then is he to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

29. For he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

30. Because of this, many are feeble and sick among you, and quite a few have fallen asleep.

31. If we would judge ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.

32. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we be not condemned along with the world.

NOTE: Since eating and drinking the Lord's Supper is not a physical consumption of earthly substance but a shared spiritual experience, if we partake of that experience in an unworthy manner (that is, with secret sin), we will be judged for it. If eating and drinking natural substance were deadly for sinners, Christians would be dropping dead all the time, for they regularly partake of their fleshly ceremony, and at the same time confess that they cannot cease from sin. Besides this plain fact, Jesus himself told us that "nothing entering into a man defiles him; it is what comes out of a man that defiles him" (Mk. 7:14-23). On another occasion, when Jesus, like Paul, seemed to be speaking of natural eating and drinking (Jn. 6), he told his disciples, "The flesh is worthless! The words that I speak to you are spiritual, and they are life!" Paul was speaking the same way, spiritually.

33. So then, my brothers, when coming together to eat, wait for one another.

34. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you do not come together for condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

NOTE: Finally, Paul exhorts the saints to love and consider one another ("tarry for one another") if and when they do meet for a meal, and as a last reminder, that they are NOT to eat natural food when they gather to worship the Lord, but to eat physically at home before they come to the meeting. Otherwise, their meetings will be harmful for them, not beneficial.

Above, you asked me, "Why did Paul not explicitly explain to them to forsake those earthly, fleshy substance and partake in the real things of the spirit just as you just explained?" I cannot imagine how Paul could have more plainly told them to avoid (in worship) the consumption of earthly, fleshly substance and to partake, in harmony, of the real things of the Spirit. By giving the commandment -- twice -- for them to eat physically at home before their meetings, was not Paul doing exactly what you say he did not do? Is that not how you see it? Please let me know.

FYI, Jerome, I have been a student of the background of Western Culture for some years now. Let me point out to you a widespread element of the Classical culture which in time was transformed into the religion of Christianity. In the Classical world, there was no sense of responsibility for the poor. If a wealthy man had an impulse to give of his wealth, he normally would give something to his city. He would sponsor the construction of a temple, public baths, or an amphitheater, or erect a statue to one of the city's gods, or sponsor some sporting event, etc. Simply giving to the poor was not done because (1) it brought no fame to one's city and, therefore, brought no fame to oneself, and (2) the poor were commonly seen as lesser creatures, even of "inferior blood", and so, not worthy of much consideration.

One erudite book that deals well with this topic, though it is thick reading, so to speak, is The Politics of Munificence in the Roman Empire: Citizens, Elites and Benefactors in Asia Minor by Arjan Zuiderhoek. Mr. Zuiderhoek convincingly shows how deeply embedded in the Classical world was the impetus and pressures to give -- but to the city or state, not simply to the poor, and that the inspiration for most munificence at that time was the desire for fame, not love for one's fellow man. The rich did not consider the poor their "fellows" at all.

In the attitude of the richer folk in Corinth, we can see this Classical quality of carelessness toward the feelings and needs of the poor, and I believe that is what Paul was indignant that the saints there were allowing the status of the wealthy in the Greco-Roman world to become a guiding influence in the congregation.

Your servant,

Pastor John

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fourteen Years

We have some old recordings of prayer meetings (from the late 1960‘s through the early 1980’s) that were held at Grandma’s farmhouse in Nash County, NC. Her farm was far from any city of size, and there were not a lot of people involved. Sometimes, no more than a dozen people showed up (but they showed up happy). When young Earl Pittman became involved with them and received the baptism of the holy ghost, he loved those simple gatherings so much that he purchased some equipment to record them. What a treasure those recordings are to us now!

I was young when Brother Earl did this and did not take part in the fellowship he was enjoying, so these meetings are new to me as well as to others. Some of the sermons, testimonies, and singing of those saints are absolutely thrilling to us; they challenge us to be finished with the world, to love and honor Jesus, live a holy life, and be pure in the sight of God.

One of the most stunning of those old testimonies came from 65-year-old “Uncle Joe”, a big man with an even bigger heart. Here is his testimony in that prayer meeting held in the farmhouse in which he was brought up, and six years after his mother, “Grandma Edna” had died:

Uncle Joe’s Testimony

You know, I’ve been thinking. Instead of saying, “You’re going to reap what you sow,” just say, “You are going to reap what you strew along the way.” You know, you can’t do anything without being rewarded for it. My mother rewarded me, I was thinking this week, about the time we moved down to Flood’s Chapel. We had no mule, had no wagon, had nothing, and the woman [on whose farm] we lived ....we were using her team to farm with. Mama bought a hundred pound sack of sugar, and she wanted me to bring it from the store to the house, and she said if I would do it, she would give me a quarter. And I put that hundred pounds of sugar on my back and took it to the house, she gave me the quarter. A quarter might not seem like much now, but back then, a quarter was five Pepsi Colas or five games of pool. She rewarded me for doing that, praise God, and God is going to reward us.

I believe we can know how long we are going to live. I got in touch with God last week, and He told me how long I could live -- with an option I could call for more if I wanted it. [After a little silence from everyone] I know what I am talking about! God told me I could have fourteen more years. I would just be as old as Brother Clark is, 79. With an option to ask for more if I wanted it. And ya’ll just need to make up your minds that you’re gonna have to put up with me a little while; ‘cause I’m going to be around. I’m not doubting God one bit. Glory to God. Whether I want to or not, I am here for a purpose. I didn’t choose God. God chose me. He hasn’t called somebody He didn’t want. He called everyone He wanted and needed. Glory to God! And it’s for a purpose that He called. Glory to God! We’re here to answer that calling. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that. Where in the world would we be if we hadn’t obeyed God’s call to be here, Earl? Praise God! It’s because someone sowed some seed along the way. Somebody yielded something. Gave something. Left an example that we should follow their footsteps. Same example as the Lord left. Praise God! “Who did no sin, neither was any guile found in his mouth.” No bitterness. That’s why they say a dove is like the holy Spirit; there is no bitterness. He can’t eat the things that other birds can eat because he doesn’t have any gall to devour it, to digest it with. I heard that said the other day. Praise God. I think it’s wonderful.

I don’t have anywhere else to go. Praise God! I’ve already been. Glory to God! I’ve been to all these false churches. Given a hundred dollars to this man and a hundred dollars to that man. What in the world did we gain from it? A lot of times, we even felt bad about it. I did. I’ve almost come nearer backsliding over that than anything I’ve ever done. A man came there in the middle of the winter and had a heater in his tent, I went out there, didn’t have anything, wound up giving him, I think, about 97 dollars during his campaign. After I left there, I nearly starved to death for lack of food. I didn’t nearly starve to death, but I was missing what I gave to him and regret giving it to him. It was sin for me to even do it, I believe. I do believe I was mistreating myself by doing it, and they get up there and beg and plead, and get on and plow on our sympathy and on the good nature that God has given you, to get money out of people, and I just go ahead and give. Glory to God! I’m not giving anything now I don’t regret. I don’t have much to give, but what I give now I don’t regret a penny of it. And if I didn’t think I was supporting the truth, I would want that back. Every penny of it! Glory to God! Hallelujah!


As I listened to this old recording for the first time, not long ago, I started counting up the years Uncle Joe lived after this testimony, and I realized that at the end of his promised fourteen years, God did give him, through a doctor, the option of more years if Uncle Joe would agree to undergo an operation to remove a small spot on his lung, but as Uncle Joe said to me at the time, “I’ve been cut on enough already. I think I’ll just let it go.” By being cut on already, Uncle Joe was referring, in part, to the major surgery he went through in 1959, when doctors at Veteran’s Hospital in Durham, NC, found him so full of cancer that they gave him a mere sixty to ninety days to live. But, of course, those doctors could not take into account a visit from God’s angel when they made their prognosis. That sweet visit from the heavenly messenger extended Uncle Joe’s life and filled it with health -- for another thirty-seven years!

I dare say that the folk in Grandma’s living room that day could hardly believe that God had actually revealed to Uncle Joe how much longer he would live and that if Uncle Joe wanted it, he would be given more years than that. I do not recall that the subject was ever mentioned again, either by Uncle Joe or anyone else. But the word of God is true, and that is why we can trust our souls to it, and boldly testify of it, as did Uncle Joe.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Coals of Fire

Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man. Preserve me from the violent men who imagine mischiefs in their heart. Continually are they gathered together for war. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.

Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men who have purposed to overthrow my goings. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords. They have spread a net by the wayside; they have set traps for me. Selah.

I said unto the Lord, “Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord.” O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle. Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked! Further not his wicked device, lest they exalt themselves. Selah.

As for the head of those who compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into the fire, into deep pits, that they rise not up again.

Psalm 140:1-10

The prayer of this godly man was no doubt answered. There can be no doubt that God did rescue him from the poisonous hatred and evil intentions of those who wanted to destroy him and his work and that God did pour out "coals of fire" on the head of those evil men. But if God did so, He did so only because the godly man did things God's way. He took his cause to the Lord, and then waited on Him for justice. He did not avenge himself.

God will answer our prayers for His help, too, if we follow the Bible’s wise examples of trusting God. David provided a perfect example of trusting God to be his avenger when he and his loyal friends were fleeing from David’s angry son, Absalom, and his army:

2Samuel 16

5. And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera. He came forth, and cursed still as he came.

6. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.

7. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, “Come out, come out, you bloody man!” And, “You man of Belial!”

8. The Lord has returned on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned.” And “the Lord has handed the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son!” and, “Behold, you have been taken in your own mischief, because you are a bloody man!”

9. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray you, and take off his head.”

10. And the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? Let him curse so, because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David!’ Who shall then say, Why have you done so?”

11. And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, “Behold, my son, who came out of my bowels, is seeking my life. How much more now may this Benjamite do it? Leave him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him.

12. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.”

13. And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along on the hill's side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.

Solomon exhorted his son to follow King David's example:

Proverbs 25

21. If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.

22. For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord will reward you.

Paul exhorted the saints in Rome to give good heed to Solomon's wise counsel:

Romans 12

19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

20. Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.

21. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Every righteous soul, regardless of the pain inflicted, waits on the Lord to judge his cause. To avenge oneself is an expression of unbelief and pride. It is ungodly so much as to “bring a railing accusation” against the devil himself (Jude 9), much less to speak or do evil against human beings who have done you wrong. Be patient. The day of righteous, eternal Judgment is coming, the day when all things will be made known, and all things will be made right. In the meantime, trust in the Lord and live as He says for you to live.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Family of God

“To Timothy, my real son in the faith.”
Paul, in 1Timothy 1:2

Matthew 12
46. While he was speaking to the multitudes, his mother and brothers were standing outside demanding to speak to him.
47. And someone said to him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside demanding to speak to you."
48. But he answered and said to the man who spoke to him,"Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
49. Then, extending his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.
50. For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother."

God has a time appointed for us all to be confronted with a decision. That decision, which will have eternal consequences, will be determined by what you feel in your heart now concerning this simple question: Was it really the Son of God speaking in Jesus Christ, and was He serious about what he said? But let’s narrow the focus down to the verses above, from Matthew 12. Do you think that Jesus really meant what he said? I don’t mean, do you think he meant what he said in some philosophical, other-worldly way. I mean, in practical, daily, real-world terms, do you believe that Jesus was serious in saying that his family is made up only of those who hear the word of God and obey it?

If you answer, “no”, Jesus did not mean his words to be taken literally, then you must answer this question: What, really, did Jesus mean? When he defined his real family as obedient hearers of the word of God, and if he did not mean exactly what he said, then what did he mean?

The truth is, there is no hidden message in Jesus’ words. The Lord meant exactly what it sounds like he meant. And he not only said precisely what he intended to say; I am persuaded that he is still saying it -- and that he still means it the same way. I am persuaded that God, through Jesus Christ, still considers no one to be a member of His family except those who have heard from Him, and who have obeyed what they heard.

Confessing Christ

Many years ago, Jesus taught me that if we follow his example in just this one thing, if we are like him in nothing but this holy attitude concerning who our real family is, those who are of this world will hate us. There is something about Jesus’ innocent and pure way of looking at life and family that enrages those who are “in the flesh” rather than “in the Spirit”. Nevertheless, at some point in your walk with God, you will be compelled to face the hatred and summon the courage (the courage of Jesus) to confess God’s family. That is no strange thing. Isn’t the confession of belonging to God’s family just another way of confessing that we are “aliens and pilgrims on the earth”, as did our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Heb. 11:13)? Would an alien to earth have relatives living here?

What did Paul mean when he said we are citizens of a heavenly country (Heb. 11:16)? or that we are God’s ambassadors for Christ (2Cor. 5:20)? Make your decision! Was Paul really speaking for Christ? Did he really mean what he said? Or was Peter serious about describing the lives of saints on earth as a “sojourning” (1Pet. 1:17); that is, a temporary stay in a foreign land? Of course these men meant what they said! It was real to them! They did not belong on earth, and they said so. And for those men of God to make such a confession was to confess Christ, who came from his heavenly home into this wicked world to make it possible for us to belong in his world and to belong to his family. But if we who believe refuse to confess that basic truth before men, Jesus warned us that he will refuse to confess us before the Father:

Matthew 10
32. Everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.
But whoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

When Paul called believers “brothers” and “sisters”, he was confessing Christ and his family before men. Paul understood that all who believe have the same heavenly Father, and he lived his life as though the family of God really was his family. That was not evil for Paul to do. Neither does that mean that Paul was unkind or unmindful of the feelings and needs of any earthly relatives that he had. He said he grieved constantly for his unbelieving “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:1-3). We never hear of any of Paul’s close natural relatives coming to Christ, but he must have maintained some sort of relationship with some of them, even if a small one. Paul’s sister’s son, you will recall, was visiting him in prison in Caesarea when the lad overheard some Jews making plans to murder Paul (Acts 23:12-16).


Paul exhorted the saints to do good to everyone, as opportunity presented itself, but then he added, “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). In this, Paul was telling the saints that to do good to God’s children is more important than to do good to others. What made Paul’s exhortation a godly one is that doing good to “those of the household of faith” pleases God more than doing good to others. God “loved the world” and gave His Son for the sins of all; still, He holds His children dearer than He does worldly people, and everything in the Bible, rightly divided, teaches us that.

God, speaking through Moses on one occasion and the young prophet Zechariah on another, told His Old Testament people that among all nations, they were “the apple of my eye” (Dt. 32:10; Zech. 2:8). There will come a time, appointed for us of the Father, when we will be called upon to confess that Moses and Zechariah, as well as Christ Jesus and Paul, and others like them, were really speaking for God and that they really meant what they said. God’s family is special to Him, and while He may be willing, at this moment in time, to forgive and receive sinners, He will in the end destroy them forever if they do not repent, and He make sure the wicked never trouble His dear children again.

At some point in your pilgrimage, my brothers and sisters, you will be asked by God to confess His Son and His family before men. That family begins with God’s Son, your brother, Jesus, and it includes all who love God as Jesus does. But be prepared for the hatred and the slander that will follow your confession. The world abhors and scoffs at the very idea of anyone belonging to a real, distinguishable family of God in Christ; therefore, when any of God’s children testify to the reality of that sweet, holy family, and testify of their participation in it, they will feel both the contempt of ungodly men and the burning heat of the world’s cruel wrath.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Desiring Whatever He Gives

“Let the righteous smite me; it will be a kindness.

Let him reprove me; it will be an excellent oil which will not break my head."

Psalm 141:5

Straightening up the papers on a desk in my office this morning, I ran across an old letter from Brother Ray Lawson, dated May 1, 2009. (That says something, I guess, about the condition of my office.) Anyway, as I was going through those papers, I found several letters from Brother Ray that I had saved, and in one of them, I had underlined this sentence, in red ink:

"God sure wants to love us, so let us want to love all that He has for us."

May God give us the wisdom to desire whatever He has for us, as Ray said. Faith does that. How sad it would be if we refused any goodness from our heavenly Father, whether His goodness is expressed in some great blessing or some great trial! Either way, God is loving us and making us more like Him, if we will have it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who Are You Going to Kiss?

“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”
1Thessalonians 5:26

There are some things that belong only to the children of God, just as there are things that belong only to the world. When Paul exhorted the saints in Thessalonica to greet the other believers there with a holy kiss, he was not telling them to kiss everybody. If they went around kissing everybody, there would surely have been sinners who would misunderstand what those people were doing. Some effeminate men of the world might assume that the brethren who kissed them were looking for a date!

As I said, there are some things that belong only to the family of God.

Thinking on this brought up a question within me today. If the proof of someone being born again is not the baptism of the holy ghost, with the evidence of the Spirit speaking in tongues through the person it baptizes, how then would God’s children know whom to kiss? How would they be able to judge who is a brother and who is not? Are we left to make up our own minds as to who is a believer and who is not? Or are we to kiss everyone who claims to belong to Christ? If so, what about those whom Paul said “made themselves out to be apostles of Christ”, or those Paul called “false brethren”, or the ones Jesus warned us of, the “false prophets”? If we are to judge things ourselves, or trust the testimony of men and embrace as brothers and sisters all who claim to be brothers and sisters, how could there be any such thing as a “false brother”? Jesus certainly did not believe people when they testified to his face that they believed in him (Jn. 2:23-25). Are we to think differently from the way our Master thinks?

It is such a blessing for us all that our heavenly Father has kept it in His own power to declare who is His and who is not. He alone knows the hearts of men, and He alone, then, knows when a person has truly repented. This is what Peter stressed to the elders in Jerusalem when some of them did not want to accept the fact that Jesus had baptized Gentiles into the kingdom of God. He stood up and told them, “God, who knows the heart, bore them witness, giving them the holy ghost, as He did unto us” (Acts 15:8).

God alone knows when the inner man has been forgiven and washed from sin. Man’s testimony carries no weight in heaven, and it carries no weight in the hearts of those who are in tune with heaven. God alone gives the witness of it. Paul said that God does this by sending His holy Spirit into our hearts, “crying, ‘abba’ Father!” John said that God bears witness by sending the Spirit into our fleshly temples, the Spirit “confessing that Christ has come into the flesh.” Jesus told Nicodemus that we would hear the sound (or “voice”) of the Spirit every time someone is born of the Spirit.

The principal reason that those holy men of God made it so clear how to know who really has the Spirit and belongs to the family of God (for without the Spirit, we are “none of his” - Rom. 8:9b) is so that we would not go around giving the holy kiss of fellowship to everybody who claims to be of God.

Please allow me to ask you, how do you know whom to greet as a brother, by a kiss or any other acceptable greeting, if you do not wait for the Spirit’s testimony to confirm that someone’s sins have been washed away? Paul wrote, “No man can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, but by the holy ghost” (1Cor. 12:3). It seems to me that we would do well to remember that, the next time someone testifies that his sins have been washed away, but he just hasn’t yet received the holy ghost.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Empowered to Hate

“The world cannot hate you,
but it hates me because I testify of it,
that its works are evil.”

Jesus, in John 7:7

I had always understood the above verse to mean, “The world doesn’t hate you”, but that is not what the Lord said. He said, “The world cannot hate you....” Recently, the Lord brought that verse to my attention and helped me understand what he was really saying to his earthly brothers, Mary’s other sons.

Jesus told his brothers that the world could not hate them, and then he told them why the world could not hate them, but could hate him: they did not testify to the world, that its deeds were evil, but he did. The fundamental reason that the world crucified Jesus instead of his brothers was that Jesus brought light into the world; that is, he brought the knowledge of God to men, which is the knowledge of what is truly good AND of what is truly evil. Standing before Pontius Pilate, Jesus said, “For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (Jn. 18:37). Jesus’ example showed us that “bearing witness to the truth” includes pointing out to men what is evil as well as what is good.

But why is it that the world cannot hate unless someone speaks the truth concerning its evil deeds? It is because the truth, when it is spoken, has power. It creates. Within the hearts of the good, it creates a love for righteousness that they did not previously know. The truth, when it is spoken, elevates those who love God to a new level of communion with Him. It empowers them to become more like Jesus. That is why those who love God in their hearts love the truth when they hear it, and love the messengers who speak it to them. On the other hand, the truth, when it is spoken, elevates the ungodly to a new level of hatred for Christ and his servants. It empowers and embolden them to become more like the devil. That is why the ungodly, especially those who are religious, hate the truth when they hear it, and hate the messengers who speak it to them. When Jesus spoke, it empowered the world to hate as it had never hated before.

Only the truth gives men power to hate as Satan hates. God’s truth changes everything when it comes, with changes that cannot be undone. Everyone who hears the truth is changed by it, whether for good or for evil. Those who are “of the world” and hear the truth are empowered by the truth to be more evil than they are, to hate as never before, beyond the power of ordinary men. Likewise, those who are “of God” are empowered by the truth to be more of what they really are, to love as never before, to be good beyond the power of ordinary men. The truth brings out and magnifies whatever is hidden in the hearts of men.

The world cannot hate you if you do not reprove its “works of darkness”. Whoever is like Jesus testifies against the ungodly conduct of men. And those who dare to do that will be mightily blessed, the way Jesus said they would be: “Blessed are you when people revile and persecute you, and say every evil thing against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be glad! Your reward is great in heaven, for that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt. 5:11-12).

Unless you confess the truth before men, you will never know that blessing.