Monday, December 27, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Adapted from a sermon on December 15, 2010
“...to make all men see what the fellowship of the mystery is,
which from the beginning of the world has been hidden in God...”
Paul, in Ephesians 3:8-9
The ultimate goal of everything Satan wants to destroy, or envies (he actually doesn’t want to destroy it; he wants to have a part in it, but he can’t) is the fellowship of the saints. And I dare say just a few of God’s people on earth really understand what fellowship is.
Fellowship is when we feel the same thing, when we have the same mind - without talking it over beforehand. It is when we have the same judgment concerning situations and people, and the same love for one another. And that fellowship is created when Wisdom comes down upon us. It is something created by God. It is not voted on by men. It is not of the will of man.
The apostle John taught that when you are born into the kingdom of God, you are born “not of blood [that is, of human blood, or human origin], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” (Jn. 1:13). What is so difficult to get across and to really get anchored in the hearts of believers is that, in Christ, the kingdom into which they are born is a kingdom where every thing that counts is not of human origin, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man. If something counts in the kingdom of God, is it not of the will of man, not of the will of the flesh, and not of human origin, that is, not of the blood of this world - no human race, no human genealogy, or any such thing. Those are the three things John said that those in God’s kingdom are not of: you’re born not of the will of man, not of the will of the flesh, and not of “bloods” (actually, that word is plural in the Greek). That means, you who are in Christ are not of any human race, not of any human genealogy, or anything like that. You no longer have any national earthly identity.
But what God’s people, in the main, do not understand is that when you are born, you are born into a place where everything is that way - not just you. It is a kingdom where your communion with God and with one another is not of the will of man, or of the will of the flesh. It is not a physical thing. It is not of earthly origin. If you have communion in the kingdom of God, it will only be of God, just as your birth into His kingdom was only of God. Communion with god happens only when God creates something to eat with you. It is when He creates something invisible for you to share with Him. And when He creates something within me and within you for us to enjoy together in Christ, we have fellowship. It may be a common judgment of people, or of some circumstance, or the times in general.
But the important thing to understand is that if God doesn’t create it, we don’t have it - even if we both want it, even if we both vote for it, and even if we both claim to have it. Nothing of earth matters; nothing of earth makes anything happen in God’s kingdom. Nothing in God’s world is of the will of the man. It’s not of the will of the flesh, but of God. Everything. The doctrine. It cannot be of the will of man. It’s not, not in God’s kingdom. It cannot be of the will of the flesh. It cannot be of human origin. Nothing in God’s kingdom is any of those things. We who believe are in a different universe now. In Christ, we crossed a line into a heavenly kingdom that is in no part human. We are in a different world. We are in a different universe. Paul’s famous phrase, “Behold, all things become new”, is real. You are not even yourself anymore. Paul said, "I die daily" because he was living in that new realm, where his thoughts and his feelings were not of human origin. His very life was not of his own will or his flesh's will.
Our feast days, our baptism, our holy places, the robes you put on for worship - nothing in our kingdom is of the will of man. You know as well as I do, when you see those colorful choir robes in Christian churches, some man has willed to buy those pretty robes as opposed to what he considered less pretty ones. And because that choice and that purchase was of human will, it cannot be a part of the kingdom of God, which means that means that pretty choir robes do not belong in your world. God called you out of that world; now stay out of that world! Jesus is saying, “You were born into my world. Stay in my world and be satisfied.” Godliness with contentment will make you rich.
Many of God’s own people are not content with the world into which they were born when they were baptized with the holy ghost. They are not content with it because God’s world is not of the will of the flesh, and they are still in the flesh. Or they are not content with it because God’s world is not of the will of man, and they are still self- willed. Or they are not content with it because it is not of human origin, and their hearts are still attached to this world. Discontented and divided saints are still enamored of things that originate on earth; some ceremony, some doctrine, some familiar form that is not a part of God’s kingdom.
We, here, do not want any of that. We will not have any of that. The holy ghost will not have any of that, and if we’ll deny ourselves and have the holy ghost in our midst, he won’t allow us have any of that. He’ll save us from worldliness. He’ll save us from the religious system of Christianity, which is altogether of the world. He’ll save us from that unclean spirit so that when we can experience true fellowship in Christ, and so that we can come together as a body and have it be for our good and not to our harm. We benefit from our gatherings only when we live close to God, and we live close to God only as we follow the Spirit that is in no measure of this world.
Our sweet, shared life in the Spirit is the mysterious fellowship that Satan hates above all things because it is not of the world, and he cannot possibly participate in it. He has been cast out of God’s kingdom, and he is very angry about that. He envies and slanders everyone God still welcomes into the pure fellowship of that holy kingdom. Even if a body of saints were fooled into making room for Satan, even if they would be foolish enough to welcome him into their assembly, Satan could not participate in the fellowship of holiness because wherever he is, the fellowship is not, and he will never understand it.
If we are to continue to enjoy our fellowship in Christ, we must walk together in the Spirit and refuse those things that are of the will of man, or of the will of the flesh, or of human origin. Instead of trying to serve God in those things, let’s all do the will of God and serve him “in spirit and in truth”. Doing that, neither the things of this world nor Satan will ever pollute our communion with Christ and with one another.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Good morning John.
Today I was organizing and mailing out various tract and CD orders from the Isaiah58 web site that came in over the past couple of days.
When a person orders a CD from the site, I usually add one or two old CD's (those that went un-purchased) to that person’s order since it does not really add anything to the postage, and so that people can hear live meetings.
This morning as I reached into the box, of perhaps 50 to 100 of those left-over CD's, the sweetest feeling came over me. I could have picked any of the CD's in that box! We have things of real value! Things that go unclaimed among us just might be golden nuggets of life to someone who is hungry for reality in the Spirit. Many have never heard what is on a CD that we have hundreds of extras of. Tears came to my eyes when I thought about how rich we are in spirit, that we have such things of value. Where would we be without those gifts from God, without each other, without this truth? It's hard to even wonder. I am thankful, after your wonderful message last night, for you, for the saints who before us and paid a price, and for every child of God whom Jesus has put into my life right now.
And beyond that, I am thankful for soberness, for sanity, and for the readiness of mind and heart to want to get this truth to God's wandering sheep.
Amen, Brother Gary!
God has chosen, for His own good reasons, to wonderfully bless us and give us a special work to do. I pray that we walk worthy of our calling. Our situation calls to mind one of the things God told father Abraham when He first spoke to him, in Genesis 12:1-3. God told that good man that all the nations of the earth would someday be blessed by the blessing that He was giving him. In other words, God was not blessing Abraham just to bless Abraham. And we can be assured that God has not blessed us just to be blessing us.
We have a holy calling upon us, and a work to do. May God give us the strength and wisdom to accomplish it!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Jesus, in John 14:6
You do not really know the truth unless you are the truth. The truth is not a thing; it is a person, and you must have fellowship with him in order to know him. The truth on earth was the Son of God, while he was here. Now the truth on earth is other sons of God who are here. Nor is the light a thing; it is a person. If you are not in him who is the light, you do not know him who is the light. He was the light of the world as long as he was in the world (Jn. 9:5); now, those in whom he lives are the light of the world. The Word of God is not a thing; it is the Son of God, and he is alive. He took on flesh when he took on the body of Jesus of Nazareth, as John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” And he still comes and takes up residence in the hearts of those who believe in him. Has he become flesh in you? He became flesh in Paul, and Paul testified of it. He said, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ is living in me" (Gal. 2:20).
If the Word of God comes to you, he comes to re-create you in his own image. The Word of God comes to you to establish your thoughts, to shape your spirit, to direct your steps. He does not come to be challenged; he comes to take charge, to guide, to heal, to deliver. The Son of God did not take on flesh in order merely to become a topic for discussion. He came to govern, to purge, to make the believer perfect before God.
I do not ask, “Do you know the truth?” It is less important that you know than that you become the truth. Nor do I ask, “Do you know the way?” or “Do you see the light?” The issue is, are you the the way and the light to others? John wrote, “As he is, so are we in this world.” That was good for John and those he knew in Christ, but for us, the question is, are we, like those saints, like him who is sitting at the right hand of the Father?
Jesus never intended for us to stand on earth and point up to the sky, at him, to show men the light. He came to make us lights in this world. Besides, even if we get men to look up, they still cannot see him. They can only see us. Knowing this, my wise father taught us never to speak of Jesus to others unless we could also say to them, “Be like me.”
Paul wrote that “when he ascended on high, he gave gifts to men. . . . And he gave some, apostles, some prophets, some teachers,” etc. This means that, as your pastor and teacher, I am a gift to you. And as light for others in this world, you are a gift to them. Are you really a gift for them? Or let me ask it this way: Does he who is the Truth live in you? Does he who is the Light shine in you? Does he who is the Way walk in you? Can others attain to eternal life by following you? They can if you are following Christ. Paul unashamedly told the saints in Corinth, “Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1Cor. 11:1). This was not an unusual statement for Paul to make. He constantly exhorted the saints in every place to follow righteous men, both himself and others (e.g., 1Cor. 4:16; Phip. 3:17; 1Thess. 1:6; 2:14; 3:7, 9; Heb. 6:12. He knew that godly, mature saints were gifts to the rest of us, that like Jesus, they didn’t just talk about the truth and the way to us; they were the way and the truth for us, and Paul wanted us to take full advantage of them, as gifts from a loving heavenly Father.
Monday, December 13, 2010
"God has highly exalted him..."
The honor of men is nothing in comparison to the honor God gives. Jesus did not covet and would not accept honors that men bestow. “I do not receive honor from men,” he said (Jn. 5:41). Even when people wanted to take Jesus by force and make him their king, he refused and withdrew from them to a mountain alone (Jn. 6:15). He did not come to gain earthly honor; he came to do the will of his heavenly Father (Heb. 10:7). And as a result of his single-minded pursuit of honor from God, God “highly exalted him, and has given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phip. 2:9-11).
Jesus even refused to honor himself. He said, “If I honor myself, my honor is nothing; it is my Father who honors me, whom you say that He is your God” (Jn. 8:54). Jesus was wise. He understood that no honor is worth having unless it comes from God.
In fact, he warned men that seeking and receiving honor from any other source will result in spiritual confusion. He told them (Jn. 5:44), “How can you believe, who receive honor one from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes only from God?” Fallen men are so blind to the things of God that they often do not recognize God’s honor when it is given to one standing among them; and they can badly misunderstand what is being done when someone is truly honoring God. Men have been known to go so far as to accuse someone of madness, or even demon-possession, when he is, in fact, honoring God. They did that to Jesus, and in reply, Jesus said, “I am not demon-possessed! I am honoring my Father, and you are dishonoring me” (Jn. 8:49).
Jesus loved God (Jn. 14:31; Ps. 91:14-16) and pleased Him because he desired only the honor that comes from God. He was even willing to suffer unjustly and die in order to please God. In response, God gave everything to Jesus (Jn. 3:35) and revealed Himself completely to Jesus (Jn. 5:20).
Everybody who hears from the true God comes to Jesus for mercy (Jn. 6:45), and nobody can come to the real Jesus unless they do hear from God (Jn. 6:44). Perhaps the most astonishing honor that the Father has given to Jesus is His requirement now that all people everywhere honor the Son just as they honor the Father (Jn. 5:23). Consequently, no one will be saved from eternal damnation who fails to honor the Son as God. But everyone who loves Jesus will be loved by God, and Jesus said that God will come to that person and live within his heart (Jn. 14:21-23; 16:27). Consequently, there is no hope of eternal life but through Jesus (Acts 4:12). This is the honor that God has bestowed upon Jesus, and there is no greater honor than that which the Father has shown to His Son.