Friday, December 13, 2013

Who Is Your Family?

His mother and his mother’s sister stood by Jesus’ cross,
Maria the wife of Clopas, and Maria the Magdalene.
Then Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing
there, said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”
Then, he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”
And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own home.

John 19:25-27

This disciple was John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.  For the rest of Mary’s life, she was cared for by John as his own mother, just as Jesus asked him to do while he hung from nails on the cross.
Some might ask, why didn’t one of Jesus’ brothers take their mother into their home and care for her?  She was not John’s mother, they might say; she was theirs.  But then, another may ask those people, why weren’t Jesus’ brothers at the cross, the way John and Mary were?  Why were Mary’s other sons (and her daughters, too, for that matter) not so concerned about their brother that they were present when he was dying?  The answer to that question is easy.  According to John 7:5, “his brothers did not believe in him.”
Jesus had siblings.  After Jesus was born, Mary gave birth to at least six more children.  The names of four sons, in addition to Jesus, are given to us.  They were, according to Matthew, “James, Joses, Simon, and Judas” (Mt. 13:55).  Mark’s list is almost identical: “James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon” (Mk. 6:3).  Mary also had at least two girls, for the Bible mentions Jesus’ “sisters” (Mt. 13:56; Mk. 6:3).  Jesus may have had more than two sisters, for large families were certainly not unusual at that time, but we are not told how many sisters he had.
I realized tonight, as I sat alone in the dark praying and meditating on the things of God, that the Bible never mentions any reaction from Jesus’ brothers to Jesus’ dying request that his beloved disciple John adopt Mary as his own mother.  And there is a very good reason that the Bible never tells us about that.  Do you know what that reason is?  I do.
The reason that the Bible never says what Jesus’ fleshly kinsmen thought about John adopting Mary is that God didn’t give a hoot about what they thought about it!  Those unbelieving kinsmen of Jesus were, in God’s eyes, no kin to Mary at all, and no kin to Jesus.  It was none of their business what Jesus, John, and Mary decided to do about Mary’s living arrangements because they were discussing family business about which outsiders had no right to an opinion.  Jesus and John were two brothers, discussing what to do with their mother.  John was Mary’s son, and Mary was John’s mother.  Their common faith in Jesus made it that way.
When he was preaching one day, Jesus asked the people this question, “Who is my mother?  And who are my brothers?”  Then, “extending his hand toward his disciples,” Jesus answered the question for them: “Here are my mother and my brothers.  Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt. 12:48-50).  And if you do not feel, “with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength” the same way Jesus feels, there is sin in your soul, and you do not know God.  Everybody who knows God thinks and feels just like Jesus, for Jesus was God’s messenger.  He only said what the Father gave him to say.  Jesus did not invent the idea that those who hear and obey God belong to Jesus’ family; Jesus got that idea from his Father in heaven!
We know how Jesus answered the question, “Who is my family?”  Now, how do you answer it?


A most frightening aspect of this culture’s rejection of Jesus is the effect that the absence of the gospel is having on the spirits of young people.  The gospel of Christ is of such power that it has a softening influence on the hearts of all who hear it, even on those who do not respond in faith, and everyone is blessed in a society where the gospel is preached, not just believers.  But in cultures where the gospel is suppressed, there is nothing to take its place, and young people are left to grow up without a godly conscience, and without a true sense of good and evil.

We are seeing in some places now the awful effects of keeping children from the gospel.  This generation, with its pseudo-sophistication and pride, is beginning to pay the price for its foolish insistence that to deny children the gospel is the way to true freedom, and for striving to make this culture godless.  Nothing in human society strikes me as being quite as dreadful as the roving packs of young men in the streets now, with no conscience, attacking at random and without even the motivation of robbery.  The pain they inflict is just for kicks.  That is but one result of keeping the young from the influence of the saving gospel of Christ.

To be godless is to be merciless, for God is merciful.  To be godless is to have no moral boundaries, for God is good.  To be godless is to be beastly, driven by the base appetites of the flesh, for God is holy in all His ways.  To be godless is to be perverse in judgment, because God is wise and just.  To be godless is to have no strength or will to resist and to overcome the dark spirits in this world, for God is full of power.

Teach your children the stories that God has provided for us in the Bible!  Don’t make excuses.  Do it!  Are you too busy to save your own child?

The whole world has benefitted from the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ because our forebears made sure the gospel was known, in their homes and beyond.  They understood the value of the gospel and yielded to the power of its influence.  They knew that the message of the gospel would restrain the baser aspects of human nature.  If we would be wise, we will not take that precious influence for granted.

If parents fail to acquaint their children with the gospel, if they fail to walk in its light so that the young can become acquainted with the feelings and the wisdom of the gospel, what will keep the young from being godless?  And then, when those godless little children mature and begin living like animals, with no sense of shame and no fear of God, who will control them?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

God’s Law in Our Hearts

When God gives us His Spirit, He is giving us His feelings about life and His judgments about how life ought to be lived.  In the Bible, God described that experience by saying that He puts His law into our minds and writes them in our hearts.  Long before the Son of God was revealed, God prophesied that He would do this:

Jeremiah 31
33. But 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 in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.

After the Son came and died for us to have God’s Spirit, the author of Hebrews said that God had done what He promised through Jeremiah (Heb. 8:10-11).
The very reason God sent His Son was to make it possible for us to have His Spirit so that we might know and be like God.  God’s ways and His thoughts are so different from ours that none of us can know God and be like Him without His Spirit.

Isaiah 55
8. My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The day we receive the Spirit is our first day in God’s school, for that is when we truly begin to know how God feels and what He thinks.  Jesus wanted us to have the Spirit so much that he was willing to suffer and die for us to receive it.  He was excited just to think of the day of Pentecost, when his disciples would receive the Spirit and would begin to know God as he knew Him.  He told them these things:

John 14
13. “The holy Spirit which the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will bring to your remembrance everything that I have told you.”

John 16
13. “I still have many things to tell you, but you are not able to bear them now.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. . . .  and he will reveal to you things that are coming.”

It takes time to learn, of course, and we must be diligent in our pursuit of the knowledge of God, but we need not worry; God is very patient.  He knows that we must un-learn many things that we thought we knew about God and that there is much truth to absorb.  But with the Spirit, we can un-learn anything wrong, and we can learn anything right about Him.
Even with God’s Spirit, though, we must make the effort.  We must also stay humble, like Jesus, and prefer God’s will over our own.  Paul said that those who would truly be children of God must be “led by the Spirit”.  In other words, we must believe the right thoughts which the Spirit puts into our minds and follow the right feelings which the Spirit writes on our hearts.  We will not ever know our heavenly Father if we cling to our old thoughts and ways.
God gave us some tools that can help us recognize the Spirit’s thoughts and feelings.  One of the greatest of those tools is the law that God gave to Israel through Moses.  When God said, “I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their heart,” it was the law He gave to Moses that He was talking about.  God gave that law.  Moses did not make it up.  And because God gave that law, it reflects God’s thoughts and feelings.  We study the law of Moses because it helps us to recognize the Spirit’s voice when it speaks to our hearts.  The law is a record of what God said about various situations in life, and if we will believe that record, and prefer what God thinks over our own thoughts, we will grow spiritually and become more like Him.
Here are some things to consider before we read the law of Moses.
(1)  The law is God’s way of thinking.  The Spirit which God gave you thinks this way.
(2)  The law contains the kind of judgments that Jesus will bring to the earth when he comes again.  It is a prophecy of the kind of government Jesus will establish on the earth during his thousand-year reign.
(3)  If a person disagrees with the law’s holy judgments, it is because he still needs to be "transformed by the renewing of his mind, that he may discern what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
Pay close attention to your feelings and thoughts when you read the commandments and judgments contained in the law of Moses.  Do you agree with them?  If not, ask Jesus to help you.  He will!

The Gift of Various Tongues

“Through the Spirit is given to one a word of wisdom, and to another, by the same Spirit, a word of knowledge; and to someone else, faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, and to another, the working of miracles; and to another, prophesying, and to another, discernment of spirits, and to someone else, various kinds of tongues, and to another, interpretation of tongues.”
1Corinthians 12:8-11

Pointing to the above verses from 1Corinthians 12, many argue that “speaking in tongues is a gift”.  Not only is that not what Paul said, but it is also contrary to logic, as you will see.  If you think that “speaking in tongues is a gift”, let me show you what you are saying.  Let me know if anything in the lines below misrepresents what you think about “the gift of speaking in tongues”.  I will only quote what has, in substance, been said to me:

Speaking in tongues is a gift.

Speaking in tongues is only a gift.

Only those in the body of Christ with that gift speak in tongues.

No one else in the body of Christ speaks in tongues.

Now, if those four lines hold true with the “gift of speaking in tongues”, then it should also hold true with the other gifts of the Spirit.  So, let’s fill in the blanks with the “gift of faith”, and see how it sounds.

Faith is a gift.

Faith is only a gift.

Only those in the body of Christ with that gift have faith.

No one else in the body of Christ has faith.

Or how about wisdom?

Wisdom is a gift.

Wisdom is only a gift.

Only those in the body of Christ with that gift have wisdom.

No one else in the body of Christ has wisdom.

Everyone in God’s family has faith, even if it is just a little.  And everyone in God’s family has been given at least enough wisdom to come to Christ and be washed from sin.  But God anoints some in His family with a gift of faith, or a gift of wisdom, etc., that transcends the normal realm of faith and wisdom.  That special anointing brings with it the “gifts” described by Paul in 1Corinthians 12.  So it is with speaking in tongues.
There is no such thing as the “gift of speaking in tongues”.  The gift, to use Paul’s words, is “various kinds of tongues”, and that gift is for those who already speak in tongues.  It is an added measure, a higher dimension, of a grace already received, just as the “gift of faith” is for those who already have faith, and the gift of “the word of wisdom” is for those who already have wisdom.
The body of Christ in our time is so divided and confused, and so lacking in power and knowledge, that theories about the gifts of the Spirit are more numerous than the actual operation of those gifts.  Ignorance is the standard condition of believers in our time, and the knowledge of God often frightens God’s confused little children.  Pray that our heavenly Father will have mercy on us again, and restore to us the blessing of unity in His holiness, and fill His children again with the power and gifts that believers used to possess.

The Only Holy Thing that Can Be Destroyed

I give thanks to my God upon every remembrance of you,
always in every prayer of mine making supplication for all of you with joy
because of your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.

Philippians 1:3-5

Neither Satan nor his angels, nor men, can corrupt or destroy God.  God is perfect and holy and pure, and with Him, “there is no shadow of turning.”  He cannot be changed by any power, anywhere.  Nor is there any power that can corrupt or destroy the Son of God, for the Son is “most blessed forever,” and he “will never be moved” (Ps. 21:6-7).  Nor can any power corrupt or destroy God’s holy Spirit; it is eternally pure.  The only holy thing that can be corrupted and destroyed is the fellowship of God’s children on earth.
The fellowship we have together in Christ is a most precious possession that must be guarded in order to keep it.  John told the saints that if they would walk together in the light, then they would be cleansed from all sin (1Jn. 1:7).  John knew that those saints had already been forgiven and washed from their sins when they received God’s Spirit, but he also knew that there is a deeper cleansing from sin available to the saints who walk together in fellowship.
The things which destroy that fellowship are the things that wise saints hate the most.  Guard your heart.  Keep yourself pure.  Stay alert.  Never forget that the fellowship we have in Christ can be corrupted and destroyed.  Strive for fellowship in the light because through fellowship alone will the body of Christ ever be as clean as it can be.

The Best Years

The path of the just is as the shining light,
that shines more and more unto the perfect day.

Proverbs 4:18

For everyone who faithfully follows Jesus, the last years are always the best.

You Can Do It

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Paul, in Philippians 4:13

God has never given a commandment to anyone without making that person fully capable of obeying Him.  If God has told you to do anything, you can do it!