Monday, September 1, 2014

Just Keep These Two Commandments

On these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets.
Jesus, in Matthew 22:40

If one pays attention to the words of God throughout the ages, he will realize that every commandment of God has to do with developing or maintaining right relationships.  The way of God has never been the way of a loner.
Every one of God’s commandments concerns relationships.  Every one of them.    “Thou shalt not steal” is an example.  To steal from your neighbor is not the way to have a right relationship; therefore, God commanded His people not to steal.
God’s way is the way of holy love.  That is why Paul said, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.”  Everyone of God’s commandments in intended to guide us into a right relationship, either with Him or with one another.  Every one of His commandments teaches us how to have relationships that are healthy and holy and eternal.  There is no commandment just for you, apart from anybody else.  There are no loners that are going to be saved in the end.  You are going to have a good relationship with others on their way to salvation, or you are going to be lost forever.
One man asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?”  And Jesus replied, “Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength.”  And then Jesus added, “The second greatest commandment is similar to the first one: namely, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”  He then made the remarkable observation that on those two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.  In other words, the whole will of God is summarized by those two commandments.
Keep those two commandments, my friend, and you will meet God in peace.

Getting Into the Kingdom

We are his witnesses of these things, and so is the holy Spirit,
which God has given to those who obey Him.
Acts 5:32

I imagine that there have been thousands of quarrels over the centuries concerning who belongs to God and who does not; that is, who is really born again and who just thinks they are.  The best way to end any controversy is simply to let the Spirit of God decide who is right and who is wrong.
If you are wanting to be born again and know it, then just follow the guidance of Preacher Clark, who in 1969 gave this sage advice for those wanting to know how really to be born again:  “Do everything you know is right and leave off what you have a doubt about.  That’s exactly how you get into [the kingdom of God].”  If you believe in Jesus and sincerely follow that simple, godly counsel, you will live forever.  God will not fail to notice your humility and willingness to do His will.
Peter summed it up also, the day he stood before the judges of Israel to give account for his preaching.  The apostle boldly spoke to them and said,

Acts 5
30. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you killed, hanging him on a tree.
31. This man God has exalted to His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
32. And we are his witnesses of these things, and so is the holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey Him.

The Power of Death

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood,
he also himself likewise took part of the same, so that
through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
Hebrews 2:14

Pastor John,
I was reading in Hebrews 2:14 and have a question.  What does “the power of death” refer to in this verse?

Thank you,
Bro. Randell

Hi Randell:
The answer to that question is a beautiful mystery, a well of joy and understanding.  I hope that you can remember your Old Testament well enough, and that I can express myself well enough, to make the answer plain.
After his fall into sin, man had no way of having communion with God.  God gave some commandments to certain righteous men and women which provided those people with the opportunity to obey God and, therefore, have hope; but there was no way for man to truly live in spirit; that is, to know the heart and mind of God and, so, be able to live in the world as He lives in heaven.  Man was cursed with death, and the world over which he had dominion was cursed with him.  All mankind became, to use Jesus’ words, “of the world” because both man and his dominion, the world, were cursed with death.  Solomon almost went mad trying to find something “under the sun” that was not cursed with death, something that was not “vain”.  He finally gave up; there was nothing on earth that was eternal, he decided.
What Solomon saw, in part, was that fallen man, dead within, was completely unable to escape death’s power.  We see something Solomon could not understand; namely, that being unable to escape death meant that man was unable to escape Satan’s power to deceive.  That is how Satan became, as Paul said, “the god of this world.”  Satan moved almost at will and prospered in the world because it was dead, like him, and man was also dead (to God’s life).  Satan “had the power of death” because the darkness of death gave him power over men who lived in spiritual blindness to the things of God.
Now, let’s pause to consider the glory of the Law of Moses.  Without God’s help, I could not possibly have believed this verse from Romans 5; no, not even if an angel had come down from heaven and told me:  It is one of the most unexpected and amazing truths that Jesus ever revealed to man:  Paul wrote, “For death reigned from Adam to Moses.”  What?  From Adam To Moses?  Why not from Adam to Jesus?
The answer is beautiful, I think.
Under the Law of Moses, as you will remember, God’s people were in bondage to the flesh.  As my father used to say, “Under the Law, the old man (the flesh) got everything; under grace, the new man, the inner man, gets everything.”   Under the Law, the flesh was circumcised, baptized, ate the holy feasts, wore physical clothes.  Under this New Covenant, the spirit of man gets everything: the heart is circumcised, not the body; the spirit is baptized, not the flesh; the spirit drinks of the Spirit and eats heavenly manna and the flesh is left out; in this New Covenant, the soul of man is dressed to worship God, and the physical clothes the flesh wears in no way make us holier or acceptable to God.
With dead material, the OT people of God were required to worship God.  By “dead material”, I mean non-living, earthly material such as the threads of gold and silk, etc., things that were used to weave the tabernacle and the priests’ garments, the precious stones the high priest wore, the massive stones that were used to make Solomon’s temple, the brass and stones for the sacrifice altar, the gold for the holy utensils within the temple, the gold and silver in the lamps that burned before God, etc.  Even the skins and the boards that were a part of the sanctuary, though they were from animals and trees that once lived, were dead.  It was all dead -- but this time, Satan was not in charge of dead things!!  God had designed and sanctified those materials and works of the Law for His people to use to foretell of the coming of His Son.
Now think of this!  Jesus is so great in God’s sight that the works of the Law, though employing dead matter, were not considered “dead works” while God was using them.  They were called “dead works” only after Jesus came and replaced them with worship in the holy Ghost.  The holy Ghost is the Spirit of LIFE!  There is not the first bit of death in it!   If there was such a thing as a law that could make men righteous, Paul told the Galatians, then the Law that God gave Moses would have done it!  But no law that is on the outside of a man can make a man holy on the inside.  That is why the holy Ghost was so very, very important; it brought the law of God INSIDE!  It wrote God’s law on men’s hearts and made them holy as God is holy, giving them eternal life and abolishing the dominion of death -- and so, abolishing the dominion of Satan -- over their hearts and minds.  Praise God!!  This is getting good!
Jesus is so important, Randell, so holy and precious to God, that even the Law that foreshadowed him was holy; that dead thing liberated men from the dominion of death.  All man had to do was follow God’s directions, delivered to Israel by Moses!!  How simple was that?
Under the law, men used dead things that God had anointed, things Satan had used to deceive them, things that Satan usually lived and prospered in, to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, and thus escape death forever!  This is why Paul said that death reigned over man from Adam to Moses, not from Adam to Jesus, as we would have expected him to say.
So, Satan had the power of death only because man was dead to the things of God.  When man became alive to God, Satan had no more power of death as far as liberated man was concerned.  He still has power over men who are still dead, but nobody has to remain dead because all are welcome to “come drink the waters of life freely.”that could touch him!  Praise God!!
There is more to this, but I just can’t get it out now, Randell.  Just pray about it.  I feel to good to write any more right now.  Jesus said that he came to bring us life -- and life “more abundantly”!  Praise God.  Let’s live, Brother Randell!  Let’s just live in the light of life that Jesus purchased for us with his death to sin and then his death on the cross!

Pastor John

Thank you Pastor John for this wonderful reply.  You are right, the answer is beautiful.  I have read this at least seven times, and it gets better each time I read it.  It makes you appreciate and love what Jesus did that much more.  If men could read this and understand it, they would run from Christianity to Jesus.

Bro. Randell 

No Confusion in the Kingdom of God

From a sermon by George Clarence Clark, Sr., in 1969.

Of all the conflicting doctrines of Christian sects, only one of them – at the most– can be true; there are not two true doctrines of Christ.  Preacher Clark told his congregation in 1969, “If God anoints you to preach, He’s going to give you
the same message He gives another one He anoints.”  Amen!

Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit would guide them into all truth.  Then, from where came all these conflicting Christian doctrines?  And which one of them is right – if one of them even is?  For your soul’s sake, you should get still with God, and seriously pray for the right answer.

Being the Head

The thoughts of the righteous are right.
Proverbs 12:5

The correspondence between children of God who know and love the truth can be very instructive.  Here is some correspondence between Brother Jerry and Sister LeeAnn.

Dear Jerry and Sheila,
Jerry, on Sunday night as we were sitting around talking, you were speaking to a woman you knew who had an ungodly husband, and such, and you said some things concerning those who are walking in the Spirit being the head.  As you were speaking, I knew I needed to pay attention to what you were saying.  It was very good, and I needed to hear it.  I was hoping you might remember what you said and send it to me.  You were talking about not being afraid of the “bumps” that might come up if an ungodly husband tries to cause problems, if and when his wife goes on with God.
Anyway, I would appreciate if you could send your thoughts if you get a chance.  I appreciate your zeal, Jerry!  You were a great encouragement to me.  Hope to see you both again soon!

Lee Ann

Dear Lee Ann,
One thing that Jesus taught me was that “meekness” is meekness to God and not to just anything that comes my way.  Not so long ago, I walked under the spirit of “meekness” to this world and the spirits that it is full of, thinking myself to be obeying God.  I would let feelings/spirits around me, that were not God, back me into a corner where I would hold on to my little light for dear life, not wanting to “make any waves”.  Many times, I would find myself spiritually drained while ungodliness was full steam ahead, even proud, right beside me.
Now, there was no way for ME to fix this.  I tried at times and at best, after mustering all my courage, and trying to “stand for what is right”.  I just looked (and felt) weak and half-hearted to myself, and to others I am sure.  But, after time, Jesus has helped me to shine a little brighter, and that light started to drive out darkness from my presence which, otherwise, I could really do nothing about.  It’s the “light” that drives out the darkness, Jesus’ light.  My victory is to stay full of it.
That Spirit of light has already won every battle and IS the head of all things.  Only when I am walking full of that light am I, too, the head and not the tail.  That is one thing that makes being lukewarm or “on the fence” so bad.  When you’re in the middle like that, you have just enough God to make you different and a misfit in a sinful world, but not enough of the light and power of God to make darkness flee and to withstand the reproach of holiness.  It really is a dangerous place because the whole world, including our own carnal nature, is against God.  It is more pressure than we can bear unless we are full to the rim with the WINNER OF THE BATTLE.
When I am walking in the Spirit, my first response is the right one, the holy one.  I don’t have to be afraid of what I say or what I do, because of Him.  I don’t have to be afraid to say, “This is good, or this is evil.”  The Spirit always knows what to do, all the time.
Many times, I have tried to “water down” God’s thoughts or judgments inside of me because they did not seem “nice” enough.  I have learned that “nice” will get us all killed.  God is holy and that is VERY nice :)  I learned that I could not be full of the Spirit and at the same time be having unholy actions/reactions to life.  So, I am learning to just “LET HIM LIVE.”  YAY!  And trust him!!   The very best thing I could do for me, or for anyone else, is to stay full of the Spirit, to be overflowing, and then just do and say what the Spirit is leading me to do or say in every situation.  And it is at times not “nice”, but it is holy and right.  It is not against people, at all, it is just FOR God.  And the gap is so huge, that it tends to look otherwise.  It is hard to explain to folks.  The saints that love God the most are the most misunderstood by this world, I imagine.  But, they are the greatest refuge for a soul hungering and thirsting for Jesus.
One more thought.  I was walking the other day, thinking about things/people, and the holy Ghost said through me, “I don’t want to be any closer to you than you are to God.”  It was instruction from God, to me.  It was the way that I was supposed to live this life, with all people on this earth.  And I understood this also:  In the household of faith, there are to be no “inside deals” no relationships outside of fellowship.  They must be built on the foundation of holiness; that is the starting place, and then we increase from there.  If we build any other bond with one another other than fellowship, then when the truth, in love, comes to us for one another (and it will), we will feel pressure not to violate that “other friendship”.  And that makes it wicked.  I have heard it said that those relationships are like “You don’t kick my cat, and I won’t kick your dog.”  We have to start all relationships with “ I am going to kick your cat, (if God says it’s evil), and will you please kick my dog, too?”  I know I have just written on and on, Lee Ann, but it felt good.  I appreciate you and pray for us.


Hi Jerry.
That was a wonderful reply to lee Ann and all of us.  I heard my father preaching on a CD recently (from 1968) that “social fellowship is of the devil.”  What you wrote here helps explain why.  What you said about building up relationships outside of fellowship is so true.  If we build up a relationship that is not based on fellowship in the light of Christ, then we will fear  to rock the boat when the word of God comes to us for one another!  In a parable in Matthew 13, Jesus mentioned that the word of God could be “choked out”.  I know of nothing that will choke it out more dramatically than earthly relationships not build up on the word of God.  This is why James said that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (4:4b).
God, help us to take that in!  There are some precious people here who have lost their connection with God because of that very thing.  They traded every good thing they had to prevent the word of God from coming to a relative of theirs with whom they had a relationship that was not fellowship in Christ.  Oh, how grievous this is to me!  It was so senseless and sad to see them throw away eternal riches in order to maintain an evil, fleshly relationship!

Pastor John

God’s Answer for a Hopeless World

God so loved the world that He gave up His only begotten Son
so that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

On a recent trip to Yellowstone National Park, I met and talked with a young man, an employee of the park.   During our conversation, he made a comment that impressed me.  I asked him if he’d be leaving at the summer’s end to return home, as many park employees do each year, and he told me that he lives in the area year-round.  Then he added, “I don’t know about anything that goes on outside the park anymore.”  His meaning was perfectly clear.  He didn’t care to know about what goes on in this world beyond the park’s borders.  He had abandoned interest in this world, its politics, its sports, its entire society and culture, and he was content with life as it is in Yellowstone Park, and nothing else.
There are some reasonable arguments against living a completely closed-in lifestyle, of course, but the Lord had a lesson for me in that young man’s words.  After my conversation with the park employee, I had to ask myself, “Am I as dedicated to my calling in Christ, and free from interest in this world’s vanities, as that young man was?”  He was not in the least attracted to or interested in the latest political scandal, or “important” sporting event, or rumors of war, no matter what countries it involved.
This young man’s attitude reminded me of a replica I once saw of Jerusalem as it was in Jesus’ time.   In that model, I saw that there was a three-storied theater located near the temple, and in another part of town, I saw a large hippodrome for chariot and horse races.  When I saw those things, I suddenly realized that, although these two places must have been popular attractions in Jesus’ time, there is no mention of these places in any of the four Gospels or in the book of Acts.  Those worldly intrusions into the holy city were completely irrelevant to the story of salvation, and in truth, they still are.  As with the social issues of the world to the young man I met at Yellowstone, whatever happened in Jerusalem’s places of entertainment appear to have been utterly meaningless to Jesus and to those who followed him.
God sent His dear Son to suffer and die because there was no human fix for this world.  It was only because there was no hope in this world for this world that God sent His Son here to die for us and make a way for us to live forever.  That is the difference between God and the young man in the park.  When God saw that there was no human answer for man’s sin, He still had the power to do something about it.  The best that my park friend could do was to withdraw from humans and try to live in peace with God’s non-human creation.