Friday, December 26, 2014

Lord at Birth

My children and grandchildren sang a few Christmas carols after our Christmas Eve supper tonight.  As we sang the classic song, “Silent Night”, something in one of the verses caught my attention.  The end of the verse says, “Jesus, Lord at thy birth.  Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”

The prophet Malachi foretold of the Messiah’s coming by saying, “The Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to his temple.”  This happened when the Son of God, in the shape of a harmless dove, “suddenly” came from heaven and lit upon Jesus, Mary’s son.  Therefore, the Lord whom Israel sought was still in heaven when Jesus was born.

Jesus was not Lord when he was born.  He was made Lord and Christ when the Lord and Christ from heaven came into him and the Son of God from heaven was blended with the son of Mary from Nazareth.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Being Pruned

   John 15:2, 5-6 “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

   If after much reproof, we do not do well, Jesus said, God will eventually cut us off and cast us into the fire.  But if we do well, God will still cut us so that we learn how to do even better.

   This can be a puzzling thing if we are proud of how good we have been.  If after we have done what is right, God cuts on us, it seems unfair to a spirit that thinks too highly of itself, but this kind of cutting, this pruning, is only a reward for having done good.  It is done only to the plants that God thinks are healthy enough to take it.

   God is not in awe of us when we do what is right, and He does not feel obligated to heap up rewards on us when we do right.  Jesus said that when we do God’s will, then we should say to ourselves, “I am an unprofitable servant.  I have only done that which is my duty to do.”

   Do not sulk when God rewards your good work with a hard trial.  You earn such trials by doing good.  Your past obedience makes you worthy to be made even more like your Heavenly Father!  Do you think that what good you have done is so great that you deserve nothing but luxuries the rest of your life?  Or do you think that you are so holy that God has nothing else to change in you, to make you more like Him?  God is answering your prayer to be made worthy to stand in His presence with His Son.  Will you complain about the fire that burns out your dross?

   Look at what the Father put His Son through, even though the Son had never done anything wrong! The Father perfected the sinless Son through suffering!  This is the message the Lord is sending some of us right now:

Hebrews 12:3-13
“Consider him [Jesus] who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.  And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.  Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”

   You do not want to be “turned out of the way” just because God is pruning you and you don’t like it.  Receive His correction and live.

Monday, December 22, 2014

“By ... With ... Into”

   The language of baptism found in the Bible is simple and clear.  People were baptized by John the Baptist with water, and later, people were baptized by Jesus with the Spirit:

Matthew 3
11.  I indeed baptize you with water at repentance, but after me, one mightier than I is coming, whose    sandals I am not worthy to remove.  He will baptize you with holy spirit.

Mark 1
8.  I indeed baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with holy spirit.

Luke 3
16.  John answered and said to them all, I baptize you with water, but one mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen.  He will baptize you with holy spirit and fire!

   Jesus said the same thing:

Acts 1
5.  John indeed baptized with water, but you will be baptized with holy spirit not many days from now.

   And so did Peter:

Acts 11
16.  Then I remembered the saying of the Lord, how he used to say, John indeed baptized with water, but you will be baptized with holy spirit.

   The water that John baptized with and the Spirit that Jesus baptizes with are substances; they are both things.  John used the thing God commanded him to baptize with, and Jesus uses the thing God commanded him to baptize with.
   Finally, whenever people are baptized, they are baptized by someone with something into something.  Paul said that the thing we are baptized into by Jesus is the body of Christ on earth:

1Corinthians 12
13.  For by one spirit were we all baptized into one body . . . 

   It is obvious from the scriptures, then, that a person is not in the body of Christ unless he has been baptized by Jesus with the Spirit into that body.  In other words, the new birth is the baptism of the Spirit that the resurrected Jesus ministers to those who repent and believe the gospel.  And it is that baptism that gives us the hope of eternal life (1Pet. 3:21).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Getting Rid of the Witness

“It is the Spirit that bears witness because the Spirit is truth”
1John 5:6b

The most subtle and successful way that Satan has devised to rid men’s hearts of the Son is to teach that the Father’s witness of the Son, the holy Spirit, is no longer received as it was received in the beginning, when Jesus’ followers were baptized with the Spirit and began to speak in tongues.  The religious system called Christianity depends on this teaching more than any other for its continued influence, for if (1) the body of Christ on earth is made up only of those who have received the holy Spirit, and if (2) everyone who receives the Spirit speaks in tongues when they receive it, then the religious system called “Christianity” is not the body of Christ.  It is exposed as a fraud.
Paul taught that no one can say (with the knowledge that he is telling the truth) that Jesus is Lord without receiving God’s witness to His Son: the holy Spirit (1Cor. 12:3).  It is only by receiving the Spirit that men can know that Jesus is alive, sitting at the right hand of God.  Men can believe it before they receive the Spirit, but they cannot know for certain that it is true until they receive it, for the Spirit is the Father’s testimony to the world that His Son is with Him in heaven, and “stammering lips and another tongue” is the evidence that the Spirit has come (Isa. 28:11-12).  In institutions where the witness of the Spirit is absent, man has nothing but his own ability with which to serve God, and where such a Spirit-less religion is practiced, sincere people grow discontent and find themselves praying, “God, there has to be more to it than this!”
In the apostles’ day, some began to claim to have received the Spirit without speaking in tongues, but God's servants told us how to recognize the real Spirit of God from the false “Spirit of God” that false teachers proclaim.  This is a critical issue, for if anyone does not have the real Spirit, he does not belong to the real God (Rom. 8:9).  Jesus coined the phrase “born again” in a conversation with Nicodemus, and he used the ever-shifting wind to teach Nicodemus that there was one constant in every new birth experience – and that something was a sound:

John 3: 7–8:
Don’t marvel that I told you, “You must be born again.”  The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going.  This is how it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

So, although we cannot know where the Spirit has last been or where it is going, we do know that whenever it breathes the life of God into a soul, we will hear its sound.  The disciples received such an experience on the day of Pentecost when “there came from heaven the sound of a rushing, mighty wind”.  It was the Spirit of God being poured out from on high, and “they were all filled with holy spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).  This same speaking in tongues when one receives the Spirit was not just for those disciples!  Jesus told Nicodemus, “so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Paul also taught this when he said that the Spirit “testifies” when it is received:

Romans 8:15–16:
For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

When John explained how the saints can tell the real Spirit of God from the false “holy spirit”, his doctrine matched perfectly that of Jesus and of Paul.  He told his readers that they could always tell when someone had really received Christ because the real Spirit of God confesses that Christ has entered the fleshly temple of a believer when it happens:

1John 4:2–3
By this, the Spirit of God is recognized: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ when he has come into flesh is of God, and every spirit that doesn’t confess Jesus Christ when he has come into flesh is not of God.  And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now already, it is in the world.

This testimony of the Spirit is what John was talking about when he wrote, “It is the Spirit that bears witness because the Spirit is truth” (1Jn. 5:6b).  He went on to say this:

John 5:9
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, for this [the Spirit] is the witness of God that He has borne concerning His Son.

God himself is in charge of who receives the Spirit, and He cannot be fooled.  Therefore, when His Spirit testifies that Christ has entered someone’s fleshly temple, we can know that person is really born again.  Our faith is in God’s judgment, not in our own.  This was how Peter, after a great controversy, finally convinced some doubtful Jewish brothers that the Gentiles had really been cleansed and received by God into His family:

Acts 15:6–8
And the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.  And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said, “Men and brethren, you know how that a good while ago, God made choice among us that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.  And God, who knows the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the same holy Spirit as He did to us.”

Peter knew that God had done this “for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:46).  Peter’s testimony before the apostles and elders contained no Scripture; nevertheless, it “shut the mouths of lions”, so to speak, because Peter saw God baptize those Gentiles with His Spirit just as He had baptized the Jews on the day of Pentecost.   Peter’s six Jewish companions “were astonished” at the sight of Gentiles speaking in tongues, but that sign compelled them to accept what God had done.
Ministers of the institution of Christianity reject this truth.  They may disagree with one another about many things, but they all will agree that when the Spirit of God enters into a human temple, there is no longer a “sound of the wind”, no longer an audible witness of the Spirit “crying Abba, Father”, and no longer a verbal confession of Christ.  Their great numbers and their unity in this matter is the principal reason Christianity’s speechless “holy Spirit” is trusted by so many.  But God is not impressed or intimidated by numbers.  He warned us through Solomon that regardless of how many join together in a wrong thing, they will not go unpunished (Prov. 11:21).
The devil has succeeded in getting rid of the real Son of God in every place where his ministers have gotten rid of the real Spirit of God and replaced it with a dumb Spirit that people must just assume they have received.  But it has not been a difficult sell.  Satan knew that if fallen men were offered a “holy spirit of God” that is not really holy and not really of God, they would opt for that one, and then hire men to tell them they have it, instead of truly repenting and receiving the real holy Spirit that comes from the real God to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Anointed to Hear

“And the disciples approached him and said,
Why do you talk to them in parables?
He answered and said to them,
To you it is given to understand the mysteries
of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
 Matthew 13:10-11 

  Some years ago, a woman who considered herself a teacher in God’s kingdom tried to convince Sister Lou that Lou was a teacher, too.  Cornering Lou before she left my Bible study that night, she told Lou, “We’re all anointed to teach.”   To which Lou replied, “I’m anointed to listen.”

   That was a wise response.

   It is no small blessing to be anointed to hear and to understand the word of God.  With the anointing to hear God’s voice comes authority from heaven to testify to what you have heard, and when you confess what you have heard from God, people feel that heavenly authority in you.  You do not have to claim authority to speak, as false teachers do; the authority will be in what you say because of the power of the One who said it to you.  Sister Lou’s testimonies carry far more weight in heaven than anything that headless woman had ever taught her disciples.  The authority to hear carries with it an authority to speak.  Anything that is truly from God, no matter how small it seems, is infinitely greater than anything that is of man, no matter how great it appears to be.

  In the Old Testament, God’s faithful prophets felt discouraged at times because of the multitude of false prophets in Israel who claimed to be anointed to speak for God.  Nevertheless, whenever God’s prophets spoke what they had heard from God, the realness of God shone through them, and that realness had an authority in it which false prophets could only claim to have. God encouraged His prophets with these words:

Jeremiah 23
28. The prophet who has a dream [from me], let him tell the dream!  And he who has my word, let   him speak my word faithfully.  What is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord.
29.  Is not my word like as a fire? says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

   There is no comparison between what is truly from God and what false teachers claim to have from Him, and those who are truly searching for the truth recognize the difference.   If God ever speaks to you, you are given authority from heaven to testify to it, to bear witness to His voice.  Do not be discouraged by the many voices that contradict you.  The testimonies of God’s saints will overcome this world and everything that is in it. They will stand forever, “but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Prov. 12:19); it “is a vanity tossed to and fro by those who seek death” (Prov. 21:6), a most hated thing in the sight of God (Prov. 6:17), and it will be cut out (Prov. 10:31).