Saturday, July 18, 2015

Understanding the Temptation

Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit
to be tested by the Accuser.
Matthew 4:1

The Temptation is no better understood than the disciples’ experience on the day of Pentecost is understood – and for the same reason.  That reason is that when we read the story of the Temptation, we tend to forget that nobody at the time knew that the Son of God was still unknown and, therefore, nobody at the time knew that Satan was evil, including Satan himself.
Paul said that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in the Son (Col. 2:3).  This means that until the Son was revealed, only God and His Son possessed those riches.  In that wisdom and knowledge was hidden, among countless other things, the understanding that Satan and many other heavenly beings were evil in God’s eyes.  Surprised?  Look in the Bible again.  Nothing in the Old Testament revealed to people, or even heavenly beings, that God saw Satan as evil.  Throughout the Old Testament, Satan is only seen doing, and doing well, what God told him to do.
Paul said that God, from the foundation of the world, hid the Son from both men and heavenly creatures (the “Aeons”):

Ephesians 3
3.   By revelation, the mystery was made known to me, as I also briefly wrote before,
. . .
5.  which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
. . .
8.  To me, the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach among the Gentiles the     incomprehensible richness of Christ
9.   and to enlighten all men as to what is the plan of the mystery that has been hidden from the Aeons by God, who created all things through Jesus Christ.

If Satan had known the Son, he would certainly have known that the Son was the one “through whom God made the worlds” (Heb. 1:2).  And if he had known that the Son made the worlds, he certainly would not have offered the Son authority over this world – one of the billions of worlds that he had created!  Moreover, if he had known the Son, Satan would have known that the Son created not just the worlds, but everything that was created (Jn. 1:3), including him.  And if Satan had known that, he would never have tried to persuade the Son, his Creator, to bow before him, as he did during the Temptation.
The Son could not have been known any more than the Father could have been known before the Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost, for it is only by the Spirit that we may come to understand the things of God.  From that day, when they were born again, the disciples began to truly know God and His Son.  That understanding is what reveals  the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 to be the event of unequalled importance that it was, and it is also what reveals the Temptation to be the astonishing event that it was.
When we read the Temptation with the understanding that (1) Satan did not know the Son of God and (2) Satan did not know that God saw him as evil, the story is transformed into an absolutely riveting tale.  You can read about the Temptation from this perspective in Chapter 7 of my book, God Had a Son before Mary Did, at  I hope you will find the time to consider it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Knowing about God vs. Knowing God

This is eternal life, to know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
Jesus, in John 17:3

As it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered
the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit,
for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him?  And likewise, no one knows the things of God; just the Spirit of God.
Now, we have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit that is from God,
so that we might understand the things freely given to us by God.
1Corinthians 2:9–12

There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.  The whole world knows about God, but knowing God Himself is impossible without knowing His Son, Jesus.  When Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by me,” he meant coming to the Father by any means, whether coming to Him spiritually by being born again, coming to know Him intellectually, or coming bodily to stand on the glassy sea in His holy presence.  No one can by any means come to the Father except by the Son, who holds the key to entering into the Father’s presence.
Paul said that it is by the Spirit that we have access to the Father, and the Son is the one by whom we receive the Spirit.  It is also by the Spirit that we may come to know God.  Only the Spirit of God knows the things of God, Paul said.  Even the Son came to know God by the Spirit.
We know God, then, only to the extent that we are filled with His Spirit, and the Spirit is given to us only in the name of God’s Son, Jesus.  Most of the human race is content merely to know about God.  Just a few, Jesus said, would ever find the way of life and truly come to know his Father.  When he returns for those who are in the Way, which road will he find us on?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Satan’s Messiah Is Coming

And then, the lawless one will be revealed,
whom the Master will destroy with the breath of his mouth
and will bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming,
him whose coming is by the work of Satan,
with every miracle, and deceptive signs and wonders,
and with every unrighteous deceit among those who perish
because they did not receive the love of the truth so that they might be saved.
And God will send a strong delusion on them because of that,
to make them believe the lie, so that they might be damned
who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in unrighteousness.
Paul, in 2Thessalonians 2:8–12

Satan's version of our Messiah, Jesus, is coming.  In the book of Revelation, that wicked messiah is called “the Beast”, and to him, Satan will give all his authority and power.  He will do this in imitation of the Father giving all power in heaven and earth to the Son.  
After the Beast appears will come the backslidden holiness preacher called “the False Prophet”.  This False Prophet will be key in turning the Beast’s secular rule on earth into a deeply religious matter.  He, not the Beast himself, will be the one who demands that every person on earth worship the Beast or die, and he, not the Beast, will utterly deceive all believers who are committed more to the Church than to Christ.
When James said, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded!”, that warning was for us, not the world, for James knew full well that God’s people who do not purify their hearts are in danger of being “turned over to believe a lie and be damned”.  This is what God has revealed that Satan, through the False prophet, will do to children of God in the last days who love the forms and fashion of religion more than they love Jesus.
May God help us to search our hearts with His candle, and purify our hearts from every worldly influence, so that we may believe and love the truth!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

God Is Not Old

In the visions of the night, I was there, watching,
and behold, one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven,
and he approached the Ancient of Days, and they ushered him in before Him.
And dominion was given to him, and majesty, and a kingdom.
And all peoples, nations, and languages shall serve him.
His dominion shall be an eternal dominion that will not pass away,
and his kingdom will not be destroyed.
From Daniel’s Vision in Daniel 7:13–14

In Daniel’s vision, the Son of God is the one to whom the “Ancient of Days” grants an eternal kingdom, and God the Father is the “Ancient of Days”.  But don’t let that title fool you.  God is indeed “ancient”, but God is not old.  If I may say it this way, God has for a very, very long time not been old, and throughout eternity to come, He will keep on not being old.
Age is the shadow of death, and death is the end result of sin.  God cannot sin, and so, He cannot die.  Therefore, He never ages.  And for those who love Him, He has promised the same kind of life He has: eternal, ageless life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Truth Can Become a Lie

As also Paul writes in all his letters when he speaks in them about these matters, among which are some things hard to understand, which those who are ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do the other scriptures.
2Peter 3:16

All the words of my mouth are in righteousness;
there is nothing froward or perverse in them.
The Son of God, in Proverbs 8:8

The truth is not the truth if it is spoken at the wrong time, or to the wrong person.
Zophar, one of Job’s three friends, told Job in the midst of Job’s horrific suffering:  “Should not this multitude of words be answered?  And should a man full of talk be justified?  Should your lies make men hold their peace?  And when you mock, shall no man make you ashamed?  For you have said, ‘My doctrine is pure,’ and ‘I am clean in your eyes.’  But oh, that God would speak and open His lips against you! . . . Know that God exacts of you less than your iniquity deserves!” (Job 11:2-5, 6b).
Now, it was true that God was exacting of Job less than his iniquity deserved – if we think of iniquity from a New Testament understanding.  When the Son of God came, he revealed a new kind of righteousness, the previously unknown righteousness of God, and with that revelation came a new and more perfect understanding of sin.  According to that newly revealed definition of sin, Job was sinful, along with every mortal who had ever lived on earth.
But that is New Testament truth.  It did not apply to Job.  God did not feel as Zophar did about Job because He is a just God, and He only judged Job according to the standard of righteousness that existed in Job’s time.  And according to that standard, God judged Job to be “a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and eschews evil” (Job 1:8).
Zophar was wrong.  He was telling the truth, but he was ignorant of the truth he was telling.  He was saying right words, from the perspective of what the Son of God would one day reveal, but the Son had not yet revealed it.  Zophar was condemning Job according to a human standard of righteousness, but Job was not a sinner by any human standard of righteousness.  Only God, at that time, could have said to Job what Zophar said and be telling the truth, but He did not say it.  And God did not say it because it was not His appointed time for such truth to be said.
My father taught his congregation that a person can do more damage with the truth than he can with a lie.  In other words, if we use something true in order to accomplish some evil thing, we will succeed more often than if we use a lie.  Satan, you will recall, quoted truth from the scriptures during the Temptation of Jesus; he knew that no lie would accomplish his purpose.  Consider how much damage would have been done if Jesus had fallen for that truth-turned-into-a-lie!  False prophets and false teachers have always used the holy Bible to persuade people to believe them and to follow their ungodly ways.  The truth has power that lies do not have.
It is our prayer that God would help us tell what is really the truth whenever we say anything, for if what we say is not spoken at the right time, and to the right person, it is not really the truth at all.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Humility: the Mother of Learning

From a sermon on Slander by Pastor John in 2006

The Spirit is teaching all of God’s children all the time, but if at any point along the way, we become proud of what we think we know, our growth in the knowledge of God will cease – until we regain our humility.  Pride is the mother of spiritual blindness, but humility is the mother of learning.  Humility makes us wise because it makes us willing to receive instruction.  If you stop and think about it, you will realize that everything you know – even so small a thing as knowing how to tie your shoes – you learned by humbling yourself to someone who was teaching you, whether it be to God or to a person on earth.
Solomon said, “A wise man will hear” (Prov. 1:5), but it is the willingness to hear which enables someone to become wise.  And, as Solomon repeatedly pointed out, it is the unwillingness to hear, that is, pride, which makes a person foolish (e.g., Prov. 1:7; 15:5; 23:9).  When someone becomes proud, he cannot become wise for his heart will no longer receive instruction.
May God give us the humility to become wise by listening to the instruction of the Spirit of God, and by listening to the wisdom of those who have been taught by the Spirit before us!

Proverbs 1
5.  A wise man will hear, and will increase learning, and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels,
6.  to understand a proverb, and the interpretation, the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
8.  My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
9.  For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

“Wine Is a Mocker”

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is boisterous,
and whoever is deceived by it is not wise.”
Proverbs 20:1

From conversations with Preacher Clark in the 1970’s.

Sometimes, alcohol makes people act the way people act when they are under the power of the holy Spirit.  Those drunk on the wine of heaven may stagger, shake, fall to the ground, shout and praise God, or a thousand other glorious things, all of them perfectly good and clean in God’s sight.  On the day of Pentecost, when Jesus’ disciples first received the Spirit, they were overcome with joy and the power of God, and they spilled out into the street from the upper room where they had been staying.  Some onlookers concluded, “They are full of new wine!” (Acts 2:13), but those onlookers were wrong.  The disciples were indeed drunk, but not the way those onlookers supposed.  Peter told them so:

Acts 2
14. Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and declared to them, “Men of Judea,   and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and pay attention to my words!
15. Contrary to what you think, these are not drunk, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
16. But this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17. ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
18. In those days, I will even pour out my Spirit on my slaves, male and female, and they will prophesy.

Preacher Clark taught us that when God’s people are under the power of the Spirit, they are not imitating the drunks of earth.  Rather, the drunks of earth are imitating, and so, mocking, the power of God when they are drunk.  We need to look at it the right way.  Instead of saints mocking worldly drunks, worldly drunks are mocking happy saints.  And as we all know, “God is not mocked.  For whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  God will have the last laugh, and He will be laughing hard when He strikes the whole earth with such wrath that the earth itself “shall reel to and fro like a drunkard” (Isa. 24:20).  On that day, who will be mocking who?  God says this to those who mock Him now:

Proverbs 1
24. Because I have called, and you refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded,
25. but you have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof,
26. I also will laugh at your calamity.  I will mock when your fear comes,
27. when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction comes like a tornado, when distress and anguish come upon you.

Paul exhorted the saints not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).  He exhorted God’s children to participate in life, not to imitate it.  The holy ghost can move our mortal bodies with its power, the power that will someday raise us from the grave.  The world’s version of this is being drunk with earthly wine, but that only hastens the day that we enter into the grave; it can do nothing to get us out of it.
May God fill us with the kind of wine that thrills the soul with its purity and love, the holy “new wine” from heaven that flows from the throne of God and has filled thirsty souls with His righteousness, from the day of Pentecost until now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Losing a Member

“Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper,
and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead.
Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them,
that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.”
Numbers 5:2-3

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you!
It’s better for you that one of your members perish than that your whole body
be cast into Gehenna.  And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away from you!  It’s better for you that one of your
members perish than that your whole body be cast into Gehenna.”
Matthew 5:29–30

“Put that wicked man out from among you!”
1Corinthians 5:13

Whether under the law or in this time of grace, there are times when, for the good of a body of believers, ties must be broken with an individual member.  Sin is like a contagious disease, and when left unopposed, it always grows.  As Paul said to the saints in Corinth, who had allowed a grievous sin in their midst to go unopposed for a long time, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1Cor. 5:6).  And what was the medicine that Paul prescribed for this body of believers?

1Corinthians 5
3. Absent in body but present in spirit, I have already judged, as if present, the one who has done this deed.
4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you and my spirit are gathered together, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5. turn such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6. Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
7. Purge out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, since you are unleavened.  For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us,
8. so that we might keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9. In a letter, I wrote to you not to associate with immoral people,
10. not meaning, of course, the immoral of this world, or the covetous, or swindlers, or idolaters, for in that case, you would have to leave the world.
11. But now I write to you not to associate with anyone called a brother, if he be immoral, or covetous, or idolatrous, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even so much as to eat with such a one.
12. For what have I to do with judging those outside?  Do you not judge those who are inside?
13. Those on the outside, God will judge.  So put that wicked man out from among you!

Of course, many times, those who are put out of the congregation feel misunderstood and mistreated, and some, like Satan when he was put out of heaven, become angry.  But the important thing is that the body be protected from the influence of souls that have gone astray and are now committed to some ungodliness.
To lose a member of the body of Christ is no more pleasant than to lose an eye or a hand.  But those in the medical field, and men who truly know God, will tell you that there are certainly times when a body must lose a hopelessly diseased member, or lose its entire self.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Unwanted Blessings

And it came to pass after these things that God, testing Abraham,
said to him, “Abraham.”  And he said, “Here I am.”
And He said, “Take now your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac,
and go to the land of Moriah, and there offer him up for a burnt offering
on one of the mountains that I will point out to you.”
Genesis 22:1–2

Abraham was not being punished when God told him to slay and sacrifice his young son Isaac.  On the contrary, he was being rewarded.  The great test of being told to offer up his only son as a burnt offering was reserved for no one but Abraham because there was no one else on earth who qualified to face that test.  By his great love and faith in God, Abraham had earned the privilege of being tested with fire.  It was, no doubt, a blessing that Abraham did not want, but it was the blessing God wanted him to have.  And because Abraham met that trial with faith toward God, we are still talking about him today as a wonderful example for us.  
The apostle James exhorted God’s people to rejoice when they were tested (Jas. 1:2).  He understood that a hard trial is a compliment from God.  Those who have great faith do not fall into and stay in the pit of “Why me?”  Instead, they rise up and face their unsavory circumstance as Jesus did his, with meekness and faith in God.
As a rule, God does not scourge His children for doing wrong.  He may chasten them for doing wrong, but He reserves His scourging, that is, His hardest trials, for those, like Abraham, who have demonstrated great faith already.  In his gospel tract, “Trials Are Opportunities, my father once wrote, “The strongest type of character always receives the hardest trials.  What a glorious opportunity we have – the privilege to be stamped with the trademark of heaven!  Trials of faith are God’s greatest compliments to His earthly children.”  To this wisdom, he added this exhortation: “One should never look upon his trials as mere attacks from the Devil.  Not at all!  God's sheep should be taught that it is God who designs and sends trials of faith and that they are intended for our greatest blessings!  There is great peace in understanding that faith must be tried, and that when it is tried, it is being tried by God!  From trials, one learns his most precious lessons, lessons custom-designed for each of us by our heavenly Father, to match our faith and to enhance our spiritual development.”
Solomon said that “no evil shall happen to the just” (Prov. 12:21).  This means that the hurtful things that happen to us, as with the pleasant things, are designed by our heavenly Father for our good.  And if we love Him, and if we are among those called according to His purpose, everything that happens to us can only be for our good, just as Paul said (Rom. 8:28).  Paul was a hated and maligned apostle.  As an old man, he was deserted by most of the people he had won to the Lord in his lifetime, as well as by some of his closest fellow-workers in Christ.  His aged body bore the scars of the great physical abuse he had suffered.  Still, he said, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in troubles for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor. 12:10).  He did not necessarily want those blessings; at the same time, he understood those “blessings” were necessary for him and that overcoming them meant that he would receive a better resurrection.  Let us emulate Paul’s faith!  If we do, we will have the same joyous testimony he had!