Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Love That Blinds

The god of this world has blinded unbelieving minds
so that they cannot behold the light of the glorious gospel of Christ.”
2Corinthians 4:4

Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.
He who follows me shall not walk in darkness
 but shall have the light of life. 
John 8:12

You’ve seen them on news programs, wailing before the cameras.  Mothers, whose sons have committed crimes and have been caught red-handed.  They are crying out for justice, telling the world that their sons have always been good boys and that their sons are innocent and are being mistreated.  But the truth is, those mothers did not discipline their boys, and their boys grew up expecting the world to give them whatever they want and to let them have their way, whatever that way is, as their foolish mothers always did.  Those boys were brought up by mothers who loved themselves too much to inconvenience themselves by making their children behave, and now their children love themselves too much to inconvenience themselves by behaving.  And the mothers see no wrong in either themselves or their rotten offspring.  It is easy for Satan to deceive and to use such blind people, and he often does.
There is an old saying, “Love is blind”.  But that saying is true only if you are talking about the kind of love that is in the flesh.  God’s kind of love is not blind at all.  God’s love knows the truth, and it rejoices in the truth it knows.  God’s love knows that every sinner can be changed by God, but before that change takes place, that same love knows who is a sinner that needs changing.  God’s kind of love holds out hope for sinners, but in the meantime, it knows that without Christ Jesus, sinners have no hope.  God’s love doesn’t blind us to the obvious.  On the contrary, it opens our eyes to see everything rightly: first, to see ourselves and others as we really are, and secondly, to see Jesus, who surrendered his life to deliver us from our deadly kind of love.
Our kind of love turns us into blind fools if we follow it long enough.  It is a love that blinds, a love that hates uncomfortable truth.  Nevertheless, to those who are laboring in the bondage of their own kind of love, God offers liberty and light.  Through His Son Jesus, He is freely offering liberty to us all from our flesh’s love of darkness by filling our hearts with the light of His kind of love.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Godly Father

Neither shall you bring an abomination into your house,
lest you be a cursed thing like it.
But you shall utterly detest it, and you shall utterly abhor it,
for it is a cursed thing.”
Deuteronomy 7:26

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:4

God expects us to enforce His order and peace in our area of control, especially in our homes.  When I read this verse from Deuteronomy recently, I was reminded of an event in my childhood that shows how well my father feared God and kept this commandment without respect of persons.
When I was about twelve years old, I walked across town one day to the public library and checked out several books to read.  One of the books I chose was a book on the subject of witchcraft.  It was not that I had a desire to become a wizard; it was just that the subject seemed unusual, and it intrigued me.  Witchcraft was a new subject to me because my life had been surrounded by godly people since my birth.
Now, my father gave us, his children, plenty of liberty, as far as personal choices were concerned.  He was not nosy, and he never examined the titles of the library books we picked out to read.  And so, when I arrived home with my new load of books, I just laid the books down in open view, giving it no thought.  But it just so happened that my father walked by at that moment, and he noticed that I had brought home a book on witchcraft.  Without hesitation or explanation, and without raising his voice, he ordered me to take that book out of his house – immediately.  Now, whenever my father gave an order in our home, there was no back-talk or whining; there was only obedience.  It is possible that I asked him what to do with the witchcraft book, since the library was over a mile away, but if I did ask him what to do with it, he would have just said something like, “I don’t know.  Just get it out of here.”
After walking outside with the unwelcome book and standing there a few minutes, I surrendered to the obvious, and walked back across town to the library to turn the book in, and then made the long trip back home.  Nothing else was ever said about the incident.  My father had made his point, and I had understood it.
You must know this about my father.  He did not feel obligated to send me away with that book because he had read Deuteronomy 7:26 that morning and felt obligated to obey it.  Instead, he was reacting from his heart to seeing such a book in his area of control, and his command seemed, even to me then, natural and right.  Inconvenient, yes; but not harsh and dictatorial.  Without me realizing it, my young heart was being helped by Jesus to understand that my father was motivated by fear of God and that he had commanded me to take that book out of his house because he was righteous.  My heart sensed that my father was only doing the will of God, and I could not feel mistreated.
Some parents fear their children’s displeasure more than they fear God’s, but by doing that, they unwittingly train their children to love themselves and pleasure more than they love God.  I thank God with all my heart that I had a father who loved and feared God more than he loved and feared me!  Godly men bring up their children “in the instruction and admonition of the Lord”, and with the help of such a father’s example, children may learn to live in the instruction and admonition of the Lord, and have a life filled with God’s blessing.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Preaching the Kingdom

In those days, John the Baptizer appeared,
preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying,
‘Repent!  The kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ 
Matthew 3:1–2

Now, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee,
preaching the good news of the kingdom of God and saying,
‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand!
Repent and believe the gospel!’
Mark 1:14–15

From conversations with Preacher Clark, about 1976.

Neither John the Baptist nor Jesus preached the kingdom of God; they only preached about the kingdom.  Of the kingdom of God, both Jesus and John the Baptist said, “It is at hand.”  The kingdom of God, according to Paul, “is righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17), and that kingdom came to men on the day the holy Ghost came, the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Jesus said that the remission of sins which brings us “righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Ghost” had to be preached everywhere, but that it had to start in Jerusalem (Lk. 24:47).  That is where the kingdom of God, the holy Ghost, came and filled about 120 souls who loved Jesus.  Then, the kingdom of God was preached on this earth, and Peter was the one who preached it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

“That It May Be Well With You”

“These are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments
which the Lord your God commanded to teach you,
to do them in the land to which you go to possess it.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it, that it may be well with you.”
Deuteronomy 6:1, 3

God has never given a commandment for His own benefit.  Every commandment He has ever given to creatures in heaven or on earth has been for their good, and the good of others.  The excerpt from Deuteronomy, above, is part of Moses’ last sermon to Israel before he died.  It is just one instance of Moses’ great effort to persuade Israel to believe that God’s commandments were designed to bring them blessings if they would only keep them.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

“With All The Heart”

An expert in the law put a question to him, testing him, and saying,
‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’
Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 
This is the first and great commandment.”
Matthew 22:35–38

Unite my heart to fear your name!
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
and I will glorify your name for evermore.”
Psalm 86:11b-12

When we read the Bible’s commandment to love and serve God “with all your heart”, it is easy for us to understand what it means; to wit, we must love and serve God with all our heart, not just a portion of it.  But since that commandment is so simple and easy to understand, why did God’s people in the Old Testament almost never keep it?  Although knowing perfectly well that God must be served with the whole heart, God’s Old Testament people, according to their own scriptures and their own prophets, almost never served God that way.  Have you ever wondered why?
The reason is simple; namely, God’s people did not understand how His command to love Him with all the heart was broken.  In other words, they never understood what it is that makes a soul guilty of loving God with only a portion of the heart.  Moses warned Israel shortly before he died not to add anything, or leave off anything, from the law that God had given them (Dt. 4:2)  Moses knew that loving God with all the heart meant to serve Him as He says to serve Him, adding nothing and omitting nothing from His will.  They did not understand that to add holy days beyond the ones God commanded, or to fail to observe the ones He did, was to fail to love God with the whole heart.   They did not understand that to add sacrifices to those ordained in the law, or to fail to make the sacrifices that the law required, was to fail to love God with the whole heart.
Israel was a pattern for the New Testament people of God, the body of Christ on earth.  And just like Israel, the body of Christ has almost never loved the Lord with their whole heart.  Paul tried to persuade them to.  He labored to convince them that Jesus was sufficient for their salvation.  But the people of God under this covenant of grace, like Israel under the law, have steadfastly been determined to add to the grace of God in Christ, and to leave off some of what is in that grace.
To love God with all your heart means to be completely satisfied with His way, so satisfied that no other way even appeals to you.  And in this covenant, God’s way is in the Spirit!  In this covenant, no one loves God and His Son with all the heart who adds a fleshly, water baptism to Jesus’ baptism of the holy Spirit.  And no one loves God with all the heart who adds a holy day, a Sabbath, to God’s Sabbath of rest that He gives in the Spirit.  And no one loves God with the whole heart who adds special robes for worship to the robes of righteousness with which the Spirit clothes God’s children, or who adds a fleshly communion of grape juice and crackers to the “communion of the holy Ghost”.  This is why Paul, so hurt and grieved, scolded the saints who added fleshly ceremony to the way of the Spirit, and warned them that they were endangering their souls by doing so:

Galatians 3
1. O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth – before     whose eyes Jesus Christ, crucified, was openly displayed among you?
2. This only would I learn of you: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
3. Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?

Galatians 5
4. You are severed from Christ, you who are justified by the law!  You have fallen from grace!
5. For by faith in the Spirit, we await the hope of righteousness.

Under the law, the only people who loved God with the whole heart were the ones who trusted His law completely to make them worthy to be saved from the coming wrath of God.    Theirs were the only hearts in Israel that were not divided between faith in God and faith in something else.  And under this covenant of grace, the only people who love God with the whole heart are the ones who trust His Son, by the Spirit, completely to make them worthy to be saved from the coming wrath of God.  Theirs are the only hearts in the body of Christ that are not divided between faith in God and faith in something else.
David was wise to pray that God would unite his heart to love and serve Him only.  May God give us the wisdom to do the same, and be delivered from the temptation to add the rites and traditions of Christianity to the perfect, holy way of the Spirit of Christ. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Free Indeed

“If, then, the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
John 8:36

Long ago, Jesus taught me to be like him and never put pressure on people to be a part of my ministry if their hearts were not in it.  Consequently, I have never gone out looking for “members”.  Nor do I put pressure on the people whom God did send to be a part of this ministry to stay once they come here.  I have never pursued anyone who chose to leave my congregation.  I thank God for every one He sends to help, and I thank God for every one He takes away.  Every person who is associated with me in my work knows that if he or she chooses to leave, I will not chase after them or try to persuade them to change their minds.  They all know they are perfectly free to do whatever is in their hearts to do.  I would not have it any other way because God will have it no other way.
Decades ago, the Lord told me to offer a “money-back guarantee” to any person who becomes a partner here with me, but who – for any reason whatsoever – afterward regretted supporting this ministry with his tithes and offerings.  God and His ministers are not beggars, for numbers of people or for money, and I have imitated my heavenly Father in making sure that every person working with me is doing so only because they want to.  I make sure they know (1) they are free to leave at any time, and (2) if they want their money back, they can have it.  (For obvious tax reasons, such a refund can only apply to money given within the most recent fiscal year.)
I have kept that promise on several occasions.
The freedom with which the Son makes us free is so real and so all-encompassing that it can be frightening to consider.  God is so much a God of liberty that He will have no unwilling servants.  Of course, there will be dire consequences for unfaithfulness.  We all will most certainly reap what we sow; still, God has determined that we are free to choose not to serve Him if we don’t want to.  He makes real promises, but He does not manipulate; He warns, but He does not threaten; and He pleads, but He does not hound those who turn from Him and go another way.  God’s wayward children may be dearly loved and sorely missed, but when Jesus makes us “free indeed”, part of that extraordinary gift of freedom is the freedom to cease from serving Him if we choose to love the world instead.  Jesus will let us go if we insist on it.  After all, if we are not free to choose disobedience and rebellion, then we are not free to choose love and faithfulness.  If we cannot turn from him and embrace eternal death, then we cannot “drink of the waters of life freely”, either.
God releases His prisoners if they want to escape from Him.  He loves us too much to hold us against our will.  He forces no one to serve Him, and if you feel discontent with Him, He would rather you feel content with someone else than to keep you bound in discontentment to Him.  Only God loves you so much and so purely that He wants you to be free to live the way you really want to.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

An Open Life

“You’ve got to have an open life.
You’ve got to have a life open to God and open to the family of God.
There are no secrets with God.”
From a Sermon by Preacher Clark, Early 1974.

Beware the soul that attempts to pressure you not to talk to others about things that really matter to you.  Such pressure comes from an evil heart.  As a pastor, I don’t need or want to know everything the people in my congregation think or do or say, but the man who makes them feel they are being disloyal if they do want to talk to me about something important that has happened or been said is laying a snare for their soul.  And the same thing applies to me.  I am sometimes criticized by those who have fallen away from Christ for how open I am with my congregation.  A backslidden relative wrote me several years ago and began by insisting that her email was only to be between her and me.  But I will never hold anything from the saints here that will benefit them, and her communications with me had value for them, so I shared it.  And I will always to that.  I do not make deals with the devil.  I am God’s servant, not his.
The first thing an abusive husband drills into his wife is the supreme importance of loyalty – to him, not to God and His righteousness!  If he convinces his wife that she is a disloyal, bad person if she ever talks about family matters to anyone outside the family (“family” meaning just him), then he can abuse her without fear of her exposing him.
Search your heart.  Is there someone making you feel that loyalty to him or her means that you cannot talk to others about things he has said or done to you?  If so, you had better wake up before that person’s foul spirit makes you its slave.  Or on the other hand, is there anyone that you are now pressuring to keep silent about what you have said or done to him, or to her?  If so, fall down right now and ask Jesus to forgive you for trying to enslave another person to your will and divide the body of Christ. 
I beg you all to give earnest heed to Preacher Clark’s wisdom!  Do not live in darkness!  Live in the peace of openness among the saints, and stay free and happy!

Monday, January 4, 2016


“Say not, ‘What is the cause that the former days were better than these,’
for you do not enquire wisely concerning this.”
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Now is the best time of your life because now is the only time of your life.  Don’t miss out on your life today, looking backwards or dreaming about the days to come.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

So What, If We Know the Truth about Christmas?

We know that nothing but the holy Ghost will change a heart and make a person right with God.  In the meantime, let’s be thankful for the things sinners have that keep them from acting altogether like beasts.  Let them believe that Christmas brings good will and peace to men.  Let them experience the gratification of giving presents.  So what, if we know that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ?  God is using that holiday, and other such things, to encourage sinful people to try to be good and to prevent them from giving expression to the wickedness that is in everyone’s heart who has not been cleansed by Christ.
The truth of the gospel has always been absent from this culture, but the culture’s increasing rejection of such things as Christmas and Easter is resulting in the rise of gross immorality and godlessness.  Men without Christ are better off with Christmas than they are without it.  God uses man’s religions for the good of His people who are still living in this dark world.  He restrains the cruelty of man with those ceremonial things.  To use such things for our good is the work of God, and we should not meddle in it, any more than we should meddle with His work of putting whomever He will into public office.  You do not want to live in a wicked world like this one without the restraining influence of false religion.
God’s wise servants offer His answer – life in the Spirit – to sinners who have begun to feel a hunger for God’s kind of righteousness and are seeking it.  God has not anointed anyone among us to destroy the very things He uses to control the depraved spirits of men.  If we interfere with His work and destroy what He is using for good, we will have only made life in this miserable world unnecessarily more difficult for His people, and for everyone else.
To paraphrase Paul (1Cor. 8:1), “So what if we know the truth about Christmas?  Knowledge will puff a person up!  Only what is done in love will edify.”  It is sad to watch saints who go on a crusade every fall to destroy Christmas, and every spring to destroy Easter, because they know about the pagan origins of those two holidays.  They have become so proud of what they know!  So what if such holidays have pagan origins?  This whole world has pagan origins.  What’s next?  Attack New Year’s Day?  That holiday, too, has pagan origins.  Child of God, back off.  Leave God’s business alone.  He is using all such things for your good.  Let Him do it, and be thankful for them!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Troublesome Saints

Part of a Sermon by Pastor John, February 18, 2012

I want everybody to be here in this Assembly of saints who wants to be here.  But there are some who, if allowed to come, would cause this body unnecessary problems; so, I cannot allow it.  Still, I do not like being in a room with just some of God’s people; I would sincerely love to be with all of them.  And I believe that everybody who has a heart for that to happen is going to see it when it does happen.  Someday, all who truly love peace and seek it will be together with God and His Son, and with every other believer who truly desires peace.
In the meantime, I must remain alert.  Some of God’s people love themselves more than they love others, and because of that, trouble follows them wherever they go.  The sheep of God’s pasture must be protected from such people, and it is the shepherd’s responsibility to do so.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Our Own Kind of Problems

Part of a Sermon by Pastor John, February 18, 2012

After God touched me and gave me a sober, godly mind, I began to notice how that saints who walk in the Spirit were spared a lot of the troubles that the world deals with.  God gives His obedient children a different set of problems to overcome, a different set of trials for their faith.  On the other hand, I also learned that if the minds of God’s people wander from the things of God, they start participating in those troubles of the world.  We want to walk in the Spirit and live above the world’s kind of problems, the way Christ Jesus did.  The world fights over one political or social cause after another, the way the ocean pounds vainly against the shore, changing nothing but making a constant roar.  The warfare of the saints is to overcome evil with good, and through God, the weapons of their warfare are mighty (2Cor. 10:4).