ABOUT THE DOCTRINE YOU TEACH

Last post I looked at Jesus’ words recorded in John 7. The religious establishment asked how this Galilean could possibly have received such perfect understanding. Where did he get it all? Of course, you know where it came from.

 “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”  

His teaching was not his at all. He had no input of his own. No initiative. No imaginative content. Nothing from the Son of Man. His teaching was one hundred percent from the One who had sent him—his Father.

This has enormous implications for us all.

Are you a teacher? So where does your teaching come from? From God, or does it come from another source, for example, from yourself, or your denomination, or what you learned from respected teachers, or your wisdom or your own private interpretation of the scriptures? Or from your smorgasbord of selections from well known preachers?

It’s pretty risky to see yourself as a teacher, don’t you think?  James in his letter warns that teachers will be judged more critically.  Have a look. Maybe you should quit.

Jesus told us “call no one Rabbi for One is your Teacher and you are all brothers”. So how can we go on thinking of ourselves as teachers of people who “sit under my ministry” or who follow our blog posts, people who must be protected because there are so many false teachers out there. Maybe you are even in competition with others—your teaching is wiser, more biblical, more accurate than his or hers.

But even Jesus did not see himself as an original teacher but as reproducing the Father’s. Yet millions seek not God, the One who is The Teacher, but selected persons and invest all their listening in these human teachers.

You still want to be a teacher? Why? To win respect? Get praise? Receive glory? Entertain? Be applauded?

He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who is seeking the glory of the one who sent him, he is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him. John 7:17–18

Aren’t we supposed to be living in a new covenant where no longer does “each one instruct his brother”? but in which “all know me—from the least to the greatest”? by which the Holy Spirit is freely given to all disciples to guide us into all truth and remind us of what Jesus taught? in which we all “have an anointing from the Holy One”.

The Holy Spirit is greatly under-employed.

Maybe you need to work yourself out of this job by encouraging everyone who hears you to be “teachers” themselves as it says in the letter to the Hebrews, instead of you spoon feeding them. Seek only the glory of the One who sends you.

Of course, most preachers insist their stuff comes “from the Bible”. But that’s also what the purveyors of the most weird anti-christian stuff say too.  Scary.

Would you agree that if the Lord Jesus had no original teaching himself but everything came from the one who sent him, that you must follow Jesus and copy him and “be as he was in the world” and be of no reputation?

Do you have any authority to go beyond that? To teach anything different? Moses was forbidden to vary anything in building the tabernacle after the heavenly pattern. We have the pattern for working in the new covenant—it is Jesus. We must imitate him. Humble ourselves. Reckon ourselves having died to our own wills and ambitions.

You must not seek your own glory but God’s glory alone.  For you have died and your life is now hid in Christ with God– remember?

You must not speak from yourself—the true teacher from God must not bring anything beyond what God has said in his son Jesus Christ.

Is that not so?

WHAT IS TRUE DOCTRINE

There are hundreds of thousands of teachers who seek to make their opinions, their interpretations known. You could spend a lifetime reading or hearing countless theological systems, books on doctrine, the web is full of them. Thousands of YouTube videos and blogs. Countless organisations each with their statements of faith and mission statements claiming to be correct and biblical.

So who are you to believe? Where, how, from whom, do you find truth?

When Jesus astonished the Jews in the Jerusalem temple with his surprising teaching and wisdom, they questioned how this Galilean could possibly have received such perfect understanding. So Jesus explained how. And his explanation was amazingly simple  . . .

 “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. John 7:16–18

His teaching was actually not his at all. He had no input of his own.

Astoundingly, he had no initiative at all in what he taught.

At the same time, there was tremendous variety as He spoke by the Holy Spirit. His approach to people was different on each occasion.

He teaches us to “call no one Rabbi (that is teacher), you have One Teacher” (Matthew 23:8)

 

Are you seeking truth?  How important is truth?

Surely we are living in a culture where knowing truth is not cool.

Post-truth. Anything goes. How it feels is what guides. What works for me.

Back in the 1960’s Francis Schaeffer saw Post-truth coming and found it necessary to coin the term, true truth.

True truth. We all know there are physical laws that are always true which we ignore at our peril . . . defying gravity, eating poisonous substances and so on.

So there are meta-physical things that never change. Faith, love, righteousness, goodness, for example.

Does your belief system come from someone you respect, admire, even place as your guru, bypassing, shortcutting the Lord Jesus? Wrong beliefs can kill, can lead to destruction and damnation. Cursed, wrote Paul, of those who decide to be justified by law.

Your fav preachers may want to get admiration from men and not from God. They may seek recognition, praise, reputation, advancement. Their desires colour what they teach. No wonder we are in such a poor state spiritually.

 

How do we recognise true teaching? Jesus said to make God’s will your will—no other. If you desire to do the will of God, you will know what teaching is true—the one who teaches will not seek his own glory but God’s glory alone.  He will not speak from himself—the true teacher from God does not dare bring anything beyond what God has said in his son Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, the one teacher of righteousness is Jesus. Are you surprised?

 

So, just humbly following Jesus, we shall be like him. Being like him, listening to him, we will desire above all else, to will the will of God.

So, passionately desiring to do the will of the Father, we shall recognise the truth when we hear it, and the truth will set us free.

Simple, isn’t it.

So when will you abandon your own belief system, your treasured traditions, and begin to love His rule, His will?

WHAT TO BELIEVE

I am persuaded that there is a simplicity in Jesus and the gospel of Christ. The New Testament scriptures emphasize that all we need is found in Christ. We are “complete in him”.

Simply, we need to be “in Christ”, and  Jesus to live in us.

So simply, we need to be one with Him.

One.

Today we tend to complicate everything by presenting enquirers with a sure-fire plan of 3 steps, or 4 points or whatever (remember the ‘4 spiritual laws’?).

We want to make sure all bases are covered, people to understand what is taught, what is right and wrong.

And the more we try want to explain the Gospel and Christianity to somehow demystify the message, we seem to be adding more and more propositions and things for people to do, boxes to tick.

So we end up far from the simple message of “believe in him whom God has sent” (John 6:28)

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”  Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”   Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68).

And that simple word of Jesus changes everything for us who do just that.

Says it all: “believe in him whom God has sent”

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you – Mat 28

Why teach anything else?  Just teach only Jesus!   His word—what he commanded the disciples.

“If you abide (continue, remain) in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  John 8:32

Jesus and only Jesus reveals the truth that sets us all free. But it must be lived. You can’t really say you believe it if you are not living it. You have to remain in it.s

Sound teaching is critical–that is to maintain the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The traditions of men and their organisations, big or small, are to be rejected. Much of today’s “Christianity” has been added, sometimes to try to make things plainer or else to exert control and to define who is “in” and who’s not. Really the doctrine which most seem to ignore is illustrated in 2 John 9 :

“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God–the one who abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting, for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil ways.”

So much of Jesus’ teachings, his commandments, are ignored while doctrines of men are preached instead, bringing confusion, disunity, splits, denominations, the making of books having no end.

It’s as if we take his serious life-giving words as suggestions. No, these are his commands!

Jesus is everything. Everything.

 

THE ORIGINAL DEPOSIT OF TRUTH IS ENOUGH

Much is taught to Christian believers in churchy situations that is foreign to the plain teaching of the New Testament—worldliness, avoiding suffering, prosperity, cessation-ism, clergy-laity divide, tithing, rules to follow, steps to become born again or spiritual, weird manifestations, even new-age stuff!

God has provided us with so much direction, revelation and understanding in the apostolic scriptures. We are so blessed with what we have in our hands.

When the apostles received Jesus’ commissioning words before his departure, the only scriptures they had was the Old Testament. Now we have the gospels, the letters and Acts and Revelation, and we have all this in one volume and in many translations and many versions. Can you see how remarkable this is?

But no, all this is not enough for many creative preachers. They add so much more. Adding to God’s revelation, His word, subtracts from it.

These teachers ignore the deposit once made to the saints (Jude 3) and look for ways, new ideas to impress peers or to keep people (some with ‘itching ears’) coming to their “well”  every time to draw stagnant water instead of showing them the living water so they can drink themselves.  If people don’t keep coming their support will dwindle. So preachers often copy other well known teachers and a new doctrine emerges and schisms result. Doctrines of men and not from God which make void the pure word of God.  We are to teach what Jesus taught his disciples. Simple.

But simply Jesus and the gospel is not enough it seems for many. They must improve on what Jesus taught. Imagine trying to improve on what God has said! When men do this they put themselves on a higher plane that the Lord Himself! That is gross idolatry.

So in come issues such as Jewish ideas, medieval mysticism, bizarre behaviours, revelations from angelic beings or reviving forms of religion that lack the power of the true gospel. So the subscribers stay in their pews or lounges frozen in this world which seems out of control, unable to change it.

And all the while the Lord reminds us every time we eat the bread and drink the cup that He is coming back for His undefeated ekklesia (=gathering) because it’s being constructed one by one by HIM and against which the powers of Hades have no option but to crumple into ruins. The rest will be destroyed along with the evil powers.

This is the kind of gospel that is missing.

Warfare is called for. Not of human weapons but . . . .

“  . .  we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . .” 2 Cor 10:4-5, NASB

These fortresses, strongholds are the imaginations/speculations, thoughts which must be taken captive to the commands of Jesus. Right?  NOT to try to “ make the gospel work” by human effort which we can see happening in home meetings as well as the institutional corporations with their CEOs, boards, management expertise, budgets, manpower, clergy caste and hierarchy.

It is very important to begin anew with the new wine of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. It is sufficient. We must stand on the word of God and nothing else. Any mixture will spread like leaven and weaken, even bringing destruction. The Holy Spirit is given to us. We are one in Jesus and one with Jesus—that must sink into our hearts and minds so we know nothing else matters.

Renewal of the mind by the unchanging word of God must happen and keep happening in us. No alternative.

As I said in my last post, how awful it would be if Jesus’ would say to you at the end of time, “you loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43) or “I gave you my words, my Father’s will, but have you kept my words and not the words of men?”

WHAT GOD WANTS FROM US

The bottom line is not winning the world for Jesus! The bottom line for Moslems is a totally Moslem world. But we Jesus’ followers have a different destiny. For us the bottom line is to do the will of the Father, as Jesus did. Jesus said of his mission “A body you have prepared for me…. It is written of me in the scroll— I come to do your will” (Hebrews 10:5-7). The bottom line is to obey God in our bodies, to do his will ‘as it is in Heaven’. It is about honoring God, worth-shipping him (in every way acknowledging His worth!) and allowing God to use our body and our mind and our spirit.

It is to wholeheartedly adopt His agenda and ruthlessly abandon our own agendas.

It is to embrace his wondrous design for us with all that is within us, not shrugging shoulders at God’s word—insulting him by thinking our ways are better, our plans superior, our doctrines more sound, more relevant, than what has been revealed.

It is to prefer to draw on the infinite resources of the Holy Spirit, the Helper Jesus promised, rather than preferring our own wisdom, strengths and resources.

Do we think He is impotent? uninterested? clumsy? inefficient? ignorant? unacquainted with 21st century thinking? out of touch with modern people?  Do you think He wants us to plead with Him to do HIS WILL?

We know better, do we? We clay pots, can we instruct our maker? We must stop that! It must cease.

I believe Jesus’ ‘hidden life’ of around 18 years is expressed in terms of Isaiah 50:4—5 . . . .

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.

Those 18 years were a preparation by his Father upon a willing human. 18 years! He did not come as a ready-made mighty Son of God, great prophet, amazing teacher, a superman.  He came as a son of man, born of a virgin girl, one hundred percent human.

The pattern that came into Jesus was the word of the Father.  God’s will. God’s pattern. And as it became written on his heart, so it becomes written on our hearts under the terms of His New Covenant. Following Jesus means praying, meditating on scripture, as HE HAD TO in his vulnerable human state. He had to learn obedience through what happened to him, like us, says the author of The Letter to the Hebrews.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean copying his dress, eating habits, speaking Aramaic or Hebrew, going to a synagogue, etc. It means being like Him in loving others, serving, taking the lowest place, leading not pushing. It means obeying Him.

Following Jesus means doing what he did, making disciples, teaching them everything he taught his followers. It means healing the sick, setting the oppressed free. Like he did. Forget the rest. Abandon any other faith, any other belief, any other doctrine.

Following Jesus includes meeting together simply to encourage one another. Jesus did this constantly with His little band of disciples. The apostles taught that we meet together to encourage one another and we remember Jesus. . And he gave us the resources to do this.  Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Corinthians 12—14. The term ‘one another’ is used more than fifty times in the New Testament. “Preaching” was unknown in Paul’s communities but prophesying was encouraged for everyone.

They have shown us the way –and it actually worked! They turned the world upside down. The works that Jesus did we can do. But there is a price to pay and that is to abandon our ways and follow his. It is often to WAIT for the coming of his wisdom and to be sure of receiving the authority to do what he wants. To listen to Him with opened ears.

Of course God blesses all those who serve in his name and salvation comes to many though they may not have understood these things but still follow traditions that are outside His wonderful pattern, his design. His arm is not shortened that he cannot save. He puts up with our blind spots, our ignorance, even our disobedience. That’s what God is like.

Yet it is worth abandoning our human and religious traditions and rely on Him completely and obey His design for us as revealed in the teachings left for us by His apostles and prophets.

But how awful it would be if Jesus’ would say to us at the end of time, “you loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43) or “I gave you my words, my Father’s will, but have you kept my words and not the words of men?”

WHEN A GOOD THING BECOMES LAW David Pawson’s teaching on water baptism

David criticizes people who talk about “receiving Jesus”. But David ignores many passages of the NT. Consider John 1:11-13. “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (and no mention of baptism there).

David teaches that if not water-baptised one is not really ‘born again’ or ‘saved’ (https://youtu.be/wFuJa5n3hAU). He says all four things: repentance, faith, water-baptism and receiving the Spirit are necessary to have eternal life. Let’s look at the implications of his doctrine . . . .

Thus, if you have not been baptised, despite being a disciple of Jesus, you do not have eternal life. You are not sanctified, not a child of God. David doesn’t state this outright but these are the implications: you are condemned, heading for eternal separation from God. Thus if not baptised, in David’s view, you do not have eternal life. You may have experienced the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit but if not water baptised your experience of the Holy Spirit means little. You may have had a lifetime of the fruits of the Spirit but unless you are water baptised you will be rejected.

I know that many teachers insist that baptism is not merely symbolic. But if it is a ‘means of grace’ and deemed necessary for salvation, it comes close to the Roman Catholic doctrine known as ‘baptismal regeneration’. The NT is silent about whether baptism is just “symbolic”. Symbolism and metaphor abound on the lips of Jesus and are frequently used by the apostolic writers. Symbolism is important and should not be ignored. Symbols transmit truth.

It is clear that the first believers practised water-baptism and we ought to follow their example.  In fact we ought to follow their example in many practices which are ignored. We think we know better. Shame.

But to demand that believers be water-baptised to make them “saved” or to get them “into the Kingdom” is to introduce something that sends every unbaptised believer to condemnation. Can you imagine the Father saying to such ‘well sorry you missed getting baptised so there’s the door—depart from me!”?

Is that really what God our Father is like—a despot who watches to see if His children who receive His Son then fail to be baptised and then sends them to everlasting punishment? NO. It’s all about relationship with Jesus and the Father and abiding in Christ, being in Him and He in us.

Millions of Jesus’ precious, devoted saints assume that baptism is symbolic. They know they have experienced washing of regeneration, assurance of salvation, forgiveness of sins, victory over sin and have entered into eternal life in Jesus—having “received Jesus” (John 1:12) they go through life without any conviction they are lacking water-baptism.

We may persuade others to be baptised but to insist on this is deeply divisive. They have a walk with Jesus. They have a conscience. They also have the Holy Spirit. We can encourage people rather than insist. Commanding to be water baptized can put people under pressure especially if salvation depends on it! Commands bring condemnation, but encouragement strengthens and enables us to obey God and that’s Grace. People can then be open to God who can lead believers to be water baptized.

Are we going to be condemned over the adherence of a doctrine or not? If we are, then it’s doctrine that saves us and not the holy name and sacrifice of Jesus. Read John 1:11-13 again, and 1 Peter 1:3—and the whole of the New Testament. Otherwise we get only part of the picture.

I am persuaded that when we join the great throngs in the new world praising the Father and the Lamb we will meet John Wesley, Geo Whitfield, Charles Finney, General William Booth and the millions who embraced their teachings, together with witnesses, reformers, evangelists, prophets, revival leaders, and so on.

A LETTER TO JEB ABOUT BAPTISM

The way I see it Jeb (not his real name) is that reading the New Testament as a whole points me to following Jesus only and by the Holy Spirit which he has promised me.  This applies to all questions!

I have followed Jesus for decades. But following Jesus and obeying His commands is not just a matter of interpretation but sensitivity to the Holy Spirit who has been given freely to us. It involves taking into consideration what things have been revealed to each of us in our journey.

I was baptised as an infant and from early age till about 12 I knew His care in the midst of dysfunctional parenting and some dreadful childhood experiences. But I always wanted to serve Him and “extend the work of Christ and His kingdom” to the best of my ability as I was taught by ministers I respected. Then at age 20 my long search and constant prayer that had been wrung from my innermost person for 10 years was answered and I trusted in Christ through the witness of two East Africans and was overwhelmed by His great affection for me and my company, His amazing grace, His re-birthing me from above, His great and manifold promises, and more, plus the amazing realisation that I was known by Him and that I had come to know “the only true God and Jesus whom he sent”.

I thank God that he does not judge me for my omissions nor for anything that I am supposed to do. His Son’s death for me is sufficient.

Sometimes it takes a long while for things to be worked out and we grow in maturity gradually. Slowly. One of the many things to learn as I progressed was the meaning of baptism and the when? And by whom? And the how? –and I often sought answers from Baptist people. But I could not be convinced of the importance of “believers baptism” as they called it.

All the while I saw God do amazing things, experiencing the Baptiser in Holy Spirit, healings, deliverances, gifts of the Spirit etc. For most of this time I was not baptised in water but I knew I was baptised into His death and risen with Him and knew I was seated in the heavenly places in Christ! So the idea of being submerged in a water baptism after all this wonderful witness by the Holy Spirit in my spirit, did not seem all that vital.

However I came to believe by the Holy Spirit that it was time for me to be immersed as a believer. I have no problem with believers being baptised convinced by the same Holy Spirit. The concern I have is over those who preach that it is necessary to be baptised in water to be saved with the alternative being condemnation. This is simply untrue and patently legalistic and is often proclaimed by people who wish to purely maintain their own viewpoint reflecting a denomination of ‘party’ or a historical tradition, and worse—often by threats, warnings and authoritarianism.

Surely it is more important to be immersed into His death and resurrection and to know him in “the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death . . . . .” than to be dipped in water by some ranked pastor in a tank in a ‘service’ and then to show no fruits or maturity in the Christian walk.

To recognise a believer I don’t think many of us would check if he had been baptised in water but rather, what are the fruits of his life, what are the evidences of his faith.

Do you really think that by omitting water baptism leads to believers’ rejection by God–amounting to trillions of saints down the ages? Is such a warning written large in every book of the New Testament? No. Instead we constantly read it is by grace we are saved by faith—in hundreds of places, emphatically stressed by Paul and the other apostolic writers.

The implications of this hard and fast doctrinal emphasis by some is awful .

Are we going to be condemned over the adherence of a doctrine or not? If we are, then it’s doctrine that saves us and not the holy name and sacrifice of  Jesus. Or it’s what we do that saves us. Unthinkable!

Just imagine the famous Christian leader John Wesley fronting Jesus at the judgment—is he going to be shown the left hand door? Wesley  believed and taught tens of thousands that “the whole Church of Christ, for seventeen hundred years together, baptized infants.” So is Wesley who lived in the Spirit and turned the whole of England to Christ, is he going to be condemned?

Is that really what God our Father is like—a despot who watches to see if His children who receive His Son and then if they fail the baptism test , He sends them to everlasting punishment? NO. It’s all about relationship with Jesus and the Father and abiding in Christ, being in Him and He in us. It’s all about knowing Him.

The good news is so simple.

Does Jesus command us to be baptised anywhere in the new covenant scriptures?  You may quote to me the one at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.  But that is referring to much more than mere water. Much, much more.

Is Jesus recorded as water-baptising anyone? Were the 12 apostles thus baptised by Jesus?

Of course what our resurrected Lord did say to his disciples was “You will baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”, following John’s prophecy “I baptise in water but He will baptise in the Holy Spirit”.

Yes, I know the apostles regularly baptised believers in the name of Jesus. But do we do all of the things the apostles did or directed because we are afraid of losing our salvation? Let’s be balanced, please.

Paul insists on head-coverings worn for women who pray or prophesy and said that if anyone thinks otherwise he is being contentious. Do you insist on that? Do you insist that women ‘remain silent in the churches’? Do you follow Paul’s instructions about remaining single because ‘of the present distress’?

Oh Jeb!  It’s all about knowing Him, hearing Him. This is all about an intimate “I-thou” relationship. It’s the exchanged life as Hudson Taylor called it. It’s so simple but why do people make the Christian walk so complicated, so cluttered up with dogma that divides?