THE TRUE FORCE–WITH US

Last time together we looked at parts of Matthew  7 and John the baptiser. 2- We noted several important matters of great relevance to us today as we think more of the Kingdom of God and Jesus the king.

Now when John heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who comes, or should we look for another?”Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Blessed is he who finds no occasion for stumbling in me.  Mat 11:2-

We wondered ‘why did John seem confused, disillusioned?’ While in prison, he had heard of the amazing, compassionate works of Jesus. But yet doubts assailed him. Even him.

Yes, even John who had actually seen the Holy Spirit come and land on Jesus when he baptised him and it was John who declared God had sent him to prepare the way for the Messiah, and who exclaimed ‘Look there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. He had doubts! Also Jane reminded us that even after Jesus’ resurrection we read ‘some doubted’.

Is it any wonder that we sometimes have doubts?

To John and any observant Jew, Jesus seemed to be breaking all the religious rules. Like John, Jesus keeps picking fights with the Jewish leader elites, but not in the way John was expecting—Jesus does not seem to be on the same page. There locked up in a gloomy, uncomfortable prison—hadn’t Jesus said something about releasing the captives? Didn’t Jesus come to establish the Kingdom of God here in earthly Israel and thrash the foreign rulers? Do I look for another?

As the two disciples of John went their way, Jesus asked the crowds about John. What did you go out into the wilderness to see? He asked them why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written [in Malachi 3:1] ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

Then he stunned them by emphatically saying Most certainly I tell you, among those who are born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptizer; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.

Since the prophet Malachi, prophesying had ceased as the Jews acknowledged. Now John’s preaching had also ceased, and since then there had been no prophecies concerning the Messiah and his kingdom. The time for prophesying the coming Messiah has ended. He is here!

Christ has now come and he is proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. See what is happening—all the signs of the long-awaited, prophesied One are taking place now! And people then were—and now are in 2019—entering the Kingdom of Heaven. And now any one in Jesus’ kingdom, even the least, is ‘greater’, more influential, than John—they have the most glorious access to the King himself! They have entrance to the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit! They can see an open heaven, where anything is possible should they choose to believe! They are his inheritance, his holy nation!

Such blessed people find no occasion for stumbling in Jesus.

Since John, the last of the OT prophets like Elijah, a line has been drawn in the sand! The Old covenant has passed away and the New has come.

Jesus then said that since John-B the Kingdom of Heaven is being taken ‘by force’. It is now the new covenant under which we, poor, faulty, weak, mortals, despised by the world are yet a mighty force, commissioned to behave with a supernatural force to live out daily the power of God unto salvation, the wonderful Holy Spirit broadcasting to many souls. Now the people of God can be seen behind the scenes, secretly, powerfully, patiently and effectually, and yet not against the wills of others—instruments of Jesus’ love and power—lights in ever growing darkness.

60 YEARS

9 May 1959.

That night was the turning point of my life. Completely. I committed my life into the hands of Jesus. Suddenly everything changed.

I was a deeply committed Anglican faithfully attending church each Sunday both morning and evening and as an altar server on Wednesday mornings very early before school and later work.

But I had no need to be ‘saved’ as they put it. Pride ruled my young life. I was good enough. I was religious. But I was a hypocrite.

But I met these two East Africans visitors to Australia who were travelling around the country and speaking in churches of their amazing Lord and their personal saviour, the Lord Jesus. They also spoke of a great movement of the Holy Spirit in East Africa and the many sacrifices made unto death of many believers under severe persecution. I went and heard them.

As I listened, it seemed as if I was suddenly made aware of a totally different life and experience and world view available to me. This was something I had always wanted—expressed from my heart came a cry: I found myself praying something like ‘Lord I want to know you’.

I realised I was heading for an eternity without God. I felt naked and ashamed and totally vulnerable.

That night seated on a garden seat with the two Africans one on either side of me, I found myself wanting what these two men had. They  possessed Christ and he possessed them. They prayed for me and I prayed as I had never prayed before.

And it happened. I was different. Things were different.

The next day while in the bathroom preparing to go to work the Holy Spirit came into my life and I knew that I knew the Lord Jesus in a personal way. I knew I had a clear access to the Lord—my faulty life my sins, were dissolved. It was dynamic.

It was a rebirth. I knew I was now ‘born from above’. I now had purpose in my life. And I just wanted to tell everybody.

I told the young friend seated next to me about Jesus as we travelled in the bus to the city. I told my workmates at the office. I told the kids in my Sunday School class. I told every girl I danced with at the regular dance in the parish hall. I told all the boys and leaders in the local boys’ society. I told my fellow architectural students. Yes I told them about Jesus and how he had found me

That year I excelled in my third year architectural studies and won the top prize. I went on to start my own practice as an architect which eventually grew into one of the largest practices in Australia. We were known locally as ‘the God squad’. We held Bible Studies in the lunch hour in our office and were joined by many people from outside the office.

Since that night 60 years ago, God has been faithful to me and endued me with his everlasting love. He has kept me from harm and taught me so many things.

Reading the Bible is still my constant desire and to this day my hunger to hear the Lord’s voice continues. And to share with others.

Tonight I am celebrating and remembering with a thankful heart.

Discovering Matthew 7 continued

OK. I just have to tell you a bit more we found from our personal discoveries in the rest of chapter 7.  As we said, the Word of God came to us as we sort of ‘traveled back 2000 years’ and heard Jesus’ words that would never be out of date, would never pass away.

The Lord expects us to order our behaviour today living in his kingdom, his gracious Good News rule, his new covenant in his blood—which replaced the old covenant under the Mosaic age system.

We saw how Jesus warned the disciples about fake prophets and to recognise them by their results (fruits) not by their words or their attire. Do they point people to Jesus alone as Lord and Saviour?

Then he warns them/us again (7:22-23): Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’ That’s chilling.

Jesus talks again here about entering the Kingdom of Heaven. There will be some who appear to be sincere and spiritually endowed will not necessarily enter in. Only Jesus sees into the heart. No it’s all about doing the will of his heavenly Father. In John 6:56 Jesus answers their question, “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?” by declaring This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. And as we are discovering in our studies Matthew chapters 5 to 7, believing in Jesus carries certain obligations in relation to the will of the Father.

At the last judgment, there will be some who appeared to be well qualified with lots of stories to plead of their various mighty works. They will be told in that day ‘I never knew you’. How we act certainly counts but what we do doesn’t necessarily lead to friendship with Jesus. Miracles however important and wonderfully given by Christ, can draw great crowds of people who can ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ and be led astray by evil spirits, into evil practices and iniquity. Our enemy can mimic spiritual gifts, assemble a web of deceit . Fake spiritual leaders and gurus will suffer terrible judgment and separation from Jesus: ‘Depart from me, you who work iniquity—I never knew you.’

Hey, wait a minute: Does Jesus know you?

We talk a lot about us knowing Jesus. But does he know you? In the End, we will know fully, even as I was also fully known (1 Cor 13:12). Will he recognise you?

Good question. To answer, there are a couple of clues here in this passage.  

First, it’s not about what we decide to do. It’s about doing the will of my Father. We can’t assume that by doing religious or ‘spiritual’ things or following a system or tradition that we are doing the will of Jesus’ Father. Right?

We can’t decide what are the best things to do for the Kingdom. Unless we enter the Kingdom, see the Kingdom, we will not turn and be obedient to his will. We will just kinda hope what we do is what he wants.

That’s dangerous.

Is it the will of the Father that we have congregations going through the motions Sunday by Sunday in religious services under the control of a priest or pastor who is paid to maintain certain doctrines and provide expected services? Is it the will of the Father that we persist with this clergy/laity divide? Is it the will of the Father that the congregants have no opportunity to express their spiritual gifting? Is it the will of the Father that they don’t even know about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit promised by the Lord? Is it the will of the Father that financial matters run the organisation? Well?

Is it what the Father wants that we copy (love) the world, trying to compete with the culture, make gatherings ‘seeker friendly’ and comfortable and avoid any talk about sin or judgment that will come? Is that what it’s all about?

Second. Jesus emphatically warns them—and us who are eager to hear his voice today—that there are many who will hear these awful words: Depart from me, you who work iniquity.

Instead of being a good tree which bears good fruit, producing lovely results, people finding life and truth in Jesus alone, there are those who are secretly working iniquity. They will be ordered Depart from me!

So it’s not so much whether we think we know Jesus—and yes we must!—but whether he knows us. And we know he knows us because we bear good fruit for him, and we live a life free of sin and carnality. We must not be deceived and think we can do just as we think is right. We must be ‘perfect’ like the Father as we saw at Matthew 5:48! We will be constantly asking ‘your will be done in me as it in heaven.’ Making progress, being transformed.

So how do we know what is right, what the Father’s will is?

Well the answer is very conveniently given us in verses 24-27 in this highly visual story:

“Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock.The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand.The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Here are two types of hearers. Yes hearers. Which one are you? Both hear these words of mine. But only the ‘wise one’ hears these words of Jesus AND DOES THEM.

There are many voices we hear, but Jesus’ words are the words of God and the express will of God. That is perfectly clear from the gospel texts.  Yet we may hear his words, treasure them, memorise them, study and meditate on them, proclaim them—and fail to actually do them.

If you are not going to DO the words of Jesus, you might be better off eternally by not even hearing them.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching,for he taught them with authority, and not like the scribes (7:28-29). There could be no doubt –the multitudes were clearly given the way, the truth and the life! A total lifestyle and a completely different world view by the One who is anointed to speak with true authority.

Hear Jesus’ words and do what he says. It will be worth the turnings, the dying within us of following another, the suffering and the trials we may endure. Read his words. Listen to him. Then just act on them.

Then on that Day we will not be ashamed and hear him say well done good and faithful servant. Come!

Discovering Matthew 7

Once again we were enriched by the insights of one another which our gracious Lord had opened up for us. We were imagining we were part of the audience among the circle of Jesus’ disciples in his discourse given for us in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 7. Yes. The Word of God came to us as we travelled back 2000 years to listen to words that would never be out of date, would never pass away.

We met together eager to learn more of how the Lord expects us to order our behaviour today living in his kingdom, his gracious Good News rule, which totally and finally replaced the old Mosaic age system. Here are just a few of the gracious and helpful instructions we noticed.

First. Another serious warning against hypocrisy which can easily overtake us:  Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged . .  Over and again, for Jesus, hypocrisy is the pits. And let’s face it: we are totally incompetent in judging others.

Much more important to judge ourselves—yes?

So, avoid being judged by not judging others. Just stop the plague! Close your mouth before that negative attitude in your heart towards the other gets a chance to spill. You are not the Judge! The real Judge who judges righteously and without fear of favour is the same One who judges you! Leave it to the real Judge.

It’s so easy to see the speck that is in someone else’s eye, while there’s still that beam in your own eye. You simply cannot help anyone if there’s a beam is in your own eye.  What a hilarious comparison—we laughed with the crowd.

Don’t forget: with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. Reminded us of that bit where we pray . . . forgive us in the same way we forgive others. Self-assessment is called for.

Only God can see that person’s heart, what motivates behaviour. Jesus is attacking the insane idea that we know better. We can easily see the faults in others because we are so familiar with them in ourselves.

But then Jesus warns us that we must also be discerning as we move among people: Don’t give that which is holy to the ‘dogs’, neither throw your pearls before the ‘pigs’, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.  What! Isn’t this judging others?

Well, ah, no. it’s being discerning. Take care—not everyone will appreciate what you say. Many will not be ready. We need discernment and wisdom—two promised spiritual gifts actually—see Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12.

When in doubt stop talking and pronouncing your solution—or worse, condemnation.

Instead, do more talking to the One who listens! To the One who commands: Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened. He only wants blessing for us. Why do we hesitate to adopt this lifestyle? Yes, lifestyle—keep on, don’t stop, be a God-botherer. Daily. This is what he wants. He is much more willing to give to us than we are to our kids: how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him!

Now there’s more about discernment (not judging).Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits you will know them.  The test is in the fruit—what does their prophetic work produce in the hearers?

There are many who seem to want the title of ‘prophet’. Surely that is unnecessary and titles are even hateful to the Lord. It will be obvious, Jesus says by looking at the results. We are warned—they look harmless but are dangerous. The internet/YouTube is full of them. Be satisfied with earnestly seeking the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Many today are prophets of doom and gloom. That simply produces fear, giving up and the nurturing of an escape mentality. All that nonsense about being ‘raptured’ to escape the tribulation—let’s believe that happened as Jesus predicted at the end of the Jewish age? Now we live under the awesome rule of the Son of God, seated at the right hand of ultimate power and authority—reigning until all his enemies are under his feet, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom! Confident that the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea!   To be continued

DO IT MY WAY

We read in 2-Samuel 6:9-15 (WEB) in the story of the Ark of the Covenant’s return to Israel from the Philistines . . . .  

David was afraid of Yahweh that day; and he said, “How could Yahweh’s ark come to me?” So David would not move Yahweh’s ark to be with him in David’s city; but David carried it aside into Obed-Edom the Gittite’s house. Yahweh’s ark remained in Obed-Edom the Gittite’s house three months; and Yahweh blessed Obed-Edom and all his house. King David was told, “Yahweh has blessed the house of Obed-Edom, and all that belongs to him, because of God’s ark.”

So David went and brought up God’s ark from the house of Obed-Edom into David’s city with joy. When those who bore Yahweh’s ark had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.  David danced before Yahweh with all his might; and David was clothed in a linen ephod.  So David and all the house of Israel brought up Yahweh’s ark with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

God designed the Ark of the Covenant to have two staves for bearing it on the shoulders of four priests. There were 4 positions for 4 priests to bear it. They knew fearful consequences would follow if they did not do exactly as Yahweh commanded. This was the way the Ark must be carried every time it was moved from one place to another. Do as he says!

The house of Obed-Edom had been greatly blessed by the presence of the Ark—the presence of the Living God. The presence of God always brings joy and peace and spiritual prosperity. For us under the New Covenant, we have the assurance of the wonderful presence of the Lord and the remarkable indwelling of the Holy Spirit—if we do it God’s way.

The understanding of his awesome presence must have been an encouragement to those priests entrusted with bringing the holy box into David’s city—if they did it God’s way.

Imagine how carefully and fearfully the new bearers would have acted now since the death of Uzzah when the Philistine oxen stumbled and Uzzah tried to steady it. No doubt they took up the Ark of God in fear and trembling, upon their shoulders. We notice they took only six steps. Would they survive?  They surely trusted in God’s orders and no one would die.

And then they rested, no doubt in great relief. How they praised and thanked God, and offered sacrifices with great joy. Maybe they proceeded in this manner, six steps at a time, for the entire journey. Maybe not.

So do we think we can help God out, extend his kingdom and plans by doing what seems more up-to-date or what tradition demands? We do so at great cost when we ignore God’s plans for his people.

Apparently we do. We do it our way so often. We ignore the model—Jesus.

 We think we can worship God and minister and meet together a better or quicker way than the example passed by Jesus to the apostles and recorded in the scriptures.  

How foolish this is. Dumb. Clueless. Ignorant. If we are to think we know better than Jesus.  

God is a lot wiser than we. God always knows best and by obeying him we are shielded us from disaster, disunity, powerlessness, authority-challenged, peddling misinformed doctrines and witnessing waek, miserable outcomes.

We must God’s commands and his example in his Son, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge reside. We must follow his word. Do it his way.

The order we find laid out in God’s word for us seems so . . .  yesteryear, impractical.

They did not dare think ‘why carry ‘the Ark’ on our shoulders when we can put it on wheels?’ That is what the pagans did and it was OK. So efficient! Much quicker!

Many trusted, respected teachers are teaching not what our heavenly Father has taught them in the scriptures, but useless, empty, corrupt tradition. Well-meaning ‘I’m in charge here’ pastors and fake priests simply chant out the age-long mantras for the faithful to hear and remain dormant and subject to misinformation, keeping them from rising up with faith and joy in their redemption and enjoyment of what God has done in Christ.

Why is it that no one hears sermons on 1 Corinthians 12—14. For example, (12:11) But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one in the (local ekklesia) separately as he desires. To each one! And (12:19-20) For the body is not one member, but many. (12:14)  If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now they are many members, but one body’.

So where is THIS BODY to be found?

I cannot find even one—what I see is one-man ministry, clergy-laity divide, numerous programs instead of equipping the people, money and business models.

Why is there is only infrequent teaching on healing the sick—there’s plenty on ‘praying for the sick’. Who is training young men to go out into the marketplace with spiritual weaponry downloaded by the Lord and learning how to heal the sick?

This is rank disobedience or abject unbelief—or both.

We must all change our way of doing God’s will. Surely his patience with us is amazing.

Do it his way.

A bit more on being perfect

The Word of the Lord came to us again as we met together a few days ago—once again we were kind-a joining the circle of Jesus’ disciples in his discourse given for us in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 6.

The Lord told us so many ways how he expected us to order our behaviour living in his kingdom, his gracious Good News rule,  which since 66-70AD replaced the old Mosaic age system. He calls us to come and live in his new age of the Messiah, the New Covenant! Yes, we were discovering dynamic, motivating stuff.

He warned us severely to take care how we present ourselves to the world.

In chapter 5 we were given an extraordinary vision:  you’re the light of the world—you’re a city on a hill that cannot be hidden away! You’re a lamp that’s not put under something—wasted energy! No, you put it where everyone can see it! Our faith is a public affair. It isn’t to be hidden away in a religious ghetto.

But now he warns us that we must us beware of showing off our righteousness, like hypocrites who want to be noticed and admired and put on a pedestal. Motives are everything, hey? Our role is to present to others only HIS righteousness, the only way by which anyone may be accounted righteous before him.

The unrighteous, who Jesus has in his sights here, are in the streets and religious boxes, displaying their emptiness, their hollow-men, role-playing insincerities. Three favourite Jewish practices and three warnings are given: Truly I say to you, they have their reward, in full. Here—earthbound, adulation, audiences, control of others, pride, position, elite. No, that’s all they will get.

We must aim to hide not our light—the word of God—but we hide our giving, our prayings, our self-discipline and self-denying, and do these in secret and the Father, who sees in secret will reward.  He sees us! He sees our inward hearts, our hidden motives! Beware!

We learned together and shared that the power of our prayers lies not in big words, religious words, or many words, but in the confidence that he knows what we need already! So we begin to realise that everything lies in him and his grace and like any loving earthly dad he desires our friendship, our oneness with him and his desire for our love and his plans—so for God’s sake only, ask, seek, get knocking.

He showed us all the seven prayer points most important for us to use—the basis of all asking, seeking and knocking which has become known as the Lord’s Prayer. Actually, it’s the disciples’ prayer.

We learned where true treasure lies—not in what we possess, but what we give up, place in his hands. That’s where will be our heart as well.

And then this bombshell: You cant serve two masters. You will end up hating one and loving the other. He is emphatic: You can’t serve God and mammon (riches, things, this world). Fence sitting’s uncomfortable.

You really have to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS and all you really want will be yours. . . so there is no need to be anxious. If God so arrays the flowers and herbs of the field which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace as fast fuel, wont he do MUCH MORE for you, you little-faiths?

Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own! We often waste a lot of time and energy over issues that are yet to occur, or may never happen. 

Let’s accept it: he said stop hoping for trouble free days in this life. That is a stupid hope.

Do you know if you will be around tomorrow?

Trust me, He says.

On Being Perfect—Yes!


The Word of the Lord came to us as we met together recently—as we joined the circle of disciples in Jesus’ discourse in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5.

The Lord told us so many ways he expected his people—us included—how to order our  lives in his kingdom, his good news rule,  which replaced the old Mosaic age system. Come and live in the new age of the Messiah, the New Covenant! Yes, we were discovering dynamic, head rockin stuff.

We staggered at the new standards of behaviour he expects from us–the highest of standards and expectations of Jesus for his disciples culminating in the amazing demand :  You must be perfect!

We then saw how different his new world order is compared to the old. Over and over he shows what the ancients had laid down and then surprised everyone who heard him with the repeated revolutionary phrase But I say unto you!

We saw how total are his commands for life under his government. Everything seemed counter intuitive, indeed impossible for his listeners and for us today –blessed the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . .  

We were bowled over by commands like when opposed, to rejoice and be glad (literally jump up and down) for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

What? Were we hearing correctly? Yep.

We reflected on our failures and those of Christendom in general. We began to feel despair and a growing sense of giving up following such demands. How is this all possible? He piles it on.

He’s come to fulfil the old law and the Prophets, though sounds like he’s abolishing them. He spells them out clearly, authoritatively. No question.

Pheew!

Some of us after hearing his majestic, firm but gentle, persuasive words, even began to feel condemnation and guilt. Every time I hear Jesus I feel condemned. Never expected this.  Pulls the rug from under my feet.

Then he reminded us of the immeasurable grace of God given us in this new age of Christ with us and the inbuilt power of the Holy Spirit to bear these good fruits within us. We began to catch a glimpse of the long range view Jesus was seeing for us all—we would have his Spirit here on earth and then be together with him in the kingdom of his Father! Forever. We don’t have to water down his words. We must not!

But, as we looked further into his words of love and grace and his open arms to follow him, obey him, we realised that there is NO condemnation as we find ourselves in him, in his embrace and his ‘easy yoke’ (Matthew 11:28-30). We saw that these words are given without any condemnation, but with grace abounding!

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

This life so beautiful, the Way so precious, nothing is worth standing in the way of it! Not even if you are the best Aussie Rugby player and stand to forfeit your $4m contract with RU! You would rather sever this from your life than miss this grand Good News and the joy that awaits and a transformed existence!