Tag Archives: sayings of jesus

One Together in God and His Christ

Having prayed to the Father first for his disciples that they may be one “as We are”, Jesus then prayed for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20-23). He therefore prays for you and me —we believers are included in His prayer and ongoing intercessions!

So what is He praying for us, we who have believed in Him through their word? The answer follows with some staggering ‘purpose clauses’. In this post, we look at the first of these.

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You;

This is the same request he made for the original disciples: that they may be one “as we are”, the Father in Jesus and Jesus in the Father. This is undoubtedly the will of God for you and me, for all followers. Nothing has changed, though we have changed and not for the better.

We are thus connected to the original disciples in the Spirit by the same will of God in Christ! We are meant to be together with them, immersed in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. No change!  There is no change in covenantal privileges and responsibilities from them to us despite the passage of 2000 years. We live in the fellowship of the saints!

This awesome connection, oneness, S. Paul calls the Body of Christ. Jesus calls it My ekklesia.

This is of critical importance in how we understand our relationship with other believers, and how we look at ekklesia. That’s the original word used and badly translated into English as church, where it comes across as a religious concept. The word ekklesia in the original simply meant a gathering of people for a purpose. It had no religious connotation whatsoever. None.

The only ekklesia that is actually of God is the one Jesus is constructing—Matthew 16:18. Humans cannot build this. And we must not try. We are not commanded to do so.  And yet we fail to do what we are instructed—to bring in the harvest, to teach others to be disciples, to love one another and to be ONE together as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.

But we can be so busy trying to help Him build churches, we fail to experience the glory He wants to display in us. He, not us, is the Architect and the Builder of His ekklesia. We are together members of His glorious Body, the living stones in this spiritual building. Together in Him.  ONE.

And in this glorious fellowship, this temple of God, we are to be one together. One not many.

Jesus’ prayer for you and me, all believers, constantly before the Father, is for our oneness. Do you see that excludes so much activity taken for granted in today’s religious organisations? Thus denominational exclusiveness is a grave error. Control of others is anathema. Selfishness, vainglory, hatred, self-righteousness, arguments, self-justifications, dogmatism causing splits, must all be thrown out.

When we are united together in actually doing what he has commanded—rather than what our precious theology or doctrines or opinions or religious organisations want—when we are abounding in the actual work of the Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to Him, participating in the making of disciples, reminding, teaching, urging, persuading, encouraging others—in our joy and gladness in serving Him and one another, we leave behind those obstacles to oneness.  We forget our own agendas in favour of His agenda—our ONENESS.

 

It’s not about you. It’s not about us. It’s all about the Father and His Christ. Right?

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE – Part 1

Hey, what a hugely relevant matter this is! And how very complicated it can be. And so many voices! So firstly allow me to share thoughts on Jesus’ answers put to him by the Pharisees and his bottom line to his disciples in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10.

Vs 2-4. Pharisees came to him testing him, and asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  He answered, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a certificate of divorce to be written to divorce her.”

The context for this question was the ongoing discussion among the Pharisees regarding “for what cause can a man divorce his wife?” Rabbi Shammai’s tradition said “for no cause except adultery” and Rabbi Hillel’s “for any cause”. Big debate.

Vs 5-9. But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.  For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will join to his wife, and the two will become one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Jesus takes the matter back to Genesis 1-2, God’s original plan, long before Moses and his ‘concession’ (repeated by Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32) and concludes bluntly that no one should separate those joined by God. That is sin.

Can we ask what circumstances, if any, exist when God has NOT joined two together? And then can man put then asunder? Are two gay men joined by God? Are two pagans joined together by God? What if two come together in lust for erotic, no holds barred experiences? Are two who write up a contract to legalise what happens in the event of divorce, really joined together by God?  What about one who has sex with a prostitute? What about a woman who is raped? Is she obliged to marry her aggressor? And what if one attempts marriage having had a previous sexual encounter? (see Deut. 22:13−21 and Matthew 1:18-25). Just asking! This is a complicated subject and one which we are not always given clear scriptural direction. In such cases we need to hear from God humbly and without trying to justify ourselves.

10-12.  In the house, his disciples asked him again about the same matter.  He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her.  If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus flatly and emphatically overthrew Moses’ tradition in his reply to his disciples. In Moses a woman cannot give her husband a bill of divorce. But for Jesus, neither spouse can divorce the other—he treats the wife and husband equally!

The gospel of Jesus brings with it forgiveness, grace, mercy. He welcomed ‘sinners’ but castigated the ‘righteous’. He did not condemn the Samaritan woman (John 4)—he did not say “divorce your current husband” but “drink the water I will give you”. He said to the condemned woman taken in the act of adultery “I don’t condemn you. Go and don’t sin anymore”.

In that dramatic story (John 8), Jesus wrote on the ground. Some think he wrote the 7th commandment re adultery. The context is Jewish and Mosaic. But Paul insists in his letters we are not under the Ten Commandments. Instead we are no longer to live in sin, not because we are under commandments, but because Jesus sets us free from the bondage, the enslavement of sin and we are under grace and now married to another. We are now under a New Covenant.

I cannot see Jesus saying to divorcees who are truly repentant of their sin but now remarried, “Divorce your second spouse”. I can see him saying instead, “I don’t condemn you. Go and don’t sin anymore”. There are things done which cannot be reversed e.g, abortion, murder, rape, divorce, adultery, illicit sex. These cannot be undone. But they can be repented of, renounced and left behind in the gospel. “Go and do not sin again”. David and Bathsheba comes to mind—Jesus’ ancestors!

Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom. Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:9-11

A covenant can be broken. Moses smashed the 10 commandments, Israel broke God’s covenant (Jeremiah 31:31, Ezekiel 16:59) and God was said to have given adulterous Israel a bill of divorce (Isaiah 50:1, Jeremiah 3:8, Hosea 2).

Christian leaders have a responsibility to present the Gospel of grace to those broken, hurting and traumatised by a dominating, cruel spouse. They must not simply deal with people like the Pharisees did, by absolute commands supported by isolated texts dragged out of their Judean or Greco-Roman context, resulting in the imputing and retaining of their sin.

To direct one to remain married to a person who destroys the marriage covenant by repeated unfaithfulness, enslavement, serial illicit sex, constant abuse and the like is also contrary to the spirit of Jesus.

to be continued . . .  . .

 


 

SALTY AND LIT UP

Jesus words to his disciples in Matthew 5 . . .

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

We obey these amazing words of Jesus today if we are his disciples and not mere churchgoers or professors of religion.

His words are so encouraging: “You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world!”

Those who follow him are declared wonderful, salt that has a heavenly and altogether different taste to what is seen in the world whether in ancient Israel or in our troubled world of 2016.

Jesus’ words show he expected his disciples to be outstanding, flavoursome, even delicious. They were intended for suffering, as the context of his words surely indicate, but yet for glory. For glory!

His disciples are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Amazing. World changers.

Is that how you see yourself as a follower of Jesus? How else can you see yourself in Christ?

There is no way his expectation of us would be anything less because he is the living bread who comes down from heaven and gives life abundantly. He promises the Holy Spirit as our helper, our resource.

Not quite like the average religious people attending church services.

Jesus intended nothing like church buildings, money-driven organisations, services, priests and hierarchies. Right?

He intended that his followers be salt that had not lost its flavour and light that would not be hidden in Christian ghettos. He hates it when his people are lukewarm (Revelation 3). He would rather have them cold. But he expects them to be hot with all the amazing blessings he has lavished upon them. Isn’t that true?

They must be good salt—full of good deeds like their master because they are in him and he in them.

Their light must shine before others.

Others must see their good deeds, without them seeking the glory from men, just the glory from God.

And as a result, glorify their heavenly Father. You agree?

What have we all done with Jesus’ designs, his intentions, his commands? slumbering as we often do under the false systems of denominational, competitive businesses driven by human effort and worldly glory. So we have salt that has lost all the brilliant taste of its designer. So what will happen to this useless salt? It will be thrown out.

The light of Jesus’ good news must be shining out there in the world, upon the needy, the sick and oppressed of the satan. But all too often the light is hidden. Are we so afraid to approach the people of the world that we instead find plenty of meetings, conferences, seminars, talk-fests, group studies and formal study courses are more important?

Time for change. Radical change. Re-formation. Are we up for it?

WHAT TO PRAY FOR AND WHAT NOT

What and who to pray for is often the question.

In Romans 8 we read that “the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.”

Admit it—you mostly don’t know how to pray! So you need a helper. And if you have received the Helper that Jesus promised, you have that Helper living in your spirit! Learn to pray “in the spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:14; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20).

It may come as a surprise to some that the emphasis in the New Testament writings is not in praying for the unsaved. Jesus taught his disciples “the Lord’s prayer” and that did not include the world. So what did Jesus pray for?

Jesus asked his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest, not for the unsaved, but for labourers engaged in the harvest and especially to pray for the Lord to send more labourers!

Did he ever pray for his family?

He certainly prayed for his disciples—let me mention John 17 where we read how Jesus prays . . . .

I don’t pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.  . . . . . . these are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them through your name which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are. . . . . . I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. . . . . . . . Sanctify them in your truth. . . . . As you sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. . . . . . . . . . . . Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word . . . .

What a wonderful blessing it is to know that Jesus is praying, interceding for us–not for the world– as we go about doing his will and announcing the good news. We are being empowered!

Paul the apostle assures his Ephesian readers (Eph 6:18) that he prays constantly for them (but not for their salvation or healing!) He never seems to ask anyone to pray for any specific unsaved person—but to pray “. . . at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints”.

Paul also asks the same readers to pray for him that he will speak boldly: “ . . . . on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Eph 6:18-20.

The original Jerusalem believers asked for boldness and authority among themselves (Acts 4:29-30) “. . . . . grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness,  while you stretch out your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.”

We can never use our prayers to manipulate the Lord. He can never be controlled by us in any way. Prayer is all about relationship—He is your Father and you are His daughter or His son.

And it’s not how much time you put in, or your sincerity, or your passion and energy and zeal that somehow get’s God’s attention. No. It’s asking according to his will and walking, living, praying in the Spirit.

So we do not have to ask God to save someone (or to heal someone either) because we know that it is His gracious will that none should perish but come to eternal life (John 3:14-17; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim 3:2-7). And so He has committed the message of reconciliation to us, Jesus’ disciples (2 Cor 5:18-20). We do not pray for the harvest but for the harvesters!

People own their lives by choice—God does not barge in on anyone. He waits for the invitation. He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He does not act as an intruder. He asks for our love, our willing obedience. It seems obvious that the Lord seeks and uses those who want to do His will and not their own. Like Jesus. Even like Paul.

We are all volunteers! The Lord never coerces us into doing his will. We always have the terrifying freedom to ignore him or refuse to obey. It is so amazing how we are created with sovereignty, after His image, with choice, a will. Awesome.

What can stop us from reaching out to the sick

How much faith is enough faith for the Lord to use you to set the oppressed free?

You may be tempted to wait or hold back action until you are free of any sickness or medical dependence before stepping out or until you think you have enough faith.

Or you may not feel like doing the stuff. Or you haven’t had a “special word” from the Lord to do it.

The devil will try every trick learned over 1000s of years to stop disciples being obedient and prevent the sharing of the good news of the kingdom.

But nothing must stop our obedience to the words of Jesus. The extraordinary English healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth—whose miracle accounts and sermons make wonderful encouraging reading—kept up his healing ministry while in severe pain and even haemorrhaging (he visited Australia twice in the 1930’s accompanied by his deaf daughter).

Jesus was often recorded as being moved with compassion in deliverance and healing. Love for neighbour is paramount: “you shall love your neighbour as yourself”. So it is not about us and our success, our testimony, our stories, but it’s about the lost, the poor, the suffering.

How much faith is enough faith? Jesus said effective faith could be “as small as a grain of mustard seed”! That’s how intent is the Lord about showing mercy, even though He well knows that many who experience His mercy do not choose to follow Him. Fabulous love! Wonderful mercy! Amazing grace.

Does the Lord hold back from us His wonderful power and authority which He longs to show to the lost, the fallen and the sick? The good news of the kingdom and the works of Jesus are all about his mercy and his love. Such great love that He is pleased to use us imperfect people—He looks for willingness, for humans whom He may use to show His glory. In fact the biblical evidence available to us seems to show that He does nothing without the readiness, even the permission, of His human, clay pots—you and me. Wow.

“The harvest is huge but labourers are few”.

Go for it, and in the only name that counts.

THE VANITY OF WORSHIP

“In vain do they worship me – their teachings are merely human rules”  (Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6—7 of the church leaders who opposed him.)

Such manifest vanities are today practised and displayed daily by millions of church goers. Jesus could well say of today : they worship me after their own traditions instead of obeying my words.

Consider : Jesus never asked his disciples to worship him!

Imagine this absurd scenario:  The first disciples come together to worship Jesus. So they put him up on a throne and lift up their hands or they prostrate themselves! They say they love him, adore him, bowing down and singing before him, sure that their devotion, their religious acts will please him. They devise a form of service and trot it out ….. and they ignore his expressed words in the gospels.

Or, just imagine the first disciples post-Pentecost composing or going through a liturgy or holding services or dedicating buildings to Jesus! Of course, such scenarios do not fit. Human constructs.

Instead they show the worth of Jesus by obeying his Holy Spirit, sharing goods, experiencing apostolic teaching, eating together, praying, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Are we using “worship” as a substitute for plain obedience to Jesus? Faithfulness unto Jesus means we  follow him to the end.

Many ignore his commands to believe, to pray, to persevere, to go make disciples, to teach all peoples all his commands, to receive the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to him.

He has unequivocally and expressly stated that his disciples are to put his movement, his kingdom, before their interests and agendas, to put him first, to seek the Father’s will and heart, to sit at his feet, to abide in him, his words abide in them, to love one another as he has loved them.

Have we forgotten he asks us to lose our lives for his sake, to be fishers of men, to give freely, to rejoice in suffering ….. ?

Did Jesus start “worship” classes? Did he teach about how to do “services of worship”? Did he appoint worship leaders? The whole idea is absurd. So many human inventions.

“Do whatever he tells you said Mary, his mother to the servants at the wedding (John 2)—the best advice ever given. The last recorded words of Mary. How spot on! “Do whatever he tells you.

Now that’s worship: Do whatever he tells you.

Listen as he teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. His Father’s will not just listened to, but actually done.

The writings of the whole Bible are all about pleasing God, doing his will, living under his wonderful rule (that’s worth-ship—acknowledging God’s amazing and eternal worth). Isn’t that what Jesus’ parables are all about? The house built on the rock is the person who not only hears but does the will of God.

Following Jesus is to worship him, obey him, doing whatever he says. It’s obedience to God, not sacrifice that counts, declared the prophets.

Where is worship in the Letter to the Hebrews, that most Jewish of all the New Testament writings? It’s being provocative, “stirring up one another to love and good works”.  It’s drawing near to God with faith, it’s seriously listening to your leaders, it’s enduring suffering. It is in rendering a sacrifice of praise by our lips which bear witness to his name—that is, being a witness to Jesus. It’s being mature and teaching others.

Prayer is worship. A notable example is in Acts 4 prayer with shouts of praise to God in the context of persecution.  Study of scriptures is worship.

Worship is not just a sing-song.

Worship in Acts? What about Paul and Silas in that Philippi jail in the most uncomfortable circumstances; or with Lydda at place of prayer.  Pauls’ teaching and arguing, and urging, writing letters, always on the go. Frequently imprisoned. Always acknowledging Jesus’ worth.

For Paul the apostle “acceptable worship” is service to others and witness to Jesus (Romans 12).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 it’s building one another up when you meet together with the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit—that’s worth-ship of Jesus.

In Ephesians 5 it’s “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” … to one another! Edification of the brothers and sisters is worth-ship along with making melody in the heart to the Lord.

Entertainments are common in many churches today and they call it worship! More like having an indulgent fun time—a substitute for the solid joys of doing what he asks.

The heart of God is the saving of the lost, that’s worship. Reaching outsiders.

What did Peter teach? What did John teach? James? And the others? It’s all about serving one another and doing the work of the Lord, being lights in a dark world. Worship in spirit and in truth.

Though the Israel cultus is gone, yet people feel the need to be religious, to offer up something other than “ourselves, our souls, our bodies as a living sacrifice”.

The Father “seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth”.

ARE YOU WISE OR FOOLISH?

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it“. Matthew 7:24-27

This teaching of Jesus to his 12 disciples, with a much larger crowd listening, immediately follows his recorded words that we looked at a few days ago. This continues the serious theme of doing what the Father wants. We noted then there will be shocked and aghast people at the End, at the judgment. Will you be one?

In this simple parable Jesus shocks us now with the stark truth: it is not how much we know or remember of his teaching, but whether we put his teaching into practice. That is the difference represented by these two different foundations.

As one who has designed many houses, I can say with the greatest conviction that the foundation on which we build a house is of first importance. It will mean the difference between security and habitability against total failure leading to complete demolition of the structure.

Let’s do a bit of foundational risk assessment.

What risks are you taking by continuing to build your life on an inadequate foundation? What is your foundation? Is it how much you understand, how great is your Bible knowledge, how much doctrine you have learned? your correct world view? loyalty to a system of doctrines or your aligned party?

If so, your foundation is critically faulty. If so, our Lord calls you foolish. You are fooling around with religion, with ideas. You faith is a waste of time. Living a lie, a fantasy. It will not be sustainable when difficulties arise, when the End comes.

A foundation for a house can appear to be sound but if the kind of ground for building is not assessed and taken into account in foundation design, disaster is ahead. Your “Christian life” may look nice to those around you, even admired and copied. But is it founded on the solid rock of not only knowing, but loving and keeping Jesus’ words? Thank, God he shows us what he wants—his perfect design.

Better surely to have a little understanding of Jesus commands and actually be keeping them than to have floor to ceiling libraries of well read volumes and knowledge but then continue to be unmoved to obey. Foolishness.

Maybe you are trusting in a doctrine, say, once saved, always saved. But there is absolutely no doctrine that can save you. Only to follow Jesus as his loving disciple will save you. This is the clear message of Jesus to would-be followers.

We will not be saved by our works, but neither will we be saved without them.

There are two critical issues here. First, we must be aware of Jesus’ commands, his words, not our assumptions of what he meant, or words of another, of others, of dogmatic decrees by minders, and these occupying our attention and energy? Doing stuff that does not conform to his plans and specifications?

Here’s a good question: Just what are the commands of Jesus? Just what does he demand of his followers?

Second issue. Are we lovers of him and his words so that we actually do them?

So we better examine ourselves, to see whether we are in the faith. 2 Cor 13:5