Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seeking Glory from the Wrong Source

 "I receive not honour from men.  But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.  I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.  How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?"  John 5:41-47

"I receive not honour from men...."  Jesus Christ, as God, is not in need of man's approval.  This principal is the guide for how each believer should live his life.  The approval of man is not needed in the believer's life because the Lord is the only One that need be pleased, as Paul wrote, "...not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."

"But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you."  This is a bold statement that can only be made by God.  The tense of this verb I know is very powerful; it leaves no room for doubt.  God alone tries the heart and the reigns.  He alone knows the thoughts that come into our hearts, every one of them (Ez. 11:5).  By making this statement, Jesus is providing one more proof of His indisputable deity.

"I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.  How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?"  Christ came in the very name which the Jewish people claimed to love so much and yet He was rejected.  These people drew nigh to Jehovah with their lips but their heart was far from God.  Those who claim to love God and yet reject His very messengers, yea, His very Son, clearly demonstrate their true colors.  All over this world, and especially in the United States, churches (or rather social clubs) are filled with people that profess an outward love for God, but they seem to delight in just about anything but His truth.  The Bible is burdensome and not fully authoritative to them.  Straight preaching is shunned as dogmatic and not befitting the religious atmosphere.  Why?  Because the unregenerate heart delights in just about anything but the full truth of God.  The unregenerate man and the carnal Christian desire to have men think well of them rather than choosing to please God only.  The word here for honor is the same word for glory.  These men wanted to be glorified by others rather than be glorified by God.  Acceptance of the world's messengers and rejection of God's is a full-proof sign that the individual so doing is seeking glory from any source but God.  At the heart of such an attitude lies a proud spirit which refuses to be subject to the truth of it's Creator.  Christ's statement of "him ye will receive" is not a statement in which some uncertainty may exist.  He is making a certain and authoritative prediction that when a false messenger comes, he will be accepted by these unbelievers.  Such was the case throughout the Old Testament.  False prophets came by the hundreds with their "thus saith the Lord" when God had not even spoken to them, but when a true prophet came, they shunned and persecuted Him (Jer. 23).

"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust."  Jesus is not saying that He will sit passively by while the enemy goes unpunished, but rather, He is letting us know that He does not need to rush about in an attempt to defend Himself (as we often feel we need to), because He is God and the words that He has spoken will stand forever as a judge and standard that cannot be blotted out.  Those who trust in their so-called ability to keep the righteousness of the law will be damned to hell, because the law clearly points out man's sin and inability to live up to God's standard, while at the same time, pointing men to the perfect righteousness of Christ for complete justification.

"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me."  The wording in the original text makes this a statement of impossibility.  These men did not truly believe in the writings of Moses; therefore, they could not possibly believe in the One Whom Moses wrote about.  God documented the heart of His law in painstaking detail in the book of Deuteronomy (a book written by Moses), and these people clearly ignored the spirit of the law demonstrated in that book and others.

"But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?"  This statement must have cut them to the heart.  Theses Jewish leaders prided themselves in their belief and observance of Moses' law.  However, their refusal to seek God with their whole heart clearly showed that they did not truly believe what Moses said.  The Bible is a book centered around the fear of God and humility.  When one ignores these vital themes and seeks glory and honor from men for prideful purposes, they have ignored God's call documented in Psalm 27:8, "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face LORD will I seek."  Jesus Christ alone received full approval of the Father; therefore, to shun His ways and His call is to court the ways of death.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Four Witnesses (conclusion)

"Search the Scriptures;
for in them ye think ye have eternal life:
and they are they which testify of Me. 
And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life." 
John 5:39-40

The last witness of which Jesus makes mention is the word which God has spoken.  This witness trumps all others because it endures forever.  Men pass away and make mistakes; the physical performance of a work can only be seen by those present; a voice from heaven, though marvelous and glorious, benefits only those which heard it; however, the written word preserves all of these other witnesses and passes down from generation to generation the truth of God.  Where would man be today were it not for this promise, "...the Word of our God shall stand forever"?  Even more marvelous than the voice of the Father from heaven is the Father's voice contained in Scripture.  Peter said concerning his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts (II P. 1:16-19)."  The word of God is more powerful than even the most powerful experience.  Concerning the value that God places upon the witness of His written word, the Psalmist said, "...Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name."

Jesus says, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me."  These Jewish leaders believed that within the keeping of the righteousness of the law lay the secret to eternal life; however, they missed the fact that "...the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith (Ga. 3:24)."  As Moses expounded the heart of God's law in the blessed book of Deuteronomy, he spoke of Christ and exhorted his hearers to flee to The Prophet, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken...I (God) will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of Him (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19)."  The instances in which the Law and the Prophets mention Christ and His coming are vast and too many to expound here.

One would think that with all the Scripture pointing out men's hopeless condition of sin and pointing to the perfect righteousness of God that men would flee to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, yet this is not the case.  Jesus says next, "And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life."  The witness of John, the witness of the works, the witness of the Father, and the witness of the Scriptures are not enough to the heart that will not humble itself.  Pride will send a man straight to hell.  To bow the knee to Jesus is to admit that we have a wicked heart, it is to admit that He is King and that He alone has the power to save.  Truly, "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?"  Let us bow the knee to Jesus in humble, childlike faith.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Four Witnesses (Part II)

"But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me. And the Father Himself, which hath sent Me, hath borne witness of Me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape.  And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not." 
John 5:36-38

The second witness of Christ's Person is the works that He does.  As godly as John the Baptist was, the works which Christ did are more convincing.  It's one thing to hear someone testify concerning an individual, but it is quite another to actually see the impact that the individual has on others.  Christ said that the Father had given Him the works to finish, and that He did them.  Too many people who want recognition for their so-called spiritual works are busy about their own agenda rather than doing the will of God.  In order to determine whether or not a person's works are truly of God or not, simply examine whether or not those works compliment what is taught in Scripture.  Works that are designed to draw attention to an individual rather than to glorify God are always invalid. 

Even more authoritative than the works however, is the fact that the Father has sent the Son, and has testified of that fact.  At the baptism of Christ and at the Mount of Transfiguration (most likely Mt. Hermon), God said in an audible voice "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."  These individuals standing here had not heard the voice of God and none has seen God.  "And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not."  These "religious" individuals had a great deal of man's religion but they had no true relationship with God.  Disbelief in Christ and disobedience to His commands are indicative of an unchanged heart.  A true believer in the Word has the word of God written on their hearts; "...I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people (He. 8:10b)."  These individuals, however, were lost and would not believe regardless of the evidence, because they refused to humble themselves before the King, Jesus Christ. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Four Witnesses

"There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true.  Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.  But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.  He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." 
John 5:32-35

This section begins a discourse concerning the four witnesses of Jesus.  The first witness is John, the second is the works of Christ, the third is the Father, and the last is the Scriptures.  As we will see, a logical progression of significance is evident in these witnesses. 

The first witness is that of a man, John the Baptist.  Though he is the least of the four witnesses, he is by no means insignificant.  He was a selfless, Spirit filled man whose attitude of humility, dedication, holiness and courage flies in the face of "mainstream Christianity."  Jesus said, "...I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true."  Each believer should strive to have this type of testimony.  Christ was not concerned that John would misrepresent Him in any way.  Can this be said of most?  Many people who profess Christ claim that He would condone their wicked actions rather than separating from the world in an effort to win it for His glory.  "As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters (Pro. 25:13)."

The Pharisees and Jewish leaders sent to John as recorded in chapter one and asked if he were the Christ, Elias, or that Prophet and John said no.  He plainly told them that he was a voice of one crying in the wilderness, one who pointed people to the way of repentance and faith in the true Christ.  John was a faithful witness and yet God is not in need that men testify of Him.  Deity does not require that Its own creation validate Its position.  Yet, God allowed these things, yea, ordained them for a special purpose, and that purpose is "...that ye might be saved."  There is an unnecessary personal pronoun here in the Greek text making this statement very emphatic.  A literal rendering would be " order that you, you might be saved."  God ordained the witness of John for the special purpose of giving men an extra advantage toward salvation.  God loves souls, and goes to great lengths to meet their needs.

Though the Holy One of Israel sent the witness of John for the benefit of men, men did not appreciate it.  The text says that they rejoiced for a time in John's bold light that he had in Christ, but they soon fell away.  John's message of humility was too much for the proud heart to receive.  According to Matthew chapter three, some Pharisees and Sadducees came to John's baptism of repentance without any true desire to repent.  John said to them, "...O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."  This is not the message most men are looking for.  Israel at the time of Christ was not looking for a humble king who would die for their sins and lead them into the way of humility and sacrifice, but rather they were looking for a popular prince who would overturn the Roman empire's authority and exalt them as a nation on their own terms.  However, such are not the ways of God, and so, like many, Israel rejoiced for a short time in the witness of John and then fell away after weighing the cost of such doctrine.  The seed had fallen into stony ground and when the sun grew hot it withered away (Matthew 13). 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Just Judgment

"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.  I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.  If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true." 
John 5:28-31

In verse 25, Christ spoke of a resurrection which, in context, seems to be earlier and more positive than the one which He speaks of here.  Based upon His simple explanation of salvation in verse 24 followed by the immediate discussion of an hour that is coming "and now is" in which the ones who hear His voice shall live, it would seem that this resurrection reflects in many ways the resurrection of the saints who rose immediately after His resurrection (Matt. 27:50-53), as well as a possible inference to the rapture of the Church.  In any case, the resurrection that He now speaks of is both positive and negative.  A complete resurrection and full judgment of all is something that is clearly taught throughout Scripture.  Isaiah 26:21 says, "For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."  The book of Daniel is probably the clearest concerning the future events of which Christ is speaking, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2)."  After the ministry of Christ on the earth, John would receive the Revelation from Jesus and would complement the teaching of Christ concerning this resurrection.  "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power...(Re. 20:4-6a)."  This is the positive resurrection, but after the Millennial Kingdom, the wicked shall also be resurrected; this is the negative resurrection.  "And when the thousand years are expired...I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7a-15)."  A resurrection to damnation is a truth that terrifies the ungodly.  It is something that they would prefer not to talk about, but it is a truth that is not going away. 

Jesus says, "...they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."  He is not preaching a salvation by works.  He is not preaching a salvation by works; He is teaching the simple truth that works are inseparably linked to the hearts beliefs.  The individual is known by his fruits.  Those that have done good (the word means to make or produce) are those who by faith have trusted in the salvation that only God can offer and have therefore demonstrated this change of heart by their actions.  Those that have done evil (this word is different and means to practice, do, or perform) are those who have made a decision to reject God's way of salvation through the Messiah and have demonstrated the fruits of that decision by their ungodly lives.

Jesus goes on to say, "I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me."  This is an amazing statement.  Jesus as God in the flesh was fully submitted to the will of the Father at all times; therefore, His judgment was, is, and always will be faultless.  So many of us who claim to follow God are busy about our own agendas while giving God lip service when we would do far better to be completely submitted to the will of the Father as is Christ the Son.  We claim to follow and love Jesus but yet we do not according to His works.  He did and does all things in perfect harmony with the God-head and here we be, struggling with the concept that God should have full control of our lives.  Our judgment is too often unjust and faulty because we do not have the attitude of "...of mine own self I can do nothing...."  If the perfect Son of God conducted Himself this way, how much more should we as sinners?!  Christ had no impure motives.  His only desire was to do right in accordance with what the Father wanted.  This is exactly how we must live.  Our desires, passions, motives, plans, judgments, beliefs, and feelings must be completely wrapped up in the desires of God.  What does the Father want?  Where does He desire me to be?  What does He want me to say?  How does He want me to react?  These are just a few simple questions every Christian should ask themselves on a regular basis.  Our own judgments would be much purer and praiseworthy if they were made based upon what we hear from God in the Bible.  He is the Judge of all the earth!

"If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true."  As will be seen, Jesus had four different witnesses.  He did not come simply demanding worship and obedience with nothing to back it up.  His followers must have the same attitude.  Our works should bear witness that we are indeed His children, and if they cannot, then sin lies at the door; or perhaps worse; perhaps no true conversion has taken place. 

Someday soon, the entire world will kneel before the King, the Lord Jesus Christ; and He will, in perfect righteousness, judge all.  This judgment will be true and right because He, as God and man, has no impure motive whatsoever, but He seeks only that which pleases the High and Holy Father.  Let us do the same; and from our lives will come a judgment that is true.