Archive for the ‘American Church’ Category

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM pt II – How Much Love

March 31, 2009

Luke 14:26 –

“If anyone come to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Do you know how the word “hate” is literally translated from the Greek? Hate!

What does He mean? I’ve given you the meaning by reading the text. Usually I read it the other way around but it’s too hard to hear the other way around. It means: by comparison to your love for Me.

God is not interested; our God is not interested in a mere second love. The distance between our love for our own children and the love for our Lord is as far apart as love is from hate in the illustration that He gives.

I’m going to say this. I hope you can hear this. We are not loving our children by putting them first. We are loving ourselves. If we really loved our children we would do whatever it took to see that the reign of God was in proper perspective in their understanding. The best way we can love our children is to put Christ a far distant first. We are teaching them and training them that He is not all that important by how we treat them. It means something.

“No one of you can be my disciple who does not hate his spouse, his father and mother, sister and brother, children, and even his own life compared to your love for Me.”

He’s not saying hate them outside of our love for Him. He is just saying your love for them is that distant a second love. I am convinced that it is self-reign and self-will that has put our children in that place. It’s not for their best interest to be there. That’s a deception. It costs less for our treating them that way because it allows us to enjoy that lifestyle that we are giving them and keeps us from cutting the cords of this world under the guise of loving our children, our family.

You’re not loving your wife and you’re not loving your husband and you are certainly not loving your children if you ignore what Christ has called us to, just to take care of them, to provide for them. It’s a deception. Am I speaking with too much authority? You may need to decide whether or not I have it. It is the Spirit speaking, and not John Brown.

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OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Radically Surrendered

March 27, 2009

I read recently in Voice of the Martyrs about a pastor in Indonesia who had been in prison for three or four years and was unexpectedly released. He had a family and children but wouldn’t leave the prison and stayed an additional two years because he was discipling a number of inmates. That’s not “looking back.” That is letting the children of the world do what only they can do. That is trusting God.

Can we trust God with our families and children? Can we? I met a Christian family in China that I came to know personally. The husband and wife had been imprisoned for many years but several of the children survived. Their twelve year old was beaten to death in the town square. The ten, eight, and seven year olds were left without a home because it was confiscated.

This was back in the early 60s during the Cultural Revolution. The children lived in a neighbor’s coal shack where the coal was stored in the basement and they lived out of a bowl of rice that miraculously never did go empty. I met those kids when they were some twenty years older.

Can we trust God with our families? Can we trust our children to be satisfied with less for the sake of the Gospel? It is going to require a resolute decision to surrender self-reign, self-will. Repentance of our reign, repentance of our will is not a light thing. It is a surrender, it is not a performance; it requires a decision that knows the cost.

Jesus in two parables concerning counting the cost makes it very clear that the time to count the cost is at the beginning. Most of us had a gospel with the cost hidden shared with us in the beginning. Some, when they finally discover the cost are going to be, and I’ve seen this, become a bit angry because they believed in the beginning that it was costless. This decision is not only resolute and radical but it’s costly.

A Radical Lifestyle –

Let’s continue in Luke chapter 16.

The decision to surrender our reign and our will must be radical. Go to verse 16.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John;” it was a Gospel of demand, “since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God,” surrender, “the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

That is a difficult sentence to hear. Why is everyone forcing his way into it? We are going to look at a couple of texts to get the feel of this.

Let’s look at Mark chapter 9 beginning with verse 43.

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Who is speaking, by the way? Jesus! What is He saying?

If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

“If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire.”

Now go to Matthew chapter 10 and verse 34.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

It means something!

There’s something wrong with the picture when it shows that we will spend more on our children’s teeth than we will on their discipleship. What’s wrong with the picture? We will make a greater effort to see that they are educated in a way that the world receives them than to see that they are discipled to the kingdom. We will see that our children have more opportunities at extra curricular activities like dancing, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, archery, drama, piano and the like than to see that they are discipled to the King. I believe the Lord is saying, “If some of these things are getting in the way of their making it into the reign and receiving the life…”

Do you know what the percentage is of the last two generations of Christian children who have stuck with it? Do you know how many make it to thirty, I could say twenty, but by the time they are thirty, how many of our children are in church? It’s fewer than ten percent. But they’ve got beautiful white straight teeth!

I’m not saying we need to neglect their teeth. But Jesus is saying the decision has to be radical. If we have to lose an eye or a foot it’s a cheap price to pay. He’s saying those things that we believe are absolutely essential. If they are keeping us from His reign, they need to go. And His illustration is an eye, and an arm and a foot. How much more personal and necessary can you get? Is this too hard? Every illustration I have used has to do with self-will and self-reign. We have chosen these things for our kids. We have chosen this life style, this vocation, this work to fulfill; not the kingdom but our reign and our will. Too hard? Radical!

And if we think we are going to make it by grace that does not empower us to live the life that He’s presenting, we’re deceived, because it is an offer not a demand. And all it requires is a surrender to receive. But the decision is radical because it is repenting of our self-reign, it is repenting of self-will.

Lord we need grace to hear this.

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM pt II – Three Who Would Follow

March 23, 2009

There are three who would have followed Jesus but were brought up sharply when Jesus revealed the reality of what they were getting into. How Jesus responds to them was somewhat different than what we might expect to hear from those who are called to follow the Lord.

Holes for Homes –

Luke 9:57 – 58:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

What has Jesus touched upon? Well, the man, no doubt, who has seen Him to be King of kings and Lord of lords, has recognized that here is the Son of God; here is One who has life. Like the rich young ruler, this man has seen that Jesus has this quality of life that’s not found in Adam. And so he, to join the corps, says, “I’ll go with You Lord, any where You go.” But his expectation is for something different. Jesus said, “You know, the birds of the air have nests and the foxes have holes, and I have no where to lay My head.”

“Oh, I thought it was going to be different, You being who You are.”

And we have heard a gospel that offers what Jesus did not offer. We’re expecting mansions here and now. Perhaps you’re not but many have grown to expect to be able to get wherever He is going in comfort, and being there, prospering, as the world measures prosperity.

Jesus makes it very clear where He is going. And those who would follow Him need to know at the beginning, that where He is going, in terms of this world, the birds and the foxes have it better in terms of a place to lay their head, a nest that they can roost in or a hole that they can crawl in every night. It takes a resolute decision to say, “Okay, I’ll go.”

Leave It To The World –

Now, let’s look at this next man. Jesus speaks to another whom He would like to invite.

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

Now, that seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? I have a suspicion, because of how Jesus answered him that his father didn’t just die. He was probably near death; he was probably going to die. Jesus said, “Follow Me.” And the man said, “I’ll follow You but first let me go and bury my father.”

Now he may have been dead. I don’t know that he was or wasn’t. I suspect that he was not. I suspect that had he died while his son was following Jesus, the Lord would have gone with him to the funeral. It was the nature of Jesus. But Jesus saw something in this man. What did he see in this man?

You, know, there are some things the world can do as well as we can. There are some things that the world can do better than we can. It’s true. There are some things the children of God shouldn’t even put their hand to. There are some things that any dead person can do. Be careful listening to this, there are some things that the world can do as well as we can do. How many of the things that we are doing that any child of the domain of darkness could do just as well? How much of our life is wrapped up in those things that any child of the world could do, perhaps as well or better? How much of our life is entangled in those things? Let the dead deal with the dead. Let those who have not found the reign or the will or the life do those things that any child of the world can do.

“But those things,” Jesus said, “that I’m about are all of those things that they cannot do.”

Isn’t it time that we made a decision to pour our lives into doing those things that the world cannot do and are really waiting on us to do? The surrender of self-reign and self-will brings us into the life of doing those things that the world cannot do. Jesus’ response was, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But as for you…”

The decision that is required to yield up, to surrender our reign and our will, must be a resolute decision to follow Him in the doing of those things the world can’t do and to leave to the world those things that any child of the world can do. I say to you with boldness, not at all with apology, God is calling you and me to surrender all that we are and all that we’ve been entrusted with to the reign and the will of the Father.

God is calling us to follow Him where the world cannot go. God is calling us to a life of following Him that will require of us leaving much. We’ve got to eat; we’ve got to drink; we’ve got to raise our children; we’ve got to sleep somewhere. But let’s not major on those things and leave unattended those things for which we have been called.

What can be more necessary than burying our own father? But even if that act keeps us from doing that for which we’ve been called, it is a distraction that can be cared for by the children of the world. It may not mean what I am implying it means. Jesus said it, “Follow Me; let the dead bury the dead. As for you, go and proclaim the good news of the reign.”

Looking Behind Us –

The third man’s story begins in verse 61.

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom (reign) of God.”

We could have picked some easier to swallow illustrations, couldn’t we?

“No one after putting his hand to the plow and looking back…”

How many times have you looked back? I have spent most of my Christian life “back.” Not just looking, but “back,” carrying out the semblance of the Christian life, doing just enough of those things that made me feel like I’m still “in,” but according to this text, “back” is keeping me not “fit” for the reign.

We need to make a resolute decision to turn our backs on our self-reign and to surrender to His. We who by faith believe on Him must allow our self-will to be surrendered to His will. And what is His will? His will is that you be children of the kingdom; that you and I be ambassadors of the kingdom; that you and I be bearers of the light; that you and I be the salt that preserves; that you and I are so surrendered that His life will come forth so much that prisoners would stay in jail just to be with us.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Believing vs. Doing

March 20, 2009

Let’s continue in John chapter 12. I want you to see that in the Scriptures there is no separation between believing and doing. Faith has as its fruit the doing of, the obedience to.

Verse 44 of John 12:

And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

It is this faith that enables us to surrender our will and move from the domain of darkness into light.

If anyone hears My saying and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me…” (which is synonymous “with hears my sayings and does not keep them”) “…and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life.”

This is the commandment. Jesus commanded something. And to those who have turned their back on their own reign and who have turned their back on their own will, who have surrendered their own will and have surrendered their own reign to receive His, receive the commandment of eternal life.

“…therefore the things I speak I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

In John chapter 17, verse 3, Jesus prays.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God; and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

We would like to describe eternal life in many ways but this is its simplest interpretation or understanding; eternal life is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. And it’s not just know about Him; it’s knowing Him. He manifests Himself to those who believe upon Him.

Now go down to verse 8.

“…for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

What does it mean to believe “that You sent Me?” What is eternal life? From John 17:3 it is to know the Father and the Son. Eternal life is to know Him.

Now turn to 1 John chapter 2, verse 4.

The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Then verses 5 and 6:

…but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

You can not separate the believing from the doing. How is it that we have allowed a faith that does not require the doing? Has it been out of a false sense of the Law?

Jesus said to His disciples, “Teach them to observe everything that I commanded you.” “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Is there an option there? If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you have surrendered your reign and your will. As I’ve said it’s not a reign of demand; it’s a reign of offer, an offer that is received by surrender.

Catch this: knowing Him, that word is intimately knowing Him, like a husband knows his wife, it’s like Adam knew Eve; it’s entering into an abiding relationship with: knowing Him.

How do you suppose the commandment is kept? It’s not a demand. It isn’t observing everything that He has commanded but it is just simply turning it to Him that He might perform it. He has both spoken it and He will do it, the writer of 1 Thessalonians said. He will do it. Now if you come about it as if doing it proves it or doing it makes it, you are back to demand. I can tell you that many in our churches do not believe this and do not know Him. This is evident because they are not doing even the minimal of what we would observe in those who have entered into His life.

It may not mean what I’ve just said it means, but it means something. You give it meaning. You get before the Lord and you give it meaning. If you feet and hands aren’t in keeping with His life, maybe there is a surrender that must take place: a surrender of our reign and a surrender of our will. Believe on Him and allow Him to perform it; do it. He is the only one that can live the Christian life. None of us can live the Christian life. He’s the only one.

But we can not know Him if we are not willing to surrender our reign and our will; if we are not willing to repent of our reign; if we are not willing to repent of our will and believe on Him. It is not the knowing or the doing, it’s a counterfeit. It’s intellectual ascent to some concept. It’s not faith.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Provision for the Church

March 19, 2009

It is God’s provision. Faith is God’s provision. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s provision that delivers us from our own will that enables us to surrender our will to His will. And it is this surrender of both our reign and will that enables us to receive the offer of His reign in our heart.

And I’m convinced that many in the modern church have never made that transaction. I’m convinced that for many in what we know as the church there has never been that surrender because He’s not reigning. And His will is not coming forth in their lives. I believe the most fruitful mission field in the world is in the American church because I believe there are untold multitudes within the church that are hungry for reality and they’ve never heard about how to surrender their reign and their will and to receive His reign and His will into their heart. That’s why the Lord has led me to write this book, so that you can take this teaching back into the church and into your Sunday school classes and in your small groups and in your relationships. You can share the good news that God is offering us His reign and His will to our hearts. And it is not a demand – he has made provision by way of repentance and faith.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A Provision for Self-Rule

March 17, 2009

Now, what do you suppose is the provision for self-will? Back to Mark chapter 1, verses 14 and 15. It says, “repent” and “believe.” Placing our faith in the one to whom we are turning is the provision for self-will. When Jesus was responding to the request to explain how to pray in Matthew 6:9, He said, “Pray, then in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your “reign” come. Your will be done…”

These are the two provisions for surrender: Your reign come; Your will be done. It begins with us, our surrendering self-reign, our surrendering self-will. And God’s provision for that is repentance and faith.

Let’s go to Mark chapter 16, verse 15.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…”

And belief is like repentance. Show me your faith without your works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works (see James 2:18). This is hands and feet faith. We live out of what we believe in our heart. That’s what faith is, by the way. Faith is the noun form of the Greek word pisteuō which means to believe. To believe is to have faith. To have faith is to believe. You cannot have faith without believing. You cannot have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and not believe in what He said. You cannot believe in what He said and not do what He asks. In Matthew 28 He said, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you.” And that Greek word translated “commanded” literally means “commanded.”

I know I am covering some very simple elementary things, but somehow the church has yet to grasp this. We’re saying we believe in the Lord Jesus, but we’re ignoring those things that He has asked us to do. He has asked us to do some things. He has actually given us some commandments. Did you know that? You cannot say that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot say that you have faith in your heart to make Him Lord of your heart and not do what He has asked. That’s not faith. Well, what does He ask? We will look at that in the next book A Radical Discipleship but He has asked us to do some things that on the whole the church has ignored. And you cannot believe on Him and not believe on what He has said.

A Night in Jail –

Let’s go to Acts chapter 16. Here we have a great example illustrating that what we believe in the heart is manifested in our experience. In Acts chapter 16 we have a story of Paul and Silas being dragged into prison and then being dragged into the inner dungeons of the prison. You all know the story. They have been beaten, lashed, probably 39 stripes, which is the maximum of 40 minus one. They’ve been beaten so badly that their backs have been laid bare and they are bleeding. We see this because the jailer eventually attends to their wounds.

So they are chained up in the dungeon of this Roman jail in Philippi, and it is midnight. You need to know that this is a Roman jail not an American jail. The Romans had no system of rehabilitation. You were in jail either waiting on trial, to determine if you were innocent or guilty, or you’ve been determined to be guilty and are waiting for your punishment. And, the nearest thing to rehabilitation would be to be put on a ship as an oarsman for the rest of your life, because the sentence for guilt was death or to be an oarsman for the rest of your life. You might be held in prison because you owed your landlord some money and you were held there until your relatives paid off the debt by selling your property. If they couldn’t come up with the money you would have a life sentence in the jail. And, often times, the jailer was one who had such an offence. He had a life sentence because he couldn’t pay his bills. And he kept his life by keeping the prison. And this jailer was one such. I don’t know what his crime was but he was no more than a prisoner. He had his life on the basis of keeping the prisoners.

It’s midnight and here’s Paul and Silas singing. And we’d like to think that Paul had his beautiful second tenor voice and Silas was a mellow baritone and they just made music like none that anyone had heard before. But that’s just not the case. I don’t care how good you sing, you don’t sing in a Roman prison or an American Federal prison or a high security prison at midnight. You just don’t do it. I’ve been in prison at midnight. You don’t make a big commotion at midnight. You will be dealt with. I don’t care how good you sing, at midnight nobody is interested in hearing you.

And it wasn’t until I put this together in my mind, until the Holy Spirit opened this up to me, that I got a vision into this realm into which you and I are called, to the other side of the bow of the boat, to where eagles soar, to where it’s beyond Adam’s capabilities.

Because here are two men in a Roman prison, singing at midnight and the Holy Spirit moves and there is an earthquake and an angel comes and they are set free. Not only are they set free but every door in the prison is opened and all the prisoners are set free.

Now what would you do if you were in a Roman prison, already sentenced or waiting on sentence, and the doors are opened at midnight and the jailer is somewhere else? What would you do?

Is that too difficult? Why didn’t they escape? Why didn’t they just run away? Was it because they saw something and believed it? At the risk of their life they saw something. I’m here to tell you that that jailer knew what they would do. He didn’t even need to check inside to see if they were still there because he knew what his prisoners would do and he was about to commit suicide because he knew what his punishment would be for letting them go. He was about to commit suicide without even looking. So, it’s pretty safe to assume that the other prisoners would not have stayed there unless they believed something.

And it hit me. Somehow they saw two men living in this other realm. They saw two men who were not of the earth. They heard something heavenly. I do not know the songs that they were singing, no doubt they were witnessing in their songs.

It reminds me of this woman in China that was in prison three different times and her witness began by singing in prison. She has won them from every tribe and ethnic group from all over China beginning by singing.

So, Paul and Silas may have been singing a nice gospel hymn. But I mean, think about it, if you were facing death and had a chance to escape, would you stay around just to hear more of what a preacher that you’ve heard has to say?

Somehow, the Holy Spirit opened these prisoner’s eyes to see two men who were living apart from their wounds and their condition and their situation. And they believed what they saw. And, the jailer, as for him, he did not need a message. Just seeing these prisoners still there with these two men convinced him that something is going on here that’s beyond him. And his response is, “What must I do to be saved, me and my house? How can we get in on what we see here?”

That’s faith. That’s to believe.

It isn’t just turning from self-rule and to His rule. It’s believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, a belief that will risk everything to enter into His will and reign. It is the surrender of our will. Those prisoners, in Acts 16, who were free and who could have run, they surrendered their will right there. Believing in something they did not understand brought them to full surrender of their will.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A New Lifestyle

March 11, 2009

We are going to begin in Romans chapter 1, verse 16.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel. What is the gospel? Well, it is the gospel of the reign. “For I am not ashamed of the reign” would be another way to put it.

When Christ comes to rule in our heart, we live differently. We look different. I’m not saying it requires a particular kind of clothing but our countenance is changed because our reign is taken out and everything that goes with self reign and self will; all is removed. And when you think about it, it’s a lot of uncomely things: pride, arrogance, ambition, greed, all of those things that mark self-reign, and self-will.

Self-exaltation, striving for position, a working to get on top, considering my needs as more important than another’s; all of these things relate to self-reign, and self-will. And, when His reign comes, we take on a whole new countenance, we take on a whole new life style; we are unlike the children of the world. And out being like the children of the world, with a carnal mind set, should leave us ashamed.

Jesus, no doubt, came across to many as a wimp. He perplexed those who were His enemies among the scribes or Pharisees, and the council of Israel, because He would not defend Himself. He would not do battle with them. He always answered them with gentleness, even though His words were often very cutting because they were the truth. It was prophesied of Him, “He did not lift his voice in the streets. He would not bend a bruised reed.” (See Is. 42:2-3) He was gentle in all of His ways and all of His character. He was kind. He moved out of love, because He was love. God is love. It isn’t just what He does, it’s how He is. And Jesus lived in that realm. The divine nature was always working in Him. And if you were to look at what that divine nature looks like, for example, in 1 Corinthians 13, “It bears all things, it believes all things.”

An example of this is in the story of His encounter with the woman at the well. She comes up to him, and what was that dialogue where He knew truth? “You’re right, you have no husband. You’ve had five husbands. And the one you are living with is not your husband at all.” He said it in a way that did not put her off. He said it in a way that did not judge her. She did not respond as if she was judged.

Jesus says in John 12, “I did not come to judge.” He did not move in judgment. He did not put them down. He could have, but He did not. Wouldn’t it be something to see that in the church? Wouldn’t it be something, where our countenance and our words and our lives expressed, “We are not here to judge. We are here to bear. We are here to cover. We are here to always choose to believe the best.”

Boy, that’s contrary to much of the carnal life that is in the church. Wouldn’t it be something if we were to choose to believe the best, to choose to hear what we are hearing in the best light, to choose it? I may know that it may not be; I may know it’s probably different. But if I choose, if I choose to believe it in the best light, then there is power in that isn’t there?

Power to Change –

There is in that tremendous power to influence and change. That will happen when we are not ashamed of the reign of God in our heart, if the reign of God is in our heart… You see, when it says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” it is saying, “I’m not ashamed of the reign, I’m, not ashamed of the reign of God in my heart. I’m not ashamed of the life He has called me to. I’m not ashamed to choose the least position. I’m not ashamed to sit at the foot of the table rather than the head of the table. I am not ashamed to wash feet. I am not ashamed to make a young brother, new in Christ, as more important than myself in a meeting.” Is this coming through?

The working of that “I’m not ashamed of the gospel” in us is by choice, not by performance. It’s by choosing His reign. Now hear this: every thing that I have just said you can do by imitation, but you’ll be a miserable person trying to perform all that. You’ll be washing feet and hating the smell. Am I coming through?

But if you have chosen His reign, if you have received His reign, if you’ve surrendered your reign and your will, if you’ve surrendered your life, if you’ve chosen not your life but His, He performs it. There’s peace in that, there’s joy in that, there’s ease in that, there’s an absence of striving in that. And that’s the difference between a gospel of demand, our trying to perform a Christian life, our always trying to be imitators of Christ, rather than participators in Christ. And that is what we’ve been called to. We’ve been called to participate in His life, not to imitate His life. We’ve not been called to manufacture His life. We’ve been called simply to surrender our life, our reign, our will to receive His. That’s the difference between the gospel of demand and the gospel of surrender; the gospel of performance as opposed to receiving the offer.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Introduction

March 5, 2009

We are all familiar with the Scripture, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is difficult to know His voice when our head is full of our thoughts, our voice. It requires a stilling of our voice, getting quiet. And I have found in my lifetime, and I have been in the Lord since 1949, probably seriously since about 1962 or 1963, that it is still the most difficult discipline in my life, getting quiet, stilling my voice. And you really cannot tell His voice from your voice if you are speaking. He sounds like you. It’s a still small voice, it is not as if it is a voice y0u recognize as different from your own. There are some characteristics to His voice, though. Usually He speaks when you are not speaking and it usually comes in a way that you recognize that you did not think that this voice was something that you produced. But you cannot hear Him if you are speaking.

Remarkable Miracles –

There is a book that I am recommending to you called Remarkable Miracles by G. C. Bevington. It is the story of this “bare foot” preacher ministering up and down the Ohio River valley around the first part of the 20th Century up to about 1940. The uniqueness of his ministry was that he learned at a young age that when he got down to pray, he didn’t get up until he heard. Sometimes he might be down for an hour, two hours, two days, a week. But it was his practice not to get up until he heard. And out of it came a life of really walking in the leading of the Lord and learning His voice. One of the things Bevington shares in his book is that one of the most difficult things about hearing God is getting quiet.

We are going to try and go through that little discipline as we prepare to understand this next teaching and just ask the Lord to help us quiet our own voice, quiet our own thoughts. And many of our thoughts when we are reading someone’s teaching are thoughts of judgment, that is, we are judging what we are reading. And even though we may be judging in a right way, with righteous judgment, it gets into unrighteous judgment when, in perceiving or discerning out of what we are reading and what we are seeing, we judge down, we condemn, we hold the writer, the perpetrator, as less than. And it’s important that we listen and discern and filter it by way of the Holy Spirit.

But we need to be very careful how we judge what we are hearing or reading, because sometimes it is God speaking. And we need to say, “Lord, if you are speaking, let me hear it.” But the most important point is your coming to a place of quietness. A part of the discipline of listening to one another is listening for Him, and learning to discern His voice from any other voice. And, if you are listening to the Lord, or if you are quiet, listening for Him, the author or speaker may be missing Him and you, the reader or listener, may be hearing Him. I, as the writer, might be off and you’ll still perceive what is true; God will correct it for you, help you understand it. Perhaps you are doing that now, consciously or subconsciously, but I am speaking it, I am saying it to you so that you can give some thought to it and you can discipline yourself in your own listening.

I just discipline myself Lord; I listen to you only. Lord, I present to You a heart that is willing to do what you are speaking to me. Lord, I will enter in.

Do you know that text in Luke 11:52 that reads, “The one who enters in shall know?” It’s not entering in that steals knowledge, or that keeps knowledge from coming. I go through those disciplines often. When I do not go through those disciplines, I am taken by how little I hear. When I go through those disciplines, I am always encouraged by hearing Him.

Lord, if the reader does not know how to get quiet and You know where each one of us is, I’m asking, Father, that beginning now, You teach the discipline of quieting our own voice so that we might hear You. Teach us how to come to stillness, Lord, and how to incline our heart and lean our ear in Your direction.

O my soul and all that is in me, that we would come under the reign of the Lord our God. O my soul and all that is within me, be still and know the voice of God. O my soul and all that is within me, will to do what our Lord speaks. O my soul and all that is within me, decide to follow the Lord our God wherever He leads.

O Lord we, with joy, yield our reign. O Lord, we, with joy, yield our will. O Lord, it is with joy that we ask for Yours, both Your reign and Your will ruling in our heart. Teach us, heavenly Father by Your Holy Spirit and Your divine Word. For we with intent come under Your reign. It is our desire, Father, because of what You have put within us; it is our desire that our Lord Jesus, the Christ, be fully formed in us. O heavenly Father, it is our desire that we would be among a people who have made themselves ready.

I thank You, heavenly Father, for what you are going to do in my heart as I read these words. I thank You, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown in Good Soil

March 3, 2009

The last is – the Harmony of the seed sown in good soil.

“And other seed fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word (of the Reign of God) and accepts and understands it in an honest and good heart.”

He’s in truth. He’s not trying to deceive himself or anyone else. It’s with an honest and good heart that he says, “Jesus, reign over all that I am, over all that you’ve entrusted to me; You reign over it all.” He holds it fast. He does not embrace it on Sunday at the altar and by seven or eight o’clock that evening he’s back into the world vicariously by TV; enjoying that for which Christ died, enjoying vicariously, watching the kinds of things for which Christ died. His new life, he holds on fast to it; this word of the reign, he holds it fast. He indeed bears fruit and brings forth some 100 fold, some 60 and some 30; and one of the Gospels adds this word “with perseverance.”

Hold On Fast –

Embracing His reign, making Jesus Christ king on the throne of our lives requires a holding fast and a persevering. Difficulties come and if there is shallowness, there will be a withering and a falling away. But many are holding on in the church. I am so encouraged by what I see in most churches. I am seeing many who have a heart for authenticity; they are hungry for the real things to come forth. I am seeing it everywhere; a desire for something that we’ve all understood was there but we’ve not seemed to get a hold of. There’s a hunger for truth; a hunger for the real thing. I think that is why you are reading this book. I can’t think of any other reason why you would let me harangue and hit you with this difficult gospel.

Many don’t want to hear this Gospel. It’s going to take perseverance. It’s going to take holding on fast to what you are hearing; not from me, but from the Holy Spirit. And I say, in closing, it’s worth it; this life is worth it. I would not go back for anything. I don’t want to go back. I find little pleasure in the world. I have no ambitions and the men that I work with are bothered by that. I have no desire for a future. We have enough business. We should have an office and secretaries and I’m working in my basement; I’m my own secretary. And I’m looking for the day when I will not do another lick of what I am now doing. I’m not interested. And the Lord will test me on that, but I believe He has. I believe I’m speaking with an honest and true heart, because I’ve seen the realm; I have felt His reign and I have experienced a life that is out of the boat. It’s not daily, but it’s been enough. My heart is set on it and your heart is too if you haven’t put this book down by now. I believe that is why you are still reading. But, it’s going to take some perseverance.

This is the one who can hear the mysteries, the secrets of how to enjoy this life, how to live this other life, how to get over the bow of the boat, how to draw near Him so He can make us. He wants to show us.

One thing that I need to add; even Jesus’ disciples did not automatically understand the parables. You can’t assume because you are a Christian or a disciple that you will automatically understand the parables; you will not. It will always require humbling yourself and asking Him to explain it. It will always require you saying, “I won’t know this, Lord, unless You teach it to me.” It will never happen until you recognize that, no matter how much of a genius you are, how intellectually capable you are, you cannot know unless He explains it to you. So, always ask. The disciples did, and that’s what put them on the inside.

Amen.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown Among Thorns

February 28, 2009

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

This parable is not really talking about four soils; we’re talking about four different hearts, that’s the soil, we’ve seen that already. Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit is sowing the word of the reign of God on hearts. The heart that is too near the world is not going to receive or understand the word and it’s going to be immediately plucked away. You’ve brought people to church, haven’t you? And you were just hoping that the word would just connect and it didn’t. Their hearts were still too close to the world and the enemy immediately plucked it away.

And then there is this rocky ground. You know you’ve seen those who have received… I’ve seen family members receive it and now it is no where in their life now. It’s gone. Difficult times come. And difficult times are coming. If there is no depth of soil and no moisture to sustain a root system, if the word isn’t working within, the moisture of the word, the water of the word, and no depth of soil that will enable a root to go deep, that one will be lost.

Here we see the seed sown among the thorns, on thorny soil.

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

The thorns came up with it. They were not there apparently when the seed was sown. If it were apparent when the seed was sown, many hearts would not have received it.

There are many who see the cost and just have no heart to pay the cost. They do not want to give up their drugs, their alcohol, their lifestyle, their wanting the best the world has to offer, their vocation, their future in the world. They see the cost and are not interested. They don’t receive the seed. They’re back beside the road. We are talking about lives that do not see the thorns when the seed is sown. The seed is received, but there are thorns that come up with it. That’s what it says; “the thorns came up with it…” They were not there to be seen at the beginning, but “the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

“And those on whom the seed was sown among the thorns are the ones who hear the word of the reign of God in the heart of man, and they go on their way and they are choked.”

It’s interesting that in these three texts you probably stumbled over this, this is difficult. You find two phrases, “they are choked,” and later, “and the word was choked,” the seed was choked; both are choked, and strangled is an accurate translation of the word “choked.”

And those on whom seed was sown among thorns are the ones who hear the word (of the Reign of God), and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the desires for other things.”

If that is not the American church, I don’t know what is. There is a reason the church in America is dying. There is a reason there are fewer churches this year, in the hundreds, than there were last year. And on the whole, almost without exception, the mega churches are seeing exponential growth, but this huge church growth boom is at the expense of hundreds and thousands of smaller churches. What’s happening is, we’re just moving around, finding that which appeals to us the most. There is some growth by conversion but it is very small. It does not keep up with those that leave the church every year. And that’s why the church in America is declining.

“They are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.”

I wonder what “deceitfulness of riches” means? You hear some of the Gospel that has been preached over the last twenty years, a Gospel that would make a Hugh Hefner or Bill Gates a saint. If the riches of the world is the promise of God, billionaire Bill Gates is a saint. The prosperity that is promised in the Scriptures is everything we need, but it is not going to include the deceitfulness of riches, because riches are a deception. That’s why not many rich enter the kingdom. It is extremely hard for the rich to enter the kingdom because it has a deceit in it.

We think that somehow there is some security in having enough. That’s a lie. All we need is God. His checking account is more than adequate. It’s a deceit to think that we can manage it better; that’s what we are saying. It isn’t that God is looking for those in whom He can entrust great riches. I’ve known very few men who are able to give the bulk away.

When I was making it, and had a very substantial income back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, I had four companies. I was an elder in the church, speaking and preaching several times a week, giving well over a tithe; but I wasted most of it. I wasted most of it. It is lost to the kingdom of God.

He is not looking for the tithe. He wants to reign over it all. And if you can’t hear that, you need to set some time aside to deal with this, because the enemy will use that against you. And you’ll have a hard time finding the reign of life. You’ll have a miserable Christian experience. You will always be short of reigning in life. Sin will plague you and the battle will just be non-stop. You might daily have victory over it but it will be a miserable victory. And most of you here know exactly what I am talking about, a miserable victory.

I know – reigning in life requires the reign of God. Those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life (that word is basileia) in Christ Jesus. Well, it might not mean what I just said it meant, but it means something. You deal with it.

It reads just quite simply,

“and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things.”

The pleasures of this life enter in and choke the Word (of the reign of God), and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.

I’ll have to confess, in much of my earlier walk in Christ in leadership I did things differently. Somehow if two families came in and one family was struggling financially and was always in need and another family was financially secure and could really help out the cause, which family do you suppose I catered to more? No, John Brown wouldn’t do that.

Two men considered for the church board. Two men considered for the treasurer of the board. One is an accountant, the other is a farmer. Now, which one do you suppose we would choose? And, then I ask you, which one would spend more time praying over the management of the church funds?

This is the hour for the Gospel of the Kingdom to be preached in all the nations. It is not just happening in your heart, it is happening all over the earth. Everywhere I go now, I am hearing it, and I think that if you are listening, you are hearing it too. This Gospel of His Reign is going to raise up an army here in the states that love not their own lives, that love not their own lives even unto death, because they found the King and the realm of His reign within and it’s all that matters; nothing else matters. There isn’t a second in the picture.

“…and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.”

We have just looked at three kinds of soil. We’ve looked at three kinds of hearts that cannot understand the things of the kingdom, cannot receive it, will not find fruit in their lives. And all three you’ll find in the church.