Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

POSSESSING THE REIGN – Sermon on the Mount

May 4, 2009

We will begin in Luke chapter 6.

In the Gospels, actually there are more than two places, but there are two places particularly, you will find the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew it is very clearly in chapters 5, 6, and 7. In Luke, it’s broken up in pieces and there is a piece or two even in Mark.

What conclusion did we arrive at as to why the Holy Spirit would use up so many pages or texts to say the same thing? Why would the Holy Spirit repeat Himself when all the things that Jesus did and spoke would fill up so many volumes that the would could not contain them, according to John 21:25? And yet there are those things that He repeats. Why? God hides things with the intent that can only be found by searching them out. If you discover that the same incident is repeated in two of the Gospels, know that the accounts are given so that in either one you do not find by itself the whole truth. It’s the hiding of a mystery. So, if you want the word to open up to you and there is a repeat of the same account, the same situation in another text, compare them to each other because in that which is not in both, there will be a truth that is very significant.

Here in Luke chapter 6 we discover something right from the beginning. Let’s begin in verse 17.

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples…”

“A large crowd of His disciples…” that’s more than twelve isn’t it?

…and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

 

There is not only a large crowd of His disciples but there is a multitude of other than His disciples. I want you to see that distinction here in the gathering.

…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

 

So we see here the beginning of the beatitudes. This is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapter 5. But we discover something different here in the Luke text, and if we go back to verse 12 we find out what is really taking place.

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.

 

And now He names the apostles and at the end of naming the apostles we find Him facing His crowd of disciples as well as the multitude of those who were not His disciples.

And this is how I see this. It’s not new with me. Many see it somewhat similar. Jesus has spent His night in prayer and in this night in prayer the Father has said to Him, “I want You to choose, out from among the larger number of disciples, twelve.” And the Father gives Him the names. You discover that in John 17:6 and other verses. The Father tells Jesus who the twelve are to be, including Judas Iscariot. And it is to these twelve in particular, as in the presence of the multitude of these other disciples as well as the larger multitude of non-disciples, that we find Jesus preaching this sermon.

I see it as more an ordination address, more as an explanation of what it’s going to mean to follow Him. And we find in here the attitudes and the principles and the law of the realm. The Sermon on the Mount is very important. It is usually handled as a series of teachings that are like targets to aim at, never really expecting to hit. And when you read it, it sounds like that to Adam’s ears, but it’s not that at all. He’s now describing the normal Christian life. He is describing what it is to be the children of the reign, disciples of the reign. And if you do not see it from that perspective you will never take it as a life to be expected. You will never see it as norm, it will always be out there untouchable.

And it almost seems that way to Adam’s ears. But to the man born of the Spirit, to the regenerated spirit, it is the coming in of the Holy Spirit, as in Ezekiel 36, who will cause you to walk in the ways of the Lord. The difference between Adam and the new man is Adam could not, and it was not in him. It was impossible for him to walk in the ways of the Lord. The Law was given to prove that very thing. The Law was given as a tutor to show us that man cannot live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man needs regeneration. He needs this Second Man.

Again, 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus was both the last Adam and the second man. He was the first of a whole new race. It takes this other life force; this other life force lives the Sermon on the Mount. It’s His breath, His air, His food. It isn’t something to be imposed upon disciples; it is something that is exposed in their life. Yes, there are new commandments in it; there are new laws in it. Yes, there are! Jesus ends His time on earth by admonishing His disciples, saying to His disciples, “Teach them to observe all the things that I commanded you.”

The difference is, by nature we can’t live it. It’s not by our nature, but by our new nature, in Christ. The old man can’t keep from going back to the mud. The new man has no taste for the mud. By nature the new man is caused by his spirit in it, his life in it, to live this other life. Ezekiel 36 again says, “And I will put My Spirit,” right after He has said, “I will give you a new spirit.” That’s the regeneration, the new birth. “And then I will put My Spirit within you and He shall cause you to keep my statutes and to walk in My ways.” Aren’t you wanting that? Aren’t you wanting to be able to be what you know God’s created us to be without striving? It’s called entering into the rest.

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GOVERNMENT OF GOD – A Brief Review

April 15, 2009

Now, I’m going to do a brief review of this issue of the Gospel of the Kingdom, the gospel of the reign because I don’t believe you can hear it enough. That word basileia means reign, it means the rule itself, the government, if you would.

This reign is an offer. Israel had a problem with this idea because they could not handle a gentle king, a meek king, coming and offering His reign. And that is exactly what Christ has done. He’s come and in this age, if you would, this dispensation, in this period, it is an offer.

We are going to learn the universal principal for accepting the offer. This offer is enacted by our abdicating the throne. It’s called repentance. And we saw in Mark 1:14 & 15, “After John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God.” I encourage you; you need to memorize that text. You can preach the whole gospel from those two verses. It is the most concise statement on what the gospel is. “Jesus came preaching the gospel of God saying, ‘The time is fulfilled…’ ” What time is fulfilled? The time of man’s reign in his own heart! Man’s reign is coming to an end! The availability of the reign in the earth, the coming of the King! He’s here!

“The time is fulfilled, the reign of God is at hand. Repent…” And that is the enabling force, that is the abdicating, the laying down of crowns. I made the point in the last chapter and I cannot say it too strongly, repentance is the white flag of surrender. It is surrendering our reign. And that’s what repentance is. Yes, it’s first a change of mind, but if a change of mind does not affect our lives by our hands and our feet it is a false repentance. It is like the repentance of the scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

John the Baptist was not of the realm, the reign of Christ: he was the last of the prophets, the greatest of all, and yet the least in the kingdom. The least in the reign is greater than John the Baptist. So John the Baptist, he came as one crying in the wilderness, crying, “Repent!” It was a demand. But when Jesus comes, the gentle Lamb, it’s an offer.

Can you picture this? A meek and seemingly powerless King facing what appears to be overwhelming forces in the midst of battle? This meek, humble King, walking out onto the battle field to what appears to be this huge overpowering army and overwhelming forces and saying to the enemy, “Would you surrender?”

And no one can handle that. A few could. But, that’s how He came. In the midst of overwhelming odds, it would appear, He comes as a gentle lamb before the wolves and says, “Will you surrender and turn from your reign? You can’t be what you were created to be without the reign of God in your heart. I implore you, be born again. Repent!”

Repentance is the white flag of our reign. It’s turning from our reign to His. Can you not see that? Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled. The reign is at hand. Repent, give up, and believe in the gospel.”

One is a banner of defeat, willing, yielding, surrendered, and the other is the banner of the King. This is accomplished by His faith, it is what He believes. Faith is a gift. To each has been given a measure. But as for faith, He is the author, the one who first speaks it, and the perfecter, the one who finishes. Faith, it’s His banner over us. It’s the sign of His reign. Repent! Raise your flag of surrender, and then lift the banner of His reign. Faith, belief, it is the banner over the disciples of the kingdom. Repent and believe in the gospel.

And so we looked at that in the last chapter. We looked at how it requires a resolute decision, it requires a radical decision. That’s the thing that Israel could not handle. They thought His coming would be such that if you did not bow, your knees would be broken. They believed that He would just take the nations, roll over them like the stone in Daniel. He is doing that but it’s not what we think. And they just could not handle that and neither can we. It requires a resolute, radical decision to follow Christ. And you don’t have to choose Him. It’s an offer. It’s not a demand. He did not come to judge. We may think of it as a demand but as soon as we think of it as a demand, when we’re before the judgment seat we will wish we would have accepted that offer.

And this is why Jesus could walk into a room full of harlots, thieves, embezzlers, and they would know who He was. They knew who He was. He’s this religious teacher, this one some are wondering if He is the Messiah. He’s this prophet who can reveal hearts. He’s a man who can come into your midst and reveal hearts. That’s a little scary even among Christians, isn’t it? Wow! And these people did not feel threatened, judged or condemned. We’ve got to get a handle on that. Why did He not condemn them? They couldn’t keep from doing what they were doing. They couldn’t have the life of the reign. Even though He did not come to judge or condemn, His offer in the end will be that which will judge us.

“My words before the judgment seat,” He said, “they will judge you.” “But I did not come to judge, I came to offer.”

Thank You, Lord. Lord, we thank You for calling us together. And Lord, our hope is in and our eyes are set on Your speaking to us. Lord, we thank You for Your long-suffering with us, Your patience with us, Your delight in our coming to be before You. Our desire, Lord, is to hear whatever it is that will cause us to surrender all that we are and all that we’ve been entrusted with, including our reign, that You might reign. Now, Lord, speak to us from Your word. We look to You only and we know that You will protect that which You are speaking. May my words, O Lord, fall to the ground. You speak in our midst. Include me. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.

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 – A Demand or An Offer?

March 7, 2009

An Absolute –

Here we are going to be talking about “The Offer of the Kingdom” and the nature of the decision that is necessary to surrender our reign and our will to the reign and will that our Father is offering.

First of all, the Kingdom of God, the reign of God, is an absolute, it is a fact. It is! God reigns! So the issue is not our establishing the reign, the issue is our relating to the reign. God reigns. That’s a fact. The issue is our relating to that reign. Jesus came preaching the gospel of this absolute fact that God reigns and that we were made for that reign. Man, woman, child, we were all made for the reign of God. It is an absolute fact. And unless we see that the reign is an absolute, unless we see that it is both absolute and our future is determined by how we relate to that absolute, we will be distracted by all the other issues of life and never settle the issue. Because the issue of life, the bottom line issue is, who reigns? That’s why it is central in the Gospels. The issue is who reigns! And the absolute is that God reigns! And, unless that absolute coincides with the reign in our heart, we will lose. The absolute is the reign of God.

A Demand or An Offer? –

The question comes then, is this Gospel of the Kingdom a demand or an offer? Is the Gospel of the Kingdom, is the reign of God, a demand or an offer?

My first impulse is to say that it is a demand. And those of you who have heard me teach on this before, realize that I had spoken of it as a demand, because it is an absolute.

And one of the reasons Israel rejected the Gospel that Jesus brought, is that it wasn’t a demand. It did not come with power. It did not come bending every knee. It did not come crushing every other kingdom and nation, as was prophesied in Daniel 2, for example. It came offered in such a way that it could be accepted or rejected. It was an offer.

The difference between a gospel that is a demand and a gospel that is an offer is the gospel that John the Baptist and all of those who preceded him preached, which was a gospel of demand. Do! – Don’t do! It was a gospel of requirements. And it required our performing to the demand. We call it the Law.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is a gospel of offer. We can choose to reject it or accept it. But it is different in nature to a demand, and that’s why it is an offer. The gospel of demand is a gospel of reformation, a gospel of change. The gospel that is an offer is a gospel of regeneration, which is a difference in kind.

John the Baptist brought a gospel that was intended to change man. Jesus brought a gospel that was intended to regenerate man. One requires the performance of the man, the gospel of demand, while the other requires the performance of another. One leaves you nervous and uncomfortable. You’re always wondering if you’ve measured up, completed the task, done it right. That’s why Israel ends up in translating the Law and breaking the Law down into hundreds and hundreds of interpretative laws.

For example, take the Law of rest. “You shall not work on the Sabbath.” It is the one that has the most laws under it because the issue is: what is work? And the nature of man is, if he is greedy or is wanting more than what the Lord has provided in a six day week and living under the Law of the Sabbath, then he will try to find a way around this law. The issue is – what is work?

For example, if you’ve got chickens and you raise chickens to produce eggs and egg production is a part of your provision, then can you eat an egg that is produced on the Sabbath? No! But if you have chickens who happen to lay eggs and those eggs are sometimes eaten and they do not go outside of the household, then an egg laid on the Sabbath, you may lawfully eat.

Or if you raise a crop and you are a tiller of the land and you come in from Sabbath services one day and as you are walking down your walk you’ve got roses there and there is a dead leaf on the roses, can you pick that leaf? And the Law goes further than that. If you can pick the leaf, can you pick off a dead twig, and then a dead branch, and then uproot a dead plant. And the Law adjusts for each one of those things depending upon the nature of a person’s work on the other six days.

I mean, that would get heavy, wouldn’t it? Some of us are living that way – burdened by whether or not we are performing, whether this or that is in grace or not. The difference is that the law of demand, the kingdom of demand, the reign of demand, depends upon our performance; where the reign of offer depends upon His performance. One leaves us with nerves on edge; the other leaves us with nerve to do whatever He asks us to do.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is the gospel of the reign that is offered. And because it is offered and we can choose to accept it or reject it, it is a gospel that is dependant upon a person’s accepting His performing. What is required for receiving the offer? The least in the kingdom of surrender or regeneration is greater than the greatest in the kingdom of demand.

That sounds a little like the words that Jesus spoke about John the Baptist. “He who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than the greatest…” And He is speaking of John the Baptist who was greater than any who had preceded him. And the difference between the two is the difference between the gospel of demand and the gospel of surrender, or offer. To receive the offer of His reign, simply requires the surrender of what? Our reign! The receiving of His will requires just simply the surrender of what? Our will! It is an offer that is received. It is not a demand that is made.

Now the day comes when that changes. The day comes when grace is no more. When Jesus returns, the economy will change. And then there will be a season of demand. Following that season of demand, because all that remains at the end of that millennial period, all that will remain are the surrendered, those who, with joy, surrender to the reign and the will of God in their heart.

When you see that the issue is surrender in receiving the offer, as opposed to performance to comply with the demand, you’ll then see the difference between much of the gospel that we are hearing today as opposed to the gospel of the reign. The reign is offered; it simply requires surrender to receive. The offer of the kingdom is accepted by surrender of the reign of self and the surrender of self, of will, and how that is possible.

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.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown in Rocky Places

February 25, 2009

Here is the harmony of the Soil in Rocky Places.

“Other seed fell on the rocky ground or soil where it did not have much soil: and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.”

By the way, a farmer is suspicious if it comes up too quickly; he knows he’s got a problem. A too quick response is not always a good response.

Bear with me. When we get to the second book in the series, A Radical Discipleship, (Follow Me and I Will Make You), Jesus lays out some very heavy demands on those who are going to follow Him. He says things like: “No one of you can be My disciple unless he takes up his cross daily. You can’t be My disciple; you can’t be with Me if you do not hate your father, mother, sister brother, husband or wife in comparison to your love for Me.” Notice that He is not leaving room for even a close second. “He can not be My disciple who does not say good bye to all his own possessions.”

These are pretty heavy demands but woven into the middle of these in Luke 14 He makes this statement: “What king of you before he goes into war does not first make an assessment of the enemy’s strength and size to determine if he with his five thousand can overcome the enemy that is coming with ten thousand?” “What man of you who builds a house does not first count the cost lest he begins and not be able to finish?”

Jesus makes it very clear that it is not to anyone’s advantage to get a decision that is not based on a clear understanding of what is being asked or sought. We are not doing anyone a favor by getting them to sneak up their hand at the end of a service and believing they are saved without them understanding that what they are being asked to do is going to cost them everything that they are and everything that they have been entrusted with for the rest of their life.

We are not doing a plant any good that is going to spring up quickly, but the conditions are so that there is no depth of soil, no room for root. Are you getting the implications of this?

That’s why those who come to Christ in China or North Korea or Uganda or in Nigeria or Ethiopia or Sudan or Iran or Syria or Indonesia all know the cost. They know what coming to Christ will cost them. That’s why the church is multiplying there and she is declining here at a fairly rapid rate. That’s why over there the church is increasing in the 100s of percent, because they have considered the cost and have determined that He is worth it. His reign in their heart is worth it! Being filled with the life of God is worth it! And we in the West or in America have approached it as if it were worthless, costless.

“…and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And as soon as it grew up, and after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no moisture it had no root.”

It had no moisture so it had no root. I wonder what the moisture could be. It is where there is no sufficient depth of the word, the water of the word in the soil of the heart that will feed and nourish and sustain the root system. The foundation of this life is choosing to follow after Christ and seeking the reign of God in their heart.

“…and because it had no moisture it had no root. And because it had no root it withered away.”

I have seen untold numbers of those who have withered away. It’s the reason why our whole approach to mass evangelism ends up with 1%, 2%, and at the most 3% who are in church a month later. Because there was no depth of soil there was no understanding of the need for the word to do its work.

“In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places. This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation when affliction or persecution arises because of the word of the Reign of God, immediately they fall away.”

And I can promise you if you have not discovered it already, the more you hear, the more you will be proven. “Through many tribulations must we enter into the reign.” Tribulation means pressure from the outside. It’s God’s way of driving the roots deeper for those who have the moisture and the depth of soil – it’s necessary. But to those who have been deceived into believing it is a costless, shallow experience, sin forgiven, heaven bound, no more hell in their future, but no love for Him; no real depth of understanding what God is all about and what God is doing.

“Yet they have no firm root within themselves, but are only temporary.”

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown Beside the Road

February 19, 2009

Here is my commentary on the harmony of the Soil Beside the Road.

“Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow his seed and as he sowed, some seed fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air came and ate it up.”

Now, here we are looking for those who have received a particular word, and you can’t read this particular segment without recognizing that in one of the texts it refers to the ‘word.’ In one of the Gospels the seed is the word, and in one of the other Gospels, it is the word of God, and in the third, it is the word of the kingdom. The mystery is, the seed that this sower is sowing is the word of God regarding the reign of God. It is the word about the kingdom. This word about the kingdom is a very broad word. It is referred to in the Gospels as the gospel of the kingdom, and good news about the reign of God. It is not just any word. It’s not just any word of God. It is the word concerning the reign. The parables have to do with Jesus sharing words concerning the reign of God in the lives of His disciples.

And you will not understand the power of this word of God, this word of the kingdom, this word of the reign; you will not understand how it is the power of God unto salvation unless you understand the mysteries. These things will only be understood by those who seek them out, those who search them out. “It is the glory of God to hide a matter; it is the glory of kings to search out a matter.”

We need to recognize we are a realm, a nation of priests and kings, referring to the text in 1 Peter and in Revelation. We are a kingdom, a realm of kings and priests, that’s who we are. We’ve been called to rule and reign with Christ, to share the reign. And, you will not understand how to enter into the fullness of that reign, you will not understand how that reign is going to work in your heart and in your life and you’ll not understand how to exercise the reign in sharing the reign with Christ and how to relate to Him as the head unless you understand these mysteries.

So, it is not just any word. A harmony of this particular seed thrown by the road makes it very clear it is a particular word; it is the word concerning the kingdom.

“Hear the parable of the sower. Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of the kingdom (the reign, realm, and people of the realm) of God.”

The word, the seed, is the word of the kingdom of God.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom (reign of God)…”

Not just any word. But when anyone hears the word that the Spirit of God is putting out concerning the reign of God, “and does not understand it, immediately the evil one, Satan, the devil…” Now how is he referred to in the first part of the parable, this evil one, this Satan, this devil? It’s the bird!

There is a bird that is watching over what is coming into our life, and if Christ is trying to speak to us by His Spirit concerning the things of the kingdom, if it is not taken in, if it is not understood, there is a bird that will rob you and I of that word, quickly, immediately. So it is clear that you cannot understand the mysteries of God if you are not able to understand the word that He is sharing. If you are not in a place where you can receive the word, hear the word, understand the word, it is not going to lie around for a later date. We would like to believe that it is back here in the background and some day we’ll get a hold of it, but it will be taken from you and me if it is not planted where it can bear fruit.

Now where is this place where the seed is sown where it is not planted and can be stolen by the bird? It’s by the road! The Luke text adds this little phrase, “and it was trampled under foot.”

Do you know the person who can not receive and understand the word concerning the reign? I just told you! They are out on the road where the world is traveling. If your heart is too close to where the world lives, the seed of the word will not find any ground to be planted in. It’s on soil that cannot receive it and it will be trampled under foot and immediately stolen by the devil. What does that mean?

You can’t watch much of what is going on on TV; you cannot find your pleasure in the humor of the world; you cannot live vicariously where the world lives; you cannot spend your life where the world is walking and expect to receive and understand this word concerning His reign in your heart. The seed that is on the ground that cannot be buried and is trampled is the heart that is living near to where the word is walking.

I was raised on a farm and I have done everything relating to seeding from manual broadcast to machine casting. And as you make your rows and come along to the end of the row, particularly the side that is next to the road, and if there is no fence there is no growth there by a fence, some seed will get out there by the berm of the road. And it will be eaten by the birds; run over; walked over; it’ll not even spring up; it’ll not even come forth; because it is out there where the world travels.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom (the reign of God) and does not understand it, immediately the evil one, Satan, the devil comes and snatches it away, takes away the word (of the reign of God) that has been sown in his heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.”

Only one of the texts adds, “so that they will not believe and be saved.” It is this word of the kingdom that is the word that is the power of God unto salvation. That’s what it says. The word of God that the sower is casting is the word concerning the reign of God in the heart of man. It is that word that, if it is not believed and received, and planted, then it is the absence of that word that keeps one from salvation.

The issue is, if you don’t understand that, if your heart is too near the road where the world is traveling, and you don’t understand that, you’ll not get your heart out of the world. A lot of Christians are suffering and miserable in their walk because they are living too close to the world. Their hearts are just too close. Does that communicate with you? You know what I am talking about, don’t you?

THE KEY PARABLE – “Introductions”

February 14, 2009

Let’s look at the Introductions. We find the Introductions in Matthew 13:1-3a, Mark 4:1-2, and Luke 8:4. Now, what I am going to do is to take you through the three different texts and then we’re going to come down to the “Harmony” of the Introductions. I suggest that you write these out for yourselves and underline those things that are not found in all three. And so I’m going to read the Harmony.

That day Jesus went out of the house…

You find that “went out of the house” in verse 1 of Matthew 13. You might not think it’s significant and it does not seem to have a lot of significance, but it does set the scene. You do not find the fact that Jesus had spent some time in a house in Mark 4 or in Luke 8. He evidently stayed in somebody’s home which was, incidentally, by the sea. You can infer all sorts of things from this little bit of information. Things like that house “by the sea” could have been the home of Simon and Andrew or it could have been the home of a man called Zebedee who was the father of James and John. Both families had their homes by the Sea of Galilee because both families got their living as fishermen from the sea.

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him.

You do not find the information about people from “various cities” coming to hear him in Matthew and Mark. You only find that mentioned in the Luke passage.

…and those from the various cities were journeying to Him.

And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land.

In the last part of verse 4 in the Luke text we find: He spoke by way of a parable. This is important, because if you were to read this same passage in Mark chapter 4, verse 2, you will see that it says that, He was teaching them many things in parables, plural. Not only does He teach this parable in particular but on this occasion He teaches a number of other parables too.

Turn to Matthew chapter 13, verses 34 and 35.

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open My mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden since the

Foundation of the world.”

This is very important. You will find teaching in the Gospels that is not in parables but when there was a crowd, He always taught by way of parables. And, as we will see more clearly in a few minutes, He taught by way of parables to hide it from most in the crowd.

Have you heard the teaching, on the radio, the TV or directly from pastors over the years, that Jesus taught in parables referring to natural things in life, simple things in life, to make it understood, to make it easy to understand? Well, that is a lie from the enemy! Jesus taught in parables to hide the truth. He taught in parables whenever there were those in His presence to whom it was not granted to understand.

There were always two kinds of people in the crowds. And He spoke in parables because there was always this kind of people or there was this other person or persons present. And it was for their sakes; it was by way of grace that He hid it from them. And this is the way of Jesus.

It seems as if there were some things that we would like to know but there are occasions where Jesus said, “I would like to speak to you, but you are not able to bear it. You can’t handle it.”

He hides it because, for whatever reason, it cannot be handled yet. There are things that you or I just cannot handle. There are things that I know I cannot handle or He would be explaining them to me. He would tell me because He wants me to know His ways and His heart in matters. But if He does not tell me, it’s probably because I cannot handle it, or bear it, or it’s for other reasons too, like if I’m not willing to do it. But there is this reason that He hides things from me: I’m not able to bear it. “Many things I would speak to you but you’re just not able to bear it.” And so there is this second person in the crowd that is not able to handle it, and Jesus in His grace and mercy hides it from them.

The point of Matthew 13:34 & 35 was that parables are both to hide and to reveal. Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds that are on the outside in order to hide and then when He got the disciples alone and all those who were His followers, and they asked Him for clarity, He would then explain the parables.

I’ll do this for you when we finish this section so you can see how to harmonize the Gospel accounts of this parable. It’s a good exercise and I recommend that you do it on your own. These completed harmonies will be done for you and posted in the “Pages” section of the blog.

I suggest that you take the four types of soils Jesus mentions and harmonize each with the three Gospel accounts found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The soil types that the seed is sown in are: 1. soil beside the road, 2. soil in rocky places, 3. soil with thorns, and 4. good soil.

The scripture references will be as follows:

1. Soil Beside the Road: Mt. 13:3-4, 18-29; Mk.4:3-4, 14-15; Lk.8:5, 11-12.

2. Soil in Rocky Places: Mt. 13:5-6, 20-21; Mk. 4:5-6, 16-17; Lk. 8:6, 13.

3. Soil Within Thorns: Mt. 13:7, 22; Mk. 4:7, 18-19; Lk. 8:7, 14.

4. Soil That is Good. Mt. 13:8, 23; Mk. 4:8, 20; Lk. 8:8a, 15.

Write out each section of the parable with only one reference to the passages that are in harmony while underlining those passages that are different in one account. A harmony is the combining of all of the elements to make sure that everything that is said is included. What you will get is a complete picture of what Jesus said to the crowd and to His disciples and what He is saying to us today.