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Be Real or take a beating!

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Acts 19: 13 – 16:  “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’  Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.  One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’  Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.”

     This passage is a very good teaching on the consequences of not being real.  We have all had experience with ‘name droppers’;  people who want to enhance their own image and status by mentioning the names of people with more status and accomplishment than they have.  With a discerning group, name dropping never works and the name dropper ends up loosing more than he or she hopes to gain.  The seven sons of Sceva took their beating and humiliation for dropping the name of Jesus.  They weren’t interested in the man’s suffering – they only wanted to show every one how ‘good’ they were.  They ended up looking like pathetic fools.

          If you want to have authority based on His name you have to follow Him.  You have to walk the talk and pay the price.  Jesus gave his disciples this authority;   “… He called His twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases.  And He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  And He said unto them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor pack, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.’ ” (Luke 9:1-3)   Are you willing to depend completely on His provision for  the journey.  Can you walk with that kind of faith? Can I?

          Jesus advised all to count the cost of discipleship.  What a sobering excercise;  ” … ,    whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple. ‘Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?’ ”  (Luke 14:33,34)  Paul left all that he had and followed Jesus wholeheartedly.  And Paul had the authority.  Authority comes with a price – the demons know this.

When prophets lie

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1 Kings 13:16 – 19     16 The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 I have been told by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’” 18 The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (But he was lying to him.) 19 So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.

     Sometimes prophets lie.   This incident described in 1 Kings is very interesting because it involves two prophets.  The ‘innocent’ prophet had to bear the terrible consequence of believing the lying prophet.  Also both prophets spoke the word of God at some point in the story so you can’t say the lying prophet was incapable of hearing and speaking God’s message.  This incident underscores a crucial spiritual responsibility every person has when it comes to assessing the claims of anyone who says they’re a prophet.  Every Christian must do more than know the Word of God.  Every Christian must live it out daily.

     The story starts out with the man of God confronting King Jeroboam’s idolatry and false religion.  King Jeroboam pointed to the man of God and ordered him seized.  The King’s hand was immediately withered.  The King commanded the man of God to intercede with God on his behalf to restore his hand.  The prophet did and the king’s hand was restored.  The King invited the prophet to eat with him and promised to give the prophet a gift.  The prophet refused, resolutely obeying God’s instructions to him.

     As the man of God was heading home by a different route he was stopped by an old prophet.  The old prophet enticed the man with an outright lie to go home with him and eat.  During the meal the old prophet heard and proclaimed a message from God; “This is what the LORD says: ‘You have defied the word of the LORD and have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you.  You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’” (1 Kings 13:21)  When they had finished their meal the prophet left to return to his home.  On the way, he was killed by a lion and his body was left by the side of the road.

     Several points stand out in this passage: 1)  prophets are not exempt from duly appointed authority in this world  – the man of God did as King Jeroboam ordered him to do and interceeded on the king’s  behalf with God. 2)  prophets are not ‘super men’ – all seeing and all knowing.  They can be lied to and they can be persuaded to go against what they know to be right.  Prophets are subject to ‘peer pressure’.   3) prophets can be carried by the inertia of their situation.  Even though the old prophet called out God’s dire consequences to the man of God in the middle of their meal – they both finished their meal! And finally 4)  the consequences for failing to pay attention to God’s Word and disobedience falls squarely on the individual.  The old prophet didn’t pay the price for his lies.  The man of God did for believing the lies and not sticking to what he knew the Word of God to be!

     This last point is especially important for us today.  The Bible tells us plainly; “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds …” (Hebrews 1:1,2)  It is every Christian person’s responsibility to know the scriptures as best he or she can by study, discussion, instruction and devotion. It is so easy to be lazy and let others do our thinking and interpreting for us.  Yet God calls each one of us to become intimate with His Word by reading, studying and living it out on a daily basis.

     The Bible also tells us that many will be enticed to follow false prophets;  “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evilly spoken of.  And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you …” (2 Peter 2:1-3)  These false prophets will lie to you and use you.

     How do you spot a false prophet?  Jesus tells us;  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?”  (Matthew 7: 15,16)  The one constant in all of history – past, present and future – is His Word;  “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35)

     False prophets can be spotted.  They tend to encourage rebellion against legitimate authority.  False prophets twist or lie about God’s Word (read and live His Word on a daily basis).  False prophets present themselves as perfect.  No matter what a false prophet may claim about his/her intentions – the outcome (or fruits) of their actions show them for what they are.  What do you do when you discover a false prophet?  Ignore him/her, have nothing to do with them and follow His Way.

What’s in a name?

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Acts 4:10- 12  “…then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected,  which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”

    Peter got in trouble for preaching the name of Jesus.  The Sanhedrin (the religious leaders) didn’t care about the lame man who was healed.  They were more concerned that the name of Jesus was being spread around; ‘ “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.  But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” ‘ (Acts 4:16,17)

     Religious people are always concerned about what the world thinks.  The gospel of John clearly shows this deep seated affinity that religion has for the power of this world;  “But they cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said unto them, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ ” (John 19:15) Jesus warned us about how the world would view His followers;  “I have given them Thy Word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)  In James 4:4 we are told;  “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

      If you want to cross the line into the Kingdom of God you will have to walk under the banner of Jesus.  Peter and the apostles did.  Paul did.  And they came up against the world and its religion.  Peter’s reply was to say that they could not shut up;  “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”  (Acts 4:19,20)  What is our reply?  Silence? Backing down? Don’t expect any support from any world loving church.  

     When any god but God and any name but Jesus is promoted in the spirit of unfaithfulness TO HIS WORD, harlotry (adultery) is entered into.  Years ago I found myself arguing with a group of laypeople and a clergyman about Jesus.  Their claim was that there were other ways to salvation and  Jesus was our way, perhaps a ‘brighter way’ but just our way.  In exasperation I quoted John 14:6 and said;   “If you don’t believe what Jesus said about Himself then what are you?  Surely not Christian,  – but simply well read people who happen to read the Bible also.”   Their prime motivation was to appear open and inclusive to the world.  They didn’t want to risk offending  anyone having a different belief. They were all very religious and very worldly.

     Hosea (4:9,10) spoke long ago of the eventual plight of religion conformed to the world;   “And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.”  What a sad thing to eat and never have enough! What a sad thing to build and build and build and never increase!  Look around you and see the pattern.

     As you read this, perhaps you feel the battle line forming in your own heart.  Jesus!  “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10,11)   The world and it’s religion(s) cannot accept this.  Can you?

    And how  can you spot the power of His true church working in this world?  The Bible shows us;  “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:6,7,8)  The lame walk, the blind see and the wounded are healed, all by the name of Jesus.

Convicted and busted!

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John 16:8-11  “When He [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;  In regard to righteousness because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, becasue the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

    Convict means to ‘prove guilt’.  Convicting is a lot more than just convincing someone of something or swaying a person’s opinion.  The Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of the matter and speaks directly to a person’s spirit.  Guilt is a loaded term but the dictionary just defines it as ‘the fact or state of having done wrong’.  Everybody is guilty of something at sometime.  Human nature being what it is doesn’t like to admit to guilt.  Yet, admission(recognition of a problem) is a very important step to healing.

     The Holy Spirit convicts the world in regard to sin because people don’t believe in Jesus.  We sin or miss the mark in our lives not because we sometimes doubt, not because we sometimes have anxiety and get short tempered; we sin when our actions expose deeply held disbelief in Jesus’ Gospel.  Belief is more than saying and feeling.  Belief is living and doing.  Motivations are slippery territory.  It’s hard to know where altruism ends and self interest begins.  We can do much religious ‘Good’ with very cold hearts.  In the end God says;  “I desire mercy not sacrifice …” (Hosea 6:6).  Mercy towards our neighbour is the hallmark of belief.  For each of us, one very important test of our belief is how we forgive.  Jesus said; “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:26)  Heaven isn’t full of ‘good people’, it’s full of FORGIVEN people.

  The Holy Sprit convicts the world in regard to righteousness because of what Jesus did for us not because of what we have done or may yet do for Jesus.  There are two kinds of righteousness – being right with God and being right with your self.  The former is God’s doing and the latter is your doing.  Both kinds of righteousness work in this world but only the former will get you beyond this world. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8,9)

     Self righteousness shows up most often in comparisions of our self to others.  Jesus’ parable of the two men in prayer sums up the attitude of the self righteous person:  “And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought:  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get.  But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner.  I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”   (Luke 18: 10-14)

   The Holy Spirit will convict the world in regard to judgment because the ‘prince of this world’ stands condemned.    Jesus came into this world to save you and me, not to condem us.  If you see yourself as a ‘sinner’ the Gospel is greatest news you’ve ever heard.  If you see yourself as basically a ‘good person’ and Jesus just makes you better then the Gospel is simply another nice story for you.  It all depends on your attitude;  “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15)  If you make a habit of judging others to be worse sinners than you are or you judge yourself to have ‘arrived’ while others haven’t (to use secular terminology)  then check your loyalties – you may find yourself standing with the ‘prince of this world’.  The world takes in all kinds – secular and religious.  The Holy Spirit works on sinners.

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