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True Unity

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John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

     True unity and effectiveness in His Kingdom go hand in hand.  Matthew Henry writes; “The word of Christ is spoken to all believers; and there is a cleansing virtue in that word, as it works grace, and works out corruption. And the more fruit we bring forth, the more we abound in what is good, the more our Lord is glorified. In order to fruitfulness, we must abide in Christ, must have union with him by faith.”  And what is the nourishing water that carries this cleansing grace that ‘works out corruption’?

     His Word!  Scripture describes the relationship of Jesus with His Church; ” . . .  as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)  Jesus is the Living Word in our lives; “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, John 1:1) To depart from Scripture is to depart from Him!

      Jesus tells us in this very passage of Scripture that His Word washes us clean; “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3)  Our purity, our unity and our effectiveness comes from His Word.  If we depart from the Word, we lose our connection to Him.  We return to the world and our fruit becomes rooted in corruption.  So it is with the worldly churches today.  Divisiveness, bickering, outright hate and condemnation characterize the relations between so many denominations.

     Jesus’ bride – His church – has never been fractured.  Any call to unity is as unnecessary as it is false; ” My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27,28)  Matt Slick explains the real basis of unity; “Primarily, it is the saving work of Christ that unites us . . . .   True Christians serve the true and living God and we know Jesus in a personal and intimate way (1 Cor. 1:9). We have been redeemed by God himself. Furthermore, we have the body of Scriptures which tell us the essentials of the faith and deviating from these essentials means to be outside the camp of Christ.”

     Today, some call for the need for Christians to unite and overlook ‘non-essential’ differences.  There are many assemblies claiming to be Christian that deny all or major parts of God’s Word.  Can there be ‘unity’ with them?  The Bible tells us; “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)  Any call to unity with unrighteousness is a false call – a snare set for believers to draw them away from  His fellowship.

     Jesus’ church has always been united and always will be.  And the gates of hell will not prevail upon it (Matthew 16:18).  But what a sinister trick it is to point to the disunity in the many carnal churches and call out for false unity.  The selfish and carnal ambitions of power hungry clerics have created these very divisions; “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:14-16)

     Rather call out for a return to Jesus and His Word!  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

     Praise the Lord
 

    

You can’t work if you haven’t eaten!

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John 6:29 “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

     Can it be that straight forward?  Believing in Jesus!  Does this amount to doing God’s will and work in the world?  What about being called?  What about being set apart?  What about professional training or being trained by professionals?  Can anybody do this work or only people who are ‘qualified’ for it?

     Jesus was speaking to the people from the crowd of five thousand men whom He fed with five loaves and two small fish.  They had followed Jesus to the other side of the sea to Capernaum.  Jesus had left the crowd behind because after He miraculously fed them they wanted to make Him their king by force; “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” (John 6:15)  They wanted a political  and economic solution for their problems not seeing their real spiritual troubles.   People haven’t changed.

     When the people caught up to Jesus He said to them; “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” (John 6:26) Jesus knew they weren’t interested in  miracles only – they were hungry and desperate. Jesus saw beyond their physical need to the deep spiritual emptiness in them and He urged them to take nourishment; “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” (John 6:27) Then the people asked; “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28)   And Jesus told them that the work is to believe in Him. 

    It’s all about faith and the fruits thereof; “Labor is involved in faith because living faith requires activity to meet the definition given in James 2. As the apostle says, faith without works is dead, and such “faith” is in realty not even faith. . . . if a person only agrees, he merely has a preference, and his works will be at best inconsistent and sporadic. If a person has living faith, however, his belief will be a conviction, and works will occur.” (Forerunner Commentary)

     Did the people believe Jesus when He told them He was that food – the bread of heaven? A few did. Most didn’t; “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.’ (John 6:35,36)  For those few that did believe; “this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6:39)

     It isn’t about education or training or qualifications.  It’s about hunger and thirst and being filled.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53)  It’s all about Jesus, not seminary training, not academics and certainly not theology.  Seminary, academics or theology can never transform a man from death to life.  Dead men do no kingdom work.  Jesus tells us squarely; “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) In His Word we live and do His work.

     Jesus told us right from the start: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

     Praise the Lord!

Righteous Judgment

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John 5:30 “My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”

     Jesus has been given authority to judge by God Himself; “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:26,27)  He doesn’t misuse this authority because He follows His Father’s will not His own.  This is the defining characteristic of ‘righteous’ judging.

     Barnes’ Notes tells us that Jesus didn’t have any other agenda but His Father’s; “he had no “private” ends, no selfish views, no improper bias. He came not to aggrandize himself, or to promote his own views, but he came to do the will of God. Of course his decision would be impartial and unbiased, and there is every security that it will be according to truth.”

     When religious leaders serve their own will instead of God’s they engage in abusive spiritual manipulation; “Another form of spiritual manipulation occurs when abusive churches and cults twist Scripture to give more authority to the leadership and keep the members under their control. . . . . Some religious groups view questioning the leaders as tantamount to questioning God. Some leaders claim to have divine authority and approval; thus, to disobey them is to disobey God. This is perhaps the most pernicious form of spiritual manipulation, and it has no place in a true church.” (Michael Houdmann – got.Questions.org)  The toxic stew of an abusive organization is full of self-serving judgment dooming people who go against their leader to failure and destruction.

     We are told by Jesus not to judge those around us by our own flawed ideas and motivations; “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3)  This is often misquoted by those who would reserve the right to judge for themselves only and escape legitimate accountability.  A thorough reading of the scripture tells us that we are to examine ourselves for any hypocrisy or self-serving agendas before we make any judgements on the behaviour of others.  Jesus tells us to look deep into ourselves and the situation; “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

     Jesus in responding to the Pharisee’s rebuke of  healing a man on the Sabbath tells them; “. . . are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:23,24)  We must look beyond the letter of the law given by Moses as well as our own codes of behaviour and give precedence to God’s mercy which was laid down at the foundation of creation; “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:7)

     If we must judge, we must not judge to serve ourselves but to serve God’s will.  And what is God’s will?  Scripture tells us plainly; “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29)  God even said so directly; “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)  Our judgements must conform to the Gospel and reflect the character of Jesus which is mercy and love.  Mercy and love in their purest form are not in any way accommodating to sin. (John 5:14, 8:11)

     That kind of judging is required of us. Indeed we are called to it; “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  (Matthew 12:7)  The law without Jesus is all about condemnation.  We are called to His Gospel and to exercise mercy and compassion which is His judgment.  Without Jesus the innocent are condemned.  Without Jesus all stand condemned!

    Praise the Lord!

Commitment

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John 2:23-25 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”

     It’s easy to fool men.  People always go for the flashy, the popular, the successful.  We are so easily impressed by signs and wonders.  Scripture tells us plainly to watch out for the flashy and superficial; “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10)

     What saves?  How do we resist temptation and being deceived?  Let’s follow Jesus’ example! John Wesley tells us; “He did not trust himself to them – Let us learn hence not rashly to put ourselves into the power of others. Let us study a wise and happy medium between universal suspiciousness and that easiness which would make us the property of every pretender to kindness and respect.”

     Jesus wasn’t fooled and can’t be fooled.  When Satan tried to tempt Him in the wilderness, Jesus resisted every temptation by the power of Scripture.  (Matthew 4:1-11)  Jesus didn’t fight back with His own miracles or signs for heavenly hosts.  No Jesus depended on His Word and used the most powerful defence available to all believers; “It is written . . . ” (Matthew 4:4,7,10)

     And the same is true of those who follow Him; “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27,28)  And here is the test of commitment; Do you believe in His Word enough to live by them?  This is a very relevant test for our day because of the coming of the lawless one.  If we fail it, we serve a false god and forfeit the very thing we claim!

     There will be lying signs and wonders to confuse and draw people away; “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10)  Easy commitment comes out of being won over by showy, flashy worldly success.  This lying success comes in the material wealth of the world and carnal religious pomp and fanfare.  All these things pretend to be the work and will of God.  Yet Jesus tells us; “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29)

     It’s that simple and that difficult.  Jesus put it to His disciples; ” “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:23,24)  What a blessing!  By loving Jesus through obedience to His Word, He will live with us NOW and not just when we go to heaven to be with Him.

     What a relief to the believer!  We don’t have to be ‘mightily used’ by God.  We don’t have to plant a mega church or save at least one other soul per week.  No quotas, no requirements of demonstrating charismatic gifts or hoopla of any sort.  We ‘just’ have to live by His teachings.  Again, Jesus tells us; ” . . . blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Luke 11:28)

     No wonder Satan wants us to chase our tails, slaving to do works that demonstrate our own worthiness.  No wonder Satan wants to raise the religious bar with lying signs and wonders of worldly success.  Jesus tells us that He will give nothing to this false world; “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”  (Matthew 16:4)   

     What would happen if we let the Word out that we are saved not because we’re so worthy but because He is?  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) 

     What would happen if we let the Word  out that Jesus is gentle with people who are hurting and broken?  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

     Can we just be committed to His Word?  How life would change if we just believed Him! 

     Praise the Lord!

    

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