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Teachings of Jesus:

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Parables: lest they be converted (Mat 13:1-23 -a)

"And He spoke many things to them in parables....

"Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not; nor do they understand...for this people's heart has become gross...they have closed their eyes, lest at any time they should see...and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (~vs3,13-15)

Parables are conundrums. On one hand they are full of mystery, which myriads of people wrestle with, hidden from the "sophisticated and cunning." And on the other hand are "revealed to babes." (11:25) Simple to understand.

By definition, a "parable" is a simple story designed to "teach a moral or religious lesson." It is intended to be "simple" in the telling, and in the understanding. It is not designed to wax complex in deep theology. Nit-picking into a parable's details is not necessary. The teaching is right on the "surface" ...that which is readily seen "at face value."

Up through chapter 12, Jesus has done some teaching of heavenly/godly principles. He has debated the scribes and pharisees. He has provided the credentials for His Person and ministry. He has given a clear-cut separation between His "family" and His purpose. The rulers and family have rejected what they see Him to be... and now He begins to be really specific and pointed in His teachings. We are going to have parables and "kingdom of heaven" narratives. He is going to more clearly denounce the leaders for what they are, so that the common people will see clearly. He is going to explain the difference between being a pretend-believer, and what it really takes to get into heaven; the "cost" to be His disiple. What the kingdom of heaven truly is at its root and core. He is going to explain the judgment to come, and God's triumph in the end.

While it might seem that Jesus is repeating much of what He has already taught in the first section; in the Sermon on the Mount He teaches, as though, for the first time...to people who, perhaps, don't know. By ch13, they have heard, and are rejecting. He continues teaching, but now it is "veiled."(2cor3:15) They had been blind to Moses, and they are still rebellious. As Ezekiel did, so Jesus does, "you shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they will forbear, for they are rebellious." (Ez2:7)

But there is a distinction now between "them" and "you." To "them" the parables are intended to give truth, but not be understood. As when Pharaoh hardened his own heart enough times, then God hardened it further to reveal Himself with signs and wonders. (Ex7:3) But to "you" (the disiples) Jesus says, "blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear." (vs16) ...as Peter expressed, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (Jn6:68) On that occasion Jesus had been teaching about Himself being the "bread of life" (Jn6:35) and how, in order to have eternal life, a person needed to be one with Christ, had to partake of Him. As He later would say, "I am the way, the truth and the life.." (Jn14:6) The fact that Jesus was not some new cult guru; but, in fact, the VERY WAY TO GOD, Himself. And on that occasion, the people (they/them) were not accepting; but rejecting and leaving off following Jesus. And Jesus asks, "do you (you) also wish to go away?" (6:67)

You see, in "foreknowledge" the "Lord KNEW those being His.." (2Tm2:19 -litv) Jesus foreknew, and chose (appointed) those who followed Him and were His disiples. The unregenerate "rattled around" in ignorance, hailing "Hosanna! "Blessed is the King of Israel who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Jn12:13) ...and scarcely four days later, "Crucify! Crucify Him!" (Jn19:6)

So it is today. Many are "of Israel" (church members) and rest "in Moses" (great men of God) and the "law" (creeds and traditions) as the "scribes/pharisees" (pastors/TV ministers) tout themselves for everybody to admire. But when God's Word is presented, showing that the "church" is supposed to be DISTINCT from the world, and that true repentance (apart from self-esteem and self-worth) is necessary to become a follower of Christ, and that True Biblical Doctrine is necessary for true Unity in Christ (Rom16:17) "they/them" follow the path of world-religious-unity. The "broad way" they follow leads to destruction. (Mt7:13) And because of "their" rebellion, the things of God become hidden to "them." And if "you", as a True Believer, try to explain it to "them" you often find yourself talking to a "blank wall." While they engage in "dialogue" they simply do not understand; nor do they WANT to! Don't let them fool you with their words to the contrary...

But "you" who KNOW Jesus Christ, having been washed in His blood (Rev1:5), understand the things of the Spirit of God.(1Cor2:14) They are revealed by the Holy Spirit. (Jn16:13, Rom8, 1Jn2:27)

To "you" Jesus says, "..many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear what you hear, and have not heard them. (vs17)

Therefore hear the parable of the sower....

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Parable of the Sower: seed and soils - (Mat 13:1-23 -b)

"Behold, the sower went out to sow...hear the parable of the sower" (vs3,18)

Typically, this parable has been approached from the standpoint of the "various kinds of seed." The seed by the wayside being devoured by the birds. That which sprung up immediately in stony places, and dried up by the sun. The ones that were among the thorns and were choked out. And finally the seed in good ground. Somehow, many people think the "seed" is the "people." That the "good seed" that yielded crops is the "fruitful Christian." (Gal5:22-23) People are then exhorted to be "100-fold Christians."

Others, "more spiritual" ones will gloat in their "deeper" understanding of this parable. Scorning such a "simplistic" approach of the "seed"; when "actually" the parable is about the "various soils." After all, isn't it the rocky places that has "no root in himself" or the good soil that yields abundantly..?

Well, Jesus explains the parable: He says that it is a parable "of the SOWER." (vs18) The Sower goes forth to sow, and the seed is the "Word of the kingdom." (vs19) In MKJV/LITV notice "Word" is capitalized. "In the beginning was the Word (logos)...and the Word was God."(Jn1:1) "The seed is the Word of God."(Lk8:11) This is a parable about the Sower AND the Seed, through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that "convict[s] the world..." (Jn16:8) God's word "goes out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall certainly do what I sent it to do." (Is55:11) Jesus is speaking of Himself, spreading forth His Word, His very essence. He offers Himself as the "bread of life" (Jn6:48) and stipulates that a person must "partake of" Him. (6:54-56) And in the end Peter summarizes what He has just taught, that they were the "words of eternal life." (6:68)

When some are presented with Jesus Christ, Satan immediately snatches the Truth away from their heart/s. This one is never saved.

Others, immediately are joyful (vs20) and say, "Oh, yes, I want to be a Christian." They dance around, being all jubilant. But there is no "depth" to their understanding. They are not taught doctrine.(2Tm4:2-4) They spend all their time being "joyous" and "praising the Lord." There is no basis for their "faith." Their emotions wear out. Since they sprouted, there is a dead carcass sitting there that looks like a Christian, but there is no life, because there was no teaching. They were not by the "rivers of water" (Ps1:3,Jn4:14) that could cause growth. This one was saved (it sprouted) but "falls away." "Stumbled" or "offended"(vs21) meaning: "to desert one whom he ought to trust."

Many see too many choices. They try to serve too many masters. The world surrounds them with its enticements. Jesus just does not have enough significance to them to forsake all to follow Him. But he appears to be a Believer. He sprouted. But is "unfruitful." (vs22) When he is received into God's presence it will be "so as by fire." (1Cor3:15)

The faithful ones receive Him (vs23,Jn1:12) and "bear fruit." Fruit bearing is at each individual's level, according to his ability which God gives. (1Pt4:11) The Master gives to one "five talents" and to another "two" and to another "one." Each who is faithful receives a "Well done, good and faithful servant.." (Mt25:21,23)

But remember, this is a parable of the "sower." It is Christ Who is the "image of..God" Who created all things and holds them together, is the Head of the Church, and to Whom the Father has given the "fullness" of all things. (Col1:15-19) This parable is not about "different kinds" of seed and how they faired...the seed all came out of the same pouch, from the same Source. Nor is it about the soils. Rock is rock. The pathway is always beaten down from foot traffic. The tilled soil is intended for raising crops. The rock will never become fruitful soil. But God's Word goes out into all the world, because "He is not willing that any should perish." (2Pt3:9) "Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." (Rom10:18) Christ presents Himself to all mankind. All mankind is "without excuse." (Rom1:20) It's just that there are different "vessels." Some to "honor" and some to "dishonor." (Rom9:21) But, remember, God "knew" (past tense) those who are His." (2Ti2:19) "whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.."(Rom8:29)

Thus, this parable illustrates the workings of God and His Word in the hearts of the various "vessels." Thus, knowing those who would reject, He introduces His explanation of the parable by saying "..lest at any time they...should be converted and I should heal them." (vs15) But also, knowing His own who were chosen and appointed, He says, "..it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven.." (vs11)

For the fruitful ones, let us not forget that it is not "our efforts" which bear fruit. As we "abide" in the vine (Jn15) the branches don't "DO" anything. We sit there...allowing Christ to "flow through" us. "..no longer I, but Christ lives in me.."(Gal2:20) As warfare is engaged, the warfare is not ours. (Eph6:12 -litv) Anything we do, even the "good works" we do is "His workmanship...in Christ Jesus."(Eph2:10) "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." (Phil2:13) ...bearing fruit "a hundredfold..sixty..thirty."

the Seed: 4-month article series
Q/A -Foreknowledge, Predestination & Free Will
Q/A -Cannot be Saved Again?

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Look-alikes: at the harvest - (Mat 13:24-30)

He put another parable to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat and went his way. (vs24-25)

Here, again, notice the parable is about the "man" who sowed the seed. While we can learn about the seed, the parable is about the MAN and what HE does.

First of all, let's evaluate the story. Wheat has been planted. This is the same Seed of the Word of God of the previous parable. It is "good" seed. But now, rather than looking at how the Word works in various kinds of people who are presented with Christ, we see what the enemy does amongst the 100-60-30-fold seed; and what Christ, in turn, concludes.

"While men slept."(vs25) We are exhorted "knowing the time, that it is already time to awake out of sleep.." (Rom13:11) The one who is "stand[ing]" (Eph6:13) on guard is not supposed to sleep. Jesus chided the sleeping disciples "watch and pray that you enter not into temptation." (Mt26:41)

The INFILTRATION into the Church of the "pretend christians" ... the "changelings" of whom we speak much, did not happen BY CHANCE! It was NOT that it COULD NOT BE HELPED ...that the "church" is in the state it is today. That there was NO CHOICE! NO!!! "Men slept." It started with pastors and teachers ALLOWING new converts (1Ti3:6), and others who had not been thoroughly checked out (1Jn4:1) to "minister" amongst the flock. The constitution and by-laws, which stated that a person could not teach or minister until they had been in attendance for some specified amount of time, were not adhered to. Those accepted into membership were not thoroughly examined; if they gave half-hearted answers in their testimony-of-salvation, the membership committees filled-in-the-blanks for them, to move them along into membership, even though, perhaps, they were not true Believers, and didn't REALLY KNOW what a Real Christian is. And then, "tolerance" became the norm. Non-judgmentalism. Adherence to the "Standard" of God's Word was called "judgmental" and "unloving." And so anybody and everybody was allowed to become "part of" the "church." The firm Scriptural standard of "be not unequally yoked with unbelievers" (2Cor6:14) was not obeyed!

You see, the "good" seed was "wheat." The infiltration was "darnel." Lexical definition of KJV's word "tare" yields "a kind of darnel, resembling wheat except the grains are black." American Heritage Dictionary calls "darnel" a kind of Eurasian rye grass. Part of my youth being spent in N.Dakota farm country, I'm more familiar with "wild oats." When oats and wild oats is growing up together, they look alike. Even the heads are similar. But wild oats has "black" kernels.

First of all, let us understand that the original source of this infiltration did not come from the Church. It came from the "enemy." (vs25) Who is Christ's enemy? Satan. He is the "accuser of the brethren." (Rev12:10)

And then, although men did sleep, some have been "waking up." (Rom13:11) They have come to realize what has been happening, and are sounding the alarm. Some are "com[ing] out of her, My people..." (Rev18:4)

But you notice, while the alarm is to be sounded, are the servants called upon to go into the field and forcibly root out the darnel? Jesus says, "No, lest while you gather up the darnel you also root up the wheat with them." (vs29) As anyone knows, who has ever had a garden; when it comes time to do some weeding, the task is often quite difficult. Particularly if there has been procrastination getting to it, and the weeds are large. Pulling the weed disturbs the soil so much that the good plant right next to it is often in peril of also being uprooted. When everything is smaller, it is often impossible to distinguish between weed and good plants, so both are allowed to grow. If a person does like I did one year, thinking the thistles were merely the "other variety" of potato I had bought and planted when I ran out of the previous-year's seed, since they had grown right in the rows where I had planted potatoes; and so I had weeded faithfully "around" the thistles, letting them grow strong and healthy. But at harvest time when the shovel went digging for the fruit, it became apparent "which" were thistles and which had actually been potatoes.

As a person might observe a congregation seated in a building, not knowing the hearts as God does (1Sa16:7,Heb4:12), he is not able to go down the row "you-you-you are Christians" but "you-you-you are not." And as such, cannot herd up the non-Believers and usher them out the door, and remove them from the membership list. He might accidentally usher out a True Believer. If the local Body is believing, and an unbeliever comes along, they have the ability to not put them into positions of leadership. (1Ti3:6,5:22) But if one finds himself in a body that is predominantly unregenerate, we are not called upon to stir things up and create a "church split." We are exhorted to "come out of her, My people." (Rev18:4)

While "those who sin" are to be rebuked "before all" (1Ti5:20) as Paul did to Peter (Gal2:11) we do not "judge" (condemn) one another. (Rom14:4) God is the Judge. (2Ti4:1,Heb12:23) When we "try the spirits" (1Jn4:1) to discern those who are Believers or not, we do not judge them. But those who are NOT Believers, we are to NOT FELLOWSHIP with. (Eph5:11,2Jn1:10) The unbelievers who are known to be so, based on "the doctrine which you have learned" (Rom16:17) are to be "avoided." (You see: this is why they don't want doctrinal teaching, and why they are "tearing down walls" of doctrinal differences... it exposes them as impostors!)

There are many who believe that as "soldiers of Christ" we are to be on the war-path. Rooting out with "search and destroy" missions. They don't understand that the "branch" simply "abides" in the vine. (Jn15) They don't understand that our warfare is one of "standing firm" (Eph6:13, Gal5:1) That "wrestling against flesh and blood is NOT TO US" (Eph6:12 -litv) That the "battle is the Lord's." (2Chr20:15)

Notice at the harvest "I will say to the reapers." (vs30) This rooting out of the weeds is not the job of the wheat. Notice WHO does the harvesting... "And on the cloud sat one like the Son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying in a great voice to Him sitting on the cloud, Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth was dried. And He sitting on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped." (Rev14:14-16) The Lord is the Harvest Master, and the angels are His "crew." (vs30,41)

By the way, for those misapplying this passage together with (24:39-41) to say that the rapture removes the weeds in order to "leave" the Believer on the earth to rule with Him, notice "but GATHER the wheat into my granary." (vs30b) Jesus did not say, "I will come back, once you have prepared the earth for Me to rule over" but rather, promised, "I GO to prepare a place FOR YOU, and...I WILL COME again and RECEIVE YOU to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also." (Jn14:3)

Let us not try to do the Lord's work "for" Him! We are "vessels." (2Ti2:21) A vessel "contains" something-or-other. What are we to contain? "..be filled with the [Holy] Spirit.." (Eph5:18) as we "put on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom13:14) as "Christ lives in me. And that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself on my behalf." (Gal2:20)

Related Topics:
Sooo Many Weeds
Taken/Left vs Wheat/Tares

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Pervasive evil: all-inclusive - (Mat 13:31-33)

"If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed..." (17:20)

The man takes a tiny little seed and plants it. It grows and becomes a large plant. As "flesh and blood" there is nothing good in us. (Rom7:18) We are diminutive. But Christ comes and saves us, and makes us "accepted in the Beloved." (Eph1:6) The early Church grew to where the rulers complained that they had "turned the world upsided down" ...the Gospel of Christ had spread so much. (Ac17:6)

So what happens? That which was so tiny, grows into something big as the branches "abide in the vine."(Jn15) The birds come swarming around, ruining the fruit. They will peck holes in the fruit, never eating one whole, and leaving the rest. But they manage to go around and peck a little bit into all the fruit; thus, ruining the crop.

Satan's messengers come around into the Church; dabbling, playing, sampling. They never come to saving Faith in Christ and become born again (Jn3:3) as a "new creation." (2Cor5:17) They never will, and it is not their intention. But they peck away, chip away... pretending to be interested in the Kingdom of God. Often, you will find them taking up your valuable time, that might be better used helping someone who genuinely wants to know about the things of God. Perhaps you come to realize their true nature, so you "shoo" them away. So they flutter off to another fruit (Believer) and peck away. From one to the next...making a nuisance of themselves. And in many cases, where the fruit was not yet ripe for the picking, they damage the fruit. There become permanent scars.

Satan's evil also permeates "unseen." And that is a worse kind. In most cases in the O.T. leaven was typical of "sin." Passover was to be kept with unleavened bread, as everything about the celebration was to be holy and "clean." If even one speck of leaven is put into the dough, eventually the whole lump becomes leavened. Just one drop of food coloring will make the whole batch of that color. And it becomes "part of" the liquid. The color cannot be extracted back out once inserted.

Thus, John writes, "do not receive him into your house, nor speak a greeting to him." (2Jn1:10) Oh, so "unloving" and "judgmental"!! Yes! But the 100% surest way to not get HIV, is to "abstain"... at the risk of being called a "prude."

Satan's messengers are quite militant and insistant in their agenda to infiltrate and wear the Saints down. But at the risk of their taunts of being "unloving" ...because, after all, didn't Jesus say, "by this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have [luuuuv]..."(Jn13:35) we MUST remain "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.."(1Cor15:58) We must be "faithful" if we expect to receive His "well done!" (Mt25:21)

But, what we have just considered [IS] "part of the territory" of the Kingdom of Heaven. If you are a Christian, "expect" this to be the case...until the end of the age. If you want to be pure for Christ, never let sin gain even a finger-hold in your life. A local Body should be ever on guard against allowing even the slightest hint of the enemy into the workings of the group. It's better to be "without" help in some area, than to allow an unBeliever to "minister." Once they are in, you can't get them out, and they will bring more evil into the assembly, and ruin the whole lot.

The taunts will be that such diligence is "unloving." So "hateful" and "judgmental." But our duty to Christ is to OBEY. Today's generation supposes that the greatest service to God is to worship with "Praise and Love." And that, to exclude the unregenerate from the worship of the local fellowship is unlovingly dooming them to hell.

Saul was told, "Go and strike Amalek, and completely destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1Sam15:3) "..but Saul and the people spared..the best of the sheep and..all that was good, and would not completely destroy them." (vs9) And Saul said to Samuel, "..I have done the command of the LORD...the people spared the best of the sheep..to sacrifice to the LORD your God." (vs13,15)

Samuel says, "STOP!"(vs16) None of this nonsense!!! "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice! To listen is better than the fat of rams! For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idol-worship..." (vs22-23)

Isn't it interesting how "disobedience" and "witchcraft" are tied together in this account! What do we see today? The "church" has been disobedient about "do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers." (2Cor6:14) And what do we see? Demonic, witchcraft, shamanistic charismaticism has essentially taken over just about every nook and cranny of christendom! This is serious stuff, folks! It is not simply "another way" of worshipping, and therefore we should "tolerate" it! No! "What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are the temple of the living God..." (vs15-16) "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened...now I have written to you not to associate intimately, if any man CALLED A BROTHER and is..an idolater..with such a one not [even] to eat. (1Cor5:6-11)

There [IS] NO UNITY between a True Christian and the unbeliever. There never can be! To attempt to be in tolerance and acceptance, is to DISOBEY GOD! To disobey God is as witchcraft...obeying satan! Don't worry about their slithery taunts about you being so harsh, legalistic and judgmental...and so hateful and unloving. That is the ploy of the leaven...to sneak in, permeate, and... "GOTCHA!!"

For the Believer God says, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean thing. And I will receive you and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2Cor6:16-18)

Related Topic: "Smooth Tongues" - "Chatrooms and 'Birds'"

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Great treasure: seeking earnestly - (Mat 13:44-46)

What is your salvation worth to you? Of how much value is your Faith?

On this earth the most valuable "thing" is supposed to be one's marriage. "In sickness and health, through good times and bad, for richer or poorer ... FORSAKING ALL OTHERS..." Most parents get this wrong, as they try desperately to "hang on" to their children; as they presume that "blood bonds" of parent/child is greatest. Others, still, assume it to be the "sibling" relationship. You know... "faaaamly values." But God said of marriage, to "leave..father and mother and cleave..." to the spouse. (Gen2:24) The spouse is of such value and importance, that even that strong "blood-tie" is broken in favor of the new "two-become-one" relationship.

In many cases the new couple struggles with priorities as they leave the old behind, to cling to each other. The old boy-friend/girl-friend. But they "belong" to each other. (1Cor7:4) And "whatever it takes" to make the relationship work, is what the goal should be.

Marriage is a type...a "picture" of the relationship of the Believer with God. It was so for Israel. (Hos2:16,19,Eze16:7-14) And is so for the Church. (Eph5:32,2Cor11:2)

Before the modern era of one-night-stands, love songs used to say something like, "I love you and I'm never gonna let you go..." God's love for His own is such that He never lets go of His, as He says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." (Jer31:3)

What level of commitment do you have towards God? That part of the marriage vow, "Forsaking all others..." is the part we have troubles with, isn't it. Most people want to have God, but also have the world.

George Beverly Shea wrote a song years ago, "I'd rather have Jesus...than ANYTHING this world affords..." Riches, men's applause, world-wide fame...

The "kingdom of Heaven" is a treasure. When a person "finds" it (Mt7:7) it becomes all-consuming. As the person who finds gold does not tell anybody else, for fear he might not get it, he sells EVERYTHING he has, in order to buy the property where the gold is. The merchant finds that one pearl he's been looking for, he abandons all other persuits, to obtain it. When that fellow finds that one special girl, his eye no longer wanders to look at other attractions, and jealously guards her. God is jealous regarding our devotion to Himself. (Ex20:5) Paul was jealous over the Corinthian church, lest they would turn away the doctrine he taught them. (2Cor11:2) The Church is "espoused" to "One Man" ...Christ.

When a person finds God and eternal life, all else is abandoned to embrace God's gift. The old familial blood-ties of love become as hate, in comparison to one's devotion to Christ. (Lk14:26) Even that strongest bond of marriage must take a back seat to Christ. If a person cannot separate himself from material things, wealth and the other attractions of the world, it is well-nigh impossible to be Jesus' disciple. (Mk10:24)

Devotion to Christ must be a "singular" serving of but "one Master." (Mt6:24) Along with the apostle we must be willing to "gladly spend and be spent..." for our Lord and His Kingdom. (2Cor12:15a)

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End of the world: good vs bad - (Mat 13:47-50)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that he also will reap. For he sowing to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh. But he sowing to the Spirit will reap life everlasting from the Spirit. (Gal6:7-8)

I wonder if there has ever been a time in human history "quite" like these Last Days in which we live? Such a concentration of Relativism, Situational Ethics, A-morality, Pan-morality, and out-n-out perversion to where God says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Is5:20) Pick your topic of choice, the world has some way to distort it to where the wrong is made into right, or, there is plain "apathy" as to any rightness or wrongness at all. Everyone can believe what they wish, do what they want; and nobody dare judge. After all, we have inalienable rights. And "who's to say what's right or wrong?"

And then, we are a "no-fault" society, as well. If as a child I never had to take responsibility for my actions, was never disciplined, and as I get older, I cut my finger off with the power saw because I refused to receive instruction and to learn common sense; it is not my fault. It must be the fault of the manufacturer of the saw. Or it might be the fault of my parents for not giving me enough love. But NOTHING is anybody's fault. There are no "Consequences" for actions. Somebody ELSE must pay...or not.

So, when issues of Eternity come to mind, the most "non-threatening" view to have is that there is NO GOD. If there is no God, then, the way I live will not matter. Or if I mess up bad enough this time around, I can simply come back as something/someone else, and try again. Or, if we must recognize "a" god of some sort; well, he/she is all-loving. And a "loving god" would never condemn anybody to eternal "torture." I mean... what kind of sadist would believe such a notion...that a mother in "heaven" would be forced to look down into "hell" and watch her son or daughter being tortured endlessly!! That's not loving at all!! I just can't believe in such a god!

Well, folks. Truth! There ARE consequences. There IS distinction between good and bad... between righteous and sinful. In this chapter Jesus is illustrating this matter several times from the things of nature that we can easily understand.

When a combine harvests wheat, the sieves sift out the wheat kernels from the weeds and straw. The wheat goes into the hopper. The rest gets blown out the back, and many farmers burn what's left in the field. (vs30,40)

In an earlier lesson we observed how the wheat or servants cannot separate the wheat from weeds while they are growing. One cannot walk down the row of a church pew and point out the Believer from the unbeliever. But there is One Who can. God is the "judge of all." (Heb12:23) And He literally DOES SAY, "You, you, you, you...come with Me" and "the rest of you...OUT OF MY SIGHT!!" (7:23) In very much the same way a fisherman would sit there sorting the fish out of the net, keeping the good, throwing out the bad.(vs48) Much as a worker on an assembly line picks out the bad apples from the conveyor and throws them in the garbage. Much as a QA inspector tests the component, and the part not meeting spec is trashed.

"So it shall be at the end of the world. The angels shall come out and separate the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (vs49)

Folks, there is no such thing as "Ultimate Restoration." Many preachers preach that once all is said and done, that God will "restore all things." That "all things [will be] subjected to Him..." (1Cor15:27) They believe that God will wave some sort of wand over all sinfulness and corruption, purifying it, and all sinners and satan will be "restored" to original perfection.

But there are Two Catagories at the judgement. Those gathered "into my granary" (vs30) and those "burned." (vs30,42,50) The picture of those burning is of "wailing and gnashing of teeth." (vs42,50)

Those gathered to God are the ones whose names were found "written in the Book of Life." (Rev20:15) To be found there is a work of Christ, the "Sower."(13:3,18) God is the One Who "shows mercy" (Rom9:16) and makes the (ugly, useless) lump of clay into a "vessel to honor." (vs21) It is [God's] grace through [God-given] faith that saves us. (Eph2:8)

Related Topic: "Combines and Wheat"

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Godly teachers: unto understanding - (Mat 13:51-52)

Jesus said to them, Have you understood all these things? They said to Him, Yes, Lord. (vs51)

Jesus has done some rather "hard" teaching along through here. Some rather "harsh" statements of judgment and "wailing & gnashing of teeth." When on another occasion He insisted that Believers must "partake" of Him (Jn6) and many stopped following, He asked a similar question, "Do you also wish to go away?" (6:67) And Peter replies, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (vs68)

You see, the Master and Teacher is making sure the students understand what has been taught. Just as a good professor asks the class, after having lectured for an hour, "Any questions?"

In this case, Jesus has been teaching "in parables." (vs34) Uttering "things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." (vs35) And after He has sent the multitudes away, He spends quality time with the disciples, "Explain to us the parable of the darnel of the field." (vs36) You see, proper education. "Reduce the class size" and interact more one-on-one. To those Jesus had chosen, He would say, "Come aside into a deserted place and rest a little.." (Mk6:31) Learning cannot take place when there is the hubbub of people "coming and going." Intimacy with God cannot take place in the "wind, earthquake, and fire." (1Kg19:11-12) All the hoopla of dancing around, jumping up and down...even "praising the Lord" is not where nurturing takes place. It must be the "still, small voice." But when such is the case, then there is "understanding."

A good teacher does not "sleep" on the job, either. (vs25) He is ever on the alert for opportunities to teach, guide, instruct, clarify, warn.

Also, a teacher cannot teach that which he does not possess. Ahimaaz wanted to "run" to David and be a messenger when Absalom was killed. Joab said, "not..today...but some other day." (2Sam18:19) But Ahimaaz insisted that he wanted to "run." So Joab relents, "Run." When he outruns Cushi and gets to David first, he, essentially, has "nothing" to say, "I saw a great uproar, but I did not know what it was." (vs29)

In terms of appointments to ministry Paul instructs, "not a novice" (1Ti3:6) so pride doesn't get in the way. And also, "Do not lay hands [appointing to ministry] quickly on anyone.." (5:22) This he knew from his own experience. When he was converted, he debated exuberantly, but also got into trouble, and needed to be in the "wilderness" awhile first, learning from the Lord. (Acts9:29-30,Gal1:16-18) And THEN, was brought into the ministry. (Acts11:25)

A teacher imparts from "his treasure." (vs52) What is a "treasure?" Something of great value. What makes a thing of value? Quite often the "cost" at which it was obtained. What did he give up, to receive what he has? What was taken from him? What pain and suffering has he been through? What valleys has he traversed, and been led back out by the Lord? Just as Jesus "was in all points tempted as we are.." (Heb4:15) and as such WAS "touched with the feelings of our infirmities" so, too, a teacher MUST have experienced things, in order to understand God's grace. A man fresh out of seminary is not "fit" to be a pastor, if all he has is "letters" behind his name. That's what Moses had, but ended up running for his life. He had to be in the wilderness another 40 years, hearing God's voice, before he was fit to lead Israel out of Egypt.

When such an one has been through God's course of instruction, THEN, he has "something" to impart... "new and old out of his treasure." (vs52) And people will be taught...

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Unbelief: withholding - (Mat 13:54-58)

Just who does He think He is!! Coming here, teaching all these "unloving" absolutes, as though He thinks He knows it all, and telling everybody that other beliefs are wrong!! Why, while I "tend to" believe THIS way, I would never condemn anybody for believing something else like THAT, like "He" does. After all, anybody can teach anything they want, and proof-text it from Scripture. We "shouldn't judge" so dogmatically in areas where Scripture "isn't real clear" and "makes allowances for interpretation."

And besides, He's a nobody! Just look at Him! Why, He's that illegitimate (Jn8:41) son of Mary. And we know all His brothers and sisters. All, a ne'er-do-well family. He's never even been to seminary, and disdains all the "great men of God" ...why, He even puts Himself above Moses! The AUDACITY!!! 'Doesn't have any commentaries, and claims to have some special message from God. And, He's not much of a "soul winner" either. When He could be "reeling in" all these multitudes, He chases them away with all His "hateful venomous attacks" about "burning in hell" and seems quite content with those paltry twelve "losers." Fishermen, tax collectors; and He's even got prostitutes following Him around!

"And they were offended in Him." (vs57)

Jesus responded that "a prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and in his own house."

And notice... "He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief." (vs58)

Remember how in this chapter Jesus has been teaching "in parables." Do we recall "why" that was? "Because it is given to you [believing disciples] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them." (vs11) When He got to "His own" country, and they totally disbelieved Him, He did not "cram it down their throats." In fact, He WITHHELD any meaningful ministry amongst them...purposely.

There are people...well-meaning people...who believe every Christian is to be a "SOUL-WINNER." Translation: 1) talking at every opportunity, 2) giving a tract or Scripture passage in any way possible, 3) inviting people "to church" to hear some great evangelist during "revival meetings." Doing "whatever it takes" to get a person to "pray THE prayer" to receive the label of "Christian." To most of these people, the measure of personal spirituality, and thus...being worthy of Christ's "well-done"... is "how many people" they have personally "led to the Lord" in these various manners. They will typically look down upon anyone not similarly possessed of this same zeal, and will condemn such, conferring "guilt" on anyone who doesn't "measure up" to their level of "scalps on the belt."

As much as God is "not willing that any should perish" (2Pt3:9) we must understand that MOST OF HUMANITY will NOT come to saving Faith in Christ. "Many" go down the "broad way..to destruction." (Mt7:13) When produce and weeds are sorted out in a garden, the weeds are a "multiplication factor" greater in number, when compared to the desired vegetables and flowers. And, weeds will never become produce. All they are good for is pulling and burning. To waste time watering and fertilizing them is fool-hardy. In the early Church an interesting expression is used to describe those who came to Christ in repentant Faith. The Jews were rejecting the Message, and so Paul and Barnabas speak, "It was necessary for the Word of God to be spoken to you first. But since indeed you put it far from you and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the nations." (Acts13:46) And then, as the Gentiles were coming to Christ it says, "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (vs48)

Just like in the parable of the Sower, Christ is presented to all mankind. But not all receive. God knows and selects those who are His through "foreknowledge." (1Pt1:2,Rom8:29,Eph1:5,11) To those He knows will reject, He presents Himself. But briefly. And once His foreknowledge has been proven to whoever needs to know, He no longer calls to them. And, in fact, often refrains.

So, a "soul-winner" who persists upon a person whom God has put in the "reject" pile, can actually be "disobedient" to God's will by continuing to witness to such a person. Remember how Jesus told the disciples to "shake the dust from [their] feet" regarding those who rejected. (Mt10:14)

In preparing writings for VW, each offering is read, re-read, read over again...many times. Has "this" been said correctly? Is "that" clear enough? Invariably, for each writing there comes a point where the Holy Spirit has clearly said, "It's ready." Then, sometimes a thought will pop into my head about some additional point that "I" think would help clarify something-or-other. I pull the writing up on the screen, and read through it again, with my "new thoughts" in mind, wondering how to incorporate them...and come to the end. "No. It's READY." (Just as the Lord originally indicated.) And then, the Lord reminds me..."Not everybody will Understand, or Receive it. But for those whose hearts are compliant...they will. For the others, no matter HOW CLEARLY something might be presented, they will NEVER 'get it'. 'For they are rebellious'.(Eze2:7)" With such communion with the Lord on enough occasions, I have now come to understand that sometimes, things presented are with "purposeful obscurity" for the sake of those who are hardened. And it's been deliberately written that way. (Understand...I don't write these things. I'm not a "writer" ...'never have been!)

So... How do we know "to whom" to witness? How do we know "how much" to say? When we've been dialoguing with somebody for awhile, and it becomes obvious they will never understand, how do we know "when to quit?" How do we know that our "quiet presence" is quite enough for this occasion?

We must be in the center of His will. Abraham's servant praised God, "The LORD led me, I BEING IN THE WAY..." (Gen24:27) "AT THE COMMAND OF THE LORD the sons of Israel pulled up stakes, and AT THE COMMAND OF THE LORD they pitched. As long as the cloud stayed upon the tabernacle they rested in camp." (Nu9:18) When the Lord says, "Go." Go. When He says, "Stop." Stop. If we are moving along, and He says "Turn over here." Turn over here. If the Believer is "abiding" in Christ (Jn15) on a moment-by-moment basis, then we do not need to be concerned, because...

"...it shall be given to you in that same hour..." (10:19)

Q/A on this study

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Cost of Faithfulness: John beheaded - (Mat 14:1-13)

For all of Jesus' greatness, His teachings and miracles, He's still "small potatoes" in the political scheme of things. At this point the Roman rulers have only merely -heard of- Him. But He's making a "splash". Herod is noticing. Thinks He's "John the Baptist" whom he beheaded. Herod knows He's at least of "prophet" status, because of the miracles He is performing. But, could he be "John?"

Who knows how long John was proclaiming and "preparing the way" for Jesus' coming. Jesus, being the very Son of God, had a messenger to proclaim His coming. A very specially dedicated man, from the womb. Even in the womb, when he heard of Jesus' conception, it is recorded that he "leaped [for joy] in [Elizabeth's] womb." (Lk1:41) The sole purpose of his existence was to "bear witness concerning the Light." (Jn1:7)

But equally, when it was time for Jesus' ministry to officially begin, he was removed from the scene when Herod arrested him and put him in prison. John had proclaimed, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn3:30) But did he have to be arrested?

Why was he arrested? For boldly telling Herod that his adulterous affair with his brother's wife was "sin." (Mk6:18) Let's face it... John was rather "abrasive" anyway. Such a cantankerous old coot. Getting in people's faces. Using such harsh language as "now the axe is laid to the root...you vipers, who warned you to flee from the Wrath to come!" You're all doomed, unless you repent. But he just "went too far" when it came to Herod! Herod had the authority, and used it... to lock him away in prison. You see, "what goes 'round, comes 'round." You be nasty to people, eventually, it will come back on you. Right...?

But there was something different about John. It says that Herodias (the brother's wife with whom Herod was sleeping) wanted to kill John, right on the spot. But Herod "feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man." He also feared political consequences from the mob. (Mt14:5) So, while he had imprisoned him, he "kept him safe." (Mk6:20) And another amazing thing, Herod was intrigued by John, and spent time with him while he had him captive...and "heard him gladly." Oooo! What an audience! You can be sure that, while John witnessed to Herod, the guards and palace servants also heard the message.

But, hearing -gladly- was not enough for Herod. His true heart became evident. It wasn't enough for him to sleep with his brother's wife, he also lusted after her daughter. When lust and pride rule, Herodias got her wish, and John was beheaded. (Mt14:9-10)

We already know that while in prison, for whatever period of time that might have been, John became despondent. For all his being anointed by the Holy Spirit, humanly he began to doubt what his ministry had been. Are you [really] the Christ, or is there someone else? (Mt11:3) He had proclaimed, "..I must decrease" but was now moaning, 'my ministry has ended up in failure!' Ultimately, it ended up in death.

But let's not forget Jesus' accolades about him. "..there has not risen a greater one than John the Baptist." (11:11) "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints." (Ps116:15) as the psalmist goes on to say, "O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid; You have loosed my bonds...I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people..." (vs16-17) John's vow was to serve, proclaim and decrease. He was taken in death. And when Jesus heard, "He departed (withdrew) from there by boat into a deserted place apart." (vs13) The same Jesus Who "wept" (Jn11:35) at the death of Lazarus, now attempts to find a little solitude. While we may be called upon to give our life for Him, He knows about it. After all, a sparrow doesn't fall without Him. (Mt10:29) And in fact, as He is -seated- at God's right hand, He -honors- those who are "faithful unto death" (Rev2:10) as He -STOOD- to receive Stephen the martyr. (Acts7:56) And the promise is that such receive the "crown of life."

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Solitude of the Storm: meeting God - (Mat 14:14-36)

Jesus is attempting to retreat for a bit to contemplate and (possibly) mourn the death of John the Baptist. After all, not only was John His personal "herald". He was also a relative; a "second cousin".(Lk1:36)

But along come the crowds of people. They follow Him where He's trying to hide out, and it says Jesus was "moved with compassion toward them." (vs14) And spent the day healing the sick.

What is most important to you? Going for that afternoon of recreation, or if the Lord burdens your heart, to do service for Him? Not long ago during a little vacation time, there was a beautiful sunny day; a perfect day to go for an extended winter's day drive. But the burden was HEAVY from the Lord to write a commentary. And the words were physically uttered, even though living alone, "This is what I'm here for, isn't it..." And the commentary was written, instead.

A dear friend a few years ago had his beloved wife taken in death. Deeply in love, but now, deeply sorrowing at the loss. While I forget the details relayed to me, in proximity to memorial services and whatnot, there was ministry which was required of him. And he forged ahead to fulfill what was given him to do, as though nothing had happened.

Jesus lived what He preached. When someone made excuses for "why" they didn't want to follow Jesus -now- Jesus said, "Follow Me and let the dead bury their dead." (Mt9:60) As He would say later, "The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many." (Mt20:28) As Paul's attitude was expressed, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.." (2Cor12:15) even though it is not always accepted, or is accepted, but with wrong motives.

And that brings us to the next section with the "famous" miracles. Let us remember that Israel is a nation for "signs and wonders." (Deu4:34) One of the notable miracles during Moses' tenure was the daily manna which Israel ate for 40 years in the wilderness. While Jesus has just spent the day healing -individuals- now it's time for a BIG miracle. Something on the scale of "Moses and manna." And so Jesus takes the meager loaves and fish that a young boy may have been trying to sell to aid in the family's paltry income, and feeds, likely close to 15,000 people, or more. That's like feeding a modest-sized town.

The day is not finished, however. He sends the disciples away in a boat. And then, the multitudes, "time to go home." And then, He goes for that solitary that He missed earlier. Up into the mountain, by Himself...to commune with the Father.

Now, it's time for the more important miracle. Remember how teaching is different for the crowds and the disciples? The crowds have been fed. Their stomachs are full. And they didn't even have to labor hard and scrape their coppers together for it. And as we will see in future studies, they are hoping for a physical, political leader to save them from Roman domination.

But the disciples: it is time for them to know "What" He is. They are caught in a lake storm again, and in peril. And Jesus comes to them. As Jesus calms their fears at seeing him (they think they're seeing a ghost!) He uses an interesting expression to identify Himself in vs.27. "Be of good cheer, -I AM-!" While the multitudes have full stomachs, the disciples are introduced to the "I AM" who had led Israel centuries earlier. (Ex3:14) These things are happening because of -I AM- the prophesied One, "God with us." The "son" born of the "virgin" (Is7:14) is "Immanuel" ...or "God with us." (Mt1:23)

Peter has a -personalized- lesson on "faith". We often criticize Peter for his "Little-faith!" (vs31) But you notice, the other disciples didn't bother to follow along out onto the water with him. Peter's out there, eager to be with Jesus; falls, and is picked up, as he is chided, "Why did you doubt?"

As soon as Jesus and Peter are back in the boat, the fierce storm is suddenly calm. Such wonderous events the rest "worshiped Him, saying, Truly You are the Son of God." (vs33) A different reaction from the previous time in a storm when they asked, "what kind of man is this..?" (Mt8:27) By now He has been authenticating Himself to them, and this time identifies Himself as the "Son of God."

They come to the other side, and the crowds see Him again, and gather everybody to Him to be healed. To "take" from Him. They have been filled and healed...physically.

But in the middle of the lake, IN THE STORM, away from the crowds... Jesus was the "shelter in the time of storm." With all the crowds around, solitude between Jesus and His disciples was not possible, so, the only way to have some "quality time" is in the -solitude of the storm-. As the psalmist learned "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.." (Ps23:5a)

We as people don't like the rough times. They are painful and often full of sorrow. But it is part of our "chastening." (Heb12:7) But He knows -just- what we need "for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness" and results in "peaceable fruit of righteousness" (vs10-11)

The multitudes went home -healed- and with full stomachs, to their warm houses. The disciples weathered the storm, and met the "Son of God!"

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Phariseeism: of the heart - (Mat 15:1-20)

"Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" (vs2)

"Why do you...transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"(vs3)

You see, the arguments and debates that go on today are nothing new. For catholics, if there is a choice between "church tradition" and Scripture, they choose tradition every time. Those of "protestant" persuasion are no better, relying on the writings of their "great-men-of-God." In fact, when presenting their particular belief-system will say that they 'study the Scriptures from the -perspective-of-...so-n-so'. What did Calvin teach? What does Swindol teach? The "clarion-call of the Reformers!" etc.

For the pharisees at that moment it was the ritual washing of hands prior to eating. You won't find their ritual in Moses' Law, given by God on Sinai. But they criticize the disciples for not keeping up "appearances". You know, "abstain from all appearance of evil."(1Th5:22)

Jesus turns the tables. God actually commanded "honor your father and mother" (Ex20:12) but you say, bring the money that should support your parents in their old age, to 'us' instead. (vs5)

Nothing new today! There are some churches that, one will hear a collective congregational 'gasp' if something other than KJV is read during a service by a visitor who doesn't realize they are 'KJV-only'. And yet, as happened in one of these particular churches years ago, if a woman is widowed, left with three small children to raise by herself, the pastor encouraged her to "sell the farm" so she could give the money to the church. There was the "appearance" of righteousness with their KJV, but what happened to "pure religion and undefile before God...to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions..."?? (Jas1:27)

Traditions which actually "void" the commandment of God. (vs6) Jesus calls them "Hypocrites!" (vs7) Something I'd like to say to the politicians who continually force people to protect themselves from themselves with seat-belt laws and such stuff, in order to "save lives"; who, on other occasions, legislate 'freedom' to commit -murder- of the unborn! More people die of abortions than from traffic accidents!

Jesus' verdict on the pharisees? Quoting Isaiah, "this people draws near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." (vs8)(Is29:13)

In this passage there are two subjects under consideration. Tradition and the heart. And yet, with this particular tradition, the two were interrelated.

On one hand the tradition specified a hand-washing. It was 'ceremonial' in nature. As I've seen it demonstrated by those who know, if a person's hands were really filthy from working in the dirt, I really doubt that this ceremony would truly get the hands clean...of the dirt. This ceremony, like water-smudge 'baptism' and last-rights, had absolutely no value. It would have no effect on the health of the body as the food entered, was digested, and passed on through. (vs17) Nor, did it have any bearing on the eternal destiny of the soul and spirit.

However, what tells the true nature of the person is that which originates from within. And rather than New Age "goodness" claimed to come from within; according to Jesus, is "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemes." (vs19) As a current-events object lesson, the current US president is guilty of -all- these things; and as the 16-year old wrote, "character counts." Is it so much the adultery or blaspheme that is repugnant to God? They certainly are. But it is the -heart- which motivates these actions which God sees. Man sees the actions; the "outward appearance, but God looks on the heart." (1Sa16:7)

KJV-pharisees for years have preached their "appearances" (1Th5:22) and so things like make-up, hair styles, clothing styles had to meet certain 'traditions'; and they would judge, as being 'reprobate', anybody who didn't follow their dictates. And yet, as we have seen recently, they don't even preach the Gospel, leaving out the critical "repentance." We've noted their treatment of widows. They are like last week's -dream-, of the fine leather-bound Bible 'shells' lying around, with -nothing- inside. So busy with 'appearances' that they miss the fact that that word correctly translated actually means "form" or "kind." "..abstain from every -kind- of evil." God isn't so concerned about how "something might look" as He is in the "kind" of evil...OF THE HEART.

This wickedness of the heart is what defiles a person. You married man, clutching your KJV-only, who lears and lusts after young girls will be judged; where that young woman, dressed 'so-fine', on the arm of her unregenerate husband, going into the nightclub to be 'with him' as a submissive wife (even 'having fun' doing so), will hear "well done, good and faithful servant." Your heart is full of "evil thoughts". (vs19) Her's is obedient to her Lord and Savior.

OK...so now I've left off preachin' and gone to meddlin'. "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" (vs12)

Was Jesus worried? Not hardly! "..every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up" (vs13) because they pretend to be holy, but they "[teach] for doctrines the commandments of men." (vs9)

What is the verdict on these? "..remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent." (Rev2:5) Oooh! But they are too busy believing in "faith only" and don't preach "repentance" anymore. 'Don't -need-to- repent. Just -believe-. Jesus condemns them...

What if your heart yearns for the state you see the pharisee in? You want to make them see their error, and come to the Lord. What is the likelihood of success? Jesus said, "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (vs14)

I found out about this a week ago, in connection with the recent mailings on 'repentance'. 'Responded to one person at-great-length. In fact, I thought seriously of mailing it to the e-list, as it touched on the subject from another angle; of "faith". But the Lord seemed to say not to e-mail it, and I only sent it to the individual. The retort that was returned indicated a hard and closed heart. Those several hours writing the piece...as though, 'wasted'. The pharisees' attitude is like the proverbial, "I've got my mind made up...don't confuse me with the facts." In this case, the Truth (facts) of God's Word.

If you are coming out of 'traditional-conservative' -phariseeism- as you "come out of her My people" (Rev18:4) your heart will yearn for the hearts of your former fellowship/s. You will drag your feet to leave. Or, if they kick you out, you will yearn for them, wanting to "reach" them with God's truth as you have just become "free" in Christ.(Gal5:1)

"..seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not..for this people's heart has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see...and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (13:13-15) Because they are not of God, they are past hope and will be "rooted up"! (15:13b)

Jesus says, "Let them alone..." (vs14)

Q/A -finds fingerpointing offensive
Q/A -Christian wife at nightclub?

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Faith & Grace: to Jew -and- Gentile - (Mat 15:22-28)

A Gentile woman comes to Jesus, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, son of David! My daughter is grievously vexed with a demon."(vs22)

But He did not answer her a word. (vs23)

What a fascinating scene!!! Jesus, Who was usually "moved with compassion"(14:14) and would forego His own comfort and rest to heal people, now -ignores- the plea. What's the deal?

"I am not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."(vs24) "He came to His own..." (Jn1:11a) Ooooh! So Jesus is 'bigoted'!? So the Aryan Nations, Neo Nazis and KKK are right, after all??

It is not good to take the children's bread and to throw it to dogs." (vs26) Oh dear!! This bigotry even gets dirty and nasty into name-calling!! But, in actuality, this was a pretty -accurate- Jewish attitude which He proclaims. So, it -must- be right, after all, that some nationalities are superior to others, and others are meant, merely, to be slaves!?? After all, He was going to go -immediately- to heal the centurian's servant. (Mt8:7) He was a despised Roman. Maybe -politics- and -rank- make a difference..??

First of all, I believe we have an 'object lesson' against Israel. If we finish that verse in John ch1... 'He came to His own, but His own received Him not." Jesus was born a "Jew" in fulfillment of Jewish O.T. prophecy. The woman rightly names Him "Son of David." In line to the throne to rule Israel. He spent three exhaustive years teaching, healing, and performing other miracles. But we know that they rejected Him and asked Pilate that He be crucified. But God has -showered- them with prophets, "rising early and sending them" but Israel would not "listen or bow down [their] ear to hear." (Jer25:4) And finally He has sent His Son. (Mt21:37) All this attention from God, and they reject; relying instead on their traditions of supposed -superiority- and teachings of man. You know...the 'pharisees' from the previous lesson. They are continually questioning Jesus as to His "authority" to teach and do what He does...not accepting the fact that He is God's Son.

Along comes this -foreigner-! To the Jewish mind, a "nobody." After all, hear the disciples, "Send her away, for she cries after us."(vs23)

This "dog" of less-than-nothing comes and calls Him, "O Lord, Son of David!" In that short phrase she has recognized His Deity and rightful lineage as promised by God. The Messiah. The Annointed One. God come-in-the flesh. Things Israel is not accepting.

Furthermore, she comes in her utter depravity. Her daughter does not have "multiple personality disorder" nor "schizophrenia". She admits an enslavement to satan. When called a "dog" she did not rise up in militant anger and object to such 'name-calling', and cruel treatment. She accepts her place as a "nothing" and pleads... "even us dogs get scraps, don't we?" (vs27)

The prophets were not sent to the Gentiles. Jesus was not sent to the Gentiles. And yet, this 'dog' came to Him with her "great..faith"(vs28) Seeking Him out.

The object lesson? Look Israel! In all your hoity-toity-ness, and having God's Word showered upon you, you reject. Look at this simple Gentile, coming in humility and faith. Of the Pharisees Jesus said, "let them alone. They..shall fall into the ditch." as they are are "rooted up." (vs13-14) To this Gentile He says, "So be it to you even as you wish." (vs28)

But the object lesson was possible because He 'pretended-to' reject her, causing her to become insistant, repeating her plea and raising her voice...creating a bit of a -scene- for people to notice.

You see, Israel, "God so loved the [whole] -world- that He gave His only-begotten Son..." (Jn3:16) You think you've got a -handle- on Truth with your traditions and separateness. But your traditions are man-made (vs9) and your separation is from the wrong things.(Mt23:23) Yes, Jesus was sent -to- 'Israel'. But the Jewish prophet proclaimed, "..WHOEVER shall call on the name of the LORD shall be saved.." (Joel2:32) The Gospel of God might be to the "Jew first" but it is "ALSO to the Greek". (Rom1:16,2:10) To those who come with "ALL [their] heart". (De4:29, Jer29:13, Joel2:12, Acts8:37)

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Beware the leaven: doctrine - (Mat 16:5-12)

"Take heed, and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (vs6)

Hmm... Let's see. We didn't bring any 'food' along with us and we're starting to get hungry. Jesus must be chiding us for forgetting to 'pack-the-lunch'. Hey! Who was on KP duty today, anyway? -Where- are we going to get something to eat?

Oh you 'little-faiths' ..."why do you reason among yourselves because you took no loaves..?" (vs8) Don't you remember the multitudes that were fed from handfuls of loaves? Not only that...but how much was left over? Food is 'not a problem' for us.

After all Jesus had taught "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious..." (6:33-34a)

"How is it that you do not understand....?" (vs11) How long have you heard these exchanges with the Pharisees? The lessons about evil spreading like leaven and corrupting the kingdom of heaven? I'm not talking about 'food'. Here, let Me say it again, "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees..." (vs11)

Ooooh! The -DOCTRINE-! (vs12)

The Pharisees and Sadducees were at the top of the heap. They were respected (and 'feared') by the masses. They were the ones with seminary 'letters' behind their names. They were the -teachers- of doctrine. If anybody wanted to know something about God, these are the people they would seek out. But, as we have seen along the way, many of their teachings were based on man-made traditions. (15:9) Some of their teachings were actually contrary to God's law. (15:3) And as time goes on, Jesus is going to become even more vocal and forceful in His condemnation of them.

But, for now...disciples, "take heed." Pay attention. Listen up!

"beware" ..be on guard against. Be cautious of. Keep your eyes and ears open. Scrutinize and evaluate. Don't believe everything you hear from them. Later on the Bereans would be commended because they "searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so." (Acts17:11)

We already know that much of their teaching comes from 'man'.(15:9) Some of it even contradicts God's Word. (15:3) Thus, what is our standard by which to judge?

"All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work." (2Tm3:16-17)

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Jesus, Deity: Church's Foundation - (Mat 16:13-20)

"Who do men say Me the Son of man to be?" (vs13)

This question could likely be -THE- Key question, the most important question that anyone of humanity will face. Like the song asks, "what will you do with Jesus? neutral you cannot be." Who is He? What is He? What was/is His purpose?

When the disciples answered him with, 'Well, people are saying John the baptist, Elijah, this prophet, that prophet' He then narrows them down. What would you guess that He already knew that the 'other' people were saying these things? But He wants the disciples to face Him squarely, "But who do -you- say I am?" (vs15)

And here we get to the nitty gritty. It doesn't matter what the baptists, mormons, catholics, muslims or "our church" believe/s about God. What do -YOU- believe about Him? What do -YOU- believe about Jesus? The Ethiopian's confession of faith was, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts8:37b)

Peter proclaims, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."(vs16) Let's not forget that to most people Jesus appeared to be -merely- a prophet. A "man." A "man" He certainly was. (1Jn4:2) But He was more. The disciples saw and wondered "what kind of man is this?" (8:27) Then, as they were with Him longer, "Truly You are the Son of God." (14:33) Both of these were times of storm, however. There have been many "foxhole conversions" throughout history. You know... "Lord, if You'll just get me out of this predicament, I promise to serve You." Called "foxhole" because of wartime conflicts, the person hunkered down in the -bunker- ("foxhole") with death seemingly imminent as the shells and bombs are falling all around. "Deathbed conversions" etc. But things are relatively 'calm' right now. Jesus is conversing with them, with rationality. What is this -faith- you have? Is it just something to get you out of a jam? Or is it real?

And you notice the 'origination' of Peter's confession. "My Father in heaven." (vs17) Recall that the faith we have to believe is a "gift of God" (Eph2:8) And that we don't even come to this point without the Father "drawing" us. (Jn6:44) Our understanding/s do not come from our own intellect or reasonings, from "flesh and blood" (vs17), but are -spiritual- in nature as the Holy Spirit convicts (Jn16:8) as God reveals them to us by His Spirit. (1Cor2:10)

This that we have just considered is important to understand as background for the next topic which is -SO- misunderstood by catholics and protestants alike. Remember, God is in charge. Jesus is His Son. And Peter was a -mere- man. His revelation was not his own, but came from God the Father. And notice also that Jesus and Peter are speaking. Two -distinct- entities, conversing with each other.

Jesus says, "You are Peter.." (vs18) (petros) Rock or stone. Something one might pick up and throw and skip across the water.

"..on this rock I will build My church" (petra) Cliff, ledge, crag, large stone. A firm rock (petra) base upon which a person can "build his house..." (Mt7:24)

Another logical consideration of why the "apostolic succession" did not begin with Peter and continue successively with the Roman popes; Jesus is talking -to- Peter. 'Peter, -you- are a skipping stone...and on -this- Rock I'm going to build My church.' What was "this rock"? What is the context? Peter's confession that Jesus is the "Son of God." 'Peter, you are a little stone, but your confession of -Me- being Deity... -THAT- is the foundation for the Church.' "for any other foundation can no one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1Cor3:11) Jesus Christ is the very "chief corner stone" (1Pt2:6) If Peter, even, proclaimed that Jesus was the corner stone, how can Peter possibly be it? He isn't. If he was, Jesus would have said, 'upon -you- I will build...' but He did not.

But now we get into a passage that has been, first of all, mistranslated for centuries; and also misunderstood and misapplied by both catholics and protestants, alike.

"..the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (vs18b)

Notice in Jesus' words -who- is on the offensive. What is going against what? The gates of hell are attempting to prevail, but they will never be superior in strength, nor overcome the Church. [Ed: let us remember that the "Church" is not the building or hierarchical organization, but the collection of 'people' scattered far and wide across the world, who are -individually- "in Christ"] Remember that -Satan- is the one who is on the prowl like a "roaring lion seeking to devour" (1Pt5:8) The Church is exhorted to "stand" (Eph6:11,13) If we "resist the devil he will flee" (Jas4:7) God does "not allow" more to come against the Christian than what he is able to resist (1Cor10:13) because the foundation is Jesus Christ. He's already been there (Heb4:15) so He is able to "rescue" those being tempted (Heb2:18)

He was -there- most specifically when He was crucified, and "bruised" the serpent's head. (Gen3:15) When He rose He was the "firstfruit" from among the dead. (1Cor15:23) Death and the grave has been conquered "through our Lord Jesus Christ." (15:55-56) If we understand that the devil has "power of death" (Heb2:14), and Jesus conquered death; that means He conquered satan. The victory has already been won. And so, as the "gates of hell" tried against Jesus and didn't prevail, the Church also has "victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Cor15:57)

Jesus in -NO-WAY- in this passage commands the Church to go on the offensive. To conduct "spiritual warfare" campaigns. To engage in "prayer warfare." Nor is it the Roman "crusades", nor -political- 'catholic vs. protestant' military campaigns for regions of Europe and Ireland where it was "onward christian soldiers marching as to war with the cross of Jesus going on before". Because the "weapons of our warfare are not fleshly" (2Cor10:4) ...not of this world. Jesus' kingdom is "not of this world", otherwise His "servants would fight". (Jn18:36) It is only satanic imagination gone awry that would even suggest such things!

And then...

"I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to you. And whatever you may bind on earth shall occur, having been bound in Heaven, and whatever you may loose on earth shall occur, having been loosed in Heaven." (vs19)

I paste this complete verse from MKJV in here (LITV is similar) so you can read it from whatever -other- translation you may have, and notice the -big- difference. Look at the verb -tenses- as you compare. While this may seem like a minor thing, it has -MAJOR- implications for proper understanding of what Jesus is proclaiming, and hopefully will help us understand CENTURIES of ERROR, for both catholics -and- protestants.

Who is 'in charge'? Heaven or earth? God or man? That is what a correct understanding of this verse boils down to. Most translations word it to the effect, 'whatever you do on earth will then be done in heaven'. Making man, the apostles, and most specifically -Peter- the 'originator' of the Church.

But you notice, what is done on earth by the apostles will be done -because- it was 'already' done in heaven. "..having been bound.." and "..having been loosed.." -Having- happened in heaven, it will 'now' be implemented on earth.

How would this occur? As Jesus was taken into heaven He promised, "you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you." (Acts1:8) Which is what happened at Pentecost in Acts 2. It was the Holy Spirit by Whom the apostles conducted the affairs of the early church. When Ananias and Sapphira lied, Peter said it was "to the Holy Spirit" they had lied. (Acts5:3) When Barnabas and Saul were commission to a missionary journey, it was the Holy Spirit Who directed it. (Acts13:2)

Jesus -specifically- told the disciples to -wait- for the Holy Spirit to come. (Acts1:4-5) Notice what happened when Peter -decided- that "something needed to be done" to replace Judas. (Acts1) They chose Matthias. But the Holy Spirit hadn't come yet. Peter was not 'waiting.' He made a decision to "bind" something on earth. But he disobeyed. We don't hear of Matthias beyond that incident. But we hear -much- of Paul who was -actually- Jesus' choice. (Acts9:15-16,Rom1:1,1Cor9:1,15:8)

And as for Peter's -leadership- well, he certainly was the 'mouth'. But when it came down to important matters 'who' -really- became chief among them? James. (Acts15:13,Gal1:19,2:12) Not even an 'apostle'.

Many, claiming the name of Christ, are busy "building" Christ's Church -FOR- Him. They 'name-and-claim' things "in Jesus' name" because they are "two or three" gathered and "agreeing" together.(Mt18:19-20) They are busy 'preparing the kingdom' -for- Christ to come back to. Their mentality begins with -man- and they suppose that God is listening to their demands and is catering to them. They believe that prayer -releases- God's power to do things; making God dependent upon man. Well, if you cling to the "Roman Scriptures" you may easily conclude such error.

But Jesus said, -I- WILL BUILD -MY- CHURCH. Thus, whatever Believers do, based on the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit, -will-be- God's will and God's purpose, because it will have -already- been established in heaven...FIRST. It is not man-creating-heaven, but Heaven working -through- man.

But most people are blind to this. Notice how Jesus instructs the disciples "that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ." (vs20) Remember Jesus' -methods-. Teaching in 'parables' so that they would -not- understand nor perceive. (Mt13:13-15) In the first part of this chapter the Pharisees and Sadducees are again demanding a "sign from heaven." (vs1) And Jesus refuses after illustrating all the signs they already rejected. (vs4) On another occasion they would ask, "tell us plainly." (Jn10:24) It's kind of like "Doctrinal Statements." VW does not publish one officially. If the -teaching- is not understood and accepted, a 'statement' will not enlighten any further. People in general were not truly receiving Jesus as He presented Himself. A proclamation would do no more, until the -secular- ruler would so proclaim it over His head at the crucifixion. (Jn19:19)

Additional understanding of: The Gates of Hell
also: Unteachable? ...the Gates of Hell

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Heading to the cross: cost of the soul - (Mat 16:21-28)

Jesus has just told the Pharisees off and stormed out of there. Has had a little chat with the disciples, warning them about the pharisees. And then has opened their eyes to himself and His 'Deity'. Has painted this picture of the coming 'Church' and victory over satan. I'm sure the disciples are likely feeling a bit 'pumped up' with exhilaration over what God is going to be working through them.

Now, Jesus starts talking about going to the cross. Suffering and being -killed-. (vs21)

Well...Peter now has a little 'piece of' God. God just revealed to him that Jesus was Deity. Ooooh, "God be gracious to You, Lord! This shall never be to You." (vs22) We luuuuv You, Jesus!

Whaaaapp!! "Go, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you do not savor the things that are of God, but those that are of men." (vs23) !!Ouch!!

See how easily this comes about? Jesus had just been warning them about the Pharisees. False teaching sneaking in. We often talk about false prophets and angels appearing as though in "righteousness." (2Cor11:15) We have warned, often, that satan tries to get at Christians. He is capable of communicating with Believers through dreams and visions. Others have experienced it; as have I. Just because a person is a Believer is no guarantee that satan won't come after us. As Peter had this sort of thing happen to him a lot and he learned from personal experience, hear his words, "Be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour." (1Pt5:8) This book was written to the "elect sojourners". Believers. Warning Believers that satan seeks to devour...-them-.

Well, in our study here, Peter is beginning to learn about this. We may often shake our heads at Peter (in hindsite) or criticize him. Or think, "poor Peter...getting picked on so much." Well, he was always pushing, forging ahead, eager to follow the Lord. So, we get to see from his recorded example, the falls, scrapes, bruises as the Lord would then pick him back up, as he learned yet another lesson. Remember, "for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges [gives a whipping to] every son whom He receives." (Heb12:6)

A bloody, torturous, excruciating death on a cross is 'offensive' to refined human sensibilities. (Gal5:11b) It is so much nicer to consider gold-plated crosses with fancy intricate designs. Or shiny silver crosses as necklaces. Or 'heavenly' visions of -bright- crosses streaming rays of love, peace and tranquility to a person. The 'angel of light' -helped- Peter see how grotesque this would be. Jesus, if You are the Son of God, this kind of thing can't happen to You!!

But you see, the journey to the "Son of man..[coming] in the glory of His Father with His angels.." (vs27) had to begin with the cross. We have spoken recently of human repentance, being at the 'foot of the stairs' leading up to God's holy throne. That we cannot be in God's presence until we come to that place, realizing our sinfulness and utter helplessness to save ourselves from God's wrath upon sin. We deserve God's wrath. (Rom1:18) If Jesus came to take man's place substitutionally, He -had-to- go through the cross. He had to experience God's wrath upon Himself. There was no other way. Yes, it would be torturous. It would become ugly. But it is recorded that Jesus "learned obedience by the things which He suffered." (Heb5:8) And it was -after- He humbled Himself in this manner that "THEREFORE God has highly exalted Him..." (Phil2:9)

There are many people, like Peter was, who abhor the notion of such humiliation. To wallow around with notions of "hell" and judgment is not 'enlightened'. (Remember -who- the angel of 'light' is -2Cor11:14)

But Jesus says, "If anyone desires to come after Me [and participate in the 'glory of His Father with His angels'], let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (vs24)

Aunt Bertha has been so ill. Bed-ridden for so many years. This has been such a "cross to bear". Surely God will look upon her with favor. Or... the Joneses have been so disappointed in how Johnny turned out. He got into drugs, committed murder, and is in prison. He's been such a head-ache and burden to his parents. This has been -their- "cross to bear." Surely God sees, and has pity on them!

This is -NOT- the cross Jesus is talking about.

Spiritually, for every believer, when Christ died.. -we- died. Baptism baptizes us "into His death" (Rom6:3) When Jesus died on that cross, that was -me- hanging there. It was -you- (who believe in Him).

If you want a life of ease and comfort, and don't want to be associated with Jesus' death, you cannot be saved. It is not possible. If you refuse to recognize your sin-nature, and God's wrath upon you because of it, you will not be saved. "Salvation" is a -rescue- out of the clutches of God's eternal wrath against sin. If you refuse to "receive" Jesus (Jn1:12), and by implication and association, His label of "death" over you by His death on the cross, you -WILL EXPERIENCE- God's wrath.

What is your -soul- worth to you? If you go after everything of the world in its state of sin, you forfeit your soul. (vs26) And when God looks for your name in the "Book of Life" and doesn't find it (Rev20:15) what will you do then? You have -nothing- to 'give-to-God' in exchange for your soul. He 'owns' your soul. "..and the soul that sins, it shall die." (Ez18:4)

But, if you follow the Lord into death, He will give you multiplied times -more- in return. Think of any earthly investment with such a 'yield'. There is none. It is glorious in the presence of the Father and His angels. (vs27a)

And Jesus says, ~stay tuned... some of you will see a promo of this 'glory' that I'm talking about next week~. (vs28)

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Transfiguration: hear Christ - (Mat 17:1-13)

And..Jesus took Peter, James, and John..and brought them up into a high mountain apart. And He was transfigured before them. And His face shone as the sun, and His clothing was white as the light. (vs1-2)

When we look at a parallel passage in Lk9:28, we see that Jesus went into the mountain to 'pray'. To commune with the Father. And what were the three doing? Sleeping. (vs32) But they are aroused out of sleep, and as they are rubbing their eyes, they see this 'vision' ... and.. and.. there's Moses and Elijah, too!! Can this be real?? Wow! Awesome!!

Well, first of all... Jesus, Moses and Elijah are talking about that which Jesus had just been disclosing to the disciples a week prior, that He was going to die and rise again. Just as John the baptist had been killed, the "Son of man [would] suffer from them." (vs12) As He later explains further, "The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men. And they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised again.." (vs22-23) This whole concept of the "resurrection" is going to puzzle the disciples. (Mk9:10) As, they didn't understand the Scriptures regarding this. (Jn20:9) But let's continue...

Why Moses and Elijah? Moses, while he had killed an Egyptian, spent 40 years in exile herding sheep, and disobeyed God and didn't get to go into the promised land; was borne away and 'buried' by the Lord. (Deu34:6) Elijah, mighty in calling fire down to consume the offering, whimpered away, fleeing Jezebel's wrath, and moans "I'm the only one left" (1Kg19:10) But he did not experience physical death; was carried away in a whirlwind to heaven. (2Kg2:11) These were both very special servants of God.

Is it possible that these are also the "two witnesses" of Rev11:3? Moses was God's instrument to bring Israel out of bondage in Egypt. He appears just prior to their 'deliverance' as Jesus is about to die for the sin of the world. And for him to appear again as Israel experiences their final deliverance as they receive a new heart from God? (Jer31:31-34)

Elijah, who prayed down fire for sacrifice and on another occasion says, "If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from the heavens and burn up you and your fifty.." (2Ki1:10) ... the witnesses will "devour their enemies" with fire. (Rev11:5) When Jesus came the first time, His 'way' was prepared through the preaching of John the Baptist "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Lk1:17) Just as Jesus' coming was two times, could Elijah 'prepare' for Jesus' coming -two- times, also?

Whatever the case, the two are 'now' leaving Jesus (Lk9:33), and the disciples are spell-bound. And good ol' Peter pipes up, 'let's make three tabernacles'. (Mt17:4) 'One for -each- of the -three-of-you-.' This is the same mistake John is going to make later as he "falls [to] worship" the -angel- who is showing him the things in Revelation 22:8. When sinful, finite man is given a mere glimpse of the glories of heaven, he is lost in wonder, fear and terror. The -difference- is SO VAST, that even angels and those who have gone before and are now in the heavenlies -seem-to-be- as glorious as God Himself. Recall how Moses' face shone after coming down from Mt.Sinai with the Law.(Ex34:30)

Let's take a little side excursion here. Let us remember that Satan still has access, (until Rev12:9) to the heavenlies. (Job1:6) When Paul warns that satan's ministers appear as "ministers of righteousness" (2Co11:15), they are appearing 'in light' just like Moses and Elijah did when they were talking with Jesus. And see how Peter wanted to erect a place of worship -to- Moses and Elijah... -along-with- Jesus. This, the same Peter who had confessed "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (16:16) Do we understand how it was God Who revealed that to Peter? He did not really know what he was saying, in and -of- himself, because 'now' he is wanting to also worship Moses and Elijah.

Do we also see the -nature- of the deception that satan and his demons find possible? They are appearing to people in visions, just like this transfiguration on the mountain. And for everything, to finite corruptible (1Cor15:50) humanity, they look 'just like' God. This is why Jesus would say later, "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ..."(Mt24:4-5) And then, so that there would be no confusion, describes what His -real- coming will look like, when the time comes. (24:27)

Well... as Peter is running off at the mouth, God shuts him up. A cloud comes over this whole scene. And now it's time to really be afraid. (Lk9:34) And then GOD SPEAKS..! "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well please, hear Him." (vs5) And now their fear turns into 'great terror'!! (vs6) ..as they "fell on their face".

They experienced the same terror Isaiah did when he wails, "Woe is me! For I am undone..!" (Is6:5) Manoah, Sampson's father, shudders, "we shall surely die because we have seen God." (Jdg13:22) And later John is going to have a 'private showing' of Jesus, the One who 'loves' him (Jn13:23,20:2,21:20), and he is going to "[fall] as dead" (Rev1:17) at the glory. But Jesus will touch him and say, "Do not fear, I am the First and the Last."

[Ed: Somehow, in human wisdom, this seems like a contradiction. John is 'as dead' because of Jesus' glory. And yet, Jesus calms his terror BECAUSE OF and BY MEANS OF His 'glory'. As if to say, 'Don't be afraid of My awesomeness, because, truly, I am awesome. Yes, I am awesome.']

This is the same thing Jesus does to the three. (vs7) He touches them and says, "Arise and do not be terrified."

But you see God's mandate to "have no other gods before Me" (Ex20:3) extends to Jesus. Yes, the kingdom of heaven is full of glory. They got a glimpse of what John would teach later, "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (1Jn3:2) You see, this radiance they saw on Moses and Elijah is the same thing the Believer in Jesus Christ has to look forward to when we have been "changed" and become "incorruptible" (1Cor15:52-53) when we see Him "just as He is".

But Whom do we worship? ONLY God. Whom do we listen to? ONLY Jesus, the Word. (Jn1:1) What do we follow? The 'great men of God' who have gone on before? ..as we build little shrines to "..Moses, Elijah, Calvin, Luther, Apollos, Cephas (1Co1:12)...?" No!! "This is My beloved Son...HEAR HIM!" How do we "hear Him" today? He Who is the Word, Who has the "WORDS of eternal life" (Jn6:68) left a 'piece' of Himself in written form through the Holy Spirit (2Pt1:21)... "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work."(2Tm3:16-17) You see, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, Who teaches us. (Jn16:7,13,1Jn2:27))

The angel said to John, "Blessed are those who have been called to the marriage supper of the Lamb...These are the true sayings of God... Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev19:9-10)

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Strangers: pay taxes - (Mat 17:24-27)

The collectors of 'tribute' (taxes) come along and ask Peter, "Does your master not pay the didrachmas?" (vs24) Peter answers, "yes".

Some commentaries suggest that this was the annual "temple tax" which was collected from every Jewish male. (Ex30:13,38:26) But I think what Jesus is about to reason with Peter will show that it could not have been. Whatever the case, let us continue...

When Peter replies "yes" I have a feeling he didn't -really- know 'for sure', because Jesus, knowing already what's going on, questions Peter. Whatever the situation was in those days, apparently 'foreigners' were taxed, but citizens were not. ...possibly, for -this- 'particular' tax? From Jesus' reasonings, it seems the logical conclusion was that they had the option (right?) to -not- be obligated to this particular tax. But then Jesus says, "but lest we should offend them..." go get the money and pay them. [Ed: notice that this payment does not come from the group's 'petty cash'. It is 'individual' .."for Me and you"(vs27b)]

This seems to be a little different argument from what will come up later. Should people of God pay taxes to rulers of this world? Jesus says, "..render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (22:21) Which Paul reaffirms, "..because of this you also pay taxes...therefore give to all their dues; to the one due tax, the tax..." (Rom13:6-7)

What about where a "religious organization" receives 'tax exempt' status? What about ministers who are exempt from income tax? (Not all countries share these laws.) As the powers of darkness little-by-little take over, attempting to destroy God's kingdom, they begin to enact laws to govern the activities of those who enjoy 'exempt' status, or forfeit their 'exempt' status for the sake of 'freedom'. What does the Believer do? Go gather up others of 'like-mind' and 'dig-in' to some heavily fortified compound, and trade gun-fire with authorities, and make bombing runs on public buildings?

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world...[if it were] My servants would fight." (Jn18:36) But in keeping with Paul's exhortation, later, "If it is possible, as far as is in you, live peaceably with all men." (Rom12:18 -mkjv/nkjv)

Jesus is making a point. He was -not- a "son" but a "stranger". (vs25) As believers we are "not of the world, but [He has] chosen [us] out of the world..." (Jn15:19) ..therefore we can expect to be treated as such. He could have asserted His 'right' of citizenship, because that's what He was, as a 'human'...but to 'make peace' and 'not offend' unnecessarily, in a matter that was unrelated to right or wrong, righteousness or sin, He 'paid the tax' requested.

As the government begins to mandate things like 'fair hiring practises' on church staffs for the sake of sodomites, and will increasingly dictate doctrinal positions which are 'compatible' with the World Religion movement, it would behove Godly congregations to separate themselves from the government, due to their 'exempt statuses' by which they are "registered" with the government. If they haven't yet, they will eventually come after you, based on the manner in which you filled in the answer blanks on those forms. The questions, if you have ever seen the form/s, are designed to alert the government to your congregation's doctrinal proclivities, for easy "sorting" when it comes 'time' to come after those who are True Believers. Government control is based, in large measure, on "money". If they have a connection, in any manner, to your finances, they also have a 'say' in how/what you can proclaim.

As Christians, our mission is to be faithful to God and His Word. To -proclaim- His Truth. Not to become entangled with the affairs of this life. (2Tm2:4) Live peaceably, keeping the laws of the land, paying taxes when required. If we are digging in with weaponry to fight off the IRS, we are not busy about our Master's business.

Our minds are to be set on the things "above, not on things on the earth" (Col3:2) Knowing that our "citizenship is in heaven."(Phlp3:20) Remembering that we are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth."(Hb11:13b)

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