Surprised by Jesus

I’m borrowing a title from David Servant’s “eteaching.” I figure it’s okay because he’s a Christian and I’m fixing to plug his web site and ministry. You can find their site at http://www.heavensfamily.org. Their ministry is awesome, directed at helping widows, orphans, and the poor overseas, as well as discipling pastors in foreign countries. We’ve met David, and we can tell you it’s place to give money that you will not regret–eternally. You’ll also love his story. He refers to himself as a “recovering pastor.”

Warning, it’s not for the faint of heart nor those who think the American dream has anything to do with Jesus.

Then again, you wouldn’t be at my blog if either of those things applied to you, would you.

David’s eteaching starts with:

An astounding fact: Although the scribes and Pharisees rigorously studied God’s revelation of Himself in the Old Testament, when God appeared in human flesh and simply acted like Himself, they didn’t recognize Him. In fact, they hated Him. Think of that for a moment! Here were men who could quote large portions of the Old Testament, who considered themselves extremely devoted to God, who were Israel’s spiritual leaders, and who were anticipating a Messiah, but when God appeared on the earth, they wanted to kill Him. They were surprised by Jesus, to say the least.

I purposely haven’t written further yet, so that I don’t borrow anything else from his eteaching. I have lots of thoughts just about this paragraph. Maybe you should wait to read mine, though, till you’ve meditated on your own a bit. Why don’t you take 15 minutes, read that paragraph, and think about it a bit. Then read mine.

Okay, if you’re back, this is rabbit trail #1. In meetings I have to avoid going down rabbit trails. Being a bit long-winded, I’m prone to going down them. Writing, however, is a different story. The rabbit trails are often better than the main point, and sometimes they’re the only thing that make the main point interesting.

The apostolic churches–the ones the apostles started, which stuck around in a near-pristine form for a couple centuries–believed that the Law had not been abolished. That’s not real surprising,  since Jesus said in Matt. 5:17 that he didn’t come to abolish it. On the other hand, it is surprising to us, because the writer of Hebrews said that the old covenant is ready to disappear (Heb. 8:13).

The apostolic churches, though, had an advantage. Taught by the apostles, they weren’t confused by things that seem like a contradiction to us. They understood that when the writer of Hebrews said that there is “of necessity a change of law,” that it didn’t mean from one law to another completely unrelated to it. The two covenants, and the two laws, one of Moses and one of grace from Christ, are intimately related. The second covenant and the second law are the fullness of the old covenant and the old law.

It is absolutely essential, if you have any desire to understand the Scriptures or the new covenant that you sign up for when you become Christ’s disciple, that you understand that the new covenant and new law are the fulfillment–nay, better, the fullness–of the old. The old covenant was adapted in thought and words to an earthly kingdom and a fleshly people, a people without the Spirit of God. The new covenant, however, is made with a people who all have the Spirit. In fact, that’s the one key feature of the new covenant. All of God’s people would have the Spirit, not just special people like David and Samuel (Acts 2:16-17).

So, knowing that he would now have a spiritual people and establish a heavenly kingdom, Jesus came to fulfill–to expand or fill up–the Law of Moses. He was ready to make new wine–because he knew he would have new wineskins to put it in.

One way that new wine was manifested was in his statement to Pontius Pilate that his disciples don’t fight with earthly weapons (Jn. 18:36). Israel under Moses fought with earthly weapons because they were an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to establish a new covenant, however, and a heavenly kingdom. His people have beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They fight with spiritual weapons, and they war against spiritual beings and against the thoughts of men (Eph. 6:10ff; 2 Cor. 10:4-6).

One other way that the new wine was manifested, and the old law brought to fullness, concerns an issue that will bring us off this little rabbit trail. God doesn’t care about food. Food for the belly, and the belly for food, but God will destroy both it and them, says Paul. But the food laws were to prepare an earthly people to become a heavenly kingdom. They avoided that which did not chew the cud nor part the hoof. This law is not gone, but it is changed, as Heb. 7:12 puts it. We are to “eat of,” or to fellowship with, those who ruminate on the word of God and who separate from the world. How do we know with whom we can have unity? How do we know from whom we can separate? If a person does not meditate on the Word of God nor separate from the world, do not partake of them. You can love them, pray for them, and hope for them, but you cannot take them into the body. If they do, then they are clean, and you can “eat” from them. It is not your brother’s doctrine on eternal security that determines whether you should fellowship with them, but their ruminating and parting.

So, I said all that to encourage you to always be ready to stop and meditate on the words you hear, just as I asked you to meditate on that paragraph above. It marks you as a partaker of Christ’s new wine, the changed law of the new covenant.

God desires truth in the inward parts (Ps. 51:6). God asks Job, “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts? Who has given understanding to the heart?” (Job 38:36). You can not trust your brain. You must learn to have wisdom in the inward parts. If you trust your brain, God will see to it that you are turned to foolishness. He has no regard for the wisdom of this world.

Quick caveat: this does not mean that you should not reason or think. You should. In the end, however, you must know truth in the inward parts, where God has put it. The heavens do not necessarily testify to the mind that there is a God. Nature around us testifies to the heart, and those who ignore what the creation testifies to the heart will end up fools who do not believe in God, no matter how brilliantly they study nature. A large percentage, perhaps even over half, of natural  scientists are atheists.

Ok, the caveat’s not so quick. Let me do another rabbit trail.

We help those scientists be atheists by testifying with our ignorance and dishonesty that Christians don’t care what’s true. Every day, on the internet and air waves, Christians testify by their refusal to be honest with scientific evidence that we still want to live in the dark ages. Anti-evolutionists have got to be the most dishonest brand of Christians there are. I am regularly stunned by the willingness of anti-evolution Christians to distort evidence, misquote honest scientists, and even pass on stories they know to be false in order to defend a narrow-minded, one-dimensional interpretation of Genesis one that they only apply to part of Genesis one, anyway. In the scientific area, a lot of Christians had better start thinking and reasoning, because they are missing some wonderful truths that God would place in their hearts if they were not so stubborn. Even in today’s advanced scientific world the creation testifies that there is a Creator and teaches us about his power and divine nature.

Okay, off rabbit trail #2.

You must be able to recognize truth in the inward parts. The Pharisees were great students of Scripture. They were wise, but with a worldly wisdom, and God made fools out of them. In fact, it is obvious in Christ that he was highly irritated with them. He was so fed up with them that he complained even about their Bible study: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have life; however, these are they which testify of me, but you refuse to come to me so that you may have life” (Jn. 5:39-40).

Jesus was known not to the Pharisees but to common people, whose did not have a confidence in their personal wisdom and personal interpretations of the Bible to blind them to the truth that bursting up from inside them. Down inside them, where God has placed wisdom and understanding, that wisdom and understanding came bursting forth, and they recognized God in our Master. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, their hearts burned within them.

Have you ever paid attention to the fact that those two disciples upbraided themselves at the end of their journey with Christ. “Were we so blind? Why didn’t we recognize him? Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he spoke?” (Luke 24:31-32). Obviously, that’s not a quote, but that’s what they were saying. We should have recognized him by what was within us!

That does not stop today. We are under obligation to recognize Christ when we see him, in whomever he might be. Listen to the words of John the apostle and meditate a bit on what this means:

He that believes the Son of God has the witness in himself. He that does not believe God has made him a liar, because he does not believe the testimony that God have given us of his Son. . . .

Okay, stop right there! What testimony has God given us of his Son? Do you know how this verse finishes? This is an important verse. If you don’t believe the testimony that God has given us of his Son, you make him a liar. That’s scary, because God’s God. You don’t want to call him a liar, I promise you. So what is his testimony?

And this is the testimony: God has given us Eternal Life, and this Life is in his Son. He that has the Son has the Life; He that does not have the Son of God does not have the Life.

That’s the testimony? He that has the Son of God has the Life, and he that doesn’t does not have the Life?

Yes. Have you learned to recognize the Life of God when it comes, or are you separating from brothers and sisters over your Bible interpretations. In other words, are you a follower of Christ or a Pharisee? Before you answer that, consider this. When you see Christ in a brother or sister, do you recognize and attach yourself to him? Or do you ignore him and jealousy against him like the Pharisees?

Pharisaism is the norm among Christians today. We have been taught to be just like them. We bristle, like they did, when we hear that we search the Scriptures, expecting life from them, and all the while ignoring Christ in a human body on earth. Just because he’s in bodies now, and not one body, doesn’t mean that it matters less to recognize him. According to John, the children of God are “obvious” (1 Jn. 3:10). Do you believe that? There may be exceptions to this rule (and there are), but if they’re not obvious to you most of the time, it’s because you’re judging from the wrong place and seeing with the wrong eyes.

Am I making too much of this? Since Paul said that schisms, divisions, and factions will keep you out of the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21), I don’t think I’m making too much of this. It’s time to discern the body. We wonder sometimes what it means when Paul says that those who eat the Lord’s Supper unworthily eat and drink damnation to themselves because they don’t discern the Lord’s body. Is he talking about the bread there? Of course not! Look at where that verse is. That’s written in 1 Cor. 11:29. 1 Cor. 12 starts six verses later. Do you think that’s an accident? 1 Cor. 12 is the longest dissertation on the local church (not the universal church, which is called the Bride) as the Lord’s body in all of early Christian literature. It’s division that’s the problem. Paul started on division way back in 1 Cor. 1, and he didn’t forget it. He’s teaching the local body that it must be one.

You don’t get to go to 1st Lutheran on 5th street while your next door neighbor goes to American Baptist on 8th street. Every time you take “communion” you are eating and drinking damnation to yourself because there’s no way you’ve discerned the Lord’s body while you’re doing something like that. Do you understand that divisions, schisms, and a party spirit will send you to hell? That’s right, while you’re condemning your neighbor’s drunkenness, you’re practicing openly a sin that is listed in the same list with drunkenness. Only you’re worse off because you claim to be reading the Bible and understanding the will of God. To whom much is given, much will be required.

Now perhaps God will have mercy on us. I believe that. Many Christians don’t know any better. Others who do know better don’t know what to do about it. God called some kings in the Old Testament good even though they sacrificed on high places. Shoot, God told the first Israelite king that he would be king at a sacrifice at a high place (1 Sam. 9:12ff). However, God also greatly commended those kings who tore down the high places. Our division–our denominations–are a high place, and they’re a high place even in our minds. We must recognize Christ, and we must attach ourselves to him. We must partake of those who ruminate on the Word and part from the world.  It is time to let the wisdom within us rise up and override our exalted Bible interpretations, so that we might be the ones to prove to the world that Jesus is who he said he is by our unity and love (Jn. 13:34-35; 17:20-23).

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