Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thou wilt keep him in PERFECT PEACE

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” Isaiah 26:3.4. “. . .O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early” Isaiah 26:8,9. (Perfect Peace is shalom, shalom; the concept being heightened by repetition, thus perfected. It is “peace, peace!”)
In a day of turmoil, when all around us seems to be in total confusion and chaos: What are we to do; to whom shall we turn for Peace? “Be careful [anxious, as many define it] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” Phil. 4:6-7.
Notice the similarity of Old and New Testament. In both there is the Promise; in both the Provision: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.” “The peace of God, which passeth understanding.” Whose mind is stayed on thee.” “shall keep your hearts and minds.” “the Lord. . .the Lord Jehovah.” “through Christ Jesus.”
BE CAREFUL! Three words in the Greek give us a three dimensional picture: merizo, to part, disunite, divide. merimna, (from merizo, the idea of distraction.) merimnao, to be anxious about. When one is distracted in any given situation, his attention is divided between two objects. He cannot rightly focus on both. Did not the Lord make our eyes to look in the same direction: not one to the right, the other to the left; one upward, one downward? Trying to focus on two objects at once may quickly draw one into a state of confusion, especially if you have a one track mind like me!
Many words have two or more definitions: consider merizo, to DISTRACT.
distract, (1) [Diversion] divert the mind or thoughts or attention, draw or lead away from, BEGUILE, lead astray. Further definition: amusement, pastime, drawing the mind in different directions, preoccupation, engrossment. From these, if left unguarded, may come fascination, a fixation, passion.
Eve was beguiled, distracted by the serpent, and we have the conversation between the two. But did Eve immediately partake of the forbidden fruit - or did she pass by the tree day after day, being intrigued by its beauty, becoming preoccupied, attempting to justify her actions (should she decide to eat of it’s fruit?) After all, in her eyes, it appeared to be good for food, it was pleasant to her eyes, and a tree to be desired! Eve became fascinated; she gained a passion for the tree. Many have speculated about the fruit: it was from an apple tree they say. One thing is certain: for Eve, at least, it was Passion Fruit!
Should one ask - why would you think that Eve might ‘pass by and gaze at the tree day after day . . .” I might ask, What makes you think that the serpent would attempt to beguile her only once, and no more? Was Jesus not tempted of the devil over and over when He was in the wilderness? And of Samson and Delilah: “Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, an wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.” “And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; Thus he told her all his heart” Judges 16;6,16,17a. And you can recall the remainder of the story.
distract, (2) [Confusion] perplexity, abstraction, bewilder, complicate. Eve’s distraction drew her eyes from the Lord to the serpent and the Tree. On one hand she has heard the Voice of God saying, “Thou shalt not,” and the voice of the serpent saying, Oh go ahead! God does not really mean what He said! He’s just trying to withhold some good things from you! You deserve to eat of the tree: it’s your decision; do what pleases you! If what you do pleases you but is displeasing to God, in the final outcome you will find that it did not please you after all!
Sons and daughters of Adam and Eve: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Further, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Anything less is because we are distracted; we are not fixed on Him! There is a term for this condition: it’s called SIN. Anything less than loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind - is sin.

BE CAREFUL! The ‘care’ in careful has also a two fold meaning: (this useful information came from Webster’s Thesaurus.)
(1) [Careful conduct] heed, precaution, vigilance, watchfulness, diligence, oversight, attention: these are but a few. (These things are commendable and to be desired in our Christian walk.)
(2) [Worry] anxiety, distress, perplexity, fretfulness, stress, encumbrance, strain, load, pressure, vexation, fear, uneasiness, exasperation, misgiving, anguish, apprehension - and the list continues. (These may be avoided by prayer and supplication; and when they are, we can expect the peace of God which shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. As one has so aptly said, “pray without ceasing - or worry without ceasing!”)
We often hear (or perhaps may be found saying!) “I’m under a lot of pressure”, or ‘I’m greatly distressed” or “I’m rather depressed”, or “Under the circumstances. . .” We did not get these from scripture! Search your Bible! You will find none of these expressions (nor the words) recorded!
What a sad commentary for us as Christians. Your heavenly Father has not in His design and Eternal Purpose arranged for you to be “Under a lot of pressure,” nor to be “Under the circumstances.” But there is a recurring phrase that is to be found in over half of the books of the Bible. Look up the word LIFT, LIFTED, LIFTING in your concordance. You will find in every case the word UP following it. The very first occurrence is in Genesis 7:18, and involves a man named Noah and an ark: “And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth: and the ark [capsized and was torn asunder!] NO! “it went upon the face of the waters!” The previous verse tells us, “and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was LIFT UP above the earth.”
“And the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth” “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” John 12:32. Jesus walked upon [up on the face of] the water. Could He have sunk into its depths? Could the Ark with Noah and his family have capsized and sunk into the seas? Could God have shut him in; shut the door of the Ark, just to have the ark torn to bits and its passengers drown in the turbulence? Could the waters have done the same unto Christ Jesus, God’s established Ark of the Covenant, our Ark? No! The waters could only ‘bare Him up’, could do no less than ‘lift Him up above the earth!’ Can you imagine hearing Jesus say, “I’m under a lot of pressure!” or I’m distressed!” or “I’m depressed!” or “under the circumstances!”

But sadly it was not the case with our Brother Simon Peter: “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. . . And when Peter was come down out of the ship [he was down and out, but to be literally so in a moment] to go to Jesus.
How did Simon Peter walk on the water? As long as his mind was “stayed upon Thee” as long as he trusted the Lord, “the Lord Jehovah was his strength.” He walked, not in his own strength: he was LIFTED UP of the Lord. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid: and beginning to sink.” Two things happened: He saw the wind boisterous: he was distracted; his mind and thoughts and attention were diverted. The distraction caused, under the circumstances, anxiety, distress, he was under pressure; he became fearful, apprehensive, in anguish. James tells us “he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. . .A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. . .let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” James 1:6-8. But the Lord was faithful and gracious: He immediately stretched forth his hand and caught him. “Lord, save me, deliver me, lift me up out of this watery grave! How near was Jesus? Near enough to ‘immediately stretch forth his hand and catch him.’

“I was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore, Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more; But the Master of the sea Heard my despairing cry, From the waters lifted me, Now safe am I. Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!

Jesus has walked upon the water! Can we hear an Amen from the Psalms? “Thy throne is established of old: Thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea” Psalm 93:2-4.
The floods have lifted up; a flood of men have lifted up their voices; their violent waves as the noise of many waters are lifted up against Him whose throne is established of old. Lift Him up upon the cross! “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3;14-15.
“The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. for the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” Isa. 50:5-7. It is the day of crucifixion. Jesus has set His face like a flint [the flint, a stone known for its hardness, used in the making of tools and weapons.] “I shall not be confounded.” His face was stayed toward the Father; He was not distracted. Therefore He was not confused, He was not perplexed; He was not bewildered. Can we not learn from His example? Some may ask, Could Jesus have sinned? Tell me now, how could one possibly sin when His face is fixed upon the Father, whose mind is stayed on Him; who is trusting Him? Even as Jesus cried, My God, why hast thou forsaken me, it was then, even as it had been all His life: Jesus was never distracted: He was not double minded; He was not unstable; He did not “serve God and mammon!” What of God the Father? Could He be distracted; therefore be confounded or confused? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” James 1:17.
LOVE LIFTED ME! “I waited patiently for the Lord: and he inclined [natah, stretched forth] unto me, and heard my cry. He brought [alah, lift, raise, recover. restore] me UP also OUT of an horrible pit, OUT of the miry clay, [quicksand?] and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God:”
LIFT UP, as found in the Scriptures is identified with - eyes, (Gen. 13:14, 18:2. Deut. 3:27, 4:19, Psalm 121:1, 123:1, Isa. 40:26, 51:6, Ezek, 8:5, John 4:35.) face, (Num. 6:25, Job 11:15, 22:26, Psalm 24:6, Lam. 2:19.) head, (Gen. 40:13, Ezra 9:6, Job 10:15, Psalm 110:6.) hands, (Psalm 28:2, 63:4, 119:48, 134:2, Lam. 2:19, 3:41, Heb. 12:12.) heart, (Lam. 3:41.) soul, (Psalm 25:1, 86:4, 143:8,) feet, (Psalm 74:2.) voice, (Gen. 21:17, Job 38:34, Psalm 28:2, 93:3, Isa. 10:30, 24:14, 40:9, 52:8, 58:1.) countenance, (Num. 6:26, Psalm 4:6.) prayer, (II Kings 19:4, Isa. 37:4) Also - banner, (Isa. 13:2.) ensign, (Isa. 5:26.) standard, (Isa. 62:10.) to mention a few.

“Come Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.”
But, alas, we must join also with the author as he writes: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love .” And this will happen when we are distracted, when our focus is not totally on Christ. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” The world and its amusements will seek to draw us away, to fascinate us, to fix our hearts and minds on that which is not Jesus. My dear friend, if we are to have a Passion, may it be found anchored in our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusted in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.“
“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord LIFT UP his countenance upon thee, and give thee PEACE.” Numbers 6:24-26.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dear Paul and Silas

Dear Paul and Silas,

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” Matt. 5:11.
Paul and Silas were exemplary in proving the soundness of this verse! Surely they were, and are, given to assure us that what was true for them is equally true for us. The early church endured much persecution and the reading or hearing of this particular event in the lives of these apostles would have been to them of no little comfort.

When Paul and Silas were in Philippi, a “certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination. . .followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show us the way of salvation” Acts 16:16,17. Paul commanded the evil spirit to come out of her. As a result her “owners” lost their means of monetary gain and had Paul and Silas brought before the magistrates, who promptly had them thrown into prison. “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely. Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God. . .Acts 16:23- 25.
The Philippi Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in obtaining accommodations for Paul and Silas. Unfortunately, there were no rooms available at the Philippi Hilton, so other arrangements were made. The Lodge to which the Apostles were directed did not have a AAA rating. The room was not cleaned prior to their arrival. They were not given fresh towels and linen. The floor, rather than being carpeted, had an earthy feel to it. This establishment would not likely have passed a sanitation inspection. The local pest control company had not been there of late. There was neither a restaurant nor room service. The room did not have a balcony with picture window overlooking the city. The Host was lacking in kindness and courtesy. . .
An earthquake. . .the foundation of the prison shaken. . .the doors were opened. . . everyone’s bands were loosed. Everyone that is, but the jailor’s. No, his hands and feet were not shackled; he was not fastened in the stocks: he was bound by sin. And sin was just about finished with him. “And the keeper of the prison awakened out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” Acts 16:27,28.
The jailor called for a light and his darkened eyes were opened to the Truth of the Word. He cried, What must I do to be saved, and received the Word of reconciliation: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. And he fell before Paul and Silas receiving the Word of Deliverance; and the “ropes brake off his arm like a thread;” the chains were “plucked asunder” and the fetters were “broken in pieces.”
If we thoughtfully meditate upon the account given us concerning Paul and Silas while they were in Philippi, we shall without doubt be able to identify them as Peacemakers and Ministers of Reconciliation. They could most assuredly relate to the eighth Beatitude: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely. . .” They cast out an evil spirit from a fortune teller, and for that were laid upon and thrust before the magistrate by an angry mob. They were stripped, beaten, and then cast into the inner prison, their feet shacked. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God: (most likely they were continuing that which was begun earlier.) They sang praises; a convincing evidence that they were at Peace with the Father, that they had approached Him in poverty of spirit, in mourning and meekness, hungering and thirsting after Righteousness; being reconciled to God, they desired that others might be also reconciled.
The response of the Father: a great earthquake, prison doors opened, everyone’s bands were loosed. Everyone that is, but the jailor: he was imprisoned by sin, held captive by its shackles.
Paul cried out, “Do thyself no harm.” But the jailor had done them much harm.
“We are all here.” None escaped, though opportunity was there to do so.
It would appear that the attention of the Apostles was not upon their freedom, but the loosing of the jailor, yet in his bonds.
The jailor called for a light, and his eyes were opened to the Truth of the Word.
He cried, What must I do to be saved, and received the word of reconciliation - Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord. And he fell in poverty of spirit, mourning his guilt and condemnation; he came in meekness and humility, owning himself as bankrupt and in need. He was forgiven. He was cleansed, he was reconciled to God. He became a Peacemaker. As a Peacemaker, he washed the Apostles stripes; he took them into his own house, he set meat before them; he rejoiced, believing, fellowshipping with Paul and Silas. He make peace with and was reconciled to the Apostles; but first peace and reconciliation had to be made with God.

The forgotten prisoners.

Have we been so caught up with the conversion of the Philippian jailor that we have overlooked the other prisoners in the jail house? (But our God is not forgetful, neither is He prone to overlook anything.) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: AND THE PRISONERS HEARD THEM. [Did the prisoners hear them by the hearing of the ear? Or did their song and prayer reach their hearts (via the Spirit of God?) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; [ Christ is the ONE FIRM FOUNDATION, but that which is earthly is said to have “foundations” these being subject to crumbling!] and immediately ALL THE DOORS WERE OPENED, and EVERYONE’S BANDS WERE LOOSED. And the keeper of the prison [Jail House] awakening out of sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the PRISONERS HAD BEEN FLED. [Better to take his own life than to face the consequences when the magistrates found out that the prisoners had all fled.] But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for WE ARE ALL HERE. “We understand that it was not the purpose of God that the living might die, but that the DEAD might LIVE! “Then he called for a light [he being in darkness, had no light of his own] and sprang in, and came TREMBLING, and fell down before Paul and Silas.” He came trembling: entromos - it was a tremor, a quaking of his heart: the earth trembled and quaked, it’s foundations were shaken; so it was with the jailor. “The doors were opened, everyone’s bands were loosed, we are all here! Paul and Silas with the prisoners, the prisoners with Paul and Silas. The shackles were loosed, the doors opened - why were they still there! Could it be that there was an effectual calling, a restraining by the Holy Spirit? Is it the nature and practice of our Lord to break the physical bonds of men and refrain from breaking the shackles of sin for their deliverance? Were they loosed that they might be immediately bound again? “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” Why would it take two men to speak to one man? Or were they speaking to all the men, prisoners and jailor alike? The next verse answers it for us: “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” Did the jailor not have two ‘households?’ One where he lived (whether he had a wife and children we are not told - it is an assumption; it is speculation on our part.) But he did have another household - those who were abiding in the jail house. Notice, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” Where do we get the idea that they moved from that location, going down to his other house at midnight, waking his family so they might hear the gospel? What of the prisoners? Is he to leave them outside the jail house, they being now free of their shackles, trusting that they will stay put until he returns with Paul and Silas many hours later? And if they did not, it was to his peril. “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized he and all his house [household] straightway.” [Most likely in the same water, the washing of stripes and the baptizing.] After all this was complete, THEN he brought them into his house, [as though they had not been there before] and set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” Sometimes house, [literally or figuratively] means a household of individuals, sometimes, a dwelling place. (It is used four times in this passage.) Nevertheless, having two households, if there were those dwelling in both, the Lord would be true to His word: they would all be saved! (Though I personally believe that those initially baptized along with the jailor, were saved prisoners, now being made the prisoners of Christ! Question? Where does the Lord Jesus keep His prisoners? In Maximum Security!
“And when it was day, the magistrates sent to the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.” OK, let which men go: Paul and Silas only - or all the prisoners? Why, Paul and Silas only. The other prisoners would remain in custody. I firmly believe that during that night the jailor could have asked Paul concerning the prisoners and he would have said as before, WE ARE ALL HERE! The prisoners would have returned with the Apostles to their rightful place in the prison to fulfill the sentences of the magistrates; else the jailor would likely have forfeited his life. Now, if the jailor was saved and all his “household,” shall we not say that the jail house became a church, a “House of God;” a “Temple.” if you please! Look it up! oikos, dwelling, Lit. or fig., family, lit. or fig., house[-hold], temple. Can you imagine, in or out of jail, what an impact these fellows would have had in Philippi?
But then, much of Paul’s ministry was a Jail House ministry, was it not?!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Intercessory Prayer

A Meditation

We live in the finite; we live in our little world with our limited sight and our inabilities. God lives in the infinite: He is infinite! His world is without end. We look as far as we possibly can through the eye of the telescope: yet what of God’s unseen world? Who has beheld His Heavenly Masterpieces? And who can say that he knows the inner workings of the mind of God? We shall look at the mystery of Intercessory prayer. But who among us is capable of understanding and discerning it to any degree? I dare say that there have been many saints in days gone by who have prayed long and continual prayers of intercession who were not even familiar with the word. The discernment of intercessory prayer stems not so much from education as it does from meditation. Allow the Spirit to be your fellow/companion: He will be guide and director, counselor and tutor.

Intercessory prayer? It is a spiritual, an infinite matter. Earthly definitions fall short of comprehending its true meaning. It brings one into the courtyard of Heaven, even unto the Throne of Grace; into the Presence of the Eternal God.

Intercessory prayer is Heart Work. Complacency has no place, nor the attitude that it is my duty to pray in this manner: or perhaps God (or other people) will be impressed with my prayers. Fasting could be an ingredient; but the motivation is important: “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. . .Bur thou, when thou fasteth, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” Matt. 6:16-18.

Intercessory prayer is heart work: “Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh to you. . .Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” James 4:8-10.

Pretence with God is futile: “And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom. 8;27. Much praying will never reach the Throne of God if it is from the lips only and not from the depths of the heart wherein reigns the Lord Jesus.

What Intercessory prayer is NOT!

When a catastrophe comes the world is quick to say, “Our prayers are with you!” Are their prayers, prayers of intercession? Who is their “god?” Who, pray tell, is the object of their ‘faith’? “It is our prayers - not necessarily those offered to any god: but our prayers should count for something because they stem from a sincere heart! There is some magical strength in the prayer itself: it need not come from a god who may or may not exist.”

Praying in the name of Jesus? What a hot topic!

And it’s brought into the courts of our land with much dispute. What does the world find offensive about praying in the Name of Jesus? What do they not find offensive. . .? “To name the name of Jesus may be acceptable; after all he was a great man, a notable person. But praying in the name of Jesus? That’s like declaring him to be God or something! It is that which we find offensive!”

Intercessory prayers?

If one were to go through and catalogue all that are found in the scriptures, it would of itself make a sizeable book. Let us take a moment to meditate on three of them.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto his people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--;

[I can see Moses choked up; his heart in his throat: the words will not come out; though he cannot speak, he is now making intercession unto God in behalf of his people] and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” Exodus 32:30-32. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” Rev. 3:5.

Did you see that? Our names, not only sealed in the book of life, but Jesus will openly acknowledge and confess our names before the Father! Hallelujah!

Consider the Apostle Paul: a great ‘prayer warrior’ indeed! (I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”) “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” Rom. 9:2-3. What did we read in James chapter four? “Draw nigh unto God. . . Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep. . .your joy to heaviness.”

Paul could wish himself accursed that his people might not be accursed: rather that they would receive the Blessing. Who can deny Paul’s tender heart and his continuing intercessory prayer for his kinsmen?

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. . and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came. . .” Rom. 9:4,5a. For these Christ came; that they might receive His promises: the Everlasting Covenant that God made in their behalf; being adopted, being made partakers of Christ’s glory.

Who are Israelites? (1) “as are led by the Spirit of God, (2) they are the sons of God, (3) they have received the Spirit of adoption, (4) The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit - we are the children of God, (5) heirs; heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, (6) that we may be also glorified together.

“I could wish myself accursed from Christ.” Why would Paul say such a thing? Is it not that Paul loved the Lord with all his heart, his soul, his mind; and the will and purpose of God being accomplished for His glory meant more to Paul than his own life? What could be the driving force to bring the Apostle to such devotion to his Lord? “That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable to His death” Philippians 3:10). Further he said. “I follow after, that I may apprehend, reaching forth, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

The Intercession of Christ.

Not only does He make intercession for His people: He IS the Mediator and Intercessor!

“It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” Rom. 8:34. “He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom 8:27. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” Heb 7:25.

Christ could wish Himself accursed from God, that in His death we might be saved, being made the sons of God, receiving the adoption, being heirs of God, being made partakers of His glory.

The Intercessory Work of Christ on the Cross

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” This is a prayer of intercession, offered by Christ as Priest; He being the fulfillment of Leviticus chapter four “If a soul shall sin. . .if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance. . .when a ruler hath sinned. . .the congregation shall offer a young bullock. . .the elders shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord. . .the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock’s blood. . .sprinkle it before the Lord. . .and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. . .And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp.” Jesus, on the cross was both Priest and sacrifice. He being the fulfillment of Leviticus four could lawfully pray, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Heb. 13:11,12) Thank God for that intercessory prayer!

“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren what shall we do?” Acts 2:36,37. “But ye denied the Holy One and the just. . .And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead. And now brethren, I wot [to know, be aware, understand] that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” Acts 3:14,15,17. (Through ignorance: drawing their minds back to the Leviticus scripture of the “sin of ignorance”)

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Should He not have preceded that prayer with, “Father, these men are exceeding great sinners, and I present their sin before Thee, as they are even now, crucifying Your Son!” NO! “Father, forgive them, for even now, their sins are laid upon Me: I bear upon my head, their sins and transgressions against the Lord Jehovah. Therefore when You look upon their sins, Thou will find them laid upon Me! They were crucifying the Lord of Glory? That very sin was laid on Him; Jesus paid it ALL!

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” Luke 23:42,43. Amazing! The thief recognizes Jesus as Lord; and though He should die He would be resurrected and assume His rightful office as King. The thief also dying, would be resurrected, for he says ‘remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’

We must not end this segment without mentioning John chapter seventeen. It’s appropriately titled in most Bibles, The Prayer of Intercession.

“that they might know thee. . Thou gavest them me. . .I have given them Thy words. . .I pray for them; for thy are Thine. . .All mine are Thine. . .I am glorified in them. . .keep them through thine own name. . .that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. . .Sanctify them through thy truth. . .That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. . the glory which thou gavest me I have given them. . .that they may be made perfect in one. . .and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. . .that they be with me where I am. . .that they may behold my glory. . .that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy Son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!” John 19:25,26. Many expositors capitalize Son. A duel picture can be seen here. Mary, look upon Me; and then upon John. I entrust you into his care. Jesus, having been her Son will now be her Saviour. Here again, see the work of Christ as Intercessor in a very personal way: the bringing together of Mary and John.

One of the most quoted scriptures in all the Bible: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” Phil 4:19. It is by Christ Jesus: He is High Priest, He is Mediator, He is Intercessor. By and through the priestly work of intercession by Christ Jesus, God supplies our need. Christ has procured all we have need of by the effectual sacrifice of Himself on the cross. When we pray we may think “Unmerited Favor.” The intercessory work of Christ is much different! He “MERITS the FAVOR!”

O Lord God, look Thou upon the Mercy Seat. Is the Blood still there? Then He will acknowledge the desires/petitions of Christ in our behalf! Amen?

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

“one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray.” In answer to that disciple’s appeal Jesus laid out a pattern prayer for him. May we echo his request! If left to ourselves would we not pray in this manner: “My Father which art in heaven. . .give me [this week, this month, this year] my bread. . .deliver me from evil?

“Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Matt. 18:19,20.

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” Matt. 6:6.

How do we reconcile these scriptures: “If two shall agree. . .it shall be done: Thou. . .enter into thy closet, shut the door, praying to the Father in secret? And it shall be done? We shall look further into this matter, but not right now!

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” Heb. 4:14-16. Is it, that I may obtain mercy; that I may find grace for myself alone? What if we pray, Lord, I come to the throne of grace in an appeal for my Brother; that I might, through intercessory prayer, obtain mercy, and find grace in his behalf, in this, his time of need. Should it not be the primary, the principal focus of our prayers as we approach the Throne of Grace? Is this not what intercessory prayer is about? What if I prayed, Lord, if I am to receive your Blessing; if any reward is to be given me - would you give those to my Brother; and lay his heartaches, his grief, his burdens upon me. That would be a hard prayer to pray, would it not?

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself [Himself] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom. 8;26,27. What if we reverse the order, beginning with Romans 8:28: “According to His purpose, we are called; according to His purpose, we love God; according to His purpose, all things work together for good [for our good; for His glory]: according to His purpose, according to the will of God, He (Christ) maketh intercession for the saints. According to His purpose, knowing the mind of the Spirit, He searcheth the hearts. According to His purpose, the Spirit maketh intercession; according to His purpose, the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. And then we wonder that the scripture tells us to come boldly to the throne of grace? We come, not in or by ourselves; we have the Son and the Spirit simultaneously making intercession to the Father in our behalf!

“And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins” I John 2:1-2. Advocate, paraketos,

INTERCESSOR, also Comforter! Is it not comforting that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, has born our sins upon His own person, paid the debt for them in full, (our Mediator) and stands not before the Throne, as a lawyer of sorts, but sits upon the Throne with the Judge! Now that’s an Intercessor!

“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. . .If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” John 14:13-14, 15:7.

Many times we receive a letter or a document, perhaps from the president or other official of a company or school, etc. At the bottom, the paper is signed by the originator; and beside it are the initials of another, showing that, though they may have drawn up the material, the authority and power belongs to the official who was responsible for its issue. Why pray in Jesus’ name? Thine is the kingdom, it is Thy will, Thy power, Thy glory that authenticates such a prayer! (Mine are the small initials beside His name.)

We are exhorted to come boldly to the throne of grace? Yes! And we come with the Spirit and Christ Himself as Intercessors in our behalf. What then, is our part; how are we to be intercessors in behalf of another? And how shall we hope to pray according to the will of God?

As Jesus is intercessor for us, let us with Him, enter into the prayer of intercession. We ask in the name of Jesus because He is our Priest, our Prayer Partner. Let us not merely pray TO our Lord - let us pray WITH HIM! Talk to the Lord, and listen as He talks to you. Pray together with Him, with unity of heart. Lord Jesus, you faithfully bear my burdens; what is on your heart? What burdens are you bearing that You would share with me? How would you have me pray?

The 120 who gathered in the upper room; that ‘continued with one accord in prayer and supplication’: was Jesus not praying also; interceding for them? They were in one accord. Was Christ not their Priest, their Prayer Partner? Were their hearts not bound to His, seeking the Father’s will and His glory?

If we come to Jesus desiring to intercede in behalf of others: if He is already entered into intercessory prayer - why would we think that He would not welcome us with open arms; to pray as One with Him? In light of this, may we enter into intercessory prayer with confidence and great assurance believing that not only ourselves; but our prayers are also secured in Him!

Returning to that earlier pair of scriptures: “if two of you shall agree. . .it shall be done: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet. . .pray to the Father in secret.” Now, if two shall agree: if you are in intercessory prayer with Jesus - that constitutes two, does it not!

Is it the will of God for you to pray? Would you pray willingly in intercession for the need of others? “I don’t think I can; I don’t have that kind of burden.” Then here is the first prayer that you should pray: “Oh Lord Jesus, I would be an intercessor; but I don’t have a burden: I cannot pray fervently.” Confess it to Him. And confess it again and again; until your heart is broken and you are grieved in spirit. “O Lord God, I confess, I have no burden.” Pray it until your prayer becomes fervent: Draw nigh unto God. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep, until your joy is turned into heaviness. Your first burden is that you have little or no burden. “O Lord, I have no burden.” Will He ignore your cry? Or do you think that He will grant you the burden for which you seek? Or will you realize that you have that burden, even while you pray? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you believe that? If you are forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness - The prayer of a righteous man availeth much!

If you now have a burden - what is it’s focus or object? You cannot have a self-contained burden. It must have an object. We pray in faith, Christ Himself being the Object of our faith. Therefore we must not pray with the circumstances as our focus, but the Lord.

The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 29 and verse 13: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me.” “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” Isa. 6:5. ‘Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” Isa. 6:6,7. Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon the Throne of Grace. He was greatly burdened: Woe is me! for I am undone. . .and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Notice the intercessory work of the Lord: the seraphim laid the live coal upon his mouth: “thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah is burdened about himself? Yes! - but this amazes me - “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah is confessing the sins of his people; he is burdened over them! He is an intercessor! “Lord, my heart is not pure; it is evidenced by my unclean lips. But my brethren are no different from me: they need your forgiveness and cleansing also! “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another” James 5:16.

Do you recall the account of Stephen? He being brought before the council, proceeded to speak to them concerning the history of unbelief of the children of Israel, and of their resistance to the Holy Spirit even at that present day. “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. . .ran upon him. . .cast him out of the city, and stoned him with stones. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” Acts 7:54,57b,60. (He is looking into Heaven; he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God; he gave witness that he saw Him. Approaching boldly the Throne of Grace and his Intercessor, he himself became an intercessor with the Lord: Lay not this sin to their charge. “Do you mean that the Lord would have me to pray, make intercession for my enemy, for him who hates me, whose intention may be to snuff out my life? It would appear so.

One of the shortest, yet most profound prayers is that of Mary and Martha: “Lord, him whom THOU LOVEST is sick. Notice, Jesus is the object; He is to be found between the sisters and Lazarus. They are intercessors for Lazarus, but they are “looking unto Jesus” the great Intercessor.

Who you pray for; What you pray; When you pray; Where you pray, How you pray; and Why you pray: this is a spiritual matter, and you, by all means, should seek the will of God, seek the face of Jesus Christ, and come before the Throne of Grace in lowliness of mind and openness of heart. When you pray do not think it is to an unsympathetic ear. Jesus is “an High Priest” who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” “He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom. 8;27b.

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty: And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” I Corinthians 1:27,28.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Greatest Commandment

Love is the fulfilling of the law

“Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” Matt. 22:36-40.

An interesting word, hang. For instance, before the invention of the electric clothes dryer, one would hang damp clothes from a clothesline or perhaps across a porch banister. Another example is the grandfather clock. It employees a series of gears; attached to these is a mount which is called an anchor; to that is hung a pendulum which swings back and forth giving a ‘tic toc’ sound as it measures time in seconds, in minutes, in hours. In comparison we may say that the First, the Great Commandment has as such, eternal gears; it is the Anchor from which hangs the pendulum, the law and the prophets. The pendulum in and of itself cannot operate independently. Understand, the ten commandments, as the pendulum, will not, can not function apart from the gear mechanism and the Anchor of the Greatest Commandment.

It is noteworthy that we find in Deuteronomy chapter 5 beginning in verse 6: “I am the Lord thy God. . .Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” The same is to be found in Exodus chapter 20. These we know to be the Ten Commandments. We see in yet another place: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” Deuteronomy 6:5, while we discover “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” in Leviticus 19:18. Though these last two are not written as a part of the ‘Ten Commandments’ yet are they to be found as the Anchor from which the Ten are hung. (as spoken by Jesus in Matthew 22:40) The verses that follow in Deuteronomy 6 are not surrounded by a cluster of ‘thou shalt nots,’ but “These words. . .shall be in thine heart: Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children. . .and shalt talk of them when thou sitteth in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” My people, tell your children, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might!”

Continuing: “And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” Deut. 6:9. Strange, the Ten Commandments may be found in our Capital and upon many government buildings; but where is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might?” America, wake up! For that matter, Church, wake up! Understand, the ten commandments, as the pendulum, will not, can not function apart from the gear mechanism and the Anchor of the Greatest Commandment. My dear Pendulum, If Christ is not your Head, your Anchor, then you are swinging aimlessly back and forth; your ‘work’ is futile and will accomplish nothing.

Men today follow the pattern of the Pharisees: Let us work our works to appease God; let us focus on the other commandments, perhaps adding our own for good measure. Their pendulum may grow in weight and in length but it is not functional; it is not hung upon the Anchor. “The First commandment is far too complex: we will bypass it, pay it little if any attention. Surely the good works of our hands will suffice!” “Well I suppose, “To love the Lord my God with all my heart” deserves honorable mention; but the emphasis is heavily upon My good works, My good deeds, upon My interpretation of good and evil, and right and wrong! After all, the Word of God endorses these does it not?” It might, but only if they were to be Anchored in the Great Commandment! “Seek ye first the kingdom of God;” seek ye first the King of the kingdom: love Him with all your heart, your soul, your strength, your mind.

The Greatest Sin

“If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom” Job 31:33. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” Psalm 119:9-11. But Adam did not heed the Word of God; he did not seek the Lord with his whole heart; he did not hide the Word in his heart that he might not sin against God. He wandered far from the commandment. Job gives us a little more insight: not only did Adam attempt to hide himself physically from God, but he would think to “cover his transgressions, by hiding them in his bosom.” “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee, that thou shouldest not eat?” He immediately exposes the ‘iniquity hidden in Adam’s bosom.’ Adam’s partaking of the forbidden fruit revealed a deep underlying transgression: It seems that Adam did not love the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, with all of his mind. Adam yielded to the temptation. In doing so, he “sinned and came short of the glory of God.”

Can you imagine Adam: “O Lord God, the fruit of this tree is good for food; it is pleasant to the eyes; a tree to be desired to make one wise. I pray therefore your richest blessing upon it as I partake of its refreshment. And, Oh! You are my Lord and my God and I love you with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind!” What strange bedfellows, love for God and disobedience to His statutes!

We understand that previously Adam was not a sinner; but shall we conclude him to be a righteous man? One who is righteous must be him who loves the Lord God with all his heart, his soul, his mind. Adam had not been tested, nor his righteousness proven. Though the breath of life had been breathed into him and he was a living soul, there is no mention that he was “filled with the Holy Ghost.” If this had been true, then Satan might have had no more influence upon him than he did on Jesus - which was none!

“He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man loveth me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” John 14:21,23,24a. What can we say? Adam did not keep the one commandment that God gave him. But the keeping of that command hinged or hung upon his loving the Lord God with all his heart, soul, and mind.

“for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

When did Adam die? He became a succumber and not an overcomer. To overcome is to live; to succumb is to die. Satan beguiled Eve but Adam was bitten by the serpent of his own lust. "when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" James 1:15 "And when the woman SAW. She saw what she wanted to see. She believed a lie, she lusted; in her lustful eyes the fruit appeared to be good for food, pleasant to the eyes, a tree to be desired. The Lord had told them that this was a tree to be shunned, avoided at all cost. When they tasted of the forbidden fruit, they may as well have eaten a deadly poison. When sin comes, death does not follow after a while; it is instantaneous; a spiritual death, separation from the Eternal God. Webster's dictionary says: succumb - to give way to superior force; to yield; to succumb to despair. to yield to disease, wounds, old age, etc; to die. To succumb to a superior force, the Lord God Almighty, is to live. To succumb to the wiles of the Wicked is to die. They did not die at the hand of God. Death was the result of their lust, their sin. The word suicide comes to mind. A fellow may jump off the Empire State Building, convinced that he will land on the pavement below without harm. He is “dead wrong!” To one who dies in his sin, certain judgment follows; it's called the second death. “God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it. . .lest ye die.” said Eve. “Ye shall not surely die.” said Satan, inferring that God was the liar. Adam ate, and he died. His sin was in that he doubted God's testimony; he wrongly perceived that God was not a God of His Word. He ate of the forbidden fruit because of the sin of unbelief! We die in Adam in unbelief; we are called unto Christ that we might live: we must believe! “Abraham believed God and it was counted (accounted, imputed) unto him for righteousness” Romans 4:3, Gal. 3:6, James 2:23.

Adam was at a crossroad. Was he a Believer? or an Unbeliever? The test would reveal it. If he believed God concerning the law of Sin and Death, he would not partake of the forbidden fruit. His faith, his belief would be counted, imputed unto him for righteousness. If he is found to be an Unbeliever it would be evident that he did not trust God to be true to His Word, therefore convincing himself that he need not fear in the partaking of the fruit. The sinner therefore, as a son of Adam, must repent, turn away from his unbelief and of his enmity against God: He must believe the testimony of God with regard to His Son: repentance toward God for his unbelief and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21. The pattern to follow is found in Hebrews 11:13. It is that of faith, seeing, being persuaded of that which is seen by faith, and through faith, embracing, and confessing it.

What of Adam and Eve’s first born, Cain? “Oh Lord God, I brought unto you the works of my hands in disobedience and to your displeasure, and I am about to slay my brother whom I hate - but I acknowledge you as my God and my Lord and I love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind!” Not Really!

In the parable of the lost, or prodigal son, we find upon his homecoming, the elder brother in anger, refusing to come into the feast. ‘He may be your son, but he’s not my brother!’ “And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment. . .” I hate my brother and despise his presence here. . .but you’re my father, and I want you to know that I am committed to obey your every command! He did not realize that the keeping of any commandment, any so-called ‘service‘ must begin with the First, the Great Commandment. The ‘keeping’ of the other commandments while ignoring the First? - impossible! All the works in the world cannot balance the scale when they are void of an abiding love for God.

“And now O Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee?”

“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” Deut. 6:4,5. “And now O Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” Deut. 10:12. “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commands which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in the corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full” Deut. 11:13-15. The love for God and a diligence unto His commands will bring forth a great harvest of fruit from the bounty of heaven and the hand of God! Is the Greatest Commandment to be confined to the Old Testament? The words of Jesus: “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” Mark 12:29,30.

The day of cleansing.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9.

The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 29 and verse 13: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me.” “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” Isa. 6:5. If I am a man of unclean lips, is it not because I am a man with an unclean heart? I am undone; how shall I speak before the presence of the Lord seeing that I am a man of unclean lips? ‘Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” Isa. 6:6,7. The Lord cleansed his lips, as with fire, that he might talk right. Isaiah confessed his sins, his uncleanness: the Lord was faithful and just to forgive him his sins, and to cleanse him from all unrighteousness!

Jesus rose from supper, took a basin of water and a towel and proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet. “Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt never wash my feet.” “Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. . .He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean” John 13:6b,8,10. Jesus thus cleansing that disciple’s feet that he might walk right.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What shall I confess? Well, I would confess. . .but I am ashamed for Him to know. . .! He knows. Have you ever prayed this: Oh, my Father and my Lord! I woefully confess that I do not love you with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, with all my mind! I John 1:9 had not yet been penned but David understood the principles: I have sinned against thee: have mercy, wash me, cleanse me, purge me, create in me a clean heart, restore me, deliver me. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” Psalm 51:17. How shall we expect our Lord to cleanse away that which we refuse to acknowledge? If I confess my sinfulness and my woeful lack of love for Him; if I ‘come clean,’ if I am honest before God, shall He not work a work of grace in my heart as He did with Isaiah and Simon Peter ? Who among us can keep the moral law? “Who is without sin among you?” This piercing question directed unto the Pharisees by our Lord must not be turned aside by any one of us. It is to our peril if we choose to ignore it.

Oh! What Love!

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias. . .Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down” Mark 15:34,36b. “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” Matt. 27:43.

In contrast, the gospels of Luke and John do not mention, “My God. . .why hast thou forsaken me” but “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” and “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” Luke 23:34,46. “My God, my God; [not my Father, my Father,] why hast thou forsaken me? This is he who “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” Phil. 2:7,8. Obedient unto death! How on earth could Jesus be willingly obedient to the God of heaven? Is it not because Jesus fulfilled the Greatest Commandment!?! He loved the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, all his strength, all his mind! There are shadows of Christ and his sufferings to be found in the book of Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” Job 13:15. “God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked. I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark” Job 16:11,12. In Isaiah 53: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. . .It pleased the Lord to bruise him. . .” [Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.] In His darkest hour, Jesus, in our stead would have declared in full assurance, Though He forsake me, even at the darkness of this moment, I do love the Lord my God, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, with all my mind! If this were not true, then Jesus did not fulfill the First, the Greatest commandment, and we are yet, lost in our sins. Some have asked, we know that Jesus did not sin - but could he have. . .? The answer is an emphatic NO! For Jesus to have been capable of sin would infer that he “fell short of the glory of God;” that he mournfully did not really love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, might, strength, and mind. If this were true, we would be of men most miserable, for we would have no Saviour! Christ’s death would have been in vain; we would be eternally LOST!

Falling short

“There is none righteous, no not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. . .there is none that doeth good, no not one. . .For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God:” Rom. 3:10,11,12,23. There are some who would picture a man coming to a crevice, and in an attempt to leap to the other side, would a l m o s t make it but would ‘fall short’ of his goal. No! In light of scripture, the man, in his first step would plunge directly over the side and hit rock bottom! How much righteousness does the natural man have within himself? NONE! He is totally depraved and will in no wise come to God. (Read again Romans 3:10-12,23.) I have come short of the glory of God, being totally depraved. I had no heart at all to love God; rather was at enmity against Him. Did I love God, with all my heart, soul, strength, mind? No, a thousand times, no. But in my stead, the Lord Jesus, loved [loves] God, with all His heart, soul, might, strength, mind! His love for God the Father is imputed to my account. I stand reconciled, justified, not only through our Sovereign’s acceptance of the blood, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for my redemption, but further that His love is accepted in my stead, in my behalf by the eternally holy and just God. What of the Ten Commandments? If one can truly fulfill the Greatest Commandment, then none of the ten should possibly be broken! The scriptures say, Be filled with the Spirit. Shall we not assume that one who is filled with the Spirit will in turn, love the Lord his God with all his heart, his soul, his strength, his mind? Who among us can say, I am filled?

I love this humble confession and lowly prayer of that man of God, C. H. Spurgeon:

“No, Lord, if I am not condemned, it is Your free grace, for I have deserved to be condemned a thousand times since I sat down to write this. When I am on my knees and I am not condemned, I am sure it must be sovereign grace, for even when I am praying, I deserve to be condemned. Even when we are repenting, we are sinning, and adding to our sins while we are repenting of them. Every act we do as the result of the flesh is to sin again, and our best performances are so stained with sin that it is hard to know whether they are good works or bad works. So far as they are our own, they are bad; and so far as they are the works of the Spirit, they are good. But then, the goodness is not ours, it is the Spirit’s, and only the evil remains to us. Ah, then, we cannot boast! Be gone, pride! Be gone!

Charles H. Spurgeon, Faith, Whitaker House, publisher

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear, what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” I John 3:2. Be gone, old flesh! We shall be clothed in glorified bodies like unto our Lord! We shall be like him; made in the likeness of His Righteous; our hearts being as the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant: containing the unbroken law of God! We shall without reservation be able to say, “I love the Lord my God, with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind!” Hallelujah! But with Paul, add “Not I but Christ liveth in me.”

Oh! What Love!

“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying. Yea, I have love thee with an everlasting love: therefore have I drawn thee” Jer. 31:3. The Lord our God is one Lord. We love Him because He first loved us. He drew us while we were yet sinners, vile, depraved sinners, unto Himself. Can you imagine - I, the Lord your God, your Creator, love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my might, all my strength, all my mind.” But it’s not imaginary, is it? Read it, many times over, in the Volume of the Book. But God is a Spirit. How it is He could love us with all of His heart, all of His soul, all of His mind? Who is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father? Is it not the God/Man, our Saviour, our Redeemer, the Lover of our soul? Dare anyone question that He loves us with all of His heart, soul, and mind? If we love the Lord; truly love Him, then we will trust Him. If we love Him and trust Him, we should follow Him in complete submission. To what degree do we trust the Lord? To what extent are we submissive to His leading? It is he who loves the Lord: he will trust Him, he will follow according to the love he has been given of the Father. “Lord Jesus, I do love you! Enlarge my capacity to love you more! Worth repeating: I woefully acknowledge that I do not love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, all my might. I cannot, but I should. I am without excuse. But Jesus fulfilled the law; He loved(s) the Lord God in my stead. And the Father accepts Christ’s love in my stead. Is it not a sweet-smelling savour in His nostrils?

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. . .and hast loved them, as thou hast love me” John 17:21,23b.

The Second Greatest Commandment

Love is the fulfilling of the law

“Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two command-ments hang all the law and the prophets” Matt.22:36-40.

These words are spoken by our Lord, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Therefore, it did not seem fitting to address the One without the Other.

“Jesus said unto him. . .Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” Matt. 22:40. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” presupposes that one is already loving the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind. If the second is “like unto it,” then are we not to love him (our neighbor) “with all our heart, and all our soul, and with all our mind?” You’re thinking, Hey, that’s asking a lot!” Read on, my dear friend.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Just how much did Adam love himself after eating that which was forbidden; hiding himself in fear from the Lord whom he had disobeyed? The scriptures proclaim: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever” Heb.13:8. “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” James 1:17b. Who can say that about himself? How much do you love yourself? It depends on what side of the bed you woke up on; how the day goes; the circumstances, upon what problems and temptations that confront you: a thousand and one other things can alter how much you ‘love yourself’ at any given time - right? If your love for your neighbor be measured out according to this standard, he should beware: he may get punched in the nose!

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” I John 4:20. In the parable of the prodigal son, the angry elder son would not go in unto the feast: “And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment” Luke 15:28,29a. Did he run with his father to meet the younger brother? Did he have compassion? Did he, as the father, fall on his neck and kiss him?

My dear Prodigal, did your Elder Brother not see you afar off? Did He not run to you with the Father? Did He not have compassion, fall on your neck, and kiss you as did His Father? And what of the Spirit? It is He who was sent of the Father to woo you, to open your eyes to the Truth; to bring you Home!

A New Commandment?

Is the Old Testament commandment being replaced? Or is there an addendum being attached to it? “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” John 13:34. Now that’s taking it to Higher Plains!

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept the Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” John 15:9,10,12. Paraphrasing: I have loved you, as the Father has loved me: love one another with this same love. What did our Lord say? Love one another if you so desire or the circumstances are favorable; if you feel like it: it’s your option. No! It’s a command. “Lord, you don’t mean that you’re commanding us to love one another!?!”

The world’s mentality concerning the subject of love: “being infatuated with, to be enchanted by, to be fascinated by, be captivated or enraptured by (Webster).” “Love one another as I have loved you.” Can you imagine Jesus being infatuated with, being enchanted by, being fascinated by, being captivated by - totally depraved sinners, the epitome of unrighteousness, rebellious creatures, being at enmity against a Holy God!?! “Why should He, how could He love me so?” It is “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world. . .Having predestinated us. . . by Christ Jesus to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. . .according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” Eph. 1:4a,59b.11b. He chose to love us; He willed it to be so; He purposed it to be accomplished - “That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ” Eph. 1:12. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love one another if we are so inclined, if circumstances warrant it; occasionally; if there is no dissention or disagree-ment between us; if we feel like it! No! It is a command! “As I have loved you.” Our Lord CHOSE to love us; He WILLED it to be so, He PURPOSED it. In obedience to His command we are to choose, to will, to purpose to love one another, even as He loves us. “I WILL love the Lord! I WILL love my neighbor! The command of God is for us to LOVE RIGHTEOUSLY. Of ourselves, it cannot be done. It must be Christ in us; living in us, living through us, His love manifested unto others. We, in ourselves are unable to fulfill His command. The same Jesus that fulfilled the commandments of the law while He was on earth is able to fulfill it in you. The power to love others is not yours but His! But you KNOW that! Our prayer should be, “Not I, but Christ.’ Lord, love them through me. I am but a weak vessel. It is thy love and not mine. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” Col.1:27.

“But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” I Thes. 4:9. Oh my soul! We are without excuse! It is the Lord! He fulfills the command in you, through you, in your stead. Again, may we say, “Not I, but Christ.”

Let us not be as Jacob, wrestling with the Lord: if we would ‘prevail,’ then let us yield, let us submit unto the hand (and grace) of the Lord. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Remember the grandfather clock: it is the gears and the anchor that are the precision instruments from which the pendulum swings. Quoting from “The Greatest Commandment,” “My dear Pendulum, if Christ is not your head, your Anchor, then you are swinging aimlessly back and forth; your ‘work’ is futile and will accomplish nothing.” The gears and the anchor are not suspended from the pendulum. Why do men persist in feverishly laboring with the pendulum, the ten Commandments? The design of the horse was to pull the cart, not push it! Oh my, what a struggle to attempt to obey the ten commandments apart from obeying the First, the Greatest Commandment: love the Lord your God; and the second, love your neighbor. What of the commandments: Thou shalt not kill. Neither shalt thou commit adultery. Neither shalt thou steal. Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor. . How may the breaking of these be prevented? Not by the struggles of the flesh. Then how? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”. . .Thou shalt “love one another as I have loved you.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. . .” John 3:16. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” I John 3:16. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” I John 4:11. Did you notice the similarity of John 3:16 and I John 3:16?

In conclusion, at least in my poor and finite thinking, the Second Greatest Commandment was not at all a good title for this material! Is this what we suppose: our love for God and our Lord Jesus Christ; but ‘another’ love for the brethren? They are surely not now ( if ever) to be taken as separate, but rather as ONE. How may we reach any other conclusion?

“That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be one in us: . . I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one;. . .thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” John 17:21a,23.

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” I Peter 1:22.