WHERE'S THE BEEF!!
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, (1Cor 3:2)
The hamburger we so anxiously sought after consisted of two skimpy buns, dripping with hog fat, between which was hidden a piece of what we supposed was beef, an assumption as yet not fully proven to anyone's satisfaction. The size of the meat patty was that of a wheel of the girl's roller skates, a silver dollar.
One thing could be said about the hamburgers of those bygone days, the after taste of the burger lingered on for many hours. However, speaking strictly for myself, I have yet to develop a hankering for the lasting taste of greased possum.
As with all other things of this world, the fast food industry has changed. The hamburgers we order no longer drips with lard, and they tend to be considerably larger then in times past. Of course the assembly-line delicacy cost a good deal more than it did in the good-old days, and to my greatest chagrin, they are no longer delivered by a luscious girl in a mini skirt, a significant indication as to the downward turn of civilization.
1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1Cor 3:)
Not everyone is able to assimilate strong meat. While I and my sisters, having a full rack of teeth, were able to munch down voraciously on whatever was put before us, my young brother in diapers needed to be fed specially prepared nourishment supplied to him via a nipple.
Babies need milk. They are unable to appreciate or to chew anything stronger than what can be sipped through a straw. This is true of those babes in the Land of the Spirit as well as that of the carnal. And, if you ask anyone in the churches, even those people who can do no more than gurgle and spit up milk residue, they will tell you the same. The problem is, not if the statement is true or not, but what consists of milk, and what makes up that substance between the buns called meat? In Paul's statement above we see that division in the churches is an obvious sign of babyhood. The problem here lies in the fact that all churches, even those calling themselves nondenominational are nothing more than splintered groups. So given this universal failure, what else should we look for that might indicate the need for the fruit of the cow?
10Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:)
Again Paul warns those who are toothless to put in their dentures and start eating the meat of the Word. And again we see that the babes who are content to sit in their high chairs of the assembly are lacking in the knowledge they need to grow in the Spirit. There are two elements Paul adds in this letter to the Hebrews. The first of these important notices is that without meat, the maturity needed to accept and digest meat, a person is unable to discern between good and evil. This does indeed place a person in a hazardous situation. After all, even Adam and Eve knew the difference between good and evil, at least after their first experience trying out their new bridgework they did. And look where their lack of knowledge got them? Besides, if a person is unable to discern between good and evil, doesn't that put them in the very same place as the unbeliever? the unredeemed? Isn't it our assumption that once a person is baptized and converted they automatically receive the Holy Spirit, who's job it is to inform a person of such a difference? If that discernment is missing, isn't that a good indication they are not in possession of the Holy Spirit, therefore unconverted?
The second thing Paul says is that those who are still on the bottle should be in a position to teach rather than be playing with their milk bottle in their crib. The problem is, at least so it seems to me, that those still in their crib are teaching others in their crib. I think Jesus might call this "The newborn leading the newborn," or something of that sort.
1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ....
Did I read this correctly? Did Paul say we should leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ? Doesn't that sound like what Paul and the other Apostles warned us against? Aren't we to avoid teachers who leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ? I wonder what Paul is trying to tell us.
Of course as we read above the doctrine of Christ is milk, and we're to move, not away from the doctrine, but beyond milk to where meat is provided.
Let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit. 4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Heb 6:)
This passage of Scripture is loaded with warnings that I think are being ignored in the churches, but I'll let them pass for this study. Paul here is still talking about meat, and that's what we've come for. Let's take a look at what he is telling us, those of us with teeth:
"Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."
Faith? Resurrection? Judgement? These are what Paul says are "milk?" It seems to me that of the little what I might call meat I hear in any of the services, these would be so meaty as to have gristle in them. What can be more meaty than sermons on faith or of the coming judgement?
"Let us go on unto perfection."
Go into perfection? It seems to me those who are in the churches, those who have been baptized are already made perfect. Isn't that what we're taught? Why, I've seen a call of hands at one church (everyone to stand) who was perfect in their own eyes. I was the only imperfect one in the entire church it seems, because I was the only person left seated. How out of place I felt amongst all those perfect people. I guess the church I attended already read this passage and everyone has reached the point where they can chew gristle and T-bone steak. For me, I have a long way to go before I can handle ground beef.
What does Paul mean by going on to perfection? Let's look a little closer into this matter. I don't want to remain in diapers all my life you know:
3And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. 4This day came ye out in the month Abib. 5And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. 6Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. 7Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters. 8And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. 9And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD'S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. 10Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.(Ex 13:)
Have you ever eaten a hamburger that was layered between two tortillas or two large crackers? I have kinda' but they called it a taco rather than a hamburger.
There is to be no leaven found anywhere in the house or on a person when this feast is celebrated. Leaven of course is representative of sin, meaning, we are to rid ourself of sin altogether before we partake of this celebration. We read of this ceremony being re-instituted in the New Testament in the form of Communion as explained by Paul (1Cor 11:27-34). In the shadow, that is, the ceremony as presented to the Jews, there was no leaven to be had in the house. Today, under the New Covenant, we are the house. We're not only the house where we live, but the house where God dwells, causing just that much more need to obey such a commandment (Heb 3:6; 1Peter 4:17).
The Jews were to examine the house (and themselves) searching for leaven. We are to do the same, to examine ourself closely for any sign of anything that doesn't belong there. When I was in the Army they conducted what was called a "white glove inspection." Each of us GI's had to make a very close examination of every aspect of our personal area, our person, and the barracks in general. If there was a single thing out of place, if those white gloves found a speck of dust behind the wall locker, if our boots had a single grain of sand on the sole of them, we failed the test. This is man's way of inspecting. I wonder if God's inspection and expectations are going to be any less stringent.
6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.....
Jesus turned just a few slices of bread into enough to feed a multitude. So why is He warning His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees? Are the Pharisees trying to do as Jesus did, but to give them bad bread instead of good?
11How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Mat 16:)
Doctrine then can be seen as leaven. Does this mean if we have any false doctrine in our reserve of teachings we are in violation of this commandment? How does our accepted false doctrines effect our partaking of Communion?
I described the thin, greasy buns we were given to conceal the fact that there was so little meat in the hamburgers we were given so long ago. One thing about those puffy sandwiches, even though they were near devoid of meat, they also were very lacking in leaven as the buns were hardly thicker than the patty they concealed. Today I can purchase a hamburger with a bun so full of leaven, so large, that I can hardly get my mouth over it. And anyone who knows me at all can vouch for this to be saying something significant.
In the Spiritual realm it is no different. Again, as a youngster, the sermons were meaty, almost as much so as they were loud and accusing. The sermons were designed to drive a person to their knees, even if they were as pure as milk toast. The alters (which few churches have any more, and I can see why since they would be unused anyway) were always so full after the sermon with tearful souls that we had to kneel at our hard, uncomfortable pews, something that nowadays are also highly padded.
There is a difference between the secular hamburger and the Spiritual sandwich the churches provide today. Whereas that meat between the buns offered in the world are much larger (though composed of heaven knows what), the meat behind the tremendous bun offered by the churches are very close to nil, this fact hidden by the enormous size of the leavened bun and the other goodies offered at every service.
4In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6Your glorying is not good.....
Though having nothing in particular to do with meat, this passage is loaded with leaven. Doesn't it seem strange that Paul would tell a church to turn a Christian, one of their members, over to Satan, the "enemy" of God? How can that possibly save a person's soul?
Another issue presented here is one prevalent in the churches today, and becoming ever more so. There was sin in the camp, being displayed right before the entire church's eyes, and no one said a thing about it. In fact, it appears they were even bragging about the fact ("glorying"). Today there are some very (used to be) staunch adherents to the strict interpretation of the Bible who are now not only moving into the bazaar end of the world, accepting those behind the pulpit who don't belong in church; but they even brag about the fact, and say this is what Jesus wanted, and that their laxity is Godly.
6Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1Cor 3:)
Taking you once again to the days of greasy, thin hamburger buns, the sermons of the day were intended to beat, not only the daylights our of us, but all the old leaven of wickedness as well. It's a strange thing, those hard-hitting sermons that I hated gave me a clean, more mature outlook for the future. They provided me a direction to aim for. I felt miserable for the person I was, but I had some hope of change one day. Today, besides not seeing even a single soul coming forward (except me once, and given 10 seconds by the pastor) I find myself looking at the clock (even though I like the sermons more than any other aspect of the services). It's not that I want so much to go home, but I'm afraid I'll fall asleep while trying to keep my mind active amidst the sugary leaven. I listen for the meat. And I find so little meat in any of the services I wish I was home studying the Bible, or listening to a good sermon on my CD player.
14Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2Tim 2:)
Another passage loaded with subjects to comment on.
There's one thing about denominations (even those denominations that refer to themselves as nondenominational), there's no striving about words. For one thing, everyone is handed a slip of paper when they enter the door, and certainly when they sign on board, telling them what to believe and what to disregard. There's no arguing when everyone is forced to agree.
Workman? Did Paul say workman? That's another common feature amongst most of the churches, work is a dirty word. So how can he be a workman? But if not a workman, shouldn't that mean there's a lot of people feeling shamed? I should think it would, but instead I see a lot of people who are proud that they have no works to demonstrate. I must have gotten off the track somewhere. Surely I can't be right and millions of other people be wrong.
Avoid vain and profane babblings. Vain of course means empty talk, which we're told to avoid elsewhere in the Bible (James 5:12; Mat 12:36-37). Profane means "heathenish, wicked." Our problem is we think all our conversation is right on target. Yet, have you ever noticed how the conversation before and after a service, and often even during the service and Bible study is about anything but God and the Bible? I find this interesting, and symptomatic as well. Am I the only one who feels this way?
Rightly dividing the Word. This is interesting. Have you ever attended a church of any kind that claims to not be rightly dividing the Word? I haven't. Even such organizations as the Jesus Seminar, who work very hard to discount and disqualify Jesus and the Bible claim to be the only ones rightly dividing the Word of truth. When I hear someone say "yes, but we're a Bible-believing church, not like those other guys," I can't help but grin to myself. I learned long ago to not argue with such people, they have their doctrines all lined up in a row, and don't anyone dare shoot at any of them.
1But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. (2Peter 2:)
Did you notice what happens to those who follow the teachers of dimness? You didn't? Read it again and see if you might be fitting this classification unbeknownst. I was one who had an eye on those who called themselves an expert for a long time. Then I found those "experts" were more expert in their own eyes then in reality. It's hard thing to realize that someone has led you astray, especially if that someone is a parent or a trusted teacher.
Notice that Paul says "even to denying the Lord that bought them." It's easy to miss what is said because we misunderstand what else is being told to us. Even means "up to and including, an extreme example" (my paraphrasing). There are many heresies that could be included here, but they just aren't as extreme as the one presented. Yet, as I read this, they all lead to the same consequences despite their seemingly less prominence in position on the doctrinal ladder.
"Truth will be evil spoken of." Consider Martin Luther and other such martyrs. They suffered the consequences of truth being evil spoken of. Jesus said if we proclaim the truth we will be treated as were the prophets, and as was He. Truth is accepted by no one who enjoys what they already hear. But if you speak out against what is accepted, you stand at risk of being persecuted. This is abundantly so in some third world countries even today. One day soon it will be the same in the "highly civilized" countries as it was in Rome and other European countries.
"There will be people rise up from among you." We see this all the time, where someone rises up with some bright idea such as changing the color of the walls or the covers of the song books. This causes division and dissension. Not only do those who are involved become disheartened by the minor disagreement, but those who are not involved become frustrated and go elsewhere. When a church or organization experiences disruption it usually divides, and reforms at a lower level than what it had been This is especially true of this day and age when churches are closing their doors by the thousands, and the rest are competing for the diminishing number of interested church goers. They, the churches, are lowering their standards yearly in order to compete with the world and the devil. A particular tragedy of this experience is how those who grew up in the disciplined churches of old are in favor of the downward trend, it taking pressure off of them personally.
Jesus said there will be tares and wolves in the churches. Wolves we think we can spot, but in fact we have no idea what a wolf looks or acts like in a sheepfold. Tares are weeds, plants that merely take up space, use the nutrients found in a field, and get in the way of harvest. Jesus said He'll deal with the tares in the churches later, to let them grow. A tare looks very much like the rest of the harvest. If we try to remove a tare we might be either removing a quiet but slow growing part of the harvest, or a dormant plant that will one day take root and flourish. This was the case with me, I was nearly 70 before the seed planted in me at the age of twelve began to take root. No one knows they are tares, and that's part of the problem. And because everyone is treated the same in the churches, and there's no meat presented with which to compare what the true part of the harvest should be attaining to, the tares are made to feel at home as they are, and the true plants aren't encouraged to mature into productive plants.
28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:)
Again Paul is warning us about wolves, but these wolves are more noticeable. They like to divide the church openly, stealing sheep from an established flock rather than doing the work of building their own sheepfold.
Pastors are to feed the flock. But what should they feed them? I find that for the most part, as indicated earlier, it's leaven and milk at best that's placed in the feeding troughs. We read earlier that milk, according to Paul, is what we think of as strong meat. I must confess there are some preachers I've heard that offer pablum, requiring a bit of chewing and variety if desired, but can be ingested easily by those without Spiritual teeth.
We are a generation that demands it be entertained and catered to. This is a strange world to me having grown up poor, and for a time on my grandfather's farm. Entertainment was a rarity, and work was an ever-present reality. How pleasant a service seems to those who attend church when their desire to be entertained and their carnal appetites are fed. Because of this desire the churches present lots of leaven, air that fluffs out the package but offers no real substance, in order to appease those carnal appetites.
One preacher I listened to said upon his approach to the podium that he was given many jokes to tell, offered by the other preachers at the convention. He decided not to use any of them because they were no better than the jokes he had dug up himself. Another sermon I heard at the church I attend was that of a visiting pastor. His entire sermon was nothing but quips and bits of humor, centering around one half of one verse. I have seen other of his performances, and noticed this trend toward entertainment, which is why I paid special attention to this one, seeking any form of Scriptural references. Such is not uncommon in the churches, and the reason this particular pastor has been asked to return to speak is because those who are in charge of the entertainment liked his previous "sermons." As for me, I don't need to be entertained, certainly not in church when I'm hungry and in need of meat.
1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2Preach the word; be instant ["Stand, assault, present"] in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (Mat 2:)
When was the last time you heard a rebuke other than to rebuke someone who disagreed with some function of the church or the doctrine of the church? As for itchy ears, when a sermon is presented that offers even milk there are some who are ready to quit the church because it's not offering what they want to hear. One church for instance was giving a very light Christmas presentation where Jesus was mentioned a few times. One woman became upset by this and registered her verbal complaint. I've told of my experience in one of the long-standing Mainline churches I attended that had as a subject for their Bible study class the concept that Jesus and Buddha are one and the same, an increasingly popular view in some circles.
Yes, whatever you want, it's out there in the churches, that is unless you want less bun and more beef.
12Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil 2:)
10The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4:)
What is meat? How can we tell if we're being fed pablum, leaven or meat?
For most of my life I hadn't the slightest idea that there was any more to preaching of the Word than what I had heard, or that I already took for granted. And this when I had almost no knowledge of the Word, and even less interest in the things of the Lord. I believed that I knew all I needed to know, even though I knew nothing at all. This is a common trait of children, but my childhood extended far into my adult years.
I think of leaven as anything that feeds my flesh. If it makes me happy or content, the fleshly, Adamic me, then it is of the carnal and not of the Spirit. If what I hear or read is fundamentally correct, that is, if it is true but doesn't challenge me: if it tells me something about the Bible or God or Jesus, but it doesn't cause me to want more, then it is milk or pablum. I find lots of this pablum, that is accepted by almost everyone to be solid meat of the Word, taught in the churches today. They learn about the history of the Jews or of the Bible. They learn lots of things about the Bible and God, but not what God wants us to learn and to do and to be. The superficial is studied extensively while the substance of the Word is entirely ignored. Righteousness is taught as a sociological and a psychological standard, not as a commandment and a Godly demand.
Meat, I find, is something that when I hear it will not let me go. I have to have more. I can chew on what I've learned for days, even months, and still not get all the nourishment it has to offer. I desire more, and with each hearing new questions, connections and answers are derived. I can listen to a sermon or the Word for months, hearing the very same tapes day and night, and I still don't want to miss a single word, I want more.
I listened to Ruth, Esther and Job 50 times or more and each time it was as if I was hearing them for the first time. I laughed every time Esther pointed at Haman and said "It was that wicked Haman," or when Naomi advised Ruth to lay at the feet of Boaz, and his reaction to finding a woman in his tent laying at his feet.
Meat requires more meat. I can't eat a little meat and be satisfied. In the natural a little meat satisfies my appetite, but in the Spiritual meat causes me to follow Paul on his journey to Paradise. I have been given a tiny glimpse of what Paul saw, and that tidbit was enough to cause me to want to abandon everything and press for the mark of the high calling. And I find that such a glimpse can not be conveyed to those who have not peeked through the keyhole and witnessed the light at the end of the tunnel, the result of the purposes of God for His creation.
In the passage above we see that God has established this world, and us, and the Church for His own pleasure. We are not here for our pleasure as is taught by so many churches. Quite the contrary. God is looking for servants. And from those servants He will choose those who faithfully and sacrificially serve Him to become a part of His inheritance. This truth is revealed to us all through Scripture, and it is no different than what we find in the natural. But those seeking leaven will never see the words because their desire to be appeased blinds them to anything that does not please them. Jesus called the stubborn blind, and He said those who realize they are Spiritually blind can be made to see. But because we think we already have all the answers, we will never be shown the truth of the Gospels.
1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (1Tim 4:)
21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. 28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Rom 1:)
13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Mat 5:)
The Church, that's you and me, are called to be lights unto the world. We're to be the ambassadors of Heaven here on this earth. If our light is hid, the world is in darkness. And once darkness begins, it takes over and tries to extinguish what light remains.
This is the end time. I don't think there are many who will refute this statement. Look around you. It should be obvious that the darkness is overwhelming what little light remains.
We are living amidst Sodom and Gomorrah. But instead of trying to expose the condition of the fallen world, we incorporate the things of the world into our individual lives and into our churches, and we toss our daughters to the sinners in order to appease them. Where the churches used to speak out against the things of the world, and preach warnings against the things of the world, they now use the things of the world in order to attract the world into the churches. Our diet of meat has not only been robbed from us, but the leavened buns of complacency and conformity that now replaces meat has become wormy and stale.
Our conscience has become seared. We no longer recognize the difference between right and wrong. As long as wickedness is not blatantly thrust in our face, is kept outside our doors, we ignore it. The sin of the world is welcomed into every Christian home through the media and other forms of entertainment, but we turn a blind eye to the influence that portrayal of wickedness is causing to ourselves and our children. Jesus warned us against the sins of the mind, that what we see, what we think, what we speak, tells us and the world who we really are at heart.
Church has become a social event where we try to make those who attend feel welcome and comfortable in spite of their devilish nature. The serpent is no longer sneaking up on us as he did Eve, we invite him in to our midst with open arms and offer him a bite of the forbidden fruit.
Is it any wonder God is going to destroy this world as He did Sodom? Yet we fully believe God is going to rescue His wimpy little Church from the wrath He is going to bring on this earth, when it's the Church He sacrificed His all for that is supposed to be preventing the very reason for His wrath that He is angry with. Does this reasoning make sense to you? It doesn't to me. The Church, the lazy, self-absorbed, unfaithful wife, is to be the target of His wrath, just as was the unfaithful wife called Israel.
We need to remove our blinders and see where we have fallen to before the cloud we expect to carry us away falls on us and drowns us in our own complacency.
21And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:)
7And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. (2Cor 1:)
10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Heb 2:)
12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1Peter 4:)
"Peace, peace" is the cry and the direction of the churches and those who attend them. What would happen to those same churches if they were told there is no peace, and that Christians are not promised peace on this earth, but servitude and tribulation? I for one read in the Scriptures that Jesus promised us just what He was given by us, the ungrateful and wicked of the world. If we choose to follow Him, then we will receive what He received, both the good and the bad, and both now and in the future.
If we suffer with Him, then we will be with Him in Eternity. Isn't that what the Bible says? Do we believe the Bible or don't we? Jesus said the road to Heaven is strewn with obstacles and the gate narrow. The road we seek is wide and fun to travel. And this is the road that is offered to us, one that appeals to our carnal nature. Meat, as we are told by Paul is striving for perfection. And perfection is on the other end of the valley of tribulation.
3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:)
This passage above all the others has me concerned. I fear there are far too many people who cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said it takes being born again to see the Kingdom of Heaven. So far I have yet to find a single person who even realizes that there is a Kingdom to be seen. Everyone thinks they already see, when it's apparent they don't.
Nicodemus had just given his (which corresponded with everyone else's in the Sanhedrin) understanding of who Jesus is. He said he knows that Jesus is a teacher from God. That's what he saw in Jesus. But Jesus said that He is Heaven, that when we see Jesus, we not only see the Father, but we see Heaven as well.
(This is a subject that I've covered in other studies, and much too long, and much too meaty for this short study on meat.)
1At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 18:)
5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1Peter 5:)
25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But 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 which are mighty; 28And 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: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (1Cor 1:)
We're taught that to be a Christian makes us special, treated kindly by God, and it takes us out of the battle of life altogether. Jesus tells us just the opposite is true. We have to be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune cast at us from not only the world, but also the church. This example has been given to us all through the Old Testament, and in the New Testament as well. Even Jesus was led into the wilderness to experience testing. Are we better than Jesus that we should think we're above testing?
Why do we suffer tribulation? We read above that it's tribulation that prepares us for service to one another, to God, and for Heaven. When we're converted, whatever that might mean to us, one question is asked of us as a new convert if no other: Do you believe? Do you have faith? Of course we answer to the affirmative even though we haven't the slightest idea as to what that statement means. When we become a Christian, and we affirm our faith in Jesus, that faith is tested (Job 23:10; Psalm 66:10; Jer 20:12; James 1:12). The Hebrews were tested in the wilderness to see if they would live with little and rid themselves of their ego (Ex 20:20; Deut 8:2). If you read the account, you see that Moses was meek above all men (as was Jesus) (Mat 11:29; Num 12:3). But those who he was leading kept challenging him, and they were instantly cut down for their lack of humility.
God brought the Hebrews out of Egyptian bondage. But what we forget is that God sent them into Egyptian bondage (Gen 15:13-15), as He told Abraham He would do. This is our experience as well. God puts us into an Egyptian situation, that situation varying with each individual. Then when we're at the bottom, when we cry out to God, then He brings us up. But He doesn't bring us into the Promised Land, the Land of Milk and Honey, until after He tests us to see if we will live up to our agreement with Him (Eccl 5:4-6). Read the account of the Sower and the Seed and find yourself. What kind of soil did the Seed land on when it was tossed your way?
10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever. (Psalm 111:)
David gives us two keys we need to obtain understanding and wisdom. We're to have a fear of the Lord, and we must obey His commandments. What are two of the concepts taught in the Old Testament that the churches have kicked out the door of the modern churches? Haven't they declared that we're to love the Lord (whatever that might mean to us as an individual) and to not fear Him? And what about the commandments? In spite of the numerous times Jesus said we must keep His commandments, what do we hear from the pulpits? Aren't we informed that Jesus died to do away with all the commandments? Considering this dilemma, is it any wonder the purposes and desires of God are hidden from the eyes of the churches?
6Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:)
1Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. (Isaiah 24:)
13But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isaiah 28:)
13Wherefore 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, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (Isaiah 29:)
Everything we humans do is upside-down from the purposes and intentions of God. What we want, what we expect, is on the polar end of what God has planned for us. Because of our innate ability to assume that we are right and everyone else is wrong, we refuse to look for truth where truth and God's will can be found, but rather we paint a picture of what we consider truth to look like and declare our own concept to be truth.
Once there was a little girl who was drawing a picture in school. The teacher asked the girl what she was drawing. The girl said she was drawing a picture of God. The teacher said to the girl that such a thing is impossible because no one knows what God looks like. The girl replied "they will in a minute when I finish this picture." We laugh at such a childish concept when expressed as humor. But how much more comical should it seem considering that we, as supposedly mature adults, do nothing different than the little girl? We paint pictures of what God is like, and that He wants, and we place a tag on our concept entitled "Articles of Faith" and "Doctrines of the church," and we expect everyone to bow down to our rendering. And if we're not the artist, we unquestioningly bow down to someone else's imagery.
I have a question for you as I close this study: If I was to offer you a challenge, say for instance I would give you ten dollars if you guessed correctly a riddle that only has two possible answers, would you accept the challenge? How about if I said you would have to give me ten dollars if you guessed incorrectly? Now let's up the ante a bit. Let's say I was to present you with the same offer, but the amount offered is a hundred dollars, and the chances of choosing the correct answer is now 10 to 1? Would you be a little more hesitant to accept my challenge?
Ok, let's make the challenge a little more realistic. There are many hundreds, maybe even thousands of concepts as to what the Bible is truly telling us. You have chosen one of those options and you rest everything you own, that you are, and your eternity on your choice. The odds are maybe a thousand to one that you have made the wrong choice. If you would hesitate to accept a challenge with the odds of ten to one where the possible loss or win is only a hundred dollars because you believe such a choice is unreasonable, then what does that say about your beliefs system when you would unblinkingly accept a challenge that could cost you everything when the odds are incalculable?
Meat is for those of full age. How are your teeth?
32But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34Jesus saith unto them, MY MEAT IS TO DO THE WILL OF HIM THAT SENT ME, AND TO FINISH HIS WORK. 35Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. (John 4:)
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Gal 6:)