The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Posts Tagged ‘self-defense’

Offering God Service

Posted by israeliteindeed on August 1, 2016

These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. (John 16:1-3)

Jesus foretold a time when unbelieving religious people would persecute Christians, throwing them out of their synagogues and even killing them. The crucifixion of Jesus Himself stands as a stark confirmation of His words.

But it’s interesting that these killings will be done in service to God. Think about that.

Jesus said they do these things because they have not known the Father or Himself. They are trying to serve a God they don’t know, or serving a false god.  Beloved, if you ever hear a voice telling you to kill anyone for God, you can know for sure the voice is not the voice of the Shepherd Jesus. I don’t care how politically correct and widely accepted it might be. I don’t care how many churches condone it (to their eternal shame). I don’t care what the justifications are. If a man knows the Father through Jesus, he will not side with the destroyer against other people.

How many killings today are offered as service to God?

When a Muslim shouts “Allahu Akbar!” while killing, he is plainly saying he is killing for God.

When a “Christian” soldier inscribes Scripture on his machine gun, and agrees to use it on other people, he is saying he is killing for God, or at least with His approval.

How many mothers and fathers in the news have killed their little child, claiming the devil was in him. In their demon-possessed madness, they think they did God service.

New Age religion admits that one day all Bible believers will have to be killed, but they too twist their premeditated murder into a service to God by claiming they are in fact saving the Christians they kill.

Demented abortionists claim that God has given them the calling to kill babies. Link here. (Note: I don’t endorse the catholic theology at that link.)

Over the centuries, nation after nation has claimed that God is on its side, while doing the devil’s works for him. False churches have arisen and proudly harnessed the power of the beast to persecute the righteous. The beast and the false prophet like to work side-by-side. And why not?–The same dragon inspires them both.

There have been comparatively few individuals who loved Jesus and obeyed His commands, laying down their lives for others whatever the cost to themselves. But I praise God–there have always been a few! And their testimonies continue to inspire God’s children today, and to bear fruit that lasts.  Dear Lord Jesus, let me be counted among them.

I hope you will take 5 minutes to watch this re-enactment of a true story. Pray for both the persecuted and the persecutor. How will the persecutor know what true service to God looks like, if we aren’t willing to walk in the steps of Jesus?

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Posted in Christian Life, nationalism, persecution, Suffering | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Freedom, Slavery, and Peace

Posted by israeliteindeed on May 20, 2016

America, Land of the Free

It is well known all over the world that American culture exalts personal freedom. There is value in personal freedom if that freedom is used to do good. We are never to use liberty to indulge the flesh, but rather to serve one another (Gal. 5:13). If we are free in the flesh, our freedom is never to be a cloak for wickedness; we are to be servants of God (I Pet. 2:16). A people ruled by God are expected to use–and not abuse–freedom properly.

Unfortunately in America, “freedom” has indeed become a means to indulge the flesh, and a cloak for wickedness. Certainly I do not indict every person in America, but the nation in general. God causes every individual to reap what he has sown, and God also repays nations according to what they’ve sown collectively–the Old Testament prophets were very clear on this.

Contrary to what many whitewashed history books claim, a trail of wickedness can be followed back to the beginning of this nation.  All is open and naked before the eyes of God, even if patriots wearing rose-colored glasses refuse to see. Rebellion against the king, genocide and oppression of native Americans, and oppression/exploitation of Africans all laid the faulty foundation for a nation which would grow proud of its freedoms and wealth. While the sins of its youth were swept under the proverbial carpet for generations to come, America has never recovered, but has only gotten sicker and sicker as its rotten harvest materialized. Like all other earthly nations–and especially empires, it will be cast down from its lofty position in the delusional notions of man. The works of carnal man are all destined for the fire.

Carnal vs. Spiritual

The Bible teaches us to look beyond the carnal and the natural world, to see the Truth. Its truths, penned by the Holy Spirit of God, cannot be received by carnal man, but only by the spiritual man. It is only the spiritual man who can “judge all things” correctly (I Cor. 2:14-15). God has revealed in Scripture that many of man’s definitions and traditions are not rooted in truth, and this is why we must have our minds renewed (Rom. 12:2), so that we do not judge as the world does. For example, God redefined “family,” teaching that those who do God’s will are His family, not the people biologically related to Jesus (Matt. 12:50). He redefined the word “Jew,” teaching that a person whose heart is circumcised by the Spirit is counted as a Jew (Rom. 2:28-29). And He redefined the traditional perception for “Abraham’s seed,” showing that Jesus and His converted disciples are the true seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16,29).

In the same manner, His definitions for words like “freedom,” “slavery” and “peace” are quite different than the world’s definitions. It is very important that we also define these words Scripturally as we judge the things of this life.

Sin Brings Slavery

Scripture says everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:16). Regardless of what history books and patriotic songs say, and despite our feelings, here is the truth: This nation has become a nation of slaves who desire “freedom” to continue in sin. Even the churches are turning the grace of Jesus Christ into lasciviousness–or a “license to sin.” And so the “free” are enslaved by their sins, but they do not know it. And God has allowed their chosen slavery to bring forth a harvest of misery. Even the rights they once had as citizens are slipping away. They didn’t want a righteous King–Jesus–to rule over them. They wanted no king but Caesar, and God has given them what they desired–tyrannical kings who also reject righteousness for “freedom” to indulge their own lofty desires.

The movement by the “religious right” to “take America back” is blind. What is it people wish to return to? They want less oppression and control over them, less taxes, an easier life–and, generally, freedom to continue living as they please. They want freedom to escape the harvest that’s been sown over decades. There was little uproar while the seeds were being sown–seeds of materialism, hedonism, “free sex,” widespread nudity, baby-murder, etc. But now that the harvest is bringing death and oppression and taxes and laws we don’t agree with, they want change. Unfortunately most don’t seek the change of our hearts to submission to God, but only change in circumstances so that they can continue as before without consequences. Changing leaders and political parties cannot bring about true freedom to a people who’ve been enslaved by their own lust.

The unbelieving Jews of Jesus day were told that God was going to punish their nation because they would not gather to Jesus. Much like America, they loved their rebels (Barabbas) and they plotted to overthrow their oppressors. They played political games and they raised up new Messiahs for the people to believe in (as explained in the works of Josephus). But judgment was not averted by any of these. And our judgment will not be averted either, unless there is wide-scale repentance (which seems unlikely at this time.)

True Freedom

It is true that we are more oppressed here than ever before, and the laws are getting increasingly evil. Justice is being perverted in many ways.  God sees all, and those responsible for furthering wickedness will be judged.

But sinners are slaves, and they must remain slaves until they repent. It is an unalterable truth.

Spiritual truths have a way of showing up in the material world; God has ordained it so. Our sin which brings spiritual death also brings physical death. All creation labors and groans under a kind of slavery with man, waiting for redemption and the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19-22).

This is not a liberty that is bought with violence and treaties and political promises. This is a true liberty that belongs to God’s children by virtue of their adoption in Christ. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:36) “Free indeed” is not freedom as the world defines it. It is true freedom, seen and experienced only by the spiritual man. Are you seeking and preaching this true “freedom,” or the carnal freedom that leaves men dying in their sins? Even if a righteous man was elected in this nation, he could not give freedom to its citizens. Freedom is found in the Son of God.

Renew Your Mind

The following precious verses can get the church on the right track if only she will believe God, rather than believing the lies of the world.

For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. (1 Cor. 7:22)

Did you get that? We are not defined by the world. If we have earthly freedom, we are yet slaves to Christ. If we don’t have earthly freedom, we are still free in Christ. Certainly if earthly freedom is possible, we should use it to benefit the kingdom; but not having earthly freedom is no detriment to the gospel. Therefore it shouldn’t be an object of our devotion. Listen to Paul:

Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim. 2:8-10)

Are we enduring all things for the elect’s sake, knowing the Word of God is not chained? Paul saw with spiritual eyes that earthly freedom was not the issue. Yet I hear Christians today saying our freedom of religion is based on a man-made constitution, and we need to fight for this constitution. No, friends, our freedom to practice our Christianity was given by God’s command, and we are free to practice it until we die. We are to speak the Word of God openly and faithfully. And if we are locked up and denied our “freedom,” we don’t despair in the slightest because God’s Word is not chained. Everywhere it has been sown, a potential harvest can multiply, and all the devils in hell can’t prevail against it, chains or no chains.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)

Many “Christian” Americans are focused on earthly freedom, just like the world. Here is why: Christ is not truly their life. Where our treasure is, there our heart is also. Where is your treasure? Is it above or below?

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matt. 10:28-31)

Americans have an insane fascination with guns and self-defense. I am not against guns; they can be used righteously. However the root of America’s fascination is FEAR and PRIDE–fear of death, and the pride of life. If you watch news headlines, you know that guns are not the security people wish them to be. Many accidental deaths occur, ironically, in families that bought guns to keep them safe. Totalitarian rule will also descend upon this people with the help of guns and other weapons. And there is no out-gunning such a government, as some foolishly think to do. True security is being in the Father’s will, and being ready at all times to pass from this life to the next.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb. 11:13-16)

Are you a stranger and pilgrim on this earth, still seeking a homeland? Or is this wretched, spiritually lost wilderness called America your homeland? God will give you “an opportunity to return” to being tied to this earth (earthly minded and dead) if you want that. But if you desire the better country–the heavenly country–then God won’t be ashamed to be called your God.

Peace

The world loosely defines peace as being not at war, and living in relative ease. America is supposedly a peaceful nation, but the truth is that it’s been at war 222 of the 239 years of its existence. Many don’t realize that, because they’ve never had to dive into a bomb shelter.

America has been chosen by the earthly powers-that-be to take control of other countries for the coming New World Order. Please do not be deceived by the “God has blessed us” rhetoric. Many a rich, wicked man counted himself blessed by God right up until the day God slew him. And every nation taking up arms to fight reassures itself that God is on its side. Why do those who rightly condemn the lies of prosperity preachers refuse to condemn the lies of nations which use the same logic–“See how God has blessed us?” We may feel a sense of security because the bombs are all dropping elsewhere, out of sight and out of mind. But knowing God will punish the wicked, we should know this is a false security and a false peace. The so-called war on terror is actually a war OF terror; we are foolish if we think we are the only nation not inundated by propaganda cleverly designed to deceive us into state-worship.

Look even deeper into life in America, and it is impossible not to see that Americans have no peace. Suicide, drug abuse (legal and illegal), lust for entertainment, phone/television/video game addiction, alcohol abuse, gender confusion, sexual perversion, child murder and molestation, porn-addiction…really, where is the peace? People are driven from one vice to another in their endless quest for the elusive peace that never comes.

Nations are just groups of people. They fight for their peace, but lasting peace never comes, because there is always some new wrong that has to be righted with violence, and the violence begets more violence.

There is only one nation at peace, and that is the Body of Christ–that holy nation abiding in the Prince of Peace. Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus from all nations, to help people transition from their perishing kingdoms to the everlasting kingdom. This is the best way to make peace.

Apostasy in the Church

The Church is supposed to be a light on a hill, but in many cases the light within churches is dark (Matt. 6:23). This apostate church is still defining words by the world’s dictionary, saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. Like Laodicea, she looks at her poor blind self, and declares that she is rich and full of godly insight. She leads other blind men into a ditch. Her pastors are destroyers, working for satan.  They are teaching greed, immorality, and the world’s way of obtaining peace and liberty. They stand the flag beside the pulpit, unwilling to die to the world, and unashamed of their idolatry. They assure others that they can, in fact, serve two masters after all.  They bless and pray for their military members, even as those members disobey the commands of Christ. They regurgitate the tired lie that “these men and women are fighting for our freedom,” and conveniently forget to mention that they are committing suicide in record numbers because they have no peace.

The faithful Church leads people to the peace that only Jesus gives–a peace not at all like the world gives.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Did you notice Jesus paired the absolute certainty of tribulation with the absolute certainty of peace in Him? Are you letting God define your peace, or are you seeking the peace the world gives? There is no peace for the wicked, but there is unlimited peace for the righteous despite their tribulations.

Conclusion

We need our minds renewed by the Word of God, so that we seek after the true freedom and peace that are in Christ, rather than the illusory freedom and peace (slavery) offered by the world. Politicians and party lines cannot not help us.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. (Psa. 118:8)

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. (Psa. 146:3)

In fact, trusting in man is a departure from the Lord (apostasy)! Please note the contrast in these verses:

Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer. 17:5-8)

We are most certainly in “a year of drought” spiritually speaking, yet we need not fear if we are trusting the Lord. He has appointed us to go and bear fruit, and has enabled us to do so under the worst earthly conditions–even loss of material things, imprisonment or threat of death. If we really trust in Him, He will see that we are well-watered and filled with peace, free indeed, and raised up with Christ over the limitations of the flesh.

God bless you!

Note: This post is written to American Christians, because I have a burden for this specific people, but it can be applied in other nations as well.

Posted in "Christian" Zionism, Apostasy, Christian Life, False Teachers, Judgment of God, nationalism, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Would Jesus Help a Muslim?

Posted by israeliteindeed on January 16, 2016

“Why would Jesus help a Muslim?”  This is the question this devoted Muslim asked after Jesus made a point of helping him. This, he says, was not his conversion, but was the start of his “confusion.”  I pray that we too will walk in the heart of Christ toward all people, causing them a holy confusion about what they once confidently believed.

This is one of the most beautiful conversion stories I’ve ever seen. Please take the time to watch both videos below.


Also, please read this encouraging article, which shows how even the evil of ISIS is being used by God for good.   One Christian leader is quoted as saying his organization “can barely keep up with the desire of refugees to learn about Christ and the Bible.” Jesus was telling the Truth when He told his disciples to look on the fields, which were white already to harvest (Jn. 4:35). He also said this–

The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  (Matt. 9:37-38)

Are we trying to learn how to be laborers in His harvest? Or are we seeking to save our own lives in this world?

Posted in "Christian" Zionism, Christian Life, Preach the Gospel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We Are Sheep

Posted by israeliteindeed on January 15, 2016

I’ve noticed that the word “sheep” is being used as a derogatory term today. An alternate term is “sheeple.” It is applied to people who just go along with whatever they’re told without questioning, whether it be in the context of government, religion, the media, etc. While it is true that too many follow others blindly, it is still true that people–ALL people–are sheep. And to be a sheep is not a bad thing in itself. What’s bad is when sheep follow the wrong voice.

Every one is supposed to live in fellowship with the Great Shepherd of the sheep–the living Word of God who created us(Heb. 13:20). The congregation of the Lord was never intended to be like sheep without a shepherd (Num. 27:17). The beauty of a people dwelling in relationship with the Great Shepherd is expressed in the well-known Psalm 23.

Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. (Psa. 100:3)

But man has rebelled–

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:6)

And to make matters worse, those claiming to be shepherds of God’s people are often their very destroyers–

My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; they have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place. (Jer. 50:6).

When men rebel against the Shepherd, they fall prey to lies and liars that destroy them–

For the idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd. (Zech. 10:2)

Notice they are in trouble not because they are sheep, but because there is no true Shepherd with them (due to their rebellion). Because they did not love Truth (Jesus), they are deceived by satan and on their way to condemnation–

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:9-12)

Such people have become sheep following their own ways, which is ultimately satan’s way. They are lost and need to be saved! God has compassion for people in this predicament–

But when He [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (Matt. 9:36)

He will punish those who hurt His sheep, and He will gather them Himself–

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord. (Jer. 23:1-4)

Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.(Eze. 34:10-12)

God has come to us in the Good Shepherd, Jesus–

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (John 10:11-14)

Not only that, but Jesus is also the “door” through which the sheep enter the safety and provision of His sheepfold–

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:7-9)

In order to be gathered to Jesus, the Shepherd, we must acknowledge that we are sheep who need His guidance and protection, as well as His redeeming blood sacrifice to atone for our past rebellion. The only way to be saved is to repent of going your own way and become Jesus’ obedient sheep, with Him until the end–

The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (I Pet. 2:25)

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)

There is no shame in being a sheep! There is only shame in being a lost sheep who refuses to repent and enter the Sheepfold through Jesus. Such a person will continue to stumble about blindly, not knowing where he is going. He will be easy pickings for wolves.

Further, as Christians, our identity in the world is like sheep among wolves–

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matt. 10:16)

For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom. 8:36-37)

Sheep do not have talons, sharp teeth, great strength, or any manner of self-defense. Their only defense is their Shepherd. Jesus acknowledged this, and that He sends us out as sheep among powerful enemies who can kill the body but not the soul (Matt. 10:28-29). He reminds us that even the fragile sparrows are known and loved. Their lives and deaths do not go unnoticed, and we are worth much more than they.  Even if we are killed, we are still more than conquerors.

In Jesus’ kingdom, His servants (sheep) don’t fight, because His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). His kingdom is advanced with the testimony of truth and the gospel, the demonstration of our love for one another and our enemies, and patience under tribulation. The devil’s kingdom is quite different, always advanced with violence, oppression, theft and lies. We are not to fear, even though we are sheep who appear to have no defenses. The Kingdom of God is given to us by the Father, not won by carnal power over others.

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Lk. 12:32)

Ben Franklin said, “If you make yourself sheep, the wolves will eat you.” The statement was seemingly made to justify rebellion when authorities are wrong. Certainly we are to question what we are being taught, seeking out the truth in Scripture, and we are to expose evil. However, I see Christians using this quote to advocate violent self-defense and even rebellion against government over things like taxes and gun laws. If you don’t fight them in the flesh, you deserve to get hurt–so the invalid argument goes.

A careful attention and obedience to Jesus’ teaching will keep us from going down that evil path–the path of the insurrectionist Barabbas, whom many still prefer over Jesus. Many are listening to the “voice of the stranger” (Ben Franklin, for instance) rather than the voice of the Shepherd. This, they hope, will keep them from being devoured as defenseless sheep. They are, in fact, still sheep being led astray by that stranger’s voice. They have left the protection of the Sheepfold and are wandering from mountain to hill with no resting place (Jer. 50:6), stirring up others to join them in their lack of peace.  They speak as the world and the world hears them. (I John 4:5).

Our Shepherd has already overcome this world. The peace He gives is not like the world gives.

It remains even as civilizations are shaken, and authorities oppose each other and establishments crumble.

It is there the day you realize the authorities of earth are working for Lucifer, and the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

It is there in the prison cell, and there when friends and family desert you.

It is there when the money dries up, and the body breaks down, and the dream fades away.

It is there when the world hates you, and the eternal God whispers to you, “I am your exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1).

It is there when your child is slain before you by militants, and there when you feel the cold steel on your neck.

It upholds us for the entire length of the journey, even through the valley of the shadow of death.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow God’s children even on dark days, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Trust in Jesus, friends. We are the sheep of His pasture.

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The Things That Be of Men

Posted by israeliteindeed on September 26, 2013

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

Matt. 16: 21-23

Peter savored the things that be of men, and so became a stumblingblock to the Lord. What things was he savoring? Most likely, Peter just didn’t think Jesus should have to suffer.

Nobody likes to suffer. In America, we have (thus far) suffered so little compared to others. As a people, we have passionately sought prosperity and happiness, and even have preachers who tell us this is God’s highest concern for His people. We know that good people should be rewarded and bad people should be punished; and we desire a peaceful life. We have capitalism to reward hard work, and fine foods to please our flesh, and entertainments in which to “zone out” when our work is done.

I fear for myself, and I fear for my neighbors, swept away as we are by this self-centered mindset. It is very difficult to shake off this way of thinking, and especially for those who do fill their minds and lives with pleasures and entertainments. What will happen if a cross suddenly looms before us–a cruel, bloody cross? Will we say, “This shall not happen to me”? Or will we have the mind of Christ, ready to empty self and drink the bitter cup that brings the greatest good to others?

We cannot savor the things of men, and savor the things of God at the same time. But I think that is what most of American Christendom is attempting to do, including those who consider themselves in the “holiness” camp.

They have every intention of being holy and obeying Jesus, just as long as He doesn’t let them get hurt. Helped along by conservative voices, they have set up all kinds of limitations around His commands, hoping to keep pain and sorrow at bay.

If this is our mindset, what are we really savoring?

Here is the rest of what Jesus taught after Peter wanted to keep Him from suffering:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matt. 16:24-26

Did Jesus say, “Look, Peter. I am the Savior of the world, so of course I have to suffer. But all you need to do is make sure all your followers carry swords and defend yourselves, and build a fortress around your house that no one can penetrate. Then, set up a reliable government and only elect people who will protect your rights. And by the way, I hold you personally responsible for all the ‘good people’ who will get hurt if you don’t defend them by any means available. The quickest way to advance the Kingdom of God is to keep yourselves alive.”

As a matter of fact, after Jesus spoke of His own suffering, He spoke of the likelihood that the disciples would also have to suffer (and they did, all being martyred except John, who was tortured and exiled.) Jesus made it clear that we can only save ONE of two things–our eternal soul, or our life in this world. We must choose. And if we choose wrong, we cannot honestly claim we follow Jesus. Self-denial and a preparedness to live and die exactly as Christ did is a prerequisite for being a Christian. Any other form of Christianity is false.

Seek first what?–the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Not prosperity, not health, not friends, and not personal safety. And how is this Kingdom advanced? Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12:24-25) It is not advanced by the things of men.

And the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17). There is nothing wrong with meat and drink, but meat and drink are the things that be of men, and we are not to seek them. Meat for the belly and the belly for meat, but God will destroy both (I Cor. 6:13). Carnal men are devoted to these things, like Esau giving up tomorrow’s spiritual blessing for today’s bowl of lentils. Spiritual men seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, understanding that their way will be narrow and difficult, for they will repeatedly be called upon to choose between the things of men and the things of God.

Not every Christian will die a martyr, but every Christian will enter the Kingdom of God through some form of tribulation (Acts 14:22). Every moment we practice self-denial, we prepare ourselves to have the mind of Christ when the fire heats up in the furnace of affliction. I am not promoting self-flagellation or sleeping on the floor, and I’m not saying we should want to suffer. I am saying we have to stop thinking like hedonistic, self-centered spoiled children who expect to sail to heaven on a cloud. A person who is not prepared to endure hard things as a good soldier of Jesus Christ is likely to defect to the enemy’s side in the heat of battle.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3)

God desires all men to repent (2 Pet. 3:9). If our lives are hid with Christ in God, we should desire this too, far more than we desire to keep our flesh happy. It will take an act of our will to put His desire before our own. Even Jesus had to say, “Not my will, but Thine” by an act of His will.

When suffering comes, what will keep me in the race until the end? For me, it is knowing that there are better things than having a good temporary life, having lots of food, having a healthy body, being appreciated, having freedom to come and go as I please, or feeling secure. These temporal things are the things of men; like men, they will all vanish away and come to nothing. The “better things” I must savor are pleasing God with obedience to His Word, helping others to find repentance, demonstrating the longsuffering of God with a patient response to injustice, overcoming evil with good, giving the witness I am called upon to give no matter how it is received, and the greatest thing of all–the gift of eternal life.

It is easy to write these things from the comfort of my living room. My belly is full, and there are no discernible threats on my family. But things can change. And I pray that when they do, God’s children will have counted the cost and be ready to trade the theoretical cross for the one that really hurts.

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3:18-20)

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