Beware of Dogs!
“Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, today if ye will hear his voice. Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, they do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest.” – Hebrews 3:7-11 (KJV)
Entering the Rest of God takes more than going to church or being born again. It clarifies what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, that a man, though born again cannot enter into the Kingdom as that is an exclusive reserve for those born of water and the Spirit.
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” – John 3:5-6 (KJV)
In our text, the Apostle Paul sounds a note of warning about how thin a line there is between entering and missing the rest of God. He started by reminding us how God swore (a serious thing when God swears!) that all that came out of Egypt will not enter His rest, save Caleb and Joshua. And this was because “they have not known my ways.” – Hebrews 3:10 (KJV), they hardened their hearts to the ways of God, which Isaiah tells us is higher than the ways of Man. (Isaiah 55)
Paul admonishes, and very strongly too, that we should not be like the wilderness church; that if we hear His voice, we should not harden our hearts. There is a thin line here, and this is because we love God and no one knowingly wants to harden his heart against God! Like Paul who loves to do the will of God according to the inner man, but found himself doing what he did not want to do. (Rom 7), something else other than us is at work to prevent us from entering God’s rest!
This thing may allow us “hear the word” but not the “Voice”, “the letter” and not “the Spirit.” We are not only to hear the word – the letter, but the Voice – the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. In Acts 13:27, the Bible tells how the children of God read the Law, the Scripture every Sabbath day, yet could not hear the “voice” of the prophets, the actual message they passed across!
“For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.” – Acts 13:27 (KJV)
That was exactly what happened to the wilderness church; that made them “err in their hearts” and not know the ways of the Lord. Unfortunately, it is happening to the Church of today!
Why did they miss it? The dogs!
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” – Philippians 3:2-3 (KJV)
… to be continued.
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” – Matthew 18:21-35 (KJV)
Forgiveness knows no limit. It means to have a heart of mercy and compassion; a heart that refrains from inflicting pain on offenders. In the teaching of Jesus in Luke 6:36-38, we see the same principle of “boomerang”, whatever a person gives out comes back to him; “pressed down shaking together and running over.”
Forgiveness is not for God but for us, for our own good. When you forgive, you will be forgiven; if you do not forgive don’t expect forgiveness.
An unforgiving heart is one that exalts situations and circumstances (that brought the offence) above human life. We should be like our Father! Learn to forgive.
One more thing! Forgiveness does not secure freedom from the consequences of our sins!
“For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” – Jeremiah 30:11 (KJV)
God forgives the sin but the consequences are still ours to bear! Every sin committed before accepting Christ is forgiven and the consequence is carried by the crucified Saviour; however, every sin committed after that is also forgiven but the individual bears the consequence!
Forgiving others secures for us the richness of God’s mercy in our everyday dealings with people. This is earned!
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:15 (KJV)
If you do not forgive, you can’t receive forgiveness! The cost of being forgiven is paid when you forgive others. “If you don’t …you will not…”
God’s initial forgiveness is not earned but given, as a result of repentance, confession and forsaken, of that which was done.
Beloved, it is only a dog that goes back to its vomit. Let’s not go back to the life we have left behind; the life of wickedness and unforgivingness. Let us learn to forgive; knowing it is the currency to secure our forgiveness.
Who is a rich man?
“And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:13-21 (KJV)
A man came to Jesus asking Him to intervene in a wealth-sharing dispute between him and his brother who did not want to share their father’s wealth with him. Jesus answered, telling him He wasn’t made a judge over them. His answer has a two-way application. He wasn’t a judge officially over such matters, but indirectly, He told him that the material life was not the reason or purpose of His coming.
This inspired the teaching against covetousness and the parable of the “rich Fool”, a man society called “rich”; Jesus also acknowledged he was rich, and that means he was rich! Yet, heaven called him a fool. Why?
1) He thought the security of life depended on the earthly acquisition: an abundance of wealth, education, connection, location, etc. Sadly, many hold this view today, even in Church, that the more wealth a man has, the more secure he is. This lie looks so golden, whereas it is deception in its highest form, and the creator of the end time god – mammon.
Jesus warned against the deceitfulness of riches and taught that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.
2) He believed the things he got were results of his labour and hard work. Again, this is another sad thing in Christendom. There is a general belief that the harder a person works, the richer he would be. Over the years, the “prosperity message” has hoodwinked many a believer into a frenzy of going to work very early in the morning and coming back late at night “only to eat the bread of sorrow”, forgetting that “the race is not to the swift …”
3) He made plans as though he had power over his life. We often times forget that our lives belong to God and are in His hand, and He can make a demand of the life at any time. Job reminds us that no man has the power to retain the spirit (life) in him. When God calls, we respond. But hear this “rich man” speak as though he had power over tomorrow and can resist the call of God. People think some are being “over righteous” when they add “by the grace of God” to their statement.
4) He built his life on and around things that have no eternal value. Everything changes: nothing in this world is stable or durable. Building one’s hope on a shifting thing is like building without a foundation! How secure are those things after the death of the man? Who will inherit those things?
The frenzy with which man run after these things that the Bible clearly and unequivocally teaches to be “deceitful” is so alarming that it has become a standard of judging who is, and who is not a true believer, forgetting that love of things in the world is enmity with God.
Jesus said anyone who thinks and plans like this way, is regarded by heaven as a fool. (Luke 12:21) Why?
God’s ways differ from ours! The way we see things is not the way heaven see things! (Isaiah 55) What Man calls treasure, heaven calls nonsense! We do not value the things God values!
Solomon realized this and said on his return to God, “all is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). Vanity means the quality of being without value; futile, useless, nonsense! That is where Man’s heart is, and God is clearly disappointed in this.
“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.” – Psalm 4:2 (KJV)
Man’s heart is clogged up with the “weeds” of this world – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. All these dull the heart, choke the word of God and makes one unfruitful in godliness.
What are we expected to do?
This is a heart situation, because where the treasure of a man is there will his heart be also, and since man cannot fix himself, only God, Who can farm or cultivate the heart can. But He will not; until we willingly come to Him.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)
We need to come to Him; to present ourselves to Him to weed off “the cares of this world” from our hearts. For this, He calls us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 (KJV)
“Come”, He says. Many have not “come”, though they have come to church. However, this is not a Church issue! Many are in church but have not “come” to the Lord. Nevertheless, He knows those that are His. Neither is it a ministry issue. It is not what work you do for Him because on that day He will say to some, “depart from me ye that work iniquity, I know you not”. It’s like saying, “I don’t know you, I don’t remember seeing you; you never came to me!”
The proof of your coming to Him is in how much value you place on what He values! Jesus asked Peter in John 21, if he loved Him more than the fish, representing all we wake early to pursue and come in late to acquire.
What does God place value on? His Word!
“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” – Psalm 138:2 (KJV)
How much of His word do we treasure? How have we been handling His word, because this is what shall be used to clean us!
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” – John 15:3 (KJV) Emphasis mine.
It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to live in agreement with the Father, loving what He loves and hating what He hates; and He will not live or dwell in a dirty, polluted heart. Using the instrument of the Word, the disciples were cleaned and made ready to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Without the Word spoken to them, they would not have been able to receive the Holy Spirit!
Again, the Bible repeats it.
“That he might sanctify and cleanse it (the Church) with the washing of water by the word.” – Ephesians 5:26 (KJV) Emphasis mine.
In 2 Kings 5, we see the Syrian captain Naaman, instructed by the prophet Elisha to go dip himself seven times in the Jordan River for him to be clean. The number seven, here, represents the mind of God; completeness, nothing to be added or subtracted. The water represents the Word of God. Like Naaman, we should dip ourselves in it to be made whole and clean.
But again, in the Church of today, how much of the Word do we value?
“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” – John 6:63 (KJV)
Jesus speaking to some of His disciples tells of two kinds of life: the spiritual and the natural.
We often times take being alive for granted. Yes, we have this life and we forget that someday it would leave us no matter how tightly we clutch to it. Many live carelessly and before long this carelessness begins to manifest through ill health.
Another kind of life is available; bigger and better than what is obtainable in the world. It is the real life. It does not come and go neither does it bring health challenges; rather it battles and fixes every natural challenge. However, it does not commit itself easily, and can only be possessed through knowledge; not just any knowledge but a specific kind of knowledge.
Knowledge is only a vehicle in which life travels. Knowledge is not life, but the tube or channel through which life travels. And as said earlier, not all knowledge carries life. We may have scientific knowledge of the workings of the human, but that knowledge does not offer life.
We may have knowledge about the working of the heart, the dynamics of it, yet that does not guarantee life.
We do not apply knowledge to breathe or to keep the organs of the body working. Neither do we exert energy to keep them working and to stay alive.
We live by just believing! Life is a function of faith.
Faith itself is a function of the Word!
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” – Romans 10:17 (KJV)
Life is a precious thing hidden in the Word of God.
“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” – Proverbs 4:20-22 (KJV)
“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” – Proverbs 25:2 (KJV)
Every kind of wealth is hidden, buried in the earth. To get them man digs. Life is available, but only to them, that search it out. Life in the word is to be dug out. If you do not dig or search deep into the Word, you cannot get it.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” – John 5:39 (KJV)
You search or dig through:
(1) Corporate Bible study or fellowship with the brethren.
(2) Private or individual Bible study.
….to be continued.
The child of God, having gone through His fire, becomes a new creature; his attitude and character changes even his thought and manner of speaking reflect Christ. Moses, an orator (Acts7:22) emerging from God’s refinery, became a stammerer. No one will remain the same after passing through the Refiners Fire. It’s in the fire that the heart is circumcised and the person comes out “another man.”
That is why Paul could say “I live, yet not I …”
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20 (KJV)
What I was before, I am not anymore; a change has taken place. I no longer hate, I love. I am not aggressive anymore, I’m gentle. Rather than the proud and haughty person I was, I am “meek and lowly of heart.”
The outer man, the flesh, “dross”, having been peeled off, the inner man, renewed after the spirit, is manifest. Like John the Baptist said, that “he may decrease and He increase.” This is the whole essence of “denying self”, which is indeed a very hard thing to do, but nevertheless a major requirement to having fellowship with God.
Paul was so proud of his new person; the person he had become that he counted his former person as nothing and his previous achievement as “dung”.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” – Philippians 3:7-9 (KJV)
He willingly lost “all things”, not some, but “ALL” things: his family, because of his new faith, disowned him and excluded him from the family wealth; his educational and Pharisaic attainments he also set aside for the excellency of knowing of Christ. His was a radical change.
Some of the things we should discard from ourselves if we are to have fellowship with the Father are in Galatians 5:19-21
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19-21 (KJV)
A careful observation of the above scripture will reveal that these acts originate from the heart!
“And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” – Matthew 15:16-20 (KJV)
Sin and uncleanness go beyond the act. They are products of the heart and start from thoughts and imaginations!
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” – Luke 6:45 (KJV)
The heart of man, being open to two sources of information, should be guarded with all diligence! And yes, we may not completely block out negative thoughts and imaginations, because the heart of man is wicked, yet we owe God the responsibility of pulling down every thought that does not conform to the word of God!
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)
Without the cleansing of the heart, one would not be admitted into the place of fellowship, and consequently cannot have fellowship with God!
….to be continued.