Receive From Heaven

After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea and there He tarried with them with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim because there was much water there and they came and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.    John 3:22-24.

There comes a point in everyone’s ministry when they must make the right decision and abide under the anointing they received for the work they were chosen to do. Two ministries are in the Judean wilderness, both baptizing. This is an awkward situation but nothing bad has come of it, yet. Ultimately questions will be asked and there will be an accountability required of us.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John and said unto him Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan to whom you bore witness, behold, the same baptizes and all come to him. John answered and said a person can receive only what is given them from heaven.  John 3:25-27.

This discussion raises more questions than answers and demands a serious pause for consideration. John’s ministry is quickly becoming a lesson for future disciples to draw wisdom. Why does John even still have disciples? And he is now addressed as Rabbi? Notice the way they describe the Lord as “he that was with you”. Why did he not become a disciple of Jesus with the revelation he had received concerning Him?

Jesus did not call John to follow Him as he did His first disciples. John was clearly left to his own devices and now his very purpose is coming into question. He gave his own testimony previously that defined his anointing and purpose, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord”. What remained for him to accomplish? The Holy Spirit gives us one of the most important lessons we could ever hope for: “you can only receive what is given you from heaven.” Will this become an issue in our walk with the Lord?

You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice, this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease. John 3-28-30.

We now come to one of the more frequently quoted verses: He must increase but I must decrease. If only that were true, John would have quietly faded into the background. We would say “whatever happened to John the Baptist, he was so prominent at first and then he just seems to disappear from the narrative.”  Oh, that makes sense, once Jesus was baptized he had fulfilled his mission. The only lingering question would be, why did he not follow Jesus? Instead he ceases to be a voice in the wilderness and goes to Jerusalem. Notice the Bible doesn’t say “and the word of the Lord then came again unto John and said, go tell that rascal Herod he can’t have his brother’s wife.”  Maybe he was just bored, but now we find him in prison, his head soon to be placed on a platter.

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him are you He that should come or do we look for another?             Matthew 11:2, 3.

This is astonishing! John was informed of God how to identify the Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descend from heaven in a bodily form and light on Jesus like a dove. He testified, this is the Son of God! And now he asks, “Do we look for another?” He is actually saying, if you are the Messiah, why am I in prison!? Aren’t you supposed to be restoring the kingdom of Israel, aren’t you supposed to restore the throne of David!?

Jesus answered and said unto them Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see.  Mt. 11:4.

Jesus tells John’s followers that the works of Christ speak for themselves. Then he adds another critical word for us to always consider:

And blessed is whosoever that shall not be offended in Me. Matthew 11:6.

This was the Lord’s pointed word to John, are you offended in me? We can never allow our own expectations to distort our understanding of what God has chosen us uniquely to have as a stewardship. John the Baptist teaches us that we can come out from under our anointing, we can walk and speak in the flesh what we believe to be the word of God, even quoting scripture verbatim, and there will be consequences. Condemning Herod was not kingdom business, not the Gospel message that Jesus came for: “to save the world, not condemn”.

Truly I say unto you among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Mt. 11:11.

My beloved brethren, abide in Christ, and remain among the least of these.                    Keep a good head on your shoulders!

 

If You Will Receive

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you will receive, this is Elijah which was to come. He that has ears to hear let him hear. Matthew 11:13-15.

His disciples asked, “Why do the scribes teach that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered, “Elijah truly shall come first and restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has come already and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they desired. Likewise shall the Son of man also suffer of them.” Then the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist. Matthew 17:10-13.

The relationship between John the Baptist and Elijah was a stumbling block for the Jews at the time that Jesus was ministering the gospel. Clearly, they were not one and the same person, as Elijah was taken directly to heaven hundreds of years before Christ. When the authorities in Jerusalem sent emissaries to inquire into the baptism of John, he was asked point blank, “Are you Elijah?” He answered “I am not. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord, as spoken by the prophet Isaiah. (John 1:19-23.) He did not suddenly appear on the scene the way Elijah did in 1 Kings 17, but we are given a narrative of his birth to Elizabeth and Zacharias in Luke chapter one. The Holy Spirit clarifies this by the prophecy given to Zacharias by the angel who announced his coming conception.

And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17.

The angel here references the prophecy of Malachi that Jesus also alludes to in Matthew 17 when he said Elijah truly shall come first and restore all things. Of course, John the Baptist did not restore anything, but simply announced the coming of the Lord, as the prophecy in Isaiah 40 that he refers to when questioned by the religious authorities. So what is the significance of this prophecy in Malachi?

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. Malachi 4:5, 6.

This is obviously a prophecy concerning the second coming and the judgment. The greater stumbling block for the Jew was that the Messiah would come twice, first as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. At the end of the age He will complete all prophecy with the day of God’s wrath. Jesus understood that anyone waiting for Messiah would expect Elijah first, and he was provided in the person of John who came in “the spirit and power of Elijah”. Consider how he works around this issue in Luke chapter four in the synagogue of Nazareth one Sabbath day when He was chosen to read from the prophet Isaiah chapter 61.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are bruised.

To preach the acceptable of year of the Lord. Luke 4:18, 19.

After stopping the reading abruptly, he sits back down and every eye is on Him, wondering why He has stopped. He then declares, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing.” So why suddenly stop reading? Because Isaiah 61:2 continued, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God”. We see the first and second coming mentioned in one verse, and Jesus declaring the fulfillment of only the acceptable year of the Lord.

So why do biblical scholars claim that the ministry of Jesus lasted three years? In John chapter 2 Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover when he drives the vendors from the temple, which is immediately followed by the days of Unleavened Bread. In John chapter 5 He returns to Jerusalem for the next feast, which would have been Firstfruits. In John chapter 7 He is at Jerusalem at the great feast, which is Tabernacles. In accordance with the Law of Moses, all Jewish men were required to appear “before the Lord” for these three feasts.

The next time we find Jesus in Jerusalem, Lazarus has been raised from the dead and all the people are already in the city for the upcoming Passover. He is greeted by the people as a coming king, in spite of the fact that He arrives on a donkey to fulfill the words of the prophet. He never sees the feast of unleavened bread and He keeps the Passover a day early because He knows his arrest and crucifixion are eminent. This completed the acceptable year of the Lord. Do you really think that Jesus came to Jerusalem three times as prescribed by the Law, worked miracles, declared Himself to be the Son of God and provoked the religious authorities by calling them a generation of vipers and then said No? Okay, I’ll try again next year for the less acceptable year of the Lord round two. Once Jesus reached the age of 30, He began His ministry and fulfilled His Father’s Will. When He comes again it will the Day of the Lord.

John the Greater

According to Mark the ministry of John the Baptist is the beginning of the gospel.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets: behold I send my messenger before your face which shall prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying out in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Mark 1:1-3.

When the gospel of John is taken in to consideration, we find that not only does the ministry of John the Baptist initiate the gospel, but becomes a litmus test on the hearts of all who hear his message.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness to testify of the Light that all through him might believe. John 1:6, 7.

Notice it is said of John that he was sent from God. Now compare this to the answer Jesus gave to the question: what must we do to perform the works of God?

Jesus answered and said: this is the work of God that you believe in the one whom He has sent. John 6:29.

The first tendency is to take this statement as a reference to himself. However, the words of all who are sent by God (apostles) become a basis for faith. We will now fully examine this as a truth based on John the Baptist and the things Jesus said about him. Jesus was asked by what authority He acted and who gave him this authority.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, did it come from heaven or of men? And they reasoned among themselves saying; if we say from heaven he will say unto us, why did you not then believe him? But if we say of men, we fear the people for all hold John as a prophet. They answered Jesus, we cannot tell. And He said unto them, neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.   Matthew 21:24-27.

Because the chief priests and elders of the people refused to acknowledge the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus refused to answer their question, even though they had the authority to ask, for He answered to a Higher Authority. He then continued to expose them with this parable.

But what do you think, a man had two sons and he came to the first and said son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered I will not, but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second and said likewise, and he answered I will go sir. But then he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said unto him, the first. Jesus then said, truly I say unto you, the publicans and the harlots are entering the kingdom of God before you. For John came in the way of righteousness and you rejected him, but publicans and harlots believed him. And when you had seen (the works of God done by Jesus), you did not repent and believe. Matthew 21:28-32.

We can see here a fulfillment of the word spoken in John sited above, that all through him might believe. (John 1:7) Now compare this to Jesus speaking of John in a passage found in Luke chapter 7.

For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. But the least in the kingdom of God is greater than him.

And all the people that heard and the publicans justified God being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized of him.  Luke 7:28-30.

 

Verse 30 literally translates frustrated the counsel of God within themselves. This is usually referred to as hardening the heart against the counsel of God. Now we go to John chapter 10 for a testimony by the people who believed.

And many resorted unto Him and said John did no miracles but all things that John spoke of this man were true. And many believed on Him there. John 10:41, 42.

So we see that those who received the baptism of John also remained to hear him preach. Jesus fulfilled the words spoken before by this prophet, which confirmed their faith. Those who rejected the baptism of John knew nothing of the word that he preached concerning the Christ.

And John bore record saying I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not, but He that sent me to baptize with water the same said unto me, upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, the same is He who will baptize with The Holy Ghost. And I saw and testified that this is the Son of God. John 1:32-34.

 

Preaching Blasphemy

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.   Acts 9:20

How much significance should be placed on this point that Paul immediately began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.  First, consider the facts that came out at the trial of Jesus Christ.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.  The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.           John 19:5-7.

At a public trial, the testimony of His accusers was that Jesus must die for claiming to be the Son of God. Now the man who was previously persecuting the church, one of high esteem among the religious leadership, was preaching this very thing! This is an extraordinary turn of events, that the one who was identified and accepted by the original disciples as the “apostle to the gentiles”, would first boldly preach in the synagogues of every place he visited. This is the cornerstone.

For many have come before and after claiming to be a messiah, a fact of which is much attested. For messianic Jews to simply proclaim Yeshua haMashiach in Israel or anywhere in the world in nothing new under the sun.  If you want to stir up the status quo, preach the Son of God. 

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.  Acts 5:34-39.

It is noteworthy that this same Gamaliel was the headmaster of the school of the Pharisees where Saul trained. (Acts 22:3). A man whose name means “my recompenser is God.” And who was the one man that disregarded this advice and set off on a murderous rampage against the church?  Irony!

Before appearing at the judgment seat of Pilate, Jesus was examined by the High Priest, along with the scribes and elders. Many false witnesses came forward to accuse Jesus, but none of the charges held. Then the High Priest played his trump card:

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Matthew 26:63-66.

And so the religious authorities found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death for claiming to be the Son of God. Then Saul, upon his conversion immediately preached this in the synagogues, thereby, bringing the same charge against himself. Then he gave this testimony of himself before his conversion..

Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.   1 Tim 1:13.

This is his conversion, to embrace what was called blasphemy, and reject what was before:

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamalieland taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.  Acts 22:3.

The Lord Jesus Christ expects us to preach His Blasphemy, for this is the most excellent glory that He received:

For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.              2 Peter 1:17.

do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?   John 10:36.

Not Another Gospel!

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:6&8.

Over time many have felt the need to adapt the Gospel to a particular time and place as a strategy for outreach and church growth. Let us be clear as to why the Gospel you preach must be pure and true.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.  John 16:7&8.

An evangelical presentation of the Gospel may prove effective for the “winning of souls”, but will only fail to gather those chosen by the Lord absent the conviction of the Holy Ghost. 

Of sin, because they believe not on me.  John 16:9.

True conviction of sin does not occur by preaching against sin. Someone may feel ashamed if they feel called out for their behavior. They may want to be a better person, spouse, and citizen. There is only one Holy conviction: Jesus Christ, crucified for sin.

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Co 2:2.

Therefore, the first element of the Gospel is WHO Jesus is, not what He has become to the world. He may be our Savior, Redeemer, Lord and King, but first and foremost, He is the only begotten Son of God. This truth is beyond dispute.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16. (most beloved verse, and the highest truth.)

He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18.

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. John 20:31.

The most prevalent adaptation to the Gospel is the “die and go to heaven” message. This evolved out of the myth that “good people” go to heaven when they die. This is easily debunked with the familiar verses from Paul:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23. 

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23.

However, the message of: accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and invite Him into your heart, and if you die tonight you will go straight to heaven, does not appear in the New Testament. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is never presented as a die and go to heaven message, but a live in holiness and righteousness in the sight of God.

Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. Acts 4:2.

The consistent apostolic message and of Jesus Christ himself is that of a coming resurrection of the dead and the righteous judgment of God, to which He is appointed the only Potentate.

Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. 1 Tim 6:15.

Jesus taught that we MUST be born again. The apostle John offers a clear presentation that this is only accomplished by believing in the Son of God.

Gentiles preach confess Jesus as Lord. Messianic Jews preach Yeshua haMashiach.  But Paul preached:

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.                 1 Co 12:3.

Before anyone can truly serve the Lord in obedience to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they must be born of God. This is by faith in the Son.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.               1 John 4:15.

Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?      1 John 5:5.

We are not called to simply believe, but to overcome. To be called AND chosen AND faithful.

He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Revelations 21:7.

…and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. Rev 17:14.

Jesus died to restore us to a right relationship with His Father. He lives forevermore so that we too may live by the faith of the only begotten Son of God.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  Romans 5:10.

Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives 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.

Is the Law Sin?

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  Romans 7:7.

What is the dynamic here, that we know something is wrong and do it anyway?  The answer is direct, but not at all simple.

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. Ro 7:14.

Here is where we must answer a very direct question: are we willing to die to our selves so that the life of Christ can manifest?

A Spirit made Willing

And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willingand they brought the LORD’S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. Exodus 35:21.

The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.  Exodus 35:29.

Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy. 1 Ch 29:9.

When the Holy Ghost fell on the day of Pentecost, a miracle occurred which had happened only briefly in the lives of God’s people in the past. The disciples numbered approximately 120 in the upper room that day. Immediately after they received the gift of the Holy Ghost corporately, there were added about 3,000 souls! Even more impressive than the numbers though, was the immediate change of heart.

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, as every man had need. Acts 2:44,45.

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. Acts 4:32.

So we see the need of God’s Spirit to move for people to have a willing heart; to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, to prepare for Solomon to build a Temple, and for the saints to build a New House for God in the body of Christ.

In these last days, will our hearts be willing when God pours out of His Spirit?

Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. Psalm 110:3.