“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat. All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works; for they say, and don’t do.”
Matthew 23:1-3 (WEB)
There is much contained in the Words of Jesus. His words are full of truth and that truth pierces to the core of a man’s heart. In this discourse, it is striking to note the audience to whom He spoke.
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples”
The word that follows is important to all who call themselves by His Name. His warnings are given to everyone in general “and to His disciples”. It is a word to us, to all generations who desire to walk rightly before Him. There will always be those who ascend to prominent religious positions, speaking good things. Jesus declares what things people should hearken to and DO.
“All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do”
True disciples are to recognize God’s word even if it is spoken by some who may live hypocritically or carelessly. God’s Word is true regardless of its source. The emphasis in this warning from the Lord is found in a very short word… DO. A disciple is one in whom the word of the Lord influences their living. It is not the mental aspect; it is not merely the enlightenment of the mind while leaving one’s conduct unaffected. Doing is the revelation of true discipleship. Many hear, many teach. It is the focus of the Holy Spirit to bring us into the realm of becoming through obedience.
“…but don’t do their works; for they say and don’t do.”
Jesus considered their lack of works as their works. Their works were to talk of the things of the Lord without doing. Their non-doing became their works; much like not deciding inadvertently becomes a decision. True faith is the agency through which the works of God are born. The essential nature of faith is to reveal the Life and the Works of its Author. James declares:
“But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
The subtlety of Pharisee-ism is a fearful and easy thing into which any disciple can fall. We can become comfortable in our beliefs rather than in our relationship with Him. Disciples follow Him. They participate in the doing of His Will on the earth. They are involved in the works of Christ for He is their Head, and they are His hands, feet, and heart in this world. Because they are of His Body, they move with Him.
May we be warned in our own walk. Let us heed the exhortations of Him to flee the Pharisaical ways of speaking without doing, of teaching without being a demonstration in our own lives. The truth of our words is to be evidenced in our homes, in our workplaces, and in our fellowship with those who are His.
“…but don’t do their works; for they say and don’t do”
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance, a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
“So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty”
“Surely in vain, the net is spread in the sight of any bird”
Nothing is hidden from Him – He sees everything. The secret councils of all are open to Him – whether it be the strategies of the enemy, the devious plans of men or treachery between brothers and sisters – God sees all. As pointless as it is to set a trap for a bird in plain sight, so is the folly of all who work unrighteousness.
“…for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him, actions are weighed”
1 Samuel 2:3
From the presumption of Ananias and Sapphira to the scheming of worldly governments, or the dark agendas of wicked principalities and powers, God sees all. Let no action or thought which crosses our minds go unattended, or be allowed to take root, without our consideration of Him who sees all things.
The crafty thoughts of Judas, or the bravado of Peter, unaware of his own human weakness, were all the same to Jesus. He was not carried away with the pomp and praises upon entering Jerusalem for He knew well the hearts of all men. When many were believing in Him after seeing the miracles, Jesus remained unmoved.
“But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because He knew all men”
It is in our heart of hearts that the issues of life are determined. We must know that the hidden intentions and actions which we may hide from others are open and unveiled to Him. Authenticity is the result of those who know this powerful truth and order their steps aright. They are ever “bringing every thought captive”.
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him…”
2 Chronicles 16:9
Those who walk rightly, think rightly, and whose actions are purposed to bless Him, will know of His favor for “thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:4)
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”
Purity of heart is to be free from selfish agendas and hypocrisy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”
“For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad” Mark 4:22
“And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation”
Truth is simply the manifestation of the Life of Christ. His unrelenting quest within each of us is for purity and perfection. He does not spare His Own from His piercing gaze as He searches our hearts with the divine flame of His Love. His Word is living and sharp. Its cutting seeks to free us from that self that cannot and will not submit to God.
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be”
Our hearts are revealed in our openness to receive exhortation. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews pleads with us to “suffer the word of exhortation” to the end we may walk a life that is pleasing to God. Truth must expose within us all that is not of Him. Being the perfect manifestation of all that is true, He has great love and determination to change us from “glory to glory”. While many readily receive His forgiveness, the real test is in our receiving that Living Truth which pierces even to the dividing of our “soul and spirit”.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
Those who bear His Word must know that work within themselves. Only In becoming free from self, with all its devious and corrupting ways, will we be able to communicate to others that same word of exhortation. A word of exhortation can only be received by those who because of their love of truth suffer its liberating ministration of life.
May we all hear the “beseeching” of the Spirit of God to embrace His Word. To love truth is to receive His corrections and the pruning of His two-edged sword.
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights”
“For whom the LORD loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives”
The true in heart desire correction. They know within their own being the necessity to receive His reproofs and exhortations. The passion to become true outweighs the tendency to hide from His probing gaze. Many love the promises of God but few are willing to endure the correction necessary for His promises to come to fulfillment in them.
“If you endure discipline, God bears Himself to you as to sons”
It is in the crucible of correction that the true in heart reveal their sonship and love for their heavenly Father.
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it”
Strong meat belongs to YOU and the way you receive that strong meat is by having your senses exercised to discern between the teachings of men and the teachings of the Spirit. We must walk in the Spirit of truth in order to discern the difference between what men teach and what the Spirit teaches.
Truth is the greatest blessing, but it comes with great accountability. Any truth that is not walked in, any truth that doesn’t exert its power in my heart, I am accountable for that. It’s critical the things we hear, but it is more critical what we DO with what we hear! The more God communicates His truth to you the more He requires you to walk in it.
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”
These are small group bible studies given with the great hope that a new generation will arise with the Fire of God burning within their hearts and that they may shine with the very light and life of Christ Himself.
“The righteous who walks in his integrity — blessed are his children after him!”
Integrity as parents does not mean that everything we do is right; it means that we walk in an authenticity that is communicated to our children. Parenting is a very demanding and often heart-wrenching experience as we discover our own lack of wisdom, our own selfishness, and above all our need to learn from our heavenly Father. Parenthood offers an opportunity to grow and develop in wisdom. The grace of integrity is what communicates our relationship with Christ in a way that is most understood by our children. Despite our mistakes, shortcomings, and our own ignorance, it is most critical to display a walk of integrity. Duplicity, hypocrisy, and deceit are most damaging to our children. The greatest sermon to our children is the one we live. Mistakes and personal faults are inevitable in our dealings within our families and without. It is what we DO with them that determines the blessings we pass on to our children.
“So speak ye and so do”
The above scripture may be the clearest definition of integrity. It is a description of one whose inward life is correlated with the outward one. In our earnest pursuit of an authentic walk, the words of our mouth are validated by the life we live. This lifelong quest is one filled with moments of inconsistencies and failure yet having the integrity to embrace our deficiencies as a means of our growth in God is a vital lesson for our children to see the grace of God still at work in our own lives.
“Train up a child in the way he should go – but be sure you go that way yourself”
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to usin His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Heb 1:1-2)
In times past God spoke through men, but now in these last days, He is speaking by His Son, in and through YOU! The five-fold ministry is to bring YOU into your unique ministry, to develop and add YOUR voice to THE VOICE of many waters that YOU should become HIS VOICE to others.
God has already apportioned to each of us a mighty deposit of His Spirit, but we don’t enter into it by prayer, but by obedience. God has already given you the land, but now says, “My land is not to be talked about, My land is to be walked about!”
Mercy must be coupled with truth to equal righteousness. Truth must be in harmony with mercy to be consistent with the character of God. Mercy tempers self-righteousness and truth delivers us from apathy and carelessness. It is in the blending of these two Divine realities of God that righteousness culminates.
“…keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation”
Moses’ response to such a pure and Holy revelation was this:
“And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped”
Pure worship is the result of seeing God in the wonder of His Glory and Holiness. His Glory is His character; His character is the basis of His Judgment. The deceived corrupt His Likeness by “perverting the grace of our God into moral anarchy and lack of self-restraint”. Others corrupt His truth into a callous caricature of a malicious despot. Truth magnifies mercy and brings the work of Christ into holy living, worthy of His sacrifice. Mercy breaks the proud heart of the natural man. In brokenness, we find obedience unto Him by which we are made free and alive in Him.
“But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple”
There is no contradiction between the Mercy of the Lord and the Fear of the Lord. Only the pure in heart can understand the fusion of these two great and solemn attributes.
A Gospel which declares a mercy void of truth produces apathy, the womb of unholy living and damnable heresies.
“For certain men entered surreptitiously who were of old predicted with reference to this judgment, men destitute of reverential awe towards God, perverting the grace of our God into moral anarchy and lack of self-restraint, and denying the only absolute Master, even our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jude goes on to declare:
“Now I desire to remind you, though you already know this**, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who didn’t believe”
How we need to be reminded of the verity of God. It is to this end we encourage and admonish one another to “live godly in Christ Jesus”. Let the unmerited ministrations of His mercy break our stubborn hearts and bring us into obedience that the world may see the truth of Him in us.
“Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God”
2 Corinthians 7:1
Those who believe in the “promises of God” pursue purity of heart and are ever in the process of seeking holiness in the fear of the Lord.
“The diverse aspects of the divine nature, to separate which is the tendency of the unregenerate mind of man and of all paganism, are united in perfect harmony in the Lord Yahweh… But the perfect revelation of the harmony was reserved for the fulness of time when “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” was made known to us in the flesh as both our Saviour and our Judge”
* Hebrew – To meet together (face to face), to concur, join
** The early Church knew of these powerful truths and the resounding expression of them brought forth a people who were the light of Christ unto the world. Compare the glory of the early church with the ethos of the present.
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman…”
In God’s purposes, “the fulness of the time” happened to be during the tyrannical control of the one-world government of Rome. The Jewish faith had deteriorated into darkness, and the common man had little reason for hope. Just prior to the birth of Jesus, Herod, fearing a “coming Messiah”, decreed that hundreds of babies be murdered. Factious, religious elements were constantly rising to challenge the Roman rule of the time.
The Fulness of Time
God’s measure of time is different than ours. The things men fear, loss of liberty, loss of religious freedom, and oppression by worldly governments, do not hold the same estimation in His eyes. The fulness of time is about the person of Christ, not the common lot of men. He is the Light and Life of another realm. He is the salvation of God for all. He stepped out of eternity into the limitation of time to breathe into all creation the atmosphere and wonder of heaven. The Man of Sorrows has come to instill His Joy and Peace into fallen humanity, even unto those who call upon His Name.
The Fulness of Time
The fulness of time has once again come to mankind. God’s purpose is to bring an end to the sin and corruption of a dying world. We may seek to delay this hour, to cling to a form of government which cannot rectify our condition, to maintain a religious “freedom” that has failed to bring us into the liberty of His Spirit.
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed”
Read about of the judgments of God in times past (which Christ declared would typify His return): the world laid waste in Noah’s Day; the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by the fire and brimstone of God’s indignation. These were precursors to the Day we are in.
The fulness of time has now come upon us. It is not a day for protesting and rebellion, nor is it a day to cower in fear. It is a day to submit our hearts afresh unto Him who rules and reigns over the affairs of men. This day of darkness*, blasphemy and destruction must come for the culmination of this creation must pass away in order that the new may arise. Christ crucified is God’s answer for the human race. Christ crucified is the end of this creation and His resurrection is the beginning of a new creation. It is incumbent upon those who walk in the Spirit of Christ to walk in the light of this truth:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”
2 Peter 3:10-12
The Day of the Lord is the end of a realm, it is the long-anticipated execution of a sentence passed on Calvary. Christ was crucified and that we may be co-crucified with Him, to be prepared for HIS coming.
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world”
The fulness of time is upon us and the revelation of every person’s walk, our works, and the verity of our faith, will be fully revealed and tested by fire “for the Day of the Lord will declare it”.
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the DAY shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward”
1 Corinthians 3:13-14
Peter’s faith was revealed in spite of his loud professions. The fulness of time is upon us and the untested faith of many will be revealed; religious confidence will fail and even the gold will be tested to the very limits of its endurance. It is time to cry unto Him for the substance of faith and purity of heart to face this Day in the strength of Him.
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved”
*“Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light”
Those who know not the manner of His appearing or the true condition of their own hearts speak with the bravado of the foolish. Those with a glimpse of the Day respond with a deep sense of our need to be “hid in Christ”. God is calling out in this hour:
“Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come”
“But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire…”
God is raising up prophetic voices to call His people to repentance; to Spirit-inspired intercessions beyond the casual prayer meetings of the day. His voice is going forth to all who have an ear to hear and a heart that responds to His Call.
“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision**! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision**”
**Hebrew חָרוּץ – From the Ancient Hebrew Root meaning “A sharp cutting instrument…” The transliteration of this verse would read “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of the sharp threshing instrument…” This verse speaks of the Word of the Lord in the Book of Revelation:
“And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: FOR THE TIME IS COME for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe”
Oh, the penetrating questions of Jesus. “Do you believe now?” Our Lord is ever bringing us to the truth. There is something about the heart of man that evades the “present” tense of God; it is far easier to put truth off to a future age or dispensation. There can be a soothing and narcotic effect in occupying ourselves with future concepts and ideas. It is an escape, a diversion from present reality. Jesus is the “I AM” and it is the purpose of truth to make us true in the present. The reality is we only have enough breath for the moment and our present condition is our condition. It is here and now that Jesus brings us to the fundamental truth of our state.
“Do you believe now?”. Do you love Him now, His Body (His people)? Are His purposes your purposes for now? Years ago, I sat with a dying friend who had spoken often of his “destiny”; that one of these days God was going to speak a living word and he would be quickened to step into it. But it never happened. If truth is always kept in the future, we run out of the precious commodity of time.
Past, Future, and Present Truth
Martha and Mary were loved deeply by our Lord. Lazarus was dying and they sent for Jesus in desperation and trust. Upon hearing their urgent request Jesus tarried two more days. He knew all that was transpiring and plainly told the disciples that Lazarus was “now” dead. When Jesus arrived, He was met with the faith of the past.
“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”
A very powerful statement. Jesus in His pre-resurrection state, as a man incarnate, was restricted to the “present truth” of His physical existence. Yet even in this situation, He tarried in the wisdom of God. He is ever-pressing us to “believe now” and to conduct ourselves accordingly.
As the narrative unfolds Jesus meets these statements with the living truth: “Your brother will rise again”. Immediately comes the heartfelt response, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection in the last day”. In this interaction with two souls that Jesus loved greatly, we see that He is pressing them into the “now”, into the situation at hand. He has a deep desire to bring us in all things to the present truth, the reality of the now. May we who have ears to hear recognize the pressing of His Spirit to free us from our past and our unsubstantiated future concepts. It is an intense and difficult thing to allow Him to penetrate our religious notions with the present reality. But it is necessary and vital to bring us to the acknowledgment of our true condition. Those who hold to future things, while denying the present reality of themselves, circumvent the development needed to become all that He has purposed.
Paul declared in Philippians that he had not yet fully apprehended the call of God. He did not rest in some future thing but cried out with great urgency of spirit, “I press toward the mark”. There was no room for concepts and beliefs to deter him from the apprehension of Christ. His life was abandoned to Christ. He did not isolate himself from the ministry of God to the Body of Christ; he did not segregate himself from interaction with others. He was in fact a vessel poured out because of the love of Christ in his heart. It is the synthetic who hide from others, who deceive themselves to be ones set apart (as the Scribes and the Pharisees* of old). His Love propels His Own to identify with the lost, the hurting, and the bound. It is in the touching of others that we discover the truth of ourselves. The truth of our nakedness is revealed in our touching the nakedness of others. It is in our discovery of our needs on their behalf that we find His provision! How good and how right are His ways with us!
Religion as a mere belief relieves people from having to face the current fitness and verity of themselves. The true in heart desire to know and to face the truth of the moment. Multiple times the disciples asked Jesus why their prayers did not meet the situation at hand. Deep within they desired truth, the truth, of their powerlessness. They did not mask their condition with a future hope. Jesus responded to them with the thing they needed to hear: “because of your unbelief”. These moments are necessary for our growth and development in Him. If we brush past these moments, we are none the better and we continue our way without facing the facts. The true in heart receive the truth as it is and the door opens for greater faith, a living faith that releases His wonder in the situation. The discovery of our poverty is the door into His riches!
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
The disciple of Christ must discover in present situations their present condition. Therein lies the challenge and the adventure into the discovery of Him within our own experience. The seeker of truth does not seek to comfort themselves in past or future things for the Christ they pursue IS COME to lead them, and more importantly, bring them to the Truth in all character and wisdom. Jesus in His wisdom presented to Martha and Mary the crowning revelation of the mystery of Himself.
“I AM the resurrection…”
He is not the “I Was” or the “I Will Be”; He is always the I AM.
“And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could not we cast him out?”
A few years ago, in my private time with Him, the words came to me, “To grow in truth one must be true with oneself”. Our journey into truth must begin and remain open to receive its piercings and exposure of our condition.
“Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”
To which the answer of God is:
“He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart”
When the truth is reduced to a confession, its wonder fades, its sword no longer pierces the heart. The result is faith without works, teachings instead of substance, and a limited vision of His power and glory.
“ Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth UNTO unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently”
1 Peter 1:22
The true in heart measure their obedience and walk with God by the fervency of love for His people (not only the ones in their immediate circle). This love reveals itself in deeds produced by a faith made alive through love (Galatians 5:6).
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth”
1 John 3:18
Can we hear Him calling us to the depths of Himself? Can we hear Him drawing us out of the ethereal, the forms of truth, and the comfort of mere confessions, into the vast wonder of His substance? Truth is the womb of repentance. Repentance brings us out of the shadows of obscurity into the penetrating gaze of Him alone before whom we must all give an account. Let not another day pass without a true turning unto Him who can cause us to become true witnesses of His Testimony within!
In the seeing of Him, we are afforded a seeing of ourselves (Isaiah 6:1-5). This great work of His Spirit will unveil all that Grace means. It causes us to glory afresh in His redemption of “our mortal bodies” by that SAME Spirit that raised Christ from the Dead. His resurrection will become more than a scriptural fact; it will be the living truth of Him at work within us. Love can only flourish between those who have seen themselves in the light of Him through the lamp of obedience. It is only through obedience that our “souls are purified UNTO the pure and fervent love of our brothers”. Love is the signature of God in a life. Love is being the face of Jesus to one another, where all our actions are governed by a pure desire to see His people WALK in the present truth of Christ.
“I have no greater joy than this, to hear about my children walking in truth. Beloved, you do a faithful work in whatever you accomplish for those who are brothers and strangers…”
3 John 1:4-5
God is not interested in truth coming from our lips only. The words which proceed from our lips are to be verified by our walk and our deeds.
“So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty”
* Note: Pharisees (Original meaning) “separated ones”; “called out ones”.
“For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.” (Prov 5:3-5)