By Their Fruit You Will Know Them.

Onesimus, you’re a coward… you’re also a liar… crazy… moron ……foolish … You can’t even quote the bible properly let alone understand it. That makes you “common”. I’m done with casting pearl before swine. You’re stuck in your own world of hypocrisy. You’re as sounding brass. Loud and noisy and can’t edify anyone with truth. You’re a liar, a fraud and a coward before God and against someone that explained all things…

Just a few of the choice insults and accusations made against me in a single comment posted on YouTube by a man who claims to have been a bible teacher for decades. A cessationist who didn’t like the fact that I didn’t accept to his explanation of scripture in which he claimed to show that only the apostles were given authority to heal, and confirm the gospel they preached with other signs and therefore such things ceased with the last of the apostles.

A few days later another man on the same site also called me a moron as well as, “a little demon” and that I was accursed. I thought my own comment had agreed with what he had previously said, but clearly he didn’t see things that way.

Ironically he signed his abusive diatribe, identifying himself as a “prophet”.

We should make sure we are familiar with what Jesus said, not only to assess where others stand, but to be sure of our own position:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees

Jesus had a strained relationship with the religious leaders and authorities of His time. The following quote shows one of the reasons (see bold type) why He saw it necessary to warn His disciples about them.

… the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him

In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”. (Luke 11-12)

Is His warning equally valid today? If so who do we need to beware of? Who would be the present day Pharisees and Sadducees? What individuals or groups reflect the attitudes and behaviors of those bible-era opponents of Jesus and His gospel? What did the historical Pharisees and Sadducess do in their desire to oppose Jesus?

There is one example in the quote above “seeking to catch Him in something He might say“. They scrutinised everything (not with integrity like the later Bereans, who wanted to find whether Paul’s preaching was valid or not) but with the intention of finding fault with anything Jesus was saying. They just wanted ammunition with which they could accuse and condemn Him. Eventually, when they found none, they chose to take His words out of context and give them unintended meaning.

Another trait was their unwillingness to recognise and accept the miracles that Jesus did. Instead, again, they tried to find fault because Jesus didn’t do things according to their own traditions and teachings. They even attributed His works to the power of Satan. When everything else failed they resorted to outright lies.

Eventually they condemned Him because He told them the truth – truth they refused to accept.

I suggest that any present day equivalent of those religious leaders would demonstrate the same attitudes and same tactics as their historical counterparts and similarly deceive their undiscerningly devoted followers, steering them away from the the opportunity to enter and experience the fullness of the gospel and the ministry life that Jesus came to give those who genuinely follow Him.

“Woe to you … For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” (Luke 11)

Beware of those who deny the power of God and its continuation in the present day.

Beware of those whose major “ministry” is finding fault with what others are saying and doing.

Beware of believing accusations made against others without checking the truthfulness of those accusations.

Beware of those who CLAIM to honour the word of God, and yet see the need to dismiss or reinterpret those parts of it that don’t suit their particular theological agenda and traditions.

Jesus answered [the Sadducees] and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.
(Matt 22)

Beware of that same kind of blindness.

Jesus is Alive! (and answers prayer)

In a phone call with my mum,  I was made aware of an exciting answer to prayer. Neither of my parents are believers. My dad in particular has been stubbornly resistant to being told anything about Jesus, always immediately changing the subject when Jesus is mentioned.

He has had a serious heart condition for many years, and in recent months it has become even worse, with only 20% heart function remaining. Earlier this year he also lost his sight completely, and it seems like he’s started to suffer sporadic dementia. For example, he recently had a stay in hospital and was convinced he had been returned home via helicopter. He now spends most of the day in bed, not knowing whether it is day or night.

Considering the difficulty of sharing the gospel with my dad, as well as how his health has been deteriorating significantly, I’ve been specifically praying that Jesus would visit him in his dreams or in his mind (considering he’s now sightless and is alone with his thoughts for most of the day).

This week he told my mum that a man had appeared “in his head”, who said to him: “people think  I’m dead, but I’m alive”. My mum asked him who the man had been, but my dad didn’t know, so she told him to ask his name if he came back again.

The man returned. My dad asked his name, and he was told “it is Jesus”.

I need to make clear that my dad’s experience and the words said to him are NOT something he was likely to think up for himself to feed his own imagination.

This experience not only offers hope for my dad (depending upon how he responds to this Divine visitation) it has also opened a door to share the gospel with my mum. I immediately let her know that this experience was a clear-cut answer to prayer.

An Exhortation for All Followers of Jesus in Troubled Times

The following is from an Asia Harvest newsletter. A link for the full article is included at the end of the excerpt.

World events are only going to get progressively worse as the world spirals toward anarchy, before the great and glorious return of Jesus. He will come to bring judgment and to clean up the mess we have made: “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).

How can a Christian strengthen their heart and mind to survive the dark times ahead? Our answer is one that you have probably never heard from a Christian organization before: do NOT ‘read’ God’s Word! People read newspapers, novels and webpages, but the Bible instructs us not to merely “read” the Word but to “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

It’s not enough just to have a few favorite Bible verses, or to pick and choose bits of Scripture that make us feel good. To be healthy, a person needs to enjoy the full banquet of God’s Word, and not just grab a few snacks here and there. Throughout the Scriptures, we find the people God used greatly were those who diligently studied His Word, for example: “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

To survive the end times, we must study whole books of the Bible, and invest time each day in getting to know the Lord through His Word and in prayer. It’s time to get serious, or our faith will not survive the storms ahead. God’s Word will give us discernment and wisdom, enabling us to navigate through this life

We not only need wisdom as we live in this world, but we also must discern truth from error in today’s Church. Each day, thousands of pulpits and the airwaves are spewing out a false gospel that has stripped the Christian message of key words like repentance and holiness, and crucial teachings of the Lord Jesus, such as: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)..

https://asiaharvest.org/an-exhortation-for-all-followers-of-jesus-in-troubled-times/

I’d also refer you to my article here: https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/dont-study-the-bible/ which according the title may seem like a contradiction of the above, but just as context is vital in our understanding of scripture, context should be taken into account with this article. Read the whole article and not just the title.

Disappointment Can Be Encouraging

Yesterday Gloria and I went into town for a quick shopping trip.
While there we saw a Christian friend we hadn’t seen for a few years. She and her family attend the local charismatic church who are big devotees of Bill Johnson’s teaching, and many years ago when we attended that church, the pastor and his family took three months leave to attend a leadership training course at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, where the “Toronto blessing” originated. It was soon after their return that Gloria and I left that local church.

Last year, only two or three months before I was diagnosed, the pastor of that local charismatic church died from cancer. Also, during some of my chemotherapy , a member of that church was having treatment as well. He was in a bad way, having to carry oxygen around with him and relying on a walking frame for mobility. According to our friend that man has accepted that it is God’s will that he is dying and doesn’t have long left.

Occasionally those situations, in particular what happened to the pastor, played on my mind. Surely he had trusted the Lord to heal him, and yet he died. Why should I think my situation would be any different?

Talking to that friend yesterday I got my answer. When I told her about the medical diagnosis given to me she cheerily said something about this life being temporary. I countered her seeming acceptance of “my” death sentence with “to live is Christ” – and not surprisingly she replied “to die is gain”.

I then told her I rejected that selfish option (as Paul did after  considering his own choice), and referred her to Deuteronomy 30 where God set before His people the choice between life and death, blessings and curses and commanded “now choose life!”.

What could be clearer about God’s will than God Himself COMMANDING the choice of life?

I gave this post the title “disappointment can be encouraging”, because it’s disappointing to know that Christians have so little knowledge of God and His will for their lives (especially regarding healing and His provision of it), and therefore have a compromised foundation for their faith.

But in this particular case it was encouraging to have something confirmed. That despite being a pastor of a charismatic church, it should not be presumed that he was REALLY, single-mindedly believing God for healing. My assessment from yesterday’s conversation leads me to believe that  unwavering faith wasn’t there.

The conversation also displayed a mindset common among too many Christians. She said she was pleased the Lord had given me a scripture to let me know His will in my situation (the “now choose life” reference from Deuteronomy). But Scripture isn’t a collection of randomly personal promises that God distributes to individuals according to His whim. The choice of blessings and life isn’t sitting there in the Bible waiting for God to make it a “rhema” (or personally “quickened”) word for lucky individuals. The promise is for ALL of His people. It is an expression of His will for everyone – because He desires ALL to be obedient to Him and the blessings and life are the outcome (reward) for obedience .

To Israel that obedience, under the old covenant, was to the Law. But now under the better, new covenant, obedience is expressed through faith in Jesus.

Jesus paid for our healing just as much as He paid for the forgiveness of our sin. If we believe our sins are forgiven, what’s preventing us from accepting ALL the benefits God has provided through the gift of His Son?