A QUICK “HEADS-UP”

Dear readers, if you follow me on YouTube, you will notice that my last video message, “Eli Leaders and Their Sons,” had a muffled sound quality. It was because of the position of my mic. Jeff, my dear husband, co-minister, and videographer believed it was best to replace that video with one that has clearer sound, but is from a different mic we use as a backup.

So, it is the same content, just clearer sound! Thanks, dear husband!

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ELI LEADERS AND THEIR SONS

[SW361] 1/12/2019 message notes by 

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2019

“Eli Leaders and Their Sons”

Text: 1Samuel 2, etc.

Eli the priest had the authority to remove his sons, who were priests in Israel, but were sinning greatly against the Lord. But Eli did not remove them from their office as priests. It is the same with Eli leaders and their sons, in today’s church. 

The Lord warns and disciplines those He loves. He warns His church today, so that Eli leaders would repent and do what is right in His eyes. 

Verse 12 —

The LORD called Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli, worthless men (literally, wicked sons of Belial — that is, Satan). Sons of Satan! What? They were priests, the son of Eli, the high priest who was the leader of Israel (see 1Samuel 4:18)!

But Eli’s sons did not know the LORD! “Know” is yada, in the Hebrew, and is used to describe the extreme intimacy of a marriage between a man and a woman. (He calls all believers to know Him intimately.) 

So, Eli’s sons had no holy, intimate relationship with Him. Thus, they did not respect Him, nor love Him, nor obey Him. They were wicked sons of Satan.

Jesus spoke this to the Jewish leaders and priests who rejected Him — 

John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.”

Verses 13-14 —

Because they did not know the Lord, but were sons of Satan, Eli’s sons did not “observe the custom of the priest with the people.” In other words, they did not do as priests were required to do, regarding their interactions with the people, and with the LORD’s holy dwelling place. Eli’s sons dishonored the LORD, because they disobeyed Him in every way.

The Law of Moses required blood as atonement for sin. In some cases, instead of burning the slain animal on the altar, blood would be drawn from it and applied to the altar, but the meat was boiled, and a portion was given to the priest. But instead of waiting to be given a portion of the boiled meat, Eli’s sons ordered the priest’s servant to thrust a fork into the pot and take whatever was on the fork. 

Thus, Eli’s sons rejected the LORD’s way, and made their own rules, out of the greed and “lust for the best” in their hearts. And by their actions, they defamed and profaned (soiled) the reputation of the LORD.

Verses 15-16 —

Also, the Law of Moses required that the fat of an animal be offered to the LORD, burned before Him on the altar. But when men came to offer their sacrifices, Eli’s sons sent the priest’s servant to come and demand raw meat for roasting, including the fat.

If the man who brought his offering said, “They (the priests) must surely burn the fat first, and then you can take what you desire,” the priest’s servant would demand it NOW, and threatened to take it by force. The servant did this at the orders of Eli’s sons.

Therefore, by their actions, Eli’s sons kicked at (trampled down) His sacrifice and His offering for sin. But hear this — their actions were also charged to Eli. Why? Eli ate the roasted meat with the fat, and ate the boiled meat that was wrongly taken, and Eli and his sons ate so much that they made themselves physically fat (see Verse 29). Eli himself became fat on the meat of his sons’ greed, instead of removing his sons from ministry.

Verse 17 —

Thus, the sin of Eli’s sons was very great, in the LORD’s eyes. They despised the offering that was His, thereby dishonoring Him. They soiled His reputation, and did not represent His holiness. They did these things because they did not know the LORD at all and because their hearts were full of greed and lust.

But that was not all they did, to despise and dishonor the LORD!

Verse 22 —

Eli’s sons also had sex with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting (Verse 22), using the women as their prostitutes. In doing so, they followed the customs of the false gods in the nations that surrounded them. Thus, they further defamed and profaned the name of the LORD. 

Eli was very old, and heard of the sins of his sons. He must have heard of their sins for a long time, but it was probably the prostitution of the women serving at the doorway of the tent of meeting that finally drove him to speak with them.

Verses 23-25 —

Eli went to his sons and asked, Why do you do these evil things I have heard about “from all these people”? But Eli did not remove them from their priestly office, though he had the authority to do so. 

Eli said to His sons, No, the report is not good which I hear among the people. But Eli did not remove them from the priestly office, though he had the authority to do so. 

If one man sins against another, I can mediate, Eli told his sons. But if you sin against the LORD, my sons, no one can intercede for you. Yet still, he did not remove them, though he had the authority to do so. And his sons continued to defame and profane the name of the LORD.

Thus, Eli the priest honored his sons above the LORD (see Verse 29). And I submit to you that Eli never would have left them in their priestly offices, if Eli himself intimately knew the LORD.

Eli’s sons would not listen to Eli’s voice. Why? The LORD knew their hardened, greedy, lust-filled hearts. The LORD knew they did not know Him. They never would have done such things if they knew Him. And so, He would put them to death, for they had dishonored Him and brought His holy name into disrepute.

Verses 27-28 —

Then a man of God (a prophet) came to Eli. Through this prophet, the LORD reminded Eli of the tribe of Israel whom He chose for His priestly line — the Levites — going all the way back to Aaron, in the days of Moses. They had the awesome responsibility of making atonement for the sins of the people, via the system of sacrifices on the altar, and of ministering to the LORD Himself.

Verses 29-30 —

Then the LORD said through the prophet, Why do you kick at (trample down) My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling? Eli, why do you honor your sons above Me? You and your sons have made yourselves fat with all the choicest (greatest, best) of every offering of My people!

The LORD had said that Eli’s house and all of the Levitical priesthood would walk before Him forever. But now He declared to Eli, Far be it from Me, that I would despise those who honor me; those who honor Me, I will honor. But far be it from me to honor those who despise me. The LORD will despise them!

Verses 31-33 —

Because Eli honored his sons more than the LORD, the LORD said He would break Eli’s strength (his arm) and the strength (arm) of Eli’s father’s house. All of the offspring of Eli’s house would die in the prime of life — none would live to old age — there would not be an old man in Eli’s house.  

The LORD said to Eli, “And you will see the distress of the LORD’s dwelling (literally, “an enemy in My habitation”). He would see the Philistines enter the tent of meeting and take the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence. I will show you the scripture for that shortly.

Until Eli died, the LORD would not remove Eli’s house (his descendants) from serving at the altar, so that Eli would not grieve. But all of Eli’s house would be removed by Him, dying in the prime of life, after Eli died.

Verse 34 —

The sign of the LORD’s judgment of Eli’s sons would be that Eli would see both of his sons die on the same day. Eli’s sons did not know the LORD, or they never would have done such things. And so, He would put them to death, for they had dishonored Him and brought His holy name into disrepute.

It happened just as the LORD said, through the prophet He sent to Eli —

1Samuel 4:10   So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

And Eli died, when he heard the news of his sons —

1Samuel 4:17 Then the one who brought the news replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken.” 18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged (led) Israel forty years.

Verse 35 —

The LORD vowed that He would raise up a faithful priest who would do according to what is in His heart and His soul. And that faithful priest would have an enduring house, and walk before His anointed always. 

And what faithful priest did the LORD raise up? His Son, Jesus Christ —

Hebrews 3:2 He (Jesus Christ) was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.

Hebrews 3:5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house — whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

Eli Leaders and Their Sons in Today’s Church

I have no administrative power to restrain and remove sinners who are appointed by their leaders (not the Lord) as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in today’s church. Just as with Eli’s sons, these man-appointed ones do not know the Lord at all. I will call such sinning ones, “today’s sons of Eli.” 

Those who have authority over today’s sons of Eli have the power to remove them, but they do not remove them. I will call them, “Eli leaders.”

The Eli leaders know that today’s sons of Eli are sinning, but they do not remove them. Why? The Eli leaders benefit from their sons, because their sons feed them from the proceeds of what they steal from the people.  Eli leaders partake of the money their sons rake in. They become fat on the meat of their sons’ greed.

How do today’s sons of Eli profane the Lord’s reputation? Today’s sons of Eli sin by their lies regarding the gospel. Many are caught stealing from the offering plate, and many are exposed in the media for sexual sin. Thus, they defame the name of the Lord. If they knew Him intimately, they would never do such things!

Even worse, they kick at  (trample down) the sacrifice and offering of the LORD to atone for sin! Who is the Atonement for our sin? Jesus Christ, whom He offered! They trample down His offering of His Son, Jesus Christ. How?

They trample down His sacrifice and offering for sin by preaching a false gospel that does not speak of sin or repentance or the sin nature that is in every man. They preach that the sin nature is with you forever, and that Paul was wrong to write that the sin nature is crucified in believers, when they are filled with His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:24). They preach that you cannot help but sin. Why would they preach otherwise? They themselves sin!

Do you see it? They dishonor and trample on the sin offering of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

But that is not all! They foolishly attempt to make a liar out of Jesus Christ, who said He would free us from slavery to sin (John 8:31-36), by filling us with His Holy Spirit and purifying our hearts (Acts 15:9)! Again, they trample down, dishonor, and profane the name of Jesus Christ! 

The Spirit-inspired writer of Hebrews says —

Hebrews 10:26   For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 

Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

They dishonor God the Father, but please the ears of their hearers. Again, they do such things because they do not know the Father or the Son at all. 

Today’s sons of Eli lust after money, and after sex — not only physical sex, including homosexual sex and pedophilia, but sex with the world. They love the world and the things of the world, instead of loving God. And they spawn followers who do the same.

Today’s sons of Eli preach that if you give to their ministry, God will give you back 100 times more. It is a popular gospel, one that fills the church coffers. And the Eli leaders receive a portion of the money.

So, the Eli Leaders do not remove today’s sons of Eli. They honor their sons above the LORD whom their sons have defamed! Why do Eli leaders not remove their sons? Again, just as with Eli the priest, Eli leaders and today’s sons of Eli have made themselves fat with all the choicest (greatest, best) of every offering of His people! 

Eli leaders and today’s sons of Eli say (and even boast) that they are rich and have become wealthy and are in need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). So, today’s Eli leaders do not remove them. They simply say, “Why do you sin? That is not good. You are giving us a bad reputation.”

Today’s sons of Eli, who do not know the LORD at all, do not listen to such mild rebukes from the Eli leaders. They disregard such rebukes and continue to trample down the name of the LORD — His reputation and His character. Thus. they sin greatly against the LORD. And He will vomit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). 

I cannot intercede with the Lord on behalf of today’s sons of Eli, nor on behalf of the Eli leaders. I can mediate between one man who has sinned against another. But they have sinned against the Lord, not against another man! 

So, Eli leaders have seen and will continue to see Him remove His presence from their churches, because they did not remove today’s sons of Eli.

Already, many churches overseen by Eli leaders and led by today’s sons of Eli have been closed — a judgment from the Lord. The empty church buildings have been overrun by the unholy. God’s places of worship have become bars, restaurants, Masonic Temples, art galleries, and museums. But that is just the beginning of the Lord’s judgment of Eli leaders and today’s sons of Eli! 

The Lord will further judge them. Today’s sons of Eli are already spiritually dead, because they do not know the Lord at all. But the Eli leaders will watch the Lord strike today’s sons of Eli down, even in the prime of their ministry. 

The Lord has and will continue to expose the sin of today’s sons of Eli. And civil authorities, not Eli leaders, are removing and will yet remove today’s sons of Eli from ministry. Today’s sons of Eli are even now and will yet be arrested and jailed because they have broken man’s laws! Again, this is a judgment from the Lord.

The Lord can no longer call the Eli leaders “faithful priests.” They will no longer be honored by Him, but will be despised by Him, for they did not remove today’s sons of Eli. He will break the strength of the line of Eli’s leaders. Far be it from Him to honor today’s sons of Eli, who despise Him or the Eli leaders, who honor their sons above Him! 

Even after young Samuel told Eli what the LORD had told him, and did not leave out a word, Eli did not repent for honoring his sons above the LORD. The LORD spoke this to Eli, through Samuel —

1Samuel 3:12 “In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke (remove) them. 14 “Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

This was Eli’s response, after Samuel told him everything —

1Samuel 3:18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.”

Do you see it? Even after Samuel spoke, there is no evidence that Eli removed his sons from their priestly office!

All of today’s sons of Eli who the Eli leaders have carefully groomed for church leadership will be cut off by the Lord. He will destroy them. 

The descendants of Eli leaders will be spiritually poverty-stricken. Some will see their spiritual poverty, and humble themselves before the Lord, repenting for honoring today’s sons of Eli above the Lord, and begging the Lord for a place in ministry. 

Who will be the Leader in place of the Eli leaders who do not repent for honoring today’s sons of Eli above Him?  The LORD’s appointed Leader, Jesus Christ, will rule. 

And those who know Him intimately, those whose sin nature has been crucified, those who are filled with His Holy Spirit, will serve as His ministers. They will honor Him and His Father. 

I believe that few of today’s sons of Eli will heed this warning, for they do not know the Lord at all. They will scoff at it. 

But it is possible that some of the descendants of the Eli leaders will see the poverty of their hearts, and will humble themselves before the Lord and repent. 

And it is possible that some of the Eli leaders may hear and heed these words. The question is, will they repent and remove today’s sons of Eli, or simply say, “So be it,” as Eli did?

Lord Jesus, this is a word for Your church’s leaders. May they hear and heed and repent. Amen. 

CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

[SW360] 1/5/2019 message notes by 

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2019

“Cleansing the Temple”

Text: John 2:13-17, etc.

Jesus Christ is compassionate toward you. That is why He warns you today that He has found that many churches have made His house a den of robbers. Therefore, He will come and judge them. 

He would rather have the church agree that she is presenting a perverted form of Christianity, and repent. But if she does not repent, He will judge her, and clear away all that she prizes! Zeal for His Father’s house consumes Him!

Verses 13-14 —

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36) came to the temple for the Passover feast that foreshadowed His coming. But what did He find, in the court just outside the temple itself? 

Oxen, sheep and doves, and their excrement. The noisy bellowing of oxen and bleating of sheep. Why were they there? To be sold as sacrificial animals to those who came from afar and therefore, could not bring their own animal for sacrifice. 

But the bellowing, and the bleating, and the excrement were in the temple, in the court located just outside the sanctuary. It was impossible to enter the sanctuary without wading through the animals and those who sold them. The atmosphere was that of an open-air market, not of reverential awe for the place where God’s presence dwells, and for God Himself.

He also found the money changers in the outer court. The job of the money changer was to convert whatever currency you gave him into temple money, for a fee. The money changers shouted to worshipers, attempting to drown each other out and gather the most fees. It was a heated competition driven by greed. 

As if the circus-like atmosphere was not enough to offend God, cheating abounded among the money changers. They rigged their scales in their favor so they could skim a little off the top. So they cheated God’s people. 

Verses 15-17 —

In response, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove out the animals and the cheaters, and overturned all their tables. Their precious coins and rigged scales flew in every direction! Zeal for His Father’s house consumes Him (see John 2:17)!

The priests were in charge of the temple and had approved this circus. Thus, they were responsible for turning God the Father’s house into a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13). 

By their approval, they revealed that they did not respect the holiness of God the Father, and of His dwelling place. The unholy reached the very threshold of His holy temple.

Today’s Church

What does Jesus find, just outside the sanctuaries of today’s church? As He enters, He finds the same kind of noisy commerce as in the court just outside the temple. Coffee, books, and trinkets are sold in the foyers and bookstores of some churches. Others offer free coffee and doughnuts in their foyers. Some churches even have food courts — just like at the shopping malls — with outside vendors like Starbucks and other eateries. You can’t get to the sanctuary without wading through all of it!

Jesus knows that their goal is to make themselves attractive to newcomers. Church leaders urge all of their pastors to make their churches “attractional,” a word invented by church leaders in the 1990s. Invented by men! Jesus finds that they have not given a thought to the model of the church presented in the Book of Acts. 

He finds that today’s churches are ready to serve newcomers in worldly ways, so they will be satisfied, and return, and occupy the pews or chairs. Oh, yes, and by all means, come back, so the church’s coffers are filled. 

So, Jesus finds a different kind of robbery — not cheating with dishonest scales, but robbery of the very worst kind! Today’s churchgoers are served up a perverted experience of Christianity! 

What does Jesus mean? He sees that churchgoers are taught, through the methods used by today’s church, that God is here to serve you! Jesus came to make your life better! Be our guest! Be sure to get your guest bag of goodies before you leave!

Yes, Jesus Christ was the ultimate servant. How did He serve? He died on a cross, taking your sin upon Him, and reconciled you to God. Then He rose, ascended, and sat down at the right hand of His Father, and poured out His Holy Spirit, at Pentecost. The 120 who obeyed by staying and waiting were filled with His Spirit, and spiritually, they died to their sin nature. Have you done that, beloved?  

It is no wonder that the Lord is not sensed in the sanctuaries of today’s churches — He is not there! If He was, no church would have fallen for the “attractional” scheme, and those who tried to sell it to the churches would be on their faces, repenting! 

Jesus Christ finds that today’s church has become a den of robbers. Because the Lord is not there, churchgoers are robbed of His awesome presence, which brings believers to their knees and causes them to cry out in repentance. God only comes near when He hears the sound of repentance!

In today’s church, Jesus Christ finds that churchgoers are immediately conditioned to expect to be served, not to serve the Lord. They are served in the foyer, in every way possible. Now they are primed to be served in the sanctuary!

He finds that once they enter the sanctuary, they are immediately conditioned to expect that it is a place for socializing, until the entertainment is served to them. So, there is much noise, even in the sanctuary itself. The worship leader must call from the platform to quiet the crowd. 

What entertainment does Jesus find in today’s church? Outstanding worship music from musicians with college degrees in worship leading! And because churchgoers are conditioned to shop and to be served, they go to another church if the worship at one church doesn’t please them.

So, Jesus finds that churchgoers are conditioned to believe that church is about being entertained for an hour (no longer!), while they sit in comfortable chairs. 

Even worse, Jesus finds that they are conditioned to hear a short, user-friendly, ear-candy kind of sermon that does not prick their consciences. They are conditioned to expect nothing more. 

Jesus has sent His servants to today’s churches, to call them to repent. But He knew they would be rejected, because they were conditioned to receive false teaching, and they are upset —

Isaiah 30:9  For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen 

to the instruction of the LORD; 10 Who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”; and to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right. Speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions. 11 Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”

Jesus finds that today’s churchgoers are conditioned by the church leaders to expect that God is supposed to do something for them. Everyone else at the church has served them. Now, they are primed to expect God to serve them by giving them what they want. Pastors of many churches will encourage them that Jesus Christ and God the Father are there to serve their worldly lusts and must give them their blessing by making them wealthy and prosperous. 

Jesus finds that they are being cheated, just as surely as the money changers with their rigged, dishonest scales. They are cheated out of experiencing biblical Christianity. What does Jesus mean? They are cheated out of hearing their need to repent for their sin. But it is the sound of true repentance that quickly brings God near! 

Beware and repent! Jesus is preparing that whip of cords! He is preparing to clean house! 

Jesus finds that because today’s churchgoers are not exhorted to repent and be filled with His Holy Spirit — which He commands — they are cheated out of a personal, intimate encounter with Him! He hears our cries, “We want Your presence,” but He knows we really only want His presents.

They are cheated out of having a personal, inward experience of the power and glory of Jesus Christ, because the price of that is repentance and surrender. Few pastors speak of such things, for fear churchgoers will be offended and leave.

Jesus finds that, in today’s church, few are His witnesses here, because the pastors are instructed that they should never tell churchgoers that they need something they don’t have. But they have a great need to obey Jesus Christ’s command to die to their sin nature and to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5)!

But I was chided by my leader in 2011, after I preached a sermon exhorting believers to repent. He said, “We don’t want to make them feel bad about themselves. They have had a hard week, after all.”  I pray for that leader, for he is not filled with the Holy Spirit, or he would never say such a thing! 

Jesus finds that there is great blindness in today’s church. He sees that leaders are blinded by the desire to fill the pews and keep their individual churches and their denominations going.

Jesus sees that today’s believers are like the blind who are being led by their blind teachers. Both will fall into a pit, beloved (Luke 6:39), not just the teachers who lead them astray. Why? Because all believers are responsible to know the truth, whether or not it is being taught at their church. Unless they take the first step toward Him by blowing the dust off their Bibles and sitting at His feet and hearing His words directly from His Word, they will remain blind. 

Jesus sees that churchgoers blindly serve others. What does Jesus mean? They serve in the same way the world serves — clothing people with natural clothing, feeding them with natural food and giving them natural drink. They do not see that any benevolent organization does such things. They do not see that they are to clothe others with Jesus Christ, and feed them His Word, and give them His living water. 

He fully understands that they have not received His living water into themselves because they do not know the One who offers it —

John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

John 4:14 . . . but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jesus Christ finds that in today’s church, no one is exhorted to serve the Lord by falling down and worshiping Him. 

They are not exhorted to serve the Lord by offering themselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing, though that is their true spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). 

They are not exhorted to serve the Lord by sitting at His feet, listening to His words.Yet that is the one thing that He requires from all believers. 

Again, the attendees of most of today’s churches do not sense the presence of the Lord in the sanctuary, because His presence is not there! Why would He come amongst the man-made church? It stinks in His nostrils!

Jesus Christ finds that today’s church is like the church at Laodicea. She thinks she is rich and has become wealthy, and is in need of nothing (Revelation 3:14 and forward). 

But Jesus Christ warns the church at Laodicea and today’s church that in His eyes, she is wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. He will vomit her out of His mouth, unless she repents. (See Revelation 3:16-17.)

Yet, in His mercy, He calls out to anyone who might hear His voice over the cacophony of the circus church. What does He call out?  

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

Beloved, do you see that He does not call to the church, but to individual believers? He is outside the building, and has no intention of coming into the man-made church of today.

But a day will come when He brings a whip of cords into its foyers and even its sanctuaries, to clear it of all the man-made stuff that keeps God at a distance. He will come to judge it, and many who have made the church a me-centered blessing club will be scattered to the four winds, because of His grief and anger!

But today, He calls to “anyone” who hears His voice and opens up to Him. He will come into such ones. He will come into those who repent and turn back to Him!

What will He do when He comes into you, O believer? He will cleanse the temple of your body, driving away all that is unholy in you, and making your body His dwelling place! 

Then, He says He will sup with you and you with Him. He will fill you with His Holy Spirit, and you will know Him in a holy, intimate way.

He says, I will crucify the sin nature in you (Galatians 5:24), the nature that goes after the things that today’s church offers. And when you die to your sin nature, I will live in you (Galatians 2:20) and give you My divine nature (2Peter 1:4). 

Then, you will be My witnesses here, walking as I walked and being as I am in the world! Then you will have a front-row seat to watch Me work in and through you! 

That is biblical Christianity.

Zeal for His house consumes me, just as it did Jesus Christ when He saw that His Father’s house had been made a den of robbers. I burn just as He burned then and burns now, for much of His church is not even a shadow of the church in the Book of Acts. She has become something entirely foreign to Him!

Why does the Lord call to “anyone” in today’s church, but not to the whole church? All that is in most churches is man-made and man-centered, driven by the sin nature all of us are born with. That is what is “in us.”

The Lord does not entrust Himself to such ones, for He knows all men, and He needs no one to testify concerning man, for He Himself knows what is in man (John 2:24-25). Therefore, He does not entrust Himself to the church. He knows what is in her.

His message to today’s church leaders is this — I am grieved and angered by your man-made methods which rob My sheep of the truth. Unless you repent, I will come in and judge you, and leave you empty.

Amen, Lord. Let it be so.

FALLOW GROUND

[SW359] 12/29/2018 message notes by 

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2018

“Fallow Ground”

Text: Jeremiah 4:3-4, Mark 4:13-20, etc.

Break up your fallow ground! If the Lord says it, then you must have a great need to do it! He has great compassion and love for you who believe in Him but rebel against Him. So, He does not turn away from you and “write you off,” but warns you from heaven.

His words are given in order wake you (Revelation 3:2). There is nothing in your heart that He does not see, for nothing is hidden from the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). 

I cannot express the depths of my gratitude that He looked upon me, woke me up, and showed me what He saw in my heart! Had I not agreed with Him about what was in my heart, and had I not repented, I would not be here today. I would have died long ago from the complications of progressive MS. Even worse, I would never have known Him!

The Current State of Your Heart

Verse 3 —

For thus says the LORD to His people, “Break up your fallow ground!” Break it — that is, make a fresh, new furrow where the ground has never been plowed before. Do not sow among thorns, which grow in soil that was previously plowed but is now abandoned. The seeds you sow will be choked out by the thorns.

Breaking new ground is not easy, because soil that has never been plowed is rocky, and has to be cleared of rocks and other debris. Then, according to the method used in Jeremiah’s day, it is sown with seed, and the seed is plowed into the soil.

What is the seed that must be sown by you, into new ground? The Word of God!

Why can’t it be sown by those teaching you? Because false teachers speak from many pulpits!

Now I will speak to you, beloved. Before His Word can be scattered in your heart, you must to agree with Him that your heart’s current condition is that of a field of thorn. It was previously plowed, but now is abandoned and overgrown.

You have physically heard His Word, but it did not bear fruit, because the soil of your heart is choked with thorns —

Mark 4:18 “And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

“Do not sow among thorns!” The worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things! Do you chase after success and riches, and demand them from the Lord?

There are many who masquerade as angels of light who will encourage you to chase after such things! And your selfish heart will love it!

What is in your heart, beloved? Are there thorns that choke out the Word of God? What causes the thorns? You are worshiping the god of self.

You must agree with Him that your heart must be made entirely new. Break it up! Prepare the way, beloved, and He will give you a new heart that is prepared to receive His Word! Hallelujah!

Verse 4 —

To ensure that you understand the condition of your heart, the LORD uses another metaphor. Circumcise yourself to the LORD, and remove the foreskin of your heart. There is a thick layer of fat, a thick callous, over your heart, so it does not respond to the words of the LORD. That was my heart’s condition for 42 years!

The LORD of hosts, God the Son, says through Zechariah that you yourself made your heart hard, like flint, just as I hardened my own heart —

Zechariah 7:12 “They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. 13 “And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,” says the LORD of hosts . . .”

Many sinning believers look around and see the ruin in their lives, and ask the Lord, “Why aren’t You blessing me? I know what I will do — I will go and find another who will help me get my blessing!” That is what Jerusalem and all of Judah did as they chased after false gods seeking their blessing!Beloved, the root of worship of false gods is the god of self —

Jeremiah 4:18  “Your ways and your deeds have brought these things to you. 

This is your evil. How bitter! How it has touched your heart!”

“Why aren’t You blessing me?” Those were the words of God’s people in Jeremiah’s day.Those are the words of believers who seek the Lord’s hand but not His heart, whose god is self. Those believers will seek someone who will tell them what they want to hear.

But I will tell you what the Lord has shown me, beloved, for I love you with His love! Therefore, I will not leave out a word, for out of His great compassion for you, He warns you!

The Cure For Your Heart

What is the cure for your heart? Look to the book of Jeremiah, and many other places in God’s Word. The first step toward the cure is to repent!

Jeremiah 3:13 ‘Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God and have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree (worship of idols), and you have not obeyed My voice,’ declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 3:25 “Let us lie down in our shame, and let our humiliation cover us; for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day. And we have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”

Jeremiah 4:1 “If you will return, O Israel,” declares the LORD, “Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, 

and will not waver, 2  and you will swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness; then the nations will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory.”

If you return to the Lord, He will show you that you need a new heart. And when you agree, He will give it to you! Then you will be His witness, even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)! Thus, He will be glorified, through you. 

Therefore, do not despise His words! He gives this word today so you may be healed of your sin, and filled with His Holy Spirit!

If you will receive His Word today, the Lord will use it to clear out the rocks and hard soil in your heart. He will make the soil of your heart good (beautiful!), prepared for Him to apply the cure —

Mark 4:20 “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good (beautiful) soil; and they hear the word and accept it (delight in it) and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

He clears the rocks and hard soil in your heart by His Word, and then gives you a new heart that is beautiful, beloved! The Lord says —

Ezekiel 36:26-27 . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

It is the promise of the Father! He will fill you with His Holy Spirit at your own personal Pentecost, and you will bear the fruit of His Spirit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold — 

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

You will love Him with His divine love, and you will gladly and constantly obey Him! Then you will be His witness here, just as He commands —

Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Not many days from now! When your heart’s soil is ready, He will apply the cure for your heart’s condition!

Lord, may believers hear and heed, for You will surely respond, and that right quick (soon)! Amen.

2Corinthians 13 — To a Church in Crisis, With Love

Text: 2Corinthians 13

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I speak to you from 2Corinthians 13 today. We want you to join us in being the Amen to God’s promises of reconciliation, of salvation, and of the infilling of the Holy Spirit! Yes! Truth! He has done it in me! You will say the same thing, when you are filled!

Out of God’s love, Paul has strongly exhorted the believers at Corinth through all of 1Corinthians and all of 2Corinthians, as well as through the painful visit and severe letter that happened between them. And out of that same love, I have strongly exhorted today’s church. 

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “Test Yourselves to See if You Are In the Faith.” O Corinthians, O believer today, hold yourselves up to the standard Paul and I have set forth! We say what we say so that you will not fail the test!

I have been teaching three particular truths that entire denominations deny because it would require them to abandon some of their basic tenets (beliefs) regarding salvation —

— The first such tenet is “Once saved, always saved.” If that was proven throughout all of the Word, I would agree. But it is not, and the passages that are used to “prove” this tenet are misinterpreted. 

We must look at the whole of God’s Word, not simply choosing the passages that will support our beliefs. That was the error Calvin committed, and he was the founder of a whole belief system adopted by the Baptists. He formed a belief system, and then looked for scriptures to prove it. But we must look at scripture, and form our beliefs from the Word, not vice versa!

— The second such tenet is, “Mankind cannot overcome sin.” We must not take scripture out of context to try to “prove” that there is no freedom from sin for believers. Jesus promised that He would set believers free from slavery to sin (John 8:31-36), and Paul speaks of dying to sin and freedom from sin six times in Romans 6 (6:2, 6, 7, 11, 18, and 22). 

Beloved, the first part of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that you are saved and reconciled to God. The second part of that gospel — the part you may not have heard before — is that when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, your sin nature is crucified and you are set free from slavery to sin. You cannot overcome sin in your own power, but God will do it in you, and He commands you to ask Him to do it, just as He commands all believers!

— The third such tenet is, “Everyone receives all of the Holy Spirit when they first believe” (or when they are baptized in water). But Jesus Christ commands all believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, after they are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God (Luke 11:13, Acts 1:4-5). 

A portion of the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples when the risen Christ breathed on them and they were saved (John 20:22). But Christ had not yet been glorified, so the Holy Spirit had not yet been given so as to fill them (John 7:39). The apostles and the rest of the 120 still had to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). They still had to wait for the promise of the Father (again, Acts 1:4-5). And the Father fulfilled His promise, in their own personal Pentecost (see Acts 2). 

As Paul and I have noted, there were then, and are today, many false teachers who flatter and mislead.There were then, and are today, many infants in Christ. That is a deadly combination — false teachers, and infants in Christ who are not filled with the Spirit and are thereby easily led down the path to perishing (Matthew 7:13).

These three tenets form the very foundations of many denominations. But these tenets block believers from knowing the truth that will set them free!

Beloved, I will speak the truth as the Word of God reveals it to me, and as the Holy Spirit teaches me. I stand before Christ. So, I will teach and preach accordingly. I will also use reason (looking at the whole of the Word of God), and I will also use my own personal experience with the Lord. 

Like Paul, I love you with the very love of God which has filled my heart. As much as the Holy Spirit shows me, I will teach and preach as accurately as I possibly can, the Lord being my Help.

That said, let us now look at 2Corinthians 13!

Verse 1 — 

Paul says, This is the third time I am coming to you. He repeats what he said in 2Corinthians 12:14, for emphasis, Three visits, and a painful letter — it is evidence that the flock in Corinth is surely in danger!

And just as Jesus Christ said in Matthew 18:16, and just as Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 17:6, every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. His third visit will be his third witness against those in the church at Corinth who rebel against the words the Lord gives him to speak.

Verses 2-3 —

Paul is presently absent. He has previously said and again says, For those who have sinned in the past (and not repented, per 2Corinthians 12:21) and to all the rest, if I come again (and he is coming for a third visit), I will not spare (treat leniently)! 

He gives advance warning to those who continue to rebel, AND to all the rest who have questioned his apostleship. Why will he not spare?

He loves them with God’s love! The Lord does not desire any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). Many of the believers at Corinth have not repented, and they doubt that Christ is in Paul. 

He tells them, You are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. His words, “Mighty in you,” are another statement of irony, for the believers at Corinth have not yet been filled with the Spirit, so they are still infants, and the Lord is not yet mighty in them. 

If Christ truly was mighty in the believers at Corinth, if they were truly filled, they never would doubt that Christ speaks through Paul. If Christ was mighty in them, they would not need continual exhortation and discipline. If Christ was mighty in them, they would not still exhibit the fruit of the flesh. Such ones will not inherit the kingdom of God, beloved (see Galatians 5:19-21)!

But the Lord is mighty toward them, sending Paul and the rest to them, again and again. They are compelled to go to Corinth, by the divine love of God in their hearts. 

Verse 4 —

As I have said before, Christ was crucified (seen by the Jewish leaders as “weakness”). But He rose, and lives by (because of) the resurrection power of God! So, the power of God is seen, through His resurrection.

Paul continues, For we (Paul and the rest) also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him by the power of God, which is directed toward you, O believers at Corinth, for your benefit. 

As I spoke last week, when Paul asked the Lord to crucify his sin nature and fill him with the Holy Spirit, Paul died, and now Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20). His act of “weakness” resulted in life in and by and with Jesus Christ, here and now, because He is filled with His Spirit. And when his body falls away, He will live with Christ always (2Corinthians 5:8)!

The believers at Corinth have not yet asked the Lord to crucify their sin nature (Galatians 5:24). Therefore, they have not died to sin, so the power of God is not seen in them. But they believe they are already filled (1Corinthians 4:8), though they do not bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)! 

Verses 5-6 —

Paul directly challenges the doubters among the believers at Corinth, for they have  asked for proof that Paul is in Christ. He says, Seek proof that you are in Christ, that you are in the faith! Prove yourselves, he says! 

Or do you not recognize (fully know) that Jesus Christ is in you? He asks them to examine whether or not there is proof within themselves that Christ is in them. Some commentators see this as a rhetorical question by Paul, and they say, “Of course Christ is in them.” Again, the tenets of their faith prevent them from seeing.

Paul is referring to the infilling of the Spirit, when he asks them, “Is Christ in you?” The answer is clear, from their behavior. The proof of their lack is evident. Many are not filled with the Spirit. It is the same today!

Beloved, if there is no proof within themselves, then they fail the test. Literally, they are reprobates (unapproved, worthless, rejected, cast away), just as with those who bear no fruit in John 15:6! 

They are in danger of losing their salvation! Think of this — the Enemy is dangling before you the carrot of flattering words from false teachers, so you lean forward to take a bite, stumble (sin), and fall! That is the present spiritual condition of many of the believers at Corinth, beloved, and many believers today! 

And now Paul sarcastically adds, But I trust you will realize (come to fully know) that we ourselves do not fail the test. The proof is in Timothy and Paul and the rest, because Christ is in them, large and in charge! They have proven themselves to be true apostles (2Corinthians 12:12)!

Verses 7-8 —

Paul and Timothy earnestly and fervently pray to God that the believers at Corinth do no wrong — literally, the phrase “no wrong” means that absolutely none of them do any evil whatsoever.

He earnestly and fervently prays to God that the believers in Corinth will approve them. He prays that they fully come to know that Timothy, Paul and the rest are not reprobates. Paul prays they will receive him as he truly is, rather than as he is seen by many of the believers at Corinth, and by the false teachers there!

Paul and the rest can do nothing against the truth, in contrast with the false teachers in Corinth who lie. The power Paul has been given from the Lord cannot be used that way! It is impossible for him to teach lies, for the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) lives in him fully, and the Holy Spirit teaches him all of God’s truth (John 16:13).

It is the same for Jeff and me, and for all who are filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not lie. The divine nature of God has filled us, and He is Truth!

Verse 9 —

Paul and the rest rejoice in their “weakness,” that the believers at Corinth charge them with. Oh, but the Corinthians see themselves as strong! Paul’s sarcastic statement in this verse is an echo of his sarcasm in this passage — 

1Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.

How it grieves me, and Paul, and all who know the truth! Even after 1Corinthians, and the painful visit, and the severe letter, nothing has changed at Corinth. The believers are unmoved. They refuse to believe the words of Paul and the rest who have been sent to them. It is true of those in today’s church — even among entire denominations!

So, what does Paul pray? That they be made complete — perfect! Literally, he prays “for the perfection of them.” He prays for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so their sin nature dies and they become partakers of God’s divine nature, so their hearts are purified, so they are no longer led astray by false teaching, so they are set free from their slavery to the sin nature, so they receive power to be Christ’s witnesses —

1John 2:5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

1John 4:17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

Paul prays this for the believers at Corinth! I pray this for today’s church, because I love you with God’s divine love!

Verse 10 —

Paul writes these things to the believers at Corinth before he arrives. Why? So that when he arrives, he will not need to use severity (literally, cutting, sharpness), in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave him for building up and not for tearing down. But the false teachers are guilty of tearing the Corinthians down. 

Paul has Christ’s authority, in order to build up believers so they attain the measure (full measure) of the stature of the fullness of Christ (the fullness of the Holy Spirit) —

Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Verse 11-14 —

Now Paul issues commands to the believers at Corinth, even in his blessing of them, that they would 

— Rejoice (with joy unspeakable and full of glory when they are filled with the Spirit)

— Be made complete (perfect, filled with the Spirit)

— Be comforted (called near) by being filled with the Comforter, the Holy Spirit

— Be like-minded, unified in their hearts by the infilling of the Holy Spirit, who will give them the mind of Christ (1Corinthians 2:16)

— Live in peace, not natural peace but God’s divine peace, and they will when they are filled with Spirit and His fruit

Then the God of love and peace will be with them. Their hearts will be filled with His divine love, even to overflowing (Romans 5:5). They will be filled with His divine peace. And He will be with (in) them, accompanying them, no longer needing to send Paul and the rest to correct them!

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says this, “If you seek perfection, then the God of love and peace will be with you.” Again, He will be in you, for He is the One who perfects you by filling you with His Holy Spirit!

— Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you, O believers at Corinth, who are called to be saints (1Corinthians 1:2). The grace of Christ — again, the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life via the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the crucifixion of the sin nature — banishes selfishness, jealousy, anger, quarreling and factions. But these attributes are still on display in the believers at Corinth, so though they are called to be saints, they are not yet saints.

Now, three final commands that are also a benediction —

— The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (His divine influence in your heart, and its reflection in your life)

— And the love of God (His divine love)

— And the fellowship (intimate communion) of the Holy Spirit

— Be “with” you.

“With” you? That is how my NAS Bible interprets the Greek word meta, but meta also means in, amid. In the context of 2Corinthians, in or amid is a better interpretation. Paul means, “May He fill you! May He be inside of you!”

In the original Greek, the fourteenth verse ends with “Amen,” which means “so be it, truth, let it be so.” Paul has given a benediction, but he is also petitioning the Lord to make it so.

I pray the same for all believers, everywhere! Amen, Lord! When they see the poverty of their hearts and cry out to You, Lord Jesus, fill them with Your Spirit, so they become the “Amen” to all Your promises, for the glory of God (2Corinthians 1:20)! Make it so, I pray!

WHY HE CAME

[SW358] 12/22/2018 message notes by 

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2018

“Why He Came”

Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:8

I asked the Lord, “Why do I need to teach this?” He said, “It is because many who go to church do not know why I came.”

Why would those who go to church not know why Jesus Christ came? I will leave that for the end of this message, per the orders of the Lord.

If you see the real reason for His coming, you will reverently bow down, just as I do each time I read this passage, and you will greatly exalt and praise God the Father and Jesus Christ! The real reason will propel you to your knees, to beg Him to purify your heart so you no longer sin against Him, beloved!

Isaiah 52

Verse 13 —

Behold, My servant will prosper (succeed), He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted! The Father’s Servant, Jesus Christ, will be greatly exalted here and now, by all who see and all who respond, all who understand and are saved and reconciled, all who become filled with His Spirit and His light! 

And in the end,  every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11) — even the rebellious who refused to bow down to Him in this life and who will then be judged — and His Father will be glorified by it.

Verse 14 —

Many were astonished (appalled) at Jesus. As He hung on a cross, His appearance was marred (disfigured) more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men. 

His beard was pulled out (Isaiah 50:6), His bones were exposed (Psalm 22:7).  

He was stricken by the Jewish leaders who interrogated Him, and then ruthlessly beaten by the Roman soldiers. 

Then the Romans scourged Him with their whips, which had sharp objects at the end of the whipcords, so that when the whips were pulled back for another strike, they tore away His skin entirely. Thus, His body was skinned, and nearly unrecognizable as human.

Before He was even on the cross, He lost most of the blood in His body. Thus He will sprinkle many nations, not just the Jews. What will He sprinkle them with? His blood, which He shed for you and me. He is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice.

The severity of His punishment matched the extremity of our need for a Savior and Reconciler. Do you see it?

Kings from the nations (non-Jews) will shut their mouths on account of Him. They will no longer boast. Why? What they had not been told, they will now see, and what they had not heard, they will now understand. What will they now hear and understand? That God is greater than them, and so great and full of mercy that He would offer His Son on a cross, for them. Their eyes will see the King who He has chosen to be over them (Psalm 2:6). Who will tell them? Those who have believed into Him and have been equipped to both speak and live the gospel.

Isaiah 53

Verse 1 —

But who has believed our message — that is, the message of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, through Isaiah? Who will see His arm, His power? The one who believes and then seeks to know Him intimately.

What is this power? Resurrection power, first from being dead in your sins, and then His resurrection power in you! Oh, believer, may you know (experience personally) the power of His resurrection. I pray for you just as Paul prayed that for the church at Ephesus, beloved 

Ephesians 1:19 (that you will know) what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places . . . 

O Believer, His resurrection power, in you! I pray that you would personally experience that power!

Verse 2 —

Jesus Christ grew up before His Father like a tender shoot, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin, Mary. He was like a root in parched ground, miraculously springing up through the hardened soil. He brought His living water to Israel’s spiritually parched ground!

Jesus’ appearance was not stately or majestic. He did not fit the profile. The Messiah the Jews anticipated was supposed to be a king, arrayed in glorious robes. 

He was supposed to ride into Jerusalem on a white horse, a powerful warrior king leading a vast army that would defeat the Romans and set Israel free from the heavy hand of Roman slavery. But He came to free them from slavery to sin!

So, few looked upon Jesus with awe. Instead, they scorned Him, even before He hung on a cross. Few saw Him as beautiful or precious. He was not attractive, so they did not esteem Him. Instead of riding in on a white horse, He came humbly, riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). And He offended His people by commanding them to repent for their sins.

Verse 3 —

Therefore, many Jews despised (scorned) Him. Even His disciples forsook Him. He knew from before time began that they would leave Him, but He knew His Father would be with Him (John 16:32). 

He was a man of sorrows (pains) and acquainted with grief (disease, sickness). It was not that He bore these things personally, when He walked the earth. He was not sick or in pain, nor was He possessed by demons.

But He was surrounded by His own people who were like sheep without a shepherd, who were oppressed by illnesses and who were possessed by demons. And He healed them, and set them free, and taught them the truth.

Verse 4 —

He did not seem like much of a Savior. But just as was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, SURELY! Certainly! Truly! Surely, He came to bear our sicknesses and carry our pains —

Matthew 8:16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Yet we considered Him stricken, beaten, for surely the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers did that. We considered Him smitten by God, for we thought the Father wounded His own Son, and did not rescue Him! We considered Him afflicted — we looked down on Him with disdain. 

Verse 5 —

But here is why He came! Here is why the Father did not rescue Him! Here is why He did not call on twelve legions of angels (60,000) that were at His disposal (Matthew 26:53)! 

He was pierced through for your and my transgressions (rebellion). When the soldiers pierced His side, it should have been your and my side that was pierced. That is what you and I deserved, for our sins. But He bore our punishment.

He was crushed — beaten to pieces — for your and my iniquities (moral perversity). When the Jewish leaders and soldiers beat His body beyond recognition, it should have been our bodies. That is what we deserved for our moral perversity. But He bore our punishment.

He was chastened (punished) so you and I would have peace with God. It was you and I that should have been punished. But He bore our punishment.

Again, the severity of His punishment matched the extremity of our need for a Savior and Reconciler. Do you now see it?

And by His scourging with that wicked whip, you and I are healed! In what way? In our relationship with God! 

The LORD and His prophets physically healed and delivered people in the Old Testament. He has always healed, not just since Christ died on a cross! 

So this passage does not refer to physical healing.  It refers to reconciliation to God and forgiveness for our past sins. To interpret it otherwise is to rob this passage of its truth and power.

Verse 6 

All of us have gone astray, just like sheep. Each of us has turned to his own way. There is not one person, since the day Adam sinned, who does not need a Savior and Reconciler. We are all Adam’s offspring, and we are all in need, It is is a life or death situation — 

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John 5:24   “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

The very good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God the Father caused our punishment to fall on Him — literally, to meet in Him. “Meet” means He interceded for us, once for all. He took what we deserved.

Again, the severity of His punishment matched the extremity of our need for a Savior and Reconciler. Do you see it?

Verse 7 —

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to slaughter, a sheep silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. Jesus Christ was and is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36)!

Verse 8 —

By oppression and judgment — false judgment — He was taken away. And who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living — he was killed — for your transgressions (rebellion) and mine? Have you considered why He was killed?

He was an unlikely Savior and Reconciler. But, from “How Strange,” a song the Lord gave me a couple of years ago — 

How strange that You were captive made, to set the wicked prisoner free. Jesus, my Lord, You came to save the ones who took Your life away. I looked upon Your blood-stained cross, my sin the cause for Your life lost. You came to give new life to me, the life of God, abundantly. My humbled heart Your Spirit filled, that I might light this darkened world.

That is why He came, beloved — to die for you, to carry your sins upon Himself. And that is why, if you have ears to hear what He has asked me to say, you will bow down and worship and revere Him!

Remember that I said that I asked the Lord, “Why do I need to teach this?” He said, “It is because many who go to church do not know why I came.” Now I will speak to the church.

Why would those who go to church not know why Jesus Christ came? Because no one speaks of the real reason. If they did, people might be offended. 

So churchgoers are taught that Jesus came to do good things, or that Jesus came to find out what it is like to be human, so He can understand us, or that Jesus came so we would be able to get to know God the Father. 

Even worse, they are taught that Jesus came to make your life better. Absolutely not! He came to give His life so you would have LIFE!

By teaching such things, the church has willfully made Him unrecognizable as the Savior and Reconciler. He did not fit the profile the Jews expected, and He does not fit the profile of the Jesus we have created, a Jesus we are comfortable with, one who soothes our consciences. We have formed Him into our own image, making Him just like us.

Today’s church has willfully made Him unrecognizable, for the Jesus taught in most of today’s church does not look anything like the Jesus of the Bible. He does not look like the Jesus who calls sinners within and outside the church to repent — 

Matthew 4:17   From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Therefore, just as the Jews completely missed the purpose of His suffering, the church misses it, too. Our leaders and teachers willfully distort God’s truth, just as the Jewish leaders did when Jesus Christ walked the earth, so as to keep their place of leadership and keep the pews full. So we must not offend, and we must not call our congregation members to repent!

The Spirit-inspired Peter tells you what your response should be, upon hearing the LORD’s words through Isaiah —

1Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 

1Peter 2:23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 

He carried your sins on a cross. Now, follow in His steps. Take up your own cross and follow Him. Where? To your own spiritual cross. Beseech the Lord to crucify your sin nature (Galatians 5:24). Then you will no longer willfully disobey Him. You will die to sin and live to righteousness, beloved.

And the Spirit-inspired Paul tells you what your response should be —

Romans 12:1   Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (complete renovation of your understanding), so that you may prove (be the proof of) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Considering all that you now know God the Father and God the Son have done, your sacrifice is to offer yourself as a whole burnt offering, on the altar. You will yet live, but you will live for Him instead of yourself! Will you do it? 

Lord Jesus, I pray those who are in the church will see the truth of You, be awestruck, and fall down and worship and adore You, for you are worthy!

May they see a true and complete picture of You, Lord, as Savior and Reconciler, and a true and complete picture of their need for the infilling of Your Holy Spirit. Amen!

2Corinthians 12 — “To a Church In Crisis, With Love”

Text: 2Corinthians 12

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I speak to you from 2Corinthians 12 today. We want you to join us in being the Amen to God’s promises of reconciliation, of salvation, and of the infilling of the Holy Spirit! Yes! Truth! He has done it in me! You will say the same thing, when you are filled!

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “His Power is Perfected in Weakness.” In the Lord’s response to Paul,  He does not refer to Paul’s inability to resist sin, for Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit and his sin nature is crucified. 

To what weakness does the Lord refer, then? Doing what Christ Himself did, for our sakes — offering Himself, giving up His glorious position at the right hand of the Father, in order to go to a cross. 

As Jesus hung there, many mocked Him and called Him weak, unable to save Himself. But three days later, the power of God was shown, for Christ rose from the dead, proof that He is indeed the Christ! Following the “weakness” of Christ’s crucifixion, God’s power was perfected (completed, finished, performed) by way of His resurrection, ascension and glorification!

Likewise, Paul has offered himself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord (Romans 12:1). Many have mocked Paul (even today!). We’ll get to that shortly. The false teachers and the believers at Corinth have mocked him, calling him weak and unimpressive. 

But Paul’s sin nature was crucified, and the Lord’s power was completed in him, as seen in his ministry! Paul walked as Christ walked, and was He is in this world. So, just as in Christ’s “weakness,” the power of God was seen, it is the same with Paul. In his “weakness,” offering himself to the Lord, the power of God was seen!

It is the same for you and me, when we surrender to God’s will entirely, and obey Christ’s command to be filled with His Spirit. We do not literally die, but our sin nature does. When that happens, the Lord’s power will be seen in us! It will be obvious that it is His power and not ours, for we will always say, It is Him, and not us! His power is completed in us because we have died so He can live in us!

One final point, before we begin to look at this passage verse-by-verse. Did Paul also have a physical weakness placed upon him by the Lord, as some have suggested? We will talk about that shortly. Many theories have been put forth, and each one will be examined, as the Lord has directed me.

Verse 1 —

The false teachers boast in many things, but they cannot boast that they walk as Christ walked, for He never, ever knew them (Matthew 7:23)! But Paul defends himself with boasts of a different kind.

He must boast of what Christ has done in him — it is necessary, but not to his advantage (profitable). He is in Christ, and Christ is in him — the greatest advantage! Nothing more is needed, for Christ’s power is seen in “weak” Paul. 

But the boastful false teachers gain much for themselves, boasting about themselves to the infants in Christ in Corinth, thereby gathering many followers to themselves!

Verses 2-4 —

I know a man in Christ, Paul says, who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Paul does not know if he was bodily carried to the third heaven, or if it was his spirit who was carried there. 

The third heaven is where God’s throne is located — it is the kingdom of God, also known as Paradise. The first heaven is the sky above  us. The second heaven is the realm of Satan and his demons. 

So, Paul was caught up (the same word used of the rapture of believers at the end of things), and taken to the place where God sits on His throne. And there, he heard inexpressible words!

And what he saw, in such a vision, is not lawful to speak about — that is, the Lord has not given Paul permission to describe what was shown to him. But he surely saw much, and bits and pieces of the vision are scattered throughout the many letters he wrote to the churches over which the Lord appointed him as shepherd.

Verses 5-6 —

Paul boasts of “such a man,” in order not to boast in his own power, as the false teachers do. They want to make a name for themselves. But Paul will boast in his weakness, so that Christ’s power may be worked in and through Him!

But he will not be foolish (mindless, reckless, stupid, ignorant, egotistical), for he will speak the truth, and not the lies of the false teachers. He refrains from their kind of boasting, for he wants no one but Christ to get the credit for what Paul says and does.

Verses 7-8 —

Paul says, Because of the surpassing (superabundant) greatness of the revelations I received from the Lord, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment (beat) me — to keep me from exalting myself. Paul does not exalt himself, so this is another sarcastic statement from him. He does not exalt himself, but the false teachers and some of the believers in the church at Corinth exalt themselves! 

But what is this thorn in the flesh? Who gave it to him? The passage does not say the Lord gave it to him. But he deals with a thorn (pointed thing) in his flesh (body). Yet he is hale and hardy, traveling long distances, surviving physical punishment almost continually, yet pressing on as if nothing had been done to him! Surely, this is evidence of the power of God, restoring Paul’s physical body!

Some Bible commentators say Paul was a dwarf and a hunchback, and had an eye disease that Paul makes reference to in Galatians 4:13-15. These are his thorns, they claim. But they do not know Jewish law. If any of that were true, he never could have entered the temple in Jerusalem, at the end of his ministry (Acts 21:26). Dwarfism and a hunched back would have been considered uncleanness! 

As for the eye disease, he had a problem with his eyes while in Galatia, whatever it was had to have been healed. Otherwise, he surely would not have been allowed to enter the temple! Again, he would be considered unclean!

Some claim that their physical diseases are their “thorn in the flesh.” Had I believed that, I never would have sought the Lord for healing of secondary progressive MS, beloved! And I wonder what great revelation these Christians have had, to make a thorn in the flesh necessary in order to keep them from exalting themselves.

Then what is Paul’s thorn? In the Old Testament, there are several references to enemies of Israel, that they were sent as pricks and thorns because Israel had rebelled against the Lord (Numbers 33:55, Joshua 23:13, Judges 2:3). I believe Paul refers to that kind of a thorn. Why?

The context of this entire letter is Paul’s intense concern that the believers at Corinth are following false teachers. And he was a Hebrew scholar who knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards. He knew what the Lord called “thorns.” So, it is reasonable to say that the “thorn” in Paul’s flesh is not a physical weakness, but his opponents — the Judaizers, Gnostics, and other false teachers who are endangering the salvation of those for whom Paul is an overseer.

Paul beseeched the Lord three times, regarding this thorn, asking that it might leave him alone! Some say the “three times” is an echo of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus knew He was about to be crucified, and asked His Father three times if there was any other way. 

But remember that He said to His Father, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He fully knew His Father’s will. But He asked three times, and said, “Not My will,” so you could see what you must do. 

Here is what Jesus wanted you to see by His actions in the Garden, beloved — there is no way for His power to be seen in you, until your sin nature is crucified. So say to Your Father, Not my will, but Yours be done! Then His power will be completed in you, for you have been “weak” in the eyes of the world as they observe your full submission to His will!

Verses 9-10 —

The Lord answered Paul’s requests for the thorn’s removal, saying that His grace (the divine work in Paul’s heart, and its reflection in his life) is sufficient (enough) for Paul. Why? Because the Lord’s power is perfected in weakness. 

Again, it is a reference to Christ’s death and resurrection, where Christ appeared weak, but God’s power was shown. It is the same for Paul, who no longer lives, but Christ lives in him — 

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Crucifixion seems weak, but the Lord’s power was perfected, made perfect, completed, accomplished in Paul because he is now crucified and no longer lives! Christ lives in Him! Hallelujah! 

He will boast in his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in him. Do you see it? Surrender to God’s will appears to be weakness. But if you surrender fully, then Christ’s power will be in you! His strength will be in you! No wonder He commands us to stay and wait, to submit ourselves fully to His will, so we are  filled with His Holy Spirit! Beloved, today is a good day for your sin nature to die!

Most gladly, therefore, Paul is well content with (takes pleasure in) weaknesses (feebleness), with insults (reproaches), with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties (being in a narrow place, like prison), for Christ’s sake! Why? When Paul is weak, then he is strong with Christ’s strength! Christ’s power is completed, perfected, accomplished in Paul! 

When I offered myself as a living sacrifice, I received Christ’s power! Therefore, He is glorified through me, because I could not possibly do what I do, in my own strength! Everyone must agree that it is not me, but Him!

Have you offered yourself as a whole burnt offering to the Lord? Has your sin nature been crucified? Then you walk in His power. If not, you remain in the same condition as the infants in Christ in Corinth, susceptible to every false teaching that proliferates in today’s church!

Verses 11-12 — 

Paul has become foolish (mindless, unwise) by saying what he has said. But he was compelled by the believers at Corinth, who are calling his apostleship into question! They made it necessary for him to boast in what Christ has done in him!

Actually, he says, they should have given him their seal of approval, for in no respect is he inferior to the super-apostles who are leading them astray — even though he is a nobody! Again, irony is in play here. Paul is well known, particularly by the Lord, but by all the churches as well! 

Then he reminds the believers at Corinth that the signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. How could they forget? They did not forget, but they are infants in Christ, who reject his words. So, they dismiss all the “God works” they have seen him do, and question his integrity. 

Verse 13 —

Paul asks the believers at Corinth, For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches? You treat me as inferior, but I have not treated you in that way. 

Come to think of it, there was one thing Paul did differently, with the church at Corinth — he did not become a financial burden to them. Forgive me this wrong, he says! He is sarcastic, for it is entirely ironic that they should treat him as inferior!

Verse 14 —

Here he is, ready to come to them a third time. He will not be a burden to them, financially or otherwise. Spiritually speaking, it is his intent that they see their need to be filled with the Spirit, so they no longer bear the burden of the sin nature! 

He does not seek what is theirs — material things — but THEM! His concern is the poverty-stricken condition of the hearts of these infants in Christ! 

They think he wants money, but he says children do not save up for their parents. He is their parent, their father in the faith. But parents save up for their children, and he has great riches which he would be glad to give them — even the infilling of the Holy Spirit!

Verse 15 —

I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls, Paul cries! If I loved you more, am I to be loved less? God knows he loves them (11:11)! 

God knows I love you, and rejoice to spend myself and fully expend myself for your souls! Therefore, do not love Paul or me less! The words we speak are to build you up, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13, and upcoming Verse 19 of this chapter)!

Verses 16-18 —

Paul says, even if you loved me less, I was not a burden in any way to you. Now he is sarcastic again, saying, crafty fellow that I am (as if he tricked them), I took you in by deceit! Surely not, but that is what the false teachers are doing to the believers at Corinth!

Certainly, he has not taken advantage of them (defrauded them), as the false teachers have! He himself has not done so, nor have any whom he sent to them!

He beseeched Titus to go, and sent the brother whose fame in the gospel has spread far and wide (8:18)! Titus did not defraud them! He asks, Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit (the Holy Spirit) and walk in the same steps (walk as Jesus walked in this world)?

Verse 19 —

All this time, the believers at Corinth have thought Timothy and Paul are defending themselves against the allegations launched against them by the Corinthian church and the false apostles. But the words Paul speaks, are spoken in Christ — he is filled with Him! And all that he speaks is for the upbuilding of these believers at Corinth (again, Ephesians 4:13)!

Verse 20 —

Why do they need this upbuilding? They are yet infants, they are not yet filled, they have not yet reached the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ! 

Therefore, Paul is afraid that they will not be as he wishes (as he wants to find them), when he comes. And Paul may be found to be not what they wish (as they want him to be). He will not deliver to them the smooth words the false apostles are glad to speak to them, but will speak the truth which is in Christ, and call them to repentance!

Paul fears that the believers at Corinth will still be exhibiting the fruit of the flesh, rather than the fruit of the Spirit — that there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes (backbitings), slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances (disorder, confusion)! To the church at Galatia, Paul writes —

Galatians 5:19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But what is the fruit of the Spirit? God’s character, His fruit 

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

When Paul comes for this third visit, he wants to see evidence that they have crucified the flesh, have been filled with the Spirit, and are bearing the fruit of the Spirit! But evidence of their infancy remains. So he is afraid he will not find them bearing God’s fruit. It is the same today, beloved! Many believers bear the fruit of the flesh instead of the fruit of the Spirit! Many should be ashamed and repent!

Verse 21 —

So Paul is afraid that when he comes again, God will humiliate him (bring him low) before the believers at Corinth! Again, this is irony! It is the false teachers who will be humiliated when they stand before God and Jesus Christ says, “I never knew you!”

And he is afraid that he may mourn (grieve, wail) over those among the believers in Corinth who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. He is concerned that these infants in Christ have not repented, and are still sinning!

Do you believe there is no need to repent of sins you commit after becoming a Christian? Do you believe that being filled with the Spirit is unnecessary? Do you believe that you will not need to stand before the judgment seat of Christ? Listen to Peter —

1Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Heed Paul’s and my words, which are from the Lord, beloved! You need something you do not have. Cry out to the Lord, and He will meet your need, just as He did with Paul and me, and others who He has filled with His Holy Spirit!

O Lord, may your church have ears to hear this truth. Amen. So be it!