God is Light(everything revealed)…I John pt 2

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.(I John 1:5)

As we noted earlier, John’s ministry is a ministry of restoration. The faith has been frayed, tangled and torn to the point where the believers whom John addressed were confused as to who knew God genuinely and who didn’t. What does it mean to “know him who is from the beginning”? To “be strong and have the Word of God abiding in you”?

Most importantly, who is the God and Father of Jesus Christ? What is His nature? Who is Jesus? How should we understand His person? What is eternal life and who truly possesses it?

The effect of the heresies , pretensions, boasting, false words, spiritual elitism and mysticism of the gnostics always demoralizes and confuses the saints on the basic level of the questions above.

The restoration to the wholesome, sincere christian faith once delivered to us by the Apostles, must of necessity begin with the presentation of the “only true God”. The revelation of God comes to us in three theological propositions. God is Light…God is Love…and Jesus Christ has come and remains in the flesh.

What is the meaning of the statement, God is Light, and in him is no darkness at all? Light is an oft used metaphor to describe certain attributes and perfections of God.

For example, we are told God dwells in light which is unapproachable. Light here being the very emblem of purity and splendor.

…the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.(I Timothy 6;15-16)

The property of Light is that it reveals… all things are naked and open before Him with whom we have to do… . God is light, in Him all things are revealed in their true nature. Hypocrisy is shortsighted because “there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed…“.

Coming to the “only true God” is coming into the Light, where all is seen for what it truly is. Isaiah had an encounter with the true God, which caused him to pronounce prophetic woes upon himself! In God’s light we see ourselves as we are, not as we imagine ourselves to be, and it can be terrible.

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple…Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.(Isaiah 6:1-5)

Peter had a similar experience. As a professional Fisherman, he thought Jesus was just another preacher until Jesus performed a miracle, filling his nets to overflowing with fish.

So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:7-8)

Because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, anyone who has truly met God, has had this kind of experience. Like Peter and Isaiah, they have seen God, and abhorred themselves as sinners to the core ! They are transformed from self lovers, to self abhorrence, in the light of the Holy God!

On the contrary, the gnostics are not concerned at all with sin, or sinfulness. Their light doesn’t expose sin, in fact they deny that sin is a hindrance to a relationship with God. To them, light refers to revelation knowledge, without moral content.

That is why deceivers such as Todd Bentley can continue in ‘prophetic ministry’ after leaving his wife and marrying another. Other seducers, such as Rick Joyner endorse and encourage Bentley and his ilk, because to them Bentley’s “revelations” and “miracles” are all that matters, not his morality.A Hillsong pastor found it refreshing when a popular female Christian blogger came out as a lesbian!

This is also why John had to speak what seems like the obvious,

…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:(I John 1:5-6)

and sadly this needs to be repeated,

…Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.(I John 3:7-8)

Shouldn’t this be obvious? Not anymore, after so many years of Joyner, Hinn, C0peland, Hagin, and Steve Hill , there are many for whom this is not so obvious. Their Nets have been tangled, snarled and torn, and their faith is shattered.

They have been presented with a God who is not Light, not in the sense of moral splendor, Righteousness, exposure and repudiation of evil. The God of the Bentley’s and Rodney Howard Brownes of this world is a false god of false light.

To them the Apostle speaks anew, The only true God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all…. .

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Why John Wrote the Epistle…I John pt 1

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.(I John 5:18-21)

The Author Watchman Nee made an observation in a book called “What Shall This Man Do?”, that what Peter Paul and John were doing professionally when they met Jesus, became a metaphor for their work in the Kingdom of God.

Peter was “casting his nets into the sea”, and went on to be the great evangelist. Peter was always first; the first to ask the questions of Jesus all were thinking, the first to step out of the boat, the first to preach on the day of Pentecost, and the first to preach to the Gentiles.

Paul was a tent maker, and what is the church but the tabernacle of God? Who teaches more than anyone else the structure and function of the new temple of God, the body of Christ, then Paul?

Finally John comes, last; the last gospel, the near last epistle, the last Revelation was entrusted to John. But John ,though a fisherman, wasn’t casting his nets when Jesus found him, he was mending the nets!

The church will always end Peter to show the way, and Paul to teach and minister the Life. But at the end we need John’s message, which is to repair us to the Truth which has by now been distorted and gnarled and in may people’s cases, their faith has been destroyed , due to the influence of false teachers, prophets and apostles, i.e. “anti-Christs”.

So John tells us that he writes no new thing to us,but rather, ‘what we have heard from the beginning’. His is a ministry of restoration, a teaching designed to repair the damage done by gnostic re-interpretations of the knowledge of God, which in the end leave so many confused, lost, shipwrecked and ruined.

The Apostle John wrote his epistles to address a specific problem in the churches, one which is very relevant to our current situation in todays church. The problem? False teachers were distorting the meaning of the knowledge of God.

This was not merely an academic question, for salvation itself is the believing reception of the knowledge of God, according to Jesus.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.(John 17:3)
Notice in the opening scripture from I John 5 , how many times John talks about knowledge, truth, and understanding ? Who truly knows “him that is true”? ‘We do’, says John. Why does the Lord’s apostle emphasize this?

This emphasis is because pseudo spiritual teachers had come and were redefining Christianity, just as they are seeking to do today. They demeaned the Apostolic version of knowing God as unspiritual , offering a more mystical, sensual ‘knowledge of God” in its place.

What is the christian teaching on knowing God that the heretics undermined ?

First of all that it is only possible by the revelation of Jesus Christ and what he did to save us. All is of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who know God, do so by believing in the gospel of Jesus.

But the knowledge of God is by faith, we have not seen Jesus but we love him, we walk by faith (in the Word) and not by sight.The faith has been delivered “once and for all” by the apostles. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.

Also that we are to love one another, and that Love is not lawlessness, rather it is the fulfillment of all of the Law of God. This love is to be concrete, in word and deed, for Jesus became a real man to love us.

Furthermore we hate sin, and have repented of it and been delivered of its dominion, although it is still possible to sin. We who know God constantly confess our sin to God, repenting and seeking the forgiveness and cleansing from His Son.

Finally, we are waiting for Jesus to come from heaven, to judge the world in righteousness.

In the meantime we pray, evangelize, worship God, intercede for others, in a fallen world ruled temporarily by the devil. Only by submission to God do we hope to overcome the devil and the world.

Along came the “knowing Ones”, who would come to be known as gnostics.

Through the mystical, experience based spirituality of the new apostles and prophets, the knowledge of God now became a matter of higher revelation, visions, dreams, spiritual elitism,(ie Outer court, inner court and holy of holies christians), encounters with Angels, Demons, trances, ecstasies, prophetic directions from exalted men.

As a result, the old-fashioned “garden variety” christian was tempted to question his own spirituality. His experience of repenting of sin, waiting for Jesus, believing the Bible, yet not feeling anything most of the time, didn’t match up to the “new and improved version”.

We find ourselves at the same place today,don’t we? The boldness and mysticism of false apostles and prophets such as Rick Joyner, Todd Bentley, Bill Johnson, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, etc, has undermined the faith of many.

The Apostle John is taking us back to the beginning, for he writes to restore our torn faith, to clear up our blurred and distorted vision. We don’t need a “new Word”, in fact that has been our problem, lusting for novelty,

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.( I John 2:7)

How does John take us back to the beginning to restore our faith again ? In stating three simple theological propositions, we find our way back…

God is Light

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
(I John 1:5)

God is Love…

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

(I John 4:8)

Jesus Christ has come(and remains) in the flesh…

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
(I John 4:2)

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The New Vineyard Parable…Vineyard Parables pt 8

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.(John 15:1-8)

The Lord Jesus Christ utilized Isaiah’s parable of the Vineyard, modifying it to reveal many other  aspects of the relationship between God and his people. In Isaaih 5 the emphasis is on the preparation that the LORD made, to install Israel into the promised land and the things he provided to insure that they would be inclined to bear sweet fruit unto God, (Repentance, faith and love).

Jesus told a similar story about a fig tree which took equal amounts of preparation, but which would not bear fruit after three years, and was very near being cut down, but was saved by the intercession of the gardener. The emphasis there was upon Judgment, salvation and the limits of time. We only have so much time to bring forth fruit, and the fact that we have not yet been judged is due to the intercession of the gardener, the Messiah.

Again Jesus told a Vineyard story which emphasized the election and rewards of the workers in the Vineyard. An owner kept going back to the marketplace to hire more workers, even to the very last hour of the day! Obviously he didn’t need those workers, but they needed Him, and in mercy he chose them. On the day of reward i will be revealed that no one gets less than what they deserve, but some people get more, for the basis of Reward is grace.

Finally He told a parable which examined the management of the Vineyard of the LORD. He leased it out to tenants who began to develop a vain Imagination that the Vineyard was theirs to run, and not the LORD’s. They forgot that they were but stewards and the vain Imagination drove them to abuse the prophets and preachers who tried to collect the Master’s share of the fruit. Ultimately they killed the Son, but their Imagination proved futile. The Master comes in Judgment to reclaim His Vineyard and the stewards are punished forevermore.

WE come to the final version of the Vineyard parable.

In this one the emphasis is on the LIFE which produces the fruit.

The Messiah himself is the Vine, we disciples are but the branches. The Father in this case is the Vinesman, who prunes and trims and fertilizes the Vineyard to bring forth fruit.

What is a Vineyard, but a community of Life? The Life flows from the vine into the main branches and into the outer new shoots and even out to the smallest twigs and leave, nourishing all and eventually bringing forth fruit to varying degrees. Finally we have a source for the fruit that the Father has long sought for…the fruit comes from the life of Jesus, also known as eternal life.

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.(I John 5:11-13)

Eternal Life is much misunderstood, for example some people think that eternal life means that we will live forever. Everybody will live forever, saint or sinner, whether they have eternal life or not! Rather, eternal life is a quality of Life.

Others hope that when they die they will receive eternal life, but eternal life starts now, if you wait until you die, it will be too late.

Eternal life cannot be earned it is the gift of God.

God has given us life, and that life is in his Son. But eternal life isn’t independent life…the gift doesn’t come to each of us wrapped and bowed like a gift, as a personal possession. Eternal life is an ongoing and dependent gift, it is a share in the Life of Jesus.

Eternal Life is communicated unto us as we abide(remain) in the Son of God, Jesus. A person who comes to Christ, and is forgiven and saved, is actually spiritually joined to Jesus. He is said to abide in him, as a branch abides in a vine.Through our new faith, we are partakers of eternal life, it is communicated to us through prayer, the Word of God, fellowship with others, the Lord’s Supper, confession of sin. Jesus said,

Abide in me, and I in you.

Thus there is an interpersonal communion which goes both ways, Jesus is in me and I am in Him, as I abide in the vine.This implies that there are spiritual channels which salvation has opened within us, which allow for the inflow of His life. but it also infers that at anytime we can close off those channels, and remove ourselves from the sphere of Holy influence, and shut the gates to Life. We have all seen living trees which have dead branches.

What happened? Something came between that branch and the flow of sap.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Eternal life is the gift which is dependent and ongoing, we are to remain in the Vine, and not let anything hinder the flow of Spiritual life, this is the secret of Christian fruitfulness. God made us for the express purpose of accepting Jesus, being reconciled to Him and abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit. We are to “go on believing in Him, and go having eternal life”.

The Father deals with the Vine, clipping away all overgrowth and pruning back that which is unnecessary to spiritual fruitfulness. He abides in us through the Word and we bear fruit in prayer and through worship and prayer we are nourished in Him. Everything the Father is looking for as regards fruit is in Jesus.

We are pruned, through the Word. Sermons are life to us,so also teachings, personal verses, testimonies and mutual prayers. Abide in Him! Don’t let anything ever remove you from the sphere of Divine influence which is Christ in us(The body).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.(Col 3:16)

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;(Ephesians 5:18-20)

The church is a community of Life, and the watchword is mutual edification. His life is to flow through us to each other, building each other up, making each other rich in the Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption which is in Jesus.

Everything the Father wants, expects and offers us, is in Jesus. By the worshipful beholding of Him who descended to save us, we are transformed from glory to glory and from faith to faith. Christ in us is the Hope of Glory and Paul prayed for us that we would know that Christ dwells in us…

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.(Ephesians 3)

 

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The Tenant Farmers…Vineyard Parables pt 7

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.  And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.  And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.  And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.  And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.  Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.’ And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.  What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.  And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? (Mark 12:1-11)

Jesus again drew from the parable of the Vineyard, yet modifying it,when he told it in Jerusalem during his last Passover before his death.

Once again the emphasis is partly on preparation;planting the Vineyard,set a hedge of protection around it, and digging(into solid rock) a place for the winepress, and a channel to allow wine to flow. A tower is built to allow watchmen to over see the Vineyard, shepherds and prophets) all with a view towards the production of sweet, useful fruit.

God has so ordained the circumstances of life,to incline us to come to a point in life wherein we would … repent, turn in faith to Messiah, learn to receive the Love of God and to give the Love of God. All of the details of my own life, (in retrospect) have been ordered towards just such a crisis. I was to hear and receive the gospel, turn away from Self and all of my idols, and become a believer in God, living by faith in the Son of God…

This was why I was born in Minnesota in the late 1950s and have lived in Iowa , where there was a church on every corner, and had parents who were earnest and sincere Catholics(at least they taught me of God, heaven and hell) and was taught early the Lord’s prayer, the Apostles Creed, and the Ten Commandments, and stories of Jesus. Furthermore I came of Age at the end of a real revival, something called the Charismatic renewal, in which countless millions were coming into the reality of the New Birth and the Holy Spirit.

All of this was designed to incline me to come to repentance and faith in Messiah, i.e. fruit.

But suddenly Jesus’ emphasis is focused on the management of the Vineyard. The Master of the Vineyard makes all of these preparations, only to lease out the Vineyard to tenant farmers, with the agreement that HE would receive the fruit as his share of the rent.The Master himself went on a long trip, but in his stead He sends his agents to collect the rents.

But the first of the agents,was captured by the tenants, and beaten ad sent away empty. The Tenants of the LORD’s Vineyard rejected the prophets who reminded them of God’s share and requirement of his people.

He sent other prophets, whom they stoned, wounded and drove away. (Notice that the treatment get progressively worse ?). They lash out all the harder, hurting the ones sent in the name of the Master of the Vineyard to collect the rent.

It got to the point where they actually killed one of the agents of the master. All he had done was remind them that they were but tenants and that they owed the master, and that HE wanted fruit for all of his efforts, but they wouldn’t hear it and so they killed Him! Others came later whom they hurt, killed and drove away.

What is this variation of the Vineyard parable teaching us? Among other things it is a revelation of the nature of unbelief. God has a right to expect fruit from all of us, HE has made the preparations, and the Vineyard is his , not ours! But when He sends his agents to remind us of our duty, too often we have mocked them, driven them away, and done whatever we could to silence their voice.

In this way, this generation of sinners seeks to “kill” Christian witness. Political correctness is a way to shut them up, so also are vilification laws, and “hate crimes laws”. One day these things will lead directly to the killing of Christian witnesses in the west.They have stripped away any public reminders, such as ten commandments displays or crib sets at Christmas, and remade our formerly Judeo Christian environment in an attempt to silence the voice.

This is especially true of renegade and backslidden religious leaders. They go from grateful tenants on rented land, realizing the owner’s claims upon their work, to almost feeling like the Vineyard is their own, to do with as they see fit. They grow to hate anyone who would ever tell them otherwise.

Finally in the Parable we see the tenants entertaining an utterly ridiculous idea, you could say it is a “Vain Imagination” and a “Knowledge which exalts itself against the knowledge of God’.

The owner proposes to send his own Son, not a mere agent, this time. He predicts that they will listen to Him. (And ultimately we will all be compelled to).

The Vain Imagination goes like this, “This is the heir, If we Kill Him, the Vineyard will be ours”. If we just do away with Jesus we can live our own lives, bear our own fruit and be happy and whole without God.

IT sounds good, but will it work? Can they silence that voice once and for all, and attain autonomy over the Vineyard? Will it then be theirs to do with as they want? Can they truly ‘cast the Son’ out of the Vineyard?

This is the psychology of unbelief and of general human resistance to God, and his claims on each of our lives. Somehow people sense that Jesus is the true “Heir” of all things, thus to eliminate his voice, his agents, to silence and quench the witnesses of Jesus, and to smother out the reminder of his Father’s claims on each life, in their minds they think (vainly) this would bring total freedom and human autonomy.

They really did Kill Him once, and of they could, they would do it again in this day. The closest thing to killing the Son, would be to kill the seed of the woman, ‘all of this who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus’ as the Revelation ,chapter 12 warns us.

In spite of the vain Imagination, really what would anyone think the true LORD of the Vineyard is going to do to these rebels?

At the end of this telling of the Vineyard parable, Jesus quotes a line from the 118th Psalm, a psalm which the children of Israel had been singing all of that week in conjunction with the Pilgrim feast they had been keeping;

And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 

 

 

 

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Is Your Eye Evil Because I am Good?…Vineyard Parables pt 6

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,  And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.  Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.  And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?  They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.  So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.  And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.  But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.  And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,  Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.  But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?  Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.  Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.(Matthew 20:1-16)

In this variation of the Vineyard parable, Jesus looks at the question of privilege and reward. Who gets to work in the Vineyard and what is the basis for final reward?

The LORD of the Vineyard sets out to hire laborers to work in his Vineyard. Early in the morning he set out to hire them for a fair wage, the standard payment of a laborer for a day’s work.

The Law of Moses anticipated in Israel four economic classes of laborers, 1) land owners and their families, 2) servants, some of whom were bonded and made part of the family, 3) hired freemen who contracted themselves out, and  lived on a wage, and finally foreigners who had made their home among the Israelites.

These laborers were to be paid at the end of the day, which lasted from sunup to sundown.

Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.(Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

The master went to the gathering place in the market, after three hours to hire more laborers, and again he went there the sixth and the ninth hour. Finally he went out at the eleventh hour, to hire the few disappointed workers who had been passed over all day long.They would be employed for one hour, but it was better than nothing.

Finally as the sun descended the laborers lined up for their pay, the last employed in the front of the line. When they received a full days wage for one hour’s work, they were stunned! So also were the others who had worked three, six , nine and even 12 hours.”Surely we will be overpaid as well, since he overpaid those who only worked one hour.”.

But to each, the master gave a full days wage, to the ones who worked three, six, and nine hours and finally to the ones who worked twelve long, hot hours.

The longer working employees murmured at the Master,”You made these equal to us, but we have worked all day!”.

But the LORD of the Vineyard retorted, “I have done thee no wrong, take what you have rightly earned, didn’t we agree as much?”

“Can I not do with my own whatever I want?”

“IS Your eye evil, because I am good?”

This is a parable that long vexed me, (everything in the Bible that utterly strikes you as wrong, is exposing an area of God’s dealing with you). He would change our paradigm (way of looking at everything) through these difficult passages, jarring us out of our long deeply held misconceptions.

I couldn’t see the fairness in this, it offended me and I sympathized with the 12 hour crew.

But then one day it occurred to me,“Why would the Master go out to the marketplace to hire some unfortunates, one hour before closing?”

The didn’t hire them at the last hour on the basis of His needing them. He hired them because they needed Him! They needed work, any work, and the Master, being good, and flowing in mercy and grace went back to the marketplace to pick up a few more desperately needy men to employ.

The emphasis of this telling of the Vineyard tale, is the grace of God. God did not ‘need’ us, we need Him, and he sought us out and saved us out of sheer mercy and lovingkindness.

The basis of reward is grace also.  “If I want to Give them this wage, what is that to you?”. Why did God chose a sinner like me, and forgive me f the multitude of my trespasses at great cost? Is there any reason other than the Grace of God?

We don’t deserve our rewards, they are the gift of God, given in love and tender mercy…we are amazed, stunned and shocked by the Grace he has given us.

If anyone is scandalized by this mercy, it is an indication of a heart estranged from God. “Is your eye Evil, because I am good?”

The moral of this story is that No one gets any less than what he deserves, for God is a just and righteous God. But some of us, get more than what we deserve because God has made a way, through the substitution of His Son, to justify ungodly sinners, forgive them, employ them and grant them privileges that they could never earn!

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.(Ephesians 2:8-10)

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The Fig Tree in the Vineyard…Vineyard Parables pt 5

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?  And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:  And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.(Luke 13:7-9)

The Messiah, Jesus, often drew from Isaiah’s Vineyard parable in his teaching, and He modified it to emphasize other points.

Jesus tells a version of the Vineyard parable after being confronted with the news of an atrocity which occurred in the temple. Evidently some Galileans were slain as they offered sacrifice to God in the Holy house. What did Jesus have to say about this?

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.(Luke 13:1-5)

Jesus’ answer is direct,’Instead of asking whether or not these people deserved to die in this way, we should be asking ourselves, are we ready to die? Will we die in our sins? Are we right with God?’Unless you Repent you will likewise perish!

Thus Jesus infers that judgment was coming to all of them, the Romans would shed far more Jewish blood, and do far more damage,  towers would soon be collapsing all around them, (including the Temple!).

This is the context for Jesus’ telling of a variation of the Vineyard parable. He adds a fig tree to the Vineyard. The Fig Tree is a prophetic symbol for the blessing of God on the people of Israel. The very picture of the good life, in the coming day of Messiah, according to the Prophet Micah,

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of Jehovah of hosts hath spoken it.(Micah 4:4)

Once again as in Isaiah’s song of the Vineyard, the emphasis is on the immense preparation, with the expectation of fruit. In Israel it was well known that one didn’t merely throw fig seed into the ground and expect much of anything.The rocks must be removed, soil cultivated , hopefully some kind of a fence or wall to protect the tree would be erected and fertilizing dung would be applied, all with the intent to afford that tree the greatest chance t bear sweet fruit.

But when the day of inspection arrives, the Master of the Vineyard did not find fruit. He commands the gardener to cut it down, for why should it take up any more ground? Why after all of this preparation,labor and investment, is the tree barren? What use is a barren fig tree?

The only thing standing between the barren fig tree and the axe of the master is the intercessory prayer of the gardener, he pleads, “give me a little more time with the tree, let me work with it…lets see if I can get it to bear fruit, but if not, then cut it down.”.

In this Jesus adds two distinct factors to the original parable…

  • His intercession- Jesus is the lowly gardener who pleads for the fig tree. He has come between the wrath of God and the sinners who deserve that wrath.His three years of ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” were an extension of the mercy of God, the judgment they deserved was abated, they would be given another chance to repent, to turn to God, and away from their sins.

Why hasn’t the West been obliterated by the judgment of the thrice Holy God? Someone once asked me “Where was God on 9-11? “, I answered this way, “In view of the sin and offense and affront we present to the infinitely Holy and good God by our homosexuality, fornication, lawlessness, abortion and toleration and praising of false religion(ISlam), the real question is ,’Why isn’t there a 9-11 every single day?'”

  • Jesus also inserts the issue of time…“Give me a little more time...”. Time will run out one day, which is why Isaiah beckons us to “Seek the LORD while He can be found and to call upon Him while He is near…”.

Has not our God given us a little more time recently? Time to get right with Him and each other? Time to go back to our first LOVE? Time to return to Him in worship, and to go back to church and to seek Him?

But the new parable of the Vineyard assures us, this reprieve doesn’t go on indefinitely…the time is running out.

 

 

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Jesus And John In Salvation History…Vineyard parables 4

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.  Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,  And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:  And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.(Matthew 3:1-10)

It is very helpful to remember that Jesus and John the Baptist came unto Israel, exactly forty years before the worst calamity ever to befall the nation, in all of it’s calamitous history. Romans surrounded Jerusalem, in 70 ad, killed 1.5 million people, glutted the world’s slave markets with Jews, and utterly destroyed the holy Temple.

Israel was taken out of political and national existence for almost two millennia, all in fulfillment of the words of Moses and all of the prophets.

For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without seraphim:(Hosea 3:4)

Moses predicted the scattering in the “Song of Moses” which God gave him to teach all of Israel. Notice the Vineyard theme, that in spite of all of God’s preparation, the ‘wine’ of Israel’s fruit was bitter poison;

I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:… For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.  For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.(Deuteronomy 32:26-33)

What happened to Israel in 70 ad was an apocalyptic calamity, the worst that ever befell Israel. Worse than the Baby;onion invasion, which featured the destruction of the Temple and 70 years of captivity and exile.Israel would be wiped out as a political entity, and never  be seen again until 1948 ad!

Jesus and John the Baptist came, forty years before it, preaching repentance to a people who thought that they were guaranteed salvation by virtue of their physical relationship to Abraham. The Roman “Axe” was laid to the root of the tree, Judgment was coming upon the nation, and the Jews were deluded and unaware, badly led by “blind leaders” leading the blind into the pit of Hell.

Thus Jesus and his forerunner John the baptist were “end-times” preachers, urging the complacent and deceived nation unto repentance and renewed faith.

Those who listened to John’s preaching  had crossed the Jordan, out of the land, then in response to the preaching of the Baptist, they went back into the Jordan again and came again into the Holy land, signifying a new spiritual Exodus. They were wanting to start all over again, as the people of God, and to be prepared to receive the Messiah.

Jesus would refer to the parable of the Vineyard, investing it with new and deeper meaning, to his own (and our) generation. We will take a look Jesus’ use of the parable, in the next article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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