Apostles’ Manual, Part III #32

Jesus concluded His instructions to his Apostles with commands that would keep the Apostles in His kingdom. Their position in the Kingdom was not yet secure. Their righteousness had not measured up. It was still very much like the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). In that sense, we too suffer from the same lack of righteousness that will keep us out of the Kingdom of Heaven. In this world, I did skate on thin ice and when I stayed too long in one spot, I too began to sink, like Peter. Most of the time, with my own mistakes, I created my sinkholes. Particularly my tongue has judged me too many times, which I regret deeply. Jesus issued this warning:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36).

First and foremost, “Avoid judging, for it will cost us dearly”

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you/I see the speck that is in your/my brother’s eye, but not notice the log that is in your/mine own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your/my own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your/my own eye. And then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure,  pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap. For the measure you/I give will be the measure you/I get back” (Luke 6:37-38).

“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he shall also read.For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to theSpirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:7-10).

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in  themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, sayind, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

The Spirit of Jesus the Christ shows us clearly that we have our hands full with ourselves while we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Second, “Stop Demeaning Ourselves

There are 802 million uses of the word “Holy” in the world and man tops the list as God’s primary creation in “His Image and Likeness, and with His Spirit (breath).” To man, God entrusted the world to manage! God gave man the ability to choose between right and wrong, and the power to become whatever he wants. Who then, caused man to demean himself, but man himself? I learned that I began to form an opinion of myself and compared myself to others. When I began to read the Bible, I came across this idea: “For as a man thinketh in his heart so he is” (Proverbs 23:7, KJV). Attimes, I did discover that I was down and at other times up, but never at a total loss. Then, when I began attending Church, I was told that all human beings are totally depraved and have no chance of self-redemption. I too endorsed that view until I wrote my doctoral thesis and one examiner was very disturbed at my attitude of using 150 scholars to defend my view on Christ. He had no objection to my view of Christ, but why had I allowed my mind to be saturated by the thinking of others, which robbed me of my ability to be saturated by Christ myself? He sent me back to the Scriptures to find out for myself what I could learn and not what proof I needed to agree with someone else’s view. 

The examiner was right; I personally had to meet and study Christ! My dear friend, and so must you! And when you meet Jesus your Lord, you must also do what He said and what He commands to qualify for His Kingdom. I know I am repeating myself, but woe unto me if I do not warn my fellow men of wrongdoing (Ezekiel 3:16-21; I Corinthians 9: 16; 26-27). Both our salvations are at risks, if we do not work them out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). It is I who sins and gathers guilt, and it is I who exposes my life to be trampled on by evil. It is in me where good or evil can dwell (Matthew 12:33-37; 15;19; Luke 6:45). It is you and I who will appear before the highest “Tribune” in the universe and we have to answer for our actions, and not for our faith on Judgment Day ((II Corinthians 5:16; Revelation 20:11-15). To avoid eternal internment, let us do what Jesus and His Spirit tell us what we must do. Man is not a wimp, neither am I. We bear our “Creator’s Image” and “His Likeness” and we house “His Spirit” (Genesis 1;26; 2:7). Let us use the power as children of God to resist evil (John 1:12).

“Do not give to dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6).

“Yet Thou has made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou has given him dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet,” (Psalm 8:5-6; John 10:34).

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out  of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9; Exodus 19:6; Revelation 1:6).

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘ I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord. and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:14-18).

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies,to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:12-14). 

The Lord does expect to hear from us in our Prayers

Jesus said that, “Man must always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Prayer is an endless pleading, seeking, and doing what one can. We must not stop asking, seeking, and knocking! And we must not demand that God give us what is possible to man. Jesus did not turn stones into bread, He did not jump off a steeple to impress people, and He did not bow for fame that dishonors God (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). God, Himself, has limits! And He confined them for us to the perimeter of His Kingdom on earth. He will not give us a stone when we need bread, or a serpent when we need a fish. 

Physically, I was born twice: as an infant and then at the age of twenty-one when a fire returned me to an infant state; when for over a year, I had to be cared for like a helpless baby. The Lord did not let me die because I had yet to work in His Vineyard. He did not have his servants restore me to my former looks. And He did not give me back the full use of my hands; however, He allowed me to become sufficiently, physically and mentaly restored, so I could serve in God’s Kingdom. From the day I set my mind on becoming a minister of His Gospel, the Lord answered all my prayers within the perimeter of His Kingdom. My dream was to obtain the best education, so that I could honor my Lord with preaching, teaching, authoring, and blogging. I also wished for a lovely young lady to share my life and the Lord granted my wish that now has lasted over sixty years. And he has blessed us with three outstanding sons and their lovely and talented wives, who blessed us with eight wonderful grandchildren. We had hoped for nine, but one grandson, the Lord took home in infancy. Yes, the Lord was good to us and His Mercy has endured for me for over ninety years, thus far.

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for aloof, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent ? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him ? So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:7-12).

What are we to pray for?

Jesus was very concise: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

To get in and build the Kingdom or do what God wills, the “Manual” tells us what we must do and whom we must follow. 

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

“Beware of the prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are graves gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil frit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. 

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lor, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in  your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evil-doers’” (Matthew 7:13-23).

What must we do to qualify for our trip into the Kingdom?

Thus, everyone who does not follow the Manual or the Sermon on the Mount will forfeit his/her place in the Kingdom of Heaven, here on earth. We begin to live for God here on earth, who is the God of those who are still alive and not dead (Luke 20:38; Mark 12:27; Acts 17:28). The dead do not and can not praise God (Psalm 115:17). Without a human body, no one can serve God or man. But, a sinful and wicked body is also mentally and spiritually unable to honor God and man. Such a person can be reborn by giving up his sinful life, and by begining to live for Christ, and start a new life and begin to praise the Lord. Particularly, those who were predestined to serve in God’s Kingdom, Christ will snatch from death and raise them up to live for the praise and honor of God (John 5:24). I do consider myself as having been snached from death several times and given an extended time to live in grace and share it with my fellowmen. It is not God’s Will that anyone should perish (Matthew 18:14).

“Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came;, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49). 

To conclude this reminder about the usefulness of the Pastor’s Manual and the Sermon on the Mount, I am reminded of the “Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.” The rich man begged Abraham to send one from the dead to stop his brothers from following him. Abram reminded him that they had Moses and the prophets who could save them (Luke 16:19-31). But we have one who has returned from the dead and left us His Direction in Person, what will the Judge tell those who do not heed Jesus’ Words?

“Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard (red), lest we drift away from it (salvation). For if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:1-3; 10:26-31).