Following Jesus or Following the Rules

The third message in a series called “Not a Fan” was presented yesterday at the church I attend. This week’s message is titled “Following Jesus or Following the Rules” and can be watched at this link. All sermons are available by clicking on Pastor’s Podcast at this link: First United Methodist Church Waco

Following Jesus is what changes the world. The Pharisees thought they had what was needed but everything they did was for show. They were not real but just pretenders. On the other hand, Jesus is real. He is God with us and our hearts can be transformed so we are committed followers.  The rules of the Pharisees didn’t change the world but knowing God does and accepting His grace makes our burdens light. 

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is an outline of the message. The words in black were prepared by the church staff and the words in blue are notes I included as I listened. Check out the Podcast and keep this question in mind as you watch: Am I just a fan or a completely committed follower of Christ? 

1. FOLLOWERS CHOOSE THE HEART.

 “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, ‘The teachers of
 religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the
 Scriptures. So practice and obey whatever they say to you, but don’t
 follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.’ ” – Matthew 23:1-3 (NLT) 

Everything the Pharisees do is for show. 

“You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts
 are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:28 (NLT)

2. FOLLOWERS CHOOSE THE RELATIONSHIP.

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You
 travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he
 becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” –  Matthew 23:15  

The laws don’t change hearts but a relationship does.

3. FOLLOWERS CHOOSE LOVE OVER LAW.

 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple
 it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he
 is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or
 the temple that makes the gold sacred?” – Matthew 23:16-17 (NIV) 

The Pharisees kept the law but they forgot the law of love.

4. FOLLOWERS CHOOSE GRACE OVER GUILT.

 “They crush you with impossible religious demands and never lift a
 finger to help ease the burden.” – Matthew 23:4 (NLT) 

What drives us is grace. The Pharisees crushed the people with impossible rules to follow. Jesus told them they were missing the key which is being real. It’s about a relationship with Christ and following so our burdens are light. 

5. FOLLOWERS CHOOSE WHAT REALLY MATTERS.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You
give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cummin. But you have
neglected the more important matter of the law – justice, mercy and
faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting
the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a
camel.” – Matthew 23:23-24 (NIV) 

God wants our heart.

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27 Responses to Following Jesus or Following the Rules

  1. altruistico says:

    Your post is meaningful, Mark. It hits me right where I get most aggravated. Todays Christian Pharisee. Many of todays Christian’s are showmen. Their entire ministry is developed around other Christians. They witness to Christians, write for Christians, profess to Christians and dress themselves up for Christians. No wonder we are loosing the Battle against Satan in this world – why divorce is so high, kids raised in the streets, our jails and prisons are over crowded, drugs are a way of life and homosexuality is so prominent. The showmanship Christian of today, those reborn Pharisee’s of old are not listening to our Lord and Savior nor leading by His example:
    God bless you Mark and yours..

  2. Pingback: Grace | Seventeen 20

  3. LifeWhataJoy says:

    Really good stuff! Glad I found your blog…or should I say it found me! Keep up the good work. Your lessons are great.

  4. Thank you for the reminder that it’s not what we do that is as important as the condition of our heart as we follow Jesus. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    \o/
    Praise Jesus!

  5. Pingback: Wherever, Whenever, Whatever | This Day With God

  6. I saw several of the “Not a fan” videos a while back on Christian TV. I hope it’s not a contradiction, but I’m a fan of the “Not a fan” series. 🙂

    For Evangelicals, the question should be:
    Are you following Jesus or following Paul?

    BOSS PAUL THE PHARISEE
    [sing it to the tune of “Rapture” by Blondie]

    I’m Boss Paul, the Pharisee
    My hypocrisy’s plain for the world to see
    I travel the land and travel the sea
    to make a convert who is just like ME

    “All have sinned” – we know that’s true
    but it never means ME – it only means YOU
    My sins are all theoretical
    “I’m the worst of sinners”- but don’t ask where

    To be more like Jesus is what some strive
    except for me – I’ve already arrived
    I’m the perfect model since the road to Damascus
    What were Paul’s sins? Don’t ask us!

    I justify everything I do
    If I testify about myself it MUST be true
    I’m the only man in all history
    whose testimony doesn’t need two or three

    If I did something it MUST be right
    Don’t use the Scripture to shed any light
    Don’t do as I say, do as I do
    and then you can be a Pharisee too.

  7. Likewise, blessings to you Mark. Here is more.

    Vision of angels with jackhammers
    Sunday March 10, 2013 approximately between 7:30 – 8:00 AM Pacific Time

    The soundtrack for this vision was worship music, prominently featuring “The God of angel armies” by Chris Tomlin. I was lying in bed, raising my hands in worship for about half an hour.

    A heavenly army of angels started gathering here in Montebello, to prepare for spiritual warfare against the demonic stronghold over the church in Pasadena. (It seemed the focus of the warfare was over the church in the Eastern part of the city.) I saw angels on horseback, and several of them grabbed heavenly jackhammers and started circling around over the church in Pasadena, hammering away at the transparent “concrete” over the church. But very quickly it became obvious that the horses were not needed, and in fact they were hindering the work and making it less effective. I had briefly wondered why the jackhammers did not need a power cord, but of course they are not powered by electricity, but rather by heavenly power.

    Then I saw hundreds of angels being armed for battle with these jackhammers, just as an army of men would be armed with machine guns going into battle. A scene from a war movie I saw many years ago flashed in my mind, where soldiers were lined up in a corridor, and quickly passing by another soldier standing at the door who had a stack of guns. He quickly shoved a machine gun in their hands one by one, and they ran out the door armed for battle. It was sort of like that with the angels this morning.

    Hundreds of these angels with jackhammers gathered above the church in Pasadena, and hammered away at the transparent “concrete” over the church. (No horses this time.) This “concrete” was over the entire San Gabriel Valley, but it seemed it was weaker over this area- I’m not completely sure why. After maybe 5 or 10 minutes of this hammering, there started to be breakthrough. In a circle above the church, the concrete was demolished, and there was an open heaven.

    (The concrete remained in place over the rest of the Valley. After the hammering was finished, the jackhammers were collected on a big tray on vertical rails, sort of like a huge “dumbwaiter” about the size of a tractor trailer, and lifted back to heaven.)

    Underneath the “open heaven” the earth was crawling with maggots, filth, and demons. But now they were exposed to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. This area started to be cleansed and purified, and the rampant presence of the demons and their work started to be destroyed, burned up, and cast out. It was so filthy that shining the light alone into this area wasn’t enough. But our God is enough, He does not change, and He is the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega.

    The humble, anonymous author of the Book of Hebrews reminds us: “Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” [12:28] and “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [13:7-8]
    (So we are NOT to imitate the way of life of other leaders who spoke the word of God, not Paul the Pharisee nor any other man, regardless of what they claim about themselves. Rather we are to imitate JESUS, who is always the same.)

    The author of Hebrews was referring back to the Torah of Moses:
    “Do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” [Deuteronomy 4:23b-24]
    In most Bible-believing churches today, Paul the Pharisee has become an idol, and the time has come for this idol to be exposed and cast down.

    In my vision, God then came as a consuming fire, entered the hole in the concrete under the open heaven, and burned up all the filth, to purify this space. It was cleansed, swept clean and put in order.

    Then I saw the evil king, Boss Paul the Pharisee, being exposed and cast down from his high position. The angels threw his metal crown in the dust, and pounded it with hammers, bending the points on top inward, and beating it into scrap metal. They stripped the idol of “The Apostle Paul” of his rich garments, kicked him in the butt a few times, and cast him into the abyss “until the appointed time.”

    (Paul was never appointed an Apostle by Jesus or anyone else in the pages of the Bible, any more than Mary the mother of Jesus is “the immaculate conception.” Jesus and the original Apostles all agree that there are only 12 Apostles, and the 12th is Matthias.)

    I was wondering specifically what is “the appointed time” and what specifically happens then, but God did not choose to reveal that to me. Why wouldn’t God tell me this? I don’t know. But maybe it is a reminder that I am human and I don’t know everything. Only the risen Lord Jesus Christ can truly claim: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” For Paul the Pharisee, or me, or the Antichrist, or any other man to make such a claim about himself is truly blasphemy. When Jesus walked the earth in the flesh, even He didn’t claim such a thing about himself at that time. But now that He is risen, Yes.

    Then I saw a huge image of Jesus sitting on the throne, above the San Gabriel Mountains just north of Pasadena, facing south toward the San Gabriel Valley. (The purified hole in the “concrete” was front and center before Him.) He was about 3 times as tall as the tallest mountains. He was bright, shining like the sun. Majesty, Glory, Power, Love, Truth, Joy, Hope, Faithfulness, Peace, Fulfillment, unspeakable Contentment, Wholeness, Unity, Restoration.

    I asked “where is God the Father?”
    The answer given was, “In heaven.” Just like the opening words of Jesus in what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.”

  8. Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    What is a common analogy for a permanent decision?
    “Written in stone.”
    What could be more permanent than that?
    How about written in stone in heaven (in other words, for eternity.)
    And what kind of a stone is the most solid, permanent, and unchangeable?
    Perhaps a foundation stone?
    The Book of Revelation written by the Apostle John, chapter 21 verse 14 says… “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostle of the Lamb.”
    Nothing about a “13th Apostle” or an “Apostle of the Gentiles”…. Hmmmm…..

    Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    Imagine “Wackyjesus” in “Wackyheaven”, built on the foundations of 12 chalkboards:

    “Matthias, you should have developed your skills in writing and public speaking. Your name never appears in the Bible after your appointment as the 12th Apostle in Acts 1. [erase erase erase]

    Actually, the same is true for you Thaddaeus, after you were appointed. You should have hired a PR firm to promote your name and make if famous. [erase erase erase]

    Of course, you both are specifically mentioned in Acts 6:2. “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together.” And this is before Saul/Paul is even mentioned. But let us not confuse the issue with facts. Paul did a much better job of marketing himself, and he wrote about himself hundreds of times. Share of voice equals share of mind. And most Evangelical pastors who read the Bible spend most of their time listening to the voice of Paul, so they become “like Paul.” But I digress…

    James, we had a good run. I didn’t think King Herod would knock you off so quickly. [erase erase erase]

    Oh well. Wow, they’re dropping like flies. Now I’ve got 3 slots open. I’d better buy a case of chalk and some more erasers. I’ll have to change the names on these 12 chalkboards hundreds of times in the next couple of millennia.

    I guess I had better plan ahead, and save a slot for the last Pope, Francis. And the head Mormon Apostle. And I need to save a throne for my mom, or she’ll be mad. And one for Muhammad too. Who needs truth in relationship, when I can quickly get market share, and totally dominate the market, through mergers and acquisitions?

    And one throne for that other guy named Peter. When he was younger, he used to have the great theological insight about territorial spirits and wrestling with dark angels. What was his last name? Begins with a consonant. Sounds almost like he was in the personal transportation industry back in “sword and sandal epic” days… “Peter Charioteer?” Maybe not. This isn’t the “fullest” description of him, but it’s full enough. Anyway, I should save a throne for him too.”

    So what is the application of this parable?
    Beware of the NAR whale – it’s really a killer whale with a man-made horn strapped on top. The only place in the New Testament that mentions anything like “Seven Mountains” is Revelation 17, “seven hills on which the woman sits.” (The Great Prostitute, that is.) Rome is the city that sits on seven hills, the perfect place for Peter the Roman, the New World Pope for the New World Order, to replace the original Apostle Peter in the apostate church of the Antichrist.

    • Mark Shields says:

      Jesus is God in the flesh and I’m thankful we can follow Him because His way leads us in the right direction. Thanks again for your parable to help us beware of those who might lead in the wrong direction.

  9. If want to follow Jesus, we should try to see, understand, and use the Scriptures as Jesus would. The first step to do this would be to look at the testimony of Jesus recorded by Matthew Mark Luke & John, and see how Jesus DID use the Scriptures.

    Torah ! Torah ! Torah !

    “It is written” is one of Satan’s favorite phrases.
    He loves to quote “religious writings”, including the Bible, and many others such as the Koran and Book of Mormon.

    Saying “it must be true because It is Written” is like saying it must be true because it’s on TV. Or it must be true because Wikipedia said so- nothing against them, but “every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

    In the account of the Temptation of Jesus [Matthew 4:1-11 & Luke 4:1-13]
    Satan says; “it is written” and quotes Psalm 91:11-12. Is that really part of the Bible? Yes. It is part of the third, least authoritative category, the Kethubim (Writings or Scripture). Satan didn’t quote the Torah (the Instruction, Teaching, or Law of Moses) or the Nabi’im (The Prophets). Satan quoted the “Scripture” and said; “it is written.”

    http://rediscoveringthebible.com/IntroTheProphets.html

    Most of us know that when Satan tempted Jesus 3 times, Jesus responded 3 times with “It is written.” But we never stop to ask the basic questions of an “investigative reporter” like Sid Roth used to do, before he hit the “Big Time.” (That marvelous song and video of my youth by Peter Gabriel just came to mind… sorry, where was I?) Oh yes…
    Who, What, Where, When, Why, How?

    We just say; “Jesus quoted the Bible.” And we stop thinking.
    But what specifically did Jesus quote in the Bible? Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians? No, it wasn’t written yet. Proverbs? No. Another part of Psalms, or other Scripture? No.

    “Deuteronomy” literally means “second law.” It is the 5th Book of the Torah.
    Question: So what specifically did Jesus quote when he said; “it is written”?
    Answer: Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:16, Deuteronomy 6:13
    In other words…

    Torah ! Torah ! Torah !

  10. Evangelicals view Paul as the perfect pastor, a model of maturity and an example to follow. Most pastors are trying to “be like Paul’ and succeeding.
    Paul does use a lot of ink in his letters defending his behavior and justifying himself, claiming he did not trick or exploit people, etc.

    Regarding a charge that was made against him, Paul responded:
    “Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who sit in judgment of me…” [1 Corinthians 9:1-3]

    Here Paul is arguing for “relative truth.” It may not be true for others, but it’s true for you!!! As I’ve noted, (and no one in the world has refuted this,) Paul was never appointed an Apostle by anyone, and never recognized individually as an apostle by anyone in the New Testament except himself.

    There is more New Testament text written specifically to – and about – the Church in Corinth than to any other church, even more than Jerusalem. 29 chapters, and also we have Luke’s account of the church’s founding in Acts. We have more specific details about Corinth than any other church. It was anything but a model of maturity and a good example to follow. It was infamous for being extremely unhealthy, with deep serious long-term problems. This is a failure of leadership.

    So let’s ask ourselves, when Paul wrote his two letters to the church in Corinth, who was in charge of the church?

    Rather than
    .1) drawing a blank and saying “what?”
    .2) saying “we don’t know enough.”
    .3) shifting the blame and saying “no one was qualified”
    .4) denying responsibility and saying “it doesn’t matter”

    Why don’t we go face to face with the text of Acts and Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians? Authority and Rights are paired with Obligations and Responsibility in healthy churches. For example, as Paul wrote to others, “an overseer must be hospitable.”

    Could Paul be “hospitable” years after he abandoned the church in Corinth, and was teaching full-time at his own school hundreds of miles away in Ephesus? Could Skip Heitzig be “hospitable” after he abandoned the church in Albuquerque and moved back to California, but still kept control of the church, backed up by his buddy on the church board, California mega-church pastor Greg Laurie?

    I’m not saying that Paul is THE Antichrist. Some would argue that Paul was never a true follower of Jesus. I understand their thinking, but I can’t prove that. So I must simply conclude that Paul was an extremely carnal (but gifted) follower of God, like Samson, Jonah, or King Solomon, who was wrong about many points of doctrine, was greedy, selfish, abusive, deceitful, dishonest, made things up, etc.

    Jesus said to the Apostle Peter “get behind me Satan” but I don’t question Peter’s salvation. I think at times Paul was bound in spirit by Satan, but not necessarily all the time. And certainly, Paul didn’t know everything, and didn’t have “the complete revelation” even if he apparently THOUGHT he did.

  11. What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? Here are list of 5 to get the discussion started:

    .1) Paul’s boastful conflicting false testimonies, exaggerating and making things up about his conversion experience in Acts 22 & 26, compared to what actually happened (recorded by Luke in Acts 9).

    .2) Paul lying to the Ephesian elders saying he was “compelled by the Spirit” going to Jerusalem, when in truth he was clearly disobeying God. [Acts 19:21 – 22:21]
    .
    3) Paul exaggerating his ministry in Ephesus claiming it was “3 years night and day with tears” when really it was 3 months in the synagogue and 2 years daily in a lecture hall.
    [Acts 20:31 vs Acts 19:8-10]

    .4) Paul abandoning the Church in Corinth after a year and a half for no obvious reason, and going off on another long trip, mostly on his own, without appointing anyone else in Corinth as overseer, or giving anyone else any specific authority in the Church in Corinth.
    [Acts 18}

    .5) Paul acting as an abusive absentee overseer / pastor to the Church in Corinth years after he abandoned them, and clinging to all power and claim to control of money and all aspects of the church ministry, while he was hundreds of miles away teaching full-time in his own school in Ephesus. [1 & 2 Corinthians.}

    Paul is the “model pastor” for many modern “Pauls” like;

    a) Bob Coy, who still owns all the assets and controls all the money at his cult known as Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, in spite of his recent resignation as “Senior Pastor” there due to adultery with multiple woman and other major sins that he still has never specifically admitted to personally.

    b)
    Greg Laurie, the Boss of a wide-ranging personal cult empire that generally goes by the name of “Harvest.” Greg lives in Newport Beach, commutes by helicopter, and exploits the very large church he founded in Riverside from a distance, while he does his own thing in Orange County and travels around wherever he feels like, building a personal business empire with himself as the center, not Jesus.

  12. “What is an Apostle?”
    Here is the answer if the sources are the words and actions of Jesus and the Original Apostles in the text of the New Testament.

    .1) Gospel of Mark – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him…” [Mark 3:13-14]

    Three chapters later,
    “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” [Mark 6:6-7]

    .2) Gospel of Luke – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon…..” [Luke 6:12-14]

    Again three chapters later,
    “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” [Luke 9:1-2]

    .3) Gospel of Matthew – which is organized by theme, not necessarily in chronological order.
    “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon…” [Matthew 10:1]

    Without any clear time reference, continuing on the theme of the Apostles, Matthew does record “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…” [Matthew 10:5] Matthew never said that the Apostles were “sent out” immediately after being appointed. If we didn’t also have the clear records in Mark and Luke, it would be a fairly logical assumption that Jesus sent them out right away, but it would still be just an assumption. In this case, that assumption would clearly be wrong. The Twelve Apostles were absolutely NOT sent out right away after being appointed Apostles, according to Mark chapters 3 through 6, and Luke chapters 6 through 9.

    So being an Apostle of Jesus involves being sent by Jesus, yes. But that isn’t the only meaning, or even the first and primary meaning. The first thing was “that they might be with Him” personally, together, for His entire earthly ministry, from the time of John the Baptist until Jesus rose to heaven. Jesus poured his life into the 12 Apostles for 3 ½ years very personally training them to be the leaders of the church, and Jesus chose Peter as first among equals.

    The NIV translation inserts the heading “Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas” for the passage Luke wrote in Acts 1:12-26]. The NIV headings were not part of the original text, and sometimes they can be misleading, but in this case I believe the heading is right on.

    Jesus and the Original Apostles knew what an Apostle is better than anyone else in the world. Why is this a strange idea? Why do so many people frequently attack and tear down and dismiss the Original Apostles, particularly Peter, as if they were all incompetent, stupid, and wrong in so many ways, and they didn’t even know what an “Apostle” was? The answer to that question is, they have been listening to the voice of Paul, rather than the voices of Jesus and the Original Apostles.

    As we consider the question “what is an Apostle”, we should carefully listen to the words of the leader that Jesus personally appointed as first among the Apostles, and trained personally for 3 ½ years, Peter.

    “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” [Acts 1:21-22]

    Neither Paul, nor James, nor Luke were with Jesus and the Apostles the whole time, so they were not qualified to be a “witness with the Apostles of Jesus’ resurrection”, which is what it means to be an Apostle. Matthias was qualified, appointed, and later recognized as part of The Twelve. No one except Judas ever lost his apostleship.

    Responding to a question from Peter,
    “Jesus said to them:
    …you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Matthew 19:28]

    We cannot prove that Judas was present at that time, and we cannot prove that Matthias was absent at that time when Jesus spoke those words. Even if Judas was physically present, as we all realize now, he was not a true follower of Jesus. And even if Matthias was physically absent at that particular occasion, Jesus is still establishing the basic qualification for having one of the twelve thrones as being “you who have followed me,” not someone who will follow Jesus in the future, like Paul, James, Luke or anyone else in the world.

    At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His Apostles:
    “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred on one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Luke 22:28-30]

    Was Judas present when Jesus spoke those words? Even if someone wants to be argumentative and say we can’t prove that Judas wasn’t there at the time, we certainly can’t prove that Judas WAS there. Judas obviously didn’t stand by Jesus in his trial, as the whole world knows. But that was the requirement Jesus gave to “sit on thrones:” “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” “You”, speaking to His 11 Apostles who had been walking with Him faithfully for 3 ½ years. Not others in the future who will follow the risen Jesus Christ. Notice that at the Last Supper, when Judas lost his throne and Matthias was definitely absent, Jesus chose to speak of “thrones” rather than “twelve thrones” as he had previously.

    The Apostle John recorded about the New Jerusalem,
    “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” [Revelation 21:14]

    The Apostles are 12 faithful eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus during His entire earthly ministry, and Matthias is the 12th. That’s the short version of my definition of “what is an Apostle.”

    • Mark Shields says:

      Thank you Matthew for the information you have provided on”Who is an Apostle”.

      • No problem Mark.
        We usually don’t think about it, but so much of life boils down to the question
        “Whose voice am I listening to?”
        Eve listened to the voice of the serpent, and ignored the voice of God.
        Adam listened to the voice of his wife Eve, even though he knew she was wrong, because he wanted to please her rather than obeying God and pleasing God.

        Jesus is God in the flesh, so we should listen to the voice of Jesus first. This should not be thought of as some new radical idea or surprising if we really are followers of Jesus. It is literally Orthodox – the Eastern Orthodox put the 4 Gospels in a separate book above all other parts of the Bible.

        WHOSE “feelings and experience” am I thinking about first?
        Liberals tend to focus on their own feelings and experience.
        Cult members focus on the feelings and experience of the Cult Leader.
        Most Evangelicals focus on PAUL’S feeling and experience without realizing it.
        But in truth,
        We SHOULD focus on GOD”S feelings and experience.
        God’s commandments, in the Law of Moses and the Prophets sections of the Old Testament, and the Testimony of Jesus, recorded by Matthew Mark Luke & John.
        Blessings
        PS. It seems we are on the same wavelength. “The God of Brilliants Lights” was already playing in my head when I got your e-mail with that video link.
        🙂

  13. Hi Mark,
    God is “Writing His story on my heart” as Francesca Battistelli would say..

    According to Jesus, which Commandment is the Most Important?

    This is a question of fact about the content of the text in the 66 Books of our Bible. It is comparing the words of Jesus with the words of Paul (and other men) regarding which one is the Most Important Commandment and which one is the Second commandment, which together fulfill the Law and the Prophets. (Not The Law the Prophets & the Writings, not “All Scripture,” not “The whole Bible”)

    It isn’t a question of men’s opinions about “what Paul really meant” or “what Paul must have known” or “what Paul was actually referring to here” or “what Paul was clearly implying” or “what we must conclude that Paul was assuming”, etc. etc.

    These lines of reasoning all go back to the false idea that “Paul must have been right and Paul couldn’t possibly be wrong, so whatever Paul was thinking at the time must have been correct, and we just have to figure out what Paul’s intended meaning was and what Paul was really thinking when he wrote these words.” That would mean that your opinion about the unknowable unwritten “mind of Paul” becomes the “Word of God.” No. Wrong.

    Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The words spoken by Jesus, recorded in our Bible by Matthew Mark Luke & John, should be above all other words. This has literally been the Orthodox position for almost 2000 years. Paul is inferior, Jesus is superior. The words of Jesus are superior to the words of everyone else in the Bible and to everyone else in the world. Jesus is in agreement with the Law and the Prophets and came “to fulfill them.” [Matthew 5:17-20]

    What Jesus clearly and specifically said is also superior and more important than your opinions about what you think Jesus meant or implied, but didn’t say elsewhere. For example, when Jesus was speaking about “a new command I give you,” Jesus didn’t say THE new commandment, or the FIRST commandment, or the MOST IMPORTANT commandment, or the ONE commandment, or the GREATEST commandment, or ONE RULE.

    The false teaching about “one rule” is the false teaching of the Pharisees of Paul’s day, and Paul the Pharisee was pushing this false teaching. This contradicts the clear specific teaching of Jesus about the first and greatest commandment and the second. Jesus warned us about the Pharisees in Matthew chapters 15 & 16, and quoted the Prophet Isaiah regarding them:
    “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
    [Isaiah 29:13]

  14. Jesus said that one of these two commandments is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

    Many self-professed “Bible-believing Evangelicals” won’t listen to the words of Jesus, because they are brainwashed through reciting their “mantra” – “all scripture is God-breathed.”

    This “Evangelical Mantra” has been accepted by the collective subconscious mind of “The Evangelical Church” without thought, question, reflection, or even 2 witnesses from the Scripture itself. It’s based on a misinterpretation, out of context, of one verse in one letter written by one man, Paul the Pharisee, who was unfamiliar with the personal ministry and teaching of Jesus.

    But, “Once an idea has been accepted by your subconscious, it remains there and it governs your behavior until it is replaced or changed.” [ as a pastor named Bishop Dale C. Bronner observed in one of his sermons]

    (Definition from the American Heritage Dictionary.) Mantra (noun) (Hinduism.) A sacred formula believed to embody the divinity invoked and to possess magical power, used in prayer and incantation.

    When cult members repeat their mantra, it makes them deaf to the voice of God, unable to hear God. Instead, it puts their focus on their one “special man” above all others – his personality, words and teachings, character, life example, feelings, experience, intentions, mind, will, emotions, etc. Their cult leader is their hero – he is always right, could never be wrong about anything specific, and he must be obeyed in all things and never questioned. He will give himself a special title, write at least one special book, and claim special authority, with no need for a second witness to back him up.
    Here are 3 examples.

    .1) Fuhrer. The title of Adolf Hitler as the leader of the German Nazis, author of “Mein Kamph”. Mantra: “Heil Hitler.”

    .2) The self-appointed Prophet Muhammad, author of The Koran. Mantra: …..”and Muhammad is his prophet.”

    .3) Paul the Pharisee, the self-appointed Apostle to the Gentiles, whose 13 letters comprise one third of what, today, we call the “New Testament.” (The first, original “New Testament” was composed by the second century heretic Marcion, and he coined the term “New Testament.” His new “book” contained nothing except 10 of Paul’s letters and an abbreviated Gospel of Luke. There were no other “New Testament” books, and the Hebrew Scriptures were the “Old Testament” which was irrelevant, according to the heretic Marcion.) Mantra: “All Scripture is God-breathed….”

    I got my Masters Degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was attracted to the school because they put Paul’s mantra of “All Scripture is God-breathed” above everything else, and I wanted to heed Paul’s command and “Preach the Word” like Paul….

    This mantra is a misinterpretation out of context of 2 Timothy 3:16. It ignores the previous verse, 2 Timothy 3:15, which clearly indicates that Paul was NOT referring to his own letters when he wrote the words “All Scripture.”

    Paul was probably making reference to some of the Hebrew Scriptures, quite likely including the Law and the Prophets. We cannot be completely certain exactly which “Scriptures” Paul meant in “All Scripture”, and what Paul meant by “God-breathed.” Why can’t we be certain?

    Because we must establish a matter by the testimony of two or three witnesses, especially something as important as “What is the Word of God.” No one else in the pages of the Bible besides Paul ever said anything like “All Scripture is God-breathed”. And Paul only said it here, one time, in the middle of a personal letter.

    The Apostle Peter made reference to “Prophecy of Scripture,” not “All Scripture,” and no it’s not the same thing at all. Jesus never said anything like that. And no one, not even Paul, ever said that all Scripture was equal.

    I remember the general approach to the Bible at Dallas being that “every word in the 66 Books is the Word of God”….. and we should interpret it based on “the intended meaning of the author in the historical grammatical context.”

    That is the basic idea of the heavy-duty seminary language we were being trained in. It sounds so right, so intelligent, so professional, so “godly”….. but it is fundamentally flawed.

    When we look at Paul’s teachings and testimony about himself, (in his letters that make up 1/3 of the New Testament,) we should NOT immediately ask ourselves; “what did Paul say, what did Paul mean, and how does this apply to my life?” The fundamental question is NOT “what was in the mind of Paul?”

    Before any of that, the FIRST question to ask is; “does Paul agree with Jesus, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets?”

    Paul contradicted himself, and his teachings and testimony about himself don’t harmonize with the teachings of Jesus (or with Luke’s record of his life.) Let’s not waste our time with endless debates about “what Paul really meant” with his wacky teachings about “baptizing the dead” or “there is neither male nor female.” Paul was wrong. Jesus reminds us from The Law “at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female.” [Matthew 19:4, Genesis 1:27]

    As to the question of “whether the Bible is ALL truly Gods WORDS”…

    The underlying unspoken assumption is that “The Bible” (66 Books) was given to us by God as “one book” and it’s all “equal” in level of authority, priority, and importance. This comes from unconsciously believing Paul’s mantra, the “Evangelical Mantra”, that “All Scripture is God-breathed”, and falsely assuming Paul was referring to every word in the 66 Books of the Bible. Yet even here, not even Paul, not even once, ever said that “All Scripture is EQUAL” in authority, priority, and importance.

    No one in the pages of the Bible ever said or wrote that “all Scripture,” or “the Bible,” is “all truly God’s words”. Jesus never said anything like that, and Jesus did not see it that way. Jesus did not see even the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the “Old Testament”, as a whole unit or book that was all equal or “all truly God’s words.” Jesus spoke of The Law, or The Law and the Prophets, holding these 2 sections of the Old Testament above the third, least important sections the “Writings.” And Jesus held the Psalms, the first book of the “Writings” section, above the other books in the “Writings” section in importance, since some parts of some Psalms are prophetic.

    Obviously, the New Testament Scriptures were not written when Jesus was walking the earth. But if we want to get closest to The Source, Jesus himself, it makes sense that we should look first to the eyewitness testimony of two of His appointed Apostles who walked with Him faithfully for over 3 years, Matthew & John. (Also to other eyewitness testimony, recorded by Mark and Luke.) This is more accurate, important, and authoritative than personal letters written by Paul the Pharisee, who never knew Jesus personally, had no part in His ministry, and had no eyewitness testimony.

    We should follow the Jesus of the Gospel writers. We should not follow the “jesus” of Paul the Pharisee or Muhammad or any other man, who had their own ideas of who “jesus” was and what He did.

  15. Parable of the House Painters

    A homeowner called his friend, who was a painting contractor. “Friend, I want to hire you and your team to paint my house and my garage. Paint the house first, and I’ll stay in the garage until you’re done. Then when the paint is dry, I’ll move back into the house, and you can paint the garage.”

    The painting contractor hired a new foreman named Paul, and gave him the homeowner’s instructions. (Paul insisted that all the workers show respect for him by addressing him as “Boss Paul.”) Paul called the team of painters together and told them:
    “Boys, we need to paint this garage and house. The quicker we do it, the more profitable it is for us. So get to work! Since the garage is smaller, we can finish that quicker. Then those who finished the garage can go help the others finish the house.”

    One worker objected: “But Boss Paul, those were not the owner’s instructions! We are supposed to paint the house first. Only after the house is finished and the paint is dry can we go and paint the garage.”

    Paul replied: “I’m Boss, you work for me, and you do as I say. We are painters, and we paint. We don’t have time for debates about ‘which one is first’. We need to get to work applying that paint to the garage and house as quick as we can. Which owner would be upset if we finished early? The job is to paint the garage and house – what difference does it make ‘which one is first’”?

    “It makes a big difference to the owner,” the worker objected. To which Paul replied, “you’re fired.” Paul then took his team of painters, and started painting the garage and the house.

    When the homeowner returned in the evening, he was furious. He had nowhere to sleep, and had to go stay in a hotel for several days. The homeowner’s friend, the painting contractor, apologized, and explained:

    “I hired a new foreman named Paul, but that was a huge mistake. He ignored your instructions that I passed on to him. You don’t know him, and I’ve just barely met him.
    To be extremely polite, I could say that Paul ‘says some things which are difficult to understand.’ To be more direct, I could say Paul talks like an arrogant megalomaniac with a messiah complex, proclaiming; ‘I am not under the law’ but yet making up his own laws as he goes along, that everyone else has to obey. Paul said: ‘I became your father…. therefore I urge you to imitate me,’ and ‘I have become all things to all men.’ Paul thinks he’s Boss, and doesn’t need to listen to your instructions that I gave him.”

    In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, Jesus identified two commandments, saying one of them is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

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