Friday, November 27, 2015

The Way, Will, and Word of God

Dear God-seekers,

In my previous article, The Ways of Life, I coined an expression, "the www of God's kingdom." I explained how there are the ways of God, the will of God, and the Word of God. These three w's are emphasized throughout Scripture. But today I want to show you how the Lord Himself emphasized them in His famous Sermon on the Mount, teaching on all three of these topics at the closing of that sermon in Matthew chapter seven.

The Narrow Way
"Walking on the Narrow Way"
First of all, as I have explained in The Straight and Narrow Path, Jesus taught that we must enter through the narrow gate and follow the narrow way.

He said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mat 7:13-14)

We have choices. On the one hand, there is the wide gate with it's broad way. On the other hand, there is the small gate with its narrow way. Many people enter through this wide gate, which leads to destruction. In fact probably the majority do so. But few people find the narrow way, which leads to life. They are the minority.

Like I explained in Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, in Luke's gospel, the Lord is recorded as saying, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luk 13:24). That word strive means "to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), to endeavor to accomplish something), fight, labor fervently, strive, to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers antagonistic to the gospel."

Beware of False Prophets
One of the reasons you have to strive to enter the narrow gate is because the devil does not want you to, and he tries to prevent you from doing so. You have a very real adversary, who hates you and wants to destroy you. That is the reason you must strive to enter the narrow gate, not because the Lord does not want you to.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." (Mat 7:15-20)

The Lord warned us of the devil's emissaries, who come preaching the message everyone wants to hear. they will convince you that you don't need to strive and that the narrow road to life is much wider than you think it is. They come wearing sheep's clothing on the outside, but they are actually ravenous wolves inside. You must be careful not to be deceived by them.

Since you cannot determine by their outward appearance that they are wolves, you must test their fruit. The Lord said you would know them by their fruits, which refers to what they produce and what they do. This is the way that everyone is known in the spirit realm, not by their outward appearance. For example, angels and demons can appear in different forms, but they are known by their character. That too, is how we know these false prophets.

The Lord said that a good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. This is how it is with people. So any preacher who bears bad fruit is not a good tree. And any preacher bearing good fruit cannot be a bad tree. I covered this in my previous article, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets.

What does the good fruit look like? It's the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23)

On the other hand, the bad fruit is the deeds of the flesh. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)

Consider what each of these sins listed here is referring to. Immorality means fornication or sexual relations outside of marriage (e.g., adultery, incest, rape, molestation). Impurity means any uncleanness, any dirty things in your life and heart (e.g. sexually impure thoughts, impure actions, even those that are not of a sexual nature like smoking cigarettes, watching secular TV, videos, and movies, listening to secular music). Sensuality means being sexually immodest or promiscuous, filthiness, or debauchery.

Idolatry means image worship, making anything into a god, putting anything above God, loving anything or anyone more than Him, praying with an image or diagram before you (e.g., statues of Mary or other saints, images of Jesus, Buddha, phallic symbols, figurines, satanic symbols, etc.), loving or being controlled by material things (e.g., cars, boats, toys, games, money, etc). Sorcery means magic or witchcraft, which includes occult activities like incantations, casting spells, white or black magic, voodoo, drugs, séances, contacting the dead, mediums, Ouija boards, burning incense, crystals, astrology, horoscopes, tarot cards, palm reading, fortune telling, psychic healing, channeling, telepathy, role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, yoga, transcendental meditation, astral projection, levitation, mind control, satanism, etc.(Also see Demon Busters list).

Enmities means hatred, opposition, conflicts, or being adversarial. Strife means quarrel, disputing angrily, contention, debate, variance, or discord that produces a dispute. Jealousy means envy, fervent mind, zealousness for something other than the Lord or the true things of God (e.g., it was out of jealousy they crucified Christ). Outbursts of anger means passion (as if breathing hard, loud sighing), fierceness, indignation, wrath, fits of rage, temper tantrums, losing your temper. Disputes means selfish ambition, plots, complicated schemes, secret plans, conspiracies, (e.g., they plotted to kill the Lord). Dissensions means disunion, division, sedition (rising commotion in which people come together against authority).

Factions means a party (e.g., political or religious) or disunion, clique, sect, cult, splinter groups that follow heresy (error in fundamental religious beliefs). It also includes secret societies and brotherhoods that require oaths or initiation of some sort for membership (e.g., Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, Shriners, Elks, mafia, fraternities, and sororities).

Envying means ill will, envy, jealousy. Drunkenness means using alcohol to change your state of mind, using it as a drug. Matthew Henry said, “Drunkenness is excess in drinking of wine or strong drink, whereby the stomach is overcharged, the mind is intoxicated, and the body enfeebled and unable to perform its office.” Carousing means reveling. Matthew Henry said, “Reveling is excess in feed, nocturnal riotings in eating, drinking, dancing, singing, chambering and wantonness. The Syriac version renders it, ‘lascivious singing’; and the Arabic version, ‘songs’ which are a part of the nightly revels: and such like which are of the same nature and kind.” To put it in modern terms, reveling is jamming to worldly music, nighttime dancing, partying, “kicking,” singing lascivious songs, “rocking,” letting loose, etc.   It means to make a racket, make whoopie, make merry, whoop it up, jollify, “kick” it up, or participate in orgies.

A Christian medical doctor I know in Africa said that in the Spirit, God showed him something. He discovered that the church he used to attend in the village was dominated by witchcraft and surprisingly some of those he thought were Christian were in fact using Christianity as a cover while they continued to work for Satan.

I have already explained in my article, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, that this is not a comprehensive list of all sins. In that article, I showed numerous lists found in the Scriptures of sins that will keep you from heaven. But at the end of this list in Galatians, Paul finished by saying, “And things like these”. That is a very broad expression that covers a vast array of sins. So not all bad fruit that a false prophet could produce are necessarily listed in Galatians 5:19-21, but any fruit they produce that are like the ones Paul listed are also bad. He said, “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”. So you should avoid any preacher who is practicing such things. As the Lord said, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mat 7:19). Therefore, those who follow them will also end up in the fire. 

The Will of God
As I have covered in Walking in the Perfect Will of God, those who enter the kingdom of heaven are the ones who do the will of God.

Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" (Mat 7:21-23)

Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” will enter. He who does the will of God will enter. The will of God is His desire or pleasure. It is what He has determined should happen.

Elsewhere Jesus also said, "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Mar 3:35). He also taught us to pray, “Heavenly Father, Your will be done.” We are constantly seeking the will of God. It's not always easy to follow His will, as Jesus Himself experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. You may recall that He prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." (Mat 26:42b).  But even though it may be difficult, and it may require self-denial, it is the only way to inherit eternal life. The apostle John said, "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1Jn 2:17)

The Lord said on “that day” (judgment day) many people who call Him "Lord" will point to their gifts and how He used them (prophesying, casting out demons, performing many miracles). They will seek to show that since they did all these things in His name, that it is evidence of their allegiance to Him and qualification to enter the kingdom of God.

But He doesn’t know such people. He said He will command them to depart from Him. He will call them those “who practice lawlessness” (i.e., workers of iniquity, wicked people, evil people). In the expression, "you who practice lawlessness", the word “practice” refers to what they do (i.e., their works). And the word “lawlessness” refers to wickedness (i.e., unrighteousness, iniquity, violation of law, that which is illegal). Yes, even in the New Covenant of grace, we must still obey The Law of Christ. It’s not enough to call Jesus "Lord". Don’t think that because the Lord uses you a lot in supernatural gifts that you’ll enter the kingdom. You must obey His commands, or else you will not see His face.

The Word of God
Finally, the Lord said we must hear the Word and act on it.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall." (Mat 7:24-27)

The man who hears the Word of God and acts on it (puts into practice) is the one who built his house on the solid rock. His house represents his life. On the other hand, the man who hears the Word of God and does NOT act on it is like the one who built his house on shifting sand. Both houses encountered a storm. Both men will stand before the Lord in judgment, which is like a great storm. Each of us is either like one of these men or the other. The house is your life. We are either building our lives on the solid rock or on shifting sand.

The house that was built on the rock will not fall, and neither will the person who hears the Word of God and obeys it. The house that was built on the sand fell with a great fall. This is how the person's life will end, who merely heard the Word of God, but did not put it into practice. Wise men build on the rock. Foolish men build on sand.

As I explained in my article, You Must Be Born Again, Jesus said, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (Joh 3:36)

He also said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments...He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me..." (Joh 14:15,21a)

This is why it says in Scripture, "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation." (Heb 5:9)

Putting it All Together
The Lord concluded His Sermon on the Mount by emphasizing the need to follow the way of God, which is the narrow way, as well as do the will of God, and put into practice the Word of God.

In this passage, entering through the narrow gate involves bearing good fruit, doing the will of the Father in heaven, and obeying the Lord’s commands, as well as hearing the Word and putting it into practice. Those who do so are wise. They will not fall, they will find life, they will enter the kingdom of heaven.

On the other hand, taking the broad way and the wide gate is to produce bad fruit -- the deeds of the flesh, to practice lawlessness, to work iniquity, to lead a wicked life, and to merely hear the Word without putting it into practice. Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God, even though they may call Jesus Lord and operate in the supernatural spiritual gifts in the name of Jesus Christ. They will either be deceived by false prophets or become one. They will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Those who take this broad road are foolish. They will end in destruction. They will fall with a crash. They will be told to depart from the Lord, since He doesn’t know them.

We must strive to enter through the narrow gate. We must beware of the false prophets. We must test their fruit. We must obey the Lord’s commands and do the will of God to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear the Word and act on it. All who are wise will do so.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. The "Thy Will Be Done" painting and the "Wise and Foolish Builders" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. The "Walking on the Narrow Way" illustration is by my seventeen-year old daughter C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note I invite you to visit these related articles of mine: The Ways of Life, The Straight and Narrow Path, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets, You Must Be Born Again, The Law of Christ, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Is Obedience Optional?, Obedience by the Spirit, Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Faith Works!, and Doing What is Right, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth? You can access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  I also recommend the booklet by brother Sadiq Ibraham, called Walking in God's Perfect Will.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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