Posts Tagged ‘False prophets’

In the Name of Jesus

“In the Name of Jesus”

© C.O. Bishop 12/15/2018

Colossians 3:17 compared to other passages.


Introduction:

We have been studying Colossians for some time. Last time, we discussed the command to allow God’s Word to “dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.” The result of allowing God’s Word to deeply affect our lives, as commanded in verse 16, should be that everything we do is under His authority, and is to be done as ambassadors of Christ.

When a police officer (in times past) said “Open up, in the name of the Law!” the order he was giving was given under the auspices of (and with the full authority of) the Law of the government he served. The phrase “in the name of” is not to be taken lightly. It is not just a “charm” to apply to everything we do, or a magic spell, an incantation, or something. It is saying that we are operating under the Authority of Christ…not our own authority.

When an Old Testament prophet spoke “in the name of” God, his prophecy had better have been absolutely correct. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22, God said that a person who claimed to speak “in the name of God”, and who was proven to be lying (because the sign he claimed would happen did not happen), was to be put to death. So, this is not a light thing, to claim I am doing or saying something “in the name of Jesus.” And yet, here it is: we are commanded to do so! In fact, there are to be no exceptions! Everything we do or say is to be under that mantle of authority.

Do All in the Name of Jesus

17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

So, I’m not at all sure that when we pray, and just say, “We ask these things in the name of Jesus, and for His sake” that we are properly using that concept. Possibly we are, in the limited sense that the only reason we can talk to God at all is that we are “in Christ”: we must come to God under the mantle of Jesus’s authority. But, over in 1st John 5:14, 15, we are also told to pray “according to God’s will”…in other words, we are to be learning what God’s will is, so that we can be obedient to His will and pray in accordance with what we know to be His will.

I don’t think it just means to tack on the “disclaimer”, saying, “If it be thy will.” That just makes it sound as though we really don’t expect results, so we are leaving the option open for God to say “No,” since we already expect that answer. I hope that is not our real motive, as that is not His intent, at all: in Romans 12:2 he tells us to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” That means we have to learn His will, and put it into practice. If we really are living that way, then it would be very likely that when we pray, we really are praying according to God’s Will, and that we should expect solid responses from Him. We are to know that we are in His will, so that we can ask confidently, and expect to see results.

Is it possible that (frequently) we genuinely don’t know, and are simply confessing that to be the case? Of course it is, and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to be completely honest in prayer, and be confident that the Holy Spirit knows our hearts in all things. There is nothing wrong with subjecting all things to the will of God.

Being in the Will of God

The other side of the question is that “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) If I know that I am not doing what God wants, then why should I expect Him to answer my prayers? How ironic it seems, that, while I am stubbornly going my own way, I simultaneously have the gall to claim that I am asking in His best interest, and in His name!

This really ought to call each of us to confession! We need to see that, far from actually acting under the authority of the eternal God, and our Savior, we are mostly acting under our own authority and only asking—praying—in order to fulfil our own desires. James 4:3 drives this point home pretty clearly. We “ask amiss….”

Perhaps we need to do some soul-searching, as to where our hearts really are in this matter: think back to the Old Testament charlatan; the false prophet who claimed to be speaking “in the name of God.” He said those words, all right, but he was not acting on behalf of God, which is what that phrase actually means!

How repugnant it must be to God, to hear His Name bandied about as a “charm,” instead of being treated with the respect it deserves. I suppose that the false prophets were in far worse trouble, as they knew they were lying: we don’t even understand the meaning of the phrase, and so we tend to use it too casually. It seems that, rather than curtailing our use of the phrase, we need to change the nature of our prayers and actions. We are commanded to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” We are not commanded to simply say that they are done in His name. We are to do all in the name of Jesus.

What are some things we can know to be God’s Will?

  • God says he desires all to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
  • God says that he wants us to lead others to Him.
  • God says that he wants us to live holy lives, in obedience and faith.
  • God says that he wants our lives to shine as lights in the darkness of this world.

We can find many things in scripture that God says are His will. We can find long lists of things for which Paul prayed for other believers or for himself, and we can take these as examples of what constitutes appropriate prayer. Then we can confidently say “we pray these things in the name of Jesus and for His sake.”

Acting on behalf of God

Just as an illustration; if I were to go to a hardware store, and make a purchase “in the name of” my employer (that is, to be charged to the account of my employer), when in fact it was for something I intended for my personal use, it would be fraudulent at best.

When we ask for something in prayer, saying “in Jesus’ name”, we are “attempting to buy something” on the account of our master, Jesus, and we need to be thinking in that way. It is fine to ask for something in prayer because it is something we desire, too, but we need to realize the difference. If we don’t know which things are “for the sake of Christ” and which are “because I want it,” then we need to be honest and say so. That is when the “not my will, but thine be done” should come into play. I need to remember who my Master is, and that I am always “on the job.”

Here’s another, very negative, example: If I were to commit a crime, as a uniformed police officer, driving a marked police vehicle, it would be taken as being far more serious than the same crime committed by a civilian, and I would be punished accordingly. During hurricane Katrina, there was surveillance video footage of a pair of uniformed officers, looting a store in New Orleans, and loading the stolen items into the back of a marked police car. It was a shameful act, and universally condemned, nationwide. It not only condemned those particular officers, it also called into question the character of all other police personnel, everywhere. It shamed Law Enforcement servants everywhere, and shamed all Americans who support the Law Enforcement professionals. Why? Because they were in uniform, acting against the will of the people they serve and against the laws they are sworn to uphold. They were far worse than a common criminal, because the criminal has never taken oath to obey the law. This was a treachery against the principle of Law Enforcement.

Give this some thought: When a Christian sins, regardless of the severity of the failing, it reflects badly on Jesus, personally. Like it or not, as a believer, you are “in uniform.” You are part of the body of Christ: you are an ambassador of Christ, everywhere you go, and in every circumstance. Consider yourself to be constantly “wearing the uniform” of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that there are always witnesses to your behavior and attitude. We are to maintain that awareness, and act accordingly. The Name of Jesus is a serious matter. Treat it that way.

Putting on the “Uniform”

A few weeks back, we spoke of the command to “put on the new man.” We also pointed out that Galatians 3:27 says we “…have put on Christ.” That is a permanent reality. We now havebeen commanded, as those who have put on Christ (in terms of salvation,” to continually “put on” the new Man, and to put on the characteristics of that new life: the humility and the gentleness, and the love of God. We are told to also “put off” the old way of life, and lay aside our old priorities.

All of these things could be considered the “standard uniform” of the believer. On top of these, we are also commanded to put on the full armor of God. The pieces of that armor (the belt, the shoes, the breastplate, the helmet, the shield, the sword and prayer) are to provide us with the protection and confidence we need to face the daily struggles of life, as well as to guard against the deliberate attacks of the evil one against us.

But, be aware, we are not doing anything “in secret.” Those around us are aware of our position in Christ. If they see that what we claim to be is not matching what they see us to be, they will not be “sympathetic” and say, “Well, he’s trying…give him credit for that!” They will simply dismiss us as “hypocrites,” and assume that everything we say must be false. It is a harsh, inaccurate, unjust judgment, but it is what the World has to offer.

We do not want to bring shame on the name of Jesus, and we do not want to use His Name in an inappropriate manner. We are to change our way of life and the things for which we pray, so that we really can “pray in the name of Jesus,” and confidently look for God’s answer. So that we really can speak and act in His name and for His sake.

The evil high priest, Caiaphas, commanded Jesus, by the name of the Living God, to tell him whether he was the Messiah. Jesus answered to the authority of the Name, even knowing that the man wielding it really had no right to use the Name at all, as everything he was doing (secret trial; trial at night, abuse of the accused, etc.) was illegal. But the answer Jesus gave was not to the man, Caiaphas, it was to the authority of the Living God. Even though it came from an evil, ungodly man, the Name of the Living God was sufficient for Jesus to respond clearly and resoundingly that He was the Messiah. And, he was immediately condemned for doing so. They did not want the truth; they were looking for an excuse to execute Him.

In spite of this knowledge, Jesus responded to the authority of God.

That is an important idea to keep in mind as we move into the following passages, regarding our submission to God and our submission to those he has placed over us:

Conclusion:

We are commanded to “do all that we do, in word and in deed,” in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is a tall order for most of us, and completely impossible apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. We simply cannot function in a way to please God unless we are in submission to His Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Apart from me ye can do nothing.” He meant just exactly that: unless we learn to walk with God on a daily basis, we will still be muddling along in the flesh, and frustrated, as believers, knowing that we are not being the witnesses He has called us to be.

God help us to learn this critical, fundamental lesson.

Lord Jesus, fill us with the desire to live for you, and, by your Holy Spirit, give us the ability to serve faithfully, resting on Your Grace for all things. And this is truly something we can ask in the name of Jesus, and for His sake.


More Thieves!

More Thieves!

© C. O. Bishop 9/29/18 Cornell Estates 9/30/18

Colossians 2:16-23

Introduction:

Last time, we saw that we can be robbed of our Joy, Peace and Security, by those who want us to return to legalism, rather than resting in the Grace of God, poured out upon us through Jesus, at the Cross. We were warned against conformity to Man-made “rules for piety,” when what we are called to do is allow God to change us from the inside. In verse 16, Paul specifically addressed the issues of dietary laws, the keeping of the Jewish feasts, and the Sabbath.

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Romans 10:4 says: “For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness, to every one that believeth.) The result, then, of the final setting aside of the Law, for righteousness, is that we are also free from the trappings of the religious law adhered to by the Jews. There are people who do place themselves back under the Law, though God warns to not do it, right here in this passage.

And the troubling thing is that we humans tend to condemn anyone who isn’t “like us.” Paul warns us to not allow others to “guilt” us into going back into that slavery. We are easily fooled, and easily coerced through shaming. We are social creatures, by nature, and society around us commonly uses the fear of rejection to make us “conform to the group.” Children learn early, to make the threat, “I won’t be your friend!” in order to coerce another child to do their bidding. When people try to shame you into conformity, away from the freedom in Christ, they aren’t your friend, anyway!

Remember that all the things of the Law were only to “point us to Christ.” Don’t allow them to be used to turn you away from Him.

Remember that the Reality is Christ

17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Paul points out that the things of the Law were only a shadow, or a “picture,” at best, of the coming reality of righteousness in Christ. Jesus is the Reality! Since Jesus is the reality, turning to anything else, no matter how pleasing, or solemn, or awe-inspiring—whatever it is that attracts us—is ultimately turning away from Christ.

I do not mean this in the sense of “falling away to perdition,” necessarily: for example, I may have a photograph of my wife, which I especially like, perhaps from when we were first married, and when she was perhaps twenty-one or twenty-two years of age. Her hair was thick, dark and glossy, and she was filled with the vitality of youth. But the woman I love today is not a photograph. She is the real person, and lovelier in person than ever before, though no longer as young. If I were to dote upon that photograph, to the neglect of the real person, can there be any doubt that she would be hurt? It would be turning away from the real woman who is my favorite person and the joy of my life, to gaze at a paper representation of someone I knew nearly forty years ago. I would be turning away from my beautiful wife and attaching myself to a dead image. Our relationship, obviously, would be severely damaged.

All the regulations and rituals of the Old Testament Law, were a picture, or a foreshadowing of the reality to come. Jesus is the reality. If we insist on turning back to the Law, we need to realize that, in so doing, we are turning our hearts away from Christ, with all He has done, and concentrating on the things that we can do.

More Thieves!

There are all sorts of ways through which we can damage our freedom in Christ, and thus, our walk with him. Rituals, self-flagellations, self-humiliation, and over-emphasis of angelic intervention in human experience, along with self-conceived visions (as God called the visions of the false prophets in Jeremiah’s time) all tend to lead us away from a simple, day-by-day walk with Christ. The whole point of our life in Christ is that it is to be Christ-centered.

I have read that there was a teaching at the time this was written, which denied the deity of Christ, and relegated him to the status of an exalted spirit, but claimed that angels had somehow brought us salvation. They denied the value of the blood of Jesus at the Cross, and substituted their own ideas for the Truth of the Gospel. They drew people away from the Gospel and in so doing, destroyed their walk with Christ. Paul warns that such false teachers can ultimately trick us out of the reward that is offered to us for simply walking with Him.

18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

To “beguile” means to “trick.” You remember that Eve’s only defense, in the Garden, was that the Serpent had tricked her—beguiled her. Don’t let people trick you into giving up your reward. (Remember: Salvation is a gift: rewards are earned!)

People may claim to have seen visions of some sort (and I do not deny the possibility): but the visions have to be in agreement with the Written Word of God, or I am deeply suspicious of their source. There is something in the human psyche that demands self-aggrandizement, even if it is some sort of “I am more humble than you are!” type of boasting. God told the false prophets who were Jeremiah’s contemporaries that they had caused their “visions” or dreams, themselves, and that the visions were not from God. (Jeremiah 29:8) Believers easily get drawn into a mystical “experience-driven” faith, as opposed to simply believing God. I remember a fellow-pastor relating to me how he had attempted to share scripture with a woman, who responded angrily, “I don’t care what the Bible says! I have my experience!” Our experiences may or may not be interpreted rightly, and may or may not be “messages from God.” While it certainly is possible to misinterpret God’s Word, at least it is there to be re-read and understood by anyone who cares. Our experiences are not so secure. (Compare 2nd Peter 1:15-21) The Word is our Light.

The Body needs the Head

All of our rituals and pious grandstanding do not impress the Lord. Most of them are weak attempts to emulate parts of the Jewish experience: the feasts, the dietary laws, the Sabbaths, etc., even to the extent of attempting to re-create some of the temple vestments and furniture. There was a man, for a while, who had made a copy of the altar of incense, and who had a religious television show of praying before the “Golden Altar of Incense Prayer!” That is blasphemous, as his work was certainly not the altar of incense. It was false teaching, too, as in the New Testament there is no such altar, and no directive to pray in a particular place, posture, or manner. Such things look attractive, and sound pious, but they do not draw us closer to God. They only result in a return to legalism, not a free, wholesome walk with the Savior.

19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

Notice that the Head is Christ…and the Body is the Church, proper. The Head is to be the only source of nourishment and guidance for the Body. And the Body is to respond to the Head, not to all the misdirection of the World. Give this some thought: we are dependent upon the Head for all things, whether we know it or not, and whether we choose to do so or not. He still is the ultimate source of all our sustenance, and care. But he asks that we choose to depend upon Him; and, that we choose willingly, not by default. Choose to respond to the Person of Christ, and not to the temptations and pressures of the World, and your perspectives will begin to change.

We are to abound in the fruit of the Spirit, not the works of the Law: the result is that the Church flourishes, and the increase is from God, not human effort. A friend of mine visited a number of churches, not because he was looking for another church, but because he had been grieving a loss, and was deliberately “going where no one knew him”, so as to avoid the sympathy and comments that sharpened his grief. He returned, later, and said how relieved he felt to be in a church without the distracting, rock-and-roll music, light-shows, etc. and with a calm, Christ-centered service, where the teaching was plain, Bible-centered, wholesome “sheep-food.”

I recall a church, years ago, which boasted a huge “youth-group”…but it was because they had a rock-and-roll band, basket-ball games, and free pizza, every week. It was a party! And, lest you think I am condemning some particular style of music (I am not) or (heaven forbid!) condemning basketball or pizza; the warning in Ezekiel 33:30-33 is clear, that even when you are preaching the “straight word of God,” there will be those who only came for the entertainment value, with no intent to draw near to God, nor any desire to see their lives transformed. We can’t fix that, but we can try to make sure that we only offer the Word…clean “sheep-food,” as it were, along with simple worship, prayer, and fellowship, so that if people are coming, and staying, it is because that is what they want, rather than some sort of emotional boost, or social “buzz.”

So, Why are you Doing This?

Paul’s conclusion of this topic is a very logical, pointed question: “Why are you doing this?”

20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

Paul reminds his readers that they are dead with Christ (Specifically, dead to those “rudiments of the World”), and complete in Him (without those things), and that they have been permanently separated from the World. So, then, he asks, “Why are you subjecting yourselves to legalism?” He used ceremonial “cleanness vs. uncleanness” for examples: “don’t touch this, don’t taste that, and don’t handle this other thing.” He points out that ALL those “things” (clean or unclean) are temporal, and are, by their nature, destroyed in the very using of them. He also says that such rules are according to the teachings and commandments of men (as opposed to being from God.)

23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

In the Old English, this sounds strange: But, the Living Bible paraphrase renders this verse: These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”

A “show of wisdom” is not the same as real wisdom: people who practice ritualistic religion, and solemn observance of feasts and pageantry, or who practice strict self-denial, fasting, vows of poverty, etc., all tend to look quite holy and righteous. But, as we saw in the previous verses, these practices do not come from God, and also fail to change the heart, with its sinful desires, so that the person is neither satisfied, nor transformed.

God’s Answer

Over in Romans 12:2 Paul says that we are to not be conformed to (or, “pressed into a mold by”) the World, but rather we are to be transformed…how? By all sorts of self-works, and ritualistic maneuvering? No! We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds! And how can that be accomplished? I very seldom refer to the Living Bible paraphrase, but this, too, is a good rendering, and quite appropriate:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

We are constantly pressed to be “more like those around us”, for a variety of reasons; some good, some bad. God does not address all the individual reasons the world claims to be worthy. He gives us a different directive: Allow God to change you from the inside, by changing your thought patterns. The only way I know to do that is through the direct application of God’s Word, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and walking in constant fellowship with Him. (Psalm 119:9-11; 2nd Peter 1:4)

Lord Jesus, draw us along, by your Holy Spirit, to walk with you, in obedience to your written Word. Teach us to love You, above all others, and to choose to believe you above all others, even our own hearts. Allow us to serve with you, and to be empowered by you as we go.