Are We Sacrificing the Words of Christ On the Altar of Works?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus as it was recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty three verses of the thirteenth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will something beginning in the gospel of Matthew that has yet to start within the public ministry of Jesus. As you approach the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus teaching the point in His ministry where He begins to teach and speak in parables—a form and method of teaching that up until this moment in His ministry had not occurred. If you study the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find specific references to Jesus teaching and speaking in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven, but up until the thirteenth chapter you won’t find Jesus speaking in parables. Towards the end of the fourth chapter of the gospel of Matthew you find Jesus not only teaching in their synagogues, and not only preaching the good news of the kingdom, but you will also find Jesus healing all manner of disease and infirmity that plagued the lives of men and women in that day. Within the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of this particular gospel you will find recorded Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in which He not only teaches the attitudes of the kingdom, but you will also find Him teaching concerning the righteousness of the kingdom. Within these three chapters we find what would be one of Jesus’ greatest sermons and teachings that was issued unto man, for its within these chapters we find Jesus beginning to establish the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth. It’s important to note that just as much as Jesus’ life and ministry was one of healing and miracles, it was also one that was characterized by teaching and preaching. His ministry was one that had at the very heart and core of it a desperate desire to teach men and women the divine principles of the kingdom of heaven, for the kingdom would and could not be established apart from these principles guiding it.

Within and throughout the gospel of Matthew you will find specific references to Jesus teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom, as well as healing all manner of sickness and disease, and even driving out demons and evil spirits from within the lives of men and women. What’s more, is that when you read Jesus’ response to the two disciples of John when they inquired of Him whether or not He was the One which was to come, Jesus references the blind receiving their sight, the deaf having their hearing restored, the lame walking, the dead being raised, and evil spirits being cast out. There in that dark prison cell John heard of the mighty works which Jesus was performing in the midst of Judaea and the surrounding regions, and when John was wrestling and struggling with doubt, with unbelief, and even with a God who didn’t meet his expectations, Jesus simply reminded him of the works which were being performed within and upon the earth. It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t come and visit John in the prison, but instead sent his disciples back to him reminding him of the mighty works that were being performed and completed upon the earth among men. When John was struggling and wrestling with a Jesus who didn’t meet his expectations, Jesus merely reminded him of the works which were being performed among men, and issued the strong command concerning those who are not offended in and because of Him. We dare not miss the importance of such a statement, for with these words Jesus was again emphasizing His ministry upon the earth, and how He was releasing the ministry of the kingdom and of the Father among men upon the earth. Jesus reminded John of the tremendous and mighty works which were being performed among men—such as had not been seen and witnessed among men upon the earth. In fact, I would argue that not since the days of Elisha during the days of the northern kingdom of Israel had such wonderful miracles and healings been performed upon the earth.

Perhaps one of the greatest realities surrounding the ministry of Jesus Christ is that it wasn’t a ministry that was characterized solely by healing, solely by miracles, and solely by raising the dead and casting out evil spirits. It would be very easy to get caught up in the life and ministry of Jesus because of the many miracles which He performed among men, and yet I am completely and utterly convinced that to allow yourself to get caught up in this reality is to miss the true nature and scope of the life and ministry of Jesus. There would be many among us who would seek to place an overwhelming amount of emphasis upon the healing of Jesus’ ministry, and the miracles of Jesus’ ministry, and even Jesus raising the dead and casting out demons, and yet such individuals care nothing about the words and teaching of Jesus. If we spend all our time focusing on the works of Christ and yet don’t at the same time focus on the words of Christ, we are naïve, shortsighted and don’t understand or comprehend the life and ministry of Jesus. It was true that Jesus came to the earth, put on flesh and dwelt among men, and even healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, cast out demons, raised the dead, and caused the blind to see and the deaf to hear, but it is also true that Jesus’ ministry was characterized by His teaching just as much as His miracles. There would be those who would read of all the many wonderful miracles which Jesus performed upon the earth, and even read how greater works than these shall we do because He goes unto the Father, and they would seek to engage themselves in a ministry that is completely and utterly characterized by healing, signs, wonders and miracles. Such men and women think that the kingdom of heaven is solely about power and the demonstration and manifestation of the Spirit, and they care absolutely nothing for, nor do they pay any attention to the teaching and words which Jesus spoke among men upon the earth. Such men and women care only for the works of Christ, and are completely unwilling to handle and look into the words of Christ which are just as important as the works.

As I am sitting here this morning I have to admit that I have absolutely no place for any ministry that engages solely in healing, solely in miracles, solely in signs and wonders, and is completely absent any form and method of teaching. I have absolutely no place within my life for any ministry that cares only about the external condition and nature of our physical bodies, yet cares absolutely nothing about the condition of my heart, the condition of my soul, the condition of my mind. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—what good is it to sit under a ministry where you witness signs, where you witness miracles, where you witness healings on the regular, and yet there is absolutely no teaching of the word of God, and there is no preaching and proclaiming the word of the Lord? It is true that Jesus went about Judaea and the surrounding regions—the cities, the towns and the villages—teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom, as well as healing all manner of sickness, all manner of disease, and even raising the dead, and casting out demons, and yet we seem to place more emphasis on Jesus’ healing and miracles than they do on His teaching. What’s interesting about this is that when speaking of the Holy Spirit and His ministry within and upon the earth, Jesus didn’t declare that the Holy Spirit would remind us of His works, but rather the words which He spoke. When Jesus spoke concerning the Holy Spirit, and when He taught His disciples in the upper room, He didn’t declare that if we love Him we would do the same works He did while He was on the earth. What Jesus emphatically declared was that if we loved Him we would do what He commanded, and we would do the words which He spoke. What’s more, is that even at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke of the difference between taking His words and actively listening to and obeying them, and taking His words and paying absolutely no attention to them and choosing not to live according to and by those words. I would draw your attention to two distinct passages of Scripture—both of which are found in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and both which are found within Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. I would also draw your attention to the words which Jesus Himself spoke when speaking unto His disciples in the Upper Room before He would be betrayed by Judas, and before the chief priests, the scribes, and the religious system of that day would send soldiers by night to seize Jesus privately and away from the watching eyes of men. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto those who gathered before Him to listen to and hear Him speak as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount:

“Not ever one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).

“Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which build his house upon the sand: and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

You will notice within the first passage mentioned above that Jesus described how many would come to Him in that day, and would declare and profess “Lord, Lord,” and yet Jesus declares that not everyone that makes such a declaration will enter into the kingdom of heaven. In fact, Jesus would go on to declare that the only ones who would enter into the kingdom of heaven would be those who doeth the will of the Father which is in heaven. This is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for there would be those who would appeal to the works which they performed within and upon the earth in order to somehow gain access and entrance into the kingdom of heaven. There would be those who would emphatically declare that they prophesied in His name, and would declare that they cast out devils, and in His name done many wonderful works, and yet Jesus will look upon them—undoubtedly with great sadness and sorrow in His heart—and declare unto them that He never knew them. These words will then be followed by the most tragic words found in all of Scripture concerning the kingdom of heaven—namely, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Pause for a moment and let those final words sink in to your heart and spirit, for Jesus just declared unto those who prophesied in His name that they were workers of iniquity. Jesus just declared unto those that cast out devils in His name that they were workers of iniquity. Jesus just declared unto those who declared that in His name they did many mighty and wonderful works that they were workers of iniquity. What’s more, is that as if it weren’t enough that Jesus declared unto them that they were workers of iniquity, Jesus also declared unto them that He never knew them. Notice that Jesus doesn’t declare that He didn’t do them, but that He never knew them. Consider the tremendous reality surrounding those words, for not only do they suggest that it is possible to do many works in the name of Jesus Christ and yet be a worker of iniquity, but it is also possible to do many wonderful and many mighty works in His name and Him never know you. What a strong statement it is to declare that you were never known by Jesus—particularly and especially when you consider the fact that you cast out devils in His name, considering the fact that in His name you did many mighty works, and in His name you prophesied. How incredibly interesting and tragic it is to not only read that Jesus didn’t know you, but that Jesus never knew you. There is a vast difference between Jesus declaring that He didn’t know you, or perhaps even that He knew you at one point, and declaring that He never knew you. Such a declaration means and suggests that despite and regardless of all the many wonderful and mighty works you performed within and upon the earth, it is possible that Jesus never knew you.

If you turn and direct your attention to the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel according to John you will find Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Upper Room on the night in which He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Within His words unto them that night, He emphatically declared unto them the tremendous importance and value of knowing and keeping His words and commandments, and how such an act within our lives demonstrates our love for Him. What we find in these particular chapters within the New Testament gospel of John is a wonderful and powerful picture—not only of the Holy Spirit and His presence and work within the earth, but also of the tremendous importance to do the words which Jesus Christ spoke. Oh, there would be many among us who would do everything they can to do the works which Jesus did, and yet they care absolutely nothing for doing the words which Jesus commanded, spoke and required. There are those among us who think and believe that their only objective and their only goal in life is to do the works of Christ within and upon the earth, and such individuals care nothing for the words which Jesus spoke, and how more than doing His works, we are called to do His words. I bring your attention back to the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus never declared that if we loved Him we would do His works, but if we loved Him we would do His commandments and do His words. Please note and please understand that I am in no way, shape or form suggesting that works aren’t important. I would argue that doing the works of Christ are important and vital within our generation—particularly and especially when men and women think, believe and feel that they ended with the apostles in the New Testament and within the early church. I would also argue and appeal to the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth in the first epistle which was written unto them. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthians we find the following words written by the apostle Paul:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your fatuity should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

With these words the apostle Paul emphatically writes concerning his coming unto them in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling, and that his preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I firmly believe that the works of Christ are incredibly important within this generation, and that we are called to do the works which Christ did. I do believe that we have been called to do the wonderful and mighty works which Jesus Christ did while He walked upon the earth, and that we are called to demonstrate the kingdom of heaven in power, in strength and in might. I believe that there must the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power in our churches, and even in the streets of our cities, towns, villages and neighborhoods. Jesus’ entire ministry wasn’t characterized by teaching and preaching, and there were countless accounts of Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, causing the blind to see, causing the deaf to hear, causing the dumb to speak, causing the lame to walk, and the like. Even with all of that being said, I am absolutely and utterly convinced that what established the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth was not merely the works which He did, but the words which He spoke, taught and preached while He was on the earth. It is true that we have been called to do the works of Christ within and upon the earth, but we are called to do the words which Jesus spoke just as much as we are and have been called to do the works of Christ. We would like to get caught up in the tremendous reality of doing the works of Christ, and yet we completely neglect and ignore the fact that we have been called to do the words of Jesus Christ, and to do that which He commanded and spoke unto us. You are one who is actively engaged in doing the works of Jesus Christ? That’s wonderful. You are one who is prophesying in the name of Jesus Christ? Wonderful. You are one who casts out demons in His name? That’s great. You are one who does many wonderful and mighty works in the name of Jesus Christ? That’s truly awesome to hear. What’s worth noting is not only the necessity to do the will of the Father who is in heaven, but also the tremendous possibility that we can do the works of Christ and yet not only be a worker of iniquity, but also not be known be Jesus at all. Jesus spoke and declared unto those who did many mighty works within the earth—perhaps even the same works which He Himself did while He walked upon the earth—that He never knew them. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this reality, for it brings us face to face with the wonderful and awesome reality that we have been called to know and to do the words which Jesus Christ spoke. There is a vast difference between knowing the will of the Father and doing the will of the Father, and knowing the words of Christ, and doing the words of Christ. Consider if you will the words which Jesus Christ spoke while speaking unto His disciples in the Upper Room concerning doing the words which He commanded, as well as the Holy Spirit’s ministry, role and function within and upon the earth:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall He do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keep those them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:10-21).

“If a man love me, He will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:23-26).

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:7-10).

“Ye ave my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known. Unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you” (John 15:14-16).

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father” (John 16:12-16).

It’s worth noting and pointing out within Jesus’ words which He spoke unto His disciples on the night of His betrayal that not only did He declare that if we loved Him we would do His commandments, but He also declared unto His disciples that the Holy Spirit—when He was come—He would remind them of the words which Jesus Himself taught and spoke within and upon the earth. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the tremendous importance and value of the word—and not only the value of the word, but also receiving the word when it comes unto us. When Jesus spoke of doing the will of the Father, it is necessary that we recognize and understand that the only way to do the will of the Father is to know the will of the Father, and the only way to know the will of the Father is to know the words which Jesus spoke, for that which Jesus spoke was not His own, but that which was given unto Him by the Father. In all reality, I am convinced that if we want to know the will of the Father for our lives, we need look at the works which Jesus Christ did, yes, but even more important than the works which He did, we must pay attention to and recognize the words which He spoke. It is absolutely and utterly impossible to know and to do the will of the Father without and apart from the words of Christ, for the will of the Father is perfectly and adequately revealed in and through the words which Jesus Christ spoke unto His disciples. If you want to know the will of the Father in order that you might do it, you must recognize and everything begins and starts with the words of Christ, and the word of God. Jesus wasn’t joking, nor was He kidding when He declared that if we loved Him we would do His commandments, and He wasn’t kidding when He declared that the greatest demonstration of fellowship and relationship with Him was doing the words which He Himself spoke while upon the earth. Jesus emphatically declared that the Holy Spirit would bring to our remembrance, and would teach us the words which Jesus Christ spoke, for the Holy Spirit wanted us to remember and never to forget the words which Jesus spoke, taught and preached while upon the earth. The Holy Spirit would come and be manifested among us and would come as a Comforter, however, the Holy Spirit’s primary role and function is to glorify Jesus the Christ, and to remind us of the words which He Himself spoke while He walked among us upon the earth.

All of this lays the incredible foundation for what is written in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for within the first twenty-three verses of this passage of Scripture we find Jesus beginning to teach in parables. It’s interesting to note that his first parable centered upon the word—and not only the word, but also how the word is received and what happens to the word once it is and has been received by us within our hearts and lives. What is so incredibly interesting about the parable which Jesus told concerning the sower and the seed is that the same sower sowed seed on the various different types of ground and the various different types of soil. There wasn’t certain and specific seed that was sown among the good soil and ground and certain and specific seed that was sown on the wayside. There wasn’t specific seed which was sown upon the stony place versus the seed which was sown among the thorns. The same seed that was sown into the good ground was the same seed that was also sown among the thorns, the same seed that was sown among the stony places, and the same seed that was sown on the wayside. The fundamental importance of that which is found in this passage is not only the sowing of the seed which is the word of God, but also the receiving of the seed once it was sown. It wasn’t until the eighteenth verse of this particular chapter that we begin to encounter the actual meaning behind the parable, for it’s at this moment when Jesus begins to reveal the tremendous meaning behind the parable of the sower and the seed. When teaching the meaning behind the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus declared that the seed is the word of God, and the word of God was sown upon various different types of soil. Jesus spoke of those who heard the word of the kingdom, and yet did not understand it, and as a result of their lack of understanding, the wicked one came and caught away that which was sown in his heart. Jesus spoke of those who hear the word of God and receive it with joy, yet such individuals have no root in themselves, but endure for a while. However, when tribulation or persecution arise because of the word, such individuals become offended because of the word. [Perhaps this is what was so significant about the struggle which John the Baptist had while in the prison cell, for it’s possible that he was beginning to become offended because of the persecution and tribulation that came as a direct result of the word which he preached among all those in Judaea and the surrounding region]. Jesus would go on to speak concerning this who hear the word of the kingdom, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and such an individual becomes unfruitful. Please don’t miss these last two realities, for on the one hand Jesus speaks of those who hear the word and end up offended, and on the other hand Jesus speaks of those who hear the word and end up unfruitful. We would be incredibly naïve to think that such a reality isn’t possible and even prevalent in many of our churches and houses of worship, for I am convinced that there are men and women who hear the word of God, and who hear the word concerning the kingdom, and yet such individuals can become offended when persecution and tribulation rises up, and such individuals can even become unfruitful because the word which was sown among their hearts was choked out. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that if we are to understand the parable of the sower and the seed, we need to recognize the supremacy of the words of Christ over the works of Christ, and that we dare not have the works of Christ absent the words of Christ. Oh that we would be men and women who would live our lives with the words of Christ at the helm of our lives leading and guiding it, and that we would not merely be those who seek the works of Christ while not also pursuing the words of Christ. Oh that we would be such individuals who not only hear the word of the kingdom and the words of Christ, but those who understand it, and those who bear fruit as a direct result of the word. Oh that we would understand that it’s only by and according to the word that we can bear fruit, for works have never produced, nor have they ever brought forth fruit within our hearts and lives. Let us this day recognize and understand that we have been called to bear fruit in the earth, and we have been called to know and do the will of the Father, and the only way we can bear fruit and do the will of the Father is to know and understand the words of Christ and the words concerning the kingdom of heaven.

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