RSS feed

Download the pdf file

 

It may seem good to us, and even seems good according to our understanding and knowledge of God’s will, but it may not be good. James the Younger’s recommendations of Acts 15 sounded good; after all he said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”[1] And what he proposed seemed to be the most appropriate for the pagan Gentiles who were eating food sacrificed to idols because that was their culture and religion. It sounded good, and what they did seemed good, and it probably made the Gentiles from the early church feel good as well, as they read the letter from the Council of Jerusalem and began to change their dietary and sexual habits. It is one thing to tell a person to change their lifestyle by abstaining, but it is better if you can tell them and show them the better and best things to do. The letter of Acts 15:23-29 would have been redeemable if they added this line: “You do well to avoid these things, and to listen to Jesus and put into practice His commands.” But they didn’t.

There are plenty of preachers who say, “Listen to God.” Some are Christians, but you do not have to be a Christian preacher to tell people to “Listen to God,” for many religions have their own idea and version of who God is. There are very few who disciples on the basis of listening to Jesus only, but that’s because they do not know the command is to listen to Jesus and if they did see it, and no doubt they have seen it, they never understood it. Perhaps, like Peter, they were tired when they read, “This is My Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”[2] Peter, seeing the Lord speaking with Moses and Elijah, said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You wish, I will put up three shelters—one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”[3]

That seemed a good thing to do, except if you think about it, it was not. Here is an event of a lifetime, Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus, two heroes of your faith speaking to your Rabbi. Don’t you think it would be better to watch and listen than to suggest something that would take you away from watching and listening to hear what Moses and Elijah were saying?

You see, the rules of men are good because they seem good. Changing the dietary and sexual habits of the Gentile believers seems good, but while they are busy learning new recipes and closing down their brothels and stoning the sexually immoral, they would be too busy to listen to Jesus.

That which seems good, sounds good, looks good and makes you feel good, is never necessarily the better thing to do. Choosing what is better is the wisdom of Mary, sister of Martha, and sometimes, choosing what is better can produce sounds that are not good, and situations that do not look good and does not necessarily make you feel good. Everyone knows the story of Mary and Martha the night Jesus came for dinner in Luke 10:38-42. And we know Jesus complimented Mary for “Mary has chosen what is better.” But did what Mary choose look good? No, it looked as if she was lazy sitting at the feet of Jesus whilst leaving Martha to do all the work. Did it sound good? No, it caused Martha to complain to Jesus, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” That’s not something that sounds good to any hearer, for she was pointing out what did not look good. Did Mary feel good about that comment? No. Did Jesus feel good about that comment? No. Martha was doing what she thought was good, but did it keep her feeling good about herself? No. Did what came out of her mouth sound good? No. Did the sight of Martha complaining to Jesus about Mary make her look good? No.

Imagine Peter busy making three shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus while these three were talking. Does it look good to Moses and Elijah who had learned their own lessons? Better to listen than to act on your own impulse. Moses did not listen and struck the rock twice because it seemed the right thing for him to do. Elijah did not listen and ran before the rain had fallen and found himself running from Jezebel. With hindsight, we can see the good we have done was not good. Better if we had listened first and then did what should be done.

Concerning those who would deceive, Jesus had clearly said, “For many will come in My Name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many…”[4] And that many who prophesied, drove out demons and did miracles in His Name would be rejected by Him, and that He will say to them, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers.”[5] And yet to this day, many are deceived and deceivers abound. Only with hindsight do we know whether a ministry was genuine, after years have passed when those who claim to have been healed are found not to be healed, and so on and so on. Because, what was happening always seemed good, looked good and sounded good, but in truth, was never any good. We have a habit deciding on what is good based on what it looks like, sounds like and feels like and if it fitted into scripture, never realising that even the devil quoted scripture to Jesus when he tempted Him. Our consistent failure and ignorance of the command, “Listen to Him,”[6] has left us with only that which seems good to us, like busying ourselves to build shelters for Moses and Elijah 1000 years after they are gone, or busying ourselves to prepare a meal for Jesus, and making recommendations that seem to make it easier for the Gentiles. We lost the better, and have been stuck with the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It is good to go and preach the good news to the heathens as Jesus commanded and convert them to civilised ways so that they would stop eating foods sacrificed to idols, stop drinking blood, stop strangling their animals, change their dietary habits and change their sexual habits by getting their women to cover their bosoms and the men to wear trousers. I found it interesting that some have reported that incidences of rape are non-existent in primitive tribes who do not cover their bodies in the ‘acceptable way’. It is good and seems good, but it is better if we were to preach the same gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that their faith is not based on men but on God. As Paul wrote: When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God [as I proclaimed to you God’s mystery]. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.[7] That power of the Holy Spirit is available to all who listen to Jesus. Indeed, if the churches were listening to Jesus, they would realise that they must listen to the Holy Spirit and if you are to listen to the Holy Spirit, you better recognise His voice. Once you have the command to listen to Jesus restored to you, and you have heard it and remembered it, and not forget it like Peter did in his second letter (Peter recalled what happened on the mount of Transfiguration, but leaves out the three most important words, “Listen to Him!”[8]), you would realise that much of the good you were trying to do was not that good at all.

That is why if you listen to Jesus and are still listening, you’d remember “Repent”[9] is the first word He preached. Those who claim to have the life of Christ and preach in His Name, live lifestyles in His Name and even drive out demons in His Name, and do miracles in His Name, those who sing in His Name and prosper in His Name, living what is deemed the ‘good life’, have to realise as we did, we need to repent because we did it out of ignorance for we did not know the command, “Listen to Him!” We listened to the apostles, to the prophets, to the psalmists and each other. We bought each other’s tapes, DVDs and attended each other’s conferences before we sat down and listened. Like Peter, we wanted to rush off and do something for God before we listened and we were encouraged to build those shelters for Moses and Elijah by our leaders. Like Martha, we saw the need and did what we thought was good and necessary, but we did not see the better as Mary did. The light by which we saw in the ignorance of the command “Listen to Him!” was a dimmer light, which was really no light at all.

Instead of filling our eyes with the only light that is true light, Jesus Christ, we filled our eyes with reflected light. Instead of following the Sun, we followed the moon and never saw the terrain properly. The ignorance to that command “Listen to Him!” meant that we all worked and sowed as workmen who were working at night using the light of the moon. Some work was done, yes, but in the light of day, the gaps and the flaws of the workmanship are shown for what they are. In that pale, weak, dimness of reflected light, we tried to remove the splinters out of each other’s eyes and blinded one another further with unforgiveness, slander and judgment. No one seemed to have a clear cut answer, a sharpness of the word that could cut through the fog of deception. Those who accused another of doctrinal error had as much error in their doctrine. They all had doctrines that seemed good as they each followed their Apollos or Silas or Paul or Peter and listened to their founding prophets or apostles or patriarchs. But no one, no one, stayed on what was proclaimed on that Mountain. “This is My Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

Jesus said the deceivers will come proclaiming, “‘I am the Christ.’” Many proclaim Him Jesus Christ, but refuse to acknowledge Him as the Son of God, to whom we must listen. Many make up fanciful theories and invent co-redeemers or give Him a different genealogy other than the one that God has testified to, “This is My Son.”[10]

Whatever may be accused of you and I when it comes to sin, it is more than likely to be true for we remain sinners saved by grace. But this too is also true, that we were firmly rebuked for our ignorance of the command and we have received the discipline for our ignorance and the grace to repent. Indeed, in the light of the transfigured Jesus Christ, whom the Father has testified is His beloved Son, all the good that we have done before we were made aware of our ignorance is not good enough to be tested by fire seven times over. Indeed it would not survive the first test of fire.

We prayed, yes, but without listening to Jesus. We praised Him, yes, but without listening to Jesus. We preached the gospel, yes, but without listening to Jesus. We fellowshipped in our churches and synagogues, yes, but without listening to Jesus. We followed the letters of the apostles, yes, but without listening to Jesus. We fed the poor and hungry, yes, but without listening to Jesus. We gave our spare monies for missions, yes, but without listening to Jesus. We did many good things but without listening to Jesus, and we never understood what was really good in His eyes.

We never saw through His eyes, eyes that alone are truly filled with the Light of God for He is the Light. If we did, we would have seen as He saw and proclaimed as He did, “No one is good—except God alone.”[11] And we would have realised the only good thing we should do is to believe and obey God when He testified, “This is My Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

If we had any humility and truth about ourselves, we would repent, and when given the next opportunity to do something for God, we would do the better thing we have learned. Martha was told plainly to her face, “Mary has chosen what is better.” So did she learn or did she stick to the good that she cherished? Learn this: Many who seek to do good will not let go of the good they are doing for the better things. In John 12, we find Martha was still busy serving. She had not listened and she was not going to take this second opportunity to listen. She continued to do the good she did at first, and never moved to the better. Mary had learned to do the better thing earlier when she sat and listened, and now at the banquet she did what was for her the best she could do. She took about a pint [probably about 0.5 litre] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.[12]

Did it look good to the disciples? No. Did it make them feel comfortable? No. Did it sound good to them? No, for when they made a comment about it, Jesus rebuked them, “Leave her alone.” Indeed, Mark in his gospel, said, they, the disciples, rebuked her harshly and they said, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor?”[13] Did it sound good to Mary to be rebuked harshly? Did she feel good hearing such harsh rebukes from her fellow disciples? And was what she was doing the right thing, the best thing, even a good thing? Not according to those who had not been hearing as they listened to Jesus. But for the Lord Himself, these words, “She has done a beautiful thing to Me. …I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”[14]

Peter was always the first to say something good, “Lord, if that be You, tell me to come to You,”[15] that night on the lake and, “Lord… I will put up 3 shelters…” on the Mount of Transfiguration. Sounds good, but it never got better until much later. Even in Acts 1, he was still the first to suggest something good: “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled…”[16] and proposed someone to take Judas’ place before the Holy Spirit arrived. He quoted a couple of Psalms, 69:25 and 109:8, and they all listened to Peter and the scriptures and selected Matthias by casting the lot in the same way as the soldiers divided up Jesus’ clothes. Did anyone remember what Jesus said? “…wait for the gift My Father promised… the Holy Spirit. He will guide you into all truth… He will make known to you what belongs to Me…”[17] including His decision for the twelfth apostle.

You see, when you are used to doing good, you will find that it is a most difficult thing to repent of. All sons of Adam and daughters too, are capable of doing good. You do not have to be a Christian to do good, for all are descendants from they who ate of the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Repentance isn’t just repentance from evil, no, it is a repentance also from our good deeds, which goes against the will of God. This is not called a place of harder teaching for nothing.

It is good to clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit those in prison, it is good to do good, but to choose the better thing and to do the best thing, that is only the privilege of those who have sat and listened to Jesus and have understood what He had said. Jesus told Peter plainly that He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him harshly, whereas Mary anointed Him to prepare Him for burial. Peter received this from Jesus for the good he tried to do: “Get behind Me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but of man.”[18] But Mary received this: “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Which do you prefer? You choose.

It should be clear to you now that we have not ascended the Mountain of God in the Sinai, nor ran into a cave at Mount Horeb to receive our revelation, but have retraced the path of the Lord to be present on the Mount of Transfiguration. Though we saw no cloud nor two men speaking to Jesus, we did hear the voice of He who whispers, “God said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’” This is the Mountain from which we descend to invite all who seek to do good to join us in our quest for the better so that we may present to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, at His arrival on the Mount of Olives, that which is the best. So that when the Son of Man returns, He will not just find faith, but love waiting for Him.

To listen to Him is the better thing. To do what you can for Him after you have listened to Him is the best of all. AMEN


 

[1] Acts 15:19

[2] Matthew 17:5

[3] Matthew 17:4

[4] Matthew 24:4-5

[5] Matthew 7:23

[6] Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35

[7] 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

[8] 2 Peter 1:17

[9] Matthew 4:17

[10] Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22

[11] Luke 18:19

[12] John 12:3

[13] Mark 14:4

[14] Matthew 26:13

[15] Matthew 14:28

[16] Acts 1:16

[17] Acts 1:4; John 14:16; 16:13

[18] Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33

|