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Unfortunately, it is now abundantly clear to each of us who have spent the last few years on this journey to meet with Jesus as He arrives over Jerusalem, that not everything that seems good to us is good. The Council of Jerusalem’s letter to us, the Gentile believers as they called us, had this to say as they adopted James the Younger’s judgment: It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.[1]

We are now witnesses, with the advantage of hindsight, to just how good these recommendations were, and know with certainty that the Holy Spirit could not have been party to them. For His work, Jesus said, “the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”[2] If the Holy Spirit was truly the Counsellor of this letter of Acts 15, He would have, without choice, reminded us that Jesus had declared all foods clean. “Are you so dull? Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach and then out of his body.”[3] And He would also have reminded us that since we drink the blood of Jesus by faith, we are cut off from God by the Law by that same faith.[4] It seemed good, but it was not good.

It is not that we should not do good deeds, indeed Jesus Himself taught us: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.”[5] The harder question to answer is, what are these good deeds that Jesus was speaking of? Remember, what seems good may not be good.

A man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”[6] Look at Jesus’ answer. “Why do you ask Me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”[7]

It is obvious that the young man did not know God, for if He did, he would know what to do that is good, for God is good and all that God does is good and what He commands is good. You now know that the first good thing to do is to listen and to obey what you have been told.

Adam was told not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The best thing he could have ever done would have been to listen and obey. For the Jewish young man who asked Jesus, it is obvious that he only needed to listen to Moses and obey the commands, which God gave through Moses, to be doing good. In fact, the man was already doing this because he replied to Jesus, “All these I have kept, what do I still lack?”[8] He knew this much that his observances of the commandments, “do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother, and love your neighbour as yourself,”[9] had not brought him eternal life. Enquiring of Jesus as he did, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus’ reply to the young man is also interesting. He does not say immediately that he had to believe in Him, but rather, directs the young man back to life, not eternal life. “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

The young man’s reply shows us that he knows, he knows that obeying the Mosaic commands do not give him eternal life, for he replies, “All of them I have kept, what do I still lack?” Jesus’ answer was, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come follow Me.”[10]

Jesus tested and ascertained that this young man knew the difference between the life that comes by obeying the commands of the law and the life that comes by following Jesus. The young man knew this, the life that he had through obeying the commandments of the Law was not eternal life. It’s just that he could not pay the price of eternal life, which is to follow Jesus.

The admonishings that we should do good are numerous and multiple in the Epistles, and indeed, they should be there, for after all Jesus said, “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” However, what is a good deed? Is it feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, looking after the widows and orphans? What is the definition of a good deed? Understand immediately, what is good in our eyes may not be good in God’s eyes. Our perspective of good comes from a sin-tainted view with human compassion. God’s perspective of good comes from a sinless view with Godly compassion. From hereon in, the definition of good is judged by Jesus’ testimony and Jesus’ testimony only, when He said, “There is only One who is good.” “No one is good except God alone.”[11] In fact, in Mark’s rendition, Jesus said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus was saying: If I am not God, then I am not good either. No one is good, except God alone.” Which means only what God does is good. Nothing else done by anyone else is good. Only what God commands, as I said earlier, is good.

Yet, for eternal life, the commands of God of the Old Testament do not give it. They give life, but not eternal life. Jesus Himself said, “If you want to enter life…” When Jesus said this, it was as much for the benefit of the rich young man, as it was for the disciples, especially Peter, James and John, for they had heard earlier God’s command to them: “This is My Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”[12]

Eternal life cannot be inherited or be gotten by observing the commandments of the Old Testament, only life, a moral life that is given to those who observe them. However, the observation of those commandments does not give eternal life, which Jesus defined for us: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”[13] It gives only a partial knowledge of God, but not the complete knowledge of God, which is present in Jesus Christ. God knows that Jesus alone knows Him well enough to introduce Him properly, so listen to Him.

For you and I, anything not based on listening to Jesus is not good. Any action not based on the practise of the words of Jesus is not good. It may seem good, but it is not. The recommendations of James the Younger seemed good to the Jerusalem Council, but they are not good at all because they are not based on listening to Jesus. Two actions may be identical, but if one is not based on listening to Jesus, it is not good if you are a disciple of Jesus.

Now what constitutes a good act and an action that can give you eternal life and a reward differs from person to person based on their faith and their knowledge of Jesus. See and understand – the good deeds of the sheep of Matthew 25:31-46; feeding the hungry, giving a drink of water, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned are deeds that earned their doers a reward and an inheritance for the King says, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”[14] However, those that were receiving this reward did not know Jesus for they asked, ‘Lord, when did we see…?’ Such non-believers who were ignorant of Jesus did what they could with what they had to a brother of Jesus,[15] that is, one who according to Jesus’ definition is: “whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother…”[16]

Those who claim to have the life of Christ in them and think that the ‘good’ deeds of Matthew 25:35-36 are what they are to do to be rewarded with the Kingdom of God, will be sorely disappointed. Indeed, giving aid to the sick according to Jesus can be akin to throwing the children’s bread to their dogs.[17] Here is a woman asking the Lord for help, yet you read that: Jesus did not answer a word. He heard her, but did not answer, and when the disciples urged Him to send her away, He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” And when the woman came and knelt before Him, “Lord, help me!” she said, He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”[18]

Here is a woman in dire straights, and Jesus replied implying that she is a dog. Yet in John 4, at the well in Samaria, Jesus is offering the living water to a woman who had lived with five men and by their standards was sexually immoral. Human compassion would have moved you to drive out the demon for the woman in Matthew 14 or to at least try, and human piety would have dictated that the Samaritan woman repent first before being offered the living water.

You have come to the place where you must learn to distinguish between the knowledge of good that gives death and the knowledge of good that gives life. You see, the fruit that gives death was the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is a good that gives a life that leads to death and a good that gives a death that leads to eternal life. For you, the Narrow Door is Jesus, who is the Gate and He alone is who we listen to individually, and as a church the Holy Spirit is who we listen to. Ignorance of the command, “Listen to Him,” is ignorance of the good that gives eternal life. Knowledge and observance of any other command of God gives life, but not eternal life. Only observance of the command, “Listen to Him,” gives eternal life. No one who is ignorant of this truth can decide on what is good or not good in God’s eyes. It may be good in the eyes of the church, but does it seem good in God’s eyes? Well, that depends if they know that they must listen to Him and if they do know the command, then, the question is, can they recognise His voice? Jesus clearly said, “I am the Gate for the sheep,” and, “I am the Good Shepherd.”[19]

Firstly, regarding the Gate for the sheep, Jesus said, “The man who enters by the Gate is the shepherd of his sheep,”[20] …meaning the man, the pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, even the apostle who enters by the Gate is the shepherd, but “the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the Gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.”[21] By this definition, James the Younger did not qualify to be a shepherd. Those who can accept it should accept it. That is why he was relegated to writing a letter to the twelve tribes and not to the seven churches.

Then Jesus tells them, not His disciples, but the Pharisees who were against Him, “I am the Good Shepherd.” The message of John 10:1-19 is clear; any shepherd who is true to Jesus will always teach the sheep to recognise the voice of Jesus and to know Jesus.[22] Men who have entered by the Gate, Jesus, will delight and rejoice at the restoration of the command, “Listen to Him,” and repent of their ignorance, and then get up and move on to teach their flock in recognising the voice of Jesus and the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Those who in truth, did not enter through the Gate, but came in by some other way, will not rejoice at the simple truth of “Listen to Him” and will dispute it, seeking to retain the other commandments that seem as good to them, but are in fact, not good at all, for they give life, but not eternal life.

Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to dogs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”[23] Do you see who Jesus defines as dogs? …A woman with a demon-possessed daughter that the Father did not send Him to.

The things of maturity are for the mature. To the children, belong the childish ways. The good deeds of Matthew 5:16, for you do not look to your left and right, for you are the deeds that Jesus tells you to do and the Holy Spirit will confirm that with His power, first on His behalf and then when He entrusts the power to you so that you can do the miracle yourself. Jesus said, “You given them something to eat,”[24] knowing that they did not have enough food or enough money to feed 5000 families. The good that you are to do may, I say may, include feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and those in prison as well as causing the blind to see, the lame to walk and so on, but do not forget, the good that you are to do can also include shutting up the sky so that it does not rain, change the waters to blood and striking the Earth as often as you want with every kind of plague[25] so that the hungry and thirsty you are feeding are caused by the drought you ordered and the water changed to blood, and the sick you are visiting are victims of the plagues you ordered.

So, what is a good thing to do to get and inherit eternal life? It is not observance of the commandments. No, it is to follow Jesus. Here is a warning and an apology. First the apology, to show that no man is above error, except Jesus Christ. I have taught that the thief spoken of is Satan, when Jesus said, “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house, and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.”[26] Many apologies to you Satan, for the Lord only called you a liar and a murderer, but not a thief. I have slandered you and I repent of my slander. No, the thieves are men… any man “who does not enter the sheep pen by the Gate, but climbs in by some other way,” as Jesus said, “is a thief and a robber.” And Satan, we know you are not a man.

However, there are other Satans like Peter was Satan when he spoke up and rebuked Jesus saying, “Never Lord, this will never be!”[27] The Satan, the accuser, that is a thief and a robber, is a man, a pastor, a teacher, an evangelist, a prophet or an apostle even, who has not entered the Gate, which is Jesus, and who does not teach his sheep to listen to Jesus and to recognise the voice of Jesus and the voice of the Holy Spirit. Such a man, Jesus said, is the thief and robber, and indeed, it is the doctrines, rules and teachings of men that have bound up the Holy Spirit.

Most judge the Holy Spirit by His manifestations in healing, or in tremblings, or even cries or sounds, but whether it is strange or weird, it is a dangerous thing to judge God by His actions without knowing His voice. It is extremely dangerous to try to ascertain if a phenomenon, a ministry or a happening is of God if you do not know His voice.

In the Old Testament, God commended those, the Levites and Phinehas, who killed their fellow Jews in what was cold-blooded murder. He withheld the death sentence from David and Bathsheba, had Hosea marry an adulterous woman, had Isaiah walk around bare and stripped naked, and had Ezekiel cook over dung. He spared the Ninevites so that Assyria could arise to decimate Samaria and then rose up Nebuchadnezzar to decimate Jerusalem. Actions speak louder than words, yes, but it was and never is just the words that counted, but the voice behind the words that really counts. A true shepherd of the flock has no fear of the flock recognising the voice of Jesus, for his real work is to hand the flock back intact and healthy to Jesus. His work is to so coach the sheep to recognize the voice of Jesus that when Jesus calls, they will all run to Him.

The prostitute church is any church that seeks to have the sheep heed only her voice and does not see that it is her job to prepare the subjects of the Kingdom to recognise the King when He calls. She says, “ ‘I sit as queen. I am not a widow, and I will never mourn,’ ”[28] never realising that she is only a queen because He is the King, and the Kingdom belongs to Him.

So now, when you see and hear ministers accusing each other, ourselves included, of wrong doing, understand this, the sword of the Spirit responds only to those who listen to Jesus. You can read of the Baptists crucifying the Pentecostals and the Pentecostals crucifying the Catholics and the Lutherans splitting themselves apart into general Lutherans and exclusive Lutherans, and so on for the cross of Jesus has many splinters, yet it has only one Master. Not one, not one comment is worth anything unless the vessel that bears it knows and delights in practising the command, “Listen to Him,” to the exclusion of all others.

That which they say can sound good and be well meaning, what Peter said was well meaning out of love and sounded good when he rebuked the Lord and said, “Never Lord! This shall never happen to You!” But he was only being a Satan, a man who is a stumbling block to Jesus because he did not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.[29]

Likewise, what they did in Acts 4 seemed good. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.[30] In truth, with hindsight, it disrupted everyone and made us all needy. For that led to the death of Ananias and Sapphira[31] that led to the complaints of the Grecian Jews[32] and the appointment of the seven including Nicolas who taught practises hated by Jesus.[33]

What James said in Acts 15:19 sounded good, so good that Paul did not oppose it and thus it was not the only time that Paul would succumb to wisdom that sounds good, but it went against what Jesus taught. What he, James, and the elders suggested in Acts 21:22-24 sounded good, but it led to Paul’s imprisonment.

It may sound good and seems good, but what is the proof of its goodness? Remember these words of God and take it to heart: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvellous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvellous to Me?”[34]

What is the ‘Proof of Goodness’ then? Surely it is this, “God alone is Good.” Be mature and circumspect, and learn what is truly good for He who alone is truly Good, Jesus Christ, God the Son who is the exact representation of the Glory of God the Father, sustaining all things by His powerful word.[35]


 

[1] Acts 15:28-29

[2] John 14:26

[3] Mark 7:18-19

[4] John 6:53

[5] Matthew 5:16

[6] Matthew 19:16

[7] Matthew 19:17

[8] John 19:20

[9] John 19:18-19

[10] John 19:21

[11] Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18

[12] Matthew 17:5

[13] John 17:3

[14] Matthew 25:34

[15] Matthew 25:37-40

[16] Matthew 12:50

[17] Matthew 15:26

[18] Matthew 15:23-26

[19] John 10:7,11

[20] John 10:2

[21] John 10:1

[22] John 10:4,14

[23] Matthew 7:6

[24] Matthew 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13

[25] Revelation 11:4

[26] Matthew 12:29; Mark 3:27

[27] Matthew 16:22

[28] Revelation 18:7

[29] Matthew 16:23

[30] Acts 4:34-35

[31] Acts 5:1-10

[32] Acts 6:1

[33] Acts 6:5; Revelation 2:6

[34] Zechariah 8:6

[35] Hebrews 1:3

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