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During the days of Jesus’ life on Earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.  Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.  We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…  Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ (the Messiah), advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity.

The elementary teachings about Christ finished with the ministry of John the Baptist whose final words on the matter were, “I baptise you with [or in] water for repentance.  But after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.  He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  John declared to his disciples when he saw Jesus passing by, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

From Moses to John, all their disciples were believers; for they were taught to believe in the One who would come.  As such, all the elementary teachings about Christ are contained in the Prophets, the Psalms and the Law, which Jesus fulfilled not just the requirements about the Law, but He fulfilled all the teachings about Christ perfectly; and when that was fulfilled, John ended the teachings about Christ by pointing to Jesus, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

That is why when the rich man said to Abraham, ” ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’  ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “  The teachings about Christ are all in the Law, Psalms and Prophets, so if they do not believe them they could never believe Jesus. 

The Jews were the first believers of Jesus or were meant to be, which is why Jesus said to them, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.  But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”  That meant all the reading and the practising of the Law with its harshness and difficulty in obeying it and its unquenchable appetite for blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins was to remind the Israelites of their need for the Christ promised to them—the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, the One of whom Abraham said, “God Himself will provide…”

As such, in truth, Jesus Himself did not have many teachings for believers – for all those teachings are in the Law, Psalms and Prophets as far as the Jews were concerned – except to say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”  “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Jesus did not teach believers though He preached the good news and healed the sick, but His teachings, even His elementary teachings and doctrines started immediately for disciples only.  Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

Thus the real truth and treasure about Matthew chapters 5 to 7, is that they are teachings not for believers, but for disciples.  Jesus did not have believers following Him, only disciples, which is why so many who believed in Him and were healed by Him were told to go home, but were not told to follow Him.  That was for the Jews as He only made disciples from among the Jews.

However, when He sent the disciples out to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation (every creature of the whole human race)”  …He knew they would be preaching to Gentiles whose knowledge of Moses and the Law, the Psalms and Prophets may be lacking, for the Jews did not go to the ends of the Earth, and as such, what was available to convince the Gentiles that Jesus is the Christ was not a search of scriptures or a discourse on Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets, but a clear and simple display of power to confirm the message with signs following as well as the preaching.

To the Hebrews, the Jews, the signs preceded the good news.  “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”  Which poor?  …The poor in spirit and the poor in the flesh—both.  The signs were to cause the Jews to ask, “Is He the Christ?”  That is why they asked John the Baptist that very question.  And the good news for them is, “Yes, He is the Christ, whom they are expecting.”  But for the Gentiles who never even heard there was a Christ, the signs that would accompany those who believe… yes, look at the Lord’s words… And these signs will accompany those who believe:  In My Name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

These five signs are the signs that accompany the believers—those who are near the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God, for Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”  “The time has come.  The Kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  It was when the Jews repented and believed the good news that Jesus is the Christ, that their discipleship would begin and Jesus took over from where Moses began and John the Baptist finished.  But for the Gentiles, their discipleship also began after they had the good news confirmed by the signs that accompany a believer, which is why it is written:  the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it. 

It was after the Jews believed He is the Christ by the precedence of signs and the Gentiles believed because of the confirmation by signs that they were meant to be ready for discipleship.  When the power and the ability to perform signs and wonders, which were to accompany the word was lost, the good news was no longer confirmed to Jews or Gentiles; and at best we had people who were seekers who wanted to believe, but never had their belief confirmed so that they could move onto discipleship.  As such the commission, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” is rarely fulfilled, for in truth, there are very few believers from whom can come disciples.  Many, even if they are ordained ministers of the church, are merely themselves seekers and not believers, for their words are not confirmed by the accompaniment of the signs of the believer.  It is therefore no wonder that so many of the sermons of preachers merely reflect the speaker’s search for Christ rather than their faith in Christ, much less their knowledge of Christ.  For if the signs of a believer do not accompany your preaching, how can you tell me you are a believer?  Where is the proof?  You are at best a seeker and a fellow seeker is as lost as the next, for only those who have believed are saved.

Thus the horrible, unpalatable truth is that so often it is the unsaved preaching to the unsaved, the condemned preaching to the condemned, and the blind leading the blind.  For unless the signs accompany the preaching, how do we know that person is a believer?  These are not my words, but the Lord’s, so he who has an ear, hear. 

The Samaritans of John 4 showed great wisdom and discernment when they said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this Man really is the Saviour of the world.”  Because there were no signs accompanying the Samaritan woman, her fellow villagers had to hear from Jesus personally first before they could believe.  As such, though the Gospel has been preached to the world, the work has not been done entirely by believers and disciples, but in truth it has been done by seekers who are seeking Christ, but because they had no signs accompanying, you and I cannot call them believers, otherwise we are disagreeing with the Lord when He said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe…”

If these signs are to accompany those who believe, then what are the signs that must accompany the disciples other than the ability to “love one another, as I have loved you”, that is, those who show the ability to die for one another, to lay down their lives for one another as Christ did?

Discipleship is demanding and challenging and costly, thus many who are believers are saved, but they are not disciples for they have not paid the price of discipleship, and those who have not paid the price of discipleship cannot manifest the Kingdom of God that comes from the Kingdom of Heaven.  They may be in it, but they cannot manifest it.  It is like a person who has no money, they can enter the store, but they cannot buy the merchandise, only see it.  Thus many who are believers and have heard the elementary teachings and doctrines of Christ are in discipleship classes.  They may have changed and humbled themselves like children, and are born again in the spirit so that they have entered, received and can see the Kingdom of God, but they cannot manifest it any more than a first year medical student can take an appendix out.  They may enter the operating theatre and watch the operation, but they cannot perform the operation.

Thus, the truth is, the basic teachings and doctrines of Christ in Matthew chapters 5-7 and Luke 6 are for disciples only, not for seekers and believers.  Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”  That is the cost, the entry fee.  The graduation certificate, not the receipt for your entry fee, but the graduation certificate that says you have successfully completed the course of discipleship involves – “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.”  “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to My Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” 

You can show yourself as a disciple when you bear much fruit for the Father’s glory, when the word so abides in you and you abide in Him that whatever you wish is done for you.  Often you will have and should have many things done for you… whatever you wish, whatever you will and they are done.  That is your proof to you that you are a disciple just like a graduation certificate tells a medical student that he is now a doctor.  However, the public will not accept him as a doctor just because he has a certificate.  It is only when he can do what he is supposed to do that the world accepts and knows he is the doctor he claims to be.

In the same way, you may be in discipleship class and you may even have graduated as a disciple, bearing fruit for the glory of the Father, but the world will still not accept or know that you are a disciple until you display obedience to the commandment that is new and unique to the disciples of Christ—not the seekers or believers of Christ.  Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.  “My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus laid down His life for us, the disciples whom He called His friends, as well as for the world and even for those who were His enemies.  Could we not do at least as much?  The history of the church is one where authorities of the church killed those whom they considered heretics, and they were heretics because  what they believed, professed and even knew about Christ differed from those who were persecuting them.  They were not killed and burnt as heretics because they were unbelievers, heathens or pagans, and yet we have certainly killed even more of those in the Name of Christ.  But heretics are only heretics because they are believers, even disciples who hold a different view, doctrine, revelation or practice, whether correct or erroneous, about Jesus Christ Whom they believe they are seeking, serving and loving.  I have yet to read of the members of a church council who laid down their lives and took the place of the heretics at the gallows or the stake or whatever means they had devised to kill and torture their fellowman.  Is it any wonder that the world does not recognise the church as disciples of Christ? 

“Love each other, as I have loved you.”  “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.”  “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”  What miracles and revival would have been unleashed on this unbelieving world if disciples stepped forward and laid down their lives for heretics so that they could be spared and live, that they might repent?

So, we claim to be believers, but really are seekers because the signs that accompany those who believe do not manifest to confirm their message.  That is, the Lord Himself is not confirming their message.  How blind and deaf must you get before you will see and listen?

Now, do we claim to be disciples and yet fail to display the sign of the disciples to a world that is yet to see what a group of disciples at full power could really do?  Are you prepared to lay down your life, not for Christ, but for your friends and fellow disciples who may not be your friend, but nevertheless, a fellow disciple?  When the Romans imprisoned Paul, did James present himself in the place of Paul so that Paul’s ministry could still continue even though James the Younger must have known that Paul was opposed to his teachings?  And who were the Jews who formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul?  You wonder if any included those who were converted Jews, still zealous for the Law.  Where were James and the elders when Paul was in trouble because they told him to enter the Temple to enter the purification rites?

Those who have left us, as John said, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us,” had they completed their discipleship, they would have left with tears as a child being torn from a mother’s bosom, for they would know they are no longer here to protect you with their lives but only with their prayers and wishes in the Holy Spirit.

So, you may call yourself a disciple, you may have paid the price and you may have graduated with power to do miracles, but until you can lay down your life for one another, the world will not know you are disciples, and if the world does not know, then we have still missed the mark for the Lord, for He so wants “that the world may believe that You [Father] have sent Me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You [Father] sent Me and have loved them even as You [Father] have loved Me” …that He gave us “the glory that You [Father] gave Me, that they may be one as We are One.”

If you are in danger, would you not try to save yourself?  Then, how can we say we are one unless we are prepared to save each other as we would save ourselves, even in laying down our lives for one another.

So, know and understand there are many seekers, some believers, but a fellow disciple who would lay down his life for you, where can you find?  So, “Love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you.”  Then you are ready to move beyond the elementary teachings and doctrines of Christ, all of which are designed to show you that you need to love one another as He has loved you, just as the Law of Moses was designed to show the Jews they needed the Christ, for no man is declared righteous by the Law.

AMEN

 

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