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Sometimes when we start on a journey, we can forget where we are going and why we started it in the first place, especially when difficulties are encountered on the way.

That is exactly what the Israelites did, for it is written:  The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  So it was not because they were doing well and everything was comfortable that God sent Moses and Aaron to destroy the system they were living in, but because they were labouring as slaves to the Egyptians who had risen to greatness because of what Joseph had done for his pharaoh.  As you read Exodus, you realise that they had forgotten and were ready to go back to Egypt, back to slavery, and they had even forgotten that there was no Egypt to go back to because the whole country had been devastated.  There was no meat because all the Egyptian livestock were killed by the hailstones, and there were no grain, garlic or melons because the locusts had eaten everything.

That is the nature of all of us, we forget why we started this walk with God, and when things get difficult, we want to go back, and worse still, we do not realise that there is nothing to go back to.

The first disciples did the same thing.  They forgot why they were listening to John the Baptist when he was preaching repentance and they were baptised by him.  They forgot why they wanted to follow Jesus.  They forgot that in Judaism, there is no forgiveness of sins, for without the blood being sprinkled on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, there is no covenant.  They forgot, like the Hebrews of Israel, that they had also been enslaved for almost 400 to 430 years to sin, because with the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar… the ark had been lost.  No blood had been on that mercy seat for more than 400 years.  No sin has been forgiven for 400 years. 

So when John the Baptist came preaching repentance and baptism with water, they went to him.  Why?  Because the temple sacrifice and worship system was not working, and they had the good sense to know it.  As Jesus replied to those in the temple who asked Him, “By what authority are You doing these things?  And who gave You this authority?”    “I will also ask you one question.  If you answer Me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—where did it come from?  Was it from Heaven, or from men?”  They could not decide, and so they said, “We don’t know.”  And when they gave the wrong answer to the Parable of the Two Sons, saying, “The first,” as the one who did what the father wanted, Jesus reply to them was, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.  And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”  Now why did Jesus expect those who were the chief priests and elders of the people to believe John the Baptist’s message… for after all, John was eating locusts (an unclean food) and preaching wearing dead animal’s skin?  What John was doing was ‘unclean’ according to the law.  So why would Jesus ask them, “Was it from Heaven or from men?”?

We must realise that God does not interfere with the affairs of men if that which men are doing will not destroy them or harm them… for whenever a man can find a life that will prosper him and not him them in any way, that is a life as good as God can give, for even God said, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  However, the truth is that all the best laid plans of men are nothing because we do not know the end from the beginning, and nothing that we can do can save us from death and what lays beyond death.  So in truth, God does intervene, intercede and interfere with all the plans of men.  So much so that when Israel entered into a covenant with death, saying, “We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement.  When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place,” God’s reply was, “Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand.  When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it.”  What does it mean to have “made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place”?  It is to continue to rely on something that you know does not work, cannot work, yet you continue to create a delusion that it works.  That was what those scribes, chief priests and elders were doing.  They knew temple worship and sacrifices without the blood on the mercy seat to atone for their sins were worthless, useless and a waste of time because the most important thing about temple worship was not so that they might be blessed, but that their sins were forgiven, for God said to Solomon, “…if My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 

Forgiveness of sins has always been foremost in God’s plans, for without the forgiveness, no blessing can last, for sin only brings death in the end, and death is the end of life, making everything we do meaningless.  Those men in the temple who questioned Jesus on His authority, refused to acknowledge the truth, not the truth about John the Baptist, not the truth about Jesus, but the truth about themselves.  You see, you are the one who knows if what you have done and are continuing to do with your life works or not!  Those chief priests were the ones who knew whether the ark was still behind that curtain!  They were the ones who knew whether blood was being sprinkled on the mercy seat.  They were the ones who knew they were carrying on a charade, a masquerade, fooling the people so that they would have a job!  You see, Jesus knew… they knew, and when they could not even come to that truth and acknowledge it… that was when Jesus put them at a place below tax collectors and prostitutes, not to insult them, but to tell them the truth.  For the answer to Jesus’ question to the chief priests and elders of the people, “John’s baptism—where did it come from?  Was it from Heaven, or from men?” is clear and simple if you know your Scriptures… it comes from men, for it was Elisha who first baptised a man in the Jordan, Naaman, and his leprosy, which is the outward manifestation of sin, was cleansed… for Elisha sent a messenger saying, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”  Elisha, the disciple of Elijah, the one who inherited the double portion of Elijah.  Even if they had said, “Both,” they would have been correct, for Elisha got his authority from Heaven.  But for them to say, “We don’t know,” was the worst possible answer.

The tax collectors and prostitutes, however, knew that the temple sacrifice/worship system was not working because their lives were not changing no matter how much they tried to go to the temple… that is, if they could get in.  However, John offered a new system that might work.  When you know what you have does not work and will never work, then at least try something new.  That is all God really expects of men.  Repentance is turning away from what does not work.  Adam experienced the effect of sin immediately, not years later.  As soon as he had eaten of the fruit that was forbidden, he said, “…I was afraid because I was naked…”  Immediately, fear and lack took over his life, and he had to obey them and hide.  (Lack being the nakedness, meaning lack of covering, lack of clothing, lack of protection.)  If the temple worship and sacrifice system was working, the fear and the lack would have been removed, and there would be no tax collectors or prostitutes.  They turned from what was not working and never going to work to John’s baptism. 

The Israelites forgot slavery in Egypt was not working out, and was never going to work out for their freedom.  They forgot the truth they knew.  Likewise, Andrew, Peter, John and James forgot why they were with John the Baptist in the first place… because the old temple worship was not working.  They forgot they were following Jesus at the commendation of John the Baptist who said to them, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  And they followed Him… because they were coming from something that did not work.

And then… like all men, they forgot, and no sooner Jesus was gone and they were left to their own devices… they resumed the temple worship… going up to the temple to pray by Acts 3.1.  Peter and John had no business going to that temple to pray.  The Holy Spirit did not come to them at the temple… that is, the Spirit of Glory did not acknowledge Herod’s temple at all, but rather, came upon them at Pentecost Day when they were in the upper room.  God had already torn that curtain to expose the truth about the fake holy of holies.  There was no ark in that room!  Going to the temple to pray was not going to get their prayers heard, for God was attentive only to the prayers at Solomon’s temple because the Ark of the Covenant was there.

How quickly we reverted back to that which never worked, romanticising the past with our delusions, just like the Israelites did about their slavery.  As Paul wrote in clear language:  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  The fondness of the first eleven for things Jewish meant that it was no trouble for James the Younger to reintroduce the thin edge of the wedge in bringing the church back to partial observance of the law.  The seriousness of James the Younger’s recommendations cannot be put lightly anymore.  It is more serious than Aaron’s golden calf, which got some of them killed and started the first civil war.  It is of the same calibre as if Aaron replaced Moses and led Israel back from Canaan to Egypt when they said, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”  As surely as that would have gotten all of them killed, certainly by the Egyptians if not by God first, so the failure of the church to maintain its absolute repentance from observance of the law in any part has ensured everyone has died.

It turned God’s plan of having a church made up of men and women entrusted with miraculous power to relieve this Earth of its suffering for the glory of Jesus.  Instead, it rose up another powerless religion that has been just as quick to covet and kill in the Name of God as any other.

You have to open your eyes and see ‘Christianity’ does not resemble anything like ‘the Way’ that Saul of Tarsus was persecuting.  For one, miracles and healings were commonplace amongst the fellowships of the Way, but rare amongst Christian churches, very rare.  Everyone and anyone in the Way could have Jesus and the Holy Spirit speak to them directly, even Ananias, a disciple in Damascus.  The communication between the followers of the Way and Jesus was always direct and not filtered down through hierarchical counsels of men issuing bullish papers or creeds.  In the fellowship of the Way, if you lied to the Holy Spirit, you died; if you fell asleep during a sermon, you died too.  The disciples of the Way were imprisoned, whereas the ‘Christian’ churches took to imprisoning people as time passed.

The leaders of the Way had no bodyguards.  Indeed, their Founder, the Way Himself, was their Bodyguard.  But with the turning back to partial observance of the law, the leaders of the ‘Christian’ churches found they not only had to have bodyguards, but raised armies to kill, rape and pillage the very people they were suppose to save with the Gospel.

Like their forefathers, after a short period of time, the Jewish disciples of Jesus forgot why they were following Him in the first place.  They forgot no one was justified by the law even when the ark was present… how much less when it was absent.

So now, like the children of that first generation, we have time to think, reflect, like those Israelites did as they were circumcised at Gibeath Haaraloth… to think of the futility of the lives of their parents who all died in the desert, and for some of the older ones who came out of Egypt as children and grew up in the desert, they could reflect on the oppression of Egypt and the futility of the desert.  Likewise elect, some of you are what Jesus calls ‘new wineskin’, who had never been in the Christian churches before Jesus saved you and placed you into the Workshop of the Holy Spirit, and others of you have been in Christian churches half your life before you were called out by the Holy Spirit.  Think now, what was it like in Egypt and what was it like in the desert?  What was it like before you were saved… is there anything there worth going back to… all those years of slavery under the law of sin and death?  What was it like when you were a ‘Christian’… was it working for you?  All those years of slavery under a religion that had the appearance of righteousness and holiness, but totally devoid of the miraculous power of God.  Consider well now how you think… for you have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes made by those who came out of Egypt with Moses and those who came out of the law with Jesus.  Learn from them and never forget… there is nothing behind you worthwhile going back to.  Remember Caleb’s words to the people, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Likewise, it does not matter that no one before us has been able to prove John 11.26 to be the truth… what matters is that we believe Jesus, for He is the One who said, “…and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  All we have to say is, “Yes, we believe not only this, but because we believe You.  Indeed, we believe this only because You said so.”  That’s it… and we would not have to wait till we are 150 to prove this true, for the faith to believe John 11.26 because Jesus said so is the faith He is looking for.  It is the faith He is hoping to find when He returns when He asked this poignant question, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the Earth?”  You see, by faith we are saved… when we repent and believe.  Whenever a person believes the words of Jesus, they will be saved.  When they believe what they have heard enough to put them into practice, they will experience that salvation like a wise man who built his house on the rock, that is, they will experience it with some trepidations but not catastrophe.  When they believe not just the words but the Person, they will live and never die… but when their belief in the words and the Person turns to faith in the Person… that is when they will do what Jesus has been doing and even the greater things.

So the journey, our journey, begins in sin, repenting from sin, walking towards the promised life.  Just like Israel left Egypt to enter the desert, there to be met with God and be instructed by God so that they could follow Him into the promised land to take the promised land and live there, never to depart, so then the true life of faith for all who would repent and believe in Jesus begins when they hear and believe these words of Jesus:  The time has come.  The Kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the Good News!”  “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  “…no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  “…whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”  “…anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.”

Here is the journey:  Believe the Good News – you leave ‘Egypt’.  Practise the words you have heard – you are safe in the desert.  Believe the Person speaking the words – you leave the desert.  And when you have faith in the Person – you enter the promised land.  And like the Israelites, you will enter into a life their forefathers never knew.  You will live a life no disciple before you has ever known… like Israel entering Canaan brought about a time of distress unequalled in living memory, where everyone living there was decimated.  So your entering, our entry, into this promised life of Jesus will herald in days of distress for all who live in the land of the merchants unequalled since the creation of this world and never to be equaled again.  For God is answering the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in Earth, as it is in Heaven.”  “The time has come.  The Kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  Amen.

The Father can send Jesus now, for He will find the faith He is seeking.  Amen.

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