(followed by a Prophetic Word for the Nation, received by Arthur in 1981)
The rich young man knelt before Jesus. Perhaps his whole approach was too good to be true. “Good Master,” he began, but before he had said much more the Lord stopped him. “Why do you call me good? There is none good save One, even God.” (Mk.10:17) Why should the Lord have spoken in this manner? Was He not Emmanuel, God with us? Was it not very right and proper to have spoken to Him in this way? Maybe it was, but the Lord saw behind the words, straight into the mans heart. He was training His disciples as well. On another occasion He said to them, “Beware when all men speak well of you!” (Luk.6:26) He reminded them that their own forefathers had spoken well of the false prophets.
Let us analyse this situation. What underlies the attitude of ‘speaking well’ of someone, and receiving compliments from others? According to the Lord’s words, danger lurks there. His words were not so much “Beware” as “Woe to you!” and that makes it all the more serious. And for why? It is because of the effect it has upon the recipient. Compliments affect us all deeply, and if they are multiplied, and advertised, they engender pride. Pride is one of the primary means to our undoing, in the world and also in the church. Let us look at this in more detail.
Consider the TV channels. Almost the entire output is about man evaluating man. Doesn’t this place an enormous pressure on us all to comply? Are we not being brainwashed by the never ending merry-go-round of programmes which sing the praises of famous men and women, of athletes and sportsmen, those with the best brains, and those with the best vital statistics. In this frantic struggle for popularity and success, where everyone cheers heartily, we are considered crabby, sour, bitter, jealous, and negative if we do not add our own volume of approbation. Truly the pressure is great.
But a moment’s thought will show that these same TV channels contradict themselves at every turn. What are the news programmes but the very advertisements of violence and perversion? And how many soap operas, and ‘cops & robbers’-type programmes depict fictionally what we all know to be true in fact about human nature? So why all this pressure to speak well of each other? The answer lies in the fact that so long as we are shown enough films about the ‘bad guys’, whether in fact or in fiction, we shall always have enough rotten shoulders to tread upon to elevate ourselves, and to make ourselves feel good by comparison, and to justify ourselves in our own eyes. Without even realising it, we all fall into this trap, whether we are of the world or of the household of faith. We give it a word these days. We call it humanism, and it comes along all dressed up in pleasant garb, with a smile on its face, telling us that we are all right really, so cheer up! All of us want to feel right about ourselves, and so we are pressured at every turn to speak about people as ‘good chaps’, ‘lovely people’, ‘nice guys’, ‘fine fellows’, and worst of all, ‘good Christians’. It keeps the ugly truth at bay. It wards off the pricks of conscience. And we like the feedback! The more we speak well of others, the more comfortable we feel in our minds about ourselves. But we deceive ourselves.
The fact of the matter is, we are all faulty, and deep down we know it, but we prefer to ‘brush it under the mat’ where it is not seen, by others, or by ourselves. When God came down amongst men in the person of Jesus Christ, He did a most embarrassing thing. He started to lift those mats, and reveal all the dirt and filth that men had swept under them! People were outraged and deeply offended. But He kept on doing it until they could not stand it any longer, and put Him to death. But they did not realise that He was different to all others. He had a clean mat, and there was no dirt under it. And so death could not hold Him. On the third day He rose again, and through the good offices of His disciples and their writings, He has been lifting men’s mats ever since!
God knows that it is good to lift our mats. But human nature struggles to prevent this. However God is looking for those who will admit to this exercise, and welcome the broom and the vacuum cleaner into their lives. If we say to God, “I give you permission to lift my mat,” then we find a most amazing thing! We see the smile on the face of our Lord as He says to us, “Have no fear. I died that you might be clean.” But He does not stop there. He says, “Now, have a new mat!” That is real love.
When Jesus walked this earth, there were some who followed Him. But John tells us (2:24) “He did not commit Himself to them because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”Today’s believers must learn this lesson as well. We shall not ‘commit ourselves to men’ nor allow them to commit themselves to us. We do not say this because we have the same all-seeing eye as the Son of God, but because of the dangers of false associations between men. Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” And in that same passage we find Him saying to His disciples, “Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall cut you off from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil for the sake of the Son of Man.Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!”
Even though these are the words of the Lord, some might object and say, “Are you telling us that it is better to be evicted from your church than to be there and enjoy worship with your brethren?” And our answer would be, “To what extent have you sought to weld strong links of commitment with those in your church, perhaps on the basis of what the world would call, ‘hail-fellow-well-met’, without realising that you have been fostering the process of sweeping dirt under mats?” The more that men do this, the more difficult does it become to accept the loner in their midst, the one who lifts a few mats and makes people angry. Such loners will soon be asked to leave. They will have become like their Master, and that is why He tells them to rejoice. Was not our Lord also a regular attendee of local synagogues and the Temple? And how many times was He asked to leave?
What does the Bible say about human nature, the ‘dirt under the mat’? Well, many things of course, but here are just two. Jer.17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and is desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart – -.”1 Chron.28:9 “The Lord searches every heart, and understands all the hidden motives behind our thoughts.” How often have we been guilty of “speaking with great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage”? (Jude 16) Here is the crux of the matter – ‘because of advantage’. Whose advantage? Our own of course. How often are we subjected to ‘final votes of thanks’ to visiting speakers, in terms which would make our Lord cringe; how often must we give ’rounds of applause’ to soloists and choirs for their performances, and even ‘clap offerings’ to the Lord Himself. God forbid. Friends and brethren, we should stop all this at once. It is a disgrace to the Lord, and savours of falsehood and deception. The Lord sees right through all our facades of pleasantry, and urges us to more serious things.
The Lord Jesus had many serious words for the ‘church leaders’ of His day, the Scribes and the Pharisees. Often He called them hypocrites. (Matt.23:27) What constitutes a hypocrite? Is he not the man who presents a false front to win the admiration of men? Jesus said, “You are like whitewashed sepulchres which look fine on the outside, but contain the bones of the dead and all uncleanness.” He was speaking about the dirt under the mat in another figure of speech. No wonder then that we should not commit ourselves to men. Nor should we allow others to commit themselves to us. The dangers are too great. We are all subject to hypocrisy without realising it, whether we belong to the world or the household of faith. The sheer strain of living a totally open life amongst men would probably kill us, if we were not killed by others. This is particularly true of the days in which we now live which are highly cosmetic.
Let no one say that we abhor fellowship. This is not the point. We love and desire fellowship but only that which is true and open, honest and sensible, serious and uplifting to God. Let us make a pact to start being open with each other, and confessing our faults, rather than brushing it all under the mat all the time. Let us begin to do this, that others may have the courage to start as well, for although we all use ‘window dressing’ most of us despise ourselves for it especially when we become Christians. Let us read John’s letter (1 J.1:8) “If we say we have not sinned (ie. hypocrisy) we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins (to God and to each other) He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”
Only in this manner can we begin to grow to Christian manhood and maturity. The untrained and untrainable have no place in God’s kingdom. Neither has the hypocrite place in the Holy City. But the man who learns heartily to despise ‘window dressing’, and mere ‘cosmetic exercises’ and who is fed up with ‘sweeping the dirt under his mat’ and who makes a pact with his God, will begin to find that God deals with him as a son. Read Heb.12:5-8 “Despise not the chastening of the Lord – – whom the Lord loves He chastens; – – but if you be without chastisement – – you are bastards and not sons.” All of us need this deep inner cleansing. But God will not force this upon us. He waits for us to sicken of our hypocrisies, and yield our wills to Him. THEN the miracles of change begin to happen, and God is glorified.
The ancient Greek philosophers had a saying, GNOTHI SEAUTON (Know thyself). By continual inward searching they sought to cleanse themselves, and by suitable personal training they sought to make themselves acceptable to man and society. And it is this type of philosophy which pervades the Western World today. “Self- made men” are continually praising their ‘creator’ and their peers. But all of this is to no avail before God. He alone can cleanse us and He alone can give us new life, and He alone can influence our lives for the better, as we yield to Him. Paul writes about it in Phil.3 “That I may know Him (not myself), and the power of His resurrection (because we cannot walk in our own strength), and the fellowship of His sufferings (the inevitable consequence of lifting mats!), being made conformable to His death (not giving up when the going gets rough), if by any means I might attain to the resurrection from the dead (a recognition that God’s main purpose for man lies in the next life, and not now.)”
And if this painful lesson needs to be learned by us all in our lives together as believers, how much more does it need to be learned by those who take the lead in any respect. And in respect to the attitude of the congregation to their leaders. Who desires to be a great man of God, and to do great things for God? Such a man defeats his own object before he starts. Why is this? It is because he has neatly put under the mat the REAL reason for aspiring to such a position. It is the desire to be admired by men that has caused him to seek such an elevation. It is a very sad fact that many preachers seem to feed off the adulation they receive, and their ministry differs but little from the men-of-the-world whose profession is that of acting. Just as the actor depends upon the applause from the audience, so the preacher depends upon his continuing acceptance from his congregations. How many times these days do we pick up brochures that speak about the leaders of certain conferences. “Brother So-and-so is well known for his ministry to the ***** and we are indeed fortunate to have him with us at this time.” “Brother Whatsit has a real anointed ministry of healing. Don’t miss this opportunity etc.etc.”Have we ever stopped to think what effect such words have upon the So-and-sos and the Whatsits of the preaching world?
In His sermon on the mount, our Lord said many hard things, things which could be likened to scalpels that cut into the flesh. But one word He gave causes all those who read it to ponder deeply. It is Matt.7:21-23. Let us quote it in full. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but rather those who do the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name expelled demons, and in your name done many works of power?’ and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me all you who work lawlessness.”‘ The really sad part of our Lord’s words is the fact that He said ‘Many’. It will not be just a few misguided souls, but ‘Many’. Oh how we can deceive ourselves! Oh how foolish we can be! Power is never the authentication of holiness, neither are miracles the endorsement of true sonship. And the healer, the expeller-of-demons and the prophet, these are the ones most easily led astray by this assumption. When we see the power of God at work through our own hands, then we are so easily led into thinking, “God must be pleased with me. This is an honour.” But all demonstrations of true spiritual power are ‘charismata’, grace-gifts, and if grace, they are not dependent on the state of man God uses. This is such an important lesson.
On what basis did our Lord commend those whom he met? Take the Centurion as an example. Luke 7:1-10 He did not consider himself worthy even to meet the Lord, but he recognised the authority of Jesus, and knew that his servant would be healed at the very moment He prayedd Jesus marvelled at this, and said that he had not found such faith in Israel. Faith, obedience, and sacrificial love are always commended by our Lord. But smooth sentiment and hypocritical compliment was always treated with severity. God knows the hidden motives behind all our thoughts.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are listed in Gal:5:22. Jesus said that men would be known by their fruits, and not by their works. Matt.7:2O. What matters most is whether the healer, for example, has allowed the Lord to touch his life to be disciplined, or whether he has abused spiritual power to his own advantage. In closing, let us ponder the Lord’s words in John 5:39-44 in which we find the saying, “I receive not honour from men,” and in Luke 16:15 “That which is highly esteemed of men is an abomination to the Lord.”
A WORD OF PROPHECY FOR OUR TIMES
Received by Arthur on Sunday 12th July 1981
“Let those who weep among my people for the sight of the devastation in their land cry unto the Lord and say, ‘Spare your people 0 Lord; do not make your inheritance an object of scorn and a derisive proverb among all peoples. Why should mockers arise to point finger and say ‘Show us your God! Does He really exist?”
Let those who mourn among my people for the apostasy in my church cry unto the Lord and say, ‘Have mercy 0 Lord upon your own inheritance, for we are so small. Give unto us 0 Lord the strength to stand in the gap and hold back the flood-waters of destruction. Let not the enemy deal with us according to our sins, but rather let us fall into the hands of the Living God, who alone is merciful and just.’
Let those who dwell alone in silence, groaning within their hearts as they witness the fear and perplexity upon all faces, cry unto the Lord and say, ‘In the midst of judgment 0 Lord, defend the common folk, the very old and very young, the bountiful and generous, the merciful and trustworthy, all those who (though as yet they know you not) act as though your laws were writ within their hearts. Let not the destroying angel pass through the land before you have granted these your canopy of defence.’
Let those who have already passed through the fires of judgment, those who have tasted the wormwood and the gall, and have entered into a place that is clean and bright, say unto their Lord, ‘Teach me 0 Lord, so to deal with my brother ever as you have dealt with me. Help me to give your word of rebuke or correction, and not to flee from the responsibility. Help me to administer the coals from the altar, bearing the pain within my own heart. Help me to stand back when all my fallen nature cries out to rush in and quench the flames. Above all help me to pray for the ‘end of the Lord’ and His double blessings.’
For I say to you, the fashion of all things is now in the process of change. The shaking has now begun in your land. All that has caused offence shall be lifted out and displayed to view. All that has been obscene and unholy shall be naked and exposed for all to see. All that has been woven together into a web of deception, and a stumbling block to my people, shall appear as a mildewed cloth, stinking and ready to fall apart. And those who have been responsible shall no longer be able to hide behind the masks of anonymity and the luxury of occult powers. And Lucifer shall be seen.
And those who were bound captive in darkness by demonic strength shall be delivered from their prisons, and those who groped around in darkness shall be granted a clear bright light, and those who were born in blindness shall have their sight and glorify the God of heaven. And those who bore with me through the long night of sorrow, sharing my grief, shall arise to a new day, and as heavenly luminaries bring many to righteousness, and sow the seeds of hope within the land.
Come apart my little ones and hide yourselves awhile. Hold fast to that which has been revealed to you from heaven. Call down my canopy of defence in which to hide, as my overflowing scourge passes through your land. For this is my own work, brief but penetrating, whereby I shall accomplish all that has been within my heart from the beginning, says the Lord.”