Let’s read two passages in your Bibles. The first: John c 7.16-19.
Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”
The second passage is Matthew c 13.10-17. This passage comes at the close of the parable of the sower and gives details of the parable to the disciples to answer their questions.
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore, I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Here’s a simple and accurate theory, an absolute. A person must be receptive to any statement, idea or objective before he or she will study it, accept it, believe it and apply it.
You know this is true. It doesn’t require explanation, and no matter whether we’re discussing religious things, the daily news, politics or something in between, this statement will still be true – no matter what. I’ll state it again: that anyone must first be willing to receive what they perceive to be the truth behind any idea, statement or object before they will adapt to it or embrace it.
Let use a simple example straight out of today’s news. There are essentially two political camps in this country right now: those who believe that President Trump is a conniving and evil manipulator and those who believe that he is one of the best presidents in U.S. history – and there is not much middle ground.
I’m not interested in politics here. I’m interested only in proving the truth in what I just stated. Those who maintain that President Trump is a manipulator and a dictatorial presence have accepted that premise and base their views and their acceptance of the news each day as the proof of that. Those that do not accept this also react accordingly and base their opinions and ideas upon the other side of the news. As the philosopher said, never shall the twain meet. One side pretty much ignores the arguments of the other and lists the other fellows view as baseless.
As another example, it’s likely that you will wholesale reject whatever the President of North Korea states in relation to his nation’s intentions concerning their nuclear programs and expansionism. You probably don’t react favorably to his suggestions that he was willing to dress down their nuclear weapons program and you probably don’t accept his statements based on the information we read or hear in the press. It’s also unlikely that he will offer any well received proof for his arguments that will sway you to take a different view of his intentions.
These things have always been true. Galileo was an outcast in his day because he taught contrary to the notions of both society and religion when he suggested (although rightly so) that the earth was not at the center of the solar system. His statements were true, but that had little to do with their acceptance by the public and as a result he was excommunicated from the catholic church and lived as an outcast from the scientific community the rest of his life.
Christopher Columbus was not well treated when he suggested that the world was not flat and was not mounted by four posts onto the back of a giant sea turtle. Yet it wasn’t until a full century later that the geographer Sir John Mandeville and then later the Italian scientist Toscanini published their findings in agreement with his so that these notions promoted and fostered during the Dark Ages finally began to fade.
Did you know that it took a full 50 years after its publication for the King James Bible to supplant the Duoay and Geneva Bibles (both catholic versions), even though these were vastly inferior works when compared to it?
The theory of evolution is accepted or rejected by folks based upon this same principle. Those that accept it as a scientific fact do so because they have accepted the premise as it was given – they consider it to be true – it makes sense to them. So they search and reach for evidences in support of their side of things. The other side understands the opposite: that the statements are erroneous and false and they, in turn, search for and accept things that tend to support their side. Now I am not interested in the rightness or wrongness of any of these things but only in how it is that we decide things in our thinking.
When something new is presented we tend to go through three distinct stages in assessing and assimilating ideas, notions, or technology. The first stage is we’re frozen. Most people simply don’t readily accept or easily adopt new ideas. Once the truth or the usefulness of something new sinks in or strikes us, then we enter into stage two: we thaw out. We un-freeze to the new idea or change and adopt it and finally put it to use. But as soon as that happens we then enter stage three — and we re-freeze. Once again we’re frozen solid and don’t easily change or adapt to the next thing, idea or process that comes along.
Some people adapt readily when they learn new things and some never accept them. But most everyone – the greater majority, lie somewhere in between those two ends.
It doesn’t matter what the facts are or how good the arguments, how compelling the presentation, or how mesmerizing the presenter, but rather like the Paul Simon song says, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” We like to believe that what we do, the basis for our lives and our reactions is set upon a solid base, that the things we do are sound, intelligent and well thought out. To think the opposite is to accept that we have no guide or rudder for our lives; and we simply wander through our existence, borne upon the whims and the winds of time. To these folks no thought on religion or intellect will have any effect.
In teaching the gospel of Christ and the plan of salvation all these same things are true. Only those who wish to know will ever seek the truth. From our reading in John 7, we saw the following statement made by Christ: “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.”
This is the question of the ages on religious things: is the doctrine we hear from God and is it the truth or is it from the minds and pens of some men and women?
To repeat: “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” So, what does this mean?
First, Christ said there is a distinction between the teaching of men and the teaching of God. If we look at whether or not the teaching given to us comes from God or if it is from somewhere else – there is a test of authenticity that can easily be applied. Second, he said, “if anyone wants to do God’s will, that he or she will know concerning the things delivered by me,” (not delivered by some man in modern times or from some church that was never heard of in all of history until the modern age, but as the Master speaks. He says that he delivered it himself – that it is from Christ, his anointed one – who is also God), and that his words are in fact the Words of God and by that we will know whether he (that is Jesus) spoke by the will of God or by the will of men.
It is still the same today. Christ tells us that we can know whether what we are taught is from God or from somewhere or someone else. The path to finding the truth is also given, and we must diligently seek it out. It is implied both that it doesn’t drop out of the sky and that not everyone is teaching the truth. We must seek God and the word of God to find it. Even then, only the heart that is willing to receive it will in fact receive it and put it to use.
To support this notion the Lord taught what is known as the Parable of the Sower. I’m not going to print the text of that here but would like you to spend some of your time reading and reflecting on it in days ahead. This lesson deals primarily with the explanation to the disciples that followed the parable. Yet I will note some things as being obvious in the parable.
Note that as the sower went out to sow, the emphasis is not on the sower but on what he was doing – sowing his seed. You already know the Word of God is the seed that is sown. Those scriptures told us that.
We’re told more. We’re told the four soils represent four different types of hearts where the seed of the Word of God would be sown: 1.) the wayside hearts (“those who do not understand”), representing those who do not center upon the word, 2.) the stony places (“those that receive it… but who have no root within themselves”), representing the result of difficulties on the path of some of those who hear and their reaction to those difficulties. Then comes the 3.) thorny ground, where the “cares of the world rise up and choke it” and where sharp and difficult times in this life affects the actions of those folks, and finally, 4.) the good ground (where are found those who “understand it”) – that is the heart where the truth is readily received and put to use.
You know that not many will accept the truth. You further know that it is contrary to what they have been taught and (to some) to what they will or will not ever accept. This is clearly the case recorded with most of the leaders of the Jews in Jesus’ own day. It is also the case today.
But some (and that is a relative few) will receive the word quickly, readily and will accept it. A few will thaw right away. Examples of this are found throughout the New Testament, as in the recounting of the conversions of the Eunuch of Ethiopia and the jailer at Philippi. Both men were ready. One asked the Evangelist, “Here is water, what hinders me to be baptized,” and the other said to the apostle and his companion, “Sirs what must I do to be saved.” There was no hesitation, no delay – their responses were immediate. The centurion Cornelius and the members of his household were the same. They wanted the truth and the response was proactive, dedicated and immediate.
Jesus said, “If any man will do his will…” The Lord said, “He shall know it.” The word shall in English expresses a certainty, not a wish (contrary to what is often thought, the word “will” expresses a wish). The Lord didn’t say he may know or he might know. But in the strongest tense, he stated that “he shall know.” That means that it is possible to be sure of what we hear and of what we are taught.
Yet the skeptic says, “I don’t know, I’m just not sure?” Or they say, “Is this really true?” “Can you prove this with scripture?” As though the passages already noted were not quite strong enough for that.
Again let’s journey back to our reading, the reading that follows the teaching of the parable of the sower: back to Matthew chapter 13 and to the remarks made to the disciples that we read at the outset. Here (in Matt. c 13.10) the disciples asked, “Master why do you speak to them (meaning to the crowd) in parables?”
Did you ever consider that this was a quiet and polite way of saying, “Lord we don’t have a clue about what you’re saying. But we’re not going to tell you that, because that will make us look like we don’t understand things. So we’d rather ask you why you’re teaching us and the rest this way, because you were talking way over their heads, and you’re talking over our heads too.”
Don’t believe for a minute that you or I would say anything different or act otherwise. We often do things like this when we don’t understand the stuff going on around us. We’ll act as if we have a perfect working knowledge of things, because to say or act otherwise would be an admission that we just don’t know what’s going on – and that friends, is just as difficult for most of us to do as admitting when we’re wrong.
But here (verse 11) Jesus ignores the implications surrounding the question and directly answered them. “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Did this mean that God is partial? Does this mean that there is an elect state and a lesser state, that we are either predestinated to either, doing well with the teaching of Christ or doing poorly and that we have no control over our own decisions and destiny? To think so would be to draw a hasty conclusion. Why it is given to some and not to others is a fair question and the answer to this is as valid now for us as it was then.
In all studies there are certain guidelines that must be followed. In the examination of written or spoken records there is the Journalistic Canon which states when investigating details, we should always ask – who, what, where, when, why and how, to assess how we can get the facts in order andaccurately make an application of the things set before us. So let’s use this simple tool now.
Who is being addressed in response to the inquiry? To whom is it given to know? The answer to that is it’s addressed to those disciples who were following the teaching at that time – the immediate crowd of learners following the Lord, that had already said goodbye to the things of the world and who were daily following along with him and learning from the Lord – having already accepted his teaching. These left occupations and time at home to sit at his feet and learn. Their hearts were right and they wanted to know the truth – they were for the greater part, so far as is known to anyone, “good ground.”
Where and when the reply was made is of little importance to us here, so we can dispense with that for now.
Therefore the “how” – “that unto them is given to know” is that by seeking and learning and devouring the very words of the Lord is “how” they were given to know.
Well then why was this not given to the rest? Of course the Lord answers this doesn’t he? Please look at the response as we read in verses 13 through 17:
“Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
There were, there are, and there will always be shut eyes and plugged ears. The eyelids and “ear flaps” of some folks are locked down. They’re shut tight. Such people cannot learn the truth – it’s impossible; and this is the type of whom the Lord said that it is not given to them to know. I hope and pray that is not you.
Therefore, the responsibility fully lies with us as individuals, doesn’t it? It is not found in some building, with some teacher or in some church, that is, the responsibility to seek the will of God and to stand on the teachings of the Lord. The question we need to ask is – do I want to know what the will of God is? Like the Philippian jailer will we ask, “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” Or will we be thinking, “I must remain true to my side, remain firm and my view must prevail – no matter what.” Is my attitude the one that says regardless of the printed and plain recorded word that I must have my way, regardless of the facts and that my view must be intact while all others need to go away. And so I put my fingers in my ears all the way up to the first knuckle. If so, the person that thinks like this will never get to heaven.
The other side says, do I want God’s will to prevail in my life even if it’s contrary to my own will, contrary to what I think, and to what I may have been taught? Can I give up my prejudices, my preconceptions and my former ideas if they run contrary to what Jesus and his apostles taught, said to do, and practice? To never say, “won’t something else do” or “I can’t stay where this is taught and done.”
In order that a heart can do God’s will that person must believe that the Bible is God’s will and the inspired word of God and within it lies the lone path to knowledge of what God would have us to do. We must come to believe and know that only through an open reception of the written word can salvation be gained in true service to God. For if we cannot accept this we will never find the truth in this life.
You know there are some that say that the Bible is God’s word and that it is word by word inspired. However, you may also know that there are others that say it is inspired only in the same way that any common literary work is inspired, that inspiration lay in the hands that held the pens, and they wrote it as they saw fit. You may also recognize that only one of these theories can exist and that is where there is an absence of the other. Only one can be true. Then comes another question of the ages – which one is true? Which is the one that you hold to?
Do you know that the phrase, “thus says the Lord” appears in the scriptures hundreds of times? Do you know that this book is the ONLY book that claims to be the ONLY (and that means that no other work exists to be added to it or to complement it) – the ONLY word of God?
Have you not read these things in Deuteronomy 5. 32-33?
Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.
Have you not read these things in Deuteronomy 19.18-22?
I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
Have you not read Ecclesiastes 3.14?
I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.
Have you not read Galatians 1. 6-12?
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Have you not read that which we read to you at the beginning of this from John 7.16-18?
Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.”
Have you not read John 12.48 – 50?
He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.
In spite of these things, there are many that think that the opinions and thinking of the various hands that put these things to paper used their own style and colored the scriptures with their own palette of ideas, and therefore abridgements, alterations, dogmas and creeds are okay.
But have you not read I Corinthians 2. 12 – 13?
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Or perhaps you have not read I Thessalonians 2:13?
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
In the minds of some, these things are settled; and they should be settled for you if you believe that you will ever see God. We need to understand that the gospel and the Word of God has been imparted as God set it and then handed it down — correctly, accurately, and understandably.
Therefore if when we die we should expect to sit at the Lord’s Table we had better prepare ourselves and make our heart into good ground for the Word of God – to be a true disciple. When we set out to do that, we must do it with all we have, and we must exercise diligence to be true to the word of God – to obey every word that has proceeded from the mouth of that prophet so that we will not be cut off from among God’s people. We must not follow man or the theories and connivances of the doctrines of men. Instead we must settle ourselves upon the examples and teachings found only in the Word of God – recognizing both the truth and exhibiting the attitudes that will in time carry us into the Heaven of God.
Friends we need to study to find ourselves approved by God, by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and in obedience to God’s will and not our own. At that time we must set aside our notions and the things that are not found in the Word of God both in our minds and in our practices.
Seek the truth friends with all your might. Spread the truth and adhere only to the truth just as it appears in God’s book; and at the end of all things, a triumphant entry into heaven will be given to you to be forever in the company of our Father and of his glorified Son.
(The original lesson on which this was based, was taught by N. B. Hardeman)