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By Alan in DevotionalsGenesis 37:5-11, “Joseph and his Jewish Dreams”
Joseph had faith and loved the Lord God. In the Old Testament, before the Bible was written, God spoke to men in dreams. God had given Joseph dreams. As we read the story of Joseph, we can see that Joseph was like the Lord Jesus. Joseph was a type of Christ. Joseph walked with God and had the characteristics of the Lord Jesus.
Also, Joseph is a good example for the Christian. God gave the examples of the Old Testament men and women for us. 1 Corinthians 10:11, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” The wise Christian will look at the examples of the saints of the Old Testament and use these examples to learn how to walk in the Spirit (not in the Flesh), and please the Lord Jesus. Romans 15;4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” The stories of the Old Testament saints can give the Christian hope and comfort our hearts.
Joseph walked in the Holy Spirit and had the fruits of the Spirit.Galatians 5:22 and 23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Joseph and his brothers
Genesis 37:1-4, “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.”
Joseph was hated by his eleven brothers for two reasons:
Joseph told his father, Jacob, or Israel, the evil things that his brothers did. Amos 5;10, “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.”
Most people do not like it when you rebuke them. When the pastor rebukes a sin, and people do not want to repent, then some people get mad, criticize the pastor, the church. A wise person will repent when you rebuke him. Like Joseph, and the Lord Jesus, it is the responsibility of the man of God to rebuke people’s sins. 2 Timothy 4:1 and 2, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” A faithful pastor will rebuke the sins of the people. A false pastor will not rebuke the sins of the people.
Proverbs 28:23, “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.” A faithful pastor will find good results but a false pastor will flatter people.
Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” A wise Christian will hear the rebuke of the faithful pastor. A scorner will not listen to the rebuke of the pastor.
Jacob, or Israel, his father loved him more than the other 11 brothers because Joseph was the son of his old age.
The eleven brothers of Joseph were all walking in the flesh and had the fruits of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Dream of the Sheaves that did Obeisance
Genesis 37:5-8, “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? Or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.”
Both dreams came from God and God will fulfill both dreams in the life of Joseph and in the life of Christ. In the first dream, the brothers were binding sheaves in the field and Joseph’s sheaf stood upright and the sheaves of the brothers stood up and did obeisance. The brothers hated this dream and the interpretation. The brothers of Joseph rejected the words of Joseph.
The brothers did not like the dreams that God gave Joseph. They did not want Joseph to reign over them. The brothers did not want to make obeisance to Joseph. Therefore, the brothers hated the words of Joseph and questioned the dreams of Joseph. When a person does not agree with the pastor who faithfully preaches the scriptures, they will question the scriptures and the pastor.
Joseph’s brothers are like the nation of Israel. When the Lord Jesus came and dwelt among the nation of Israel, His brethren, the Jews rejected Him. John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”And, in the church Age, most of the Jews hate Jesus and his words.
When the Lord Jesus came the first time, the Jews also did not want Jesus to be their king. John 19:14 & 15, “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.”
This dream was fulfilled in the life of Joseph. Genesis 42:6, “And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.”
And, this dream will be also fulfilled in the life of Christ when the 12 tribes of Israel recognize the Lord Jesus as Saviour and serve the Lord Jesus as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. tells us that 12,000 Jews from each tribe of Israel become the servants of the Lord Jesus in the 7 Year Tribulation Period.
Joseph is like the Christian who walks in the Spirit. The Christian who walks in the spirit will be persecuted, talked against, scorned, maligned, and despised by those who walk in the flesh. & Galatians 4:28 & 29, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.”
The Dream of the Sun and the Moon
Genesis 37: 9 & 10, “And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren,and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?”
This dream is almost the same; but slightly different. In the first dream, only the other brothers did obeisance and in the second dream the Sun and the Moon, and eleven stars made obeisance. The sun represents Jacob, the Moon represents Rachel, and the eleven stars represent the eleven brothers. Rachel is already dead (Genesis 35:16-20). As with Job, and the other saints in the Old Testament, Jacob believed that one day that God would raise the saints from the dead.
So, this represents all of the children of Israel, Jacob, and Rachel. This dream was fulfilled in Joseph's lifetime, among his own family (minus Rachel). The second time the brothers of Joseph came to Egypt they bowed before him the second time and said that their father (Jacob), was his servant. Genesis 43:28, “And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.”
The second dream, along with the first dream, represents the whole nation of Israel bowing down to the Lord Jesus. Genesis 37:9 & 10 is the interpretation of . Revelation 12:1-17. Revelation 12:1, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”
The fulfillment of the second dream is when the nation of Israel gets saved and bows down to the Lord Jesus. Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
Jacob observed Joseph’s sayings
Genesis 37:11, “And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.” Jacob did not question the dreams of Joseph. Jacob did not fully understand them; but, he did not question them. Jacob observed them.
Joseph’s brothers did not care for the words of Joseph. The brothers walked in the flesh. Envy is a one of the fruits of the flesh as listed in Galatians 5:19-21The father, Jacob, loved the Lord. So, he observed these sayings. We need to observe the saying’s in the scriptures. Psalm 107:43, “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.”
A wise Christian will walk in the Spirit and will observe the life of Joseph.
By irishman in irishman's SermonsThe invincible church
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 18:16)
Did Christ die for the church, or for the work of the church? We must ponder that question in our hearts, each one of us. He came and ministered unto men as an example of our work as a Christian, but did he die for the work? Those who are “church builders” would be interested to know. We see an invincible church, and not an invisible church.
In Matt. 16:18, He told Peter “…Upon this Rock I will build my church…” and for ages, good men have asked “What Rock is Jesus speaking of?” My friends, we have all heard different ideas as to what this means, but letting the Bible explain itself is always the interpretation. In the verses previous to this, we see the answer as to what is “The rock?”
It begins in verse 13, where Jesus questions the disciples as to who he is. Peter responds with a wonderful answer, and a great truth for each of us to remember:
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. “ (Mt. 16: 16) My friends, this is the rock that Christ built his church on, that Christ is the Son of the Living God. It is built on principle, and not on persons. The fact that Christ is the Son of God, yea, God Himself, is our Rock; it is as solid as you can get. The winds of time, trials, or tempests will not prevail against it, because it is built on a rock. That, my friends, is what the church is built on.
There are 79 references to the church in the New testament, and all but a few were written to a local church; this includes the seven churches of Asia, in the Book of Revelation. A few of those seventy-nine churches were spoken of before the day of Pentecost, including the common passage we use for church discipline in Mt. 18 17. What did Christ mean when He said to take it before the church?
The church was not established at Pentecost.
The Inception of the Church
The dispensationalist says that when Christ said “Upon this rock will I build my church”, that He meant He would build it (future tenses) at Pentecost. They focus on the words “will I” being a future act, which it was, partially. The church was not yet established, but at Calvary He also said “It is finished”, meaning that work which he set out to do, which could include the building of His church. To claim Pentecost as the inception of the church is a haphazard guess at most; we do not know for sure when the church actually was finished, although we do know from Scripture, that it began with Christ.
As I have already stated, Mt. 16:18 was a future event at the time Jesus spoke it. He could not have built His church before the redemption of man at Calvary lest it be built of unbelievers! “Pentecost” means “fifty”, or, some say “fifty days” which we believe took place fifty days after Christ’s resurrection. If the church did not come into being until Pentecost where was the body of Christ for those fifty days? Where was the “bride” of Christ? There would have to be a gap of fifty days in the building of the church to make that possible. No, the church was “born” at Calvary, when Christ said “It is finished” so was the foundation of the church.
What gives the dispensationalist the right to predict when the church began at Pentecost just because it was a future event? They apply it to Pentecost, with no scriptural support, except that there was “added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2: 47); you cannot add to something until it already exists! The church needed to precede Pentecost before it could be “added to”. It does not take much thinking to realize that the church had to come into being sometime between Mt. 16:18 and Acts 2; the greatest event in history took place between these times--Calvary. I believe that the church was finished at Calvary, and in full swing going into the Book of Acts. In Acts, men added to the church, but the church itself was already established on Christ and Calvary. The work of men was not finished as of yet, but it was “in the making” in the Book of Acts. This is where the controversy lies, I believe, in the establishment of the church according to mans view of it. Mans work in, and on the church is never done until we all get to glory, but the foundation has been laid, and the true church has been built, on the precept that “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Two verse later, Jesus told Him that He would build His church on this--the rock of truth, and the fact that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God.
A universal, invisible church has no shepherd.
A church must have a leader. Someone must step up and take the reins, and God has seen to it that it will be so. He provided men for the task; men of His choosing, pastors, evangelists, teachers, etc. (Eph. 4:11) for the edifying of the church. Without a shepherd we are as sheep having no shepherd. Isa. 53:6 comes to mind: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Without a shepherd, we have chaos, and anarchy; we will have “turned every one to his own way”, and found the way of destruction. Where is the leader of the “invisible” church? Who can lead them as one body? (See Acts 28:28)
A church must have unity
How can a universal, invisible church be one unit? They do not have fellowship with one another; they have no inkling of the existence of the other, no personal communication or communion; they cannot be “one body in Christ”. the arm may be in one place, and the leg in another; the nose may be sniffing out souls, but the feet are not led to go to them. Even though one may sow and another may water, they are not unified in the effort, they are as one person doing whatever suits them.
An invisible church has no authority:
Again, who is the leader of the invisible church? Name him if you can. God has established authority, and set guidelines for us to follow within the confines of His will, but the universal church has no one to unify them, none to exercise authority over them. You are prOBably thinking, “they answer only to God“, but I again remind you that each man will do “that which is right in his own sight“, and there will be chaos. There are some though who supposed themselves to be members of this “mystery” church, and we can read about them in Matthew 7; 22: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Jesus attests that He "never knew them".
The epistles were written to local churches--real churches that were active in their community. Theses “local” churches, are local to their own vicinity; they are not a universal nor invisible church of all believers everywhere, because all believers everywhere are already the true church! The Body of Christ is wide spread, but not everyone who claims to be “of the body” can rightly say they are of “the church”. If all we did was ask the Lord to save us, then we could have an invisible universal church, but we must ask, believing. Truly the Bible says that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13), but isn’t that preceded by vs. 9-10 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.? Are there not many who, perhaps, had fooled themselves into thinking they were saved? Of course there are! (Mt. 7:22). These examples in Matthew have even prophesied in Christ’s name; they have cast out devils, which seems to be a privilege of the elect of God, and done “many wonderful works”, but they did not have the heart for Christ. Though they shined as premier Christians among the brethren for their works, they were lost, and Christ had to tell them to depart from Him, attesting that He never knew them. They were not of the church. They no doubt could have furnished witnesses to great deeds they did; no doubt they had a time that they verbally called upon the name of the Lord, but they had an evil heart of unbelief which no man could see. They were not a part of the church; the universal church could claim them, because it has no shepherd; it could claim them because it has no authority; it could claim them because they had met the qualifications of the “church”, but they were lost, they were not of the true church.
The Unified Church
What is the church?
The “Body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27)
The “Bride of Christ”
The “House of God”. (1 Tim. 3:15)
The “General assembly” (Heb. 12:23)
One body (Rom. 12:5) (1 Cor. 12:20)
Who makes up the church?
Believers. All believers, everywhere. (1 Cor. 12:13, 14)
Jewish believers in Christ (Eph. 2:16)
Facts to consider:
79 mentions of “church” in the New testament;
Nearly the entire New testament speaks of local churches;
Almost all the Epistles were written to local assemblies.
Church is “in God” and “In Christ“ (1 Thess. 1:1 and 2Thess. 1:1)
“Church” means “called out assembly”; (assembly can also be translated as “church”)
The church is the “Pillar and ground of the Truth” (1 Tim. 3:15)
Churches sometimes met in houses; (Philemon 1:2)
--Out in the open; (Acts 7:38)
--In regular buildings. (Rev. Chapters 2,3)
Church established before Pentecost. (Mt. 16: 18)
The church had to exist before Pentecost, else there was no church between the crucifixion and the introduction of the Holy Spirit.
Twice Christ mentions the church during His earthly ministry, (Mt. 16:18 and 18:17) and goes as far as establishing the order for discipline in the New Testament church. (Spoken in present tense).
Every church was a “local assembly”.
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth”…1 Cor. 1:2~ 2 Cor 1:1
“Unto the churches of Galatia”…Gal. 1:2, and etc.
Seven churches of revelation, etc.
Every church has a shepherd: (Eph. 4:11)
They are as sheep which have no shepherd, scattered and confused.
They have no leadership, no authority.
There must be authority in the church, for it is God-ordained.
Every church has ordinances:
Who does the Baptizing in the “invisible” church?
Who takes the communion supper, and who passes it out?
By Standing Firm In Christ in DevotionalsIt's in the Bible! by Ronald W Robey Whenever I mention the fact that I don't tithe, someone is sure to reply, "It's in the Bible!" And truthfully, tithing is indeed commanded in the Bible. I do not dispute that fact at all. However, we cannot focus on the fact that the command to tithe is in the Bible and ignore the commanded ELEMENTS of the tithe; the commanded GIVERS of the tithe; the commanded LOCATION of the tithe; the commanded RECIPIENTS of the tithe; the commanded YEAR of the tithe. A diligent study of the Bible will reveal to the reader many precious and wonderful truths that are ignored in so many mainstream religious institutions around the world today. There is no instruction in the entire Bible where God said that one's monetary income is to be tithed to either Tabernacle, Temple, Synagogue or Church. Even in the last place in the Bible where tithing is mentioned, (Hebrews 7:5-9) the author says that the tithes still belongs to the sons of Levi, and that the tithes are still "according to the Law. Since the author of Hebrews reveals that tithes are still "according to the Law, it is needful to go to the Books of the Law in order to learn what they say concerning God's holy tithe. The Law states that God's holy tithe is a) agricultural (Lev. 27:30-33 b) only required of the children of Israel (Lev. 27:34; Psa. 147:19-20) c) only to be observed by those living in the land of Canaan (Deut. 12:1,10-11) d) to be given to Levites, widows, orphans and foreigners; (Deut. 26:12) and even to be eaten by the one bringing the tithe. (Deuteronomy 14:22-26) e) to be given every third year (Deuteronomy 26:12) God NEVER amended the tithe command to say that a tenth of one's money is now required as tithe. He NEVER amended the tithe command to say tithes are to be given around the world. He NEVER amended the tithe to say that it is to be observed every week of the year and every year of your Christian life For that matter, God NEVER said that Christian's are required to tithe at all.. Pastor's have handled the word of God deceitfully in order to teach a tithe command that is totally foreign to the word of God, i.e.; a tithe of man's monetary income,... a tithe of unrighteous mammon. Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Attempting to obey the command to tithe, without obeying the other instructions connected to that command merits a curse, not favor. Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
By Alan in Devotionals1 Kings 4:29-34, “And God gave Solomon wisdom.”
1 Kings 4:29-34, “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.”
Wisdom and understanding is very important. We need wisdom is our lives. We need wisdom to learn how to raise our family, working on our job, dealing with our neighbors, and those in the church congregation. As God gave King Solomon wisdom; so can the Lord give us wisdom. “If any of you ask wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5
James does add one thought concerning asking God wisdom that we need to consider in our hearts. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” James 1:6 & 7
“And God gave Solomon wisdom”
Why did God give King Solomon wisdom? In 1 Kings 3:5-15 God appeared to King Solomon in a dream and said, “… Ask what I shall give thee.” 1 Kings 3:5
I am going to ask the reader of this devotion to read, and consider, every word that occurs in the dream of King Solomon. God is looking at the heart of King Solomon and Solomon is speaking from his heart.
In his heart, King Solomon knew that God wanted His people to walk in righteous and in truth. “..according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness...” 1 Kings 3:6
King Solomon was very humble and of a sincere heart. At this time, Solomon was 20 years old. In 1 Kings 3:7 Solomon said that he was a servant of God and was like a little child. “… and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.”1 Kings 3:7 Most people are very proud and will not follow the ways of God. Most people are unwilling to be a servant of God. Even though Solomon was king he felt that God was his king. King Solomon willingly called himself a servant. Solomon believed that he was a servant of God in order to do the will of God.
1 peter 5:5-7, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” King Solomon humbled himself.
God made us. He is the King in Heaven. God is not our servant. We are His servants. God resists a proud person. One of the reasons why God does not answer a Christian’s prayer is because they are not humble nor sincere. If we want God to give us wisdom, we need to walk in unrighteousness, truth, be humble, and sincere .
1 Kings 3:9 “Discernment”
! Kings 3:9, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” God gave King Solomon wisdom because he asked for wisdom in order to discern between good and evil and to judge the nation of Israel. Solomon did not ask wisdom for his own fleshly desires or experience. He asked God for wisdom to lead the nation of Israel according to the will of God.
King Solomon was unselfish. He did not ask for wisdom to help his own desires. He did not ask for money. He did not ask for health. King Solomon loved God and loved the nation of Israel. King Solomon wanted wisdom to help him to discern between good and evil. Long before God gave Solomon wisdom, Job wrote the definition of wisdom; “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Job 28:28
Most people are selfish and they do not care to help others. A Chinese proverb says, “To care nothing outside one’s window – one does not care what is going on beyond one’s own surroundings.” 俗語說「兩耳不聞窗外事」
It is the will of God for Christians to discern between good and evil. The Lord Jesus wants all Christians to discern between good and evil. The Lord Jesus wants us to discern between evil and good, right and wrong, and good and bad doctrine. Ephesians 4;14 , “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” A Christian who is not concerned about good doctrine, or is unwilling to forsake bad doctrine, is like a child who is unconcerned about the parents guidance, is deceived, and is like the waves of he sea driven hither and yonder by every wind of the heretics of this world. A lost person, or an immature Christian, cannot discern between good and evil. But a mature Christian can discern between good and evil: or judgment. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
God blessed King Solomon
“And Solomon's wisdom excelled of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.” 1 Kings 4:30The East country would include Iran, India, China and Japan. “And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 4:34 Even today, in the Western world, when a person thinks of wisdom, he thinks of King Solomon and the book of Proverbs.
King Solomon was humble, righteous, and sincere in the sight of God. He asked for wisdom to judge the nation of Israel and to learn how to discern between right and wrong. We need to have the same attitude. God can give us wisdom if it is His will. says, Proverbs 2:6, “For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”
By Jim_Alaska in Jim_Alaska's Sermons & DevotionalsSPIRITUAL GROWTH, AS TAUGHT BY SCRIPTURE AND THE SCIENCE OF BOTANY
By Jim Foley
Text: “…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow” Matthew 6:28.
INTRO: In this scripture Jesus gives us an object lesson as to what constitutes spiritual growth, and how it happens. Jesus made the lilies and He made me, and now he describes to me how both biological and spiritual growth takes place. People often create for themselves a great deal of anxiety because they assume there must be some formula they must rigorously conform to in order to make themselves grow spiritually. Spiritual growth is not a secret formula process we must discover for ourselves.
Jesus points to the lilies of the field as an illustration of how natural and spontaneous both natural and spiritual growth is. When Jesus points us to the lilies of the field it is not simply an appeal for us to see and enjoy nature and admire its beauty. Everything in nature, as well as in scripture, is given to teach us a spiritual truth. Natural life and spiritual life are governed, as is everything God has made, by natural law.
Now let’s take a close look at the lilies of the field, and let them teach us about growth, both natural and spiritual. The point we must consider is not just that they are there for us to admire, but rather to consider “how they grow,” as Jesus puts it in our text. Many Christians live with anxiety because they are trying to make themselves grow spiritually. The lilies grow without anxiety. Without taking conscious care or effort the lilies grow naturally into full beauty. There is no conscious toiling to weave the tissues of their leaves. Their complex tissues have spun themselves naturally and automatically.
Jesus follows up by implying that we care-worn and anxious people need not fret about causing ourselves to grow. He implores us to “take no thought” about what we will eat or drink, or how we should be clothed. We mortals create ghosts in our minds and then worry about them. We allow ourselves to be controlled by circumstances rather than allowing God to perfectly order our life.
All men and women who have just a little faith have learned the secret of a composed life in many respects, but when it comes to spiritual growth we do not seem to make the connection. Early on in our Christian lives we settle down at times in calm trust in God, trusting Him to provide the necessities of our bodies. Then by and by we begin to become anxious about spiritual growth, especially when someone tells us we must follow this or that formula if we are to grow spiritually. But how do the lilies grow? They grow by grace, and take no thought, because the growth comes naturally. How does a child of God grow spiritually? He also grows by grace. Yet as we are told by others how to do this, we start fretting about it, and the anxiety comes back. We then have transferred our anxiety from our bodies to our souls. Then our efforts at Christian growth seem only a succession of failures.
Why does this happen? It happens because we forget the lesson of the lilies of the field. Strenuous efforts to grow spiritually are right in earnestness, but are wholly wrong in principle. In both the natural and spiritual realm there is but one principle for growth. That principle is the same for plant and animal, and for body and soul. If we would know that principle, look again and “consider the lilies, how they grow.” There are two characteristics of all growth. They are:
First let us consider the spontaneous nature of spiritual growth. There are three categories by which we may seek for evidence of the spontaneous nature of both bodily and spiritual growth. The first category is Science. We need not be a rocket scientist to understand that the lilies grow of themselves. It is one of the most natural things in the world. They grow automatically and spontaneously, and that without trying, without fretting about it, or without having to think about it.
Take for example a new born baby boy. He begins growing shortly after birth without being aware of it, and is so uncontaminated by the advice of others that it is all automatic. As he grows he eats because he is hungry, and the growth goes on without giving it a thought. He does not fret about the condition of growth, but has a habit of eating and so the result is that growth goes on automatically and naturally. The boy’s parents have no need to tell the boy to grow, for it is a law of nature that he will grow without having to give thought to any process.
Well-meaning people may tell us that the formula for spiritual growth is more prayer, more self-denial, more good works, etc. These are all well and good, but are not the cause of spiritual growth, but the results of it, just as many of our activities in life increase as we grow into a greater and grater capacity for various and greater ventures. The scientific fact is that the soul grows as the lily grows, without trying and fretting and thinking about it.
Another thing that teaches us that growth, both bodily and spiritually, is spontaneous and automatic is experience. Getting back to the example of the boy in the above illustration that grows without taking thought, experience teaches us that he cannot make himself grow no matter how hard he tries. Doesn’t scripture also tell us this fact? No person can add to his stature by taking thought. “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?” Mat 6:27
The Christian’s life unfolds itself like the lily of the field, from a divine germ planted centrally in his nature, and it grows as naturally as a flower from its seed. Though this flower can be imitated, one can always tell the artificial flower from the real one. This is the distinction between the natural growth of the Christian principles in the life of the Christian, and the moral copy of it. The first is natural and the second is mechanical. There are many artificial Christians marching about in society like little tin soldiers, but little tin soldiers only mimic the real thing.
In the natural world in which we live there are crystals that GROW and organisms that GROW, but there is a real and fundamental distinction between them. The distinction is that the crystal is DEAD, while the organism is ALIVE. The crystal increases, but the organism grows. The organism is from within, while the crystal simply adds new particles from the outside. This is the difference between the true Christian and the mere moralist. The moralist’s works are all an external put-on. The moralist’s so-called meritorious works are all external while the true Christian’s meritorious works are from an internal divine growth. It is the distinction between the true Christian and the hypocrite. Now the crystal may be ever so beautiful, but it lacks the vital principle of a living germ of divine life within.
Another fact that we need consider is that salvation in the first instant is never connected directly with morality. This principle is totally foreign to the thinking of the merely religious pretender since he thinks of his put-on show of morality as earning him salvation. It is true that salvation does demand morality, but the problem is that it demands so much morality that the moralist can never reach up to that level. True salvation results in the perfection of the inner man, i.e., a Christ-like mind. Col 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: There must first be a spiritual awakening that can only be accomplished by God, then comes the natural, internal morality. The moralist, with his external morality, may go a long distance towards perfection, at least in the eyes of his neighbors, but he can never reach true moral perfection, and so he is lost, for God demands perfection in the inner man. Only true spiritual life in the inner man can be perfect, and that life in the inner man of all true Christians is "Christ in you, the hope of glory. And that divine life, i.e., “Christ in you,” is the germ that sparks spiritual growth in the inner man that produces true good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. Divine life always produces good works and so spiritual growth results because God has ordained it, and those ordained good works will flow out of, and give true evidence of, that natural automatic and spontaneous spiritual growth. Life develops according to its type and so out of the Christian’s inner man will flow “rivers of living water,” and “springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. It will be the most natural thing in the world.
Growth is synonymous with a living, automatic process. The Christian is a new creature in Christ Jesus, and he adds cubits to his stature just as the old man (flesh) does, naturally. To use another scriptural metaphor he abides in the vine (Jesus), and because he abides in the vine, and not because he is toiling, but rather because he is growing, he brings forth fruit. Fruit is always because of growth and not growth because of the fruit. The fruits of the Christian’s character are not manufactured things, but living things that have grown from the secret germ. In short they are the fruits of the living Spirit.
Now let’s consider the second great characteristic of growth: mysteriousness. The lily Jesus spoke of grew mysteriously. It pushed up its weight of stem and leaf in the teeth of gravity. How the flower does that, we know not, but observation tells us it does. Along the edges of asphalt paving one often sees plants break the pavement to reach up their leafy heads towards heaven. What mysterious force causes that? It is God who causes it to grow. God has put within the lily the nature to grow. Likewise when the soul rises slowly above the world and pushes up its virtues into the very teeth of sin and depravity, and displays the very image of Christ, it is then as natural for the lily to grow mysteriously from the seed to the flower.
New Christians are often misled into believing the secret of spiritual growth is a strong will, a high ideal, a strong resolve to live virtuously, and the influence of Christian fellowship. We allow that the growth of a lily is a miracle, but then assert that a Christian must resort to self-imposed formulas to grow spiritually. We say the lily may grow naturally and spontaneously, but the Christian must fret and toil to grow spiritually.
A man or woman may, by hard work and self-denial attain to a very high character, but this is not spiritual growth. If such efforts at self-improvement cause spiritual growth then spiritual growth is not mysterious. Jesus Himself spoke of the mysteriousness of spiritual birth and growth when He said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8. The fact that it is mysterious implies you cannot account for it on philosophical grounds such as a favorable Christian environment, charitable works, or efforts at self-improvement. The result of such thinking produces only artificial flowers. You can easily discern where that kind of religion comes from and where it goes. A lot of what passes for Christianity is formed by external influences, social opinions, and the voices of the world, which may be observed and explained. But the genuine thing comes only by the unseen power imparted by the mysterious thing we call the new birth.
True Christians stand out from among the crowd, just as a real lily stands out from all the artificial ones, because of that unseen power that produces spiritual life in them, a life totally different from that lifeless counterfeit of the self-made that call themselves Christians.
As long as anyone tries to manufacture his or her own spirituality, they can never be free from the pressure cooker of trying to measure up. They do not understand that the energies that produce spiritual growth, which results in spiritual improvement, are already there. That energy is the energy of the Omnipotent God Who fills their souls. If they are saved, growth moves them upward just as the lily grows upwards naturally by reason of the energy to grow that is inherent in their cells.
When I was born of the Spirit of God I was hungry for the bread from heaven. That is also the natural result of being born again. It was a pleasure to “taste and see that the Lord was good.” I had “tasted the good word of God” and it made me want more. When one is born of the Spirit of God, growth is automatic. One need not even be thinking of that or even be aware of it. The only thing that can prevent growth in a Christian is not feeding on the word of God. But when one is born of the Spirit of God one has a craving for the bread from heaven, and so eating and growing will go on.
When one is born again growing begins and continues. At first he is satisfied with the “sincere milk of the word.” I Peter 2:2. And as he grows spiritually he automatically develops a taste for the strong meat of the word. “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age.” And so his spiritual growth continues until he becomes a mature Christian. The lily of the field grows spontaneously and mysteriously because that is naturally inherent in its nature. I believe the Lord was pointing out to us that those born of the Spirit of God will just as spontaneously and mysteriously do the same.
Are you growing, or still working at it?
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