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Oh, How Hard It Is!
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Jesus lamented about the difficulty of a rich man to enter God’s kingdom. "Oh, how hard it is!" He said (paraphrased). He remarked:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt 19:24).
We know that Jesus was using hyperbole – a deliberate exaggeration – to emphasise the point.
Camels can be pretty obstinate creatures, but to suggest that one pass through the eye of a needle is so impossible as to be ludicrous! It is equally impossible for anyone who has his or her heart set on physical wealth to inherit what God is offering in His heavenly kingdom. By human means it is utterly unattainable! Jesus is showing the miraculous nature of salvation.
A rich man must turn his affections from his possessions to the Saviour. Only then can he be saved.
I believe the comparison also illustrates something else that most have not noticed: obstinacy.
Camels can be obstinate. If a camel doesn’t want to get up, it won’t. You’ll have a hard job getting it to stand. However, once you get it going in line with other camels, it plods on relentlessly, through the most difficult desert conditions and oppressive heat.
Stubbornness and Pride
There is stubbornness or obstinacy in each of us as humans. We prefer to continue going our own way, rather than change. And, even when a Christian has turned to follow Christ, there are points along the way where he resists, stubbornly holding onto what really needs to be changed.
Last night I was going to finish reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians, before going to sleep. I had read the first half the previous night, and I wanted to read the last two chapters once again. But, you know how it is, sometimes you open the Bible and are moved to read where it opens instead of where you intend going. It opened to Jeremiah 4 and 5.
As I read, the Spirit was emphasising various things:
For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge (Jer 4:22).
Run to and fro, through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know; and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her (Jer 5:1).
Jerusalem is a prophetic type of the Church. If the lessons recorded in Israel’s behaviour were not still relevant to believers in God today, He would not have taken the immense trouble to preserve them by the blood of martyrs. When you know how William Tyndale, Erasmus and others diligently translated and preserved these pages for us today – at the cost of their own lives – you realise that God considers all that Israel went through to be highly relevant for you and me to remember and learn from (1 Cor 10:4).
God’s censure of Jerusalem was because she was stubborn. She refused to obey God. She didn’t care about true "judgment" – doing what is right. She didn’t care about truth. She just ignored God’s warnings and carried on her own self-willed path:
Though they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’ surely they swear falsely (Jer 5:2).
Many Christians are like that. They say they follow the Bible. They say they obey God, but they deviously do their own thing. They choose a route that is compromised, and convince themselves that it’s OK.
But God’s concerns are not human concerns:
O Lord, are not Your eyes on the truth? (5:3.)
Truth is not your concern until you completely surrender to Him, and accept all of His wishes in your life. Pride keeps most from following God implicitly – and stubbornness is inexorably linked to that pride.
It might be given a fancy name – self-determination – but it’s far from fancy to God! He hates it!
You can see the intensity of feeling He has about it in what He allowed to befall Jerusalem:
...You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return (Jer 5:3).
Therefore I said, ‘Surely these are poor, they are foolish; for they do not know the way of the Lord, the judgment of their God’ (Jer 5:4).
Indeed, that is humanity’s nature.
The trouble is, many Christians have slumped back into the same type of easygoing behaviour.
Oh, How Difficult It Is To Change!
I don’t believe I chanced upon those passages in Jeremiah. God has a way of arresting your attention. He did so at this time, because of recent contacts and MM writings which were sent. The most recent were:
CfaN Is NOT In God’s Will,
Reinhard Bonnke, Evangelism, and God’s Will.
It’s not just to do with Reinhard Bonnke’s CfaN ministry. Two other cases illustrate the point.
I had passed on all MM materials on the issue of obedience to God to do with His Sabbaths, festivals and the faith once delivered, to a ministry leader who has an international ministry but who keeps Sunday.
I have also done similarly with a Sabbatarian ministry leader over the issue of baptism in the Spirit, spiritual gifts, and prophets and prophesying.
Both men are silent.
It’s just another episode in a long-running saga of trying to wake up church or ministry leaders, with aspects of God’s truth that they lack. NONE want to concede to any error. No-one wants to change. It’s too hard to the ego and painful for their pride!
Yet, you would not see much pride on the outside if you talked with them. It’s underneath, hidden, well camouflaged and protected.
The Sabbath Truth Can Hurt
The Sunday-keeping minister had made his mind up about the Sabbath that it was merely part of "our rest in Christ" that we partake of now by virtue of His Spirit living in us. He is happy to think that such a deception absolves him of any literal duty in keeping the seventh day of the week holy by not doing normal work and using the whole day in worship of God.
He was hopeful that I would just go away and leave him alone to do what he wanted. Not likely! My commission is the opposite of "Sweet Platitude Ministries"! Its tone is seen in Isaiah 58:1.
Sometimes God has me hammer on a door until the hiding occupant finally, grudgingly, comes out to hear what He has to say! God wants His chosen to face the issues, not hide behind intellectual excuses.
The so-called "rest in Christ" is just such an excuse, which is proven by proper exegesis. And that is what I have gone to lengths to prove in the various MM publications on the Sabbath.
1But, offending pastors and evangelists don’t want to look at the truth. They stubbornly justify themselves and appease their consciences by cling- ing tenaciously to this devious, subtle misappropriation of Scripture. God holds them accountable.
"Why?" you may ask.
The human mind works fast. As soon as you present a document proving that the Sabbath is to be kept holy on the 7th day of the week, and that Sunday or a supposed "rest in Christ" is no adequate substitute, they shut down. They refuse to look at it, lest they find out the truth. They know, in those couple of seconds it takes to follow the line of thought, that if they were to switch from Sunday to Sabbath, they would divide their church or ministry, lose a lot of their financial support, jeopardise other aspects of their present operations, and make themselves extremely unpopular. It’s not expedient. So the ruse that keeping the Sabbath isn’t necessary now that we are in Christ is a convenient escape route to justify their rebellion.
It’s stubbornness that prevents them advancing.
A man who doesn’t know is held accountable (Luke 12:48) to some extent. And a man who deliberately refuses to open his mind to truth, suspecting that it might just be right, is held even more accountable! He won’t get off lightly on the Day of Judgement. God looks on the heart.
Spiritual Gifts Are A Pain To Some
To those who already keep the Sabbaths of God, of course, it’s not so painful any more. They have got used to the rejection of society, friends and even family, for the sake of holding onto that truth. But there is an equal problem to most of them, which God uses to test them — will they accept spiritual gifts?
God sees the residual pride or stubbornness in the heart of each believer, and He brings His second wave of challenges to expose it. Initial conversion is not the end of the road. We have to go from faith to faith (Rom 1:17), and die daily, as Paul wrote (1 Cor 15:31). Not all pride dies the day we are baptised in water.
We need a baptism in the Spirit, and continual infillings progressively throughout our Christian lives.
There can be unseen pride in what you believe. The proud Sabbatarian churches have a culture of thinking that they are better than other Christians by virtue of their understanding about the Sabbath issue. But the plain truth is that you are not one whit better than another by virtue of what you understand, because God judges each person according to how well they respond to what they understand. And Bible knowledge and understanding is revealed by God, or withheld, according to His supreme wisdom.
God grants knowledge and understanding. God grants repentance (Rom 2:4). God grants faith (Eph 2:8). In fact, when you truly understand how much God does in making salvation possible for us, what we do is little by comparison. Ours is to submit and respond positively, accepting what He offers us.
Likewise, God grants spiritual gifts ...distributing to each one individually as He wills (1 Cor 12:11).
He gives the gift of praying in tongues, interpreting tongues, revelatory words of knowledge, prophesying, and other supernatural gifts according to HIS divine purposes in spiritually edifying His people. So, when Sabbatarian Christians follow their church leaders in denying these gifts, they are denying God’s purposes with them. That’s why these churches are so spiritually dry and lacking spiritual power, miracles, healings, dreams or visions, casting out demons, and hearing from God in so many ways.
Oh how hard it is for proud people to admit they have more to learn, and accept something new! Malcolm B Heap
Bible quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise stated
Further Reading: An Introduction To Spiritual Gifts (ISG)
Holy Fire! (£2) Prophets and Prophesying (PP)
Revelations From God About The Judgement Of Britain (Jud)
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