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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

9--Hidden Manna - Chapter 7

Hidden Manna
True Evangelism


In Matthew 13, Jesus is the Sower and we are told how He sows the good seed into the world. This tells us that God has already chosen His people and knows who they are even though they, themselves, may not yet know that they belong to Him.

On the other hand in Luke 8, the sower is not specifically named in the parable and in this instance the seed is identified as “the Word of God.” We must therefore conclude that this sower is anyone who proclaims the Word of God.

We have discovered that there are three types of seed:

1) the children of the devil which are the bad seed the devil sows into the world

2) the children of God which are the good seed Jesus sows into the world

3) the Word of God which is the seed that the followers of Christ sow

From previous chapters we have learned that the written Word and the Living Word (Jesus) are the same Word because the Spirit of God resides in both.

Therefore when we are considering the seed of the Word of God we should understand that Christ is also residing within the seed of the Word that the followers of Jesus are sowing because He is the Word.

In a sense His followers are putting the Word out to feed the sheep of Christ, but we cannot presume that they are the ones actually completing the process of assimilating the food that is Christ, anymore than we can presume that a mother sheep is completing the process of assimilating the milk the lamb is drinking.

There are actually three different types of feeding going on by three different “feeders:”

1) The mother sheep is only “feeding” her young by providing the food.

2) The lamb must “feed” on the food itself by ingesting and digesting the food.

3) The food must “feed” the lamb by containing the nourishment and having the ability to break down and benefit the body of the lamb.

There is a reason why Jesus used the illustration of the Shepherd and those who feed on His Word being the sheep. This concept is simple, but not as simple as we might imagine at first.

The details reveal the Hidden Manna.

In John 21, Jesus gives us a true picture of evangelism when He instructs Peter to “feed” His sheep.

Which of the three “feeders” do Peter and the followers of Christ illustrate?

Jesus reveals this in His discourse with Peter about feeding the lambs and the sheep:

So when they had dined,
Jesus saith to Simon Peter,
Simon, son of Jonas,
lovest thou me more than these?
He saith unto him,
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.
He saith unto him,
Feed my lambs.

-John 21:15

Jesus was addressing Peter’s weakness (and ours) when He questioned Peter’s love and loyalty.

He was asking Peter to prioritize his loyalties and evaluate his relationship with Christ. He wanted Peter to determine whether he was more concerned about his own life and what other people thought of him or his relationship with Christ and the most important responsibility Christ had entrusted to him.

Every believer’s love for Christ today will be tested with the same question. Everyone will be tempted to yield to pressure from family members, friends, denominational authorities, government, and the list goes on and on.

Therefore, we need to think about this in advance and decide right now which relationship is the most important to preserve.

Today it is common for professing believers to warn one another to be careful to “preserve relationships,” as if preserving the unity of our social structure is the chief priority in life. They have been tricked into thinking that the end justifies the means, believing that if they are willing to compromise a little, who knows, someday they just might “win someone to the Lord” (and the church) or be instrumental in counseling them into a better way of life—usually patterned after their own beliefs and way of life.

From pulpits today we are being instructed to “agree to disagree” instead of being encouraged to seek unity through truth. Yet, the Scriptures beg the question: “Can two walk together unless they be agreed?”(Amos 3:3).

No, two cannot walk together when they do not agree.

Instead of pulling the load together in the same direction, they each go off in different directions. They will either pray and study the Scriptures to come to an agreement regarding the truth, compromise the truth, or ultimately must separate because they are working against each other.

So be it.

Can we, or can we not, trust God to give us the truth?

Therefore, in this first passage of John 21, Jesus instructs Peter about feeding His “lambs”—the new followers of Christ.

The word “feed” in reference to lambs is (#G1016 = “feed” and comes from #G977 = “eat”). We have already discovered from the very words of Christ that feeding the sheep means “putting out” or “serving” the food to them so they can eat.

If ministers (which we all are when we belong to Jesus) truly love Christ we will feed His young lambs—those the Father has given to His Son—those who are just discovering who they really are as a result of hearing the Word of God and tasting the seed of the Word that has been sowed.

O, taste and see
that the Lord is good:
blessed is the man
that trusteth in him.

-Psalm 34:8

There seems to be a great deal of confusion in churches today regarding what this “food” really is. We hear church members remark that they need to go where they can be “fed.” To some it means getting a Bible story from the pulpit that satisfies them and to others it means learning something new about character development.

But what does “being fed” really mean?

This feeding does not just happen by being physically present every time the door of the church building is open. It is not a process of osmosis. It is an intentional personal feeding resulting from a deep God-given hunger and appreciation for the Word of God.

It is a practice every true believer will personally engage in to partake of the life and Spirit of Christ.

He saith to him again the second time,
Simon, son of Jonas,
lovest thou me?
He saith unto him,
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.
He saith unto him,
Feed my sheep.

-John 21:16

Again Jesus questions Peter whether he really loves Him. If Peter really loves Jesus as he claims, he will feed the sheep—those Jesus is entrusting to Peter’s care.

Strong’s Concordance shows a distinction between the way lambs are fed and the way sheep are fed. Food (#G4165), is provided for the sheep in the same manner as it is for the lambs, however the root word is #G4166, refers exclusively to sheep and besides feeding the sheep, its basic root word is #G1006 and also means “leading and tending” the sheep which includes helping them find food.

Here Jesus calls His followers “sheep” instead of “lambs” because He is referring to those who have grown already by their exposure to the Word and will still require motivation or “tending”—continued assistance in finding food so they can feed on it themselves.

Jesus was asking Peter if he was willing to be committed to feeding the sheep. This is the question every professing believer in Christ must ask himself or herself today.

“Do I really love Christ? Am I showing my love for Christ through my commitment to feed His sheep by leading them to the Word of God so they can feed on it?”

Christian authors, teachers, and preachers take note. God has given us a priority of ministry. It is the same priority Jesus gave to Peter. That is to feed His lambs and His sheep with the Word of God for the primary purpose of letting them sample it, if you will, so they can determine if they have an appetite for it and will be drawn to feed on the Word of God themselves.

There is a big difference between preaching and teaching about the Word and actually preaching and teaching the Word. Therefore we need to ask ourselves, “Is what I am preaching, teaching, or writing filled with food (the Word of God) for the exclusive purpose of encouraging the sheep to hear the actual Word and continue feeding on the Word of God themselves or is it merely the essence of the Word—a watered-down version filled with my own doctrine, interpretations, and opinions that contain a different priority than the one Christ has set before us?”

Let us be careful not to tamper with the Word of God and presume that if we make it more “palatable,” people will be more inclined to feed on it. The Word of God is designed to be unpalatable to some and delicious to others. Who are we to tamper with the Word of God?

(18)For I testify unto every man
that heareth the words
of the prophecy of this book,
If any man shall add unto these things,
God shall add unto him the plagues
that are written in this book:

(19)And if any man
shall take away from the words
of the book of this prophecy,
God shall take away
his part out of the book of life,
and out of the holy city,
and from the things
which are written in this book.

-Revelation 22:18-19

I agree with Bible scholars that this passage specifically refers to the Book of Revelation. But I ask, “Doesn’t this also apply to every other precious Word God has ever given to us?”

Why would God not care about everything else He said, that is not in the Book of Revelation, and tell us to go ahead and change whatever we want?

Common sense tells us that we just better not tamper with anything as important to eternal life as the Word of God in any of the 66 books.

Christ’s priority is the pure Word as it appears on the pages of the Holy Bible, not a transformed or fragmented Word. An example of this can often be seen in clever romanticized religious articles devoted to telling an emotional story that is either void of the Word of God or contains a very limited amount of Scripture.

When Jesus said to Peter, “if you love me,” He was equating love with the action of feeding His sheep. False professors neither care about feeding on the Word themselves nor about feeding the sheep, thus testifying to their lack of love for Christ, regardless of how much they may say that they love Him.

He saith unto him the third time,
Simon, son of Jonas,
lovest thou me?
Peter was grieved
because he said unto him the third time,
Lovest thou me?
And he said unto him,
Lord, thou knowest all things;
thou knowest that I love thee.
Jesus saith unto him,
Feed my sheep.

-John 21:17

What do you find significant in this passage from John?

Isn’t Jesus addressing Peter, the one who failed to stand against the peer pressure of the world?

Yes, this is the same Peter, who denied Christ three times. So now Jesus is asking him three times to prove his love and loyalty to Him. By doing this, the Savior was reminding Peter to be aware of his weakness and warning him to be careful.

Repetition can be annoying. It gets our attention doesn’t it? This, in fact, is Jesus’ purpose—to get our attention. Anywhere in the Scriptures where the Word is repeated, God is trying to get our attention. The more something is repeated, the more important it is to consider it and not forget the vital lesson the Word is giving us.

So which of the three “feeders” do Peter and the followers of Christ illustrate?

1) The mother sheep who is only “feeding” her young by providing the food?

2) The lamb that must “feed” on the food itself by ingesting and digesting the food?

3) The food, itself, that must “feed” the lamb by containing the nourishment and having the ability to break down the nutrients to benefit the body of the lamb?

By accurately identifying all three we can see by the process of elimination that the only role Peter and the followers of Christ can fill in this command to feed the sheep of Christ is the first role of the mother sheep who is only “feeding” or “putting out” or “providing” the food.

The second role of the lamb can only represent those who are the good seed and have the capacity and appetite to feed on, ingest, and digest the food.

The third role of the food itself can only represent Jesus Christ, Himself, who contains the nourishment and is the only One who has the ability to break down the nutrients in order to benefit the body of the lamb/sheep by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Word further verifies the third role of Christ in Revelation Chapter 5:

(1)And I saw in the right hand
of him that sat on the throne
a book written within and on the backside,
sealed with seven seals.
(2)And I saw a strong angel
proclaiming with a loud voice,
Who is worthy to open the book,
and to loose the seals thereof?
(3) And no man in heaven,
nor in earth, neither under the earth,
was able to open the book,

neither to look thereon.
(4)And I wept much,
because no man was found worthy
to open and to read the book,

neither to look thereon.
(5)And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not:
behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David,
hath prevailed to open the book,

and to loose the seven seals thereof.

-Revelation 5:1-5

Again I agree with Biblical scholars who would say that this reference to the “Book” is specifically referring to the Book of Seven Seals, but again we see that this illustration can also include any of the 66 “Books” and any Word of God from those 66 Books that He has caused to be written down and preserved for us throughout history.

Jesus Christ has promised that His Word will never pass away. When we are able to grasp the preeminence of the Word of God and how valuable and vital every Word of God really is, we are compelled to understand that only Jesus, the Lamb of God, alone is worthy to open that Word and give us a correct understanding of that Word.

No man on earth is qualified to interpret the Word of God. Just as Jesus could only speak the Words the Father gave to Him, we also can only speak or understand the Words that the Spirit of God correctly interprets for us from the Word of God.

A good preacher is one who is infused with the Word and Spirit of God himself. The purpose of his preaching is to feed the sheep God’s Word. But this is where we often experience more doctrinal confusion because everyone has a different opinion and interpretation of what “feeding the sheep” really means.

How Christians Should Feed the Sheep

The servant of God/minister (which we all are if we belong to Christ) puts the food out or serves it up for the sheep to feed on.

There is a three-fold purpose in putting out the food or serving up the Word of God:

1) Those the Father has given to the Son are drawn like hungry lambs to the milk, begin to hear the voice of their Savior and Shepherd and feed on every Word. God has already made them hungry. In fact, like every baby and new-born creature, they were born hungry.

2) Just as physical food contains nutrition, the spiritual food (Word of God) contains the life-giving Spirit and power of God to sustain and maintain our spiritual life. When this Word is presented to the lambs (those the Father has given to Christ) they instinctively begin feeding on the Word, eventually realize that they are, indeed, the sheep of Christ, and ultimately act and behave like sheep.

3) Through this initial feeding of “the lambs,” they soon identify with the True Shepherd and discover their own real identity and purpose.

The intention of God is not to make the sheep dependent on the pastor or any other minister that serves the food, but to show the sheep where they can find the food and how they are to feed on it. In this way they will learn to hear the voice of the True Shepherd and depend completely on Him for their food.

If we say that we love Christ, we will be actively demonstrating that love by feeding on the Word ourselves as well as feeding His lambs and sheep. Keep in mind that it is not what we say, but what we do, that really shows what is in our heart.

(26)But ye believe not,
because ye are not of my sheep,
as I said unto you.
(27)My sheep hear my voice,
and I know them,
and they follow me:

-John 10:26-27

The children of God are born-again by the power of the voice of God just as they were physically born the first time by the power of the voice of God and just as the Book of Genesis tells us that all things were created in the very beginning by the power of the voice of God.

God does not turn goats into sheep. The Scripture does not say that when the goats hear the voice of Christ, they instantly turn into lambs. Lambs are born lambs and goats are born goats.

Lambs and sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd who feeds them. Jesus is the True Shepherd. Each sheep has heard its specific shepherd’s voice at feeding time and is therefore familiar with the sound of the one who feeds them the food.

This explains why several shepherds can all gather together with their sheep at the same watering hole and when it is time to leave, each shepherd can call his own sheep and the sheep will separate themselves out of the combined flocks to follow their own shepherd.

The true sheep of Jesus Christ will not respond to the call of another shepherd, but will only acknowledge the voice of Jesus and follow Him alone.

We must not assume that because the flock is huge, it is made up of all true sheep that must all belong to the True Shepherd. No, indeed, the Word of God tells us that few will actually find their way to the True Shepherd.

Furthermore, the true sheep are also able to identify with the other true sheep from their own flock.

In the Middle East many breeds of goats look exactly like sheep. It is difficult to tell them apart until the shepherd calls his sheep. Goats love to go their own way, but the sheep will respond to the voice of their shepherd and follow him.

Do you see how the passage above dispels the myth surrounding today’s popular process of salvation? It becomes evident that the salvation experience was never meant to be a result of theological debates, canned indoctrination, a certain prayer, a trip to the altar, or a clever sales pitch.

This also explains why the devil is working so hard from pulpits today to transform the pure Word into something that has been filled with worthless empty repetitious chatter and emotionally charged stories. If the pure Word can be adulterated and fragmented in this manner, it can produce S.A.D. (spiritually attention deficit) bench warmers instead of strong focused hearers and doers of the Word of God.

Our entire salvation experience depends completely on whether the Father has called us or not. Therefore, if we sense that He is calling us we will respond to His Word and follow Him regardless of how much we have sinned in the past. We will be able to understand, repent, and appropriate the death of Christ as payment for our sin, submit the rest of our life to the lordship of our Savior, and genuinely cultivate a life-giving one-on-one relationship with Him by personally feeding on His Word.

Which is more important, our physical life or our eternal spiritual life?
If our eternal spiritual life is more important, shouldn’t feasting on the Word of God be our number one priority before we sit down at the table to eat our physical food and do what is required to keep our physical life sustained?

If we put the Word of God first, perhaps we would then be better qualified to discern which physical foods we should be eating and which we should be eliminating from our diet by learning what the Creator has to say about that topic as well.

Likewise, if we personally feed on the Word ourselves perhaps we would then be better equipped to avoid the false teaching that comes through the self-appointed authorities and denominationally approved mediators that stand behind pulpits today taking control of ignorant followers through twisted interpretations of Scriptures that are designed to instill fear, guilt, confusion, and dependence on those in authority.

These are the wolves in sheep’s clothing Jesus warned about, who wear huge friendly smiles on their faces while sucking the life out of the flock by keeping them confined in the pen and limiting their access to the spiritually life-sustaining food of God’s Word.

“I don’t see any wolves,” you say?

Perhaps you are not in the Word of God enough. If you are feeding on the Word of God you will be better equipped to identify the voice of the True Shepherd and distinguish it from the empty words and fragmented thoughts called “Bible studies” that are being broadcast from pulpits today.

Jesus also warned His followers about the doctrines of men. For this reason His sheep will (personally) feed on the Word of God, or not qualify as His sheep, because they will be following a false shepherd and the wrong voice instead of following the True Shepherd and His voice which resides in His Word.

False sheep do not have any appetite for the Word of God. It is as simple as that.

Let us dare to apply these thoughts to our own daily experience. First let us make the Word of God our priority for the day. We will soon discover that His Word will bring order, stability, and peace to our chaotic life.

Next let us compare everything we read and hear to His Word and learn to discern whether it is our True Shepherd’s voice we are really hearing in what is written and spoken.

If we really are the true sheep belonging to the True Shepherd we will be feeding on the Hidden Manna and will not be investing our time, money, and life in following a voice that is neither magnifying the Voice of the True Shepherd nor motivating us to feed on the pure Word of God.

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