My Teaching is Not My Own
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 3 November 2001
"My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honour for himself, but he who works for the honour of the One who sent Him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him" (Jn.7:16-18, NIV).
I have remarked on many occasions that every single human being is his own personal walking theology. Everybody has their own ideas about things, their own interpretations of events and even of the Scriptures. A universal quality of man seems to be his imperfection in every sphere of activity. We all know it is true, and yet how many Christians do you know who are honest enough to admit that they don't actually have the "whole picture" when it comes to the ins and outs of life?
Vain confidence seems to be one of the inherited weaknesses from the Fall. Like a man walking out onto a minefield on the basis of the testimony of someone who knows nothing about the area, many Christians launch into boastful and prideful statements about the spiritual condition of individuals they know little about as if they were the possessors of divine omniscience.
At the other extreme are those who are so weak and feeble that they dare not voice an opinion on anything for fear of offending someone holding different point-of-view to them. Some months ago I met one such man full of false humility. He helped me expose the inner workings of a cult which had abused him and then, when my exposé began to create ripples, he got scared, and wanted to withdraw what he had said and make peace with his oppressors.
Unfortunately at different times in our spiritual walk we sometimes display both cowardice like this man and arrogant vain confidence like another man I also met recently who was quick to condemn everyone who did not agree with his every statement. He didn't even bother to find out what they actually believed in, let alone what kind of people they actually were. He chose rather simply to condemn them as heretics or spiritual whores.
In recent times I have been focussing not so much on the importance of Christian's orthodoxy (or lack of it) when it comes to doctrine but on the spirit they carry. And it has been a very interesting exercise. In particular I have sought to identify the fruits which both Christ and the apostles said these men and women would bring forth, namely, the virtues which Christ Himself possessed - virtues we have examined many times in our assemblies. And I have noticed that there are times that Yahweh seems to be no respecter of doctrine, let alone persons. Rather, He zooms right into the heart and measures the love that there, or isn't.
Of course, as all you scriptorians know, love and doctrine are in reality inseparable. Correct doctrine, which is truth expressed in words, defines what love is for us so that we do not confuse vague sentimentality with genuine Christ-like sacrificial agapé love. My purpose today is to look at both these and to find where the fulcrum lies, for we are commanded to be ever watchful of error creeping in amongst us.
"He who speaks on his own authority seeks to win honour for himself - he whose teaching originates with himself seeks his own glory" (v.18, Amp.Ver.).
In this often missed verse we are soon able to determine whether a doctrine is true or false simply on the basis of whether it exalts self or Christ. Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself claimed that none of His teachings were in fact His but came straight from Yahweh. He did not formulate His own theology, though doubtless He meditated and thought deeply, but simply acted as a relay for the Almighty One. And though it surprises many Christians, Yah'shua didn't actually teach anything new. There was nothing He taught which wasn't already embedded in the Torah in one stage of revealment or another. He was not bringing forth a new revelation. Hence, at the conclusion of the passage we are studying, He said: "Did not Moshe (Moses) give you the Torah (Law)? Yet not one of you keeps the Torah" (v.19, HRV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) did not start a new relation. Indeed, strictly speaking we don't have a "new" and an "old" testament at all. That division in our Bibles is quite artificial. The prophet Jeremiah explained that the New Covenant was, in fact, the Old Covenant written inwardly upon the hearts of believers by the pen of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit):
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jer. 31:31-34, NKJV)
This 'new covenant' was the same revelation given through Moses applied inwardly supernaturally rather than enforced outwardly by threats of death. And to get that Torah within the heart of man, it had not only to shed its outer, ceremonial ritualism, but had to be taken there by a divine agency viâ a route which could only be accomplished by death on a cross.
A simple analogy might help. In the very early days of the 1950's and 60's, operating computers was a very complicated task indeed. The user had to sit and type in a variety of complex lines of programming to get the computer started up. It was so complicated that only a small élite could use them. Computer memory was small and storing data was very clumsy and inefficient, usually in the form of cards or ticker tape. All of this information was stored externally. I remember in the early days having boxes and boxes of these punch-cards with my programs on them.
Then there was a revolution in the computer world leading to the modern PC. Computers start up automatically nowadays and most of the programs that are needed are already within the machine stored on magnetic hard disks. Though information still needs to be inputted into a PC, it is a tiny fraction of what was required before, and practically anyone can do it. It is no longer a specialised trade - even small children can use them.
And so it is with the transition from the Old Covenant to the New. Now the Torah is being written on our hearts by the pen of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). It's on the inside, instead of being imposed from without.
Unfortunately, there are still a great many Christians - the vast bulk, in fact - for whom there has been little by way of writing on the heart, the Law being viewed as something external that must be imposed. That is certainly a way to discipline us from being lawless, as it was in the days of Moses until the coming of Christ, but there is no inner life in this way of living. A person can obey the Gospel and yet remain cold and lifeless within. For such a person the Gospel is mere ritual, a formalism, something that we are expected to "do", often reluctantly especially when our flesh opposes. For such the Bible is not something eagerly sought after, and attendance at assembly (church) more a habit than a deep-seated desire, song and praise a mere entertainment of sound rather than a deep inner expression of the believer's love for God.
"He who speaks on his own authority seeks to win honour for himself - he whose teaching originates with himself seeks his own glory" (v.18, Amp.Ver.). I wonder how many people use their Christianity as a means to advertise their own virtue and holiness - as a means of drawing attention to themselves, as though being a Christian was a status symbol of which to be proud? I wonder how many ministers preach to impress others with their fantastic biblical knowledge in order to win praise for themselves or to recruit members to the their church or people to finance their private ministry? One who is in the Spirit of God has put to death all attempts to win praise for self and devotes all his energy to pointing souls to the only one who can save and empower, the Lord Yah'shua (Jesus). But the only way he can ever possibly do that is to teach doctrines that are not his own, but which are Christ's, who Himself taught only what had been given to Him by His Father Yahweh-Elohim.
Unfortunately, most modern Christians are too lazy or careless to properly test the doctrines of ministers and churches as Yah'shua commanded. See what He said next:
"If any man desires to do [Yahweh's] will (God's pleasure), he will know - have the needed illumination to recognise, can tell for himself - he whose teaching is from God, or whether I am speaking from Myself and of my own accord and on my own authority" (v.17, Amp.Ver.)
So how man a man know? How can we tell whether someone is preaching the doctrine of Christ that brings glory to Christ, or a personal doctrine that brings glory to himself?
Firstly, the doctrine must accord completely with what is already revealed in the Bible. If it contradicts it, it must be rejected. Secondly, the one preaching or teaching will behave in such a way as to cast all attention on Christ and away from himself.
I remember one preacher, internationally famous, who said that if anyone opposed his teaching and his anointing, that God would curse him. The moment I heard those words "my" and "me" I knew just where this wolf in sheep's clothing was coming from. Subsequently investigations into his sermons showed clear signs of occultic teaching until one day there wasn't any doubt at all, and he betrayed his true master by asking the congregation to repeat the words, "I am God".
As Brother Herman once told me - and this is something that has stuck in my mind ever since he said it - I don't care what people say about the Bible or Christ, but what Bible and Christ say about people. Are we critical of what the Saviour taught? Then we are critical of Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, who gave His Son all that He was to teach. Nothing that Christ taught was His own doctrine.
Albert Lee, a minister in Singapore, has this to say:
"I tell my friends in jest that I make three difficult decisions every day: What should I eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? I live in Singapore, where we enjoy the food of the Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures, to name just a few. We are spoiled by having so many choices.
"Life is so full of decisions - far more serious than choosing what to eat. Perhaps this explains why some people constantly wonder what God's will is for their lives.
"Discovering God's will is not necessarily a complicated process. He has given us many simple and clearly stated principles for life. For example, we are told: "This is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men" (1 Pet.2:15). In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 we read: "This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality." And in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are told: "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you".
"As we live by faith and do what the Bible clearly tells us to do, we can be sure that the Lord will lead us through the difficult decisions when the options may not be clear. Above all else, God's will is that we submit to Him and be willing to follow wherever He leads" (Our Daily Bread, December 2001 -February 2002, December 6).
Though brother Lee could have quoted more scripture, these three really tell it all, don't they? Firstly, we are to do good. Secondly, we are to abstain from sexual immorality in mind and deed. And thirdly, we should give thanks under all circumstances in the knowledge that our immediate circumstances have a redemptive purpose for us or others around us.
It is surprising just how ignorant even many of the most seasoned ministers are of their Bibles. Because of vain and foolish traditions taught to them, they ignore huge parts of it. I know of many people who, though without saying it, almost believe the Old Testament was written by the devil himself. They have been told that Christ did away with that part of the Bible. Yet what did Christ Himself say in the passage we are studying? "Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law" (v.19, Amp.Ver.). And if we are to believe most modern preachers today, we shouldn't even bother to keep the Law. Passive faith, they say, is enough, forgetting exactly what the Messiah proclaimed:
"Think not that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets, I have not come to abolish, but to fulfil. Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one yud or one hook (stroke) will pass away from the Torah, until they all be fulfilled" (Mt.5:17-18, HRV).
If you have come this far and understood that the non-ceremonial part of the Torah is still valid, you have come far - you have come as far as the Judeans of Yah'shua's (Jesus') day. But that is not far enough. The whole basis of law-keeping has now changed in the New Covenant, because in the better covenant established by Yah'shua (Jesus) we are to seek for a Torah that is written on the heart through faith in Christ. This means a totally different mindframe from the Judeans of Christ's day and indeed from a good many Messianic Jews of our own. For in Christ law-keeping is not based just on outward observance but, much more importantly, on relationship. If we do not have a personal, living relationship with the resurrected Yah'shua (Jesus) our law-keeping will be in vain. Whereas the Torah in the Old Covenant was designed to keep us away from Yahweh for our own protection, the Torah in the New Covenant brings us into His very presence.
Now what on earth can that possibly mean? Under the Old Covenant, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year at Yom Kippur. But Christ has now become our eternal High Priest. By His sacrificial death, He caused the veil which shielded the Holy of Holies from the rest of Israel to be ripped right down the middle and now invites everyone who accepts His Son to enter the Holy of Holies where before we could not go. And we are enabled to do that because Christ's sacrificial death enables us to enter into a personal relationship with God through His Son who lived the Torah perfectly for us.
The Pharisees, who scrupulously observed the Law, we criticised not because they were commandment-keepers but because they "neglect(ed) justice and the love of God" (Luke 11:42, NIV). As a friend of mine recently said: "God hates uneven balances".
You see, the Law is a reflection of two of God's highest qualities: love and justice. The Ten Commandments reflect His love and justice. The whole of the Torah reflects His love and justice. Everything He does towards us reflects perfect love and perfect justice in perfect balance. As the Book of proverbs tells us:
"Honest scales and balances are from Yahweh; all the weights in the bag are of his making" (Prov.16:11, NIV).
There are some people I know who love Torah so passionately that they don't have any love in their hearts left for man. Commandment-keeping is, for them, an end. But that is not the purpose of the commandments. They do not exist for themselves. We do not resist adultery because that's what God says we must do but because we understand that adultery deeply huts sacred relationships. We do not honour the Sabbath just because God wants us to but because to break it is to hurt ourselves and others. The commandments are for our blessings and the blessing of others. By keeping them we administer justice and demonstrate a genuine heart-love for people. And because we love people, we love their Creator too. Hence Yah'shua's (Jesus') grand summary of Torah: Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. How do you know you are loving them? By applying the Torah in your lives. How to you apply it? By submitting to Christ and letting the Spirit write it in your hearts.
And because this is based on relationship, we must first obey the call of love and justice. Why is it do you think that Yahweh causes men and women to fall in love with one another? Why don't we just go up to a member of the opposite sex and say: "Well, now, you look as though you might make a good husband (or wife). I will not hit you, I will provide for you, I will do this, and I will do that. But what sort of relationship would that be if you did not first love that person? A life in Christ, the dominant theme of the apostle Paul's writings, is compared to a marriage. And a true marriage is founded on love ... an invisible power of passionate caring and self-sacrifice. It isn't just set of mental decisions to behave in a certain way - true marriage is born of caring. And to truly care, you must forget self and give your all to the one you are caring for.
Christ cared so much for us that He died for us. And we are to care for Him so much that we forget ourselves and serve one another. As we do this, the Law will become written on our hearts. The written law will show us what is missing so that the spiritual law may manifest within through faith and repentance from dead works.
As we live this way so all pretentiousness and falsehood is burned out of us. Caring has a way of doing that. Caring for others means you have to forget self-interest. Then the whole Torah, which is the Law of Love, becomes written within. And when that happens, we are compelled, not by a whip, but by a desire to give and give, for as we give, so God gives, and gives a thousand-fold more.
Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement" (v.24, NIV). That right judgement is based on the heart of man - whether he is loving and just or not. By this key you will know the truth. Amen.
This page was created on 2 November 2001
Last updated on 2 November 2001
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