by Jeannette Haley
It’s amazing how both the world and fundamental churches are reinterpreting the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. I suppose it isn’t all that amazing that the world misinterprets the words of Jesus, but it is both shocking and downright grievous to watch the groundswell of unbelief sweeping through what is considered to be the Church. However, if you were to ask most people who attend a church if they believe the words of Jesus, they would, in all likelihood, affirm that they do believe what He said. After all, it’s right there in the Bible. The question is how many people truly read, study and meditate upon the Word of God?
According to the Bible, Jesus Christ is the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20) to whom our lives must line up. He is the Rock upon which we must be rooted, and grounded, and upon which our lives must be built (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8). He is the Word become flesh (John 1:1). How important is this? Jesus said: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4. [Emphasis added.]
This brings us to the hotly debated subject of Bible translations and Bible versions. Can it be safely presumed that any, or all, of them are “the Word of God” and equally “anointed” or “living” and trustworthy enough to build one’s life upon? Professor Gail Riplinger, author of New Age Bible Versions writes in her book, Which Bible is God’s Word?: “The King James Bible is the word of God. New versions contain some of the word of God. As new versions replace the KJV in sales and use, it is no wonder people sense this void [‘that only thirty-four percent of church members today believe that the bible is the word of God. The vast majority believe that the bible contains the word of God.’]
“Unsaved scholars have pointed out for years that the omissions in new versions are not wholesale. The doctrine is removed only fifty to eighty percent of the time. As long as the doctrine can be found somewhere in the bible, apostates claim that version is acceptable. This contention fails when tested by scripture. The bible says that “a little leaven leaventh the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). So, when there is an error one place, the poison destroys the entire version. The bible also says: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matt. 18:16).
“God made four gospels. A doctrine needs to be there several times to prove its authenticity. You cannot proof text when you have only one bible verse. . . . I think that only those who see the bible as a textbook, and not as Job 23:12 says, “more than my necessary food,” would approve of a bible like the NIV or NASB where there are sixty-four thousand missing words. Most of the people of the world today do not even have a whole bible, and so if new versions remove the doctrine in only one portion, that may be the only portion that these poor people have.”
In reality, most professing Christians do not spend time reading their Bibles, and haven’t even read through it from cover to cover once! Yet, there can be no debate about the meaning of Jesus’ words when He said that man is to live “by every word of God.” So, if we are to believe what Jesus said, not only in this verse, but in every utterance that proceeded out of His mouth, then it behooves us to make sure that we have the complete, most accurate, anointed, and living version of the Word of God. And then, we better hide it in our hearts so that the Holy Spirit can bring it to our remembrance.
Now, when Jesus spoke these words to Satan who had just tempted Him to turn stones into bread, thus tempting His flesh, He was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. When your flesh is tempted, do you know the Word of God well enough to quote the appropriate passage back to the devil? Or, do you run to the hottest best-seller in your closest “Christian” bookstore and quote the latest “Christian” guru? Perhaps you dash off to your “Christian” therapist or psychologist for help. Maybe you hurry to your TV and flip on your favorite smooth-talking, suave, money-hungry “evangelist” for the answer. Or, then again, you may just give in to the flesh because, after all, God understands, and He wants you to “be happy.” Right? Wrong! God wants you to be holy as He is holy. But, you can’t get there by ignoring the words of Jesus because, bottom line, you really don’t believe Him, nor do you want to.
Next, Satan tempted the Son of God with the pride of life. How did Jesus answer? This is what He said: “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” What was Jesus quoting? The Word of God, Deuteronomy 6:16. What do most of us do when Satan tempts our pride? Do we silence him with the Word of God, or are we so oblivious to our pride that we just glibly go along with him? Satan knows us so well, and he especially knows how vulnerable religious people are with religious temptations. It goes like this: “You know, it’s written that ‘God is love.’ Therefore, if ‘God is love,’ then He wants you to be happy. Even more than that, He wants you to be a “somebody” in the church. After all, He’s given you all kinds of power, right? He’s given you all kinds of spiritual gifts, right? Well, then, He expects you to be bold and step up and exert your authority in the church. You need to move on up to the front. You need to be exalted and recognized for who you are. Why, you are a prophet! Yes indeed. You will be His mouthpiece to the church. You will set everybody straight. Why, you’re so full of the Spirit that you need to be doing great exploits for God. Forget the bit about humble beginnings. Forget preparation. Forget benevolence and sacrifice. You’re too good for that. God loves you because you are worthy, because there’s something good in you. Yep, it’s time for you to get plugged in, connected, and to make your move.” Sound familiar?
The third temptation of Christ was the lust of the eyes. Satan offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” Pretty powerful vision, don’t you think? The truth is, Satan is “the god of this world” and he knows how to tempt man’s lust with the “glory” of “this world.” However, there is a price to pay, and that price is to bow down and worship the devil. Jesus again quoted from the Word of God. (See Deuteronomy 6:13.) It is knowing, believing, receiving, and obeying the Word of God (engrafting it upon our hearts) that ensures against idolatry in our lives.
Reading further in Matthew 4, we see in verse 17 that when Jesus began to preach, He began right where John the Baptist left off, saying, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” If the first word that our Lord uttered when he began to preach was likewise “repent,” then one could logically conclude that this model is still in effect for us today. There is no other way for sinners to come to God except through genuine repentance. Repentance involves humbling oneself and coming into a state of grave humility. It means coming into agreement with God on the issue of sin. True repentance means turning away from that sin with the whole mind, heart and soul. Consider Isaiah 22:12, “And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth.” And, Ezekiel 18:31, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit. . .”
The Apostles likewise preached repentance. Peter boldly proclaimed, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19. The Apostle Paul preached, “God. . .commandeth all men every where to repent” Acts 17:30,and “. . . that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” Acts 26:30b.
If Jesus told the people, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” Luke 13:3, then why is repentance rarely, if ever, mentioned from the pulpits of our churches? Are Jesus’ words to be heeded, or are they outdated and obsolete in our sophisticated, man-centered, purpose-driven, emergent, seeker-friendly churches today? Has the church somehow “evolved” to the point where we can now sit in judgment upon the Word of God, and Jesus’ words in particular, and simply ignore them because they don’t fit in with our agendas? Repentance should be the cry of every minister and blood-bought saint of God. Otherwise, we too, as individuals and as a nation shall, without a doubt, perish from under heaven.
Perhaps repentance is a bit too bitter a pill to swallow according to most “spiritual tastes.” After all, people’s palates have been systematically conditioned by sugar-coated unscriptural jargon for so long that most are addicted to it. Thus, they swing from one high to another, until, having exhausted one candy store, they hurry out to find another one that satisfies their empty craving. Such are among those who are “Ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” 2 timothy 3:7. Paul did warn of this time. He wrote: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” 2 Timothy 4:3, 4.
Jesus’ words may be spurned by the modern world, but His words are “spirit and life.” The truth is Jesus has not changed. Hebrews 13:8 declares: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” When God speaks, He means what He says. It does not change. It will endure forever. Therefore, repentance still stands as critical to man’s salvation. Where is that man, woman or young person today who trembles at His Word? Where are the true people of God whose spirits are grieved beyond words for the state of the fundamental church? Where are those who truly know God and have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ? I dare say, these precious saints, though few in number, are scattered across the land. They may be unknown to the world, but they are known to God.
Perhaps Jesus’ words are no longer revered and relevant within the swelling river of apostasy that is sweeping throughout the world today because another Jesus has been substituted for the One presented to us in the Holy Bible. This substitute “Jesus” stands meekly and quietly in the background. He is non-threatening, and tolerant. He is never controversial or confrontive. He smiles and nods at whatever nonsense is spewed out of the mouth of the “preacher” or leaders. He doesn’t mind being misrepresented as a weak Jesus who only wants to bless people and grant their worldly, self-serving wishes. After all, this Jesus is only “positive” and never “negative.” All this Jesus cares about are big, successful, rich churches that are polished and professional. If the people want to enjoy “spiritual experiences” through the occult (such as contemplative prayer and yoga) this Jesus doesn’t mind. If the wealth of the church all goes towards more lavish buildings and salaries for the leaders, instead of in spreading the Gospel, that’s fine too. In fact, it really doesn’t matter what is preached, taught, prayed, or practiced as long as everybody feels good about it. In such a setting, people merely “tack” Jesus on to their lives as they live in darkness and delusion about the state of their souls. Unless they truly repent, come out and be separate, their end will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30b)
Does this make you sick? It should, for it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Jesus of the Holy Bible. The spirit in these churches is antichrist for it is a substitute Christ. There may be the best of man’s constructive genius, decorations, lights, sound system, music, and so forth, but what is missing is the Holy Spirit. It may be loud and professional, but there is no anointing. It may tickle the ears, but it dries up the spirit. It may appear to be outwardly successful, but it is a worldly, harlot church to whom Jesus, the great Judge, will say: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” Matthew 7:23b.
After reading how Jesus preached repentance in Matthew 4:17, we next read this powerful statement: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Have you ever considered what this verse means to us today? If not, I hope you will sit down and meditate upon it. After repentance, after becoming broken and humbled before God, and forsaking our old ways of thinking and doing, then comes the call, “Follow me.” Jesus calls us to a new life—a new way of thinking and doing. This life is for the purpose of “fishing for men,” not living for self. It is a life of total consecration, self-denial and sacrifice.
Today, the harlot church has again made a substitute. Instead of “fishing for men” in order to make people followers (disciples) of Jesus, people are “fished for” by using the glittering bait of the world to lure them into the “church net.” Instead of lifting up Jesus and making men to be followers of Him, they are, in a sense, wined and dined by a type of “Christian menu” to make them disciples of a church that our Christian forefathers would have instantly condemned as anathema (an abomination) and belonging to the world.
The key to “fishing for men” is to follow Jesus! Note also that Jesus did not say to these men, “Go find a good Bible school, so you can get degrees and recognition and ordination from men, so you can build a church.” He stated that He would make them fishers of men. Men cannot make you a fisher of men unless they first make you a follower, or disciple, of Christ. He must have the preeminence. He must always be the first, and the last. We do not fish for men to make them followers of us, or our agendas. We should have no other “agenda” than Jesus Christ! Furthermore, we cannot empower people because we are not God (contrary to some popular heresies). Only God can empower us from on high with the Holy Spirit. Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to His disciples for the work He called them to do.
Hopefully in this brief article, you have gleaned some valuable truths from a few of the words of Jesus that will make an eternal impact and difference in your soul. We are living in perilous times. If we are to spiritually survive, we need to return to Jesus—the one true source of eternal life, truth and hope, and therein abide, faithfully redeeming the time until He calls us home. Amen.