FOUR LITTLE CREATURES, EXCEEDING WISE – Part 4

In Prov 30.28, Agur speaks of the lizard, which is so small that we can take it in our hand, and this little creature is seen in kings’ palaces. Agur is talking about the house gecko.

In verse 28, Agur is speaking in the singular. So far he has been speaking of ants and conies and locusts – all in the plural. But now he brings us to the individual, the single creature. As a Christian, you are saved and have the gift of eternal life. You need not fear death. You rejoice in your salvation. But does your Christian life end with your being born again, being saved? Is there not more to the Christian life, the life of faith?

Learn from the lizard. He is found in the king’s palace. You have received grace, but God wants you to enjoy His glory. Our destiny is to be kings and priests to our God. The lizard is a great climber. He is found often near the ceiling, waiting and watching for his prey, be they spiders or any other insects. Ours is a high calling, a heavenly calling. We are not to remain content with mere conversion; we are to aspire for the spiritual heights, growing continually in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Pet 3.18. Eph 2.6 tells us that we are seated in the heavenly places. We are to seek spiritual ascendancy. So few of us aspire for the greater spiritual things. We are content with superficial knowledge. We fail to understand that we are in the school of Christ, where we are being trained for high and heavenly things.

Only a small minority of believers seek the deeper and greater and higher things of the Christian life. They run the race to win the prize. Theirs is a holy ambition to seek to do ‘the utmost for His highest’, to do all things for the glory of God, striving for spiritual excellence. Mephibosheth who was once lying forgotten in the wilderness was brought into the king’s palace and treated like one of the king’s sons. He sat at the king’s table, with the sons of David. David misunderstood him, deceived as he was by a man named Ziba. But Mephibosheth behaved with royal dignity, not caring for material benefits. He was happy to see David enthroned again. Are we living like children of the King? Let us learn from the humble lizard. It is found in the king’s palace. Nobody can stop the lizard from staying in the palace of the king. All things are ours, but are we going forward in faith and truly possessing them?

J.K.

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FOUR LITTLE CREATURES, EXCEEDING WISE – PART 3

The third creature that Agur talks about is the locust. Prov 30.27 says that the locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks. What do we learn from the locusts? Have you ever tried stopping an army of locusts?

The locusts when they come together are unstoppable. Agur is telling us of the importance of fellowship. No man is an island. He who isolates himself rages against all sound judgment, Prov 18.1. As children of God, we need to come together, ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves’, Heb 10.25.

Just as the locusts have no king, but all move by one spirit, so we have our Invisible King in heaven and we are led by the Spirit. If there is truly a focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and Christ alone, and if we are truly moved by the Holy Spirit, then nothing can stop the church, the fellowship of the saints, from its march of conquest – conquering hearts for the Lord. “Like a mighty army moves the church of God!”

But alas, the enemy steps into the church and creates divisions. Even in a single assembly of the saints, you find those who move in groups of their own, violating the principle of the ‘unity of the Spirit’, Eph 4.3. But the locusts move as a mighty army and nobody can stop them.

Are we seeking unity or are we promoting division? Unity comes when we keep our eyes upon our Invisible Leader in heaven and when our hearts are governed by the Holy Spirit. There is much to learn from the swarms of locusts bent on consuming every bit of greenery in their path. If we had a single eye and a single heart, as believers coming together on the ground of prayer, we too can do mighty things – because we have a mighty God!

J.K.

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FOUR LITTLE CREATURES, EXCEEDING WISE – Part 2

Agur then goes on to talk about the conies. Proverbs 30.26. The coney or rock badger is a small creature that lives in the rocks. It is the size of a small rabbit. It is a very timid animal and does not venture far from its dwelling place.

What do we learn from the conies? They make their houses in the rocks! These feeble creatures are often preyed upon by leopards, hawks and owls. So they don’t travel far from their rocky shelters. As believers, our refuge is in Christ the Everlasting Rock, Isa 26.4. We too live in a hostile world, and our safety lies in Christ. Prov 18.10 says the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are kept safe. Isa 33.16 tells us that the dwelling place of the righteous is the impregnable rock. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Rock of Ages, who has been smitten for us. (“Rock of Ages, cleft for me; let me hide myself in Thee!”) We are hidden in the ‘cleft of the rock’, like Moses was in Exodus 33.22. The Lord Jesus Christ is our true ‘hiding place’, our shelter, our refuge, our fortress, our strong tower, our defence, our impregnable rock.

Prov 22.3 tells us that the prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the foolish pass on and are punished. We are to tread cautiously, keeping our trust in the Lord; the self-confident, like fools, rush in where angels fear to tread. The conies, realizing their weakness, keep very close to the rocks. Are we keeping close to the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we realize that our strength and our safety lie only with the Lord? We need to keep ourselves hidden in ‘the secret place of the Most High’, Psalm 91.1.

Every day the enemy waits to attack us with his weapons of doubt, anxiety and fear. Hence we need to keep close to the Lord Jesus Christ, and carry a sense of His presence with us. That is possible only when we keep running to Him again and again, finding shelter under His wings in the Word of God and prayer. Is He close by your side? Do you feel His presence day by day in your life? Or are you drifting far away from Him?

J.K.

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FOUR LITTLE CREATURES, EXCEEDING WISE – Part 1

Today’s message is about the little creatures that are exceedingly wise. We turn to the Book of Proverbs chapter 30 and read from verses 24 to 28. Agur talks about the ants, the conies (rock badgers), the locusts and the lizard.

God is telling us to look at the little things. Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke about the lilies of the field, how God clothed these wild flowers (I believe they are anemones) with such beauty that Solomon in all his glory could not excel them. Then again our Lord Jesus spoke about the sparrows (not worth even a farthing) and yet God cared for them. In the assembly, in the church, everybody is precious in God’s sight. We can learn much from every saint of God, especially those who are in the background, the hidden ones, who seek not to display themselves, but who serve God’s people in God’s house, quietly and diligently, because they love the Lord.

Agur tells us to look at these four little creatures. I believe each of these creatures has something to teach us about the Christian life, the life of faith. Let us look first at the ants. They prepare their food in summer. They are storing up food for the bleak winter. They prepare for the future. What are you doing about your future? Do you know that our life on earth is short, and after we die there is a judgment, Heb 9.27? What are you doing about the judgment, God’s judgment? Everyone of us will have to give an account of his life to God. Read Rev 20.15. Is your name in the Lamb’s book of life? Are you saved? Have you become a child of God? There is no condemnation to those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, Rom 8.1.

What are you doing with your life? Remember the two brothers, Jacob and Esau. One, though crooked, sought spiritual things; the other was ‘profane’, living only to gratify the lusts of the flesh. Heb 12.16, 17 tells us about Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of porridge and thereby lost his blessing, and though he wept bitterly he could not reverse his father’s decision – the blessing went to Jacob. Are you living a selfish life? Remember what happened to the rich man in Luke 16; he did nothing for the beggar at his gate. Both died, and one was found in hell and the other in heaven. Remember again the rich farmer in Luke 12; God called him a fool as he tried to store up his abundant harvest for a life of retirement (a life of ease – ‘eat, drink and be merry’) on earth; he lost his life that very night, and he had to leave all his abundant riches behind. Do we realize that our ultimate destination is one of these two places: heaven or hell?

Many live for the present, not thinking about the future at all. Aesop’s story of the Ant and the Grasshopper comes to mind. The ant laboured all through summer, preparing for the cold dark days of winter; the grasshopper whiled away his time singing and making merry. When winter came, the ant was fully prepared, having an adequate stock of food with him; but the grasshopper perished.

“Redeem the time, for the days are evil”, Eph 5.16. Be prepared for eternity. Those of us in the summer of our youth must be prepared for the winter of old age. Every hour of our life is precious, and we must strengthen ourselves spiritually, by studying the Word of God and living a life of prayer. As the ant is diligent, so should we be diligent, not wasting our time in idle pastimes. Reader, prepare to meet your God!

J.K.

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SPEAKING IN TONGUES – Part 6 (Concluded)

Is The Gift of Tongues Part of God’s Program for the Church Today?

Let us turn to 1 Corinthians 13. Now keep in mind the fact that the subject in Chapters 12-14 is spiritual gifts with the main emphasis on tongues, because tongues was the one gift that the Corinthians were abusing. Chapter 12 concludes with “tongues” (12:30) and Chapter 13 begins with “tongues” (13:1). Obviously from the behavior of the Corinthians they were lacking in the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love. And so in Chapter 13 the Apostle dwells upon the essential ingredient of love which supercedes the gifts, and without which the Christian is nothing at all.

Among the Corinthians there were quarreling and division, but the needed fruit of the Spirit, love, was missing, so Paul writes, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (or love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (13 :1). In Corinth the tongues-speaking amounted to so much noise because carnality had invaded their exercise of the gift. Even today there is a kind of spiritual prestige associated with tongues-speaking. For a Christian to show off any gift that God has given manifests pride that is lacking in love. Where love is lacking, the exercise of any gift is worthless.

If Christians would take seriously, within context, all of the teaching about tongues in 1 Corinthians, they could not fail to see that tongues-speaking would cease. Paul writes, “Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (13:8). There will always be the need for love, therefore love will never drop off. But when the canon of Scripture is made “perfect” (or complete), there will be no further revelation from God, neither in predictive prophecy nor in divinely revealed knowledge other than prophecy. The gifts of “prophecy” and “knowledge” will be entirely unnecessary with the completion of the Scriptures. And “if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18).

Paul acknowledged the incomplete nature of the Scriptures in his day when he said, “For we know in part, and we prophecy in part” (13:9), or more literally from the Greek, “For in part we are knowing, and in part we are prophesying.” Then he adds, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (13:10). The word perfect is in the neuter gender, and therefore refers to the perfect (finished or completed) Word of God. If the word perfect referred to Christ it would be in the masculine gender. The sign gifts were “done away” (rendered inoperative) with the completion of the New Testament.

Now what about tongues? “Whether there be tongues, they shall cease” (13:8). Tongues shall cease (Gr. patio), that is, they shall come to a complete halt. Who needs tongues? Only the untaught, carnal babes in Christ, for Paul added, “When I was a child, I spake as a child . . . but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (13:11). The word “spake” in context can only refer to speaking in tongues. So that Paul himself came to the place of Christian maturity, through God’s revelation to him, where tongues were no longer necessary. And so in the same tongues context he admonishes the Corinthians, “Brethren, be not children in understanding . . . but in understanding be men” (14:20). Experientially, tongues cease when the Christian matures on a diet of the meat of God’s Word. Actually tongues is baby talk.

For the past two years I have made it my practice to ask many of the leading Bible teachers and scholars, some of whom having a rich working knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, if they have ever spoken in tongues. Among them are college and seminary presidents and professors. To date I have not had one of about sixty men tell me that he ever spoke in tongues!

I have been asked if I ever spoke in tongues. No, I have not. God and I have gotten along nicely for the past forty-five years in English. I speak to Him in English and He hears and understands me. He speaks to me in English through His Word, and I understand Him.

CONCLUSION

How then can we account for the wide-spread practice of speaking in tongues? I do not have all of the answers to this question, but I will make three suggestions for your prayerful consideration.

First, speaking in tongues can be self-induced. Second, speaking in tongues can be group-induced. Third, speaking in tongues can be satanically-induced.

Since the creation of man Satan’s insidious master-plan has been to put a veil between God’s children and God’s inerrant Word. It began in the Garden of Eden when the Devil asked Mother Eve, “Yea, hath God said . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1), thereby raising doubt as to the authority and authenticity of what God has said. We know that this enemy has stepped up the pace of his strategy.

Our present generation is witnessing the growing menace of satanic activity in the realm of the miraculous. Where the Devil does not succeed in taking the Bible from us, he works hard at taking us from the Bible. And he succeeds in getting Christians to focus their attention on the claims of men and women to some supernatural experience, and in so doing those seekers after the experiences of others have neither time nor interest in searching the Scriptures for God’s truth.

God does have a plan in His dealings with the human race, and that plan does not necessarily include the continuing repetition of the same miracles in every succeeding century. The miracles of God are rare occurrences in history. Enoch’s bodily translation from earth to heaven was the only recorded miracle performed by God in over 1700 years between Adam and the flood.

The Church of Christ does not need a new Bible, nor new apostles, nor new faith-healers, nor new charismatic movements, nor self-styled miracle workers. What the Church needs is to return to the Word of God and proclaim the whole counsel of God in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.

And if my reader has never had a personal experience of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, I urge you to receive Him at once, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

LEHMANN STRAUSS

(Concluded)

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SPEAKING IN TONGUES – Part 5

Mistakes About Speaking in Tongues (continued)

(4) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is an evidence of one’s faith. To the contrary, the persons who seek signs and sign-gifts show their lack of faith. It is a sin for any Christian to seek for signs before he will believe God’s Word. As was pointed out earlier in this study, “tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (1 Corinthians 14:22). The person who seeks any sign, whether it be speaking in tongues or any other sign-gift, is either a babe in Christ or an unbeliever.

(5) It is a mistake to seek the gift of speaking in tongues. It is clear that not all in the church at Corinth spoke in tongues. Why didn’t they? The Apostle says, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit . . . for to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The reason why all the Christians did not have the gift of tongues is because all of the gifts are divinely bestowed. The Spirit divides and distributes to each believer his own gift. Not one of us is capable of choosing his own gift. The Spirit will not give a gift according to our desire and the way we pray. Don’t try to tell God which gift He should give to you. We are but members of the Body, and no one member has any right to tell the Head what to do.

It would have been a mistake for the Corinthians to seek the gift of tongues because it is the least of all the gifts. Where the gifts are listed twice in 1 Corinthians 12, in each instance tongues and their interpretation are placed last (verses 8-11 and 28-30). Note the careful wording in the latter passage: “First . . . secondarily . . . thirdly . . . after that . . . ” The least to be desired comes at the bottom of the list, the scale being according to importance and usefulness. The minor place of tongues is further stressed in 1 Corinthians 14:1, 5, 6, 19. The modern cult of tongues would have you believe that this gift is the only one that really counts and that every Christian ought to have it. The Corinthians erred in overemphasizing the gift of tongues as the most coveted gift of all. To them tongues was the prestige gift, hence its misuse and abuse at Corinth.

Paul charges them with such misuse of the gifts in 12:31. When he writes, “But covet earnestly the best gifts . . .” he is in effect saying, “You are selfishly desiring the more spectacular or demonstrative gifts.” “You are not satisfied to be a foot, concealed in a stocking and shoe. You want to be an eye, or a mouth; you want to be seen and heard.” And then the Apostle adds, “Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal “ (1 Corinthians 12:31,13:1).

A young man who claimed to have the gift of speaking in tongues told me that the biblical basis for his doing so was 1 Corinthians 14:4, namely, self-edification. But this is both selfish and wrong. Paul says, “As ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church” (14:12). The gifts were given for the edification and profit of the entire Body of Christ, not for self-edification. Self-edification is contrary to the principle of love as taught in Chapter 13, for “love seeketh not her own” (13:5). The gifts were given for the common good of all (12:7).

(6) It is a mistake for a woman to speak in tongues. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak . . .” (14:34). The prohibition here has a direct relation to the problem with which the Apostle is dealing, namely, speaking in tongues. The setting of 1 Corinthians 14:34 has reference primarily to women speaking in tongues. It is clear and unmistakable that speaking in tongues was a gift limited to men and is never to be exercised by women. Now he is not saying that women may not teach or testify or pray, but that they may not speak in tongues. Elsewhere Paul writes, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (I Timothy 2:12). The point of this passage is that a woman’s ministry must not usurp authority over the man. She may teach women or children, but not men.

If this admonition were heeded today much of the present tongues movement would be eliminated. Women are the worst offenders in the modern confusion of tongues. The word “speak” in 14:34 is the same word used in verse 28; therefore it cannot mean mere “chatter” that would disturb a service in the church. The purpose of this entire section on speaking in tongues is to curb the wrong use of the gift.

(7) It is a mistake to assume that the sign-gifts are given to believers today. Now I am not arbitrarily closing the door on miracles. God does intervene in supernatural ways performing miracles when and wherever He pleases to do so. The matter before us now is whether or not the Bible teaches that certain gifts were temporarily given. The evidence of God’s Word must be the final source of authority. I am stressing this because there are many persons who are not students of the Bible, therefore their only source of knowledge and understanding is subjective, namely, reason or experience. Whatever appeals to their reason, or whatever experiences they have had, settle a matter for them once and for all time.

It is not uncommon to hear someone say something like this: “I cannot believe in Hell because I cannot conceive a loving God sending anyone to such a place of torment.” Such persons might listen to clear and sound expositions on the biblical doctrine of Hell, and yet they will reject what the Bible teaches because of their inner feelings and foolish reasonings.

Now I am not suggesting that there is no validity in experience or reason. I am quite sure that there are times when one’s reason and experience are correct and therefore reliable. But neither reason nor experience can be accepted as final authority. Someone will argue: “I have had the experience of speaking in tongues; I find this experience in the New Testament; therefore my experience is true.” Any trained Christian will tell you that such an argument is not valid because it makes experience the basis of truth, so if one does not experience all of the experiences he does not have all of the truth. Any valid Christian experience must be determined by the right interpretation of Holy Scripture. Experience, which is related to our emotions, can be deceptive, but a correct interpretation of God’s Word can never deceive.

LEHMANN STRAUSS

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SPEAKING IN TONGUES – Part 4

The Mistakes About Speaking in Tongues

The Apostle writes, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1). Now the Corinthians were not ignorant of the fact of the spiritual gifts, but they were in ignorance of the right exercise of the gifts. They were well informed as to what the spiritual gifts were, but they were ignorant about the proper use of the gifts.

Paul reminds them of how easily they were led astray. He says, in effect, “Before you tell me about your experience let me remind you of your lack of spirituality (3:1), and therefore your inability to discern between the Holy Spirit and false spirits” (2:15). Because they were carnal, “babes in Christ” (3:1), their exercise of the gifts were self-induced by fleshly energy, not by the Holy Spirit. All Christians do not use their gifts properly, so that a Christian’s use of a gift might not be in accord with the Word of God.

Here are some mistakes about speaking in tongues:

(1) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is synonymous with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures state emphatically that all saved persons have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body . . . ” (1 Corinthians 12:13). All the believers at Corinth received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, however all did not speak in tongues. The question asked in verse 30, “Do all speak with tongues?” is so phrased so as to convey the expected answer, “No.”

The baptizing work of the Spirit is not an experience in the believer subsequent to salvation. Rather it is that act of the Holy Spirit which joins the believer (the one saved) to the Body of Christ. All saved persons have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, but not all saved persons speak in tongues. The baptizing work of the Spirit places the believer in the Body positionally.

Be careful that you do not confuse the baptism of the Spirit with the command to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). All believers share equally in this position in Christ and thus share equally in union with Him. There is only one experience of baptism by the Holy Spirit but there can be many experiences of being filled with Spirit. Paul said that not all of the Corinthian Christians spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5), and yet he stated clearly that all had been baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).

(2) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is an evidence of being filled with the Spirit. All believers are commanded to “be filled with (controlled by) the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), but nowhere in Scripture are believers commanded to speak in tongues. A Christian can be under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues. There are numerous instances when the disciples were filled with the Spirit but did not speak in tongues. See Acts 4:31 and 13:9-11. To be Spirit-filled is to be Spirit-controlled. Are we to believe that the thousands of mightily used men and women of God who were among the world’s best missionaries of Christ’s Gospel and Bible teachers were never filled with the Holy Spirit because they never spoke in tongues? Perish the thought!

Can one know if he is filled with the Spirit? Look at one verse in the Bible where the command to be filled with the Spirit is recorded. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:18-21). Three things are mentioned as evidence of being Spirit-filled; a joyful heart, a thankful heart and a submissive heart. Nothing is said about speaking in tongues. To sum it up in one word, Christ-likeness is the manifestation of being filled with the Spirit, and the Scriptures do not tell us that our Lord ever spoke in tongues.

(3) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit results from being filled with the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23 and includes nine characteristics. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” None of the sign-gifts are included in this nine-fold cluster of fruit. The Christian who is filled with the Spirit will manifest the fruit of the Spirit apart from ever having spoken in tongues. As a matter of fact, in Ephesians and Galatians, where the fullness and fruit of the Spirit are discussed tongues-speaking is not mentioned once. Moreover, in the list of gifts mentioned by Paul, gifts that the ascended Lord bestowed upon His Church, the sign gifts are omitted. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).

All Christians should be filled with the Spirit and all are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, but not every Christian has all the gifts. Spirituality does not depend on speaking in tongues. God’s goal for every child of His is to be Spirit-controlled, but that goal does not include speaking in tongues. No Christian need ever feel that he is lacking in spirituality because he has not spoken in tongues. Quality of life is the best evidence of the fullness and fruit of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), yet this Spirit-filled man did no miracles and never spoke in tongues (John 10:41). But he was so Christ-like that people who were looking for the Messiah were led to ask of him, “Art thou the Christ?”

LEHMANN STRAUSS

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