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Purification by Fire: SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF (4)

         “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:12]

         The grain kernel of wheat is composed of two parts: The inner part that we eat and the inedible outer hull. The inedible part must be separated from the edible part. There are two ways to remove the outer hull: Threshing and Winnowing.

THRESHING

         Threshing was used on grains in which the hull was attached tightly to the grain kernel. In the days of our Lord, such covered grains were either soaked in water, or were lightly milled or even pounded upon to loosen the hull in order to remove it. The latter processes often damaged the edible grain.

WINNOWING

         However, when dealing with grains in which the hull was relatively loose and light, little or no threshing was required. A winnowing fork was used instead to cast the grain into the air allowing the wind to separate the inedible hulls from the edible grain kernels. The light, papery hulls would float or fly away in the wind while the edible grain fell to the ground to be collected. These light separated inedible hulls are called chaff, a word derived from Middle English.

         In both of these methods the unfit for consumption outer hull had to be removed from the grain kernel. Once removed the hull residue (chaff) was burned.

         Keep in mind what the Lord Jesus had to go through as the new seed of all creation. He was baptized by John as our example though it was personally unnecessary. And though He had no hard outer hull He underwent the extreme process of hull removal on our behalf.

         Both John the Immerser and the Lord Jesus used the rich imagery of hull removal in their preaching as illustrative of the process of salvation. The otherwise soft, warm, and loving human heart, characterized perfectly by the happy innocent hearts of young children, becomes hardened by a life of sin and rebellion against God. In time a hard outer shell forms over the human heart and creates an entirely different human nature from the original.

HEART CIRCUMCISION

         This requires what the Lord refers to as heart circumcision:

         “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” [Deuteronomy 10:16]

         “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” [Jeremiah 4:4]

         Since human will and free choice must be involved in the process of salvation, the outer hulls of our hearts can only be removed by voluntarily submitting to the process of spiritual threshing or winnowing. For those with very hard hulls the process will be more difficult. For those with lighter papery hulls removal will be less difficult. But in either case, since all have sinned regardless of degree, ALL hearts MUST be circumcised or salvation is not possible. EVERYONE MUST undergo a new birth.

         We can see by the very clear illustration of heart circumcision (circle cut) that salvation and new birth (being born again) is actually a reverting back or returning to one’s original created condition. Though real Christians will still have to battle their old nature in this world after undergoing a new birth and receiving real salvation, the new nature takes over and regains authority over the old sin nature.

         So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! [2Corinthians 5:17 NRSV]

         He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:11-13]

         “You must be born again.” [John 3:7]

         Submitting to heart circumcision is not an easy choice but obviously the best choice anyone could ever possibly make. If we have a hard outer shell on our heart, it is not so fun to subject ourselves to light milling or necessary pounding to remove it. It is also not so fun to be thrown up in the air with a winnowing fork so our old nature can become dust in the wind.

         Keep in mind that John the Immerser was sent to soak the nation of Israel in water to loosen its national hull and thereby gain a softening of its national heart prior to the Lord’s ministry. The goal was threefold: (1) Making the national heart receptive to the Lord (2) Gaining national repentance—a wholesale turning away from sin and rebellion against God—and (3) Undergoing a national heart circumcision.

         The nation of Israel would thus be divided based on its response to John’s ministry and later the Lord’s. The first camp would include all those who honored John’s and the Lord’s ministry and complied. The second camp would be composed of all those who did not.

         The Lord referred to the first camp as being composed of sheep, wheat, and good trees with good fruit—“the blessed of My Father.”

         He referred to the second camp as made up of goats, chaff, tares, and bad trees with bad fruit—“accursed ones.”

         For all those who refuse the great opportunity of salvation and being included in those returning to the Lord’s original sinless creation, however, something must be done with them.

         If it was grain kernels with very hard and stuck fast outer hulls that refused the proper treatment toward removal, such grain would be no good for anything and would certainly not be edible. But even if it was grain with light papery hulls, if winnowing was refused it also would remain inedible.

         The only thing to be done with such bad grain that still contained an otherwise edible kernel was throw it in the pile of the inedible chaff that was removed from the good grain.

         This is what John meant when he said the following:

         “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:12]

         In order for the Lord to continue the process of new creation, the following verses illustrate more examples of allegorical entities which must be eliminated through the ultimate means of purification—Fire:

         “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Matthew 3:10]

         “The tares are gathered up and burned with fire.” [Matthew 13:40]

         “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire.” [Matthew 13:41-42]

         “The angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire.” [Matthew 13:49-50]

         “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones (goats), into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…” [Matthew 25:41]

         “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” [John 15:5-6] [1]

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued.]

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church  


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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Purification by Fire: THE FRUITS OF REPENTANCE (3)

         “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Matthew 3:10]

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         The Lord Jesus made it very clear in His teachings that fruitless discipleship is no discipleship. In other words, if there is no spiritual fruit there then there is no discipleship there. Real discipleship bears good fruit. It is impossible for it to not bear good fruit. A good tree always bears good fruit.

         As did John the Immerser, the Lord Jesus also said:

         “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” [Matthew 7:19-20]

         He was talking about false prophets. He likened false prophets to ravenous wolves. He said ravenous wolves were bad trees bearing bad fruit:

         “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” [Matthew 7:15-16]

         In comparing sheep to wolves the Lord is comparing good trees to bad trees. Wolves are ravenous. It means they are very hungry and will kill to satiate their hunger. Wolves kill sheep in order to eat sheep. False prophets do the same. They not only rip off the sheep—removing from them all their valuable externals—they will also eat up everything the sheep are composed of—everything that comprises their lives. In the best case scenario they will transform the sheep into trees bearing fruit for the sole benefit of the wolves.

         We may call these zombie sheep. They obey their voodoo masters the false prophets. They do not have any critical thinking skills. Their minds are not their own. Their minds have become religionified. They have fallen into a cult, though it may be a “respectable” denomination or world wide organization. Such sheep do not bear good fruit.

         Imagine creating such sheep. It sure makes life easy for the wolves. They do whatever the wolves tell them to do, especially when it comes to money, their primary fruit. Take away their primary fruit and they also become worthless to the wolves. They are already of no worth to the Lord. They have rejected Him and His pure Word. Therefore, they will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

         The Lord Jesus is THE Good Tree. He bears fruit, and it is always good fruit and only good fruit. It is also always available. All real disciples also bear only good fruit since they are good trees which came from THE Good Tree.

         Unreal disciples usually don’t bear any fruit, though some bear bad fruit. The Lord said any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. John said it also. This is pretty self-explanatory, but one thing remains. What, exactly, is good fruit? What is spiritually representative of grapes and figs? Here you go:

         “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance…” [Matthew 3:8]

         And what is the fruit, or the proof, of repentance?

         “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

         And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?”

         And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.”

         And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.”

         Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” [Luke 3:8-14] [1]

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued.]

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Purification by Fire: NEGLECTING SPIRITUAL HEALTH (2)

         FROM PART 1: Much more importantly, most people are walking around in sin, with sin attached to them, with sin stamped on their minds, with sinful souls, and with much sin on their account. But they don’t know it. The sin is not acknowledged. It is unknown to them. The possibility of its presence is refused. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t there…

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         We live at a time in which people are highly encouraged to have frequent medical checkups. There are also many new checkup procedures not available in the past and instrumentation that is much more sophisticated toward discovering health problems or potential problems. Within certain industries and corporations, medical examinations are required for employment and periodic health screening is required to stay employed.

LARRY BIRD

         I just read an article about aging former NBA basketball players. The greatest professional basketball player who ever lived, regarding not only incredible playing ability but also work ethic, hustle, and heart, and a huge contribution toward winning, was, in my studied opinion, Larry Bird.

         His impact was such that without him his team would not only not have won, they would have been largely mediocre. He had great teammates. Some are in the Hall of Fame. But there is no question he was always by far the best, and they all knew it. He did everything to win while also playing completely within the rules, including the unwritten rules. He respected the game. He was a winner who often willed his team to win. He always gave the fans their money’s worth.

         That is why the following is all the more remarkable. It was discovered through medical testing after his playing career that he had a heart problem. He had the problem most of his life but never talked about it. He had spells that he kept to himself. He came close to buying the farm, apparently, on several occasions.

         I prayed for Larry Bird today. He just turned 59 years old. There have been several ex-NBA players who have died around his age, some recently. Some have died much earlier. It has often been due to heart attacks. Larry Bird believes that the former players who are most susceptible are big men like himself (he’s 6’ 9”), who have worked and hustled the hardest. He believes all the very hard work at such an incredible level of play, in addition to great size that makes the heart work harder, greatly increases the chances of a shorter life. That’s why, he says, you don’t see many old big men. Even very tall non-basketball players will die on average sooner simply because of their size. Short men, in reality, will have a decided tendency to live longer.

OUR TOP PRIORITY

         I say all this to say that there is a correlation toward today’s overt universal mandatory medical screening and pretty much zero spiritual screening, which means we also live at a time when a person’s physical condition is treated in the opposite manner of one’s spiritual condition.

         The same authority figures who desire and demand proper health screening as a top priority generally have no desire whatsoever for proper spiritual screening. This can only be due to placing this life and this realm above the next life, and for many it is because they do not believe in an afterlife. Most people certainly do not respect the Gospel.

         This life is so very temporary. The next life is eternal. Living for this life at the expense of the next life will cost a person his soul. Our top priority must always be getting right with God. To that end we must all undergo spiritual checkups beginning with initial repentance. We must deal with our sin and be rid of it. We must stop sinning. The Lord Jesus has given us a way to do this.

         Stay tuned. I will break down the following in our next lesson:

         “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

         “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

         “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:10-12] [1]

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued.]

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Purification by Fire: VACATION HOUSE and THE LIGHT SPECTRUM (1)

         There was a vacation house out in the woods pretty far from the nearest town. It was located in the middle of a 1200 acre section of private land. There were no restrictions upon its building site or construction, though it was well built. The owner chose the site for its natural settings and views, but he didn’t pay much attention to the topography. He lived a thousand miles away and there were no close neighbors.

         One day it began to rain in those woods and the rain didn’t let up for several weeks. The locals had never seen anything like it. Unbeknownst to the vacation house owner, he built his little hideaway in a very old flood plain.

         At the height of the rains the flood waters had risen to four feet in the house and remained standing for a few days before slowly receding. The house was knocked slightly off its pier and beam foundation in the beginning which also damaged the framing in several places. This in turn damaged the roof’s integrity and several large leaks had developed allowing rain to pour in.

         By the time the owner managed to check on his house several weeks later he was shocked at the damage. It was inundated by black mold. The wood framing had started to rot. Every insect and bug known to man had taken up residence in the house as well as a vast array of critters, including rodents, and even small mammals. The house was still filled with drying mud.

         When the man started repairs he discovered that the mold had reached the tops of the walls in places. Even after removing all the wallboard and insulation he saw that the entire structure was affected. The critters had also taken up residence in the attic. Everywhere was mold, rot, and the byproduct of two months of small animals. The odor was overwhelming. It was an absolute mess.

         He had no insurance. He checked with his lawyer on local laws. The next day he cleared out a break around the perimeter of the structure and made ready a few hoses from the well. After waiting for a day that had no wind, he set the house on fire and burned it to the ground.

         “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:10-12] [1]

         Today’s lesson begins with a simple truth: Fire removes the disgusting filth of corruption.

         Corruption, of course, comes in many forms. There is the actual physical tangible filth that adversely affects the five senses, but there is also intangible corruption. For example, sin is intangible. You cannot see it. But you can certainly see its effects.

         Picture a very clean mansion beautifully decorated in which everything is in perfect condition and every appearance, even the clothing of the inhabitants, is perfectly tailored and pleasing to the eye. Then picture the intangible sinful condition of the inhabitants. Picture their evil hearts and machinations, and the gross behavior they engage in behind the scenes.

         The Lord Jesus says the intangible is much more real than that which is seen. If one could actually see the unseen corruption in the midst of the perfect and beautiful setting clearly seen with the naked eye, one’s opinion would change.

         But most people never see this. Most people simply do not have spiritual eyes. They are very easily swayed by the illusory perception of their five senses.

         Please see the following chart and look it over: Electromagnetic Spectrum

         As I’ve taught before, the visible light portion of the Electromagnetic Spectrum is an extremely small part of the overall Spectrum. There is much more light that is unseen rather than the very little that is seen. 95% of the entire Universe cannot be perceived by the five senses.

         Therefore, whoever bases their beliefs on mere sensory data cannot possibly have the full picture since the vast majority is completely unknown.

         To bring this home and make it more visceral, there are people walking around right now with problems in their bodies and they don’t even know it. They go about their daily business as if the problem isn’t there. They cannot see inside their bodies. Imagine that. Something so close to us and so much a part of us and we don’t even know.  

         Much more importantly, most people are walking around in sin, with sin attached to them, with sin stamped on their minds, with sinful souls, and with much sin on their account. But they don’t know it. The sin is not acknowledged. It is unknown to them. The possibility of its presence is often refused. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t there…

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued.]

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.