May 14

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You do not hear much about it, neither do you read much about it, but it is “at the heart of being a Christian! So, what could be “at the heart of being a Christian,” that preachers do not write or preach about? Someone says, “I thought preachers preached about everything; yet, here you are telling us that preachers have generally failed to write and preach about something that is “at the heart of being a Christian.” How can this be?
First, because it is a “hard saying,” and not an easy thing to do! Jesus taught somethings that are hard to do, then, somethings that are only perceived to be hard. Some of those who followed Jesus perceived that these words were hard. Here is what he said: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (John 6:53). Then, John wrote: “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (verse 60). So, what was the result? “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” verse 66). So, truly hard, or only perceived to be hard, the result may be the same! But, let us understand, “the teaching of Christ” separates us from the world and it is not always easy!
Second, some of “the teaching of Christ” is hard! In the above case, the disciples failed to understand what he was teaching. They thought he was talking about his literal flesh and blood, and that Jesus was teaching that they had to literally eat his flesh and drink his blood; but he was in fact talking about this teaching. Remember in the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus used the physical, “hunger and thirst” but applied it spiritually, “after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). This is the case with these words: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood;” there must be an eagerness on the part of the disciple to “to eat his flesh” and “drink his blood.” But, one must keep in mind, the Jew was forbidden to drink blood. Some of them may have spoken of eating his flesh. Others may even have pressed this to: “Eat His flesh! Shall we, then, drink His blood too?” In no less than seven passages of the Pentateuch had the drinking of blood been forbidden (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 17:10-14; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16; Deuteronomy 12:23-24; Deuteronomy 15:23); and we find in later times the strength of the feeling of abhorrence of drinking of blood (1 Samuel 14:32, and Ezekiel 33:25). Then, read these words of Jesus: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). What is so important about these words? The “eth” on the end of “eateth,” and “drinketh,” reveals that these verbs are in the present tense, implying continuous action; they were to keeping on eating his flesh and drinking his blood; then, the word “dwelleth,” denoting continuous Devine presence! Friends, Jesus is not speaking of his literal flesh and blood, neither is addressing the Lord’s Supper, but his teaching! Here recall the words of Jesus to the discouraged disciples: “… If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). The words, “make our abode” is equal with Devine presence and it is in the keeping of “the teaching of Christ” that God and Jesus “make” their “abode” is us! Nevertheless, some of the disciples failed to understand the truth, and falsely concluding, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”
Now, having made the point that some perceived that “the teaching of Christ” is hard, because they failed to understand it; let us get to our point: “at the heart of being a Christian” lies a “hard teaching!” In the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus said: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee” (Matt. 5:23). Get this now, you have come before God seeking forgiveness, but you remember a “brother hath ought against” you. If your brother has “ought against” you, you must have done something wrong. So, what are you do to? Here is the hard part! Jesus said: “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother,…” (verse 24). My brethren, this is not a suggestion, it is a command!
Yes, the setting is an Old Testament one, but does this change the principle? Let us put it into a New Testament setting; you have come before God, you are asking God to forgive you of your sins; then, you remember that a brother has “ought against” you. Can you not see the principle? While you are asking God to forgive you, should you not also: “Leave there thy gift (your request of forgiveness) before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to they brother.”
This is “at the heart of being a Christian” and it is hard to do! However, if we expect God to forgive us, we must be willing to go and make peace with our brother, seeking his forgiveness!

Frank R. Williams

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