For the most part stories down through the generations change with the telling and the hearing. Usually there is embellishment and parts left untold, which means there is change. To find the truth you have to go back to the source of the story. You have to go back to the beginning. There is an old hymn called I love to tell the story, one I grew up hearing and singing. Every so often I see on Facebook people saying the old hymns is what church should sound like. I am pretty sure this isn’t it. This song actually shows us what happens when stories are passed from one generation to the next. This hymn was written in 1866. The refrain goes like this; Tell me the old, old story, Tell me the old, old story, Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.” So what exactly was the old, old story? Well the song I think could be blamed for some of the songs that are being written today about Jesus and his love. That’s it? What about the rest of the old, old story? The song never tells the old, old story according to scripture, the true story that we should be living by. Yes Jesus and his love is part of it. John 3:16 tells us so. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But John also tells us another part of the story that is left untold. John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Unfortunately many stories comes up short in the power department. Yes there is lots of story telling but no power as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” We have lots of people telling a story but have no idea who the main characters are. Mostly they are about the stories of Jesus and his love that satisfies our longings as nothing else could do. People today complain about songs that don’t say anything, well there’s nothing new under the sun. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11 No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.” Judges 2:10 “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. We have to go back to the beginning and listen to the real old, old story once again so that we can be made new.
What we see is huge influence from the generations that came before us.” We seem to be able to remember man’s words but not God’s. Unfortunately we don’t seem to want to hear God’s word but man’s word. I picked a few men from yester year named John who have had great influence not necessarily good influence. John Calvin (1509 – 1564); Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758); John Nelson Darby (1800 –1882); John Wesley (1703-1791) and modern ones such as John Wimber (1934-1997); John Maxwell (1947 -) and John Piper (1946 -) who are still living. Each man continuing with the story and in many cases rewriting the story to fit their particular beliefs with each preaching with all their heart and soul. But today the 1500s or the 1900’s are not the old, old story. We need to go back to the one who declared the truth. Guess what his name was. Yes John the Baptist or Elijah Matthew 11:14 “if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” You see John came to prepare the way. Luke 1:11 “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Malachi 4:5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” You see this is the John we really should be listening to as he pointed the way to Jesus. These men point to a way not necessarily thee way. You see many have changed the story and few question it. Each generation, men and women continue the story they were told while many add and subtract to it. Even John the Baptist came to a cross roads before his death. He still had questions so he asked them. Remember this was an amazing man of whom Jesus said Luke 7:28 “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” So John sends his disciples to ask the Lord, Luke 7:18 “Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” 21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
You see this is the old, old story. We are to be sent out in Luke 9:1 “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” He did not send us out to write a new story without power. We have to tell the whole story not just the parts we like otherwise we are teaching a false gospel. The stories that have been handed down have been edited and the wondrous parts have been deleted. The story has been rewritten to explain away the lack of miracles and the victory over the demonic. The story is just about love but the love described is not the love of scripture. Psalm 118:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:3 “When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 5:13 “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” This love is not about sitting on Santa’s lap and asking for things because you think you deserve it. Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. 7 Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.” 2 Chronicles 20:20 “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.”
But you see the story has changed and the love of the Lord has been cheapened and weakened. Malachi 2:13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.” They went after another and rejected the truth of God’s word. Proverbs 5:1 “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. 7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. 8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another. 11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. 12 You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. 14 And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people.” 15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.”
The church has been deceived because they have refused to believe the truth. They have picked and chosen what they wanted to accept. Though I have never read any of his books about vineyards (The Grapes of Wrath) and rodents (Of Mice and Men), I came across this quote from another John named John Steinbeck who said, “A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders.”
When talking about the word of God as Paul said there is no other view, Galatians 5:10 “I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.” Only when you accept all of the truth will you see the wonders. You cannot pick and choose the parts you like to your own delight. Sadly this has been taught to most in the church. Everyone has agreed to disagree and that each to his own way is okay even though behind closed doors they think they are the only ones that are right. It is acceptable to have your own story but passing down these diluted stories leads us to death. These stories are not showing us the right way. People have gone there own way with their own stories instead of living by the gospel story. 1 Chronicles 13:7 “They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. 8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. 9 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. 10 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. 1 Chronicles 15:2 “Then David said, “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever.”13 It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.”
Think about this for a moment. Is your story the right one? Are you listening to John the Baptist or all the others named John. Is the word of God your story or have you written a new one and have gone your own way. Have you checked? What story are you hanging on to? What parts are you unwilling to let go of? Is your story of the past but now life is lukewarm? Did you used to have a passionate love for the Lord? Revelation 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” To the church of Sardis, Revelation 3:1 “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Revelation 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” If this sounds like your story, repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.
People easily gravitate to their own stories or to the stories of those who have gone before them by not asking questions and following what those did before us blindly. Wow they have a great story I am going to follow them. Unfortunately many have come with a new way not the old old way of truth that is always relevant no matter what is being taught in 2017. If people would simply read the word of God you would see there is nothing new under the sun as Solomon said. Yes someone came along and showed us it is ridiculous to get caught up in the dress code for church but at the same time continued to lead the church away from the way and brought the story into disrepute. They came with a purposeful story and changed the true story. This isn’t about passing down a new story to the next generation but getting back on track by reading and following the story as laid out in scripture. We are not looking for someone to rewrite it but looking to follow the author and perfecter of our faith and Hebrews 12:1 “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus.”
We need to get back to the word of God and seek the truth, the real old, old story. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The problem is most seem to like the story they are part of. Yes it has certain parts that look like the truth and it feels good so why change the story. Do you really want to admit that your life has been off track? Most do not want to hear it. I heard a quote this week on television about a reporter who dug up the truth that most did not want to hear about. It was said about him, “The stories we want to hear the least, are the ones we need to hear the most.” Today the church does not what to hear the true story of the word of the Lord. Again there is nothing new under the sun as the church today looks exactly like Israel did in the Old Testament. A wise person would say; have we not already heard that story. One researcher said, “while we now live and work in an environment filled with information, we filter out most of what we see and hear. People, they argued, tend to avoid information that contradicts what they already think or believe. “It's because, in a world now awash with chatter and communication, we tend only to listen to the messages we want to hear and filter out the rest.” The research focused on trying to reach a definitive answer to what has been a longstanding debate among psychologists over whether people actively avoid information that contradicts what they believe or whether they are simply exposed more often to ideas that conform to their own because they tend to be surrounded by like-minded people. (I like my friend who is lukewarm because he does not offend me) "We wanted to see exactly across the board to what extent people are willing to seek out the truth versus just stay comfortable with what they know,"
Now this is a secular study but think about 2 Kings 17:7 “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, 14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. 40 They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 41 Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.” Josiah said in 2 Kings 22:13 “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” The same happened with Jesus. John 19:14 “Pilate said to the Jews. Here is your king,” 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” For two millennia the church continues to reject the truth and go their own way.
The old, old story is not complicated. It does not need any help. It is relevant and powerful but we must be clothed with power to be part of this story. The story as written is more than enough. We have peddlers of the gospel selling their stories, which are void of power. People have bought into their stories because they appear from a worldly perspective to be successful yet there is no power. They equate the masses following with power. Jesus said John 6:63 “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 16:31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The old, old story is not just about love and grace but also about power and victory. 1 John 3:8 “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” If your story has written out the power you will never defeat Satan. Paul was told in Acts 26:17 “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” If your story does not include the available power of the Holy Spirit you are reading or listening to the wrong story and you are being led astray. Paul said Ephesians 1:18 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
This power is far more than just going to church. If you have accepted anything less than the power available to all who believe you have now listened to a false story. The bible is no fable even though CS Lewis was praised for it. When the story gets changed, people die. Today we are not looking at returning to the good old days of a few generations gone by but back to the beginning and following Jesus Christ and do what he said. I don’t really care if John or Bill or Rick etc said something that caused people to flock to them. These men should be telling the crowds what John the Baptist said 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’” 7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
If your story does not read the same as the word of God, you are reading from the wrong book so get rid of the those like the Shack and others like it. Acts 19:19 “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachma.” If the bible is not enough for you then these other books might as well be sorcery. Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” The story of scripture is to be our story. Our story should be the same as scripture. Acts 4:13 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” You can’t have blessed assurance if your story is wrong. You can’t say this is my story this is my song when the story you are following looks nothing like the story. Many people think they are praising the savior all day long but in reality they have followed another gospel and are not perfectly submitted to the truth. They are only submitted to deception. It can’t be said about them as Paul said 1 Thessalonians 1:6 “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 “We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.”
If the Holy Spirit is moving in power we then can say this is my story otherwise repent for the Kingdom is near. This story is about love and grace, mercy, power, healing casting out demons, freedom salvation. If not that story is not te gospel message. Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”