People of The Living God

Isaiah 4

 

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May 2010



 

BACK TO SQUARE ONE

Billy Linthicum

        Did you know that there is a good possibility that your concepts and beliefs about Christ are inaccurate?  At the best, they are probably insufficient.  Consequently, if this is true, then it is time you returned to “square one.”  In fact, perhaps it is time we all went back to square one.

        By definition, “going back to square one” is an idiomatic expression which “usually means that whatever work you’ve done on a project, product, or idea has to be tossed out and you must start fresh, or begin again.  It’s usually not fun to go back to square one since you likely have to discard a lot of work that hasn’t accomplished what you needed.”  If we are honest with ourselves, that’s precisely where most of us are concerning our knowledge of Christ, because our beliefs haven’t actually accomplished what we have needed.

        “Who is Jesus to you?”  Believe it or not, that is the most important question that every professing Christian can ask themselves.  Your perception of Jesus and how you relate to Him forms your Christian values and beliefs.  In fact, the importance of this question can’t be overstated, because wrong perceptions of Him will have you following a false Jesus and, consequently, an unbiblical view of Christianity.  This is why it’s probably time we went back to the beginning, to start again.

        In truth, we should never be content with our personal comprehension of Jesus because our understanding of His nature and His significance will always be deficient.  Why else would Peter admonish us “to grow in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18) if there weren’t much more to learn about this Person than what we initially believed.

        Jesus’ disciples discovered this truth in a very graphic and dramatic setting.  In Mark, chapter four, we are presented with the story of Jesus soundly sleeping in a boat that He and the disciples were using to cross to the other side of a lake.  Suddenly, a violent windstorm came down upon the lake and the boat started filling up with water.  Overcome with great fear and trepidation, the disciples called out to Jesus, “Don’t you care that we’re going to die?”  In verse thirty–nine, we are told that “He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

        This is an amazing story from any perspective, but what amazes me the most is the disciples’ response.  “They feared exceedingly, and said one to another, what manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (vs 41).  A clearer rendering of their amazement over Jesus would best be translated, “Who then is this [man]?”  As one writer explained it, “Up until this point, the disciples have been following Jesus as if He were simply a Jewish Rabbi, a teacher of the Law, and perhaps the Messiah who was to come and set their people free.  But when Jesus stands up in the boat, with lightning crashing all around, thick black clouds pelting them with rain, and giant waves tossing the boat like a toy in a bathtub and commands the elements with His voice, all bets are off.  In that moment, Jesus utterly destroys their version of the Messiah and sends everyone back to square one.”

        The original twelve disciples had seen the sick healed, the blind receive their sight, the demon–possessed freed from their imprisonment and the dead raised (e.g. Luke 7:22).  These same disciples had been traveling with Jesus … eating with Jesus … and talking with Jesus long enough that they had determined among themselves that they knew who this man was.  However, it took this incident, on a stormy sea, to cause them to realize that they had tremendously underestimated His truly awesome nature, and this brought a new fear upon them.  Jesus now had their attention!

        Does He have yours?  Or…are you totally content with what you believe about Him and embrace as much as you care to know?  If you do, I pray that a storm will enter your life, too, that will bring you to the point of understanding…that you really don’t understand!

        A genuine encounter with the Creator of the universe will change everything.  How could it not?  Yet, many Christians go on living life as though their thoughts, their beliefs and their ideas about God are sufficient.  They have forgotten that the Scriptures inform us that when we are truly born again into the Kingdom of God we have given up our right to ourselves, and this means even our thoughts and personal beliefs.  Paul makes this abundantly clear when he reminds us that “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).  What I want and believe is no longer important.  It’s all about Him!  And remember this, a growing awareness of Christ can only come as we are “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created” us (Col. 3:10), and we are transformed in the very way we think, especially about Jesus, through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

        It is imperative that we grasp the reality that none of us know this Jesus as well as we think we do.  We only deceive ourselves to think otherwise.  But, sadly, our arrogance and ego usually rules over our allegiance to the Lord and blinds us to the truth about ourselves and Him.

        We all have concepts of Christ that fall far short of reality.  We have beliefs that are totally self–generated and we never question ourselves as to the validity of what we believe or whether our concepts can withstand a critical analysis based on the Word of God.  When it is more important that we embrace our own beliefs and personal doctrines — without scrutinizing them by the timeliness of Biblical wisdom — then there is a great chance that we are serving the god of self rather than the God of Eternity.

        There is a desperate need to go back to square one to discover the real Jesus and to cease embracing the caricatures of Him that have created personal, self–serving belief systems.  When you do, you’ll discover the One who can calm the torrential storms in your life.

 

 

EARS THAT HEAR

Alda Scullin

        “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:27,5).

        In these days of great confusion when many are crying, “Lo, here is Christ” or “Lo, there;” when one says, “This is the way” and another, “No this,” how can the bewildered soul find his way?  Just listen for the voice of the shepherd.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  He has been the shepherd from the beginning.  Gen. 49:24: “the shepherd, the stone of Israel,” or as in I Cor. 10:4: “The spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ.”  He is still the shepherd and He still speaks to His sheep, sometimes directly and sometimes through another.

        Jesus said His sheep know His voice (John 10:4).

        The sheep and the goats both hear the voice of the shepherd.  Jesus taught that He was the Son of God, the Messiah for whom the Jews looked.  A few of them knew His voice and recognized the Lord, but to the Jews who said, “How long dost thou make us to doubt?  If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly,” Jesus answered, “I told you, and you believed not because ye are not my sheep” (John 10:24–26).

        Men hear what they want to hear, regardless of what is said.  If they desire to hear the voice of the Lord they will hear it and know it.  There was an occasion when God spoke from Heaven to His Son, in the presence of others.  Some who stood by said that it thundered.  All they heard was sound – no voice, no words.  Others said, “An angel spoke to Him.”

        When Jesus saw some men fishing and called “Come and follow me,” they dropped everything and followed Him, not because it seemed like the most sensible thing to do, but because within their spirits they recognized the voice of the Master.

        Even though the sheep know His voice, there are many times when they do not understand what He says, but they follow and obey because of the faith and trust which sheep always have in their shepherd.

        A good example of this is found in John 6.  Jesus said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.”

        Many of His disciples said, “this is an hard saying; who can hear it?”  And from that time they turned back and walked no more with Him.  Then Jesus asked the twelve, “Will ye also go away?”

        “Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68,69).

        This was all that was necessary to them.  They knew Him, and so would follow Him regardless of their lack of understanding.

        Jesus commissioned others to feed His sheep, and has made them shepherds under Him.  But there is still the need to know the voice, for there are many false shepherds – hirelings who care not for the sheep but only for their own wages.  False shepherds can be very convincing, at times.

        A man may preach Jesus Christ and do many wonderful works in His name.  He may actually heal the sick and work miracles, and quote scripture by the yard, but still he may be a false shepherd.  And if he is, the sheep of the Lord will flee at the voice of the stranger.  But others will follow because the stranger’s voice soothes them, and they are deluded by the seemingly wonderful works he performs.  Jesus said they would show signs and wonders which would seduce the very elect if it were possible (Mark 13:21,22).  But, thank God, it is not possible.  There is one difference between the sheep and the goats which protects the Godly from being deceived.  That is the Spirit of God within, that witnesses to the things which are of God.  As John said, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (I John 2:20).

        The ungodly do not have this unction and are easily led astray by the false shepherds.

        “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His,” but “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

 

 

WHAT DOEST THOU HERE?

I Kings 19:9,13

Randall Walton

        These words were spoken by God to the prophet Elijah at a time when the prophet was feeling sorry for himself because he believed he was the lone faithful servant of the Lord.  It is quite likely that most of us experience similar feelings at various times: rejection, aloofness, persecution, loneliness, heartbreak, etc.

        Yet we are only as alone as we choose to be.  The Lord told Elijah that there were seven thousand others who had not compromised with the enemies of God.  But Elijah was in both a place and a state (of mind) which were not conducive to peace and tranquility: the place was a cave in solitary confinement, and the state was his self–pity.

        No true Christian is ever truly alone: he may be the only real saint in a specific place, but he has the blessed abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within his heart.  The place and the circumstances under which he lives have no real bearing upon his spiritual well–being, for he knows that God is with him and is always the same.

        Now, we are not being critical of the prophet Elijah; he was a great man of God.  But we can gain some insight into the workings of the human heart by observing him and can apply these lessons to our own lives.

        Elijah was an instrument in the hands of the Almighty to destroy the prophets of Baal.  He had demonstrated the mighty power of the living God as the fire of God consumed the stones, the water–soaked wood and the sacrifices which had been laid thereupon.  By any measurement, his ministry was a success and a victory for God.

        But when the king, Ahab, informed his idolatrous wife, Jezebel, that Elijah had killed all of her prophets of Baal, she was enraged and wrote a letter to Elijah stating that the same fate awaited him by the end of the next day.

        Elijah was “a man subject to like passions as we are,” and he panicked.  Finding the shade of a juniper tree, he cried out to the Lord to take his life; he wanted to die!  He was convinced that he alone was faithful to God: “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”  His testimony just prior to the great miracle was that “I have done all these things at thy word.”  And he should have rested in that knowledge: he was in the perfect will of God, and he had carried out God’s will perfectly.

        The fact that bitter enemies remained in opposition to him should not have affected him.  But how many of us are moved by the threats and the words of the enemies?  We, too, have won victories through our Lord.  “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:7), but too often we listen to the voice of “principalities and powers” (Eph 6:12) who inform us that our victory comes with a price, and we look for a cave to hide in!

        Just remember that God never forsook His man, Elijah.  On two separate occasions, as he slept under the juniper tree, the Lord’s angel came to him with food and water.  And when he reached his lonely cave the Lord spoke to him and called him by name: “What doest thou here, Elijah?”  His work wasn’t finished yet; God wasn’t through using his representative on earth.  Why should he run and hide?  Why use the past events as an excuse to get out of the will of God?  “What doest thou here?”

        We may well ask ourselves the same question: “What are we doing here?”  Are we doing “all things at his word,” or are we finding excuses for avoiding His orders and commands?  Are we trying to hide from God and our enemies, or are we facing the realities of life?  God has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us; we can, therefore, cast ourselves totally upon Him with the full knowledge that He will faithfully watch over and care for us, even while we sleep.  And, if we retreat to a cave of despair and self–pity, He will still be with us and make a way for us, out of the cave, that is.

        What are you doing here, friend?  Are you committed to the will of God?  Are you doing His will irrespective of the cost or inconvenience of doing so?  Are you determined to obey the words and commands of the Lord Jesus no matter how disagreeable they seem to be?  God wants His people to have the kind of commitment which impels them to follow Him explicitly, without wavering or turning aside.  Is this the way you live?  Are His words and sayings precious to you?  “What doest thou here?”

 

 

GOD HATH SPOKEN – UNTO US

Randall Walton

        “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1,2).

        Let there be no question about whether we are living in the last days.  If, in the first century the writer of Hebrews believed he was in “the last days,” we can only conclude that we are in the very last of the last days.  But this, of course, is not the main issue which is presented here.

        The truly earth–shaking statement is that God has spoken to mankind in this era by His only begotten Son, the Lord, Jesus Christ!

        In this dark and evil day when superfluous religiosity has replaced consecrated and devoted living for God, when God’s message to mankind through Jesus Christ has been neglected, rejected, postponed and ridiculed, and Jesus is generally considered little more than a scapegoat upon which one’s sins and guilt are laid, it stands as an immutable truth that the words of Jesus are the words of the Father, SPOKEN by Jesus, who was both the messenger and the message!

        And those words were spoken to us, that is, the very people who live in the time frame of the last days.

        There have been concerted efforts to place the jurisdiction of the words of the Master in either the first century or in a fictitious future era commonly called the millennium.  The idea has been promoted that we, in this “church age,” or “day of grace,” have no obligation to follow the words of Jesus.  The doctrine of dispensationism is one of the curses of these last days.

        Jesus made it most plain that religiosity apart from obedience to His own commands was worthless, fruitless, and a waste of time and energy.  The great Commission found in Matt. 28:19–20, which is recognized by all major denominations as binding upon the present day church as well as upon the apostles of the first century, has been interpreted to mean something other than that which Jesus declared.

        He very distinctly ordered that whatever He commanded those men of God to do was to be taught to every nation even to the end of the age.  But the popular practice is to avoid the part which says, “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  Baptism they don’t mind, but observance, or obedience (the same thing, actually), to the commands of Jesus are anathema.  They want no part of obligation nor requirements.

        Thus, the Sermon on the Mount, and all the other great words of instruction for the followers of Jesus are trashed as irrelevant, out–of–date, and inapplicable.  Grace has subsequently been redefined to mean the right to do or not to do anything or everything; faith, or belief, is the only requirement left for this dispensation.

        The Ten Commandments are now “the nine suggestions.”  (The fourth has been eliminated entirely; doesn’t even qualify as a good suggestion)  All the others are optional or less.  Any verse in any of the epistles of the New Testament which makes a demand on people is to be considered passé.  Thus, James’s claim that “faith without works is dead” doesn’t apply to this age: both James and his stimulating epistle are dead!

The Value Of Observing His Words

        Before proceeding further, we need to state that the word “observe” does not mean (in its context of Matt. 28:20) to look at, or to view, or to consider; it means, “to do, to carry out, to obey, put into practice.”  Probably millions of people have looked at the words of Jesus, or have even bothered to read them, but how many of these were so enthralled that they decided to start adhering to them?

        “He that hath my commandments and KEEPETH THEM, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love Him, and will manifest (reveal) myself to him” (John 14:21).  If this verse means what it says, then it serves as an indictment against the majority of professing Christians today!

        Let us view it again:

        He that keeps Jesus’ commandments:

        1– He loves Jesus;

        2– He is loved by the Father;

        3– He is loved by Jesus;

        4– He has a personal revelation of Jesus.

        On the basis of this deposition, keeping or observing His words is proof of one’s professed love for Him, and it is the one certain means of assuring one’s conscious awareness of God; it is also the means of apprehending the love of the Living God.

        The fact that this is a deposition is found in John 12:48 where Jesus stated emphatically, if succinctly, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”  It is no light thing to turn away from hearing and obeying the awesome words of Jesus the Christ.  His words will be the basis of the trial of mankind on that final judgment day.  What did you do about the commands of Jesus?

        Without a doubt, countless numbers of people in times past did not measure up to the words of the Master for the simple reason that they did not have them.  The Scriptures were not readily available to the general public, and people had to rely upon the capriciousness of a corrupt clergy who told the people what they wanted the people to know.  Such cannot be faulted for disobedience.

        But in this 20th century, few people can claim such immunity from compliance.  Bibles are available to nearly all who want one.  Many people sacrifice for a TV or a radio, or some other unnecessary object, but are unwilling to save enough currency to purchase even a very inexpensive Bible!  It’s obvious that their interest level is drastically low.

        And of those who do own a Bible, how many search its pages to learn more about how they can serve God more effectively, or to find out more about what Jesus expects us to do, or to learn more of His commandments so that they may more deeply prove their love for Him?

A Sure Foundation

        “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?  Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and DOETH THEM, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

        But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:46–49).

        Notice in this parable that the rock referred to is not Jesus, as we have heard some say, but rather it is the very act of DOING the sayings of Jesus.  Hearing or reading them is not good enough: the one who survives the “flood and the stream’s beating” is the one who does what Jesus said to do.  All others will fall.

        Now, friends, it isn’t too difficult to see a tremendous storm brewing just over the horizon.  The “flood’ is about to rise and the “stream is about to beat” upon mankind as never before.  It will take more, much more than mere Christianity, theological concepts, or philosophical viewpoints to see one through these evil times.  A foundation will be required, a sure foundation, and Jesus Himself has revealed to us what the foundation is: “He that heareth my sayings, and doeth them”!

        Let us encourage you to spend much time poring over the four gospels, beginning with Matthew, and list everything which falls into the category of a command or order (from the words of Jesus).

        Then determine to practice obedience to those divine orders which you discover.  You will be amazed at the changes which will occur in your life or lives.  There is nothing abstract nor ethereal about the words of our Lord.  He fully understood the nature and the frailty of the human spirit, and He addressed Himself to those realities.

        The so–called Golden Rule, for example, makes sense to a child of God: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Treat other people the same way you want to be treated.  Be as kind and loving and forgiving with others as you desire for people to be with you.  There is nothing profound nor earthshaking about this command, yet so few people apparently seem to pay any attention to it at all.

        But this is only one of several dozen of divine orders Jesus gave forth for us to follow: “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son.”  What will YOU do about His words, His commands, and His sayings?  Will you lay your foundation upon the solid rock of obedience to the words of the Master?  What is your answer?

 

 

ARE YOU ASHAMED?

Harry R. Miller

        “Let no man deceive himself.  If any among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise” (I Cor. 3:18).  There are very few people who care to be known as fools.  What man or woman is there that does not daily put forth much effort to appear NORMAL to his fellow man?  Think of the many customs we observe because we want to appear just like other men.

        The clothes we wear must be according to the fashion of the day.  The many mannerisms in the home or on the street must conform to the currently accepted standards.  To be behind the ‘trend” is to invite the ridicule of some.  Lest men laugh at us, we buy crazy hats, neckties, and many ridiculous ill–fitting uncomfortable clothes.  On the street, should we accidentally fall, the first conscious concern is not whether or not we have broken some bones, but whether or not any one saw us.  How many of us, after making some blunder in public, have looked for a “hole in the ground” to hide our chagrin?

        Of course, Christians are not like many people of the world who must have every new thing in vogue in order to “keep up with the Joneses,” but this underlying concern for the good opinion of our fellow man has cost many a person his soul.  The apostle John wrote, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue (church): For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42,43).

        Now if a man would be a true Bible Christian, it isn’t necessary for him to look like a freak before the word by wearing outlandish garments of another day and time.  Neither must he or she wear long hair to prove their faithfulness to God.  Such were not the teachings of Christ.  The “outside of the platter” made little difference to Him.  What concerned Him always was the state of a man’s heart.

        It is a scriptural fact that in the apostolic day many people did not follow Christ because they were ashamed of Him and His words.  Many millions of people today claim to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth, but comparatively few men will confess Him as Lord by doing the things He told them to do because they fear the reproach which is the inevitable result of complete obedience to the Lord.  “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and DO NOT the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)

        To be ashamed of the Lord and His words is a very serious affair, for He said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38).

        This feeling of being ashamed of the Lord haunts man from the very moment he is first convicted of being a sinner: he tries to cover up his conviction.  He often stubbornly refuses to make himself a public spectacle by kneeling at an altar, or by humbling himself in a real confession before his fellow man.

        Humiliation is a crushing force that abases the human ego; many men have suffered great violence and even physical death rather than “lose face” or be disgraced before the public gaze.  It is perfectly natural for every human being to justify himself in the eyes of his fellows; to accomplish self–justification, multitudes of people deliberately close their eyes to the will of God in order to retain the esteem of men.

        Christ made this statement concerning the law of eternal life: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:25).  Let us state it like this: He that seeketh to save his face shall lose face before God, and he who for Christ’s sake is willing to lose face before men will be recognized before God.

        There is only reason for the rejection of the Lord’s commands: men fear the loss of their egos, and egos are dethroned only by humiliation.

        The tyrant self is put to death by strict obedience to the process of Christian sanctification.  Those who fear men more than God automatically escape the cross that Christ said every man must bear; on the other hand, those who yield to His process of Holy Ghost fire drink the full cup and even the bitter dregs of death to the carnal life.

        The spirit of the apostolic Christian was kept in submission to Christ by adversity, peril and great persecution; such men learned true humility the hard way; reproach was met daily, mockery and scoffing constantly rang in their ears, and to many of them their testimony of Christ meant cruel death.  But times have changes, not because we are more civilized (consider the mass murders of our generation), but because the devil is using another method to corrupt the professors of Christianity – Christianity(?) has been made popular.

        One of the forerunners of modern evangelism was Billy Sunday who made “hitting the sawdust trail” very popular; the shame and reproach in “confessing Christ” was lifted by the masses that “took their stand.”  Many lesser lights than this old barnstormer followed in his wake, and gradually a new science was born: high pressure evangelism.  Tried and proven tactics, unfailing methods based upon the science of mob psychology ushered in a new dispensation for the big operators.  Making the fun loving, pleasure–mad mobs of humanity feel that the reproach of Christ has been removed and now they are doing God a service by “taking a stand” for Him, they are told to “accept the Lord.”

        Before the men of this world, true Christianity will always be in reproach, and only those like Moses who esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt” will know a genuine walk with God.

        The apostle Paul said that he was “being made conformable unto His death” (Phil. 3:10).  Any person who is being thus conformed is experiencing something that is not acceptable to the world; to the world the cross of death to self is absolute foolishness.  All those who suffer death to their own plans, ambitions and desires for Christ are counted as fools by this mad generation of professing Christians.

        “I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” so said the great apostle.  Why didn’t he just accept and believe?  Could it have been possible that Paul didn’t know the grace of God?  Maybe Paul was just an “old fogy” and a “sour puss” who only thought that “faith is made perfect through sufferings”!  The apostle knew that the way of the cross would be considered foolishness to them that perish, but “unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).

        To walk with God means that one must put to death many human desires, plans, and ambitions.  Not because these desires are so sinful in themselves, but because if we satisfy all of the appetites of our body, and we fulfill all the desires of our ambitions, and plans, then where is there any place for victory?

        A true Christian is in a warfare with self.  He has many things to overcome, and there will be many battles in the process which he alone must wage.  Life is promised to the overcomer, not to the quitter or to those who settle down in the affairs of this life.  Christianity is more than a mere profession; it is an all time occupation.

 

 

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GOD GLORIFIED

Curtis Dickinson

        Historians have cited a number of causes for the fall of he Roman Empire, with attempts to explain the immorality which prevailed in its last days.  But whatever the circumstances, Paul said that they were “without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks” (Rom. 1:20,21).  Then follows a list of sins, from pride and envy to murder and sodomy, all rooted in man’s failure to glorify God and give Him thanks (Rom. 1:18–32).

        Without excuse!  God has shown Himself in millions of ways, “For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen (Rom. 1:20).  This is an oxymoron.  How can invisible things be seen?  Paul immediately supplies the solution: “being perceived through the things that are made.”  Man has had ample opportunity to view “things that are made,” “since the creation of the world.”  Even in this age of advanced science and technology, there is no end in sight of discoveries concerning the “things that are made.”

        The unbelieving scientists and educators work at nothing more intensely than their effort to destroy the evidence of creation.  As Paul put it, they “hinder the truth in unrighteousness” (vs. 18).  Even so, all things that we see and handle declare that they have a Maker.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork’ (Ps. 19:1).

        Indeed, for unbelief there is no excuse, and once God is denied, unbelievers are on the slippery slope that spirals down to the cesspool of sin, violence, and misery, as described here by Paul.  Unfortunately, they are not aware of this fateful descent, for they “became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened” (vs. 21).  All the reasoning in the world is vain when the basic truth of God is denied, and without the light of that truth, man’s heart leads him only into blind and meaningless ways.

        The fact that “they glorified him not as God” is not just about their failure to give Him praise.  Mere words of praise can be expressed by anyone, including unbelievers.  Scripture shows that God is pleased with praise from the lips of sincere people, and we can hardly overdo it, but to glorify God is much more.

        God’s glory is already infinitely great, beyond man’s greatest imagination.  Man cannot add anything to it, but we can glorify Him as God by acknowledging who and what He is, and then act accordingly: worship, honor, obey and serve Him.  This is where they “glorified him not as God,” in that they had no regard for His instructions and lived as though He did not exist.

        In addition to this, they “neither gave thanks.”  This is evidence that they refused to recognize God as Creator and the giver of every good gift.  One cannot glorify God as God and not want to give Him thanks.  To give thanks is to recognize our dependency upon Him, and this is where man stumbles, for if we are dependent upon Him, then we are obligated to obey Him.

        The New Age movement is primarily an effort to avoid glorifying God as the one true God, and thus escape having to depend upon Him.  Instead of worshipping God our Father, it encourages the worship of the earth as Gaia, or Mother Earth.  Its god is composed of all things, and everything is a part of God.  Rather than obeying God, we are to obey the wind and the earth (as preached in the film, Pocahontas).  Eventually, all become “one” – God included.  In this religious mixture, there is no personal God to glorify or thank.  It is hard to imagine any concept that could demonstrate reasoning more vain (Gr. = “empty”) and unenlightened than this.  It is most amazing that the last century had a proliferation of schools, and opportunities for learning with the powerful advance of the most irrational, illogical and ill–conceived belief system the world had ever known.  It is as though man had intentionally shut out the light and systematically drawn an evil veil of darkness over civilization.  In reality, it is simply what happens when man does not glorify God as God nor give Him thanks.

        We are created in the image of the Creator, and it is to His honor and glory when we heed His voice and walk in the light of His word.  He is disgraced and dishonored when man ignores Him and denies His work by the worship of things created: animals, birds, and inanimate objects such as trees, waters and stones.  God does not claim such rebels as His children, and “gave them up” to develop their rebellion to its bitter conclusion.  The results, outlined by Paul in his Roman letter, are now plainly visible for all to see: “for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men…burned in their lust one toward another…being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant–breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful” (Rom. 1:26–31).

        Not only is God dishonored, but all of society is deeply shamed when its leaders sanction the sin of sodomy, which denigrates the very core of the Creator’s masterpiece, the creation of male and female to reproduce themselves in God’s image.  It is made worse, if that is possible, by its endorsement by various churches and their leaders, the people who claim to be there for the service and exultation of God!

        It is the apostle Paul who points out that there is a price for such behavior among men: “receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due” (vs. 27).  That price must be paid by the entire society which condones the behavior.

        This horrid descent into degradation cannot be blamed on the environment, or on some genetic factor as some claim.  It began with man’s refusal to glorify God and give Him thanks.  It can be reversed only by giving Him glory in humbly receiving that which He provides that we might give Him thanks.  “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?  I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:12,13).

        Jehovah is glorified as man receives the grace which He bestows through Christ, so that he may be cleansed of sin, filled with God’s pure spirit, and transformed into the Creator’s image.  Man can bestow nothing upon God to make Him more glorious, but he can glorify God by yielding to Him his life, that the Creator may bestow upon him holiness, peace, and immortality.

        Throughout His time on earth, in all of His works and words, Jesus glorified the Father.  In His prayer the night He was betrayed, Jesus said, “I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do” (John. 17:4).  The Father was glorified as the Son fulfilled His purpose as Savior, in obedience to the Father, “becoming obedient even unto death” (Phil. 2:8).  The Son was glorified by the Father’s accepting the sacrifice, then raising Him from the dead, exalting Him to His own right hand, and giving Him all power and authority.

        As God is dishonored by disobedience, so is He glorified by the obedience of His creatures.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world…so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14 & 16).  The good works are the things we do in keeping with His commandments.  Again, He said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and be my disciples” (John 14:8).

        The fruit of which He spoke is the fruit of faith and obedience, not the mere proliferation of religious organizations, with fun and games the main attraction.  When they asked Jesus what they could do to do the work of God, He answered, “This is the work of God that you believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).  This is where glorifying God begins – believing on Jesus, His Son.  The current fad of trying to unite different world religions is a great dishonor to both the Father and the Son, and a sign of unbelief.

        Genuine belief will not stand alone; it will create a fire of desire in the heart to serve and obey God and to speak boldly of His power, His goodness, His holiness, His love, His justice, His mercy, His provision, and the glorious life He promises His people.

        Jesus was despised and humiliated as He lived in obedience to the Father.  It was after His resurrection that He was glorified.  The same route is to be taken by His disciples.  Obedience now; glory on Resurrection Day.

 

 

WHAT IS SOLUTION TO SCHOOL VIOLENCE?

Haven Bradford Gow

        A news story in the April 24, 2010, Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, said, “Jackson police are investigating the alleged sexual assault of a 12–year–old girl at Whitten Middle School.  The alleged incident involved another student who is 16 years old and happened…on school grounds, said Lee Vance, assistant chief of police of the Jackson Police Department.”

        In Greenville, MS, this past academic year, several fights erupted at Greenville–Weston High School, and school officials had to call police to alleviate the problems.  Breanna Lewis, a student at Greenville–Weston, courageously spoke out against the school violence, pointing out that students kept getting involved in fights and disrupting normal school activities.

        Certainly a connection exists between the lack of character education and school crime, violence and disorder.  According to Paul Artman, principal, St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, Greenville, MS, “Christian character development is a priority at (our) high school (and) character/moral development is a large part of the educational process.”  Every year students are required to take a religion class which focuses on moral lessons from the Bible as well as character development.  Moreover, students are required to participate in community service projects such as visiting homeless shelters, assisting at St. Vincent DePaul and the Salvation Army.

        Character education has proven to be enormously successful throughout the United States.  After San Marcos (Calif.) Junior High School implemented a character education program, for example, the frequency of drug incidents on campus declined from12 per year to one, the drop–out rate dropped from 10 percent to 2 percent, pregnancies among students decreased from 47 to 19, and the number of straight–A students doubled.

        An April 7, 2010, AP report pointed out, “Three Massachusetts teenagers pleaded not guilty through their lawyers…in the bullying of a 15–year–old girl (Phoebe Prince) who committed suicide after what prosecutors call months of threats and harassment…These are among teens charged in what prosecutors said was the ‘unrelenting’ bullying of Prince, who hanged herself January 14.  Prince, who had emigrated from Ireland last summer, was a freshman at South Hadley High School.”

        What we are witnessing in America today is the horrifying, terrifying decay of youth character and morality.  According to Dr. Patricia Lyons, an ethics teacher at St. Agnes School, Alexandria, VA, and author of The Soul of Adolescence (Morehouse/Church Publishing), “The state of the soul of adolescents in America today is not strong…(W)hatever we are doing in our homes, schools, youth clubs or religious organizations right now is not producing a generation of young people with healthy habits of mind, body and soul.”  Please consider:

        *Every day in the U.S., a thousand young people start smoking.

        *The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 62 percent of high school teens have sexual experiences; 33 percent by the 9th grade.  Teens are suffering from an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases.

        *Young people are experimenting with illegal and harmful drugs such as crystal meth.

        *Dating violence among the young is on the rise.

        *The third leading cause of death among teens is self-murder.

        *A 2008 study by the Josephson Institute found that 40 percent of teens report shoplifting and more than 50 percent report stealing in high school.

        A report in the January 28, 2010 Memphis, TN, Commercial-Appeal pointed out that “two students were charged at East Side High School with possession of a handgun…Eight hours later, a male leaving a ball game at Kirby High was shot walking away from the school…(A day earlier) as school was getting out at Vance Middle, a police officer ordered a 14–year–old to drop his (loaded) gun.  The story was similar at Hamilton High…when a 16–year–old was taken into custody.”  Indeed, said the report, “To date, 10 guns have been found in city schools this year – six of them loaded.”

        Recently in Baton Rouge, LA, a 13–year–old boy was arrested for allegedly bringing a loaded gun to his middle school; police said the boy allegedly threatened to use the stolen gun to shoot a fellow student.

        Certainly a nexus exists between the lack of character education and the increase in school crime, violence and disorder.  To alleviate this depressing situation, our families, churches, schools and social organizations like the YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts once again must emphasize the teaching, learning and practice of good morals and good manners.

        “Is the purpose of law to promote virtue?” I once asked Harvard University law professor Archibald Cox after he had given a lecture at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago.  “No,” Prof. Cox wisely responded, “it is the duty of the law to promote opportunities for virtue.”  In other words, the law only can do so much; our families, schools, churches, social organizations and business community also must fulfill their moral and social obligation to educate people to become virtuous human beings, good citizens and neighbors and productive members of society.

        In their book Character for Champions (Vantage Press), Charles Sutherland, a writer on historical and philosophical topics, and Jhoon Rhee, a Korean educator, explain the meaning of good character and why good character is essential to order in the soul and to the preservation of a decent and civilized society; they observe: “Character is all the things that make you a good person.  Character is being healthy in body and mind, polite and compassionate to strangers, loyal to friends and honest and loving to everyone…Character is something you build every day.  Character is the way you live your life.”

        According to the authors, virtuous thinking and conduct are indispensable to personal and societal well–being; they point out that “A virtue is a habit that makes you good to yourself and others.  For example, ‘to love’ people is a virtue.  To be a good friend to people is a virtue.”  They want young people to learn and practice the virtues of courage, integrity and honesty; they explain that “Courage is being brave even when you are afraid…Sometimes we must be brave and help people when other people are hurting them.  Sometimes we must be brave and do something we know is right even though everyone else says we are wrong.”  Integrity is “always being honest and fair even when it is tempting not to be.”  Honesty, too, is important, for “When you deceive someone you are stealing their trust, just as though you were stealing something else that belongs to them.”