People of The Living God

I Corinthians 13

 

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December 2010



 

BOUND BY LOVE TO THE WORD OF GOD

Billy Linthicum

        In an era when “political correctness” rules over even the actions and attitudes of the Church, it is considered inappropriate to be specific about what identifies someone as a Christian and what does not.  But, no matter how much one may deny it, there are a number of traits that characterize true followers of Jesus Christ, and one of those distinguishing features relates directly to the Word of God.  Every true believer has a natural, consuming love for and a total abandonment to the Word, which results in a constantly growing and discerning spiritual nature.

        In verse 103 of Psalm 119, David waxed poetically of this love when he said, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  It was this love that caused him to delight in the Lord’s instruction and meditate on it day and night (Ps. 1:2).  Love for God’s Word is one of the strongest character values you’ll find in a genuine Christian.  This love creates a respect that knows no bounds and is the impetus that drives one to absorb the Word, recognizing that it is the manna that satisfies the soul.  Those only professing to be Christians fail to recognize the significance of the Word and, consequently, their shallow reverence for it demonstrates a pseudo–love that is impotent and sterile.

        A couple of years ago, I was regularly teaching a Wednesday night Bible study at a retirement village for the elderly.  Mavis was one of the ladies who attended faithfully.  She was very slim and small of stature, befitting her quiet and unassuming personality.  But there was one quality that she possessed that made her a giant among the rest of those that frequented the Bible study.  She had an intimate and powerful knowledge of the Scriptures.  It went without saying that Mavis was a very skillful Sword bearer.

        At one of our meetings, a very positive conversation ensued concerning Mavis’ extensive grasp of the Bible.  Several individuals expressed a desire to know the Word as well as she did and was wondering how they could achieve a greater knowledge of the Scriptures.  One lady asked pointedly, “Mavis, how did you get to know your Bible so well?”

        “I don’t know,” Mavis humbly responded, “I just love the Bible and I read it every day.”

        With such a show of interest, I decided to dedicate a whole Bible study to it.  We ended up spending thirteen weeks on this topic.

        On the concluding night of this study, as the group was breaking up, much to my disbelief, I heard a woman ask Mavis, “How did you get to know your Bible so well?”  Believe it or not, it was the very same woman who had asked the original question that motivated this thirteen week Bible study.

        It’s not that hard to grasp; it’s a simple concept, actually.  A love for Christ, such as Mavis possessed, motivates a believer to abide in His Word, and the consequences will be continual growth in His grace and an ever increasing knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18).  It is this love for Christ that spurs the redeemed to wield “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) and allow it to control every aspect of their lives.  For those that know Him intimately, this requires no great effort because they find themselves inexplicably drawn to the Word of God, because they know that it contains the words of Eternal Life (John 6:68), and they desire to consume it like honey.

        In many countries, Christians are persecuted, made prisoners and are killed for preaching and witnessing the Word of God.  They are continuously undergoing many ordeals.  They have carried the Gospel through wet jungles, been imprisoned in labor camps, severely beaten and even starved.  And after their release, to avoid their persecutors (who are sometimes even the police), they have slept in caves.  THEN, at night in hiding, they teach their teenage children how to evangelize!

        That ought to shame the average American Christian family.  While we concern ourselves with whether our children have properly dressed to “go to church,” the persecuted Church in other countries is teaching their children how to die for the Gospel’s sake.

        What would motivate people to knowingly place themselves in a position that could jeopardize their (and their families) lives?  Perhaps a white–haired, elderly Pakistani man could offer us a clue:

        He stooped down and slowly removed the sandals from his feet.  He was asked to step forward to receive a special gift and he did not want to show disrespect.  A Voice of the Martyrs worker gently handed him a Bible.  Tears welled in his eyes as the old man embraced the representative and gratefully exclaimed, “I have been waiting 80 years to have my own Bible!”  He was very poor and could never afford to purchase one.  “This is a great day in my life, because I now have my own Bible,” he explained as he pressed the book to his chest.  “I can have it, and I can touch it and I will keep it with me for the rest of my life.  I can kiss it everyday …” [From Bound by Love, by Gary Lane – Special Issue of The Voice of the Martyrs, Jan. 2008]

        In spite of increased hostility from militants and anti–Christian governments, Christians, like those being persecuted in Muslim countries, remain hopeless abandoned to Christ.  They carelessly exercise a love for Him that they know can carry terrible consequences; because, for them, there is no separation of their love for Him and their love for His Eternal Word.  These believers fully understand the meaning of Romans 15:4 where is says “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

        Through the centuries, there have been many who have willing died while rejoicing in the knowledge that the Word of God would endure.  They sealed their commitment to His eternal Truth with their own blood.  Therefore, the presentation of a Bible is considered the greatest gift they will ever receive, even with the understanding that possession of it could mean imprisonment, torture or the termination of their life.  These are people who have been bound by love to the Word of God.

        The strongest evidence of a genuine follower of Jesus Christ is seen in their great love for their Lord.  It is demonstrated by their actions and interaction with others.  It is seen in their conversations.  There is not one aspect of their life that isn’t controlled by this great love, motivated and influenced by a strong adherence to His precious Word.  In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If ye love Me, [you will] keep My commandments,” and this declaration is fulfilled in the lives of genuine Christians, not because it is seen as a duty to be kept but because it is simply a response to their passion.

        There are many differences between professing believers and genuine believers, and this distinction is nowhere more evident than in the attitude towards and the commitment to the Holy Scriptures.  True believers are passionate about the Word of God.  Why?  Because they know that it is the source of life to those who believe (Heb 5:9, 10:39).

        My son is a pastor of a small church in Tennessee, and it thrills my heart to no end when I hear others make reference to Jonathan’s passion when he preaches.  And, it is true, he often preaches as a man on fire.  But I wonder how many have realized that the reason he preaches with such passion is because he has been apprehended by this Word of Life, and in response, he has abandoned himself to it.  To know the Word and to embrace the Word will only produce a passionate people…a people who are bound by love to the Word of God.

        This love is stimulated by the fact that there is an obviously close connection between Christ and His Word.  The first chapter of John establishes this fact for us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was [fully] God (vs. 1).”  To those who know the transforming experience of being born again, the two terms – Christ & the Word – are synonymous.  They know that these two expressions are in perfect agreement and harmony with one another.

        Jesus Christ is the essence of what it means to be a Christian.  However, we live in a time when many seem to think they know GOD, but very few seem to know JESUS.  How can you possibly know God without knowing the Son?  Did not Jesus, Himself, say, “if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (John 8:19)?  He didn’t say it the other way around.  Obviously, if you don’t know Jesus, you can’t know the Father.  And, if you don’t know Jesus, you won’t abide in His Word.

        Knowing that the Scriptures embody the intrinsic nature, character and life of Christ, what are the consequences of abandoning the Word and compromising its precepts?  It will lead to following the Jesus presented to us by today’s apostate church – a weak, emotional and effeminate Jesus.  And as one preacher emphasized it, “A weak Jesus is [only] an idol.”

        The first eleven verses of Matthew 21 journals what is referred to as “Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.”  In those days, donkeys were generally used for travel, while horses were usually ridden by great men and for going into war.  Jesus made His entrance into Jerusalem on the back of a simple beast of burden.  He rode in on a donkey!  Let’s face it, Jesus could have summoned an angel to carry Him into Jerusalem but chose to enter, not as a Conqueror, but in humility. [HE KNEW THERE WOULD BE ANOTHER DAY!]

        As He rode into Jerusalem, a most interesting thing occurred.  Emotions were running high and people were crying out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”  Jesus’ entrance into the city caused a universal stir that would normally be associated with an apocalyptic event.  In fact, a study of the original Greek texts implies that all the people of the city were as emotionally stirred up and as shaken to the core as if their city had just experienced a devastating earthquake.  But, incredibly, despite the exaggerated fanfare and the fact that they were honoring this man as though He were some great dignitary from a foreign land, they all were asking one question, “Who is this?” (verse 10)  The glib response from some in the crowds was, “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (verse 11).  Despite the whole city being stirred to a frenzy over the moment, they were totally unaware that the Word was moving among them.

        Sadly, to this day, many are still asking the same question, “Who is this?”  The Bible reveals the answer to this question for us.  It gives us discernment of His personage.  It allows us to distinguish between the real Jesus and a false one.  A prophet and a Savior.

        A question worth considering is this, “Who is this Jesus…to you?”

        Let me tell you who He is!

        And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself.  And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS  (Rev 19:11–16).

        Finding myself bound by love to the Word of God, I know that JESUS IS THE MIGHTY CONQUEROR!  And, I know that…

          He is “the Word of God”!

          He is my King!

        And, He is my Lord!

                                         …Is He yours?

                  Are you bound by love to the “Word of God”?

 

 

GOD’S ANSWER TO FEAR

Curtis Dickinson

        The news media, including newspapers, television and radio, have become fear mongers, majoring in tragedy, and keeping the threat of disaster, disease and dark forebodings before us continuously.  Add to this the agenda of international financial leaders who present a real threat of global control with the loss of personal freedom, and fears are compounded.

        There are few people these days who are not terrified at the possibility of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke, old age, financial insecurity, or death.  Man’s knowledge and modern technology are often used to generate fear rather than to produce courage and joy.

        Fear is like a deadly disease, paralyzing the mind and destroying the body, while turning one’s capabilities to negative results.  Millions of people are surrendering to tranquilizers or to the faith–destroying influence of Freudian psychiatry in order to cope with their fears.

        Jesus did not teach us to live in fear.  In the very worst of circumstances His words were, “Fear not.”  Paul wrote, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7).

        God gives such a mind, where fear is absent, only to those who believe Him.  God relates to those created in His image through a mind–to–mind relationship.  God reveals His mind, and man believes.  This we call faith.  There can be no value for man in God’s revelation and purpose if man does not believe Him.

        So here, in six steps, is God’s formula for living without fear.

        1.  Deny self.  The first requirement Jesus made of His disciples is this: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).  Self–centeredness often lies at the core of our fears.  We live in a success–oriented society, and one of the basic fears is the fear of failure.  The sense of failure and rejection lies at the root of the despair of millions of young people, often being the cause of suicide.

        Jesus nips this problem in the bud.  To deny self is to forget about worldly success.  Jesus does not accept us on the basis of success, but on the basis of commitment to Him.  “Success” and “failure” belong in the world’s vocabulary.  What God seeks in us is faithfulness.

        Abandon all the world’s advice, esteem and measure of success; set your mind on God, His purpose and the ultimate achievement – eternal life.  The goal is not gained by one’s ability or power, but by God’s power for those who belong to Him.  Such denial is expressed in Paul’s statement, “I count all things to be loss that I mighty gain the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

        2.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Millions of people are playing church on Sunday, but are filled with fear on Monday.  They may be faithful to the traditions that distinguish their particular sect, traditions which have little relevance to their relationship to God, while retaining the loyalty to the world of Caesar.  Jesus challenged the kingdom of Caesar, offering a kingdom so radical to the worldview that they killed him out of fear that His kingdom would turn man’s allegiance away from their worldly kingdom.

        The same fears are entertained by world rulers today.  That’s one reason it is “politically correct” to deny that Jesus is the only way to God, to remove Christian symbols wherever possible, to remove any mention of Christ in public addresses, and make His Kingdom something only for the future.  The world fears the victory of King Jesus, and does all in its power to keep Christians from claiming that victory.  Jesus said, “Fear not little flock; for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  In His kingdom there is peace and protection and no cause for fear.

        3.  Consider any suffering or hardship as progress along the walk to God’s image.  Where there is no suffering there can be no great living.  To live in fear of pain and suffering is to live in fear of life.  One who has never experienced a broken heart has never known the touch of the master’s healing hand.  Didn’t Jesus call us to suffer?  What else could He mean by: “let him take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24)?  Scripture says that we will be glorified with Him if we suffer with Him (Rom. 8:17).

        Jesus promises us no shortcuts or exemptions from the rivers of trouble.  Rather He simply said, “Lo, I am with you.”  Pain and sickness can be used by God as instruments for shaping us into more noble and useful servants.  Rather than being terrified at the prospect of suffering, we are to see it as God’s opportunity to develop our faith and patience, and to mold us into His own image.  Following Christ is not the mere confessing of our faith, reading the Bible, and praying.  It is living according to His words, suffering after His example, and glorifying the Father through it all.  When one surrenders his will to God, desiring only His will, as did Jesus, fear finds no foothold.

        4.  Hold nothing as a permanent possession.  The danger of the loss of financial security keeps many in a state of fear and frustration.  Many hoard their wealth, refusing to share it or even to enjoy it themselves, for fear that they will lose it.  But what if one loses material possessions?  Things we may call our own are pitifully small compared to the immensity of the Creator’s store of riches.  God can provide all that one needs.  The promise is: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (He’s talking about food, clothing and shelter) will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:34).

        What Jesus was saying is that we are not to live for that which is only temporal, but for God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, which are eternal.  I must give up the prized temporal possession in order to obtain that which my Master prizes, and He has promised that I will not be in need of the essential things.  As we said in the beginning, it is a matter of faith.  Do we really believe He meant it when He said that the things we need will be provided when we seek God first?  Here is where we have the choice: faith or fear.

        5.  Take your mind off of yourself.  “God help me!” we pray.  “Give me peace, relieve my pain, heal me, etc.”  Of course, we are to ask in order to receive, but then we are to leave it with God with faith that He will answer according to His will.  Then we can pray for others who have greater needs.

        “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth” (Col. 3:1,2).  Turn your mind from self to God, His majesty, His mercy, His grace, His goodness, His compassion, His holiness, His power, His truth and His love.  The very thought of God draws one out of the feverish tumult of the world to the obtaining of “joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13).

        6.  Remember that you are never alone.  God does not exempt us from suffering, but He is with us in it.  “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee…When thou passeth through the water, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee…Fear not, for I am with thee” (Isa. 43:1,2,5).

        In the pain of sickness, in the face of hostile foes, in the crunch of pressing responsibilities and under burdens that seem too heavy to bear, God is there, bearing you up, supplying strength, and even joy– to the world’s amazement and surprise.  And when the dark river of death must be crossed, He will be there with the bright hope of resurrection and the assurance of life and immortality in His glorious image.

        Where is there room for fear?

 

 

 

THE KINGDOM OF GOD AT WORK

Randall Walton

        Bro. Paul had many things to say to Timothy in II Timothy 4:1–4 concerning the end of the world and some of the happenings between now and the end.  “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick (the living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

        This is rather striking, is it not?  Bro. Paul covered a lot of ground in his ascertaining of the conditions which actually occur before the day when Jesus Christ returns (He also included the fact of the judgment).  He was telling Timothy to “Preach the word: reprove, rebuke, exhort.”  He said that the “time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”  From the sound of the latest doctrinal outpours, it seems that we have already reached the point of no return when fables have crowded out the truth of Christ’s birth date, and rabbits have begun laying multi–colored eggs!

        We wonder how much longer the pulpits of the land will be able to put up with all the nonsense which is carried on in the modern church service.  Who is really deceived – the pastor(s), or the people, or both!?  It is no small thing to substitute fables for fact.  And the fact of the matter is that there is no reason to celebrate the birth day of Jesus in December, nor is there any plausible reason to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on Easter Sunday morning.  Both of those “holidays” are based upon pagan customs, and they come to us in so–called Christian ceremonies!

        Sad to say, we are the ones left to discern the truth of God concerning the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Most of the “Christian” churches go along with the Roman church in their declaration of those pagan days.  It is almost as if the Bible were silent on those days, and we are led to believe that the Catholic church has all the answers to those particular questions.

        But the birth of Jesus and His glorious resurrection are not the only fables adopted by the modern church.  There are many more, and they are erroneously proclaimed as pure, reliable, Biblical, and fully Scriptural in their presentation in the Scriptures.  Among those fables are the Rapture doctrine, the Millennial myth, the placing of the kingdom of God in the future, the manifestation of the Sons of God, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, etc.

        The fable of the rapture doctrine is fairly new (1830).  It had its start in Scotland during a time of great spiritual dearth when just a few people claimed to receive “special” utterances from the throne of grace.  These were printed and handed out to many observers who found that people were quick to adopt a new form of religion.  This was picked up by a group of believers who pounced upon it and proclaimed it to the world.  From this beginning, (Margaret McDonald) other churches grabbed hold of it and would not let it die out.  Thus, in 1906 when a great revival struck a run–down building in Long Beach, CA, it was carried on the shoulders of the men who started the Assembly of God church, and it became a central part of that church’s foundation.

        Amazingly, that church (as well as many others) still proclaim the rapture theory in spite of the fact that the scriptures are totally silent on the subject.  The word rapture does not occur in the Bible, so why should we use a totally unscriptural word to describe a condition which is totally anti–Bible, anti–Jesus Christ, and anti–Scripture.  Absurd!

        The same reasoning may be applied to the millennial myth.  In all of the Bible a millennium is not mentioned!  The only text which is used is Rev. 20:1–6, and that is because the promoters of that doctrine(?) have attempted to take that portion of Scripture literally.  I still haven’t been able to define those poor, headless individuals who live and reign (without their heads) with Christ for a thousand years.  If they have been beheaded for the sake of the name of Jesus, how do they live and reign with Him for a thousand years (with no heads)?  Strange isn’t it?

        Once they have concluded that the “millennium” is future, they have gone through the Old and New Testaments and have added many Scriptures to that doctrine which do not belong to the future at all.  Most of those wonderful verses apply to the present generation of believers who are today “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”  We are not awaiting a point in time when the millennium is supposed to begin.  The time is NOW!  We are today “more than conquerors through him that loved us,” and gave Himself unselfishly for the sins of the whole world (II Cor. 5:20,21).  He has already given “us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57); all praise belongs to Him!  Thank God for the wonderful, powerful, sufficient glory of the Most High God who liveth and abideth forever!

        One of the great mistakes made by the popular modern church is that they have put off to the far off distant future the glorious manifestation of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Luke 12:32 says that “it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (of God.”  Just think of the wonder of it all, that the Father truly wants to give the kingdom to the Lord’s followers!  In other words, He is waiting on us to take hold of the kingdom power now, for the last time is surely upon us, and we must give an account to Him for our lack of interest in the deeper things of God.

        We understand that He has long patience as He waits for us to wake up and see that the time is getting shorter.  There are many signs worldwide which spell out the dynamic judgment of the living God, and it doesn’t seem to matter which area falls first.  In addition to ungodly beings (men and women) who help to promote the power of darkness, there are many others who think they have an inside hold on the powers–that–be, and can surely ride through the dark days which lie just ahead of us.

        The reality of all this is that the Father waits with deep concern for the kingdom of God to be demonstrated (which it is not), because it is only through the power and glory of the living One that the kingdom will be brought to fruition.  Remember, the kingdom is spiritual, not literal.  “Flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom” (I Cor. 15:50).  “The Kingdom of God is not in word, but in POWER” (I Cor. 4:20).  So the Father is waiting on us to be partakers of the kingdom; that is, to believe in the reality of that glorious kingdom, to accept it and grow into its fullness.

        All through the ministry of Jesus, He showed the blessings of the kingdom.  Over and over, again and again, He demonstrated the power of that kingdom.  When the apostles were on the Sea of Galilee and a storm was pursuing them violently, He walked on the water to the boat, climbed aboard, and immediately they were at the other side (John 6:17–21).

        He not only healed all the sick and afflicted, He raised the dead from their biers and restored life to as many as He could see, as well as some He didn’t see!  The power of the kingdom was so upon Him that whatever He did was miraculous.  Not only did He, Himself do, “He called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.  And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1,2).  Verse 6: “And they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.”

        The kingdom was greatly manifest during the blessed ministry of Jesus.  But after His cruel death, His burial and resurrection, He came forth from the tomb victorious over every enemy, both in men and in devils.  He had all power and authority through the power inherent in His precious blood.  He was able to enter the places where the saints met to worship Him without using doors for entry.  He spent 40 days with His disciples (Acts 1:3) and “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  The KINGDOM was still a part of the message which the Father had given Him to declare, and it was declared with power from on high.  On that famous day of Pentecost “there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

        This, of course, led to persecution of the saints by the “rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest” (Acts 4:5,6).  But when the saints came together “with one accord,” the “place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).  This was a tremendous show of the kingdom of God in action and in the way the Lord of glory intended it to go.

        “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch: And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.  And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.  Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.  There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:12–16).  This was the kingdom of God at work among the people.  This is the way it should be today!  The problem with the so–called church today is unbelief, disbelief, not accepting the finished work of Calvary, not understanding that Jesus really did pay it ALL.

        Let it be fully understood that the kingdom of God is alive, that Jesus Christ sits on a throne ruling the entire church world, that He has complete control over all the systems of mankind, that He is both Lord and Christ, and He is the most worthy, most compassionate, most merciful, most able of any person anywhere – in heaven, in the earth, over the earth, among and above all the threats, the everlasting Son, and He alone has the enduring power of the Cross, because He gave it His All.  “Greater Love hath no Man than this, that a man lay down his life for His Friends” (John 15:13).

 

 

REST FOR THE SOUL

Randall Walton

        “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is EASY, and my burden is LIGHT” (Matt. 11:28–30).

        This invitation by Jesus Christ has been in the Bible all these many years!  Yet there are few indeed who have taken His word seriously and have even tried to enter into His rest.  We wonder about the patience of the living God in regard to His precious word, with an invitation so appealing, so inviting, so precious, and yet so unrivaled in its grand devotion and commitment!  This invitation still holds today, and is promised to all who will believe its call to “learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart.”

        Why does the Lord promise rest?  What is it about rest that is so wanted and desired?  It seem as if we should know enough about weariness and tired–out conditions that any offer of rest should appeal to us without complaint or grumbling.  But we seem to be geared to a life of service to someone or some thing which only serves to tie us down more.  God’s way is the best way to attain unto a life of bliss, of happiness, of contentment, of satisfaction for all His glorious benefits which He offers to mankind.

        Let’s be a little more specific about the word “rest.”  What all is applied to that simple little word “rest”?  Rest from what?  Rest from drudgery, hard, arduous labor; something that takes up most of your most valuable time and effort?  Is that all there is to the one word, rest?  No, that is not the true meaning of the word.  It is not inactivity; it is not ceasing to work or labor; it is not refusing to do labor or to work one’s muscles.  It is a condition where one’s full labor is calculated in his or her work time: it is the harmonious working together of all the faculties and affections; total satisfaction; complete refreshing; it is abiding in His love and care without a word of complaint or dissatisfaction!  It is to fulfill the words of Jesus in John 6:38: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.”

        There is a place in God which is so inspiring, so enthralling, so glorious, that nature itself sings a song of praise and adoration to the great King of kings and Lord of lords, which so remarkably few ever hear.  You don’t hear this from the depths of TV.  You are not aware of the rapturous chorus of the songs of deliverance sung by the angels above.  There is nothing in this world to compare with the glory of the living One who bore our sins and iniquities on Calvary’s Cross.  “It is glory just to walk with Him.”  How much we miss by not allowing the Holy Spirit to bless our everyday lives!

        Hebrews 4:1–13 speaks also of this wonderful rest in Jesus Christ which is available to every child of God.  “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”  Notice that word “fear,” the fourth word in the verse above.  Another word for fear is the word “phobia,” which indicates being left out of the picture because of a hard heart.  A hard heart – many past experiences can add to a heart that has become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  Every child of God needs to look into his or her heart and see if there is anything there which contributes to that condition.  And if you find anything there that keeps the joy and peace from flowing as it should, do something about the situation so that you may enjoy to the fullest degree the blessing of Almighty God.

        The next five verses of Chapter 4 tell us why ancient Israel missed the blessing of God in relation to the call God gave them to walk in His way and do His divine will.  They kept the Sabbath, but it was a stumbling block to them because they used the Sabbath as a show of piety and religiosity as if they did a great work for God!  They missed the entire call of God to them “because of unbelief” (verse 6).

        Isn’t it just a little strange that those people were willing to jettison the whole plan of God by their respecting the seventh day Sabbath (and added other restrictions as well).  Jesus kept the Sabbath, but He healed and did many wonderful acts on the Sabbath.  He showed the people that He kept and respected the Sabbath, but it was a day to do well and to minister to the needs of people who were unable to help themselves.

        Verse 9 of Chapter 4 says, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”  The marginal reference states that the word “rest” should be, “keeping of a Sabbath.”  So there does exist today the keeping of a Sabbath; and, of course, the only day that God Himself recognizes is the seventh day.  “For he that is entered into his rest (keeping of a Sabbath), he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His.  Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”

        God has a lot of patience with people.  His mercy is unbeatable; but, eventually, when He has tried to convince mankind of His word, and mankind has consistently disobeyed His urgings, He leaves that person alone and he then is on his own.  This is an awful condition to find one’s self in.  But, lest you get the idea that the Sabbath is the only doctrinal issue that God deals with, let it be fully understood that He also works with and through every doctrinal issue that can be raised.  God will and must be exalted in every instance where truth is concerned, and the Sabbath is only one of many truths which He is working with among His people.

        However, the Sabbath is not the only issue which God is concerned about.  He is working day and night to convince and convict mankind of TRUTH, and He will continue working so long as He is sure that His working is in order and will bring about the appropriate conclusions.  Thank God that He is a God of mercy and grace.  Thank God that He is truly wonderful and gracious, full of truth and righteousness.  Thank God!

 

 

“A GLORIOUS CHURCH”

Randall Walton

        “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing…holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

        What a statement!  What a hope!  What an improbability!  When we survey the prevailing condition of the professing church today we are nearly persuaded to say, What an impossibility!  But knowing that God is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20), we are obliged to admit that He is capable of bringing His church to that place of holiness, purity, and maturity of which Brother Paul wrote.

        The church was quite young when Paul penned his epistle to the saints at Ephesus.  While there were schisms and divisions among these early believers, it is most doubtful that there was as much dissension, disunity, and antipathy among them as we see among the members of the body of Christ now.  It was much easier to believe in a “glorious church” then than it is today.

        In fact, it is reasonable to believe that if God does not intervene soon in the affairs of the church, it would be destroyed from within its very own ranks.  Jesus stated it quite succinctly as follows: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25).

        We have the assurance that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” His church, but that does not cancel the possibility of the members themselves devastating the church.

        Truth forces us to admit that the present day professing religious, Christian organization bears little resemblance to the Body of believers of the first century who were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).  Most probably Paul and the other apostles would be astonished at all the paganism which has infiltrated the machinery of the modern church.

Holy Spirit Filled

        Acts 2:4 states that they “were all filled with the Holy Ghost (Spirit).”  There are many churches which claim to be “Spirit filled” today, but claiming this does not make it so.  There were strong evidences of the Holy Spirit filling the hearts of those early saints!

        There are many spirits which fill the hearts of believers today: the spirit of greed, the spirit of lust and adultery, the spirit of jealousy, the spirit of competition, the spirit of pride and egotism, the spirit of animosity, the spirit of sectism, etc.  But there is a terrible lack of the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit Baptized

        In Acts 1:5, Jesus is recorded as having promised that “ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”  It is also stated in Acts 2:4 that they all “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  This was a case where the Spirit of God took control of that most “unruly evil,” the tongue (which no man can tame, James 3:8) and glorified the living God in a heavenly language which was understood in other foreign tongues.

        We know that this divine miracle has been duplicated through many, many saints in modern times, but we also know that this gift of God has been counterfeited by numberless people who attempt to do what only the Holy Spirit can do.  We have heard people claim that they can speak in tongues any time they want to.  And we have heard an awful lot of jabbering and muttering which was supposed to be from God.  It is very plain that most, if not all, of that was of the flesh (or the devil).  Many ministers are adept at coaching people to “let go” and start speaking in tongues.  “Say anything as long as it is not in English.”

        The baptism of the Spirit is an inward experience which is 100% supernatural.  It is not generated by the natural man.  Speaking in tongues is the outward evidence of that which has taken place in the heart; without the inward work of the Holy Ghost, speaking in “tongues” is meaningless!  And there is a tremendous amount of “vain jangling” going on in the religious world.

        “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also were poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For THEY HEARD THEM SPEAK WITH TONGUES and magnify God” (Acts 10:44–46).  The evidence or sign of the Holy Spirit, then, was that they spoke with tongues.

        HOWEVER, tongues can be mimicked, copied, counterfeited, faked.  And sad to say, the gift of tongues is one of the most abused and misused phenomenon in the church today.

        Just as water baptism is an immersing in water, so also the Holy Ghost baptism is an immersing – in the Holy Spirit.  Just as a person in water baptism surrenders himself to the water and is “buried” into it, so is the person who is baptized with the Holy Spirit surrendered to the Holy Spirit and is “buried,” spiritually, in the Spirit.  Without this glorious experience, a person does not speak with genuine tongues, that is, the divine or heavenly tongue.  There is no telling how many people have been coaxed to mumbo–jumbo with their lips and then were told that they had been baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost.  What a shame! (and a sham.)

Holy Ghost Empowered

        “But ye shall receive power (dunamis) after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

        The word “power” is translated from the Greek “dunamis” (dynamite in English) which is defined as “force, spec. miraculous power (usually by impl. a miracle itself).”  One cannot read the book of Acts without being greatly impressed with the display of supernatural power at the hands of the apostles and other disciples of the Lord.

        Even a casual look at Acts reveals one miracle after another, from the healing of a man who had never walked (3:1–11) to the raising from the dead of a saint named Dorcas (Tabitha) (9:36–43).  Miracles were a normal, natural function of the assembly of the believers.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were manifest – not merely claimed – and their ministry was evident among all those who believed.

        Miracles still occur among God’s people, but they seem to be an exception rather than a normal, natural occurrence.  We are thankful for every time a sick person is healed, or when mountains are made to become molehills.  We recognize the mighty power of God to accomplish the impossible, but we also confess that it is not the same as in the early days of the church.  There is a difference in praying for the afflicted and in pronouncing their healing.  When the church is restored to her former state, there will be no sickness among the people, for all will be healed!

Holy Spirit Fruit

        The power and presence of the Spirit which worked mightily in their midst, produced spiritual results known as “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22,23).  “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”  Scan the pages of the New Testament from Acts through Jude and see the evidences of the power of the Holy Spirit working, moving, prodding, convicting and producing the characteristics of the divine nature.

        To the assembly in Thessalonica Paul wrote that “ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (I Thess. 1:7).  “We give thanks to God always for you all making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” “having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (I Thess. 1:2,3,6).  “in every place your faith to God–ward is spread abroad” (I Thess. 1:8).  What a testimony!  What proof of the positive working of the Holy Spirit in the midst of affliction and turmoil.

Holy Standards

        There is no question about the stand which the writers of the New Testament took in regard to morals and ethical matters.  Without a hint of compromise, they stood fast that there are certain absolute values which are not subject to change, alteration, nor reduction.

        The modern statement that “God hates sin, but loves the sinner” finds no resting place in holy canon.  We do not question God’s mercy, compassion and love; this is not the issue.  The issue is: does God condone sin?  The answer, of course, is no!

        To the woman who was taken in adultery, Jesus declared, “Go, and SIN NO MORE.”  There were no options, no choices, other than sin no more.  He offered no special counseling, no sessions with a sex therapist, no psychoanalysis, no probing into her past to see if she had been abused or mistreated.  The order was direct and plain: “sin no more.”

        Paul unmitigatingly called homosexuality a blasphemous abomination and stated that those who practice such vile and wicked atrocities shall not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10; Rom. 1:23–32).  He also said that they are without excuse (v. 20).

        Paul also soundly condemned divorce (Jesus stated that the only ground for divorce is fornication [any sexual sin]) (Rom. 7:1–3; I Cor. 7:10–15).  Yet divorce and remarriage are a very popular practice (or sport) among professing believers.  It seems that the world has set the standards for society and the church has followed blithely along.  Hollywood sets the styles and fashions and the church accepts them with blind approval.

        With all the potential for good that television has, it has become a tool in the hands of the wicked to glorify illicit sex, justify divorce, promote violence, and enslave millions to its attractive programs.  Its comedians cannot talk more than five minutes without telling an off–color joke.  The filth and slime which are poured forth from the tube are enough to snuff out the spiritual life of a whole nation.  And they have!

        “Christian” men and women will sit for four hours or more viewing a ball “game” in which men systematically crush bones, and incapacitate each other physically, sometimes permanently.  But try to persuade those same viewers to attend a two–hour prayer meeting once a week (or even for an hour and a half).  The disinterest for things spiritual is alarming.

        Many churches have even revised their schedules so as not to conflict with some of the most popular TV shows.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (I John 2:15) has no appeal to the carnal churchman of today.  He doesn’t want to, nor intend to, give up his worldly pursuits, but he nonetheless demands that God blesses him and his house and guarantees him eternal salvation.  He has vainly tried to bring God down to his own ungodly level.

        Moral standards are nonexistent in the government run schools today (from kindergarten through college).  They have become cesspools of moral degradation where immorality is a part of the daily regimen.  Christian parents are hard pressed to know how to cope with this situation (although many are unconcerned).  The downward trend of moral values has nearly become too heavy a burden to be borne; many parents have thrown up their hands in despair and have succumbed to the raging tide of immorality.

        Isaiah’s warning has finally come to pass: “For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean” (Isa. 28:8).

        Jesus said that His followers would be hated by the world, and in many foreign nations this is true, but here in the U.S.A., the world and the professing church are most compatible.  There is a spirit of camaraderie which has permeated the very pores of the popular religious systems of the nation.  The result of this hand–holding friendship is a spineless, gutless hulk of pseudo–Christianity which chooses to be known as the FIRST church.

        But where is God?

Holy Spirit Leadership

        Before His crucifixion, Jesus promised the advent of the Holy Spirit “whom the Father will send in my name” (John 14:26) who would be the teacher, the guide, and the leader of the believers.  Paul reiterated this by his statement that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).  (We might also say that they who are not led by the Spirit of God are not the Sons of God.)

        In too many cases the Holy Spirit’s leading has been replaced by a Board of Directors, or Elders, or Deacons, or Presbyters.  Even ministerial positions are decided by a vote of the people!

        Where is the voice of the prophet?  Where is the direction of the Holy Ghost?  Where is the Head of the church?

        “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not…And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:6–9).

        This divine guidance was the normal way for the ministry to be led.  As long as the men of God were led by the Spirit of God, they fulfilled the will of God.  Frankly, this is a rare happening today.  People no longer believe in divine government.  They have more faith in the decisions of their pastor, or The Board, than that of the Holy Spirit which is given by divine revelation.  It seems that people now believe if they ask God for bread, He will give them a serpent.  It is much safer, they reason, to depend upon the carnal reasonings of a man (or a woman)!

        Let us remind ourselves of a startling truth: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1).  The church in general has, for several centuries, attempted to build a house for God, without God’s approval, design, or direction.  The result is an empty shell, not glorious, full of spots and wrinkles, unholy and with many blemishes.  There is a remedy, but it is drastic and costly, and few, it seems, are willing to meet the cost.

A Revival Needed

        When we speak of revival, we are not referring to the popular, annual or semi–annual membership drives which are commonly held by many denominations.  The object of these so–called revivals is to reach the unsaved, the sinner, and bring them in to the church membership.  It should come as no surprise that sinners are not revived.  Revival is for the saint whose experience has grown cold (and old); revival can only come to those who have known God and have settled for mediocrity and worldliness.  Revival is for the church, period.  Incidentally, sinners will be saved when the church is truly revived, but it must begin at the house of God with the people of God.

        Revival must be preceded by an awakening and a shaking.  People must be aware of the true existing conditions.  They must be made to realize how far from the pattern of God the church has departed.  This genuine awakening must be followed by genuine repentance; heart–rending repentance, a crying out to God to return to the old paths, the old ways, the old truths, the Word of the Living God.

        This repentance will include a dumping of the world and its pleasures and attractions. To revive is to bring life into something where life is nearly gone.  This means that there must be a total upheaval and overturning of the past, the habits, the practices, the desires.  People’s lives must be transformed from their present state of lethargy and waywardness to a new state of holiness, righteousness, purity: of thoughts, of desires, and actions.

        This revival will result in a return to the Book of Acts, all of it, for the Acts is a revelation of the church in its glory.  Sin and the sinner were most uncomfortable in the Acts church.  People either walked uprightly with God or they were carried out as corpses.  Not even lies were allowed in the congregation (Acts 5:1–9).  This was a place where the miraculous was common and expected.

        This revival will bring about the return of the Holy Spirit to His rightful place in the governing and directing of the affairs of the church.  The Holy Ghost will once again appoint the ministers and direct their ministries.

        It was the Holy Spirit who told Philip to minister to the eunuch from Ethiopia, and it was the Spirit who furnished Philip’s transportation from that desert place.  The Spirit didn’t ask for Philip’s permission or opinion, and no one asked for a vote on the issue.  “The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip” (Acts 8:39).  It was most evident who was in charge!

        Friend, if your heart longs for revival, with all the implications involved, don’t lose heart; it’s coming.  But an awakening and repentance must come first.  The Lord is determined that His church will be glorious (or full of glory), without any spots, wrinkles or blemishes, and that it will be HOLY.  He will do whatever is necessary to accomplish this, for He is dedicated to this glorious mission.  In fact, Jesus will not return until the church has attained unto this superior position.

        Paul said that Christ will “sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water BY THE WORD” (Eph. 5:26).  The word of God is going to become a greater instrument in the ranks of the believers than ever before.  Many people will awaken to the reality and the importance of the WORD in relation to their own lives and their profession of faith, and some will permit the WORD to work in their hearts for reformation, cleansing and dedication to the Almighty.  It is high time for the church to return to God, to His Word, His ways, His commands, and His purity.  It is time now for all of God’s people to get back to the Bible, back to the Word of God, and measure up to its demands, commands, and high and holy standards.

 

 

2011 IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER

Randall Walton

        Here it is the first day of December, 2010, and we are just now getting down to writing for this month.  Unfortunately, my wife and I have been “under the weather” for over two weeks now, but we are both feeling much better and are raring to go!  It seems longer than a couple of weeks, but time goes so quickly when you don’t feel well.

        We are glad for the many calls we have received lately.  It strengthens us in the way of the Lord to know that others face many of the same trials that we are faced with.  We are grateful that we don’t stand alone as the conditions grow worse in our society and livelihood.  We often wonder about the worldwide conditions, and where and when people cope with the situations which lend themselves to adverse penalties.  With unemployment rates so high, it is nearly impossible to find laid–off workers able to pay the high prices of taxes and other obligations.

        We have noticed that Mr. Obama has frozen the amounts of wages which hourly people have taken upon themselves.  With a debt load of some thirteen point, seventy–five (and counting), there wasn’t much else he could have done except to get out of the way and allow someone else to establish more jobs and with better pay!

        Poverty is not an American way of life!  There are many other countries in such areas as Haiti, some of the African nations, various other areas as Indonesia, India, Philippines, Australia, and parts of the European countries, as well as some of the South American nations!  Poverty has no class nor friend nor foe.  It is everywhere!  We worry about how they find enough food to eat – where does their food originate?  And how and where do they get clothing, or have a place to stay to get in out of the rain, snow, or sleet and stay warm!  All of these problems prey heavily upon us, and we grow weary trying to come up with a workable solution.

        Things are going to get much worse before they ever get any better.  In the very midst of all that destroys or lacks wisdom, there is God who knows all about the troubles which beset us and makes us worry about those who do not have the blessings which He has bestowed upon us.  The very best we can do for others is not enough.  We have much to be thankful for, but we are aware that there are many others who do not have all the comforts and peace and joy which are accorded to those who trust in God.

        We live in a depressed area of Tennessee.  This entire economy is based upon whether or not the trees and bushes sell on the market, and so far this year, it looks very bad for most of the nurseries.  We can only hope and pray that the Lord will make a way for the nurserymen that their trees and bushes will somehow find a market that pays.  This is a good time for men to know God and know Him well, for without Him and His help, they can do nothing (John 15:5).  The only hope for anyone now is to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus and put their complete trust in Him and Him alone.  There is no other way than this!

        McMinnville has been for many years the Capital of Nursery Stock in this nation.  It has outshined many other places and has produced many hundreds of different varieties of plants and bushes.  These plants have been successfully sold on the market at wholesale prices, but now it’s difficult to find good buyers who want to stick their necks out and purchase trees and bushes no matter what the cost may be.

        To say that the area is depressed is saying that the hills and ‘hollers” are loaded with all kinds of shrubbery which, while it is for sale, is probably going to stay where it is.  That means that if push comes to shove, there will be an awful lot of plant and arbor ware left for discussion and verbiage for some time to come!

        This all means that time is not the same as it once was.  No one can say with certainty that the marketplace will renew or will not seek out other places for their revenue.  This year will have a determination on next year, and after that, no one knows for sure.  One thing we know absolutely is that God knows everything, and He knows exactly what the future holds for the nurserymen.  All we can say is, May God’s sweet will be done in everything!