People of The Living God

John 3:16

 

Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size

May 2012



HEAVEN

Randall Walton

        We recently received a letter from a reader who wanted to know about the future abode of God’s people.  Since there seem to be a number of theories on the subject, he did not know which theory to believe, and he asked us for our view on this interesting topic.

        There are two main fundamental beliefs about the eternal abode of God’s people, which stated briefly are these: 1) God will renovate this planet and establish His people here upon the earth forevermore (Jehovah’s Witnesses say a select 144,000 will live in heaven and the rest will live on the earth).  2) God will take His people to heaven to live with Him forevermore (The Mormons believe that each male “saint” will be given his own planet to inhabit, populate and preserve).

        Of the two main views, People of the Living God embrace the second one, i.e., that God will translate all of His people to heaven where they will abide for eternity.

The Promise Of Eternal Life

        The Scriptures are replete with God’s commitment to His creation to provide Eternal Life to a certain class of people:

        John 3:16: “that whosoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

        Titus 1:2: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

        John 5:24: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.”

        John 6:40: “everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.”

        John 6:54: “whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life.”

        John 6:58: “he that eateth this bread shall live forever.”

        There are many more which attest to this same theme: eternal life is incompatible with this present state of existence.  Paul states that “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

        This “change” which all saints will undergo is a complete alteration in substance, for Paul said that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).  He also declared that Jesus will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21).

        The glorified body of Jesus is of an entirely different nature than these earthly flesh and blood carcasses.  After His resurrection and before He “ascended up on high,” He showed Himself to be insensible to earthly, natural things: not that He was totally unaware of material objects, but He was not limited to nor by these objects.  For example, His disciples were gathered behind closed doors when He abruptly appeared among them (John 20:26).  Doors and walls presented no barrier for Him.  Yet He prepared a dinner of fish and bread for them after having told them where their catch of fish awaited their nets (John 21:6–12).

        This supernormal body which Paul calls His “glorious body,” or the body of His glory, is really acclimated to that heavenly or spiritual realm which is the state/place to which He ascended when His disciples saw Him leave.  This is not to say He could not exist or survive in this environment, but it is to say that there is nothing in this cosmos or order of things which appeals to, nor can satisfy the nature of that glorious existence.

        Paul makes a fair comparison of these two distinct states of being in II Cor. 4:18: “we look not at the things which are seen, (the earthly, material, visible world), but at the things which are not seen(the heavenly, spiritual, invisible): for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”!

        The eternal realities then belong to the realm of the unseen: since we are to inherit eternal life and receive a glorified body such as Jesus possessed, it is most reasonable that we should be translated to that state/place which is appropriate with the state of immortality and incorruptibility, and that place is heaven.  “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (I Cor. 15:42–49).

        Also, this poor old planet will not be habitable much longer: “Heaven and earth shall PASS AWAY, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).  The word heaven here refers not to the heavenly abode of the living God, but to the atmosphere and the visible system of the sun, moon, stars and planets which are associated with it.  “Thou Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same” (Heb. 1:10–12).

        “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (II Pet. 3:7).

        “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; IN THE WHICH the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).

        “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was no place found for them” (Rev. 20:11).

        “for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished” (Isa. 51:6).

        Since the saints will receive immortality (eternal life) and this old globe will go up in flames, there is only one place for them to go and that is up, up where their maker is.

“So Shall We Ever Be With The Lord”

        The above words are in I Thess. 4:17 where Paul is describing the events which surround Jesus’ second advent, which, of course, occurs at the last day.  He states that both the saints who are alive and those who are resurrected will together meet the Lord in the clouds, in the air and will remain with Him forever.

        There are many other instances which affirm this wonderful truth: that they will be with the Lord forevermore:

        “I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2,3).  And where is this place where He is preparing “a place” for His own?  “In my Father’s house.”  His house is certainly not here on this earth!

        “Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet.  Heaven is my throne, and earth is my FOOTSTOOL: what house will ye build me?” (Acts 7:48,49)  “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21).  And, where is the Father’s throne?  “Heaven is my throne”!

        Again and again, Jesus referred to His “Father which is in heaven.”  There are many other verses which state that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father.  Also, Paul says in Ephesians 6:9 “that your Master also is in heaven.”  And we are to be with Him there forever (Not for a mere 3½ or seven years).

Our Citizenship Is In Heaven

        In Philippians 3:20 Paul tells us that “our citizenship (Greek) is in heaven; from whence also we look for our Saviour.”

        Since we are citizens of that heavenly kingdom why should it seem odd that we would go there to live?  Our names are recorded there on the roll book of glory (Luke 10:20; Heb. 12:23; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 21:27), and we should anticipate that glorious day when God’s eternal plan is finished.  (Note: the saints do not go to heaven when they die physically.  Immortality is reserved for the day of resurrection from the dead.)

        Every person who walks with God is a pilgrim and stranger on this earth and, like Abraham of old, is “looking for a heavenly country and a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:8–16).

Our Rewards And Treasures Are In Heaven

        “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20,21).

        What kind of treasure can we lay up in heaven?  Certainly not material, physical, earthly possessions!  He is speaking of spiritual values or qualities, those qualities of divine character which are everlasting and which we can claim when we have times of trial, turmoil, trouble and tribulation.  The prerogatives of the divine nature are priceless, but are real if our hearts are devoted to those things rather than the mundane, earthly things.  Most Christians have their priorities mixed up.  Their first interests are concerned with making a living, providing a way of life for a family, being entertained, etc.  If they have any time left after all of those other things are taken care of, then they will serve(?) the Lord.  Heavenly treasures are not a part of their thinking.

        “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect (mature, complete), go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 12:21).

        “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:5).

        “And took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34).

        “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:4).

        The weight of evidence lies on the side of our being inheritors of eternal life with God in heaven, a blessed inheritance which we will be honored to receive when Jesus comes back to judge the world in righteousness and to receive His people unto Himself.

        “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, And time shall be no more,

        And the morning breaks eternal, bright and fair,

        When the saints of God shall gather, over on the other shore,

        And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”*

This is the hope which is laid up for us in heaven.  I am planning to be there; are you?

* From When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder by James M. Black

 

 

THE IMPACT OF CHRIST ON THE WORLD

H. B. Gow

        As an editorial in the December 25, 2011, Memphis (TN) Commercial–Appeal pointed out, Christ taught much about character, because “character is of more importance than dollars.  Other men taught us to develop systems of government (while) Jesus taught us to (develop) the soul…In the duty of a man to his fellow man no sociologist has ever approximated the perfection of the doctrine laid down by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount.  Indeed, Jesus must have been what Christendom proclaims…a divine being…No mind but an infinite mind could have left behind those things which Jesus gave to the world as a heritage.”

        Inspired by the teachings and example of Christ, American Christians courageously spoke out and strenuously worked to abolish slavery.  In his book How Christianity Changed the World, historian Alvin Schmidt points out how these American Christians helped put an end to slavery: Franz Pastorius (he issued the first anti–slavery proclamation in America in Germantown, PA in 1688); Elijah Lovejoy (he was a clergyman who wrote and spoke out against slavery, which resulted in his being shot and killed in 1837 in Alton, Ill.); Harriet Beecher Stowe (she inspired people of good will and decency to rise up against slavery through the publication of her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852); Charles Torrey (a clergyman who was involved with the “underground railroad”); J.D. Paxton (a clergyman and author of Letters on Slavery, who had to escape from the southern United States after the publication of his work); John Hersey (a Virginia clergyman who, after the third edition of his anti–slavery book Appeal to Christians on the Subject of Slavery in 1843, had to escape from his state); Julia Ward Howe (a social activist who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1862); William Garrison (publisher of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator and social activist); Abraham Lincoln (America’s 16th President who was willing to fight a war to end slavery and who issued the Emancipation Proclamation).

        The positive influence of Christ is also manifested in other areas of life; as the December 2011 issue of The Journal (Box 207, Manitou Springs, CO 80829) pointed out, “Jesus’ work heals His people spiritually, but He also tended to their physical needs by healing their diseases and deformities…In the culture of the Romans…and even the Jews of Israel…the sick were cast aside and treated as inferior.  The Greco–Roman world did have medical treatment, but only for the elite classes of men or soldiers.  No institutions existed to take care of all sick, regardless of social status.  Until Christians started them, that is.”

 

 

GREATER LOVE

Randall Walton

        It all began in the eons of eternity when God determined to create a mortal being in His own image and likeness.  In His infinite wisdom and foresight, He knew that His creation, man, would make a terribly wrong choice, a choice for which he would pay an extremely high price, such choice being made at the suggestion of one of God’s archenemies, satan.

        However, since man’s failure was a bad reflection upon God’s omnipotence and a credit to the depredations of the devil, God proclaimed that His plan would not fail, that mankind would even yet attain unto His own likeness, and image and that satan would be eternally punished through eventual banishment.

        God’s means of circumventing the diabolical scheme of satan was to provide a ransom or a payment which would fully satisfy the demands of divine justice for such a serious crime as was committed by man, that awful deliberate, rebellious act of disobedience which threatened the glorious plan of God and placed in eternal jeopardy every descendant of that first man, Adam.

        God Himself had warned Adam that if he disobeyed His instructions, he would surely die.  To this edict, God had pledged Himself, and for the sake of the veracity of His own word, He was compelled to carry it through, otherwise no being or entity could ever fully depend upon God’s word.

        The salvaging of God’s plan and the defense of His word demanded that the price of death be paid; however, it was possible that if a substitute could be found who would be willing to die, and provided that substitute were as sinless as God is sinless, then the demands of justice would be fully satisfied, and God’s word would be vindicated before every witness, in heaven, on earth, and in hell; thus it would be demonstrated that God meant what He said and He said what He meant, and it would also show God’s hatred of sin and rebellion.

        The Substitute which God chose was Himself!  No, not the Almighty Father, but His perfect Son, the One of whom it is written, “all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3)

        In order for His Son to fulfill the role of Substitute, it would be necessary for Him to become flesh and blood so He could die in the same manner as all mortals do.  But in order for Him to retain His divine state, He must have a supernatural conception and birth.  He must, therefore, make His entrance upon the world scene just as all of mankind; yet He must have no earthly father.  In reality He would be the “seed of the woman,” a concept that to some would appear to be “half–man, half–God.”  But that is not so.

        To fulfill the demands of divine justice, He must live as all other men live; He must be subjected to the same limitations as all mankind; He must undergo the same temptations as all others; yet He must remain peerlessly clean, untainted and upright, else He would forfeit His divine mission as The Substitute.  And by so living and dying, He would pay the “fine,” not only for Adam and his wife, Eve, but for all their offspring (the sins of the whole world! I John 2:2).

        Justice also demanded that in order for mankind to appropriate the terms of the provided ransom, there must be a measurable response from the heart of the rebellious.  Nothing the sinful mortal could ever do would be sufficient recompense or “payment” for the benevolence of The Substitute; however, mankind would never be forced nor coerced into accepting pardon and eternal amnesty for his foolish rebellion and disobedience, against his own will.

“The Seed of the Woman”

        Genesis 3:15 records God’s assessment of the “fall” of Adam and Eve, and the part that satan played in it.  God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

        The divine Mission of the “seed of the woman” is herein declared.  In the “bruising” of the serpent’s head, there would be the undoing of the influence of the serpent; he would be dealt a crushing blow to his head: his powers of speech and persuasion would no longer carry the potency of his former activity.  Notice he would not be “killed” nor destroyed: not yet.  But he would be rendered powerless or impotent because of his bruised head.  But in the altercation between the serpent and the woman’s seed, the heel of the seed of the woman would be bruised.  Thus His walk would be affected, His sphere of activity would be greatly altered, but only temporarily!

When Jesus came, He was well aware of His divine mission as The Substitute who would spoil the serpent’s desires and design.  He fully understood that He lived only to die an inglorious, inhumane, cruel, torturous death, impaled shamefully upon a rough hewn tree as a spectacle of disgrace, ignominy and humiliation, alone, deserted, forsaken by the very creatures for whose benefit He would be suffering.  Such bounds of love were unknown to man; never in the course of earth’s history had anyone given himself as a substitute for ungodly, depraved and sinful people (Romans 5:7,8).

“The Divine Mission”

        During His years of ministering to the crowds in healings, resurrections, and other miracles, He never lost sight of His predestined journey and rendezvous with death.  At one tender moment in His humanity He uttered the words, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?  Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:27).  “This hour”; that hour was drawing very close; an hour which would shake kingdoms, pull down strongholds, cause reverberations in the sky and the heavens; an hour in which the prince of the power of the air would relinquish his stranglehold upon the throats of mankind.  He, Jesus, would be the principal player in the amazing drama which was about to be displayed through the portals of heaven and hell; but His was not a part to be desired.

        Again and again, He had warned His disciples that He would be seized by ungodly men, would be killed unmercifully, and would also rise again.  Matthew tells us that “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised again the third day” (Matt. 16:21).  At this announcement, Peter became quite incensed against the Lord and rebuked Him, but Jesus reproved him for his impetuosity.

        He also informed the Pharisees, when they demanded a “sign” from Him, that the only sign they would receive would be the sign of Jonah: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40)

        Later, as He and His disciples were in Galilee, He cautioned them again of His betrayal, arrest, and death (Matt. 17:22,23).

        Still later, as He and the disciples traveled to Jerusalem, He told them most plainly that He would be betrayed, taken, tried and condemned to death at Jerusalem (Matt. 20:17–19).

        Possibly because of the euphoria they felt as a result of their witnessing the magnitude of miracles Jesus did, His words never penetrated their consciousness.  They could not accept as fact that Jesus would ever be taken as a captive and be put to death.  Such an idea did not fit their perception of the Messiah.  He had come to reign, not die!

The Final Week

        The generally held view of the work and mission of the Messiah was in direct contradistinction from Jesus’ purpose and plan.  Jewry looked for a political, if not military, hero who would raise a conquering army to defeat the Gentile rulers and free them from the tyranny and embarrassment of serfdom.  The miracles Jesus performed provoked them to jealousy and envy, and they accused Him of transgressing the law because He “worked” cures on the Sabbath day! (as if He were practicing medicine)

        His refusal to confront the political establishment bothered them to no end.  He even forbade His disciples to carry weapons, a sure sign that He did not favor the forcible overthrow of the existing government.  Even though His message had the ring of revolution, it was not the kind of revolt they expected and desired.

        He never retreated from His declaration that the kingdom He represented was a heavenly one: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: (or ocular view), neither shall they say, Lo, here! or lo, there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20,21).

        Their materialistic view of things spiritual closely paralleled that of modern dispensationalism!  They looked for the restoration of the sinful kingdom which God had abolished from the earth.  Even after His resurrection, His disciples questioned Him about this (Acts 1:6).

        But His was a kingdom of glory, majesty, and love.  The word David means “LOVE,” and the throne of David would be His seat of power.  Luke said of Him that “he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38).  Whatever He did was motivated by love, not a romantic or sentimental attachment, but the love which produces service and causes a person who is so possessed of it to offer himself as a sacrifice or offering.

        That He truly loved the multitudes who gathered to be healed and to hear His words of life is evident by His reaction to their problems.  He saw 5,000 men, besides the women and children, who were hungry and tired.  He could have wished them well and sent them on their way, but in compassion His heart reached out to them, and He fed them all.  He restored the dead to life and gave sight to the blind.  Selflessness was the mark of His ministry.  He Himself stated that, He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

        This was manifested most clearly in His service to the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  He evidently was a frequent guest at their home, for there is a certain intimacy which is revealed in the writings of John concerning them: “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” (John 11:5).  This Lazarus was the one who died and was brought back to life by Jesus after having been entombed for four days.  Jesus was also moved to tears as He stood among the mourners before Lazarus was raised.  The shortest verse in the Bible says, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

        Six days before He was crucified, Jesus again visited the home of these whom He loved.  It was here in Bethany, a small village near Jerusalem, that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair.  Some foolish men have tried to cast this beautiful act into the realm of sensuality as if Mary and Jesus were “in love” with each other, but He said it was done in honor of His burial which, of course, was but a few days away.  It was an act of love, to be sure, but not as most people count love.

        The following day He mounted a young donkey and rode into the great city among throngs of people who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.  His heart went out to them because He understood the fierce judgment which would be poured out upon them shortly.  Luke says flatly, “when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it” (Luke 19:41).  This was their time of visitation, He declared, but they did not know it!

        Love also drove Him into the temple once again to chase out the merchants and money changers.  It was love for the Almighty and His standards of righteousness which impelled Him to go.

The End Draws Near

        Each event brought Him nearer to that crucial moment when He would prove His love for the Father.  Love is tested in the difficult times, not when everything is ideal and pleasant.  Love is proven when adversity and disaster strikes.  It is demonstrated in the fires of great affliction, when everything and everyone seems to be in opposition to one.

        He was concerned for His disciples, those men whom He had chosen to accompany Him on His journeys; His foresight showed Him their consternation, their doubts, fears and questions.  With a heart of compassion He warned Peter of his impending denial: “behold satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31–32).

        He also knew that in addition to being betrayed by Judas, all of His disciples would be offended that night because of Him (Matt 26:31); yet, in spite of that knowledge, He loved the disciples to the very end (John 13:1).  Such love is too much for us poor mortals.  We tend to love if and when we are loved; but if the object of our love is unfaithful in any way, our love stops at that point.  Perhaps this spells the difference between divine love and physical attraction.  But He took a moment during the course of the Last Supper to counsel His disciples thus: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34,35).

        Herein, then, is the greatest identifying mark for the true followers of Jesus: to love each other in the same manner and degree that He loved them!  If this tenet is so, it is no wonder that there are few who are really disciples of Christ.  Many profess Him, but few follow.

        A short while later that same evening, He dwelt again on the topic of love for one another, and He capped the subject with this statement: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:13,14).

The Last Night

        The years previous to this night were but preparatory for this final confrontation.  Tonight, He would place His life on the line; He would be center stage in the greatest performance the universe had ever witnessed.  Here began a struggle; a battle which raged deep within His soul: it was a test of the genuineness of His love, love both for His Heavenly Father and for humankind for whom He was about to shed His own blood.  The pressure of this momentous trial was so terrifying and demanding that He “sweat as it were, great drops of blood.”  No mortal has ever tasted the bitterness of that awful “cup” which He willingly drank from.

        Every demon of hell and satan himself must have watched in miserable glee as He cried out, “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me;” and then they shrank in horror as He continued: “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done”!  To love or not to love became the issue.

        But while His three watchmen slept away, His religious enemies and Judas came to make Him captive.  The commotion of so many captors with their swords and armor awakened Peter, James and John.  In the ensuing ruckus, one of the high priest’s servants lost an ear to Peter’s sword, but Jesus calmly picked the ear up, put it in its proper place, and healed the man – another act of love.  Throughout that night, the grueling questioning, false accusations and physical abuse continued unceasingly.  He had already made the final commitment to His father; now He must fulfill His mission as The Substitute for mankind with “Greater love hath no man than this.”

        Love was the sustaining force that carried Him through that dark night.  He was totally resigned to go through with it, and in His resignation He had peace: He allowed them to beat Him unmercifully; He permitted the cruel crown of thorns to be pushed down on His head; He remained silent as His interrogators mocked and reviled Him; He did not flinch as they “smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him,” (Mark 15:19,20) in mockery.

The Last Day

        No other explanation can be given for His enduring such inhuman humiliation, than love.  Even as He attempted to lug the heavy cross through the cobblestoned streets of Jerusalem, He was thinking of others: those for whom He was being punished, those who had so brutally treated Him, those who would yet undergo terrible affliction just a few years from then.  A group of women stood on the street weeping for Him.  Possibly He had healed them or their children of some dreadful disease.  They may have been among those who ate of the “five loaves and two fishes” after He had multiplied them.  But He beheld them in their sorrow for Himself, and called out, “weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children” (Luke 23:27–31).  What kind of man was He, this Jesus, who thought only of others and not Himself?

        For six unbelievably long hours He hung between the earth and sky stretched from spike to spike as the weight of His body sent excruciating waves of pain and fever throughout His entire system.  Patiently He waited for death to overcome Him; patiently He endured the agonizing torture because love demanded it.  His few words as He faced death were uttered in selfless abandon: the soldiers were gambling over His few clothes, and as He looked upon the scene He beseeched the Father to forgive them!

        A criminal who was also crucified that day and was suffering nearby, recognized Jesus and addressed Him as Lord.  Jesus promised him that “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

        Just before He closed His eyes the last time, He saw His mother, Mary, standing near John.  Once more, compassion overwhelmed Him as He motioned with His head to Mary and John and said: “Woman, behold thy son,” and to John He directed, “Behold thy Mother.”

        In Peter’s first epistle, He said that Jesus’ death was “the just for the unjust” (3:18), a statement which agrees with the testimony of the thief on the cross who answered his companion thus: “we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Lk. 23:41).  The Just for the unjust, the perfect Substitute, the only one worthy to be sacrificed for all of mankind!

        But bearing the sins of the whole world was only a part of the glorious accomplishment which He completed that day.  His blood became the atoning power for the salvation of humanity.  His blood was the proof that the substitutionary sacrifice through death was finished.  It is by His blood that we have been redeemed, our sins forgiven and washed away; it is by His blood that the church has been purchased, bought and paid for in full (Eph. 1:4; Rev. 1:5; Col. 1:14; Acts 20:28).  It is by the blood which gushed from the lacerations of the whip applied to His back that we are healed (Isa. 53:5; I Pet. 2:24).

        And with His death He bruised the serpent’s head (Heb. 2:14,15; John 12:31; John 16:11; I Jno. 3:8).  Satan no longer has access to the throne of grace as he did in the days of the man, Job; but we do!  We are encouraged to “come boldly before the throne of grace that we might receive help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

        The Scriptures not only say that “God loved,” they also state that “God IS love” (I John 4:8).  He is the very embodiment and personification of love.  Whatever He does or has done has been through the motivation and drive of Love, love for His creation, love for righteousness, truth and purity, love for mankind.  And because Jesus went to the Cross, the entire universe, angels, men, demons and satan himself, knows that He loves, that He is love, and that His love will never fail nor end.

        “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

 

 

LOOK UP

Randall Walton

        The citizens of the world are faced with some of the most disastrous times the world has yet seen.  Just the other day, a well–known economist said he expects the decade of the teens to be the worst in this century.  The entire economy is supported on a policy of debt, borrowing from future generations to finance today’s extravagances.  Financial planners have long warned that the government could not keep spending more than it takes in.  But politicians who are eager to hold public office have kept promising the people greater handouts and less taxes in order to get themselves re–elected.

        Now we are encountering a debacle which is making other crises look mild by comparison.  The present economic problem is worldwide; it is not confined to the U.S. alone.  It is everywhere.  And the facts are that no one knows what to do about it.  In the past, the immediate remedy for a situation such as we have today was to pump more money into the economy by lowering interest rates, but so far the economy has not responded to this tactic.

        The financial expert mentioned above expects some relief between now and election day, but he is predicting some very serious troubles beginning in 2012 and lasting through the rest of the decade.

        And what does all this mean for the Christian world?  How will they cope with a depressed economy and rising unemployment?  With crumbling empires, governments in turmoil, collapsing economies, wars threatening, and a New World Order in the making, there is only one place to turn: the Word of God and Jesus Christ.

        He Himself stated that “when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28.  Your redemption, or deliverance, or salvation is near.  In the very midst of all the raging storms which are coming our way, we can experience true peace and comfort if we will look up and behold Jesus.

        There is no doubt but that we will see a One World Government which will be headed by The Antichrist who will desire to annihilate all true followers of Jesus Christ, but we are to look up and lift up our heads and in so doing, see our King and Saviour, Jesus.  “My sheep know my voice,” He said, “and a stranger they will not follow.”

        Do you know His voice?  Does He speak to you?  Do you have ears to hear His voice, both His written words and His audible voice?  Attention must first be given to His written message before we can expect to hear from Him personally. But to those who make a habit of following His words and sayings as they appear in the Scriptures, He will speak and will show them what to do.  If you do not now practice obeying the words of Jesus, it is high time you begin doing so.

        Deliverance will come, but will only be for those sheep who have followed the Shepherd’s voice.  Following Him means to live as He lived, walk as He walked, go where He leads, do what He said and says, obey His every commandment.

        Practicing religion is not the same as practicing obedience.  The Pharisees of old practiced religion, and they were very good at it.  Wherever they went, people knew who they were by their dress code and their demeanor.  They were piety personified; they dutifully went about their religious obligations faithfully and with perseverance.  They tithed and fasted conspicuously; they prayed on street corners and offered their sacrifices publicly.  But Jesus said they were whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones.  He labeled them a generation of snakes and hypocrites.  Their religion was a stench in the nostrils of the Almighty, for they professed but did not obey God.

        To a great degree, this describes modern Christianity which professes “to know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).  The average Christian is so involved in the world, its pleasures, its habits, its finances, its material goods, its way of life, that they have neither time nor desire for the way of Jesus Christ.  They are so caught up in the cares of this life that they have little interest in the state of the church.

        The greatest calamity which can befall any people is for them to be in a state of unpreparedness for some catastrophic event such as the U.S. was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Had our military forces been on the alert and deployed for battle, the enemy would never have inflicted such heavy losses in life, equipment and ships as they did.  We were as a great sleeping giant oblivious to the sounds of impending war and destruction, much the same as the church is today.  While some are crying “Peace, Peace,” others are appeasing the people with their message of: “We will not be here.  We will be raptured out first.”

        Consequently, the church sleeps on, awaking long enough to play a few religious games, then back to sleep again (Matt. 25:5).  It is now time that every saint look up to Jesus, search the Scriptures, turn in obedience to the words and commands of their Lord, Jesus Christ, and be ready for the great time of trouble which looms nearer every day.

        It is time for God’s people to humble themselves, seek the Lord with all their hearts, and return to the words of the Lord.  Or as the prophet Zephaniah put it: “Seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zeph. 2:1–3).

 

 

GOD OR RELIGION?

Alda Scullin

        A popular magazine printed an article entitled, “We Found God Again.”  It reviewed the spiritual experiences of three families, one Catholic, one Protestant and the other, Jewish.  Judging solely from what was written in the article, the subtitle was more accurate.  It read, “Three Families Rediscover Religion.”  There is a vast difference!

        Religion, and especially that called “Christian,” has become very popular in modern society.  The mental and emotional stresses of our day demand some outlet to relieve the strain.  Religious involvement or church affiliation has become, for many, such an outlet; a sedative that calms their fears without dealing with the cause.  Many discover satisfaction and comfort in religion without finding a personal relationship with God.  They may learn to come out of their “shell” as it were, to work with others sharing their problems, whether material, physical or emotional; serving on this committee or that project, all of which gives them a sense of purpose in life and a feeling of tranquility which they suppose to be the peace of God in their soul.  Too many ministers aid and abet this kind of self–deception by teaching more psychology than Bible, not daring to disturb their parishioners, or themselves with “thus saith the Lord.”

        The tremendous variety of religious organizations and their teachings, which range from extreme liberalism to extreme orthodoxy, seems to give mankind the choice of many “ways” which, according to some, all lead to eternal life and peace.  The “Join the church of your choice” philosophy is an opiate greedily grasped by much of troubled humanity who want peace without price.  This kind of pseudo–peace, this religious sedative, is far more dangerous than hard drugs.  It is deception in its most powerful form.

        The rewards of finding God and walking according to His Word are many and marvelous, both in this life and in that which is to come.  The results of “finding religion” and walking according to the traditions of men are death dealing and eternally destructive.

        To those who do not receive a love of truth, God promised strong delusion.  To those who desired their own way, “He gave them their request: but sent leanness into their souls” (Psa. 106:15).  To those of Ezekiel’s time who inquired of the Lord, but had idols in their hearts, God promised to answer them to their detriment and to set His face against them (Ezek. 14:1–8).  Jesus called this class of people “hypocrites,” saying, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  Howbeit in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6,7).

        It behooves every professing Christian to examine himself by the Word of God to see if he meets God’s standards or is merely worshipping in vain.  If a man does not wish to receive strong delusion from God, Himself, then he must receive a love of truth.  If one is a lover of truth, he will also be a seeker of truth.  Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).  Paul admonished Timothy to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).

        It is not enough to attend a church and be ministered to.  Each individual will be accountable to God for what he has done concerning God’s Word.  Neither is it sufficient to study, memorize, quote or even teach the Word.  Unless it is applied to the life, it cannot bring forth fruit and “the husbandman (God) waiteth with long patience for the precious fruit of the earth” (James 5:7).

        Truth has a price.  Proverbs 23:23 advises to “Buy the truth and sell it not.”  Many have paid with their lives because they would not compromise the truth, while others turned from the truth when they realized it was costly.

        The truth is that Jesus, Himself, is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.

        To love truth is to love Him, and to love Him is to keep His words, which means to obey Him.  Jesus said, “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” (John 12:48).

        If the words that Jesus spoke are the standard by which all will be judged, does it not seem imperative that we adhere to them?  How else can we determine whether we have found God or merely found religion?

 

 

“WHAT OF THE NIGHT?”

Randall Walton

        “The Pharisees also with the Saducees; came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.  He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring.  O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:1–3)

        People are no more adept at discerning the signs of the times today than they were 2,000 years ago.  Human nature dislikes looking at issues and facts, and prefers dodging issues by changing the subject, becoming involved in some favorite distraction, or going fishing (or hunting, or bowling, e.g.).  It is almost like the Christian(?) Scientist who believes if you do not think about evil, there will not be any!

        It is incumbent upon those of us who are aware of the signs of the times to “cry aloud, spare not, and blow the trumpet” in an effort to help people see the reality of things in society, government (politics), economics, and especially in religious areas which portend a soon coming cataclysm which will devastate the entire planet upon which we ride and reside.  The reason people need to see and understand the impending doom is so they can make the appropriate and necessary adjustments in life to be able to endure the calamitous events soon to overtake all of mankind.

        The apathy and apostasy of the “Christian” church is enough to sound an alarm to every one who has an ear to hear the truth.

21st Century Lukewarmness

        For nearly 2,000 years the Christian church has been a total failure, in fact that which calls itself the “Church” today bears little, if any, resemblance to the church of the first century.  All that you need to do to see that this is so is to read the first six chapters of the Acts!  Then compare!

        The Church which was established on the day of Pentecost was a BODY of power, where all the sick folks were healed, the dead were raised, and 3,000 souls were SAVED in one day.  Power over sickness, disease and demons was present without any great crusades or bluster, or ballyhoo; judgment was directed against the hypocrite and the soothsayer.  Sin was called SIN, and the unrepentant sinner was not welcome in the congregation of the righteous.

        Obedience to the words and commands of Jesus was at the heart of the message as it was preached by the unlearned fisherman named Simon Peter.  He reminded the people of the words spoken by the prophet Moses concerning Jesus Christ the Messiah: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22–26).  And he goes on to explain that “that prophet” was none other than Jesus Christ the Lord of glory.

        Sad to say, that message has been dumped by most preachers today.  Most of them will not teach their congregations that they must obey Jesus or else!  Consequently, the pristine body of those first believers has been replaced by a counterfeit, without power, without glory, without signs and wonders, and without God!

        The present day Christian is barely discernible from the people of the world.  High moral standards are a thing of the past.  Ministers and the laity are both involved in lustful pleasures and pursue the same lifestyles as the people of the world.  Any time a homosexual can be comfortable in a religious assembly, you can be sure that assembly and its minister are a million miles from God and God’s word.

        I know the message of these wimpish men of the cloth – “You have to show these people love, you know.”  But there is no love shown when a person who is rushing into hell is not warned of the fact.  To allow known homosexuals to continue in their pernicious ways and to condone fellowship with them is the same as complimenting the devil for his diabolical acts.

        It is no wonder the “church” is about to be “spewed out.”  It has become a disgrace to the name and the purity of the Blessed Son of God.

A Sword Coming

        Among the many characteristics of the Living God is the one of justice: He is JUST.  This means, of course, that He judges every person on the basis of justice: no one will ever be judged as a sinner who is not a sinner.  This means, also, that He is obligated to deal with sin and the sinner according to His own nature and purpose, and it also means that He cannot and will not allow sin and corruption to continue unabated and unchecked.

        The Bible record reveals to us that God has dealt with wholesale sin among mankind many times, and it was always with the purpose of cleansing the scene of sin and the perpetrator.  We have no reason to believe that God will react any differently today than He has in the past.  If He does not intervene in the affairs of man soon, the corruption will so overwhelm mankind that every person on earth will fall victim to the horrendous devastation which comes as the result of disregarding God’s word (Matt. 24:22).

        We can be sure that God will not tolerate these conditions much longer.  Already, the sword is falling by way of the AIDS epidemic.  Only a fool could be so stupid as to say that this gross killer is not judgment upon a sin so gross and ungodly as to be completely obnoxious.  Jesus said in Mathew 24 that the world will see a time of trouble worse than anything in the history of this world.  Already there are tens of thousands of starving, suffering people who are going through the agonies of hunger and death.  Already, pestilences and plagues are striking vegetation, beast and man.  Surely, we must have reached the time described by Isaiah the prophet where he said, “behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isa. 60:2).

The Way Out Is Through

        It grieves us deeply to hear ministers (who should know better) keep assuring their flocks that the secret, rapid exit is due at any moment now, perhaps even today!  How can grown men and women who are not illiterate tell such a lie as this when Jesus said so plainly that He will not return until AFTER the tribulation?  He promised no one that they would be secretly caught away before calamity comes.  To the contrary, He warned of horrible times of persecution and hardship, so severe that if “those days were not shortened” no flesh would be saved!

        Countries in Africa are undergoing terrible circumstances presently.  But we Americans are convinced we are a special breed of people.  We keep telling ourselves that, “It can never happen here.”  And in our blindness we keep playing church and going through the motions of religiosity as if we believe that God does not see through the sham, the mockery, the charade.

        God will surely use the time of desolation and tribulation to purify and sanctify the church, one more reason why it is necessary for the church to be HERE during the hour of trouble.  It seems that man only responds to God when the heat and pressure are turned on.  “He scourges every son whom He receives.”

        There is a mighty and glorious work for the church to fulfill in these last days, but it cannot and will not fulfill this call until it has returned to its original state of glory, beauty, and purity – and tribulation will help to bring it about!

        “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

 

 

MISSING SOMETHING?

Kenneth Fountain

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”(Eph. 1:3).  For many modern Christians, the spiritual blessings enumerated in the Good Book seem to be elusive ethereal wishes.  The Bible plainly states that the born–again Christian has been translated into the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13) wherein is righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17).  Jesus has “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,”but individually, we have much to do with our spiritual condition (II Pet. 1:3–11).  How many retain the more abundant life (Jno. 10:10) with abounding love (I Thess. 3:12), faith that removes mountains (I Cor. 13:2), peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7), and joy unspeakable, full of glory (I Pet. 1:8)?  Many Christians have an affable smile and an amiable greeting.  They put on a loving facade, but actually feel devoid of the real peace, joy, faith, and love they read about in Scripture.  Why does there seem to be such a discrepancy between what is read, and what is experienced within the individual’s life?

Anyone who has had a genuine born again experience knows the supreme joy of a newfound salvation.  “Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new”  (II Cor. 5:17).  The burdens of sin have been lifted, the chaos of the problems of life has been quelled, and conflicts in relationships seem to dissolve in the fullness of the love of God sweeping through the soul of the new convert.  Even the commonplace things of nature take on new vibrant color and life.  A love for all mankind, a peace that transcends understanding, and a joy akin to floating on clouds, fills the heart and very being of one who knows the power of the cleansing blood of Christ.  One’s appetites in life totally change.  He hungers for opportunities to share with others what he has received in his heart.  He has great confidence in God’s care and craves more of the presence of God.  He seeks time for prayerful communion with his Master and time to delve into the Holy Word of life.

This exuberance of life – with its accompanying love, joy and peace – lasts for a time, but often it dissipates, and the Christian settles into a routine of some sort for his life.  As time goes on, the freshness of conversion may subside, and he becomes a nominal Christian who soon resembles most anyone else in the world except that he possibly goes to church regularly and avoids certain unapproved pursuits or activities.  He may “clean up his act” in outward words and deeds, but the spiritual growth in his heart becomes stagnant.  While the Christian will have mountain top experiences, and journeys through the valley of the shadow of death, hardships, trials and temptations do not require the loss of the spiritual blessings given by God.  When one finds that the freshness of God’s love in his heart toward a Christian brother, or an unsaved person has grown stale, there is definitely something wrong.  When the servant of Christ finds it hard to rejoice, or hard to seek God in prayer, or uninteresting to read and study God’s Word, something has gone askew in his heart.  What has happened?  Something very important is missing!  Where did it go?

        Some people consider the born–again experience to be only a milestone in life, similar to a good education, a comfortable home and a nice job.  Salvation is not something to stuff into one’s portfolio of life, and then continue on in pursuit of the next goal.  Salvation is the beginning of true life – spiritual life.  These other things are immaterial to a relation with Christ, and can actually be detrimental to spiritual growth.

        There are numerous causes for the loss of godly love, freshness, vitality and exuberance in the spirit.  With many it is simply distractions from the everyday demands of physical existence (cares of life) that siphon away the realities of the spirit.  Physical and material needs must be met, relationships maintained and countless other responsibilities and obligations always demand our attention.  Jesus warned us in Matt. 13:22, “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”One must diligently pursue his first love experience with God, or the freshness will be lost.  It is easy for us to allow Christ to fade behind the materialistic environment and self–pleasing goals constantly barraging our spirit.  Many succumb to the appetites of the carnal nature within.  We must watch and pray always that our eyes remain upon Christ, and our ears stay open to His call, and our hearts stay in tune with His leading.

        Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what we were and where we were heading before Christ in His infinite love intervened in our lives.  Without this ongoing appreciation of deliverance, we easily fall back into our former sins and associations.  Sin separates us from God, and subsequently from His spiritual blessings (Is. 59:2).  If we allow the sin to continue, we become callous toward the prodding of the Holy Spirit, and spiritual lethargy creeps in unawares.  The prophet Isaiah instructs, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion”(Isa.  52:1,2).  These are things that we must perform; they are not done for us.  “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”(Heb. 12:1).  We must not neglect our salvation, nor let things slip (Heb. 2:1–3), but keep the goal at the forefront of our attention (Phil. 3:14).

        Another critical area contributing to great spiritual loss involves our archenemy Satan who pillages unrestrained because many fail to acknowledge the fact that Christians are in a spiritual warfare (I Tim. 6:11,12).  If we do not fight back and resist Satan (Ja. 4:7), he will prevail.  It is quite true that Christ bound the strong man and spoiled his house (Matt. 12:29), but the devil still goes about “as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (I Pet. 5:8,9).  This capability applies to his aggression against Christians as well as non–Christians.  We must put on the whole armour of God (Eph. 6:10–18) and challenge this crafty enemy’s advances against us.  “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”(the church – Matt. 16:18).  We must put the sword of the spirit to work in our lives.  “For the Word of God is quick (alive), and powerful, and sharper than any two–edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”(Heb. 4:12).

We need to understand this adversary of our souls, Satan.  He is the father of lies (Jn. 8:44) and the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33).  He presents himself as an angel of light (II Cor. 11:14), and he is the tempter who distorts Scripture to misrepresent truth (Matt. 4:1–10).  He uses any means necessary to separate the believer from Christ, the source of life.  The devil will try to turn our focus upon ourselves using condemnation and discouragement.  He will cause us to look at others by emphasizing their faults and failures.  He will stir up discord and dissention between members.  He will bring doubts and questions to our minds about God and His word.  “The thief (Satan) cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”(Jno. 10:10).  The church (the body of Christ) has lost many of God’s gifts to this enemy both in individual’s personal lives and collectively as a whole.  If the things God has given are not treasured, protected and put to use as God intends, the devil steals them away. (example: Matt. 13:19)

The early church, within a few short years, lost many of the wonderful things God had delivered unto them.  Today some claim that those spiritual blessings were only for the time then present, but Scripture refutes this justification for their absence. In Eph. 4:11–15, we find that these wonderful spiritual ministries were put in the church “for the perfecting of the saints”(v. 12,) “till we all come in the unity of the spirit” (v. 13), and so that we should not be tossed about by cunning doctrines.  Since the need for these gifts still exists, logic dictates that His purpose for these gifts is not yet fulfilled.  They are still needed in the church.  Jude said, “It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”(Jude 3).  Many are either too lazy to engage in spiritual warfare, or refuse to accept it as necessary, or do not understand how to go about fighting in the spirit realm.  Heed God’s warning to Hosea (4:6): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.”

Victory is only acquired through a battle.  We have the victory through the blood of Christ (I Cor. 15:57).  We read in II Cor. 10:3–5, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God.”Of what value are weapons if they are not used?  “We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us” (Rom. 8:37).  In Hebrews 2, we are admonished to not let the things we have heard slip from us (verse 1), and to not neglect the salvation we have received (verse 3).  This warfare is not reserved for our pastors and leaders; it is required of every child of God.  We are all kings and priests unto God (Rev. 1:6).  And while there are certain offices in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11), God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and neither is Satan – he comes against each follower of Christ.  Paul commanded, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life”(I Tim. 6:12).  John wrote, “And I saw them that had gotten the victory over the beast (Satan), and over his image (our carnal nature)”(Rev. 15:2).  These were not granted victory; they had obtained it.  They certainly did more than attend church and support its ministries.  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood(with responsibilities of royalty and priests), an holy nation, a peculiar(purchased) people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”(I Pet. 2:9).

We actually restrict God’s power from working in, through, and for us by our lack of faith.  Jesus was unable to do any great works in His own town because of unbelief (Matt. 13:58).  Ancient Israel did not enter into the Promise Land because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:19).  Our personal faith in God gives us victory (I Jno. 5:4).  In Eph. 3:20, we read, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”  Our faith in God is extremely important!  Peter walked on water because he had faith in God, but when he considered the physical impossibility of what he was doing, his faith faltered, and down he went.  James tells us to “ask in faith, nothing wavering.”  But for he who wavers, “let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6,7).  Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believest” (Mk. 9:23).  “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom 15:13).  Jude said, “building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost”(verse 20).

Maintaining our initial love for and rejoicing in God is also vastly important.  God expressed serious warnings to His people through the apostle John.  “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev. 2:4,5).  “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”(Rev. 3:15–17).

In short, the primary causes of losing God’s spiritual blessings are unbelief, a lack of appreciation, and failure to fight the enemy for what is rightfully ours.  However, all is not lost to those who find themselves lacking the blessings they once enjoyed in Christ.  The promises in the Word are true, and God still desires that we enjoy them (Lk. 12:32).  There are several things that may be done to regain what has been lost.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).  One’s faith is strengthened and increased by studying and applying God’s Word.  Spending time in the Word also improves one’s understanding of his rights, responsibilities and privileges before God.  The Holy Spirit guides and ministers to us through the Word.  As God shows us things in our hearts, words and deeds that dishonor Him, and we diligently strive to please Him, our communion with Him is more blessed.  Praising God vocally brings us into the presence of God (Ps. 100:4).  It improves one’s appreciation and adoration of Him.  God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3).  Prayer that includes repentance, confession, thanksgiving and praise (not just a list of needs and requests) draws us closer to God; and Him to us (James 4:8).  Prioritizing our life with God fully in the forefront of our heart’s desires reestablishes our pathway in Him.  “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mk. 12:30).  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”(Matt. 6:33).

Jesus warns that our focus in life must be singled upon Him (Matt. 6:19–24).  Try as we might, we cannot serve God and mammon.  We remove ourselves from His blessings when we seek other goals (gods) and do not make Him first in our lives.  We must deny our fleshly appetites to follow God acceptably (Matt. 16:24).  Carnal pursuits are diametrically opposed to spiritual pursuits (Rom. 8:5–8). Paul uses the analogy of a foot race, where the one who receives the prize sacrificed his own comforts to achieve mastery (I Cor. 9:24,25).  James warns against being double–minded (James 1:8), because this causes instability.  To fulfill the first and foremost command leaves no room for other treasures.

We must engage in the spiritual warfare over the eternal destiny of our own souls.  Satan, self and the world all combat our spirits to gain and hold our attention and affections.  John tells us plainly: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”(I Jno. 2:15–17).  If we truly desire a blessed relationship with God, the choice is ours.  “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.”(James 4:8).

 

 

CHURCH IN BUFFALO, MISSOURI

 

        Brother Dale Miller, pastor of Buffalo Church of God, Seventh Day, would like to extend a special invitation to all in the area who receive the Testimony of Truth magazine.  He was ordained by People of the Living God several years ago but was pastoring this small church even before he was ordained by People of the Living God.  The church as been located at 313 Alberta Street since 1967, and the building is currently being updated with serious repairs.  Special services are being held throughout the year with special preaching in May and August and music concerts in May, July, and September.

        This church is a small and independent congregation, not being controlled by any denomination (including People of the Living God) and has an open pulpit.  There are various beliefs that are common among Seventh Day denominations but Pastor Miller believes that even if there are disagreements regarding doctrines, fellowship is still possible, and we can learn from one another.

        The time of services, address, and contact information is:

                Buffalo Church of God, Seventh Day

                313 Alberta Street

                Buffalo, Missouri 65622

        Services: Bible study 10:30 AM

                   Worship 11:00 AM

        Pastor’s address and phone: Call any time

                Dale Miller

                206 S Fort Street Apt. 3

                Nixa, MO 65714

                Ph. 417/379–0607

                Email: miller37960@agts.edu