People of The Living God

Romans 8

 

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November 2012



 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

While Men Slept

Alfred King

        “While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.”  This verse, taken from the parable of the tares and the wheat found in Matthew 13, is where the church finds itself today.  While the church has slept the enemy has been hard at work planting tares among the wheat, within the church.  When we take inventory of the modern church in America, we find Satan’s devices have served him well.  Sin has sprung up in the church “while men slept” so that church is sickly and believers find it difficult to know truth from error.  The truth has been diluted, compromised, misinterpreted, dismissed and in many cases, completely thrown out and doctrines and traditions of men have been substituted in their place.  Well did Isaiah prophesy, “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.  For the tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean” (Isa. 28:7–8).  Not only do the watchmen of our day have to be on guard for the enemies that come from without, but must also warn of the enemies which are within the church.

        Jesus warns of this condition of the church in the latter days in His parable of the Ten Virgins, found in Matthew 25.  He warns that all ten virgins  are found slumbering and sleeping.  “Virgins” no doubt refers to believers, but they can also refer to the church, which is made up of believers.  “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” . And what happened while “men slept”?  Sin crept into the church so that there is no place clean and the tables are filled with vomit.  This is the condition of many modern churches because men have slept.

        “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6).  There is coming a time in the near future that the midnight cry will sound and there will be an awakening of the virgins.  Although all arise, half do not have time to prepare themselves for the hour ahead.  Time runs out before they are ready and they are left outside the door.  How did they find themselves in this dilemma?  It wasn’t something that happened overnight; it was a gradual infiltration of sin in the church and consequently in the lives of believers.  Most have probably heard of an old country hymn entitled “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” and it seems it is time that the church return to that pristine state it once possessed.  The cry of the watchmen is a call to awaken and return.  So what are some of the areas in which the enemy has sown tares and caused sin to be acceptable in our churches?  Let consider a few.

        The most pristine state of the church that we have on record is found in the book of Acts where the power and glory of God rested upon the early Christians and they turned the world upside down.  But if we go back only fifty years we can see a tremendous departure from scriptural holiness and righteousness.  Consider some of the sins that have crept into the church in the last fifty years.  In I John 2:15–16 John writes, “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.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  While scripture teaches this truth over and over and warns believers of the dangers of the world and its lusts, the church is preaching just the opposite.  The “Once Saved, Always Saved” doctrine allows a carnal and worldly church.  Why bother to war against the appetites and lusts of the world?  The prosperity doctrine teaches that the believer is a “King’s kid” and therefore should not suffer but have financial success, physical health and material blessings.  According to these teachers, the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, needed nothing else to do at all; he already was a “King’s kid” and possessed eternal life.  Fortunately for him, he wasn’t asking one of the prosperity teachers of today this question, he was asking the One Who would give him the truth.  He had to get rid of the wealth he possessed because it was his god.  His security and trust rested in his wealth rather than in God alone.  How many honest, hard–working sheep have been destroyed or almost destroyed because they were fed this vomit as though it were the gospel.  Just watch some of these prosperity teachers on television and see the vomit they spew out.  It’s absolute garbage and “virgins” are being lulled to sleep and are being prepared for destruction.  It’s time to wake up, Virgins!  These teachers are wolves in sheep’s clothing, devouring widows’ houses.  This teaching was not prevalent fifty years ago and would not have found an audience in those days.

        Fifty years ago, the rock music that is found in most churches in America, and is listened to by most Christians, was rejected by all Christian churches.  It was considered inspired by hell and was an embarrassment to all true Christians who believed that scripture teaches against all the lusts of the flesh.  Rock music was such a shock to the public (even the secular public) that the television stations would not show Elvis Presley from his waist down because of his vulgar movements.  Not only were the words not conducive to Christianity but the music was considered vulgar as well.  No Christian would have conceived that one day this same music and beat would be in our churches.  However, not only is the music used, but the Hollywood promotion of glamor and style has moved in with it and performers, rather than worshippers, have made the church an entertainment center in place of an house of prayer for all people.  If Jesus were here today, would He once again come into our modern churches and drive out the money changers and overturn their programs and expose their lies so that it could once again return to its original intent, “a house of prayer”?  Would He be impressed by the strobe lights, the professional programs, the entertainment and worldly activities designed to attract the world but unable to create devoted Christians?  Would He be proud that Pastors have managed to build mega churches of worldly “Christians” who are neither spiritual nor holy but are as much a part of the world as their neighbor who doesn’t profess anything at all?  Jesus is returning; Virgins, Wake Up!!

        Fifty years ago Christians didn’t divorce.  Fifty years ago Christian couples didn’t live together outside of wedlock.  Fifty years ago homosexuals didn’t stand in the pulpits.  Fifty years ago a Christian’s word was as good as a contract.  Fifty years ago Christians kept their conversations clean and their tongues free from cursing as well as from improper conversation.  Fifty years ago pornography was not something Christians considered as normal and harmless.  Fifty years ago Christians dressed modestly and were concerned that they not bring disgrace to the Christian name they bore.  Fifty years ago Christians would not consider watching the filth produced by Hollywood and would blush at hearing the words of many of the modern rock songs.  They would never allow their children to watch or listen to what is blatantly and unashamedly posted everywhere today.  Maybe the old song, “Give Me That Old Time Religion” has some meaning after all.

        While we have just considered a few of the ways in which the 21st century church in America has slipped in the last fifty years, it is certain that the church fifty years ago was not without its faults.  Fifty years ago the church needed revival.  It lacked the pure and unadulterated word of God even then; how much more today?  But lest we build this article on a song or be accused of being unmerciful and lacking grace, let’s consider how God addresses these issues.  In Jeremiah 6:16 God speaks of the old paths.  “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will not walk therein.”  It is God Who is calling His church back to the old paths.  Let’s back up a few verses and read a few things about which God was angry.  Verses 13–15: “For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.  They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.  Were they ashamed when they had committed abominations?  Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush”.  Does this not describe our day?

        While men slept believers have become worldly.  While pastors slept sin crept into the church.  While the church slept entertainment has taken the place of prayer, worship and gospel preaching.  There is produced through this neglect a people who are not prepared for the times ahead.  They will not have the oil, and consequently the light that is in them will become darkness, and how great that darkness will be.  The church has been lulled to sleep by worldly pastors and false doctrines that are only milk and can only produce babies at best.  “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly.”  It’s time to awake and begin to trim the lamps.  The church as a whole, and the believers in particular, must return to God’s word and live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

        Today America stands on the brink of collapse, and this has been brought about because the church has lowered the standards, altered and diluted the Word of God, embraced the carnal and adapted itself to the world rather than it being the beacon of hope and deliverance.  America is where she is today because the church has failed to live and teach the holiness and righteousness of God.  All virgins (Christians) must awaken and return to the path of righteousness and holiness.

 

 

BABYLON THE GREAT

Randall Walton

        Babylon was the name given to an ancient city of Chaldee in an area which today is called Iraq, and which was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers on a fertile plain watered by the adjacent rivers.

        The city itself was the product of a man named Nimrod who was a near descendant of Ham, one of the sons of Noah.  It is written of Nimrod that “he was a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:8–10).  It is generally believed that this terminology designated Nimrod as a mighty man of God, but just the opposite is true.  The Hebrew word from which the English word “before” is taken has a wide variety of uses and applications.

        The same word is used in Numbers 16:2 concerning the rebellious Israelites who withstood Moses in the wilderness: “And they rose up before Moses.”  This was certainly not an act of loyalty on their part.  They were against Moses and defied this great man of God.

        So, also, Nimrod was against the Lord.  This is borne out in the fruits of his life: “And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel” (Gen. 10:10).  Knowing what we do today about Babylon and Babel, we are constrained to conclude that this was a most infamous beginning!

        This plain in the land of Shinar became the site of the first postdiluvian attempt to deify man and challenge the authority of the most High God.  Here it was that God intervened dramatically by the very simple act of disrupting their means of intercommunication.  The resultant confusion abruptly initiated a work stoppage and their heaven–bound tower was evacuated.

        Although this joint venture was disestablished, the confusion became a permanent malady and the hearts of these people remained hardened toward the living God, conditions which are still prevalent among mankind today.

        The Babylon enterprise was much more than a mere attempt to erect a building wherewith to reach heaven.  It was an assault, a declaration of open warfare against the control and omnipotence of the Creator Himself.

        Prior to this development and the ensuing judgment thereof, all mankind spoke one language.  Men of God who had lived before the flood had access to great knowledge and understanding through their direct contact with the source of knowledge and wisdom. Adam had enjoyed the privileges of Paradise and it was common for him to converse with his Maker.  He was given outstanding power and authority over the creation, even to the naming and classification of the many species of animal and plant life.

        Communication with the divine Presence was the secret of his power and wisdom, and so long as he walked in harmony with the divine order, he was eligible to continue receiving of the divine substance of life.  Adam’s failure, however, brought about his expulsion from God’s garden and the divine Presence, not only a monumental loss to himself and his wife, but a terrific tragedy to their offspring.

        There is no doubt but that this first couple passed on to their children much of the understanding they had gained under the divine influence of their Paradisical environment.  And a few of their progeny also walked so close to God that they were blessed by great understanding of spiritual and physical realities.

        Thus, the man Enoch had the testimony that he pleased God (a rare and invaluable state), and God saw to it that he did not see death.

        Genesis 4:20–22 relates some of the crafts in which certain men were skilled, the knowledge of which came from the only true source of all knowledge and strength.  These men were recipients of the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom which was made available to those who were in contact with the Lord of glory.

        But, sin took its toll on these early people.  As they became more vile and incorrigible God justifiably put an end to their wicked ways by destroying all of mankind except for eight souls.

        The flood did not cleanse the earth of all sin, however, for it was not long after the waters had subsided that Noah became intoxicated on his own wine, and other more serious crimes were committed.  And as iniquity began to abound, mankind moved himself further away from the divine influence of good, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

        This demonstrates, then, the reason for Nimrod and his clan to try to build an access to the origin of all things.  Since God did not condescend to their level and share His wisdom with them, they would ascend up to Him and make their demands known.  The men of God had always reached God through prayer and sacrifice, but these men had a better idea, they thought.  They would “crash” heaven by their own machinations and thus prove to the world their invincibility.  Had their plan worked, if it had been possible to accomplish such a feat, that would have been the greatest display of SELF GLORY the world had ever witnessed.  Of course, we know that theirs was an impossible dream, for heaven is not accessible by mechanical means, but this further attests to the vanity of the self – the ego – the utter foolishness of the flesh and the aspirations of the arrogant heart.

        The god of self was at work among these ungodly earthlings.  Notice the revealing message in Genesis 11, verses 2 through 4: “they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.”  “Let us make brick…Let us build us a city and a tower…let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad.”  While the word “us” is plural, their motive was singular, and that was the elevation and exaltation of the self.

        The plain which they chose was pleasant to the flesh.  No rocky soil nor mountainous hillsides for them.  A satisfying, fertile loam was their choice.  Their engineers were able to build giant aqueducts from the nearby Euphrates River to supply their city with running water.  Elegance and pomposity were the hallmarks of the city of self–satisfaction.  Here SELF was held in high esteem and was catered to.

        The Babylonian nature still drives men to seek to save themselves, please themselves, and serve themselves, a 180 degree turn from the teachings of Jesus and the example He lived before mankind, for He commanded His followers to deny self (Mark 9:34)!

        Notice how self is expressed in their determination to build a city and a tower.  Not for them was the offering of a sacrifice and ardent seeking of God to know His will.  “Let US make brick, let Us build.”  Self–will, self–determination was the motivation which provided the impetus for their doings.

        How many modern ministries are moved by the same egotistic fervor which was displayed by the first Babylonians?  David said, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psa. 127:1).

        Few people genuinely want to know and to do God’s will.  Proof of this is in the fact that so very few obey the word of the Lord as it is written in the Bible.  If they won’t follow that which is found in the Book , how much more will they not obey the Lord when He speaks from heaven!  God’s will is revealed in His word.

        Too many people decide what they are going to do, then demand God to bless them in it!  They say they want His will, but in reality they want God’s approval of their own will.  Of course, that’s the Babylonian way!

        Jesus came doing the Father’s will, speaking the Father’s words, and working the Father’s works.  He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30).  What a difference that is to modern man.  He apparently believes he can do anything, given the opportunity, time, and finances.  In fact, the gospel of humanism touts that very message.  “You can do whatever you will to do.”

        Babylon, the city of self–will still flourishes today; it is universal, however, not limited to a spot on a plain in Shinar.  It is an entity planted and nourished in the very heart and soul of mankind!  “Be yourself, do your thing,” is the modern cry.

        Jesus had some very pointed remarks to make about the will of the Father.  He stated that:

        1.  Only those who do the Father’s will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21).

        2.  Only those who do the Father’s will are a part of the family of God (Matt. 12:46–50).

        3.  Those who are His disciples are to do the Father’s will (John 20:21).

        Just as Jesus was sent by the Father to do His Father’s will, so are all of His followers commissioned to do the same.

        The Babylonians’ next goal was, “let us make us a name,” or a reputation!  Mankind loves to be famous, well–known, popular, vaunted, well–spoken of.  Some even desire fame and notoriety irrespective of the reason.  Self–esteem is one of the great themes of the modern Babylonian.  People are told they must learn to love themselves, and have a high regard for self.  They are taught that this is the secret of success, the only positive outlook on life that they must acquire.

        Self–esteem, self–glory, self–exaltation — all are inspired of the devil, not God.  “Know the truth,” Jesus declared, “and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  The truth is, of course, that without God, man is hopelessly, helplessly lost, and he owes his very existence and soul to the Almighty.

        Self–love and self–exaltation are a part of the Babylonian system and are to be avoided with all one’s might.  Beware of great “ministries” in which the name of the founder is heralded forth.  It smells of Babylon: “let us make us a name.”

        Jesus “made himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7)!  His identity was lost in the Father, whom no man saw.  Billboards and a dynamic P.R. team were never used to proclaim any city–wide crusades to emblazon His arrival.  His most widely acclaimed entry into Jerusalem was a reversal of the Babylonian process: “meek, and sitting upon an ass” (Matt. 21:5).  No selfish ambitions were displayed, no ostentatious scenes of self–glory were seen as He was unceremoniously carried through the streets by the humble donkey on His way to drive the money changers out of the house of God!  This is our example, our pattern, our goal; we are to be conformed to this image!

        Self–preservation was the next item of concern on the Babylonians’ list: “lest we be scattered”!  Self–preservation and self–defense are practically the same, and both are denounced by Jesus (Matt. 16:25; Matt. 5:39).  Isn’t it odd how easy we find it to justify our own ways regardless of what Jesus said?

        Notice how Babylon’s ways are so against (anti) Christ.  The tenets of the Babylonian faith are diametrically opposed to the commands and orders of the Galilean.  Even small children are taught to fend for themselves, stand up and fight for their “rights,” exert themselves and contend for the ascendancy in every situation.

        The competitive doctrine, out doing all others, displaying one’s greatness, whether in academics, sports, business, music, ad infinitum, is but one of the characteristics of the Babylonian system of self–preservation (as well as self–glory), and it operates with the avowed purpose of “smearing” (overwhelm, or defeat decisively, dict.) one’s opponent or contestant.  The idea is to make oneself look great while causing the other person to appear inferior.  The question remains, “Is it Christian?”

        Ancient Babylon, the city of perpetual confusion, lives on today, although her buildings have crumbled and her inhabitants have been scattered.  She lives in the hearts and minds and philosophies of mankind, and is present in every society of the world – totalitarian, republics, democracies – wherever mankind permits her to live and flourish.

        Her charter is the same on every continent: Self–exaltation, Self–will, Self–pleasing, Self–defense.  Self must be glorified, lifted up, catered to, preserved.  And as this is being accomplished, God will be ignored, circumvented, by–passed.

        Babylon spread her dogmas into every area of man’s existence; religion, politics, and economics, and it is readily evident that man has adopted the practices and behavior of this city which, in God’s book, is defined as a whore who has successfully seduced the rich, the merchants, the kings and rulers of the earth, as well as the religionists.  They have all gone to her brothel to drink of her wine and to revel in the debauchery of carnality!  They have listened attentively as she has soothed their consciences, telling them that they can serve God and mammon, they can store up treasures both on earth and in heaven, that the words of Jesus do not apply today, that God is so benevolent that He accounts all humanity as gods also, that all things and happenings are relative and nothing is right and nothing is wrong.

        The gospel according to Babylon is one of corruption, disgrace and abomination.  The great paradox of all time is that some of God’s people have become enmeshed in the machinery of Babylonianism.  However, the Lord knows those who are His, and He is calling His people OUT.  He is pointing the way back to Jesus, back to the Bible, back to the cross of self–crucifixion.  To remain in the wicked city will mean certain judgment, for salvation is not found in Babylon nor in her environs.

        The day is close at hand when the saints will awaken to the call of the Lord.  When they realize their plight and the reality of impending judgment, some will respond to the call of the Lord and will flee out of the system that reaps death – spiritual death – a far worse condition than physical death could ever be.  It is time now to forsake man’s ways, his thoughts, his actions, and all of his reasonings, and to turn to the Living God and His word.

 

 

THE DEEPER WALK

Alfred King

        Isn't it an oddity that many in the church who will loudly proclaim to the drug addict, the alcoholic, the homosexual, the kleptomaniac, the one hooked on pornography or gambling, or enslaved to the use of tobacco that God will not only forgive but will give the strength and power to overcome those bondages of sin, while they themselves are bound by what is termed “little sins” which they embrace and excuse as though from these minor infractions, this same powerful and almighty God is limited in His ability to deliver them?  Hanging onto their pet sins (gods), they deceive themselves by excusing their own enslavement and do not truly desire to be free from all sin themselves.  It seems that God can handle the big issues but is powerless with their “little sins.”  God can deliver from big sins but He is not big enough to deliver from little sins.  While it is obvious that the task of “bringing many sons to glory” is a process which takes patience, effort and time, it is also clear in scripture that God is dealing with all sin, not just what man calls “gross sins.”  Why is it okay for a Christian to waste hours every day watching television or goofing off on the internet because they are enslaved to an addiction that is more acceptable or seems less harmful than the druggy who is addicted to heroin, marijuana or prescription drugs?  True those drugs are definitely more harmful to the body, but when we consider scripture, it is the soul that has eternal value and which the great enemy of God seeks to “kill, steal and destroy” (Jn. 10:10).  It does not matter to Satan by what means a man is brought into bondage but that he is kept from the way that leads to life, and he continuously works to keep one from finding the abundant life experienced in walking with God.

        The abundant life to which Christ bids His followers attain is one that, while it leads the believer through the valley of the shadow of death, it is a path designed to bring the faithful follower to a place where the nature of Christ is seen in the life of the believer.  It is a wonderful calling where the believer is brought through trials and tribulations by the power of the Holy Spirit for the “perfecting of the saints” till he attains “the fullness of the stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:12–13).  This journey is the means in developing the nature of Christ “until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).  While on this path that Jesus said is “strait and narrow”, the Christian is not to limit God's power but to trust Him to fully change his desires, ambitions and plans.  God is working in and among His people to bring forth a church that is holy and righteous, not one who is only separate from grosser and more detestable sins, but free from all sin.  This divine call requires dedication and consecration to possess.

Pressing Toward The Mark

        In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul expresses his desire to go further than eliminating just major sins.  His ambition was to reach and obtain that “prize of the high calling of God in Christ.”  What does Paul mean when he speaks of the “high calling”?  His preceding words describe and define at least some of that to which he was referring.  In verse 8 he writes of the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” and about winning Christ.  In verse 9 he declares the possibility of being “found in him” and having the “righteousness of God.”  In verse 10 he presents the ability to “know him and the power of his resurrection,” and in verse 11 his desire is expressed to “attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”  And finally, in verse 12 he acknowledges that he had not attained to these things nor was he perfect but he expresses his whole life was dedicated to “apprehending that for which he was apprehended of Christ Jesus.”

        Several very important truths are presented in these few verses that the Apostle Paul writes to the Philippians, and it is imperative to the church that she catch this same vision that the apostle had if she is to become what God would have her to be.  The slipshod, half–hearted service to God that has been the norm of the church must give way to a returning to God with the whole heart.  There must be an awakening to the realities that God has provided in Christ Jesus.  Jesus not only came to save men but to take that saved man and bring him into a close fellowship with Himself.  Paul makes this so very clear in his letter to the Philippians.  In humble prayer, consider each point made with a humble and contrite heart and in truth.

The Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ Jesus

        Webster defines knowledge as: “to be acquainted or familiar with,” “to have experience of,” “to have practical understanding of.”  (There are a few other definitions for the word but these are sufficient for our topic.)  In His prayer on the last night with His disciples, Jesus prayed, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  To know, to “be acquainted and familiar with,” both God and Jesus is where eternal life is found, and that life has already begun within the soul of any who have encountered Jesus Christ and been genuinely born again.  As the late Ray Jarmin stated so well after he had been saved, “Something went out of me that’s never come back and something came into me that’s never gone out, Praise God!”  The life of Christ comes in and the old life forever departs.  This is to know him.  This is the knowledge and assurance every Christian should possess.  It does not mean that he will not face times of fear, doubt or struggles, for Paul speaks of losing all things for this new life, yet he considers it all worthwhile, counting those things as trash by comparison.  To attempt to face our personal cross without this fellowship with Christ is to face certain defeat, for the power to become the sons of God rests in loving God above all other things.  As the believer calls out upon God in his trying times, as he encourages himself in the Lord he finds the power of the Holy Spirit that lifts him above the trials and tribulations that come.

That I May Win Christ

        Paul suffered the loss of all things that he might win Christ.  Paul is not making this path easy as is so often preached today in our modern churches.  He states very emphatically and clearly that personal sacrifice is essential if one is to “win Christ.”  Jesus stated that we cannot serve God and mammon.  We will either love the one and hate the other or we will cling to the one and despise the other (Matt. 6:24).  To attempt to hold onto the world with one hand and onto Christ with the other is a very foolish endeavor, for it is impossible.  Let no one tell you that Jesus was incorrect in His message to His followers.  In Romans 12:1, Paul gives some very important advice to the Christians in Rome.  He says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  To seriously contemplate the requirements contained in this verse without a knowledge of Christ, without a personal encounter with Him, is a most disturbing and devastating thought, for no man can find in himself enough “good” to make the decision of complete sacrifice without some drastic change within the heart.  When the desperate soul cries out to God in faith and repentance, God mercifully saves him, gives him a new heart, reveals Himself to that soul, sends the Holy Spirit within, and equips him with the power to walk with God no matter what the cost.  In John 15, Jesus gave the parable of the Vine and the branches.  He informs us that our ability to bear fruit is possible only as we abide in Him.  Abiding means to live or dwell.  The believer must be daily and continuously conscious of Christ in all his activities and not just on the day he attends church.  Bearing fruit means applying the words and teachings of Christ to one’s life daily.  It means separating oneself from the ways of the world, taking up his cross and following Christ, forsaking the past life and walking in obedience to Jesus’ words.  In this manner one abides in Christ.  In that abiding, Christ reveals Himself more clearly and the believer grows more familiar and acquainted with Him in true fellowship.  Such is the simplicity of the gospel.  Winning Christ is accomplished first by being born again and then walking daily according to His word.  Can anything of this world be compared to winning Christ?

Found In Him

          Paul found that all his righteous works to please and appease God was not in himself.  He had proven that peace with God was not found in his knowledge, wisdom, zeal, or his own righteousness, but he was dependent upon the blood of Jesus Christ for cleansing and he needed a righteousness beyond himself to be reconciled to a holy God.  His own righteousness had already condemned him to an eternal death.  It was on the road to Damascus that he met Jesus Christ and found in Him the cleansing and righteousness he needed.  But that encounter was just the beginning of a life–long journey in which he, without Christ, could do nothing.  While discovering no power within himself, he found that through Christ he could do all things (Phil. 4:13).  This is the major point: it is only in a close relationship with Christ, by applying His teachings, His commands to our lives that we will find the power to be overcomers and be truly “found in Him.”  How can one be “found in Him” if he does his own will while neglecting God's?

The Righteousness of Faith

        It is very unfortunate that so many Christians have missed this most important fact of scriptural teaching.  There are two major teachings that miss the mark in the doctrine of sanctification.  The most common and probably the most dangerous is the popular teaching of God’s grace.  This topic might be better addressed in an article dealing specifically with biblical grace but suffice it here to bring out a couple of points that need to be considered.  The most common definition of grace is unmerited favor.  Unmerited favor is a true definition and good to a point, but it is a very abridged definition.  It is so brief that it is consequently misunderstood, and therefore mistaught.  Because of this abbreviated definition, the modern teaching of grace has become disturbingly dangerous, for it leaves the believer falling short of the call of the Gospel.  The unmerited favor aspect of grace is that God works with men although man does not deserve it.  Man has sinned against God deliberately and continuously and therefore deserves to be sent to hell for his transgression.  God's law and His justice would not and could not bring any accusation against God if all men were sent to eternal destruction.  So anytime God shows any mercy or favor towards man, it is certainly unmerited.  To confine God’s grace to this limited definition is to miss the whole plan of God for man and leaves man impotent and on a path that will most definitely lead him to accept what is termed “greasy grace.”  True biblical grace goes so much further than this and it is so sad and certainly a shame that it is missed by most Christians in the 20th and 21st centuries.

        The second dangerous view of grace is one that places God's grace only as a necessity for salvation.  In other words, grace is God’s mercy extended to a sinner in which He draws the sinner to conviction and so works in the heart that the believer is born again and comes to the saving knowledge of God.  From then on, the believer must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).  Now the new convert is “on his own.”  True, he has the Holy Spirit but he must take himself by the nap of the neck and force himself through the eye of the needle.  If there is some seeming success in producing any semblance of righteousness, such as the Pharisee Saul accomplished in becoming a Pharisee of the Pharisees, he ends up a proud, puffed up, haughty, arrogant, and a self–proclaimed example of how it is done and how others ought to be like him.  Or, if the believer never seems to make any progress in righteousness because of his lack of personal determination and drive, he is condemned over and over until he either comes to the knowledge of true grace or he gives up and falls away.  He does not find the strength nor the ability to walk and live a righteous life in today's world.  He fails to realize that this power only comes with the continuing work of grace in his life.

        Biblical grace, while always being “unmerited,” goes much further than our modern teachings espouse.  God’s grace was most wonderfully expressed and exposed at Calvary with the Son of God bearing on the cross the penalty for man's sin.  Grace is again revealed when a man by faith appropriates God’s forgiveness and is born again.  But grace does not stop here.  James Strong defines grace as: “The divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.”  Joseph Thayer’s definition is similar but goes into more detail.  “The merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”  Thayer's definition breaks open grace and exposes its various parts, showing how it covers so much more than just initial salvation.  It involves every part of the believer’s life, from initial conviction to his final days upon earth.  Thayer’s definition begins with salvation in showing God’s mercy in leading one to repentance.  It is God’s holy influence upon the soul, bringing the sinner to God and this holy influence (grace) continues throughout the life, encouraging, motivating, revealing God’s love and care, working to unveil Christ more clearly with all His holiness and righteousness so the believer will desire to be conformed to His image.  Grace also exposes one’s sin, his carnal nature, his stubbornness and idolatries.  Grace (God’s undeserved favor) gives the believer hope when all seems hopeless, light when darkness is all he sees, encouragement when he is cast down, life when he feels the burden of his own wickedness.  The believer finds that it is God which worketh within him to cause him to "will and to do" God's will (Phil. 2:13).  This verse in Philippians follows the verse previously mentioned, that the believer is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.  He must work it out, but God also is at work in the heart giving him the will and power to do what God has commanded.  God’s grace is that He has taken it upon Himself to “kindle them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”  All of this is undeserved and is so much more than what is so often understood.

To Know Him and the Power of His Resurrection

          Abiding in the vine and dwelling in that secret place has already been discussed in this article.  It is in this dwelling place that the Christian begins to learn the magnitude of Christ’s resurrection power and experience it in his own life.  In Ephesians 1:17–23, Paul writes of the power that raised up Christ from the dead and he prays that God would grant to believers the spirit and revelation in the knowledge of Him that the believers’ eyes of understanding would be opened to these glorious truths and begin to experience God’s power in their own lives to walk above sin, the world, the devil and every enemy.  He prays that the church would not only know it intellectually but in practical application.  Paul desired that the power that raised up Jesus from the dead would also be known by the church and would make the church glorious and able to meet every need of man.  That power for which Jesus died to give the church, she has forsaken, choosing, instead of the fountain of living water, a slab of dried bread.

The Fellowship of His Sufferings; Made Conformable to His Death

        Jesus, condescending from His heavenly state, suffered not only in death on a cross, but daily He learned obedience by the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8), facing the same adversities that created man experiences, being tempted by the devil and tempted in all points like as we (Heb. 4:15).  Jesus was familiar with suffering long before the cross, and He suffered for the gospel message He came preaching.  Not only did He come preaching initial salvation, He also taught and instructed those who would follow Him how to grow, mature, and learn to discipline themselves by conforming their lives to His pattern.  It involved taking up their cross, dying daily and following Him.  Listen carefully to His words in Matthew 18:24–25.  “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  The fellowship of His sufferings involves a man’s personal cross.  It requires a denial of the desires, ambitions, and workings of man’s flesh.  To be made conformable to His death is to forsake one’s own will and replace it with God’s.  Jesus always did the will of His Father, forsaking His own works and words, preferring God’s.  Consider just a few verses which show that Jesus denied Himself in preference to His Father’s will.

        John 8:28–29:Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things . And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”

        John 12:49: “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”

        John 14:10: “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?  the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”

        Luke 22:42: “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

        Jesus spoke what the Father gave Him to speak, He did what the Father directed Him to do, He accepted His Father’s will in place of His own, doing nothing of Himself or apart from the Father and He calls His church to follow Him.  He lived the way He calls His followers to live and He empowers the believer to do so by sending the Holy Spirit into their heart which is a work of grace.  When Jesus said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:20), He provided full salvation.  He left nothing undone but accomplished all He came to do to make possible complete deliverance from the world, the devil, self and sin, and not just the grosser sins of man, but all sin.  He made a way in which man can come to know Him in a very personal way and grow into deep spiritual maturity.

        Today, Christians are living in very perilous times.  Believers of the first century lived in dangerous times also and they were faithful, steady, walked above sin, did not compromise but stood faithful even unto death, not because they went to church once or twice a week, not because they made a public statement that they “accepted Christ” as their personal savior, not because they belonged to a certain denomination, not because they knew about God’s unmerited favor; but because they believed the gospel and appropriated all that the gospel contained.  They knew what it was to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but they also knew what it was like to partake of the heavenly manna as they feasted at the table prepared of God in the presence of their enemies and had that fresh anointing so their cup ran over and the world stood amazed.  They knew true grace and it was in the power of that grace that they pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

        Paul had great confidence that through God’s grace he could attain to the resurrection of the dead, but he did not fool himself in thinking that he could live an indifferent, complacent and lax Christianity and still obtain this resurrection for which he pressed.  His discourse to the Philippians was written with hope that they would catch the same vision he possessed and encourage them to engage in the same course.  The record is left for Christians who live in today’s world, to encourage believers not to faint in well–doing but to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus for, as the writer of Hebrews states, “Some must enter therein” (Heb. 4:6).

 

 

A LONELY WALK, A GLORIOUS WALK

Armando Montes

        The Scriptures show that the Lord our God has always called His people to WALK with Him.  We find this truth in the Good Book, from Genesis to Revelation.  When Abraham was ninety–nine years old, the Lord said to him, “WALK before Me and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1).  In Rev. 3:4 we read about some people who “shall WALK with Me in white: for they are worthy.”

        Every true Christian is the temple of the Living God.  His sins have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  His heart has been cleansed by the work of the Holy Spirit.  “I will dwell in them, and WALK in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (II Cor. 6:16).  Because of the new birth we have entered into a new and wonderful relationship with the Living God.  Paul calls it a “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  This newness of life is the more abundant life that our Lord Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.  No wonder that this person “is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).  As we follow the Spirit by obedience to His words and to His leading, we begin to walk with God and to be conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        As we start this walk we find opposition from within and from without that try to separate us from the love of God.  We have set our affections on things above.  Many distractions can creep in to draw us away from the goal set before us.  “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).  Heavenly provision has been made before the foundation of the world for body, spirit and soul to walk in victory.  This walk was designed by our Heavenly Father even before the foundation of the world.  “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4).

        The Lord wants His people to trust Him completely.  We’re not to look at circumstances that surround us.  We’re not to let the problems that beset us affect our walk with Him.  “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7).  Here are some of the characteristics of this walk:

  • WALK in newness of life: Rom. 6:4
  • WALK after the Spirit: Rom. 8:4
  • WALK honestly: Rom. 13:13
  • WALK in the light as He is in the light: I John 1:7
  • WALK by faith: II Cor. 5:7
  • WALK in good works: Eph. 2:10
  • WALK in love: Eph. 5:2
  • WALK in wisdom: Col. 4:5
  • WALK in truth: II John 4
  • WALK after His commandments: II John 6
  • WALK NOT after the flesh: Rom. 8:4
  • WALK NOT after the manner of men: I Cor. 3:3
  • WALK NOT in craftiness: II Cor. 4:2
  • WALK NOT by sight: II Cor. 5:7
  • WALK NOT in the vanity of the mind: Eph. 4:17
  • WALK NOT disorderly: II Thess. 3:6

        In one of His many journeys during His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus was asked the question, “Lord, are there few that be saved? And He said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:23, 24).  We are thankful because the Lord has delivered us from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13).  We have tasted that the Lord is good (Psa. 34:8).  We “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Pet. 1:8).  We are in our journey to heaven where the Lord is “bringing many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10).  But we find ourselves in a warfare fighting against forces that are trying to destroy us.  We endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (II Tim. 2:6).  In us, in this flesh, there are “fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:11).  The Word of God is very plain about the outcome of this warfare.  “Now thanks be unto God, which ALWAYS causeth us to triumph in Christ” (II Cor. 2:14).

        The Holy Spirit is faithful.  He, in His mercy, will show in His Word our failures, sins and shortcomings.  There is “a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).  “If we WALK in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7).  But let us make very clear that this cleansing is contingent upon walking in the light.  God knows the frailties of our flesh and the intentions of our hearts.

        True Christianity is a daily walk.  It is not static.  It is a life of growth and development.  Life, physical or spiritual, is always in constant movement.  The Lord Jesus taught this truth in His parables.  The seed that the sower sowed is to bear fruit (Matt. 13:1–9; 18–23).  The Father is the husbandman.  He purgeth the branches that they might bear more fruit (John 15:2).  “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth” (James 5:7).  The Lord God has also made an investment in mankind.  The parable of the talents and the pounds shows that He is expecting a profit from His investment (Matt. 25:14–30; Luke 19: 12–27).  We have been commanded “to GROW in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18).

        To follow the Lord Jesus Christ costs heavily.  We’re to sit down and count the cost.  As we read His words, we see that we have to make drastic changes in our lives to measure up to His standards.  By the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit we had just a small glimpse of the Cross and His sufferings.  Now the Holy Spirit begins to show us the meaning of our cross.  “If any man will come after Me, (1) let him deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me” (Luke 9:23).  We see the cost and the price to be paid.  Our daily cross makes the difference between a professor and a possessor.  If we do not take the cross we only profess Christ.  But if we take our cross, we possess Christ and His blessings.

        As we follow His steps, little by little we are separated from ourselves and the world.  We have been sanctified, separated unto God.  This sanctification is an ongoing process.  Not many are walking this path of righteousness.  “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14).  True Christianity has never been popular and it will never be.  The multitudes want His blessings, but not the cross.

        “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).  He was a righteous man and a preacher of righteousness.  Noah and his family were delivered from the flood.  Only eight souls were saved.  Not many people will be saved.  The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).  Jesus is the Savior and “took away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Salvation is available to anyone who wants it.  But man has rejected the love offering of our Heavenly Father.  Only a remnant shall be saved.

        As we progress in our journey, many shall fall by the way side.  Only few want to walk the narrow way.  God still has “a little flock.”  The line of separation is getting larger.  It is a lonely walk, but we are not alone.  The Lord Jesus Christ is with us.  Besides, we have Brothers and Sisters walking with us.  This knowledge should be a source of daily strength.  Walking in unity brings comfort and strength to our spirits.  The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ.

        “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel” (Isa. 4:2).  The prophet Isaiah spoke about this day as the last days (Isa. 2:2).  These days are upon us.  “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:1).  The glory of the Lord is going to be restored to His people.  God has declared that there will be “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19).  The Spirit of the Lord is busy working with His people.  He is purging the branches.  God’s will is going to be done.  The mystery of God is going to be completed.  The world is about to see the glory of the Lord revealed in His people.  Hallelujah!  Lord, haste that day!

 

 

A STORM IS COMING

Melody Ax

        THE LORD SHOWED ME A GREAT BLACK CLOUD OVER HALF THE CHURCH.  A STORM IS COMING!  WE MUST WAKE UP AND STAND ON THE ROCK.

        In 1st Corinthians 10:1–4, it states: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”  We must have our foundation in Jesus Christ.

        Then the Holy Spirit brought me to Matthew 7:24–27.  “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.  And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”  The word great in the Strong’s Concordance (3173) means: large, loud, mighty, strong, exceedingly great.

        There will be a great falling away because Christians are not founded on the rock, Jesus Christ.  He is our foundation.  Churches today have put their foundation in other people; and traditions of men which, as Jesus said, make the commandments of God of none effect.  Mark 7:13 states: “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”  Man’s traditions must come down.  Are we worshiping God or man?  Also, in Mark 7:9 it states: “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”

        Read Isaiah 2.  It states in Isaiah 2:18–22: “And the idols he shall utterly abolish.  And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.  In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.  Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?”

        The dark cloud is over half the church because many are not even born again into the Kingdom of God.  As Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 and 22: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”  And verse 23 states: “and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

        We must have Jesus as the Rock.  It is time to put away all of man’s traditions, and our stiff–neck hard–hearted ways.  Let us humble ourselves to the mighty hand of God.  Seek Him first with all our hearts.

        REMEMBER, A GREAT STORM IS COMING!

 

 

 

THE TYPES OF SPIRITUAL HEARTS

Kenneth Fountain

        Many times Jesus taught spiritual truths with parables by comparing the unfamiliar realm of the spirit to our physical realm, using common things understood by man to bring to light knowledge of spiritual things.  In Matthew 13, He used the example of a farmer planting seed on various types of ground.  He explained the parable (presented in verses 3–9) to His disciples, making it clear in verse nineteen that the ground actually represents the hearts of men.  Some may assume that each person must have one of these four kinds of hearts described in the parable: (a) wayside, (b) stony, (c) thorny, or (d) good; but is it not possible that a person, like a garden or field, have some of each of these characteristics?  Since it is certain that God has not arbitrarily assigned a particular soil type to a person, how did the individual come to have a wayside, stony, thorny or good heart (or some combination of these traits)?

        Verse nineteen describes the wayside hearer as one who “understands not” the Word.  Initially, one might cry, “Unfair!  It’s not his fault: he didn’t understand.”  However, in Matthew 13:15, we find Scripture describing persons who did not understand as a result of having closed their own ears, so God could not reach them.  This was the decided choice of the individual.  Are there not possibly areas in our own lives where we do not want God, or anyone else, to point out erroneous thoughts, wrongdoing, or residing evil in the heart?  The honest answer would most likely be “Absolutely!”  The saints who stand on the sea of glass (Rev. 15:2) surely have nothing to hide because nothing can be hidden.  As is written in Hebrews 4:13, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”  To have understanding, then, one must keep his heart open to the leading of the Lord.  This is done by humbly submitting to any and all instruction and reproof given by our loving Savior through the intimate, personal ministry of the Holy Spirit.

        Looking at verse twenty, it seems that most everyone at some point in their walk with God could qualify as a stony hearer.  At the time of conversion, each person is “anon with joy.”  Salvation has been received, deliverance has been granted, forgiveness administered; and joy, with appreciation and love, explodes in the heart.  However, tribulation and persecution will come because Satan has lost a victim, and the world has lost a follower, and the self nature is confronted by the Holy Spirit within the heart.  Old habits and acquaintances do not readily accept the abrupt changes of interest in the new heart, and challenge the intrusion of righteousness in their former domain.  The convert must abide in the vine (Jn. 15), put out spiritual roots (Ps. 1:3), and nurture the thankfulness, peace and joy in his newfound life, or he will be “off–ended.”  So many Christians lose their first love for God and become overwhelmed by the inner conflict of good versus evil, that they give up the fight of faith, considering it an impossible battle to win.  This person needs to spend more time in the Word, in prayer with God, and in reviewing what God has accomplished in his behalf, as well as what God has promised to do with and for him.  His faith must be increased, and “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).  As Paul said in II Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35–39).

        The thorny ground hearer (v. 22) did not bear fruit as the husbandman desired because the Word was choked by the common activities of the person’s life.  Simply put, he did not invest the necessary time and effort to nurture the seed of life planted in his heart.  He was more interested in other things.  God’s work in his life was not deemed important enough to treasure or protect.  He allowed himself to be sidetracked with the mundane requirements of physical existence.  He devoted himself to his hobbies, friends, work, family, personal goals, entertainment, sports, television, internet, facebook, reading books, listening to music, or countless other things that demanded his time and attention.  There was so little, or no time to develop that personal, intimate relationship with his Creator and Savior.  (Merely attending church and participating in church–related activities is not enough nourishment for the soul because Christianity is not just a religion, it is a personal relationship.)  Certainly, there are things that must be done in the physical realm, but basically, a person can always find, or make time for the things he really wants to do.   If developing a close, strong relationship with God is not important enough to the individual, he will occupy himself with the things of this life.  “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 Jn. 2:15).  Is there any who do not have to battle the obligations of life, and the enticements of the world trying to draw his attention and affection away from God?  A garden must be carefully attended to prevent thorns and weeds from growing in it.  These would certainly steal the nourishment intended for the crops planted by the gardener if left unattended.  Our hearts must also be carefully guarded against the invasion of life’s wants, and the world’s glamour.  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1,2).

        The good ground hearer (verse 23) understands the Word and bears fruit.  Ah, success and bountiful return for the Father’s investment!  How did this hearer happen to have good ground in his heart?  We may think, “Wasn’t he amazingly fortunate?  How nice to not be bothered with thorns, or stones, or have his seed of life taken away by Satan.  Why must I always have difficulties, and others have good ground?”  Why did Paul say, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life,” (I Tim. 6:12) if good ground is randomly given to some?  As with a gardener or farmer, the good ground is created over time.  It requires effort to remove stones, and thorns, and provide fertilizer, and till the ground to loosen the soil in preparation for planting and watering in order for the young plant’s roots to acquire nourishment and strength to reach up to the sun and also withstand the violent elements that would destroy it.  God provides all the necessary spiritual help, but He works within the heart in the capacity granted by the willingness of the individual.  God does not usurp the authority He has given to the will of man.  He seeks loving service, not conscripts.

        Christian singer Steve Green wrote a powerful song with these words: “Guard your heart, guard your heart, don’t trade it for treasure, don’t give it away.  As a payment for pleasure, it’s a high price to pay; for the soul that remains sincere with a conscience clear, guard your heart.”  He also comments that “the heart is easily swayed, and often betrayed by emotion.”  It is so true that the Christian believer must guard his heart, set his affections on High, strive to enter the strait gate, and abide in the vine.  “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen”(Jude 24,25).

 

 

NOT MOSES, BUT ABRAHAM

A.W. Tozer

        The Christian’s spiritual progenitor is not Moses, but Abraham.

        The great doctrine of faith takes us back to Abraham and thus antedates the Law of Moses by 430 years.  This is the argument of Paul in Galatians 3:15-18 and Romans 4:9-16.

        There is a mistaken notion abroad that in the Old Testament salvation came by obedience to the Law, while in the New Testament it comes by faith.  The truth is that since the beginning of the world no one was ever saved in any way other than by grace through faith.

        “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”  But grace and truth came by Jesus Christ long before the incarnation.  When God slew those beasts (presumably lambs) and gave the skins to Adam and Eve for clothing He was telling them in symbolic language that the redemption of the race would be by the merit of innocent life laid down.  Not by law but by atonement would they and their descendants be ransomed from the Fall.

        This idea was never wholly lost to mankind.  When the Law was given it was accompanied by a system of sin offerings and atoning sacrifices leading straight to the Saviour who was to come.  When John pointed to Jesus and exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” he was identifying Christ with all the sacrificial lambs that had been offered for sin from the time of Abel to the appearance of Emmanuel.

        The idea creeps into much evangelical teaching that the Old Testament is a book of justice and judgment without a ray of mercy or grace or love to lighten the darkness, whereas the New Testament is filled with mercy and forgiveness.  The truth is that mercy and justice, love and judgment are found in both the Old and the New Testament in about equal proportion.  Not two Gods but one wrote the Bible, and the unity of His perfect character reveals itself in all parts of the Scriptures.

        It may come as a surprise to some to learn that there is as much about mercy in the Old Testament as in the New, but such is actually the case.  Grace is found throughout the Old Testament, and love also is found there in abundance.  Justification by faith is an Old Testament doctrine.  It was first associated with Abraham, appeared later in the writings of David and Habakkuk and was shown by Paul to be one of the most vital doctrines of the New Testament.  Thus the organic unity of the Bible is confirmed.

        It is a heartening thought that no one ever had or can have any advantage over another in his search for God.  No matter what the dispensation or the circumstances, everyone who came to God came by faith.  Those of ancient times looked forward to the cross and those of later times looked and must look back to it.  Everyone and anyone may find forgiveness and cleansing through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and any progress in the knowledge of God, any growth in spiritual stature must come the same way.  Our spiritual ancestor is Abraham whose faith pleased God, brought an imputation of righteousness and made him the father of the faithful.

        We Christians are the sons of faith and the heirs of liberty.  Let us stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.