People of The Living God

Matthew 24

 

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January 2013



 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

SMOKE FROM THE PIT

        The school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, this past month is an unimaginable tragedy and our hearts and prayers go out to those parents and relatives who suffered such great loss.  Once again we have a grim reminder of the repercussions of a people or nation who reject God and God’s standards.  When a nation turns from the holy commandments given by a loving God, the very God Who created all things and knows best how a people should live and govern themselves, that nation no longer has God’s protecting hand upon them and they open the door for all types of evil to infiltrate the camp.  Revelation 9 speaks of a time when God sends an angel with the key to the bottomless pit, who opens the pit from which all types of evil come forth.  I fear that this is that prophesied time when the pit is being opened.  Verse 2 says, “And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.”  The first thing that comes from this bottomless pit is smoke.  Smoke blinds, chokes and suffocates.  The smoke from this pit is not that which blinds or chokes physically for this smoke is that which blinds, chokes and suffocates spiritually. In II Cor. 4:4, the Apostle Paul writes, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”  The blinding effect of the smoke can be easily seen as the cause of the moral decadence of our society over the past three decades.  It is not God Who is blinding men but the great deceiver, the one who Jesus said is come to steal, kill and destroy (Jn. 10:10).  All that Satan does or attempts to bring about in our society comes with the intent to destroy men’s lives.  In the last part of Jn. 10:10 Jesus states His intentions, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”

        Notice the contrast between the underlying motives and designs of these persons, God vs Satan.  All that God has ever spoken has come from a heart of love for His creation.  Not only are His words given in love, but His love is proclaimed as loudly and distinctly as can be declared with the offering of His only Son in order that man could be saved.  Many people find the commands of God, even those given by Jesus Himself, to be burdensome and binding.  However, every command is for man’s good, to spare him from the results that will follow those who reject them.  It is like a car: The manufacturer of a specific automobile has designed that vehicle and knows what is best to keep that vehicle performing as intended for a long period of time.  They set the maintenance specifications and requirements so the owner will be pleased with the purchase.  However, the durability of the car is very dependent upon the owner maintaining it according to the manufacture’s recommendations.  Violation of those recommendations can void all warranties.  The manufacturer has done its part and their intentions are good. But if the owner doesn’t change the oil and filter at the recommended intervals, doesn’t keep the tire air pressure correct, doesn’t service it at the recommended intervals, doesn’t have the brakes checked when they begin to squeal, the car will not have the long life the manufacturer intended it to have.  So with the things of God.  God’s commands are given with love and in hope that man will realize God’s ways are the best ways and what He says will bring forth in the believer’s life that abundant life which Christ promised.

        While God’s commands are for man’s good, breaking those commands will result in Satan having an open door in which to work in the life.  In the days of Job, the devil accused God of putting a hedge around Job so Satan couldn’t get to him (Job 1:10). But if you notice earlier in the chapter (verse 8) the Lord speaks very highly of Job when He asks Satan, “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”  Here was a man who feared God (had tremendous reverence for God) and hated evil, turning away from sin always.  Satan doesn’t deny Job’s righteousness but is very aware of it.  Job’s obedience to God and hatred of sin was what kept the hedge around him so Satan could not get to him.  The same principle works today.  When men fear the Lord and keep His commands, hating the very garments spotted by the flesh (sin), there is erected around him a hedge or a protection that keeps the roaring lion from devouring him.  God’s law is given because He loves, not because He desires to be a tyrant or to make people’s lives bondage.  The great deceiver has convinced man that God’s law is oppressive and that freedom is found in “doing your own thing.”  It’s like a popular song sung by Frank Sinatra several years ago entitled, “I Did It My Way.”

        Consider for a moment the results of doing it our way.  Our way is to kill over a million babies in the womb every year.  Our way is to have premarital sex and say that it’s okay and to hand out condoms to make it safe.  Our way is to do away with the God-ordained family, doing away with the structure essential for rearing children properly.  Our way is to allow homosexuality and consider it just an alternative lifestyle.  Our way is to divorce and break the vows taken if things don’t work out as we expected.  Our way is to throw God out of our schools, courts, and out of everything public.  Our way is to teach evolution so that man is no more than an animal, which ultimately does away with God.  But then we wonder why man responds to all this with humanistic and animalistic values, the stronger survive and the weaker die off, such things that took place last month in Connecticut or in a mall in Oregon.  Animals kill other animals.  This is the principle of evolution.  Why are we surprised when men act as animals, when that’s what they are taught?  Why are we shocked when what we teach our young people today comes back to bite us?  Why are we disappointed when they live what they are taught and very often follow our example?  Christ came to give life and He said, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”  God’s commandments are given because God loves us and wants the best for us.

        Those who think that their ways are better than God’s ways have been blinded by the smoke and are being choked.  The hedge that once surrounded our society is being broken down all around us and is allowing the enemy to successfully come in stealing, killing and destroying.  It is not God Who has brought upon our society the problems we see; it is man’s rejection of God’s law that has broken the hedge and opened wide the gates of hell and allowed all sorts of evil to flow in.  Paul said, “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16)  America has become a slave to sin.  She cannot cease from sin.  She is as the drug addict or the alcoholic who cannot resist the temptation of another pill or another drink.  America is addicted to Hollywood’s evil and can turn it off no easier than she can refrain from the blood of the innocent in the womb.  She’s a slave of sin.

        If there is hope for America, it rests in the church.  The government is as drunk as its people and it will never make the hard decisions necessary to put America back on its moral compass.  If any change is to take place, it must begin with the church.  The church must return to God and take II Chronicles 7:14 to heart, not just reading it periodically but by personal application.  The church must begin to trim the lamps, arise and shake themselves from the dust.  They must shake themselves from all that is of this world.  Jesus warned that the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word causing one to become unfruitful.  Sadly, the smoke has choked the word in too many of our churches.  The church failed first when she allowed the world to infiltrate its sanctuary and the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus began to dim which left the country to plummet into gross darkness, so the church must return first if there is to be any hope for the country.

        Will things improve in the future or will they get worse in our country?  Will the events of December continue to plague this country?  Are these just the “beginning of sorrows” of which Jesus warned us?  This is entirely dependent upon the church, for the church holds the keys.  Will the church become the light of hope and life that it was intended to be or will she continue to fold her hands and sleep?  If the church sleeps on then we can expect sin to increase.  We can expect more deplorable events than those we have already experienced.  Satan will not let up his heinous attacks, and he will continue to drive his slaves to fulfill his will to steal, kill and destroy.  Wake up, Church!!

 

 

INTERPRETING THE GOSPEL

Curtis Dickinson

        The gospel – the “good news” – centers on what God has done through His Son Jesus in redeeming man from sin and death that he might live in fellowship with the Creator.  It is the responsibility of the church to present this gospel to every creature, for it is the gospel that is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

        To put it mildly, there is a lot of confusion today as to what is meant by the gospel.  Many people attend church all their lives and seldom hear the biblical gospel but may assume that it is being proclaimed in the many references to scripture and expressed through the church’s numerous social programs.  While the scope of Christ’s commandments certainly extend to every facet of life – private and public – the gospel itself is defined in certain propositional terms.

        The saying, “That’s the gospel truth,” has caused many to think of gospel as any truth found in scripture, especially in the first four books of the New Testament, often labeled as “The Gospels.”  Others proclaim as “gospel” the terms of salvation – faith, repentance, and baptism, being born again or receiving Christ, etc.  These identify man’s response to the gospel, but the gospel is not what man does; it is what God has done.

        Paul defined the gospel as Christ’s death for sin, His burial, and His resurrection (I Cor. 15:3).  In these three events is summed up the redemptive work of God and its implications.

        “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”  He was not a martyr, and He didn’t die just to demonstrate God’s love, although He did that, too.  His death was not an act designed to stir our emotions that God might have our attention.  Indeed, that is one of its effects but not the reason for it.  In that Jesus died for us, He died for our sins.  Peter explains that He bore our sins in His body upon the tree, and Paul says that He was made to be sin on our behalf (I Peter 2:24; II Cor. 5:21).  These and many other scriptures present Christ’s death as vicarious, the One suffering the penalty of sin for the many (Isa. 53).

        The gospel of God’s grace must be interpreted against the background of sin and death.  To get the message of Christ’s death, one has to have a sense of the criminality of sin and its inexorable consequence: death.  The modern church shies away from any mention of sin.  I called on a couple who had visited the church on a Sunday when I had preached on repentance, and the man told me that he did not like to attend a church where sin was identified or made an issue!  Of course, he didn’t have any difficulty in finding one where he would be comfortable.  In our age of “anything goes…if it feels good, do it,” it is easy to rationalize our actions or fix the blame on external causes, so that it is unthinkable that anyone should be accused of sin!  We all have our faults, but who has done anything worthy of death?  To speak of Christ dying for sin is a foreign language to modern man.  As J.B. Phillips suggested, we must preach the diagnosis (sin) before we can preach the cure.

        It was because of the wrath of God against sin that He sent His Son to save sinners by the sacrifice of Himself.  The power of the good news of His death is diminished in ratio to the degree that sin is tolerated and condoned, and today in most quarters it is condoned by silence, if not by overt consent.  Jesus said that He came not to call the righteous (those who consider themselves righteous, like the Pharisees) but sinners (those who humbly acknowledge they have sinned against God).  The implication of the gospel is that our sin is a shameful violation of God’s perfect creative purpose and deserves His wrath, but in extraordinary mercy He has gloriously provided a cleansing Saviour.

        The cross implies judgment.  How seldom one will hear anything about a fiery judgment in which the unredeemed are destroyed from the face of God (II Thess. 1:9)!  Yet this is the reason Christ died for our sins, because all who face God in judgment without having sins forgiven through Christ will be put to death.  Christ’s death was a judgmental death because He was bearing our sins, and therefore “became sin” on our behalf to suffer the penalty of death as judgment.  This is good news, that judgment is past for all who are in Christ Jesus (John 3:16-18; Rom. 8:1).

        “And that he was buried.”  Burial is what happens to the dead.  One dies and is buried.  Death is bad news, for it is the enemy of God and man.  Abraham, Moses, David – all died and were buried.  Jesus died and was buried, but He arose.  The good news is that the grave cannot prevail over the Christian (Matt. 16:18), for Jesus has power over the grave (Rev. 1:18) and will call forth the dead and give immortality to those He has redeemed.

        Jesus was not buried in the ordinary manner.  His tomb was sealed with an official Roman seal, meaning that it was against the law of anyone other than a government official to open it.  Resurrection was against the law!  By breaking that seal in a supernatural manner Jesus demonstrated that all power of His enemies was broken.  “All authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). He arose with authority over the Roman government, over Israel, and over all governments of the world.  Try as they could, they could not seal up the glorious power of God in a tomb of solid rock.  It broke forth in the resurrection and now shines forth in His presence through His Spirit.

        “And he has been raised on the third day according to the scriptures.”  Here is the heart of the gospel.  For centuries Christian orthodoxy has maintained that the foundation of Christian faith is Christ’s death.  The cross has become its symbol, although without any biblical support.  Resurrection is used as “proof” of Christ’s deity and of His claims, and as a symbol of never-ending life, thus removing it from its central point in the gospel as the cornerstone in the foundation.

        The resurrection of Jesus was nothing less than a restoration of life from the dead.  “I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18).  Christ’s death was a real human death and involved His whole person.  Otherwise sin’s penalty would not have been met in death.  “I lay down my life, that I may take it up again,” He said (John 10:17).  Isaiah said of Him: “He poured out his soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12).  His resurrection was not merely the continuation of life, but the restoration of life that had been forfeited.  Christ Jesus, therefore, “became the firstfruits of them that are asleep” (I Cor. 15:20).

        Resurrection is the very center of the gospel.  The cross is the means, but the resurrection is the end.  This is the good news: because sins are now put away through Christ’s dying for them, I can have the sure hope of being resurrected, as He was, to live as an immortal creature in His image.  This is the only hope, the only solution to sin and death, and those who reject it and die in unbelief can only expect God’s wrath and final condemnation to death.

        Contrary to what one often hears at funerals, the reward of the saints is not something that takes place at death but at the resurrection.  Paul teaches that if the dead are not raised, then faith is vain, we are yet in our sins, and all they that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished (I Cor. 15:17-18).  He writes of facing death with faith, “knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you” (II Cor. 4:14).  What a glorious experience awaits the believer in that day when he is raised with all the other saints and is given a body described as “incorruptible,” “glorious,” “powerful,” and “spiritual” (I Cor. 15:42-44).

        The resurrection says that God is able to overcome every obstacle.  He has power over life and over death and the grave.  If we believe that He can overthrow the power of death and bring us back from the grave, then we can believe that He can handle any and every problem we may face between now and then.

        At the death of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, Jesus said that it was for the purpose of glorifying God.  At the tomb, when they hesitated to open it because of the stench of death, Jesus reminded them that they were to see the glory of God.  What they saw was not a manifestation of God’s person, but the great work of God in giving life to the dead.

        This is the glory of the gospel, the good news of LIFE.  Not only that Jesus now lives never to die, but that we also have this hope, to receive life and immortality.  “We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like Him” and “everyone that has this hope set on him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:2,3).  The church desperately needs to recapture the significance and glory of this truth, that every member might purify his life, knowing that this is the ultimate goal.  The world needs to hear this good news, in contrast to the popular mysticism that permeates almost all religious thought.

        Let us imitate the faithful disciples of the early church who “proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”

 

 

THE KINGDOM REVEALED

Elder Wilfred H. Olson

        The prophets with one accord pointed to the first advent of Christ as the time when the Kingdom of God would be established.  Jesus taught the same truth; “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14,15).  When Jesus came in His first advent the time was “fulfilled;” the kingdom of God was “at hand.”  Need I remind the reader that anything that is “at hand” is not two thousand years away?  Daniel had seen this: “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet…then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the summer threshingfloors …and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:34,35).  This stone is the kingdom of God.  Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).  It began with the preaching of John the Baptist who declared, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).  Jesus said, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16).  It goes without saying that no one can “press into” something that does not exist.

        True to the promise of Jesus Christ that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” we have seen earthly kingdoms rise and fall, but this spiritual kingdom stands unshaken upon the Rock of eternal truth.  It has come down through martyrdom bathed in the blood of saints, pushed aside by selfish religious leaders, ignored by many in high places, but yet it stands as pure and noble in His robes of righteousness, as it did when first the Holy Spirit fell upon it in that great phenomena on the day of Pentecost.

        Micah prophesied of the coming kingdom of God in these words, “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be established above the hills; and people shall flow into it.  And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nations shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more…In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever” (Micah 4:1-7).  This clear prophecy of the establishment of the kingdom is often misplaced to be fulfilled after the return of Christ.  This was to take place “in the last days” (see vs.1).  If we can locate the “last days,” we can locate the exact time of its fulfillment.  Turn to Hebrews 1:1,2: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”  According to this writer, the “last days” were in existence in his time, and since this is true surely they are in existence in our time, too.

        Let us look closer at this prophecy.  The “mountains of the Lord,” clearly applies to mount Zion (See verse 7).  The Hebrew believers had “come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22,23), which the writer denominates “the general assembly, and the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,” Jesus called His church in this dispensation “a city that is set on a hill” (Matt. 5:14).  The “house of the God of Jacob” (Micah 4:2), is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15).  The flowing of many nations into it has been fulfilled since the day of Pentecost.  During the days following Pentecost multitudes believed the Gospel and joined the Church of God (See Acts 2:41; 4:4; 18:8; 19:17,18).

        In Old Testament times the true God was known only to Israel, but now salvation is for “all people” (See Lk. 2:8-10; Matt. 28:19,20; Mk. 16:15,16; Rom. 9:24-26).  The Gospel of Jesus Christ embraces and includes the Law as given from Sinai, but it includes much more than that; it now includes all the teachings of Jesus Christ and also His example, and “the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”  Jesus told His disciples that, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).  This began on the day of Pentecost, and it swept over the known world with remarkable speed, for Paul said in his day that the gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23).

The Kingdom Of God Brings Peace

        The beating of swords into plowshares and spears and into pruning hooks, a time when they shall “learn war no more,” is a clear prophecy of the glorious unity, peace and love which exists in the hearts of the members of the Church of God.  Since the day the angel made the announcement to the shepherds of old that a Savior was born into the world who would bring “peace on earth and good will toward men,” this has resulted in all who have opened their hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit.  By His grace we are brought into “one fold” (John 10:16); belong to “one” organized “body or church, the Church of God” (Rom. 12:4,5; Eph. 4:4; Acts 20:28; etc.).  This body of believers is “of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:31-33), “one mind” (II Cor. 13:11), “all speak the same thing,” and “are perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10); all have “one faith” (Eph. 4:5); “one spirit” (I Cor. 6:17); “one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27); “rejoice together” (I Cor. 12:26); “assemble together” (Heb. 10:25); and “see eye to eye” (Isa. 52:8).  And, lastly, we may add that the redeemed in this present age have, “One God…who is above all, and through all, and in you all…being knit together in love” (Eph. 4:6; Col. 2:2).

        These blessings are now present in the Church of God, that is, among those who are members of the Church whose names are written in the book of Life penned there, and watched over with tender care by Jesus Christ.  If you have been “translated into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13) you can “rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).  If our salvation does not bring us “joy” and “happiness” even beyond words to express it, then I ask, why pass it on to another?

        Then the prophet goes on to write further of the conditions in this spiritual kingdom of God: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den” (Isa. 11:6-8).  Here, the millennial teacher thinks he has a strong point for he says, “this will happen after Jesus sets up His kingdom after the Second Advent.”  Let us consider well where we place all these events, for we are duty bound to teach a harmonious doctrine in all things.

        Nothing in these verses is said about Christ’s second advent; they refer entirely to His first advent to this earth, and the fulfillment is evidenced everywhere today.  Various animals are used in the Bible to show different characteristics of men.  For example, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be ye harmless as doves,” and to Peter he said, “Feed my lambs.”  Concerning Herod He said, “Go ye, and tell that fox” (Lk. 13:32).  False teachers are said to be “ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15).  Paul declared, “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) would “enter in among you, not sparing the flock.”  Surely he did not mean four-footed beasts with long rough hair and vicious teeth – yet he said “wolves” – and the meaning is clear.  Paul said, also, “Beware of dogs” (Phil. 3:2).  John saw the unsaved and called them “dogs” (Rev. 22:15).  Jesus called other hypocritical professors “serpents” and “vipers.”  God’s people, He called “sheep,” and the unsaved He calls “goats.”  In Ezekiel, we find false teachers are called “ beast of the field” (Ch. 34:8); His people called “my sheep” (vs. 11); “cattle” (vs. 17); others he called “rams and he goats” (vs. 17).

        This is the sense in which we are to understand Isa. 1:6-8.  It teaches how the grace of God in this glorious dispensation of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men destroys the serpent-like, devouring, natures of men; and the most lion-hearted sinners, the most ferocious characters of wickedness personified, can be changed into docile and harmless “sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” (Phil. 2:15).  The changeless power of Jesus Christ can change the most wicked into the likeness of “doves” and “Lambs” until a “little child” can teach and “lead them.”

        Paul taught that this change would be real in his day, for he assures the readers, “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).  No wrangling, no back biting, no deceit, no devouring one another, no belittling one another’s motive or intent, but “helpers of each other’s joy” and “workers together” in the great commission.  Then the prophet adds, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” – the Church of God, for this kingdom is a kingdom of peace reigned over by the Prince of Peace himself.  On this “highway of holiness” upon which the redeemed have traveled throughout the past, “no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there” (Isa. 35:9).  Surely none of us are so blind spiritually as to think that “the way of holiness” is a literal road of stone and mud over which the redeemed are to walk unmolested by savage “ravenous beast” or bloodthirsty lions of the forest.

 

 

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT “ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED”

Al King

        The doctrine of “once saved, always saved,” sometimes referred to as eternal security, has become more and more popular among the ranks of those who call themselves “Christian.”  The wonderful promises contained in scripture, not only of God’s power and ability to save but also His desire to deliver, sustain and receive to Himself a people, are many and believers gain tremendous assurance that they are in the hands of Him Who is able to finish the work He has begun.  When we consider the love of God unveiled in a most extravagant manner in the price He paid for His church, we are humbled and awed by such sacrifice and grace, so it is hard to imagine that one can lose “so great salvation.”  Let us consider some of the fundamental teachings of “Once Saved Always Saved” (OSAS) and why this doctrine is accepted by so many believers.

        While many pastors and Bible teachers promote the Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS) idea, there are several variations of this doctrine.  The most dangerous of these is the idea that once a person believes in Jesus Christ (or repeats the “sinner’s prayer”) he is forever saved no matter what he does afterwards.  These newly saved souls can live their lives any way they desire and will still go to heaven when they die.  They may lose some of their rewards but they are eternally secure.  A few of the scriptures they used to support this idea are:

        John 10:28-29: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

        Gal. 4:5: “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

        Eph. 1:5: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

        The adoption of sons is used to support OSAS with the idea that once a person becomes a son, he is always a son no matter what he may do.  A son will always be the son of the person who adopted him.  Consider this next verse with this thought.

        I Jn. 3:9: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

        The idea obtained from this text by OSAS proponents is that a born again believer has God’s seed in him, and, therefore, he cannot sin, or he cannot sin a sin which will result in his being cut off from eternal life, for the blood of Christ will cleanse any sin he commits.  Once a son, always a son and no sin can change one's sonship.

        There are others who will not go this far out on the OSAS limb but who hold a more conservative and safer approach.  They teach that once a person is genuinely saved, he will never depart from the path.  In other words, if a person is truly saved, God takes away his stony sinful heart and replaces it with a new heart, a heart pliable to the Holy Spirit.  They use scriptures such as those found in Ezekiel 36:25-27, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16.  All these verses refer to the New Covenant which God made with man through Jesus Christ, and these verses do declare that God will work in a new way with His people.  Another scripture commonly used is Philippians 2:13 which says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  So, their interpretation of these verses is that if a person is truly saved, he has been given a new heart and he will persevere because God has ordained and predestined it.  Most of these teachings rest upon the Sovereignty of God.  We will address the Sovereignty of God in a future article in The Testimony of Truth.  For now let us turn our attention to the views presented above.

Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth

        It is important as we approach the Word of God that we come with an open mind, not predetermining what scripture teaches.  If one comes with preconceived ideas, he will make scripture fit his ideas and will not come to truth.  Too often when Christians begin to debate scripture it becomes an issue of proving that they are right rather than a genuine and open desire for truth, however the truth affects them.  Another common problem is when one verse of scripture is pitted against other portions of scripture.  To honestly come to the Word of God, one must realize that there are some portions of holy writ that, on the surface, seem in opposition to other portions.  For example, consider the verse mentioned above from John 10 verses 28 and 29, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  We might pit John 15 verses 1 through 6 against John 10.  John 15 is the parable of the vine and the branches.  Jesus states very clearly that He is the vine and believers are the branches.  The branches must bring forth fruit and in order to bear fruit, the branch must abide in the vine.  Jesus then warns those branches that if they do not abide in Him they are cut off from the vine and cast into the fire and are burned.  The obvious picture here is that the withered branch was attached to the vine and was cut off because it did not bear fruit.  We conclude the branch was a believer and was saved or he would never have been connected to the vine.  We also conclude that the believer (branch) did not bear the desired fruit and therefore was cut off and cast into the fire.  He lost his salvation not just his reward.

        So one might in the two scriptures mentioned above, feel that scripture contradicts itself and, if that is the case, then scripture loses its authority as the Word of God, for God cannot contradict Himself.  The topic of OSAS has been around for centuries as well as its opposing views, and both groups use scripture to support their positions.  Both groups also have an explanation to the many scriptures used by their opponents.  In order not to pit scripture against itself, we must look into a few other areas which will bring truth to light concerning this difficult topic.

Three Points To Consider

        The first point we want to delve into is Biblical history.  What does Biblical history teach us about those who began a walk with God but did not end so well?  First we will consider Saul who was the first king over Israel.  In I Samuel 10:1, “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?”  God “anointed” Saul to be Israel’s first king.  Would God appoint an unbeliever to be king over His inheritance?  Lest there be some doubt, let’s read further.  Verse six of the same chapter: “And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shall be turned into another man.”  This verse should remove all doubt that Saul was as converted as any man under the Old Covenant.  One more portion of scripture regarding Saul needs to be viewed to see that Saul had the Spirit of God with him, but God’s Spirit departed from Saul.  Saul sinned by not fulfilling God’s orders in the battle against the Amorites, and Samuel told Saul, because of his disobedience, God had rejected him from being king over Israel (I Samuel 15:26).  In I Samuel 16:14 it reads, “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.”  A man called of God, anointed to be king over God’s people and given the Spirit of God, had God’s Spirit depart and an evil spirit troubled him.  Where once the Spirit of God worked, now an evil spirit worked.  However, the Biblical account doesn’t end here.  When God had anointed David to replace Saul as Israel’s king, Saul pursued David with intent to kill him.  The last two days of Saul’s life reveal God’s rejection of this man once called and anointed by that same God.  In I Samuel 28, Saul disguised himself and sought a witch to tell him the outcome of the battle with the Philistines with whom he was to engage the following day.  The witch conjured up Samuel, who told Saul that God had departed from him and that Saul would die the next day.  In Saul’s final hours, he was driven to seek council from a witch.  Once a man who was little in his own sight, once the anointed king of Israel but in the end, a man possessed with an evil spirit, full of hate and jealousy, destroyed by disobedience and non-repentance.  Great start but a sad ending.

        Another man in history who followed a similar path as Saul was another king, Solomon.  I Kings 3:3 tells of Solomon’s love for the LORD and the chapter continues with a dream in which God appeared unto Solomon and asked what Solomon would have of the LORD.  Solomon was very humble and confessed his inadequacies for the great task that lay before him as Israel’s king.  He then requested that God give him an understanding heart to judge God’s people (I Kings 3:5-12).  One of the most marvelous accounts in scripture, found in I Kings 8, is when Solomon dedicated the temple and the Spirit of God came down so strong that the priests could not stand to minister for the glory of God that was present.  Solomon experienced some extraordinary encounters with God, and yet we read in I Kings 11:4, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”  Could it be that it was men like these that spurred the Apostle Paul to warn Christians about a time coming when there would be a great falling away (I Thess. 2:3)?  Is it possible that the warning in Hebrews 6 of a spiritual state where men who ”were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted of the good word of God, and the power of the world to come,” yet they “fall away” and it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance?  If this could happen to these two men, can it not happen in our day?  History definitely sides against OSAS.

        The second point we must consider in this discussion is how these doctrines affect the work of Christ in the procuring of salvation.  We must be very careful that we don’t dilute or limit the Gospel, for that will produce weak Christians at best or worse, lead some to destruction.  In Romans 6:1-2 the Apostle Paul asks the question, “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid…”  To think that Jesus condescended from His heavenly state to become a man and take upon Himself this body of humiliation, live a perfect and holy life, die a horrible death on a cross so those who believe in Him can continue to live in sin is to distort the gospel and limit the accomplishments of Christ.  It states that Jesus came to forgive sin but not to overcome it.  The very issue that caused Jesus to die was sin.  Sin is anathema to God.  Did Jesus die to leave us vulnerable to sin?  Did Jesus die and leave sin to continue its evil destructive and devilish work in His sons?  Did not the death and resurrection of Jesus empower His disciples to be overcomers of sin?  Why did Jesus send the Holy Spirit into the believers’ hearts?  To merely entertain?  To exist there in a dormant state?  Did not the cleansing of the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”) make possible the presence of the Holy Spirit to come into earthen vessels that the excellency of the power over sin, may be of God and not of us?  The Holy Spirit is the empowerment of God working in the believer to will and do God’s will.  Did Jesus offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin, so man can continue in sin?  Did He not sacrifice Himself in order to provide a way in which a believer can overcome that enemy of his own soul, that enemy that separated him from God?  To think that Christ suffered so we can continue in sin and still be saved is foolish.  According to Revelation, it is the overcomers who possess the blessings of eternal bliss (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7).  What are we to overcome?  Sin!

        The Full Gospel is that Jesus died to cleanse the believer’s heart, which allows the Holy Spirit to enter.  The Holy Spirit then teaches, comforts, encourages and leads the believer into all truth, a truth that he lives and walks in, and a truth that he applies to his daily life.  The Holy Spirit empowers the believer to overcome those dictates that sin would impose upon him, and he gains the victory over sin by obedience to the words of Jesus Christ, all of which is accomplished by God’s presence abiding within.  The good news is not only that we can be forgiven but that we can be free from sin.

        To teach that once a person is saved, he can continue in sin and still be saved is a lie and will lead that soul to eternal death, for he is on the broad way that leads to destruction.

        The third point is in regard to being sons of God.  God’s seed does remain in the soul who is genuinely born again, and he is a son of God according to scripture.  But can one lose his sonship?  Is a son always a son no matter what he does?  We have already considered two men who began well but finished on the wrong road.  Let’s consider a parable to better understand this point.

        In Luke 15, Jesus gave the illustration of the Prodigal son in which this son took his inheritance, went out and wasted it on riotous living.  When he was destitute and found himself feeding swine, existing on the husks the swine ate, scripture says, he “came to himself” and decided to return to his father’s house.  He found forgiveness because he returned.  He repented.  But supposed he had not returned?  Supposed he died while on this path of riotous living?  Even though this young man was a son, his salvation was contingent on his repentance?  His sonship did not save him; his repentance did.  Let me use a similar parable as an illustration in regard to this topic.

     There was a very just judge of a certain city, and this judge had a son whom he loved as his own soul.  He lavished his very best upon his son.  He provided the best education, the best teachers, not only to teach but to be good examples.  The father dedicated himself to be an example, living and judging righteously.  He abode by all the laws of the state and city in which he lived.  However, when his son became of age, he began to run with the wrong crowd.  He began to disregard his father’s teachings and cast aside all he had learned.  He began to drink, use drugs and live promiscuously.  In time he joined a gang and eventually he was involved in several murders and other crimes against society.  The time came when he was apprehended by the law and found himself before that very just judge, his father.  Could this father be a truly just judge and allow his son to go free?  No!  He could not be just and free his son.  His justice demanded that his son face and pay the penalty required by the law.

        But you say, “This is true of all men because all have sinned but those who are saved have their sins covered by the blood of Christ. Their sins are placed upon Jesus and He paid the penalty of the law.”  This is true only for those who believe and repent.  Note the word, “repent”.  They turn from their wicked ways.  They take a different road.  They are not those whom the Apostle Peter terms “dogs” which return to their own vomit (II Pet. 2:22).  Forgiveness is only for those who walk in the light as He is in the light and maintain fellowship with Him through obedience; therefore, they have Christ’s blood continually cleansing.  “But 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 Jn. 1:7).  It is the same as the branch that abides in the vine; the branch has fellowship with the vine and bears good fruit.  Once the branch ceases to bear good fruit (obedience) it withers, and when that unfruitful branch stands before the Judge of the whole earth and the books are open, there is no longer place for repentance.  The fruitless branch will only be more accountable for his transgressions for the fact that it was once a branch connected to the vine.  The fact that it was once connected to the vine cannot save it from being cut off or from being cast into eternal fire.  The Judge of the whole earth will judge righteously when He separates the sheep from the goats at the last day and we all will be judged by our deeds (Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:12,13).

 

 

“WHO IS JESUS?”

Kenneth Fountain

        From the first record in Scripture involving the “serpent,” we find this creature casting doubt upon the truth and authority of Almighty God (Gen. 3:1,4: “hath God said, and ye shall not surely die?”).  An outright contradiction of a command or statement would be too obvious even for most people, but a subtle query or dim shadow of accusation will start many on the slippery downward spiral toward disobedience and spiritual death.  Throughout the history of man, Satan has endeavored to do anything he can through any number of means he may devise to discredit, alter, conceal or denounce the perfect sovereignty of a holy, righteous, loving God.  It is likely that almost every truth involving God – His attributes, qualities, abilities, character and The Word – has been brought into question by this conspiring adversary of The Most High.  One of these schemes has to do with the integrity of the one called Jesus Christ.  Is He truly God who came incarnate among man, or is He simply a great man, an astounding teacher and mentor?  Any student of the Bible should have this important truth settled in his heart and mind, and soundly rooted in none other than the everlasting, infallible Word of God. Who is this individual, Jesus, and what authority does He have to give commands to mankind?

Saviour

        First of all, it is interesting to note that the name Jesus occurs 983 times in Holy Writ, none of which are found in the Old Testament.  At first glance, this in itself would arguably establish that He did not exist in Old Testament times.  By looking a little further, the word Saviour is used 37 times, referring to the same individual in each one, with more than a dozen times found in the Old Testament (O. T.).  In the book of Luke, we find this person clearly identified (Lk. 2:11): “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  In John 4:42, we read where the Samaritans testified to the woman at the well, “we believe, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”  By reading the other two dozen references of Saviour in the New Testament, it becomes glaringly obvious that Jesus Christ, Lord, and Saviour are one and the same individual (see Acts 5:30-31, 13:23; Phil. 3:20; I Tim. 1:1; II Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:4, 2:13, 3:6; II Pet. 1:1 & 11, 2:20, 3:18; I Jn. 4:14).  The title Saviour is eternally important because we are notified, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Son of God

        The heavenly Father Himself made two booming proclamations of Jesus’ Sonship: once at His baptism by John the Baptist (Mt. 3:17), and again of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:5; II Pet. 1:17).  Furthermore, the Scriptures record 205 times where Jesus is called the Son of God or the Son of Man.  Some of these verses are even quotes from the tempter, or evil spirits acknowledging His position as the Son of God.  In Joseph’s dream concerning Mary, he was told their son would be “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Mt. 1:20-23).

Creator and Lord

        Given the fact that the name Jesus is not used in the O. T., and that the record of Jesus’ birth is witnessed in Matthew 1:18-25 (also Lk. 1:31 and 2:5-12), it is easy to assume from human viewpoints that Jesus’ origin or beginning is herein denoted.  This idea is further emphasized by the annual celebration (reminder) of His proposed birth date in late December.  All humanity recognizes that one’s birth coincides with his beginning of life as we know it in this world (note: actually conception itself is the beginning of the human’s life).  However, again if one looks into the Word of Life, he will find numerous verses which show that Jesus’ birth to the virgin Mary was NOT His actual beginning – only His beginning in human flesh.  We read in Philippians 2:5-11 that “Christ Jesus…was made in the likeness of men: He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death.”  In I Tim. 1:14 we read Paul’s statement, “that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  Jesus told the Jews in John 6:41, 51 and 58, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.”  He had previously resided in heaven with the Father, but according to the Father’s plan from the beginning of the world, Jesus came to earth in the form of a man to be an example for man to follow and to be crucified for the remission of our sins as the perfect Lamb of God.

        John begins his gospel with the introduction of Jesus as The Word, God and The Creator!  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (Jn. 1:1-3).  Verses ten and fourteen further eliminate any confusion the previous verses may have caused with these words: “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,…the only begotten of the Father.”  This describes none other than Jesus Christ.  In John 17:5, Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him “with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”  The apostle Paul, in Eph. 3:9 explains that God “created all things by Jesus Christ.”  In the book of Hebrews (1:2) we read that God has “spoken unto us by His Son, by whom also He made the worlds.”  In Colossians 1:16, Paul wrote, “For by Him (Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him.”  Now that we have established that Jesus Christ is God the Creator, we should look at some O. T. verses as well.

        The prophet Isaiah was given a good deal of information about the Lord.  In Isa. 40:28, he said, “that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?”  Also, “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isa. 43:3).  In Isaiah 42, the coming of Christ is foretold, but the name or title given is Lord.  Verse five of this chapter makes it clear who Lord is by saying, “Thus saith God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it.”  And in chapter forty-three he says, “I am the Lord; and beside Me there is no saviour.  I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.  Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters” (Isa. 43:11, 15,16).  Who then was the God of Israel: the God who sent the ten plagues upon Egypt and led Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground?  The Creator, the Holy One, the King, the Saviour: Jesus Christ is the Lord!  Another supporting verse is found in Isaiah 45:18-21.  “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it;…I am the Lord, and there is none else (verse 21:).  Who hath declared this from ancient time, who hath told it from that time?  Have not I the Lord?  And there is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.”  (see also: Isa. 9:6,7; Isa. 49:26 and 60:16)

        In the first eleven verses of I Corinthians chapter 10, Paul speaks of ancient Israel and states: (verse 5) “they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”  (verse 9) “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”  Evidently, Jesus Christ, the Saviour, was the Creator and the God of ancient Israel in the O. T!  This understanding would explain the account in Exodus 33 where (in verse 11), “The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”  But when Moses asked to see His glory (verse 18), Moses was told, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”  The Lord then put Moses in a cleft of the rock, and covered him with a hand while he passed by then “Thou shalt see My back parts: but My face shall not be seen” (verses 21-23).  The only reasonable explanation of this seeming contradiction of statements is that the Lord speaking face to face with Moses was Jesus Christ, and the Lord whose face could not be seen was the Heavenly Father Himself.

King

        “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.  And Jesus, when He had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt” (John 12:13-15; Zech 9:9).  “Pilate called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the King of the Jews?  Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art thou a king then?  Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king.  To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world” (Jn. 18:33-37).  Jesus did not deny the statement that He was King of the Jews; He simply explained that His kingdom is not of this world.  In John 19:21, the chief priests disowned Jesus as their king and told Pilate, “that He said, I am King of the Jews.”  In I Tim. 6: 13-15, Paul refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as, “the King of kings, and Lord of lords.”  In the Revelation of John (chapter 17:14) we read, “the Lamb shall overcome them; for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings.”  Also in Rev 19:13-16, we find, “His name is called The Word of God: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

        It is because of Jesus’ exalted position as Lord and King that He has the right and authority to demand obedience from His creation.  He is the Judge of the inhabitants of the earth (Mt. 25:31-46), and “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (II Cor. 5:10).  (see also: Mt. 16:27; II Tim. 4:1 and II Thess. 1:7-10)  Observing the words and commands of Jesus is the criteria required for reaching the heavenly reward offered unto mankind.  John 12:48 says, “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.”  This is a very somber warning for the follower of Christ to heed.  Obedience to His Word is of vital importance to gaining eternal spiritual life.  “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine (Jesus’) 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” (Mt. 7:26, 27).

        This is but a brief study of a few of the numerous titles attributed to the one called Jesus Christ.  Many, such as “Door,” “Mediator,” and “Shepherd,” are descriptive of His nature or station, and each name depicts a particular facet of the One who would that none should perish (II Pet. 3:9).

        As King David said, “Blessed be Thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.  Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all” (I Chron. 29:10,11).  John the beloved heard a loud voice saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). The apostle Paul said, “For it pleased the Father that in Him (Christ) should all fullness dwell” (Col. 1:19).  “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).

 

 

WHICH WAY ARE WE GOING?

Russel Dockum

        During a time of prayer recently this thought came into my mind and I was impressed to think upon it to some extent.

        A number of scriptures came into my thoughts to cause me to examine our position as professing Christians, to see if we are fully devoted to our profession.

        I think all humanity can realize that conditions in the world today are in at least stressful proportions, if not actually perilous.

        According to I Tim. 4:1, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” and II Tim.  3:1-5, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous…Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

        Bro. Paul gave admonition in II Cor. 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves.  Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

        I have often thought of the words of Jesus in Matt. 6:21, “For where your treasure is there will your heart be also;” and I have tried to analyze my behavior as to where I would turn to occupy myself in my spare time: was it in some self-indulgence that was entirely unprofitable, or worse: or was it some worthy and beneficial exercise?

        Since we are living in a very serious age, isn’t it time we take heed to the serious words given in so many places in the sacred writings of the Bible, and see which way we are going?

        Jesus taught in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  Also in the same chapter, vs. 21,23 “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.”

        It is evident that we are going either the upward way or the downward way.  Since we can’t go both ways at the same time, and as time is so important, we need to know which way we are going and how we are spending our time!

        In other words: What is our ambition in this life, and how much do we put ourselves into the fulfilling of it?  When we analyze our activities, do we actually devote our time and efforts to God’s purpose above all else?  Let us look at our hands and see if they are becoming calloused by serving God’s purpose, or by doing our own will and selfish desires.  “Where your treasure is (ambition) there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:31).  “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).  “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13,14).

        Let us not be “lovers of self more than lovers of God.”  In this life we are offered, by a reasonable amount of self-sacrifice, the opportunity to gain the greatest gift in God’s kingdom, namely, Eternal life; or through our indifference, to lose it all and be doomed for eternal loss.

 

 

TO BE LIKE JESUS

James Sanderson

        “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).  Here in this one verse of Scripture the Apostle Paul unfolds the grand design of the ages.  Before the foundation of the world, the Father set forth a plan.  That plan had a definite purpose in view – a family of beings (brethren) with whom He could fellowship and share all the riches and glories of heaven.  This family, unlike the angelic host, would bear the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

        The death of Jesus on the cross was proof that the Father was fully committed to the accomplishment of this wonderful plan.  The redemptive work of Jesus Christ was more than an attempt on God’s part to save humanity from the ravages of eternal damnation.  The Father made it possible that sinners could be redeemed, transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, and become productive members of His divine family.  “But as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12).

        An image is a reflection or likeness of the real.  “The image of the Son of God, into which true Christians are transformed, is likeness not only to the heavenly body, but also to the most holy and blessed state of mind, which Christ possesses” (Dr. Thayer).  This likeness is an expression of the divine nature and moral excellence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        The word conformed implies an inward transformation.  “And have put on the new man, which is (being) renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10).  The new man is not the physical body which perishes but “the inward man” or “hidden man of the heart” which is being renewed day by day (II Cor. 4:16).  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed (are being transformed) into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord “(II Cor. 3:18).

        “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” is not merely a religious duty of the more spiritually–minded.  Every born–again Christian has one supreme calling in this life – to be like Jesus.  Even the gifts and offices of the Holy Ghost are given with the sole purpose of bringing the church to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).  In writing to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul compared himself to a woman in travail “until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).  Dr. Thayer in his lexicon says, “until a mind and life in complete harmony with the mind and life of Christ shall have been formed in you.”

        “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (II Cor. 4:7).  What is this treasure?  It is most certainly not material possessions.  “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15).  Nor is it intellectual pursuit or worldly wisdom.  “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (I Cor. 1:20)  All of these things will pass away.  “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Tim. 6:7).  Only those divine attributes of Jesus Christ created within the heart will endure to eternity.

        The production of divine character in these temples of clay must take precedence over all other activities in life.  How much time and energy is wasted on useless endeavors!  To become like Jesus is a disciple’s full-time occupation.  There is no place here for the lukewarm Christian who wants to give part of his time to God, and the rest to mammon.  This mighty call of God is of such high priority that even those things that seem so necessary in life must be viewed from the right perspective.  “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (Jn. 6:27).  “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.  Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Mt. 6:25)

        Brother Paul declared, “I press toward the mark…of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:11).  “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue” (II Pet. 1:5).  “Strive (agonize) to enter in at the strait gate” (Lk. 13:24).  The verbs in these verses of Scripture indicate that considerable effort is expected of those who intend to enter this call of God.

        Jesus Christ was not only the propitiation for the sins of the world, but He was also the Father’s PATTERN.  The life that Jesus lived was a perfect demonstration of the way of life that God the Father has called His people to live.  It is for this reason that He could boldly declare, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).

        When anyone desires to construct a building, he seeks out an architect to sketch a blueprint that sets forth the exact specifications for that particular edifice.  So also in the kingdom of God, the Master Architect has given to man an exact Blueprint in the life and message of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The obligation rests upon every child of God to conform to that Blueprint.  “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an EXAMPLE, that ye should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21).  “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (I Jn. 2:6).  Our Lord Himself declared, “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord” (Matt. 10:25).

        The apostle John expressed this truth another way, “As he is, so are we in this world” (I Jn. 4:17).  Wouldn’t it be so much easier if John had said, “As he is, so shall we be in the ages to come”?  That beloved apostle recognized that it is here in this world fraught with trials, temptations, and tribulation that God is making the most marvelous demonstration that the universe, yes, even the heavenly realms, have ever experienced.  It is here in the furnace of affliction where the heat is applied that the gold of divine character is produced in those who are willing to surrender to His will.

        It is here in this life that the Father’s promise will be fulfilled.  “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11).  Before the end, the Father will have a family that will bear the likeness of Jesus Christ.  He will manifest that family before all the beings in earth and in heaven (Rom. 8:19).

        Anyone who becomes a part of God’s family will be there because he has made the choice and put forth the proper effort.  God is no respecter of persons.  The decision rests with every individual.  “We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I Jno. 3:2,3).