People of The Living God

Matthew 24

 

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September 2013



 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

THE NEED OF THE CHRISTIAN

Sis. Mary Woodard

        I am writing this with sincerity and honesty of heart, not having a desire just to be critical but to be a help and blessing in the building of the kingdom of God.

        Doing much traveling in the work of the Lord and visiting many churches, camp meetings, and various places where Christian people assemble, we are able to get a broad picture of what is taking place in the Christian world today.

        Most of us are aware that Christianity has settled down into a state of luke–warmness, and much of it has gone into apostasy.  Men have built churches, denominations and names for themselves, but have failed to meet the needs of the people and identify with day–to–day living.  The great harvest that should have been reaped during this generation has, for the most part, gone to waste while the churches follow their programs, social activities, and social reforms.  There are some who are aware of what Christianity should be accomplishing, but they, too, seem to be caught in the rut of unfruitfulness.

        There is much activity in both the religious and the Christian world, but most of it is being done purely in the carnal realm.  Everyone is attempting to do the work of the Lord in the way which seems right in his own eyes.  Therefore, it is accomplishing little in bringing forth the fruit that remains of which Jesus spoke (John 15:16).  Preachers have become the servants of the people rather than the servants of God and have compromised their message until sin abounds among the church people.  Therefore, the people are not prepared to do the work of the Lord.

        Evangelism is at its height and there is much boasting as to results, but where are the converts?  Have they settled down in the lukewarm churches, only to lose their identity and witness?  Where does the “revival” go when the evangelist leaves?  Why are there so many “babes in Christ” who ought to be teachers, but have need that one teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God and must be fed on milk instead of strong meat (Heb. 5:12)?

        We believe there are two great needs in the church world today.  ONE IS FOR THE PEOPLE TO SANCTIFY THEMSELVES BEFORE THE LORD.  John the Baptist came preaching a message of repentance in order to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).  Surely it is time for judgment to begin at the house of God (I Peter 4:17).  Surely it is time for those who call themselves Christians to put away the unclean idols of television, lust for material things, lust for the amusements and entertainments of this pleasure–mad world.  Surely they will be without excuse before God for following the styles set by the world and for causing many to fall through their nakedness.

        God’s standard has not changed and sin is as sinful as it always was.  The rules for Christian discipline have not changed.  The Bible tells us to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1).  Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, is still God’s standard for His people.  The fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom.  Jesus tells us to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).  God still requires a sanctified vessel for His use.

        THE SECOND NEED OF THE PEOPLE TODAY IS TO CEASE FROM THEIR OWN ACTIVITY AND TO WAIT UPON GOD FOR THE ANOINTING OF THE HOLY GHOST.  Where can we find people waiting upon God today?  Men go ahead with their own programs, schedules, and plans.  Surely it is time that we waited upon God until we be endued with power from on high.  Let us face facts – we do not have what we profess to have!  What we may have had in the past has somehow leaked out through our own carelessness and neglect.  We need to stay before God until we have regained that which has been lost, or until we get that which we have never had.

        Somehow, the people of God have lost the sense of awe and reverence and expectancy that was once the mark of the Christian.  Surely Christians should be ashamed to come together in the Name of the Lord and bring their worldly talk and visiting into the meeting until it sounds like a social gathering.  At an appointed time they attempt to “turn on” the spirit, but find it impossible to get out of the carnal realm and into the spiritual realm because hearts are not prepared to worship God in the Spirit.

        The word “wait” means “to stay or remain in expectation, as of an anticipated action or event; to be or remain in readiness.”  Where are the preachers and leaders of today who will dare depart from their established programs to lead the people in simply waiting upon God in a spirit of worship and praise until the Holy Ghost comes in power to convict and to energize and to set on fire so that God’s work can be done in God’s way.

        When Zion travails, children will be brought forth and the glory of God will be seen once more in the land.  Where are the self–sacrificing individuals who left all to follow Him and counted it all joy to suffer for His sake?  Where are the prayer warriors?  Where are those who love Him with a passion and express it with actions rather than words?  Where are those who are willing to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1,2)?  Where are those who have enough of a burden to wait before Him until He answers by fire?

        They tell us that the old–fashioned confession meetings, the old–fashioned “get rid of” meetings, the old–fashioned prayer meetings brought revival.  God tells us, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chron. 7:14).  Why do we say we want revival and DO NOT those things which will bring it?

        I am afraid some are trying to do it a new way.  They want the love of God without the judgment of God.  They want the grace of God without the conditions of God.  They want to exalt themselves rather than to exalt the only one who is worthy to be exalted, Jesus Christ our Lord.

        Let the true sons of God come forth like THE SON – in humbleness of heart, with a broken and contrite spirit, with a compassion and a burden, with holiness of life.  Let us follow His example in waiting for the anointing, in prayer, in weeping, in travailing.

        Let us not be conformed to the world, neither let us be conformed to the church world.  Let us seek fellowship with those who honor Him and all of His word – but most of all, let us seek HIM.

 

 

LOVE OF DEATH

Curtis Dickinson

        The tree that was forbidden to Adam and Eve in the garden has become, in our time, the most popular tree in all the world.

        It was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and God said, “Thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

        Man is a creation of God, made in His image to think God’s thoughts after Him and to act in harmony with God’s desire.  Only by reflecting the will of God can man fulfill the purpose for which he is created and give the Creator reason to continue to sustain his life.

        The sin in the garden was not merely the act of stealing an apple while the farmer’s back was turned.  Note what the serpent said to Eve.  And remember that “the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made” (Gen. 3:1).  “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

        God had already told the pair what was good and evil, what they could do to live, and what would bring death.  What the serpent suggested was that they could reject God’s law and determine for themselves what was right and wrong.  They could be their own gods and establish their own rules.

        This attempt at self–determination is the clearest kind of rebellion against the Creator and is worthy of the penalty of death which He promised.  If man does not want to be the creature God intended him to be, then he has no right to receive the life which God gives.  To reject the design is to reject the Designer, and to reject the Life–Giver is to reject life.

        Although Adam and Eve did not drop dead the day of disobedience, the sentence was carried out exactly.  The Hebrew expression translated, “shalt surely die,” literally means, “in dying thou shalt die.”  The work of death began that day, and ultimately they both died, in spite of the serpent’s lie, “Thou shalt NOT surely die.”

        This is the only place in the Bible where the rebellious are promised that they won’t die, and it is in direct refutation of the very words of God.  Yet it is a lie accepted, believed, and widely taught throughout the world today, that everyone has an “immortal soul” which shall live for eternity.  This doctrine is wrong on two counts.  (1) Man does not have a soul, he is a soul.  The record of creation states, “And God formed man of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7).  The soul is not something God put into man; it is the man, mind, body, and all.  God did not say to Adam that if he ate of the forbidden tree his body would die, nor did He suggest it would be only a “spiritual death.”  It was the whole Adam, the “living soul” or “living being” that would die (Compare Genesis 3:19).  (2) Man, as a living soul,” is not immortal but mortal.  “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ez. 18:20).  Scripture says that only God has immortality (I Tim. 6:16), but that on the day of resurrection it will be bestowed upon all the faithful believers.  “For this mortal must put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:53).  Nowhere in all the Bible does it say that man is immortal or that he has an immortal soul; and for the unbeliever there is no promise of immortality, but the promise of death.

        Did Adam and Eve actually believe God had lied to them and that the serpent was telling the truth?  Scripture rather indicates that they were willing to run the risk in order to have their own way instead of God’s; man’s desire for his own way is greater than his desire for life.  As it is said of wisdom, “All they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).

        The extent to which man has rejected God is measured by his effort to determine for himself good and evil.  Bertrand Russel once wrote that he and his colleagues accepted the Darwinian concept of evolution because the alternative was to accept God and His laws, and this, he said, would force them to give up the lifestyle they preferred.  This continues to be the popular course of modern thinking, and it always runs in the direction of death: socially, religiously, politically, economically, and personally.

        Many churches of our day are in chaos because they indulge in the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Ask almost anyone to explain the fundamental tenets of the denomination to which he belongs, and he may be hard put to answer.  Every denomination is splintered into many factions because they have chosen to determine their own course according to the traditions and councils of men, rather than to rely upon the commands of the Lord.

        The public school (more correctly called government school) is a prime example of man determining for himself what is good and evil.  For decades the teachers have been forbidden to teach the commands of God or even to teach that God exists.  In the attempt to guide and control the children, schools introduced “values clarification.”  This is nothing more than the rebellion against the Creator in order for each person to know good and evil for himself and become his own god.  Children are taught that there are no absolute morals, and each one must construct his own value system.  It is all right to advise them to abstain from sexual intercourse on the grounds that it could lead to pregnancy or AIDS, but it is NOT all right to tell them it is sinful and against God’s law.  The result is frustration and disorder, not only in the classroom, but in the home and throughout the lives of the students.  The price for letting the children “know good and evil” for themselves is obvious to us all: pregnant children, unwanted babies, abortions, broken lives and teenage suicide, to say nothing of the ultimate death penalty at judgment.

        The lawmakers of the nation also have partaken freely of the fruit of this tree of death.  In one political campaign a candidate promised that he would “try to improve the life of every citizen.”  No doubt he would do this by new laws determined by men in congress.  Yet state and federal congresses have proven that they are unwilling to operate under the Creator’s definition of good and evil.  By vote they legalize abortion and gambling and force parents to submit their children to the teaching of atheistic evolution.  They reject out of hand God’s rules concerning money, crime, welfare, the home, education and government itself.  Possibly the most shameful example of rejecting God’s law, that man might write his own, is the homosexual cause, in which legislators have abandoned God and common decency to bow to the demands for “gay rights” and thus have given their approval and protection to those who openly defy God and seek to destroy the family and pervert the very nature of man as God created him.  When a nation’s elected rulers so defy God, can judgment be far behind?

        The love of death is constantly sounded forth from the TV set as Hollywood produces its smut in the name of comedy and pornography in the name of drama.  In music and literature, hatred for life as God ordained it is predominant and often the principle theme.  The rock and movie stars proudly champion their defiance of the Creator and still receive glory from the American public.

        God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any of the trees in the garden except one.  The ways in which we can obey and serve God are limitless and can never be exhausted.  Yet it is the nature of man to resist them in order to act as his own god and make his own rules.  But God is the giver of life, and there is no other way to have life except by His grace and power.

        The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil may be pleasant to the eye, to the taste and to man’s pride in making his own rules, but to partake of it is to partake of death.

 

 

Introduction to the Following Article Written By James Windham

 

        Brother Jimmy Windham is a dear brother, who has come to know Christ after he was incarcerated in 1984.  He sent the following article to be published in “The Testimony of Truth” and expressed in his letter to us that he had studied blood covenants a few years ago and felt to write concerning what a blood covenant means to believers.  The particular blood covenant which he refers to here in this article is not one that was practiced exactly in every nation of ancient times but is similar and so relative.  Each culture adopted blood covenant as a means of surety for agreements but they varied in numerous ways.  Understanding the blood covenant should give those who have entered into the New Covenant with Jesus Christ great assurance and confidence in God and in His promises to His people as they consider the covenant made between God and Abraham.  Blood covenants were among the first and oldest of historical traditions.

        In ancient times men were most often untrue to their word, and even covenants were no positive proof that one of the two parties in covenant would keep his part of the agreement.  Strife often broke out between the covenant parties, resulting in property loss, destruction and death.  There was no positive way to enforce the covenant made.  Although the seriousness of a covenant was taught and stress placed upon its obligations, when it became difficult or inconvenient to remain true to one’s word and breaking the covenant had no seriously demanding consequences, it was easily broken.  Even men with most noble intentions, at times found themselves in a strait to keep their commitments.  Pressures of life or things unforeseen would often cause them to fold, leaving the other party, unfortunately, holding the bag.  For this reason a covenant was sought which would be more binding and would have serious repercussions if broken, therefore making the agreement more sure.

        As Brother Jimmy Windham wrote in his article, a blood covenant was signed in blood with a third party present in which death was the result of any who would break the covenant.  Men would not thoughtlessly sign nor flippantly disregard a blood covenant, for the ramifications demanded his blood.  May Brother Jimmy’s article bless those who read it and encourage each one to claim the promises of God, provided in Christ Jesus.

 

 

A COVENANT SEALED IN BLOOD

Jimmy Windham

        On a lonely mountain a teenage boy lay wonder–eyed on an altar as his elderly father stood over him with a sharp pointed knife in his hands.  All his father could say after he had bound his son’s hands with a leather cord was, “Son, you know I love you, so trust me, for this is for the God I’ve always told you about.”  Isaac had absolute faith in his father’s God and Who was now his God.  Isaac obeyed his father even though he could have easily taken the knife from his aged father.  But disobedience wasn’t an option, for he knew his father was a godly man.  The night before, when he asked his father where the sacrifice was to go with the wood he carried up the mountain, his sweet old father kindly told him, “God will provide” (Jehovah Jirah).  From the time he sat on his father’s knee as a child and throughout his teenage years, his father Abraham had meticulously and methodically taught and instilled every promise his eternal, all–creating God had given him.  Isaac was very familiar with the events that surrounded the miracle of his birth and the natural impossibility of it.  So Isaac knew very well that Jehovah was his father’s God.  He also understood the implications of God’s promises as they applied to him.  In order for God to bring forth nations from his elderly father, God would also bless him and his seed.  He grew up as a teenager trusting in his father’s God.  So, as he lay on this crude altar unsure of what was transpiring and how this act would affect God’s promises, his childlike faith was strong in his father’s words, “Trust me, son, God will provide.”  Abraham was a man of faith and never once doubted that God would not raise Isaac up if he indeed plunged that knife into his chest.  The writer of Hebrews records: (Abraham) “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:19).

        Men in Abraham’s day and era were not known for keeping their word.  Because of the dishonesty among men, a covenant became a way to be certain that men would remain true to their word.  A blood covenant involved an agreement between two people that was breakable only by the death of one of the two parties involved.  If either broke the covenant that was sworn in blood, it resulted in a death penalty to the one who broke the covenant by the executor of the covenant and who was the third party to the agreement.  The example of one man’s integrity of those day is seen in the dispute that developed between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s.  God blessed the flocks of both men and the land became too small for both herds and it resulted in contentions between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen over the land as well as the wells of water.  Abraham, being a righteous man, gave Lot the greener, well watered land in the valley while he moved his possessions and flocks to the more arid mountainous land away from Lot.  There were many disputes between wealthy landowners whose agreements didn’t turn out as well as that between Abraham and Lot and at times war would break out between one land owner and his neighbor.  This always resulted in property damage and often produced loss of life in the families involved.  The solution to this was to call for a truce in which a blood covenant was instituted.  In elementary school, most of us studied the Indians of North America and read about the Indian “blood covenant” in which both parties would cut their hand with a knife and then shake, thereby making them blood brothers.

        Among ancient men, the procedures and ceremonies involved in blood covenants varied in different cultures.  I read a few years ago in one culture, where a blood covenant called the executor to bring both families to the boundary line of their properties.  Both families brought a young lamb from their flocks, which lamb was to be spotless without blemish.  The executor then slew both lambs and within a trail of twenty feet on the boundary line of the properties, he poured out the sacrificed lambs’ blood.  This was called, “the blood trail”.  The head of each family, standing at the end of the blood trail, was handed, by his oldest son (heir), his weapons and his coat.  The elder for one family walked down the trail of blood and handed the elder of the other family his weapons and his coat.  He would then walk back to the middle of the trail of blood where the executor stood.  While his family, his servants, and the other family with their servants all looked on, he would swear as he stood in blood, that his weapons were now his neighbors and would never be used against him or his family, and his coat, representing his goods and necessities, were now his neighbors if he needed anything.  He would complete the ceremony by walking over to the other family’s side to be hugged and kissed by all, for now he took their name.  In turn, the head of the other family followed the same ritual.  As they all knelt, the executor would proclaim, “Today you’ve exchanged weapons, coats, and names as you stood in blood before both families and these witnesses.  From henceforth, there will not be anything other than peace among you, for whosoever breaks this covenant will be put to death.”

        Like the American Indians, Abraham knew well what a blood covenant meant and the seriousness of this covenant.  Although the procedures were somewhat different in his culture from that written above, the principles were the same.  The covenant made between God and Abram is found in Genesis 15.  Reading in Genesis 15:9–10, “And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.  And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”  Once this was done, it left sort–of an isle between the animal parts through, which we see in verse17, the Spirit of the Lord passed between those parts establishing His covenant with Abram, whose name was then changed to Abraham.

        Now, before Abraham stood on that hill ready to confirm the covenant, he had the gospel declared unto him.  In Galatians 3:8, reading from the Amplified Version, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify (declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself) the Gentiles in consequence of faith, proclaimed the Gospel (foretelling the glad tidings of a Savior long beforehand) to Abraham in the promise, saying, in you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”  Verse 9: “So then, those who are people of faith are blessed and made happy and favored by God (as partners in fellowship) with the believing and trusting Abraham.”  Abraham was given the gospel of a Savior coming to die for all his family.  Abraham entered into a blood covenant with God and stood on that mountain with you, me and all his children in his loins, ready and willing to do his part in sacrificing his only son of promise, because he had received the gospel and knew God would sacrifice His Son in fulfilling His part in a blood covenant with mankind.  Now, the blood of God’s only slain firstborn Son is shed and covers our hearts if we let God bring us to the blood trail of Calvary’s hill.  We all were God’s enemies by nature of our flesh, but if we will stand in this shed blood and make our promises to God and His family, trade him our weapons for His weapons and our filthy (coat) rags for a robe of pure white (righteousness) His coat, we enter into this covenant with God.  I promised God that if He’d save me and forgive me of all my terrible sins I would present my body to Him as a sacrifice.  My father, Abraham’s God, heard me as I knelt there and the Holy Spirit, who is the executor, heard my vows and sealed them in the blood covenant I have with God.  But when it was God’s turn, He spoke so many promises to you and me that they had to be written down in a Book that has 66 smaller books.  His promises to you and me include eternal life.  He knew we wouldn’t keep our end of the covenant we made with Him which, if broken, was punishable by death; therefore He slew His firstborn Son in order that we might live.  Now, what does that mean for you and me?  We can go to any promise written in those 66 books and we can stand on it because God, Who cannot lie, sealed it in blood!  His blood!  He has given us His weapons; “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:13).  He’s standing in the trail of blood holding them out for us.  Why?  So we’ll be able to withstand all the tricks and darts of the enemy.  Our weapons can’t defeat the devil but His can and He has given them to us.  Our weapons are carnal, but His are mighty, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God” (Eph. 6:13–18).  We also received His name as part of our blood covenant with God.  Are you sick?  In one of the books with promises, His covenant says (and remember it’s sealed in blood), “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).  Do you want to live forever and never die?  He promised you in blood that if you’ll “confess (repent with your whole heart) to the Lord Jesus and believe with your whole heart that God raised him from the dead, you’ll be saved. (Rom. 10:9)  In His scripture, He asked, “Why will you die?”  For it is not God’s will that any would perish but His will is that all will come to repentance (II Peter 3:9).

        I’m in prison doing a life sentence, incarcerated in 1984 until now, and I’m so unworthy of this blood covenant with God.  But God wants us all to repent and turn to Him, for it was in love that He died and shed His blood, to guarantee you and me eternal life.  Today is the day that He’s speaking to your heart and asking you to find someone whom you are certain knows God and will pray with you, or get alone right now and pray and repent until you know God has forgiven you.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what sins you have committed in the past, God will forgive you.  If He had mercy on me He’ll have mercy on anybody, for I know as Paul that Jesus Christ came to save sinners of whom I was chief.  You have opportunity today to enter into a covenant with the Almighty God, a covenant sealed in His own blood.  God’s own Son died for you so you can live.  Time is running out in the earth, so make your peace with God today.  I’m praying for you!  Pray for me also.  A Prisoner of Jesus Christ.

Note about Brother Jimmy Windham

        Brother Jimmy is incarcerated in South Carolina and desires everyone’s prayers.  The Lord has recently blessed him by giving him a Christian roommate named Ralph.  While having the option to move to the “Character Dorm,” he chose to remain where he is to be a light to those who sit in the greatest darkness and because God gave him a Christian roommate.  Recently the warden decided to make the unit where Jimmy is a faith based unit.  They will be allowed access to the recreation field and have all the privileges of those in the “Character Dorm.”  God has blessed Brother Jimmy in many ways while he daily faces very difficult situations, so continue to pray for him.  For others who are incarcerated and read “The Testimony of Truth,” Brother Jimmy wants to encourage you to know that God loves you and will do for you exactly as He has done for him.  God will forgive, save and give you freedom and eternal life.  Just call upon Him and He will hear and answer.  Praise God!

 

 

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS

Al King

       “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor.  15:14)

        The Apostle Paul places a physical and natural impossibility upon the religion of Christianity when he preaches the resurrection of Jesus Christ, declaring that all faith in Jesus Christ is futile if Christ did not rise from the dead.  It is interesting when one compares Christianity to other religions of the world, for we find many scientific and physical impossibilities in Christianity that are lacking and void in all other world religions.  Faith is a part of all religions but God, in His divine wisdom and providence, has placed seemingly insurmountable impossibilities upon that religion which points to Himself and which testifies to the only true omnipotent God and Creator of the universe.  To list just a couple of the most incredible and supernatural, we would have to speak of creation in six days and the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.  The incarnation was so different, so unbelievable, and even somewhat repulsive, to those gods which carnal man would invent.  But prophesy declared, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).  We find the fulfillment of this prophesy in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  God’s wisdom and glorious power are manifest in a most remarkable way as He determines to show Himself the God He is, far superior to and above all the gods religious men have worshipped since the beginning of time.  God has unveiled His glory so He would be acknowledged by those who would walk in truth.

        The Lord revealed His deity through His Son Jesus Christ by healing the multitudes, raising the dead, walking on water, calming storms and many other manifestations of divine power.  Jesus pleaded with those of His day to believe for the very works’ sake.  The works He did testified to His deity (Jn. 5:36; 10:25; 14:12).  Then there is the resurrection of Jesus after His crucifixion that points to Christ’s deity and the claim that He was the Son of God.  It is this final testimony that validates all the claims Jesus made of Himself, and it is this sign that Paul declares to be the final and most conclusive testimony that Jesus was truly the Son of God.  If He did not rise from the dead, then all those who profess Christ to be the Son of God, placing their trust in Him for salvation and eternal life, are deceived and their faith is worthless.  If Jesus rose not, those who hold to the premise that Christianity is the one and only true religion that offers eternal life, believe in vain.  If Christ be not risen then all those who trust Christ for salvation are following a myth and are living a lie.  Great importance, then, is placed upon the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Let us consider it briefly in this article.

Facts Surrounding The Resurrection

        If Christ truly rose from the dead, this fact authenticates all He spoke concerning Himself.  His words and deeds are all verified by the resurrection, but they can also be discarded if He be not risen.  This Biblical premise shows just how important the resurrection is, it either validates or destroys Christianity.  Let us establish a few facts in our search for truth.

        Fact number one: There was a man named Jesus, Who claimed to be the Son of God, and He lived about 2000 years ago.  This Man was crucified by Roman soldiers by order of Pilate and this Man did die (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19).  He was determined to be dead by a soldier who pierced His side with a spear (Jn. 19:34).  There was no response and therefore Jesus was deemed dead.

        The second fact: This Man was placed in an empty tomb after He was removed from the cross and wrapped in a burial cloth of fine linen provided by Joseph of Arimathaea.  A large stone was then rolled in the entrance of the tomb (Mk. 15:43, Matt. 27:60).

        Fact number three: Roman soldiers were placed at the tomb to be certain that His body was not stolen, for the religious leaders remembered Jesus’ words that He would rise from the dead.  They were afraid some of Jesus’ followers would steal the body and claim He had risen from the dead.  A guard was place to ascertain that His body remained in the tomb at least three days (Matt. 27:64–66).

        Fact four: After three days there was an earthquake, the large stone rolled from the tomb entrance and the soldiers were afraid and fled the scene (Matt. 28:1–15).  There were many trips by various people to the tomb and all testified that Jesus’ body was no longer there.  However, there was found remaining in the tomb the napkin that was placed around His face as well as the grave clothes in which He had been wrapped.  They were still in the form in which they were when wrapped around the body of Jesus.  They were not unwrapped as if someone had unwrapped the body before stealing it, but the burial cloths remained in that tomb like an empty cocoon, left in a manner that only God could perform, another miraculous testimony of the deity of the Son of God (Jn. 20:3–7; Matt. 28:4–6; Mk. 16:2–6; Lk. 24:1–9).

        Fact five: There were many eye–witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, first seeing the empty tomb but then later by personal encounters with Jesus after His resurrection.  He was seen by His disciples, certain women, and according to I Cor. 15:6, He was seen of about five hundred people after His resurrection, all who testified to seeing Him.  He not only was seen and heard but ate with the disciples and was touched by several.  Jesus told them plainly that it was He and not a spirit.  “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Lk. 24:39; Jn. 21:4–14).  Thomas is often labeled “doubting Thomas” because he didn’t believe that Jesus was risen nor that He appeared unto the other disciples, not being present at the time.  The Lord mercifully appeared to Thomas and encouraged him to touch His hands and feel the nail prints and told him to thrust his hand into His side (Jn. 23:25–28).  All these testimonies confirm that it was truly Jesus, resurrected just as He had prophesied.

The Resurrection Validates All Christ’s Claims

        Jesus declared Himself to be the Son of God, therefore claiming to be God.  Consider the following scriptures: John 10:28–33: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  (29) My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.  (30) I and my Father are one.  (31) Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.  (32) Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?  (33) The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”  In these verses Jesus claims to have the power to grant eternal life to men and He claims that He is one with the Father.  The Jews very clearly understood His claims for they were ready to stone Him for blasphemy.  There was no question in their minds of His proclamation to be God incarnate.  Jesus did not attempt to correct their perception by saying, “Wait!  You are misunderstanding me.  I am not saying I am God.”  They understood perfectly, and no correction was necessary.  Christ’s resurrection gives assurance to believers that He does give eternal life, and no one nor any circumstance can take them out of God’s love and care.

        Referring again to the Gospel of John, we find this outstanding statement, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  (18) No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This commandment have I received of my Father” (Jn. 10:17–18).  Here, Jesus claims to have the power to turn away from the cross of death or to submit to it.  This power He holds in His hands and this claim is again established in Matt. 26:53 which reads, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?”  For Jesus to call for the angels to deliver Him from the hands of evil men would have been for Him to be disobedient to the heavenly calling and to turn from the Father’s will.  Not only did Jesus claim the power to lay down His life, He also claimed to have power to come forth from the grave after His life was laid down.  He authenticated this claim in His resurrection.  Death could not hold Him, for He was God.  There are many other places in the four Gospels where Jesus declares Himself to be the Son of God.

        Another very important claim Jesus made will affect all mankind.  Jesus declared Himself to be the One Who will judge all men when they appear at the Great White Throne Judgment.  Consider carefully the following scriptures. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22).  Continuing in the same chapter, let’s examine verses 26–29, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; (27) And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.  (28) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, (29) And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”  Note the serious claims Jesus makes in these few verses.  He affirms that the Father has given Him authority to execute judgment and states that He is the One Who will judge all men on judgment day.  His resurrection verifies and validates this assertion.  Lest there be any doubt what He is saying in John, let’s include another statement recorded in Matthew 7:21–23. “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.  (22) 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?  (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  How clearly Christ makes this truth.  All men will stand before Jesus one day to be judged, for He says “Many will say to me”.  Every man needs to be certain he has built his foundation upon Christ’s words.  Jesus warns men, in the next few verses of Matthew 7, to be sure to build their house upon His words, giving the parable of the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the foolish man who built upon sand.  In John 12:48, He affirms His words will judge us at the last day.  In Acts 17:31, Paul proclaims, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

        When the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign that Jesus was Who He claimed to be He told them the only sign they would be given would be the sign of Jonah.  As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so would the Son of man be in the grave three days and three nights.  This is still the sign to all who believe.  If Christ be not risen, our faith is in vain.  The resurrection was the fulfillment of all that He came to accomplish.  Every aspect of the divine plan of God was fulfilled in Christ’s humiliation.  It began first by leaving His throne of glory, laying aside His splendor and being made in the form of man, a helpless babe issuing from Mary’s womb, His tender life dependent upon a mother’s milk.  He grew up learning obedience by suffering, suffering hunger, rejection, disrespect, mockings, scourgings and finally being falsely accused and hung on a Roman cross, dying a death that was caused, not by His sin but for the sins of the world.  And, finally, He being God and accepting the final humiliation of death was placed in a borrowed tomb.  For three long days it seemed that death had won the victory and all hope was gone.  But on the third day, Christ’s humiliation ended and His exaltation began.  The angels that sang His praises at His birth once again sang at His resurrection.  The divine plan was finished.  Provision for man, destined to eternal destruction, was made available to any who would believe and be saved.  Paul longs all men to see this wonderful and glorious provision made in Christ when he writes to the church in Ephesus, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: (18) The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (19) And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (20) Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (21) Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (22) And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (23) Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:17–23).

        The proof that our sins are forgiven and removed from our account is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The assurance of eternal redemption through the blood of Christ is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The resurrection is the Christian’s assurance that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them and it is His righteousness in which they rejoice.  The resurrection of Christ is what assures every believer that the Holy Spirit has been given to all who believe and that they are sons of God because they are led by the Spirit of God.  The believer’s hope of eternal life rests in the cross and is authenticated by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  It is His resurrection that stands as an emblem of God’s faithfulness and confirms the validity of His holy Word, offering a foundation to those who believe that cannot be shaken.  It has endured every storm that has come against it throughout history, and that Word will continue to be remain a sure foundation to the end when Jesus returns in the clouds of glory.

The Resurrection When Christ Returns

        In considering the resurrection, our study would be incomplete if we don’t consider the resurrection of all men when Christ returns and will occur on “the last day”.  Let’s begin in 1 Cor. 15:17–19: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”  Paul shows the importance of Christ’s resurrection, implying the final resurrection is based upon Christ’s resurrection.  In the next few verses, he reveals Christ as the firstfruit, and those who believe and find salvation by faith will follow Him in that resurrection.  “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:20–23).  The marvelous truths conveyed in these few verses are astounding but they testify to the fact that when Christ returns there will be a resurrection of all who have lived on this earth, giving that understanding that physical death is not the end of man’s existence but that all shall be resurrected.  Jesus also taught this same truth in John 5:28–29, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”  There is coming a resurrection of all that are in the graves.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures the final resurrection and the results of that resurrection.  Those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ will be resurrected unto eternal life and those who have rejected Him will be resurrected to an eternity of damnation.  For the wicked, Christ’s coming will not come with great anticipation but with great fear, dread and distress, for the time is come when they shall be judged and shall suffer eternal death.  For believers this is a glorious event for they will be resurrected to meet the Lord in the air and they will ever be with the Lord (I Thess. 4:17).  It is with great anticipation we wait for these days of trials and temptations to come to an end and we meet our Lord face to face in that eternal bliss of heaven.  Come, Lord Jesus!

 

 

THE MYSTERIES OF PROPHECY

Harry Miller

        Bible prophecy offers the serious and sincere student of the Scriptures an unlimited amount of provocative and stimulating material for investigation, contemplation, and analysis.

        The many contradicting conclusions of learned men merely bear testimony to the fact that their approach to the subject of prophecy is evidently unscientific and impractical.  Since “God is not the author of confusion,” and His written Word He has “honored above His name,” it certainly seems reasonable to conclude that the RECORD (The Bible) is not at fault.  Therefore, the difficulty must rest with man himself.  If the Word is “good and perfect,” the confusion, then, must be the result of faulty INTERPRETATION.

        Carnal man is almost invariably rebellious at heart; and when such an individual attempts to unlock God’s secrets concerning the future, he usually falls victim to his own imaginations: the creations of his own individual personality.  This would account for the many different and varied interpretations of the Holy Book: each man finding “that which is right in his own eyes.”  To make religion compatible with man’s way of life he has even dared to twist and change many of the sayings of the Good Book.  Delving haphazardly into the mysteries of The Book is one of man’s irrational and unscientific forms of secret rebellion, and has produced many fantastic doctrines.

        Can an honest man escape from the delusions of his own spirit?  Is it possible to circumvent the snares of one’s own treacherous heart? Can one leap over the pitfalls of human nature and be able to see clearly the uncontaminated truth in all of its stark reality?  The answer must be YES.  The God of justice and truth would be dishonored if He had made no provision for the enlightenment of the seeker of knowledge who would delve into His Word in sincerity and honesty.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” (Matt. 7:11)

        Human INTERPRETATION is THE hazard in trying to understand the Scriptures.  Men are made victims of all manner of delusions because they allow their imaginations to make conclusions concerning what God “means” by what He says.  There is but one way to escape the snare of self–deception: REFUSE TO BUILD DOCTRINE ON HUMAN INTERPRETATIONS OF THE WORD.

        The Scriptures are the most cleverly devised pieces of literature the world will ever know.  The great Engineer of the universe purposely designed this literary work as a means of sifting humanity.  His Book has been given the power of life and death.  Its message is applicable to all people of every age and clime.  In its “two–edged–sword” capacity it severs the just from the unjust, and it knows no equal in discerning the darkest secrets of the hearts of men.

        God’s Book is written in a style all its own; it knows no comparison.  Its pages are loaded with jewels of untold truth, many of which are shrouded in the mystery of symbol, sign, metaphor and parable.  However, for “the wayfaring man” there is a complete message of PLAIN STATEMENTS: no mysteries, no dark speeches, no need for speculation.  True doctrine must be built upon these PLAIN STATEMENTS OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES.

        Throughout the Bible, God has employed many different ways of conveying His ideas to man; but there are two specific divisions which can be made of Holy Writ: the PLAIN DISPATCH and the SECRET DISPATCH.  The “plain dispatch” requires no decoding, no interpretation, no speculation.  It is subject to analysis and a scientific breakdown of the clearly evident facts.  The PLAIN STATEMENTS of Scripture never exalt the human ego.  As a matter of fact, they usually humble the human heart and make man feel thoroughly dependent upon his Creator.

        The “secret dispatch,” on the other hand, is a CODED MESSAGE, shrouded in the mystery of symbol, allegory, sign, and parable.  The “dark speech” is purposely designed for the dual purpose of enlightening the eyes of the “initiated,” while making darkness in the minds of those who secretly desire to walk in their own human ways.  A message of occult nature cannot be taken literally; neither can it be made subject to scientific analysis.  The very structure of a “dark speech” message is such that its dual nature tends to completely confuse analytic or logical reasoning.

        Many things recorded in the Scriptures are ambiguous and defy all scientific reasoning.  The attempt to propound many of the mysteries of the Word by the use of scholastic skill is pure nonsense.  And it is also utter folly for any individual to think that he has acquired some clever method of unlocking these mysteries.

        Angels, who are far more advanced in knowledge than men, have often “desired” to “look into” (understand) some of the Lord’s predictions and have found that they, also, must wait for the “day and the hour” in which the Father will allow these matters to be revealed.  Jesus Himself declared that there were certain things which were known only to the Father.  Daniel, “a man greatly beloved,” did not even understand certain prophetic utterances given to him personally.  He was told to seal them up “until the time of the end.”

        Putting human interpretation upon God’s Holy Writ is either an ignorant or a willful transgression of the basic laws which govern the shadow types of divine communication.  “No prophesy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Peter 1:20).  The Greek word from which this word “private” is taken is edeos.  We derive our word “idiot” from this same root, which means “from one’s self.”  Therefore, a proper understanding of prophetic Scriptures cannot be arrived at by self–reasoning or by accepting conclusions that seem logical to the human mind.

        Godly men, skilled in the science of mysterious communications, did not claim to be able to unlock the secrets of God.  When King Pharaoh called Joseph to interpret his dream, Joseph said, “It is not in me.”  But he told the king that God would give him an answer.  While Joseph was in prison, certain of the King’s officers told him their dreams, sadly declaring that there was no interpreter there.  Joseph answered them: “Do not interpretations belong to God?”  (Why is it that so many commentators reject this declaration of fact?)

        Many years later, Moses wrote: “The secret things (dark speeches) belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children” (Deut. 29:29).  Many centuries after Moses’ time the prophet Daniel told the king of the world: “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets.”  And then he added, concerning the interpretation he was about to give the king: “This secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living.”  Interpretation is given by divine revelation, never by mere analysis or “logical deduction.”

        There are only two methods by which the “secret things” of the Lord can be made known to man: A) By Divine revelation; B) By comparing the “shadow” with the correct doctrinal structure created by Plain Statements.  When “the Rock” is laid bare by scientific analysis, the doctrinal structure becomes self–evident: it needs no explanation, no definition.  The “shadow” can then be compared with, or superimposed upon, “the Rock” and its mysteries at once become plain.

        It is possible to “RIGHTLY DIVIDE” the Scriptures and separate the two classes of communications: (A) plain statements and (B) mystical statements.  “A workman that needeth not to be ashamed…rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).  By using only the plain statements of Scripture, a complete, analytic structure of prophetic doctrine will be discovered, which predicts the future, even to the point of the new heavens and the new earth.

        Can these two different types of communication be positively identified?  Is it possible to place them in a certain category and be absolutely certain that they belong there, and there alone?  Our answer is “yes.”  Plain speech is not plain if it is mixed with dark speech.  There is no such thing as communion of light with darkness in the things of God.  Whenever a thing is not holy, it is unholy; when a thing is not light, then it is dark.  No plain statement will ever confuse or contradict the words of Christ or any of the plain statements made by others of the prophets; neither will plain communication require explanation or apology.

 

 

THAT EMPTY FEELING

Randall Walton

        Society is a conglomerate of unhappy people who are trying to attain happiness in a system where happiness is a misty mirage.  People have the crazy notion that if they have enough entertainment, fun, pleasure, money and material goods they will have reached the summit of satisfaction and solicitude.

        Watching the faces of passersby on nearly any city street, you can see etched into the majority of them the marks of worry, strain, anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and distress.  Of course, they smile, they laugh, cut up and caper, but all the outward show of bravado is but a mere camouflage for the misery of a people without purpose or reason for being.

        This nation boasts more millionaires at the present time than in any previous era in its history (and that’s after adjusting for inflation!).  And the worldwide picture reveals that there are more “haves” than “have–nots,” even though the gap between the two is greater than ever before.

        But, if all this proves anything at all, it is that wealth does not produce nor provide contentment, peace, joy, and happiness.  Of course, if many people had stopped long enough to read the words of Jesus they would have known this and would have been spared all the work and toil of trying in vain to satisfy their desires apart from God.

        We have all witnessed in recent years the rise and fall of great financiers.  Whether we like it or not (and we don’t!), we are all having to contribute monetarily for the bail–out of the characters who have lived off the fat of the land while running their businesses at astronomical losses.  The feeling of emptiness has caught up with them, the knowledge that one cannot buy satisfaction whether he uses his own money or someone else’s.

Jesus, The Only Way

        Jesus stated with clarity and emphasis that He, and He alone, is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  Access to the Father is exclusively in His hands.  The blessings of life are found only in Jesus, and this statement includes more than a mere recognition that Jesus is the only true Saviour.  It also embraces Jesus as the Father’s messenger and message (He is the Word!).

        Happiness, peace, and satisfaction only come as a result of applying the words of Jesus to one’s life.  A “born again experience” is great, but it is only a beginning, or a birthing.  But, sadly, most Christians never grow beyond that stage.  Once they have received Christ in their hearts, they become bogged down in ecclesiasticism (churchanity) and they soon petrify into hardened church members, little different from the rest of mankind.

        And then that empty feeling sets in, the initial joy of salvation dissipates into thin air, and God becomes a distant, inaccessible figurehead who rates a zero on their scale of priorities.

        The only way to expel this “empty feeling” is to change one’s priorities and place God where He belongs, that is, at the very top of the list, number one, and keep Him there.  Proof that any of us have done that rests in whether we yield our own wills to Him by obeying His word.  There is no value in praying that God’s will be done when we are fully determined to go ahead with our own will, plans, and ambitions.

Empty Feeling, Empty Lives

        Some wise man noted that for every effect there is a cause!  The emptiness of people’s lives is blatantly evident universally. There is little, if any, purpose in life for most people.  This is the basic cause for the futility and frustration which so many suffer.

        The Old Testament prophet, Haggai, expressed the case much better than we do.  He said: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.  Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:5,6).

        He points out the dissatisfaction of the people: never full, never happy, never have enough of anything.  Is it possible he was speaking of 21st century Christians who are constantly on the prowl for a bigger and better home, a new car, a more sophisticated entertainment center, a more solid insurance policy, etc.?  In the preceding verse he accused the people of living in luxury and splendor while the house of the Lord was sorely neglected!

        This is precisely the condition of the “church” in this present hour.  Programs, crusades, drives, revivals, loans, mortgages, more lavish buildings, socials, parties, games, entertainment, tours (such as trips to the so–called holy land), all take precedence over the really vital issues which face us: adherence to the Words of our King Jesus, and measuring up to the moral and spiritual standards as set forth in the Scriptures.  This present generation has certainly put forth great effort to fill a bag which is full of holes.

        It appears that the remedy for this drastic condition rests in God’s intervention by sending judgment in the form of trouble, tribulation, persecution, hardship, economic disaster, and war.  Haggai said the Lord sent a drought upon the land as a means of stirring up the people to do the Lord’s work.  It must be wonderful if God’s people would rally around the cause of Jesus Christ without pressurization, but since Jesus prophesied that great tribulation was on the schedule, we had best be prepared for it.

Priorities For A Christian

        It is high time for those who claim Jesus as their Lord to put into practice His sayings.  Since 1933 we have used the slogan, “Back To The Bible Movement,” and we still adhere to that principle.  Let us return to the teachings of the Good Book, search out the stated requirements for the followers of Jesus Christ, and get on with the work of the kingdom.  Only as we do these things will we stop wasting our energies trying to fill a bag with holes.  And we can trade that empty feeling for one of fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment, peace and joy (Rom. 14:17).

 

 

PREACHING AS A PROPHET

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

        Mamby pamby preaching is not “in.”  People are so weighed down with one burden or another today that they cannot tolerate some wimpy preacher.  If anyone bothers to show up for worship any more, it is to get hold of power from the pulpit.

        That means that this is indeed the age for prophetic preaching.  Today’s pews are crying out for conviction from their spiritual leaders.

        Consequently, a renewed might must return to the sermon.  That will, in turn, give practical guidance to weary travelers for another week of battling against the invisible powers of darkness.

        Ezekiel provides an excellent example of gusto oratory.  First, he was not “doing his own cute thing” when mounting the pulpit stairs.  Instead, he was surrendered to the inrush of the Holy Spirit: “the Spirit entered me when he spoke to me…and I heard him who spoke to me” (2:2).

        We, too, are to be so close to the mouth of God that we pick up His words for our people.  That means basically a life of on–going prayer.  It seems that we, as preachers, want to do anything else other than pray: duplicate flyers, play with computers, dial numbers, drive around town, munch on donuts.  How sad when there is so much God wants to reveal by way of divine secrets (Amos 3:7; Psalm 19:1; Daniel 2:10, 22, 28).

        Ezekiel, secondly, confronted a spiritually stiff–necked people.  “I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me” (2:3).

        Rebellion is the warp and woof of our time.  God help those preachers who strike out against baby killing, same–sex marriages, porno in the theaters, religious play acting in the church, politics within the ecclesiastical arena, laziness in the pew.

        There is much religious profession today; there is little conviction.  George Gallup, Jr. states that the nation “wants the fruit of religion but not the obligations.  We revere the Bible, but don’t read it.  We believe in God, but this God…does not command our total allegiance.”

        This rotting under heaven spelled doom for Israel; can America be far behind?

        Ezekiel, thirdly, was to live out the prophetic presence.  “As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse – for they are a rebellious house – yet they will know that a prophet has been among them” (2:5).

        The prophetic preacher is not to carry the weight of others’ decisions.  Each person will answer for his own choices.  However, the mouthpiece of God will be expected to stand firm, communicating with certainty that the standard of the Lord has been erected amidst the people.

        Does your congregation realize that you are holy before God?  Can they know assuredly that you are single–focused on heaven’s will for your calling?  Parishioners have had it with palsy preachers who stroke, play up to them and coddle; these do not command respect from a thinking people.  What today’s hard–core committed demand is a preacher who is unreservedly on the line for truth.

        Fourthly, Ezekiel was not to flinch when cold–eyed lookers–on tried to stare him down.  “do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks” (2:6).

        Having preached more than a quarter of a century, if looks could have killed, I would have been dead a thousand times over long ago.  What about that person who slides behind another human body so that the preacher cannot see him while the sermon is delivered?  Have you ever had that happen to you when preaching?

        What about that slinky individual in the back of the sanctuary who can find no body behind which to hide, so he hoists his frame on one hip and then locks his eyeballs against yours for the thirty minute fight against truth?  “Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads.  Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks” (3:8–9).

        Do we give in too early?  Or are our spines made of Spirit’s steel?  Ezekiel was warned that he would have to crawl over thorns, bed down with briers and wake up to snakes at his feet, yet he was to keep on with the message.

        Ezekiel was further cautioned to watch out for smoothies who gushed over his sermons but purposefully concluded not to act upon them.  “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as my people and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain” (33:31).

        These are the parishioners who paw us in public but push us aside in their hearts.  (It is not us but God they are actually discarding.)

        “Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one, who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them” (33:32).

        The temptation for today’s preacher will be to blur it.  There is great pressure to soft–pedal truth, accommodate Scripture, slice out the more severe passages.  Pablum religion results.

        God warned Ezekiel not to join the rebellious house of Israel: “hear what I say unto you.  Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you” (2:8).

        To eat God’s Word is to sit at His table more than we ever have before.  The food is strong, healthy and nourishing.  God’s menu will give the might to withstand, but it must be devoured as a starving prophet.

        When God’s nuclear age preacher gives forth, he will certainly feel the outside press of “lamentations and mourning and woe” (2:10).  This is the expected impact of God’s word against the world’s word.  One force will wallop the other; the preacher will feel the blow.

        Yet, the more the biblical preacher remains unmoved, the more he will taste within his own soul the aftermath reward of staying true to heaven’s menu: “so I ate it and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness (3:3).”  There simply is no trade–off for God’s “honey in sweetness.”

 

 

ARE WE READY?

Evangelist Charles Woodard

        “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:10).

        The parable of the ten virgins is prophetic.  Jesus Christ is the bridegroom who will return for His own.

        Notice that “they that were ready” went in with the bridegroom.  All of the virgins were not ready.  Only five had oil in their lamps.

        There are several requirements to being ready:

        1.  We must have the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).

        If you are in a church that does not preach the blood of Jesus for forgiveness of sins, I suggest you leave immediately!  Only the blood of the Son of God can make atonement for sin.  Are you covered by that blood?

        2.  We must be filled with the Spirit of God.  The command of Ephesians 5:18 is “be filled with the Spirit.”

        3.  Not only do we need the Holy Ghost to come upon us (Acts 1:8), but we must continue to “walk in the Spirit.”  “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

        4.  Another requirement to be ready to meet the Lord is “obedience.”  “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).

        When we are obedient to our Lord and His Word, we will know in our hearts we are ready.  Church membership, church attendance, working for God, praising Him, and all of the outward show of devotion are good; they cannot and must not be a substitute for being filled with the Holy Ghost and being obedient to the Lord and His Word.

        5.  The last key in the lock of salvation and readiness is doing the Will of God.  “Behold my mother and my brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:49,50).

        It is God’s Will that we worship His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and Him only.  Praying to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, or the “saints” is false worship.  Recognizing an elevated priesthood of men is likewise false worship.  There is no vicar of Christ on earth.  Jesus is our high priest: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Heb. 8:26,27).

        The apostle Paul addressed believers as “saints” (Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2), and Peter says we are a “royal priesthood” (I Pet. 2:9).

        Many religions recognize a Supreme Being.  Many people say, “We’re all trying to get to the same place, but we’re just taking different roads.”  The Word lets it be known that Jesus is the only way to eternal life: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

        Christianity is the only true religion, and only those who have gone this way are ready to meet the Lord.  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

        Now is the time to be ready.  No one knows the time for each one of us to depart this earth.  Likewise, we do not know when Jesus will return.  “Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Luke 12:40).

        How do we know we are ready?  Being covered by the blood of Jesus, filled with His Holy Spirit, walking in the Spirit, walking in obedience to the Lord and His Word, doing His will – these are the signs of readiness.

        Are you ready?