People of The Living God

Psalms 23

 

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October 2013



 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

HALLOWEEN

Alfred King

        October is the month when people begin preparing for the celebration known as Halloween.  As with many of our “Christian” holidays, Halloween was Christianized by the Catholic Church.  Halloween occurs on the eve of “All Saints Day,” a Catholic holy day, which falls on November first.  All Saints Day is the day in which all those who are considered saints, but have not a specific date of recognition, are honored.  We can liken it to Presidents’ Day.  Instead of Washington’s birthday or Lincoln’s, all presidents are recognized on the same day.  All Saints Day is also referred to as “All Souls Day,” meaning that all saved souls are recognized by the church in its liturgy.  During the Protestant Reformation, as believers found salvation through faith, multitudes broke away from the Catholic Church and also denounced many of the traditions established by the Roman Catholic Church, recognizing them to have been adopted from paganism.  However, over time numerous Protestant churches began embracing these pagan celebrations themselves.  In their desire to spread the Gospel to the pagan world and bring them into the Church, the Catholic Church (and later Protestant churches) began to adopt many of the pagan religious traditions and customs.  The intent was to make pagans feel more comfortable with Christianity, thus allowing them to continue many of their former practices and at the same time embrace Christianity.  A longing to reach the pagan world is a noble and commendable desire, but to adopt the pagan practices and embrace anything from their religious system is foreign to the Gospel that is presented in Scripture, and most certainly opens the door for many other forms and customs of paganism to enter the church.  Needless to say, this is exactly what has happened and is a plague that affects the church even to our present day.

        When God brought Israel out of Egypt and led them into the land of Canaan, He gave them warning, “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations” (Deut. 18:9).  The Lord then follows this warning with, “For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee” (Deut. 18:12).  It was for their evil works and idolatry that God destroyed the Canaanites and gave their land to Israel.  For Israel to embrace any of the customs those nations observed was an abomination in the sight of the Lord Whom they served.  While there are more extreme and ungodly sins mentioned in Deuteronomy 18, we are not to minimize the lesser sins, for God commands His people to forsake all the ways of the heathen and sets down His order for His people.  This is true even under the New Covenant.  While it is often thought that God was only harsh under the Old Covenant, we read in the book of Acts where God killed a couple for lying to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:1–10).  Verse eleven reads, “And great fear fell upon all the church and upon as many as heard these things.”  This is New Covenant doctrine.  God’s ways are holy, pure and righteous and to incorporate any heathen or pagan practices into the Gospel is to dilute at best and at worst, poison it and bring it to no effect.

        What then is the seriousness of Halloween?  The Encyclopedia of World Religions gives us this information regarding the origin of Halloween, “All Hallow’s Eve – October 31.  A pagan/occult religious high or holy day that celebrates the transitions from fall to winter.  On this day the spirits of departed relatives return.  Satan and his witches have the greatest power on this day, as all portals from Hades to the heavens are open.  This day had its origin in ancient Druid rituals honoring the god Damhain, lord of the dead.”  The god Damhain, was considered the god of the dead and this explains why the Catholic implemented “All Saints Day” or “All Souls Day” in recognition of the god of the dead.  This allowed pagans to remember the dead and made the Gospel more palatable to the heathen.  Many might consider this better than out and out heathenism and paganism, yet it leaves men falling short of what the Gospel is to produce in our world.  It leaves the church exposed to certain evil influences and fleshly appetites.  It creates a weak and malnourished church, one devoid of the power, glory and majesty provided in Christ Jesus.

        Unfortunately, watering down the Gospel by amalgamating it with paganism continues to be one of Satan’s greatest tools in the twenty–first century church.  Church leaders are conforming more and more to the demands of the world, adopting the world’s customs, techniques and style.  Paul warns of those who have itching ears who heap to themselves teachers and pastors who will preach and teach what makes the congregation comfortable in their sins and leaves them at ease in Zion.  Today’s lukewarm church is not prepared for the days ahead and will certainly be spewed out of His mouth.  When rock and roll (the meaning of this term is the very antithesis of Godliness and holy living) was introduced in the church, the devils of hell rejoiced and the angels of heaven were grieved.  Does God forsake His church because there is sin in it?  NO!  But the time is coming in which God is calling His people out and those who have ears to hear are hearing and are preparing an exodus of these religious institutions which refuse to teach and preach truth at any cost.  There will come a time, just as it was with national Israel when there was no remedy and God forsook them and they were taken captive by their enemies, when the door will be shut and many “virgins” will stand without, knocking, desiring to be given entrance but will only hear those sad words, “I know you not.”  There are many who will say, “These were never saved because God didn’t know them.”  This is not the case.  When one is converted or saved, he is accepted into God family.  However, we are told over and over in scripture that we must grow, and in that growth, we are to come to know Him.  We are called to walk in such a way as to gain fellowship and communion with Him daily.  If we don’t grow into that knowledge of Him in personal contact we are very apt to find ourselves as those virgins who stood outside the door.  In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, He prayed that they might know God.  Consider His prayer carefully.  Verse 3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.”  He continues in His prayer praying of this fellowship and communion between the Father, Himself and His people, those who would believe on Him.  Verse 21–23: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them (notice the intimacy of the relationship), and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou has loved me.”  To be one with the Father and Jesus is not a lukewarm state such as we see today.  Satan has infiltrated the church through many good and noble intentions to reach unbelievers, to bring in young people, to accommodate the wealthy, to make sinners comfortable so they also can stand in the congregation of the righteous.  To welcome the world’s music to reach young people, to sweep under the carpet Christ’s demands of selling all that one has in order to be a disciple so as to accommodate the wealthy is to make the Gospel of none effect.  All these things will certainly make for a lukewarm church and one whose members will find themselves unprepared when the door is shut.  Consider Paul’s admonition to believers in Corinth: II Cor. 6:14–18 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”  Amalgamating with the world is not the answer.

 

 

THE GRAND PURPOSE OF LIFE

James Sanderson

        Have you ever seriously considered why you are here?  Not why you happen to be sitting here reading this article, but why you are here in this life?  Did some random work of chance place you here with no real purpose?  In other words, what is the reason for man’s existence on this planet?  It is unfortunate that the vast majority of humanity come into this world, live, and die with no real fulfillment.  It is as though they have never lived.  Their lives are structured around the physical aspects of life.  There is more to life than the physical.  Jesus posed the question, “Is not the life more than meat (food), and the body than raiment (clothes)?”(Matthew 6:25).  There is a divine purpose for life.  That purpose is found in the Bible, God’s word.

        The Bible reveals that God Himself created humanity and placed every individual on this planet with a definite purpose in mind.  God did not place man here to accumulate wealth or build bigger barns to store his earthly possessions.  Nor did God intend for man merely to eke out a living to meet his physical needs.  It is to be admitted that those needs must be met.  How sad that most of mankind waste their few short years on this planet focused on goals and ambitions that have no eternal value!  These are serious matters to be considered.  The Bible points to a most wonderful purpose for life – a purpose that will enrich one’s life now and will also bear fruit in eternity.  That purpose is to know God.

        Turn to Philippians 3:3–10.  Notice that the Apostle Paul had everything going for him in this life.  Here was a man born into the right family, “an Hebrew of the Hebrews.”  He had an outstanding reputation among all the religious folks of his day.  He was well–educated, belonged to the highest political and social groups, and certainly had a well–paying job.  Nevertheless, by the mercy of God, Paul came to the realization that he was missing the most important aspect of life: to know God.  Notice the tremendous transformation that occurred in Paul’s life after he came to this realization.  “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”(verse 8).  Knowing God became the paramount desire of Paul’s life, his highest priority.  This purpose consumed every aspect of his life.  Verse 10, “that I may know Him.”  Friends, we are here in this life to know God.

        The Bible reveals that an individual can actually know God personally.  Turn to John 17: 1–3.  Here we have the prayer of Jesus to the Father.  Notice that Jesus prayed that men would know God.  “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God.”  Here is the grand purpose of life: knowing God.

        What does it mean to know God?  Turn to John 1:10.  “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him; and the world knew Him not.”  They saw Him.  He lived among them.  They knew His name.  He visited their homes.  He miraculously fed them and healed their sick.  They even went into the synagogues with Him.  But they never knew Him.

        The Bible reveals that there are only two classes of people in the world: those who know God and those who do not.  When Jesus returns, He will take “vengeance on them that know not God” (2 Thess. 1:8).  Only those who know God in this life will be with Him in heaven.  The Bible also declares that some people will think that they know God, but in reality do not.  “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16).  Maybe they believed they knew God because they went to church or performed certain religious duties.  Maybe they had quit smoking and drinking.  The fruits of their lives proved that they didn’t know God.  One can know for a certainty that he knows God (I John 2:3–4).  Paul was confident that he knew God (2 Tim. 1:12).  Again, what does it mean to know God?

        Most people are acquainted with the great explorer Christopher Columbus.  From school, we know quite a few facts about his life, but has anyone met Christopher Columbus?  Does anyone know him?  I don’t.  It is possible to study about God and know many facts about God but never really know Him.  The Greek word for know means “a knowledge grounded in personal experience” (Thayer).  This Greek word carries the idea of relationship.  In other words, one needs to have a personal relationship with God in order to know Him.  Christ no longer lives in the flesh on this earth (2 Cor. 5:16).  God is a spirit.  Therefore, one must experience Him and His presence spiritually.  In other words, knowing God is a supernatural experience available to any man who truly wants to know Him.

        In order to know another person, one must meet that person.  God is a real Person, not a figment of one’s imagination.  Because Jesus Christ died on the Cross of Calvary, one can now meet and know God.  The Bible declares that He stands at the heart’s door and knocks (Rev. 3:20).  In order to know Him, one must invite Him in.  Jesus also stated, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me”(John 12:32).  God will never force Himself upon anyone.  He draws men in love.  “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).  To know God is to have Jesus Christ dwelling in one’s heart (Eph 3:17; Col 1:27; 2 Cor. 13:5). To know God is to have an intimate, personal relationship on a daily basis with the Lord.  It is truly wonderful that God would reach down to sinful, finite man and give him the opportunity of truly knowing Him.  Let us come to Him with hearts of praise and gratitude!  Let us open our hearts to Him that we might know Him in all His fullness!

 

 

“FINE LINEN, CLEAN AND WHITE”

Harold Scullin

        “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour unto Him: for the marriage of the lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7,8).

        In this account, it was time: “The marriage of the lamb is come.”  It was a time of gladness and rejoicing.  A long time had elapsed; months, years, centuries, and even millenniums, had slowly passed, but finally, “His wife hath made herself ready.”  Ephesians 5:27 was being fulfilled: “that He (Jesus) might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

        “His wife had made herself ready.”  As a result of her preparedness, “permission was granted – to array (clothe) her with fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.” (righteous acts of the saints – Barry’s interlinear)  For acts and deeds to be righteous means that Jesus must be the author of such acts and deeds.

        You will recall in the life of Abraham (Genesis 22:1,2) the Lord spoke to him and told him, “Take thy son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and take him and offer him as a burnt offering, upon the mountain, which I will show thee.”

        Abraham obeyed the voice of the Lord to the letter – three days and three nights he traveled, struggling and fighting against the lie of the devil which tormented him.  Finally, on the third day, they arrived at the mountain; Abraham and Isaac went on alone.

        En route up the mountain, Isaac asked his father, “My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?”  This must have been the climax – but Abraham was steadfast, unmovable in his determination to obey the command of the Lord.

        “My son, God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen. 22:6–8).

        The Lord did provide a lamb.  Abraham obeyed the instruction of the Lord.  In the renunciation of his own emotions, Abraham exonerated the great and mighty God in His expression of wisdom and justice – Abraham proved God to be faithful.

        “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).

        The followers of Jesus are admonished by the Holy Spirit, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold (that which is divine) tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye salve that thou mayest see” (Rev. 3:18).

        To buy spiritual values is to make an exchange of one value and receive equal or greater value in return.  In this case, “eternal values” are received in return for the fleshly and temporal values that we crucify, put to the death, deny expression of, by the help and strength of the Lord.

        Abraham’s offering of Isaac was an example of buying spiritual values.  To buy gold is to make an exchange of our will, our fleshly desires, our carnal mind, “bringing every thought into captivity; to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).  Remember, we buy the gold “that we may be rich.”  “He (Jesus) became poor that ye through His poverty might be rich” (II Cor. 8:9).  “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (riches), who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11)

        Notice the content of these next two verses of Scripture: “The seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven last plagues, clothed in pure and white linen and having their breasts girded with golden girdles” (Rev. 15:6).

        “And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:14).

        In these verses of Scripture, the fine linen, white and clean, seems to be characteristic of the covering of heavenly beings.  Recall the woman of Revelation 19:7,8: she prepared herself and was given permission to be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.”

        It is imperative in the buying of gold and white raiment, clean and white, that we understand that there is no earthly value that we can offer in payment for the heavenly values, which are Divine.  Only the complete surrender of our wills, the crucifixion of our fleshly desires and appetites, our plans, our ambitions, the members of our family — all in exchange for eternal values — the riches of the kingdom of God.

        In II Peter 1:4–10, Peter writes of a very rich and wonderful relationship with the Lord Jesus.  “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers (sharers) of the Divine nature” “and besides this…add to your faith virtue (that which is commendable: holiness, righteousness, godliness), and to virtue knowledge (a knowledge of His will, Col. 1:9), and to knowledge temperance (moderation in thought and conduct), and to temperance patience (to endure), and to patience godliness (reverence, Christ–likeness), and to godliness brotherly kindness (consideration, longsuffering), and to brotherly kindness charity (love), for if these things be in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful” (II Peter 1:5–8).  A lack of these qualities of being is to be in a state of blindness and darkness.

        Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

        Could it be that much fruit will be characteristic of those who are “clothed in fine linen, clean and white”?

        An intense hunger and strong desires for the riches of the fruit of the kingdom of God will strengthen and help you to become holy, without blemish, to be transformed into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29), and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14). He (Jesus) will increase and I will decrease (John 3:30), and then it will be “Not I but Christ” (Gal. 2:20).

        Years ago, a man of God wrote the following words: “Death must be experienced.  It is not an abstract idea.  To present one’s body a living sacrifice is a degree along the way to perfection.  But this surrender goes far beyond that of bodily surrender.  One’s human spirit is brought to the altar of sacrifice, where death to every thought must be brought into captivity, and every human ambition and plan is finally consummated.”  Unless one has a revelation of the extent of such complete submission, it is humanly impossible to conceive its meaning.

        “Love, joy, peace, long–suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22).  This is “much fruit.”  The servants of Jesus must appropriate these characteristics of being into their daily lives, as a testimony that the Lord Jesus Christ dwells within each servant and is leading and guiding their lives.

        In the Scriptures, we have accounts of the wedding feast, the woman in Rev. 19:7,8 who had prepared herself for the feast, and also some of the events that will take place at that particular time.

        In Matt. 22:8–13, the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king which made a marriage for his son.  Those who were bidden would not come.  The servants were instructed to go out into the highways, and gather together as many as they found, both bad and good.  The wedding was thus furnished with guests.  But, when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment.  The king told his servants to bind him hand and feet and cast him into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

No Wedding Garments – Cast Out Into Outer Darkness!

        Matt. 25:1–11 is another account of the same marriage feast, but with additional information.  In this account, there were five wise virgins and five foolish virgins.  The foolish virgins took their lamps (Psalms 119:105, the word of God), but they failed to take oil (pure oil olive, beaten for the light to cause the lamp to burn always, Exodus 27:20).  The wise virgins took oil in their vessels (“We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not us,” II Cor. 4:7).  The bridegroom tarried, so all of the virgins slumbered and slept.  At midnight, a cry went up, “Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.”  The ten virgins awoke and began to trim their lamps.  The foolish virgins realized their need of oil, so they requested the wise virgins give them some of their oil.  They were told to go to them that sell and buy for themselves.

        While the foolish virgins were in the process of buying the oil, “the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in and the door was shut.”  The foolish virgins came and knocked, saying, “Lord, Lord, open unto us!”  The Lord replied, “I know you not.”

The Door Was Shut.  The Day Of Salvation Was Past.

        Without question, this parable teaches that a preparation is absolutely required to enter into the marriage feast.

        This account also instructs the people of God that the day of salvation will come to an end…today, now, this present time is the only time granted to prepare to enter into the marriage feast.

        The Holy Spirit counseled John to buy gold, fine linen, clean and white, and also to buy, “eye salve with which to anoint the eyes.”  This is very important.

        Paul, the apostle, wrote this admonition in Eph. 1:18,19: “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, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe according to his mighty power.”

        Your eyes must be anointed if you are going to seek out spiritual values.

        The Holy Spirit has given us a graphic description of the process the Lord will use to bring forth the end product.

        Notice in Isaiah 4:3 the words “left in Zion” and “remaineth in Jerusalem.”  Left and remaineth involve subtraction.  In verse two of this same chapter He speaks of “them that are escaped of Israel” and in verse four, “when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.”

        The Lord has obligated Himself to provide the means and to apply the means to “every son, whom He receiveth” to “bring them into the bond of the covenant.”

        How many that call themselves Christians will surrender to the above means the Lord will use to prepare a people to stand in His presence?  How many will yield to “buying gold, tried by fire” (Rev. 3:18)?

        Jesus stated that only “Few” will endure the process (Matt. 7:13,14).

        But consider the end product – “In that day shall the Branch (“I am the vine, ye are the branches” John 15:5) of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely.”

        The first eight or nine chapters of the Book of Acts is an excellent example of the beauty, the glory, the precious fruit, the harmony and oneness of the members of the body of Christ that Isaiah prophesied of in chapter 4.

        You can be among that group of people – all it depends upon is YOUR choice to obey and surrender to the will of God.

 

 

LESSONS FROM HEZEKIAH

II Kings 18–19

Alfred King

        The apostle Peter, when addressing the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” who were in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, gave warning, telling them to beware of their adversary the devil, who as a roaring lion, walked about seeking whom he could devour (I Pet. 5:8).  Although Jesus bound the devil in His redemptive work on the cross, thereby seriously constricting the devil’s ability and power, Satan is still able to go throughout the world seeking souls to deceive and ensnare.  Jesus makes Satan’s purposes vividly clear in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but to steal, to kill and to destroy.”

        Satan uses the same tactics today to deceive God’s people as he used in the garden when he tempted Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit.  He questions God and God’s word.  He attempts to bring doubt upon God’s promises and questions upon His ability to order and keep those who are His.  When one listens to Satan’s lies, he falls into sin.  Jesus informs us the devil was a murderer from the beginning and did not abide in the truth, because there is no truth in him (Jn. 8:44).  To listen to him is to listen to a lie.  We can be assured that Satan is not out for our good but our destruction.  In II Kings 18 & 19 we have the account of Sennacherib, king of Assyria and his endeavor to conquer Judah in the days of Hezekiah.  We can extrapolate from Hezekiah’s experience some of Satan’s tactics as we consider how he sought to deceive and ensnare Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with his lies, casting doubt on God and His word.  The adversary is presently deceiving many immature Christians with his lies.  May we see some of his devices and techniques as we look at Hezekiah.

        Israel, the northern kingdom, had once again sinned and turned to idols.  Israel’s continual idolatry had finally brought them to the place where there was no remedy.  God, with longsuffering and patience, sent many messengers and prophets to Israel whom Israel rejected and refused to hear.  For this reason, God raised up the Assyrians, a fierce military force and sent them against His people, Israel.  The Assyrian conquest began by overtaking all the nations around them, and there was no power that could stop this military power.  The Assyrian conquest was setting the stage for a great test for the southern kingdom of Judah.

        According to II Kings 18:9, the Assyrians came against Israel and captured it in the sixth year of Hezekiah, king of Judah.  Hezekiah had several years to watch as Assyria captured one nation after another, and it was inevitable that the time would come when Judah would be next.  It had been ten years since Israel had fallen and its inhabitants taken to Assyria.  Israel was offered no possibility nor hope to return to their homeland.  Hezekiah had attempted to pacify the king of Assyria by sending tribute, silver and gold, which he took from the house of the Lord as well as from his own house.  Man is easily tempted to compromise or attempt to pacify the enemy by just giving over in some “not so serious” demands in order to obtain peace and keep the enemy at bay.  But this never works.  It is merely a temporary bandaid to a festering wound; for anytime we give ground or give place to the devil, we can be sure he will not be satisfied, but will fervently and tenaciously continue the assault until he has invaded and conquered.  Such was the case with Hezekiah.  Hezekiah’s appeasing tribute seemed only to delay the inevitable, for in Hezekiah’s fourteenth year, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, lay siege against the fenced cities of Judah and took them.  Jerusalem’s time had come, a time when their faith in God would be tested.  This was a life and death situation, not some mere minor decision to be made with no serious consequences.  Hezekiah’s decision in this matter affected not only himself and his family but all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem’s destiny would be determined by the decision that Hezekiah would make.  Hezekiah had been faithful to God in removing the idols and the groves which had been set up in Judah but, as we shall see, Sennacherib even used this in an effort to break down Judah’s faith in Jehovah.  Would Judah’s future be like that of her sister, Israel?  Would Jehovah deliver Judah into the hands of Assyria as He did Israel?  Were Judah’s sins less offensive than those of Israel?  Hezekiah knew the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and knew God was able to save His people, for He had done it many times, delivering multitudes into the hands of a few.  Now was the time for Judah’s testing: would they place themselves totally into God’s hands or would they believe the lies of the enemy?

        The king of Assyria sent three officers with great military support to discourage and instill fear in the hearts of Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  No doubt this tactic had worked with other nations and cities Assyria had conquered.  I will not describe some of the tortures that were common to the Assyrian armies.  Suffice it to say, there were whole cities who would commit mass suicide rather than be taken captive by this enemy and suffer at their hands.  With this tidbit of knowledge, we can understand how these three men labored to conquer Judah with their words alone; it had worked so well before.

        These three men came within hearing distance of the citizens of Jerusalem and loudly intimidated Judah saying, “Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?  Thou sayeth (but they are vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war.  Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?”  Notice his attempt to create fear in the hearts of the people.  He exalts the king of Assyria as the great king, stating that Judah cannot possibly overcome Assyria’s powerful army.  “You might as well surrender without the great loss of war.”  A very inviting offer if one was not fully trusting in Jehovah.  These three men then very carefully and craftily sowed seeds of doubt before Hezekiah and the children of Judah.  They attempted to cause Judah to lose confidence in Hezekiah’s God.  They persisted along this theme in II Kings 18:23, “But if you say, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away.”  What is implied by this questioning is that Hezekiah has not the blessing nor protection of God because he has taken away from God’s order.  Even the giving of the silver and gold from the temple might have come to mind in many hearts as they heard these words.  Would Jehovah really protect and keep them?  Maybe they considered they should just give up.  Assyria again attempts to create fear in the hearts of the people with these words, “Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it?  The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.”  This “Thus sayeth the Lord” has become a great deception in our day.  There are so many false prophets who are saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord” when the Lord has not spoken.  They are wolves in sheep’s clothing deceiving many.  Now Judah is faced with the question: Who will they believe?  Will they recognize that “the Lord” did raise up Assyria and sent them to destroy Israel?  Just as God raised up Pharaoh for a specific purpose in the day of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, so God raised up Assyria for this purpose.  Israel was taken from their land and scattered throughout the known world and never did they return to their land.

        The words spoken by these three men were spoken loudly and in the language the inhabitants of Judah could understand.  They wanted them to question Hezekiah and the Lord God.  They craftily continued their fearful tactics by boasting that none of the nations around nor the gods of those nations were able to protect them.  Not even the God of Israel was able to save Israel from the destruction the Assyrians inflicted upon them.  They tried to turn the hearts of the people against Hezekiah saying, “Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.”  They then try to get the people to come out with a present as though that would make everything fine.  Is this not exactly what Satan and the world says to the church today?  “Let’s make a truce.  Everything will be great.  Let the world into your lives and into your churches; God knows you are not able to stand against all these temptations.”  And sadly, this is exactly what has transpired in modern Christianity.  There is little difference in many churches and in many Christian lives than that of the world and “everything is fine”.  Don’t believe the lies of the enemy; he is as a roaring lion, walking about seeking whom he may devour.  He is crafty and can and will deceive you just as he did our mother Eve in Eden and as he tried to do to Hezekiah.

        The time of testing had come to Judah, a time of decision.  Would they believe Hezekiah and trust his God, Jehovah or would they listen to the lies of their enemy?  Their lives as well as the lives of the wives and children hung in the balance, and their fate rested in the decision before them.  Would God come to their aid when He didn’t for Israel?  Hezekiah had previously warned the people of these tactics and told them to remain silent and trust in God.  Satan strives to cause God’s people to doubt their God and question God’s word.

        After these threatening and blasphemous words had been spoken, Eliakim, Shebna and Joah, with their clothes rent, reported them to Hezekiah.  Hezekiah didn’t make a speedy response, but scriptures says he rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth (demonstrating great humility) and went to the house of the Lord.  Hezekiah went to the place where he could hear from God.  The words of the enemy were not the final word; there was a greater authority and it was the word and authority of God.  While Hezekiah laid his heart bare before Jehovah, he sent the elders to Isaiah the prophet to hear what the Lord would speak to him.  God’s word was the final authority and he and Judah would hear and surrender to His direction, regardless of the consequence.  God spoke clearly and emphatically, “Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (II Kings 19:6–7).  Though Christians today see the enemy working in so many evils of our day, and sometimes it seems he is getting the upper hand when we are compassed on every side with Satan’s devices as he seeks to devour men and nations, God has the final word.  All things are still in His hand and scripture declares that His people will triumph.  Our trust is in God and we must not listen to the lies of Satan.  We are nearing the time for Michael to stand up and God will finish the work He has begun.  The glory is yet ahead for God’s people and the victory is sure.

        It seemed that God had answered with an immediate retreating of the Assyrian army.  However, the departure was only for a season. They left in order to deal with another enemy, the king of Ethiopia.  To keep Judah aware of his soon return, he sent a letter to Hezekiah letting him know that he would return and he would conquer Jerusalem.  Once again, the same words spoken earlier were repeated to the people of Judah.  Hezekiah took the letter to the house of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord (II Kings 19:14).  Hezekiah prayed again earnestly to his God, repeating the words and the threats spoken by the enemy and pleaded with God for God to intervene for His people.  He confessed Judah’s sins, realizing that their righteousness could not merit God’s favor but recognizing that God would be true to His promise to Abraham.  Hezekiah knew God to be a merciful God and He would keep His covenant with Abraham.  God spoke to Isaiah again, who sent the word to Hezekiah saying, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.  This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.  Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.  By the messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.  I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.”  Sennacherib boasts of his accomplishments and power, but then God responds to his boasting.  “ Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.  Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.  But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.  Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest…Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.  By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord.  For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”

        What a wonderful description and picture of what Christ has promised by His crucifixion, death and resurrection!  His resurrection was demonstration of His complete   and total power over the devil, which power and victory He has imparted to His people.  Jesus declared so succinctly in Matthew 16:18, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  This is the heritage of God’s people.  Isaiah prophesied of the victory of the cross in Isaiah 54:17.  “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”  The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a gospel that states we can be saved and yet we will remain continually enslaved to sin.  The gospel includes the means by which a sinner can be saved and find complete deliverance from the bondage and slavery of sin.  “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” Paul said.  Satan will make you believe you can never overcome, so you concede to his lie and remain a servant of sin rather than believing God and finding victory over sin through Jesus Christ and the empowerment of His grace.  Too often we compromise with the devil and try to straddle the fence.  Satan knows we will eventually lose the battle if we walk the path of superficial and lukewarm Christianity.  He knows that if we believe his lie and sell ourselves short of the power and victory provided in Christ Jesus today, when the battle becomes more intense, we will fold; for we have not learned to fully trust in God and His Word.  Let God be true and let us recognize that Satan is a liar and when he speaks, it is always a word of deception.

        Returning to the account of Hezekiah and Judah, God sent an angel (it only took one angel) into the camp of the Assyrian army and killed 185,000 men, leaving them powerless against God’s people.  Sennachrib returned to Assyria and was slain by his own sons while worshiping his false god, Nisroch.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and to build an overcoming church, which will bring honor and glory to Him.  You and I are invited and called to be a part of the glorious church God is building, so let us learn to trust in Him fully and turn away our ears from the lies of the devil and have enough spiritual discernment to recognize his deceptions when they confront us.  No matter how large the armies seem to be that have risen up against God’s people, no matter how seemingly the odds are stacked against us, God still has His “seven thousand” that have not bowed their knee to Baal nor to the world.  God declares only a remnant will be saved, but that remnant is alive and well today, safely secure in the hands of Jesus Christ.  God will bring them through all the trials and tribulations of this life, for they will stand fast upon the Word of God.  They have learned through experience not to give place to the devil but to resist him knowing that he must flee from them.  May the lesson of Hezekiah be one that will teach us to trust in God fully, being assured that He is God and there is no other.

 

 

FAITH & HUMILITY

Curtis Dickinson

        One of the few occasions on record where Jesus commended a person for great faith was when the Cannanitish woman came seeking healing for her daughter.  Jesus’ response was blunt: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.”

        Such an expression in our time would be totally unacceptable to our hypersensitive ears, no matter to whom it was addressed. But this woman understood that by the standards of the Israelites her society did, indeed, appear as dogs.  They indulged in nature worship, cannibalism and infanticide, along with other vile practices.  Jesus does not use careless speech, and when He made such a pointed statement, both she and the disciples knew that He spoke truth.

        The disciples were eager to get rid of her and suggested that Jesus send her away.  But she was unmoved by the epithet of dogs and humbled herself even more with her plea: “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

        In the words of T. Robert Ingram, “What grace of humility is here!  As a dog I come – but I ask what befits a dog.  The humility itself, the very hallmark of faith, raises her to glory above measure.  The kings, the scribes, the Pharisees, the righteous and clean–living men of the day, the multitudes of religious Jews that clamored after Jesus, have been forgotten.  But this woman lives among us even in our day to give an example of true godliness and humility and faith.”

        Jesus said, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”  Her daughter was healed in that hour.

        Note that Jesus did not commend her for her humility but for her faith.  It was because she had faith in Jesus to heal her daughter that she could humbly accept the lowest role imaginable and plead for His help.

        Humility, then, is an aspect of faith and is produced by faith.  It is seeing oneself as he really is, a creature that has sinned and falls far short of God’s glory and dependent upon God for mercy, grace, forgiveness and for life itself.

        For over two decades educators and many church leaders have told us that the great need is for people to improve their “self–image” and raise their “self–esteem.”  Just recently I sat through a hearing on a community “Teen Pregnancy Task Force” and heard that one of the reasons girls get pregnant is because of low self–esteem.  They have it backwards.  In all the cases of pregnant teenagers which I have dealt with, the lack of self–esteem was a result of the guilt and shame which followed the pregnancy, not the cause of it.

        The idea that raising self–esteem will keep kids off drugs and away from illicit sex is obviously wrong.  Who has higher self–esteem than rock stars, Hollywood entertainers and rich politicians?  Yet these super egotists are among the leaders in illegal drug use and promiscuous sex.

        In the words of columnist and musician Mark Randall, “The problem is not a lack, but rather an excess of self–esteem.  What hinders achievement is not so much a crisis of confidence but a crisis of humility.”

        Children who are subjected to school programs of values clarification, self–esteem, and self–realization may be expected to rebel when their parents instruct them on morals.  They have been skillfully trained by the educators to think that whether a thing is right or wrong must be their own decision.  Never mind the fact that they haven’t the knowledge, experience or wisdom to make such decisions.  The important thing, they are told, is that it is their own decision, which means that they can rule out decisions made by their parents or by other authorities, including God.

        Making such decisions, we are told, makes them “feel good about themselves” and enhances their self–esteem.”  Perhaps so, until drug addiction, pregnancy, or AIDS shows up.

        This current emphasis on self–esteem and self–fulfillment, repeated incessantly on television, in newspapers, in advertising, in education and from the pulpit, has produced a generation of self–centered people who cannot maintain deep relationships with other people nor accept responsibilities which require personal sacrifice.  The results are divorce, abortion, child abuse, and neglect of spouses, children and parents.

        Self–centeredness belongs to the religion of the humanists.  In analyzing the emergence of a post–Christian America, Yale scholar Harold Bloom says that the real religion of America is gnosticism (mystical Greek and oriental philosophies), and the god we worship is ourselves.  This is what should be expected when churches promote self–esteem instead of calling for repentance and humility.

        This is not to deny that there are children who have been ridiculed, criticized and put down by a parent until they are made to feel worthless and hopeless.  The cure, however, is not in putting them on a pedestal of false esteem but in turning them to God through Christ, that they might have faith to emulate Him in true humility.

        According to God’s Word, self–esteem is more of a liability than an asset.  No man is to “think of himself more highly than he ought to think.”  “Let each esteem others better than themselves.”

        If self–esteem is to be cultivated, one wonders why it is not encouraged in the Bible.  Job could have used a heavy dose of it in the midst of his suffering.  Instead, God reminded him of his frailty and ignorance, so that Job cried out, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  No self–esteem at all!  Instead, it was humility generated by faith, faith in the power and holiness of God and Job’s own frailty, ignorance and sinful nature.  It was this humility produced by faith that God wanted to see, and such faith was greatly rewarded.

        Jesus dealt with all kinds of people, but most of them were the “common” people, many of them poor and oppressed by circumstances.  Yet He did not hesitate to say such things as, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself.”  “For whosoever would save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  Such self–denial requires faith that following Jesus has its own reward.  Before one willingly loses life for Christ’s sake, he must have faith that a better life will be given.

        The example He gave is not that of self–love but humility.  He was “meek and lowly of heart” and promised blessings to those who are “poor in spirit.”  Even though He is the Son of God, scripture says that “being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore also God highly exalted him.”  He humbled himself to the point of obeying the most difficult demand: to become sin on our behalf and pay the penalty of death.  He did so with the knowledge of the resurrection and glorification to follow.  “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

        We are instructed to have the same mind of humility, that the Lord may exalt us in due time.

        Self–esteem was what Satan offered Eve in the garden.  He said that if she would eat the forbidden fruit, she would be as God and be able to decide for herself what was right and wrong.  Does that sound as if Satan had taken a course in “values clarification” in a modern public school?  God had already set forth good and evil, and it wasn’t left to Adam and Eve to decide.  Theirs was to choose which to follow, and they took the wrong course, primarily because they lacked faith.  “Does God know what He is doing in forbidding us that fruit?  We don’t believe it and will decide for ourselves.”  Such is the course of unbelief.  To reverse this course requires faith to accept God’s way, which produces humility, obedience, and life.

        I was one of the fortunate children who grew up never having heard of self–esteem, and when teachers and parents were not afraid of damaging a child’s ego by laying down the rules.  We did not have to decide whether it was right or wrong to smoke, drink, steal, have sex, or lie.  That had all been decided before we came along.  The temptation was there, but we had an advantage over today’s kids.  We had been given the rules, and we believed they were right.  We still had to choose whether or not to break them, but the question was much clearer than for children today who make the choices before they have been given the rules.

        The need today is not more self–esteem but the humility to bow to God and do His will.

        “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

 

 

WEEDING THE CHURCH GARDEN

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

        I just finished weeding the church garden.

        While bending over to pull the pesky plants, I thought of how many times Jesus referred to gardening to make a point: seeds, the sower, brush for burning, vine, branches, fruit, stewards, harvest, seasons.

        So it was that certain lessons for living came to mind:

        (1) WEEDS GROW FAST.  Why, just the other day I had looked at that garden and concluded it looked quite splendid.  But, all of a sudden, the weeds had shot up, filling in the spaces and making the whole scene rather tawdry.  That is because I had slacked on the garden tending.

        Likewise with the gardens of our souls.  We may stand back to admire our grand spirituality only to discover that too much time gone by without prayer has left our garden in disarray.  The less than beautiful aspects of existence can take over all too quickly when we move away from Jesus.

        (2) WEEDS PUSH AWAY THE FLOWERS.  There had been a long spell when there was no rain.  That meant that I spent a lot of time watering the growing plants so that they would not die.  How full those flowering offerings became.  But then, when I was not looking that carefully, the weeds crouched in where those plants had been doing so well.  When I finally did get to weeding, the plants were almost taken over, practically disappearing.

        It does not take long for cheap living, misplaced priorities and rationalizations to crowd out the Jesus image of our lives when we become negligent about Bible reading.  In short order, the busyness can supplant the building plants of graciousness, self–giving and thoughtfulness toward others. The grab for more money, weekends away from church and playing with earth’s toys too much can soon take over God’s blossoms of blessing.

        (3) WEEDS BEGET WEEDS.  How did so many varieties of weeds all of a sudden find their homes in our church garden?  They were multiplying all over the place – many different kinds.  It was as if some weed had put out the invitation and all the others quickly responded by showing up for the party.

        When one spiritual negligence takes over, it invites others to join in.  Certainly if I can get by without doing this, what does it matter if I forget that, too?  For instance, if I don’t have time for Wednesday evening church, then why not see how far I can go without weekend meetings, also?  Before long, the garden has many foreigners calling God’s turf their own.

        (4) WEEDING TAKES WORK.  My back was stiff after all that pulling and yanking.  My knees are still trying to locate their proximity to my hips.  And the time involved – far more time than I had spent in simply watering the growing flowers.  Besides, there was all that mess of cleaning up and hauling away.

        It is the same with our souls.  When we determine to come back to a tidy garden of heart, we must be willing to take the time for bending to get rid of those weeds.  That means facing up to the mess, seeing to it that it is cleaned up and hauled away – once and for all.  In the process, there can be some soreness, strained muscles and tired limbs in asking God and others for forgiveness.

        (5) WEEDING IS WORTH IT.  Who would want the church garden to be disgraced with nothing but a patch of overgrown brush by mid–summer?  Certainly not anyone who is concerned about the image of the House of Prayer.  Then, what a pretty picture is the tended garden, even though it took the effort.

        Any Christian who is finally concerned enough about his destiny will not permit the negligence to grow for long.  He does not want the image of Christ to be so damaged.  Therefore, confessing the wrongs, making amends and determining to have daily prayer and Bible devotions, being at church at every worship, keeping current with the tithes and offerings and being vibrant with a present walk with Jesus are worth it.

        (6) WEEDING MUST BE ON–GOING.  I have settled it!  Those weeds won’t do that to me again.  I will keep ahead of them so that they won’t crowd out those flowers.  Weeding every day is far better than having to pull out a whole forest at one bending.

        So it is with the soul.  Keeping sin out of the heart each day is far easier than having to make that strenuous effort later, having let the wrongs mount up to creep and crawl, sneak and snatch.  Simply doing what every good Christian is expected to do is far wiser than trying to get by with laziness.

        (7) WEEDING MUST BE DONE IN THE CHURCH, TOO.  Just as these lessons apply to individuals, so they relate to each congregation.  Troublemakers can grow fast when all believers are not tending to their own gardens.  The discontent can also push away the good flowers, overshadowing them with schemes and division.

        Grumblers attract grumblers; before long, the church has been taken over by a whole variety of complaints and misplaced motives.  To get rid of all those bad attitudes takes a lot of work in humility, realigning, pruning and patience.

        Yet in the end, God’s garden deserves the best.  And so weeding is worth it.  Unity in love, cooperation from willing hearts and genuine fellowship are worth it.  To maintain that kind of church family, the flowers must forever be wary of weeds, keeping them daily from taking over God’s turf.

 

 

IS THERE A GOD?

Alfred King

          The question of the existence of God is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world, especially among young people.  Teaching evolution in our schools has left many young people confused and uncertain, even among those who are reared in Christian homes.  Many have come to the conclusion that there is no God.  Others feel that while God may exist, He is not concerned about humans or events which take place on this earth.  Both of these ideas leave man living in a world where there is no real and lasting substance or objective.  The question then is asked, “What’s the purpose of life?”  They sense no real reason for man’s existence.  These questions are genuine concerns among America’s young people and they deserve an answer.

        There are several paths we could take to approach this question but for this article, we want to look not at how the earth and solar systems came into being, or what life is and how it was brought about.  Although all these offer very strong support for the existence of God and it would be prudent to study into these; for now, we want to consider God’s existence from the standpoint of what’s right and wrong.

        Let us begin by asking another question, as sometimes questions can be best answered by asking another question.  Is there right and wrong in the earth?  For instance: “Is it wrong to steal?”  Or: “Is it wrong to kill someone?”  I venture to say that everyone would say these two things are wrong, especially if they are stealing from you or killing your loved one.  The next question then is: “Who determines these are wrong?  Does man make this determination or the government or is it legislated by a higher power (God)?  If man is the one who makes this decision, then the law is not necessarily universal, for one man may say it’s wrong while another says it’s okay.  If there is not a supreme being whose law is universal and is for every man, woman and child, then every man can decide for himself what is right and wrong.  Each man can say, “I will determine what is right and wrong for me.”  If this be true and man can determine what’s right and wrong himself, then who can say that Hitler was wrong when he killed six million Jews (a million being children) in what is now called “The Holocaust”?  Were Hitler’s actions okay because it was right in his eyes?  We all know it was wrong.  Who then determined that it was wrong?  You?  Me? The government?  Or God?

        Now, consider for a moment, the government of the United States.  We live in a Republic.  A republic is a government which is based upon a rule of law.  A republic is a government which has a foundational document, called a constitution, articles of confederation or something similar, which governs the citizens who live in that republic.  The United States has a constitution and even men in government must stay within the bounds of that constitution.  They can’t just make laws arbitrarily and unbridled, for they must work within the bounds of the constitution.  This constitution protects the citizens of the United States from tyranny and keeps in check our elected officials.

        When a nation does not have a foundational document which limits men in government, then he who gains control of that government has no limitations or bounds to keep him from doing whatever he determines to do.  He might be a good ruler, or he might bring the people into slavery.  A totalitarian system of government where tyrants rule is the results of not having a foundational constitution to limit evil men from absolute rule, or the country’s constitution is meticulously and tediously disassembled so it no longer has any serious authority (Sort of what we presently see happening in the USA).  Tyrants are found in many countries today as was the case in Germany in the 20th century.  Hitler became a dictator and German citizens were forced to do his bidding.  Although Germany had a constitution, Hitler disregarded it, gradually assuming more and more power until he gained complete control, and there was no one who could challenge him; his word was law.

        This brings us to the question of whether there is a God.  If there is no God, there is no foundational document to govern men upon this earth and men are like animals and can do whatever they please.  An animal can kill another animal and no one considers it wrong; it is nature at work.  But, when man kills another man, we all know it is wrong.  How?  Because God has placed a certain degree of His law into our hearts.  We call this conscience, and by it we know right and wrong.

        God created all things and He has a foundational document that He has established for governing this world, and He binds Himself to His own constitution.  God has given us a copy of this foundational document and we call it the “Bible”.  In it we find that God loves men, whom He created, and He desires they be saved from the bondage and the destructive force of sin.  He knows that sin will destroy man, not only in this life but also in the life to come.  In II Peter 3:9, we are told that God desires all men would come to repentance and that they not perish.  God loves you and wants the best for your life.  He gave His law for our good because He wants to set us free from sin.  Sin is destructive to all of us.  In John 3:16 it reads, “For God so loved the world (people) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  God desires us to have life with a purpose here in this world and eternal life in the world to come.  Sin will not only take away our future destiny of heaven but destroys our life now.  Sin is why America’s prisons are full.  Sin is why we have AIDS and venereal diseases.  Sin is why we have law officers and courts to try criminals (sinners).  Sin is why we have to lock the doors to our homes and cars and secure any item that is valuable to us.  Sin is a scourge to all men, and we all reap its destructive force.  Sin is why we have wars and why people hate and kill.

        God’s Word (His  constitution) is to show man how to live in this world with purpose, hope, in happiness and with a knowledge that we will one day enter heaven, a better place where there will be no sin and the curse of sin will be forever past.

        Is there a God?  Absolutely!  How do we know?  Because we experience God’s law written in our hearts.  We see God’s love revealed in His word, and we look through history and see that God’s way is the way man lives the most fulfilling life.  We find that we can be changed by His power in salvation and that salvation is found through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Jesus died on a cross and shed His blood for you.  He loves you and that is why He wants you to be delivered from the slavery of sin.  He took the penalty for your sins on Himself, dying in your place and in mine, so we can have eternal life.  May God reveal Himself to you so you know this saving grace and love of God and free you as He has liberated so many others.

        C.S. Lewis said that when human beings engage in controversy about right and wrong, justice and injustice, they implicitly assume there must be a Supreme Lawgiver that has given us certain standards which we use in debating or arguing about the matter.  That Lawgiver is God.

 

 

THE TATTOO FAD

Alfred King

          As tattoos have become extremely popular over the past few years, People of the Living God has been asked on several occasions concerning tattoos and Christian tattoos specifically.  We would like to address this issue from a Biblical perspective apart from personal opinion.  Not all instructions in scripture are found in a direct command of “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” but are found as one pours over and over the contents of scripture, allowing it to become hidden in the heart (Ps. 119:11) and consequently find expression in the believer’s life.  Such is the tattoo fad.  For briefness in this article, we will list just a few reasons why we believe the Bible teaches against Christians getting tattoos.

        There is one verse, Leviticus 19:28, where tattooing is addressed.  “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”  To build a teaching on one verse of scripture is not advisable and that one verse being in the Old Testament when we are under the New Covenant, is not a wise thing to do, although we should acknowledge the verse as a part of scripture and not just passively dismiss it in addressing the topic at hand, but keep it in mind as we search more deeply into God’s Word.

        In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus convincingly taught against making a public show of one’s piety.  In the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus warns believers not to sound a trumpet when they give alms.  Here He tackles the sin of pride.  He continues by addressing the matter of prayer instructing that when one prays, he is to go into his closet in secret so his prayer would not be seen and heard of men but heard by God.  He instructs His followers to keep the left hand from knowing what the right hand does.

        Jesus never instructed believers to wave a banner testifying their Christianity but rather, consistently called for those who would be His disciples to live it.  They were to be the light of the world, not by praying in public or giving alms so men could see their charitable sacrifice but He stated that men would be known by their fruits.  Fruit is the evidence by which we can know all men, whether sinner, hypocrite or true follower of Jesus Christ. In John 15 Jesus, speaking to His hearers in the parable of the Vine and the branches, made this astounding statement.  “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)  Christians glorify God by the fruit they bear.  The more fruit one bears, the more God is glorified.  In John 13:35, Jesus unveiled how men will know true believers (Christians).  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  Forget all the fanfare that glorifies men more than Jesus Christ and let genuine, holy, divine love flow in your life and you won’t have to have a tattoo to proclaim the message.  For you see, “man looketh on the outward appearance but the LORD looketh on the heart”. (I Sam. 16:7)  Do we want to be seen by men or do we want God to search our hearts?

        When one is genuinely searching for truth and faces an issue such as the validity of a Christian tattoo, he must consider from where the practice originated.  Did it originate with Jesus, the Apostles, the early church or the early church fathers?  Was it introduced by Christians or pagans?  It is impossible to determine for certain when the first tattoo came about but we find them among almost all pagan nations.  Even in Egypt at the time of Israel’s departure, tattoos were prevalent.  Israel was instructed not to learn the ways of the heathen when they came into Canaan nor to carry with them the culture and practices of Egypt.  There is no question in our day that tattoos are a fad of the world and John tells us that all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world.  He warns believers that they are not to be like the world.  Believers need to consider what is worldly as they judge what is acceptable for them as Christians, and this goes far beyond the issue of tattoos yet certainly includes them.

        Several times in Jesus’ ministry, He calls His disciples to forsake all and follow Him.  He told the rich young ruler to sell his goods, give it to the poor and then follow Him.  If we take His words seriously, it seems prudent and practical that this should always be something we consider when we are getting ready to spend our funds, which God through His providence, has given us, over which we are stewards.  We should use it according to God’s will.  It is often conveyed in scripture that we should give to the poor, to those in need, widows and orphans, or for the ministry of the Gospel.  To use one’s funds for something worthless and questionable at best, as a tattoo, seems to violate every instruction given in scripture.

        Of course we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we must always remember to keep our vessel in a manner which will not disgrace God’s temple.  Just a few thoughts about tattoos that we hope will be instructive and implemental as we endeavor to hold to the pure word of God.

        In conclusion, People of the Living God realizes that many Christians have tattoos, either acquired in the previous life of sin before they came to know Christ or, some may have purchased them after finding salvation, not having yet a clear understanding of scripture.  We do not condemn them nor do we judge them.  If they are washed the blood of Christ, they are cleansed and are God’s children, and there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.