People of The Living God

Matthew 5-7

 

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November 2013



 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

THANKSGIVING

Alfred King

        November is a month which most Americans look forward to because it is the time of year when we count the many blessings we have been given and when our families get together for some leisure time and is topped off with Thanksgiving dinner.  We, in America, have many things to be thankful for, especially if we are aware of the poverty, privations, lack of freedoms, and government oppression that multitudes in our world experience daily.  Then there are those who live in nations which are continuously engaged in civil, ethnic and religious wars, where fear is experienced daily and peace is something only hoped for.  It is vividly clear to all who will study America’s beginning, that God has blessed America because it was established upon principles and concepts drawn from the Bible.  Many of the founding fathers were believers in God, and those who did not profess any religious convictions understood that freedom could only exist among a moral and ethical people.  The Bible was found to be the best source of moral principles for a government of freedom.

        The Thanksgiving tradition is generally considered to have come into practice in honor of the Pilgrims, who gathered together to give thanks to God for their safety in coming to America and for God’s blessings upon their harvest.  However, giving thanks for the blessings of a good harvest is an ancient custom and was commonly practiced by Christians before, during, and after the Protestant Reformation.  It is very probable that the giving of thanks among the Pilgrims and Puritans was a tradition brought with them from the old country.

        George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789 as the first national Thanksgiving day.  Although it was observed by most states afterward, a specific date was not established nationwide until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln set the day for its observance to be the last Thursday in November.  This was later changed to the fourth Thursday in November by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941.

        There is certainly nothing wrong with having a special day each year when we all pause from our busy lifestyles and consider the many blessings we, as Americans, have and turn our hearts to God in appreciation and praise.  We tend to get so wrapped up in our daily activities that we sometimes forget to remember Him Who “daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (Psa. 68:19).  Scripture admonishes us to be continually thankful, always rejoicing in the Lord, for it is in Christ that we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

        We who have been washed in the precious blood of Christ are those who have the most for which to be thankful, for we have experienced both the life of sin as well as God’s deliverance from that past life and the wonderful forgiveness and cleansing provided in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have tasted that the Lord is truly “good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psa. 107:1), for it is no longer just a verse couched in the midst of scripture but is a living reality in the life.  Not just life but abundant life is what Jesus promised to those who would believe, repent and surrender their lives to Him.  The greatest blessing a man can possess in this life is to find salvation, peace and joy in Christ Jesus and to experience a life in the Spirit, which only God can give.  Jesus proclaims good news to those who will listen.  In John 10:10 He declares, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  While the “thief” (devil) has come and is presently destroying the lives of millions around us, Jesus offers those who turn to Him and believe “abundant life.”  What is this abundant life?

        Life means to be alive and not comatose or dead.  Abundant life is to live one’s life to the full or loving every minute of it.  It is enjoyable, rich, full, meaningful, exciting, free, flavored and seasoned with love, joy and peace.  It is a life filled with activity and abounding with pleasures and contentment.  When Jesus said He came to give abundant life, He was speaking of exactly these characteristics of life, not just in some future realm or dispensation, but now, here on this earth.  Yet, He was not referring merely to the physical, material and earthly but the spiritual.  For, if a man has found Christ, the door has been opened by which he can grow, mature and walk in an intimate relationship with Christ, and in that relationship, find and experience abundant spiritual life.  That life found in Jesus will spill over into his life here on earth, so that he not only enjoys the things of God in the spiritual realm but will also enjoy the physical blessings given as well, no matter how meager they may appear in the eyes of the world.  The abundant life is the life of God in the soul that springs up within into everlasting life.

        Jesus spoke of the abundant life several times in His ministry.  Look closely at the words He spoke to the Samaritan woman whom He met at Jacob’s well (John 4).  In verse ten, Jesus offers the woman living water and in verse 14, He tells her, “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”  The abundant life is a life that cannot be taken away, for it is not from a material or earthly source but flows from within by the Holy Spirit, Who is sent to live and dwell in the believer’s heart.  Such is the life Jesus promises and provides, yet few ever actually find it.  Jesus spoke of the flowing waters again in John 7:37-38.  “(I)f any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”  Jesus again offers all those who will believe, a life in Him that transcends everything offered by the world.  Such tragedy that men can be so blind and will settle to drink at the world’s fountain of temporal pleasure which, like a drug, merely distracts the mind for a season from the guilt of sin, yet when it is finished the discontent and emptiness returns.

        Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.  The message Jesus proclaimed was good news for those who would recognize their sinfulness and their inability to free themselves from its bondage.  Like the drug addict who every day has to once again bow to his taskmaster and steal, lie, cheat, or sell himself in some way to satisfy his taskmaster, so those in bondage to sin bow their knee to fulfill sin’s demands.  Are you tired of sin’s dominion over you?  Jesus came with good news.  Jesus came to set free those held captive to sin’s dominion, to open the house of the prisoners, to set at liberty them that are bruised and to preach the good news that there’s deliverance and freedom by merely believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.  So simple is the door to this liberty that it is overlooked by most.  Jesus did not complicate the Gospel but made provision for “whosoever will” to come and find in Him that “peace that passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

        So, for we who know Christ and have found salvation and life in Him, let us be thankful in all things and rejoice in our God, Who so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son, that through His death, we can experience abundant and eternal life.  For any who have not yet come to know Christ as Savior, He holds out eternal life to all that will call upon Him in faith.  When the Philippian jailer desired to be saved, the Apostle Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).  The salvation of which man has been privileged to partake, is so wonderful and glorious that even the angels in heaven desire to look into it (I Pet. 1:12).  The writer of the book of Hebrews speaks of life in God with a clear warning, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3).  If we neglect this wonderful and abundant life found only in Christ Jesus, sin will destroy us; we will suffer much and we will sacrifice the riches of heaven.

        Let us then be especially thankful this year, that while the world and America is in turmoil and confusion, those who know Christ have abundant life which the world cannot take away.

 

 

GOD’S GOODNESS

Curtis Dickinson

        “The earth is full of the goodness of Jehovah” (Psalm 33:5).  It is by giving praise and honor to God for His glorious attributes that we come to desire them for ourselves and are thus “transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (II Cor. 3:18).  Significantly absent in modern thought is the supreme attribute of God: His goodness.

        The spirit of revolution in this century, which includes the destruction of the home, the overthrow of morals and the refusal to submit to God, springs from the evil philosophy that it was not good of God to create man capable of sin, and it is not good that man be punished and disciplined by suffering, pain and inequalities.  The modern view is that God made a mess of the world and humanists must straighten it all out, first by getting rid of God.

        The mistaken idea of what is required of a good God is illustrated in scripture by the man who demanded of Jesus, “Bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.”  Jesus refused and, instead, gave a lesson on covetousness (Luke 12:13-21).  Today, there are millions who measure God’s favor only in terms of material wealth.

        On another occasion a wealthy man, who had addressed Jesus as “good teacher,” was told to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, and become His follower.  But the rich man refused the commandment (Mark 10:17-22).  Had he believed Jesus to be truly good he would have obeyed, knowing that one who is good would not require anything that is not good.

        It is this faith in God’s goodness that is necessary for the believer to have peace, contentment and courage.

        God is intrinsically good; that is, He is good in essence.  “Every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of light above with whom there is no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” (James 1:17).  This simply says that God does not change; His nature remains constant, and that His nature is ever to do that which is good.  His will is good because it reflects His nature.  Charnock wrote, “God can no more act contrary to His goodness in any of His actions than He can un-God Himself.”

        His goodness is seen in the creation, when upon the conclusion of each day’s work, God “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:31).  So long as man walked according to God’s law and fulfilled the divine purpose for which he was created, he was seen as good.  It was when Adam rebelled and sought to establish his own judgment – “to know good and evil” – that he became evil (Gen. 3:4,5).  Evil exists where the goodness of God is rejected.  Nevertheless, man’s sin cannot reduce God’s goodness.  “Thou art good, and doest good,” sang David (Psalm 119:68).

        Man changes continually and not always for the better, as the evolutionists wish.  He is relatively good at times, and, at other times, quite evil.  But God changes not.  It is the spirit of anti-Christ that demands constant change: new morals, new laws, new art forms, and new lifestyles.  But God is the same.  If He were to change, it would be for the worse, for He is already absolutely good.

        God is good to all in spite of the noise about inequality.  “Jehovah is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).  Denying this fact, men ask, “If God is good to all, why is there suffering and want?”  This generation is too steeped in humanism to understand the goal of God.  The goodness God holds out to man is designed to fulfill His purpose, not the various purposes of man.  It does not necessarily require that we be prosperous nor physically strong nor favored by other men.  Health, money, and worldly success are neither marks of happiness nor of God’s favor.  God gives to each what is good for that individual.  The one who receives God’s gifts with thanksgiving will be blessed in what he receives, regardless of adversities and hardships that may come with it.  David wrote, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I may learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

        Failure to see God’s goodness and give Him thanks leads to vain reasoning and, ultimately, to a heart of darkness and sensual corruption, as described by Paul (Rom. 1:21-32).

        The humanist cannot accept God’s standard of goodness.  Through the power of government he usurps the role of God, reduces all men to equality, declaring that it is not good of God to give some more talent, wealth or wisdom than others; that all men must be treated the same regardless of their character, morals or purposes.  Thus he assumes omniscience: to see men and things and the future as only God can see them.  For such arrogance God destroyed ancient Babel, confused the language and separated the people.

        In nothing is the goodness of God so clearly manifest as in His judgment.  Given the power to exterminate sin and evil, God could hardly be considered good if He fails to do so.  John the Baptist linked goodness and judgment when he declared, “There cometh one who is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am unworthy to loose…He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor, and He will gather His wheat into the garner, but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11,12).  Note that John considered Jesus to be much better than himself, even though Jesus said that John was the greatest man born of woman.  Yet it is on the basis of His great goodness that Jesus is to judge the world and cleanse it of all the wicked, like a farmer cleans the threshing floor of the undesirable chaff by burning it up.

        Prophets and apostles alike, who wrote of God’s goodness, also wrote of a coming day of judgment when all the ungodly will be destroyed by fire (II Peter 3:7-12).  How the humanists howl with indignation at the suggestion that a good God would do this.  But, it is His very goodness that demands justice and the destruction of all who have rebelled against the good.

        Judgment will be proof-positive of God’s goodness as symbolized by the song of the elders in Revelation.  “We give thee thanks, O Lord God…because thou hast taken thy great power and didst reign.  And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and to give their reward to thy servants, the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great; and to destroy them that destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:17,18).  In all history there has been nothing like this: the absolute and final elimination of everything that is evil and the correction of everything that is wrong.

        Paul wrote of a day like ours, when corruption abounds because men have no love of goodness.  “But know this that in the last days grievous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good” (II Tim. 3:1-3).  Goodness is unpopular.  In television and movie dramas the hero sneers at virtue and flaunts his freedom from moral restraint.  Godly convictions are held up to ridicule by the media.  Even so-called church leaders apologize for God’s laws against sodomy and adultery.  The church becomes a mockery devoted to the service of this world rather than to the service and praise of God.

        Jesus, “the good shepherd,” in whom there was no sin (I John 3:5), and who always obeyed the Father, gave a demonstration of how God’s goodness prevails in that which to the world appears terribly bad.  It was “for the joy that was set before Him (He) endured the cross,” and has been glorified by God (Heb. 12:2).  By His death, seen as tragedy by the world, righteousness and salvation are made possible to every believer.  “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21).

        It is this goodness (righteousness) which is essential for our fulfillment of God’s purpose.  Not worldly success.  Not health nor wealth.  Not equality.  These may be found by sinners under judgment.  God’s purpose is to make us good, that we might fellowship with Him.

        Christian faith is to believe wholeheartedly that God is good, that all He is doing today is good, that He has “for-ordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5), and that “to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

        When Jesus was facing the cross, at which time God’s most severe judgment would be levied upon Him, He addressed God as “righteous Father” (John 17:25).  He still saw the Father, the one who demanded His death on the cross, as good.

        “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

        “Yea, the Lord will give that which is good…for the Lord is good, his loving kindness endures forever” (Psalms 85:12; 100:5).

        “Praise ye the Lord, for the Lord is good” (Psalm 135:3).

        “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5).

 

 

THE VOICE OF GOD

Mary Woodard

        “Now it came to pass, after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, Abraham!  And he said, Here I am.

        “And He said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.

        “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

        “Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off” (Gen. 22:1-4).

        Let us pause here and make some observations before we continue.

        1.  Abraham heard God’s voice.  In order to hear it, he must have been listening.  He must have had his spiritual ears attuned to the heavens.

        2.  Abraham responded to God’s voice. When he said, “Here I am,” he made himself available to God.

        3.  He listened to God’s instructions.  This is very important if he is to follow His instructions.

        4.  He manifested complete trust.  There is no indication that he at any time questioned God or His instructions.

        5.  He made immediate preparations to follow God’s instructions.  He prepared for the journey and for the burnt offering.

        6.  He was obedient to God’s voice.  Here is an example of perfect obedience!  He had already received the promise that “in Isaac your seed shall be called” (Gen. 21:12), but the Scripture tells us that he accounted “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb. 11:19).

        Nor should we overlook Isaac’s obedience to his earthly father.  We understand that he was a young man and probably could have resisted being bound and laid upon the altar, but he did not do so.

        “And Abraham said to his young men, Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.

        “So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

        “But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, My father!  And he said, Here I am, my son.  And he said, Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

        “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.  And the two of them went together.

        “Then they came to the place of which God had told him.  And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.

        “And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” (Verses 5-10).

        We have seen how Abraham responded to the voice of God.  Let us now see what we can learn from these Scriptures and how we can apply it to our daily lives.

        1.  BE LISTENING:  I live near a freeway and the sound of the traffic can be heard day and night.  Sometimes I am conscious of the noise from the moving cars; at other times I am not.  Why?  I’m not listening.  My mind is occupied with other things.  It can happen, too, with the voice of God; He may speak, but we fail to hear Him because we’re not listening.  Our minds are on too many other things.

        There are many sounds today that would clamor for our time and attention and would drown out the voice of God.  No doubt we have more to contend with here than Abraham did.  How can we be sure we will hear Him when He speaks?  We must keep our spiritual ears open.  He may speak at times and in ways we will miss if we are not listening.  To some, He may speak as you go about your housework or your yard work, or He may speak at nighttime when all is quiet.  I find He may use any of these times to speak.  My hands may be busy, but I can still keep my mind free to hear what He has to say.  Some may need to draw apart from the busyness of work schedules to listen for Him.  Sometimes He draws us apart for a while in order that He may commune with us.

        2.  BE RESPONSIVE:  When God speaks, we can respond as Abraham did, with “Here I am;” or like the apostle Paul, we can say, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6)  It is not so much how we respond, but that we give a positive response.  From the Book of Jonah we learn that he heard the voice of God, but that he responded by trying to run from His voice.  It was only after God’s chastisement that he gave the proper response.

        3.  BE WILLING:  Jonah was simply not willing to do what God instructed him to do.  Are we?  Are we willing to sacrifice as Abraham did, or as the apostle Paul did?  The sacrifice may be in the form of time, energy, resources, suffering inconvenience and even hardships to do God’s will.  Jesus was willing to go to the cross to atone for our sins.  A willing heart and mind are well pleasing to God (Isa. 1:19).

        4.  BE PREPARED:  God’s instructions are always complete.  He never leaves us wondering what to do next.  He told Abraham where to go and what he was to do when he got there.  A journey of three days and the materials for the burnt offering took some preparation, but Abraham went prepared.

        We can be quite certain that Abraham did not come to the level of faith which he exhibited in an instant.  He must have lived for many years in the conscious presence of God.  Even so, we must prepare if we are to follow God’s leading.

        “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).  In this dispensation of the Holy Spirit, we hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit of God.  Therefore, our preparation must begin by being born of the Spirit of God, which Jesus revealed in the third chapter of John.  Then we must be baptized with the Holy Spirit as were the early disciples described in the second chapter of Acts.  We must be full of the Word.  Only then can we rise to the level of the faith of Abraham or of the early disciples who were “full of faith and power.”

        Preparation includes following God’s instructions rather than doing that which seems right in our own eyes.  My school-teacher husband will tell you that if his students don’t follow instructions, they do not come up with the right answers and possibly no answers at all.  Naturally they will not be prepared to move on to the next lesson.  Only God’s way will bear fruit and be acceptable to Him.

        5.  BE ALERT TO THE HINDRANCES OF THE ENEMY:  I think the devil must have known he could not deter Abraham from being obedient to God.  We need to have this same determined, made-up mind.  The apostle Paul spoke of Satan hindering him (I Thess. 2:18), and we know he will attempt to hinder us.  A constant vigil is necessary – resisting him (James 4:7), putting on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11), and following the example of Jesus by using the Word against him (Matthew, Chapter 4).

        6.  BE OBEDIENT:  The Word has much to say about obedience, both by teaching and by example.  Once we know the will of God, we need to be obedient to it.  The request that God made of Abraham was a hard one to bear, yet he was obedient.  So was his son Isaac.  Jesus was our perfect example for “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).

        7.  BE TRUSTING:  We have seen the trust that was exhibited by Abraham.  Jesus used the example of a little child to teach us trust.  We who are children of God need to trust our heavenly Father even as we trusted our earthly fathers.  God will never betray that trust.

        8.  BE FAITHFUL:  Abraham was called “faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:9).  But the Word goes further and tells us that “they which are of faith are blessed” with him (same verse).  Tremendous days are upon us as we near the end of the age and we do not know to what extent our faith will be tested.  “Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).  God is faithful – let us be faithful.

        “But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham!  And he said, Here I am.

        “And He said, Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.

        “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.  So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

        “And Abraham called the name of the place, The Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, In the Mount of The Lord it shall be provided” (Verses 10-14).

        How many of us have had the Lord come into our circumstances and make a way of escape just when we thought we could go no further?  He knows just how much we can bear.  Though we, like Abraham, will be tested, the test will be removed when it has served its purpose.  There will be no further need of it.  Abraham passed the test.  One can see what would have happened had he not continued to be sensitive to the voice of God.

        I recently heard the story of a missionary who found a woman sitting on a river bank wailing because she had just thrown her baby son into the water as a sacrifice to her gods.  He began to tell her about Jesus and she wailed all the louder as she said to him, “Why didn’t you come sooner?  If you had only come just a little sooner, I wouldn’t have had to kill my son.”  Here is an example of the tragedy of hearing from God too late.

        We need to hear God’s voice, and we need to hear the voices of those crying out for help.  Let those who are called by His name be totally dedicated to His will lest we be found doing too little too late.

        “Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.

        “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.

        “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba” (Verses 15-19).

        Was his obedience worth it?  Imagine the joy of Abraham as he returned to the young men with his son Isaac by his side!  His obedience brought blessing, not only to himself, but to countless millions, and it is still bringing blessing today, for we who are Christ’s are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:29).  MAY WE, TOO, BE LISTENING FOR THE VOICE OF GOD, AND MAY WE BE OBEDIENT TO IT.  In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

WHEN WRONGS ARE RIGHTED

J. Grant Swank

Corn.  Records.  Dollars

        Could these objects cause tears?  Yes, they could when the teen kneeling before me had stolen them.  I had preached a sermon about Zacchaeus, pointing out that when he turned to Jesus, he made wrongs right by repaying the people from whom he had stolen.  In fact, he overpaid to make sure his restitution was complete before God and man.

        So, before me knelt a youth who was sobbing because of his thievery.

        “I took corn from the farmer near my house.  I slipped into his field and took it from the stalks.

        “Then I stole records from my high school radio station.  No one knows about this but me.

        “I had a habit of taking money from trouser pockets at my community pool.  The lockers were open; so I lifted what I wanted while the men were swimming.”

        This litany of confession was interrupted by the repentant man’s crying.  His heart was breaking because he knew he had broken God’s commandments.

        How many nights had he gone to bed but not slept because of his guilty conscience?  How many times had he wanted to stop stealing?  How many days had he resolved to rectify the situation?

        On that day the Holy Spirit showed him the only solution for his stealing – to come clean before Christ.  He could be a modern Zacchaeus by turning over his all to Jesus and following through with his own personal restitution.

        “The Bible assures us that if we confess our sins to Jesus, He will forgive everything,” I comforted him.  “The Bible is God’s Word.  Take the truth of it, believe it with all your heart, and then act upon it.”

        He lifted blurred eyes toward me.  What I had said was almost too good to be true.  Could he actually experience God’s forgiveness for the wrongs he had committed?

        Slowly, his head bent again as He pondered the Lord’s mercy.  He was trying to take it all in – grace, forgiveness, a new start, making wrongs right.  Finally, the tears subsided and his shoulders straightened.

        “I believe what you have said because it is based on the Bible,” he eventually replied.

        We prayed, thanking Jesus for the power to heal a broken heart; to give a new day in which he could turn from sin to salvation; for showing him that the clean conscience is the best conscience.

        “What are we going to do this week?”  I asked matter-of-factly.

        “We are going to go see some people,” he answered confidently.

        So, that week we visited a farmer, a school principal, and the administrator of the community pool.  One by one the wrongs were righted, completing restitution.  But, most importantly, in mending the past’s broken fences, new vistas of right living filled a young man’s future.

        The next week was glorious.  This youth testified to the congregation about the joy in his heart.  What a difference seven days can make when lives are in the Lord’s leading!

        I am certain that others in that church began to make amends, too, after witnessing the sincerity of this youngster who obeyed God.

        That scene was more than 25 years ago when I was new to the ministry.  But I have remembered it fondly, especially when preaching about salvation.  The Lord has reminded me, not only to invite people to discover forgiveness for their sins, but also to make restitution.

        “Restitution?”  someone asked me recently.  The word meant nothing to him.  He had never heard it.  What a pleasure to define it for him, then to see his face light up with the biblical truth being applied to his own life.

        When we follow through after receiving divine grace, salvation joy is rounded out.  It is simply following in the steps of Zacchaeus by making practical moves to thank Christ for His mercy.  Repentance and restitution give integrity to the message of grace.

 

 

 

HIM SHALL YE HEAR

Randall Walton

        The above words are a part of the sermon which Peter preached after Pentecost and is recorded in Acts 3:22,23; it is a quotation from the prophecy which was uttered by Moses concerning the Messiah which was to come some 1500 years later.  “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people”!

        In the account of the transfiguration of Jesus in Matt. 17:5, we are informed of the voice of the Father which was heard by Peter, James, and John which proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.”

        It doesn’t require a great deal of intelligence for anyone to understand that the hearing spoken of in these passages does not refer to the reception of the audible sounds of Jesus’ voice vibrating the organs of the human ear.  The voice of Jesus is no doubt a wonderful sound, and those who have been privileged to have heard Him speak can be called blessed, but there is not the slightest hint that listening to Jesus speak was what Moses and the Father were referring to.

        No one could justifiably be destroyed because they lacked the opportunity of hearing first-hand the Sermon on the Mount, nor would the Father condemn humanity for not being present when Jesus spoke words of life to the people who thronged about Him.

        The words, “Him shall ye hear” positively imply that the hearing is an affirmative response in obedience to the word spoken.  Great multitudes “heard” Jesus’ preaching.  They listened as He instructed them concerning God’s view of the issues of life, of how mankind was to live, to conduct himself, to form proper relationships with others, to treat his fellow man.

        They heard with their ears the acoustical sounds of the Master’s voice as He warned them about the deceitfulness of riches, the folly of seeking pleasures, of the futility of laying up treasures on earth, of the dangers and pitfalls of following false christs.  They heard His message with their auricle organs, but they failed to hear Him with their hearts!

        “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1).  And the words He has spoken are clearly recorded for us in the Holy Book.  It is plain to see that the bulk of Christianity refuses to “hear Him” today.  His words are totally rejected and are most unpopular in nominal Christian circles.  Man has cleverly contrived to circumvent the message of Jesus by relegating the applicability of His words to another era in time.

        The claim is made that because the Jews rejected Jesus’ offer to be their king (which He didn’t), that He postponed His intended kingdom reign to a future time when His commands would become appropriate.  Thus, He abandoned His plan to set up His kingdom and instituted the church instead.  We are then informed that this “church age” is contrasted to the “kingdom age” in that there are no laws nor governing statutes which apply.  It is therefore unnecessary for us to “Hear Him”!

        This view would be quite amusing if it were not so serious and the consequences were not so harsh, for “every soul which will not hear that prophet (Jesus) shall be destroyed from among the people.”  This divine ultimatum suggests capital punishment at the hands of the living God.  It is most obvious that the Father demands that people heed and obey the words which fell from the lips of His son, for He has the power of both life and death in His own hands.

        Jesus Himself emphasized the necessity for people to adhere to His words.  His message came forth as a sound warning to those who heard Him: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

        He was most emphatic concerning the identity of those whom He considered His “mother, brethren, and sisters.”  According to Luke 8:21, this family consisted only of those who “hear the word of God and do it.”

        This appears to be a rather narrow viewpoint, yet from the evidence of the above Scriptures we can ascertain that any who do not practice obeying the words of the Master have no right to call themselves Christians!

        It is very easy to classify the words of Jesus as impractical for our present world system, as if they somehow need to be revised to suit modern man and his accepted “rat race.”  It is like saying the words of the Lord should conform to our way of living, our mode of behavior, and our chosen lifestyle.  But Jesus and His words will not be on trial at the great day of judgment – mankind will be.

        All of our piety and religiosity will avail nothing in that crucial hour.  The looming question which all men will have to answer will be, “What was your response to the voice of Jesus?  Were you a doer of His word, or a hearer only?”

        One of the tactics which has been used in an effort to circumvent the words of Jesus is the idea that Paul, as the minister to the Gentiles, was the authority for the church; and his letters, therefore, supersede the words and sayings of Jesus, as if His letters were in contradiction to the preaching of Jesus!

        This nonsense has no basis in fact, for Paul had no compliments for those who rejected “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Tim. 6:3-5).  He stated that such had “corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth.”  Furthermore, he said, “from such withdraw thyself.”

        Paul must have been aware of Jesus’ sober warning of two men who were builders of houses, one of which was wise and the other was foolish.  The obvious difference between these two men was their foundations, one of which was solid rock and the other was sand.

        Jesus also told us what it was that determined whether the foundation was rock or sand.  These two men did not deliberately choose the type of foundation after having made a fair comparison of them both.  The kind of foundation they used was determined as a result of their deliberate choice in response to the words of Jesus!  (a simple matter of cause and effect)  “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, AND DOETH THEM, I will liken him unto a wise man.”  He then described the foolish man as the person who heard His sayings, but did not obey them!  The warning could hardly be plainer.  Jesus Christ, the Judge, uttered His messages for the purpose of transforming people’s lives, separating the sheep from the goats, and establishing His followers as lights in a darkened world.

        It is a sad fact that most Christians’ lives change very little upon conversion.  They usually become somewhat “churchy”; that is, they attend religious services, begin paying membership dues (tithes and offerings), and may even be elected to sit on one of the boards or committees of the church, but most of their church related activity is “extra-curricular”; that is, it doesn’t interfere with their own selfish interests and goals, and aspirations.  Service to God is what is done when everything else is cared for.

        As far as the words of the Master are concerned, little (if any) thought or attention is given them.  It is almost as if He hadn’t said anything to anyone about their habits, their conduct, their behavior, their relationships toward fellow human beings, their devotion to God and His kingdom.  The very foundation and security they need for times of trouble have been spurned and neglected, scorned and rejected.

        The people of God are in dire need of a return to the way of Jesus Christ.  We strongly urge saints everywhere to open their Bibles to the four gospels and STUDY the words of Jesus with all diligence, then begin applying and practicing those things which He said we are to do.  Those who will do this will find a great transformation occurring within themselves, for the words of Jesus are revolutionary.  He totally upset the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes with His teachings of reformation and godliness through love; those teachings still upset the rebellious and hard-hearted because they demand change.  One cannot follow Jesus and remain in his old ways and practices.

        His words demand total consecration to God, complete self-denial, absolute rejection of the world and all things carnal, as well as abnegation of material possessions and riches.  God must be loved with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.

        In Jesus’ own words, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).

 

 

THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF THE CHURCH

Alfred King

        After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever.  Amen.And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest.  And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes (Rev. 7:9-17).

        In these verses from the book of Revelation, we find described the ultimate goal God has for the church.  God, Who has dealt with man for six millenniums, continues to labor to bring forth a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, a church that is holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27).  Everything the church is called by God to do is relevant to what the church is called to be.  This basic fact seems to have been all but forgotten in modern Christianity.  Instead of seeking to be free from sin, to hate the very garments spotted by the flesh (Jude 23), and to be made holy and spotless so when she (the church) stands before God Almighty she might be clothed in garments of righteousness, clean and white, the church boasts that she is redeemed from the law, making God’s law of no affect or at least minimizing its importance.  Instead of striving for holiness and perfection, the impetus is membership and numbers.  The emphasis is to provide sufficient entertainment and activities to gain the allegiance of a worldly, carnal membership.  Entertainment, activities, pot-lucks, pleasing sermons that tickle ears, tolerance for worldliness and sin, and cover-ups are the norm, along with many other things that are antithetical to righteousness and holiness.  The virtues God desires are wanting in most churches today.  Jesus plainly taught that the way was strait and the gate narrow, but it seems as though the twenty-first century church is attempting to prove Christ wrong.  How often do we hear it said, “Well, look how people are being saved through the entertainment in the church and the rock music, or through all the activities in which we are engaged.” The prodigal son came to himself while in a pig’s sty.  Saul of Tarsus was filled with hate for Christians when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Legion was dwelling among the tombs among the dead when Christ came to him.  If we take the logic of the statement above, we must then declare that God is pleased with the pig’s slop, or the hatred men have for Christians or even evil spirit possession.  This does not mean that the Gospel is not to be preached, but the Gospel doesn’t need Hollywood’s help nor the world’s music to save souls; it needs only God’s word anointed by the Holy Spirit.  Paul very clearly cautions of false apostles and deceitful workers who transform themselves into apostles of Christ, and warns that Satan also transforms himself into an angel of light (II Cor. 11:14).

        The following points are all part of the necessary steps to reach the goal of Christlikeness:

SALVATION

          Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost (Lk. 19:10).  So, likewise, this same call rests upon the church.  Declaring the gospel of salvation to a sinful world is clearly the mission for the church, and God places evangelists in the body for that purpose.  The church must never detract from nor neglect the ministry of reconciliation (reconciling souls to God).  Without the ministry of evangelism, the church would die out, for it is through the preaching of the gospel of salvation that souls come to Christ and are adopted into the household of God.  They come into God’s family as spiritual babes.  As in the natural when a new baby is born into a family, the parents’ obligation is to train and rear that child so he becomes a responsible adult; likewise, God provides the means by which the new born believer can come to maturity.  He is not to remain in a state of babyhood. and it is the church’s duty to disciple those new babes in Christ so they mature and live holy and righteous lives.  In maturing, they honor God by their lives, just as a physical child honors his parents by learning obedience and adequately maturing.  Today, the emphasis is on seeing people saved or making a confession while leaving them untaught, untrained, and unprepared for genuine spiritual maturity.  Saved?  Maybe; but spiritual growth is sorely lacking.

DISCIPLESHIP

        Discipleship became somewhat popular a few decades back with the “Discipleship” movement, especially among Charismatics.  This movement started out well in that its purpose was to see newly converted Christians mature by being under the mentorship of more mature and spiritual men.  Its failure was that it tended to make disciples more of a particular denomination or of doctrines and ideals rather than to see the discipled being transformed into Christlikeness.  In the “Great Commission” found in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  “Teaching them” is to disciple them, or to instruct them to become followers of Jesus Christ through discipline, instructing them in the ways of righteousness, holiness and truth.  The “Great Commission” was not merely to see people saved, then left to fend for themselves or fall back into their previous life of sin.  The purpose of the church is to feed them, to teach them how to live holy lives in a sinful world, how to be in the world while living separate from the world, to be overcomers.  The “Great Commission” certainly did not encourage the church to adopt the world’s methods in order to hold on to “carnal Christians".  The church is called to lead them “on to perfection” (Heb. 6:1).  The great problem today is that the church elders, pastors, and teachers themselves have failed to strive for perfection.  How, then, can they lead new converts into that for which they have no taste nor vision, and sadly, of which they have little knowledge.  Scripture informs us that even Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8).  So if we are to take up our cross and follow Him, we too then must learn obedience through the discipline of turning away from the sinful and lustful desires of our selfish hearts.  The church will mature through discipline in applying God's word to their lives, by the instruction of the Holy Spirit, and through those whom God has placed in the church as pastors and teachers.

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM

        The Apostle Paul informs the Colossians in chapter one and verse thirteen, that when a person is saved, he is translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.  The saved is no longer a child of the world nor is he enslaved to sin and the vices of the devil.  He is now a citizen in the kingdom of God.  The Gospel that Jesus came preaching (Mk. 1:14-15) as well as John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2) and the disciples (Acts 8:12; 19:8) was the gospel of the kingdom of God.  The kingdom Jesus declared was not of this world or that which eye could see or behold; rather, it was a kingdom that exists within each believer.  While the newly saved person does enter the kingdom, he is very limited in his understanding, knowledge and experience in that kingdom. The kingdom, in its simplest definition, is that Christ is now Lord and King of our lives and we no longer live unto ourselves but unto Him Who died for us (II Cor. 5:15).  In I Cor. 6:19, we are told that we no longer belong to ourselves but we belong to Him.  He purchased us with His blood, and now we are temples of the Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament, God expressed many times His desire to dwell among His people.  His first dwelling place was the tabernacle and later the temple.  However, by the time Jesus came, God was pushed out of the temple and it had become a den of thieves.  When Jesus came and shed His blood, He made clean the hearts of those who would believe, which allowed the Holy Spirit entrance so that He now lives in each person who believes and is washed in the blood of Christ.  Since now our bodies are the temple of the living God where the Holy Spirit dwells, should we not make some comparison to Solomon’s temple?  Solomon’s temple was carefully tended by the priest, overseeing the services performed there so that the services would be done exactly as was commanded by God. Everything concerning the temple and the service within, was performed with holy vessels, purified priests and with exactness to God’s order.  Is it not, then, just as important and most serious that we deal violently with sin and unrighteousness in these bodies, which is His temple under the New Covenant?  Is it not imperative that we “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth”?  Is it not logical that if Jesus is King of His kingdom and we are His citizens that we should submit to His order and conform to His laws?  Can the church serve the King and serve the world at the same time?  Can the church honor God while hanging onto the world and using worldly allurements to attract souls to Christ?  Can the church walk hand in hand with the world, the world on one side and Christ on the other?

THE HOLY SPIRIT

          The place to which God has called His church is a state which is unattainable for the natural man.  It is for this reason one must be born again, for he cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God without the supernatural work of the new birth.  And, just as it is impossible for one to enter the kingdom without the new birth, it is likewise impossible to become a mature believer without the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.  God has given us His Word as a text book and has provided the Holy Spirit as our Teacher.  To grow into spiritual maturity involves both of these resources God has provided, and it also requires a willing student, one who will submit to the teaching of scripture and will listen to the voice of the Teacher.  Scripture forces no man to abide by its teaching, nor does the Holy Spirit enslave one to obedience.  It is the student who must surrender his life to the instruction of both the Word of God and the Spirit.  Any man who truly follows the Bible and listens to the Holy Spirit will produce good fruit and will live a righteous and holy life.  Any who are not at least striving to live their lives righteously are on the broad way that leads to destruction, no matter how many times he attends church, how many testimonies he gives, nor how many respond to his evangelistic message, and no matter what others may say or think of him.  The Holy Spirit will never lead one in the ways of the world.  Such thoughts are foolish and dangerous.  God instructs the church through Peter to “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Pet. 1:15-16).

        While there are other responsibilities and obligations which are laid upon the church, most will fall under the headings listed above.  The church which will focus on these things and implement them in their congregation will be preparing themselves and their congregations to be wise virgins when the Lord returns.  They will be those who have reached the goal and will hear those welcomed words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

 

 

THE SON OF MAN

James Sanderson

        Throughout the gospels our Lord Jesus Christ used the term Son of man in reference to Himself.  In fact it was His favorite title.  This designation is found in the words of Jesus over 80 times.  It is also interesting to note that no one directly called Him the Son of man except when they were actually quoting Him.  These facts certainly bear some significance as we delve into the Word of God.  Because of His use of the title the Son of man, some writers have proposed the false idea that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Such is not the case.  If He were not God, then there is no salvation.  There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved.  Salvation required a perfect sacrifice.  That perfect Lamb of God was Very God Himself.  This article will pursue some of the possible reasons that our Lord used the title the Son of man in reference to Himself.  To understand the very heart of God, one must see Him as He saw Himself, the Son of man.

A Testimony Of His Divinity

        Use of the term Son of man does not mean that Jesus denied being God.  On the contrary, John declared, “the Word was God” (John 1:1).  He also declared, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:9).  Although Jesus used the title Son of man, He longed for others to view Him as divine.  One day Jesus posed a question to His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Mt. 16:13).  The disciples responded that some people thought that he was Elijah or John the Baptist and that others thought that He was one of the prophets.  Then Jesus became more direct, “But whom say ye that I am?”  Peter responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus then reinforced his statement, “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 16:15-17).  Jesus wanted His life and testimony to reflect His divinity rather than a mere title.  When Jesus stood before the Jewish council just before his crucifixion, He declared, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Mt. 26:64).  Their response indicated that they understood fully what He meant.  The Son of man was also the Son of God, God Himself incarnate.

A Reflection Of His Humility

        The title the Son of man was a reflection of His humility and the fact that He had a servant's heart.  Numerous Scripture references display the humility of Christ.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Mt. 11:29).  “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28).  “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).  “Glorified not himself'” (Heb. 5:5).

An Expression Of His Empathy

        The Son of man reinforced the concern that God has for humanity's physical and spiritual condition.  Christ identified with man's sufferings, limitations, and struggles.  The Bible tells us that He was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).  Christ walked in our shoes.  Compassion is a synonym for empathy.  Compassion is “sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of others with the urge to help, deep sympathy.”  The Scriptures portray the compassion that Christ had for the sufferings of man.  “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days” (Mt. 15:32).  “Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick” (Mt. 14:14).  “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean” (Mk. 1:41).

        Hebrews 5:1-2 tells us that the high priest of old was taken from among men and offered “gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  This portion of Scripture also states that he was required to “have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.”  The book of Hebrews also declares “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).  Jesus Christ is truly that great high priest.  It was His compassion that lifted each of us out of the pit of sin and gave us new life in God.

A Representation Of God's Ideal

        Jesus Christ is God's supreme example.  He is that ideal to which all men are to aspire.  “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:21-22).  The Son of man was man's supreme role-model.  He was given as the mold into which His followers are to be cast.  “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (Mt. 11:29).  There is no higher calling in life than to embrace the character of Jesus Christ.

A Fulfillment Of Prophecy

        After His resurrection, as He walked on the road to Emmaus with certain of the disciples, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).  Again some days later, He appeared to all the disciples and stated, “all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me” (Luke 24:44).  The gospel of John records an interesting statement of Jesus Christ regarding the future resurrection and judgment.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.  For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:25-27).  Jesus declares that He has been given authority as Judge of the living and the dead “because he is the Son of man.”  What is remarkable about this portion of Scripture is that Jesus, in essence, is stating that His supreme position is due to His being the Son of man, a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.  The title the Son of man is found in Daniel 7: 13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.  And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”  His use of the title Son of man throughout His earthly ministry was a constant reminder that His coming was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

 

 

THE KINGDOM THAT CAME

Harry Miller

        “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28).  The message of Christ was that the Kingdom of God was within the reach of men; this is what is known as THE GOSPEL or good news.  In this same chapter it is written that Jesus told Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom” (verse 19).  If the Kingdom of God had not been a reality, then these words were meaningless.  What “good news” would it have been to the children of Israel to tell them of a kingdom that would appear 2000 years in the future?

        But let us accept the words of the Master in this matter: “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14,15).  Surely this statement refutes the idea that the kingdom will appear at another time.

        When the Savior commissioned the twelve disciples, He commanded them: “Go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7”); and then after further detailed instruction, He said, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come” (verse 23).  The meaning of this phrase, “the son of man be come” is fully explained in three of the Gospels: it refers to HIS OWN PERSONAL COMING INTO POSSESSION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

        We will now parallel the three gospel records of Christ’s statement to His disciples concerning His coming in His kingdom: “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28); “There be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1); “I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).  All three of these prophetic utterances were fulfilled in His transfiguration (metamorphosis) when they went up upon the mount.

        The word see as it is used in all three of these verses does not mean an ocular sighting.  The Greek word is idosin and means to comprehend, or understand.  This word is translated see in Matthew 5:8; 8:4; 27:4, and has nothing to do with eyesight.  Friends, you see, the kingdom of God COMETH NOT BY OBSERVATION (eyesight).  This is that kingdom that comes within one.  No man will ever be able to say of this kingdom, “Lo here, or Lo there.”  This is the only kingdom that shall last “FOREVER,” and it is this kingdom for which every Christian is told to pray that it might come WITHIN HIMSELF.  This is the kingdom for which all saints are told to SEEK FIRST (above all other things).

        He who attains to the “prize” (the possession of the kingdom) becomes a king; this is the right and legal heritage of every soul who has become a member of the body of Jesus Christ, His church.  “Jesus Christ who…HATH (notice the past tense) made us KINGS and priests unto God and His Father” (Rev. 1:6).  It is written in the letter to the Ephesians that God “Hath raised us up together (with Christ), and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).  Jesus Himself became the King of Glory on the mount of transfiguration, and Peter testifies of this: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount” (II Peter 1:16-18).

        Here it was that the Father of Glory openly and publicly expressed His approval of His Son; this was a demonstration that Jesus had completed the mission of life: He had successfully completed every test; He had come through all temptations common to man – “yet without sin.”  Actually, this was a demonstration that the Son of man had graduated from the “school of hard knocks.”  He had sought the kingdom, and had found it; He had entered the strait gate, walked the narrow way, and had finally reached “the prize.”

        We now arrive at the point where “the prize” must be defined.  Here was a thing upon which the apostle Paul placed great value.  In the letter to the Philippians, he writes of the things he lost for Christ, saying, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:8).  The apostle certainly was not referring to the saving of his soul.  He knew he had passed from death unto life; he also was persuaded that what he had committed unto God, He was able to keep unto “that day.”  Paul was seeking, not “A” prize, but “THE PRIZE.”  He called this prize the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

        He declared that he had not yet apprehended, and he also said he had not yet attained unto perfection, but he was working toward it: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”  Paul certainly knew that all who die Christians can expect to attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  A man of his dedication and devotion to the cause of Christ was not in such a dither to “attain unto the resurrection” of the dead at the last day.

        In the last verse of the chapter Paul says, “We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (verse 21).  The “Prize,” then, was to have the “vile” earthly body changed to a Christ-like glorious body.  This change is what is known by our English word metamorphosis, and it means a transformation into another form.  The tadpole makes such a change when he is transformed into a frog. The caterpillar is changed into a butterfly.  On the mount, Jesus was METAMORPHOSED (this is actually the Greek word translated into the English transformed) into a Divine being.  Jesus at this time came into possession of THE PRIZE.

        Actually, man’s mission in life is to reach “PERFECTION” and thus come into possession of the “PRIZE.”  This present world (kosmos), or physical arrangement, was designed by the Father as a race course; an environment with many handicaps that would require the exercise of faith and obedience to the Supreme Being.  In this limited sphere of being, entities known as men would be given the opportunity and the ability to become saints in their own right, and the Creator would reward them with the greatest prize of the universe: IMMORTALITY.

        Immortality is that state of being divine and incorruptible.  The marvel is that the Creator is willing to share His very nature with His creatures: “We shall be like Him.”  This is awe-inspiring, but we read, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).  Brother Peter also had caught the vision of this most glorious state of being; he told us, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the DIVINE NATURE” (II Peter 1:4).

        Angels desired to look into these things, and even “the prince of this world,” who once was a most glorious being, claimed to aspire to this incorruptible state of immortality.  The acme of all being is the state of the divine.  All other states of being are limited by the laws which govern the spheres that comprise their environment.

        There is a vast difference between the divine, the angelic, and human state of being.  The degree of comprehension and expression in each of these realms is limited in proportion to the extent of its separation from the divine.  In the divine sphere, there is no limitation.  Here it is that the Saint will exercise himself in the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).  This state of being is also known as “HIS REST.”  “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:11).

        “His rest” and the kingdom of God are one and the same thing.  “We which have believed do enter into rest” (Heb. 4:3).  We also are “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:12,13).  By these we “have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5).  This is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14).  Our spiritual experiences are but a token of that which is to come. We have had but a taste, a sample.  The “PRIZE” is yet to be obtained.

        It appears that this command has been too difficult for earth people: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).  Ancient Israel had the same offer of the “prize,” but their unbelief was their downfall, and none of them attained unto this treasure; “So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest” (Heb. 3:11).

        The Father of Glory has determined that a people will obtain to such a state of devotion and perfection that they will be qualified to enter: “Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein” (Heb. 4:6).  This is what is referred to in James 5:7: “Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth.”  In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul speaks of “the redemption of our body” (8:23), and how we shall be “conformed to the image of His Son” (verse 29); this, he says, is the “glory which shall be revealed in us” and is called “the manifestation of the sons of God” (verse 19).

        Since the days of the apostles there have been manifestations of the glory and power of the kingdom of God; but, as far as we know, no person has yet attained unto that state of perfection to which our Savior came.  We could state positively that no group of saints has ever reached the Rest; had this ever been done, it would have shaken the whole earth.  It appears that something more than human zeal and accomplishments are necessary to obtain the “prize.”