People of The Living God

Isaiah 53

 

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April 2014



 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

CHRIST AND PLURALISM

Curtis Dickinson

        The concept of the equality of all people began with the “renaissance,” came to power in the French revolution and became a ready tool for prying apart the framework of Western civilization.  This civilization was built on the Biblical truth that there is good and evil, there are good and evil people, and that all are now equal but have multifarious talents, abilities and responsibilities.

        The pressure to equalize humanity is now being directed to religion, especially to those of the Christian faith, insisting that “the Christian answers on man’s cosmic quality are not the only answers” and that Christians must be willing to give the same authenticity to Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, etc., as we do to Christ.

        Among the arguments of the pluralists are these: (1) We are entering a “New Age” of world unity, a “One World” cosmopolitan environment in which an exclusive religion simply will not work: all faiths must work together; (2) the world does not accept claims that Christians have the right faith, and others have a wrong faith.  This is arrogancy and has failed to win the world.  (3) It is not “Christian” to suggest that because Christ’s claims are true, the claims of others are false!  (4) Christ reveals a God who reaches out in compassion to all men, therefore, He would not exclude those who respond to Him according to some other tradition; (5) there are people in other religions who have devout faith, good morals and love for others, therefore, their religion must be accepted on an equal basis with Christianity.

        To the pluralist, Jesus is an example, a great prophet, a man with special insight into the things of God and, therefore, a religious leader.  A pluralist may call himself a Christian, belong to a church and teach Sunday school class or occupy a pulpit.

        But this falls far short of Christian faith and, in fact, denies it.  Just the same, more and more people are buying it and dismissing the basic issues of the Gospel with the flippant confession that God loves everyone and all roads lead to heaven.

        If Christ was wrong about Himself, then He cannot be trusted regarding anything else.  He claimed to be the One foretold by Moses, to whom all should hearken or else be destroyed (Acts 3:22; John 5:46).  He claimed that He fulfilled the prophesies of Isaiah, and that God had anointed Him and sent Him into the world (Luke 4:18).  He claimed to have received exclusive power from God to give life (John 5:21–23)!  He stated that no one could come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

        If Christ was wrong about any of these claims, then He was a liar and an imposter, and no one should give Him any place in religion or in any other realm.  One who would make such false claims would be a fool.

        There are many other claims that boggled the minds of the disciples.  “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” He said with reference to His own body.  “The Son of man must suffer…and be killed, and in three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).  The apostles found this prediction so incredible that they were afraid to ask Him about it (Mark 9:32).

        But on the third day He arose.

        This was the a priori proof that all His claims were good.  Only the creator of life could give life and return from the dead!  No question about the rest of His claims!

        Wherever the apostles preached, this was their message: that Jesus died, and rose again.  The Jews, who were devoted to their traditions rather than to God, had nothing with which to refute such a message, and it infuriated them so much that they were willing to go to any unholy extreme to stamp out this sect and silence its preachers.

        To recognize that Christ arose from the dead would give authority to everything else He claimed.  Could this be the reasoning of those who insist that Christ is to be put on the same level with other religious leaders?

        The New Age is being promoted by a great number of powerful groups and the “one world” community may be a reality of the future, if history continues.

        But that involves another one of the exclusive claims of Jesus.  He said that history would end with the judgment of all men (which must include Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.) and that He is to be the judge. Christ does not allow for an ultimate homogenizing of religions, equalizing of all peoples and neutralizing of moral laws.  At His coming, the world will be divided into two classes: one class to receive the gift of eternal life, and the other to be destroyed.

        Only in Christ do we find this finality and exclusiveness.  In Japan it is a common thing for people to worship at both the Buddhist and Shinto shrines.  Very tolerant gods!  Bahaism wants to embrace all religions!  To modern pluralism, the final judgment and death of all but the saints is shocking and unacceptable.

        Does your faith waiver just a bit at this tremendous claim, especially when you realize that only a small minority of all the world’s population are Christians in the Biblical sense?  Well, take another look at the proof: Christ did rise from the dead!  What can we do with His claims but accept them?

        There is no comparison between Christ and any other religious leader.

        He is indescribably beautiful in all His actions and attitudes throughout His life on earth.

        He is unspeakably majestic in His position today at the Right Hand of God (Rev. 1:12–18).

        He is unutterly powerful, “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

        He is supernaturally intelligent, knows all our works and thoughts and the intent of our hearts, from all time, to eternity.

        He is absolutely holy, perfect and pure in mind, heart and hand.

        He is intrinsically good – not relatively good, but absolutely good, a goodness of which there is nothing better.

        This is the Christ of the Bible, the resurrected Christ now enthroned in the seat of power over the whole world.  “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

        One of the most unbelievable yet compelling claims is the promise to all who fully believe: “and I will raise him up at the last day” “and I give unto them eternal life.”  John explained what this will mean: “We shall be like Him” (John 6:40; 10:28; I John 3:2).

        Many other facts about Christ set Him totally apart from any other religious figure.  Christ demonstrated, not only the character of God, but the perfect image of God – man as He is supposed to be.  Believers and unbelievers alike have acclaimed Him and Him alone as meeting this perfect ideal.

        Other religions appeal to man on the grounds that all can be or will be united under their banner.  Jesus promised that His followers would be persecuted and opposed by the world, that His doctrine would divide, not unite, and that only a small minority would ever accept Him.

        Jesus did not invite men to come to Him and succeed in the world, but to come and die to the world.  His own death was not as a martyr, as in the case of many others, but was a planned atonement to fulfill God’s purpose.  According to Him and His apostles, one is saved from ultimate death ONLY by receiving the benefit of His death, and anyone who seeks salvation in some other way is the same as a “thief and a robber” and will not find it.  If Christ is true, other religions are false.

        To offer an alternative to false beliefs and dead–end religions is not arrogancy, but mercy.  Travelers on the broad way will suffer destruction, but those who enter by the narrow gate, the way of Christ, will find life.

 

 

“CHRIST OUR PASSOVER IS SACRIFICED FOR US"

Tom Scullin

        “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.  For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: (8) Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7–8).

        This phrase “Christ our Passover” is interpreted by many to mean we are no longer required to observe the feasts of Passover and days of unleavened bread because Christ is now the Passover which, they say, negates and annuls the feast; but the text itself proves this to be an inaccurate rendering of what is meant, for it goes on to say “therefore let us keep the feast.”

        Paul, who was raised in and was taught all of the Old Covenant rites and ceremonies, used the precise and exact terms and phrases that the Old Covenant Scriptures used to describe the observance of the feast of the Passover, for the phrase “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” is exactly how the phrase was used to describe the lamb that was slain at passover time under the Old Covenant.

        Observe Deut. 16:2: “Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the Passover…of the flock and the herd.”

        2 Chr. 35:1: “and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month”.

        Exod 12:3,6: “they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: (6) And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.”

        2 Ch. 35:13: “And they roasted the passover with fire according to the ordinance.”

        Clearly the term, “Passover” was used to designate the lamb that was to be sacrificed at that time; therefore, the phrase “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” is saying, Christ, the lamb of God, is our Passover Lamb who is sacrificed for us, “therefore let us keep the feast,” and not, as they say; His sacrifice does away with the feast.  Far from doing away with the feast, “The Feast” is called for and necessary not only to commemorate and celebrate His sacrifice and what that has done for us, but also as a harbinger of the glory and the awesome wonder when the redeemed enter into and possess the fullness of all He accomplished for us as “our Passover.”

        Jesus instituted and established the feast as a New Covenant celebration at the time we call “THE LAST SUPPER,” and this was the first act of transitioning from the Old to the New Covenant, for He said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”  As Jesus launched this New Covenant observance of feast of the Passover, He was looking forward with much anticipation to the time it would be fulfilled, or be completely entered into and possessed in Divine reality and Spiritual life in the kingdom of God; for He said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  Therefore, it is still to be observed until that time when it shall be fulfilled.

        So, the celebration of the feast is highly anticipated and highly prized by those who, like Jesus, are looking for, believing in and observing the feast as a sign, yes, even more than a sign, a proclamation that we with Him shall enter into all that he has provided for us as the Lamb of God, our Passover Lamb which was sacrificed for us.  “Therefore let us keep the Feast,” both as a memorial to the Lamb and his great sacrifice for us but also as a promise of its Divine sufficiency to bring us into possession of the fullness of the work of the cross, “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

        Luke 22:15–20: “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: (16) For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.  I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.”  (See also: Matt. 26:29 & Mk. 14:25)

        “THEREFORE, LET US KEEP THE FEAST” until that time shall come.

 

 

ISAIAH – FOUR

Randall Walton

        This very short chapter in one of the most outstanding books of the Old Testament is filled with a profound message for the people of this present time.  “And in that day,” is the way the chapter begins; by referring back to chapter 2, verse 2, we can see that the prophet is speaking about a period of time known as “the last days.”  The continuity of these chapters is unmistakable: “that day” and “in the last days” are pointing to the same era.

        There are many reasons to believe that we are now living in the last days, and that some of the conditions related to that day are already evident.

        The first verse describes the apostasy which has befallen much of the religious world (the professing Christian world, that is).  The seven women represent the religious bodies which want the name of the one man (Jesus), but refuse His bread and His apparel.  They want neither His word (the bread of life) nor His covering (robes of righteousness).  These they will furnish for themselves; in fact, they prefer it this way!

        However, they insist that His name be associated with them so that they can claim a legal right of existence and thus escape the stigma of reproach as harlots.

        We witness today a great paradox: never in history has the word of the Lord been made so available to so many people; yet, never has there been such an utter disregard for the word as there is at the present!  With all the millions of Bibles that are on the market today, there are comparatively few people who believe in obeying the words of Jesus Christ.  His words (bread) have been relegated to another dispensation, we are told.  Now it’s fashionable for everyone to do his own thing (that which is right in his own eyes).  “We will eat our own bread.”

        As for the garments of the Lord, modern man finds them not fitting too well.  The whole armor of God is too cumbersome to many people; besides, who can have any fun if he has to be always “standing against the wiles of the devil”?

Fruit Of The Earth

        Thank the Lord that Isaiah didn’t end his prophecy with verse 1.  The next verse speaks of another situation which he says is beautiful and glorious, and “the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely.”

        The terms Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem should not be confused with national Israel, nor the temporal city of Jerusalem, which is “called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).  Genuine Israel is identified by Paul as the true believers in Jesus Christ, and the real Jerusalem is that glorious city “which is above, which is the mother of us all” (Rom. 2:28,29; Gal. 3:7, 26–29; 4:26).

        The message in Isaiah, then, concerns the people of God in the last days, those who have received the circumcision of the heart, who have been grafted into the vine, and are members of the household of God.  These are called “the fruit of the earth,” the product of God’s handiwork.  They are known as those who have escaped, those who are left, those who remain, and are among the living.

        The daughters of Zion, he says shall be subjected to the “spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning” in order that they may be cleansed of their own filth and corruption; those which endure the heat and yield themselves to the consuming flame shall come forth “excellent and comely;” their lives shall testify that He who wielded the torch was the Master of creation whose divine wisdom directed, not only the judgment and burning, but the very degree of heat which was applied.

        This same theme is reiterated throughout the holy pages of Scripture.  John the Baptist spoke of the ministry of Jesus and declared, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with FIRE: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11,12).

        Take notice that the baptism with the Holy Ghost is accompanied by the baptism with fire!   Baptism, of course, is an immersion, whether it is with the Holy Spirit or water or fire.  And the baptism of fire can have but one purpose or goal: to reduce to ashes that which is undesirable or is a hindrance.  The end result is well worth the experience; we readily admit, however, that when one is plunged into the fervent heat of a fiery furnace, it is difficult to see the good that is being accomplished!

        Peter made the following statement about this experience: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Peter 4:12,13).

        Heat, then – adversity, trial, persecution, hardship, tribulation – is a deliberate act on the part of God for the cleansing of his people.  It is a positive means of separating the merely religious folk from the daughters of Zion so that they may stand forth “excellent and comely,” for those whose lives are not completely committed to Him will not long endure the heat.

Heat, Storm and Rain

        In verse six, Isaiah speaks about the need of shelter for Israel from the heat, from storm and from rain: “there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.”

        This heat, now, is different from the fire of purification.  The saints of God need protection from this heat which is obviously related to the storm and the rain.  The tabernacle (or tent) speaks of a temporary shelter or dwelling, one which can serve as a refuge from the great calamities signified by heat, storm, and rain.  The fact that God promises to cover His people should be a source of great comfort to every child of God.

        Notice that He not only assures us a place of refuge, He says that “the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense” (verse 5).

        So, in the midst of apostasy and adverse conditions, God’s glory shall be revealed in the earth upon His people, and He will finish in them the great work which He has begun.

        We believe the heat, the storm and the rain speak of conditions among mankind which will become so severe that they will meet the description of those words.  Heat suggests angry passion, as that which is released in war, terrorism, and racial conflict.  Jesus spoke plainly that before the “end” there would be wars and rumors of wars, with nations and kingdoms vying with each other for supremacy.  It is likely that mankind has never before witnessed the degree of anger which exists among and between the nations of earth as we see at the present time.  Even with the treaties agreements, pacts, and contracts among the nations, there is very little real peace.

        The free nations of the world are simmering over major differences and disagreements, while they are gradually but surely being surrounded and hounded by the communistic and totalitarian states, both of which are bent on schemes for world conquest.  The major nations of earth have already amassed enough nuclear energy to change this planet into a gaseous fireball; it seems unlikely that this will happen, but the point is, the potential exists NOW, a fact that was not present in any former age.

        Storms are nearly always accompanied by winds, winds which blow from many directions: hurricanes, tornadoes, currents, gusts, blasts.  Destruction, death and despair follow the paths of these devastating winds.  David declared in Psalm 55:8 “I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.”

        We are not sure what the “storm” signifies, but there are several possibilities.  Paul, in Ephesians 4:14, speaks about being “carried about with every wind of doctrine,” and this is certainly a serious situation for our consideration.  Never before has “every wind of doctrine” been afforded the means of propagation as is available today: worldwide simul–cast television, radio, the press, internet, etc.  And the awesome number of new and intriguing doctrines is stupefying.  The sad fact concerning most of these “new” doctrines is that they have no real influence for good upon those who accept them.

        The Lord told Jeremiah that “the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them” (Jer. 5:13).  This certainly is indicative of our present hour.  There is much word being given forth which is purported to be prophecy, but that which does not agree with THE WORD is not of God.  Multitudes are influenced by these windy prophets whose messages are more hot air than anything else.

        Of course, any propaganda which is contrary to the plain teachings of Jesus Christ is dangerous, whether it be in the realm of the secular or the religious.  And our present society is being bombarded by the message of dialectical materialism and humanism, both of which schools of thought proclaim man’s ability to cope in this world without God, or even any thought of a supreme being.  Your children in most of the public school systems are being taught that very message, for their teachers are trained in our colleges and universities to teach those doctrines.  God is considered passé, an archaic superstition left over from the Dark Ages, whose usefulness went out with the kerosene lamp.  The Bible is presented as folklore, a book for the weak–minded, or a pastime for those who don’t have anything important to do.

        These are some of the winds which are a part of this great storm which is predicted for these last days, a storm which will make way for the great rain which is to follow.  Normally, rain is a welcome guest, especially for farm folk.  In the proper season, it is a great blessing, but the rain spoken of here is not a blessing.  Solomon spoke of “a sweeping rain which leaveth no food,” in Proverbs 23:3.  Rain, then, can be beneficial or destructive.

        Throughout the Scriptures, rain is depicted as the Holy Spirit coming down upon the people of God (Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; Isaiah 44:3).  Since the Holy Spirit is only good and a blessing to mankind, then there must also be a counter–spirit–outpouring which could be termed a “sweeping rain which leaves no food.”  This appears to be one of the signs of the last day, one of the great major events which will occur before Jesus Christ returns.

        Let us remind you of the increasing quantity of occult activity in the world around us.  People’s lives are being manipulated and influenced by evil spirits, that is, people who willingly allow themselves to be so manipulated.  The fact that evil spirits exist and abound is plainly recorded in the Book.  Rev. 9:1–11 tells abut the bottomless pit opening up to release a vast horde of entities which appear to be locusts with scorpion tails.

        From the description of the bottomless pit in other portions of the Scriptures we deduce the fact that these “locusts” are nothing other than evil spirits which come forth to “hurt men.”

        The torment which they inflict upon those who are not sealed with the seal of God, is an agony so great that men will long to die, but death will elude them.  This, we believe, is another description of the “sweeping rain” of which Isaiah spoke, and from which God’s people will need protection.

A Place Of Refuge

        “Behold a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.  And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”

        That man, of course, is none other than Jesus Christ.  He alone is our refuge and strength, and He only is able to sustain His people through the fury of the storm.  He is that great ROCK – the same rock which followed Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, and fed them with angel’s food (I Cor. 10:1–4).

        We believe there will be literal places for God’s people to be gathered together as a means of protection, but if anyone is without Jesus, a mere physical location will be insufficient.  “Gather my saints together UNTO ME; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Psalm 50:5).  Notice that the gathering will be unto him!  This signifies much more than a gathering of physical, human bodies.

        In these last days there will be a finishing of the work of God which He began many centuries ago.  We are approaching the culmination of the ages when the glorious mystery of God shall be finished among God’s people (Rev. 10:7).  The mystery – which is Jesus Christ in you (Col. 1:27) – will be fulfilled when God’s people are brought together and they learn to “dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).

        Jesus described this condition in His prayer to the Father in John 17:21–23: “That they all may be one; as thou Father, art 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: I IN THEM, and THOU IN ME, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know.”  This is the climax of the plan of God for His people – to become one with Jesus Christ, and with one another!

        This perfect state is described in many ways in the Scriptures:

        “Conformed to the image of his son” (Rom. 8:29)

        “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14)

        “The marriage of the Lamb is come” (Rev. 19:7)

        “The precious fruit of the earth” (Jas. 5:7)

        “Manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19)

        “That I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:8)

        “A glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:27)

        “We shall be like him” (I John 3:1,2)

        These and others tell us of God’s eternal purpose for His creation.  But before this plan can be fulfilled, God’s people must be assembled together in love, in unity, in one accord.  The present condition of sectarianism and division must give way to the Spirit of Jesus Christ so that there may be ONE BODY, not in a geographical sense, but in the simplicity to LOVE, understanding, compassion and mercy.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

        In this blessed, heavenly state, the people of God will shine forth as “the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matt. 5:14).  At last, the Body of Jesus Christ will be the testimony to the world that Jesus intended it should be.  In this place of refuge there will be protection from the heat, the storm, and the rain, but it will not be because of the physical location, but because of the glory of the Lord upon the saints — “the glory shall be a defense” (Isa. 4:5).

        The precious fruit of the earth will be beautiful and glorious, excellent and comely, because the beauty of the divine nature will be seen upon them.

        “And to the woman (the bride of Christ, His body) were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent” (Rev. 12:14).

        As the glorious church begins to reach her predestined goal (oneness with Jesus Christ, unity among the members), all hell will mobilize to destroy this woman from the earth, for in her state of glory she will be a force and a power which Satan and his angels cannot withstand.  Great power will be demonstrated by both sides, but “the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and a flaming fire by night.”

        Thank God that we are about to witness the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  These are times to rejoice in the Lord, and to surrender our lives and our wills to His will, so that we may be ready to answer His call to “gather together unto him.”

 

 

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?” (Matt. 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.” (Matt. 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” (Matt. 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” (Matt. 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.” (Matt. 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” (Matt. 15:32).  “Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” (Matt. 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 Peter 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” (Matt. 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.

 

 

THORNS

Kenneth Fountain

        An elderly lady recently asked me to remove a cluster of young trees that had grown to block the lovely view from her porch overlooking several fields and low mountains.  These trees were on a steep bank and were surrounded by dense underbrush covered by a blanket of vines.  I realized that I would need to cut and remove the mass of intertwined growth before I could safely use a chainsaw to cut down the trees.  As soon as I began working to clear out around the trees, I found that the vines were largely comprised of rambling briars.  After a few minutes of suffering through countless entanglements and stabbings from the briars, I paused to complain to the Lord about the nuisance of briars and other such creations like poison ivy, and mosquitoes.  I could not even begin on the intended job of clearing off the offensive trees.  It was then that I was reminded of the parable about the seed sown among thorns which grew to choke out the Word and make the believer unfruitful (Matt. 13:22).  I was alarmed by the object lesson before me, comparing the physical briars I was combating to the spiritual briars of worldliness and carnality with which so many become entangled.

        We may recognize certain large obstacles (trees) in our hearts that hinder us from attaining the close walk with God we desire, but at the same time, we may permit thorns of carnal interests that prevent God from doing the work needed in our hearts.  There are times when we do not see things through God’s eyes, nor achieve the victories we desire.  The reason could possibly be found in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”  Carnality and worldliness are both sins before God.  While He is the potter, and we are the clay in His hands, He will not shape us into His image without our willing cooperation.  When we have accepted (or even invited) obstacles into our hearts, He is prevented from accomplishing His perfect will in our lives until we acknowledge and actively deal with these things.

        It is interesting that in nature, thorns are not only found on vines and trees, but some are also on the stems of plants with amazing beauty and lovely fragrances (roses).  Other thorns are found on another member of the rose family with large delicious berries (blackberries).  Thorns range in size from minute, requiring fine tweezers to remove, to large enough for pliers to be used for removing them.  Some penetrate and irritate the skin with a mere brush of contact, some create only minor discomfort, and yet others cause sharp pain with lasting damage.  Some may lodge in one’s clothing, gradually working their way through until they are felt.  Others attack exposed areas of the face and hands thereby receiving immediate attention.  Others on rambling vines of various height and strength catch the feet, legs and body causing one to falter, trip or fall.  All of these attributes of thorns have a spiritual correlation and are designed by him who intends to steal, kill and destroy one’s spiritual well–being (Jno. 10:10).

        In the spiritual heart, the impact and influence of various types of “thorns” is astounding.  A comparison can be made with the spiritual life in that some of the things that entangle Christians have beautiful, fragrant or delicious enticements like roses and blackberries.  In other words, they appeal to the natural senses of man.  Certain “tastes” (pleasures, preferences or goals) appeal to and enslave the carnal–minded heart to the eternal detriment of the soul.  Other “thorns” like cares and concerns of providing a livelihood may irritate spiritual growth.  Other things like bad choices or associations may inflict more lasting damage.  Satan knows how to entice each of us with our individual weaknesses by catering to our specific personalities and interests.  These may come in an infinitely vast array of areas tailored directly for the believer and often brought before him at his weakest time and, therefore, the most opportune for diabolical success.  However, Jesus has promised not to put upon us more than we can bear, and He will always make a way to escape the temptation and glorify Him with our choices and lives. (see I Cor. 10:13)

        The Apostle John said quite plainly, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I Jn. 2:15,16)  Worldliness encompasses not only seeking after the things of this world, but accepting the carnal, or evil viewpoints and standards of the world as offered through the news media, entertainment media (which includes movies, music, internet, books, attire, language, activities, sports) social, political and religious venues, nominal pursuits of life (vocations, hobbies, pastimes, ambitions) and indulgences or comforts that cater to pleasing the natural man.

        In our modern society, there is a vast gamut of enticements and activities designed to take up all available time and energy, thereby deterring one from developing a close, enduring and meaningful relationship with God.  Even to the careful and sincere follower of Christ, many of these things appear harmless and acceptable within the bounds of fellowship with God, but in actuality, they do, at the very least, capture the attention of the believer and diminish his consciousness of the presence of the Lord during that pursuit.  Sadly, many become entangled at some point in their Christian experience and settle into their mess, never going any farther in their walk with God.  Anything that caters to the carnal man within is counterproductive to embracing the cross of Christ, or strengthening our spiritual status.  These alternative engagements of time and energy splinter the singularity of our relationship of love toward God and destroy our ability to grow in His love.  We are to have our eyes singled upon Him, and must acknowledge that “a double–minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)  In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus plainly stated, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:21–24).  The Christian cannot bring forth spiritual fruit in his life while he is engaged in worldliness and carnality.  “For every tree is known by his own fruit.  For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes” (Lk. 6:44).

        Paul very plainly equates interest in the things of the world with being an enemy of God.  “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (The word mind as used here means to entertain, interest or set affection on.) (Phil. 3:18, 19).  “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

        Surely one cannot consider himself a friend of God as well as an enemy of the cross of Christ, yet many attempt to hold onto God with one hand (and part of their heart), and hold onto the world with the other hand (and the remainder of their heart).  We are to deny, or turn away from, ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12), and heed Jesus’ parable of the sower of seed where He warns against the dangers of the cares of this world (Matt. 13:22).  At the time of conversion, Christians were delivered from all the bondages of sin in their lives (see II Pet. 1:4), but most return at some point to those pleasures of sin from which they were saved.  If they do not recognize these “pleasures” as Satan's means of bringing them into bondage to worldliness and sin, they simply accept these as part of life even though they have been given newness of life in their spirit man.  Paul said, “And you hath He quickened (made spiritually alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1,2).  Furthermore, Paul cited some who returned to their former lives.  “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (II Tim. 4:10).  James warns that the believer is “to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).  Peter exhorts with somber warning in the following words: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.  But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Pet. 2:20–22).  In Hebrews 6:4–6, we again read about some who partook of the Holy Spirit, but later fell away from God.  Then, in verse eight, we read, “but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”  Solomon said, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them” (Prov. 22:5).  Instead of heeding Christ’s warning of John 15:2 about bearing godly fruit, or allowing the Holy Spirit to develop Christ–like character and stability in their life as Peter described in I Peter  1:5–11, many vacillate between honoring God and dishonoring Him depending upon their present mood, circumstance or environment.

        There are many things given in Scripture which the follower of Christ is to always be doing that leave no room for engaging in worldly or carnal ventures.  Following is a brief list of some of these:

“Be ye always mindful of His covenant” (I Chron. 16:15)

“keep all My commandments always” (Deut. 5:29)

“I have set the LORD always before me” (Psa. 16:8)

“Let thy garments be always white” (Eccl. 9:8)

“Watch ye therefore, and pray always” (Lk. 21:36)

“have always a conscience void of offence toward God” (Acts 24:16)

“always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58)

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God” (Eph. 5:20)

“be ready always to give an answer to every man” (I Pet. 3:15)

“give Him no rest…till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:7)

        The Christian must not be so naïve as to think that those described above were not really born again believers and, therefore, these warnings cannot pertain to him. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).  If Satan could convince a third of the angels of heaven to follow him, why could he not also trick an unwary believer into turning from God, or simply becoming bogged down in carnal or worldly pursuits, thereby missing out on the unfathomable spiritual blessings God has planned for him, and ultimately missing the glorious purpose of God for his life?

 

 

SPIRITUAL WEALTH OR POVERTY

Al King

        There are many wonderful and glorious blessings provided for God’s people through Jesus Christ by His life, death and resurrection, yet they are rarely seen in the lives of most Christians today.  Christians in the 21st century have succumbed to the lie of the enemy that fulfillment is found more in the world than in Christ.  It seems Christians believe they are only to experience satisfaction and peace in the future.  The joys and blessings promised in scripture are not for this life but are to be experienced after this life is past.  As with all deception, the enemy takes certain truths, distorts them, leaving the Christian striving to walk with God, beat down by condemnation, doubt and discouragement.  Not understanding or believing God’s promises, His provision, His mercy, and many other blessings, he accepts Satan’s lie and lives a life of drudgery, calling it “spiritual life”.  Let’s take a few scriptures from holy writ and consider how the sufferings of this life must be balanced with the blessings God has made available in Christ Jesus.

        In His last words to His disciples just before ascending to the Father, Jesus laid claim to all power, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).  Jesus wanted His disciples to understand and embrace this truth, for upon it hang the blessings which are built into the Gospel for those who come to Christ in salvation.  In order for Christians to embrace the riches inherent through Calvary, it is imperative they clearly understand that Jesus is all–powerful, all–knowing and omnipresent.  He has all power not only in earth but also in heaven, and He desires to bless those who follow Him.  This truth was stamped upon Paul’s heart as he wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).  John chimed in also in I John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” and Paul, adding to this wonderful truth in Rom. 8:17, adds, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ.”  As sons of God, the believer has certain authority and power in Christ’s kingdom.  Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God; He is the King and the Authority of every part and aspect of His kingdom.

        Looking more deeply into these blessings we find there are promises for those who believe.  Consider 2 Peter 1:4, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  Every believer is offered “exceeding great and precious promises.”  There is not one to whom these promises are not available, for they are fully afforded in Christ for every believer that he might live a victorious life with God’s blessings and His continual presence.  These “exceeding great and precious promises” are offered for the purpose that those who possess them might be “partakers of the divine nature.”  The very strong implication here in Peter’s words is that it is only as believers step out upon these promises and appropriate them in a practical manner that they will partake of the divine nature.  In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, each man is given a talent (a piece of money, which verse 14 declares are “His goods”), which he is to go out and labor to increase.  To increase these goods given by God, one must apply the promises to his life, walking in the truths of God’s word.  Most Christians today live in spiritual poverty because they can’t seem to believe God’s promises are for them.

        If we consider briefly why a people or a nation is stricken with poverty, we might come to a better understanding of why so many Christians suffer from spiritual poverty.

What Are Some Factors Which Cause Poverty?

        There are four basic reasons why a nation suffers from poverty.  Our focus here is to consider a nation, a country or a group of people and not so much from an individual perspective.  A country’s wealth is dependent upon these four factors:

        1. Natural resources

        2. Government

        3. Education or ignorance

        4. Ingenuity, resourcefulness and initiative of its people

        We can look at several nations which have lived in poverty for centuries until the time came when there was a natural resource that became in high demand.  One of the most evident is the middle eastern nations, where the populace lived from hand to mouth for centuries.  It has tremendously changed in the last 100 years with the world’s demand for oil.  As the world turned to oil for energy, the Middle East transformed from poverty to wealth almost overnight.  Unfortunately, the people in most of these countries still live in poverty.  Why?  The second reason on our list for poverty: the government.  Evil, selfish and tyrannical men in government have raped the people of what should rightly be theirs.  They have hoarded the wealth for themselves, while bringing the people under their control.  The government is the problem.  This brings us to the third reason for poverty, ignorance.  If the government can keep its citizens ignorant, they can hold them in servitude.  This was clearly portrayed during the dark ages when the church kept the people of Europe in ignorance and brought about a caste system equal to that in India today.  The church wielded a scepter of power unequaled and, while the church lived luxuriously, the people suffered extreme poverty.  The people lived under the tyranny of the church.  The sad history in America after the Civil War is another example, when Negroes were prohibited from getting an education.   They were considered unworthy of being educated, and thus they were kept in bondage while they were supposedly free.  Fortunately, not everyone held that same view and gradually they began to be educated and were able to begin breaking out of the bondage of ignorance, and light dawned upon them.  Over the years they gained more freedom as they became knowledgeable of their rights as American citizens and, more importantly, that they were made in the image of God, created to be free.

        If we liken these basic facts regarding wealth and poverty to our spiritual inheritance, we can begin to see where problems lie in our lives as Christians.  First, we know most assuredly that Jesus does possess all power in heaven and in earth.  We are also thoroughly convinced that He is King of His kingdom, which kingdom He came preaching and which He clearly proclaims is within us.  “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you”  (Luke 17:21).  When one is born again, God’s kingdom comes within with the entrance of the Holy Spirit.  In that kingdom, Jesus has absolute control of all circumstances and situations that the believer confronts, and His power is available for the believer to meet the demands and the needs before him.  If the kingdom of God is within the believer’s heart, then the wealth of this kingdom is available.  We have been given all the resources (one of the necessities for wealth) of heaven in this kingdom.  These resources afford spiritual wealth if the other three aspects of wealth are found.  The second issue is government.  God’s government is promised to be upon His (Jesus’) shoulders (Isa. 9:6).  If there is a perfect government, it is Jesus’.  The Bible is the constitution of Christ’s government and all its blessings and promises are more sure and concrete than anything promised in the US constitution.

Consider Just A Few Things Promised In God’s Word:

The power of the devil is taken from him:

          I Jn. 3:8b “For this purpose was the son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works           of the devil.”

          Jn. 12:31 “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

          Col. 2:14–15 “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

          Rev. 12:10 “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down”

Jesus has given to His followers His power and authority over the powers of hell.

        In Luke 10:19: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”  This is a promise, a blessing and a privilege, as well as an obligation, for every child of God.  It is not just for the preacher or the elder alone, but for all.

Jesus defeated the devil, taking captive those things that held the sinner enslaved to sin.

          Eph. 4:8 “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.” 

          To better understand this verse, we need to see that with the fall of Adam, sin passed upon all men, and with sin came bondage.  Man was subject to the drives and demands of the carnal nature, or the sin nature.  Peter explains the way the devil works against man is by taking advantage of his sin nature.  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  The devil cannot force any man to sin.  Man is tempted by the devil through man’s sinful nature.  Satan seeks whom he can devour by enticing them to resort to those things that please the appetites of the carnal and fallen nature.  Even those born again continue to battle with this old nature that is not eradicated just because he is born again.  It still resides within.  The difference between the unsaved and the saved is that the saved now has the Holy Spirit within, and the saved individual is a new creature, a new creation.  He is not the same as before, for God is at work in this life.  In this new life, God creates within the believer’s heart the desire to change.  Paul explains it this way, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  We see, then, that Jesus triumphed over those things that held men captive to sin.  There was no way man could escape the bondage of sin except one die for his sin.  Jesus bore man’s sin, therefore releasing him from the legal consequences of sin.  Satan is forced to release any man or woman who believes in Jesus Christ and falls down at the foot of the cross confessing his sins and asking for forgiveness.  Jesus never turns away anyone who comes in brokenness and in sincerity of heart.  After being born again and brought into God’s kingdom as a son of God, God begins to work in his heart through those exceeding great and precious promises, to see the newly saved put on the divine nature.  This involves being transformed from the old life as a sinner to a life conformed to the likeness of the Son, Jesus Christ.

        God’s perfect government works with its citizenry to see total freedom in the kingdom of God.  There can be no better kingdom than that which Jesus established, and in that kingdom God, through the Holy Spirit and His word, begins to teach the new convert God’s ways in contrast to his past life.  It is the Holy Spirit’s presence that gives believers the desire to be transformed.  His ignorance regarding spiritual things begins to change as he is taught by that great teacher, the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sends.  “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).  Jesus continues in John 16:13, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”  So the first three points of a kingdom where its citizenry can be spiritually prosperous are provided through Jesus Christ.  They are the resources of heaven, the perfect government of Jesus, and knowledge taught by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.

        When we come to the fourth part, we find something is required of citizens, those who are born again: initiative and resourcefulness.  While all the components for a nation are available for its people to become wealthy, they will never become wealthy unless they take the initiative, implement some ingenuity, and take the “talents” (God’s goods) and be resourceful.  This is the responsibility of every believer.  He must strive to enter in, endure unto the end, make strait paths for his feet, overcome, take up his cross, follow Jesus Christ, apply the word to his life.  He must be diligent to make his calling and election sure, and stay on the strait and narrow way that leads to life.  All these things are possible through the exceeding great and precious promises offered every believer through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

        Citizens in a nation with resources and a good government which provides education will only be successful if they apply themselves to the provisions offered by that country.  If they are lazy and expect the government to do everything for them, they will continue in poverty and, even more sadly, will become slaves of the state.  So, in God’s kingdom, believers must apply themselves to the goods God has offered.  They must learn to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might when the enemy comes in with enticing temptations that pull upon the fallen and sinful nature.  They must see that going down that road will lead to spiritual poverty in this life and eternal death in the life to come.  They can find their strength to overcome in Christ alone.  They must assume their responsibilities in God’s kingdom, and there they will find spiritual prosperity.

        To become rich in Christ Jesus, one must believe that Jesus has fully procured everything necessary for His people to live richly in this life.  Do not gather that the wealth this article is speaking of is financial, health or freedom from persecution or other distresses which Christians encounter in this life, for that totally unscriptural.  The prosperity teachers, along with the faith movement so prominent in our modern age, are sounding a message that is positively and totally unscriptural.  The idea that Christians are freed from any ill, financial, material or physical, is a lie that has been cooked up in the kitchen of hell.  Scripture teaches that in the world ye shall have tribulation; we are not to think it strange concerning the fiery trials which will befall us; and that it is through much tribulation we enter the kingdom (Jn. 16:33, I Pet. 4:12, Acts 14:22).  The heart of this message is that God will be with His people through any and every trial they encounter and His presence makes them rich in God.  In His presence there is fullness of joy: whether in the Philippian jail, the lion’s den, or the fiery furnace.  He will also be one’s joy in the palace of a king or in a cottage, on the job site, and in every part of one’s life.  He becomes the joy, the strength, the hope, the sustainer, the energy, the goal: He becomes everything.

 

 

THE PASSOVER CALL

Alfred King

        As we approach the celebration of Passover, it is a good time to examine ourselves before God as ancient Israel did on various occasions.  Some of the greatest Passover feasts in Israel were when they set themselves to return to God with their whole heart after a time in which the nation had fallen into sin and idolatry.  The people would sanctify themselves, offering the necessary sacrifices for their transgressions and conforming to the various washings and cleansing that were commanded in the law of Moses.  Two of the greatest Passover feasts recorded in Scripture are found with Hezekiah in II Chronicles 30 and with Josiah in II Kings 23 and II Chronicles 35.

        In both cases, the kings along with the people realized and acknowledged that sin had brought them into bondage and slavery to other nations.  They and all Jerusalem willingly set themselves to seek God, offering sacrifice for their sins and purging the idolatry from the land.  It was this tremendous humbling of themselves that caused God to look down from heaven and pour out His blessings, blessings that are described with both Hezekiah and Josiah, as unmatched in Israel’s history.  So wonderful it was that Hezekiah declared they would keep the feast an extra week.  God came in power and glory when the people humbled themselves and came with a broken and contrite heart to return and seek their God.

        In the days of Josiah, the king ordered that all the paraphernalia in the temple connected with Baal worship be taken out, burned with fire and the ashes taken to Bethel.  II Kings 23 describes the measures taken to extricate themselves from idolatry and return to God.  The book of the law, which apparently had been long forsaken, had been found in the temple.  Josiah gathered all the inhabitants of Jerusalem together and the law was read before the whole congregation (verse 1-2).  Josiah, with all the people, made a covenant before God “to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book” (verse 3).  When the covenant was made, all the people stood.  Josiah then proceeded to purge the temple of idols and all things connected with Baal worship.  It might be well for us who call ourselves “Christians,” to look at just a few things Josiah did to invite God to return to Israel with His power and glory:

        1. Put down the idolatrous priests.

        2. Removed the grove from the temple, took it to the river Kidron, burned it with fire and stamped it to powder.

        3. Broke down the houses of the Sodomites that were by the house of the Lord.

        4. He took the horses and chariots that had been used in worship to Baal and burned them with fire.

        The list, recorded in II Kings 23 and II Chronicles 35 adds many more things but these four convey to us the sense of commitment and determination Josiah had in returning to God.  There was zero tolerance for sin.  In light of these two wonderful Passovers, we do well to ask ourselves some questions.   Is a return to God needed in the 21st century church?  Is the need in our modern world today any less serious?  Will it take any less determination than that of Josiah for the church to see God’s power and glory again?  Can the church continue on its present course with its complacent indifference and expect God to bless as we so desire and need?  Did God require more of Israel under the Old Covenant, than He does those who are blessed with the New Covenant, that “better covenant established upon better promises”? (Heb. 8:6)

        Christianity has come to a place where God’s people have, “lost the awe of God.”  The fear of the Lord, which is “the beginning of wisdom,” is something that has been long ago forgotten.  So much has been proclaimed about God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness from American pulpits while holiness, righteousness and God’s hatred of sin has been silenced.  God has, to most Christians, become a “good ole buddy,” “the Man upstairs,” or some other disrespectful, common expression that brings God down from His most divine, holy and lofty position to that not much higher than man and in some cases puts Him below man.  When men can proclaim that God “has to do what I tell Him,” man has become God.  Most Christians today are blind to the fact that God is also a God of wrath and His wrath is directed squarely at sin.  Sin is in the cross hairs of God’s wrath and those who continue in sin will find themselves there also.  God, most assuredly will not accept all the lame excuses of carnal men who continue in sin that “grace may abound.”

        The blessings of God for the 2014 Passover season rests upon the people of God.  We each must search our own heart and examine ourself in the light of God’s word.  As when the book of the law was read to all the people of Israel, the people repented and began to return to God’s order.  In a day when evil in increasing daily in our world and that evil is drawing multitudes in its wake, not only unbelievers but many believers as well, many Christian ministers are themselves watering down God’s word and deceiving multitudes into accepting sin as “normal,” because “everybody sins.”  But just as sin is in God’s crosshairs, Christians are in the crosshairs of Satan’s scope.  Christians are the focus of Satan’s devices; he already has the sinner.  We, as Believers are his target.

        As this year’s Passover season approaches, let those who desire to return, those who have a longing for God, read these accounts of Hezekiah and Josiah and seek God for that same humility, that intense determination and willingness to address sin in each of our lives.  All those whose heart the Spirit of the Lord is stirring up, all those who are grieved by the direction, not only that our country is going but also the direction the church is taking, all those who are not satisfied with the lukewarmness of the church, let them each seek God for a return of the faith and glory that once delivered unto the saints and may God’s be pleased to pour out His blessings upon His church in these perilous days.  “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.” (Zeph 2:3)

 

 

PASSOVER

        Our previous notice in the TOT regarding the time of Passover has been a little confusing to some.  Passover this year will be observed by People of the Living God on the evening of April 13, 2014.  The new moon following the vernal equinox, falls on March 30th.  Counting 14 days from the new moon brings us to April 13th.  We will have the Passover meal Sunday evening, April 13th near sundown.  The Passover feast lasts for seven days, ending at sundown on Sunday, April 20th.  We are praying that God will richly bless His people as we honor Him in this feast.