People of The Living God

Psalms 150

 

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May 2014



 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

Satan’s Subtle Tactics

Alfred King

        September 11, 2001: As the sun pushes back the curtain of darkness, giving light for a new day, citizens on America’s east coast awake, begin their lives just as they have for the past several years.  It is a normal day, parents getting their children ready for school and themselves commuting to their daily jobs.  But this day is not a normal day, for before the sun reaches the west coast, tragedy strikes America.  8:45 AM: American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, carrying 20,000 gallons of fuel and 92 passengers crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City creating an abysmal wound, one that proves fatal.  Eighteen minutes later, another Boeing 767 owned by United Airlines hits the south tower creating a large diagonal gash severely damaging the structural integrity of the building.  9:59 AM: the south tower grievously succumbs to its lethal injury, creating a pile of rubbish as it crashes down to the ground.  Just over an hour after the south tower collapses its northern sister follows suit producing a dust cloud that spreads through New York City like a dense fog and leaving over 3000 people dead.

        While millions watch in unbelief, another American Airlines, Flight 77, makes its way over Washington DC targeting the Pentagon.  Those Americans on the west coast wake up to find that America is under attack.  A fourth plane is hijacked on this same morning but is delayed in takeoff giving time for passengers to learn through their cell phones of the previously mentioned events.  A few brave souls conspire together and are able to foil the hijackers’ intended target and cause the plane to crash in a rural field in western Pennsylvania.

        America is startled awake and, as security is beefed up, many of her citizens are gripped in fear, not knowing what has occurred or why.  Over the next few days and weeks as the evidence is unraveled, the devious and diabolical plan exposed, thousands of Americans pour into churches, praying and turning to God for answers.  An abrupt change takes place as the new theme song, “God Bless America,” blasts from radio and television stations across the nation; flags pepper the landscape from New York to Los Angeles as patriotism springs up like flowers in Spring, in a way not seen since WWII.

        Less than thirteen years later, while patriotism has at least partially remained, sadly the return to America’s Christian roots diminished almost as quickly as it came.  Church attendance dropped as the initial shock quickly wore off.  Americans began to put their trust in America’s military might, her self–sufficiency, and her proud resilience.  No longer did she need the God of her founding fathers as vengeance was not God’s, but hers.

        Today, America finds herself facing some of the most difficult decisions of her existence.  The unity brought about by the catastrophe of September 11th has been replaced by the most divided Congress in the history of this nation as well as a divided citizenry.  America is split on almost every issue of importance from abortion to gun control, ObamaCare —“every man can keep his insurance” — to the growing national debt, illegal immigrants, secure borders, gay marriage, and on and on it goes.  If there is any lesson that Christians might learn from the last 13 years of American history, it is that this same pattern is at work in the spiritual world.  Christians are as divided as America’s Congress, and we will be as weak and ineffective, as ridiculous and disgraceful as long as we remain sinful, carnal and in bed with the world, attempting to conform to and appease America’s political correctness advocates rather than Jesus Christ.  Jesus is King and He is the One Who sets the standards and is the One true Christians will follow.  It’s time Christians get off their sectarian ecclesiastical high–horses, forsake the deceptive and pompous attitude that everyone must go “our way” and realize that our ways have failed us.  It is time we go God’s way.

        There have been events in Church history where Christians were hated, despised and singled out as the enemies of society.  They were sought out, hunted down, imprisoned, tortured and martyred.  Yet in each of these periods, true Christianity thrived as the reality of the Gospel superseded the hatred, wrath, and animosity of men, just as spirituality always surpasses the material and physical.  Their Christianity was real.  It was not some half–hearted, societal expected custom or a social club which one must join in order to look good and ease a guilty conscience.  It was a heartfelt, deeply convicted reality.  It was a deep–rooted revelation of God, a glorious encounter with Jesus Christ that changed them forever.  It was something that reached so far down into the recesses of their souls that they would not, could not deny Him and so were willing to face the world’s rejection, evil men’s persecutions and torture, and even death itself.  So great was the love God had placed in their hearts that they would not retaliate against those who persecuted them but would pray for them, love them and forgive them.  Many persecutors saw something in these men and women that was genuine, something pristine and sublime, something to be desired.  The marvelous testimony of these faithful Christians opened the door for the Holy Spirit to convict their tormenter’s hearts.  When one Christian was martyred, sinners were saved and brought to a knowledge of God’s love and salvation, for they saw in these men and women the possession of true Christianity and a Gospel that was real.  In contrast, today Christianity is mocked because sinners see the apparent and inexcusable hypocrisy so prevalent in modern Christianity.

        The events of September 11 unveil once again that Satan has perfected his tactics against mankind.  History teaches us that when a race or nation is attacked or something catastrophic happens, people begin to pull together.  There is a certain unity that occurs against a common enemy.  Differences are set aside as they focus on the public threat and begin to search together for a solution to the problem at hand.  However, it is when everything is “normal,” when people are comfortable, when the world is at rest that man’s real enemy has his greatest conquest.  His subtlety is most effective when the virgins slumber and are not alarmed by calamities or the threat of danger.  The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy (Jn. 10:10) when unexpected, when all are asleep and contented.  The greatest dangers Christians face today are not outside Christian circles but within.  Just as America today faces its greatest dangers from within, so the church finds its greatest enemy within.  As America slumbers, her society is eroding from within.  As America will be overcome unless she awakes and deals with her internal factions and problems, her most threatening and eminent enemies, so the church will most assuredly become weaker and weaker as long as she is divided, and Satan will have accomplished his devious plan in the day of ease, when the church had the most wonderful opportunity to become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  As the great man of wisdom so clearly understood and declared, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep, so shall thy poverty come” (Prov. 24:33).

        Jesus gave warning of this vulnerability in Matthew 25 in His parable of the ten virgins.  All ten virgins slumbered and slept.  While they were sleeping, while they were overly engaged in the world system, while they were busy enjoying the pleasures of this life, while they were deceived by their riches and luxuries, making a living, enjoying life, the enemy came, secretively and meticulously and, through these things, stole their hearts.  When the midnight cry came, they had no oil in their vessels, they had no genuine love for God, they had long ago lost their first love, they had a bucket with holes and their Christianity had leaked out.  They had become merely church attendants, pew–warmers, religious but not spiritual.  God, however, does not leave us without hope, for although all ten virgins slept, there were five which, while they faced the same temptations, encountered the same pressures and stresses that life demands, found time for God.  While that first love might have slipped from them at times, they repented and returned.  They found forgiveness and the love of God was rekindled in their hearts.  They found a fresh anointing and love for God and His law as they returned to Him.

        The greatest danger to Christians today is not the obvious attacks, the great onslaught of immorality and public lewdness so grievous and vividly apparent around us.  It’s not the devil’s war against the church in obvious things that is the greatest danger but the little things, the subtle things, those things that don’t seem that important.  Little things are the things that erode the foundation, making it possible for the public immorality and indecency that make us blush and shock our moral senses.  In Luke 16:10, Jesus gave warning about little things, things that seem so unimportant and insignificant,  “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”  Scripture clearly teaches that the day of big things will come.  He gave warning of a time of great tribulation such as the world has never seen that is to come just prior to His return (Matthew 25, verses 29 and 30: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven”).  And yet He instructs every believer to beware of the little things, to guard his heart in little things.  Jeremiah’s admonition is, “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)  Be faithful today in daily activities and you will stand tomorrow in the day of evil spirit activity.  The Day of the Lord is at hand, be careful in the little things so you will be ready in that day.

 

 

DECISIONS OR DISCIPLES?

Merle Fuller

        To obey is better than sacrifice.  Purity is better than possessions.  Quality is better than quantity.  Man judges by size and counts numerically.

        In America today there is a generation of young people who have never witnessed nor felt the mighty power of the ungrieved Holy Spirit.  Knowledge of the Triune God is their saddest lack.

        Out of this soulish, fleshly generation have come thousands of zealous young men and women with religious fervor and often sincere convictions.  They have gone out to reap the harvest with carnal weapons, feeling the kingdom would be ushered in by numbers.  Youth leaders have had crowds as their goal – a mass production.  They have neither brought God to man nor man to God.  Men may be more expressive and more religious today, but certainly not more holy.

        The sinner’s reconciliation to God means a total and complete surrender, as a subject to his king or a servant to his master.  It’s the human will broken at the altar of God.  It is complete devotion and worship from the repentant heart to a holy God.  It’s depraved, hopeless creatures, wicked and undone, in full submission to the Person of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

        The prominence in the teaching of our Lord of discipleship is detected immediately.  Jesus did not teach that we would have comfort and easy living, but denial.  He taught His disciples that by bearing His name they would have a curse and be repulsive to the world.  Their worship in spirit and truth would be obnoxious to a soulish, carnal mind.  The natural man would not love this spiritual devotion.  Jesus said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

        If we try to grab the masses with easy handouts we will reap a generation that will crucify Christ and put Him to open shame.  Their last estate will be worse than the first.

        I am amazed when I read the seventy major points in the doctrinal statements of Charles Finney.  The demands on sinners in his day for surrender and faith would be hard for some of our seventy–year–old saints to take today.  Most preachers would be forced out of their pulpits if they started to resurrect these truths and New Testament demands.  Our undisturbed, overfed, overweight, gadget–controlled age would never yield to such demands.  Nevertheless, truth never diminishes.

        God does not need Hollywood crowds or signs and wonders to prove Himself.  The critical need today is for young preachers who will find God and obey Him, not use Him to get somewhere.  Oh, may our prayer daily be to know God, to love Him, to surrender to Him and to obey Him.  Then, as we go out to serve, we’ll go as men dead at the cross.  We’ll offer our bodies as living sacrifices and bear the reproach.  The insults of wicked flesh will not grieve our pride, ego or pampered feelings.  All of this will be reckoned dead.  We will go as John the Baptist and preach truth.  We may lose our heads but we shall hear His “well done.”

        I am convinced that much of our modern–day preaching and evangelical activity is presenting a false Jesus.  Preachers have gushed and carried on glorified religious vaudevilles; they have been jokers instead of pray–ers.  They have appealed to the flesh, and the grieved Holy Spirit could not glorify the Christ of God’s Word.  Young people have come to the altars grinning, unbroken, with unbent wills.  Holy Ghost repentance has been almost unknown.  Godly sorrow for sin has been ruled out and easy, intellectual believism has been substituted.  Our hero–worshipping generation has come to stand in front of a Jesus who has been sold down the river with a program of slush and gush that must make our forefathers toss in their graves.

        I read that when Moses saw God he fell on his knees.  When Nehemiah caught a glimpse of the knowledge of God, he wept.  Isaiah cried with soul devotion, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”  Paul went blind on the Damascus road when he saw the Lord Jesus.  John fainted as dead when he saw Him while on Patmos.

        When our Lord Jesus Christ is presented in truth He may not appeal to the thousands, but purity, holiness and soul devotion may be restored.  We may not have so many professions, but we’ll have possessions.  We may not have decisions, but we will have disciples.

 

 

ENDURANCE

James Sanderson

        Every true believer can remember the time when he first came to God and laid his burden of sin at the cross of Calvary.  Wondrous joy filled his heart while God’s indescribable love bathed his soul.  Nothing could compare with that first encounter with God.  Old things passed away, and all things became new (2 Cor. 5:17).

        As wonderful as this new birth, or salvation experience, is, it is only the beginning of a lifelong walk of growth and development in Jesus Christ.  It does not take long for the new believer to discover that this Christian life involves some trials, testings, persecutions, and chastening.  The Apostle Peter declared, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (I Pet. 4:12).  Paul also echoed this same theme, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  Jesus Himself stated, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).

        Unfortunately, not everyone who begins this Christian life continues to the end.  In His parable of the sower, Jesus tells of the sower who sowed the word in various types of ground.  The stony–ground hearers hear the word and “immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16–17).  Note that Jesus said they “endure but for a time.”  The stony–ground hearers lacked endurance.

        What is endurance?  Webster defines endurance as (1) the ability to last, continue, or remain, (2) the ability to stand pain, distress, or fatigue, (3) fortitude.  Endurance is a quality of character that every Christian must develop if he is going to make it to the end.  Jesus clearly states, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Mt. 10:22).

        It is not sufficient to “endure but for a time.”  It might be well to review some Scripture references that emphasize the necessity of endurance.  “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).  “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions” (2 Tim. 4:5).  “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons” (Heb. 12:7).  “Behold, we count them happy which endure” (James 5:11).  “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (I Pt. 2:19).  Jesus Himself “endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

        Most of the children of Israel fell in the wilderness and failed to reach the promised land because they lacked endurance.  The Word of God states, “They could not endure that which was commanded” (Heb. 12:20).  Having forgotten the bondage from which they had been delivered, they preferred the leeks and garlics of Egypt.

         The stony–ground hearers had “no root in themselves” (Mk. 4:17).  Their root system extended only into the shallow earth.  When the winds and storms of life came against them, they lacked the stability to stand.

        If there were ever a time that God's people need endurance, it is now.  The signs all about indicate that the end is not far off.  The voice of the Almighty shook the earth as He thundered forth there in the wilderness of Sinai.  According to the writer of Hebrews, God promises in these last days to “shake not the earth only, but also heaven.  And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 26–27).  It behooves every Christian to “be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

 

 

BE A PROFITABLE SERVANT

Alda Scullin

        Have you ever considered the tremendous price God paid for the ransom of our souls?  Should we lightly consider a thing so costly?  Should we expect eternal salvation gratuitously?  Contrary to popular belief, reason, cause, and justification are involved.  What God GIVES must be returned with usury (Matt. 25:27).

        God has made an investment in humanity.  He is looking for a return.  Where there is no return, judgment will follow.  This is plainly shown in the parables of the talents and pounds (Matt. 25:14–30 and Luke 19:12–26).  First of all, the servants spoken of in these parables are actually slaves.  They are His purchased possession.  As Paul wrote, “Ye are not your own.  For ye are bought with a price” (I Cor. 6:19,20).  It is not the privilege of the slave to do with his life as he pleases.  It is for the master to decide.

        When the master went away he delivered to them his goods and instructed them to “Occupy” (or be employed, trade, do business) until his return.  These parables show plainly that he expected them to do something that would be productive.

        Many people are confused by the word “talent” and feel they must have a revelation from God to know exactly what their talent is before they can do anything toward increasing it.  The most important aspect of the parable is the principle involved.  Those who increased their master’s goods had done that which was according to His will and were rewarded accordingly.  The servant who hid his talent in the earth did not do the master’s will, and was also rewarded accordingly.  It was not for lack of knowledge that he failed.  His own words condemned him, for he said he knew that the Lord expected an increase, but he was afraid.

        Fear is a sign of lack of love, for “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).  Those who really love God will be employed in doing what He wants done, not in making excuses for not doing His will.  His will is clearly given in His word.  It is impossible to do His will without actively applying His word to one’s life in actions or deeds.

        Many are the excuses, conjured up by the carnal mind and inspired of hell, under which the Master’s goods are buried and lie idle.  Fear is one of the most prominent.  Fear of man, fear of the ego being deflated, fear of loss of face, all work against responding favorably to the will of God.  A spirit of lethargy, apathy, unbelief or even the cares of everyday living can soon have the talents completely out of sight.

        Now, if that which He has given is allowed to lie dormant, or be buried in the earth, as the parable states, it is only potential power.  It will produce nothing until it is activated.  If one walks into a darkened room and does not trip the light switch, the room will remain in darkness even though the power is there to illuminate it.  When one is born or translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son he is faced with the responsibility of working out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).  He must produce for the Kingdom of God or he will never see divinity.  Remember that the servant who hid his talent was called an unprofitable servant and was cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

        Stature in God is earned, not imparted.  When He said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” the servant had DONE something to merit the reward.

        Lest anyone remain in ignorance of exactly how talents are increased, let us hasten to explain that religious activity per se is not what the master requires of His servants.  As a matter of fact, it displeases Him exceedingly if it is not according to His will.  Remember Cain and Abel.

        Among other things, those who represent Him on earth are expected to be the light of the world, even as a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden, or, as Paul said, we are epistles of Christ written by the Spirit, “read and known of all men” (II Cor. 3:2,3; Matt. 5:14; Phil. 2:15).  Even though the darkness comprehends it not, it must be there for a witness.  Yet many have put the light under a bushel or buried it in the earth.  What shall be their reward?  Shall it not be judgment because they dimmed the light instead of making it shine more brightly?

        Matthew 24:14 says, “This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.”  Matthew 28:19,20 is more explicit about the message: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.”  Teach them what?  Believe and be saved?  That is not what He said.  “Teaching them to observe ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED you.”  The wrong message brings darkness, not light.  Therefore, one should first be sure he is lifting up the right standard – then take what God has given and begin to put it to work right where he is.  Those who wait for an urge, or the means to go to some far corner of the globe, will probably never do anything.

        Our eternal salvation depends upon the increase of our talents.  To do this we must be employed in the things of the Kingdom, or as Jesus said of Himself, “Be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).

 

 

WALKING WITH GOD

Kenneth Fountain

        The word walk, in a spiritual sense, may be defined as follows: a manner of living, behavior, or conduct in life; to maintain a course of action conformed to God’s will; to exercise continually, grow, follow, pursue, be occupied with; to live as proof of ability, to conform to virtue (a standard of moral excellence) and piety (fervent sincerity and devotion); the whole round of activities of the individual’s life; to keep step with one another in submission of heart to the Holy Spirit, therefore keeping step with Christ and creating unity and harmony with Him and His church (taken from Webster’s, Unger’s, Strong’s & Vine’s dictionaries).

        The majority of professing Christians regard walking with God as consisting of the basic actions of attending church, and other church–oriented activities, paying a tithe, and abstaining from certain immoral or vulgar actions.  A walk with God actually originates and progresses within the heart of the convert.  The word walk implies forward progression or development: an ongoing effort in the same course of action.  There are several things mentioned in scripture that require daily application which express maintaining the progression of walking.  Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread”  (Mt. 6:11).  This shows that we need spiritual nourishment every day.  He also said we are to take up our cross daily, crucifying the carnal appetites that would destroy our obedience to the Holy Spirit within our hearts (Lk.9:23; Rom.8:4; I Cor. 3:3; 15:31).  Our inner man is renewed day by day (II Cor. 4:16).  In I Chron. 16:11, we are told to seek the Lord continually.  Paul said “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17).  The Psalms and Hebrews speak of praising God at all times (Ps. 34:1, 145:2, Heb. 13:15).  The Bereans were known to search the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).  We are also told to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13).  When a person does not pursue Christ daily, his walk becomes stale, lacking freshness and vitality.  This is a precursor to spiritual lethargy and backsliding, from both of which are very difficult to recover.  An example would be a professional athlete who binges and misses several days of exercise, then tries to compete.

        To walk with God involves a continuous pursuit of Christ–like character.  It means conforming one’s life to the pattern Jesus lived on earth’s stage by submitting His will to the heavenly Father.  It should be evident that walking with God involves much more than mere church attendance.  It is the development of a personal, intimate relationship with the Creator!  As someone once said, “Going to church doesn’t make one a Christian any more than going to a garage makes one a mechanic.”  Just as there are numerous styles or attributes of walk in the physical (stride, march, meander, etc.), walk in a spiritual sense includes a variety of qualities.  The following list enumerates several of the areas addressed in Scripture relative to walk.

    I.  Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25): While the word walk precludes physical movement, and our physical activities are a direct result of the conditions existing in the heart, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19).  Probably the most important aspect of walking with God is the fact that it is a spiritual activity and, therefore, must be performed in and by the Holy Spirit of God (Jn. 1:12; Phil. 4:13) – not in our own frail, human strength!  “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).  In order for an individual to truly walk with God, he MUST have the Holy Spirit abiding within the heart (Rom. 8:9; I Jn. 4:13) – a gift given by God at the time of an individual’s conversion, or point of being “born again” (Eph. 1:13).  It is the Holy Spirit living and working within the heart through the power of the love of God that constrains us to conform our will and life (walk) to a progressive communion with Him (Jn. 14:16,17,26).  We must commune with God through our spirit.

     II. Walk in love: Possibly the next in importance is that a walk with God is to be a walk in love (Eph. 5:2; I Jn. 2:5,6).  Love is actually quite different from the modern perspective of a mushy, possessive, tingly feeling one has for another individual or item of affection.  True love is action!  It involves devotion and sacrificial care for the well–being of others.  Without the attribute of godly love nurtured in one’s life, a walk with God becomes a duty of forced, artificial affection — a gruesome task totally foreign to God’s nature and utterly dissatisfying to both parties.  Love is a moment–by–moment choice of doing what is most pleasing and beneficial to the object of our love: God.  The foremost commandment is that we love the Lord with our ALL! (Mk. 12:30,31)  Jesus said in Jn. 15:9, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”  The word continue also implies an ongoing responsibility of the servant of God.  To walk in love is a natural response to the love of God that was shed abroad in our hearts.  “We love Him, because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19).  John further admonishes us to “love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love” (I Jn. 4:7,8).  We are taught of God to love one another and we are to increase more and more (Jn. 13:34,35; I Thess. 4:9–12).

     III. Walk by faith: The Apostle Paul said in II Cor. 5:7 that “we walk by faith, not by sight,” and Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  In fact, the entire chapter of Hebrews eleven is replete with examples of men and women who pleased God because they walked by faith!  The exercise of this divine attribute, faith (which is a gift of God: Eph. 2:8), or its antithesis, unbelief, is a distinctive quality of a follower of Christ, or conversely, an unprofitable servant.  Peter spoke of “the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold” (I Pet. 1:7).  We find that ancient Israel failed to enter in to God’s promises because of unbelief (Heb. 3:19), and even Jesus, the Son of God, was severely limited in His ministry in His own country because of unbelief (Mt. 13:58)!  Jesus upbraided His disciples on different occasions because they did not meet certain challenges due to their lack of faith.  “God has dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3).  This faith is something that must increase (II Pet. 1:5).  A walk by faith is made possible not by blind trust, but because of the confidence the servant of God can have in the supreme love and absolute faithfulness of our heavenly Father.  He is loving and faithful by nature, and we are to put on His nature – incorporate His divine qualities into our lives through yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts.  A composite definition of faith may increase our understanding of this most vital spiritual attribute.  Faith has been described as “a constant and certain confidence and trust in God’s love to us, and in His ability and power to order and sustain ALL things, all of which is nurtured in our hearts by His Spirit and is manifested in us by our deeds.” (Pastor R. Walton)  Simply put, it is an unquestioning confidence and belief in God and His Word!  Many times in the walk with God, the believer MUST continue purely by faith: faith in the veracity of God’s Word and confidence in His love sustaining us.

     IV. Walk in Christ (Col. 1:26,27; Phil. 4:13): The Word shows that we are to walk in His ways (Deut. 30:16; Col. 2:6,7), as taught by Him, in the light as He is (I Jn 1:7; Eph. 5:8), not in darkness (Jn. 8:12; Jn. 12:35), in His statutes and judgments (Lev. 18:4; Lev. 26:3; Deut. 8:6; Deut. 10:12), and according to His commands (I Jn. 2:3–5; II Jn. 6).  In Psalms 119:105, we are told, “thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  The Word illuminates our path through life showing us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit what we are to do and not do.  Hebrews 4:12 states, “for the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two–edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  The importance of one’s exposure to and application of the Word cannot be overemphasized!

     V. Worthy of the Lord (Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; I Thess. 2:10): To walk worthy of the Lord is not something humanity is capable of by innate ability.  Worthiness is attributed to the believer based upon the holy sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God, whose blood was shed for the remission of our sins.  His holiness and purity replaces our sinful filth and shame, and the Father views the forgiven sinner as covered by the cleansing blood of Christ.  He alone makes us worthy.  Being worthy is found in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), by walking uprightly (Ps. 84:11), and performing good works (Eph. 2:10).  We are to walk honestly as in the day (Rom. 13:13), in truth (II Jn. 4), and in wisdom (Col. 4:5).  This quality of worthiness gradually finds the disciple in white clothing without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27; Phil. 2:15).

        As has been mentioned, walking with God involves progress: it is not stagnate.  Many times throughout Jesus’ ministry, He used physical realities to teach spiritual truths.  The same comparison is made relative to a Christian walk.  When a baby is born into the world, it has certain qualities and abilities.  This baby is expected to grow in every respect: physically, emotionally, and psychologically, as well as to develop numerous skills in these areas as time goes on.  Likewise, when an individual is “born again,” he has a spiritual beginning and is expected to grow to maturity.  Both Paul and Peter use the term “babes” in reference to Christians who continue in carnal ways.  In I Cor. 3:1–3, we read, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  (2) I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.  (3) For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”  In I Pet. 2:1,2, we read, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, (2) as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.”  At the time of conversion (born again) the convert is given a new life with a new heart and new desires.  One aspect of our walk involves standing: “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1) (see also Eph. 6:11–14; Phil. 1:27; 4:1).  In Romans 8:13, it is quite plainly stated: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  And in Col. 3:1–17 “(2) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  (5) Mortify therefore your members…(9) put off the old man with his deeds; (10) put on the new man, (12) Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; (14) And above all these things put on charity (Godly love), (16) Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  Obviously, the believer has the responsibility of acquiring – purchasing through personal sacrifice of his own will and ways – these Christ–like attributes and applying them to his own heart and life!  This is the job (“walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” Eph. 4:1–3) of the babe in Christ: “work out your own salvation,” but we are not on our own, “for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12,13).  As is true in the physical realm, so also it is in the spiritual – we are expected to GROW!  “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”(II Pet. 3:18).  We read in Ephesians 4 that the gifts of the Spirit were given to the church “for the perfecting of the saints (v. 12) till we all come in the unity of the faith…unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v.13).  The rest of the chapter (v. 14–32) talks about the progressive nature of a walk with God.  We are admonished to “be no more children, tossed to and fro,” (14) but to “grow up into Him in all things.” (15) Paul uses the expressions put off (Gr. def. cast off, lay aside) when referring to the old life and its carnal ways, and put on (clothe with, array) when speaking of the Christ–like qualities we are to apply to our new life in Him.  “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).  Peter also expresses the growth of a Christian in II Peter 1:5–11: “giving all diligence (earnest care), ADD to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity; being fruitful, thereby making your calling sure (certain, guaranteed) and being granted entrance abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ” (rephrased for brevity).  It is through this ongoing process – sadly it is not an overnight accomplishment – that the disciple of Christ CAN fulfill the commandment “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Pet. 1:16; see also Heb. 12:14) and obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ! (II Thess. 2:14)  We find in Col. 1:22 and 23 that if we continue in the faith, He plans to present us “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.”  No wonder Paul exclaimed, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14).

        Another example found in Scripture is the comparison of the Christian walk to the growth of certain plants.  In Jn. 15 we are told that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, which, if we abide in Him, we will bring forth fruit.  Psalms 1 compares a righteous man to a “tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season.”  In Psalms 92:12–14, it says the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  The prophet Isaiah describes the meek as “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord” (Is. 61:3).  Jeremiah 17:7,8 speaks of the man as a tree planted by the waters, having roots, not affected by heat, but with green leaves even in drought, and yielding fruit.  All these demonstrate further the reality that our relationship with God is a fruit–bearing growth – which requires time and patience, development and stability.  Without going into another whole study on the O.T. tabernacle, which was ancient Israel’s physical example of the walk with God, we can observe the sacrifices made for sin, the constant washings of the priests, their ministrations before the presence of God; even the two pillars on the porch, Jachin and Boaz (defined as stability and strength respectively), express a quality attained through a growth process.  Paul, in Colossians 1:10,11, says that as we walk worthy of the Lord, we are pleasing, fruitful, increasing in knowledge and strengthened with all might, gaining patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.

        In spite of our failures and shortcomings, He is merciful and forgiving (Ps. 103:8–17).  We are expected to be patient in this process of growth even as “the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it” (James 5:7,8).  “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses (heavenly beings), let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1,2).  “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen”  (Jude 24,25).

 

 

THE BRIDGE

Curtis Dickinson

        To recognize Christ’s entrance into the world is not only to recognize one of the greatest miracles, but it is also to recognize the need of man, which the world tries in every possible way to evade.

        The first act of sin was when man took things into his own hands and tried to run his life apart from God.  From that day it has been man’s nature to think of himself as self–sufficient. Were this the case, there would have been no need for the Son of God to make the radical plunge from heaven to earth, to enter the stream of human life, to die and build a bridge between man and God.

        Man was created to reflect the image of God.  God is Himself perfect, and since He created only that which was perfectly good, there could be nothing better for man than for him to live according to the instructions of the Creator.  To turn from the Creator to follow a different purpose was sin of the highest degree.  Yet, the more man dwells on his own accomplishments, the less awareness he has of sin.  To much of the world, God is only a vague power somewhere out there with little concern for individual morality.  But, as one reads the gospels, he cannot help noticing that when man came within range of this perfect God in the flesh, suddenly he was overwhelmed by His holiness and his own sinfulness.

        God is such absolute moral perfection that evil cannot be allowed to continue in His presence.  A sinful person is in peril of his life before the perfect One Who creates that which is to reflect His nature.

        Only by God’s entrance into man’s realm could man be represented before God.  Only by such a representative to suffer the consequences of evil could the absolute justice of God be satisfied.  In Christ sin is dealt with in Divine justice, and a bridge is built to give man access back into the fellowship of his Creator.

        God sent only one Son.  He built only one bridge.  The popular expression that “all roads lead to God” is the ultimate blasphemy.  It says that Christ’s amazing sacrifice is nothing more than any other sincere man’s effort at religious satisfaction, that the way He marked is only one of many ways, making it actually unnecessary.

        This is why the cross of Christ is a stumbling block and an offence to the world.  No one minds if you worship Christ, even if you call Him the Saviour.  Just don’t insist that He is the only way, that He is the only Saviour, unless you want to be branded as a bigot and bring down upon your head the wrath of the world and many in the modern church.  But, if one thinks seriously, he must realize that God would never have built such a bridge as Christ if the great gulf can be crossed in dozens of other ways anywhere along the line.

        The bridge says more.  Christ’s entrance into the stream of humanity to allow Himself to experience the terrible maliciousness of man and suffer the ultimate consequence of evil (death) not only accents the enormity of man’s sin but also the inexorable love of God.  It says that God is incredibly concerned with the creatures who have treated His purpose so carelessly and with such crass indifference.  Were God indifferent to man, He would never have made such a fuss about his sin.  God is not only holy and just, but He is amazingly persistent about His own purpose for man.  Having created him in His own image, He plunges to the depths of horror to build, at terrible cost, the bridge by which the lost and dying creature may leave the dark regions of ruin to walk in fellowship with the Creator and gain the glorious goal.

        The object of the bridge is not to eliminate the distinction between heaven and earth, nor to give man a false sense of security because God has condescended to come down in love and mercy.  The purpose of the bridge is for crossing.

        When crossing a bridge, the closer you get to one side the farther you get from the other.  The closer one gets to God, the more alienated he becomes to the world; and the friendlier you are to God the greater enmity you will feel from the world.

        To be related to God, to live for the purpose of conforming to His image sets one apart from the world which has purposes of its own.  Jesus warned, “If you were of the world the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

        Christ’s coming is proof that the world does not offer “the good life,” that, in fact, this present life is only an introduction, and hardly that.  Jesus pictured all in the world as temporary and foreign to the real world from whence He came and to which He returned.  He showed that we are only temporary residents here, that this world does not – cannot – provide the essential ingredients for which we are created.  Only God can do that, and He does it through Christ.

        “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

 

 

ANOTHER LOOK AT JUSTIFICATION

John Condon

        The Scriptural doctrine of justification has become a textbook subject to which only theologians and avid Bible students devote much attention.  This is mainly because it is believed to be relevant only to the experience of conversion.  Since, for Christians that is an experience of the past, we tend to lay aside this potentially difficult subject and go on to other topics.  But, if justification is strictly an entry–point teaching, why did the apostle Paul go to such great lengths to explain it to the Christians at Rome?  And why did he resort to explaining justification to counteract the heresy that had arisen among the Galatian Christians?  Maybe there is more relevance to this subject of justification than we have supposed.

        A couple of years ago, a friend and I were discussing the nature of the conflict present in the book of Galatians.  We considered that freedom from the sinful stirrings of our depraved nature is what the false teachers were offering through their “works of law.”  They were teaching that circumcision of the flesh would deliver men from the “works of the flesh.”  Paul was apparently opposing this teaching in saying: “having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3)  Paul did teach that Christians can overcome the depraved flesh nature, not through carnal works of law, but through the working of the Holy Spirit.  He said: “For through the Spirit we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Gal. 5:5).  This righteous character developed in Christians is attributed to the ministry of Christ in Gal. 2:29: “for if righteousness come by (works of) the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

        The Greek word for the noun “righteousness” which appears throughout this letter is dikaiosyne.  It denotes an actual moral quality characterized by doing what is right (see Vine’s Greek Dictionary).  It is not a legal term referring to “right standing.”  The verb form of righteousness is the word dikaioo.  It means, literally, to declare righteous and is translated “justify.”  Typically a person is considered to be justified, or declared righteous, when they receive forgiveness of sins at conversion.  This is mainly because of the force of the tradition handed down from Martin Luther.

        In the second chapter of Galatians Paul employs this verb form of righteousness.  He says it does not come through works of the law, verse 16.  He says it comes through faith in Christ, also verse 16.  This sounded amazingly similar to Paul’s discussion using the noun form of righteousness.  Then the shocker came in verse 17: “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin?  God forbid.”  Paul spoke of being justified as a goal for Christians to seek!  We cannot equate this with forgiveness of sin taking place at conversion.  Instead, it sounds like the development of actual righteous character which Christians seek, “the hope of righteousness by faith.”  There seems to be no doubt.  When Paul spoke of being justified to the Galatian Christians, he was referring to being made righteous through having “crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24).

        But, how can being justified or pronounced righteous be equated with being made personally righteous?  When the same word appears in Luke 7:29, it is used by men concerning God.  “and all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God.”  Surely we must not say that God was then made righteous.  Neither were these men saying something about God that was untrue.  They were simply affirming one of God’s attributes, that He is righteous.  Likewise, when God pronounces a man righteous, God is not saying something that is untrue; He is confirming the man’s attributes, those which, in fact, the Spirit of God has developed in him.

        Consider, also, Paul’s predicament in describing this gospel.  Apparently, no concise word existed in the Greek language which conveyed the radical concept of being made personally righteous in character.  Perhaps his choice contains the idea that God brings to pass that which He declares.  In this way, being made righteous and being pronounced righteous are intimately linked.

        However, we must reject the idea that God declares an actually wicked person to be legally righteous.  According to Dr. Marvin Vincent¹: “Justification which does not actually remove the wrong condition in man which is at the root of his enmity to God is no justification.  In the absence of this, a legal declaration that a man is right is a fiction.  The declaration of righteousness must have its real and substantial basis in man’s actual moral condition.”

        Yet, the equating of justification with the forgiveness of sins is a hard weed to root out.  Fortunately, there is an approach which positively forbids it.  It is this: Paul says plainly in many places that no one will be justified by works of the law.  At the same time, we can find many places in the ceremonial law of Moses where a man could receive forgiveness of sins by the offering of certain sacrifices.  Now here’s the clincher: apparently by the works of the law a man could receive forgiveness of sins, while Paul says that by the works of the law a man cannot be justified.  Therefore, it is obvious that being justified cannot possibly mean receiving forgiveness of sins.

        Many of the arguments used by Paul in Galatians appear also in the letter to the Romans.  Paul cited Gen. 15:6, Lev. 18:5, and Hab. 2:4 in both letters, in statements closely tied to the subject of justification.  Undoubtedly, his use of the noun and verb forms of righteousness in Romans carries the same message as in the letter to the Galatians.  Yet, Paul’s usage of these terms dominates the foundational passages in Romans, chapter 3 and 4.  We are bound to send shock waves throughout our view of the Gospel if we reject the notion of justification as forgiveness here, and adopt the enhanced view of being “made perfect.”  What are the main results of such an approach?

        Firstly, the correct meaning of the Apostle’s instruction is clarified.  Paul was teaching that we cannot be made righteous in character through any “works of the law.”  He was referring to practices such as circumcision and vegetarianism promoted as flesh–taming tactics by the false teachers in his time.  Likewise, in our day many sincere Christians are following the teaching of a supposedly inspired prophetess by relying upon vegetarianism to deliver them from sin and perfect their Christian character.  They would say that their works of law cannot accomplish “justification” (referring to forgiveness of sins), but that they are essential to achieving sanctification.  Rightly viewing justification as “being made righteous” makes it nearly synonymous with sanctification or being made holy.  Accordingly, we are to be conformed to “the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).  If we try to defeat the carnal mind and be made righteous through such methods as vegetarianism, then we are attempting to be “justified by works of law” which, according to the Apostle Paul, is impossible.

        Another positive effect of using this enhanced view of justification is the elimination of false interpretations of Paul’s writing.  Let’s face it, the scriptures regarding justification are used as the foundation of the “grace only” and antinomian teachings abounding today.  From these scriptures are derived principles which, though they contradict the entire tenor of God’s word, are regarded as immutable and unquestionable.  Such trite phrases as “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” and “our salvation is not dependent upon anything we do” come straight from interpreting Paul’s writing, using Luther’s definition of justification.  The surest antidote to such error is to find the true message of the scriptures being so used.  That message is found through employing the correct definition of justification.  For instance, when Paul states “a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28), that is made to say that a man’s standing before God does not depend upon his obedience, but only upon his belief that God can forgive his disobedience through Jesus Christ.  The true message of the verse, however, is that a man can be made righteous when relying upon God’s life–giving power, without rigorous flesh–taming methods.

        God’s promise and offer to us is the power to obey and to be made righteous!  And the righteous have no need of ongoing forgiveness.  In fact, if the message of justification does not offer such allowance for ongoing sin, then such ongoing forgiveness for Christians does not exist.  In a word, God’s offer to us is to help us obey and so stand in judgment, not to enable us to continue sinning and yet escape judgment.

        In fact, if we are still willfully sinning in violation of God’s Ten Commandment law while expecting to be made righteous in character, our hopes are absurd.  Paul wrote, “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin?  God forbid” (Gal. 2:17).

        Another useful result of seeing justification in this light is that the subject is then restored in its relevance to Christians on the road to life.  Paul now speaks directly to Christians in saying: “and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).  Paul’s ardent teaching of receiving righteousness through faith repeatedly assures us that it is not by might, nor by power, but, by the grace of the Spirit of God our victory over sin can be complete.  It is for this reason that the subject of justification deserves our continued attention.

¹Vincent, Marvin.  Word Studies in the New Testament; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1969.

 

 

REFLECTIONS ON GOD’S LAW

James Sanderson

        The psalmist declared, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Ps. 19:7).  God’s law includes all directives and instructions given by God for the purpose of governing the subjects of His kingdom.  God’s kingdom is founded on the principles of divine jurisprudence.

        God’s law is a reflection of the nature of God Himself.  God’s law is “holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12) because God Himself is holy and just and good.  An individual is no better than his word.  This fact holds true for the Almighty.  The integrity and honor of God Himself and His kingdom rest upon the character of His law, for God is inseparable from His law.  As God is perfect, so the psalmist could declare that His law is perfect.  One cannot improve upon God’s law.  It contains all that is essential and beneficial to His creation.

        There is no bondage to the individual who devotes his life to the observance of God’s law.  History demonstrates that anarchy, confusion, and insecurity arise when nations violate or disregard the law of God.  When men live in harmony with God’s law, they enjoy the greatest contentment and peace.

        God’s law is far superior to man’s futile attempts at governing society.  Man can only deal with the outward act of disobedience.  Even in that area the record demonstrates that man has been a miserable failure.  The law of God has the unique ability to deal with the heart and effect change from within.

        The greatest gift that God can impart to man is His divine nature.  Divine law is one of the most valuable tools that God uses to produce divine character in His people.  That law, written in the heart, is able to convert the soul.

        To those who love God and trust His judgment, God’s law is a supreme blessing.  They long to embrace all that God’s law entails.  They recognize the value of His work in their lives.  On the other hand, to those who do not desire a life of surrender but want to live independently of God, the law of God is a curse, bearing judgment and perdition.

        Lawlessness permeates society today.  In fact, Jesus Himself declared that as the end of time approaches, “iniquity shall abound” (Mt. 24:12).  That word iniquity comes from a Greek word that literally means without law.  Society is in disarray and teetering on the brink of God’s judgment because of its wholesale departure from the standards that God has laid down in His Word.  There are even those in Christian circles that claim that God’s law has been abolished.  The grace of God is all that we need.  Surely, Satan himself must be rejoicing in hell at this false doctrine.  The church needs both the grace of God and the Law of God.

        In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Mt. 5:17–18).  The Lord also plainly stated, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Mark 13:31).  In fact, entrance into that heavenly city is predicated on obedience to divine law.  “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14).

        In a prophecy regarding the coming of Christ, Isaiah declared, “He will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Is. 42:21).  Jesus Christ not only did not annul the law but actually made it more demanding.  To harbor anger or hatred toward one’s brother or sister is now equal to murder in the eyes of God (Mt. 5:21–22).  To maintain feelings of lust is tantamount to committing adultery (Mt. 5:27–28).

        According to the Word of God, the church is now under a New Covenant.  With the death of Jesus on the cross, the old covenant is no longer in service.  There are a number of distinct differences between the old covenant and the new covenant that warrant a more thorough study.  Nevertheless, both the old covenant and the new covenant are based on law.  “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith, the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb. 8:10).  The new covenant is much more personal.  God’s law is no longer merely etched on tablets of stone; it is now recorded in the very heart of the Christian through the work of the Holy Spirit.  God’s expectations remain, however; when sin and disobedience enter the heart, the Holy Spirit immediately brings conviction.  God deals with the very root of the problem.

        As followers of Jesus Christ, let us continue to delight ourselves in the law of the Lord and meditate on it both day and night (Ps. 1:2).  The Word of God declares that those who do so shall receive “a great reward” (Ps.19:11).