People of The Living God

Matthew 28:1

 

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June 2014



 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

Harry Miller

        The written Word of God can savor of either LIFE or DEATH, and its potential for either is almost unlimited.  Those who walk close to the Lord are continually reminded of the life–giving force emanating from His Word, and very often they are astonished at some new manifestation of its potency.  However, one should never be so entertained with the glory of the life–giving power of the Word, without bearing in mind that the Word can also mean DEATH to those who hear it and despise it by not using it properly.

        Ancient Israel, we are told, is an “ensample” or type for our learning (I Cor. 10:11); as soon as they came into “the land of promise,” they obeyed the instruction of the lawgiver, Moses, by having two groups of their elders stand upon two mountains: “mount Gerizim,” and “mount Ebal.”  One mount was called the mount of blessing and the other was named the mount of cursing (Deut. 27:11–16).  Those on mount Gerizim enumerated the many different kinds of blessings wherewith the Lord would bless the people, if they obeyed the words of the covenant.  The group of elders upon mount Ebal also went into great detail and meticulously defined the many curses that would be brought upon the people, if they refused to obey the words of the Lord.

        The Lord Jehovah would be their friend if obedience to His command was accepted – the future prosperity of the nation rested upon their obedience to the words of God’s covenant with them – this was the condition of the “Old Covenant.”  The conditions of any covenant are the statutes of agreement between two parties, and faithfulness to the covenant rests upon the will and integrity of the people bound by the covenant.  The marriage bond is nothing else but a covenant, an agreement between two parties; its continued force rests upon the will of both parties.

        The “Everlasting Covenant” is a divine instrument offered to humanity by the gracious God of eternity.  Unmerited favor, commonly known as grace, has been made available to the whole human race – but not without demanding conditions.  “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant…I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts(Heb. 8:8–10).  The word “covenant” signifies an agreement between two parties, in this case a solemn compact between the Creator and His creatures.  Take notice: His laws were not to be repealed, disannulled, or made void.  Minds and hearts were made more sensitive to His laws.  By the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the physical temple, man became God conscious.  Under the Old Covenant, man read the law; under the New Covenant man felt the law.

        Ancient Israel was obliged to obey the letter of the law – modern Israel, under the New Covenant, is obliged to keep the spirit of the law. The Levitical priesthood, and their laws based upon “carnal ordinances” have been “done away in Christ,” but the laws of righteousness still remain.  The New Covenant man is obligated to keep God’s commands and is subject to blessing or cursing – determined by his own will to obey or disobey the heavenly commands.

        Jesus said in John 15:10, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in My love.”  “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14).  To be a friend of Christ and to abide in His love requires obedience to His commands.  For one to acquire the blessing of the Word of God is so simple that a child or a moron can secure it – OBEY THE WORD.  The marvelous thing about the Word of the Lord is that it is the law, the judge, the jury, and the executioner.  When His Word is declared, or made known, man is obliged to act.  If the man hears with his heart, he obeys, and receives the blessing for honoring the Lord’s command.  However, if the man is stubborn and rebels at the Word, then he is cursed, and unless he recovers himself by repentance and obedience, he will die with the curse of heaven upon him.

        God’s Word, a divinely–inspired package of blessings and cursings, is a sweet gift to those who fear and love Him, but it is a constant irritation, plague and burden to those who actually despise and loathe Him.  It sounds incredible, but it is true – the same Book can be either good or evil, life or death, joy or sorrow, peace or distress, light or darkness.

        The Word of God is a sword – it divides people into two classes: the obedient, and the disobedient.  The Word is God’s instrument which makes manifest the identity of the “sheep” and the “goats.”  The reaction of men to the Word of the Most High reveals “what spirit they are of.”  The “goat,” the old hypocrite, might counterfeit many religious and sanctimonious virtues but he will not attempt to obey God.  This infamous scoundrel will practice all manner of privation in order to appear religious; he will sacrifice, and appear completely devoted to the church.  Among this tribe are the most fanatical adherents to liturgy and ritualism; they “strain at a gnat,” and will die rather than concede a point of the creed – but they will not obey Christ’s commands.

        Because these commands of Christ are the essentials of the New Covenant, the author of the Book had these essentials written in plain statements – many other things could be written in “dark speech” but not man’s duty toward God.  The hypocrite shall be without excuse, and the Lord will be vindicated by the simple obedience of those who love His plain commands.

        The natural reaction of the hypocrite to the plain statements and commands is to disregard them: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient” (Titus 1:16).  “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)  Impostors and hypocrites are legion in number, for there are many degrees of hypocrisy – from the mediocre, uninterested church member to the completely possessed fanatic, there are a thousand stages of duplicity; one thing all hypocrites have in common – with one accord they all occupy themselves with non–essentials.  The more fanatical they become, the more fervently they “strain,” and they “swallow” the most outlandish nonsense.

        The mysteries of the Scriptures are the fertile ground for the foundation of the dreamy doctrinal castles of those who meander from the plain statements of the Word.  Inflated egos, of those who wrest the Scriptures, find great satisfaction in the production of new truth(?) that has little or no bearing upon their actual walk with God.  All such “new truths(?)” are based upon human interpretation of some mystical or dark statement of Scripture; sometimes these “private interpretations” are actually revelations inspired by evil spirits.

        Joseph and Daniel, both genuine men of God, did not try to unravel the mysteries of God by human reasoning and deduction, for they had too much respect for the ability of the Creator, and they knew that He could conceal His truths in a package that neither man nor devil could unlock.  “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children,” so said Moses in Deuteronomy 29:29.  Joseph said: “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen. 40:8)

        All false prophets resort to interpretation.  As a matter of fact, they are adept at interpretation.  It is these dispensers of error who have taken it upon themselves to tell us what God meant to say.  Taking the position that they are the missing link between the mind of God and the mind of man, these great (?) intellects grind up the “meat of the Word” and make pap for those of lesser ability.  The Scofield Bible with its added notes of human interpretation on virtually every page of the New Testament is a classic of the destroyer’s art of confusing and mutilating the Word of God to such an extent that it is good for nothing.

        “Making the word of God of none effect” (Mark 7:13) is not the work of Buddhists, Mohammedans, Communists or other godless movements – such fiendish work is done by the professors of Christianity.  The teachers of perversion within the framework of Christianity are the real enemies of Christ: by twisting words and phrases from God’s Book they create by–ways, side–paths that become a perplexing wilderness to the poor struggling saints.

        Multitudes of gaunt, emaciated, starving Christian souls seek bread from an apostate ministry that is feeding them a diet of cobs and shucks.  Spiritual malnutrition has resulted in a generation of bloated bellies that can’t endure sound doctrine, and spindly legs that have no strength to stand for truth and principle.

        This generation is dying because it is not feeding upon the plain statements of the bread of life, but is trying to live on the synthetic formula of abstract religious philosophy.

        Time occupied in an attempt to unfold the mysteries of the Word is time wasted.  Why dissipate energy trying to “figure out” who the 144,000 are?  What difference does it make who we think the little horn of Daniel is?  A knowledge of the identity of the “man–child” of Revelation twelve will save no one, neither will it add to our spiritual stature.  There are many things much more important than a correct understanding of all of the mysteries; the Scriptures make no promise of life or sanctity for being doctrinally correct.  Many “think they have eternal life” in their orthodoxy, and they feel secure because of doctrinal position – a sad mistake: “though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge…and have not charity, (Greek: “agapa” – actually a divine personality; something more than a principle – a divine being) I am nothing” (I Cor. 13:2).

        Christ in the temple of the Holy Ghost is what makes one a Christian: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9).  Every true Christian believer knows that the Spirit of Christ has come in the flesh of his body, when he has the experience of being “born again;” this experience is obtained by obedience to the plain statements of the Lord.  Sinners become saints by obeying the simple commands of the New Testament: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).  This is concrete practical instruction – nothing abstract, mythical, parabolical, or mysterious about these plain instructive commands; the apostle who spoke these inspired instructions was offering a promise of God, and he set forth the specific conditions for obtaining the promise: 1–“Repent” – a complete change of one’s way of life, a turn–about–face toward God.  A voluntary act of the whole man, not just an empty physical performance, but the response of a heart regenerated by obedience to the word of the Lord.  2–The water baptism follows as an outward manifestation or testimony to one’s obedience to Christ.  3–“the gift of the Holy Ghost” is one hundred percent supernatural: it is God’s testimony that He accepts the offering of the heart that intends to walk with Him.

        Many people, after having an experience of conversion, become satisfied, and sitting down under the shadow of some ecclesiastical organization, they spiritually dehydrate, and their relationship with God slowly fades into a mere profession.  Many spirit baptized people also let the things of this world “choke” out spiritual growth, and they, too, become satisfied to bask in the shadow of some earthly religious group that will give them a feeling of security.  The curse of the Word of God is upon anyone who refuses to walk in its light.

        A branch of a vine must grow or die – life is not static; development and growth are required of all life.  Where growth stops – death begins: this is taught to man in ten thousand illustrations.  God is life, and to continue in life, we must develop, we must grow, we must follow Christ in His forward and upward moves.  The reason men cannot corral truth in bounds of a creed is that all truth is ever expanding – it is as infinite as God is infinite.  Men are commanded to follow Christ that they may be led from truth to truth, and there is no stopping place.

        “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (Col. 2:6).  We “received” Christ by obedience to His Word, and that is the way we are commanded to continue: “so walk ye in Him.”  Those who “so walk” reap the blessings promised to His friends.

 

 

 

CHRIST’S WISDOM AND MAN’S METHODS

Curtis Dickinson

        Just how orthodox is today’s New Testament Christianity?  Do we really want to restore the original teaching of Christ?

        The rules Jesus laid down for His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount are the very opposite of what we consider normal for getting on in the world.  How can one accomplish anything if he is rated among the poor?  To be meek and turn the other cheek is to become vulnerable to all kinds of abuses.  And how can one attain success and security for self and family if he fails to lay up treasure on earth?  Persecution, Jesus said, is not the occasion for sorrow but happiness!  No wonder Kierkegaard said that nothing displeases us or revolts us more than New Testament Christianity when it is properly acclaimed (Insight, p. 167).

        The extent to which we have managed to get around the simple but difficult platform for discipleship which Jesus gave is easily seen in the way the church presents itself to the world.  Not poor in spirit but proudly competitive; not mourning the sinful condition of members and of society but promising excitement and diversion; not the spirit of meek power but the spirit of compromise and get–alongness; not hungering and thirsting for righteousness but for recognition and satisfaction.  The leaders feel compelled to see that the church grows, that it is filled with people.  True conversion is too demanding; the way is too narrow, so it is broadened to accommodate those who want to accept the fellowship and promises without giving up the world’s esteem, its riches, and without any great risk of persecution.

        The way Jesus prescribes is absurd to the natural man.  It requires that we act on the word of Jesus, against the wisdom of man, against the acceptable approach, and against the normal impulses ingrained into our very nature.  Does the kingdom of heaven really belong to the poor in spirit?  Does having your desires set on righteousness bring happiness and fulfillment?  If you make your chief ambition the kingdom of God and His righteousness, will all your needs be available?

        For most of us the risk is too great.  To be despised by the world would be unbearable for many, and to give up the security in the world would be absolute idiocy.

        Yet, this was the normal course for Christians in the first century.  They went out boldly defying worldly standards.  They were called fools and heretics.  They were accused of being cannibals because of eating the Lord’s supper and of being traitors and enemies of the state because they confessed Jesus rather than Caesar as Lord.  Yet they counted the world’s persecution the greatest honor it could bestow upon them.  Most of the apostles had no formal training and no credentials from the world.  Yet they confronted the powerful religious leaders in the synagogues and the kings on their thrones and “turned the world upside down” in giving the message of Jesus.  Indeed, everything was provided for their lives and for their work, just as Jesus had promised.

        The apostle Paul had very little to enhance his resume according to modern church standards.  Yet he proceeded to tackle gigantic tasks with no guaranteed support from men because he knew that God, the Creator of all things, could make him sufficient for what he needed to do.  Not only did he depend upon God to make available the material needs but to supply him with the spiritual strength for the extraordinary work given him.  He was rejected by some of the church, criticized by friend and foe, physically tortured and unjustly imprisoned.  To add to all that, he suffered some kind of bodily affliction.  God’s word to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul’s response to this was, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:9–11).

        True service to God requires faith that He will provide all that is needed to accomplish it.  Adam and Eve were provided thoroughly for the work God designed for them.  It was when they doubted God’s wisdom and believed He was denying something they really ought to have that they started down the slippery slope of humanistic methodology and lost their way.  The church, in the effort to insure its own power and success, has turned the focus of trust from the promises of Christ to the programs of men.  The power of the gospel is not enough; it must be packaged by super–star performers, charged with the hidden persuasion of psychology, and carefully screened for all elements that might offend the proud sinner.

        The church must grow.  As one church faced financial problems, a board member remarked, “We need more members so we can meet these expenses.”  The professionals are sought after.  Not men noted for preaching and teaching the doctrine of Christ, but men noted for their methods, their personalities, their skill at raising funds and their ability as administrators.  Jesus founded a church that was to grow by the application of His simple commands. But man in his cleverness has devised one that can grow without ever knowing the meaning of humility, meekness, persecution, self–denial and deep yearning for righteousness.  The church has become pragmatic.  The end justifies the means.  Use whatever means appeals to the world (in its corrupt state), as long as it results in a full house and a healthy budget.  This condition prevails because we have come to trust man and doubt Christ.

        There is a saying that nothing succeeds like success.  People gravitate to that which is big, exciting and led by men displaying power.  But in Christ’s church the greatest people are those who serve, not those who control or exercise power.  Power for the body of Christ is to come from Him and not from the hired professionals and elected officials.  Man can generate no power to do God’s work; he can only proclaim God’s word.  The power is in the truth, not in the vessel through which it comes.

        Neither does the success of Christ’s people depend upon the size of the group.  “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” Jesus said, “there am I in their midst.”  It is ironic how a small group, when starting to meet together as a church, delights in the presence of Christ and the power He gives to enable them to witness and worship, but as soon as they begin to increase in numbers, they begin to boast of their growth and start applying the human methods and tricks learned from older, larger churches.  Simply trusting God is all right when you can’t do anything else, but to amount to anything in this world we have to flex our own muscles and exhibit our own power and wisdom – to our own detriment.

        In spite of all man can do to change Christian faith and discipline into its opposite, that the world may accept it, there remains a true church, a remnant based firmly upon the rock that is Jesus.  It consists of those everywhere whose faith is not in self or organization or the power of man but in God; who trust not in themselves and their own wisdom and methods but in the wisdom and power of God.  These believers who believe in the real sense and not merely in the sense of being identified with Christianity in general, make up the church which Jesus said could not be held by the power of death.  “The gates of hades shall not prevail against it.”  This is the great undergirding beam of our faith, that God performed the impossible when He raised up Jesus from the dead and is able to reverse any other adversity we may face, including death.

        There are awesome enemies of Christ seeking our destruction.  They seek to destroy our freedom, our homes, our morals, our standards, our economy, our republic, our churches and even our faith.  They seem to have the big weapons on their side, and they outnumber us with great odds.  But we are not surprised or afraid.  The scenario was revealed long ago.  Jesus promised persecution, hatred and tribulation from the world but said that we are not to worry or fear.  “Be not anxious.”  All power is in His hands.  We are to obey, with confidence that in doing so His will is being done.  This is the purpose that outweighs all other considerations.

        His kingdom is not of this world, is not measured by worldly standards and does not rely upon worldly powers.  Not only are His disciples different from the world, but they are to judge the world’s standards and not the other way around.  It is His disciples who are the salt of the earth.  The church is not to get its flavor from the world but to make the world taste the uniqueness of Christ.  We are to give the light of truth to society, not to let society’s darkness blind our spirits with its false glitter.  We must not harmonize the church with the world by rationalizing away the demands of Jesus.

        Two things are necessary: unconditional faith that Christ’s way is the right way, without modification; and trust, trust that the result will be as Jesus promised.

        To confess Jesus is nothing if we insist on trusting our own system instead of His wisdom and power.

 

 

BENEFITS OF WALKING WITH GOD

Kenneth Fountain

        A popular reason today for becoming a Christian and attending church with regularity is to participate in church–related activities which may include any of the following: mid–week and weekend services, pot–luck dinners, Bible classes, choir practices, parties, outings, pastor appreciation day, pack–a–pew day, homecoming, ball games, and other “important” social events.  These are considered godly pastimes which pave the way for a glorious welcome into heaven when this life is ended.  While these may be designed as opportunities for fellowship and fun in a morally clean and safe environment, there are much greater blessings in this life for the follower of Christ.  There is no other religion in the world that offers the blessing in this life than does Christianity!  “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (Ps. 68:19).  Let us look at some of these blessings as enumerated by King David in the ninety–first Psalm.

        “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (v. 1)  God’s very shadow rests over the individual who abides there.  As ancient Israel during the journey from Egypt to the Promise Land had with them a visible pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, we today can have the presence of God and the angels of the Lord with us DAILY! (all day, every day)  David continues the list of blessings given to us NOW by stating that God is a refuge (a place of safety and security), a fortress (well–defended, impregnable), a deliverer from evil, and a hiding place (sheltered “under His wings”).  The angels of God have “charge over thee” (they are responsible for your well–being; you are in their care).  When we call upon God, He answers us!  God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it; God, the Omnipotent One hears and responds to the humble prayer of the insignificant clump of the “dust of the earth” known as human–kind!  In addition to all this, when trouble comes upon us (notice, we are not exempt from trouble), He is with us, and will deliver us (v. 15; see also Ps. 23 and 103).  It seems that everyone has trouble at times in his life – yes, everyone – but the Christian does not have to go through his troubles alone, God is with him, the Holy Spirit abides within him and the Word of God comforts and assures him, as well as the promise that good or benefit to us will be the result of the difficulties (Rom. 8:28).  The last verse of Psalms 91 is a statement from God: “with long life will I satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”  What religion, group, club, society, insurance or contract is available that can begin to compare with the benefit package of being a lifelong servant of a loving, all–powerful God?

        In addition to all the blessings poured upon us daily throughout our lives here on this spinning globe, we also have the promise of eternal life enjoying all the glories of heaven with the heavenly hosts and God Himself.  Other religions may make similar claims, but they are merely a hoax foisted off onto a gullible clientele.  These same religions have various obligations and rituals demanded of their constituents in order to approach and communicate with their gods of wood, stone or other man–made fabrication that actually have no bearing upon the character of the person’s life.  They simply take up the participant’s time, money, and devotion, but give nothing in return for the investment except possibly a facade or visage of self–comforting disillusionment.  (Sadly, some members of the “Christian” religion have reduced their relationship with God to mere rote or ritualistic ceremonies.)  The true and living God is not a figment of the imagination, or a manufactured image; neither is He a vague wisp of entity on some distant cloud; He is ever present and “closer than a brother.”

        Our God is a personal God who desires and promotes a personal, intimate relationship with none other than Himself.  In John 14:16,17 and 26, we find that God has given us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of Truth, to abide within us forever and to lead us into the truths of the Holy Scriptures.  He guides us on a lighted pathway, and as we follow in His footsteps, we do not need to walk blindly in darkness through this life wondering and worrying when and what evil will overcome us.  God looks after us.  We have His presence, the boundless blessings of heaven upon our physical lives and inner spiritual being, His guidance through the challenges, difficulties and problems of life.  Furthermore, we have His comfort through sorrow and pain, His protection from all evil, and fellowship with Him and others of His followers.  We can have inner peace irrespective of environmental or circumstantial turmoil, the fruits of the Spirit working and developing within our hearts and lives, with the guaranteed promise of eternal life for all who permit God to continue working in their lives (Heb. 3:6–19; 10:38).

        This brings up another point that is a vastly important benefit of walking with God.  It is no secret that most Christians soon find that they do not measure up to the standards and expectations of their new life in Christ.  At the time of conversion, or salvation, the sinner’s past life of sin and shame is erased, but the grace of God does not stop at this point.  “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7).  This is an on–going work of forgiveness and cleansing whenever we fall or fail in our daily lives to live above sin as He has called us to do.  “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)  God does not simply cast us aside because of our failures.  He has pity upon us and extends everlasting mercy.  He remembers that we are dust: weak, frail humans (Psa. 103:8–17).  There is hope for us because God has laid help upon One who is mighty: Jesus Christ our Mediator (I Tim. 2:5), “who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15).  Actually, “God hath chosen the weak things of the world, and the base things of the world, and things which are not…that no flesh should glory in His presence” (I Cor. 1:27–31).  He has made every provision for any shortcoming we may have! (see Ezek. 36:25–27 and Jn. 1:12)

        The joy of salvation in itself is a fabulous benefit of walking with God.  What the world calls “joy” is dependent upon the individual’s frame of mind, which in turn is usually dependent upon the comfort level of his present condition, or how much excitement and fun he is experiencing for fleeting moments of time.  True joy is not dependent upon any of these things, but is found in the satisfaction of having the presence of Almighty God within the heart – regardless of situations. (Remember Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail.)  The Christian has joy in the knowledge and comfort of having his sins forgiven.  The burden, sorrow, suffering and helpless hopelessness of the life of sin is over – gone forever.  He has been given a new heart, a new life, and new goals in Christ; and conversion is only the beginning of his opportunity to fellowship with God.  Joy is found in having received the Holy Ghost within.  There is joy in recognizing that God is working and living within one’s heart.  There is joy in the realization that God has chosen to invest in YOU!  “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)

        Inner peace is often deemed an ethereal, intangible pipe–dream possibly achieved only by those who spend countless hours meditating in order to purge their minds of all disquieting thoughts while residing in some remote monastery devoid of any responsibilities and worldly influences.  However, Isaiah said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa. 26:3).  Jesus, and any of His followers who have embraced this God–given state of peace, did so because their spirits were “seated in heavenly places” despite the situation and environment of the physical realm.  This is why Paul and Silas could rejoice in the gloom and squalor of the Philippian jail with stripes on their backs.  Theirs was not a mind–over–matter escape from reality, but a true rest and confidence in the graciousness of God who was (and is) in control of every situation.  This state of spiritual tranquility is available to every child of God, but to none who serve imaginary gods, self or the world.  This peace is achieved by “casting every care upon Him, for He careth for you” (I Pet. 5:7).  As the old hymn states, “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.”  Any person who chooses to worry and fret over anything and everything refuses the gift of peace God offers, because they do not trust Him to take care of them and their concerns.  When Jesus was with His disciples on the ship in the storm, He had inner peace.  This was not simply because He was sound asleep, oblivious of the situation, because when He was awakened and accessed their fears and plight, He still had peace.  He knew His Father was in control.  Also, when Paul was facing imminent shipwreck en route to Rome as a prisoner, he calmly told the others to fear not because he knew God was master over the threat.  Even the pagan Roman historian, Tacitus, recorded that Christian martyrs had obvious inner peace while being killed in the arena for gruesome sport.

        As each of the fruits of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22, 23 grow and develop within one’s life and become a working part of his own character (because of the work of the Spirit within the heart), these benefit the Christian in countless ways.  As we view the panoramic scope of their influence upon our lives, mortifying the deeds of the carnal man is not a gruesome, arduous chore, but truly a part we are eager to pursue.  We realize that the less our carnal man functions, the more God is able to impart of His glorious nature.  As Paul said in Philippians 3:7–14, “what things were gain to me, I counted loss for Christ…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.  I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him.”  Even as Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2), we have our own cross to bear in crucifying our carnal man, the image of the beast (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5).  This is only done by yielding to the power and grace of God working and abiding in our hearts.  Because of the goal set before us, and the blessings available to us now, there is joy to be found in this honorable task.  As Paul observed, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).  “He MUST increase, but I (the ego, the self nature) must decrease” (Jn. 3:30).  “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:13).

 

 

AMERICA: IF JESUS HAD NOT COME

Alfred King

        It seems as though most people, including Christians, take the life, death and resurrection of Jesus somewhat for granted.  It, no doubt, is partially because we in America have heard about Him since childhood, and having grown up hearing about His love for the world we never give much thought about what the world would be like had He not come.  Consider a few things that would be different just in America.

        If Jesus had not come there would be no Christians in America.  There would be no churches on the corner, no Christian congregations singing praises to God, nor would there be those preaching God’s word.  There would be no souls touched by the hand of God and given spiritual life by His mercy and grace, no transformed lives, no deliverance for men and women bound by sin and no freedom for souls held captive by Satan’s demonic forces.  There would be no prisoners released from Satan’s strongholds. There would be no gospel herald, no good news proclaimed to lost souls, no eternal hope for the dying, no escape from that everlasting fire.  There would be only a world and an America destined to an eternal hell.

        If Jesus had not come there would be no United States of America as we know it today.  There would have been no Pilgrims seeking religious freedom, no Quakers fleeing from the tyranny of religious bondage, seeking a land where they could serve God freely.  There would be no Constitution to govern the USA as was formed by those great men in 1787, that Constitution which was based upon the Bible, upon Christian principles, that constitution that was obtained by Godly wisdom given to America’s founding fathers by Him that is “the only wise God.”  The God–given blessings shed upon America were blessings that stayed not only in America, but American missionaries have spread the gospel throughout the whole world.  God blessed America because in the beginning America honored Him by placing their confidence and reliance for success upon Him and His word.  All those blessings would be moot if Jesus had not come.  There would only be a blanket of cold death lying upon America if Jesus had not come.

        What would America be like today if Jesus had not come?  Would it be like so many other countries where tyrants rule and people live in fear?  Would it be a barbaric land where the strong rule over the weak (an evolutionary concept termed, “The survival of the fittest”)?  Would it be a land where people live in terror, extreme poverty and suffer starvation?  Would it be a land of sickness, famine and early death, a land void of sufficient medical provisions and staff to care for the sick and dying?  Consider those countries where Christianity has not reached or been grasped.  Consider the lands of India, China, Africa, and others where paganism and religious superstition have prevailed, where the name of Jesus is rarely heard and what do you see are the results?  Where is the blessing of their gods upon those nations?  Where is any god like unto the Creator God, the One Who gave divine wisdom to America’s founding fathers, who daily blesses America with a prosperity that the world has never seen?  Would America be like some of those other nations?  Would we be living in the poverty and depression of those nations? What would America be today if Jesus had not come?

        So to all, both Christian and non–Christian, to agnostic and atheist, to saved and unsaved, to all other religions in America today, we all need to be thankful that Jesus came, for we all have received bountifully at His divine hand.  God’s blessings upon His children have overflowed to those who reject Him, to those who curse Him, to those who blaspheme His holy name and to those of various faiths, who live in this land but serve gods who cannot hear nor see nor speak.  And to those of us who know this wonderful Savior, who have been touched by His mercy, grace and love, and have found Him to be all that He claims to be and more, who have that eternal life already begun, presently living today in our hearts, let us never be “ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation”.  “ for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45).  Let us never cease to thank and praise God that Jesus came!  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16).

 

 

A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST

James Sanderson

        “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim. 2:3–4).  Here, in this portion of Scripture, the Apostle Paul unfolds some valuable truths for the people of God.  Every Christian has been called as a warrior, or soldier, of Jesus Christ.  This theme is emphasized throughout the epistles of Paul.  “Put on the whole armour of God” (Eph 6:11).  “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God” (Eph. 6:13).  “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (II Cor. 10:1).

        Paul enumerates the qualities of a good soldier: (1) able to endure hardship, (2) abandons civilian life for army life, and (3) follows the dictates of his commander.  It might be well to examine each of these qualities of a good soldier in order to understand more fully our call as followers of Jesus Christ.

Endures Hardship

        The word hardness, in this portion of Scripture, includes suffering, ill–treatment, adversity, difficulty, and danger.  Berry's Interlinear translates the phrase endure hardness as suffer hardship.  A soldier in the ancient world led a very Spartan existence.  His life was hard and very disciplined.  He labored under harsh conditions, faced rigorous training, marched many miles, carried very heavy gear, and endured many privations.  Even marriage was highly discouraged.  His wages were low, and he often had to supply his own arms and food.  Paul, along with all the other writers of the New Testament, never presents the Christian life as one of ease and tranquility.  Jesus stated, “In the world, ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12).

        It is quite noteworthy that God places immense value upon trials and tribulations.  “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).  “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth” (I Peter 1:7).

        The hardships and difficulties of life produce divine character.  “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. 5:3).  James echoes this same theme, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations: Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2–3).  In other words, Paul and James are saying trials produce perseverance and endurance.

Abandons Civilian Life

        Paul states, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.”  The Greek word translated affairs occurs only once in the New Testament.  In his lexicon, Thayer states that the phrase affairs of this life has to do with “pursuits and occupations pertaining to civil life.”  Once anyone becomes a soldier, civilian life becomes a thing of the past.  He now embraces army life and the rigors of the battlefield.  His time and energies are expended for one purpose: being a soldier.

        This analogy holds true for every follower of Jesus Christ.  Christians tend to forget that they are merely strangers and pilgrims on this earth (I Pt. 2:11).  Here they have “no continuing city, but seek one to come” (Heb 13:14).  They are in this world but not of it (John 17:14).  It is very unfortunate that many in Christendom have become entangled with the affairs of this life.  Sports, TV, pursuit of the American dream, and careers have become the idols for many, consuming much of their time and energies.  Christians, living beyond their means, rack up debt that often takes a lifetime to pay off, enslaving them to a system that God is against.  Entanglements in the affairs of this life also rob many Christians of the victory available to them in Christ.  Little time is left to develop a deeper relationship with the Lord.  Prayer, Bible study, and worship are only rare exceptions in their lives.  In His parable of the sower, Jesus tells of a sower who sowed the word in various types of ground.  Some of the seed fell among thorns.  “And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:18–19).  A life entangled with the affairs of this life is a life headed to perdition.

Follows His Commanding Officer

        Finally, a good soldier “pleases him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim. 2:4).  Once an individual becomes a soldier, he is no longer his own boss.  He now follows the dictates of the one in charge, his commander.  The same is true for every Christian.  “What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19–20).  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus unequivocally stated, “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” (Mt. 6:24).  Our Commanding Officer Jesus Christ demands complete allegiance and unswerving devotion.  Charles Finney, a great evangelist of the nineteenth century, defines devotion: “Devotion is that state of the will in which the mind is swallowed up in God as the object of supreme affection, in which we not only live and move in God, but for God.  In other words, devotion is that state of mind in which the attention is diverted from self and self–seeking and is directed to God – the thoughts and purposes and desires and affections and emotions all hanging upon and devoted to Him.”

        Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  One's allegiance and devotion to Jesus Christ will be evidenced by obedience to Him.  “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:4).

        The Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 13:5 admonishes believers, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.”  Self–examination in the light of the Word of God is a very effective tool in bringing one’s life back on track.  The world often has a very strong pull on the heartstrings of the believer.  One must remember that this exhortation by Brother Paul to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ is written to Christians for Christians.  Those who take heed will allow the light of God’s Word to search their hearts and illumine the areas that need correction.  The Holy Spirit is faithful.

 

 

SABBATH: IS IT STILL HOLY?

Dale J. Miller

 

Does God Want Us To Keep The Sabbath He Blessed?

        My answer is “YES.”  In this paper I will explain why I believe this.  The Sabbath has been a blessing for me since I discovered the truth about it.  I wasn’t raised in church, so when I did come to know God I had an open mind.  I attended a Sunday church from the time I was 18 years old until I was 24.  When I was 22 I was baptized by the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues and receiving the interpretation.  One month later, I received the call to be a minister.  The Holy Spirit opened a whole new life for me; my Bible study became a new experience with new revelations frequently.  In August 1984, I read an article by Randall Walton (People of the Living God) about the Sabbath (The Sabbath, the Marturion, Aug. 1984).  As I read the article, the Holy Spirit dealt with me on several points presented and witnessed to me that the Sabbath was still to be kept.  Whenever I receive and accept a new truth, my whole spirit rejoices and I feel like a new and more complete person.

        I will look at the Greek words for Sabbath shortly, but I must quote a passage from Isaiah first: “If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isa. 58: 13–14).

We see several lessons here:

(1)  The Sabbath is the LORD’S holy day not the Jews’ holy day

(2)  We should consider the Sabbath a delight and honorable

(3)  Not living it in our own way

(4)  We then find delight in the LORD

(5)  Then we will see and feel the glory of the LORD in our lives

(6)  The LORD is the one who spoke this

        We always find delight within ourselves when we find delight in the commandments of God.  The Lord finds pleasure in the people who keep His commandments, for they are meant for the well being of His people.

        The Sabbath is one of the greatest gifts given to the human race.  It is second only to the death of Jesus on the cross, His sacrifice of life for our lives.  God gave man the Sabbath; at the very beginning of creation He blessed it and sanctified it.  “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Gen. 2:2–3).  We find in the beginning God blessed and sanctified (made holy) one day of the week, the seventh day.  No one argues that what was done on the first six days is not continuing today, for we know it with the evidence of the sunrise each morning.  Why do we separate the seventh day from the other six and say what happened on that day does not continue?  “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:11,8).  Another question is if God blesses and sanctifies something He is the one that has to remove it; so, where do we find in the scriptures the Lord removed the blessing and the sanctification from it?  For the Sabbath keeper to have no evidence from the scriptures that God has made such a change, we cannot accept anything different.

        The Ten Commandments were put in the ark (Deuteronomy 10:5; Hebrews 9:4), and the Covenant Laws of Moses were put on the side of the ark in a wooden pocket “beside the ark” (Deuteronomy 31:26).  The 26th verse also says the “laws” (laws written by Moses: chapters 12–31) were a witness against the people, and we find in the New Testament that Jesus took the decrees/laws that were a witness against us and nailed them to the cross (Colossians 2:14).  The Sabbath law never was against anyone but instead was a benefit to those who observed and kept it (Exodus 20:9, 10).  Sabbath keepers have also been accused of falling back to the weaker law of the old covenant claiming Paul said this (Galatians 4:9), but Paul was speaking to the Gentiles who had come out of pagan worship.  The Sabbath has never been a weak and “worthless” law.  Instead, it is a very strong law because it has God’s stamp on it, and it is “His holy day.”

        The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis: Volume 4 has three Hebrew words for Sabbath that I will use.  Sabbat (#8701) meaning Sabbath, found 104 times in the Old Testament: Leviticus 24 times, Ezekiel 15 times, Exodus 14 times, Nehemiah 14 times, 1–2 Chronicles 8 times, Isaiah 7 times, Jeremiah 7 times, 2 Kings 5 times, Numbers 3 times, Deuteronomy 3 times, and once in Psalms, Lamentations, Hosea, and Amos.  Ron du Preez comments that “94 of them have immediate and broader contexts that require the word to be interpreted as the seventh–day Sabbath” d(7 NIDOTTE, Volume 4, s.v.”Sabbath”).  Sabbaton (#8702) means a “day of rest; Sabbath feast” and is found 9 times in the Old Testament: Leviticus 6 times and Exodus 3 times.  Misbat (#5404) means cessation and is found once in Lamentations.

Sabbat/Sabbath

        Exodus 20:8, 11 has already been mention, but the interesting part is GOD put the word “remember” in the fourth commandment.  GOD set forth the seventh–day from the beginning, but throughout their generations the people of Israel forgot.  Today we find this prevalent among both seventh–day Sabbath and Sunday keepers; people are doing their own thing instead of worshipping their Creator who gives eternal life to those who love and obey Him.  Isaiah 58:13 & 14 has already been mention about the Sabbath being His holy day, but Isaiah also comments on GOD and the Sabbath in chapter 56.  Thus says the LORD, “Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed.  How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.  Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from His people.’ Nor let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says the LORD, to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.  Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer” (Isa.56:1–7a).

        We find in these verses that anyone who comes to the Lord and keeps His Sabbath will find joy, and a place in His house.  They will have a home, a place to worship.  The LORD says the man is blessed who takes hold of the Sabbath, does not profane it and does no evil towards it.  This is not just for the Jews alone but for the foreigner also.  GOD has been fair with His laws from creation, in particular His Sabbath Day.

        The children of Israel soon forgot about the Sabbath when they returned from captivity under Babylon and Persia.  Nehemiah found the people working on the Sabbath and was very angry.  He said unto the nobles of Judah “What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the Sabbath day?  Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble?  Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath” Neh. 13:17,18).  Matthew Henry wrote in his introduction of Nehemiah 13:15–22: “Here is another instance of that blessed reformation in which Nehemiah was so active.  He revived Sabbath–sanctification, and maintained the authority of the fourth commandment; and a very good deed this was for the house of God and the offices thereof, for, where holy time is over–looked and made nothing of, it is not strange if all holy duties be neglected” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1991).

        If we neglect to worship God in the way He intends, the other commandments will soon be neglected and disobeyed.  Satan enters the hearts of the people who do not worship GOD His way.  This is one reason commandments six through eight are not being kept today.

        Today, we like to look at the people of the Old Testament and judge them saying, “How could they do such an act of rebellion after what GOD had done for them?”  Look what GOD has done for all of us through the cross, forgiveness, protection, etc…and then we do not show up to worship Him on His day, a day He has given us.  As Christians, we should have a “righteous anger” toward those who profane God’s law and should encourage each other to strive for the goal to please GOD and to receive eternal life.

        The Jews have a unique view of the Sabbath.  In the Torah it is written that “the festivals in the ritual calendar are so arranged that they take cognizance of the Sabbath, and not vice versa.” (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, 2005)  For example, the Day of Atonement will never fall on a Friday, Sabbath, or Sunday because the day of mourning should never fall on the Sabbath or close to it.  In the Jewish faith the Sabbath should always be a joyous day (Isaiah: “take delight”).  They also look at the Sabbath as a separation from the dominion of time.  M. Tsevat writes “Every seventh day the Israelite is to renounce dominion over time, thereby renounce autonomy and recognize God’s dominion over time and thus over [oneself].  Keeping the Sabbath is acceptance of the sovereignty of God.” (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, 2005)  When we come to the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, time should not be essential but unnoticed in our celebration of worshipping the Lord and keeping His day holy.  “For in six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation (sacred assembly).  You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:3)  Six days of labor and dealings with the world should be put aside, for the Sabbath belongs to the Lord and He should have full consideration in everything done on His Holy Day.

        Roger Cotton wrote “Keeping the Sabbath testified to the relationship between the people and the LORD” (They Spoke From God: A Survey of the Old Testament, 2003).  Today, keeping the Sabbath testifies to our relationship with God, how much we love Him.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  How we worship and serve God testifies to everyone around us.  How we approach our day of worship and how we appear after our day of worship testifies to everyone we come in contact with.  We worship God daily, but that one day we come together with others to worship Him shouts to the world that God is ALIVE and He has people who love Him and serve Him.

        The worship we learn that GOD wants this side of eternity will continue into eternity.  A new heaven and a new earth has been prophesied and promised in both the Old and New Testaments.  The great prophet Isaiah prophesied about it: “For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me, declares the LORD, so your offspring and your name will endure.  And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before me, says the Lord” (Isa. 66:22,23).  Since GOD’S essence never changes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).  Sabbath–keepers believe He will not change His order of worship.  It will be on the same day and in the same way we read about in the scriptures, such as the angels and elders are doing in the book of Revelation.

Sabbaton/Feast Sabbath

        During the time of Israel, there were seven annual feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of Weeks, Trumpets, Atonement, and Booths (Feast of Tabernacles).  Many Christians make the mistake of packaging the feast Sabbaths with the weekly Sabbath.  The feast Sabbaths have been done away with in Deuteronomy chapters 15 & 16.   In the scriptures, one can find commonalities between them but there are also differences.  Ron du Preez writes “these commonalities must not detract from the multiple distinctive terms present in the text that form identifying linguistic markers to differentiate clearly between the weekly seventh–day Sabbath and the non–weekly ceremonial set times” (Judging the Sabbath: Discovering What Can’t Be Found in Colossians 2:16, 2008).  He made the following chart describing the differences:

Seventh–day Sabbath

Ceremonial Sabbaths

One must keep or observe it.

One must afflict one’s soul on it.

The word the identifies it distinctly.

Lack of definite article shows their indefiniteness.

It is the seventh day of the week.

They can be the seventh year of the land.

Connected with Yahweh, it is holy.

Linked to Israel, they are her Sabbaths.

Yahweh calls it My Sabbath.

Yahweh says they are your Sabbaths.

It is cyclical–week by week.

They can be annual–as in the Day of Atonement.

        J. N. Andrews writes an excellent description of the differences between the Seventh–day Sabbaths and the Ceremonial Sabbaths.  He writes, “The Lord’s Sabbath is different from the Hebrew Sabbaths in the following ways: 1. The Sabbath of the Lord was instituted at the close of the first week of time; while these (ceremonial) were ordained in connection with the Jewish feasts.  2. The one was blessed and hallowed by God, because He had rested upon it from the work of creation; the others have no such claim to our regard.  3. When the children of Israel came into the wilderness, the Sabbath of the Lord was an existing institution, obligatory upon them; but the annual Sabbaths came into existence only at that time.  It is easy to point to the very act of God, while leading that people that gave existence to these Sabbaths; while every reference to the Sabbath of the Lord show that it had been ordained before God chose that people.  4. The children of Israel were excluded from the promised land for violating the Sabbath of the Lord in the wilderness; but the annual Sabbaths were not to be observed until they entered that land.  5. The Sabbath of the Lord was made for man; but the annual Sabbaths were designed only for the residents in the land of Palestine.  6. The one was weekly, a memorial of the Creator’s rest; the others were annual, connected with the memorials of the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt.  7. The one is termed ‘the Sabbath of the Lord,’ ‘my Sabbaths,’ ‘my holy day,’ and the like; while the others are designated as ‘your Sabbaths,’ ‘her Sabbaths,’ and similar expressions.  8. The one was proclaimed by God as one of the ten commandments, was written with his finger in the midst of the moral law upon the tables of stone and deposited in the ark beneath the mercy seat; the others did not pertain to the moral law, but were embodied in that handwriting of ordinances which was a shadow of good things to come.  9. The distinction between these festivals and the Sabbaths of the Lord was carefully marked by God when he ordained the festivals and their associated Sabbaths; for thus he said: ‘These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations …beside the Sabbaths of the Lord’”(History of the Sabbath: and First Day of the Week, 1887).

        The ceremonial Sabbaths bring to remembrance the hardships of the wilderness and bondage they were delivered from.  The seventh–day Sabbath prepares us for a glorious future through our worship of the LORD and the study of His word each weekly Sabbath.

The Grandeur Of The Sabbath

        The Sabbath is the very first thing that GOD sanctified; it was then eternally separated from the other six days.  When GOD made the Sabbath for man He avoided the phrase “there was evening and there was morning.”  Skip Maccarty quotes T. E. Fretheim on this, “The divine resting concludes creation–sabbath belongs to the created order; it cannot be legislated or abrogated by human beings.”  In all of GOD’S wisdom man cannot destroy the divine order which includes the Sabbath.  When GOD wrote the Ten Commandments He was adding His special personal touch to them; He was making a personal relationship with His people.  Jesus told the people around Him that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  GOD has protected His Sabbath and the rest of the Ten Commandments through the centuries for the welfare of His people.

        GOD has loved His people throughout the eons of time and He warned them of coming judgments if they did not repent.  Most of the time judgment came because of the disobedience toward GOD’S Sabbath.  He wanted the people to receive physical rest to be spiritually rejuvenated.  The people of God throughout time have had to be prepared for a spiritual battle around them, and without physical rest they are defeated both physically and spiritually.

        When the people did wrong on the Sabbath, it always ended with a wicked outcome.  The people in the day of the prophet Amos were very wicked before God, and the less fortunate suffered at their hands.  The main reason was the abuse of the Sabbath: “Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, saying, When will the new moon be over, so that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, to make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales, so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals and that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?” (Amos 8:4–6)

        GOD said he would never forget their deeds.  He turned their joyous occasions into mourning, the land went through a devastating famine, the people became hopeless, no place to go no one to turn to, and no GOD to hear their cries.  Throughout the Old Testament we have this same testimony: people abusing the Sabbath, refusing to obey GOD’S commandment and to honor the day He gave his people.

        The Seventh–day Sabbath has been very important throughout history.  GOD brought the people back to it time after time through His prophets and other leaders of the people.  During the intertestamental period there was reform made to protect the Sabbath.  “To the few biblical guidelines in the OT for Sabbath observance, Pharisees and rabbis added hundreds of minute restrictions in an attempt to protect the Sabbath from desecration.” (Perspectives on the Sabbath, John Donato, 2011)  Their intentions were innocent but it soon was known that their words were more important than the Torah.  It came to be believed that “the Sabbath was given only to Israel and that God raised up Israel so that there might be a people on earth to keep the Sabbath.  In other words, Israel was made for the Sabbath.” (Perspectives on the Sabbath)  This is the main reason Jesus said to the Pharisees who were complaining about His disciples in the grain fields, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day hated Him the most for what He did on the Sabbath, more than any other works He did.  The leaders oppressed the people with their control of the Sabbath.  It became a hardship and not the delight it was intended to be, and they feared that Jesus would take this control from them.  A group of people can control others by making them serve other gods and the ways of the gods.  Most Christians serve and worship GOD on the first day of the week instead of the last day of the week.  Is it because of what they have been taught by man or by GOD?

        I find no evidence in scriptures that clearly says the day that delights the LORD and His people has changed from the seventh day to the first day.  Most tell me that it changed because Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday, which is not enough evidence for me.  I have to see in scripture where GOD says He changed it and took His blessing and sanctification from the seventh day.  What I would like to see are people who go to church on Saturday and Sunday serving GOD and worshipping Him in Spirit and Truth.  I want to see them having a total delight in the day they feel is right, not by man’s way but by God’s way.  I feel once people are not having delight on the first day of the week they will seek God and find the truth of the Sabbath for themselves.

        The reason I worship on the Sabbath is because the Holy Spirit witnessed to my spirit that it was right.  I have found great delight in the Sabbath and want to honor God’s day even more.  The Sabbath is more than a day of rest to me, for I find myself closer to GOD and have closer communication with Him on it.  The Sabbath is something I do not plan to give up in my relationship with the LORD.

 

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SKEPTIC

James Sanderson

        The Bible is far more than a beautiful story of interesting events of long ago.  Nor is it a mere collection of “cunningly devised fables” handed down by tradition as are the writings of other major religions.  The Bible is God–breathed, God–anointed, and God–inspired.  Throughout the ages skeptics and atheists have attacked the Holy Scriptures.  Rulers and governments have attempted in vain to outlaw this remarkable book.  The mere possession of a Bible in many countries has been sufficient evidence for torture and imprisonment.  Men have suffered great privation and have even been burned at the stake for presenting its eternal truths to the common man.  Higher criticism has endeavored to blunt its message and cast shadows on its authenticity.  Through it all, the Bible stands as the Word of God with an uncompromising message and a glorious word of hope to all who love truth.

        The central Person of the Bible is Jesus Christ Himself.  The Old Testament accurately foretold in amazing detail the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Blessed Lord.  The Mighty God left that heavenly realm and came to dwell on earth as a mere man.  He surrendered to the limitations of the flesh that He might show men how to live and that He might redeem them from corruption.  Such affirmations of Holy Writ are foolishness to the skeptic and the unconverted.  Nevertheless, to the child of God, who has been redeemed and freed from sin, here is the supreme example of love in action.

        God could roll back the heavens and reveal Himself in all His majesty and glory.  Every skeptic, agnostic, and atheist would prostrate himself in awe before the mighty God of the universe.  Since God is not a God of force, He appeals to man in love.  “Whom having not seen, ye love” (I Pet. 1:8).  This appeal must allow faith to operate without violating man’s will.

        Few skeptics would deny the existence of such important individuals as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Nor would they doubt the historical record of the lives of these great men.  As evidence, they would point to the many biographical sketches written by those who were contemporaries of these men.  They would also rely on first–hand accounts from many diverse sources in order to assure the accuracy of their information.

        One can use these same methods to demonstrate the reliability of the biblical accounts.  The Apostle Peter emphatically declared, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Peter 1:16).  Another apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ asserted, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes…declare we unto you” (I John 1:1,3).  The Apostle Paul also stated, “After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present” (I Cor. 15:6).  By the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, a distinguished Greek doctor wrote two wonderful accounts in the Bible: the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.  This man compiled a tremendous amount of research material concerning the life of Jesus.  Having gathered his information from many eyewitness accounts, Luke declared, “To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days” (Acts 1:3).

        The most remarkable aspect of the Christian message is that any individual can personally know the very Author of the Bible.  One does not have to rely solely upon secondary sources or scientific and archeological evidences.  Nor does one have to go through all the processes of inductive and deductive reasoning as the philosophers of old in order to comprehend biblical truth.

        Jesus Himself presented the way to find God as He spoke to a Jewish scholar one night almost 2,000 years ago.  He told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).  Like most unbelievers, Nicodemus was unable to see beyond this material world.  He thought Jesus meant a literal, physical rebirth.  Our Lord was talking about a genuine supernatural work of the Holy Spirit accomplished in the heart of the individual.  God Himself will make His abode, His dwelling place, in the heart of any sinner who will come to the cross of Christ and will humbly repent of his selfish godless life.

        No man needs to live in doubt or uncertainty concerning God, the Bible, or Christianity.  Every individual can approach God and receive confirmation that these things are so.  He can experience for himself true life, peace, and joy in God on a personal basis.

        Yes, the Bible is far more than a beautiful story.  Jesus declared, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).  His words have power to transform lives, restore broken homes, and deliver men from lifelong habits that have enslaved them.  Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.  That life–giving word is found in the Bible.