People of The Living God

Psalms 8

 

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September 2014



 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

THE URGENCY OF THE HOUR

James Sanderson

        The Word of God speaks of a day that is unlike any other day in earth’s history.  That day is not a literal 24-hour period, but a time in which God will bring to fruition all that He “hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).  That momentous time is called The Day of the Lord.  Man has had his day – the day of opportunity to choose whether he will serve God or not.  Now God will have His day.  The prophets of old, by the power of the Spirit of God, described that day in some very alarming and chilling terms.  The Prophet Joel, using the language of war, declares, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand”(Joel 2:1).  The Prophet Zephaniah, sounding forth the same theme, describes that day as “a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities and against the high towers” (Zeph. 1:16).  Jeremiah declared, “that day is great, so that none is like it” (Jer. 30:7).  The Prophet Habakkuk trembled at the voice of the Lord concerning that day, “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble”(Hab. 3:16).

        Jesus and the Apostles also emphasized the urgency of that time.  “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26).  “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (II Pt. 3:10).  The Apostle Paul records the same message, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them”(I Thess. 5:2-3).

        With all the dire warnings issued by so many prophets, apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself concerning that day, one would think that every Christian would be awake and on the alert, searching the Word, in preparation for that fast-approaching hour.  What makes that day so urgent?  At least four vital factors contribute to the urgency of that hour: (1) the reality of God's wrath, (2) the magnitude of the upheaval that is ahead, (3) the nearness of that time, and (4) the unprepared state of God’s people.  Let us consider each one of these factors.

The Reality Of God’s Wrath

        The Scriptures reveal that God is angry with this generation.  They also reveal why He is angry.  The Apostle Paul writes, “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thes. 1:7-8).  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18).  God Himself came to earth, dwelt among men, presented His expectation, and offered salvation through His death and resurrection.  Most of humanity has spurned His teachings, rejected His divine influence, and embraced a materialistic system devoted to self and its own self-interest.  With God, surrender and obedience to His commands are not options.  God has shown grace and mercy for a time by offering man the opportunity to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  That opportunity is called the day of Salvation (II Cor. 6:2).  However, this day of salvation is fast coming to a close.

        The prophet Isaiah prophesied, “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Is. 60:2).  Gross darkness is much worse than darkness in that gross darkness is the result of the complete rejection of light.  Here in America, basic biblical principles upon which this country was founded are no longer held in respect.  Most of our citadels of learning have become breeding grounds for a secular, humanistic world view.  Many of these institutions of learning now marginalize Christians who maintain biblical moral principles.  The redefinition of marriage, not only here in America but also in many other nations, is clear evidence that these are the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Can anyone expect conditions to improve?  The word of God indicates that conditions will only worsen.

        It is quite certain that God will not sit idly by while humanity continues to remain in defiance of His clear expectations.  Numerous Scripture references indicate that there is a day coming in which God will reveal His wrath.  “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy (Zeph. 3:8).  Note that this portion of Scripture indicates that God's wrath will be experienced throughout the world.  None will be exempt from its influence.  “They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of God” (Ez. 7:19).  The material things in which man has placed his confidence will be of little use in that day.  The Lord Jesus Christ called these “the days of vengeance” (Luke 21:22).  “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate and he shall destroy the sinners out of it” (Is. 13:9).  One has only to read these verses and the biblical accounts of Noah and Lot to realize the consequences of God’s wrath and the necessity of a greater urgency as that day approaches.

The Magnitude Of The Coming Upheaval

        History records some very catastrophic events – events that had grave consequences upon humanity: world wars, unmerciful dictators, famines, the Great Depression.  Witness the recent events of September 11, 2001, the Great Recession, and Hurricane Katrina.  Upheavals have occurred throughout human history; however, all of these pale in comparison to the events soon to transpire in these end times.  The facts of end time events are not always pleasant to discuss; nevertheless, if God’s people are going to stand in this evil day, they will need to acquire a sense of gravity concerning that hour and develop a sincere burden of prayer.  Searching the Word of God concerning this subject is imperative.  The Scriptures paint a very vivid, though unpleasant, picture of that day.  “Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.  Alas for the day!  For the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (Joel 1:14-15).  “(F)or the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” (Joel 2:11).  “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains” (Joel 2:2).  “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord!  To what end is it to you?  The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18).  “For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down and of perplexity by the Lord God of host” (Is. 22:5).  “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.  I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity” (Is. 13:6,11).  “For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble” (Mal. 4:1).

        Jesus Himself also emphasized the magnitude of the coming events, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:21-22).  The Scriptures picture an end time upheaval of epic proportions, having worldwide consequences.  The economic and political systems of our day are merely a house of cards ready to fall at the word of the Lord.  Witness the crushing national debt and unstable political systems of many nations.  Every institution in which man has placed his trust is going to fall.  These facts from Holy Writ should awaken an urgency in the heart of every believer.

The Nearness Of That Hour

        The Spirit of the Lord declared through the prophet Isaiah, “Ask me of things to come concerning my sons” (Is. 45:11).  The Lord does not want His people to be in the dark concerning future events.  He has given ample warning throughout the Word of God concerning the Day of the Lord.  One theme that resonates regarding that day is the shortage of time.  The coming judgments of God are very close at hand.  “(F)or the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand” (Joel 2:1).  “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord” (Zeph. 1:14).  “The day of the Lord is at hand” (Zeph. 1:7).  “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near” (Ez. 30:3).  “The time is come, the day of trouble is near” (Ez. 7:7).  “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Rom. 13:11-12).  “(T)he day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen” (Obadiah verse 15).  “The time is short” (I Cor. 7:29).  “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (I Pt.  4:7).

        The nay-sayers and scoffers will say, “People have been preaching the shortage of time for thousands of years.  What else is new?”  What if the workers at the twin towers had been warned of impending doom the night before that momentous morning of September 11, 2001?  Would they have showed up for work?  These warnings from the Lord are pervasive throughout the Word of God because of His great love and concern for those who love Him and are willing to take the necessary steps of preparation.  Although God Himself is not subject to time, man is.  Man can never stand before God and say that he has not been given ample warning.  God expects His people to be in tune with Heaven and understand the conditions of the hour.  “So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors” (Mark 13:28).  True believers will note the conditions prevalent in the world today and also come to the same conclusion with our Lord Jesus Christ “that it is nigh, even at the doors”

The Unprepared State Of God’s People

        The final factor that contributes to the urgency of the hour is the unprepared state of God’s people.  The Church is living in the most unprecedented time in earth’s history.  Yet, on the other hand, that same Church is woefully unprepared to meet the demands that are soon to be placed upon her.  Being a Christian and being prepared for the days ahead are not synonymous.  The evidence before us and the word of God itself bear out the fact that God’s people are asleep and are not ready for the calamitous times ahead.  Humanity has developed a routine in life, a routine that has, more or less, left God’s purpose out of the picture.  God is on the verge of disrupting that routine, and His people are not prepared.

        Matthew 25 records the parable of the ten virgins.  These virgins represent the Church, God’s people.  Only God’s people would go forth to meet the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Sinners and apostates have no interest in the Lord.  This article will not expound on the complete parable; however, one very significant remark of our Lord Jesus Christ stands out: “While the bridegroom tarried, they ALL slumbered and slept” (Matt. 25:5).  The Church is asleep.  Sleep is certainly not the appropriate state in which to be with the Day of the Lord fast approaching.

        One major evidence of sleep is the lack of urgency or concern among God’s people.  When one is asleep, his spiritual senses become numb, compromise sets in, and the routine cares begin to dominate one’s life.  It takes no effort to sleep.  The Word of God issues repeated warnings to His people, especially in this hour, to watch and pray.  “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).  “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye sober, and watch unto prayer” (I Pt. 4:7).  The Apostle Paul takes this issue of preparation to another level.  He writes, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).  Time is a precious commodity.  God has allotted only so much time to His people.  To redeem implies the use of something as a medium of exchange, to purchase.  In this day of preparation, like the wise virgins, one can use that allotted time to purchase oil for his lamp or, like the foolish virgins, squander that time and find out that it is too late to obtain this necessary commodity.  Jesus stated, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt 24:43).

        God places the responsibility upon every believer to make his calling and election sure (II Pt. 1:10).  The work of Calvary and the resources of heaven are available, but it is up to the believer to use those resources to fulfill his divine obligations.  The book of Revelation records, “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:7-8).  Unless the Church awakens to the urgency of the hour and makes preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom, she will be swept away with the tide of judgment and evil that is on God’s program. (Matt. 24:48-51).  It behooves every believer to seek God for a personal understanding of the gravity of the time in which we live.  The day of the Lord is nigh at hand.

 

 

 

“THE SACRIFICES OF GOD”

Armando Montes

        “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain…and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4).

        Many years ago, “in process of time it came to pass” (Gen. 4:3), that two brothers offered sacrifices to the Most High God.  Both of them are now dead, but Abel’s sacrifice still speaks to us.  The Holy Spirit inspired the author of the book of Hebrews to write that Abel offered “a more excellent sacrifice” (“greater in quality, superior,” according to the Greek).  Genesis tells us that “the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.”

        Why was Abel’s sacrifice greater than Cain’s?  Why did the Lord accept his offering?  Was the Lord God unjust in rejecting Cain’s offering?  “What shall we say then?  Is there unrighteousness with God?  God forbid” (Rom. 9:14).  The Bible states that “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints” (Rev. 15:3).  We find one answer for the above question: Abel offered a lamb, the sacrifice according to the law.  Keep in mind that our Heavenly Father is a God of love and justice.  It is true that His mercy endureth forever, but He is also a God of order and law.

        From Genesis through Revelation there are some principles that apply to our sacrifices to the Lord.  We can call them THE LAW OF SACRIFICES.  The Bible supports this law that was given and obeyed many centuries ago and that also will be kept unto the very end of this “old world.”  Let’s trace, through the corridors of time, the demands of this law of sacrifice.

A.  Before Sinai.  Abel’s Sacrifice

        Some years after the fall of man, a young man honored the Lord and His Word: “He brought of the firstlings of his flock” (Gen. 4:4).  Abel showed his faith to the Lord by his works.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).  He didn’t guess, because he knew the demands of the law and fulfilled them.  He pleased the Father because he did His will.  Consequently, his sacrifice was “of a sweet savour unto the Lord.”  Thus we see that:

        1.  Abel’s sacrifice was greater than Cain’s because he had the seal of approval of the Living God.

        2.  He had the respect of the Lord because he heard and obeyed His voice.

B.  After Sinai.  Burnt Sacrifice (Offering)

        At this time, the Lord called the people of Israel to be the witnesses and ambassadors of the King of Glory among the nations.  The eternal law had already been given to man before the presence of mighty heavenly beings that witnessed this marvelous act.

        The book of Leviticus shows that the Lord God, through Moses, gave to Israel many, many details concerning the laws of sacrifice.

        In the laws spoken for the “burnt offerings” (“burnt sacrifices”) there are some hidden truths that apply to our personal sacrifices to the Lord.  The burnt offerings were “sacrifices in which the victim was wholly burnt with fire, to express the entire surrender of the offerer to God.”  Have you ever made a complete commitment to God?  Have you consecrated your life to Him who washed your sins away and bought you “with the precious blood of Christ” (I Peter 1:19)?  If your answer is a positive yes, then your life is a burnt offering unto the Lord and should measure up to the standards of this kind of sacrifice.  Let’s consider some of these standards:

        1.  A perfect sacrifice, no blind, no lame, no sick, “a male without blemish” “to be acceptable” before the Great King (Lev. 1:3,10; 22:18-20).

        2.  A voluntary act of the offerer (Lev. 1:3; 22:19).

        3.  Wholly consumed by fire on the altar (Lev. 1:9,13,17).

        4.  A continual, day by day sacrifice (Ex. 29:38-42).

        5.  An offering pleasant unto the Lord as an offering of a sweet savour unto God (Lev. 1:9,13).

C.  At the Cross.  THE LAMB OF GOD

        “When the fullness of the time was come,” “the love of God was shed abroad” at Calvary.  Before the world, angels and men, God proved the immutability of His Word and His selfless love for man.  “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezk. 18:4).  Jesus became sin and died for us, but He was perfect, without any blemish.

        At the Cross, God Almighty, the Father of Glory, “was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (II Cor. 5:19).  Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the perfect sacrifice that reconciled man with His Creator.  “Despised and rejected of men,” denied and forsaken by His disciples, Christ offered Himself to the Father as the atonement for the “sins of the whole world” for “without shedding of blood is no remission” of sins.  He, the Mighty Lord Jesus, the Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was THE Lamb that Brother Abel pointed to when he exercised his faith in God.  His life was also a continual burnt sacrifice to the Lord.

        1.  He was without blemish and perfect in all His ways (I Peter 1:18,19).

        2.  He offered Himself as “an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2; Jno. 10:17,18).

        3.  His life was wholly consumed doing the will of His Father (Jno. 5:30; 6:38).

        4.  His life was also a continual and daily sacrifice because He always pleased His Father (Jno. 8:29).

        5.  His sacrifice was also of a sweet smelling savour (Eph. 5:2).

D.  After the Cross.  The Christian Sacrifice

        It is true that the time of animal sacrifices ended with the death of Jesus at the Cross (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15), but if you belong to Him, then you “have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice” and your life should be a “whole burnt offering.”

        1.  The Lord has called us to reach unto perfection in this age and, if we allow Him, He will present us to Himself, without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:25-27; 1:4).

        2.  We have also been called to offer our lives as a voluntary sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).

        3.  Our offering must be wholly consumed.  All our plans and ambitions must be laid on the altar at the cross and burnt to ashes, because we’re to love Him with ALL our being (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).

        4.  If we take our cross daily, our sacrifice would be a daily and continual sacrifice (Luke 9:23; I Cor. 15:31; Heb. 13:15).

        5.  Finally, our sacrifice is to be of sweet smelling savour, acceptable to the Lord (Rom. 12:1; I Thess. 4:1).

        The Scriptures bear record that there is only one law of sacrifice and that should be according to the pattern designed by the Lord.  After all, there is only ONE sacrifice, and that is THE LAMB OF GOD “slain from the foundation of the world.”  Jesus’ sacrifice, His life, His devotion to the Father, should be our example and we’re to follow His steps, to be conformed to His image.

        We are living in the end time when the Lord will complete His divine family; He’s looking for “the precious fruit of the earth” (James 5:7).  When the end product will be finished, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11).

        It’s a sad situation that the religious world has failed to grasp the meaning and fullness of the plan of all ages.  God doesn’t save our souls only that we should go to church, sing some gospel songs and live a questionably(?) decent moral life.  NOT AT ALL!  To accept this idea is to deny the truth of the Scriptures.  Salvation is an important step in our walk with the Lord, but it is only the first step; it is not the end of the road.  “Salvation is more than a passport to heaven, it is deliverance from the dominion of sin in this life.” (Missionary James A. Stewart: 1910-1975)

        Our Heavenly Father is RIGHT NOW very busy “bringing many sons unto glory.”  He desires that we enter into His rest in this life, here, on this earth, and that His family will reach the state of perfection, maturity, “lacking nothing.”  The Lord made it possible, through Calvary, so that we can live a sinless, spotless life, of complete victory as Jesus lived when He walked among men.

        Every true child of God knows what surrender is.  At the time of our conversion, when we came to Him, we made a complete commitment to the Lord.  It might have happened some years or months ago, but RIGHT NOW, is our life completely, totally yielded to Him?  Do we live for Him 24 hours of the day, seven days of the week?  If our answer is a negative one, NO, it is high time for us to seek the Lord and reconsecrate our lives and to live only for Him; which is, after all, our “reasonable service.”

 

 

 

THE SUPREME INVESTMENT

Harry Miller

        The greatest transaction in the history of time is the investment the Creator is making in humanity.  It is astonishing that so few people seem to recognize the fact that the great God of the universe has made an INVESTMENT in His creation.  Many of our readers may be surprised that anyone would dare join the name of the Lord with such earthly things as “transactions” and “investments.”  But let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

        One cannot help but wonder why it is that the professing church of Christ has failed to see that the most important feature of religious affairs is not humanity’s interests, but the thing of prime importance is the success of the master’s investments.

        Incidentally, the earth is being used as a schoolroom or stage upon which is enacted a forceful drama designed to educate many entities on the other side of the veil: “God who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:9,10).  He is TEACHING the unseen beings and He is using the church to illustrate His message; the object of these lessons is to instill confidence in the minds of the heavenly beings, in His “manifold wisdom.”

        But the foremost purpose of the Lord’s Word in this world is the creation of character in beings who will be worthy members of His family.  Angels and many other heavenly entities do not belong to the FAMILY DIVINE; they are a very high order of beings, but they do not sit with the Father and His family of sons.

        Today, now at the time, the Father and His Son are the only beings in the whole universe that possess immortality: “Who only hath immortality” (I Tim. 6:16).  This is the state of incorruption and of life eternal.  The Father has desired to share this wonderful quality with others; so, He made a promise before the world began that He would share this state of godliness, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie; promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).

        Let us never think that the Father’s “family” will be composed of the earth’s riffraff; He is most discriminating; He seeks the very best of a certain kind: “Not every one that says, Lord, Lord,” shall be accepted in His family.  The Scriptures plainly teach that the members of the heavenly “family” are called, chosen and worthy.

        “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).  Not all of the “many” that are “called” continue on to know the Lord.  Christ likened such people to “He that received the seed into stony places…yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while” (Matt. 13:20,21).  The “few” that are “chosen” are the cream of the crop that are disciplined and thoroughly prepared for the life to come.  In the eyes of the world these are the people who are “hated for His name’s sake”; these are the folks whose names have been cast out as evil.  They are usually found “without the camp, bearing His reproach.”

        These are the people who, like Moses, have forsaken “Egypt.”  “Esteeming the REPROACH OF CHRIST greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. 11:26), they have yielded themselves to the character-perfecting forces that a walk with Christ unleashes upon the saint.

        God has said: “I will make a man more precious than fine gold” (Isa. 13:12), but few men will permit the Lord to turn the heat on them; “When the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away” (Matt. 13:6).  Multitudes of people want the Lord to make them like Gold – BUT PAINLESSLY.  Some expect the Lord to do it while they sleep under a sedative.  But this transformation of character is not carried on according to the wishful thinking of “shallow ground” people.

        He who walks through the pearly gates of that heavenly city will be qualified to do so; he shall be “worthy”: “have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4); and again, “that ye may be accounted worthy of the Kingdom of God” (II Thess. 1:5).  Dr. Strong, in his concordance, says that this word “worthy” means; “to deem entirely deserving.”

        The work of the Spirit of the Lord in the hearts of the “worthy” people is a cooperative affair: God speaks and the “worthy” respond by obedient action.  The thing that characterizes saints is that they OBEY the Lord; they are ever responsive to His will.  To such people His Word is law, and strange as it may seem to carnal men, the saints “LOVE HIS LAW” (Psa. 119:165).

        Here is what the Psalmist said concerning God’s blessed man: “His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night” (Psa. 1:2).  Of course, it is only a saint who fully understands and appreciates the therapeutic value of God’s laws: “The law of the Lord is perfect, CONVERTING the soul” (Psa. 19:7).

        In this verse of Scripture from the nineteenth Psalm we have a MEANS and an END: the “end” is the “converting” of souls, and the “law of the Lord” is used as the “means” to accomplish that end.

        Our heavenly Father is a Master in all arts and crafts and by His oral utterances He is in the process of creating His masterpieces: “The worlds were framed by the Word (not Logos but ramate, which means “an oral utterance”) of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3).

        The fact that the Father’s word is productive is also set forth in this Scripture from Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:8-11).

        Take note that the Lord has said, “it (His Word) shall not return unto Me void.”  His Word is effective, it never goes forth fruitlessly, “it shall accomplish that which I please.”  These lines tell us that those who hear His words never remain the same.  They DO something.  That “something” may be good or evil.

        In various ways the Saviour taught that the Word of the Father is a creative element, and when it is received of men it must be respected and obeyed, for the very hearing of the Word places man under obligation.

        By implication the Lord Jesus pictured the Father as a “sower,” or farmer, who planted seed from which He intended to have a fruitful harvest (Matt. 13:3).  By inspiration James wrote of our Lord as “The Husbandman” (James 5:7).  Again, we have the Lord of all creation spoken of as a certain “nobleman” (Luke 19:12) who made investments by putting his money in the trust of some of his servants.  And, of course, he had a perfect right to expect profit on his investment; in the teaching of this parable we see that faithfulness to our trust is rewarded, while unfaithfulness is cause for being completely cast away.

        The one prime lesson of all animate nature is that if life is to be continued, the organism must produce, it must grow, it must develop, it must progress.  When these stop, then death is the result.  If animation is essential to the life of physical nature, of how much greater need is this life element to things of a spiritual nature?  Consider these homely, yet terrific, illustrations of this truth: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and burned and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:5,6).  “If some of the branches be broken off, and thou…wert grafted in among them…Boast not against the branches…THOU STANDEST BY FAITH…If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also not spare thee…continue in His goodness: otherwise thou shalt be cut off” (Rom. 11:17-22).

        “Continue in His goodness” is the obligation of the believer.  Let us not forget that the Word plainly states, “We are made partakers of Christ IF WE HOLD the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Heb. 3:14).  These Scriptures plainly state that every saint is obligated to CONTINUE in the process of becoming a “partaker of Christ.”

        God is now SPEAKING to men in no uncertain way; listen to these words: “Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire…But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living God…To God the judge of all…to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant…SEE THAT YE REFUSE NOT HIM THAT SPEAKETH.  For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb. 12:18-25).

        With revelation comes OBLIGATION.  Hear the words of Jesus on this subject; “Unto whomsoever much is given of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).  It is also written: “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17); here is a sin of OMISSION that is common to multitudes of people.  The burden of guilt rested upon the soul of the Pharisee and the priest who passed by the wounded traveler who lay in his misery on the road to Jericho.  Many a twentieth-century professing Christian will hear these words in the day of judgment: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not” (Matt. 25:41-43).

        In the book of Luke we find a most interesting parable which teaches that what God has planted must be productive: “a certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.  Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?  And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).

        “The dresser” of the vineyard is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit.  He is the one who labors with all the potential “trees” in God’s field.  It is He who “digs” around the too complacent believer, and He also enriches the “soil” in His efforts to persuade GROWTH.  However, when after many turnings of the “soil” and many enriching attempts have been made to urge growth, and the tree yet refuses to respond, then “the axe” is applied at the command of the “Owner” of the vineyard.  “Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt. 3:10).

        In many places the Scriptures teach that “trees” are used as symbols of men.  God’s “blessed” man of the first Psalm is said to be “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Psa. 1:3).  Then, Jesus also taught that we could discern the kind of tree by its fruits, “Ye shall know them by their fruits…every good tree bringeth forth good fruit” (Matt. 7:17).

        The figurative teaching of the “vine” and the “branches” is another lesson in the doctrine that believers are obliged to be fruitful if they are to remain “in the vine.”  Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:1-6).

        A “withered” branch is an unproductive branch, and it is unproductive because it does not “abide in the vine.”  Therefore, the secret of a productive Christian life is that the believer REMAIN IN CHRIST.  Take note that “abide in the vine” and “remain in Christ” mean one and the same thing.  Now, how do we “abide” in Him?  Here is His answer to this very question: “if ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide” (John 15:10).

        Here is a statement of major importance.  It is impossible to become “withered” and unfruitful IF we obey the commandments of Christ.  The secret, then, of a consistent Christian life is to KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.

 

 

 

BLESSED IS THE MAN

Psalm 1:1-3

Randall Walton

Who Does Not:

        1.Walk in the counsel of the ungodly;

        2. Stand in the way of sinners:

        3. Sit in the seat of the scornful.

But Who:

        1. Delights in the laws of the Lord.

        2. Meditates in the law day and night.

        3. Is like a tree:

            *planted by a flowing river

            *bringing forth seasonal fruit

            *whose leaves do not wither (fall).



WHATEVER HE DOES IS PROSPEROUS

        It would be wise to follow the prescription of Psalm 1 in order to obtain the favorable results as noted above.  We are well aware of the unpopularity of the idea that mankind reaps according to its sowing or planting, even though this truth is most evident, even in agriculture.  Men are in the habit of demanding that God grant them undeserved or unmerited favor (which He does upon conversion).  The postulation of receiving great value for nothing in return is the backbone of much of the Christian “faith” today, a position which finds no credibility in the Word of God.  An outstanding tenet of the New Testament is still “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

        But let us consider the three things the “blessed man” does not do:

1.  He walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.

 The counsel or advice of the ungodly is that there are no absolutes, no real moral restraints on mankind.  Man is considered an animal with animal instincts, impulses and drives and is free to do as he pleases so long as he doesn’t deprive others of the same right(s), or doesn’t hurt others in his pursuit of self-gratification.

The ungodly has no time nor thought for a divine Creator.  He is self-sufficient, independent, self-made, a self-energized egotist who exists for the ultimate welfare and benefit of himself at the exclusion of all others.  Issues of right or wrong are not a part of his philosophy.

        The counsel of the ungodly approves the killing of unborn babies, both within the womb and partially removed.  The ungodly will defend a woman’s right (?) to choose between death or life for her child.

        We noted with interest the recent account of an unmarried teen couple who murdered their son as soon as he was born and are now facing charges for manslaughter.  Presumably, if the girl had had a doctor kill the baby by vacuuming its brains out it would have been perfectly legal.  Such is the counsel of the ungodly.

        The ungodly will not defend the word of God in regard to homosexuality.  They are constantly attempting to prove that the homos are genetically geared to their lifestyle and cannot help being as they are.  If this were true, then the Bible is either based upon folk lore, or is blatantly in error, in either of which case it is to be ignored.

        The ungodly will not promote the Biblical standard of chastity before marriage, but will promote and encourage promiscuity and sexual activity among the very young.  They will even provide the means to prevent unwanted diseases and pregnancies which are the result of promiscuous sexual practices.

        The ungodly will not place any credence whatever in the Holy Bible.  They may be religious and may even be members of a religious institution, but their convictions are founded upon sociology, psychology, and the principles(?) of affluence.

        Beware of the counsel of the ungodly.

2.  He stands not in the way of sinners.

A sinner, of course, is one who deliberately and consciously sins.  I John 3:4 states that “sin is transgression of the law.”  The most popular opinion among Christians today is that there is no law.  It follows that if there is no law, there is no sin, and if there is no sin, there are no sinners!  And if there are no sinners, why did Paul say that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:15)?

        Without resorting to the Old Testament, we find enough law in the New to command one’s full attention.  The pages of the Scriptures from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22 are resplendent with one law after another – and rightfully so!

        Sin is sin whether committed by an unbeliever or an agnostic, or by one who professes to be a Christian.  God has never condoned sin and never will.  He may forgive a sinner of his wickedness but that can never be construed as God’s approval of sin.

        Calvary is a vivid testimony of God’s hatred of sin.  He so detested transgression of His laws that He had His perfect Son murdered to pay the price of ransom for the whole human race.  His sacrifice made it possible for mankind to live a sinless life – to avoid standing in the way of sinners, and to fully obey His laws and commands.

        Actually, law is a great liberator, for by it we know God’s standards and expectations for mankind.  It is also the separator between the saved and the sinner.  A true saint loves God’s laws and will endeavor to abide by them because He loves God and desires with all his heart to please Him.  And nothing pleases God more than a soul who loves Him so much that he obeys His blessed word.

        In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus spoke about a work being carried out by angels.  He likened the world to a field in which a farmer had planted wheat.  When the wheat had come up, the farmer’s servants noticed there were many weeds in the field which looked just like the wheat.  They asked the farmer if they should go pull the weeds from the wheat.  The farmer said, “no, because you might pull up some of the wheat along with the weeds.  Let them grow up together and at harvest time I will send my reapers who will first gather out the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn.  Then they will gather the wheat and put it in my barn.”

        Jesus explained the parable in verses 36-43 where He likened the wheat and the weeds to people.  The wheat were the “children of the kingdom of God,” while the weeds were “them which do iniquity” (vs.41).  Iniquity is nothing other than lawlessness (from the Greek word anomia).

        Jesus declared that at harvest time, which He said was “the end of the world,” He would send His angels (who are the reapers) who would gather the weeds (the lawless ones) into bundles to burn them.  The lawless weeds are the people who closely resemble the wheat, so much so that only the angels know the true identity of the weeds.  This is a concurrent work of the angels, for we are surely living in the time of the end, and the “bundles” of lawless ones are omnipresent.

        Those who fight the laws of God are plainly in the camp of the lawless ones who comprise the bundles of weeds.  They are the “sinners” upon whom the wrath of God will be poured forth.

        Beware of the “way of sinners.”

3.  He does not sit in the seat of the scornful.

Scorn, scoff, mock, deride, sneer, contempt.  To occupy the seat of the scornful is to adopt an attitude of irreverence or contempt for anything of a godly nature.

        Among the many things which are scorned today, the greatest is perhaps the Holy Bible.  It has become the object of much derision both in secular and religious circles.  Secularists despise the word of God because it is the word of God.  Religionists seem to tolerate the Scriptures in a perfunctory sort of way, but they have great contempt for the Authorized or King James Version which just happens to be the most accurate and reliable translation in existence today.

        When anyone scorns the KJV, he reveals some kind of a flaw in his own character, for the KJV is most probably the closest to the original text possible to obtain.  The other versions tend to be perversions because they omit or alter various portions of the word to suit the fancy of the editor(s).

          What is wrong with the person or persons who wish to “water down” (dilute) the message of the Most High God?  It is a trend of the times to lower standards, to render meaningless the sacred pages of Holy Writ.

        The scornful will state that the record of creation in Genesis is mere folklore or legend.  They claim that scientists have proved once for all that the apes are first cousins of mankind and that man is steadily evolving to a higher plane of existence in intelligence, physical prowess, and technology.

        While it is true that the greatest advances in scientific achievements have been made within the past 200 years, it is also true that scientists have enjoyed unprecedented freedom and subsidies which have provided a viable platform for research and development.  This cannot be construed as meaning that mankind has abruptly become more intellectually brilliant.  It only means he has been given the time, money, and materials to explore, research, and probe as never before.  And it is significant that most of the breakthroughs are the direct result of the unparalleled liberty and freedom which came about through the founding of the U.S. in 1776 and the establishing of the Constitution in 1789.

        But even that great document is being held in scorn by many today.  Politicians have found devious means of circumventing its decrees and have even written certain orders whereby the Constitution may be voided in the event of a national emergency.

        It is also a fact that the object of much scorn is none other than the blessed Holy Spirit – the Comforter, or paraclete, who was sent from God to abide with and within man as a guide, a teacher, a blessing, a sanctifier, a perfecter, and a revealer.  It is an embarrassment to common sense and propriety the things which are being attributed to the Holy Spirit in countless gatherings around the world.  The Spirit of God is not guilty of the atrocities which are being blamed on Him.

        The Spirit of the Living God is HOLY, not carnal, not fleshly, not worldly, not excitable, not ostentatious, not theatrical.  But that which originates in the seat of the scornful is all of those and more, and it is labeled the “Holy Ghost and fire.”  You see, another term for scorn is mock, that is, to imitate.  It is a sad commentary that in Christian circles there exists a great deal of imitation of the real thing.  Compare the book of Acts with modern Christianity and see the differences.

        It is most evident that the scornful choose the broad way and the wide gate in preference to the narrow way and small gate as described by the Lord Jesus.  It is the path of no resistance where anything goes and there are no rights nor wrongs.  The banner over all is unmerited favor from the cradle to the grave with time out for tobacco breaks!

        Beware of the seat of the scornful!

The Blessed Man

          He it is who drinks water from the river of life which proceeds from the throne of the Almighty.  It is an abundant flow which never runs dry and fully satisfies the thirsty soul.  It provides peace, joy, nutrition, health and security.

        Since he lives by this glorious river of life, he is in a steady process of growth and development, becoming stronger, gaining in height and girth, and bearing the appropriate and proper fruit: “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22,23).  His is not a sterile, dying existence, but one in which his “leaf” does not wither, fade, or fall to the ground: it is an evergreen, full of life, vigor, and vitality, constantly imbibing the Sonshine of God’s eternal life.

        To such a man as this, “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”  Now, this has nothing whatever to do with the so-called “prosperity doctrine,” which embraces materialism and wealth (Jesus gave scant hope for the rich!).  It has to do with blessedness: whatever this man does will be blessed of God.  He may be in deep poverty without a square foot of ground to call his own, but he will be blessed by God.  He will have peace, contentment, fullness of joy, happiness beyond expression, and the abiding presence of the Author of Life Himself.  It’s impossible to put a price upon such values as these.  In fact, this man is “laying up for himself, treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20).

        And the amazing thing about this is that it is available for anyone who sincerely wants it.  “Blessed Is The Man.”

 

 

 

SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Excerpts From The Book, By Clarence Jordan

        For unbelievers, Jesus had but one word: “REPENT.”  It’s a tremendous word.  We must examine it.  The Greek word from which it is translated means “to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins” (Thayer’s Lexicon).  So when He called on men to repent, He really demanded that they change their way of thinking, abandon their false concepts, forsake their wrong methods, and enter upon a new way of life.  Imagine what this meant to the Pharisees whose “good behavior” and whose “trust in the Lord” assured them of the divine favor.  Weren’t they already saved, and just about the best people God had on earth?  Yet Jesus felt that, of all people, these had the greatest need of changing their ways.  He also told the wealthy, aristocratic, unscrupulous Sadducees to change their way of living.  He called on the super-patriotic, military-minded Zealots to change their attitudes.  He faced all these men, as He does their spiritual descendants today, with that one terrific word: repent!

        No one has a right, however, to call on men to change their ways unless he has a more excellent way to offer.  Forsaking the wrong way is only half of repentance; accepting the right way is the other half.  The call to repentance, then, must always be accompanied by the glorious announcement, “for the kingdom of God is here!”  Jesus proclaimed it as “the good news.”  For Him, it was the way, the only way, for men to live.  Only when men had accepted the kingdom could it be said that they had truly repented.  To enter it was to be saved, to find the way of eternal life (See Luke 18:18, 24,26 where finding eternal life, entering the kingdom, and being saved seem to refer to the same thing.)

        The foundation of the kingdom message is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the rightful Lord of the faithful, and that the Holy Spirit is the guide of all citizens of the kingdom.  Believers, by identification with the Son, become sons of the Father.  The result is a brotherhood, or family, of those who so believe.

        In this new relationship, men can have no conflicting loyalties.  The kingdom takes precedence over everything else – occupation (Matt. 4:20), family ties (Matt. 4:22; Luke 14:26), possessions (Luke 14:33).  One should be fully warned of this before going in quest of the kingdom.  It should be made clear, however, that while one might be called upon at any time to give up these lesser pearls, he will be the possessor of one of infinitely greater value.  To accept the kingdom means to put first things first.

        The kingdom is not a department of life set off to itself, but like blood in the body, it extends to every area of man’s life.  It makes adequate provision for all human need, whether it be spiritual (“They brought to Him the demon-possessed”), mental (…and the lunatics”), or physical (“…and the paralytics”) and He healed them all (Matt. 4:24).  That His concept of the kingdom included the whole man is also seen in His three-fold ministry of preaching (spiritual), teaching (mental), and healing (physical).  To Him, the kingdom of God was far more than a religious interest; it was the way of life.

        The doors of the kingdom are open to all men, without respect to race, class, caste, color, nationality, education, or wealth.  The children of God are under divine compulsion to accept as a brother any man who repents and believes.  Inside the kingdom there are no partitions.  He who would erect them thereby declares himself to be on the outside.

        The kingdom of God on earth is Jesus’ specific proposal to mankind.

        The first six beatitudes are the steps into the kingdom, the stairway to spiritual life.  They are not disconnected, isolated “sayings,” but a definite whole with each step, or beatitude, arranged progressively in order.  The “poor in spirit” ascend the steps and become “sons of God.”  This Father-son relationship places men in the beloved community, the society of sinners saved by grace, the family of the Father, the kingdom of God.  We see, then, that these are not blessings pronounced upon different kinds of people – the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, etc.  Rather, they are stages in the experience of only one class of people – those who are entering the kingdom and who at each stage are blessed.  The kingdom, of course, is THE blessing, and each step into it partakes of its blessedness.  This blessedness comes with the taking of the step, and is not postponed as a future reward.  Jesus said, “Blessed are.”

        But if these Beatitudes are stair steps into the kingdom, each one rising above the other, where does the new birth come in, which John’s Gospel emphatically declares is essential to entering the kingdom?  (John 3:3 – “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”)  Does Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew give one requirement for entering the kingdom and Jesus in the Gospel of John give another?

        No, they’re both the same.  Though Matthew does not use the term the new birth, the Beatitudes seem to be a detailed explanation of it.  And while John doesn’t give the Beatitudes, the figure of birth is apparently used to illustrate them.  Whether we call the process Beatitudes or birth, the result is the same: “sons of God.”  Both accounts agree that sonship is a basic requirement for membership in the Father’s family.

        The first step in becoming a son, or being begotten from above, or in entering the kingdom, or being saved, or finding eternal life – whatever term you wish to use – is stated by Jesus as:

        “The poor in spirit are partakers of the divine blessing, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

        What does Jesus mean by “poor in spirit”?  In Luke’s account, it is simply “you poor.”  What kind of poverty is He talking about?  If you have a lot of money, you’ll probably say physical poverty.  The rich will thank God for Matthew; the poor will thank God for Luke.  Both will say, “He blessed me!”  Well, then, who really did get the blessing?

        Chances are, neither one.  For it is exactly this attitude of self-praise and self-justification and self-satisfaction that robs men of a sense of great need for the kingdom and its blessings.  When one says, “I don’t need to be poor in things; I’m poor in spirit,” and another says, “I don’t need to be poor in spirit; I’m poor in things,” both are justifying themselves as they are, and are saying in unison, “I don’t need.”  With that cry on his lips, no man can repent.

        The story of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10-14) illustrates this.  It doesn’t say that the Pharisee was rich.  It’s quite probable that he was rather poor, since he thanked God, sincerely we presume, that he was not an extortioner like other men.  At that time, extortion was about the only respectable means of amassing a fortune, so “extortioner” and “rich man” were practically synonymous.  It doesn’t say, either, that the publican was poor.  If he was a sample publican, he was rich, for publicans were notorious “extortioners.”  Anyway, the point is that regardless of outward circumstances, the Pharisee expressed an inner need for nothing – and that’s what he got.  The publican, admitting his sin, expressed a deep need for God’s mercy – and that’s what he got.  Each received what he felt he needed.

        That this element of need is the first essential to kingdom citizenship is seen in the severe warning to the church at Laodicea.  “I know your ways…I am about to eject you, because you say, ‘I am rich and prosperous and I don’t have need of a thing.’  And you don’t know that you are a miserable wretch, a blind, naked beggar!  Take my advice and get some real gold from me so that you might be truly rich, and clean clothes so that your shameful nakedness might be covered, and some eye-medicine so you might see” (Rev. 3:15,17,18).  This church had plenty of money, but it wasn’t “poor in spirit.”  Its material wealth robbed it of a sense of spiritual need.  It was probably because money had this power to rob that Jesus said it was extremely difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom.  But it is neither wealth nor poverty that keeps men out of the kingdom – it is pride.

        So the poor in spirit are not the proud in spirit.  They know that in themselves – in all mankind – there are few, if any, spiritual resources.  They must have help from above.  They need, desperately, the kingdom of heaven.  And feeling their great need for the kingdom, they get it.  “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

        With one’s pride gone, with one’s trust in self and intellect and possessions gone, one is now ready to take the second step into the kingdom.  Jesus says, “The mourners are partakers of the divine blessing, for they are the ones who shall be strengthened.”  Surely He doesn’t mean it just like that, we say to ourselves.  Why does He want people to mourn?  Religion is too sad-eyed already.  Life should be young and gay.  Besides, how are you going to get into the kingdom by crying about it?  Bawling about a thing never did any good.  You must do something.  And around and around certain well-intentioned people go today trying to get you to do something to be saved.

        But strange as it seems, this beatitude says that you must mourn.  A mourner is not necessarily one who weeps.  He is one who expresses a deep concern.  If the one about whom he is concerned dies, he might express his grief by crying; he might also do it by praying, or in some other way.  Tears aren’t essential to mourning, but deep concern is.  Mourning is the expression of that concern.

        With this in mind, let’s try to see what Jesus means.  He has already said that before you can get into the kingdom, you must recognize your own spiritual poverty and be conscious of your need of the kingdom.  That’s very, very important, but it’s not enough.  There must be a concern about this bankrupt condition so deep that it will find some expression.  We must be really grieved that things are as they are.

        So the mourners are really those who are concerned to the point of action.

        HAVING said that, in effect, those who put their concerns and convictions into action shall be greatly strengthened and encouraged.  Jesus now leads us to the third step into the kingdom.  “The meek are partakers of the divine blessing,” He says, “for they shall inherit the land.”

        In English, the word “meek” has come to be about the same as “weak” or “harmless” or “spiritless.”  It is thought that a meek person is something of a door mat upon which everyone wipes his feet, a timid soul who lives in mortal fear of offending his fellow creatures.  But nothing could be more foreign to the biblical use of the word.  It is used in particular to describe two persons – Moses (Num. 12:3) and Jesus (Matt. 11:29).  One of them defied the might of Egypt and the other couldn’t be cowed by a powerful Roman official.  Neither of them ever showed the slightest sign of being weak or harmless or spiritless.  Both of them seemed absolutely fearless in the face of men, and completely surrendered to the will of God.  Can we call them “meek”?  The answer is yes.

        People may be called “meek” to the extent that they have surrendered their wills to God and learned to do His bidding.  The meek won’t attempt to explain God’s Word away if it goes contrary to their selfish wills.  They won’t listen to any man, no matter what his power or influence, who tries to make them compromise or disobey their Master’s voice.  One of the best definitions of meekness in the Bible is the statement of Peter and the apostles to the Sanhedrin: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Copyright 1952 By The Judson Press.  Used By Permission.

 

 

 

THE SIN QUESTION

James Sanderson

        Charles Finney, an evangelist and theologian of the nineteenth century, once remarked, “Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe.  Nothing else can cost so much.  Pardoned or unpardoned, its cost is infinitely great.  Pardoned, the cost falls chiefly on the great atoning Substitute; unpardoned, it must fall on the head of the guilty sinner.” (God's Love for a Sinning World)  Sin is not a popular subject in today's world and is taboo in a number of professional circles.  Even some popular pastors avoid a discussion of sin in their sermons.  The reason is quite simple.  The use of the word sin elicits feelings of guilt and condemnation before an angry God.  The idea of sin places a moral responsibility on the sinner.  People do not want to accept the fact that there are moral absolutes and a God to Whom they are morally responsible.

        An Ellison Research Study completed in 2008 revealed that Americans have many misconceptions regarding sin.  According to this study 87% of the population believed in the concept of sin; however, not everyone was clear as to what is sinful.  81% felt that adultery was sinful; 63%, drugs; 56%, abortion; 52%, homosexual activity; 52%, not reporting income on one's income tax return; 50%, pornography; 46%, swearing.  Only 45% felt that premarital sex was wrong.  Only 30% thought that gambling was wrong. (Ellison Research, 3/11/2008).  In recent years, President Obama stated that his view on gay marriage was evolving.  In November, 2012, a new survey indicated that only 37% of Americans felt that homosexual behavior was a sin.  Quite a shift.  These statistics reveal that (1) most Americans believe sin is what each individual defines sin to be, (2) sin is determined by what is politically or socially acceptable at the moment, and (3) most Americans do not view themselves as sinners in need of a savior.  In short, although most Americans believe in the concept of sin, they do not necessarily accept the biblical definition of sin. 

        History bears out the fact that man is a poor determiner of what sin is.  Witness the many atrocities performed by ruthless leaders down through the ages, the many devastating wars, and the moral decline of this twenty-first century.  Ancient Israel made this same mistake.  “(E)very man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

What is Sin?

        Contrary to popular opinion, sin is whatever God calls sin.  A biblical definition of sin must begin with God and His law: “for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4).  James also writes, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).  Sin involves a voluntary disobedience to God's moral law.  “Sin is, indeed, a neglect to do known duty and a refusal to comply with known obligation.“ (Charles Finney).

        Our permissive society tends to picture a smiling God Who overlooks sin.  It is vital that every individual view sin as God sees it – an affront to His very nature.  Although sin has certain consequences upon others, all sin is first and foremost against God.  “It is deliberate, intelligent, and intentional rebellion against God” (Charles Finney).  David recognized this fact after his affair with Bathsheba.  “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Ps.51:4).

        Sin emanates from a spirit of self-seeking.  The individual who sins places his own will and desires above God's purpose and plans.  Sin demonstrates a total disregard for the concerns of God and others.  The Apostle John also wrote, “All unrighteousness is sin” (I John 5:17).  According to Thayer's Lexicon, the word unrighteousness means injustice, unrighteousness of heart and life, an act of unrighteousness, or a deed violating law or justice.  James also stated, “Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

The Magnitude of the Sin Problem

Sin maintains a stronghold in the lives of all men.  In fact, history records only one Person Who has lived a sinless life.  That One is Jesus Christ.  Of Him, the Apostle Peter writes, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pt. 2:22).  The problem of sin has plagued the life of every individual who has walked the face of the earth.  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  The prophet Isaiah, seeing the true condition of his heart apart from God, exclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Is 6:5).  Again, speaking of the human condition apart from God, Isaiah stated, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Is.64:6).

        The Gospel of John records, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:25).  Jesus, being God, knew what was in man.  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus lists thirteen problems that plague man, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).  Because of sin, every man has heart trouble.  We aren't talking about that mechanical device that pumps blood.  The word heart refers to “the seat and center of spiritual life, the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors” (Thayer).  The heart is that aspect of man that controls the emotions and will.  The heart governs one's spiritual life and, consequently, his response to God and His moral law.  The Word of God reveals that the inner workings of the human heart is not a pretty sight.  The Prophet Jeremiah records, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).  In other words, sin resides in the human heart.

The Consequences of Sin

        God does not look the other way when sin occurs.  One important truth found throughout the Word of God is that God holds each man responsible for his own sin.  Moses had just returned to face God after dealing with the problem of the golden calf.  “And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.  Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.  And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Ex.32:32-33).

        Another important truth that follows is that sin has consequences.  A number of Scripture references indicate that sin brings death and separation from God.  “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal 6:7-8).  “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).  “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ez 18:20).  “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 14:12).  “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Is 59:2).  All of these verses of Scripture show that there is a divine penalty, or retribution, for sin.

The Remedy for Sin

        The good news of the gospel is that God has provided a remedy for sin.  Man, in his sinful condition and fallen state, was unable to save himself.  God's provision or remedy for sin is twofold: (1) atonement, God's part, and (2) repentance, man's part.  The dictionary defines atonement as “the reconciliation of God and man through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.”  The Apostle Peter aptly wrote, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (I Pt.3:18).  At the Last Supper, as Jesus took the cup, He said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).  As Jesus hung dying on the cross of Calvary, blood poured forth from His side bringing forgiveness and deliverance from sin for “whosoever will.” (Rev 22:17).

        Repentance is the second part of God's remedy for sin.  Without repentance, the atonement would be of no value to the sinner.  “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.4:17).  “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).  “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).

        What is true, heartfelt repentance?  Repentance is more than remorse for sin.  Repentance is also more than mere confession of one's sin.  “Repentance is a change of mind, as regards God and towards sin.  It is not only a change of views, but a change of the ultimate preference or choice of the soul…Evangelical repentance is a change of willing, of feeling, and of life, in respect to God.  Repentance always implies abhorrence of sin.  It, of course, involves the love of God and the forsaking of sin.” (Charles Finney, Revival Lectures, p.414).  When a sinner truly repents, he renounces his old sinful way of life and embraces a new life of obedience and surrender to Jesus Christ.

        As the moral standards in society at large continue to decline, pressure on Christians will mount to compromise their convictions by altering their biblical view of sin.  It is most imperative that God's people remain a light in a very dark world.  The church must continue to uphold God's standards of righteousness and truth.  Men need to awaken to the devastating consequences of sin.  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb.10:31).  Without a biblical perspective on sin, God's people will not be able to stand in this evil day.