People of The Living God

Matthew 24

 

Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size

January 2015



 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

THE OLD PATHS

James Sanderson

        “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will not walk, therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).  The Spirit of God anointed Jeremiah to be a prophet when he was a mere lad.  At first, he was somewhat reticent to accept such a call due to his young age, but as the Lord encouraged him, his fears were allayed, and he became strong and courageous in bearing God’s message to the people of his day.  Jeremiah ministered during one of the most critical times in Jewish history.  The ten tribes of the northern kingdom, after many years of open rebellion against the ways of the Lord, had been captured and destroyed.  All that remained was the southern kingdom of Judah which included the tribe of Benjamin.  Jeremiah prophesied through much of the reign of Josiah, the last of the good kings, and through the last four evil kings of Judah.  This mighty man of God witnessed the catastrophic events that led to the fall of his much-beloved homeland, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the sacking of the temple and holy places, and the carrying away of the people to Babylon.

The Message Of Jeremiah

        The nation, that is the people, the priests, and the rulers, had become demoralized.  They had forsaken the law of God (Jer. 16:11), set up idol worship even in the temple compound (Jer. 32:34), and had adopted many of the ways of the heathen nations (Jer. 32:35).  Moreover, Jeremiah had to contend with a cadre of influential false prophets who had gained the confidence of the rulers and most of the priests.  These false prophets contradicted Jeremiah on every hand and conspired to kill him (Jer. 26:8).  The religious establishment adorned the outward accouterments of religion, but their hearts were far from God (Jer. 7:24).

        Jeremiah’s message was simple though unpopular: repent, renounce their evil ways, and ask God for “the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein” or else God will bring great judgment upon the land.  Needless to say, his message fell on deaf ears.

        Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet” because of the profound love that he had for his country and the tremendous burden that he bore.  The book of Lamentations is his eloquent lament for the grave hardships that the people suffered at the hands of the armies of Babylon due to their continued disobedience in the face of God’s warnings. “Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people” (Lam. 2:11).  Jeremiah earnestly hoped that his country would forsake their evil ways and avoid the terrible judgment that the Lord had revealed would come.

Conditions In Our Day

        Conditions in our day strongly parallel those that existed in Jeremiah’s time.  Our citadels of learning have become bastions of humanistic and atheistic education.  Prayer and Bible reading, once a part of the daily curriculum of our schools since the founding of this country, are now outlawed.  The concept of moral absolutes, enshrined in the Ten Commandments, are no longer acceptable.  Fornication and adultery are commonplace.  Millions of innocent children have been aborted.  Same-sex marriage has been legalized by our courts.  Some churches have now ordained openly gay clergy.  Society at-large now worships at the altar of materialism and expediency while paying lip service to the great Creator God.  The sad part is that people continue to walk in blindness to their spiritual need.  “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

        Men in this generation plan their lives as though “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (II Peter 3:4).  They remain blind to the impending judgments vividly foretold by the apostles, the prophets, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  The handwriting is on the wall but men are not interested in the message.  As in Jeremiah's time, these warnings fall on deaf ears.

        The rebellious nature of man feels that he knows better than God.  He prefers to chart his own course in life apart from God.  The straight and narrow way of righteousness and truth extolled by the word of God seems too restrictive and passé in this pleasure-loving culture.  This declaration of the prophet Jeremiah to his generation applies to this generation as well, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5).  In the end, God always proves Himself to be correct.  The only answer for humanity in this midnight hour is the same as what the Lord gave through Jeremiah the prophet, “Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

 

 

 

“BECAUSE YE ARE SONS”

Galatians 4:6

Lorraine Scullin

        Many people regard the cross of Jesus Christ merely as a means of escape from eternal destruction.  This has been the heart of much of the preaching since the hour when the Son of God was nailed to a rugged cross of wood on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  But Jesus Christ did more than save men from the fire of hell by His sacrifice.  This, of course, was accomplished.  But in addition, He made a way whereby He might bring MANY sons to GLORY (Heb. 2:10).

        By His complete victory over His carnal nature and all perverted desires, by the constant subordination of His own will to that of the Father, and by His final triumph over death and hell, He revealed to the world that it is possible for man to enter into the glory.  In fact, He demonstrated that this state could be entered into while man was still upon this earth.  Sometime before His crucifixion, He took Peter, James, and John up into a high mountain and was transfigured before them (Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36).

        He had so conformed Himself to the Father’s plan for His life in every detail, that He was completely transformed by this continuous putting aside of Himself, until on the mount the flesh faded from view and the glory of the divine image of the father that had been wrought in Him by this denial of self shone forth in all its beauty and majesty.  This was a glimpse of that eternal state to which man is called, to which the process of daily crucifixion of the self-life will bring those who submit to it.  For there is power through the labor of the spirit of God within us, as we set our wills to DO His will, to change us from the mortal state to the immortal, from the corruptible to incorruption (II Cor. 5:4; I Cor. 15:53).  Through the efforts of this “most powerful associate of holiness,” the Holy Spirit, we are led away from the twists of warped human nature into conformity with the divine pattern.  “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).

        Through Jesus Christ it was demonstrated that man could become a partaker of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4).  However, God did not desire that just one son attain this state, but that many sons should reach it, for Jesus Christ is the “firstborn among MANY BRETHREN” (Rom. 8:29).

        God desired a family.  He wanted to share His glories with those who would have natures like His own, with desires similar to His.  He desired the closeness of the family bonds, that which would produce a relationship more intimate and holy than anything man had ever experienced.  This family was to be ONE with Him, even as the Father and the Son were one (John 17:11,21,22).  This was Christ’s prayer just before His death, “That they all may be ONE…that they also may be one in us,…that they may be made perfect in ONE” (John 17:21,23).

        This oneness with God is pictured by many things.  Conversion is the “immersion of our spirit into the body of Christ,” for we are “all baptized into ONE body” by regeneration (I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4).

        Communal living is another picture of this same state of oneness, where His people share all things in common and sacrifice their individual desires for the good of the entire body.  This is the true fellowship, the koinonia, wherein is developed and expressed the true love of God; for love like God’s is ever giving and sharing.  Water baptism points to this oneness, as does the baptism in the Spirit, in which man is completely submerged in God.  During this experience man “tastes of the powers of the world to come,” and is a partaker, for a little period of time, of that ONENESS with God which he is to share with Him throughout eternity.  God has made it possible for man to have a foretaste of that glorious state, a sample of that which he is to enjoy eternally.

        The Most High God is a God of love, of benevolence, of unending mercies to His people.  Whenever man, by choice and desire, turns to God, that man “opens the door to God’s providences,” and the Lord, the very personification of love, immediately moves His hand out to that individual to give him every aid to receive those things which he seeks of the Lord.  God gives unstintedly of Himself and His resources.  “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).  He desires that His creatures have every good that He has created.  He has made it possible for them to develop the qualities within them, through the power of choice given to every being of His universe and through obedience to His laws, until they attain the same moral character that He possesses.

        Through love for man and the desire for a family, God has created the human race and subjected it to certain limitations in HOPE that fallen beings, made of dust, and frail as the grass of the field, might desire to become sons of God and part of His family.  Through the process of SELF-DENIAL and SELF-CRUCIFIXION, they acquire the very nature of God and thus become LIKE HIM.  They bear HIS IMAGE (I Cor. 15:49).

        God is not only entirely without any selfish interest or motive – the very opposite of all ungodly beings who are ruled by SELF – but He is SELFLESS, a state that finite beings cannot begin to comprehend except through His Spirit.  The wonder of it is that God has made the way for MAN to become selfless, to enter into this state also.  Then He will be ONE with God.

        This is the great destiny of man, the wonderful goal toward which the Father is working and toward which everyone who loves God must strive.  Earth is the workshop.  Every adverse condition confronting the man of God, or found within him, is a means to move him to seek God, to cast himself without reserve upon His God, to become dependent, and lose himself – that he might save himself.  By this submission and the exercise of love and devotion toward God and the members of His body, the hazards in his nature that make him unstable and subject to the pressures of hell and the flesh are removed.

        By this process of death man gradually loses his selfish, contorted nature and develops a moral character of greatest worth – like God’s – without sin, without fault, and without self.  “We…are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18); a selfless being, like unto the Lord, for when we shall see Him, “we shall be LIKE HIM” (I John 3:2).

        This was God’s plan when He said, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26).  This He SHALL accomplish in spite of every power of evil, and every human weakness of man.  The oneness shall be complete, “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11).

 

 

 

ME AND MY WORDS

James Sanderson

        “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation of him also shall the son of man be ashamed” (Mark 8:38).  This particular portion of Scripture reveals the value that our Lord Jesus Christ placed on His words.  It also reveals that one cannot separate the Person of Christ from His message.  He doesn’t say merely “ashamed of me” but of “me and of my words.”  Again in the Gospel of John, our Lord stresses this inseparable bond that exists between Himself and His words, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you” (John 15:7).  The four gospels reveal that that generation, and the ecclesiastical system in particular, were more outraged at the message of Christ than His mere Person.  If Christ had only healed the sick, fed the multitudes, and supported the religious leaders of His day, He would probably have been strongly accepted by most people.  This same situation holds true today.  We live in an age that tends to treat lightly the words of Jesus Christ.  Man doesn't mind a forgiving Christ or a Christ who is there when one is in a tight situation.  Man, by nature, would rather avoid a Christ who makes too many demands on His way of life.  The message of Jesus Christ pierces to the very heart of man, revealing his sinful and lost condition before God.  It is impossible to separate Jesus from His words.

        What does it mean to be ashamed of Christ and His words?  There are four Greek verbs translated ashamed.  The word that Jesus used in this particular reference is the strongest and most intense of them all.  The Apostle Paul, using this same word, declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16).  Again in II Tim. 1:8, he admonished his readers, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.”  Although the word ashamed can indicate “a feeling of shame or embarrassment,” it is also defined as “deterred or restrained by anticipation of shame, reluctant.”  The natural man does not want to experience the reproach or “afflictions” that come with walking with Christ.  In this world there is a reproach that one will bear if he truly follows our Lord Jesus Christ.  Moses chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God” and esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb.11:25-26).  One who is not ashamed of Christ is prepared to identify fully not only with the Person of Christ but also His message even if it means being “a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel.”  Those who are not ashamed of Christ will embrace His message and attempt to put that message into practice in their daily lives.  It might be well to explore the tremendous value that the Almighty places on the words of Christ.

Jesus Was God’s Message

        “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son” (Heb. 1:1-2).  Many God-inspired men have come and gone, each bearing a message from the Lord.  Jesus Christ, however, stands apart from all of these messengers in that Jesus did not simply bear a message.  He was the Message.  Jesus Christ was the very personification of God’s will.  The Apostle John by inspiration of the Holy Spirit called Him the Word.  “The Word was God” (John 1:1).  “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14).

        It is impossible to separate Jesus Christ from His words because He Himself is called “the Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).  Jesus was the Father’s personal message to man, that is, the Father’s very mouthpiece.  It is completely ludicrous to attempt to accept Jesus as Savior but completely disregard what He had to say.  “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10).  Again in John 12:49-50, “I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting.  Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me so I speak.”  In His prayer to the Father, He said, “I have given them thy word” (John 17:14).

His Word Is Eternal

        “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Luke 21:33).  Jesus and His words are inseparable because His word, like Himself, is eternal.  The Apostle Peter, noting the transitory condition of man, wrote, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth away: But the word of the Lord endureth forever” (I Peter 1: 24-25).

        There are no afterthoughts with the Almighty.  Man, due to his fickle nature, often has to retract or alter what he has said.  Not so with God.  “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6).  One can stake his life on the eternal, infallible words of Jesus Christ.  At the close of His Sermon on the Mount, our Lord compared His words to a rock.  “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24-25).  Note the three destructive forces: rain, floods, and winds.  Not one of these can destroy a house whose foundation is established on the rock.  The words of Jesus Christ are a sure foundation that will endure to eternity.

His Word Is Complete

        The psalmist declared, “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7).  James describes it as the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25).  That word perfect means complete (Strong’s).  The words of Jesus are sufficient to meet man’s every need.  They have therapeutic value for the soul.  Applied to the life, they bring complete spiritual healing and deliverance from sin.  Jesus stated, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you “(John 15:3).  Obedience to His words will transform one’s life.

        Jesus declared, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).  His words bring lasting peace, joy, and satisfaction.  Many who do not understand this life in God consider His words to be too restraining and a great hindrance.  The Apostle John writes, “His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).  That word grievous means burdensome (Vine’s).  Those who truly love God do not find His words to be a burden because they understand their true value.

His Word Shall Judge

        “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).  Here in this portion of Scripture, our Lord Jesus Christ again emphasizes the inseparable bond between Himself and His words.  In that final day when our Lord Jesus Christ occupies His heavenly judgment seat as Judge of both the quick and the dead, He will ask one question, “What have you done with my words?”  One’s response to the words of Jesus Christ in this life will have eternal consequences in the next.

        By the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the psalmist pinned these words, “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2).  This statement underscores the supreme regard that God has for His word.  The very kingdom of the Living God is founded on divine principles that will never be altered.  As long as the Almighty occupies His heavenly throne, His word will be exalted.

 

 

 

TRUTH UNWELCOME TO EVIL

Curtis Dickinson

        Truth is essential to any successful human relationship, but it is widely recognized that truth is the ingredient sadly lacking in today’s world.  What is not understood, and very seldom addressed, is the direct connection between the abandonment of truth and the embracing of violence and evil.

        The Apostle Paul made a sweeping statement concerning God’s wrath against those “who hinder truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18), explaining that they who refused to glorify God and give Him thanks, “became vain in their reasonings and their senseless heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise they became fools (Rom. 1:21,22)…and exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).  Then follows a list of evil actions, including homosexuality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness…murder, strife, deceit, malignity, haters of God, etc. (Rom. 1:24-31).

        How can one explain the intentional portrayal of gross filth and the glorification of ugliness through movies, television, and the internet, other than the fact that it is the product of evil minds who love darkness?  The organized effort to destroy the Christian culture and replace it with a savagely violent and unspeakably immoral way of life can only be explained as the work of evil people who despise the truth of Christ and hate all those (Christians) who seek to live by it.

        This hostility toward Christ and truth not only has its reaction in the persecution of Christians, but it has a devastating effect upon the unbelievers themselves who are in rebellion against God, leaving them frustrated, insecure, burdened with guilt and struggling against fears.

        Often they are further confused with “self-help” exercises, such as self-actualization, self-healing, self-love, etc., seeking the solution that can come only when they submit to the Creator’s truth as given through Jesus His Son.

 

 

 

REPRINT

        The following article, “Let Us Cleanse Ourselves” by James Sanderson is reprinted from the November issue of Testimony of Truth because a complete page was left out of the article.   We apologize for that error and have reprinted it so you can read the complete article.

 

LET US CLEANSE OURSELVES

James Sanderson

        “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1).  Here in this portion of Scripture, the Apostle Paul addresses Christians including himself with a call to a life of purity and holiness before God.  God is looking for a clean people.  “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isa. 52:11).  When God saved and called us out of a life of sin, He had a distinct goal in mind, the perfection of “holiness in the fear of God.”  The Amplified Bible states it this way, “Therefore, since these[great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminatesand defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the (reverential) fear of God.”

        This portion of Scripture reveals that the cleansing process is a joint venture between God and the individual believer.  In this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul had just reminded the believers of some wonderful promises given by the Spirit of God, promises of eternal fellowship between God Himself and the believer.  These divine promises are available only to those who willingly cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this cleansing process.  As the Holy Spirit reveals to the believer that which “contaminates and defiles,” it becomes the believer’s responsibility to cleanse himself by utilizing those resources made available by the Lord.

        In order to fully explore this topic of cleansing, one must understand the problem of sin in the human heart, the believer’s obligation to come to grips with that sinful condition, the resources available for this cleansing process, and God’s goal for the believer.  Implicit in this study of the cleansing process is the understanding that God makes a sharp distinction between that which is clean and that which is unclean.  The prophet Ezekiel stated, “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezek. 44:23).  Modern society has attempted to blur the lines that God has drawn between what is clean and unclean.  In turn, man often futilely attempts to justify his actions and hide his true condition.  The final authority is the Holy Spirit Himself residing in the believer.  The Holy Spirit will faithfully work with the believer to accomplish this task of cleansing.

The Problem Of Sin

        “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).  The writer is not talking about that organ that pumps blood throughout the body.  The word heart stands for “man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements.  In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life” (Vine’s, page 547).  The heart is the “real you.”  Moral expression emanates from the heart not the head.  The brain is merely an organ that responds to the dictates of the human heart.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “For with the HEART man believeth unto righteousness”(Rom. 10:10).

        God is dealing with the heart.  “For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Sam. 16:7).  God’s concern is with the spiritual condition of man’s heart.  “I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts” (Rev. 2:23).  “Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts” (I Cor. 4:5).

        When the Apostle Paul admonishes believers to cleanse themselves, he is talking about the uncleanness residing in the human heart.  Jesus Himself stated that man is defiled by the things that come from within the heart (Mark 7:15).  What are some of those things?  “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).  When the sinner comes in sincerity to God, repents, seeks forgiveness, and gives his life to the Lord, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses him of sin (I John 1:7-9).  He renounces his old way of life, and he becomes a new creature (that is, a new creation) in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17).  This experience in God is called “the new birth.”  This experience does not eradicate those unclean propensities of the human heart.  The new believer now receives power through the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life to deal with those conditions so that he can live above sin and the desires of the flesh.  Those conditions listed by Jesus no longer have to control his life.  He has victory over them through the work of the Cross and the blood of Jesus Christ.  All the resources of Heaven now become available to the new-found believer to perfect holiness and purity in his life.  As one draws closer to the Lord, he becomes more sensitive to this inner work of the Holy Spirit.

By Divine Command

        The cleansing process is absolutely obligatory if one expects to make it through the pearly gates.  The new birth does not free the individual to do what he wants in life and then make it to heaven.  The new birth frees him from the power of sin so that he can live a clean and holy life in Christ Jesus.  His new life in God allows him the freedom to work with the Holy Spirit in order to come to grips with those areas in his life that do not display the character of Jesus Christ.  “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure”(I John 3:3).  Once again, this command is addressed to Christians who have “this hope,” in other words, this expectation.  What is that hope or expectation?  The hope of becoming like Christ in moral purity.

        A number of other scripture references also emphasize the burden that rests on the believer in this quest for moral purity and holiness.  “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Tim. 3:19).  The Apostle Paul continues with this discourse, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour.  If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work”(I Tim. 3:20-21).  The Greek word for purge means to cleanse thoroughly (Strong’s).

        Another portion of Scripture that emphasizes this same theme is found in the book of Revelation.  “And one of the elders answered saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes?  And whence came they?  And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest.  And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:13-14).  This heavenly company of believers that the Apostle John saw had attained this wonderful position in God because they had availed themselves of all the means that God provided and dealt with the impurities of the heart.

By The Word

        “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).  Again, in John 17:17, our Lord also prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”  The word of God, especially that spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, has therapeutic value for the soul.  As one applies that word to his life, he begins to experience a cleansing of those things that defile or contaminate the heart.  The word that Jesus spoke is not a magic wand that instantaneously cleanses the believer.  One must both hear and do them for His words to have the desired results (Matt. 7:24).  The Apostle Peter also wrote, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit...” (I Peter 1:22).  Purification of the heart occurs only as one steadfastly obeys the word of God.  Without obedience, the word of God will only produce hardness of heart in the individual.  On a number of occasions, our Lord castigated the religious establishment of His day for “making the word of God of none effect” through their traditions (Mark 7:13).  The word of God did not accomplish its designated purpose because they did not apply it to their lives.  They had developed a theology that circumvented any obligation to God’s word.

        Many other Scripture references attest to the value of the word of God in this cleansing process.  The psalmist declared, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7).  God’s law and His word are one in the same.  James speaks of the “engrafted word, which is able to save your souls(James 1:21).  He continues by admonishing his readers, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”(James 1:22). The Apostle Paul commends the Thessalonians, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (I Thess,  2:13).

        The Scriptures often liken the word of God to a lamp or light.  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).  “The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light...” (Prov. 6:23).  The Apostle John writes, “But 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 John 1:7).  Note that the blood of Christ is efficacious for cleansing only as one walks in the light.  That command to “walk in the light” means to apply the word of God to one’s life.  This portion of Scripture again emphasizes the fact that God has a part and man has a part in this process of cleansing or sanctification of the soul.

The Laver Of Brass

        After God led the Children of Israel out of Egypt into the Wilderness of Sinai, there the Lord gave Moses specific instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.  This divine structure, made of linen, gold, silver, brass, and wood, would be a mute testimony of the glorious gospel inaugurated by our Lord Jesus Christ.  This whole edifice with all its ornate furnishings was an “example and shadow of heavenly things” (Heb. 8:5).  Of specific interest to this study of the cleansing process is the laver of brass.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.  For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and feet thereat:  When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the Lord: So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations” (Ex. 30:17-21).  One must note that every priest who ministered in any way in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was under divine obligation to cleanse himself before offering sacrifices or before entering the holy place to minister before the Lord.  More specifically, he had to wash his hands and his feet.

        There is great significance to the washing of the hands and feet.  Hands represent one’s ministry and feet represent one’s walk.  Under the new covenant, there is no longer a Levitical priesthood.  Every believer is a member of that “holy priesthood” called “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5).  As a priest under the new covenant, each believer has a place of ministry in the body of Christ.  Although there has been a change in the priesthood, God’s expectations have not changed.  Every believer must have clean hands and a holy walk before God.  All that “contaminates and defiles” the human heart must be cleansed out.

        Also of significance is the water that filled the laver.  Water was a vital agent in the cleansing process.  The Scriptures often link water with the word of God.  “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-26).  The laver of brass gives witness to the tremendous value that God places on the application of the word of God to one’s life in this process of cleansing.

The Goal

        According to the Apostle Paul, the Spirit of the Lord instituted this cleansing process with one goal in mind: the perfection of “holiness in the fear of God.”  A huge expectation?  Yes.  Impossible?  No.  God has set a high standard for His people.  God wants a holy people.  “For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44).  The Apostle Paul wrote, “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (I Thess. 4:7).  The

        Apostle Peter echoed the same theme, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (conduct); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 15-16).  In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

        Yes, God’s expectations are high; however, the Scriptures declare that God will have a people who will meet these divine expectations.  The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). When this earthly drama has ended, our Lord Jesus Christ will present “to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but” will be “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

 

 

 

FROM THE MAILBAG

        We at People of the Living God received a nice letter from a reader who asked a very important question.  We would like to answer it in the Testimony of Truth publication, for we have had this question asked several times in the past.

        His question: “Do you think Jesus and the apostles needed a telephone with numbers 931-692-2849 – 666???  www.--------------- email us at __________ or a T.V. and all of the world’s latest inventions?  I strongly believe Romans 12- chapter.  The meaning of R.12 is what it says.”

                                        Will close with best wishes,

                                        H.N.S.

        The writer went on to say that he believes we are living in the last days, and I gathered from the content and theme of his letter that he feels it is time to come out of the world and not be involved in its system.  People of the Living God has for years believed and taught that we are living in the days just preceding Christ’s return, and it is time to pull away from this world’s system and be 100% sold out to God.  What is involved in coming out of the world is the question at hand.

        First, let’s read Romans 12:1-2 so we know precisely what it says.  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  There are two points which are paramount in these verses that we need to identify: 1) Christians are called to give their bodies (lives) as a sacrifice to God, 2) They must be transformed or changed from one state to another (carnal to spiritual, sinful to holy).  To present one’s life (which includes the body) as a living sacrifice means, the Christian lives and governs his life by the word of God.  He obeys God’s laws and follows His teaching, regardless of what others do or don’t do.  He trusts God no matter what evils befall him or the cost to his person; he stands faithful to God and His word.  He has set himself to be one that pleases God.

        Point 2 expresses a Christian’s determination not to allow the world to influence him or the decisions he makes in life.  He has set himself to allow God, through the word and the Holy Spirit, to change him into Christ-likeness.  This man will not succumb to the invitations of relatives or friends to activities which are in conflict with his convictions or which would encourage or tempt him to depart from, or compromise, what scripture teaches.

        One most important thing in this discussion is to recognize that God is dealing with men’s hearts, not what is portrayed outwardly (although when one’s heart is right, his outward expressions will also be right).  In other words, one’s attitude toward and his engagement in outward things is a reflection of the idols in his heart.  The love of his heart is either toward God supremely or set on things of this world.  “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).  The Lord stressed the importance of one’s heart to Samuel in I Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”  The Pharisees suffered from this malady of the importance of outward piety while neglecting the deception and sin within their own evil hearts.

        Let’s consider the items mentioned in the letter: telephones, emails, televisions, and the world’s inventions.  Are any of these things evil in themselves?  Is a telephone an evil invention?  Is sending a letter using email instead of the postal service, evil?  Is a box or screen through which we can receive media into our homes sinful in itself?  These things are merely objects which can be used for good or evil.  There are no intrinsic moral values or evil propensities within them.  Yet they can be used for good or evil.  If the Gospel is preached and comes into our homes, souls are saved and Christians are encouraged in their dedication to God, then the medium is beneficial; but if the filth of the movie industry and doctrines of humanism are allowed, then the medium is detrimental.  The medium is nothing in itself, it is what one allows to come through the medium that is the issue, and that is determined by the person who controls the medium and goes back directly to one’s heart.

        If we take the position that Jesus and the apostles had none of these modern inventions so we should not, then to be consistent we would also have to condemn Gutenberg’s printing press.  Yet history has proven that the effectiveness of the Great Reformation was due largely to this invention.  Most Christians of the Reformation believed that God provided Gutenberg with the knowledge to bring the printing press into existence for this divine purpose.  The fact that a printing press can be used for evil does not negate its propensity for good.  The printing press has made it possible for God’s word to be printed and sent around the world.  Thousands, if not millions, have heard God’s word and many have come to the knowledge of the wonderful salvation provided in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Has the printing press been used to promote sin and evil?  Absolutely!  But if we are honest, men have even used the Bible to promote and excuse sin and evil.  Men have used God’s word to enslave, torture and even kill, but that doesn’t make the Bible evil, rather it reveals how evil one’s heart is, and the need to be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.  Men use the Bible to excuse their sins and wrest it to their own destruction because their hearts are evil, not because the Bible is evil.  They will not come to Christ that they may be healed and converted (Matt. 13:15; John 5:40).

        People of the Living God has received many, many calls from people who needed encouragement, understanding, or Biblical counsel.  Others have called for immediate prayer for physical needs, sickness, financial aid, and marital or family problems.  The list could go on and on, but the telephone was a great blessing for the needs that required immediate attention.  We have had many emails from readers, even from Christians overseas, with questions or needs, and we are able to quickly respond to them.  The internet, while filled with ungodly material, also contains the gospel, and many souls have come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ through the internet.  We have people who have read the material posted at www.peopleofthelivinggod.org and reached out to us desiring to know more about God’s plan for these perilous days in which we live.

        What is God referring to when scripture cautions of the perils of worldliness?  John gives warning of three tendencies which the world uses to gain the allegiance of one’s heart.  1 John 2:15-16: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  John alerts us that one’s heart can be captivated by things in the society around us.  The lusts of the flesh are those things which are sensual: desire for strong drink, sex, drugs, and even an insatiable desire for food.  Entertainment is one of the great traps the world uses to draw the unwary and the simple into its grip.  Anything our soul desires beyond what is legal and reasonable is lust of the flesh.  Lust of the eyes is the overindulgence in or desires for the fineries of life, such as clothing or dress, jewelry, furniture, homes, cars, anything one cannot be happy without.  The pride of life involves fame, placing unnatural importance upon heritage, position or even abilities and talents.  This man finds himself in need of honor and prestige in order to be content.  Self is his god.  All these things are found in the world and are praised by men and women of the world.  They all stem from an evil heart and expose that Jesus Christ is not the One on Whom the heart is set.  It is set rather on self-gratification and it seeks to please self in the things of the world.

        Jesus’ prayer, found in John 17, reveals God’s heart for His people.  He prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15).  Christians are to be salt and light to the world.  We are to be in it but not part of its evil.  We must hold up truth at any cost, and we will be hated by the world because the world will not hear the truth, especially the truth about sin.  The world loves sin and refuses to turn from it and when truth exposes the sin, the world will persecute those who live it and preach it.  Only God can change one’s heart, and He has ordained His people to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, and when we do, some will hear and will come out of the world, for they will find their joy, peace and satisfaction in Jesus Christ alone.

        Conclusion: The inventions mentioned in this letter are not evil in themselves but can be used for evil or for good.  How we use them indicates what is cooking in the kitchen of our hearts, and this is where God is looking and where these inventions can expose an unseen idol.

        May God richly bless you as you continue to seek His will for your life and to know Him better.

                                                                Sincerely, the Editor

 

 

 

BURIAL OR CREMATION?

Alfred King

        Recently, “The Testimony of Truth” was asked to publish our views concerning cremation.  Cremation is something they seemed concerned about, possibly because they were considering it themselves but had questions as to whether it is Biblical.  We state in this article what we believe scripture teaches.  The topic is somewhat difficult because scripture gives us no solid command or direction that we can be 100% positive of how God views cremation.  One important fact is that we are not divided over issues such as this, for we must live and die by our convictions as we understand God’s word.  I have several very close friends and relatives who have chosen cremation that I believe were very good Christians and feel confident they are with the Lord.  But what does scripture have to say about burial and cremation?

        Death began in the Garden of Eden when Adam sinned.  God told Adam that in the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die.  Adam did partake of the forbidden fruit, and he was that very day cut off from the source of life, and that source was God.  Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden and spiritual death took hold of them.  However, physical death came several hundred years later when Adam’s body succumbed to death.  Death is a grim reminder that man is a fallen creature.  Yet death is also a sweet hope of another promise in scripture, that we shall be resurrected, and in that resurrection we shall gain eternal life, an everlasting life with Jesus Christ.  This great hope removes the sting of death and gives us consolation, not only for ourselves but also at the passing of those we love.  Of course, we understand this hope belongs only to those who have made Christ their Savior and Lord.

        The first we read in scripture concerning the burial of their dead is in Genesis 23.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had died and Abraham sought a place to bury her.  Abraham had no possession in the land of Canaan at this time so he purchased the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah and buried Sarah in a cave.  Abraham believed in the promise of the Messiah and he knew there would be a resurrection, so had hope in that promise.  Placing Sarah’s body in this tomb was an indication of his faith in a future resurrection.  From this time on, Israel practiced burial as the means to dispose of their dead.  It was not just a custom, for the burying of Israel’s dead was very important to them, so important that Joseph gave instructions that his bones not be left in Egypt but they be taken back to Canaan when the children returned to the promised land.  It was a few hundred years after his death that Israel left Egypt, but they remembered Joseph’s request and took his bones and buried them in the tomb with his father, Jacob.  A few other scriptural accounts are Joshua, Gideon, David, as well as most of the kings of Israel and Judah.  There is also an amazing account in II Kings 13 of a man who had died and as they were burying him their enemies came upon them suddenly, so they quickly put the body of the dead man in the sepulcher of Elisha.  When the dead man’s body touched the bones of Elisha, he immediately revived and stood upon his feet.  One must wonder what would have happened if Elisha’s body had been burned and spread over the land as is custom in so many heathen lands.  Some may think this is incidental, however God doesn’t always reveal His will or His truths in black and white but reveals them through parables, allegories, examples, dark sayings and prophesies, so we must search to come to an understanding of God’s perfect will.  God spoke in such a manner so the trifler, the fool and those who have no genuine desire to walk with God will find what their evil hearts desire.

        Into the New Testament, the custom of burial was carried over.  In John 11, we have the account of Lazarus’ death and burial.  Jesus raised him from the dead and called him from the tomb although he had been wrapped in grave clothes when prepared for burial.  Stephen’s body, after being stoned, was taken by devout men to his burial (Acts 8:2).  Of course the greatest example is that of Jesus.  Jesus was placed in a tomb and three days later was resurrected.  By burial we recognize the pattern and example He set and we rest in His promise that just as He was resurrected, we also shall be resurrected on the last day.

The Resurrection

        There are some who teach that the resurrection of the physical body is for the new heavens and the new earth.  We at “The Testimony of Truth” do not hold this view, for we do not see that scripture teaches there will be a millennium, a one thousand rule of Christ upon the earth, nor of another world in which saints from this world will be resurrected to inhabit that world.  Jesus taught that all men, both good and bad, will be resurrected at the same time.  John 5:28-29: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus informs us that when He returns He will gather all nations and separate the good and the bad, setting the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left.  Judgment and reward follows.  No one-thousand-year period, no rapture, no second chance.  What does scripture teach concerning the resurrection?  In I Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul gives some very pertinent facts concerning the resurrection.  He begins addressing the resurrection in verse 13, which reads, “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.”  Paul in this discourse is running two biblical truths parallel.  One: he is teaching that as Christ was raised from the dead, we also receive spiritual resurrection through faith in the finished work of Christ.  This is the first resurrection, which is a spiritual resurrection, necessitated because of the first sin, Adam’s sin in the garden.  *(See footnote at the end of this article where the first resurrection is explained.)  1 Cor 15:21-22: “For since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Christ) came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  Two: while Paul is speaking of this spiritual resurrection from the curse of sin, he is also teaching of the resurrection of our bodies at the last day.  Continuing from verse 23 and reading through 26, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.  For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”  Obviously, Paul is speaking of the resurrection of the physical body when Christ returns.  In referring to the resurrection of the saints when Christ returns, he has this to say, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:51-54).  When the last trump sounds, all will be raised and the saints will be changed in a moment, this corruptible will be incorruptible and this mortal will gain immortality.  The physical body will be resurrected and will not be as it is presently, in this material world.  This is difficult for our human minds to grasp, for it is so foreign to our thinking.  A very pertinent example of this transformation is the resurrection of Jesus and His resurrected body.  Paul informs us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).  Yet, we see Jesus physically resurrected and telling the disciples to touch Him and says to them, “a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).  Jesus was in His flesh after His resurrection and yet just a few days later we see Him taken up into heaven (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11).  The body Jesus possessed after His resurrection was most certainly changed.  It no longer suffered its previous limitations.  Likewise the body of the second resurrection when Christ returns will be changed similarly.  It is impossible for us to fully understand the resurrection or the transformation that will transpire at that time, but it fills the believer’s heart with a hope (unknown by those who know not God) and a confidence and trust in God and His word that causes us to press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  It stirs our souls and lifts us up above the cares and troubles of this world and sets our vision on heavenly things, giving us strength that flows from God above to His people.  And in that flow is found the power to walk with God even in the midst of an adulterous and ungodly world.  As Abraham, we look for a city which hath foundation, whose builder and maker is God.

Biblical Cremation

        There is only one definite account of cremation in scripture.  It is found in I Samuel 31:6-13.  It is the account where King Saul had been slain in battle and his body taken by the Philistines.  His body was disgraced by mutilation and hung on a wall.  Some of the valiant men of Jabesh-gilead went at night and took his body back to Jabesh, burned it with fire and buried his bones.  Saul had begun well in his service to God but he became proud and refused to obey the words of Samuel.  Consequently, God forsook him.  He troubled David, God’s chosen man to replace Saul as king of Israel, and when God no longer would speak to him, he turned to witchcraft.  His death was not one of honor in God’s hall of fame, rather one whose name was blotted out of His book.  His death ended in judgment.

Fire Is a Means of Judgment

        There are many accounts in scripture where God used fire to bring judgment upon the sinful.  Consider a few of the most infamous: In Genesis 19, we have the record of Sodom’s sin and the judgment of God that fell upon that city along with all the other cities in the plains.  In verse 24 we are informed, “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.”  God’s judgment is seen in fire.  In the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, found in Numbers 16, the earth opened and swallowed up these three men with their families.  The 250 men who united with Korah in his rebellion, when they waved their sensors before the Lord, the fire of the Lord came out of the tabernacle and consumed them.  God’s judgment fell by fire.  When Israel had crossed the Jordan River and taken Jericho, they were defeated in the next battle against Ai.  The reason was because Achan had taken some of the spoil from Jericho.  Achan’s sin was discovered and he, with his whole family, was stoned and then burned with fire.  God’s judgment revealed in fire.  In Leviticus 10:1-3 we find another judgment by fire upon Nadab and Abihu when they waved strange fire before the Lord.  Aaron was told to take them outside the camp, bury them and not to grieve over them.  There are other examples in scripture, but these should be enough to show that fire is used as judgment.  In the end when Christ returns, the earth, the works and the very elements will dissolve and pass away with fervent heat, according to II Peter 3:10-12.  God’s final judgment of this world will be by fire.

        However, we all know that many saints have been martyred by burning at the stake.  Is God limited that He cannot resurrect these who died while standing firm in the love for God?  No, God is not limited, for He can and will bring these faithful servants forth from their fiery graves also.  While we do not condemn those who choose cremation for themselves or their families, we prefer to follow Israel’s pattern, believing it to be more in keeping with scripture.  One must seek God and pray to find that with which they feel comfortable when it comes to their death or that of their loved ones.  We at People of the Living God do not believe that those bodies which are cremated will not be resurrected.  God is not limited to man’s ways of thinking, nor is He unable to bring together those who have been cremated, eaten by wild animals, lost at sea and no doubt have been the meal of several different species of the seas or any other manner of death.  However, we prefer to hold to the Jewish custom of burial which Abraham established, and look forward to that day when Christ will return and “all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life and those that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29).

*The First Resurrection

        The great error made by those who teach a pre-tribulation rapture, rests primarily in their misunderstanding of the first resurrection.  Their teachings go something like this: The first resurrection takes place before the great tribulation when those who had died in the Lord will be resurrected.  After the tribulation, those who had not accepted Christ will be resurrected, and this is considered the second resurrection.  This is not what scripture teaches.

        The Bible never uses the terms “second resurrection” or “first death”.  It does, however, speak of the “first resurrection,” therefore implying at least a second resurrection, and it does mention “second death” which means there must be a first.  It is left to us as we search the scriptures to determine what these terms refer to and when they take place.  Since our main objective here is the first resurrection, we will address this very important point.

        Adam sinned and Paul informs us of the consequences: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).  As mentioned in the article above, spiritual death came upon Adam the very day he sinned.  He was cut off from the source of life, which is God.  Physically, Adam lived a few hundred years after his transgression.  Jesus, when conversing with Nicodemus, told him that he must be born again.  Why?  Because he was spiritually dead as the result of sin.  However, Nicodemus was very much alive physically.  Jesus was addressing the death that passed upon all men because of sin.  In teaching Nicodemus the need to be born again, he was teaching that he must receive a spiritual resurrection.  This is the first resurrection.  Consider a few scriptures along this line: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).  “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).  And in the account of the Prodigal son, the father’s gracious words concerning his son were: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.  And they began to be merry” (Luke 15:24).  Scripture is very clear that the first death was brought about through Adam’s transgression, and the first resurrection was made possible through the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross, His death procuring salvation and resurrection from eternal death.  “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22).

        The second resurrection is that resurrection at the last day when Christ returns.  The second death is clearly identified in Revelation 20:14, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.”  Earlier in this same chapter of Revelation, verse six, it reads, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power.”  The death of the physical body is of little importance to those who walk with Jesus Christ; “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (I Cor. 5:8).

        Those who are saved and continue to walk with God in obedience do not fear the second death when death and hell are cast into the lake of fire along with “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 22:8).

 

 

 

EXHORTATION OF MOSES FOR TODAY

John Sanderson

        Israel had been in bondage in Egypt for many years.  God told Moses that the people’s cries of deliverance had been heard (Ex. 3:7-9).  God said that Moses would lead them into a land that was “flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8).  God then showed His mighty power to the nations in delivering the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus, chapters 7-12).

        After the children of Israel had wandered in the desert for forty years, the younger generation (see Num. 14:28-35) was about to enter into the land of Canaan.  Since Moses would not be allowed to enter Canaan because of disobedience (Num. 20:12), he gathered Israel together for a final exhortation.  In Deuteronomy, the sixth chapter, Moses gives them the instructions they need to prosper in this strange new land, which was still fraught with dangers for the people whom God had called to holy living.

        Because we are “strangers and pilgrims” (Heb. 11:13; I Peter 2:11) in this world in a way similar to what they were, it behooves us to compare the words of Christ and the Apostles.

Exhortation of Moses – Deut. 6           Exhortation for Today

Keep the Commandments – verse 1             Ye are my friends, if ye do – John 15:14
Fear the Lord – verse 2                               Serve God acceptably with…godly fear –
                                                                 Heb. 12:28
Hear and do what the Lord says –                 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers
verse 3                                                        only – James 1:22
Love the Lord with all – verse 5                     Love the Lord with all – Matt. 22:37; Mark
                                                                   12:30
Teach the way of the Lord – verse 7              The Comforter teaches – John 14:26
Beware lest thou forget – verse 12                 Give the more earnest heed to the things
                                                                    which we have heard, lest at any time we
                                                                    should let them slip – Heb. 2:1

        As “strangers and pilgrims” in this world, we need these exhortations in our lives today.  We need to fear the Lord, keep His commandments, teach the ways of the Lord, and love Him with our all.  By doing these things, the promise God made to Israel will apply to us, too:

        “Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee” (Deut. 6:3).

 

 

 

HOW GREAT IS THY LOVE?

Alda Scullin

        Love is perhaps the most abused and most misunderstood word in any language, yet it is so important in our walk with God that Jesus said that upon it – love of God and love of neighbor – hang all the law and the prophets.  Dictionaries fail in defining it, and comparatively few mortals have known it, except in an extremely limited measure.  Webster’s definition leads one to believe that love is sensual: an emotion, or a strong, exciting feeling.  Hasting’s Bible dictionary states that the word love, as used in the Bible, represents Hebrew and Greek words ranging in meaning from “sensuous, and often evil, desire or passion to the highest spiritual passion.”  The Bible contains three words which deny the validity of the above definitions: “God is love.”  In the light of this Biblical definition it seems safe to assume that in order to understand what characterizes true love, one must examine the character of God Himself.  The scriptures afford us many clues, and in their light the contrast of true love and love in its many pseudo forms stands clearly revealed.

        “God so loved…that He gave His only begotten son.”  What prompted this act of great sacrifice on the part of both the Father and the Son?  Could it have been an emotional or sentimental feeling?  Impossible!  Emotional acts are impulsive, on-the-spur-of-the-moment affairs.  The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was planned “before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; I Peter 1:20).

        Consider who benefited by this gift of love.  Were the Father and Son enriched by it?  The cost to them was greater than we can comprehend.  When Jesus became sin for us it separated Him from the Father.  In agony of spirit He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and His heart burst.  No, they were not the beneficiaries; neither was it beings who by their own acts or inherent goodness merited any consideration at all; but rather those who were, and are, unworthy, and who, being so loved, do not by nature love in return.  In the heart of fallen man there is only devotion to self, not love for God.  The crucifixion of Christ met the demands of moral law and was executed solely for the benefit of creatures, who in their fallen estate, were at enmity with Him.  In this we find the selflessness of perfect love and the strength of love to preserve law and order regardless of the cost.

        How does the “love” of professing Christendom compare with God’s example?  It is so easy for one to say, “I love the Lord,” or to say to his brother, “I love you,” and greet him with a kiss, but is his professed love costing him anything?  If not, it is not love.

        Let’s refresh our minds from I Corinthians 13.  This chapter is listing the attributes of God’s own character which we must “put on” (Col. 3:14).  Love suffers long; not just suffers – but long.  Are we ready to suffer for the brethren?  Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  This can be done daily by denying oneself and serving others in their need whether it be physical, spiritual, or material.  Are we concerned with lifting our brother’s load, undoing the heavy burdens, strengthening the feeble knees, lifting up the hands that hang down – or do we point the finger and condemn, so that the lame are turned out of the way?  Remember that “God sent NOT his Son into the world to CONDEMN the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).  Oh, yes, those He loves He rebukes and chastens, but never condemns.  He remembers our frame.  He knows we’re dust.  When we fall He reaches down to help us up, dusts us off and sets us in the way again.  This is the love of God.  These are the actions we must emulate.

        We are responsible for our brother’s walk to the extent that it is in our power to aid him.  We cannot afford to be indifferent to his problems, for when one member suffers the whole body suffers.  If one is spiritually sick it cannot help but affect the whole.  It is the spirit of Cain that says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The Spirit of God says we are.

        Jesus was demonstrating this when He took upon Himself the role of a servant and washed the disciples’ feet.  It is obvious that His act signified something greater than a literal washing of feet: something which they did not at that moment fully comprehend – for Jesus said to Peter, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”  When He had finished He asked, “Know ye what I have done to you?…I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”  A little later He told them, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).  We are also told that Christ cleansed the church “with the washing of water by the word.”  Is it not apparent, then, that we can help our brother cleanse his walk by pointing to the words of Jesus which are the standard by which we must judge ourselves if we should not be judged?  Do we dare point another to the standard if we are not putting forth every effort to measure up ourselves?  A book of remembrance was written for those who feared the Lord, thought upon His name (thinketh no evil) and spake often one to another (see: Mal. 3:16).  Following this example benefits the whole body of Jesus Christ.

        “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:18).  “The husbandman waiteth with long patience for the precious fruit of the earth” (James 5:7), and all over the earth men are looking for the manifestation of the sons of God.  They are expecting to see great signs and wonders, and they will, but most of it will be “as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal” (I Cor. 13:1).  Never forget!  Supernatural manifestations are not necessarily the hallmark of a son of God.

        “By this,” Jesus said, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).