People of The Living God

Psalms 149

 

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February 2015



 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

REASONING WITH SIN

Alfred King

          Chilled by the cool night air and sitting in the darkness, surrounded only by tombs of the dead, Legion, in a brief moment of sanity, reflects on the past, thinking back on those events that brought him to this wretched place where he no longer has any control over his own body.  He feels the pains of self-imposed body mutilation and looks sadly at the scars where he, possessed and controlled by spirits from hell itself, had abusively cut deep wounds into his flesh.  Such illogical actions that he, even in his lost and sinful state, finds incomprehensible.  Staring at the bruises on his wrists, he is amazed by the supernatural strength he possessed when men had attempted to bind him.  He had broken the chains and had easily overcome a dozen men who tried to hold him.  His mind sadly reflects on his childhood, the time he loved life and remembers the joy he had when he played with his brothers and other children in his neighborhood.  His mind quickly moves on to that time when he began to give over to sinful temptations and disregarded all warnings, both from family and friends and even those red flags his own conscience kept raising.  He especially despised those religious fanatics who preached righteous living.  He much preferred the life of sin.  The reasoning of those righteous men was foolishness to him.  He knew where real life was to be found; it was in living his life as he pleased, doing those things that gave self-gratification.  He found much more satisfaction in the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life than in some archaic religion.  He continually and deliberately violated all the warnings that attempted to barricade him from the life he desired.  His life was totally for the gratification of his flesh.

        Little did he realize that God had given him over to a reprobate mind, a mind void of judgment or discernment.  He was blinded to where the road he was on would lead him.  Thinking back brought tears to his eyes as he longed to go back and make different choices.  All hope to be free had long ago passed from him.  For this brief relief from the tormenting forces that imprisoned him and drove him, he saw a man, a stranger afar off, and for some strange reason there arose within his tormented heart, a glimmer of hope.  Could it be that this man holds the keys that could open the prison doors that bind him and confine him in this state of torment?  He leaped to his feet, and running and falling down at this stranger’s feet he “worshipped” him.  From this man emanated a light, a life, a hope; a hope that had so long ago been lost that it was strange and foreign to him, yet it brought a certain inner expectation that this was the one who could set him free.  But as soon as he fell at Jesus’ feet he felt himself losing control as the evil spirits that controlled him, cried out, “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.”  Beyond the noise, the irreverent and profane demonic expressions, lurked a poor sinner looking out from his prison with longing eyes, begging for deliverance.  Jesus saw this longing soul and He Who came “to preach the gospel to the poor…to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18-19) is heard speaking to this legion of devils, commanding them to go into a herd of swine feeding nearby.  That day a legion of evil, demonic spirits were cast back into the abyss and a soul was set free, saved from torment and certain death, and he who was bound was found “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).  That day heaven rejoiced, for one more soul was brought into the kingdom of God.

        While the account written above is only one man’s thoughts on the life of Legion, it is one possibility that could have brought Legion to the place where he was that day when Jesus crossed over the sea to the land of the Gadarenes.  Whatever the events that occurred in Legion’s early life, it set the stage for this amazing and triumphing deliverance.  It is evident from the Biblical account of Legion that no power of man was able to free him.  He was completely taken over by evil spirits.  Today, men attempt to deliver those bound by evil spirits through psychology, drugs or other worldly means through men’s intelligence.  Men think they have the intelligence to solve man’s problems through science, psychology, meditation, hypnosis, etc. not realizing that sin is the real issue and sin will never listen to reason.  Sin is never logical.  Sin is always illogical to any purely rational mind.  Man is a fallen creature and, because of that fall, man has a sinful nature; he has a proclivity for sin.  As irrational as it is, a man with good intellect will violate his conscience, his logic and even his own understanding of the facts and indulge in some sinful act.  How many intelligent people have become enslaved to drugs, which violates all reasoning and logic?  How many successful men have destroyed their careers, their families and their future for a “one-night stand”?  How many families have been destroyed because one has become enslaved to alcohol?  How many marriages have suffered because one chooses to look at internet pornography?  How many suffer every day as a result of illogical decisions and choices that causes sin to reign over reason?

        Sin is not overcome nor dealt with by reason, because sin cannot be reasoned with.  Sin is only overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Sin’s first blow is when one believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and comes to Him in faith and repentance.  This is the first step in being set free from sin’s curse and bondage.  When one believes in Jesus Christ, his prison door opens and the soul is saved and set free.  The Psalmist said it like this in Psalm 124:7, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.”  Satan’s grip on the soul is lost and the soul is delivered from the powers of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13).

        So often we as Christian parents attempt to reason our children into Christianity.  It doesn’t work.  They must have a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ.  There is no substitute.  Reason will not erase sin from one’s life.  Reason may in many cases help deter one from some of the more gross sins of our society but as our society accepts, as normal, more and more immorality and ungodliness, the more these sins will become common and acceptable to a fallen mind and intelligence.  The more God and His word are pushed out of society, the more it will become “logical” to sin.  Is it reasonable for men, who in service to their god, kill and massacre hundreds of innocent children in cold blood?  Is it logical to destroy another’s property and injure people in the process in service to some false god or as a racist action?  Is it in keeping with common sense to kneel at a man-made idol of wood and stone as though that idol can do anything for you?  Yet these are commonplace in our 21st century world.

        Man has been made in the image of God and, while the fall placed man in a fallen state, there remains certain attributes and characteristics of our original parents.  Some of those are intelligence, reason, common sense, and a conscience.  Consider the impact the conscience had on the heathen in Paul’s day: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Rom. 2:14-15).  These heathen people observed certain moral principles which were not lost in the fall and they recognized the value of those principles.  I do not believe that those who commit the things mentioned in the previous paragraph above had no warning from their conscience before they committed such atrocities.  The warning may not have been extremely strong or compelling, for their conscience no doubt had been cauterized by past violations to the convictions of their own hearts.  But for their strong self-will and unrelenting hatred, they continued down their determined path, refusing to face the truth that their own heart is wretched and sinful.  Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23, “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.”  If these issues are not addressed, they will lead us down the path of destruction.

        Anyone who allows hatred to fill his heart to the degree he is able to murder, destroy and commit diabolical and heinous acts, has opened a door, and like with Legion, evil spirits find entrance.  They enter in to work and enslave those who yield themselves to such evil.  As we look around our 21st century world, we find these doors are being opened on a greater scale than in previous decades.  Jesus told John the beloved, while on the Isle of Patmos, that in the latter days the pit would be opened and from it would precede first smoke, followed by locust which have the sting of a scorpion.  The smoke is that which blinds and can suffocate.  This smoke is even presently oozing from the pit, blinding man’s mind and causing them to accept evil as good and good as evil.  Isaiah warns of these days.  Isa. 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”  The smoke is to blind men so they will not see that hidden behind this smoke screen are evil spirits coming forth in a manner not seen in modern history.  When these locusts (evil spirits) sting a man, they will be enslaved in a similar manner as Legion was.  The out-workings of these evil spirits will not necessarily be exactly as those Legion experienced but they will, nevertheless, bring the soul into a prison from which there is no escape except in Christ Jesus.  No reason or logic can deliver them, only Jesus Christ.  It is more crucial for the church to wake up to these critical times than the sinner, for it is the church that must apprehend the power of God’s kingdom to have the power and anointing that will break the yoke of spirit activity in our day.  It is imperative that the church know their God and have ears to hear what God is saying in these latter times.  There will be many in this day that, like Legion, will need deliverance from evil spirit possession.  They cannot free themselves, only God can.  May the Lord awaken a sleeping church, for the hour is at hand.

 

 

 

BUILDING THE TEMPLE

Curtis Dickinson

        Militant American Christians are raising millions of dollars to aid Israeli Jews to destroy a shrine sacred to a billion Muslims and to build on the site a great Jewish temple, which they call the “Third Temple.”  An Israeli guide claims that the building materials are ready, that they are preparing the linen to dress the temple priests and young men are being taught how to make animal sacrifice.  (Grace Halsell in The Link)

        When God called Israel out of Egypt, He instructed them to make a portable tabernacle, to house the Ark of the Covenant, with its mercy-seat to receive the sacrificial blood of the atonement (Exodus 25:8ff).  About 400 years later, King David complained that while he lived in a house of cedar, God dwelt in a tent (I Chron. 17:11), not realizing that the tabernacle was only a type or shadow of the true temple that was to come.  But David had blood on his hands, and had to leave it to his son Solomon to build the temple (I Kings 6-8), which became the pride of Israel, until its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC.

        When the Babylonian captivity of 70 years ended, the people restored the temple, but not to its original splendor.  It was King Herod, using 1000 specially trained priests as masons, who completely rebuilt the temple, twice its original size.  This work took 44 years (Ency. Of Jewish Religion, Holt Rinehart & Winston).

        It was of this temple that Jesus said, “There will not be one stone left upon another” (Matt. 24:2), in the day of Israel’s judgment, which took place in A. D. 70.  Since that day there has been no order of sacrifice and worship like that prescribed by Moses in the Old Covenant – no annual sacrifice, no high priest, and no blood on the mercy-seat to atone for the nation’s sins – for the nation ceased to exist.

        The nation now called Israel has no relationship to the Biblical Israel of 12 tribes.  The Jews who established modern Israel were no Semites, but descendants of the Khazars, who converted to a form of Judaism (based upon the Talmud, not the Bible), in the 8th century, long after the Roman destruction of the second temple in A. D. 70.  These were not Jews “returning to their home land,” but secular humanists and socialists whose ancestors had never been in the land of Palestine.  “They have no more claim to Jerusalem and Palestine than do Irish Catholics have claim to Vatican citizenship just because they profess the faith of Vatican City” (James Warner in Christian Defense League Report, Dec. 1992).

        Willfully ignorant of these facts, many Christians are promoting the effort to “rebuild the temple,” thinking this will fulfill prophecy and hasten the return of Christ.  Some hold that the temple will then be occupied by the anti-christ.  Classic premillennialism holds that the Jewish economy will be reinstated (in the “millennium”), including animal sacrifices.

Missing The Point

        It is amazing that believers can miss the teaching that the tabernacle, its priest and sacrifices were only types of the true spiritual things in the New Covenant established by Jesus.  They are called “copies” (Heb. 9:24) and “a shadow of the good things to come” (10:1).  The sacrifices would not take away the sins, so Jesus, the true Lamb of God, “offered one sacrifice for sins forever” (10:4,10,12).  Under the law (shadow of good things to come) only the High Priest could enter the Holy Place, the second room of the temple.  But Jesus became “a great priest over the house of God” (10:21), and after His resurrection “sat down on the right hand of God” (10:12), and now all Christians are exhorted to have “boldness to enter in to the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (10:19).

        With the perfect sacrifice made “once for all” (10:10) and the High Priest having entered “once” into the heavenly Holy Place, the temple in Jerusalem was rendered useless.  As Jesus died, the temple veil to the Holy Place was ripped from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51), indicating that it was of no further significance to God.  It was now time for the fulfillment of the prediction Jesus made to the woman of Sychar: “The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father” (John 4:21).  Yet it was necessary for the Lord to destroy the earthly temple to get the believers’ minds and hearts away from the formalistic idolatry (Jer. 7:3-14) and centered on true worship.

A Counterfeit

        Should the Zionists, with their kosher supporters like John Hagie, Pat Robertson, and the majority of some 80,000 fundamentalist preachers who broadcast daily over 400 stations, succeed in building their temple in Jerusalem, it will be a counterfeit temple for several reasons.

1.  By His death, Jesus nullified forever the OT system of temple sacrifices.  (Heb. 9:10-15; 10:1-4,18)

2.  Christians are forbidden to go back to the OT system.  (Gal. 3:23-25; 4:3-9; 5:1)

3.  It will have no priest, as Christ is the High Priest now seated at the right hand of God.  (Heb. 10:11-12)

4.  God will not dwell there, as He dwells in individual Christians, not in houses men build.  (Acts 7:48)

The True Temple

        Jesus shocked the Judean clergy when he said, “One greater than the temple is here” (Matt. 12:6).  More shock waves were felt when He predicted the temple’s total destruction (Matt. 24:2).  The material temple was to be replaced by a temple of a different nature.  The prophet Amos had prophesied the future building of the Tabernacle of David to receive the saved of the heathen (Amos 9:12).  In a special counsel of apostles and other leaders, James declared that this prophecy was fulfilled as people were converted through the preaching of the gospel and were becoming the spiritual house of God (Acts 15:13-19).  This was called “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man” (Heb. 8:2).

        The true temple in which God dwells is the redeemed believer, for He “dwells not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24).  Peter wrote, “You also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5).  The earthly stones are replaced by living Christians, “in whom every building, fitly framed together, grows unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21,22).

        “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God” (I Cor. 6:19).

        “We are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (II Cor. 6:16).

        The true temple, of which the material temple was only a type, could be built only by Christ.  “Behold the man whose name is The Branch!…he shall build the temple of Jehovah:…and he shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne” (Zech. 6:12,13).  This Branch is Jesus, both King and High Priest, who promised, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

        Man may build a house in which to meet, but only the Lord can build the ekklesia, the temple and household of God, and He has been building it since Pentecost, almost 2000 years ago.

        Peter gave a warning to false builders when he was challenged by religious officials for preaching Christ.  He said, “This is the stone that was set at naught of you builders which is become the head cornerstone” (Acts 4:11).  “You builders,” he called them – men who assumed to build for God while rejecting the one Stone essential for that building.

        A common error is heard in thousands of assemblies every Sunday morning when people speak of having “come into the house of God,” referring to the building dedicated to God in which they have met.  Unknowingly, perhaps, they are applying a holy scriptural phrase to something entirely different, and by doing so, robbing the church of an important and meaningful figure of speech.  “You are God’s building,” Paul writes (I Cor. 3:9).  We come into the house of God when we become Christians, not when we enter the door of the assembly hall.  Neither do we leave the house of God when we are dismissed, not unless we depart from the faith.

        Unfortunately, there are many who treat the church as a great business enterprise, and willingly promote and exalt the building, as such buildings become monuments to human success.  The negative influence of such builders is demonstrated in that we have so many enormous and elaborate church buildings throughout the land, but so little evidence of the presence of God in the populace.

        Christians are the “built” ones, not the builders, except as “workers together with God” through proclaiming the gospel, that the redeemed might be added as living stones to the building (Acts 2:47).

        Jesus sent us not to build temples, but to be temples where God might abide through His Spirit.

 

 

 

THE CHURCHMEN vs. THE SABBATH

Harold & Donna Kupp

        Many churchmen use Romans 14:5-6 as proof that New Testament believers no longer have an obligation to keep the Sabbath Day holy.  So, let us examine those two verses, as a Judge would consider evidence in his courtroom, and then decide whether or not they testify against Sabbath observance.  Paul wrote: “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike.  Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  He that regardeth (observeth) the day regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.  He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks” (Rom. 14:5-6).

        The Judge would ask: “Where is the Sabbath mentioned in those two verses?”  There is no reference to the Sabbath in the entire book of Romans!  No court in the land would allow verses that do not mention the Sabbath to be used as evidence in an argument against the Sabbath – so why should we?

        You see, Paul could not have been talking about keeping the Sabbath day holy because obedience to God’s law is not optional.  It is ludicrous to suggest that any of the Ten Commandments can be disobeyed “unto the Lord.”  Think of the absurdity of saying “He that stealeth, to the Lord he stealeth; and he that stealeth not, to the Lord he stealeth not.”

        So, what day was Paul talking about?  He was talking about fast days.  The whole 14th chapter of Romans is about food and drink and how people’s beliefs about food and drink should not be interfered with.  The fast days could be observed according to each believer’s conscience.  Man could eat – or not eat, keep the day – or not keep the day.  It is as simple as this: Each man could observe FAST DAYS, or not observe them, according to his own convictions.

        He that doth not eat, regards the day.

        He that eats, does not regard the day.

        The “days” that Paul was referring to were the traditional fast days mentioned in (Zech. 7:5-6).  The Gentile Christians in Rome did not keep them because they had no cultural interest in the anniversary fasts that were observed during the Jew’s captivity in Babylon.

        Even the Jews had different convictions among themselves about the observance of those days – because those fasts were never commanded by God.

        After the captivity (when the temple was being rebuilt) the men of Bethel also wondered if they should observe these fasts unto the Lord.  For example, they asked Zechariah: “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?” (Zech. 7:2-3)

        When you read Zechariah’s answer, notice the striking similarity of his words with those of Paul to the church at Rome.

COMPARE   Zechariah 7:5-6

        “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, Did ye at all fast unto me, even to me (the Lord)?  And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?”

WITH         Romans 14:6-7

        He that regardeth the (fast) day regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.  He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks”  For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”

        If you were the Judge in the case of the Churchmen versus The Sabbath, would you be willing to say that Paul had cancelled one of the commandments of God based on the evidence you find in the 14th chapter of Romans?

        In our opinion, the evidence from Romans and Zechariah demands a verdict for Sabbath observance.  The church must obey the Fourth Commandment and that is the only decision that will uphold the Law of God.

Case Closed!

 

 

 

GPS

Alfred King

        Living in the country has its own special advantages and, at the same time, lacks some modern luxuries and gadgets that urban life avails.  Not only is it further to drive for food, supplies, health care, etc., rural dwellers are the last to receive cable for fast internet speeds so must rely on a little more antiquated and slower internet service.  They are also the last to have cell towers erected for their portable phones, making them worthless at home, and GPS directions are not always up to date.  Several times in the last few years we have had people who get lost and come to our place asking for help.  They were following their GPS, which took them off the main road and directed them down an old logging road, where after a mile or more they found themselves stuck in a mud puddle.  We have had to pull them out with a tractor or 4WD truck and give them some directions to reach their destination.  It always seems a little strange to us that when these people begin to see the road narrow to one lane, the pavement end, gravel begin, then the gravel ends and dirt and mud puddles appear, that they would realize that something is wrong.  But such trust is placed in their GPS they disregard all the warning signs and continue on until they get stuck and can go no further.  Walking a mile or more back to civilization is a real eye-opener to the fact that their GPS was incorrect.

        Reflecting on this, it seems that most human beings today follow the world’s GPS, which inevitably leads them down a path where they are bogged down in sin or caught in the web of “keeping up with the Jones”, where the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches leave them physically and mentally drained.  Following the world’s GPS is a “rat race” that leads to eternal loss and final destruction.  It is not uncommon to see, not only sinners heading down this road, but many Christians also are putting their trust in what the world states as success.  They merely live their lives to the dictates of our modern society.  Right and wrong are not determined by God’s word but by what society promotes or the world states is right, or at least okay.  They continue blindly on their way, taking little notice or concern that the scenery is questionable, that the path is encouraging licentiousness, impurity and sin, all the while righteousness is being compromised.  They seem to disregard the danger of which their conscience warns them.  The peace, satisfaction and happiness that should be the results of walking with God are ebbing away, yet they continue on their way because their worldly GPS convinces them they are on the right path, a path that leads to contentment, joy, happiness and security.

        God has given to man a GPS to reach eternal life, His Word.  I am sure that every born again believer is convinced that the Bible is God’s word and it holds the truths that leads to God and everlasting life.  But believing the Bible is the word of God is, in itself, not enough to bring the believer to the desired goal.  We must not only believe it, we must follow its teachings and instructions.  If we fail to apply it to our lives, it will only serve to condemn us more severely.  Consider what Jesus said about the scriptures in light of this point: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).  There are many today who think they are on the right track merely because they read the Bible and go to church once or twice a week.  While these are important, if we are not being changed into Christ-likeness, it is not accomplishing its intended purpose.

        Most of us who have cell phones have picked them up to answer a call and hit the wrong button, hanging up on the caller.  Most have received a voice mail or text message and couldn’t figure out how to retrieve it.  We have to go back to the directions to learn how to operate and use the phone correctly before we can avail ourselves of all the services it provides.  Scripture is just like that.  We must continue to go over it, studying its contents and asking God to reveal to us its wonderful and life-giving truths.  We must always be on-guard that we not fall into the same trap as the Pharisees of old, who studied scripture but were never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  Why did they not come to truth?  Because they desired the praises of men more than the praise of God.  They followed their worldly GPS which led them away from God rather than toward Him, even while they read and studied the scriptures.  Isaiah gives a sound warning in chapter 55, verses 10 and 11: “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.”  God’s word will accomplish its intended purpose to all who hear it.  They will either allow it to change their lives or they will harden their hearts against it.  This is true whether the person is Christian or non-Christian.

        A couple of great examples of men who hardened their hearts are Pharaoh and King Saul.  God sent Moses to Pharaoh with orders to let His people go but Pharaoh hardened his heart.  With each plague sent against Pharaoh, his heart became more hardened.  Any time the word of God is preached or read, it will bring forth some type of response.  Either the hearer will reject and pay no attention to it or he will take it to heart and apply it to his life.  The heart is either made tender or it is hardened, depending on one’s response.  King Saul, although called, chosen (I Sam. 10:24) and anointed by God, and one upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came (I Sam. 11:6), later in life hardened his heart against God’s word.  While Saul did well as king for a period of time, pride and jealously arose in his heart and he failed to do everything God instructed him to do against the Amalekites.  In I Samuel 15, Samuel came to Saul and gave him time to repent but Saul hardened his heart and would not humble himself and confess his sin.  So great was Saul’s sin that scripture says, “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (I Sam. 16:14).  The continual rejection of God’s word hardens one’s heart until his conscience is “seared with a hot iron” (I Tim. 4:2).

        In contrast we have the record of many men of God who faithfully applied God’s word to their lives and it changed them and made them more like Christ.  David was a man after God’s own heart and he proclaimed, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).  So, we as Christians today must take God’s word as our guide and map, our GPS and follow it, always being aware of what it is producing in our lives.  Are we being made more humble or are we becoming arrogant and proud?  Is it producing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives or are the fruits evil?  Are we becoming more tender and pliable in God’s hands or are we hardening our hearts through disobedience?  Is it creating more love for God and others or do we see selfishness and a self-righteousness like the Pharisees of old?  Remember: God’s word will not return to Him void, but it will accomplish something.  We determine what it will accomplish in our lives.

 

 

 

FAITH

Charles Woodard

        God-given faith is a reward for obedience.  The more one obeys the will and Word of God, the greater will be the faith.  Faith is the gift of God: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: for it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

        Jesus is the source of our faith and He is the One who brings our faith into maturity: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

        Notice, faith plus obedience made Noah “heir of righteousness.”  Righteousness, or right standing with God, comes by both faith and obedience.  These are two sides of one coin.  A person cannot have saving faith without obedience; neither can we be obedient without faith.

        The entire 11th chapter of Hebrews teaches this dual truth: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11:8).

        This two-fold doctrine is important because many call themselves Christians and seek to please God without faith and obedience to Him and His Word: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

        God rewards obedience with God-given faith.  If you would have more faith, read God’s word and obey!

        The promises of God and His Word are to the diligent: “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12).

        Who are the “slothful?”  These are professing Christians who do not show forth faith and patient obedience to God and His Word.

        Some would seek to build their faith by seeing miracles and signs and wonders.  No, healing and deliverance from affliction will not build faith unless it is a genuine move of God.  “Now faith is the substance (Gk. confidence) of things hoped (promised) for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

        The error of accepting material blessings or trying to build faith on visible proof is the errant of Christianity today!  The outlandish practice of falling on the floor is an erroneous act unless done under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  God’s Word teaches believers to stand! (Rom. 5:2; I Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:13).

        It is through faith and patience (Heb. 6:12 above) that we inherit the promise of God: “For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Heb. 10:36).

        Yes, here is the Divine Plan for the promise of faith.  In patience do the will of God, obey His Spirit and His Word.

        Excitement, melodramatics, sensationalism, thrills, hand-clapping, foot-stomping and fleshly agitation are not proof of faith.  Christians often mimic the rock-and-roll crowd.

        Let the world see the quiet worship of God’s people as they bow in His presence.  We are saved by faith and by faith we stand: “for by faith ye stand” (II Cor. 1:24).

        Obedience is proof of our faith: “For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.”

 

 

 

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FAMILIES GONE?

Randall Walton

        From the beginning of man’s existence, the most important element for cohesiveness and stability among mankind was the family.  This basic unit bound people together as a means of preservation of tribal and linguistic similarities, and was both a religious and moral consideration.  While it is true that many men had a plurality of wives, it is also true that relationships outside the bond of marriage were forbidden or strongly frowned upon.

        Family awareness was so prevalent that many people married rather close relatives (e.g., Abraham, Isaac, Jacob).  However, the Lord eventually forbade such marriages in the days of Moses.  But the family remained the important backbone of society among ancient Israel.

        In cultures which were not under the influence of the teachings of Moses and the prophets, there was little effort to maintain stable family ties. Theirs was a laissez faire existence: without guidelines, inhibitions, restraints, or morals.

        Throughout history there has existed these two opposing modes of living.  In general, the people who held sacred the family and marriage were followers of the living God, while those who lived lasciviously were heathen, pagan, and/or idolaters.

        The early settlers of the North American continent were in the first group mentioned above.  Next to God and church, marriage and family were most sacrosanct.  And except for the Mormons, most Americans defined the family as husband, wife, children.  There were a few exceptions to this, of course, because there have always been a few nonbelievers who did not conform to the accepted norm.

        It is proper, then, to consider the classic family unit as the standard upon which to build a decent, strong, upright and wholesome culture.  It provides a healthy environment for the upbringing of offspring.  The family unit we refer to is the Biblical principle of father, mother, and children.  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife (not wives): and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).  Here is God’s definition of family: father, mother and children!

The Family Derailed

        Early in this century, family experienced a bitter attack from forces which should have known better.  The incidence of divorce began to increase while the grounds for divorce diminished at an alarming rate.  Certain cities became a haven for those who were seeking a sudden way out of a marriage gone sour.

        As divorces increased, families were broken up, children became alienated from a parent (decided upon by a court), and one or both parents eventually remarried leaving indelible scars upon the minds and hearts of the children.  At least half of all marriages now end in divorce, thus demeaning the sanctity of the marriage yet further.

        For years it was customary for the mother to keep the children while the husband paid alimony and child support.  In too many cases, fathers adeptly disappeared from the scene to avoid giving support to a person he no longer loved.  No one knows how many kids have grown up not having known their fathers intimately.

The Greatest Tragedy

        But the heaviest blow to the family has come via the homosexual and lesbian communities who have now gained official legitimacy for a wicked and depraved lifestyle, and are approved for adoptive parentage.  This, of course, is directly opposed to the standards of the Almighty.

        Children need the godly influence of both mother and dad, a familial condition which is absent in all homosexual unions, whether male or female.  As God is opposed to this totally unnatural and ungodly situation, we also must oppose and cry out against it.  It is the very least we can do.

        It is a contradiction of terms to call a homosexual union a family even if children become involved in the compact.  The use of the word family has always (until now) included a male, a female, and offspring.  Two males or two females do not constitute a family.

Another Tragedy

        Added to the above decadent malaise is the single-parent syndrome which has increased astronomically since the early sixties.

        Single-parenting stems from two main sources: divorces and unwed mothers.  With divorce rates of 50% of all marriages, it is little wonder that we have multitudes of kids who grow up without the benefit of one of their parents.

        Statistics are not reliable for the number of children born out-of-wedlock, simply because many illegitimate births are not followed.  But, in a day when girls and boys are being encouraged to experiment sexually before they reach full puberty, we can expect the incidence of pregnancy and birth among the very young to accelerate.  It is a sad day when our federal government gets into the business of sponsoring what they call “safe sex” for children.  Such bold tactics aid in the destruction and overthrow of the God-ordained family.

        Sex should never be indulged in outside the bonds and commitment of marriage.  Inevitably, pregnancies do occur, and the children born as a result of such stupidity become victims of a lopsided parental arrangement dominated by a single young girl who hasn’t yet learned to fend for herself, let alone raise another human beings.

        Thus, the typical classic family is just about reduced to ashes.  Such clichés as “family values” are now ridiculed and scoffed at as if they were only applicable to some long-ago unenlightened generation of fuddy-duddies who didn’t enjoy having fun(?).

        These are actually signs of the time in which we live.  The Scriptures have forewarned us of these things (II Tim. 3:10-7).  Other than raise our voices in protest against this terrible calamity which has smitten mankind, there is little we can do except in our own families.

        This is the time for Christians, of whatever persuasion, to stand firm on vital issues which affect their lives and those of their children.  Christians should fight against divorce.  It is possible to solve differences and conflicts through the application of the word of God.  How many marriages could have been salvaged if the principle of forgiveness had been applied?  Or the other principles of the Sermon on the Mount?

        Christian parents need to revise their methods of dealing with their children.  Kids are allowed too much TV time without monitoring, and they soak up what they see and hear.  Never before has an entire generation of children and young people been so exposed to lewdness, violence and corruption as has this present one.  If parents don’t want to lose their families to the world and ungodliness, they will need to start some positive measures to prevent such actions on the part of their kids.

        As we see the family under attack from every side, it is time to restore some of the values of several decades ago, with family-oriented activities, recreation and devotions.  This may be old-fashioned, but we must admit that a few years back, the moral climate in society was much better than it is today.  It is now time for families to evaluate their condition and determine what needs to be done to preserve that most important basic unit – the family.

 

 

 

REACHING THE LIMIT

Curtis Dickinson

        In 1977 an article was published by Church League of America in which Leopold Tyrmand wrote that “a limitless escalation of abomination and degeneracy in the pursuit of ever new thrills has come gradually to determine our culture” (News & Views, 8/77).  That was 38 years ago, when we were just beginning to read about issues concerning homosexuals and their “rights.”

        Ten years later, the Gay Community News, a Boston homosexual newspaper, published an article by a “gay revolutionary” who boasted, “We shall sodomize your sons…They will be recast in our image…We shall conquer the world…All churches who condemn us will be closed…The exquisite society to emerge will be governed by an elite comprised of gay poets” (The Congressional Record 7/27/87) New Dimensions 1989.

        I don’t know if any of them write poetry, but a vast number of people in governing positions, from the White House on down, are either homosexual or they strongly support the homosexual agenda.  As Tyrmand warned 38 years ago, there has been a “limitless escalation of abomination and degeneracy” which is determining our culture.

        But, although the wickedness is still escalating at the present time, there is a limit.  It is demonstrated in the familiar story of Lot and the citizens of Sodom (Gen. 18:22 & 19:29).  We all may know the drift of the story and its outcome, but there are a few details not so familiar, which are worthy of our consideration, especially since God’s action was taken expressly to make an example, as recorded by both Peter and Jude (II Peter 2:6; Jude 7).

        Apologists for sexual perverts have claimed that God’s judgment on Sodom was for the general sins of the people and not because of homosexuality.  But the record says that Lot moved his tent to Sodom, then adds: “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners against Jehovah exceedingly” (Gen. 13:13).  The emphasis here is on “men.”

        Jehovah sent His messengers to deliver Lot and his family from the doomed city, and Lot made them a feast.  “But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men that came in to thee this night?  Bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen. 19:4,5).  Lot pleaded with them not to “do so wickedly.”  There can hardly be any question about their intentions.  They would have broken down the door to get at these strangers had they not been stricken with blindness.

        It is apparent that homosexuality had become the common practice among the men of Sodom.  They had been so successful in seducing the youth that their evil conduct had become the norm, so that “both young and old” joined in the assault on Lot’s house to sodomize his guests.  They had achieved that which the “gay” communities of our cities have set as their goals, and toward which they are being propelled by TV, newspapers, the schools, Congress and the President and his wife.

        Lot sought to protect his guests, and plainly defined the acts of his fellow men as “wicked.”  They immediately branded him as the enemy because he was being judgmental.  “This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them” (Gen. 19:9).  It is the indelible mark of a depraved mind, when one sees his perversion as normal and holds in contempt those who still can make moral judgments and exercise self control.  We are fast approaching the threshold of such national depravity, when it will become criminal to judge any act or person on the basis of morals.  The homosexual community is free to say or write the most libelous things against Christians, but to hold up the revolting and filthy practice of homosexuality as immoral is considered “judgmental,” and suddenly “judgmental” is a label that is to be avoided at all costs.  You can be selfish, greedy, effeminate, an idolater, an adulterer, a liar, or a cheat and still be acceptable in modern society – but if you judge any thing as immoral you become judgmental and you can expect the world to deal with you as the Sodomites did with Lot.

        Lot was warned to take his family and flee for their lives (Gen. 19:12-17), but it was not an easy thing to abandon their home and all their possessions.  The messengers had to take them by their hands and hurry them out of the city.

        “Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.  But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

        “And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Jehovah; and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Gen. 19:24-29).

        The total destruction of the cities of the plain is used by Biblical writers as a demonstration of divine judgment (Deut. 32:32; Isa. 1:10; 3:9; Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 16:46-56; Rev. 11:8).

        Jude writes that “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, having…given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

        Since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah carries so much weight with both Old and New Testament writers, and since it is “set forth as an example,” it must be intended to tell us something about the final punishment in the day of judgment.

        The traditional doctrine that has developed through the maze of religious councils and layer upon layer of human opinion portrays the unsaved as being sentenced to live forever in some kind of fire which tortures them but does not destroy them.  But, if that were the case, there is no way it could be exemplified by what befell Sodom and Gomorrah.  The fire that burned these cities actually consumed them, and left nothing but a barren and empty land void of human inhabitants.  This point was stressed by Moses (Deut. 29:23), Jeremiah (Jer. 49:18) and Zephaniah (Zeph. 2:9).

        Even more to the point is that this devastation was to be “eternal.”  The lifeless condition resulting from the fire has remained until this day.  The fire was eternal in its effect and final result, but not in its process.  These cities are not still burning.  Peter says that God turned them “into ashes” (II Peter 2:6), and today the waters of the dead sea mark the site of Sodom whose inhabitants perished in the flames.  We conclude that “eternal fire” turns everything it burns into ashes and is eternal and everlasting in its consequences.  As LeRoy Froom writes, “Thus the eternal of Jude is not an endless process but a result.  This is the inspired key to the tremendous phrase ‘eternal fire’” (The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, p. 294).

        The Sodom example also instructs us in the use of the term that is often translated “eternal” or “everlasting.”  Jesus spoke of “eternal life” and “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46).  From this comes the argument by many that the punishment for the unsaved must continue as long as life for the saved!  What they fail to consider is the nature of the punishment.  Throughout scripture it is announced that the punishment for sin is death.  “Thou shalt surely die,” was the warning given to Adam and Eve with regard to eating of the forbidden tree (Gen. 2:17).  Death was typified in every animal sacrifice.  It was the death of Jesus – not suffering, but the giving of His life – that paid the penalty for sin (Isa. 53; Rom. 5:6).

        Thus, eternal life stands in contrast to the punishment of eternal death.  It is not a process of punishing that is called everlasting, but the punishment itself, which is death.  (Other examples: Eternal judgment, Heb. 6:2.  This is not endless judging, but a judgment that is never to be altered or reversed.  Eternal destruction, II Thess. 1:9.  The process of destroying does not go on forever, but those destroyed will never be restored to life.  They will have suffered eternal destruction.)

        So we are given a graphic example of judgment upon all who defy God and reject His saving grace through Jesus His Son.  They will ultimately perish, as did those who perished in the “eternal fire” that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

        Many are the tragic consequences of the abomination of sodomy.  “Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever” (Rom. 1:24-25).

        God has not changed.  The so-called “gay” lifestyle is still exceedingly sinful, and leads on to complete corruption and finally death (Read Rom. 1:26-32).

        Before the limit is reached, there is a solution given by the Creator.  “Now he commands men that they should all everywhere repent, inasmuch as he has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness, by him whom he has ordained, whereof he has given assurance in that he has raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

 

 

 

CHRIST GAVE HIMSELF

James Sanderson

        “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53: 5-6).  By the power of the Holy Spirit, the prophet Isaiah vividly describes the undeserved humiliation and suffering of Christ as an atonement for the sins of mankind.  The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary is the heart of the Christian faith.  Remove the Cross and Christianity has only an emasculated message bearing little hope and power.  The Apostle Paul declared, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). That word power in Greek is δύναμις from which the English language derives the word dynamite.  The very power of the gospel is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

        Most people would agree that the essence of true religion is love and self-denial.  The Cross is the highest expression of love and self-denial that the world has ever known.  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  Christ went one step farther. He shed His blood on the Cross for every rebellious sinner that has ever walked the face of the earth.  He died for the very men who planted the nails into His hands and feet and thrust the spear through His side.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).  God could have chosen justice; but, instead, He chose mercy.  He could have chosen wrath and judgment; but, instead, He chose grace.  If the Cross does not melt the most stubborn, sinful heart, nothing will.  There on the Cross of Calvary without hesitation or the slightest reservation our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself.

        Five portions of Scripture in the New Testament use the term gave Himself.  Each of these verses emphasize certain important aspects concerning the atonement.  It might be well to study each in order to glean some valuable truths regarding the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.

I Timothy 2:6

        “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”  The Amplified Bible says, “Who gave Himself a ransom for all [people, a fact that was] attested to at the right and proper time.” (I Tim. 2:6).  In the Old Testament, the ransom was the “redemption price” for a slave or other captive of war.  In the New Testament, ransom refers to the vicarious death of Jesus Christ on the Cross for the sins of humanity (Vine’s, page 929).  Jesus Himself stated, “The son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  According to the law of God, death is the punishment for sin (Rom. 6:23).  However, in the Old Testament, the sinner could offer a spotless lamb as a substitute.  Jesus Christ became that spotless Lamb.  John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

        Another important truth found in this verse of Scripture is the universality of the atonement.  Christ was a “ransom for all.”  One is reminded of that most quoted verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  The Apostle John reinforced this message by stating, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).

        It is necessary, at this time, to point out that universality is not universalism.  The word of God is quite clear that all men will not be saved because all men will not repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).  The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross does not absolve the individual from his obligations before God.  Jesus clearly stated, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  In his first epistle, the Apostle John wrote, “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).  Again in verse nine, he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  While the vicarious sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is available to “whosoever will” (Rev. 22:17), that sacrifice is efficacious only for those who meet the scriptural requirements.

Galatians 2:20

        “Who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).  Although the Cross may be universally available to all men, the salvation of each individual sinner is important to God.  Jesus told a parable of a shepherd who had a hundred sheep (Luke 15:4).  One day, one of his sheep strayed and became lost in the wilderness.  The shepherd left the ninety and nine to comb the area until he found that one lost sheep.  Jesus went on to say, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10).

        This verse in his letter to the Galatians is evidence that Paul understood the message of this parable.  As Paul was traveling on the road to Damascus, persecuting Christians by rounding them up for prison or death, Christ miraculously intervened in his life and led him to the Cross.  There Paul experienced the boundless love of God and understood His willingness to search for that one lost sheep.  The Cross became very personal.  Every individual who has experienced the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ can replace the word me with his own name in Galatians 2:20.

Galatians 1:4

        “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4).  This verse of Scripture emphasizes the fact that God’s controversy with man is over sin.  Sin separated man from God.  Sin destroyed the communion that he once had with the Almighty.  Sin brought judgment, damnation, and death upon man.  Sin is open, intentional rebellion against God.  God in His great mercy and love found a way to deal with sin and restore man’s fellowship with Himself.  That way was the Cross of Calvary.  Christ “gave Himself for our sins.”  In Romans 4:25, Paul states that He “was delivered for our offenses.”  The Apostle Peter wrote, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).

        There are some in Christian circles who teach that God’s law was nailed to the Cross.  Not one verse of Scripture upholds this false doctrine.  The issue at the Cross was sin, disobedience to divine law.  The atonement actually upheld God’s law.  “The atonement is a governmental expedient to sustain law without the execution of its penalty to the sinner” (Charles Finney, “On the Atonement”, page 2, 1856).

        The word world in this verse refers to “the present condition of human affairs, in alienation from and opposition to God” (Vine’s, page 1256).  God did not author this present arrangement.  God’s original intention for man was blessed fellowship under the umbrella of His divine law.  This “present evil world” is in direct opposition to that divine kingdom into which God is calling men.  The Cross of Christ has the power to deliver men from the clutches of this world’s system.  “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).  Those who come to the Cross of Jesus Christ can now experience true “righteousness, and peace, and joy” as law- abiding citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom (Rom. 14:17).

Titus 2:14

        “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).  This particular verse of Scripture reveals that Christ did not face the cruel mocking, the painful scourging, and an agonizing death on the Cross merely to keep people out of hell.  Christ had a definite purpose in mind, the development of a special class of people, a “peculiar people” with certain divine characteristics.  The word peculiar in Greek means “that which is one’s own” (Thayer’s Lexicon, page 504).  Thayer continues to say that this term refers to “a people selected by God from the other nations for His own possession.”  This group is Christ’s own possession, bought with the price of His own “precious blood” (I Peter 2: 18-19). 

        These “peculiar people” exhibit some tremendous changes in their lives due to the work of Christ at the Cross.  First, they have been redeemed or delivered “from all iniquity.”  That word iniquity literally means lawlessness (Vine’s, page 600).  Lawlessness no longer governs their lives.  As citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, they now “delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22).  Next, according to this verse, they are pure, that is, deemed holy in the sight of God (Heb. 3:1; I Peter 2:5).  Finally, they are “zealous of good works.”  This company of people are no longer mere hearers of the word, but also doers (James 2:22).  Their lives now begin to reflect the character of Jesus Christ and are evidence of the transforming power of the Cross of Christ.

Ephesians 5:25

        “As Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).  This verse of Scripture again demonstrates that love was the supreme motive of the atonement.  Love rules God’s life; for “God is love” (I John 4:8).  Anyone who wants to better understand love needs only to draw a little closer to God.  A verse in the Gospel of John well-illustrates the love that emanated from our Lord Jesus Christ.  “Now before the feast of the passover when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).  God’s love never fails.  It was His unfailing love that led our Lord to sacrifice His life on the Cross.

        This verse also presents a particular focus of His love: the church.  The word church does not refer to some edifice.  The word church means literally “the called-out-ones.”  Through the shedding of His blood on the Cross of Calvary, our Lord Jesus Christ brought forth a company of believers called the church.  The church is God’s family.  They are His divine family.  Because of His great love, God desired a family with whom He can share His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  Our Lord Jesus Christ not only gave Himself for the church at Calvary but also continues to nurture that church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is His longing and prayer that one day they will all be one in Him (John 17:20-23).

Given for You

        In His short time on earth, Christ had trod many a mile with His small band of followers.  He had shared meals with them, He had experienced their grief, He had understood their needs, and He had demonstrated His steadfast love for them.  Now at that final Passover meal commonly called the Last Supper as they gathered in that upper room, Jesus took the Passover loaf, “gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20).  It is not certain if these disciples fully understood the significance of this symbolic act of our Lord Jesus Christ; however, it is certain that these Passover emblems beautifully portrayed the selfless act of Christ pouring out His life for the sake of humanity.

        The Apostle Paul eloquently expressed this same message along with an admonition to every believer, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).  O that the Cross might accomplish its work in the heart of every believer!

 

 

 

GOD SO LOVED

Harold Scullin

        “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

        “For God SO loved” speaks of the intensity of the love of the Father for His creation.  There is no greater example of His love than the fact that He sent His beloved Son to suffer at the hands of cruel men, to be buffeted, scorned and crucified, thus making it possible for us to be “made the righteousness of God in him” II Cor. 5:21).

        This love of the Father is an expression of divine character, a quality which He desires to see in all his people.  This divine character is not a gift; it must be acquired through the means which He has provided for His divine family.  Accordingly, He has ordered us to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind” (Luke 10:27).

        We may well ask the question, “Was He really serious when He set out such a demand as this?”  The answer, of course, is “absolutely He was serious, not only in this obligation, but in all of His commands.”

        Proof of our love for God is found in our efforts to please Him by following His every command.  It is not wrong to state that Jesus gave specific commands which affect every area of our lives, all of which are extremely important because our love for God is reflected through our obedience to Him.

        Consider a few of these commands: “If any man come to me and hate not (love not less) his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

        “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

        “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

        Admittedly, these verses seem very extreme in their demands, yet Jesus Himself measured up to all of them and He has asked us to do the same.  Consider another example from the Scriptures as a testimony of what it means to love God.

        Abraham was called the friend of God.

        The Most High God spoke to Abraham and told him, “Take thy son, THINE ONLY SON ISAAC WHOM THOU LOVEST, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him on the mountain I will tell thee of.”

        Early the next morning, he began to make preparations for the journey.  He saddled his ass, took two of his young men, clave some wood for the burnt offering, TOOK ISAAC AND BEGAN THE JOURNEY.

        On the third day, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.  The two young men remained at the foot of the mountain.  Abraham and Isaac began the ascent up the mountain.  Isaac carried the wood of the burnt offering.  Abraham carried the fire in one hand and the knife in the other hand.  Enroute up the mountain, Isaac asked his father a question – “Behold, we have the fire and wood but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  Abraham replied, “My Son, God will provide Himself with a lamb, for a burnt offering.”  They came to the place of which the Lord had spoken to Abraham.  Abraham built the altar, laid the wood in place on the altar, bound Isaac and placed him on the altar.  He raised his arm ready to plunge the knife into the heart of Isaac.  The angel of the Lord cried out, “ABRAHAM, ABRAHAM, lay not thy hand on the lad.” (Genesis 22:1-14).

        What a testimony to the realm of darkness and the angelic host of heaven.

        Abraham demonstrated, made manifest openly, that his love for God was greater than his love for Isaac, for he obeyed the voice of the Lord.

        Abraham exonerated the Most High God.  The Lord was sanctified in the eyes of the evil spirits.

        This is the quality of love God looks for in all of His people: love which puts God and His kingdom first above all else, love which is so intense and deep that nothing in the world nor in life can come between them and God, or as Jesus stated in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

        Do you love God enough to lay down your own life for Him?  Do you love your Christian brothers and sisters enough to lay down your life for them?  Remember, God so loved that He sent Jesus to lay down His faultless life for you.  Can you do less for Him?

 

 

 

PASSOVER 2015

 

        People of the Living God will be observing Passover this year on Friday, April 3rd at sundown.  The Passover Sabbath will be Saturday, April 4th.