People of The Living God

Psalms 23

 

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March 2015



 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

THE WORLD AND THE CHRISTIAN

Alfred King

        One of the great concerns among Christians who love truth is that they may escape the deception which Jesus warned would be plentiful in the days just prior to His return.  In Matt. 24, His first words to His disciples when asked what would be the signs of His return was a warning of deception.  Three times in this discourse, Jesus alerts those who have ears to hear to be on guard for deception.  They are found in verse 4: “Take heed that no man deceive you”; verse 11: “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many”; verse 24: “if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.”  These warnings each speak of false christs and false prophets.  Where would you expect to find false christs and false prophets?  In the world for certain, but Jesus warned of those wolves who would come in sheep’s clothing, claiming to be Christian but are Christian in name only (Read Mathew 7:15 and Isaiah 4:1).  Therefore, we must conclude that at least one of the areas where deception, of which Jesus referred, is found in the church.  There are many forms and avenues of deception found in the religious world, the very area in which the sheep would expect to find truth, the path that leads to eternal life.  When a soul comes to an understanding of his need for salvation, where would he most likely go?  The church.  While it is true that a person can find Christ in the privacy of his own home, most come to Jesus when they attend a church, the place where God should be and where truth and salvation could be found.

        When Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you” and follows that statement, warning of false christs and false prophets, He is obviously speaking of religious movements and those who claim to hold the words of eternal life.  If these then be those of whom Christ refers, then it is clear that we must be certain that we are being taught and lead by shepherds who are themselves living according to instructions given in scripture, living holy and righteous lives.  One of the greatest deceptions being propagated by modern men of the cloth is that Christians can serve God and still have the world.  Such teaching is in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus, as well as the Apostles.  Consider the following scriptures seriously under their specific heading, and let us each examine ourselves whether we are in the faith (II Cor. 13:5) or we are deceiving ourselves.

THE WORLD IS SATAN’S DOMAIN

        Luke 4:5-6 “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.”  The devil tempted Jesus by offering Him the glory of the world, which power he claims to have been given him.  *Some don’t believe the devil had this authority, but if that be the case, the offer would be no temptation at all.  Jesus would have immediately seen Satan’s lie for what it was and it would not tempt Him in any way.  While Satan is a liar and when he speaks, he speaks a lie, the lie lay not in the authority he possessed to make his promise good but in that he was attempting to get Jesus to believe that this world could provide gratification and satisfaction.  This temptation teaches two major facts: 1) Satan is the god of this world, which is supported by other scriptures.  2) The devil uses the glory and glamor of the world to deceive men.

        Jesus engaged the devil many times in His life as He traveled preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, demonstrating the power of God’s kingdom to be superior to that of Satan’s.  Jesus learned obedience, just as we must, by the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8).  Although He was tempted in the wilderness, he came to the place where Satan could no longer tempt Him, for He said in John 14:30, “for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”  The inclinations of His incarnation that were human and could be tempted were totally crucified.  It was as He grew and matured in spiritual things that He came to the place where His meat, His very sustenance was doing the will of His Father.  Paul spoke of this maturity in God in Galatians 6:14, “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.”  It is possible for every child of God to come to this place in God, and it is not only possible, it is the intent of God.  Jesus did not sacrifice Himself only to save sinners but to bring them to spiritual maturity.  That’s the power offered us in Christ Jesus.  Paul taught this truth to the church in Galatia.  “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4).

THE WORLD HATES GOD AND CHRISTIANS

        Lest some think that the devil is not presently the god of this world, consider the following verses from God’s word, which were written after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

        II Cor. 4:4: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

        Eph. 2:2: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:”

        Eph. 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

        Because Satan is the god of this world and the enemy of God, he meticulously and tirelessly labors to destroy what God is creating, and he uses the world to aid in his cause.  He began his deceptive work in the garden by sowing a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind.  “Hath God said?”  While death passed upon all men because all have sinned, yet God so loved the world (man, made in God’s image) He made provision for man to be redeemed from the curse of sin and to be reconciled to God.  It is through this world that Satan lures men to bow to him by submitting to worldly lusts, pleasures, and materialism, all of which are a part of this world.  Through his deceptive lures, he draws men into his net through claims he says will satisfy and make men happy and content.  The world and its system are antithetical to the teachings of scripture.  The world has, throughout history, shown its hatred for God, Jesus Christ and His people.  It was the world who demanded Jesus’ crucifixion.  It was the world that resisted and still resists the Gospel.  It is the world that has martyred Christians for the past two thousand years, and it is the world that has claimed and continues to claim the souls of millions as they have fallen into the deceptive lies of the devil and believed the world is what can satisfy and give fulfillment.  Even among Christians, the world continues to hold out its devilish bait to any who will partake.

        Consider Jesus’ hypothesis and conclusion of the world:

        1.  John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.”

        2.  John 15:18-19, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

        3.  John 17:14, “I have given them (His disciples) thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ARE CALLED OUT OF THE WORLD

        When Jesus chose to reject Satan’s offer of the kingdoms of this world, He realized that He was choosing a path of poverty, loneliness, trials and persecution in preference to a life of worldly pleasure, entertainment, riches, and all those things that carnal men desire.  He made a decision that day that would end with mockings, scourgings, and finally crucifixion on a Roman cross.  Yet He chose the path that leads out of this world into a far richer kingdom, a kingdom which is eternal, and He paved the way that millions would be translated out of Satan’s kingdom and into God’s (Col. 1:13).

        As believers, we must follow His example and walk in His footsteps, for we seek for a kingdom “which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”  The apostle Paul caught this vision and he counted everything he had gained in this world before his conversion as dung (Phil. 3:8).  He further expressed his godly views about the world in his letter to the Romans, chapter 12 and verse 2, “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”.  And to the Corinthian church he teaches them that the spirit they had received was not of this world but of God (I Cor. 2:12; 5:9-13).  All the allurements of this world fade when one catches a glimmer of Christ and the riches of His kingdom.  This world and all it offers is temporal and will one day pass away, for it is like the flower of the field which is here today and gone tomorrow.  The only thing left in that day is the treasure we have laid up in heaven.  The treasures of this world will pass away but he that doeth the will of God will endure forever.

        The apostle James stands in agreement with Paul’s view of this world, for he writes, “to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).  And Peter joins the chorus in his letter, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:4).

THE CHRISTIAN’S PATH AND THE WORLD’S PATH ARE OPPOSITES

        In the well-known portion of scripture found in John 3, Jesus explains to Nicodemus the necessity of being born again by the Holy Spirit.  The new birth is paramount for one to begin to understand the infectious and destructive nature of the world and its system.  In verses 19-21, He teaches Nicodemus that light has come but men love darkness over light.  They would rather be deceived and enjoy the carnal and worldly life over coming to the truth and facing the requirements that they must forsake their own lives and give themselves totally to God and God’s way.  Man’s will resists God’s will, for man in his fallen state will always choose the easy path.  That path is the way of the world.

        In His last night with His disciples, Jesus gave some of His most important words, knowing that He was about to depart.  In this discourse He tells them that He will be departing but that He will send the Holy Spirit to be with them and to lead them.  In John 14:16-17, He tells them the world cannot receive this Holy Spirit and cannot know Him.  This is because the world is in direct conflict with God and His purposes.  The world is Satan’s kingdom.

        James pulls no punches when he drops the hammer, for he leaves no doubt as to his opinion of the world.  “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).  The other apostles stand in unison with James: “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” (1 John 2:15-16).  “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10).  And Paul writes, “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).

THE WORLD’S WAYS ARE DECEPTIVE

        The world teaches us that what it offers is of great value, but scripture teaches just the opposite.  The world teaches that riches will make one happy and content.  Scripture teaches that those who are rich are on very dangerous ground, for most will put their security in their wealth instead of God.  Consider just a few scriptures: Matt. 13:22, “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”  Matt. 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  1 John 5:19, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.”  Whatever the world promises, it cannot deliver in the end.  It may seem to supply everything you need but it is all vanity and is as a tree whose leaves abandon it when the winter’s frost falls upon it.  Likewise, when man passes from this life, he will appear as the barren tree, a skeleton, naked and exposed, for its covering was nothing but a passing deception.

WISDOM OF THE WORLD vs THE WISDOM OF GOD

        “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21).  “Let no man deceive himself.  If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (I Cor. 3:18-19).  Can it be stated more distinctly than our brother Paul has expressed it?   The world’s wisdom is in opposition to God’s wisdom.  Jesus, in His prayer in John 17 prayed, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee.”  God’s ways are not the world’s way; they are hostile one to another.  God tells us in Isaiah 55 that man’s ways and thoughts are not His, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are God’s ways so much superior to man’s.  Men prefer their way to God’s and will not come to the light that they may gain the wisdom of God.

THE WORLD IS CONDEMNED

        Jesus came to save men, but this was not the only thing He accomplished when He came, lived as a man, suffered and was crucified.  He states in John 9:39, “for judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (John 9:39).

        When the word “world” is used, it is not the physical mountains, lands and seas that are meant but the present arrangement of things.  It is the world system.  The arrangement that men have set up, most of which are to glorify man rather than God.  Governments, entertainments, lifestyles, societies, riches, pleasures, etc. are what is meant by the term “world.”  This arrangement is condemned by God as Paul states in 1 Cor. 11:32: “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

        Jesus did not come the first time to condemn men who are entangled in the arrangement of this world but to save men from that arrangement, to lead them out and offer them a far superior way of life.  John 12:47-48: “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  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.”  With Jesus’ first coming, He came to bring salvation to men.  He did not come to judge them; however, His second coming will be to judge men and the world.  Heaven has offered its most precious Gift for the salvation of mankind, but if man rejects that Gift and the salvation the Gift provides, eternal judgment will be the results of that rejection.  The world is readying itself for God’s judgment, for it is in opposition to holiness and godliness and has condemned itself because it is evil.

CALLED TO BE OVERCOMERS

        The call to be overcomers involves our relationship to the world in many ways.  According to I John 5:4-5, one must believe in Jesus Christ in order to be an overcomer.  This is the only way to overcome the world’s influence and temptations.  Man without Christ is unable to overcome the arsenal the world holds against him, nor does he have the ability in himself alone to free himself from the worldly and sinful tentacles that are imbedded in his being.  The tenacious and unrelenting hold of sin permeates man’s being so innately, he can only be freed by faith in Jesus Christ.  I John 5:4-5 reads, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”  According to John, one must be born again.  The new birth is the beginning of one’s deliverance from sin’s grip.  John also states in his first epistle, chapter 4 and verse 4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  Notice the world is addressed here as an enemy and that through Christ Jesus, we have power over the world.  Too many today have become comfortable with the world system and have settled down with the idea that they can serve God and mammon.  Jesus clearly warns that this is impossible, for we will love one and hate the other or we will hold to one and despise the other (Matt. 6:24).  Most Christians see no need to extricate themselves from worldliness or to be separate from the world.  Unfortunately, the ambitions and plans of most Christians are not that different from those of worldly men and women.

        Consider these very important words Jesus gave His disciples on His last night with them.  These are some of His parting words, knowing He would no longer be with them.  John 16:8-11, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”

        Three things the Holy Spirit will do when He comes in a believer’s heart.  He will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on Him.  When one puts his faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will begin to show him various sins in his life.  These sins are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, but all sin is purged from the life by turning from that sin.  God empowers the believer to gain victory over sin through His word and the Holy Spirit.  As a believer grows in Christ, he will find strength to overcome every sin in his life.  But he must acknowledge each sin as the Holy Spirit brings it to his attention and then draw near to God to find the power to overcome.

        The believer’s righteousness is found in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer through faith.  But genuine and godly faith is the faith that knows that through Jesus Christ he can be victorious.  The call to every Christian is to be an overcomer.  What is he to overcome?  His own sinful nature.  Jesus came to save man from their sins not in their sins.  If Jesus has the power to save a soul, to heal every disease and give the believer all things through Christ: Is He unable to deliver His people from all sin?  We must not be like Israel who limited God.  God could do much in their eyes but not everything.

        “Of judgment because the prince of this world is judged.”  Jesus bound Satan when He died upon the cross.  This was Satan’s hour and the powers of darkness, but Satan lost that battle and Jesus overcame death and triumphed over Satan and his kingdom.  It was the resurrection that proved who was the victor.  Jesus triumphed over the principalities and powers of darkness and made a public display in Himself (Col. 2:15).  Satan has no power over the child of God who believes and stands in the power of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you (Luke 10:19).  Sin is a very hurtful enemy and will destroy those who do not resist it.

        Let those who understand stand firm in Jesus Christ, making Him not only Savior but also Lord of their lives by forsaking everything that would lead away from His precious will.  God grant us strength to be overcomers.

  • Scripture clearly teaches that God rules over the kingdoms of the world and sets up and removes men as He sees fit.  God’s warning to King Nebuchadnezzar accents this truth in Daniel 4:17, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men”.  In Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream God again drives this point home.  Daniel 4:25: “That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will”.  But notice in Satan’s words that he states, “for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it”.  God gave Satan this power, but it is always under the direction and control of the Almighty.  This is seen very clearly with Job, for Satan had to gain permission in order to tempt Job.  God is sovereign.

 

 

 

THE ADMONITION OF MOSES

James Sanderson

        Moses, that great statesman, prophet, and deliverer, stood in the plains of Moab in the shadows of Mt. Pisgah’s lofty heights (Deut 1:5; 34:1).  Assembled before him was a large company of people, the Children of Israel, poised to cross over the Jordan River and enter into the land of the Canaanites, an area promised many centuries before by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This mighty servant of God, now 120 years old, had led this multitude of people miraculously by the hand of the Lord out of the land of Egypt from a life of slavery through the Red Sea and the barren lands of Sinai to this present location.  God had proved faithful to sustain them through all the trials and difficulties of that long journey in the wilderness.  He provided for their needs.  They had water from a rock and manna from heaven.  Their “raiment waxed not old upon” them “neither did” their feet “swell” (Deut. 8:4).

        Although God had revealed that he would not be allowed to guide that company across the Jordan, Moses desired to impart some instructions vital to their future spiritual well-being.  Those vital instructions are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy.  One admonition repeated by this aged patriarch throughout this final discourse is an admonition that ancient Israel seemed to continually disregard, “Beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut. 6:12).  Moses reiterates this same message in chapter 8, “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwell therein; And when thy herds, and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.  But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.  And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish” (Deut. 8:11-19).

        Needless to say, the Children of Israel disregarded this warning from the lips of Moses, the servant of God.  After the Lord gave them rest from their enemies, the word of God states, “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim:  And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.  And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (Judges 2:11).  Again in Judges 3:7 one reads, “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.”

        Throughout the biblical record, the history of Israel has been one of continued disregard for this admonition of Moses to the point that their ecclesiastical leaders did not even recognize the Lord of Glory Himself.  Before His crucifixion, our Lord Jesus Christ stated, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:37-38).

Conditions In Our Day

        A close examination of twenty-first century America and Western Civilization reveals that modern Christianity is following in the footsteps of ancient Israel.  In biblical times, when men departed from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is recorded that they often embraced the idols of the surrounding nations, bowing down to them and worshipping them.  Modern man is much too sophisticated and more enlightened to give obeisance to wood and stone.  Nevertheless, the evidence is quite clear present-day society has little regard for the admonition of Moses.  The late nineteenth century German philosopher Frederich Nietzsche coined the phrase “God is dead.”  By this, he did not mean that there was a literal god that someone happened upon and killed.  Nietzsche was an atheist and nihilist who believed that the idea of a Christian God who issued absolute moral directives was no longer relevant.  Man must look to the natural, secular world to find answers for his pressing needs.  The western world now embraces a humanistic, secular world view that is becoming more widespread as the years go by.  Many now say that we live in a “post-Christian” era.  God is, of course, very much alive.  Men have simply turned their backs on Him and determined to follow their own paths in life.

        It might be well to examine some of the trends occurring in the world today.  Church doors are closing in Europe at an alarming rate.  Although many Europeans still loosely identify with Christianity, very few even darken the doors of a church (Empty Churches, Kyle Besears).  “A once thriving metropolis of the Christian faith, today most of Europe has become a secular society governed by the laws of humanism under the guise of naturalistic belief.  As the homeland of both the Protestant Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment, Europeans have served as the pioneers of not only modern Christianity but also Secularism.  Over the past several hundred years belief in God, specifically the faith of Christianity, has been increasingly challenged by the assertions of secular society as critical minds have begun examining the purpose, the traditions, and history of religion in the light of scientific criticism.  Countries such as France and Sweden are among the highest percentage of people today who explicitly deny the existence of God at 40% and 34% respectively and only 27% and 18% who still hold to belief, which leaves a large population in the middle that is ambiguous” (The Decline of European Christianity, John Christy, 12/10/ 2013).

        An article in USA-Today, 8/11/2005, stated, “Every major religion except Islam is declining in Western Europe” (Noelle Knox).  If trends continue, in ten years only a minority of Britons will even identify as Christians (Deseret News, 9/19/ 2013, William Hamblin).  Four times more Muslims attend a mosque on Friday than Anglicans attend church on Sunday in Great Britain (Empty Churches).

        What about America?  Statistics reveal that the United States is not far behind the European nations in this religious decline.  In the United States, in 1900, there were 28 churches to 10000 Americans.  Fifty years later that number dropped to 17 churches to 10000 Americans.  Since 2004, there has been an 8% decrease every four years.  One must remember that the population has increased significantly in that time (Empty Churches).  A survey by Lifeway Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, revealed some disturbing statistics.  In 1990, 86% of Americans called themselves Christians.  In 2008, that number was only 76%.  The number of Americans that claimed no religious affiliation more than doubled in that span of time.  Only about 18.7% of Americans attend church regularly.  A Barna research survey in 2009 revealed that only 9% of Americans maintain an untainted biblical worldview.  One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the only path to eternal life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  52% of American Christians disagree with that belief.  One writer stated, “The generation that is alive right now is witnessing the apostasy of mainline Christianity in the West” (Robert S. Munday, January 29, 2015).  The decline that we see in the western world has also produced a liberalized view regarding such moral issues as abortion, gay marriage, extramarital sex, and euthanasia.

        The vast majority of institutions of higher learning in the early years of this country were religiously affiliated.  That number is now less than 10%.  A very recent study found that in 1984 only 8.8% of college freshmen listed themselves as having no religious preference. Today that number is 28% (American Freshman Survey, Fall, 2014).

        Jesus posed a very pertinent question, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)  One of the signposts of the end of the world is a departure from the faith.  “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith” (I Tim. 4:1).  The Apostle Paul also speaks of “a falling away” (2 Thess. 2:3).

        The admonition that God gave through Moses is as valid today as it was when he presented those instructions to ancient Israel.  The Psalmist declared, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).  These conditions that we see occurring in Europe and America are nothing more than a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and evidence that “the end of all things is at hand” (I Peter 4:7).  The Apostle Peter continues in this particular verse with some vital instructions for those Christians who desire to stand in this evil day, “Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (I Peter 4:7).  That word sober has far more significance than avoiding too many alcoholic beverages.  It carries the idea of having a sound mind and self-control.  One who has a sound mind is aware of prevailing conditions.  One who has self-control is not swayed by every wind of doctrine or cultural trend that drifts his way.  He is firmly established in the word of God and knows where he stands with God.  The one who watches unto prayer is alert and has the communication lines opened between himself and God.  It is imperative that each of us as Christians takes to heart the admonition of Moses.

 

 

 

PASSOVER CELEBRATION

Alfred King

        People of the Living God will be celebrating the feast of Passover this year beginning on Friday, April 3rd at sundown.  The Passover Sabbath will be Saturday, April 4th.  While we do not believe that observance or non-observance of this feast is a salvation issue, we do believe that its observance is in keeping with God’s order.  God told Israel the Passover was to be observed throughout their generations as an ordinance forever (Ex. 12:14,17,24 plus many other references).  Israel had three major celebrations each year, which consisted of seven feasts they were instructed to observe.  The first feast included the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The second feast consisted of the Feast of Pentecost and the Feast Firstfruits and the third combined the last three of the seven: The Feast of Ingathering, The Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Harvest.  Each feast was a time to give thanks to God for His blessings, blessings which God provided by meeting their yearly and daily needs.  But each feast was not only a time to praise God for present blessings but also held out promises of future spiritual blessings which God ordained to bring to mankind.  Of course the spiritual blessings were the true purpose of what the physical was only a type or shadow.  To miss the spiritual is to miss the whole message and purpose of the feasts.

        The physical observance of the Passover Feast was a reminder to Israel of when God delivered them from the cruel bondage and slavery of Pharaoh.  Its spiritual revelation was when Christ shed His blood.  He set those who believe in Christ free from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of Satan’s domain.  Every truly born again Christian knows experientially this freedom and liberty, for they were once the slaves of sin but now have been set free and sin no longer rules their lives.  The sentence of death, which once hung over their heads, has been placed upon God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, Who bore the judgment of their sins.  The day they were born again, they passed from death into life, so now they can most assuredly say, “Death has passed over us.”  This is the spiritual significance of the Passover Feast and is a time to rejoice in our Savior and in the salvation, with which He has so richly blessed us.  The significance of the unleavened bread is the part of salvation that portrays that we are no longer the servants of sin but the servants of righteousness.  Those who walk in righteousness before the Lord have the blood of Christ as a continual cleansing agent (I John 1:7).

        The Feast of Pentecost and the Feast of Firstfruits, began fifty days after Passover and was the time of the year when Israel would gather the first ripe fruits of the fields and celebrate God’s gracious provision.  These firstfruits were a shadow of the spiritual outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, which is recorded in Acts the second chapter.  Jesus told His disciples that they were going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and they were to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high, after which they would be witnesses throughout the known world (Acts 1:5, 8).  Jesus told His disciples that this outpouring was the promise of the Father.  God had promised this blessing would come upon His people and it was foreshadowed every year in Israel with the observance of the feasts of Pentecost and Firstfruits.

        The third yearly feast consisting of the Feast of Trumpets, Feasts of Ingathering and the Feast of Harvest, fell in the fall of the year when Israel would gather in their crops.  As long as Israel obeyed God and served Him, God’s blessings would overtake them and this time of the year was the time to acknowledge God’s provisions and worship and celebrate His gracious outpouring.  But again there is a spiritual fulfillment of this feast.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts two, was an expression or manifestation of the firstfruits or just a sample of what the harvest was to bring.  It signifies a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the days immediately preceding Jesus’ second coming.  Peter, when he was questioned about the great move of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 2, he quotes from Joel 2 saying the events which had taken place on the day of Pentecost were a fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy.  However, the fulfillment at that time was only partial, for it is obvious if you read the rest of Joel’s prophecy, that some things still remained unfulfilled.  We also read in Haggai 2:9, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”  While Haggai’s prophesy is in reference to the building of the second temple in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, it foreshadowed the glory that will be even greater just prior to the Lord’s second coming and will exceed that which fell upon the disciples at Pentecost as recorded in Acts two.  There is yet reserved for those who are faithful in the days ahead a deluge of power and glory from heaven, greater than that which fell upon those 120 in the upper room.  Daniel described this outpouring in chapter 7 verse 18 this way. “But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.”  The writer of Hebrews refers to the same event in chapter four, speaking of The Rest which Israel missed, and he states emphatically that “some must enter therein.”  He continues on in verse nine saying there remaineth a rest for the people of God.  He speaks of this rest as a time when man ceases from his own works as God did from His (Heb. 2:10).  When man ceases from his own works, he will be totally dedicated to God and to God’s will.  God’s Will will be the motivating force in every aspect of his life.

         So, we see how each feast has a very important spiritual significance and we celebrate the Feast of Passover in remembrance of what Jesus Christ has done for us in procuring salvation and eternal life for all who believe in Him.  Death has passed from us and we now have eternal life abiding within.  Every year at this time, it is a reminder and an opportunity for every born again believer to reflect upon his life and examine himself before the Lord in preparation for the Passover Feast.  In the Old Testament, Israel was constantly departing from the Lord and serving other gods.  Yet there were times when a godly king would rise up and turn the hearts of the people back to Jehovah.  Two of these kings were Hezekiah and Josiah.  Israel had sinned and these kings began to seek God and found they had not been adhering to God’s law and had failed to observe the Passover.  You can read about these two kings in I Chron. 30, II Kings 23 and II Chron. 35.  You will find in these chapters, two great men who sought God with all their hearts and set themselves and determined to return to God.  They dealt radically with the false gods Israel had raised up and everything connected with those gods.  They cleansed the temple much like Jesus did in the temple in Jerusalem centuries later.  They put down the idolatrous priests, removed the groves from the temple, broke down the houses of the sodomites that were by the house of the Lord, took the horses and chariots that had been used in worship to Baal and burned them with fire.  They read God’s law before all the people and the people returned to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

        As the people ridded themselves of their idols and returned to God’s standards and order, God blessed them with a Passover that was unlike any before in Israel.  Like Israel of old the 21st century church has “lost the awe of God.”  The church is in the crosshairs of Satan’s scope and has become the target of his fiery darts.  There is no better time than today for Christians to begin to return to the Lord with all their hearts and with all their souls.  There is a great outpouring prepared for the people of God, and the time for this move of God is nearing.  As the powers of hell are marshalling their forces and forwarding their assault against God, His people and His word, God will once again empower His people to combat these evil spirits.  Christians need the enduement of God’s power in this hour even more than in the days of old because of the abundance of evil that is enveloping our world.  But God’s promises are true and He is building His church upon a Rock and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Every believer has the opportunity to be a part of that glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish, standing upon the Rock, Jesus Christ.  May God bless His people this year as we gather together before Him to rejoice in His wonderful and gracious provision, for God has promised to finish what He has begun in the earth.

 

 

BE YE TRANSFORMED

James Sanderson

        Who has not strolled through a field of wildflowers and not been thrilled by the lovely butterflies fluttering from flower to flower in search of nectar?  One could not help but marvel at the wondrous handiwork of the great God of heaven.  The butterfly had not always displayed such rare beauty.  This amazing insect began as an egg attached to a leaf or some other source of food.  In due time, a nondescript caterpillar emerged.  After a period of growth, this larva enshrouded itself in a chrysalis where a complete transformation occurred.  The resulting colorful butterfly does not bear a resemblance to the original caterpillar, not even consuming the same type of food.  This process is called metamorphosis.

        The word metamorphosis is derived from a Greek word that is also found in the New Testament, μεταμορϕόω.  “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” (Rom. 12:1-2).  In this verse, the word transformed in Greekliterally means metamorphosed (Strong’s), that is, changed.  As in nature the lowly caterpillar is transformed into a beautiful butterfly, so God is looking for and expects a transformation in the lives of His people.

“Just As I Am”

        We often sing in church, Just As I Am.  How true the words of this song are!  Some people, through fear or embarrassment due to the awful sins or failures they see in their lives, are often hesitant to come to God.  God is already aware of these shortcomings.  Nothing is hid from the Almighty.  If an individual had to be perfect before he came to God, then no one could ever find salvation.  Actually, God has commanded “all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).  The Apostle John wrote, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2).  An advocate is a lawyer, a mediator, one who pleads someone's cause.  Propitiation refers to the atonement.  When Christ shed His blood on the Cross of Calvary, He made it possible for “whosoever will” (Rev. 22:17) to come to Him and find divine forgiveness and deliverance from sin.  “The expiatory work of the Cross is therefore the means whereby the barrier which sin interposes between God and man is broken down.  By the giving up of His sinless life sacrificially, Christ annuls the power of sin to separate between God and the believer” (Vine’s, page 905).  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

        When an individual comes sincerely to God, repents, confessing his sins, God faithfully accepts him at his word and forgives him.  God receives the new believer with all of his propensities, shortcomings, and imperfections.  Although the Lord accepts the new Christian as he is, it is not God’s desire that this new believer remain in his present condition.  Just as God designed the caterpillar to transform, that is, metamorphose, into the butterfly, God expects a transformation in the life of the believer.  The new birth, or salvation, merely makes the individual a candidate for that work of transformation.

Conformed vs Transformed

        “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed.” Note that in this portion of our text, Paul admonishes the reader not to be conformed to this world.  The Apostle Paul makes a sharp distinction between conform and transform.  One cannot conform to this world while he is being transformed by the renewing of his mind.  One action works in opposition to the other.  When the individual was a sinner apart from God, he “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).  He loved the world and the things in it.  Satisfying the “lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” was his main passion (I John 2:15-16).  When the sinner came to the Cross and found true life in God, he found a new passion in life: satisfying the One who bought him and saved him from a life of sin.

        Vine, in his expository dictionary, explains transform “lays stress on the inward change,” while conform “lays stress on the outward” (Vine’s, page 1171).  The Lord told the prophet Samuel, “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 “the hidden man of the heart”(I Peter 3:4).  This transformation begins with the inner man and finds its outward expression in one’s character and conduct.  The Christian’s focus is no longer conformity to the world but becoming a light to the world.

A Daily Process

        It would be wonderful if this work of transformation occurred instantaneously.  If only all those shortcomings, propensities, and inner imperfections had suddenly disappeared when one came to God.  Here is where the comparison with the metamorphosis of the butterfly ends.  Man is a free moral agent with the ability to make moral choices.  The butterfly is merely an insect that follows a God-designed natural process.  This transformation that God desires depends to a large extent on the believer’s cooperation.  Vine emphasizes that the verb transformed is in the present continuous tense which “indicates a process ” (Vine’s, page 1171).

        This walk with Jesus Christ is a daily process of growth and development.  The renewal of one’s mind takes time and man’s full cooperation with the Holy Spirit.  “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16).  God allows conditions and situations to come against us so that we might learn to rise above them and develop inner character.  Without the challenges and adversities of life, we would not grow in the Lord.  The fact that we are confronted by certain worldly forces in our walk with Christ is not a sin.  Satan confronted our Lord on various occasions.  These confrontations allow us to view our inner condition so that we can come to God and gain the victory in that particular area of our lives.

Renewing The Mind

        The mind is the “seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging, and determining” (Vine’s, p.751).  The mind is the battleground for the soul.  Man apart from God is governed by a “carnal mind” that is at “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7).  “Earthly things” (Phil. 3:19) and “vanities” (Eph. 4:17) dominate his thinking.

        The word renewing means “a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better” (Thayer).  The mind needs a complete renovation if a transformation is to occur in one’s life.  When an individual comes to God in true repentance, that renovation begins by the entrance of the Holy Spirit in the life.  The believer now has new power and authority to deal with his thought life.  “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations (reasonings), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” ( II Cor. 10:4-5).  The mind can be Satan’s playground, or it can be captivated by the presence of the Lord.  We decide.  “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).  The prophet Isaiah declared, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Is. 26:3).

In The Image Of Christ

        The goal or end product in this process of transformation is the image of Christ.  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18). “With open face,” that is, “with unveiled face,” speaks allegorically “of a mind not blinded, but disposed to perceive the glorious majesty of Christ” (Thayer’s Lexicon, page 38).  The verb changed in this verse is the same as transformed in Romans 12:2.  As this process continues, the believer is transformed (metamorphosed) into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  His life begins to reflect the moral excellence of Christ.

        Other verses of Scripture echo this same theme.  “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14).  Put on literally means to be clothed with, to sink into a garment.  Again the Apostle Paul writes, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).  Of this verse, Thayer states that it literally means, “Until a mind and life in complete harmony with the mind and life of Christ shall have been formed in you” (Thayer’s Lexicon, page 418).  Finally, in his letter to the Romans, Paul emphasizes that Christians have been called, “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).  This verb, conformed, is not the same as that found in Romans 12:2.  This word means to have the same form as (Thayer).  Christ is the mold into which every believer is to be cast.  He is the supreme role model.  Everyone of us as Christians needs a greater revelation of the character of Christ.

        God is looking for a family, that is, a divine family, that manifests the moral attributes of Jesus Christ.  In this call “be ye transformed,” the standard is “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).  The Apostle John writes, “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 3:1).  The Christian has no greater purpose in this life than to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

 

 

FROM THE MAILBAG

 

        I’ve been privileged to read some of your newsletters that you send to my Boss in the office in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria.  It’s been a blessing.  I’d like to get answer to this question as it pertains to Christianity and piety.  Is there anything wrong or right in celebrating one’s birthday?  Thank you.

                                                                                                                                        P.O.

Dear P.O.

        It is great to hear from you and to know the literature we send out is a blessing to you.  We always enjoy hearing from our readers and from those who write, for we realize people are reading the literature and have a love for truth.  We also endeavor to answer every letter which we receive, whether through the Postal Service or by email.  So we present to you our understanding of celebrating birthdays.

        Birthdays are mentioned infrequently in scripture, but in those few instances we are never told to celebrate birthdays nor are we told not to.  There are three verses in scripture (two accounts) where birthdays are mentioned and they are:

        1.  Genesis 40:20-22: “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.  And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.”

        2.  Matt. 14:6-8  (3.  Parallel account Mark 6:21-26) “But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.  Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.  And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.”  It was on Herod’s birthday that he had John the Baptist killed.

        The shepherds and the wise men did acknowledge the birth of Jesus and the angels sang and praised God at His birth (Luke 2:8-14).  This was a special occasion above that of ordinary man.  This was God’s blessing to a sinful world, a way back to God through Christ Jesus.  The fact that Christ’s birth was acknowledged so marvelously does not teach us that we should celebrate birthdays, for we read nothing in scripture after His birth where His birthday was celebrated.  Solomon wrote in the Ecclesiastes 7:1:“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.”Solomon doesn’t give great importance to birth.

        In the book of Job, we see in chapter one that Job’s sons had gathered at the eldest son’s house for a celebration (verse 13).  From verse four it is believed by many Christians that this was in celebration of his birthday, for verse four reads,“And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.”  If this truly was a birthday celebration, we can only assume that birthday celebrations were not sinful in themselves, for nothing is mentioned concerning this being against God’s law.  The death of Job’s children at this time was due to a controversy in heaven between Satan and God.  There is nothing to indicate that Job’s children had sinned and this sin reaped their deaths.

        Our verdict considering these scriptures and others which could be brought to the table, is that celebrating birthdays is not sin.  However, what people do at these celebrations can definitely be sinful, just as we see with Herod and Pharaoh.  Birthday celebrations are certainly not necessary, nor do we at People of the Living God place any importance upon it.  It is my personal opinion that when I was born again by God’s marvelous mercy, love and grace, is the day I would prefer much more to celebrate because that is when I obtained eternal life and this life is much greater and more abundant than that given me by my paternal parents.  My physical life given me through my father and mother will one day end, but this life in Christ is eternal and I rejoice in that day much more than the day I first appeared on this earth.

        We believe that we must always be led by the Spirit of God, for He is our Teacher.  If our hearts are not convicted by celebrating a birthday, we are free to do so.  This is the liberty we have in Christ Jesus.  But if we are convicted about celebrating birthdays, then we should refrain and not sin against our conscience or the Holy Spirit.  We should have peace in our hearts and a clear conscience before God in our decisions when scripture is silent or not clear regarding a particular subject.  May God bless you as you continue to seek His will and walk in His ways.

                                                                                                                                The Editor

 

        Am so delighted to receive a prompt reply to my mail.  Your answer to my question, opened me up to a whole new level of understanding as regards a man’s conscience and conviction.  I'd like to also know; Are Christians obliged to pay Tithe and sow financial seeds?  If yes, what should be a man’s motive as regards these?  What is your Teaching regarding “Firstfruits’?  May God bless you.

P. O.

Dear P.O.

        It’s good to hear from you again and once again I will answer your question as I understand scripture teaches.  I am sure you know that tithing is a teaching of the Old Testament and that ten percent of one’s earnings was to go to the Levites.  The Levites were given no possession in the land of Canaan when Israel possessed it.  The Levites were called to the priesthood and scripture states that God was their portion  (Deut. 10:9).  The “seed faith” doctrine is totally false and is a doctrine that teaches that we can buy our way into God’s pleasure and blessings.  The whole teaching is filled with error and actually produces in the hearts of many followers a lust after worldly things and uses God as a means to acquire worldly possessions.  This is the exact opposite of what scripture teaches.  The Bible teaches that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ Jesus.  This is not to say there are no good Christians involved in this movement but their adherence to it does not make the doctrine correct.

        In the New Testament, the teaching is that we are to forsake all, to die daily, and to give our lives as a living sacrifice.  We are not to please self and gratify the carnal nature, for this nature is the enemy of God.  Consider Romans 8:5-8, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”  This being said, the New Testament does teach that believers should support God’s work and those ministers who are called by Him and are doing the work of God.  Let me give you a couple of scriptures which show the believer’s obligation today.

        In Luke 10 Jesus sent seventy of His disciples to go throughout the many villages and preach the Gospel.  In verse 7 He says, “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.  Go not from house to house.”His teaching here is that those who labor in the ministry are worthy to be supported by those to whom they minister.  It does not mean that they are to be rich and live in a palace while those to whom they minister barely have enough to eat.  This is the great error of many who teach “seed faith” doctrines.  This teaching is an abomination, and living luxuriously while their followers live in need is what evil rulers and kings of the earth do to their subjects in many areas of our world.

        Paul supports what Jesus stated in I Cor. 9:7-9: “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?  Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?  For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.”Note Paul’s teaching here.  He who plants a vineyard partakes of the first fruit.  This is his portion and he has labored for it.  Paul quotes a very logical command given under the Old Covenant but makes it applicable under the New Covenant.  It is wrong to muzzle the ox that is laboring for you, and this is true in regard to those who work for us in physical things.  And it’s just as true regarding those who labor in the work of God.  They must be supported, not only with financial aid but also with our prayers.

        Jesus shows His approval of those who contribute to God’s work in Mark 12: 41-44 in the account of the extremely poor widow woman.  It reads, “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.  And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”Jesus honored this woman because she gave all she had to God’s work.  She gave because she loved God not because she was going to get a new car or some other worldly trinket for which she was lusting.  She did not give a seed faith, she gave a love offering, and that’s what God is looking for.  She had a genuine love for God and His work.

        Let me present my personal views of tithing.  The New Testament teaches that 100% belongs to God: our time, labors, activities, our whole being and God is to be first in everything.  It is not just 10% that belongs to God and 90% belongs to me.  This should be how we consider our lives.  Many people feel that because they give 10% and go to church two or three times a week that they’re okay.  That’s not presenting our bodies a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).  That being said, believers should tithe 10% because it was commanded under the Old Testament and is a reasonable amount unless God speaks to a person’s heart and instructs him differently.   I feel strongly that at least part of that 10% should go to the local church which the believer attends.  A person may feel he needs to support a specific ministry with part of his 10% and I would not find that objectionable because he is still supporting his local church at the same time.  If a person cannot find a local church he can attend, he should give to another ministry which he feels is doing the work of God.  Some people have good incomes and are able to give more than 10% and that is great and God honors those who do that.  I have known people who gave up to 50% of their income to various ministries and support missionaries in foreign countries totally because they had such a great income.  So to limit one to 10% can be selfish if his motives are not right. 

        I mentioned in my last email, about following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  God speaks to His people through His word and by the Holy Spirit.  He left us His word and as we search it we begin to see what God says about various things in our lives.  We begin to understand what God desires of us.  Jesus told His disciples that He had to go away but that He was going to send the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit would lead them and guide them into all truth. (Read John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7)  The Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life when he is saved and He immediately begins to mold him and shape him into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  This is why we are told to follow Him, to be conformed to His nature.  I have found that most of the time the Holy Spirit leads us through our conscience.  We become more aware of His leading as we are obedient to that leading.  The Holy Spirit will take what we have read in scripture and bring it to our remembrance when we need it or when the Holy Spirit wants to teach us something pertinent to circumstances we are facing.  This is His ministry and as believers we must learn to be sensitive to His voice.  If we continually refuse to obey His voice, we harden our hearts.  It is possible to come to the place where we no longer hear His voice.  This happened to King Saul in I Samuel.  1 Sam. 16:14: “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”  God’s spirit was with Saul, but God’s spirit left him and an evil spirit tormented him.  This was a very sad condition that Saul had fallen into, but it evolved over time by his continual disobedience to the word of the Lord.  Having the Holy Spirit within one’s heart is the most wonderful gift a man can receive because if He is there, we can safely say, “we are saved”.  But if He departs, we lose our salvation just as King Saul.  So it is imperative that we listen and obey His voice.  Remember those verses in scripture that say, “he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear”?  We need to tune our ears to hear what God is saying to us through His word and the Holy Spirit.

        I hope this helps you understand tithing better.  God bless as you search for truth.  Listen to His voice, for He will “lead you and guide you into all truth.”

                                                                                                                        The Editor

Dear Editor,

        I enjoy reading the articles each month.  They are a real blessing to me.  God bless you all.  I have a question I would like to have answered.  Is it a sin to eat in restaurants where alcoholic beverages are served?  I do not drink and do not believe in drinking, so I have been told it is hypocritical to eat at these places.  What do you say?

                                           Thank you

                                                B. J.

Dear B.J.

        We truly appreciate your interest in the message of “The Testimony of Truth” publication we send out each month and are encouraged to know that it is a blessing to you.  We also appreciate questions that are sent to us from our readers and try to answer each one personally.  We figure that if one person has a question, there are others who also have the same question, and we want to answer questions people have and try to answer according to scripture.

        Your question regarding eating at restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages is one that quite a few Christians have questioned.  I lived in New Orleans for twenty-two years, and down there if you went to any restaurant, they served alcoholic beverages.  We had some visitors one time and one of the brothers was showing them around the area, when one of the girls wanted to get something to drink.  So the brother stopped at a convenience store to get some drinks.  The girl seemed shocked and said, “You are not going to buy something here are you?  So the brother asked if there was a problem with this store.  The girl said, “They sell alcohol.”  She had been taught that they didn’t purchase anything at a business that sold alcohol.  The brother told her that if you don’t buy at stores that sell alcohol in New Orleans, you won’t buy anything.  This family lived in an area in a dry county in Tennessee so there were plenty of stores that didn’t sell alcohol.

        But in searching scripture we find that Jesus ate with publicans and sinners.  The Pharisees and religious leaders of His day accused Jesus of drinking.  Luke 7:34: “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”  They, no doubt, had reasons to call him this, and it was not just some fabricated criticism but was because He ate with sinners.  Jesus never criticized sinners, for He came to save them.  His rebukes were always addressed to the religious hypocrites who perverted the truth through their traditions.  They wanted to appear righteous before men while inwardly they were extremely ungodly.  These hypocrites were always trying to find fault with Jesus in order to discredit Him because He exposed their sins.  Following Jesus’ example, we believe that it is not wrong to eat in restaurants that sell alcohol, for we feel Jesus would have eaten there, even with some very ungodly people had the opportunity arisen.  Jesus came not to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.  That meant He had to go among them and be subject to some ungodly conversation and conduct.  However, He never involved Himself in those things; He gave them a message that there is a better way of life to be found in God.  This is the same message sinners need to hear today.  God’s way is the best way, for it leads the sinner away from the bondage of sin and offers him eternal life.

        As Christians, we must be very careful and avoid being as the Pharisees of old.  They were legalists.  That is, they believed that they were going to obtain heaven through their own works, and if others didn’t live exactly as they believed, they were ostracized and suffered reproach at the hands of those religious hypocrites.  Jesus refused to bow to their hypocritical demands and, therefore, they hated Him.  God has sent His Holy Spirit into the heart of every born again believer, and He is sent to lead and guide us into truth.  Each believer must live according to the convictions of this Spirit within.  If one is not condemned in eating at a place that serves alcohol, then he is not under bondage to avoid such places.

        I hope this helps you understand our perspective of what Jesus would do and we believe He is our example.  May God richly bless you as you continue in His service.

                                                                                                                                                                   The Editor

 

 

 

HE CAME TO HIMSELF

Charles Woodard

        “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my Father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger” (Luke 15:17).

        The evangelical churches and fellowships of today need to come to themselves!  Christians as a whole have wasted their substance on materialism, tradition, compromise, carnality, and emotionalism.  Believers are feeding on the husks of religion.  They perish with hunger for the bread from heaven (see Luke 15:17 above).

        Metaphorically speaking, dead leaders and speakers have become the Prodigal Son.  They have created a “mighty famine” for confidence in God and His Word (Luke 15:14).

        Tel-evangelists and their mimics have proclaimed a gospel of prosperity, health and wealth.  They see no cross to bear, but a life of finger-snapping, hand-clapping, foot-stomping emotion: “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke14:27).

        When will believers see there is a cost to follow Jesus: “For which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28)

        One cost is to trust and be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ alone!  ‘The fear (reverence) of man bringeth a snare, but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Prov. 29:25).

        Safety is not found in reliance on any man (or woman).  There is only one prescription for discipleship: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

        Not a church, denomination, seminar, workshop, counselor or good works are places of safety.  A believer must put all in the hands of the Lord.  Complete submission to the will of God and His word is the only way to discipleship.

        We must come to ourselves and recognize our trust in reasoning and psychology: “Casting down imaginations (Gk. reasonings), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).

        A mind divided between the material and the spiritual will fall.  We must come to ourselves in seeing that we glory in other things rather than the Lord: “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (II Cor. 10:17).  (See also Gal. 6:14)