People of The Living God

Isaiah 4

 

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December 2017



 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

FLEE BABYLON!

James Sanderson

        As Christians we all believe and know that our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ is coming again.  The day that He ascended into heaven, the angels of God declared, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).  The writer of Hebrews emphatically stated, “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37).  This is that “blessed hope” that we as Christians desire with anticipation – the day when we shall forever be with the Lord.

        The Scriptures also plainly state that there will be a time of unprecedented trouble and suffering prior to His coming.  The Bible calls this time the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21).  This will be “the day of the Lord's anger,” when God will bring compete judgment upon the whole system of Babylon for all of its iniquity that has “reached unto heaven” (Heb. 18:5).  Paul described those days as “perilous times.” That word perilous means “difficult, dangerous, furious, fierce, and violent.”  This judgment will be thorough.  The whole religious, political, social, and economic system will collapse under divine judgment.

        Jesus did not leave His people unadvised concerning the conditions that would prevail before His coming.  All the information necessary to properly evaluate the times in which we live are contained in the four gospels.  Jesus asserted that “the days of the Son of Man” would be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot.  Spiritual fornication, continual evil imaginations of the heart, violence, corruption, and “inordinate affections” permeated society in those days.  The only method by which God could deal with the situation was divine judgment.  A casual view of today' society would reveal alarming trends comparable to those that prevailed in the time of Noah and Lot.  Our schools have become a breeding ground for immorality, lawlessness, and violence.  Religious merchandising has become the accepted norm in the churches of our land.  The homosexual lifestyle has been glorified.  The number of homosexual teachers in the schools of this country has risen almost 300% in the last few decades.  It has become “gay” to be “gay.”  Our law enforcement system is unable to control the flow of drugs into this country.  The satanic rock culture has been robed with sheep's clothing and allowed into the churches.  The day of Sodom and Gomorrah is upon us.

        Divine judgment “standeth before the door.”  The banking systems of our nation are on very shaky ground.  A plague (Aids) predicted to be like none other in the history of the world continues to sweep over this nation. Some have predicted that it will destroy one third of the earth's population.  Surely the handwriting is on the wall.

        The unfortunate situation is that most of God's people are not prepared for the events that will soon transpire.  They have become quite satisfied with this system called Babylon, a system that never had God's stamp of approval.  The church of Jesus Christ – those who have been born again into His kingdom – is not a city set on a hill as the early church was.  The distinction between the world and the church was quite clear at that time.  The presence of the Holy Spirit through divine government kept the house clean.  Now, the tares and wheat grow together to such an extent that one cannot tell them apart.

        At midnight a cry was made, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matt. 25:6).  God is calling His people to come out of Babylon.  This is a divine order.  It is time that all who name the name of Christ disentangle themselves from this system.  “Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon” (Zech. 2:7).  “Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion” (Isa. 52:2).  “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).  There must be a separation of God's people from this system.  There will come a time when no individual will be able to remain in Babylon and still live as a Christian.

        Many people expect to be raptured from the earth before these judgments fall.  We exhort any who accept the doctrine of the rapture to reexamine his stand.  There will be no rapture of God's people before or during the time of the tribulation.  Satan is the great deceiver.  He has concocted a doctrine that breeds complacency, blindness, lack of preparation, and satisfaction with a system that is destined soon to fall.  Lot, Noah, the Children of Israel, nor the three Hebrew children were raptured out of the conditions that prevailed in their day.  God's people will be here on this earth during the Great Tribulation.

        God's people must seek the Lord.  These are very serious times.  “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6).  “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger” (Zeph. 2:3).  It behooves every child of God to seek a deep burden of prayer.  A shallow walk with the Lord will not be sufficient for the day that we live in.  God will provide for His own in that day.

 

 

 

 

VAIN WORSHIP

Alda Scullin

        An article from a popular magazine had for its title, “We Found God Again.”  It reviewed the spiritual experiences of three families, one Catholic, one Protestant and the other, Jewish.  Judging solely from what was written in the article, the subtitle was more accurate.  It read, “Three Families Rediscover Religion.”  There is a vast difference!

        Religion, and especially that called “Christian,” has become very popular in modern society.  The mental and emotional stresses of our day demand some outlet to relieve the strain.  Religious involvement or church affiliation has become for many such an outlet, a sedative that calms their fears without dealing with the cause.  Many discover satisfaction and comfort in religion without finding a personal relationship with God.  They may learn to come out of their “shell” as it were, to work with others sharing their problems whether material, physical or emotional; serving on this committee or that project all of which gives them a sense of purpose in life and feeling of tranquility which they suppose to be the peace of God in their soul.  Too many ministers aid and abet this kind of self-deception by teaching more psychology than Bible, not daring to disturb their parishioners, or themselves, with “thus saith the Lord.”

        The tremendous variety of religious organizations and their teachings, which range from extreme liberalism to extreme orthodoxy, seems to give mankind the choice of many “ways” which, according to some, all lead to eternal life and peace.  The “join the church of your choice” philosophy is an opiate greedily grasped by much of troubled humanity who want peace without price.  This kind of pseudo-peace, this religious sedative, is far more dangerous than hard drugs.  It is deception in its most powerful form.  God promised that He would send STRONG DELUSION to those who do not receive a love of the truth.  The truth is that Jesus, himself, is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  To love truth is to love Him, and to love Him is to keep His words, or obey Him.

        If one is a lover of truth, he will also be a seeker of truth.  Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17).  Paul admonished Timothy to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).

        It is not enough to attend a church and be ministered to.  Each individual will be accountable to God for what he has done concerning God’s Word.  Neither is it sufficient to study, memorize, quote or even teach the Word.  Unless it is applied to the life, it cannot bring forth fruit and the husbandman (God) waiteth with long patience for the precious fruit of the earth (James 5:7).

        The rewards of finding God and walking according to His Word are many and marvelous both in this life and in that which is to come.  To him who loves Him and keeps His commandments, Jesus promised that He and the Father would love him and make their abode with him (John 14:21,23).

        The results of finding religion and walking according to the traditions of men are death dealing and eternally destructive.  To those who do not receive a love of truth, God promised strong delusion.  To those who desired their own way, “He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalm 106:15).  To those of Ezekiel’s day who inquired of the Lord, but had idols in their hearts, He promised to answer them to their detriment and to set His face against them (Ezek. 14:1-9).  Jesus called this class of people “hypocrites” saying, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6,7).

        Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

        It behooves every professing Christian to examine himself by the Word of God to see if he measures up or is merely worshipping in vain.

 

 

 

 

WAY TO HAPPINESS

Curtis Dickinson

        The great contrast between Christ’s Kingdom and the world is seen in the values He described in the Sermon on the Mount.  He gave a list of requirements for happiness, beginning with “Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

        This is the very first sentence of the greatest sermon of Jesus on record.  It establishes the attitude that must underlie the successful application of all the rest that He taught.  It is at once the opposite of what the world teaches and yet the most natural for one who recognizes his true self before God and desires God to make his life what He wants it to be.

        By saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus was not pronouncing approval of all the poor.  Marxist revolutionaries often gain sympathy on the basis that the mobs they lead are the “poor” who are blessed by Christ.  Were poverty a virtue, they would be doing the poor no favor by promising them riches of the new world order!  The fact is that the poor are as prone to evil, envy, idolatry, covetousness and sin as the rich.

        While there is no virtue in being poor, certainly there is none in being rich.  Jesus warns of grave dangers for those rich in the world’s goods.  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”  Those evangelists (?) who preach a “health and wealth” gospel should take heed to Christ’s warnings.  Not only does Jesus say that we should be “not anxious” for things such as food, clothing and shelter, but He warns that riches are deceitful and seeking them may very likely result in losing out on eternal life.

        The world order of society is under the heavy curse that fell upon it because of sin, and as it further embraces and practices sin, it will disintegrate more and more.  To seek its wealth, its methods, its esteem, its security and its joy is to seek destruction.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…the world passes away and the lust thereof” (I John 2:15,17).

        Modern preaching which promises “health and wealth” to believers is insulating them from the happiness Christ gives and steering them down the broad way to destruction.

        When the Pharisee went up into the temple to pray, he considered himself spiritually rich.  He belonged to an orthodox sect, kept all the traditions, observed the forms of worship and did not violate the ethical standards.  He duly thanked God that he was such a privileged and good religious man. But the publican knew he was despised and that he had no standing with God or with man.  He was conscious of his sins, not his importance.  He knew he was undeserving and spiritually poor.  He could only ask, “Be merciful to me a sinner,” and God blessed him with an answer to his prayer.  Jesus said that he went home “justified.”

        This is what it means to be poor in spirit, to claim nothing except that one is dependent upon God.

        The apostle Paul suffered from some severe affliction he called a “thorn in the flesh.”  He prayed fervently for the Lord to remove it.  Finally the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).  Paul found that in his physical weakness and suffering he became strong.  He had once been a healthy, wealthy, influential and successful Pharisee, but it was after he had given all that up and had become truly poor in spirit that he learned the meaning of joy and contentment.

        Not only did Jesus refuse to promise health and wealth to His disciples but, instead, He promised suffering and self-denial.  Happiness never comes to those who think they are missing the blessing because they do not enjoy perfect bodies and affluent lifestyles.  But the disciple who comes to God as a beggar, recognizing that he deserves nothing but death for his sin and seeking only mercy that he might have the least place in God’s Kingdom, finds every grace and gift as a great bounty.  Once free from the false hope of physical and material reward, he can set his mind on the “things that are above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God” and concentrate on growing in godliness and being a faithful servant to the absent King.

        Dispensational and millennial hopes also stand in the way of receiving the blessedness of the poor in spirit.  The hope of a millennium, whether before or after the return of Jesus, focuses one’s desires on a worldly kingdom, and the satisfaction of carnal desires, which the Lord has admonished us to crucify.

        Although every true Christian is a child of the King, we are instructed not to live like worldly kings, but as servants, aliens and sojourners.  Christ “redeemed us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) then sent us into it to give it the light of God’s purpose; not to rest in it but to call it to repentance; not to indulge in its excesses but to resist them; not to gain what the world offers but to give it what God offers.

        The men who cried out for the murder of Jesus were proud and respectable men.  On the day of Pentecost they were confronted with the fact that this Jesus they had murdered was now risen from the dead and was Lord.  Then all pride was gone.  Suddenly, they realized that their status as Jewish leaders meant nothing at all; they were helplessly guilty before God and cried out, “What shall we do?”

        It is when we realize that we have nothing to offer, when we know that at our very best we are unprofitable servants, when we see that all we are and have is worthless apart from God’s power and use, when we understand that everything connected to us is of value only as it fulfills God’s purpose – then we may qualify as the poor in spirit.

        From there one can go on to understand what it is to be comforted in mourning; what it means to be meek; he will have a true hunger and thirst for righteousness; he can be merciful even as he has been granted mercy; he can set his heart on the one thing of pleasing God (which is what it means to be pure in heart) and he can turn his mind from vengeance and defense to become a peacemaker.

        But, until he becomes poor in spirit, none of the rest is available.

        Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

 

 

GIFTS AND MINISTRIES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Alfred King

        There are many Christians today who ponder the Biblical record concerning the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit.  Some have concluded that the gifts of healing, miracles, and the supernatural power of God passed away with the Apostles.  The general teaching is that healings or miracles do occur but only randomly when God in His sovereignty deigns it so.  Others teach that they are for the church today and attempt to exercise that power at certain times to cast out devils or heal the sick.  There are many TV evangelists who claim to have the power to heal, give prophetic utterances, possess a “word of knowledge” and claim the power to lay hands on people so they can receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  A third group of Christians believe the gifts are for God’s people today, although they do not operate except in very limited degrees because of the unbelief so prevalent throughout the Christian community.  These may also teach that the gifts are reserved for a very spiritually mature people.  So, what is the truth?  Our first group will argue, “if they are for today, why don’t we see them in operation?”  Because they don’t see them operating they find it easy to relegate them into the past rather than searching diligently to see what scripture teaches and then addressing the problem that has caused the power of God to cease among God’s people.  This view relieves them of any responsibility for the absence of God’s supernatural power among Christians today.  The second group acknowledges that the gifts are for today, so, in order to support their convictions, they conjure up schemes that are merely imitations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  They use counterfeit “gifts” to deceive the multitudes, much like the magicians did when Moses stood before Pharaoh.  The third group sees the fallacy of these other groups, yet they fail to possess the gifts as well, because they are waiting to be made perfect before they can receive the mighty gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Are The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit For Today?

        The very first issue that must be examined pertaining to this topic is what the Bible reveals concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Does scripture teach the gifts were only for the original Apostles to “jump start” the Gospel?  Those who hold to this idea teach that all we need today are the scriptures.  The Holy Spirit is given but only to aid us in our understanding of the written word.  Verses like Hebrews 1:1-2, are used to support their theory, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”  It is very true that God has spoken through His Son and we treasure His words above all others contained in scripture.  However, God also spoke through the Apostles, otherwise we need only the four Gospels and the rest of scripture is non-essential.  If the gifts passed away after the first century, then we need go no further in our search for truth.  We must then examine what Jesus and His Apostles taught regarding this important subject.

        Since God has spoken to us through His Son, let’s begin our search with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let’s start with John 14:12. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”  Jesus clearly stated that “believers” would perform greater works than He had done while on earth.  The word “believers” does not relegate God’s power to the Apostles only.  The common idea among those who have dismissed gifts of the Holy Spirit today say that Jesus was not speaking of miracles; rather He was referring to spreading the Gospel throughout the world bringing many souls to Christ.  Of course, the salvation of souls is much greater than healing the physical body or moving a mountain into the depths of the sea.  But is this what Jesus was referring to in John 14:12?  And was He giving this commission only to those whom He had chosen to be Apostles and, with their passing, would cease?

The Same Works As Jesus

        In John 10, Jesus was questioned by the Jews if He was the promised Messiah.  Note how Jesus responds in verses 24-25: “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt?  If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.  Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.”  What works was Jesus speaking of?  Not the salvation of souls but His miracle working power.  The many miracles they had seen testified of Who He was.  They just refused to accept those signs.  It was that same miracle-working power which He promised to His disciples and which were to confirm the message they preached.

        The second question in our search for truth is “Was this commission only for the Apostles?”  In the above paragraph, we found that this power was ordained for believers.  Is it then for all believers, just certain ones, or for those appointed to the office of apostleship?  In the great commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus told His disciples to go to all nations and preach and teach what He had taught them.  In Mark’s account we have some addition to Matthew’s account.  It reads, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18).  Notice, “these signs shall follow them.”  He then speaks of casting out devils (which is a supernatural empowerment), speaking with new tongues, laying hands on the sick and healing them.  From these verses, we conclude that these are the works which should have been common in the church for the past 2000 years.  Or do these verses mean nothing at all?

        Now, let’s consider what a couple of the Apostles had to say about this topic.  In Acts 2:38-39, Peter, in speaking to the multitudes who were astonished at what they saw taking place among those who had just received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, said this, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  Of course, Peter is speaking of the Baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit in this discourse.  However, with the Holy Spirit comes the power of God, also.  One cannot possess the Holy Spirit and be powerless.  The degree of power the Holy Spirit will manifest in a person’s life is the degree to which the believer walks in truth and holiness before the Lord.  (This point must be considered in another article, for it is impossible to go there now.)

Functioning Body Of Christ

        In writing to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul taught them how the church should function as a body.  In chapter 12, he shows how the various ministries and gifts should all work together in unity for the spiritual health of the church.  If these gifts were to begin fighting one another, it would cause a very serious problem within the church, the same as if different parts of our physical bodies do not work in conjunction with other parts of the body.  (The genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit will never work against other works of the Holy Spirit.  The genuine will always operate in perfect harmony.)  Consider Paul’s words in I Cor. 12:27-31, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”

        We see in these verses that God gives gifts to whom He sees appropriate, for He calls each child of His to a specific place in the body and we don’t all have the same position.  But notice carefully that Paul refers to the ministries of Apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, gifts of healings, speaking in tongues and interpretations.  The ministry of Apostles, prophets, and teachers are offices or positions of leadership within the church, and Paul incorporates these offices with supernatural gifts.

The Office Of Apostles

        The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, tells why the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit are so critical.  His words also reveal why Satan has so desperately resisted this power from being released to the church.  He has sown tares among the wheat, lies mingled with the truth.  He has sown unbelief in the hearts of God’s people, beginning with those entrusted to preach and teach the truth of the Gospel and consequently, has successfully kept the church weak, malnourished and immature.  Consider these verses very carefully and let the truth revealed sink, not only into your mind, but into your heart and into your being.  Ephesians 4:11-15, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”  From the above scripture: Can the church be what God desires it to be without the operation of these five ministries?  These offices are essential in bringing forth a pure and holy church.  Unfortunately, those who would shy away from the miracle-working power of God have redefined “apostles” to be the chief person of a specific denomination and lowered the office of “prophets” to “preachers.”  The Greek word for apostles is Apostolos and is defined by James Strong.  “A delegate; specifically, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle”] (with miraculous powers)” (Emphasis mine).  This definition raises a very relevant question.  If Apostles, along with the other four offices, are given to the church for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry and the edifying of the body of Christ, can the church be made glorious, holy, without spot, wrinkle and without blemish (Eph. 5:27) without these offices in the church today?

The Office Of Prophets

        Prophets are not preachers only.  Prophets may preach, but prophets are, according to James Strong, “a foreteller, by analogy an inspired speaker, by extension a poet.”  Paul writes of the office to the church at Corinth in his first epistle chapter 14 verse 24 -25, “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”  Some might claim that Paul is referring only to preaching truth, but we need to remember that Paul is dealing with some of the problems relative to spiritual gifts which operated within the Corinthian church.  He, in this same chapter, speaks considerably about the gifts of tongues and interpretations.  These are spiritual gifts and Paul is addressing how they should operate.  It is true that unbelievers can and do come into a church where the Gospel is preached and they are convicted by the Holy Spirit and respond to the saving of their souls.  But Paul is not focusing on preaching; he is dealing with prophesy, which is a spiritual gift that operates by the supernatural power of God.  Many times with prophesy, future events are foretold, but this wonderful gift also gives to the prophet eyes to see into men’s hearts and expose their hidden sins.

        A couple of examples of the operation of the ministry of prophesy might give a better understanding of this wonderful gift.  In Acts five when Ananias came before Peter to lay down the funds he received from the sale of his property, he held back part of the amount, probably in case things fell apart.  Peter, functioning in the office of a prophet, saw into Ananias’ heart and saw a hypocrite and a liar.  His words to Ananias are words no one wants to ever hear spoken to them.  “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?  Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?  Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?  Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:3-4).  After these words spoken through the gift of prophesy, Ananias fell down dead and they carried him out to bury him.

        Another account of the office of a prophet is Elisha.  Elisha seeing the evil intentions of a man’s heart is found in II Kings 8:7-15.  In this account, Benhadad, king of Syria, was very sick, so he sent his servant Hazael to the prophet Elisha asking if he were going to die of this infirmity.  When Hazael arrived before Elisha and asked the king’s question, Elisha responded, (verse 10) “Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.”  On the surface this sounds extremely strange.  It seems as though Elisha is telling Hazael to lie to the king.  Verse eleven in the text we are considering leaves us uncertain of which the pronoun “he” refers to, Hazael or Elisha.  (Verse 11) “And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.”  There are various opinions to whom these two pronouns refer but it clearly was Elisha that wept and he did so because he saw the evil scheme in Hazael’s heart.  The prophesy Elisha had just given would certainly be fulfilled, for Hazael already had his eye on the throne.  His treacherous conspiracy was determined upon whether Benhadad would die of his infirmity or not.  If he would die then no need to slay him, but if he was to recover, then Hazael had already determined in his heart, to slay him.  Elisha, as a prophet, saw the evil in Hazael’s heart and he wept.  However, Elisha wept more for an evil which he saw, even deeper in Hazael’s heart.  Elisha saw another event which would take place in the future.  He wept for the evil which Hazael would bring upon God’s people Israel.  This prophet not only knew what was in Hazael’s heart but he saw the evil which would come upon Israel through this evil man.  Look at verse 12, “And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord?  And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child.”

        These two examples should suffice to give a better understanding of the office of the prophet.  It was not only to foretell future events but also to expose sin in one’s heart.  It is very unfortunate for Hazael that he did not repent of his evil intentions and change the course of history.  There is so much evil in our churches today, so much compromise, so many unrepentant sinners sitting in our congregations, and even standing in the pulpits, that the exposing of these imposters can only be effectively done through the five-fold ministry which must be returned to God’s church.  I am not saying that there are no Godly men and women in our churches and in our pulpits sounding an alarm, but they are far too few.  Let me also add that there is no church or group that has it all together or that has all the answers.  However, there are many pastors, evangelists and godly men who refuse to bow their knee to Baal or to the unbiblical and illogical demands our modern society, a society creating laws which require that we allow any sinner or profane person who desires to stand in our pulpits, to do so.  Or those of reprobate minds who would pass laws requiring our churches to allow gross, unconverted perverts to become members of our congregations.  We do welcome the unconverted to attend our gatherings in hopes that they may come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but they should never be made members or serve in any position in the church.  Those who are seriously concerned must begin to seek God more earnestly than ever before, and see that He restore the offices and gifts of the Holy Spirit to His people.  May it be restored soon for the sake of God’s people.

        Let us not allow our adversary, the devil, to deceive us any longer in rejecting these necessary ministries by postponing them or by being indifferent to them, rather let us “covet earnestly the best gifts” (I Cor. 12:31).  It is not that we should desire the great ministries of the Holy Spirit for any personal gain but rather for the work of God in the earth.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the purifying of the church.  They are for the maturing of the church.  They are for effectively spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If these offices and gifts were necessary for the spreading of the Gospel in the days of the Apostles, they are just as essential in this day when “darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people” (Isa. 60:2).  They are critical for the day in which we live.  I am not speaking of those counterfeit prophets that prophesy out of their own imaginations; I refer to genuine Holy Ghost inspired men of God who are called, ordained, and empowered by God Almighty.

 

 

 

 

THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH IS THE TEACHER

Harry R. Miller

        “I have found the book of the law,” jubilantly cried the high priest Hilkiah.  Shaking the dust from the ancient scrolls he handed them to Shaphan, a learned scribe.  A most important find indeed, and it was very fortunate that Hilkiah had found the scrolls, for the workmen who had been called in to repair the “breaches” in the house of God might not have considered them of value.  Had such a thing occurred, the tragedy of God’s lost words might have had its effect even upon our Bible of today.  (LOST DIVINE RECORDS: Numbers 21:14 “The book of the wars of the Lord” I Chronicles 29:19 “The book of Nathan.”  II Chronicles 12:15 “Book of Shemaiah.”  II Chronicles 20:34 “Book of Jehu.”  I Kings 11:41 “Book of Acts of Solomon.”  Also, other lost inspired writings.).

        Shaphan soon recognized the importance of these scrolls that had been salvaged from the litter: hastening before the youthful king, whose heart was tender before the Lord, the words from God’s book were read.  “And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.  And the king commanded…Go ye, and enquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book” (II Kings 22:10-13).

        The king and his people were victims of the weakness of institutionalism and the carnality of a priesthood.  Divine government had been crowded to one side and gradually human expediency had substituted ordinances and laws which were more compatible to the backsliding worldlings who had filled the church.

        Before the advent of Pentecost, personal relationship with God rested upon three institutions that were subject to the unreliability and freak unpredictable impulses of humanity: 1-The written Word (Subject to loss and to deliberate perversion).  2-The institution, its ritualism, its claim to infallibility, its traditions.  (All of these are subject to corruption, or substitution.  The institution itself became an object of unwarranted veneration and many lost their way in God, because they esteemed the “praises of men of more value than the praise of God.”)  3-A secular priesthood who exploited a “closed shop” condition to a superlative degree.  The success of the Old Covenant rested upon this uncertain foundation.  All three of these institutions could have been a blessing IF THEY HAD NOT BEEN SUBJECT TO THE PERVERSIONS OF CARNALITY: that is why under the New Covenant there was a complete change made in these three.

        Under the terms of the Old Covenant, the saints were victimized by TEACHERS who had little or no contact with God; this condition was completely remedied at Pentecost.  “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts…and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:10,11).  Here is a definite promise to the people of God that He would give them a PERSONAL TEACHER: the knowledge of God would no longer have to be “taken by faith,” nor men hope and assume that they were children of the Most High – IT IS NOW THE RIGHT OF EVERY CHRISTIAN TO KNOW THE LORD.

        “When the Comforter is come…He shall testify of Me” (John 15:26).  This testimony or witness of the Comforter is heaven’s INFALLIBLE PROOF of the favor of God.  The voice of the testimony of the Spirit in Christian babyhood may be as slight as a zephyr, but as knowledge increases by obedience to the Lord, so also, will the strength of the heavenly signal increase.  “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself…this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life” (I John 5:10-12).

        Christians are “converted” individuals who have been “born again” not by a cold naked acceptance of the gospel written in the Scriptures, but by the Word of God CONFIRMED IN THEIR HEARTS BY THE HOLY WITNESS of the HOLY SPIRIT.

        Many sectarian revivalists carry on religious quackery in their abortive attempts to bring souls into the kingdom of God.  Admonishing confused humanity to merely “believe” and “accept Christ,” these slick-tongued “spellbinders” offer “another way” without a definite EXPERIENCE BY THE HOLY GHOST; these poor souls accept “the letter” of the Word never knowing that what they have accepted is that which “killeth.”  Paul the apostle was not such a minister, for he said, God “hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; NOT OF THE LETTER (anything written), but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life” (II Cor. 3:6).

        No more do saints need to accept doctrinal explanations and interpretations of a select priesthood, as each saint now has a personal relationship with a supernatural authority who monitors every discussion of the Word of God.  If the speaker be a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher his authority as a VOICE FROM GOD never rests upon his reputation or his affiliation – THE HOLY GHOST censors every message to the honest and listening saint.  If the message of the speaker is error, then the spirit of the saint will be so informed, and if the message is truth, the Spirit within the saint will confirm it.  THIS IS NEW TESTAMENT INFALLIBILITY.  Such a foundation is not upon man, but upon Christ, the true Rock.

        “Ye have an unction (anointing) from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (I John 2:20).  And in verse 27: “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie.”  This “anointing” of the Holy Spirit is not to take the PLACE of teachers, nor is it a substitute for gifted instructors – IT IS THE DIVINE SUPERVISOR, the one and only INFALLIBLE ORACLE, the true vicar of Christ.

        Priestcraft, institutionalism, and even the “letter” of Scripture, all stand or fall before this God-ordained CRITIC.  When saints return again in complete obedience to THE INNER VOICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, then, and only then, will the Glory of the Lord return to teach, lead, guide, and direct the people of God.

        Multitudes of professing Christians walk so far off from God that they have little or no understanding of “the still small voice” that will speak to those who have ears to hear.  Not everyone has an “ear to hear what the Spirit saith.”  The difficulty is that the clatter of worldliness within many Holy Ghost temples is so loud that His voice cannot be heard.  When people insist on living “in the flesh” and continue walking “after the flesh” they should not expect to have communion with God, for like dumb brutes they respond only to the impulses of the physical body.

        A true child of God is not “of this world” even as Christ was not of the world (John 17:16).  Saints are “strangers and pilgrims ON THE EARTH” (Heb. 11:13): looking for the day when their Lord shall return to transport them to a “better country, that is, an heavenly”: they “make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof,” but patiently follow the teaching and leading of His Holy Spirit in preparation for that eternal kingdom; “wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16).

        Those who are not “taught of the Lord” stand in jeopardy of their souls, for the leading of the Holy Spirit is an EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP: “For as many as are led of the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

 

 

 

 

SHALL HE FIND FAITH ON THE EARTH?

Gloria Jabour Ponzio

        What is the “faith” the Lord will be looking for when He returns?  The Scripture in Luke 18:8 indicates that this rare faith will be in short supply.  Yet, without it, it is impossible to please God.

        “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3).  God is just.  Each man has been given the opportunity to choose the way of life.  No excuse will stand in the day of judgment.  And if a man should choose to begin to travel on this road, let it be known that “Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 2:2).  He will help us to the end.  But the measure of faith alone will not make us worthy to stand before the Son of Man when He returns.  Faith is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and it must grow to maturity so it can produce in order to be pleasing to our Lord.

        Millions of people claim to have the faith.  Yet Jude had to exhort the brethren to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.”  They had already begun to lose it in his day.  Today, faith is a common thing in the religious world.  Many people are healed by miracle workers throughout the land.  But how many possess the kind of faith God is searching for?

        Take heed!  There will be great deception in these last days.  Jesus warned us several times in Matt. 24.  We also find a warning in Matt. 7:22,23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  Sounds like these folks didn’t take out time to get to KNOW the Saviour.  So, not all that work great miracles will make it.  You may wonder how one will be able to tell the genuine from the counterfeit.  As you read on, you will be able to see that God’s people do not have to be deceived.  “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16).

        Miracles in themselves do not create or increase faith.  John 12:37 says: “But though Jesus did so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him.”  In Psalm 78:23-33, there is a sad account of Israel’s unbelief: “Though He had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven and had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven…For all this they sinned still, and believed not for His wondrous works.”

        So we see that the opposite of faith is unbelief.  And we see how very much unbelief grieves the Lord.  “But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?  And whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not?  So we see they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:17-19).

        Faith and love work hand in hand.  Paul commended the Thessalonians when he said, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity (love) of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (II Thess. 1:3).

        There are many ways to recognize true faith.  True faith springs forth from love.  It was evident in the life of Jesus.  Whenever He healed, He did it out of a heart of compassion; not to be seen, but to glorify the Father.  The people were truly made whole – body and soul as well.  It takes humility in order to be healed.  One of the most moving records of faith in Jesus is in Matt. 15:22-28.  It tells of a woman of Canaan who had a daughter grievously vexed with a devil.  When she first cried out to Jesus for help, He answered her not a word.  She even implored His disciples to help her, but they would have sent her away.  You would think she would have given up after this.  But she pleaded again.  And the Lord told her He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Still she called out to Him who is the only source of help.  But He told her it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.  But still she persisted and made it clear that she would be happy even for a few crumbs.  There are thousands of hungry sheep in the world today who would be happy to partake of a few crumbs of the things of the kingdom.  Jesus was amazed at this woman’s faith.  He healed her daughter, “and her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”  Though she suffered a small season of humility, her faith has been sealed in the book of Life to be remembered forever.

        Abraham is called the Father of faith – not because of any miracles he performed, but because of his love and obedience to the Word of God without seeing.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Abraham had the faith of Jesus because he heard the voice of God and he desired God’s will to be done at any cost.  He believed the promises of God.

        Hebrews 11 is one of the greatest chapters on faith.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen.”  What evidence?  What was the evidence that Abraham and Sarah believed God?  They lived as though they believed that what God had said would come to pass.  What of Sarah’s barren womb?  Even though the laws of nature were against them, Isaac was to be the child of promise and this couple believed that promise.  Isaac was the fruit of their faith.  Abraham’s faith went so far as to believe that God would raise Isaac from the dead after he was commanded to slay the long-awaited child.

        The account of Noah is a stirring one.  We should pay close attention to Noah’s faith.  We are living in the time that Christ compared to the days of Noah.  Noah was commanded to build a boat in a day when man didn’t know what rain was.  Noah laboured on this ship year after year after year until 120 years had passed.  Would you have given up after 10 years?  Noah spent a lifetime on this project.  Men laughed him to scorn.  But as he worked, he preached the love of God, in hope that men would be saved from destruction.  But no one believed him.  When the great day came, God shut the door of the ark.  Noah and his family, alone, had to wait seven days before the rain began to fall.  Perhaps these few days were the greatest trial to their faith.  All work was done.  There was the awful silence – which gave them time to think; time to doubt the word of God.  But when the rains came, the water bore the boat up in safety.  The same water that saved the ark destroyed an UNBELIEVING world.  Will our faith stand up to the storms that are approaching?  We don’t have 120 years to prepare.  No wonder Jesus asked, “Shall I find faith on the earth?”

 

 

 

 

GRACE TEACHING

(Part 5)

Matteo Pacifico

        Am I truly a redeemed child of God? To a living soul, that is by far the most important question, and we can be thankful to the God of our salvation that, at least in most cases, the question can be answered quite easily: "FOR WHOSOEVER SHALL DO THE WILL OF GOD, THE SAME IS MY BROTHER, AND MY SISTER, AND MY MOTHER" (Mark 3:35).  Though never able to do it perfectly in this life, yet if it is my sincere and consistent aim to do the will of God, then I have good reason to believe that I am a Christian.  Am I truly a partaker of redeeming grace?  Again, the answer is quite simple: If redeeming grace has truly been brought to me, then that same grace that brought me out of my spiritual grave will be teaching me to walk in the ways of our God.  The teaching of grace in Titus 2:ll-l4 is listed both negatively and positively.  O Lord, do give us eyes to see and hearts to willingly receive the instruction of Thy precious grace.

        "TEACHING US THAT DENYING UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY LUSTS" (V.l2).  Here is negative instruction as to what saints are to deny themselves.  Though all sin is a kind of warfare against God, the word UNGODLINESS refers to sinful practises that are more directly against God – things and practises that ARE EVIL IN THEMSELVES.  Alcohol, though it has worked havoc in this world and has helped to populate Hell with many millions of impenitent drunkards, yet alcohol is morally neutral and not ungodly in itself.  Not so with PORNOGRAPHY, which involves direct defiance and warfare against God and His holy Law.  The producer of this material is despicably ungodly.  The wretched young women who sell themselves to him are eminently degraded and ungodly.  The photographers, printers, and retailers of this moral carrion are all ungodly and exist but one heart-beat away from the fierceness of God's sin-avenging wrath.  It is this writer's OPINION that unclean spirits are not only very much in control of those involved in any and every phase of the production of this abomination, but that those same unclean spirits influence those (male or female) who expose themselves to pornographic material of any kind.  The very first thing that the eternal God did for our fallen parents was to thoroughly cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:2l). See now how desperate is Satan's hatred toward God and His law: "THERE MET HIM OUT OF THE CITY A CERTAIN MAN, WHICH HAD DEVILS LONG TIME AND WARE NO CLOTHES" (Luke 8:27).  Satan relentlessly promotes the very nakedness which God abhors.  Precious and very significant is the fact that, immediately after our Lord delivered this poor Gadarene from demonic bondage, He also "CLOTHED" him (v.35).  Rest assured, dear reader, that the public exposure of human nakedness is nothing less than high treason and aggressive warfare against the holy Creator.  And so, we dare not, in any way, partake of this pre-eminent ungodliness, but must assiduously ABSTAIN from it.

        Just as surely as water surrounded Noah and all who occupied the ark during the Flood, so Christians, especially in Western nations, have to daily pass through a world which Satan has, to a great extent, undressed.  They're confronted with some level of nakedness at work, in the streets, in stores, in most any magazine they might look at.  Indecency pours out of the TV in the waiting-room of the doctor's office, dentist's office or hospital ER.  But nothing is so drenched with bold defiance of God as the shameless nudity in pornographic magazines, Internet and TV.  You will probably agree that technology has produced the most ungodly generation in history.  Obscenity pervades human existence.  Does precious redeeming grace have instruction for us as we confront this awful end-time crisis?  Yes, grace teaches us unequivocally to DENY UNGODLINESS.  We dare not involve ourselves in the slightest compromise with it – we must be as resolved in our determination not to in any way partake of this uncleanness as were Latimer, Cranmer, Bradford and the many other God-fearing saints who chose rather to be burned at the stake than to partake of the horrid witchcraft of the Roman Catholic Mass.  For some, it may mean getting rid of Internet, avoiding certain places of business, and it is difficult to see why any Christian should have a TV in his house, seeing that it is virtually impossible for him not to be exposed to some level of indecency when he views it.  There is enough obscenity in our streets, businesses, and beaches to call the fury and vengeance of the Holy God upon the nation – how can we hope to deny ungodliness when we deliberately bring it into our homes!  Here is where we must "pluck out the right eye, cut off the right hand and cut off the right foot" (Matt. l8:8 -9)  Self-denial like this may be difficult and inconvenient, but it is the teaching of redeeming grace; it is the "STRIVING TO ENTER IN AT THE STRAIT GATE" (Luke l3:24) – SOMETHING THAT MANY, MANY WHO NOW PROFESS TO BE CHRISTIANS ARE NOT DOING, AND WILL ONE DAY HEAR THE SAVIOR SAY, "I NEVER KNEW YOU; DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY" (Matt. 7:23).  O, it is one thing to speak and sing of grace, but quite another to be a partaker of it, and to be instructed by it.  Fix it in your heart, dear reader, that "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. l2:l4), and THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PURSUE HOLINESS UNLESS YOU DENY ALL UNGODLINESS.  You live in a horribly compromising, permissive generation – O may we hearken to precious grace and flee the coming wrath.

        Show mercy, O Lord, to reader and writer

 

 

 

 

MAN’S WORKS

Lorraine Scullin

        Gabriel Cohen, founder and former editor of “The Jewish Post” once wrote, “We in America are ahead…in terms of superficial religion.  We are paying lip service to a kind of religion…which is a veneer.”  This statement is certainly something that should concern all of us who call ourselves, “Christians” and cause us to investigate the validity of this statement in our own personal lives and in our churches.

        Is superficial religion true only of a single group of people here in America?

        Is religious veneer confined to America alone?

        Superficial religion is no new thing.  It is apparent, from the records left us, that each period of history has had its demonstration of various kinds of religion devoted to externals.  These have had the outward trappings of piety, but they are devoid of the presence of the Spirit of God which alone can make men godly.  “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9).

        True religion is not based mainly upon the outward forms and practices.  When people begin to stress matters of external conduct and reform above all else, then men start to deviate from the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Jesus warned against mere outward behavior.  “Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter but within they are full of extortion and excess.  Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:25,26).  The work of the Spirit of God within the heart of a man will cause his conduct to be right.

        Jesus Christ had a great deal to say about OUTWARD ACTS being a veneer – a cover-up for evil conditions WITHIN.  To those who were depending upon many religious acts to make them righteous He said, “Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.  Ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within…are full of hypocrisy” (Matt. 23:23,28).  He plainly told them their works were but a pretense.  Where were their acts of compassion, righteous judgment, obedience?  Such works, and others like them, are the only true evidence that the Spirit of Jesus Christ rules the heart.

        Why did He condemn these outward acts?  The Pharisees esteemed these religious forms as the measuring line for their walk before the Lord.  These exterior practices, performed in the name of religion, pleased the flesh, not God.  They appealed to the physical senses of man.  They moved his sentiments which quickly changed from hour to hour, then passed away, for they were of the flesh and not of the Spirit.  Man is still tricked into believing that this outward display is of God because of its religious appearance, because of the sentimentality attached to it and because of the approval which the world gives to it through its millions of followers of religious form.

        Why do men have such confidence in these outward acts?  Because they can be SEEN.  They require no faith.

        Men usually feel secure in that which they can see and touch, but there is no security in temporary material things.  The hand of decay is already upon these.

        Men of God must walk by faith and implicit trust in the word of Him who is INVISIBLE.  Men of this world walk according to the things they can see and according to what the world sees and approves.  Men of God obey the words of the Lord without seeing the reason for these commands and without the world’s approbation.  Men of this world must see to believe.  This is completely unscriptural and contradictory to the plain statements of Jesus Christ.  “Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see” (John 11:40).  “For we walk by faith and not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7; Rom. 1:17).  And this faith must be accompanied by WORKS – ACTS of OBEDIENCE.  Otherwise it is dead (James 2:20,26).

        There are OUTWARD WORKS that mark the true people of God, for “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16).  Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).  The bouquets that preachers pass each other in the pulpit do not constitute scriptural love.  Neither do the many words spoken about love prove that the individual is moved in the least by the love of Jesus Christ.  The flattery and talk of love prevalent in much of the religious world is sickeningly sweet, hypocritical, and a stench before the Lord!

        “If a brother or a sister be naked and destitute of daily food and one of you say…Be warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye GIVE them NOT those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?” (James 2:15,16)  “Whoso hath this world’s good and seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his…compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him” (I John 3:17).

        True love is expressed in service that is filled with sacrifice and with effort that costs much.  “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me…Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:35-46).

        True religion is a matter of the heart – never a veneer or a religious covering which penetrates no deeper than the skin.  A walk with God is a heart-felt experience.  It transforms a man’s entire being, from the deepest recesses of his heart to all outward acts.  It works from within.

        True religion brings a person into that great realm of the Spirit where he has unending peace and joy, continuous light and understanding, and a constant communion with the Creator Himself.  This is a real and living contact with the Almighty wherein God manifests Himself to man (John 14:23).  This communion is a continual, never-failing source of delight and satisfaction to those who have yielded themselves to the Lord.  It is not affected by adversity, by the limitations of the flesh, by changes in material conditions, by sickness, nor by death itself, for this fellowship exists in the realm of the Eternal which knows no change, no loss, no decay, no death.

        This relationship is based upon love – between God and man – deeper than any love known in the physical universe.  This love prompted the Father to give His Son through death and separation from Himself.  Jesus Christ was the Father’s gift to man, a treasure so impossible to evaluate according to its true worth that man through many centuries has not yet fathomed the depth of God’s love and sacrifice in His provision for the redemption of fallen man.  When he responds to that love through the power of the Spirit, there is only one scriptural way man can do it – by giving himself completely to his God – his body, his soul, his spirit, his desires, his will, his possessions.  This is “his reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).  For the man or woman in whom the love for God moves in this manner, mere outward religious form could never bring any satisfaction.  To these individuals, true religion is a continuous walk, every hour and every day, in contact with the Living God, where His presence is so real that it is often felt within men’s being.

        Be not content with the many pseudo-religious practices present everywhere in the ecclesiastical world of our day.  Outward acts alone accomplish nothing but a state of delusion within the mind and spirit of those who indulge in them.  Seek to KNOW God and to enter into fellowship with Him.  “And this is LIFE ETERNAL that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

 

 

 

 

LEGALISM

Randall Walton

        Webster’s definition of legalism is two-fold: 1.  strict, often too strict and literal, adherence to law or to a code.  2.  Theol. The doctrine of salvation by good works.

        While both of these definitions are correct, they are generally misunderstood and misapplied.  We often hear accusations of “legalistic” hurled at people who endeavor to live above reproach regarding God’s law, as if it is somehow sinful to obey the word of God.

        On the basis of strict adherence to law or a code, we must confess that Jesus Christ was the most legalistic person who every walked the earth, for He stated emphatically that He very strictly adhered to the will of His Father:

        “I came…not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).

        “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the father” (John 5:30).

        “I do nothing of myself: but as the Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28).

        “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29).

        “I have kept my Father’s commandments” (John 15:10).

        “as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (John 14:31).

        So, it is a fact that Jesus followed the Father’s orders to the letter.  At the same time, He drew a line between the Father’s will and the traditions and commandments of man.  He was not about to toady to the demands of the religious zealots of His day who were so apt to “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.”  Their vain conceptions of righteousness, all of which revolved around outward show of piety and religious ritualism, became transparent before His gaze, for He knew the workings of the human heart.

        Man is religious by nature.  He takes delight in being absorbed in various practices which, to himself, denote a certain measure of godliness or holiness.  Specific dress codes, mannerisms, affectatious behavior meant to impress others are some of the more common actions used to prove one’s sanctity.

        By way of example, there are those bodies of people whose men would not be seen wearing a necktie.  To them it is not only disgraceful, but sinful, because it speaks of pride.  But, there are others who, for the same reasons, would not be seen without a tie.  Not only would they feel half-dressed, they would consider it demeaning and uncouth to appear at a religious gathering in such a manner.

        Which of these two views is correct?  Neither, for this is legalism!  Strict adherence to a code which is not based upon the words of the Father or His Son has no redeeming value whatsoever.  In fact, such practice can be very dangerous because it becomes a screen or a façade behind which people hide their true selves, not only from others but from themselves as well.

        To observe and obey the words of God is not legalism (as proved by Jesus’ testimony).  God commanded Israel to obey all the words of the law or risk annihilation.  He was not recommending that they become legalistic but obedient, for God knew what was best for them.  Over the years, scribes added to God’s code their own versions of righteousness, most of which involved doing things which were immediately evident to the human eye.  Thus, Jesus berated the Pharisees, “for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matt. 23:23).

        The motive behind these actions is described in verses 5 and 6, same chapter: “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries (a signet worn on the forehead and arm to denote a prayerful attitude; to make a greater impression, these were enlarged), and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts,” etc.  The Pharisees were geniuses at pretense – legalists, true – but disobedient to the word of God.

        At the same time, however, it is possible to strive to keep the law of God with the wrong motive, or for the wrong reasons (which brings us to definition number 2); that is, to secure our salvation by good works.  Good works, alone, have never saved anyone, “for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).

        Salvation is not obtained by works of goodness.  Had it been possible to gain salvation by such good behavior, or even adherence to law or a code of ethics, then Jesus would not have needed to die.  Man through his own efforts and diligence could have ascended the ladder of righteousness and possessed eternal life.

        But the Scriptures declare that this was impossible.  Mankind cannot save himself.  There is no single act of benevolence nor any combination of good deeds which can absolve man’s sins, rehabilitate his soul, transform him, and make him a child of God.

        Grace and faith are the divine increments of our salvation and both are gifts from God.  They originate in and emanate from Him and are not subject to, nor bound by, the whims of mankind.  Their dispensation is not based upon the inherent goodness of the recipient, nor are they governed by the degree of degradation of the person(s) involved.

        Thus, Saul of Tarsus was eligible to receive the grace and faith gifts from God as was Cornelius, even though Saul was guilty of falsely accusing saints and consenting to their deaths, while Cornelius was a devout and praying man who gave to the poor.

        Grace has no favorites; it caters only to the needs of the needy: it forgives the past, grants strength for the present, and promises help and hope for the future.  It is understanding of man’s fallen state and takes into account his inability to help himself.

        Faith makes it possible to believe in grace, to accept the truth that God so loved the world that He gave Jesus, to grasp the forgiveness of God, and to know that He is able to keep that which we have committed unto Him.

        Good works, then, are the net result of that which grace and faith have already wrought in the heart, and not vice versa.  Works do not obtain nor secure salvation; but they can testify that salvation has come, and it is upon this premise that the divine economy is generated.

        Obedience to God and producing good works are predicated upon LOVE.  Jesus stated it most succinctly with these words: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  There are far too many religious people who are keeping the commandments as a duty or as a supposed admittance into the kingdom of God.  That is legalism but it will not work.  Any effort to keep the law apart from the compelling force of love for God is in vain.  We observe His words because we love Him, not because we are coerced by fear or dread of the consequences.

        “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).

        His commandments are a delight to those who love God, and they do not fear legalism, for they obey the One they love, because they love – and that is not legalistic!