People of The Living God

Psalms 149

 

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January 2018



 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

UNTIL I MAKE THY FOES THY FOOTSTOOL

Randall Walton

        It is imperative for the people of God to understand the present office which Jesus holds, as well as their own position, rights, privileges, and obligations in the church.  We believe we are living in a time of spiritual awakening when the Saints are being aroused from a long sleep, during which time their enemy was able to carry on a great work of subversion and sabotage (Matt. 25:5, they all slumbered and slept; Matt 13:25, while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares).  Slowly, but surely, God’s people are beginning to realize that the church was meant to be more than a place for religious activities and worship services: it was to have been a power house against which the gates of hell could not prevail, a city set on a hill, a light to the world, a refuge in time of storm.

        With Jesus at the right hand of the Father possessing “all power in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), and having endued the church with power from on high, all the necessary machinery was set in order for the fulfillment of that high and heavenly calling.

        Peter stated this promise succinctly in Acts 2:33 where he said, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”  It is clear that Peter was referring to the manifestation of the Holy Ghost outpouring as “this, which ye now see and hear.”  It is also plain that “this,” the promise of the Father, was the means by which the church should fulfill her mission.  Jesus taught the disciples that it was necessary for Himself to “go away” in order that the Comforter would come to direct the work of the church (John 16:7-16; 14:16-26).

At The Father’s Right Hand

        “For David is not ascended into the heavens; but he saith himself, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool” (Acts 2:34,35).

        Take special notice of the fact that Jesus will remain at the right hand of the “Lord” until his enemies become His footstool!  He will not return to earth nor leave His position in heaven UNTIL this prophecy is fulfilled.  In the meanwhile, the great work of the church is directed by the Holy Spirit, who not only dwells among the people of God, but also abides within them.

        There are several verses which bear witness to these amazing truths: Heb. 1:3b, “when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:”

        Heb. 8:1, “We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;”

        Heb. 9:24, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:”

        There is, therefore, no doubt as to the present position which Jesus holds: He is at the right hand of the Father, and He will remain there until ALL His enemies have become His footstool.

        But let us consider what the Scriptures say concerning His enemies: Eph. 1:20-22: “when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.”

        Notice that all things have been put “under his feet,” but they have not been made His footstool!  A footstool is inert, impotent, unable to move or act; however, these enemies “under his feet” do have some mobility.  They are able to squirm and make noise; there are certain activities which they can engage in (which we’ll discuss later).

        Heb. 10:12,13: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.”  The word “expecting” is the same as “waiting.”  He is waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool.  Notice that it does not say “until He make His enemy His footstool,” but rather, until they be made His footstool!

        I Peter 3:22: “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”  The words “being made” are in the perfect tense which is the equivalent of “having been made subject,” or as the NIV states it: “with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

        I Cor. 15:27,28: “For he hath put all things under his feet.  But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.  And when all things shall be SUBDUED unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

        The word “subdued” is of supreme importance in this study.  Notice that all things are under Jesus’ feet, but not all are subdued unto him.  Verse 24 states it this way: “when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power.”  Thayer’s Lexicon says that this term means, “to render idle, inactive, to deprive of strength, force, influence and power.”

        When all of His enemies have become His footstool, they will fit that description: “idle, inactive, deprived of strength, force, influence and power.”  However, it is very evident that His enemies at the present time are active, and they do have strength, influence, and power, even though they are under His feet!  Not until they are subdued, put down, and have become His footstool can it be said that they are idle, inactive, deprived of strength, influence, and power.

His Enemies Defined

        It would be well at this point to identify some of the enemies of the Lord.  We all know that the greatest enemy of God and man is the Devil (Matt. 13:39), but it is also a fact that there are many evil spirits (devils or demons, Luke 10:17-19) which are in constant warfare against humankind.  Paul classified these spirits as “principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness (or wicked spirits) in high places.”  He stated that we wrestle, or struggle, against these enemies.

        Paul also designated the carnal mind as an enemy (Rom. 8:7), and said we have been given certain weapons with which to wage war and bring every thought into subjection (II Cor. 10:3-5).

        Another enemy which is very active at the present (even though it is under Jesus’ feet) is death (I Cor. 15:26).  Paul declared that Jesus “abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Tim. 1:10).  Paul said that the last enemy which shall be destroyed is death; so we understand that, while this enemy continues to work, it is under the feet of Jesus (Rev. 1:18), and it will become His footstool – inactive, idle, without strength, influence or power.

His Enemies Become His Footstool

        Since Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and will remain there until His enemies are rendered inactive, how will this great task ever be accomplished?  Who is responsible to see that it is done?

        Acts 2:34,35 states: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”  God the Father, then, has charged Himself with the responsibility of seeing that the mission is completed.  It must be noted, however, that God has always used human agencies through which to manifest Himself and His great power and wisdom, and this case is no exception.

        Paul testified that: “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that NOW UNTO THE PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS IN HEAVENLY PLACES MIGHT BE KNOWN BY THE CHURCH THE MANIFOLD WISDOM OF GOD” (Eph. 3:9-11).  The final responsibility, then, rests upon God’s people, upon whom this task was laid by the Living God!  Only the zeal of the Lord can perform such a monumental show of power and glory as is necessary for such prowess.

        But let us not suppose that the Father has delegated for the Church an impossible endeavor.  All of the power which is necessary for the Church to make the enemies of Jesus Christ His footstool has already been granted unto it!  The following passages of Scriptures will reveal just how far the Church lives below its rights, privileges, and obligations.

The Church Triumphant

        “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14,15).  These are two of the most powerful verses in the Bible.  They declare emphatically the present state of the devil as well as that of the “children” of God.  The devil has not been annihilated, but has been made powerless under the feet of Jesus.  There are certain limitations which are placed upon him and his work.  The person who is under the blood of Jesus, who stands upon the word and claims the power of the Blood, has victory over the devil and all the power he claims (I Cor. 15:57).  Neither does he fear death, because he has been delivered from the fear of it!

        In Revelation 12:7-11, John tells us about a war which was waged in the heavenly realm, in which the devil was cast out of heaven, along with his angels, all of whom were cast into the earth.  “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of the brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”  This fully agrees with the verses in Hebrews 2:14,15.

        Take notice that the brethren must overcome the accuser, that is, the devil.

        This word, overcome, means to conquer, subdue, or get the victory!  And they do this with weapons which are already at their disposal: the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony.  Notice, also, that with the casting of Satan out of heaven, four elements of supernatural authority were made available to the brethren: salvation (deliverance), strength (power; [dunamis]), the kingdom (rulership), power (authority, jurisdiction).

        Actually, then, the brethren (the Church) are to exercise complete authority over the devil and his angels, NOW!  This is the triumphant church, the church anointed and filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19).  It is given to the church to conquer, subdue, and make the devil and his angels a footstool for Jesus Christ!  Impossible?  Nothing shall be impossible to them who believe God’s word.

        John substantiates this premise in I John 2:14b, where he says, “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.  I John 5:18: “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”

        Malachi 4:2,3: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.  And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.”

        Luke 10:17-19: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.  And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.  Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

        I Cor. 6:2,3: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”

        In the light of these tremendous proclamations, it is understandable why Paul stated that “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).  Great is the power which the sons of God have inherited through and with Jesus Christ, the Captain of their salvation (Rom. 8:16,17).

        The Lord gave the prophet Daniel a revelation of many of the events of the time of the end.  In chapter 7, verses 21 and 22, we read this: “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”  Sleeping saints can possess nothing, but as we stated earlier, there is evidence of an awakening taking place among the saints of the Most High.  As God’s people arouse, and their understanding is enlightened concerning the glorious truths of the kingdom of God, and the authority and power which God has vested in His church, they will see the kingdoms of this world begin to crumble and fall, and the devil and all his hosts shall retreat under the attack of the armies of the Living God.

        Even now, those who have an ear to hear can discern the “going in the tops of the mulberry trees” as the power of the Holy Spirit moves among the saints to anoint their minds with the truths which for so long have been trodden under the feet of ecclesiasticism, churchanity, and the spirit of slumber.

        “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (Isa. 60:1).

 

 

 

 

THE TRIAL OF FAITH

Harry Miller

        In the thrilling history of this old world one decisive day stood out most spectacularly.  Heaven’s balconies were filled to capacity with multitudes of heavenly beings intent upon a strange and enthralling drama about to evolve before the eyes of an entire universe: a drama to be enacted by one frail human being, who, concerned only with pleasing and obeying His God, was wholly oblivious to the vast audience watching in complete and utter fascination the unfolding of that soul-stirring contest between good and evil.

        The celebrities of wickedness had also been alerted to witness this most unusual display.  Even the very bleachers of Hell were full and overflowing as the chief doubters and cynics of the nether world assembled for the excitement of such an epic-making conflict.

        The adorable Father of Glory, who knows the secrets of the hearts of men, had declared that His servant Job feared God and hated evil.  But the father of lies withstood the testimony of the Father of Glory, asserting that since the Lord had placed a hedge around Job and had blessed him so abundantly it was little wonder that he feared God.  Satan implied that the Lord and Job merely had a mutual trade agreement whereby Job served the Lord for the prosperity that God gave him.  But, Satan contended, as soon as this prosperity was lifted Job would curse God.

        All of heaven must have been astonished to hear such audacious statements made to the Lord Himself in the presence of the great hosts of “the sons of God.”

        These things took place during “the day of the power of darkness”: the day when “the accuser of the brethren” was allowed to speak in the open council chamber where the voice of every free moral agent was permitted to be heard.

        “Freedom of speech” is the heritage of any government of free moral agents.  The God of heaven is not a tyrant.  He could have easily compelled Satan to be silent, but the God of truth has nothing to fear from any gainsayer.  All of His acts, His motives and declarations are open for examination and test.  Our Lord has no need to hide behind dogmatic precepts and legalistic barriers.

        Satan’s lie only provides an opportunity to vindicate and make manifest the faithfulness of God.  “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”  He has chosen “the elect,” not haphazardly, but by infinite knowledge.  These are they who will serve Him under any condition; such was His servant, Job.

        Satan, like most rebels, cannot understand that there are actually free moral beings in the universe who serve the Lord from the standpoint of love; who freely give to God for the very joy of sacrifice to Him whom their souls adore.  This is a state of affairs that no devil will ever understand.  (A devil is a completely selfish being.  Anything that does not benefit “self” has no place in the existence of one who is selfishly devoted.  Love and self-sacrifice are completely incomprehensible to such a being.)

        Since the devil had openly challenged what he considered to be the credulity of God, justice demanded that an open show of the truth must be made manifest.  Obedient heavenly beings must certainly have been appalled by the implications of such a situation.  The very faithfulness of the word of the Great God now seemed to rest upon the fragile integrity of one lone human being!  Job was, after all, a mere man, subject to “like passions” to which all men are subject.  Would he stand up under great pressure?  Could he take the body blows of fierce adversity that only the devil himself would have the heart to inflict?  Such questions must have caused many noble beings to tremble.  The issues at stake were of no small consequence: if Job failed, God’s word would fail; and if God’s Word cannot be relied upon, then woe be to every creature in the whole universe!

        Consider the rank insolence of Satan’s challenge to the God of Heaven: “Put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:11).  Surely no other created being would have dared to make such a statement before the bar of justice!  Yet, the very fact that such a daring and impudent statement could be made in the presence of the Almighty is indisputable proof of the nature of God’s government.  FREEDOM OF SPEECH is a chief characteristic of a free moral agency: the Father of Glory governs His sons by reason, not by force.

        The ruthless powers of darkness constantly resort to overbearing force to bring men into subjection to their wills, and Satan requested the use of such “force” against this servant of God.  If God had been a sentimentalist, He would not have permitted His son, Job, to be tested; but our Father in heaven is most practical.  Sentiment is never allowed to influence His judgment.  No matter how hard or how severe a course of action may be, if it is the most practical way, then that course is the one chosen.  The desperate straits of fallen humanity made necessary the crucifixion of the Son of God, but the Father did not shrink from “the cost”.

        Job, the servant of God, although faithful to his Lord, lacked many things within his character.  Only the fires of adversity could bring out the hidden beauty of his soul, so the Lord allowed him to be subjected to the purification process.  Evil sought to destroy God’s servant, but the great Master of every situation outwitted the evil and skillfully turned and directed Satan’s maleficent efforts to serve as an aid in bringing to maturity the depth of Job’s character; to assist in exposing the adversary himself as a presumptuous liar; and to help in making manifest the fact that the infinite mind of the Lord, alone, knows what things there are in the hearts of men.

        With fierce and frightening wrath the devil began to tear swiftly and ruthlessly at all things near and dear to this man of God.  Within a matter of hours all of his possessions had been swept away.  Even his sons and his daughters had perished during a drunken feast.  But God’s servant only moved closer to his Lord.  Upon hearing the dreadful news he fell to the ground and worshipped the Lord, saying: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

        It is easy enough to honor God when all goes well.  Almost any old hypocrite can give thanks to the Lord when the sun shines and when things all keep coming his way.  But the proof of faithfulness is made manifest in the fire of adversity, the furnace of affliction, and the lion’s den of oppressors.

        And so, in the course of events the sons of God met together once again before the empyrean throne; and, as before, “Satan came also.”  At this time the heavenly Father took occasion to remind the devil that even though he had been successful, to a certain extent, in actually moving the hand of Providence to test Job sorely, “Still he (Job) holdeth fast his integrity.”  But, nothing daunted, this offensively contentious fellow, the accuser of mankind, brazenly continued to press on with his invidious argument, right there within the courts of heaven.

        “Put forth thine hand now,” he arrogantly challenged the great Creator God, Himself, “and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 2:5).  Thus, this insolent intruder insidiously endeavored to implant his unjust incriminations in the minds of all of these celestial beings actually dwelling there within the hallowed pales of divine justice.  The utter perfidy of the sarcastic insinuations and subtle, abstruse mockery flaunted in the very face of Almighty God by this swaggering braggart made vindication of the Creator’s name before the eyes of these heavenly multitudes vitally imperative.  And Job was the only possible usable instrument in this wholly unprecedented and dramatic exigency of the ages.  Poor, longsuffering Job, who hadn’t the vaguest notion why his world had suddenly begun to crumble about him: yet upon the reactions of this one poor frail and tortured individual rested, in a sense, the veritable reputation of the God of the universe!

        The tenacious persistence of certain obdurate liars has been known to break down many defenses; but heaven’s throne can never be shaken by the sulphurous vapors of evil: it is founded upon the sterling and wholly dependable character of the glorious God of all ages.

        Yet, for Job’s own sake the Father permitted another fiery test.  Job was a good man, but he must see his own goodness in the right perspective: there is danger of any good man becoming self-satisfied, and such a condition could lead to the exalting of the human ego.  Besides this, Job had not yet had a real vision of God; such a vision is an infinite reward to any creature.  So, to Satan, the Father said: “He is in thine hand; but save his life.”  No man is tempted above that which he is able to bear.  God’s servant surely had great potential character; otherwise, he could never have been submitted to the extreme pressure which he suffered.

        The Father well knew that His faithful servant was being turned over to an enemy who would know no mercy.  Every conceivable trouble was to harass the poor man.  Tormented in his flesh from his head to his feet, he would certainly be driven through the vale of tears.  Grief of body and of soul would rack him day and night as hell stormed on in its attempt to destroy him, but Job would never be left alone.  God had promised: “He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways, they shall bear thee up in their hands, let thou dash thy foot against a stone.”  And no son of God has ever sweat blood in his own particular Gethsemane without the attendance of those angels.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…THOU ART WITH ME, thy rod (the rod of correction) and thy staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

        When the heart of one of God’s servants bleeds in his hour of great trial, let him take comfort in the knowledge that He has promised: “I shall NEVER LEAVE THEE nor forsake thee, but go with thee always.”

        Job was smitten with boils “from the sole of his foot unto his crown.”  His pain-racked body carried him to the brink of the grave.  Day and night this suffering man was held captive in a body that was loathsome even to himself.  The sardonic mercy(?) of the devil was manifest in that he had left Job’s tongue free to speak!  He wanted Job to have no handicap when he was ready to curse the Lord!  “Curse God and die,” was THE WAY OUT which was offered to this poor man.  The lesson to be learned here is this: in every severe test, BEWARE OF THE ENEMY’S OFFER OF A WAY OUT.  Never let the devil provide his WAY OF ESCAPE.  Obedience to the will of the Father is the ONLY WAY OF ESCAPE.

        The devil often uses those dearest to us to VOICE his satanic advice.  In the Garden of Eden the devil did not talk directly to Adam; he spoke through the one dearest to him.  When sorely tested it is wise to seek God for THE answer.  Job’s family or his friends could not help him.

        Scraping his feverish body with a broken piece of pottery, God’s man sat down in the ashes (Job 2:8).  We wonder just what it was that he had burned up.  No man has ashes unless there first be a fire.  Since his sitting in the ashes was his mute, symbolic testimony to heaven, it is quite possible that the things he had burned were objects of worth to his way of life.  No man would offer a pile of sticks, or rubbish, in sacrifice to God.  At such a time as this, men offer only that which they treasure.  These ashes evidently represented things very dear to the human heart.  Often, there are THINGS which need to be removed from our lives.  Not that heaven needs them; but we need to be WITHOUT THEM.  It is very easy for the heart to become attached to possessions; treasure on earth looks better to man than treasure in heaven.  When standing upon the threshold of death, men see all things in their true perspective.  “Stuff” in the house, the other one “grinding at the mill,” even the second one in the bed will have to be left and forgotten in the day when the soul must go to meet God.  There comes a time in the life of every saint when he must realize that there is a relationship which he has with the Creator that no other THING or PERSON can possibly share.  Job was ready for the revelation of this relationship IN THE ASH PILE of his former treasures.

        “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Cor. 1:27).  The King of Israel was born in a stable; raised among the despised people of Nazareth; was not a man of letters; the ignorant and unlearned “heard Him gladly;” He had no home, not even a place to lay His head; He was executed with criminals; and even His garments were taken, so that He left this world even as He had come – naked and without goods or earthly fame.  Through Him the way of self-crucifixion leads home.  God has glorified the despised CROSS.  NOT THE SENTIMENTAL CROSS, but the CROSS of the PILE OF ASHES.

        And, so, the servant of God sitting in the ashes of his own making was suffering his CROSS for the Lord’s sake.  Here in the blackened ruin of human plans and ambitions he could easily commit his all to the Lord.  Circumstances had alienated his friends and family from him, his flesh was so loathsome that he bitterly declared: “Even young children despise me” (Job 19:18).  Even his closest friends misjudged his conduct: they concluded that somewhere he had failed God, and that his sufferings were the natural result of evil of his own making.  Sitting with him for many nights, his dearest friends unwittingly provoked him to sink deeper into the gloom of despair.  They claimed that somewhere he had sinned, and unless he accepted this form of self-condemnation he had little hope.

        Self-condemnation is another torment of the devil.  Many saints are heckled with thoughts of the UNKNOWN SIN: this mysterious something lurking in the hazy shadows of the past, this thing that is never named, nor definitely described.  FEAR IT NOT, for true CONVICTION OF SIN is of the Spirit of God, and He never leaves any man in doubt concerning the things that He calls sin.  The spirit of truth always NAMES THE SIN.  He puts His finger upon it, and YOU KNOW what it is that He hates.

        For many days Job was plagued by his closest friends to surrender to the endless labyrinth of self-condemnation.  But this man knew God, and he refused to be beaten down by the UNKNOWN.  He had cut “the shore lines;” he had burned his idols; he felt that his case now rested with God.  He knew that in due season the Lord would raise Him up.

        Heaven and hell continued to watch as the cruel wheels of time slowly ground out their hours of misery, but the man of God remained unshaken.

        One night during the chill hours of his darkest gloom he slowly raised a “boily” arm toward heaven and with fervent determination cried out: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

        A few nights later, he again strengthened himself in faith by crying out: “I know that my redeemer liveth…and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25,26).

        The final attack of the devil was made through a young religious chap who let his wrath be “kindled” against Job and his friends.  Acting as a defender of “the faith” he let forth his pent-up rage (chapter 32).  But after this fellow had completely run down, the Lord took over!  Four chapters of this book of Job record many wonderful facts of philosophy and science in this message to His servant.  Then it was that God revealed Himself; and from that hour on Job was a changed man.  Not only was he healed from all of his diseases; even his conception of the Eternal One was changed from that of human speculation to a definite KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

        Through the steadfast faith of Job, God’s judgment was proved to be correct in the eyes of heaven and of hell.  Because of this, fear came upon the inhabitants of hell, while great rejoicing went on in heaven.  It isn’t often that a man has the opportunity of glorifying the Father in a really extreme test.  David glorified the Lord while being driven “like a flea” from one mountainous den to another.  Joseph gave glory to God while being sorely tested in Egypt.  Abraham, “the friend of God,” glorified Him on Mount Moriah when he offered up his son Isaac.  But comparatively few are given this great privilege – and those who have been put to the test certainly had not the vaguest idea of the implications of their trial at the time they were in the process of suffering!

 

 

 

 

THE CALLED AND THE CHOSEN

Kenneth Fountain

        The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).  Because “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3), and also, “He lighteth (Strong’s: enlighten, bring to light) every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9), every person has an opportunity to come to Christ at some point in his life.  For some, this may be simply that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (see Psalm 19:1-3).  God then determines who comprises “the chosen” by each individual’s response to the opportunity given him for initial salvation, and his continued responses to the subsequent tests and trials he undergoes to expose his true love for God.  “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10).  “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 22:10).  “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matt. 12:30).  Jesus gave several parables describing this in word pictures: the four types of ground (Matt. 13:18-23), the net that caught different types of fishes (Matt. 13:46-49), and the different foundations whereon were built two houses (Matt. 7:24-27).  These all testify for or against the person due to his response to God.  One will purposefully treasure the Word of God and devote himself to nurturing the love which God placed in his heart on his birthday of salvation by exercising himself in faith and obedience.  He chooses to allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate and grow the attributes of Christ-like character and fruits of the Spirit to full maturity within his surrendered, cooperative heart.  Conversely, one who does not treasure the gift of eternal life set before him becomes like Esau of old, who ignored the value of what he had and relinquished it through greater interest in other pursuits, actually breaking the first and foremost commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3).  Esau was called a profane person, not because he used foul language frequently, but, as The American Heritage Dictionary defines profane, Esau had irreverence for what was sacred:  He degraded his rightful birthright by his obvious contempt for what it represented.  As born-again Christians, we can do the same toward our gift of eternal life by not giving our loving service to God pre-eminence in our personal daily lives; thereby, as the parable of the four types of ground depicts, we permit Satan to steal our seed, or become “off-ended” over time, or are spiritually choked to death by the cares of this life – in short, neglecting to go on with God: stagnating, back-sliding.  In II Timothy 2:4, Paul warns, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him Who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  In the heart, as in nature, good ground has to be worked by plowing fallow ground, removing stones and weeds, fertilizing, watering, and nurturing the seed’s development in full view of the sun, then pruning and training the young plant.

        God does not ultimately choose His family members because of their natural qualities.  Paul stated, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence” (I Cor. 1:26-29).  God is searching for a humble, pliable heart through which He can work to create a holy life, because His qualities are not innate to humanity.  “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (II Chron. 16:9).  “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?” (James 2:5)  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).  As a wise coach who sees beyond an applicant’s potential, but examines the spirit driving the person, God requires a teachable spirit before He will impart knowledge, understanding and character, and will provide His own abilities for developing a Christian’s potential.  For “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).  Our role is described in I Peter 2:2 and 3, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  God’s purpose is given in John 15:16: “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”  Or as Peter expressed it, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises (virtues) of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (I Peter 2:9-10).  Even the twelve comprising Christ’s inner circle of chosen disciples had one (Judas Iscariot) who did not remain faithful.  “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).  However, “they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).

 

 

 

 

GRACE TEACHING (PART 19)

Matteo Pacifico

        Very lovely is the teaching grace gives us regarding our conduct as to OURSELVES – "live soberly," as to our NEIGHBOR- "live righteously," and as to our most blessed FATHER – "to live godly."  Having given some thought to Christian sobriety, now we look humbly to the most gracious Provider of teaching grace, and inquire what it is to "LIVE RIGHTEOUSLY." This, too, is a wide field of godly instruction which is to regulate all of our dealings with our fellow man.  At the very outset we must understand that this direction goes far beyond what civil law would regard as" living righteously."  The only court that would ever review the issues under this heading would be the court of our CONSCIENCE.  No Christian, in the verdict of civil law is a murderer or a thief, but the verdict of his conscience before God will probably be very different.  Coming from a perfectionist background, this writer was startled some years ago when he read the words of Strict Baptist, John Rusk, to the effect that "IT IS SOMETIMES VERY DIFFICULT FOR THE CHRISTIAN TO BE THOROUGHLY HONEST".  Honest enough to be beyond the reach of civil law, yes, but being completely honest before the eye of God may be a very different story, and it is the judgment that the omniscient God passes on the Christian's dealings with his fellow man which registers inexorably on his conscience.  O Lord, how often hast Thou spoken the word "guilty" to my conscience because, though known only to Thee, I had been less than thoroughly righteous and just in my dealings with others.  If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, where would I stand?  Where could I hide, were it not that Thou hast laid on Thine only, well-beloved Son, all of my iniquities?

        From the apostasy of our first parents we have all inherited two moral deformities which are so closely related to each other as to be like the two sides of one coin.  We refer here to COVETOUSNESS and DISHONESTY.  Believers find themselves plagued with varying degrees of these corruptions, but we're probably right in saying that there is not a saint on earth who is not painfully conscious of their presence, deep in the inner man, and of their unwelcome and unpremeditated appearing in his dealings with others on some occasions.  Of the immaculate Son of God holy Scripture testifies, "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in HIS mouth" (I Peter 2:22); "In HIM is no sin" (I John 3:5).  Absolute sinlessness and guilessness belong ONLY TO HIM.  And what is guile but SUBTLE DISHONESTY IN OUR BEHAVIOR?  "IT IS NAUGHT, IT IS NAUGHT, SAITH THE BUYER; BUT WHEN HE IS GONE HIS WAY, THEN HE BOASTETH" (Prov. 20:l4)  Reader, have you been guilty of such behavior?  Have you argued that the item you wanted to buy was not worth the price the seller had put on it (knowing full well it was worth every penny – and perhaps more), and then, after buying the item at a well-reduced price, boasted to friends about the great bargain you had made?  Vile, shameful hypocrisy, guile and dishonesty!  To his shame this writer confesses to having done this – and more than once or twice.  Here are the two sides of the very COIN OF HELL – COVETOUSNESS AND DISHONESTY, working UNRIGHTEOUSLY together.  That woman who had lost her husband in death and was selling the tools he had used in his trade – tools whose worth the widow knew nothing about; when she greatly under-priced an item, were we, in honesty and the holy fear of God, careful to tell her that the tool was worth considerably more than her asking price?  Lord, Thou art the Judge of the widow; the transaction was before Thine eyes and is recorded in Heaven, though never tried in an earthly court of law.

        "Live righteously."  When selling that car, to be sure to inform the prospective buyer of the hidden defects that you know it has, though knowing that by revealing those defects you will have to settle for a lower price, or be unable sell the car at all.  O how very difficult for a truly Christian man with a large family and limited income, needing every penny he can get for the vehicle, to be thoroughly righteous, thoroughly honest in such a situation!  Again, this unworthy writer must plead, "guilty."  Perhaps there are readers whose conscience bears happy witness that in all such transactions they were able to act in the fear of God and do unto that buyer exactly as they would have had him do unto them.  Happy are you, and blessed be the God Who predestinated you to be borne to God-fearing parents, and trained to hate guile and to be thoroughly honest and upright in all your dealings with others!  O what a priceless legacy is yours!  And blessed be God Who has not suffered you to depart from that Godly raising.  But many a saint has been drawn from a family void of even a hint of the knowledge and fear of God.  Profanity, vulgarity, cheating and dishonesty were a part of everyday life, which they witnessed from earliest childhood.  Skill in cheating was considered a virtue, and at no time was prayer ever offered or God in any way acknowledged.  With such ancestry and upbringing the redeemed soul will have much to learn and unlearn, so as to really be just and righteous in his dealings with others.

        Beloved reader, have you, like this writer, at times with deepest sorrow cried with Job, "WHO CAN BRING A CLEAN THING OUT OF AN UNCLEAN?" True, we cannot, BUT GOD CAN!  AND GOD WILL!  The pure and honest heart is HIS redeeming work – He never has, and never will fail to perfect it (Phil. l:6)

   “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy Blood was shed for me,“
   “And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee – O Lamb of God, I come.“
   “Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot –“
   “To Thee Whose Blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come” – C. Elliott
   -Ever "coming", NEVER turned away, MP

 

 

 

 

CONFESSION WITH CONFIDENCE

Curtis Dickinson

        The first gospel sermon ended on the stunning declaration that “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).  The apostle Paul elaborated on this, insisting that Jesus has been made Lord of the entire universe, exalted above heaven and earth (Eph. 1:20-22).

        Christian faith is not only to believe that Jesus is the Christ, but that He is Lord, Lord over all, at all times, in all places.

        Then someone asks, “If He is Lord, how can things be in such a terrible condition?  How is it that evil prevails?  Why does He allow such defeats and problems in the lives of Christians?”  Sometimes we may be tempted to think that when plans are wrecked and all is suffering and hardship that the powers of the world, the flesh and the devil are greater than the power of the Lord.

        Did the apostles entertain such questions?  They had been with Jesus when He demonstrated His total power over all things – over nature, demon spirits, physical disease and even over death itself.  He had shown that He was able to rule over all, yet at the climax of this awesome demonstration, He was captured like a criminal, humbled, tortured, shamed and slain.  What then of all His power?

        For a few days it seemed that He had regained control, even triumphing over death – one more grand demonstration of His power over all enemies – but within a short time His disciples were being hunted like criminals and put to death.  How then could they believe that Jesus was Lord over all?  That all things worked together for their good?  That He could work all things after the counsel of His will?

        The apostles understood that suffering is part of discipleship.  It is promised by Christ.  Of Paul He said, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).  To all disciples He says, “In the world you have tribulation,” and demands self-denial and the acceptance of the cross.  It is basic to Christ’s rule that He give us the means of developing faith through suffering.  He Himself “learned obedience by the things that He suffered” (Heb. 5:8).  How should we learn to be like Him if He removes all suffering?

        Faith is to walk without sight, to continue to believe Jesus is Lord even when all seems to be in the hands of Satan.  What some want is to have Jesus always standing by to remove every obstacle, to strike off the head of the opponent, to supply health, wealth and worldly success; to rule the world so as to keep His believers from ever suffering or being seriously tried.

        C.S. Lewis suggested, “We Christians want not so much a Father in Heaven as a Grandfather in Heaven whose plan for the universe was such that it might be said at the end of each day, ‘A good time was had by all.’  I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines, but since it is abundantly clear that I don’t and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”

        Our faith must embrace not only the joy of the good news, but the sorrow of the bad news as well.  The bad news is the fact of the fall, the cataclysmic tragedy in the Garden, when man – represented in Adam – rejected God and sought to establish his own law.  The consequence of this act of rebellion was not only to bring mortality to the entire race (Rom. 5:12), but to subject the whole world to the “bondage of corruption” which produces all the problems (Rom. 8:19-22).

        While the good news is that we are now in favor with God, and ultimately will be rescued from this present evil world, we still must live in it and share in its tribulation until the “time of restoration of all things.”

        What Jesus gives is not freedom from all pain and trouble, but grace to bear it, to bear it with peace and joy and the assurance that our acceptance and participation as faithful servants of God will be used by Him for His own purpose, and His purpose is always infinitely good (Rom. 8:28).

        Paul declares that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).  But in contrast to his faith we have found a number of clever evasions to cover up our lack of faith.  For example, we often hear it said, “Pray as though everything depended on God, then work as though everything depended on you.”  I see this as detrimental to faith.  The person who works as though all depended on his own efforts cannot at the same time have any assurance that the final result will be accomplished because of God’s power.  If I attack the job with the conviction that the result is all up to me, I cannot rest in faith that God is sovereign and will accomplish the work either with or without me!

        Juan Monroyo of Madrid, Spain, said, “On the Christian battlefield there are arising many leaders who demonstrate very little confidence in Divine Providence.  When they come up with a project, their first step is to prepare a financial budget.  Next, they write reports and give lectures till they have assured the amount of money needed for the project.  But this is not confidence in God.  It is simply human calculation.  The Bible sets forth a different order of procedure.  Evangelization ought not to be the result of a financial budget.  First, the missionary goes to the field; he begins the work, if necessary without wallet or saddlebags for the road.  If the work being done is of God, the money will come when it is needed” (From Abilene Christian University Annual Bible Lectures, 1983).

        How can we say, “I’m convinced this is the Lord’s project” and then write desperate letters saying that “If you do not respond, this work may have to cease”?

        Men scheme and devise strategies and find methods of manipulating the largest number of people to insure the success of their projects.  Prayer then becomes only a plea that they will succeed because everything depends upon them!  But our prayer should be that our determination not fail in our faithfulness to God, because we depend upon Him.  He will accomplish His will.  Whoever is used in the accomplishment will not alter the final result, except as it pertains to the one being used.  If the children do not shout, “Blessed is the King that comes in the name of the Lord,” Jesus said praise would come forth from the stones in the street (Luke 19:38-40).  The Lord chose Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  Had Paul refused, the gospel would have gone forth through some other vessel, but it would have been too bad for Paul, who said, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.”

        Faith in Christ as Lord means to trust Him to accomplish His will, even if it means He must bend us or break us in order to make us what He wants.  It is to believe that this problem, this sickness, this disease and this hardship is under His power, and will accomplish that which suits His purpose.  The faithful will submit to Him, as Job did, suffering intensely, spiritually and physically, yet saying “Tho’ He slay me, yet will I trust him.”  It is trust like that of Abraham, who didn’t hesitate to offer in sacrifice the son who was supposed to be the fulfillment of all his hopes.

        It is a sign of immaturity and a lack of confidence in Christ to continually be seeking Utopian circumstances as a sign of God’s favor.

        True faith is to believe that God is all in all, through all, and over all, so that the present problems and hardships are part of the means by which He is working all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11).  Such faith grows from a constant feeding upon the scriptures which focus upon God, a diet which is woefully lacking in many churches.  Themes which occupy much preaching and teaching today focus not on the Creator, but on the creature and what makes him happy, sad, fearful, proud or depressed.  Films, taped lectures, and seminars are designed to teach success, how to cope, how to find happiness, how to work out problems.  Little time is left to consider the sovereign power of the Lord to work His will in spite of the problems.  It would be revealing to find out how many lessons, sermons, and studies deal with man’s struggle as compared to how many deal with the Lord’s character and purpose.

        The proper study of the church is not man, but God.  We are not commanded to preach successful living, but the gospel.  Self-esteem is not the road to God and personal charm does not produce salvation.

        The world is lost, suffering and dying because it has rejected the Lord Who is its designer and provider.  In the end it is His will that will prevail, no matter how neglected or opposed He may be.

        The world needs to know that Christ is Lord, that He has all power and authority and that everyone must give account to Him.

        When we confess Jesus is Lord we must back it up with complete confidence in His acting as Lord and accomplishing His purpose.

 

 

 

 

A TESTIMONY FOR JESUS

Maxine Coleman

        It is not normal or natural with us to seek God.  Because of our perverted natures, which we inherited from Adam, we think we can get along without God, the life-giver!  What a horrible insult this is to God, who is the source of all life!  I am reminded of the scripture: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

        We get nothing from God without response on our part; but He has said: “seek, and ye shall find” (Matt. 7:7).

        One day I was in prayer; but I really didn’t want to put forth the effort I knew I had to in order to receive the help that I needed!  The words came to me: “Linger awhile.”  I sat there at the feet of Jesus; and as I sat there, expectantly, it was as though strong hands, His hands were massaging my back, between the shoulders, where the tension was.  I began to relax, and I knew that I had received “the Master’s touch.”  Praise His Holy Name!

        Then He gave me these words, which I want to share with you:

        Come unto Jesus, and linger a while;
        He’ll surely help you to put on a smile.
        Nothing is ever as bad as it seems;
        Come unto Jesus, and realize your dreams.
        Come unto Jesus.  He loves you so much;
        Come unto Jesus, and feel His sweet touch.
        None of our trials are worth thinking of;
        Come unto Jesus, and be filled with His love!”

        Have you been to Jesus today, for the healing touch?  Remember, He loves you; He loves you so much!

        “Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God” (I Peter 5:6).

        “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (I Peter 5:7).

        “And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

        “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).

 

 

 

 

BAPTISM OF FIRE!

Pastor E.L. Saunders

        We would like to call the reader’s attention to a very important, but much overlooked, aspect of the prophetic pronouncement made by John the Baptist, regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Please note his words in Matt. 3:11,12; “I indeed baptize you with water to repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.  Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

        We have dealt with the matter of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but we notice that John declared that there is a baptism with FIRE.  What could be the meaning of a baptism with fire?  We note further that John said, “A fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor,” that He will “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” and “gather the wheat into His garner.”  This terminology seems to refer to the second coming of our Lord at which time there will be a separation of the sheep from the goats and the wheat and the tares.  But upon close examination, it appears that the reference is to something that is concurrent with the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  Please notice that reference is not made to “tares” but rather to “chaff.”

        Now, “chaff” is that which encloses the kernel in the stages of growth and development until the kernel is mature enough to be “threshed” out of the chaff.  The wheat is gathered into the garner and the chaff is consumed by the “fire,” but notice that there is a baptism of fire which seems to be part and parcel with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

        Although it is a non-controversial fact that fire will be the means that God will use to destroy the wicked (See Rev. 20:9,15), the symbol of “fire” is also used in describing the process of cleansing and purifying that is to take place in the life of a born-again, Spirit filled believer.  The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a goal that is reached after which we can relax and take it easy.  It is not the apex of Christian service but the genesis.  It is the beginning of a life of fuller service in the Lord Jesus.

        Jesus said that when the Spirit would come that it would “guide into all truth.”  One writer described it thus, “It is the nature of the Holy Spirit to form in the believer those graces that manifest the nature of Christ and to forbid the presence of those traits of character that are offensive to the nature of Christ.”  It is “an added dimension in spiritual living.”  Someone has said, “God gives us the Holy Ghost as an anesthetic to get us ready for spiritual surgery.”

        So, we see one ministry of the Holy Spirit is to burn out the chaff in our lives so that we are the “kernel of wheat.”  It is the wheat that God wants to use.  We must go through the “threshing-floor” experience so that the chaff can be beaten out and the wheat kernel is released.  This experience can be very unpleasant at times, but it is imperative if we are going to be productive.

        This process of elimination, of a “breaking” and a fashioning, is spoken of as clay in the hands of the Potter.  Jeremiah described it thus, “Then I went down to the potter’s house and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.  And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter so that he made it again another vessel as seemed good to the potter to make it.  Then the Word of the Lord came to me saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?  Saith the Lord, Behold as the clay is in the hand, so are ye in mine hand” (Jer. 18:3-6).

        We note that the vessel that was “marred” was not cast away.  The potter took the marred vessel and brake it, using the same clay to fashion another vessel.

        So God desires to do with us.  Our self-will, self-pity, self-seeking, self-indulgence, and pride must be dealt with, broken and “burnt” in the “fire” of the Holy Spirit.  Our sensitiveness, touchiness, self-defense, self-consciousness, fear, worry, resentment, and all the “carnal” traits of character, have to be “burnt out” by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

        This is not an instantaneous work; it is an ongoing process.  It is a daily “dying to self.”  Paul put it this way, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of the Lord Jesus might be made manifest in our body.  For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (II Cor. 4:10,11).

        The words of Jesus are pertinent here.  He said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it” (Matt. 10:39).

        In another instance He said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come” (John 16:12,13).

        Jesus said further that the Spirit would, “reprove of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.” (See John 16:8-11)

        It is unfortunate that this work of the Spirit is not recognized in many charismatic circles.  Therefore, the “atomic” power of the Spirit of God in the life of many believers has produced an awful lot of “fall-out.”  These undesirable effects are the result of refusal to be broken before God so that the Spirit can consume the carnality in the lives of Christians.

        God knows how much we need a cleansing and purifying of our vessels so that we may be productive.  That’s why there is a baptism of fire along with a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

        Jesus used another analogy, that of pruning of the branches.  He said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2).

        Notice that Jesus “purgeth” the branch that beareth fruit that it may bring forth more fruit.  So, we see that the process of purging is not for the unbeliever; it is for the believer, a believer that is bearing some fruit, but because of hindrances in his life, there is a need of purging – a burning out of carnality.  So, the baptism in the Spirit is not just to “edify yourself” or “ministering” to the body.  Its accompanying baptism is a baptism of fire.

        This “fire” is meant to burn the “hay, wood and stubble” of our own building that the “gold, silver and precious stones” of God’s building may be separated like the wheat from the chaff and we produce a spiritual temple not made with hands, but by the Spirit of the living God.  We would like to use Paul’s words with reference to this matter: “Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, hay, wood, stubble.  Every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (I Cor. 3:12,13).

        Now, there are some expositors that say this passage applies to the second coming of Christ, that the “fire” is the judgment, that the believer who has been building with “hay, wood and stubble” will be saved, but that he will not have any “reward.”  It is my view that this is a dangerous position to take; the reason is obvious.  We can continue to live carnal lives; in fact, we give license to sin, and yet we claim we will be saved “by the skin of our teeth.”  I do not believe that Paul is speaking of the judgment at the second coming of Christ.  I believe Paul is speaking of the process of cleansing and purifying that we must go through in this present life.  The “fire” is the consuming work of the Holy Spirit in the yielded, submitted, consecrated Christian.  The “day” is the dawning of new revelation which is the work of the Holy Spirit.

        Let us notice some other passages of Scripture that speak of the same thing.  Peter declares, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” (I Peter 4:17).  Paul puts it this way, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (I Cor. 11:31-32).

        Making it more specific, Hebrews says, “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6).

        Because we are the “sons of God,” God dealeth with us as sons.  This will demand discipline and correction.  When God reveals our carnal nature to us, it is because He loves us and desires maturity in our lives.  Again, Paul declares, “Examine yourselves, whether ye are in the faith” (II Cor. 13:5).  “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1).

        Notice that Paul is directing this admonition to the “dearly beloved” who had received the promises.  Surely this would include every child of God.  God desires spiritual growth and maturity.  Oh, may we yield our stubborn wills to Him and let Him mold and fashion us after His divine pattern!

        I believe this is a much neglected teaching in the church today and yet it is so essential.  Because we have neglected to teach and implement this very important truth, the average Christian’s experience today is very shallow and mediocre.  There is very little real deep seeking for a walk of obedience and conformity to God’s will and purpose in the lives of God’s people.  God is presented as a great big sugar daddy with His pockets full of candy bars, and He will come running to you like a chief butler to satisfy your every desire.  All you have to do is “believe” in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Then, you can ask Him for anything.  He will give it to you.  The kingdom of God is a huge welfare state; you don’t have to “work” for anything; you get it from God’s great storehouse simply by asking.  Salvation is by faith, you know!  And that is the sum total of the “gospel.”  Don’t put people into “bondage” by telling them they must keep any law.  This is the modern concept of the Christian life.  Doctrine is not important; in fact, with many “Christians” it is a “dirty” word.  And perhaps the most ardent promoters of this concept are the neo charismatics.  But the classic charismatics are not far behind, neither are the “evangelicals” especially the “free evangelicals.”  And the “fundamentalists” are in the same crowd who do not want to “rock the boat” or to disturb their pretensions of holiness.

        But, God is moving by His Spirit, nonetheless.  And He is shaking the churches.  Everything that is movable is being “shook out.”  The chaff is being separated from the wheat.  “Marred vessels” are being broken.  Carnal men “of the cloth” are being exposed; the hypocrisy in the religious profession cannot withstand the heat of the “purging” God is doing today.  So, multitudes are being “threshed out” from the true body of Christ.  The Bride is being adorned with the white garments of righteousness in preparation for the marriage supper of the Lamb.

        Those who refuse and resist the cleansing and purifying work of the Spirit of God will become more deeply entrenched in their carnality, their paganism and their rebellion against God.  There is, today, a massive spirit of anti-christ in its overt manifestation in such ideologies as Communism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Occultism, Pantheism, Satanism, Eastern religious Cultism or even Humanism.  Sincere Christians can usually identify these obvious counterfeits.  But we refer to the “Easy-believism,” the Ecclesiastical superficiality and the carnal permissiveness that is becoming the accepted status quo of a “born-again” Christian.  Someone has said we are living in a “Post-Christian” era.  In other words, real, genuine, holy, transformed, spirit-endued, spirit-endowed Christianity is now a footnote in church history.

        We have embarked on a new age, an era when every man is a law unto himself.  Situation ethics is a criterion, not just for the ultra-liberal and the humanist; everybody interprets the Bible the way he sees it, which is usually the way he wants.  There are no absolutes.  So, we have homosexuals and lesbians occupying “Christian” pulpits.  “Unity” is the watchword of the hour.  So, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and Islam are having dialogue for the purpose of world unity.  “Differences” are being put aside so we can pray together with the Mohammedans, the Jews and even invite some of the Eastern cults to participate!  Today, the slogan is, “Let’s get together.”  Let’s lay aside our doctrinal differences.  We must remove the disparity between the “have-nations” and the “have-not-nations.”  The message of the hour is economic sharing.  This, they say, will bring peace to the world.

        Spiritual verities and values are not the essential ingredients in modern Christian circles.  Don’t evangelize because you might have to tell the Mohammedan that his prophet is a false prophet.  Don’t disturb the pious Catholic when he counts his rosary or performs his pagan rites in the name of the Christian God.  To dissent will soon be illegal.  To expose error will be considered “Hate –literature.”  It must be banned.  To protest corruption is dangerous – you might be “liquidated.”  It is now popular to accept bribes.  You see, everybody is doing it.  To flaunt the law of the land is not considered wrong unless you get caught, and even then, don’t worry, our judicial system has so deteriorated that if you kill one or one hundred people the penalty will be the same and the parole system will consider you “rehabilitated” after a few months in a prison that has almost all the amenities that the “free” man has.  The “free” man must constantly strive for higher wages to pay higher taxes to pamper criminals who go on “strike” for better living conditions.  Someone has said, “Something is wrong with a society that frees the criminal before the victim is out of the hospital.”

        Yes, our society has gone on the rocks of despair as far as finding the answers for the multitude of ills that beset it.

        We have mentioned the above sad state of affairs in the world because we believe they are relevant to the subject at hand.  Someone has said, “As goes the church, so goes the nation.”  In fact, I believe the only restraining force in the world today that prevents a total collapse and annihilation of the human race is the presence of God-fearing, God-loving, and God-obeying Christians who are still proclaiming the old-fashioned, soul-saving message of repentance of sin and a turning away from the works of the flesh, the world, and the devil.  Unless the gospel message contains that element that causes people to cry out, “men and brethren, what must we do that we might be saved,” it is powerless to transform lives.  And unless lives are transformed by the regenerating power of the merits of Calvary, men will continue to live under the bondage of sin.  Paul declared that we must put off the works of the flesh, and put on the nature of Christ.

        So, this brings us back to the “baptism of fire.”  It is this baptism that is so desperately needed today.  The only way we can address the need of the human race is to confront the degenerate nature of sinful man.  It’s man’s nature that needs changing.  And you can’t bring about the change with a “fig leaf” religion.  Sin demands death.  “But,” someone says, “Jesus died in my stead.”  We say, “Hallelujah, Praise God!”  But Christ’s death is vicarious only for confessed sins.  John said, “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).  And the problem of sin includes more than overt acts of disobedience.  There is a sin of omission as well as commission.  The Bible says, “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).  And Paul did not leave us guessing as to what we should “put off” and “mortify.”  We prefer to use his own words as found in Colossians, the third chapter: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth…Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence (unholy desires) and covetousness, which is idolatry…put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.”  This list is quite all-inclusive.  There isn’t much that hinders spiritual growth and maturity that Paul leaves out.  And bear in mind that the great apostle does not leave the issue optional.  He states flatly, “Put off” the works of the flesh.  And then he declares, “Put on” the NEW MAN (v. 10)!

        This is what genuine Christianity is all about.  The gospel is not only salvation from sin; it includes the power of the Spirit of God to change man’s nature so that it is subservient to the imparted nature of Christ.  This is done through the baptism of fire.

        From the recorded evidence of the lives of the early Christians after their Pentecostal experience, we can conclude that they were indeed baptized with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  No longer do we see them quarreling as to who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom.  There was one consuming motivation: that of preaching and living the gospel that transforms men’s lives.  One short commentary given in Acts 4:32 will produce the evidence, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul, neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common.”  Going back to the day of Pentecost, we find the Bible says “tongues of fire” sat upon each of them (Acts 2:3).  And they were “filled with the Holy Ghost” after which they spake the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).  We believe the enduement with power was the result of “waiting before God.”  That is, they presented their bodies a “living sacrifice” allowing the Holy Spirit to “burn out” their selfishness, pride, self-will, self-pity, self-seeking, self-indulgence, self-touchiness and all the “carnal” traits of character that hinder and block the work of the Holy Spirit.  Then, when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were ready for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  Their vessels were made “empty” so that they could be “filled.”

       

(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT MONTH)