MUSINGS, BOOK TWO Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The following short articles are thoughts that have occurred to me through the years. Perhaps they will be a help to younger Christians who are making their way through the wilderness of the present world.
Table of Contents
MUSINGS, BOOK TWO
Making Friends With the WorldIf you are not going to serve Christ faithfully, then make friends with the people of the world so there will be someone to receive you when you die.
You know, I have had a difficult time understanding the parable about the unjust steward. Maybe you have not had the same problem.
Probably the issue revolves around the word "mammon," or "riches." The adjective "unrighteous"the unrighteous riches. The idea seems to be that of money used in the wrong way, or worldly riches. There is no question in my own mind that Antichrist to a great extent represents the unrighteous monetary systems of the world. Money is the power of Antichrist. I think the mark in the head and hand means we are living in the economic system of the world and trusting in it, rather than seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
The story is about a rich man's manager who was accused of wasting the possessions of his employer.
His employer fired him because he had demonstrated incompetence.
The incident concerns an incompetent, dishonest employee.
So far so good.
This lazy crook thought to himself, "I've been fired. I have nowhere to go. I will curry favor with my employers debtors so they will receive me into their houses."
Clear so far.
So he went to the people who owed money to his employer and had them falsify their bills so they didn't owe so much for the oil and wheat they had purchased.
The employer said the dishonest employee was wise to make a place to take him in, now that he had been fired from his job.
No problem to this point.
Jesus comment was that worldly people, such as the employer and the dishonest manager, are more shrewd when it comes to dealing with others of their kind, than is true of those who follow Christ.
Let me pause to note that since the employer had found out what his former employee had done, and that his debtors had participated in this crime, he undoubtedly had the employee and the debtors thrown in jail for their perjury.
But let us proceed.
Jesus' thought on this was that since you have been unfaithful to God you are wise if you use your participation in the world economic system to make friends for yourselves with worldly people. Otherwise you will have neither the Lord nor the world to take care of you.
I will tell you how I believe this applies to us. I am basing my interpretation on the following comment made by the Lord, which is in context with this story:
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Luke 16:13)
I think the Lord is telling us that we have to decide whether to serve Him or serve the deceitful riches of the world. If we do not choose one or the other we will have no place to go.
I believe the story of the faithless employee applies also to preachers. If we are not faithfully declaring the Lord's demands, He will fire us. Then we had better tell the people what they want to hear. We might tell them that the Lord Jesus doesn't actually expect us to present our body a living sacrifice, take up our cross, and follow Him each day.
If the Lord dismisses us from His service, and we don't make friends with the congregation by compromising the demands of discipleship, then we won't have the support of the Lord or the people.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sistersyes, even his own lifehe cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26,27)
The following verse is of interest:
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9)
Notice the expression "eternal dwellings." This tells me the Lord is speaking of being received in the spirit realm after we die.
This brings up the possibility that the worldly people will have a place in the spirit realm, and they will welcome us after we die.
The same may be true of the lukewarm believers to whom we have borne a false witness so they will "love" us.
I do not understand about worldly people or lukewarm believers having eternal habitations. But it is certain there are no eternal habitations on the earth at the present time. Maybe the spirit realm is not like we picture.
The Lord concludes by advising us that if we do not use money in a trustworthy manner, we will not be given true riches.
It really is a warning to the incompetent manager, who wasted the property of his employer. But it also tells us that we have better be hot or cold, for the Lord is not going to accept lukewarm believers.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16:10-12)
We are wise if we choose one path or the other. If we don't, we will have no place of welcome in eternity.
This is all I can get out of it.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarmneither hot nor coldI am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15,16)
Heavenly PeopleHeaven is Heaven because of heavenly people. Environment alone won't do it.
When we think of Heaven we think of beautiful surroundings. Also we hope to be free from all worry and stress, all pain, all sickness, all dying.
This indeed is a bright hope. You know, we were created in a garden long, long ago. The memory of that garden is still in us (this is why we like gardens so much!) So when we think of Heaven we think of a wonderful environment, much like that of Adam and Eve in the beginning.
However, a little reflection will prove that unless you have heavenly people, a heavenly environment will not bring us the peace and joy we are anticipating.
Think for a moment about the churches you know of, or your present church. How would you like it if the people of your church were brought up to Heaven just as they are? How would you like that?
There undoubtedly are people are people in your assembly who irritate you. Would you enjoy having them with you for eternity in their unchanged state?
Maybe you have left one church and gone to another, hoping to find a more "heavenly" situation. Did you?
Do you know how the Apostle Paul spoke of the churches of the first century?
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (II Corinthians 12:20,21)
The above is a description of the average Christian church.
There is quarreling.
There is jealousy.
There are outbursts of anger.
There are factions who promote division.
There is a considerable amount of slander and gossip.
There is arrogance.
There is disorder.
There is impurity.
There is sexual sin.
There is debauchery (extreme indulgence in sensual pleasures).
The above is a true picture of the average Christian church in America, and, I expect, in the rest of the world.
Now here you are. You have arrived in Heaven. Christ has "raptured" His people into Paradise, although they have not been changed. Rather they are here by "grace."
You are so happy to be here! You are singing and dancing and praising the Lord. At last, at long last, you have arrived in Heaven!
Now, what do you find?
There is quarreling.
There is jealousy.
There are outbursts of anger.
There are factions who promote division.
There is slander and gossip.
There is arrogance.
There is disorder.
There is impurity.
There is a lust for but an inability to perform sexual sin.
There is debauchery.
How do you feel about this? Remember, you are in the most beautiful of all possible surroundings. There is no bad weather, no pain, no dying, no stress, no worry about unpaid bills. You are in Paradise.
"Oh," but you respond, "people are not like that in Heaven. They can't sin once they get there."
Is that so? Where did you find in the Bible that dying changes people? You know, in these days we really need to have our faith based on the written Word of God, because there is so much deception.
Who told you that dying changes our personality?
Who told you there is no sin in Heaven? Sin began in Heaven around the very Throne of God, as Satan chose to disobey the Father. If this is a fact, and it is, where did you get the idea that once you get to Heaven you will automatically change from a sinner to a saint and are no longer able to sin?
I have discussed how we are changed, and where we are changed and when we are changed, in other writings. My only point in the present article is to point out that surroundings can never make a Heaven. Heaven is Heaven because the people are heavenly. If they behave there as they do here, I for one would like to hide out in the woods where no one could find me.
Adam and Eve had everything that brings contentment. They could not have wanted anything else if they thought about it for a year.
But God soon had to drive them from Paradise, and they became farmers. Let me tell you, farming is one of the hardest jobs there is. To farm a field is a far cry from living in Paradise!
Why were Adam and Eve driven from "heaven"? Because they weren't heavenly.
God wants to bring us back to Paradise. But it is useless to bring us back to Paradise as long as:
There is quarreling.
There is jealousy.
There are outbursts of anger.
There are factions who promote division.
There is slander and gossip.
There is arrogance.
There is disorder.
There is impurity.
There is sexual sin.
There is debauchery.
Can you say "Amen"?
So we can see there will be no "any moment rapture." The churches are not ready to enter the Presence of Jesus Christ.
What is God going to do? At the end of the age He is going to send forth messengers who will remove everything that causes sin from His Kingdom.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:40,41)
So what will be true of God's Kingdom after the messengers have done their job?
There will be no more quarreling.
There will be no more jealousy.
There will be no more outbursts of anger.
There will be no more factions who promote division.
There will be no more slander and gossip.
There will be no more arrogance.
There will be no more disorder.
There will be no more impurity.
There will be no more sexual sin.
There will be no more debauchery.
Now we are ready to enter the beautiful surroundings of Paradise.
Even today we know we can be in lovely surroundings, and yet there can be quarreling, outbursts of anger, and bad feelings.
Environment alone is not sufficient. It is heavenly people who will make Heaven heavenly. How do you feel about this?
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalms 133:1-3)
MistakesWhen you are serving the Lord He makes your mistakes work for good.
Sometimes when we are serving the Lord with all your might we will do some fool thing or another. Did that ever happen to you?
On some occasions it is more than a stupid mistake, it is Satan-inspired deception. The most sincere Christian can be deceived. Anyone who says he cannot be deceived is deceived already.
By definition, we do not know when we are in deception.
We can know the Bible, pray, attend church, give, serve, and still be deceived.
Really, the best defense against deception is to be carrying your personal cross, remaining as cheerfully as you can in the prison where you have been placed.
It is when we attempt to make this present life a happy, fulfilling, experience, in which we are treated fairly, that we become deceived. This present life is neither happy, nor fulfilling (except in Jesus), nor are we treated fairly.
Christians in time past have been treated like the Jewssometimes regarded as the garbage of the earth. We were better protected against deception then than we are now. You are not likely to be in deception when you are standing in the middle of an arena and they are letting the lions loose.
The average American Christian of our time is deceived along several lines. First, the doctrine of the any-moment pre-tribulation rapture of the believers is a destructive deception.
Second, the idea that Divine grace is a substitute for a change in our character is a massive deception and has destroyed the moral strength of many if not most Christians.
Third, the notion that Christians are to be happy, treated fairly, always healthy, and financially prosperous is an American deception. This concept makes for silly, weak believers.
Fourth, American Christians have been taught to search for a relationship between illness and the their moral behavior. For example, getting rid of unforgiveness so we can be healed from asthma. We don't get rid of sin in order to be healed (although sometimes healing results when we put away our sins). Rather, we get rid of sin so we can have fellowship with God. If we then are healed, this is frosting on the cake.
But if we seek moral deliverance in order to perfect our health or our personality, we have become our own little redeemer. Jesus is out of the picture. We are engineering our own health, wealth, and wisdom. American Christians love this approach to salvation because they are not dealing with that awful, negative sin, but with their attitudes.
Fifth, the vision of God as a kindly old gentlemen in the sky somewhere who is looking benevolently on the world is a deception. The truth is, God is not a human being but a Spirit. Jesus is a Human Being, but God the Father is a Spirit. He has given us wrathful warnings as well as precious promises; but in America of today it appears we know only the precious promises.
There are other global Christian deceptions, such as the perception of the Day of the Lord as a gala event in which all Christians will be gathered together in one great Sunday-school picnic in the sky. The truth is, the Day of the Lord, the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, will be the most terrifying event to come upon the earthfar, far worse than the days of Noah. Jesus is coming with His mighty men of faith to execute the wrath of Godterrible vengeance on all those who destroy the earth.
Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not lightpitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Amos 5:18-20)
I would like to mention also our little personal deceptions. It is so easy for Satan to imitate the Holy Spirit that the most experienced of us have a difficult time telling the difference.
Whenever you have a burning, passionate desire for a relationship, thing, or circumstance, you are vulnerable to satanic deception. Your consuming desire is an idol, and that idol is in agreement with Satan.
Satan will play with your mind, suggesting that something you know to be wrong really is a gift of God to you. Satan moves exceedingly slowly, most of the time, and may hold this pleasure before you for several years.
When Satan feels you have become involved sufficiently, he may turn on you and tell you that you now have offended God and it is too late to go back.
Once you realize you have been deceived, confess your problem to your wife, or husband, or the elders of the church, or some mature Christian of the same gender as yourself who you are sure will not gossip about your confession.
Whatever you do, do not cross gender lines, when you confess your doubts, except with your wife or husband, unless you enjoy trouble and confusion.
Satan may tell you that you have dominion over the governing spirits of your locality; or that you are a great prophet or Elijah who is to come; or you are to leave your family and go somewhere to fast and pray, in the meanwhile bringing with you someone who attracts you; or you are to leave your job and spend all day in prayer and Bible reading; or you are to take off your clothes and walk down the street while you are prophesying, as God commanded Isaiah.
You can avoid such traps by meeting regularly with other Christians.
The moment you have an inkling you have been deceived, get help from another Christian, as I mentioned previously. Satan loves the darkness. His suggestions work at the subjective level. When you confess your doubts to another individual (and Satan will strive to prevent this), you bring the issue up to the light, to the objective level. Almost always the other person, unless it is some crony of yours who wants to please you, will know immediately that what you are confessing is not from the Lord.
It is not unusual for us Christians to be deceived; so if you are reading this, and you suspect that some experience you have had or are having now may not be of the Lord, don't faint with embarrassment. Get it out in the open. If it is doubtful it probably is dirty, like the collar of your shirt.
You may have some fences to mend, some apologies to make, and your pride is not going to enjoy this. But it is the only way, and you will feel so much better when you get this dark load off your personality.
So far I have mentioned foolish mistakes, such as a young pastor who drives people away needlessly, and also deception, which often afflicts believers in Christ.
Foolish mistakes grow less and less if we keep our heart right and learn from our experiences.
Deception is handled by confession and repentance, and is avoided by carrying our personal cross behind the Lord Jesus, accepting the sufferings that are part of the Christian life, and maintaining fellowship with fervent believers.
During our pilgrimage we do foolish things and sometimes we go through a season of deception. If we keep our heart right, do what we can to rectify our errors, and keep on pressing toward Jesus, He covers these errors. Not only does He cover them, He makes them work for our good.
We learn and grow wise from our mistakes. We are able to help others who have fallen into the same traps.
Most importantly we come to understand that salvation is of the Lord. We are not able to save ourselves. Only God can bring us through to victory.
Every fighter in the ring, every soldier in the field, every athlete in the games, can learn from defeat and become more capable. Defeat hurts, but the Lord sees our heart. If He understands we are doing our best, and not suffering from carelessness, spiritual laziness, or direct disobedience to His will, He will bring us safely through our painful experience and show us a better way.
So don't grieve over past mistakes. Once you confess and turn away from your error, God has completely forgotten it. Satan will attempt to whip you with it and injure your faith. Don't add self-pity to your problems. Pick yourself up off the mat and fight on harder than ever, using the wisdom you have gained.
It is the good fight of faith, not the good doctrine of faith. Faith that overcomes the world is a fight, and God loves to see courage and a fighting spirit in us. To such God gives the Kingdom. He is their God. They are His sons, and they shall inherit all He is making new.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13,14)
People Like YourselfWhat if when you die you are placed with people like yourself? Maybe you want to think about changing while there is time!
The Old Testament teaches us that God does not like mixtures. Levitical law prohibited sowing your field with different kinds of seed or wearing a garment of two different kinds of cloth.
Also, when people died, the Old Testament on a couple of occasions spoke of their being "gathered to their people."
I suppose one of the worst aspects of the present world is that we are forced to live with people who have different values from us, or who won't work, or who steal, lie, curse, or abuse children and animals.
The prospect of the next world being one in which we are placed with people who are like us is very appealing. Imagine living where everyone was serving the Lord, seeking iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father!
Just because we are with Christian people at times doesn't mean they have the same values as we do. Some of them gossip and criticize, and this is not very pleasant. Others seek to be preeminent, and they are a nuisance.
I think in the next world we will be put at our own level. That way we will not have to endure people who want to argue, or who expect us to do their work for them while they play. Also, we will not be permitted to bring our own bad manners into the presence of those who are higher up in the Lord than we are. We would be an irritation to them, and then Heaven would not be Heaven, at least for them, because of having to endure us.
I read somewhere that people in realms of higher glory will be able to shield their glory and descend to people of lower rank. This makes sense. Also, the thought has come to me that we can be as young as we wish but never older than we are. Maybe this is true.
Which brings me to the point of this brief article. Suppose you are placed with people who are like yourself. They have attained the same spiritual level or have the same kind of personality. Would you be happy with this? If not, you better change now because this might happen.
Can't you picture the con man who always has been able to get what he wants by deceiving people, being placed with others of the same ability? They all would spend eternity trying to outwit each other. Perfect justice!
Then there are people who will not work. They are aware that other people will see to it that they don't starve. Sometimes it is a husband who sits around and reads the paper while his wife, no longer young, has to keep working so they can afford a place to live. I think God's justice will be to place him with others like himself. They can all sit around waiting for the others to solve their problems.
I have read of people who take the credit for someone else's work. The scientist who manages to steal the lifelong efforts of another and presents the data as his own results. The archaeologist who claims the findings of another scientist. I guess this happens quite a lot and is thoroughly reprehensible. Such individuals need to be placed with others of their kind. They will be, if I have any say in the matter.
I think this is just and righteous. Why should we be with others who have gained fellowship with Christ and God, climbing upward in the night, while we have been floating along in as easy and pleasant a manner as we can contrive?
Think of the good people, in politics for example, who have been supplanted by schemers. Think of the wealthy kings and presidents of countries where some of the citizens live by scavenging material thrown out in the city dump. The kings and presidents have millions stashed away in banks in Switzerland while little children in their countries have to compete with animals for rotten banana peels to eat. I actually have seen pictures of this.
What if such beasts are placed together in the spirit world?
God will destroy those who destroy the earth, the Bible says. One way to do this will be to place all the destroyers in one place and let them destroy their environment and themselves.
God's people generally speaking are the mainstays of their extended families. They often are criticized, but when a need arises, such as one of the brothers or sisters is sick or dies, it is the Christian who ends up doing the work and taking care of the needs. Have you noticed that?
I have no doubt that in the next world, the strong will take care of the weak. In fact, it will be their great joy to share what they have. For myself, I hope to have some children to teach. I once was a grade-school teacher.
But I am sure it will not be as it is now, where the benefactors are oppressed and abused by the destroyers. The benefactors will rule with a rod of iron. They will "call the shots," and woe unto those who resist them.
It also will be true that the rulers will not be soft people who take care of the lazy bums, such as the mother whose forty-year-old son refuses to work, does drugs, and will not help his mother around the house. This mother, because of her soft and gentle heart, does not have the strength to throw her son out in the street. God will have a better place for such mothers, because they are not strong enough to govern. They only contribute to the son's delinquency, although they certainly do not want to do this. God will not permit them to be victimized any longer.
Think about yourself. Do you want to be placed with people like yourself? Or do you want to be governed by the righteous? What kind of situation do you wish to find yourself in when you die?
Know this: if you are one of the destroyers, a person who counts on the righteous to keep you going while you are enjoying your party, you will find no sympathy in the next world. You will be put where you belong, perhaps with others like yourself.
If this does not please you, then ask Christ to make a man or woman out of you. He can and shall do this for you if you will cooperate.
The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and greatand for destroying those who destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:18)
Are You Sure You Want To Go to Heaven?Are you certain you want to go to Heaven? What if none of the things you enjoy can be found there?
To tell you the truth, I am not certain we know what we are doing. We say to the sinner, "Accept Christ and you will go to Heaven when you die."
We say this to someone who loves to do drugs, drink booze, gamble, consort with loose women, who uses filthy language and enjoys others who do. He has no use for church, or prayer, or the saints.
We tell him, "Accept Christ and you will not go to Hell but to Heaven when you die."
What we actually are saying is, "If you will accept Christ you will not go where people do what you enjoy but where people love all the things you hate and hate all the things you love.
Does this make sense to you?
Are we sure we know what we are doing?
Do you know something? I don't think the four Gospels, or the Book of Acts, or the Epistles present Christ as the way to escape Hell and go to Heaven. At least I haven't read where it says that. If what we are preaching is not supported by the Scriptures, and is not sensible, why do we keep on preaching it?
The message of the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the Epistles, is, "Straighten up your life. Turn away from sin. You are going to be judged when the Lord returns to earth. You will be saved from the wrath of God if you put your trust in Christ and turn from your wicked ways."
Read the New Testament for yourself and see if I am correct.
Now, the message of "straighten up your life" makes all kinds of sense. If the person who loves every kind of sin hears the true message, he or she has to make a choice. The choice is not to accept Christ and go where everything you love is hated and everything you hate is loved. This doesn't make sense.
The choice is to change what you love and what you hate. This is what it means to "get saved."
Personally I believe we will go to the place where what we love is loved and what we hate is hated, whether or not we accept Christ. Christ is not a ticket the sinner can use to go to be with saints. Christ is the power that can change the loves and the hates of an individual, if that is what he or she really desires.
When our heart is right, we do not want to bring our filthy personality into the presence of Christ, His saints, and the holy angels. We know this is not the right thing to do.
So what are we saying? We are saying the Gospel is not the way to Heaven but to the Father. In other words, the point is to be reconciled to the Father and His righteous and holy personality.
I wonder how many people who got "saved" and go to Christian churches have any intention of being reconciled to the Father? I think some of them want to be saved from Hell, but are not anxious to be saved from their sins. If this is the case, they will never hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."
What we are preaching is not biblical. We are stressing residence in Paradise when we ought to be emphasizing our change from the image of Satan to the image of God.
I think trouble is coming to the United States. In the future it may cost something to be known as a Christian. If this happens, the whole crowd of "Christians" who love and practice sin, the "mixed multitude" in the churches, will be forced either to straighten up or else to go back to where the people love what they love and hate what they hate.
Honestly, we have made the Gospel a means of getting unchanged sinners into Heaven. Heaven is not a place for sinners. Sinners cannot have fellowship with God. Sinners have no place among God, Christ, the saints, and the holy angels. Anyone who thinks sinners belong with that holy company is deluded.
"But don't drunks and prostitutes enter the Kingdom ahead of religious people?" Yes, they do; but only because they are willing to repent and change their ways.
"How about the thief on the cross?" Yes, what about him? "Wasn't he with Jesus in Paradise?" Yes, he was. But I'll tell you if he was around the Son of God for any period of time he straightened up pretty fast!
The thief's heart was right. If a man's heart is right, God will help him get rid of his sin.
When the Gospel is preached today, if someone's heart is right he or she will know that to be received of God there must be a change of behavior. Isn't that correct?
This is why our Gospel is not one of go to Heaven when you die. That is not scriptural. The Gospel is that of repentance, of change your way of living so you will be spared in the Day of Wrath. This is what the Bible teaches.
So we are way off base today. The spirit of Humanism has entered into Christianity to such an extent that we are pleading with people to "get saved and go to Heaven" when they have no intention of changing their behavior. We are so anxious to get them into church that we compromise the demands of Christ. We don't tell them that they have to follow the Holy Spirit in the paths of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God.
We are lying to them. We are telling them that "grace" is covering their sinful behavior. In the meanwhile they do not become new righteous creations in Christ. After forty years of church attendance they are no different from when they started. In fact, the program of salvation was aborted from the beginning of their membership in the assembly What they are is carnal church members. Nothing more.
"But haven't they confessed that Christ is Lord?"
Yes, they have. They have called Him Lord! Lord! but have not done what He commanded. They have built their house on the sand and will be swept away in the time of trouble.
We in America are due for a revival. It will be a revival within the churches before it spreads to the unsaved. It is the church members who are lost to the purposes of God. They have been given an unscriptural message. They are waiting for a "rapture" to carry them to Heaven. They are not prepared for Heaven. They are walking in the sins of the flesh.
The revival is one of confessing our sins and turning away from them. We now are on the threshold of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. There absolutely is no place in the Kingdom of God for people who are obeying their sinful nature. This is why the message is: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." This was the original Gospel message, the Gospel of the Kingdom. This is the message today.
It is not "Accept Christ and you will go to Heaven." It is, "Repent! Repent! Turn from your wicked ways! Be baptized in water as a sign you have turned away from the world and have put your old personality on the cross with Jesus Christ. Arise to walk in newness of life. Set your interests and attention on things above where Christ sits at the right hand of God.'
I'll tell you how you can tell a true Christian. He or she is growing every day in the ability to distinguish between good and evil; and always is increasing in the strength and willingness to embrace what is good and renounce and totally reject what is evil.
Any so-called Christian who continues to walk in known sin is not a Christian at all but a modern product of the false gospel that is being preached in America.
The Bible is the "good book." This means it tells us how to be good. We become good by following the Lord Jesus Christ every day of our life.
We are at a turning point in American Christianity. As I said, we are on the threshold of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. At that time those who have believed in Christ, have been baptized in the waters of repentance, have taken up their cross, and are following Christ in the way of righteousness, shall be saved from destruction in the Day of Wrath.
But those who have continued in wickedness, those "believers" who, as Jude says, have turned the grace of God into an excuse for immorality, will be the first to experience the undiluted wrath of an angry God. Calling on Christ in that day will not help them, for they have spurned Christ until it is too late.
"Let the filthy be filthy still. Let the holy be holy still. Prepare the way of the Lord!"
This is the cry of the Spirit today.
Salvation is not the ticket that brings sinners to a place where nothing they enjoy is present. Salvation is the process of changing sinners into heavenly people so they can be brought where heavenly relationships, things, and circumstances are eternally available.
If you stop to think about it, we wouldn't want it any other way.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:14,15)
First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3:3)
An Incorrect Understanding of GraceThe constant emphasis on grace destroys our determination to overcome the sinful nature.
I have written about "grace" a number of times because grace has become the Christian alternative to righteous behavior. "I know I should not behave as I do, but I am saved by grace," the believers maintain.
How often do we hear this?
Can you get a feeling for what is being said about the new covenant? When we say we know we shouldn't gossip, for example, but we know we will go to Heaven anyway, we are claiming that God has provided a covenant whereby we can sin and still live in the Presence of God.
Given the atmosphere of demonic activity in which we are attempting to survive spiritually, plus the pull of the world spirit, the lusts of our flesh, and our stubborn self-will, if we tell people they ought to show their love for Jesus by trying not to sin, but whether they succeed or not is not critical, they simply are not going to make the effort required for the life of victory in Christ. Grace makes up the difference, they have been taught, and they will go to Heaven to a mansion and from there "rule and reign" (sic) with Christ.
If an individual is running a grueling two-mile race, and he is in torment because of the strain, but he knows he is going to win whether he strives or not, what is he going to do?
If a fighter in the ring is knocked down, is exhausted and wants to lay on the canvas realizing that he has won whether he gets up or not, what is he going to do?
If a student in college is facing final exams, and knows she is going to pass whether or not she studies, and her friends are urging her to come with them to a party, what is she going to do?
No person is going to make a painful, costly effort to achieve something if they know they are going to receive it in any case.
It is for this reason that the Christian churches of today are in moral rags. The believers are silly, self-seeking, spiritually soft, easily deceived, and in love with themselves. They would no more deny themselves and carry their cross after Jesus than they would refrain from eating food they know is not good for them.
We American Christians are soft! soft! soft! And it is due directly to the current misunderstanding of the Apostle Paul's teaching of grace.
If Paul meant by "grace" that we will inherit the Kingdom of God ("go to Heaven, according to the current tradition) even if we continue to live in the sinful nature, then he contradicted himself in several passages of the New Testament.
I cannot understand how intelligent, Christian scholars could read Paul's epistles and claim that we can continue to live in the sinful nature and "go to Heaven by grace."
There may be at least four factors that prevent them from using their critical faculties: one, they may be afraid they will fail if they attempt to live a victorious life; two, they may not be comfortable with admitting they have been mistaken in the past; three, they may be afraid of the opinions of their peers if they go counter to traditional thinking, and four, they may not want to surrender all of their sin. After all, sinning is a delicious feeling and may be an integral part of our personality.
When one or more of these four factors is operating in the person's subconscious mind, he or she may unwittingly may not be able to reason logically.
The root of the problem is how the Gentile of today views the term "grace" and how the Jew Paul viewed the term.
The major issue in Paul's day was whether Christians are required to keep the Law of Moses. We do not have that issue today, except in minor instances, and so we cannot understand Paul's argument.
The first Christian church consisted of five thousand Jews who had accepted Christ and who also kept the Law of Moses. We cannot even picture that! Yet, these were the people who experienced the first Pentecostal outpouring.
When the Spirit of God directed the Apostles to the Gentiles, the issue was raised whether the Gentiles were to keep the Law of Moses.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." (Acts 15:5)
We Christians of today have a difficult time understanding why this was even an issue. In fact, it was the major issue of the time!
Along came the Jew, Paul of Tarsus. Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He had been raised under the Law of Moses.
God took Paul aside and explained to him the transition from the Law of Moses to the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
No one else, apparently, was given this understanding.
To the present hour numerous Christian people still believe that somehow we are under the Ten Commandments. The relationship of the Law of Moses to our salvation has seldom, as far as I can tell, been set forth in a clear, uncompromising manner.
When Paul spoke of our being saved by grace, he meant we can ignore the entire Law of Moses and look to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. We are not under the Law of Moses but under a new covenant that does not require an adherence to any part of the Law of Moses.
We died to the authority of the Law of Moses when we died on the cross with Christ. We are not breaking God's law when we abandon the Law of Moses in favor of faith in Jesus Christ. This is what grace is.
Grace also is employed in the New Testament to speak of God's Presence in Christ, such as, "they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed."
"The Law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
Now we have been forgiven through the blood of the cross, possess God's Holy Spirit, and no longer are required to obey any part of the Law of Moses.
How do we address the problem of sin?
Sin is behavior of which God does not approve. Sin is nothing more nor nothing less than behavior of which God does not approve.
The guilt of our sins was forgiven for eternity on the cross of Calvary.
Now what? We have been forgiven, but we still are a sinful descendant of Adam.
Now the work of salvation begins. The Holy Spirit begins to lead us in the work of destroying the sinful nature that is in us. Step by step the Spirit leads us in putting to death the lusts of the sinful nature. Meanwhile the Bible keeps us on the right track so we do not follow spirits that are not of God.
The Spirit continues to strengthen and guide us until we have become a new righteous creation in Christ.
Where does imputed righteousness fit in this scheme?
Imputed righteousness is a temporary, compensating righteousness that keeps us without condemnation while our personality is being transformed.
The massive error today is to view imputed righteousness as a new way in which God relates to man. The bypass has become the main highway. This means the Body of Christ, the Wife of the Lamb, the Temple of God, the brothers of Christ, the sons of God, consist of people who still are bound with satanic lusts of every sort; who still exercise their self-will, never having learned stern obedience to the Father.
Imputed righteousness is, as I stated, a temporary, compensating righteousness that keeps us without condemnation while we walk each day in the light of God's will.
The work of salvation is that of changing sinful man into the image of Christ.
Therefore by "grace" Paul meant we no longer look to the Law of Moses in order to attain to righteousness. We look to Jesus Christ who enables us each day to gain victory over the world, the lusts of our flesh, and our self-will and stubborn rebellion.
Grace also is used, as I said, to indicate the Presence of God through Christ that guides, strengthens, and heals those who are doing God's will. "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power." Such an expression is not referring to compensating righteousness but to the Presence and blessing of God.
Did you know that grace is a teacher?
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, While we wait for the blessed hopethe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. (Titus 2:11-15)
I think if Bible scholars had taken Paul's exhortation to Titus seriously we would not be in the confusion we are in today.
The grace of God brings salvation. This we all agree on. The Law of Moses has been superseded by a superior covenant.
The grace of God teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. We are not adhering to Paul's exhortation. We say today that the grace of God teaches us that even if we sin we still will go to Heaven.
Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness, to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
It is obvious that the statements "redeem us from all wickedness" and "to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" is not referring to forgiveness alone but to righteous deeds. The grace of God teaches us to live righteously. It assuredly does not teach us that if we sin we automatically are forgiven.
These, then, are the things we should teach.
Last night, as we were going over these ideas at our Tuesday night Bible study, Chris Worley said, "If a person is planning on competing in a race he is given running shoes and a coach." Christ was pointing out that grace is like the shoes and the coach. Christ went on to state that after having been given the shoes and the coach we could not say we had won the race. We have to actually run in the race.
I do not know how it could be expressed more clearly.
What I have just written is straightforward and easy to understand. To practice what I have written should enable the reader to go from grace to grace and from glory to glory until he stands in the image of Jesus Christ.
To ignore what has been written and to continue in the traditional "I know I ought to quit my sinning but Jesus loves me and is saving me by grace" is to insure fearful consequences in the Day of Resurrection.
And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christthe righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:9)
Can you see from the above that Paul is not contrasting righteous behavior and faith in Christ, but the Law of Moses and faith in Christ.
Faith in Christ is not merely assent to a theological position concerning Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is defined by the actions that Paul then describes:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14)
True faith, the faith that transforms us, the faith that takes the place of the Law of Moses, is a moment by moment fierce grasp on Jesus Christ, counting all else as garbage until Christ become one's entire universe. It is a determined thrust against all obstacles that would distract one's attention from the fervent pursuit of Christ.
It is only by such wholehearted, consistent, continual effort that one can lay hold on Christ. The goal is to attain to the early resurrection from the dead, that is the resurrection of the blameless royal priesthood when the Lord appears.
The Christ churches are in error today. We definitely are in a time of apostasy, and it can be noticed that many Christians speakers are veering away from grace-rapture-Heaven and are beginning to talk about righteous behavior as an integral aspect of our salvation.
If I am not mistaken, an age of physical and moral chaos is on the horizon for the United States of America. God will use this terrifying situation to make His way straight. The lukewarm must choose to become hot or cold; holy or morally filthy.
Only terrible catastrophe will move American Christians from their silly talk about grace-rapture-Heaven and introduce them to Him who eyes are flames of fire.
New covenant grace does not change one word of the following passage. Rather Divine grace makes it possible for us to meet God's standard and live in the heart of the Father with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil This is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him. (Isaiah 33;14-16)
God Knows All About UsJust think! God planned today from the beginning of the world. Yet we still make our own decisions. Truly, all His works reveal His astonishing glory.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:13-16)
The heavens declare the Glory of God. So does the fact that God knows so much about each of our lives; not only knows about us, but knew about us when He created the heavens and the earth.
"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." If there is a more remarkable statement in the Scriptures I do not know what it would be!
This appears to mean that how long we are going to live was determined from the foundation of the world.
My personal belief is that God created all things, past, present, and future, in six "days," and then rested. All history through to the coming down of the new Jerusalem to be located on the new earth for eternity was written in advance.
One question is raised immediately: can we change our predetermined destiny? I believe the New Testament, with its emphasis on our choices, indicates that we can come short of what God has planned for us; or we can press through to a total attaining to that which has been set before us in advance.
Remember, God answered James and John by saying that to sit on His right hand and on His left would be given to those for whom such places of authority have been prepared by the Father.
Does God know everything? It is my opinion that God is learning as history unfolds. For example, God said to Abraham: "Now I know you fear God, because you have not withheld your only son."
"Now I know you fear God." If the language means what it states, it is saying that God learned what was in Abraham's heart from what Abraham actually did.
If God is learning as history unfolds; if we still are able to make choices; how can God plan ahead to the new Jerusalem? Why couldn't dramatic events occur that would thwart what God has envisioned?
I think the answer has to do with time itself. We think of time as an inexorable dimension that governs all things and circumstances. Personally, I don't believe time has that same power in the spirit realm. God may view all history, past, present, and future, as one great tapestry.
He can move to a future place on the tapestry and look back and see how events worked out to this point. Then He can rearrange subsequent events if such rearrangement is necessary. This would account for God being able to learn from what we do, our being able to make significant choices, and God still being able to determine how long we will live. This method of going into the future, looking back and evaluating events of the past and reshaping events of the future according to His ultimate objective, would allow God to give the Apostle John an unerring vision of the future.
Now, how does it help us to know that God has planned our life from the beginning of the world? If we really believe this, it should radically affect the manner in which we pursue our life on earth.
If we are of the opinion we are planning our own destiny, then we will decide what we want to do and then determine how to arrive at our goal.
But if we are of the opinion that God has determined from the beginning where we fit in His Kingdom, and what we are supposed to do in order to attain to that predestined place and role, then we are not going to decide what we want to do and then determine how to arrive at our goal.
Rather, we will enter the rest of God. This means we will enter the seventh day, resting with God as His Word brings to pass all God has envisioned for us and for all mankind.
We have to fight our way into that rest, because there are numerous pressures on us to "come down from the cross," as it were, and assert ourselves. There are temptations to bring forth an "Ishmael," that is, to attempt to bring to fulfill the promise of God to us without waiting for God to bring His Word to pass.
To enter the rest of God and to abide therein is not a passive state of inevitability. It requires a constant pressing forward, as the Apostle Paul taught us.
In the present hour God is creating a Kingdom. Consider: from the beginning of mankind on the earth, billions of people have died and passed into the spirit realm. They are waiting until the Day of Resurrection, at which time they will be judged according to their behavior while on the earth.
Most of these people have never heard of Israel, Christ, or the Bible. They are the inheritance of Christ and of His royal priesthood. This means that each one of us is being fashioned in terms of a specific group of people who died long ago, are living now, or shall be born in the future.
The Kingdom, the governing priesthood God is bringing to perfection in the present hour, will inherit these people and will serve for eternity as the Presence of God among them.
We do not know much about ourselves. We do not know even our true name. If we will press into the rest of God, into His perfect will, and abide there, God will create in us a true, eternal identity and give us a new name. God will do this in terms of that place and role in His Kingdom which we are destined to occupy.
We can frustrate God's plan for us by refusing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus each day. We can choose to live our life the way it pleases us. If we do, we will not attain to that for which we have been chosen. Our talent, all that God has given us, will be taken from us and given to another who has been more diligent. Our destiny will be changed, and so will the recipient of our talent. All because we have refused to be diligent in serving the Lord. Then God will reshape future events with our failure in mind.
People have been bothered by the idea of someone being predestined to be saved. God is willing that every person repent and be saved. If this were not so, God would not be righteous. Predestination to salvation is not the case. If it is, it is operating on a level higher than I am able to comprehend.
Predestination according to God's foreknowledge has to do, not with salvation but with the creating of the Kingdom of God. The members of God's royal priesthood are treated differently from the remainder of mankind. Their assigned position in the Kingdom is greater than those who have not been called to this level.
But there is one point that the saints, the holy ones of God, must keep in mind. The more that is entrusted to us the greater is our responsibility. We will be judged more severely than is true of those who have a lesser calling.
The higher the rank to which we have been called, the more bitter the cup we are required to drink. The Lord Jesus was called to the highest of all ranks. His cup was the most bitter of all.
Our days have been known to God from the beginning. Our life was planned out before God rested on the seventh day. With this in mind, we ought not to charge about in our own lusts, passions, and personal ambitions. We should lay aside all that distracts us from the single goal of gaining the fullness of Christ. Only then will be find the fulfillment we are hoping for.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (I Peter 1:1,2)
Who has saved us and called us to a holy lifenot because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (II Timothy 1:9)
Peace and Safety!The world will cry "peace and safety.' But it will not be safe to walk the streetseven at noon. Such is the case when self-centered man (antichrist) is in the ascendancy.
It is amazing to see how people who are following their self-will can be so blind.
One of our highest values in America is that of personal liberty: freedom of speech; representative government; free-enterprise capitalism. The "rights" of the individual are emphasized, sometimes to the detriment of the social order.
We believe our system of government is superior to every other, and necessary if we are to have a stable world in which everyone is treated fairly.
I realize that in some countries I would not be permitted to express myself as I do. I understand that in the Muslim world, people are not allowed to challenge the religious beliefs of the country. And so we have a lot to be thankful for.
However, we have moved from a Christian base in our nation to a secular base. The values of Christian people are being eroded, there is no question about this. Careful thought will reveal that worship of freedom of speech leads to the weakening and removal of Christian values.
As of today, the courts are discussing whether public libraries should use software that screens the huge offering of pornography on the Internet. Almost certainly those who oppose the screens will prevail because of the premium placed on free speech.
Another symptom of the conflict between democracy and religious values is the increasing promotion of homosexual behavior, the plan being to make such behavior a part of our cultural mores. This struggle is taking place in Israel also.
Thus democracy, freedom of expression, and free-enterprise capitalism are being set forth as the salvation of the world. It appears that in the beginning of our nation, because of repressive policies in Europe, Christians adopted the concept of freedom of expression as a part of Christianity. But the doctrine of freedom of expression is evolving into a monster that, in the not too distant future, may result in severe persecution of those Christian people who never will accept pornography, homosexuality, man-boy sexual relationships, or incest as appropriate social behavior.
We may think it can't happen here. We are not aware of the history of the Christian church if we think Christians cannot be severely persecuted in America.
The right of pornographers and homosexuals to proclaim their merits in the courts and public schools eventually will confront the rights of Christians to shield their children from what they consider to be abominable practices. Who will win out?
And so our government, comprising many members who are devout Christians, are set on "making the world safe for democracy," perhaps not realizing that democracy is a manmade philosophy and needs to be modified in some respects if Christianity is not to be driven out.
In the present hour our country may have to declare war on those who would destroy us because of their religious teaching, or their desire to expand their power and increase in wealth. But what we may be blind to is the actual state of our nation.
A citizen would be foolish to walk at night on the streets of numerous large cities of our country, including our nation's capital. He or she would be robbed and perhaps murdered. Gangs are another issue. Rape and child molestation abound. In some instances the authorities are unable to take sufficiently protective measures because such measures would infringe on the "rights" of the criminals.
I think we are worshiping freedom of expression and self-will in place of God. We have made a goddess of the Statue of Liberty. We are worshiping our right to be free of what often are reasonable restraints, such as screening pornography from children, for example.
The wheels are grinding. America is sliding downhill morally. Each year sees a further erosion of Christian values. Yet we are determined to persuade the remainder of the world to adopt our way of life.
If there were no God, maybe we Christians could in some manner protect ourselves from the encroachment of moral abominations while the country ate, drank, and abandoned itself to the depravities of fleshly lust.
But this is not to be. There is a God. If I am hearing correctly, He is ready to punish America because she has turned away from Him. After receiving so much blessing from the Lord, she has turned her back on God and is worshiping the things of Satan.
After the massive latter-rain revival, which is to come in the future, Antichrist will rise in the major cities of the earth. He will espouse every social benefit. He will add Christian leaders to his government, and they will develop plans to feed the hungry and clothe the naked of the world.
Fervent disciples of Jesus, those who live by the Holy Spirit, will be driven by the government and by the Christian churches into remote areas of the earth. The elect of the Jews will gather together with them there, I believe, to wait for the return of Christ.
The nations will cry "peace and safety at last. Now people are able to express themselves freely. We have need of nothing." The land will be as Eden, so to speak.
But it will be as it is in America today, only worse. The sins of Sodom will be multiplied as violent practitioners of every possible sexual perversion roam the streets. But people will be blind to the problems because they are permitted to express themselves freely. Since this is their highest value, they will not be able to see the corruption in which they are living.
If I am hearing the Lord correctly, God is not going to permit this to take place in America as yet. He is going to pour out His judgments on us. I think our suffering and uncertainty will result in a purifying of the churches, and perhaps a return to more morally acceptable behavior on the part of our citizens.
Meanwhile we are moving toward the last great outpouring of God's Spirit.
It is after the revival has abated that the obstacle to Antichrist will be removed and we will see the full expression of self-centered, self-willed man. The obstacle to the rise of Antichrist is the prayers and testimony of Christian people, and these will diminish because of the prevalence of wickedness.
When Heaven and earth have witnessed the incredibly corrupt results of rebellion against God, the Lord Jesus Christ will return with His saints and holy angels and they will install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (I Thessalonians 5:3)
Life-giving SpiritsThe more of Christ we have the more we influence other people for good. We are becoming life-giving spirits.
The Lord Jesus stated that the flesh counts for nothing. This is true. The flesh came from dust and shall return to the dust.
True life is the Life of God. The Life of God is termed "eternal Life," and so we sometimes think of it merely in terms of its lasting forever. It is likely that wicked spirits also last forever. So what distinguishes eternal life is not its duration but its characteristics, such as love, joy, and peace.
The Lord Jesus spoke of our bearing fruit. That fruit is His moral image. The moral image of Christ is the product of the eternal Life of God and produces the eternal Life of God and the moral image of Christ in those with whom it comes in contact.
The propagation of religion tends to be in terms of information and mental understanding and acceptance. This is why religion always will murder Christ wherever He appears. Jesus Christ is neither a philosopher nor a theologian. He is the Resurrection and He is the Life. That which is conceived because of contact with Him cannot be understood by theologians, and so they fight the Life of God.
The Lord told us that the Words He spoke to us are spirit and life. The Lord is the Word made flesh. He Himself is the living Word.
No philosopher, no religious leader could, or did (as far as I know), claim to be the Word of God made flesh. All philosophers and religious leaders deal in ordinary words. They seek to convince us of the merits of following their ideas.
Jesus alone claims to be the Resurrection. Jesus alone claims to be eternal Life. Jesus alone stated that His Words are more than ordinary words, but themselves are spirit and life.
The difference between the words of philosophy and theology, and the living Words of Jesus Christ, can be the difference between Antichrist and Christ. One encourages us to construct our own heaven and earth. The other leads us to the Father, to rest in God's Life and will.
We Christians often speak of bearing witness. What we often mean by this is, we are attempting to convey the fact of religion to the minds of our audience. We are making proselytes to our way of thinking.
The true witness of God occurs when the Life of God is seen, heard, and touched. This can happen only as the bearer of the Life is experiencing the sufferings of Christ and being conformed to His death on the cross.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touchedthis we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (I John 1:1,2)
The Apostle Paul informed us of the manner in which the Life of God appears in us and then is communicated to others.
Paul said he was pressed down, perplexed, persecuted, weakened by afflictions. As Paul's body was sown to the death of the cross, the eternal Life of Christ lifted him from despair and death. The Virtue that lifted Paul was then imparted to others. Then they too lived in the Life of God.
All the joy, peace, love, wonder of the universe exists in the Life of God, in that which was removed from the Garden and Eden because of disobedience. Since that time the flesh of man has attempted to acquire joy, peace, love, and wonder. But what we have in the flesh is as the dried-out skin of a long-dead animal. We clutch the efforts of the flesh as though they will bring us the joy, peace, and fulfillment we are seeking. But we do so in vain.
Into the charnel house of very dry bones called the world strides the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever will receive Him receives the joy, peace, love, wonder, and fulfillment that all people seek. Those who reject Him reject their only hope of obtaining the deepest desires of their heart.
The flesh seeks fun, and finds it in the frantic grasping of fleshly lusts and passions. The end result of such fun is remorse, shame, sickness, death.
Those who receive Christ must endure the processes of redemption as God teaches us concerning Himself, and through many tribulations makes us witnesses of Himself.
These God-made witnesses, and these alone, are the salt of the earth. They are the light of the world. They are the only source of that which all people, knowingly or unknowingly, seek.
We serve our generation in the best possible manner when we hand over our life to Christ. The more we have of Christ, the more we have to offer the spiritually dead creatures around us.
The judgment of God is approaching America because of our sins. The best way we can serve our country is by gaining more of Christ each day. Then God can use us to assist those who will be paralyzed with fear and despair because of what they see taking place in our once-proud nation. We can point them to Him who sits as King of the flood. More than that, we can share our eternal life with them.
So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45)
A Change in GodWhat if the Father were like Satan? We need to think about this and be thankful.
You know, sometimes we take the Lord for granted. We count on His being faithful, truthful, loving, patient, merciful. I don't think we are right in taking God's goodness for granted. Sometimes we take our parents for granted, assuming they will do everything in their power to help us even though we are mean and disobedient. I don't think this is right either!
What if God were like Satan? What if God were treacherous, a liar, hateful, impatient, and unmerciful? Have you ever thought about this?
God is making us in His image. This means we will be faithful, truthful, loving, patient, and merciful. But we often are careless about changing our behavior. We think God should be like He is, but we would enjoy a little bit of Satan in our personality.
The prevailing attitude of the churches in our country is that we are saved by grace no matter how we behave. The theologians insist we will go to Heaven by a sovereign grace regardless of our conduct.
The Law of Moses required that people learn what God has commanded and obey it diligently.
Now we are being taught that God has changed His mind. He is saving us by a mystical grace. I say "mystical" because it is not associated with reality.
We Christians are living in a bubble of grace that prevents God from seeing our behavior. The Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the Temple of God, all consist of worldly, lustful, self-seeking people with whom God has fellowship on the basis of the mystical "grace." He can't stand being without them, and He doesn't want them to suffer, and so He is just about to "rapture" them into Heaven in their foolishness and self-love.
If the present viewpoint were true it would be best we never had been born. Why is this? It would signify a change in God's Character. God now would be like us, fellowshiping with us in our treachery, lying, hateful behavior, impatience, and malice. God has not been able to change us, so now He has become like us.
This is what is being taught today in most Protestant churches in the United States of America.
We are doomed! We have no hope of Heaven. How can there be a Heaven when the inhabitants are treacherous, liars, hateful, impatient, and malicious? It would not matter how marvelous the environment of Heaven is, it would be a miserable place to be. It would be no better than the present world!
Our hope is gone. God has decided to fellowship with sinners whether or not they behave themselves. There is no Heaven. There is only the Hell of the works of Satan.
This is the Christian message in the United States of America in the year of our Lord 2002. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, Maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6,7)
Losing Our SoulGod has given us a soul. Our soul has the ability to choose to do what is right and profitable. When we become unable to choose to do what we know is right and profitable, being driven by lusts and fears we no longer can control, then we have lost possession of our soul.
The soul that sins shall die. But what does this mean?
Jesus asked what good it would do someone to gain the whole world and lose his soul.
The Book of Hebrews urges us to believe to the saving of the soul.
The Lord spoke of possessing our soul:
In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19KJV)
Our Christian traditions are strong in this regard. We view losing our soul, the death of our soul, as meaning we go to Hell. Perhaps this is correct. But the expression "lose his own soul," or "forfeit his soul," does not speak of fiery torment. Yet I would not be totally surprised if this is what is meant. Had the rich man in Hell lost his soul? Had he died? Is this what the Scripture means when it says "the soul that sins shall die"?
It may be true that the death of the soul is not the same as Hell, and that Hell and the Lake of Fire are the proper residences for souls that already are dead. What I am saying is, the issue is not so much the place of our residence but the condition of our personality. Undoubtedly we will be placed where we belong, whether or not we have "accepted Christ."
The reason I am poking around in this matter is that we have made accepting Christ a means of escaping Hell and going to Heaven. Personally I think this viewpoint is more mythological than scriptural, and it evades the issue.
I know from the Scripture that there is a Heaven, a Hell, and a Lake of Fire. There is no question about the existence of these places.
But we evade the issue when we stress that accepting Christ gives us a ticket by which we escape Hell and go to Heaven when we die. I don't believe this is at all correct.
The real issue is what kind of person we are, and also what our relationship to Christ is. I think today we are suggesting to people that if they will agree with the stated theological formula they will go to Heaven when they die. However, just because they have made a profession of Christ does not mean they are properly related to Christ. Neither does it mean they are undergoing the process of change into the heavenly personality.
Perhaps it is true that to lose our soul means to lose control of our soul. There are many pressures that attempt to cause us to behave in a manner of which we do not approve. The world is one such pressure. Our bodily lusts are another. Our self-will, self-love, and personal ambition are another. Also, there may be romantic passions that inflame our soul.
Jesus spoke of the man who decided to retire. He intended to store his wealth in his barns and then settle down to eat drink and be merry.
Jesus said to him: "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you."
Again the Lord asked, "What does it profit a person if he gain the world and loses his soul?"
I think the Lord was speaking about something more than being cast into Hell.
Let us say there is a Christian person. He has worked hard and has saved enough money so he doesn't have to work any longer. He has done this so he will be free to spend his days eating, sleeping, and playing.
He wants to buy a vacation trailer and travel around the country with his wife. He wants to be able to go to a hotel when he feels like it, or go lay on the beach. He has worked hard. Now he intends to relax.
This is an acceptable form of Christianity in America.
Let me tell you, this man is not serving Christ. He is not presenting his body a living sacrifice. He is not pressing, pressing, pressing forward to attain to the early resurrection from the dead. He is not seeking to live in the resurrection power of Christ nor to share the sufferings of Christ.
He is close to spiritual death.
Is the issue Hell? I don't think so; at least not at this point. The issue is, he is in a lukewarm spiritual state, neither accepting Christ nor rejecting Christ.
What if while he is enjoying an outside barbecue with his family he has congestive heart failure? He appears before Jesus Christ.
The Lord says, "I have granted you many years of life. You have worked until you were free to serve me without the need to report to your job. What have you done with your time?
"Do you think everyone in the world has heard the Gospel? Do you think your church needs the support you can give with your time and money? Are you seeking spiritual gifts so you may build up the Body of Christ? Are you putting the health, time, and money I have trusted you with to the best possible use in building my Kingdom?"
This individual was given a soul like the Soul of Godcapable of making moral choices. But he chose to waste what the Lord had given him on the things of this world.
He has lost control of his soul. He is bound in his bodily lusts and appetites. He has no inheritance in the Kingdom of God, as Paul said concerning those who live in their fleshly nature.
He does not fit in Heaven among the saints of God. He is not qualified to ride behind Christ when the saints appear to install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Where is he fit to be? In the outer darkness? That is where souls are placed who waste the resources entrusted to them.
He no longer has fellowship with the Father and the Son. He is useless, a wasted personality.
Can you see what I mean by saying the issue is not Heaven, Hell, or the Lake of Fire? The issue is what kind of person we have become, and our relationship with God and Christ.
I think this understanding is terribly needed in America today. We have literally millions of Christians who have "accepted Christ" according to the traditional formula, but who are not walking in fellowship with God and Christ. Their souls are at stake, not because they have not "accepted Christ" but because they are not living in continual interaction with the Son of God.
They have been saved from Hell, they think. What they do not realize is they are not the kind of person that fits in Heaven among the saints of God.
They have not grown strong in the Lord. Their personality is a wasteland of animal appetites. In the Day of Resurrection their flesh and bones will be raised and joined to a soul that knows not God, that has disappointed Jesus, and that is not a kindred spirit with the fervent disciples of the Lord.
Where will they be sent? It depends on what Jesus decides.
But they certainly will not be placed among the true disciples of the Lord, for their personality will corrupt wherever they are placed, just as on the earth they tend to weaken, by their worldly example, those believers who are struggling upward in the night, so to speak, so they might please their Lord.
To lose our soul is to have it destroyed by living in the flesh. Jesus did not say the man who built the barns had sinned, Christ rebuked the man for not laying up treasure in Heaven.
The Lord did not accuse the man of sin who had wasted the talent entrusted to him. He had him thrown into the outer darkness for being lazy and unproductive.
The Lord did not shut the door in the face of the five virgins because they had committed sin but because they did not keep themselves prepared for His return.
We have some incorrect viewpoints in America at this time. We may be stressing too much getting people to "accept Christ." Perhaps we need to emphasize more what it means to be a disciple of Christ, so people don't get the impression that all they have to do is make a religious statement and then continue with their usual way of living.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39KJV)
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
The Importance of the ResurrectionOur body is the temple of God and of us dwelling together. Christianity, being influenced by Gnosticism, has denied the role of the body in the Kingdom of God. Man is not fully in God's image until his body has been raised from the dead.
Jesus Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. John 3:16 means that in the Day of Resurrection we will receive immortality in our body.
I have written considerably about the resurrection of the human body. If there is an area of Christian thinking that is in confusion, this is it. The sad part is that the resurrection of our body is the goal toward which we are to be striving. The resurrection to immortality is the overcoming of the last enemy, the climax of the process of redemption.
Our new inner nature has actually been born of God. (I think this also is misunderstood at times.) Our body will be adopted provided we attain to the resurrection which is unto life. We do this by putting to death, through the Spirit of God, the actions of our sinful nature; and also by living in such a manner that Christ can come to maturity in us.
The Apostle Paul groaned for the redemption of his body. We do not groan for the redemption of our body because the goal of salvation has been changed from attaining to the resurrection to going to Heaven when we die.
Added to this destructive change has been the equally destructive doctrine of the "rapture" of living people in order to avoid Antichrist and the Great Tribulation.
The emphases on making Heaven our eternal home, and being caught up to Heaven in an any-moment "rapture," have had the effect of making the resurrection of our body a distant, indistinct event that really has little to do with our salvation.
Am I correct in this? If this is the case with you, remember it is the case with most Christians of our day. Thus we have rendered the central hope of the Gospel of Christ a minor consideration in our daily walk as a believer.
The truth is, concern over what we will experience in the Day of Resurrection should be paramount in our thinking. For it is certain that we will receive in that day precisely what we have practiced during the present hour.
One factor that has contributed to our ignorance of the importance of the resurrection of the body is the philosophy of Gnosticism. Although most of us know little about Gnosticism, our present grace-rapture-Heaven teaching has its roots in Gnosticism, as nearly as I can tell. Gnosticism regards all matter, including the body, as evil. Under Gnosticism, we attain to spiritual life in Heaven by adopting prescribed forms of knowledge. When the current teaching of "grace" tells us we can forget about our behavior; our profession of faith in Christ will bring us to Paradise; and the resurrection of the body is something we can forget; we are close to the philosophy of Gnosticism.
A second factor that has contributed to our ignorance of the importance of the resurrection of the body is Paul's writing about the "house from Heaven." The house from Heaven is not a substitute body, thus removing the importance of the resurrection of our present body. The house from Heaven is a body of resurrection life that has been formed in Heaven as we have sown our present body to the death of the cross, by denying its lusts and appetites. If we really have lived the victorious life in Christ, by entering His death and resurrection, in the Day of Resurrection our present body will be raised from the dead and then clothed with our house from Heaven. The robe of eternal life from Heaven may prove to be one of the most important aspects of our reward.
A third factor that has contributed to our ignorance of the importance of the resurrection of the body is the Apostle Paul's statement in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of First Corinthians that we are not sowing the body that shall be.
Paul does not mean by this that our present body will not be raised from the dead, for that would defeat all he is teaching in this chapter.
Paul means that when we sow seed in the ground we are sowing seed. We do not sow the product that is harvested, only the seed. All that grows comes from that seed that was sown, not from somewhere else. So it is that the body we shall have will come from our present body that was sown to the death of the cross.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the redemption of the body. We are in the pursuit of life in our inward nature, and immortality in our body.
We had neither life nor immortality when we were created.
Had we eaten of the Tree of Life, which I believe to be a symbol of Jesus Christ, we would have gained the eternal Life that He Himself is. I think further that eating of Christ would have resulted eventually in immortality in the body.
So it is today. If we live the victorious life we are given to eat of the Tree of Life that is in the midst of the Garden of God in Paradise. Learning to live by the Life of Christ will result, in the Day of Resurrection, in our receiving immortality in our body. It is this immortality in the body that the Apostle Paul was striving to attain to, and to which we also must strive to attain.
Notice carefully the following passage:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)
"The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction."
"The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."
Our destiny is determined by the choices we are making today. If we are living according to our sinful nature, then in the Day of Resurrection, when our body is raised from the dead, there will be no clothing of eternal life to cover our body, no house from Heaven. We will be given, in some form, the bad that we have done. The result will be shame and everlasting contempt, as we find in the Book of Daniel.
As I stated in a previous writing, the issue is not Heaven or Hell. The issue is what kind of person we will be seen to be in that Day. We then will be placed where we belong.
We may hope by "accepting" Christ to escape the Kingdom law of sowing and reaping. This would be to place a corrupt personality in Heaven among the saints. This is not going to happen. You and I will be placed where we belong, that is, according to the kind of personality we have.
One sinful personality would ruin Paradise for everyone else.
If you will notice carefully: "The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction." This means that our destruction will proceed from our own sinful nature.
Conversely, whoever spends his or her life cooperating with the Spirit of God, from that very Spirit will reap first, the Life of God in the inward nature; then, the Life of God in the outer man resulting in immortality.
Can you see how immensely important the doctrine of the resurrection is?
We are placing much emphasis today on flying through the air in a "rapture." This is not a scriptural emphasis. Flying through the air will transform neither our inward nature nor our body. The "rapture" is Christian escapism. The concept of the rapture is totally unscriptural.
But will we be caught up to meet Jesus in the air? Yes, after the dead have been raised and the living have changed from flesh-and-blood life to immortal life, we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, not in Heaven.
Remember, in the Day of Christ, the Lord will bring with Him the deceased saints, no doubt the true saints of God from every age. These will form a mighty host of godly people. Some of them have been in Heaven with the Lord for thousands of years.
It would be ridiculous to bring down these people, raise their bodies from wherever they have been interred, clothe them with resurrection life, and then take them back to Heaven. Can you make any sense of this?
The purpose of the resurrection is not to bring people to Heaven but so they may live once more on the earth. We do not have to be raised from the dead to go to Heaven. We go to Heaven by dying.
The coming of Christ is near, perhaps no more than thirty years in the future; but I cannot say for certain.
In the present hour the Lord is ready to give His people victory over the lusts of the sinful nature. It will take a period of time for this work to be accomplished. It will begin with those who are living close to the Lord.
Trouble is coming to the United States. During this time there will be a revival of righteousness, a cleansing of the churches.
I am not sure of this, but the revival in America may lead directly into the great harvest-rain downpour of the Spirit that is prophesied in the Scriptures.
After that, Antichrist will come to power and the Great Tribulation will result.
When the world is crying "Peace and Safety!" the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky above. Then the Lord will raise His saints from the dead and reward them.
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:30,31)
All the true witnesses of God will ascend to meet Christ in the air, in the sight of the wicked. After this the Lord and His army will descend, drive the wicked from the earth, and establish the Kingdom of God.
What happens to us after we die I cannot say. The Bible has little to say about the period between death and resurrection. I believe we will be placed among people who are like us. I think also there will be instruction, and the Body of Christ in Heaven will learn and grow along with the part of the Body that is on the earth.
Finally will come the great Day, the Day of Christ, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Resurrection. It is what happens to us then that is of supreme importance, because our eternal destiny will be decided at that time.
The wise person will spend his or her entire life preparing for the Day of Resurrection. We prepare for that day, as the Apostle Paul taught us in the Book of Philippians, by laying all else aside and pressing into Christthat we may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, if by any means we might attain to the resurrection from the dead.
By attaining to the resurrection from the dead Paul means the resurrection that is unto immortality in the body; for all shall be raised from the dead, some to life, and others to judgment.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come outthose who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
I Have Finished the WorkHow utterly marvelous to leave this earth and be able to say to God, "I have finished the work you gave me to do. Here it is, all wrapped up as a package, tied with a bow."
I have been around Christian people for a long time, over fifty years.
There is one thing I have noticed: most of the believers do not have a sense of what they are supposed to be doing. Even pastors sometimes.
Notice the attitude of the Apostle Paul:
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that dayand not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (II Timothy 4:6-8)
"The time has come for my departure. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
"The time has come for my departure"!
Do you get a sense from the above passage that the Apostle Paul had a specific responsibility and a prescribed number of days in which to accomplish it?
In another place Paul spoke of striving to grasp that for which he had been grasped by the Lord.
I think the reaction of many believers would be, "But that was the Apostle Paul. He was special. That doesn't apply to a common person like myself."
So we are back at the old "priest and people" thing. I wonder when the concept that some people are specially holy and are to act as priests to the rest of the believers will ever die out. This idea really hinders the development of the members of the Body of Christ.
Yes, the Apostle Paul had a great commission from the Lord Jesus. But how about Ananias who prayed that Saul of Tarsus might regain his sight and find out what was happening? Was Paul more important, or more highly favored of Christ, than was true of Ananias?
I don't believe God looks at us like that.
Paul gave us the illustration of the human body when describing the Church. Paul said that the Spirit places gifts in the Body of Christ just as He determines.
Now, think about your own body. Consider how the members work together.
We would regard our brain as more important than our toe. But suppose we developed cancer in our toe. What does the brain do then? Does it insist it is superior to the toe?
Again, what if the toe decides it is not important and refuses to function. It ceases working, the circulation stops, and gangrene sets in. How does the important brain regard this?
Numerous Christian believers live in the delusion that there really is nothing significant they are to do in the Kingdom. They are waiting to die and go to Heaven. They might have some duty they perform in the local church, and it is pleasing to God when they perform this assigned task faithfully and diligently. But they have no sense of destiny, no idea of why they are here or what they are to be doing.
However, I am not speaking of living our ordinary life in America and helping out in the local assembly from time to time. I am referring to presenting our body a living sacrifice that we might find out why we are living on the earth in the present hour.
Honestly, from what I hear I think both the ministers and the people are under the impression that God is sorrowful because so many people are going to Hell and is wondering why we don't do something about it.
The truth is, God knows exactly what He wants done in every instance. He will get His work done, one way or another. The issue is how we as an individual will fare in the grand plan of the universe. We will receive a reward if we do God's work. We will be punished if we live to ourselves.
Some of the harshest words spoken by the Lord were directed toward the servant who did not use his talent. He was punished very severely for doing nothing other than doing nothing.
God knew in advance every person ever born. God assigned to that individual a limited number of days on the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:16)
Furthermore, God placed you on the earth for a reason, particularly if you have been called to be a saint, a worshiper of Christ, a member of the Body of Christ. You have to keep before God at all times to find out what it is you are supposed to do each day. If you do not, you will be punished severely when the Lord returns.
Grace, mercy, imputed righteousness, or any of the other excuses we have for not living for God like we are supposed to certainly did not help the man who buried his talent!
If you don't think you are an important member of the Body of Christ; if you do not believe God has a specific plan for your life; why don't you ask Him right now? Go to God in prayer. Come boldly before the Throne of Grace. Lay your life before Him. Forget the past. Ask God what He would have you do.
Christian families in America are occupied with their health, their well-being, their jobs, their families, their income. These are areas in which we all ought to be diligent. However, all of these are the blessing of God on us. They are not the reason He put us on the earth. We are not here so we can breathe, eat, sleep, play, reproduce, and work. If that is all our life consists of we might just as well be a horse.
Let us think of a soldier in the army. The government will help him with his health, his well-being, his family, his income, possibly train him for a job he can work at when he gets out of the service. But this is not why he is in the army. He is in the army to go where the government tells him to go, even if it is into grave danger. As a soldier, his highest priority is to defend his country against the enemy.
As I said, it appears to me that most Christians have no sense of a definite purpose for their life. Sometimes when they grow old they are so selfish and self-centered they pose great problems for their children who are trying to take care of them and satisfy their whims. I am speaking of older Christians!
Compare the Christian senior citizen in America today with the Apostle Paul. The senior citizens main concern is if the mail is coming on time, or what he or she will eat for dinner.
We have lived as an animal and shall die as an animal, concerned only with eating, drinking, and playing. We will not be able, as was the godly Jacob, to bless our children and prophesy over them when it comes time for us to die.
Once we may have been as a beautiful flower. But because we have not pursued Christ during our lifetime we will wither and die when our time comes instead of mounting up in the spirit realm as a life-giving spirit.
For those who have ears to hear: such an animal existence is not pleasing to the Lord. He has commanded you through the Apostle Paul to present your body to God as a sacrifice that you might prove God's will for your life.
If you spend your days seeking God you will be a valuable servant in the Kingdom of God. You may have a supporting role while others are more in the spotlight. But as in the case of the toe, the Body of Christ depends on you in order that it may perform the work of the Kingdom.
God does not reward us on the basis of how spectacular our service has been but on our faithfulness. God is not impressed with grand religious actions, only with faithfulness.
So please understand that your days on earth were numbered at the time of the creation. God knows exactly where you are to be placed in His Kingdom.
If you perform your God-given assignment, God will give you a larger area of responsibility when Jesus returns.
But if you live out your life as an average American churchgoer, not having any idea of why you are here or what you are supposed to do, then be assured that when Jesus comes, all that has been given to you will be removed and given to another. You yourself will be placed in the outer darkness, there to have fellowship with the selfish, spiritually lazy believers who spent their days in the things of the flesh without regard for the needs of Christ and His Kingdom, including the needs of the multitudes who never have heard the Gospel.
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4)
Doing God's Perfect WillHow incredibly wonderful to know beyond doubt that God's will is identical with our will and He is pleased with us.
When I was in Bible school, in 1946 I guess it was, I had just been discharged from the Marine Corps. This was at the end of World War Two.
I was saved in the Corps, and so I knew very little about Christian churches and Bible schools. To my dismay I was told that no one can do God's will perfectly. My wife says I am a maverick at heart. I guess I am, for right then and there I decided I was going to do God's will perfectly.
So I told the Lord if He would help me and give me the necessary grace, I would do His will perfectly.
I didn't know what to expect. It really seemed to be an audacious statement at the time.
Now I know it was not an audacious statement. It was, and is, the attitude that every true Christian is to have.
How this idea started, that no one can do God's will perfectly, I do not know. Christian people were willing to live their lives with the understanding that they were doing God's will to a certain extent, but no one could do God's entire will.
You know, this gives one a distorted idea of God. It is as though God requires extraordinary feats of service or asceticism that no one could possibly accomplish. He is content for us to be partially obedient and partially disobedient.
I tell you here and now that I will never accept this point of view. If I am not doing God's perfect will, I want to know right now where I am coming short. Then I am going to start doing what God wants, trusting He will give me the grace to do just that.
You know, we have been tricked by Satan. He wants us to go about in the belief we are not really serving God but are trusting in God's mercy to bring us to Heaven anyway. Satan's kingdom is not threatened until we begin to do God's will in the earth, and so Satan will do everything in his power to keep us from obeying God.
It is Satan's intention to keep us cut off from God. Satan does not want us to think of God as our Father.
Ordinarily our earthly father does not expect us to perform some task he knows we are unable to do. He does not assign some impossible project, and when we fail tell us because we were unable to do what he asked he is willing to show mercy toward us and forgive us. All we have to do is confess we are unable to do what he wants. This is absolutely ridiculous!
Sometimes there are fathers who demand too much of their children. Such fathers are wicked. They scar their children for life. Long after the father is dead, the children are still trying to please him.
Our Father in Heaven is not like this. Whenever God asks something of us, He knows we can do it with His assistance. There is no exception to this.
So we have been told a lie, and the purpose of the lie is to keep us separated from God because of condemnation, something like Adam and Eve hiding from God.
The one nobody can ever please is Satan!
The Book of Hebrews mentions the rest of God, and warns us about coming short of it.
The rest of God is that place in the very Center of God's Person where the Lord Jesus always abides. Jesus said He would come back and take us to be with Him where He is.
The Lord did not mean by this that He would return to earth and bring us to Heaven. He meant He would return in the Spirit and help us enter the rest of God. Of course, the day will arrive when He returns literally. But the purpose of that coming is not to bring us to Heaven, or even to bring us into the heart of God. It is to gather together His warrior-saints so that He and they might establish the Kingdom of God, the doing of God's will in the earth.
It is today that the Lord has come in the Spirit and is helping us get rid of our sinful nature so we might be with Him in the Center of God's Person and will.
Now, when we decide our goal is to enter the Center of God's Person and will we are viciously, skillfully, continually resisted by wicked spirits who have had thousands of years to master the art of deception. It is these same spirits who counsel us that no one can do God's will perfectly, and that we shall not surely die as a result of not doing God's will.
Circumstances often war against us and we have to pray until our problems are resolved.
Our love of the world competes for our attention and seeks to distract us.
The lusts and passions of our flesh and soul attempt to force us to behave in a manner we know is sinful, so we will be condemned and run from God.
Our personal ambition wants us to define our own objectives and plan ways to attain to them. Our self-will is not comfortable with resting in God's will.
Sometimes we picture God's will for us as being unpleasant relationships, things, and circumstances we would not ordinarily choose.
What we do not realize is that God knows what will bring us joy far, far better then we do. God wants to bring us to joy. And when He leads us through difficult, sometimes painful trials, it is because He is bringing us to joy and wants us to be able to keep the joy once we gain it.
It is Satan who tells us that God's wants us to be miserable. He told Eve that God did not want her to be wise and happy. He tells us the same thing.
So we see that the warfare never changes. The issue always is, do we believe God is bringing us to joy, or do we have to evade God's will and grasp what we believe to be lasting joy?
The just shall live by faith means the righteous live by faith in God's goodness rather than in their own abilities to fulfill their desires.
How difficult to fight our way into the perfect rest of God's will, but how blessed once we get there. I don't believe there is a better, more restful, joyous, confident state of being than that which we gain when we fight through to the place where God's will and our will are identical.
This is entirely possible, you know, for each one of us. It is a fight, no doubt about that. But it is possible. Once attained we find it increasingly easy to maintain.
What God wants intensely is what we want intensely. This is our goal. This is true of the Lord Jesus. Then we are fully in the rest of God; fully in God's perfect will.
If this sounds good to you, tell the Lord about it. He will work in you such that you will choose and do what He desires.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (I John 5:3)
Home At Last!How unbelievably glorious upon entering the spirit realm to realize we finally are home, that we did not fail in the test. We may have stumbled many times, but we got up again, like a soldier, and pressed forward, trusting in God to forgive and help us. God loves this attitude.
Do you ever think about dying? Being an older person, I do.
I can remember when I was being carried in an ambulance to a hospital that specializes in heart operations. How glad I was that I have chosen to serve God! How wonderful to think of going home!
I survived, with the addition of two stents in the left descending artery. It would have been awful to be so close to dying, knowing that you had disobeyed the Lord.
Speaking of going home, one time the Lord gave me the briefest of sensations about what it means to go home to be with the Lord. We may think we have found a place on the earth that is our home. But I tell you, any such place does not measure up to what it will be like to be home with the Lord.
We Christians often talk about going home to Heaven. The Apostle Paul talked about going home to be with the Lord. There is a great difference between these two concepts.
Just to die and go into the spirit realm would not be home. It is Jesus who is home. Wherever Jesus is, is home.
What is it like to be home? It is to know that one is where he belongs. There is a sense of security, of deeply settled joy.
In addition to being home with the Lord, which, for the true disciple, is the most important part of being home, there also are those loved ones whom we haven't seen for awhile.
For myself, there are authors and composers who have given me pleasure that I would like to thank.
I am not certain what the environment will be like when we pass into the spirit realm. Perhaps much of what we imagine Heaven will be like is really Christian mythology. Actually, it does not matter what the things around us will be like. It is God, Jesus, the saints, the holy creatures such as angels, that will constitute home for us, not the surroundings. Isn't that so?
All Christians are on a pilgrimage. This world is not our home, we are just passing through, as the old hymn says. Therefore we need to be very careful in these days that we do not become bemused by the world.
I notice reading in Newsweek this morning (11/21/2002) of the new games available on computers and the Internet; and also the devices that will be installed on new cars, such as ceiling-mounted DVD players and microwaves so you can have hot popcorn. The new Internet and computer games will be extremely attractive to people and have an enormous influence on them, young and old alike. But it is an unreal world. It certainly is not home!
The Tower of Babel came to my mind as I was reading the articles. The Lord said that since nothing was impossible for man to do He would give the people different languages to slow them down. The confusion of languages is one of the bases of war. God does not always respond in a way we understand.
I think it will not be long before America is at war, and the chaos will be sufficient to remove our minds from the electronic gadgets so we become human beings once again.
The human being who is pictured by the inventors of the new devices is no one I want to be near. He will be an unreal, amoral robot controlled by the masters of the media. He won't be a human being at all! He will be nothing like we picture home to be but a creation of godless artists and inventors.
People will find the new world of technology fascinatingindeed, fascinating enough to draw them away from the intense seeking of the Lord that the Holy Spirit is calling for in these days. Many, many people will be drawn into the surreal worldespecially when virtual reality is added to the Internet and computer games.
What is the answer! The answer can be given only by an individual who is intensely dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. He can use the cyberspace world as I do, to communicate and receive the Gospel. But after that he or she must shun this surreal world, recognizing that it can steer the individual away from the reality of Christ and what home really is.
We need to keep the vision of our true home ever before us. We must fight! fight! fight the good fight of faith. We are in this world but certainly not of it. The world spirit is a master deceiver. It is Antichrist, and numerous American Christian are far too much a part of it.
You know, the Muslim terrorists recognize the evil in the Western way of life, especially that of America. They are trying to tear down the false gods we worship, that they feel destroy spiritual values. Of course they are going about it in the wrong way. They are murdering innocent people, particularly young people and children, without accomplishing their goals. They will stand before the Court of Heaven as the murderers they are.
But we need to remember that their actions are driven by their ideals, which reject Western materialism. We are not guiltless. We are rapidly supplanting human values with the frantic pursuit of fleshly fun. This is true of America, England, and other Western nations.
God is lifting His hand of protection from us because we are not using our abundant resources to establish His righteous Kingdom in the earth. Our resources shall be given to another and we will be driven into the darkness.
Let us press, press, press toward our true home, the home that the Lord Jesus is. Right now it is in Heaven above. One day, after the Lord returns, it will be on the earth.
Then there will be no more virtual reality computer games that remove us from genuine reality. There will be the righteousness, peace, and joy that only the Kingdom of God can bring to us.
When the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, and the others see the true righteousness, the true peace, and the true joy of the Kingdom of God, and not the religious façade of today that does not produce truly godly people, they will be drawn to the Lord Jesus. For they also are God's children.
I am not at all suggesting there are many roads to the Father. There is only the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather I am saying that God loves these people whom we tend to reject and despise. They will never come to our Lord Jesus until we begin to reveal His Life instead of our religious evasions of righteous behavior.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
In the Lord Jesus Christ we have the only reality there is. Our problem as American citizens is that we are not recognizing this sufficiently. Instead of bringing to the Muslim world and other ethnic groups the reality that is in Jesus, we are pumping out the black filth of Hollywood and of other sewer lines of moral degradation.
We are to be pressing forward each day. When we stumble we are to get back on our feet, confess our sins and foolishness, receive our forgiveness and renewed grace, and fight on. If we will do this to the end of our life, we will arrive home one day. Then, as the old song says, the toils of the road will seem as nothing. Our personal cross will be lifted from our back, and we will be home with Jesus for eternity.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8)
All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
Bearing a True WitnessIf you are filled with God, the people around often will stop their swearing. If you are filled with a spirit of proselytizing, the people around you may start swearing. There is a difference.
We Christians are often encouraged to "go out and get people saved"; or "lead people to Christ." I know a lot of good comes from this. Many people are led to Christ by believers who are making an effort to share their faith.
The ministry of leading people to Christ is best accomplished as we are following the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. I think all successful personal workers would acknowledge this to be true.
However, there is another spirit that often is found among Christians. It is a spirit of proselyting. We are to collar people and "compel them to come in." This is a harsh spirit, and in some cases drives people away from the Lord.
I remember one time when we were living in Phoenix, I was painting the outside of my father-in-law's house. Two ladies stopped by. They asked me if I knew the Lord.
I said, "Yes."
Then they became angry and wanted to know why I wasn't going out and knocking on doors. I got the feeling they were not very happy about what they were doing and wanted me to share their misery.
The spirit of proselyting, that is, of inducing someone to convert to one's faith, abounds in Christian churches. The effect of telling the believers they must go out and "save souls" is to bring them under condemnation. They believe they should be doing this, but except for handful of believers who have a gift of personal evangelism, the members of the congregation do not have Divine grace to go out and talk to people about the Lord; and so they live under this condemnation.
Sometimes the pastor will advise the people that he himself is not supposed to go out and do this, but they are. This is hypocrisy.
One aspect of this issue has to do with the fact that the Spirit of God gives various gifts of ministry to the members of the Body of Christ. The ability to evangelize is but one of many gifts and ministries that are given to people according to the will of the Spirit.
Another aspect of this issue has to do with the character and behavior of the Christian himself. A considerable amount of time, effort, and money is directed, in the United States, to "getting people saved." But what the American people are looking for, along with the other ethnic groups of the world, is the Presence of Christ in the believers. This they are not seeing.
God is the one who makes witnesses, who creates fishers of men. Some are ready to go forth right after coming to know Christ for themselves. Others are dealt with for many, many years before they are ready to present the part of the work of the Kingdom that has been assigned to them.
The key to all of this is the Holy Spirit. When we live, move, and have our being in the Holy Spirit, we behave righteously and our ministry is on target.
But when we are being directed by our own religious ambitions, we are only proselyting. We call it "witnessing," but it is not. We merely are well-meaning people who believe in our religion and are trying to get other people to see things as we do.
Denominations often are guilty of developing programs that the Holy Spirit never heard of. They are blind while attempting to lead the blind. Today it is fashionable to use current marketing techniques in order to "sell" the Gospel. The evidence of success is the number of churches that are started.
I remember when Audrey and I first came to Poway. We had been here but a short while when an event took place that made me realize what a serious business starting a church actually is.
The Lord spoke to me clearly not to go back to work. I obeyed, and we have never missed a meal for twenty-six years.
Instead of working, I used to go over to the church by myself and pray for a good part of the morning.
One morning, as I was sitting on the platform, a spirit approached me.
He said, "Who gave you the right to be here?"
I said, "I am here with the blessing of the Foursquare Church and came down from Fremont with the blessing of the First Assembly of God in Fremont."
This seemed to satisfy the spirit, and he left.
Whenever I hear of some young couple being sent out by a local church to start another church I think of this incident. Starting a Christian church is regarded in the spirit realm as a very serious undertaking. It is not at all the same as starting up a business selling computers, for instance.
If a young couple decides to start a church they need to realize that sooner or later they are going to be tested. If their church is to survive, if they are going to make a lasting spiritual impact in their location, they will have to fill up what is left of the sufferings of Christ.
They are safe as long as they are in the will of Christ. But if they are on some kind of adventure, the Lord Jesus in His goodness will cause the work to dry up so they may have time to gain experience in the world before they attempt to establish a part of the Kingdom of God on the earth.
The most important witness is that of a godly life. If we work miracles, and miracles are important in the witness of the Kingdom, but are not living a righteous life, then little or nothing of eternal worth will be accomplished. Our work will be burned up with fire. The scepter of His Kingdom is a scepter of righteousness.
I hope that the coming years in America will see a massive turning to righteous conduct on the part of the Christians. Our witness to our country has been besmirched by prominent "Christian" personalities who reach hundreds of thousands of people, but whose testimony is destroyed by their actions. We have had enough of self-seeking opportunists in the ministry, whose god is their belly.
I personally believe that in many instances, perhaps not all, if we will worship the Lord and rejoice in Him, the Lord will add people to us. The Lord may want our assembly small, or He may want it very large. It seems to me that if we look to Him, He will build His churches the way He wants them, according to the role in the development of the Kingdom they are to play.
That which is built from man's desire to be preeminent will not stand in the Day of Judgment. True saints often are found in the babylonish structures, but in the end, the manmade institutions will turn against the genuine work of Christ and seek to destroy it, just as Saul, originally the Lord's anointed, sought to destroy the king God had chosen.
Great things are afoot in the Kingdom in our day. I think the Lord, in the coming days, may show us clearly who are serving Him, and who are working in the flesh for their own glory.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: (Colossians 1:24)
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12)
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
Applying the BloodIt is not true that the blood of Christ covers us so God cannot see our sin. It is true, rather, that the blood of Christ serves as a compensating righteousness, making up the difference between what God expects of us and what now is true of us. Compensating righteousness is applied only to those who are following the Holy Spirit each day.
In my opinion, there is no greater error in Christian thinking than that which has to do with the way in which the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is applied to our life.
The word atonement is interesting. It has many shades of meaning, I understand, including covering, mercy, propitiation, cancellation of debt, and reconciliation. After reviewing the several meanings, I lean toward the term reconciliation as being the most inclusive.
The blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross makes an atonement for our sin. It reconciles us to God.
The blood of sacrificed animals was applied in several different manners, as outlined in the Book of Leviticus. Probably the two most important applications of the sacrificial blood were the Passover blood, and the blood of the sin offering. However, every type of sacrifice, and the ordinances of the priesthood, were solemnized and validated by the sprinkling of blood.
The blood of the Passover lamb was the blood of protection. As far as I can tell from the account in Exodus, the purpose of the Passover blood was to distinguish between the Israelite families and the Egyptian families. Nothing is said in the text, as far as I can tell, about the Passover blood covering sin. The Passover blood protected the Israelites when God executed judgment on the gods of Egypt.
"When I see the blood I will pass over you."
Under the new covenant, the eating of the flesh of Christ, our Passover Lamb, and the drinking of His blood bring the very Life of God into our inward nature in preparation for the Day of Resurrection.
The blood of the sin offering had a different application from the blood of the Passover. You may notice that the sin offering was not made available until the Jews had reached Mount Sinai. The sin offering was never observed in Egypt.
The purpose of the Passover blood was to protect the Israelite families, not to cover sin. The purpose of the blood of the sin offering was to forgive sin, not to cover sin. This is my understanding at the present time.
The Passover blood and the sin offeringtwo different applications!
Today we say our sin is "under the blood" or "covered by the blood." I don't believe either of these expressions is found in the Scriptures, at least not according to my computer search program. Perhaps we should cease expressing ourselves in unscriptural terminology, at least until we understand what we are claiming.
However, I do believe that when we accept Christ we and our family are covered by the Passover blood of Christ so we are not condemned along with the world.
As far as I can see, God protects us from judgment with the Passover blood, and forgives our sins, when we confess them, with the blood of the sin offering, the atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the central work of the new covenant, which is the removal of the power of sin, is just beginning today.
Matthew 13:41 states that sin will be removed from the Kingdom of God at the end of the age.
As we look around us in the church, and at our own behavior, we can see that God needs to remove the power of sin from His Kingdom. The guilt was forgiven on the cross. Now we need to be delivered from the power of sin.
The great error of our day is the thought that God cannot see our sin because we are "covered by the blood." As we said, it is not the purpose of the blood to prevent God from seeing our sin. Could God see the sins of the Israelites when they were covered with the Passover blood, as they traveled through the wilderness, and later in their history?
We are more true to the Word when we claim that God forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins.
The Bible says that when we do not judge ourselves, God brings judgment on us so we will not be condemned with the world.
We have not understood these things in time past, it appears, but now God is commanding us to confess our sins and turn away from them.
The common teaching that God cannot see our sin because we have accepted Christ and the blood covers our sin is a destructive doctrine. It has destroyed the moral strength of the Christian people.
When I tell a lie, does God see the lie or does He see the truthfulness of Christ? It is taught commonly that God does not see our lie. Therefore it is not unusual for Christians to tell lies. Christian leaders often tell lies, it appears.
Now, study your New Testament carefully and find even one passage that tells us God does not see our sinning.
Have we not been terribly deceived?
The blood of Christ does not hide sin from God's eyes. The blood of Christ covers us and our families when God brings judgment on the gods of this world. The blood of Christ forgives us when we confess our sins and turn away from them. Isn't this so? But to say God cannot see our behavior is an unscriptural idea.
The Apostle Paul told us that if we would obey the law of the Spirit of Life, that is, if we would follow the Holy Spirit in putting to death the actions of our sinful nature, God would ascribe to us the righteousness that would have been ours had we kept the Law of Moses perfectly (Romans 8:1-4)
This means the blood of Christ is a compensating righteousness, or a protection of us from judgment, during the time that the Holy Spirit is delivering us from the power of the sinful nature.
The misunderstanding today is that the blood of Christ is a new covenant that prevents God from seeing our sinful actions, whether or not we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit in putting to death the actions of our sinful nature (Romans 8:13).
Anyone could predict the results of today's teaching concerning the covering of the blood: millions of professing Christians who are continuing in sin under the belief that they are excused because of their profession of faith in Christ.
The new covenant is seen as an alternative to our becoming a new righteous creation in Christ. Thus the purpose of the new covenant, which is to produce sons of God in the image of Christ, is effectively aborted by today's teaching.
When we accept Christ, we and our families come under the protection of the Passover blood. It is a lamb for a house.
When we accept Christ our sins of the past are forgiven.
When we accept Christ our sins of the present and the future are forgiven, as we confess and turn away from them (put them to death through the Spirit).
When we accept Christ, the judgment of our sins is delayed while we follow the Spirit. In the meanwhile the righteousness of the Law of Moses is imputed to us so we can continue without condemnation before God.
When we accept Christ, the legal foundation is laid so the Holy Spirit can proceed to remove the sinful nature from us. This requires our cooperation as we obey the Spirit in every particular. The Spirit gives us the power to overcome the passions of sin.
In no instance, however, can it be maintained scripturally that God overlooks our sin because we have accepted Christ, and we can continue in our old way of life without fear of judgment. This is the current lie. The result of this lie is a multitude of Christian churches that are not bearing a true witness of God because of the unrighteous, immoral behavior of their members.
It is directly because of the unrighteous, immoral behavior of the Christian people in America, England, and other so-called "Christian" nations that God is permitting Satan to incite other countries to hate us and want to murder us, even though the record will reveal that America has been active in humanitarian efforts.
It is our turning away from God and our worship of the material world, of entertainment, and of the lusts of our flesh, that is bringing us on such hatred. This is the way it happened, and is still happening, to Israel, and this is the way it is happening to us.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
God's Actions and Our ResponseEvery act of redemption begins with Divine intervention and becomes effective through human response. God acts and then we must obey.
I don't think any Christian would disagree with the statement that salvation begins with an action on God's part and then we have to respond. However, in practice this principle often is violated in two ways.
The first way in which the principle is violated occurs when we set out to do Kingdom work without waiting for the guidance of the King. The attitude seems to be that we know from the Bible what it is we are supposed to do, so there is no need to wait until we know the mind of the Spirit.
The second way in which the principle of Divine intervention and human response can be seen is the manner in which faith and grace are defined today. The current concept of "Divine sovereignty" suggests that no matter what we do, once we make a profession of belief in Jesus Christ we enter a state of invulnerability. No matter what we do after we make the proper profession we will be resurrected when the Lord appears; we will be caught up to Heaven; we will hear nothing negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ; and we will live in a mansion forever. This philosophy is more Gnostic than Christian.
The first and second manners of response and attitude to the Divine salvation are incorrect and destructive of the Kingdom of God.
The first violation of the biblical pattern of intervention and response, that of launching out in Kingdom work without waiting for direction from the King, has plagued Christianity from early times. We appear to be unable to wait on the Lord for direction. It is as though God is ineptly sitting up in Heaven, waiting to see what we are going to do about the things He has told us in the Bible.
I ran into this belief many years ago while attending Bible school. "Millions are sliding into Hell every day because we haven't traveled to the mission field and burnt out for Christ.'" I could not survive under this intolerable burden. It was then I told the Lord I would do whatever He said, if He would provide the strength and the means. After that I ceased worrying about the millions sliding into Hell. I had put the ball in God's court.
As one might imagine, God has not directed me into any great actions but has gently led me throughout my discipleship.
Church history has been chaotic because of the efforts of ambitious people to perform the work of the Kingdom in their own wisdom and strength. Of course, they have prayed to the Lord to help them with their plans. But it has not been a case of "separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Rather, in too many instances it has been enjoined on us to consider the plight of the heathen and to "do something about it." This is the blind leading the blind.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is devoted to the definition of "the just shall live by faith." If we will meditate on what we read in the eleventh chapter we will find it is a description of people obeying God, not of believers "stepping out in faith."
God spoke in time past to the fathers. Now He has spoken to us. We are to obey, not think of ways to add to what God has spoken.
I think our fear is that God will not speak to us or let us know what He wants, but is waiting for us to figure out what we are supposed to do. This is a good way to bring forth Ishmael, so to speak.
If God does not know what He is doing, or does not care that millions are sliding into Hell; if God, who possesses all power and every resource, is not interested enough to tell us what we are to do, and then to pay for it; then we are in trouble sure enough.
God gave clear directions to the Israelites when they asked Him for guidance, sometimes utilizing the Urim and Thummim. If God so led the Israelites, are we who are under a vastly superior covenant to believe that God no longer gives direction to His saints?
But in order to hear from the Lord we have to cease from making new plans and wait for the Lord. For ambitious believers, especially those who have "something to prove" or a vested interest of some sort, letting go of our creative solutions and waiting for God to speak can be quite difficult.
Then we come to the second way in which we violate the pattern of Divine intervention and human response. We are advised that God will "do it all." There is nothing we are to do after we "accept Christ." It is all by grace and faith. If Christ wishes to transform us morally He will do so without any help from us. There is no need to keep the commandments issued by Christ and His Apostles. These have been given only to show us how impossible it is to serve God. We are to believe only. Our watchword is to be "faith alone."
Given the dynamics of human existence, in view of the multitude of pressures that counsel us to violate God's eternal moral laws, the surest way to destroy the moral strength of the believer is to tell him to do nothing but wait for Christ to do it all.
The Jews had a very difficult time with God's commandments, and now we are told we Christians are not required even to attempt to keep God's commandments. Net effect: God's commandments are kept by no one.
I wonder how many people consider this fact and actually believe it is acceptable to God that people do not obey Him? It is neither scriptural nor logical. It makes no sense at all.
Think of it! The origin of all the trouble in the universe can be traced to the rebellion of Satan and his angels. And now we are supposed to believe that we have God's approval when we do not do what He has told us to do.
"Ah, but this is the work that God wantsthat we believe in His Son."
True enough. If we believe in His Son, and love His Son, we will do what His Son has commanded us to do. Several times Jesus said, "If you love me, keep My commandments."
How can we say be believe in the Son if we do not keep His commandments? This is the kind of foolishness that often characterizes the religions of the world
There is no more formidable foe of character and common sense than religion, including the Christian religion.
Today the Muslims are murdering Christians. Why? Because they are afraid some Muslims will be converted to Christianity.
Why do the Muslims hate Christianity and are afraid of conversions? Because the Muslims believe that faith in Christ will remove the moral principles of those who are converted.
Are they incorrect?
This past week 200 people were killed in Nigeria. The Muslims and the Christians have been at war. Why have they been at war? Because the government of Nigeria decided to host the Miss World contest.
For those of you who do not know about the Miss World contest, it is similar, apparently, to the Miss Universe and Miss America contests.
What are these contests about? How do they proceed?
They are displays of female flesh, somewhat similar to a cattle auction.
One would think that the women of the world would rise up in protest at these contests that present them as so many animals to be lusted over. But they do not. I wonder why?
In any case, the Muslims and Christians have been at war over this contest, particularly because some ill-advised individual stated that were Mohammed alive he would have picked out one of the girls for himself.
Now, who do you suppose is resisting this invitation to lust, the Muslims or the Christians? Who do you suppose caused such an uproar that the pageant has been moved to apostate London, where any form of lust seems to be acceptable?
It is the Muslims who are holding the high moral ground and protesting violently against this particular form of decadence.
Let me give you a statement from The San Diego Union Tribune, Monday, November 25, 2002. Glenn McKenzie of Associated Press wrote the article. The following observation was made by Emmanuel Ijewere, president of the Nigerian Red Cross: "Some Christians feel especially bitter, because with the exit of Miss World, they have lost a symbolic battle while the Muslims have won."
The Christians lost the battle. They wanted Miss World to parade female flesh so the men watching could drool in their lust.
The Muslims abhor this sort of female exhibitionism.
Whose side is God on?
It is no wonder the Muslims are outraged at the thought the Christian evangelists would succeed in luring some morally pure Muslim girl into Western decadence.
Are the Muslims on moral high ground when they murder people in order to further their cause? Absolutely not! They will stand guilty of murder before the court of God. Aren't we Christians guilty of provoking them to murder by seeking to draw them into the ways of Western decadence?
And why are the Western, Christian nations decadent?
Because of the prevailing view of the Divine salvation as being a means of pleasing God by a statement of belief rather than by keeping His commandments.
God's New Testament commandments include prohibitions against all forms of sexual lust and perversion. But numerous Christians and their pastors are bound with the chains of lust, including additions to pornography.
What is the solution? The solution for both the Muslims and the Christians, as well as for all ethnic groups, is for Christian believers to reject the notion that belief in Jesus Christ is an alternative to keeping God's righteous commandments, as found in the New Testament. We who profess to have accepted Christ must begin to follow Christ each day, as He enables us to overcome the world, the lusts of our flesh, and our self-will.
When we reveal the Character of Christ in our personality and behavior, it will be as a city set on a hill. Then Christ will be lifted up and all people will be drawn to Him.
America is going to be punished until the Christians decide to serve God. If they do not, our suffering surely will be prolonged.
We are not to just launch out in Kingdom work until we have heard clearly from the Lord.
We are not to just wait for Christ to cause us to keep His commandments. We are to pray every day, read our Bible every day, gather regularly with fervent believers, give of our means, serve, and above all, present our body as a living sacrifice to God. Only then will we be in a position to hear the Lord when He speaks to us. When we notice an exhortation in the New Testament we are to pray that God will give us the wisdom and strength to obey the writer.
Until a significant number of Christians in America actually do these things, God's hand of protection will be removed from our country.
And there shall be no escape in an unscriptural "rapture"!
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
The Choice Is YoursChrist is ready to remove the bondages of sin from His people. If you truly want to be delivered from your sinful nature, He will work with you until you have been set free. The choice is yours.
We knew it had to come some day. There is no way in which we can continue to sin when we are with God in Heaven, or when we are following Christ on the white war stallions as He descends to install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
There is no way in which we can continue to sin after we have been raised from the dead.
At some point we must be delivered from our sinful nature.
Daniel tells us that God is going to make an end of sin. Matthew informs us that at the end of the age Christ will send out His angels (messengers) and weed out of His Kingdom everything that causes sin, that is, the sinful nature of man.
I think we Christians need to think more about the inappropriateness of sin in the Kingdom of God.
We have been taught that Christ cannot, or will not, remove our sinful natureat least while we still are alive on the earth. But there is no Scripture to support this view. However, there is Scripture to support the idea that under the new covenant we can put to death the deeds of the sinful nature.
All sin must go. All sin must be removed from the Kingdom of God. All my sin and all your sin must be removed from the Kingdom. Otherwise, life in the Paradise of God will be denied to us.
I guess we have considered sin to be an endless amount of evil in our personalities. This is not the case. Sin is a finite number of nasty little desires that keep us from righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Be assured that the mighty Christ has enough authority and power to remove your sinful nature and my sinful nature.
The key to the complete removal of the sinful nature, the compulsions to sin that dwell in the members of our body according to the Apostle Paul, is our desire and willingness to permit the work of redemption to progress past forgiveness to release from sinful compulsions. Christ came to destroy, not forgive, the works of the devil.
The Kingdom of God does not consist of people who merely have been forgiven, but people who have been forgiven and then delivered from the compulsions of sin.
The key, as I said, is our desire and willingness to be released. This means giving up all of our sinful tendencies.
There may be Christians who, like their Lord, love righteousness and hate iniquity. Like the Apostle Paul, they are groaning for the day when they will receive a body that is free from sinful tendencies.
Then there may be Christians who are not overly concerned about their sinful nature. To them, salvation primarily is escape from Hell and residence in Heaven. They love the teaching that faith and grace are their alternative to righteous behavior.
They trust that when the Lord comes they will receive a body like the Lord's and with Him govern the nations of the earth. Yet, their heart is not right. They are not convinced that sin is evil. They have never denied themselves, taken up their cross, and set out after the Master. They want to go to Heaven, but they want to go there just as they are.
If the Bible taught that they will be changed in personality when they die, or when the Lord comes, they might have hope that when the Lord appears they suddenly will become righteous. But the Bible teaches that when the Lord returns He will hold them to account for their behavior, as in the parable of the talents.
We all have a sinful nature. We were born with a sinful nature. We never asked to be born with a sinful nature. We inherited our sinful, rebellious nature from Adam and Eve, through one of the three sons of Noah.
God does not condemn us for having a sinful nature. How could He? We did not ask to be bound with moral chains, with a compulsive desire to sin.
When we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, God will not condemn us for having a sinful nature. Rather, our judgment will be based on what we did about it.
There are Christians to whom the news that Christ is ready to work with us in the release of our sinful nature will be the best news they have ever heard. They will go to the Lord immediately to discover how the program works.
Then there may be Christians, hopefully very few in number, who will behave arrogantly. They will declare that if Christ wants to deliver them, they won't stop Him. They are waiting to go to Heaven in an unscriptural "rapture." They are sure that God doesn't see their behavior because of His mercy, grace, and unconditional love.
They will continue in their sinful bondages until they die. Then they will be placed in the spirit realm, there to await the Day of Resurrection, at which time they will receive the rewards to be given to careless believers. They assuredly will not be raised from the dead and transformed, when the Lord returns, because they have not taken the prerequisite steps, the steps of moral deliverance that are available now.
They have not been living in close interaction with the Lord. They have not been watching Him carefully. Now He is moving in a fresh way and they will be caught off guard. They have not been watching, as He warned us to do.
The key is your heart. Do you really want to be set free from all behavior that displeases God?
If so, go to the Lord right now. If you think back over the last month you will notice that the Holy Spirit already has been dealing with you concerning some aspect of your love for the world, the lusts and passions of your flesh and soul, or your self-will and personal ambitions.
Get down before the Lord and confess these behaviors as sin. Confess only those things you actually have done or said, not what you have been tempted to do or have imagined.
Name your action as clearly and specifically as you can. Tell the Lord that by His grace you denounce and renounce this action. Tell Him that with His help you never again will behave in this manner.
It is an eternal judgment against Satan. It will not be brought up again at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Try it and see! It can't hurt and it might help. We are in a new day, in the time of the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement.
It had to come sooner or later if the Lamb is to have a bride without spot or wrinkle.
It is God's time now to put an end to sin. Are you ready for this? Go to the Lord and ask Him about it. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:41)
Heaven Thinking to Kingdom ThinkingThe concept of the redemption of the mortal body is key to our transition from Heaven thinking to Kingdom thinking.
For two thousand years, it appears, the Christian churches have been occupied with getting people to their eternal home in Heaven. Now, as the return of the Lord draws near, we see that the Bible does not speak about our gaining eternal residence in Heaven but about our living once again on the earth.
What a shift this is in our thinking! How long do you suppose it will be before Christians are oriented toward the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth? Yet, this is what we pray for in the Lord's prayer.
I have stated on numerous occasions that the culprit seems to be the philosophy of Gnosticism. Gnosticism, which was taught during the time of the Apostle Paul, stresses the value of the spirit realm, holding the physical realm to be worthless or evil. Of course, Gnosticism denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.
Much of our current teaching in the Christian churches reveals the influence of Gnosticism, when we maintain that the important thing is to make the right profession of Christ, and then we will go to Heaven regardless of how we behave on earth in our body.
When God created the physical realm He stated that it was very good. This includes the physical bodies that He created. However, bodily immortality was lost to man when Adam and Eve disobeyed God.
The central purpose of the Christian salvation is to restore bodily immortality to people so they can live once again on the earth. Our goal, if it is to be scriptural, is that of serving Christ in such a manner that when Jesus returns and raises our body from its place of interment, He will see fit to transform our body until we are like Him.
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. Through Adam we lost the earth. We forfeited that which God had assigned to us. Instead of destroying us, God sent our bodies back to the dust and preserved our spiritual nature until the Redeemer would come and make an atonement for our sin.
The atonement has been made, and the next step is to deliver us from our sinful nature and form eternal life in us. We receive eternal life as we eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood. This we do every time we choose to obey the Lord rather than to follow the compulsions of our sinful nature.
As soon as we have been delivered from our sinful nature, and Christ has been formed in us, we are ready for the transformation of our body into the image of Christ's body.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is physical death, meaning that every other enemy in us must be destroyed before we are eligible to receive immortality.
Not only are we in the process of changing our goal from eternal residence in Heaven to attaining to the transformation of our body until it is like Christ's body, but in addition we are beginning to understand what eternal life is.
I suppose that we ordinarily think of eternal life as living forever. Since time does not seem to be the same in the spirit realm as it is on earth at the present time, living forever may not have the same meaning as it does to us now.
Actually, eternal life is not referring to duration of existence. Eternal life is a kind of life. It is the very Life of God. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is eternal Life. To have eternal Life means we have the Substance and Virtue of Christ in us. We have become partakers of the Divine Nature.
As of now we live, move, and have our being in the life of flesh and blood. In the Kingdom of God we live, move, and have our being in the Life of God, that is, in the Holy Spirit.
Our goal is to attain to eternal life, the Life of God, in body, soul, and spirit.
At the present time we have a small portion of eternal life. The portion that we now have is a guarantee of the fullness that is to come in the Day of Redemption.
The Day of Redemption includes the destruction of our sinful nature, the forming of Christ in us, untroubled rest in the Center of God's Person and will, and finally, at the return of Christ, the raising of our flesh and bones from the ground and the clothing of us with a body like that of Christ.
The new house from Heaven that will clothe our resurrected flesh and bones will be fashioned from the manner in which we sow our present body. If we sow our present body to our sinful nature by yielding to its compulsions, then instead of a glorious robe of Divine Life we will be clothed with the corruption the proceeds from our own sinful nature.
If, however, we sow our present body to the Holy Spirit, turning aside from the lusts of our sinful nature and obeying the Spirit in all things, we will be clothed with eternal life in the Day of Resurrection.
The conclusion is, our goal, like the Apostle Paul, is to attain to the resurrection unto eternal life, the resurrection that will result in the transformation of our body until it is like Christ's own body. We attain to that resurrection as Paul says, by learning to live each day in resurrection power, and also by sharing the sufferings of Christ as we are conformed to His death on the cross.
In order to attain to the resurrection that is unto eternal life we have to cooperate with the Spirit of God until our sinful nature has been destroyed and Christ has been formed in us.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
Interaction With the LordFaith is moment by moment interaction with the living God. The purpose of the commandments, both Old Testament and New, is to bring us to this interaction.
It appears that under both the old covenant and the new covenant, many of God's people cannot seem to find God's heart.
Why is this? It is because the Jews and the Christians have turned what is to be fellowship with God into a manmade religion.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)
King David, under the old covenant, knew the Lord and had fellowship with Him. The Apostle Paul, under the new covenant, knew the Lord and had fellowship with Him.
But numerous Jews under the old covenant did not know the Lord. Their prophets denounced their behavior. So did the Lord Jesus. The descendants of Abraham strained out gnats and swallowed camels.
Consider the manner in which God had fellowship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God spoke to them from time to time and they obeyed God.
The exodus of the Jews from Egypt and their pilgrimage through the wilderness Sinai remains one of the greatest interventions of God in world history. But during the wilderness wandering, and after their occupation of Canaan, the Jews did not serve God satisfactorily.
Sometimes it seemed as though their prophets, and very few others, were the only Jews who served the Lord. The rest did not walk with God or even know the Lord. Yet, the Jews are God's chosen people.
The same has been true of Christians. The writings of the Apostle Paul reveal that the churches of his day contained many members who did not know the Lord. They were yielding to their sinful nature, and Paul warned them they would not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The Jews used elaborations of the Law to avoid having to practice righteous behavior. In place of fellowship with God they tithed herbs. They neglected judgment, mercy, and faith. Today the Law-keeping Jew may refrain from throwing a light-switch on the Sabbath, or push the button on an elevator. Their religion tells them they are practicing righteousness by observing the Sabbath in this manner. But those who walk with God realize that this is not what God meant by keeping the Sabbath.
The Lord Jesus knew God and walked with God. But He healed on the Sabbath, causing no small amount of consternation and anger on the part of the leaders of the Jews. They could not see that Christ was keeping the spirit of the Sabbath commandment when He healed on the Sabbath, because the religious leaders knew their religion but they did not know God.
It is so today. How many Christians know the Lord? How many walk with God and have fellowship with Him?
There are millions of Christians in the United States who are waiting for an unscriptural "rapture." If they were hearing from God they would realize the "rapture" teaching did not come from the Lord.
There are millions of Christians in the United States who believe that because they have "accepted" Christ it is not absolutely necessary that they behave righteously. They have been taught that because they are "under the blood" (an unscriptural phrase) God "sees their behavior through Christ" (another unscriptural expression).
Why can the pastors, evangelists, and other believers be deceived in this manner? It is because they do not know the Lord. They think faith is belief in a system of theology. The truth is, both religion and theology often are deadly enemies of Jesus Christ.
Let us consider faith for a moment. What is faith? The expression "the just shall live by faith" is one of the tenets of Protestantism. "Faith" is defined as belief in a theological position.
Actually, the Scripture itself defines faith. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is a lengthy definition of the meaning of "the just shall live by faith."
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews has little to do with theology or with religion. It is a record of people to whom the Lord spoke and who obeyed the Lord, often when their obedience caused them to suffer.
Let us take Enoch, for example. Enoch is one of the heroes of faith. Enoch walked with God, and God removed him from the earth.
Enoch walked with God. There is no record that Enoch observed any religious ritual. He was unaware of the Law of Moses. He was unaware of the Jesus Christ and the new covenant. But Enoch is used as an example of "the just shall live by faith."
We do not know of any Christian whom God removed from the earth because of his faith. Yet, "faith" is supposed to be the distinguishing mark of the new covenant.
What was there about Enoch that was special, and that revealed true faith?
It is summed up in this: "Enoch walked with God."
From every standpoint, the new covenant is vastly superior to the Law of Moses. We have a better Sacrifice. We have the Holy Spirit. We have the born-again experience. We have the Old Testament and the New Testament to read and meditate in. We have the ministries and gifts of the Spirit.
Enoch had none of these. But Enoch walked with God, and God took him because of his faith.
Perhaps what we call faith is different from the faith of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
The truth is, faith is a moment by moment interaction with the Lord Jesus Christ, and God through Him. All covenants, all commandments, all religious activities, have, or ought to have, as their objective, to bring us to a moment by moment interaction with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Everything we do in church in every service should be directed toward bringing the believer to a moment by moment interaction with the Lord Jesus Christ. If our activities do not have this objective, they are not building faith in us.
How wonderful, how utterly marvelous, it is to bring Jesus into every aspect of our life. Our job, our school, our work around the house, our family life, from the time we get up in the morning until we go to sleep at night should find us looking to Jesus; looking to Jesus; looking to Jesus constantly.
The problem that concerns you right nowhave you spoken to Jesus about it?
That sin that keeps cropping up in your behavior until you are ashamedhave you spoken to Jesus about it?
Your plans for an educationhave you spoken to Jesus about them?
That boy or girl, man or woman, that you are fantasizing about to the point of idolatryhave you spoken to Jesus about him or her?
Your concerns about your healthhave you spoken to Jesus about them?
Your plans for your ministryhave you spoken to Jesus about them?
I do not mean you have decided what to do and then have asked Christ to bless your activities; I mean have you asked for His opinion?
Your plans to make moneyhave you asked the Lord if He wants you to be spending so much time and effort on this project?
That thing you desire so intenselyhave you asked the Lord if it will bring you lasting joy?
Why are you rushing about in your haste to get what you want, when you do not know if it is the Lord's will? Why do you not know if it is the Lord's will? Is it because you are running so fast you do not have time enough, or quietness of spirit enough, to know what He is saying?
Being saved, being a Christian, does not mean you have tacked church attendance on your busy schedule. It means rather that you are learning to have fellowship with Christ. Every aspect of your life, without exception, is to be discussed with Him. If there is something you are doing or thinking about that you are not discussing with Him, then you are not living as a true friend of Christ.
Jesus is intensely interested in you and in all that you doin absolutely all that you do. There is no part of your daily life that is too small or too large for the Lord to be interested in.
The Bible exhorts us to enter the rest of God. The rest of God is that state of being where you are flowing with the Life of God. Much experience is required before we find ourselves resting in God's vision for our life. But we can begin today by turning over all that we are and do to the Lord Jesus.
Moment by moment interaction with the living Jesusthis is the true Christian faith, the true Christian experience. Religion and theology serve a useful purpose only when they bring us to a daily interaction with Christ. When they become important ends in themselves, they lead us away from Jesus and have the potential to make us adversaries of Jesus.
Seek continual fellowship with the Lord. Walk with God, as did Enoch. This is what God desires. But He has a hard time getting people to understand His simple, straightforward request.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
See, he is puffed up; his desires are not uprightbut the righteous will live by his faith(Habakkuk 2:4)
Knowing God's WillThere are three signs of God's will: what we are doing is not contrary to the Scripture; we have a deeply settled joy and peace; the circumstances are in agreement. When one of these three is not in evidence we need to go to the Lord to find out why.
It is not easy to find God's will, even when we want to know it.
I have found the following three criteria to be helpful:
What we are doing or plan to do must not be contrary to the New Testament.
When we think about what we are doing or plan to do, there must be a deeply settled joy and peace. Sometimes we are driven by fear, duty, our ambition, by what other people think we should do. If we do not feel good about it, if there is dread or fear present, it probably is not the Lord's will.
Of course there are times when we dread doing something we truly believe is the Lord's will for us. After we have prayed, the Lord will give us grace to forge ahead. But sooner or later there will be peace and joy.
The third evidence we should look for is the agreement of the circumstances. It is true that God may lead us in a path that seems to go against our present circumstances. But if we keep praying, we may notice that little by little our environment begins to agree with what we are hearing from God.
You remember that Eliezer agreed that the girl God had chosen would water his ten camels. Rebekah did just that.
If there are a number of circumstances that God must change if His will is to be clear, watch out for that tenth camel. Sometimes nine camels will be watered immediately. There are occasions when everything will fall into place except one circumstance. It just won't yield. Don't force it. It may be that tenth camel is God's way of delaying or preventing your action.
Did you ever put together a jigsaw puzzle? Do you remember how you took up a piece that almost fit, but not quite? Do you recall the temptation to force it just a little, thinking maybe the manufacturer of the puzzle had made a mistake?
So it is when you are waiting for that last item to fall into place. Don't force it. God moves in a broad, objective manner. The stars in their courses fight for Sisera, so to speak. Wait until circumstances demonstrate the will of God.
There are exception to this, but be very careful when you find yourself forcing people and circumstances.
When a believer get off the track, it usually because of some subjective experience he or she has had, some inner word or feeling, or a prophetic utterance in his own mind and heart. God is objective in His dealings. The physical world responds to God's will. Noah opened the door and the animals came over the hill where other people could see them. This is the way it is when God moves.
God does not direct you to do something that is contrary to the New Testament. You always are welcome to test the spirits. God will never reprove you for questioning a voice or spirit, because the Bible commands you to test the spirits, God will not rebuke you for this nor will He be offended. You will need to know this in the days to come.
I like to think of God's will as a huge truck. You can kick the tires. It is real, solid, substantial. Too many of God's people are like wizards. They love the supernatural and peep and mutter. There is a desire to be a witch, to show one's spiritual power by offering words of knowledge.
In our church we discourage the giving of words of knowledge except when other spiritual people are present, usually elders. Pentecostal people slide into witchcraft if they are not careful. The faith, prosperity, speaking creative words, and imaging doctrines are too close to witchcraft.
The most desirable of all states of being to which an individual can attain is that of rest in God's will. How we have to fight to enter God's perfect will! It is a continual battle.
Satan, our flesh and soul, our desire for preeminence and success, the Antichrist world spiritall struggle to distract us from doing God's perfect will.
Some are teaching that to say "Your will be done" when we pray for the sick is to show lack of faith, or to prevent the speaking of a creative word. Such are incorrect. Every prayer must be presented as "Your will be done." Do we want something that is not God's will? Do we really want God to heal someone when it is not His will?
We are never to "step out in faith" unless directed to do so by the Lord.
The only way we can find God's will is by denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following the Lord Jesus. We must present our body to God as a living sacrifice. When we do not take up our personal cross, Satan can deceive us. Our personal cross is our protection against deception. We are deceived when we try to strive to be happy and without problems in the present world. We are in the safest place when we rejoice with trembling.
Our goal is to arrive at the state where God's greatest desire for us is our greatest desire. To live in such a condition is to dwell in the power of Christ's resurrection, and also to share His sufferings. Day by day we pray that we may be in that perfect will, that perfect rest of God.
All of our religious activities, all that we do in church, are for the purpose of bringing us into God's perfect will.
"All there is, is now," the Lord said to me on one occasion. Those who feel they could never do God's perfect will need to think about the "now."
Can you do God's will right this minute? Of course you can, if you pray for strength and wisdom.
Five minutes from now there will be another "now." You will find that when you get there, Divine grace will be present to enable you to do God's will.
But how about tomorrow? Tomorrow is another "now." When you arrive, Jesus will be there to enable you to do God's perfect will.
And so on, and on, and on from one "now" to the next.
Satan discourages us by urging us to look at tomorrow. But there is no grace for tomorrow, only for "now." If you will live in the "now," you will find that you always can do God's perfect will.
Doing God's will is entirely possible for every believer. You can do it. You must do it if you expect to have God's blessing on your life. Why should you suffer all sorts of problems and pains when you could be rejoicing in the Lord?
Also, you will die some day. If you expect to be greeted by a joyful Christ you must do God's will.
"But," some may object, "I won't be happy if I do God's will."
Do you think those who rebel against God are happy?
There were three crosses on the hill. God was crucified. The saved man was crucified. The unsaved man was crucified. Everyone is crucified because the present world is under the Divine curse. So if you are going to suffer anyway, why not let your sufferings drive you into Christ so you will receive profit from them?
God's commandments are not grievous. It is a joy to live in God's will. Otherwise we always have that nagging feeling in the back of our mind, wondering what would happen were we to die suddenly without an opportunity to make things right.
Why not live in God's wonderful will at all times. Then you will have the best possible life on earthand Heaven too!
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godthis is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1,2)
God Knows What He Is DoingGiven that God has all power, when we fret and complain about conditions in the world we are rebelling against God. Doesn't God know what He is doing?
As we all know, there is a lot of evil in the world.
The Bible tells us that the evil comes from a cherub who is called Satan, and from other spiritual dignitaries who at one time rebelled against God
The weapons of our warfare, therefore, are not physical. They are prayer, faith in God's Word, courage, and faithfulness.
As we see the spiritual darkness increasing, the immorality and violence, we are tempted to fret and complain. If we are not careful, we soon are torn down from our high place in Christ while we think of ways to resist or even avenge ourselves on people who do evil things.
When we keep in mind that people are only vehicles for evil spirits, it makes it easier for us to forgive the people and wait until God is ready to execute vengeance on Satan and his helpers.
The big question, of course, is, Why does God permit evil to fill the world? If God knows what is going on, and has the power to prevent it, why doesn't He do something about it? Why does He allow little children to starve to death while wicked adults lie on the beach sipping their wine?
I know that people often wonder about the reality of a loving God, given the sordid, tragic, sometimes horrible conditions that exist in the world.
I think the first thing we need to consider is physical death. When someone is murdered or dies for some other reason, we exclaim, "How terrible!" When a ten-year-old child dies from leukemia, it seems like a tragedy beyond all tragedies.
The truth is, the individual passes into the spirit realm. They may disappear from our sight, but they are very much alive in a place we cannot see as yet. We can be sure that when the ten-year-old child dies, he or she enters a much more pleasant environment than he or she has experienced on the earth. Actually the parents are the ones who suffer, not the child.
When a wicked person dies, that is another matterparticularly if he has had a chance to receive Christ and has rejected Him. He also is alive in the spirit world, but he may be in torment.
There may be much bloodshed in the future, including in America. We need to not panic when we read of many people dying at the hands of terrorists. Those who have lived righteous lives are with God. The wicked will be placed appropriately in terms of their personality and behavior.
In any case, the dead are no worse off than the living and, in many instances, are in far more joyous circumstances.
We Americans need to be prepared for the future in terms of people dying, and it may help us to know they have not gone anywhere, they just have become invisible to us.
Why does God permit Satan, his, angels and his demons, to run amuck in the earth? Why is our world so often a place of intense suffering? Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked are exalted? Why is there so much injustice and perversity?
In any endeavor, it often is true that hardship is required before a desired end is achieved. For instance, a person with a serious disease or disability may be required to endure painful medical treatment or strenuous therapy if health and mobility are to be gained.
An individual starting a small business may have to make many sacrifices before achieving stability and turning a profit.
There are instances in life where we have to accept all kinds of problems in order to reach our objective. To gain Christ we must share His sufferings. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him each day. Isn't this so?
The important consideration is, is there some desirable goal that is making our pain worthwhile? If there is, then we cling to our vision until we arrive at our objective. If there is no desirable goal in front of us, then our suffering is meaningless to usan unnecessary harassment.
God has a goal. It is an extremely desirable goal. It is to build a kingdom that will govern His creation forever. The new Jerusalem is the headquarters of the Kingdom of God. The Throne of God is in the holy city.
When God makes everything new, including the sky and the earth, it will be governed by the saints who compose the new Jerusalem. Then Satan, his angels, and his demons, will be confined. There will be no wicked people in the new world of righteousness. As a result, there will be no more pain, no more death. All will be righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
How will God be able to develop such a worldwide paradise? He can't just come to the earth and tell people what to do. He did come to earth two thousand years ago, and wicked people killed Him.
We must keep in mind that God is infinitely wiser than we are. But we know He is good. He is righteous. He is faithful.
In the beginning, God created two people. They were naked. It is a shame to be naked, according to the Scriptures. Why did God leave His first two people in a shameful condition?
Why did God place a forbidden tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of His eternal moral law?
Why did God then leave Adam and Eve alone so they would have an opportunity to learn of their nakedness and thus be cut off from fellowship with God?
Did God know what would happen? Did God care? Did God know that He was setting in motion thousands of years of agony?
Yes, He did. The Lamb was slain from the creation of the world.
In order for God to bring into being a kingdom, a holy city that would govern all the works of His hands, He had to create people who would become a counterpart of His Son. These people would have to be in the moral image of Christ, the outward image of Christ, and be living in untroubled rest in the Center of God's Person and will, along with the Lord Jesus Christ.
To be in the image of Christ, these people must learn to love righteousness and hate iniquity. They must be warlike, able to overcome all enemies arrayed against them.
Those who overcome will be God's sons and will inherit all that God has made new in Christ.
These sons of God must have a strong immune system that will always prevail against sin. In order for that immune system to be created, the sons had to be infected with sin. Then God furnished the Antibody, the body and blood of Christ. Whoever receives that Antibody has within him that which will provide an immunity against sin.
Innocent people cannot serve as a counterpart of the Lion of Judah. Innocent people are like human beings with no immune system. They are healthy until they are exposed to the virulence of sin.
Now you can understand why Adam and Eve were left in a naked condition and exposed to temptation. Now you can understand why God permits evil to flourish in the world. It is the only manner by which God can create people capable of bringing and maintaining Paradise.
Innocent people always will lose Paradise. Paradise can be enjoyed by all righteous people, but it must be brought into the earth and maintained by holy people who through Christ have overcome Satan and his helpers.
All of this being true, we can see that we are not being wise when we fret about the evil in the world. God knows exactly what He is doing.
We are in a world that is spiritually dark. This is why Jesus cautioned us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one." If we will pray each day for God to deliver us from the temptations of Satan, we will avoid a great deal of trouble; but not all trouble, however, because we must be chastened if we are to learn righteousness.
Do not fret over the injustice in the world. Fretting will tear you down from you high place in God. Satan may not be able to deceive you into sinning against God. But if he can get you to fret, he has harmed you spiritually.
Trust God and look to Him. If you do, your eyes will be opened and you will see that His Glory fills the whole earth.
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Isaiah 46:10)
And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory. (Isaiah 6:3)
Power and ActionReligion tends to be subjective and consists mainly of words. God is solidly objective and is characterized by power and action.
In the beginning God existed with His angels in a spirit realm. Then God created the physical, or material, realm.
God called His new realm "very good."
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morningthe sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)
Apparently there are some Eastern religions and philosophies, particularly Gnosticism, that regard the physical realm as evil and the spiritual realm as good.
This is backwards from the biblical point of view.
Evil originated in the spirit realm around the Throne of God in Heaven. Evil came down from Heaven to the earth, which before this had been "very good." Even today we wrestle against spirit dignitaries in heavenly places. Also we are afflicted with demons which harass us continually, both in our body and also in our mind and emotions.
We Christians do not realize it, but the Eastern emphasis on that which is spirit and mental has heavily influenced our beliefs. For example, we conceive of John 3:16 as meaning that when we die we will go to live forever in the spirit Paradise. This is not the meaning of John 3:16. This verse, so well known to Christians, means that through the Lord Jesus Christ we will regain immortality so we can live once again on the earth.
I find that believers have difficulty conceiving of the fact that we will be raised from the dead so we can live once again on the earth. They think the purpose of the resurrection is so we can go to Heaven. You know, this makes no sense. We go to Heaven by dying physically, not by being resurrected physically.
The Lord Jesus came to restore life and immortality. The life He restores is His Life in us, including the destruction of our sinful nature. The immortality Christ restores is the robe of eternal life that will clothe the resurrected flesh and bones of those who have attained His Life in their inward nature.
This seems so biblical, so simple and plain to me, that I have a hard time understanding why others sometimes find it difficult to understand.
I see no evidence in the Book of Genesis that Adam and Eve had spiritual life when they were created. Spiritual life is Christ, and there is no record that Adam and Eve had Christ in them. As far as I can see, they were living souls. They had a human spirit, a human soul, and a flesh and blood body.
It is my belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life and the only tree of life. Had Adam and Eve eaten of the Tree of Life they would have gained inward spiritual life and also immortality.
By eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which in my opinion also is the Lord Jesus Christ inasmuch as He is the Word of God, that is, the knowledge of what is good and what is evil, Adam and Eve discovered that they were naked. But since they had not eaten of the Tree of Life, they had no spiritual covering, the covering of Christ that we enjoy.
If God had wanted us to be spirits living in a spirit world, as the angels do, that is where He would have created us. But we are not angels, we are sons of God. We are in the image of God. The earth was created as our home, and God tells us it is very good.
Notice how Satan likes to walk around in the earth. This is because the earth is a better place than the spirit realm.
Since we are drawing near to the coming of the Lord, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is being emphasized by the Holy Spirit. The answer to the Lord's prayer is at hand. God's Kingdom is coming to the earth. His will shall be done in the earth as it is in Heaven.
The earth is the Lord's along with all its resources. It is true also that all the creatures of the earth, including people, belong to the Lord. Until we grasp the earth-centeredness, the physical centeredness, of the Kingdom of God we will not be able to understand the Bible.
The Kingdom of God is all that is worthy in Heaven clothed with a physical form.
Our goal is not Heaven, our goal is to find our place with Christ in the Center of God's Person and will so we can live in an appropriate manner on the earth.
The reason we desire to go to Heaven is that Paradise is there. It was on the earth, and now is in Heaven. This is where the Tree of Life is at the present time.
But the Tree of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, is about to return to the earth. When He does, Paradise will be here. It is Paradise we are longing for. When Paradise returns to the earth, this is where the desire of our heart will be.
The problem at the present time is not Paradise or its location. The problem is our sinful nature, including our desire to follow our own will rather than the will of God. Paradise will not be restored to the earth until there are at least some believers who, through Christ, have overcome their sinful nature and are dwelling in untroubled rest in the will of God.
Can you say Amen to that?
From here on out, the Christian agenda will have to do with the destroying of our sinful nature and our learning to abide in God's will. This is the program now, and the Holy Spirit is making it possible for us to move with God in this direction.
Our religion, which has been largely subjective, consisting mainly of words, is now moving into the physical realm, that is, into our conduct. There will be a great increase in the visible, substantial power and action of God as He begins to make the enemies of Christ His footstool.
Christ is the Good Shepherd of the Twenty-third Psalm. Now Christ is coming to us as the Lordstrong and mighty in battle, of the Twenty-fourth Psalm.
We are accustomed to a subjective, verbal religion, for the most part. The previous century, the Pentecostal century, saw our verbal religion evolve into dramatic, emotional involvement. Speaking in tongues, which is neither subjective nor mentally verbal, is our entrance into the rest of God. The rest of God is that place of abiding in God's perfect will as He exercises it in the earth.
Because of the current emphasis on the coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead, we will see more activity in our services. In our own assembling, as hymns are sung, the young people wave banners. Sometimes they march around the church, holding up the banners. I have become so accustomed to this that I cannot conceive of people just sitting and singing hymns without the banners up in front expressing the vitality and aggressiveness of the worship.
We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. (Psalms 20:5)
I don't know where it will go from here, but I expect the praise and worship will become even more energetic, perhaps spiritually violent.
Years ago I was involved in choir direction. But a robed choir just does not meet our needs anymore. Once you experience the new strong choruses about the Kingdom and righteousness, accompanied by the great banners and the marching, you will see what I mean when I say the church choir is soon to pass away. At least, that is how I perceive it.
Also, we do not do musical specials. We do have excellent singers who perform during the offering, but that is it. Sometimes a group of young people will sing during the Sunday evening offering.
Choirs and specials tend to be programs that entertain the people. But the congregation is not involved. We need more congregation involvement if the members of the Body of Christ are to exercise their ministries and build up themselves and the other members. They are not going to do this while the choir is singing or people are performing musical "specials."
I have been involved in music during much of my life, so I do not speak lightly about this subject.
Getting back to the idea of religion being subjective, be very careful about revelations or special words that you get. Satan is active in that realm. When you doubt something you have "heard" is from the Lord, ask God to bring it into the objective physical realm. People become deceived when they depend too much on their personal words or prophecies. God is the God of the whole earth. When He speaks the rooster crows. The stars in their courses fight against Sisera.
God is much more of the earth and of earth's peoples than the Christian churches seem to understand. God is in control of this earth, even though it is filled with evil. As soon as God has accomplished His purposes in the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ will return with His faithful saints and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Jesus Christ is real, substantial, the perfect Human Being. He is flesh and bones, as well as being robed with Divinity. He is both Son of Man and Son of God.
Christ is making each member of His Bride, son of Man and son of God. We are to be like Him in every respect. This is our calling as members of God's elect.
Do not let yourself be discouraged. If you follow Jesus Christ faithfully you will inherit all the works of God's hands. Your future is alight with splendor, even though in the present hour you may be suffering afflictions and tribulations.
Your suffering will come to an end, once you have persevered, and God will establish, settle, and strengthen you. He who called you is absolutely faithful.
Get ready for your Lord, whom you have worshiped all these years, to appear and prepare you for immortality on this present earth, and later on a new, incredibly more glorious new earth.
He has kept the best wine until now.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (I Corinthians 4:20)
Absolute Authority and PowerThe Lord Jesus Christ has absolute authority and absolute power. Think of what it means to be His enemy! Think of what it means to be His friend!
There have been rulers in the world who have had great authority and power. King Xerxes, mentioned in the Book of Esther, was one such monarch. King Nebuchadnezzar was another. However, no emperor who has lived on the earth has approached Jesus Christ in authority and power.
Not only does Christ have all authority in Heaven and on the earth, He also upholds the universe by the word of His power.
We may think of the Lord Jesus as a man of average height, clothed in a white robe. He can appear in this manner if He desires to. Or He could appear in the fullness of His majesty. But this would do us no good for we could not bear to behold such Divine Glory.
Remember, Jesus Christ, the Word, created all things. This includes the angels, the cherubim including Satan himself, as well as the physical universe. Such power is incomprehensible.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, (Colossians 1:15-19)
Xerxes could not make such claims. Nebuchadnezzar could not make such claims. Cyrus the great could not make such claims.
We of today often look for metaphysical principles that will "work." We want to be our own savior, so to speak. If we are angry we have this physical problem. If we do not forgive people we have that physical problem. By forgiving people and not being angry we can heal ourselves. Who needs the Lord!
But the Lord Jesus is not a metaphysical principal. He is the living Source of all authority and power. When we call on Him He answers prayer. We do not try to exercise faith, or positive thinking, or positive speaking. We call on the Lord. Then He moves His hand and we receive forgiveness, wisdom, a miraclewhatever is needed.
Have you ever called on the Lord?
We perceive the Christ of the Twenty-third Psalm as a gentle Shepherd who watches over His sheep with kindly concern. Jesus indeed is this.
But then there is the Christ of the Twenty-fourth Psalm. We of today may not be acquainted with this Christ. He may be new to us. He is the King of Glory. He is the Lordstrong and mighty in battle.
Who is this fierce Commander of battle? He certainly does not resemble anyone we have ever associated with the gentle Jesus. Who is this that crushes His enemies until the blood runs for 180 miles to the height of the horses' bridles?
We would expect Jesus to be a gentle person, perhaps wearing a warrior's helmet that looks awkward on Him. He is not! When He is a shepherd He is all shepherd. When He is a warrior He is all warrior.
All animals were created by the Lord Jesus. Jesus created the lion. He Himself is known as the Lion of Judah. The ferocity of the lion was created by Jesus.
The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation refer to Jesus as the Lamb. God always prefers the meekness and gentleness of the Lamb. This is the finest portrayal of Christ, the characterization that will endure for eternity.
But there has been a rebellion in Heaven. Satan, and those who followed him, have set their will against the will of the Father. As in all cases of self-will, whether angelic or human, the poison works until horrors are produced.
The earth today is filled with inhuman actions, all of these reflecting the evil that resulted originally from Satan's rebellion. Rape, murder, thievery are common. Children are sold into prostitution. Infants are aborted. It is a wild carnage set to jungle drums. And it is going to get worsemuch worse than the inhabitants of Sodom at their deepest pits of degradation. Satan does not have much time left and he is going to make the most of the few days left to him.
We in America are soft when it comes to the judgment of criminals, reflecting Satan's hope that the Father will not be hard on him.
The Lord Jesus is not soft. He is patient, but not soft. As soon as the Father gives the Word, the almighty Christ will rise up and begin to avenge Himself on all who have destroyed the earth.
The murderers, the abusers of children, the adulterers, the liars, the thievesall who harm other people will be harmed. That which they have done shall be done to them. No mercy will be shown to those who have shown no mercy.
Nature shields us from prolonged pain. We fall unconscious. We sleep. We die. All of these permit us to escape pain.
In the spirit realm we cannot fall unconscious. We cannot sleep. We may seek death but it will elude us. There simply is no escape from pain.
The Lord told us that some will be beaten with few lashes; some with many. Paul informed us that some will be saved as by fire. I guess we think the lashes will not be real lashes and the fire will not burn us.
Because we are soft in America our preaching is soft. The unscriptural doctrine of the pre-tribulation "rapture" really appeals to Americans. If you couple the rapture teaching with grace as it is taught currently, you will attract Americans. Just think! "We can act as we please, and when the Lord returns we will be caught up to Heaven. Isn't grace wonderful! Jesus is too kind for words!"
And there will be good ol' Jesus to welcome us home. "Welcome, good and faithful servants. Enter my joy!"
But we have been neither good nor faithful, and the Muslims are filled with hatred toward America because the Christians have been neither good nor faithful.
If I am hearing the Lord correctly, we need to start preparing ourselves for hardships such as few Americans have experienced. Millions may die. The coming war against Iraq may not be over as quickly as we might hope.
I am as patriotic as the next person. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps during World War Two when I was seventeen years of age. But I will tell you one thing. It does not matter how powerful our military is; if God does not help us we are going to suffer.
The Father has given all authority and power to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ at His will can stop wars or permit them to take place. He can give victory to any country of His choice. He is able to intervene at any level of combat and protect or not protect. If we do go to war, the outcome is in the hands of the One who created the heavens and the earth.
I notice our government is not giving as much credit to God as was the case formerly. Oh there are occasional mentions of God, but there is a lot of resistance. It seems a substantial part of our citizenry have little faith in God, preferring to trust in the physical world, in things they can see. This is not good.
We can talk about abortion rights, freedom of speech, and homosexuality all we want to. We may think Jesus is agreeing with us, but He is not. Jesus is interested in righteous behavior, not in the theory of democracy or any other philosophy of government.
Aborting the development of a child is the same as throwing the infant in the fires of Molech. Killing children was wrong when Israel invaded Canaan, and killing children is still an abomination to God.
We may think free speech is wonderful. But the Book of James tells us that we need to discipline our tongue, and that sometimes it is set on fire by Hell. This certainly is the case with some of the things that are said in our country.
Whether we know it or not, if behavior is not governed by God's eternal moral laws, the laws that are in our conscience until it is warped by our culture, we are going to be punished. God is not interested in free speech when it violates His moral laws. We in America are in a pretty sad state when the mildest attempts to control some of the moral filth on the Internet is met with cries of outrage from civil libertarians. Even librarians, usually thought of as being decent people, have joined the rush to allow children to be exposed to witchcraft and all forms of lust and perversion.
As far as homosexuality, it is not a new alternative lifestyle. It probably is as old as man. It is one of the sins that is mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament states that for man to lie with man is detestable, and both of them must be killed. The New Testament declares that men who commit indecent acts with other men will receive in themselves the "due penalty for their perversion."
Americans are not entering some new enlightened age. Rather we are regressing to the sins that always have resulted in the destruction of strong countries.
The Lord Jesus can do anything He wants to at any time He chooses. He sits as "King of the flood," meaning that when there is confusion all around us, He brings us through safely when we place our trust in Him. I think there are difficult times ahead, and the person who learns to walk with Jesus will have a wonderful Friend to help him or her during times of danger and distress.
But woe! woe! woe to that individual who trusts in his money or education or physical strength to enable him to survive and help his family during the coming days, but who does not look to Christ to help him!
Woe! woe! woe to that nation that trusts in its armed forces, or looks to other countries for protection, and does not pray to God and give glory to Him. That nation, now so wealthy and powerful, will become a beggar among the nations of the world. It has gloried in its own strength. But, like Nebuchadnezzar, it will be humbled until it learns that it is God who lifts up one country and brings down another.
At one time we Americans gave glory to God. At one time the leaders of our various governmental bodies spoke reverently of our need of God's help. But no more. Now we are cynical. The individual who calls on the Lord for help is regarded as some kind of misfit.
I think we will learn better in the future.
Pride goes before a fall, it is said. So it will be true that America will be humbled at the hand of Jesus Christ; that is, if He is merciful toward us.
What a Friend we have in Jesus!
We are not wise if we ignore Him who holds all things in His nail-scarred hands. It may be that in our day of trouble He will not be ready to help us. Then what shall we, who are no more than intelligent dust, do to save ourselves? Where shall we go for help? Where shall we turn when our loved ones are in danger of being killed with poison, or viruses, or radiation?
I think we had better give some thought to these things before calamity falls on us.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Mark 28:18)
Fabulous PromisesThe believer who chooses to overcome through Christ all the forces that seek to prevent his doing the will of God shall inherit all things that God makes new. This is a promise so fabulous as to be beyond description.
Christianity has gotten to be a religion, in which salvation comes through the proper belief system. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. This is all there is to it.
Well, maybe there is an elementary, a basic salvation from wrath that comes from a profession of belief in Jesus Christ. It appears that such is the case.
However, the promises we ordinarily associate with being a Christian are addressed to the overcomer. He who overcomes will be able to eat from the Tree of Life. He who overcomes will receive the crown of life. He who overcomes will govern the nations with the rod of iron, and so forth.
Some are teaching that all there is to being an overcomer is to "accept Christ." However, I do not believe this position can be defended from a balanced interpretation of the New Testament. (I put "accept Christ" in quotation marks because it is not a scriptural expression.
For example, the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are addressed to "the seven churches in the province of Asia." I think we can assume by the expression "seven churches" that John is referring to people who have "accepted" Christ, according to our current usage of the term.
Yet, it is clear that the Lord, in these two chapters, is offering rewards to those of the believers who have behaved in a certain manner. No intelligent rendering of the two chapters would leave the reader with the impression that everyone in the seven churches is by virtue of being included in the churches, automatically an overcomer.
In fact, only individuals are addressed: "to him who overcomes," or "he who overcomes"; never "to them who overcome."
In no manner can the position that all who believe in Christ are therefore overcomers be defended from the New Testament.
This being the case, it is of great importance that we understand two facts: what it means to overcome; and that the rewards we ordinarily associate with being a Christian, including being raised from the dead when the Lord appears and receiving a glorified body, are given to the overcomers.
But what of those believers who do not live a victorious Christian life?
We know of the many severe warnings given by the Lord Jesus. All of them, such as being thrown into the outer darkness, and being beaten with lashes, have to do with the Lord's servants. The only warning to the unbelievers is that given to the "goats" from among the nations who are to be led away into the fiery Gehenna.
The Lord Jesus is stricter than He usually is portrayed, at least in the United States in the present hour. His demand that we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him is not always obeyed. Because we have little fear of God, we suppose that it does not matter whether we do what the Lord has said. We will be saved by grace and caught up to Heaven in an unscriptural "rapture."
We have been deceived, and our nation will suffer Divine judgment, perhaps in the near future. Then we Christians will be called on to suffer, just as Christians have from the first century.
It will be difficult to lead a victorious Christian life during the testings that are ahead of us, because of the chaos and danger. It is just as difficult today to lead a victorious Christian life, because of the multitude of distractions and the availability of sin.
What does it mean to overcome, and how is this different from "accepting" Christ and attending church?
To overcome is to resist, through Christ, involvement in the world system; the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul; and our desire to follow our own path, our own ambitions.
The Antichrist spirit of the world seeks to involve us in the frantic effort to acquire more and more money and material goods, to find our life in the possession of things.
The lusts and passions of our flesh and soul attempt to drive us into immoral, sinful behavior, such as adultery, fornication, rage, pride, covetousness, drunkenness, slander, and malice.
Our desire to follow our own path prevents us from obeying God strictly. We have numerous opportunities in America to do what we want. We usually are not constrained by the authorities. We can attend the church of our choice; select the educational opportunities that appeal to us; enter into business as it pleases us.
We are encouraged, in America, to be our own god; to be in control of our life; to speak and advocate what we will provided we do not break the law.
To say to such people that you are to present your body as a living sacrifice to God is to invite scorn and unbelief.
The overcomer keeps his or her involvement in the world to a minimum. He prays against and resists his sinful nature. When he falls into sin he confesses his sin and turns away from it. He seeks the mind of the Lord at all times and does not follow his own path.
The overcomers prays each day. He reads the Bible each day. He gathers together with fervent believers as often as possible.
(People from around the country tell me it is nearly impossible to find a fervent church. Almost exclusively the preaching is about grace, the rapture, and Heaven. Or the church may consist of several thousand people who often have needs of which the pastor knows little. In fact, the pastor may not know the larger part of the congregation. Unless there are capable small groups, there is no one to watch over the spiritual growth of the believers. When there are such small groups, they are the true churches.)
The victorious saint is just that. He lives in victory, interacting with the living Jesus several times a day. He is becoming one with the Lord just as the Lord is one with the Father. He is learning utter dependence on Jesus in every aspect of his life. No matter what the Lord requires of him, he is ready to obey. He has counted the cost in advance. There is no disobedience in him or her.
This is what it means to be a victorious saint, an overcomer. And the Lord keeps testing, prodding, and challenging each of His saints every day.
Being an overcomer is not a goal we reach, it is a way of life. We can overcome only for the moment. The past is forgotten. We do not have grace for the future. We are pressing on! Pressing on! Pressing on!
There is absolutely no diminishing or compromising of what I have just written. The gate is small and the way is constricted that lead to eternal life. Few find it.
What we have today is a great kingdom that has gathered in of every kind of person. But in the last days the messengers of God will remove from the Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
God will be the God of each believer who succeeds in living the victorious life. He or she will inherit all that God is making new in Jesus Christ.
This is a promise utterly beyond our imagination. The heavens, the earth, all who dwell on the earth, are the inheritance of the victors. Nothing they desire will be withheld from them. They can shape the universe as it pleases them.
There are promises in the Bible that are withheld from us, but they will be given to us after our schooling has been completed.
For example: "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
How often we struggle on year after year, and yet do not receive the desires of our heart. We thirst! We hunger! Yet the joy is withheld.
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life."
In God's Presence is fullness of joy.
The overcomer knows these promises. They may be deferred throughout his lifetime. It does no matter one whit. His treasures are in Heaven. If he receives in this life some of what he wants, fine. If he does not, fine. His eyes and hopes are fixed on the Lord Jesus.
When he is imprisoned in undesirable, boring circumstances, he endures to the end. He will never, never, never quit. For him to live is Christ and to die is gain.
When he stumbles, he gets back up on his feet and fights on. He accepts whatever punishment and chastening is sent his way.
This is what it means to overcome, and nothing, absolutely nothing less than this.
God is looking for a firstfruits today. The thrones have been prepared. There never will be another opportunity to acquire the best that God has to offer.
I am not speaking of being saved. Multitudes of people shall be saved from eternal firefar more than one would guess from today's preaching.
No, I am not referring to merely being saved from wrath. I am pointing toward the promise of sharing with the Lord Jesus Christ the thrones that govern the creation. I am envisioning shining as the stars forever.
God does things in such a lowly manner with lowly people that it is difficult for us to grasp the enormous significance of the Christian walk.
One time a Baby was born in a manger, and later a carpenter's Son walked along the roads of the city of Jerusalem. Who would have guessed that this was the God of Sinai, the Lord of the Hebrews?
Yet He was!
Isn't it just like our God to perform such a marvel! He receives the poor gladly while the arrogant are turned away.
The things that are highly esteemed by mankind are of little interest to God. God is with the lowly in heart, the poor in spirit.
Religion lifts up its ornate cathedrals; its embroidered robes; its professional anthems. Who would not be impressed at such a spectacle?
But the Greatest of all kings is with the outcasts.
In the not too distant future the values of the world will disappear and that which is of true worth shall appear. In that day those who have overcome the world, Satan, and their own lusts and ambitions, shall bring justice to the nations and to the meek of the earth.
The nations that are wise will kiss the Son, lest He be angry and they perish when His wrath is kindled but a little.
We will wait for our God. He will come and vindicate us. We will be eternally glad that we have waited for Him.
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." (Isaiah 25:9)
Transformed by the GloryWhen we look at the Glory of the Lord we are transformed. Can you imagine what we will be like when we have been with Jesus for a thousand years?
There is this about the Glory of the Lord. It transforms anyone who looks at it.
We know that Moses' face was transformed so that he had to wear a veil.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exodus 34:29,30)
Moses' face was radiant, so much so that the Israelites were afraid to come near him.
It often is true that Christians who are living in the Lord's will have a kind of glow on them. Yet this glow is attractive; it does not produce fear.
But the Glory of God is terrible in its utter holiness. There are some things that the flesh of man is not comfortable with, and the Glory of God is one of them.
God has told us that no man can see His face and live. He permitted Moses to see His back but not His face. Why is this? It is because our flesh and blood personality is not spiritually clean.
For one thing, we have guile in our personality as a result of our being "wounded in the heel," because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve. Being wounded in the heel means we cannot stand upright. We are filled with lying.
God does not lie. The only time God employs guile is when He is dealing with His enemies, including His enemies in us. Actually God is pure and transparent. There is no lie, no guile in Him.
Those who are privileged to be counted among the firstfruits to God and the Lamb have been through fires that have burned the lie, the guile out of them.
No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:5)
The Book of Revelation tells us that the inhabitants of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, will see the face of God. They have died to the adamic nature. The new nature in them is filled with Christ and therefore can see God and not die. In fact, they live in the very center of the Presence and will of the holy Fire of Israel.
The new covenant, in its finest sense, is the transforming of the believer as he contemplates the Glory of the Lord. The Spirit of Christ that we behold is the Glory of the Lord.
But where do we see the transforming Spirit of Christ? In many different places and in many different ways.
Sometimes we see the Glory of the Lord in an older saint who has been through the Divine fires. Maybe in a godly pastor as he proclaims what he has seen with the Lord.
Sometimes we see the Glory of the Lord when the Spirit illuminates the Scriptures.
Sometimes we gain glimpses of the Glory of the Lord when we are going through a difficult trial.
Sometimes we see the Glory of the Lord in a dream or vision.
Sometimes we see the Glory of the Lord when a miracle occurs, such as in a miraculous healing.
God does not display His Glory in a random, reckless manner. It is only as we consecrate ourselves to absolute obedience to Christ that we encounter, from time to time, the Glory of the Lord.
As we die, we live. And it is in this daily process of dying and living that we gain glimpses of the Glory of the Lord. Every time we do, part of our adamic nature dies and Christ is increased in us.
There is something about the Glory of the Lord that is so pure, so clean, so holy, so lovely, so far above the coarseness of our earthly existence that we are ennobled by it. It is a vision, a goal we desire to attain to. It is as high above us as the heavens are high above the earth. Our animal nature recoils, but our better nature realizes that this is our goalto attain to that superior character we occasionally see for a brief period.
Have you ever wondered why there will be a thousand-year period (whether literal or symbolic) between the next coming of the Lord Jesus, and the removal of the present sky and earth and the coming down through the new sky of the new Jerusalem?
I will tell you what I think. I think the new Jerusalem will be so exalted, so filled with God, that we would not be able to bear the sight of it much less enter it or be part of it. We may suppose we are ready to be part of the new Jerusalem, but I don't believe we are.
The best of us, the most mature Christian, is still quite coarse when compared with the Lord Jesus Christ. How will we be able to mature past our present crude character until we are comfortable with the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy city?
I think this is the reason for the thousand-year period, often referred to as the Millennium. I believe during this time we will be governing the nations of saved people, along with the Lord Jesus Christ. We will be seeing Him a great deal during that age. And rememberevery time we see the Lord Jesus we are transformed!
What will we be like after being this close to Jesus for a thousand years? I don't believe we have any conception of the change that must, and shall be made in us because of our nearness to God.
There is a description of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. This is His outward image. I think His inward image is revealed in the chapters of Ezekiel that describe the temple of God.
You may find this difficult to believe, after you review the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, that we ever could be conformed to the same image.
I think we will, though, be conformed to the outward and inward image of God, as outlined in the Book of Ezekiel.
When we stagger at this thought it is because we are not considering what the Scriptures actually state, nor the greatness of God Almighty.
The Lord is sitting on His throne, in Ezekiel, Chapter One. Doesn't the Book of Revelation say that the victorious saints will sit with Him on His throne?
Doesn't the Book of Philippians declare that our outward image, our body, will be transformed by the unlimited power of Christ until it is like His glorious body?
Haven't we been named "sons of God"an inheritance never given to any member of the angelic orders, such as the majestic Cherubim of Glory?
Even Melchisedec, the priest of the Most High God, had endless life, but was not declared by the unchanging Scripture to be a son of God.
Jesus is the Son of God and First among other sons who are being formed at this time.
So I choose not to limit the Holy One of Israel. When He, who created all things by His unlimited power, states that we will be in the image of Christ, then we will be in the outward and inner image of Christ. God's power and wisdom will accomplish this.
But, as I said previously, in the present hour we are in a rough form, as sons of God, just as an artist might block out his picture or sculpture before he began to work on the details.
If we were dealing with some religious program, my preceding words would be so much nonsense. But we are not considering a manmade religious program. We are responding to unlimited Power and Majesty who has announced that we shall be in the image of His Firstborn.
Let us not compare ourselves among ourselves, estimating what we are capable of. Let us examine what God has said, and then grasp His promises by faith.
If we still cannot believe that God is able to conform us to the vision presented in the Book of Ezekiel, then let us go outside at night and review the vastness of the firmament. Scientists now are telling us that our entire outer space is but one bubble on the actual firmament, and that the actual firmament is continually growing and creating lesser firmaments.
The distances and masses revealed in the firmament above us is quite beyond our imagination to grasp. Yet, our Father through Jesus Christ spoke these into existence.
You and I cannot speak one grain of sand, one molecule of dust, into existence. Neither can the greatest scientist on earth.
So if we are to be honorable people of integrity who know that God cannot lie, why don't we read what God has stated and believe it fully. As we do we shall behold the Glory of the Lord and be transformed into the image of our Father.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
Looking to JesusJesus is not a metaphysical principle but a living Person having tremendous authority and power.
One can notice, at least in Charismatic circles, and it well may be the case in other persuasions, that the believers like to discover spiritual principles that they can employ in order to get what they want. Oftentimes it appears as though the Lord Jesus is not in the picture.
Give God a hundred dollars and someone will send you a thousand dollars. (This appears to be a favorite with evangelists. Why don't the evangelists give a hundred dollars to the poor? That is a form of giving to God. Just think how rich the evangelists would be in a short time! But don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.)
Forgive everyone and your arthritis will disappear. Maybe even cancer!
Speak what you want and it will become true.
I know a distressed Christian who came to me for counsel. It seems he felt he had blasphemed against the Holy Spirit (which he hadn't, I assured him). Somehow he began to feel he was the Antichrist.
Well, he went to a believer for advice. He (the distressed Christian) said he was worried that he had become the Antichrist.
The believer informed him that since he had said he was the Antichrist, he had made it true.
At least, this is how the distressed man tells the story.
One time when I was ministering in Illinois, as we were leaving, I noticed a small child's hand was in the crack of the door where the hinges are. Being a former grade-school teacher, I notice such things.
I yelled "Watch out! He is going to have his fingers crushed when the door is closed!"
If you can believe this, his mother said to me words to the effect "Don't say that because then it will happen."
I have a saying: "When your religion interferes with common sense, do what your common sense tells you. You will be right most of the time."
Another gem is, "If you are nearsighted, smash your glasses and the Lord will heal you." When I was in Bible school, one of the students attempted this on the advice of an evangelist. The only result was she had to buy another pair of glasses.
I know the Lord spit on the ground and put the mud on a blind man's eyes. That why I said you are right most of the time when you trust common sense, but not all the time. Sometimes the Lord leads us in ways that are a bit strange.
There was a time when we needed to build a new sanctuary. Our regular monthly income did not permit payments on the necessary loan. After about ten years of prayer the seven of us, all hard-nosed business types, felt we should take out the loan, that it was the Lord's will. This we did, and the new sanctuary (by an astounding miracle and without any begging for money) was paid off in four or five years.
Ordinarily, however, it is as I said. When common sense and your religion come into conflict, your best bet is to choose common sense. If you are open before the Lord, and He is requiring something unusual, He will show you that you are to act in faith. But watch carefully the fruit of what you are doing, because Satan is a master deceiver.
Religious people do all kinds of crazy things!
"Step out in faith," we are told. "Put God to the test!" "Dare to be a Daniel!"
I don't think even Daniel would dare to be a Daniel.
Write out a check for what you want and the money will appear in your account. If you do this you better get ready for jail.
"Speak it!" "Image it!" "Jump off the pinnacle!" "Go to Indonesia by faith and God will help you start a church."
Unless God is sending you, you probably will get diarrhea and have to write to someone, maybe your mother, to get enough money to get home.
Lately there have come in the mail slick brochures that advertise this or that program for church growth, or how to get more money. It is seldom that the name of Jesus is even mentioned on the brochure.
Sometimes it is a seminar which, if we attend, will make us God's man of faith and power, the outstanding leader in the local community. Again, one looks in vain for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Do you suppose that this pattern can be found throughout the Western world? Perhaps so. I heard of one evangelist in another country advertising "faith handkerchiefs," I think it was. Carry one of these handkerchiefs and you will be healed.
Another one is, send for an anointed cloth and include a donation of one hundred dollars. You will be healed and all your children will be successful.
The problem with all of the above is that we are seeking to use spiritual principles, principles that we can control at our will, to get what we want, and live our life in the manner that pleases us. This really appeals to Americans, who always are looking for a way to eat as much as they want and still lose weight.
How removed all this is from the Lord Jesus! How utterly ignorant of Him who is seated on the highest throne of the universe!
We are in great need of a revival in America. We have become apostate. We are backslidden.
When we do have what we hope is a revival, it seems to end up in another program to get what we want out of God. These last for awhile, and then seem to diminish.
I would love to experience an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in which thousands were saved, healed, and filled with the Spirit.
But there is something else that seems to me to be more needed. That is, those of us who are Christians need to return to the Lord Jesus. We need to get back to the Bible and start leading righteous lives.
We need to come to know the Lord Jesus. We are guessing that He wants us to do this or that, to undertake this project or that missionary endeavor, but we are not hearing directly from Him. We are assuming that this is what He wants, and so we have to plead for money to accomplish our objectives.
I think we American Christians need a fresh glimpse of the almighty Christ. I believe it is time for us to deny ourselves, take up our personal cross, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ wherever He leads us.
Christ does have all authority and power in Heaven and upon the earth. He is not short of money. There is no door that can close in His face.
I know the cynicism with which this statement may be met, but the truth is, when we are doing God's will He provides the necessary money. If we find we do not have enough money, we go to God about it. We do not try to use devices such as "speaking the word of faith," or sending the evangelist a hundred dollars, or cashing a check when there are not funds to cover it.
Things do not come to pass just because we say them. If you are sick, don't tell God you are healed. If you say you are healed, why should the Lord come down and heal you? Tell the Lord you are sick and feel terrible. The Word says He heals all our diseases. Blow the trumpet in His ear. Call on the Lord in Jesus' name. Don't try to be your own little psychologist, call on the mighty Christ!
If a child is in danger, notify someone. You don't have to worry that because you spoke of the danger a disaster will occur. This is nothing but superstition!
If you think God is telling you to do some strange things, it probably is not the Lord. But in any case, pray, pray, pray. Talk about it to someone you trust, hopefully your husband or wife. If another sincere Christian thinks it is strange and not the Lord, that is most likely the case.
Watch your environment and your circumstances carefully. When God speaks the rooster crows. If this strange action you are being asked to take goes against the New Testament, then you know for certain it is not God no matter how it feels. Satan knows how to use the Scriptures. If your impression is all in the subjective realm, and other Christians whom you trust feel it is wrong, it probably is.
Don't make a move until you have a deeply settled peace. Watch out for the exotic Hagar. The inheritance comes through good ol' Sarah.
Running off to the "mission field" won't solve anything. If you do not have a successful ministry here you won't have one in Ethiopia.
Beware of all forms of prayer clothes. These are amulets.
Beware of promise boxes. How are these different from tea leaves? The only good that comes from promise boxes, as far as I can see, is that they remind us of the scriptural promises. But I don't think we should use them like Chinese fortune cookies. However, there are groups of dedicated Christians that seem to be blessed with their little cards that they hand out with promises on them.
But how much better it is to present our body a living sacrifice until we hear from the Lord Jesus!
We are not to "step out in faith." This is presumption and is contrary to God's will. It was the third temptation of Christ.
As far as seminars that tell us how to be a great minister, it is my opinion that if we would spend the corresponding amount of effort seeking Christ we would profit a great deal more. We might find out what He wants us to do; what He wants us to be.
How wonderful it is to walk hand in hand with the Lord Jesus. It seems to me our church efforts today, at least in America, are much too horizontal. They are human to human instead of human to God, or God to human. Our services and efforts should be firmly vertical before they are horizontal.
I know we offer a prayer at the end of our seminar, or perhaps after the coffee break. What would it be like if we got together until we heard from the Lord? I suppose if we did, some ambitious person would jump up with a new plan to get the world saved, build a bigger church, or raise more money.
How the high hills do jump. But God has chosen Zion.
I am all for dumping the whole program and getting back to the Lord God of Israel. I want to feel His Presence. I want to see Him in action. I want to hear His voice and know He is walking with me and directing me.
And it is my humble intention to not settle for anything less.
How does this sound to you?
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalms 27:14)
Faith in GodFaith is obedience to God's Word, trust in the power of God's unchanging promises and warnings, and reliance on His goodness and His faithfulness, and in His ability to express his goodness, faithfulness, and wrath toward each one of us.
When we think back to the original problem in the Garden of Eden we note that the issue was obedience to God, Adam and Eve's assessment of God's character, and God's attitude and intentions regarding them.
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4,5)
Notice what is implied here. First, God had said "You will surely die."
But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17)
Satan declared, "You will not surely die."
The accuracy and reliability of God's Word is at issue today. The Apostle Paul warned us repeatedly of the destruction we will reap in the Day of Resurrection if we Christians continue to behave according to the lusts and passions of our sinful nature.
"We will reap corruption," Paul declared. "We will not inherit the Kingdom of God." "We will die spiritually." We will receive the things we have done in our body while living on the earth."
Yet the litany continues: "You will not die, you are saved by grace. Profess belief in Christ and you will inherit the Kingdom. You will receive a body like that of Christ and govern the nations. The New Testament may say that you will die if you continue to sin, that you will not inherit the Kingdom of God, that you will reap corruption, but don't worry, none of these things will happen to you."
"You will not surely die." These words may be heard in the Christian churches every Sunday morning. Is Satan preaching from the pulpits of America?
So the first demonstration of faith is obedience to God, with the understanding that severe punishment follows disobedience, and great rewards accompany strict obedience.
How stern was the punishment meted out to Adam and Eve?
Loss of access to the Tree of Life, to bodily immortality.
The realization that they were in a shameful condition.
Painful childbirth for the woman, plus subjection to her husband.
Dismissal from Paradise and the painful toil of tilling land that bears thorns and thistles.
The beginning of the forming of the sinful nature, including guile and rebellion.
Passing down to their descendants a sinful, guileful, rebellious nature and thousands of years of agony.
When God says you will surely die, He means this in every possible aspect of fulfillment.
We need to understand this thoroughly today. What the New Testament declares is going to happen to sinning Christians is going to happen. Not one warning will be made null and void by the preaching and teaching of a self-seeking ministry.
If you are not living as a cross-carrying disciple you might give some thought to doing so. It appears that rough times are ahead for the United States of America.
There is another dimension of Satan's pronouncement: "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil."
This often is Satan's wayto mix truth and error.
It is absolutely true that to understand what is good and what is evil is to be like God. This is the truth.
The lie is the inference that God did not want Adam and Eve to be like God; that it would be good for them at that time to understand what is good and what is evil; that God desired to withhold from them that which is good.
The biggest lie here is the lie that is at the root of the Antichrist world system. It is that we cannot depend on God to bring us to joy. We must reach out and take that which in our opinion will bring us joy. God is not to be trusted to take care of our needs and bring us to joy because His intention is to deprive us and leave us in our misery.
Every person born into the world faces this choice. Do I plan my own life in terms of my own goals and desires, or do I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?
I imagine Satan faced this choice. He had to decide whether to trust God to fulfill his desires and set him above the other creatures of God, or to take matters into his own hands. Satan chose not to trust God to bring him to joy but to set forth to accomplish his own goals. The result has been unimaginable suffering for the peoples of the earth, as Satan has filled them with his own self-seeking.
There is no third alternative. Either we live our life according to our own wisdom and desires, or else we turn over our life to God.
My guess is that most Christians in America are in the middle. Part of their life is given to Christ. Part has been kept back for their own use.
Do you remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira who kept back part of the price of the land?
God does not like mixtures, we learn from the Old Testament. Jesus said much the same thing when he spoke about being neither cold nor hot. It appears as though God likes us to be single-minded, to not be serving God part of the time and serving ourselves part of the time.
But if we are to make the effort to serve God only, we must have faith. By faith I mean that God will do what He has promised. He will reward those who are obedient. Their cup will run over. But those who are disobedient will dwell in a dry land.
We must be absolutely obedient to God's written Word, and also to His Word spoken to us personally.
We must trust in the power of His promisesthat there is no other authority or power that can hinder the fulfillment of what God has promised. And His promises and warnings never, never change.
A chief aspect of faith is our trust that God is good. He is not seeking to prevent us from being like Him, or to cause us to be deprived or distressed, as Satan implied to Adam and Eve.
I tell you, if God were like Satan it would be far, far better that we never had been born or come into existence. Can you imagine how we would fare if God were treacherous, malicious, torturing us at his pleasure?
Satan always is telling people that his way is best and will bring them joy, whereas God desires they be miserable. The exact opposite is the case. Whoever trusts in Satan can look forward to unremitting agony. Whoever trusts in God can look forward to the fullness of joy.
God's promises to us are fabulous. But let us remember, for we appear to have forgotten this in America, that His warnings are terrible in their import. As Jesus said, "Fear Him who, after your body is dead, has the power to throw you into Hell."
The Book of Hebrews warns us that the Christian who continues to live according to his sinful nature, realizing he is doing this, makes himself the enemy of God. He shall experience the wrath of the Consuming Fire of Israel.
Under Levitical law, a Jew could offer his animal and be forgiven, providing his sin was unintentional. There was no provision for intentional sin.
It is true under the new covenant. The sacrifice of Calvary does not make an atonement for intentional sin. There is only a fearful looking forward to fiery judgment that will destroy the adversaries of God.
There is no atonement that will annul the guilt of someone who sets himself or herself against God and sins willfully and knowingly.
If an individual, not being a Christian, not knowing about God, sins deliberately, and then becomes a Christian, he or she can repent and be forgiven.
But if a Christian, knowing he is sinning against God, continues to behave in this manner, he is in danger of God's wrath. The tree that does not bear good fruit, the fruit of the image of Christ, is cut down and thrown into the fire.
If we as a Christian are sinning and cannot help ourselves, Christ will assist us if we ask Him to.
But if we are arrogant, declaring that God cannot see our sin, or grace is forgiving us, or we are saved by faith and not works, or whatever other confusing doctrine we can find to excuse our conduct, and continue to live according to our sinful nature, we stand in clear danger of being blotted from the Book of Lifeno matter what contemporary teaching maintains.
There is much traditional teaching in our day that is in error. We need to go back to the Bible and find out what it means to be a Christian.
God is angry because of the unrighteous behavior in His churches as well as in the earth. His wrath will not be suspended forever. There must be heartfelt repentance in the churches if we and our nation are to survive the next twenty years.
Sometimes we may agree that God's intentions toward us are good, but we wonder how He can follow through and do what He has promised. Perhaps Satan will prevent God from helping us. Perhaps the powers of Hell will come against us and we will experience much pain and trouble, even though we are trying to serve God.
Please know this: God has all power. Christ created Satan in the beginning. Christ holds the keys of Hell and death. Christ has all authority and power in Heaven and on the earth, as well as power and authority over the dark regions beneath the earth's surface.
There is no authority and power as great as that of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given all things into His hands. When we seem to suffer defeat or are afflicted, it is not because Satan has gotten past the angel of the Lord who protects us. It is because Christ is teaching us dependence on Himself.
All that Satan accomplishes by his malicious actions turns to our good when we are serving the Lord.
All of our human enemies, as they are seeking to harm us, always bring us closer to the Lord. Christ is watching every word spoken against us; every action designed to hurt us.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, comes near to us apart from the Lord's permission.
As for our enemies, both spirit and physical, they cannot do anything but help us as long as we dwell in Christ. No plague comes near our dwelling.
The only way in which Satan can get at us is by deceiving us so that we sin. Balaam understood that he could not curse Israelites unless he could get the warriors to fornicate with the Moabite girls.
Satan cannot get past the angel of the Lord who is protecting us unless he can deceive us into stepping outside of the protection.
God is good. God is faithful. He is bringing us to perfect joy, and there is no power that can hinder Him from doing what He has determined.
His goodness is certain and His wrath is certain.
If we are wise we will conduct our life in such a manner that our end will be fullness of joy in the center of God's Person and will.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
The Living WordThe Words of Jesus Christ are more than utterances, or symbols on paper. They are Spirit, and they are Life.
In the beginning was the Word. In the beginning was Someone who was not created as were the angels but who came forth from God as part of God's Person.
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3)
All things were created by the Father through the Son.
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2)
God made the universe through the Word.
Then the Word became flesh.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Now here is one of the great mysteries of the universe. The Word of God, through whom the universe was created, became flesh. Marvel of all marvels!
If Jesus were nothing more than a philosopher, much of what he said would be meaningless. How can we abide in a philosopher? Will a philosopher makes his abode in us?
Jesus said that the words He spoke came from the Father and are spirit and life. They are not the same as ordinary words written on paper. They are Spirit. They are Life. They have the power to germinate and grow in us, as in the parable of the Sower.
The Lord Jesus is the Word, the covenant of God with people.
I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, (Isaiah 42:6)
Christ Himself is the living Message. He Himself is the Gospel. He is the living Word.
The Law of Moses can be written on paper. The new covenant cannot be written on paper. The new covenant can be written only in the heart of man. The new covenant is Christ in us, the hope of the Divine Glory that we experience as we move ahead in Christ.
God was not pleased with the Law of Moses, because the people of Israel did not keep His commandments. Therefore God made a new covenant. The new covenant is written in our mind so we can understand it, and in our heart so we will have a will to obey it.
The new covenant is the eternal moral law, of which the Law of Moses was an abridged version that was to be obeyed until the actual Divine Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ, came into the world.
One of our problems as Christians is that we have tried to turn the Divine covenant into a religion that we can learn and practice. While it is good and necessary that we read the New Testament and obey the commands given by Christ and His Apostles, the true new covenant is the forming of Christ in us.
If we will obey what is written in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit will form Christ in us. Then we ourselves will be the covenant of God with people.
How will we be the covenant of God with people?
When people observe our personality and behavior, and hear what we have to say, they will be brought to a decision. If they choose to reject us, then they have made no covenant with God.
But if they choose to receive what we have become through Jesus Christ, and obey what we say as we introduce them to Christ, then God will be pleased to enter the covenant of salvation with them.
The words of the New Testament are the covenant of God with us only as the Holy Spirit adds them to us. There are numerous Bible scholars and teachers who are expert in Hebrew, Greek, and the principles of exegesis. While such knowledge may be useful, it does not always form Christ in us.
The extensive analysis of the Hebrews and Greek texts may be compared to someone who exhumed the corpse of Beethoven and dissected every portion of the body in the hopes of discovering the source of the symphonies and sonatas.
There are many attempts today to propagate biblical information. Some of this may be helpful. But it is only as the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, expresses Himself, that Christ is formed in people.
Sometimes when the Word is preached, the demons snatch it up before it has time to germinate. This occurs when the heart of the person has been hardened through circumstances.
Sometimes the Word germinates, but the roots do not go deep enough to survive dry spells.
Sometimes the Word germinates, but there are so many worries and distractions present that the Word is choked out.
It often is taught today that once a person truly receives Christ and the Word begins to bring forth fruit, that the individual never can be lost to the purposes of God.
The New Testament does not support this doctrine. The Gospel accounts teach clearly that it is possible for the living Word, Christ, to germinate and then be choked out by the cares of life or to perish because the roots did not go deep enough.
Sometimes the Word falls into an honest and good heart, and the person brings forth fruit with patience. Some bring forth the image of Christ to a hundred-fold extent; some to a sixty-fold extent; some to a thirty-fold extent.
There seems to be some misunderstanding today as to what constitutes the fruit, to which the New Testament refers.
There are teachers who maintain that the fruit is people. If you have hundreds of people in your church you have borne fruit.
This is not necessarily the case. It depends on whether Christ is being formed in the people. You can tell if Christ is being formed in the people by the way they behave.
The fruit which the Christian is to bear is the moral image of Christ as revealed in godly behavior.
The first Adam reproduces his physical image as people are born into the world.
The second Adam reproduces His moral image as He is formed in people. We bear fruit when Christ is formed in us, and then through us is born in other people.
If we do not have an honest and good heart we cannot possibly bear the fruit for which the heavenly Farmer is waiting. This is because after we receive Christ and are baptized in water, we still are filled with the adamic nature. We have to choose to read the New Testament and obey its commands, as the Lord helps us. We have to do what is expected of a Christian.
We are not going to continue in the program of salvation unless we have integrity and are a faithful person. Those who do have integrity and are faithful will continue serving Christ to the best of their ability, even though the path of discipleship often is boring. Finally they will be rewarded as signs of Christ begin to appear in them. They have borne fruit with patience.
What we are saying is, the Christian salvation is not a religion similar to the Law of Moses. The Christian salvation is a Divine intervention in the life of a human being. As he responds and does God's will to the best of his knowledge, Christ is formed in him or her. If he continues to the end of the program of redemption he himself will have become a life-giving spirit, the covenant of God with the peoples of the earth.
The words of the Lord Jesus Christ are Spirit and Life. They germinate and bring forth the moral image of Christ when they enter a person who has the character necessary to continue in the arduous program of deliverance from the person and works of Satan.
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
The Sabbath RestFrom the time the Logos came forth from the Father He has done nothing and said nothing apart from the Father. From the time that Christ is born in us He wants us to do nothing and say nothing apart from Himself. It requires a period of time before we arrive at the rest of God.
It is God's will that all the brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ enter that rest in which Christ always dwells. Christ lived in the eternal Sabbath of God when He was the Word, the Logos; when God was bringing forth both the spirit creation and the physical creation through Him.
Christ lived in the eternal Sabbath of God two thousand years ago, when He walked and taught on the earth.
Christ is dwelling in the eternal Sabbath of God right this minute, as the Father through Him controls all thingseven our very thoughts and words, if we ask Him to.
Christ will abide forever in the eternal Sabbath of God. The new Jerusalem is the expression of God in the Lamb, and in the Bride of the Lamb. By the time the new Jerusalem comes down through the new sky to rest for eternity on the new earth, all will have been brought under subjection to Christ, Christ will be in subjection to God, and God will be All in all.
Christ said and did nothing of Himself. What Jesus said and did were the words and deeds of the Father.
Paul claimed that he was crucified with Christ, and the life he was living was not his but that of Christ.
Paul exhorted each one of us to press forward until we too know the power of Christ's resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
How do we get to the place where it is Christ who is living and not we who are living? Remember, before Paul said Christ was living in him he stated that he was crucified with Christ. The Life of Christ, eternal life, always comes forth as our natural life is brought low.
I have found one habit that leads to God's rest, the eternal Sabbath, the rest we are seeking.
It is this: at every point of decision, at every problem encountered throughout the day, I go to the Lord.
For example: today Audrey and I went to the dentist to have our teeth cleaned. I had prayed about this visit for a couple of days, not because I expected pain but because I wanted God to control the dentist and give him ability and wisdom.
I think this took place, for he seemed to do a good job.
We brought the morning paper with us to read. I had the paper with me when I entered the room where the cleaning was to take place.
In order to recline on the dentist's chair I had to put the paper on a table. I knew I would forget the paper when I was ready to leave. So I asked the Lord to remind me when I got up from the chair to pick up the paper and bring it home.
Sure enough! When I got ready to leave I remembered the paper. It was not in a conspicuous place, so I am quite sure I would not have thought of it.
While the dentist was cleaning my teeth I was looking to the Lord.
On the way home I was in an attitude of prayer while conversing with Audrey.
Since it was noon, I asked the Lord what I should eat and how much I should eat. If left to my own desires I would eat much more than I should; controlling my appetite takes quite a bit of prayer.
I asked the Lord to help me write what was on my heart this afternoon. He is doing this right now as I am attempting to describe God's rest, the eternal Sabbath.
I am looking to the Lord to guide the remainder of the day.
This is the way it goes with me. I have had enough trouble in my life that I find it more pleasant to keep on praying than to have the Lord find it necessary to remind me to pray.
I don't know if you live like this, constantly looking to the Lord for every detail of life. Let me recommend it. It is not difficult at all, once you begin to practice it.
Although the prayers I have just described are mostly little details of daily living, they are the way in which we enter the rest of God.
Our goal is to be related to the Lord Jesus as He is related to the Father.
Christ does nothing of Himself. He never hasnot from the beginning. Christ is the very Expression of God, the Word of God made flesh.
This is what Christ desires for us. He wants us to enter His Life so completely that all we do is a reflection of Himself.
Of course, this means abandoning our own plans for our life.
Some may find it difficult to turn aside from their own ways. I have not found it especially difficult. Once we make up our mind we want to be filled with Christ, letting go of our own plans and ambitions is not difficult.
If, however, we really are determined to live our own life in the manner we think best, we are going to find it difficult to overcome the forces that are seeking to keep us away from full fellowship with God.
As the children of Adam through Noah, we have our own thoughts, plans, hopes, ambitions. The decision every human being faces, beginning with those who are called to be members of the royal priesthood, is whether we are going to continue with our own thoughts, plans, hopes, and ambitions, or whether we are going to turn our life over to Christ so He can fill us with His thoughts, plans, hope, and ambitions.
It is as Paul testified: we have to come to the place where we count all aspects of our own life as so much garbage in order that we may win Christ and live in the power of His resurrection.
I cannot encourage you too fervently to trade your own life for the Life of Christ.
Being seventy-seven years of age, I can look back and evaluate life with a bit more perspective than younger people can.
When I was nineteen I was disenchanted enough with life to decide to do God's will perfectly no matter what the personal cost might prove to be. I have had to learn a lot of painful lessons, including some trial and error. I have been deceived on a couple of occasions.
But the desire to do God's perfect will never left me. As soon as I discovered I was on the wrong track I went to the Lord, confessed my ignorance and foolishness, and set out on the path once again.
Obviously I am old enough to determine whether I had acted wisely in abandoning myself to Christ to this extent.
I can state truthfully that I have made the right decision.
I know that had I not pressed into Christ to this extent I would probably be dead by now. I would have made a mess of my life. Also, at my age, I would be apprehensive about dying.
Instead, my life has been productive. When I think about dying it is with the same joy that I felt as a child just before Christmas. If there had been no other gain from following Christ, being able to look forward with confidence and happiness to dying; the prospect that I once again will be with those I have loved during my lifetime; would have made every struggle worthwhile.
Not only is there the prospect of happiness after death, but then there is the idea of being filled with Christ and the Father. Can you imagine, after the resurrection takes place, living for eternity as part of Christ and the Father? Can you imagine the joy of serving God and other people while living in Paradise?
Truly, the present world is the valley of the shadow of death. At the best of times and in the best of circumstances, life on earth is a weary pilgrimage filled with dreads, pains, disappointments, problems of every sort.
So to refuse to give our shabby possessions to Christ in return for the glory promised to those who live in the life of victory in Christ, may not be a wise move on our part.
What do you think about this?
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
The Logos Became FleshThere was a time when the Logos became flesh. This was when He was born of Mary and became Man, and perhaps also the point at which He was named "the Son of God."
If there is a greater mystery than that of the Word of God becoming flesh, I have never heard of it. Have you?
What shall we call Jesus Christ before He was born of Mary? The Bible refers to Him as the Logos, the Word of God.
But was He called Jesus? Perhaps not.
Was He called Christ? I don't think so. "Christ" refers to the One who has been anointed with the Holy Spirit in order to bring deliverance to Israel.
Was He the Son of God? I don't think so, and this is the point of the present brief article.
If the Logos was not Jesus, or Christ, or the Son of God, what was He?
As far as I can tell, He was the Expression of God.
The Father is so great that His Word, His Expression, is another Person. This is not true of the word of a human.
Also the Spirit of the Father is a Person, the Holy Spirit. Neither is it true of a human being that his spirit is another person.
The Greek term Logos is probably the best term we can employ for the pre-human Person we refer to as the Lord Jesus Christ. He was, and is yet, the Expression of God. He is not the Father, but all the qualities of the Father are in Him.
John said that in the beginning the Logos was with God and was God. This does not mean the Logos was the same Person as the Father, or a god who acts independently of the Father. Rather the Logos was the way the Father desires to portray Himself.
The Logos and the Father each have wills of Their own, as we observe in the Garden of Gethsemane. So they are not the same person.
The great revelation Jesus brought with Him is that there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are not seen clearly in the Old Testament.
The Father through the Logos, the Word, created all personages and things of the spirit realm, and the people and things of the physical realm as well.
It appears that prior to His birth in the manger, the Word was a personage among many other dignitaries, even though He had created them.
For this reason the Psalms tell us the Father referred to the Word as God ("Your throne, O God, is forever"); and also that the Father anointed the Word with the oil of joy above His companions, because the Word, the Logos, loved righteousness and hated wickedness more than they.
It is difficult to think of the Word as having "companions," but apparently He did.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Hebrews 1:9)
In fact, we see Satan, in the wilderness of temptation, challenging the Lord Jesus, the Word made flesh, to worship him. Satan was requesting worship from His Creator. But Satan's Creator, the Word made flesh, refused to sin.
So we see that in this instance the Word loved righteousness and hated wickedness more than was true of Satan.
It is my personal opinion that the Logos was the Lord of Israel, the One who appeared to Moses and wrote the Ten Commandments.
How then can it be true that the Jews were told there is only one God?
It is true because the Word is the Expression of God. There only is one God, the Father. But the Word only does what the Father does through Him, so it always is the Father who is saying and doing what Christ is saying and doing.
And this is what Jesus told us in the Gospels. He stated that He did nothing of Himself, it was the Father speaking and acting in Him.
It is this oneness which confuses us, I believe. We cannot understand how it can be that the Father and Jesus are not the same Person, when the Lord Himself said whoever has seen Him has seen the Father.
The same oneness was true of the Apostle Paul and Christ, although to a lesser extent than is eternally true of the Father and the Logos. Paul was crucified with Christ. The life Paul was living (and probably still is living) was not Paul's but Christ's who was living and is yet living in him.
So the more Paul advances in this oneness the more it can be said that whoever has seen Paul has seen Christ. Is it the Father? Is it the Logos? Is it Christ? Is it Paul?
Paul has become one with Christ and therefore one with the Father through Christ.
This perfect oneness with God is what God desires for each one of us. It is the Sabbath rest of God.
Our entrance into the Divine family was made possible because the Logos consented to become a Man.
This is a great mystery; but I think if we work at it, it will become fairly clear.
How far back the Logos goes we do not know. When John said "in the beginning" he did not mean in the beginning of the Father. The Father has no beginning, no parents. In fact, we don't even know His name. God is a title, not a proper name.
At some point in eons past, the Lord came forth from God.
After Satan and his angels rebelled, God conceived a marvelous plan. That plan included the creation of a new racemankind, in the image of God.
So the Father through the Logos created the new race.
Then the Father invited the Logos to pray that He would inherit the new race and the farthest reaches of the earth, which He had created also.
"Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the farthest reaches of the earth for your inheritance."
I am sure the Logos obeyed the Father and prayed this prayer.
Then the wheels were set in motion that would bring the Logos into the earth as a baby, guide Him to adulthood, anoint Him for ministry, and finally offer Him as an atonement for sin.
During this process the Logos, now called Jesus, learned obedience to the Father through the things He suffered.
Now we have the Logos, but He is something else. He is the Son of God, and He is the Son of Man.
He is the Son of Man on the basis of His birth to Mary.
He was declared to be the Son of God three times: at the time of His birth to Mary; when he was baptized in water and the Spirit came upon Him; and when He was raised from the dead.
The Father has given all authority in Heaven and on the earth to the Man.
I know Christ is God, but He is also Man. He always has been God, having been the Expression of God from the beginning. But now He is a Man!
The Word of God has become a Man!
I am not positive of this, but I think Jesus became the Son of God when He was born of the Holy Spirit and of Mary. I think He was the Logos prior to that, not having been born of God but being the Expression of God. I take this idea from the second Psalm, that proclaims: "Today I have become Your Father."
At what day did God become the Father of the Word if it was not when He was born of Mary?
In any case, the Logos has become a Man. The Word has become Flesh.
But all of this was for a hidden purpose, and that purpose is to make the Logos, now Son of God and Son of Man, the Firstborn of many more sons.
God is making brothers of Jesus Christ. God is changing us into the image of Jesus Christ that we might be His brothers.
It also is true that the Father is making us the Word of God, in that the Holy Spirit is writing the Father's eternal moral law in our mind and in our heart.
It was because of this Divine goal that the writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote his epistle of rebuke. He was rebuking the Jewish Christians because they had been forgiven through the blood of the cross; had been filled with the Spirit of God; had tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come; had been persecuted, suffering the loss of their goods; and now had settled back and were occupying themselves, undoubtedly, with the things of the world. This is what the Christians of today do once they have believed in the blood atonement and have spoken in tongues!
The Jewish believers to whom Hebrews was written were not pressing toward the mark, toward the rest of God, toward perfection. They were not moving forward to become the brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Receiving forgiveness through the blood of atonement gives us the authority to partake of the program that is bringing forth the brothers of Christ.
Receiving the Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom and power to move through the program of transformation into the image of Christ.
Thus what we term "salvation" and "the baptism with the Spirit" are the starting point on the way to eternal life, not the whole program of salvation!
God wants brothers for His Son. Another way of expressing this relationship is, a wife for the Lamb. Another is, the Body of Christ.
God wants sons for Himself, and a living Temple through which He can have fellowship with His creatures.
The end product of God's program is the new Jerusalem, the holy city. The new Jerusalem is Christ and His Body, the Lamb and His Wife.
Each member dwells in the eternal Sabbath rest of God, meaning he is the Expression of God. He does nothing of himself, says nothing of Himself. It is Christ in him who accomplishes everything, and God in Christ.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews exhorts us to not neglect our great salvation but to labor to enter that rest, that place of abiding in Christ in God.
The Apostle Paul urges us to forget what is behind and to press forward to the mark. That mark is life lived in the very fullness of the eternal, incorruptible resurrection Life of God.
Let us be diligent to obey these exhortations, for attainment to the goal is worth every suffering, every bit of effort and patience we are required to exert in order to win Christ.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Pray Without CeasingWorrying will not solve your problems, but praying will.
The Apostle Paul urged us to pray without ceasing. This means praying is a way of life.
Life is filled with problems and decisions. We can bear the load of worrying, or we can pray until we have peace.
We used to talk about "praying through." Perhaps some of the newer Christians may not understand what it is to "pray through."
As we make the effort to pray we grow in the ability to pray.
When we start out learning to pray, it is kind of boring. We have a list of requests. We faithfully tell God about our requests. Then we get up and go about our business. It is our duty to pray and we have performed it.
We will never learn to pray until we make the effort each day to faithfully present our requests to the Lord, even though it is a boring duty.
However, if we keep on making the effort we find that something has changed. I don't know exactly how to describe it, except that we learn to pray in the Spirit. Instead of reciting the items on our list we are sort of stirring up our prayer.
As we learn to stir up our prayer until we are in the Spirit, we find that sometimes we have burdens. We keep on praying; keep on praying. If the burden doesn't lift, we get up and go about our necessary business. But as soon as we can we go back and begin to pray about that burden.
All of a sudden we discover we can't pray about it anymore. All we can do is praise God. There may be a song, or some other manifestation. Or it may just be a quiet sense that we have "prayed through."
Once we pray through we know we have the answer. We can "take it to the bank," as the expression goes. The answer is as certain as though it already has taken place in the physical realm.
When we learn to stir up our prayer, instead of just reciting a list, prayer becomes much more interesting. Sometimes we get in a spirit of prayer that will last for hours.
When we are still back at the "list stage," ten minutes of prayer seems like three or four hours. But when we are in the spirit of prayer, times goes by swiftly.
There are people who are especially called to prayer. It is nothing for them to pray three or four hours, or even all night. This is the most exciting time of their day and they look forward to it. You never know what the Lord is going to do next.
I believe we are facing difficult days in America. We are going to need to know how to pray. If a loved one is in danger, we can "pray through" for that person and receive peace because we know God has heard us. Once we know God has heard us, we know we have the answer.
As I have said and written on many occasions, the true Christian life is one of continual looking to the Lord. To be able to look to the Lord about every detail of life is the result of years of practice. Once we make the effort to keep asking Christ about everything, it is not long before this way of thinking and living becomes second nature.
Actually, it is the pathway to the rest of God, to that place where we are living in the Lord Jesus as He lives in the Father.
The Lord Jesus is the Word made flesh. We are flesh being made the Word of God. Each time we cease from our own ability to make our way, and look to the Lord for wisdom and strength, the Word of God is revealed in us.
I do not mean by this that we do not employ our own talents and experience. We do. We do not flop around in a state of passivity. But while we are using our own talents and experience we are asking Christ to guide us, to provide wisdom and strength.
We may have talents and we may have experience. But we will discover that these are not guarantees of success. No matter how skillful we are in any area, even if we have been working and practicing the particular behavior for years, things can always go wrong. Have you ever noticed that?
But when we keep looking to Jesus while we are painting a house, or doing the dishes, or studying in school, or composing music, or going to the storeno matter what we are doing, we are more successful if we are praying.
Also, as we cease trusting ourselves, we gain more of Christ; more of Christ; more of Christ. This is the path taken by the Apostle Paul.
God sent numerous tribulations and sufferings upon the Apostle Paul. It got to the place that Paul could not move apart from the power of Christ. The result of the continual crucifixion and resurrection of Paul's personality is the Epistles of the New Testament. The benefit to the Kingdom of God that has proceeded from the Epistles of the Apostle Paul is incalculable. The benefit to the Kingdom of God of your efforts and my efforts will be incalculable, if we are willing submit to the daily crucifixion and daily resurrection that are directed by the Spirit of God.
The key to living the crucified-resurrected life is constant prayer. All evil that comes against us succeeds only in pressing us into Jesus, when we keep bringing that evil before the Lord for His assistance.
Truly, it is better to pray than to faint. No matter how difficult our path may become; no matter how dangerous the future may appear; we can survive if we will keep on praying; keep on praying; keep on praying.
The old nature will keep on trying to assert itself with its own fears and desires. But as we persist in prayer we are able to overcome these and remain in the peace of God.
The Lord Jesus advised us to pray we would not be led into temptation but would be delivered from the evil one. We are wise when we pray this prayer.
Satan continually is setting snares in the hope we will be caught. He studies our personality. He bides his timesometimes for years.
Satan knows that very temptation that is most likely to appeal to us. At the precise time he strikes. We step into the snare. The noose is tightened and we find ourselves in deep trouble.
But if we pray every day that God will lead us away from temptation, we step over the snare without being caught in it.
"What needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."
Perhaps one aspect needs to be emphasized: the inerrant Word of God states that whatever we ask in Jesus' name will be granted.
If our prayer is not God's will for us, the Lord will gently help us change our prayer, if we are sensitive to His will. We always are to pray "Your will be done." This is the most powerful prayer of all.
Sometimes we are not asking for what we truly desire, being moved by a superficial motive or because of a mistaken idea. God will delay the answer until we get on target with our prayer.
But one thing is certain: whenever you request something in Jesus' name you are heard. The mills of God begin to grind. The mighty wheels turn and the gears mesh.
God said: "When you are abiding in Christ, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you." God said that, so we know it is going to happen.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7)
FruitThe fruit to which the New Testament often refers is the moral image of Christ as revealed in godly behavior; first in ourselves, and then in those who receive and follow us.
Today one can hear pastors or evangelists using the term "fruit" to mean the number of people who come to the meeting, or the number of people who make a profession of faith in Christ.
This isn't exactly what the New Testament means by fruit.
God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. By this God meant, bring forth more people in like yourselves. God used this expression also concerning the animals, that they should bring forth more animals like themselves.
Fruitfulness, in the New Testament sense, means bringing forth the moral image of Jesus Christ.
People can come to church, and they can make a profession of faith in Christ, and yet never grow into the image of Christ. This means no fruit has been borne even when thousands attend church and thousands profess faith in Christ.
Fruit has nothing to do with escaping Hell or going to Heaven. Fruit, in the New Testament sense, means reproducing the moral image of Christ.
The Vine God has planted is the Lord Jesus Christ. When a believer abides in the Vine, he or she begins to bring forth fruit, the fruit of the moral image of Christ.
The fruit must begin in the personality of the believer. After a while, the fruit of the image of Christ will begin to appear in those whom the believer influences.
We cannot bear the moral image of Christ by imitating Him. We must abide in Him. Then the fruit comes forth naturally. We begin to bear the Family image.
Christ is as a Seed that is planted in the personality. Seeds do not bear fruit overnight. A period of time is required before fruit appears.
When an evangelist labors in the work of the ministry, people are brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. Then it is up to pastors and teachers, as well as all the other gifts and ministries of the Body of Christ, to work with the new believers until the moral image of Christ is brought forth in them.
When we change the program of salvation into a religion, we seek to gain as many adherents of our religion as we can. We want to grow, and grow, and grow in numbers. Sometimes this emphasis on "church growth" is not helpful when it comes to the patient development of fruit in the believer.
I have heard scorned heaped on those "pew-warmers." "They should get out and bring in souls, or stop the abortions"; or do whatever else is of concern to their ministers.
This is not called "feeding the sheep." If the Lord's flock are to grow in Christ until the likeness of Christ is observable in their personality and actions, then they are going to have to be ministered to for a period of time.
I do not say that sitting in church is going to cause the moral image of Christ to come forth in people. We all know of people who have sat in church for many years and never have grown an inch.
I have pondered this, being a professional educator. What is wrong with our churches that people don't grow in Christ? They gossip when they first come to Christ, and fifty years later they still are gossiping. The moral image of Christ does not gossip!
One problem is the emphasis on "going out and getting souls saved." The people do not have the grace to do this, so they just sit and listen to the same exhortation, Sunday after Sunday.
There are some believers whom the Lord calls to the ministry, or to missionary endeavors. But this is not true of the majority.
It the majority of the people of the Christian congregations are going to grow into the moral image of Jesus Christ, then they must be fed the Word of God. Their teachers and pastors must begin to present what is written in the New Testament so the people understand itchapter by chapter.
The ministers of today, to a great extent (I know from the mail I get from spiritually hungry people) are preaching rapture, rapture, rapture, grace, grace, grace, Heaven, Heaven, Heaven.
The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is unscriptural.
Grace is not an alternative to righteous behavior.
Eternal residence in Heaven is not the goal of salvation.
So the people are being fed wood, hay, and straw instead of the milk and meat of the Word of God. This is why they are not growing in the moral image of Christ. Fruit is not being borne, although millions of people are attending Christian churches on a regular basis.
Not only must people be fed from the Bible, if they are to grow, but in addition they must be challenged to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. Until a believer does this, he or she is not a disciple; not a true Christian. People who do not follow the Master as disciples will not grow into the moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The members of the congregation must come to realize that they are an orchestra, not an audience listening to the music. Each one must present his or her body a living sacrifice in order to prove the will of God for himself or herself, and then labor consistently in the area the Lord Jesus gives to them.
When people are sitting in the congregation and listening to a trained choir and musical "specials," they will not grow. They will not bring forth the moral image of Christ. They are being entertained, not challenged to overcome sin, to deny themselves, to interact each day with the living Jesus.
The Christian churches in America are filled with sinning Christians. The believers have not been taught the necessity for overcoming sinful behavior. They have not been taught how to overcome sinful behavior. How, then, can the fruit of Christ's image be reproduced in them?
We need revival today. Some are praying for a great ingathering of people in which multitudes are saved, healed, and filled with the Spirit of God. May such an outpouring take place soon! We all desire this.
But this kind of revival will not bring forth the fruit Christ is looking for. Revivals come and go, and much good is done. But lasting revival does not occur until a believer becomes a disciple of Jesus and follows the Holy Spirit in overcoming sin and partaking each day of the Life of Christ. Such is the only true revival. Such is the only source of the fruit for which the heavenly Farmer is looking.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. (James 5;7)
The Divine NatureThe adamic nature is filled with lies and deceit. The Life of Christ which has been born in us is truth, honesty, faithfulness, lasting forever. It replaces worthlessness with value and significance.
It is my opinion that numerous Christian people do not realize Divinity has been born in them.
We speak of Christ in us, of growing in Christ. We may not think about the fact that Christ is Divine. The Scripture refers to Him as "God." God the Father refers to the Son as "God."
Since Christ is God, being of the Divine Substance and Nature, when we say Christ is in us we are stating there is Divinity in us, that we are growing in Divinity.
This is exactly correct.
We have been born of God. Our inward nature truly has been born of God. In the Day of Resurrection our body will be adopted. But our inward Nature has been born of Divinity.
None of the angels, not even the most exalted, has been born of God. The angels have been created by God. But when we receive Christ we are born of God in the truest, fullest sense of the Word.
I know it may sound almost blasphemous to claim that part of our personality as Christians is of the Divine Nature. But until we realize that while we yet have a human nature we also have a Divine natureuntil this fact is fully received and comprehendedwe will remain religious humans. God is not forming religious humans. God is forming sons in the image of Christ so that Christ may have brothers and the Lamb may have a wife.
Everything in nature reproduces after its kind, whether animal or plant. There is a seed in the living organism that contains within itself the personality of the parent. Isn't it so?
This is true of God. What is born of God has within itself the personality of the parent.
A human being can never be a son of God. Only that which is born of God can be a son of God.
A human being can never be a brother of Christ. Only that which is born of God can be a brother of Christ.
A human being can never be a member of the wife of the Lamb. Only that which is born of God can be a member of the wife of the Lamb.
I am belaboring this point because it is the essence of salvation. Until we understand that Divinity has been born in us and we are growing in Divinity we never will attain to that which our Father has in mind for us.
It is true also that until we understand that Divinity has been born in us we may never be able to overcome our sinful nature.
Our sinful nature is part of our adamic nature. Our adamic nature includes our entire personality, not just our sinful nature. God has condemned our entire adamic nature to the death of the cross so that the sinful nature might be destroyed.
Christ is Son of God and Son of Man. We, if we have been born again, also are son of God and son of man.
Our adamic nature is passing away. Nothing of our adamic nature, that which was born of our human parents, will enter the Kingdom of God, until it has been made new in Jesus Christ.
Each day the Holy Spirit leads us into problems. The purpose of each problem is to drive us further into Christ. When we continually pray our way through each problem, instead of reacting in fear or anger, more of Christ, more of Divinity, is formed in us.
Do we remain human? Absolutely. In fact, we become truly human.
The adamic nature is a debased humanity. Religious efforts produce a warped humanity. Only the Life of Christ can produce in us a true humanity. In this manner we become a true human.
Do we develop a Divine nature? Absolutely. When it can be said of us that we have been crucified with Christ, and now Christ is living in us in place of our old nature, it then is true that we have a Divine nature. How could it be otherwise?
When we understand that the purpose of our discipleship on the earth is to remove the old adamic nature and bring into being the new human-Divine nature, we are more apt to cooperate with the Holy Spirit instead of reacting in fear or anger when we are in painful situations.
If we lose our peace it is not the fault of people or circumstances, it is because we are not being diligent in prayer.
The Book of Hebrews is one long exhortation to Jewish believers who actually, according to the text, were further ahead in Christ than we are today.
Why were they being rebuked? Because after having been saved and filled with the Spirit they were not pressing toward the goal that God had in mind for them.
Hebrews refers to the goal as "His rest," and "perfection."
What is God's rest? What is perfection?
God's rest and perfection include two major elements: first, our change into the image of Christ; second, our entrance into untroubled rest in the center of God's Person and will.
To grow up as a son of God is to be changed into the moral image of Jesus Christ and to dwell in the center of God's Person and will.
This is God's goal for usthat we become a son of God, a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In order to grasp the fact that the goal is yet ahead of most of us American Christians, let us think for a moment of the level of attainment of the Jewish believers who were being rebuked for not pressing into God's goal for them.
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, Instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1,2)
Now consider how much doctrine they were acquainted with:
The foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.
Faith in God.
The laying on of hands.
The resurrection of the dead.
It is just now that God is restoring to the churches in America the doctrines of the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, Who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, (Hebrews 6:4,5)
They had been enlightened.
They had tasted the heavenly gift.
They had shared in the Holy Spirit.
They had tasted the goodness of the Word of God.
They had experienced the powers of the coming age.
The text of the Book of Hebrews informs us also that these Jewish believers had been taught by those who had heard from Jesus personally. In addition, God had borne witness to them with signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
They had suffered persecution, experiencing the confiscation of their goods. They had borne this tribulation joyfully.
The Jewish believers to whom the Book of Hebrews was addressed were more knowledgeable and more seasoned in Christ than most of us today.
Yet, they were being rebuked and warned sternly.
What were they doing that was so bad? They were drifting away. They were neglecting to press on to their calling as the sons of God who are to govern the world to come.
Here is the point! They assumed what they had learned and experienced to that point was all that God had for them in the plan of salvation. Now they were returning to their ordinary life as Roman citizenseating, sleeping, playing, working, and reproducing. They were certain that when Jesus returned they would be able to enter the Kingdom of God.
They had the "ticket." Now it was a matter of waiting for the Kingdom to come.
This is where we are today. We have the "ticket." We have put our faith in the atonement. We received the Holy Spirit of God. Now we are waiting, not for the Kingdom to come (which was the original Gospel) but to die and go to Heaven. Thus the error has been compounded.
So the Book of Hebrews speaks to us Christians in America: "How shall you escape if you neglect such a great salvation?"
To be saved through the blood atonement and to have the Spirit of God is only to begin the program of salvation. We have not been fully "saved" until we have been changed into the moral image of Christ and are living in untroubled rest in the center of God's Person and will.
What is the next step toward sonship, the next aspect of redemption we are to experience?
It is the conquest of the sinful nature. God has called us to be the rulers of the world to come; and before we can govern with Christ we must govern our sinful nature.
If you are reading these words it is likely that the Holy Spirit during this past week pointed out to you some word or action that you know was not pleasing to the Lord. This is the beginning of the conquest of your sinful nature.
You have come across an enemy in your land. You are to confess your word or action as sin. Then you are to renounce it, stating you never want to say or do that again, trusting that Christ will help you overcome this sinful behavior. You are to confess it, denounce it, renounce it vehemently!
Then continue to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ diligently. Be sure that at all hours of the day you are interacting with the Living Jesus, talking to Him about every problem you encounter.
As you live in close contact with the Lord, the Holy Spirit will help you put to death the actions of your sinful nature. There is an end to this process. Believe it or not, your sinful nature is not infinitely large, in spite of Satan's suggestions to the contrary. The day will come when you are in control of yourself, although you always must remain on guard that Satan does not find another entrance into your personality.
The goal is to become a full-fledged son of God and brother of Christ.
I think we may come short of the Glory of God concerning our calling as sons of God and brothers of Christ. We may picture some sort of elevated or spruced up human.
One time I had a vision of Christ. He was as large as a galaxy of stars. I was amazed at the very size of Christ.
However, size is not an issue with God. He is well able to make you or me as large as a galaxy of stars. It is the inner character that is of the utmost importance.
The Lord Jesus is forming our inner character so it will be like His. When we have advanced far enough to satisfy Him (I think we will continue to be formed in His image for eternity!) He will make our outward form like His. And this form can be as large and as glorified as He cares to make it.
Size and strength, authority and majesty, are not at issue. God can make us any size, of any strength, as authoritative, and majestic as He cares to. He can do this in a moment of time.
These are only externals. The problem is our moral image, our love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity; our patience; our compassion; our courage; our faithfulness; our self-control, our freedom from idolatry. These traits must be perfected in us before we can be entrusted with an outward form like that of Jesus Christ, and be placed in authority over some part of God's creation.
Jesus is the First of a great family of sons. Each of these sons is to have the Family image. They have been made fully human and fully Divine. They obey the Father sternly and promptly. They worship God alone, having been freed from idolatry.
They are genuine brothers of Jesus Christ. They have not been with the Father from eternity, as was true of Jesus. They were not the Lord of Israel. They are younger brothers.
But they are true brothers in every sense of the word.
Jesus said to Mary, "Go tell My brothers that I am returning to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God."
How glad the Lord was to be able to say this! What a joy it is to Him to know that He has younger brothers who are growing into His image. As they grow up He increasingly will be able to share with them the good things of the Kingdom.
First He calls us slaves. Then He calls us friends. Then He calls us brothers.
The sons of God will be seated with Him on the highest throne of the universe. That throne is higher than any other. It is so high, so exalted, that we cannot comprehend it. The angels minister to the heirs of salvation, to those who are destined to sit on the Throne that governs all the creation of God.
God plans on restoring Paradise to the earth. But if He is to do so He must have sons who are able to govern the nations of saved people on the earth. This is why we suffer as we do. It is that we might learn obedience to the Father, and also develop a ruling character as we struggle against our sinful nature and against Satan and the other wicked spirits.
It is a plan as great, as wise, as powerful, as the God who set it in motion. All that remains for you and me to become mature sons of God and heirs of salvation is the exercise of our faith, courage and obedience. God already has provided all that we need to make a complete success of our salvation.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
Release From TroubleWhen you are under pressure and are praying for release, you may find that God first may give you victory in your pressured situation, and then remove the particular pressure.
There is a fundamental flaw in the concept of the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the Christian people.
According to this totally unscriptural doctrine, Christians will be whisked away from the earth in order to escape the troubles of the great tribulation and the rule of Antichrist.
This is not the way God works. This would be a Dunkirk, a fleeing from a powerful enemy, an escape from a superior, encircling force.
If we would just stop and think logically we would see the error of such thinking. An examination of the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians, the "rapture" passage, will reveal that the saints are resurrected (or changed) prior to their being caught up to meet Christ in the air.
Now consider: How could resurrected saints be harmed by Antichrist or the great tribulation? This is ridiculous!
The reason the saints are caught up into the air to meet Christ at His coming is so they can return with Him and fight the Battle of Armageddon, the war that will drive Satan and all his forces from the earth.
The Christians are not caught up to Heaven but into the air, because the initial staging of the army will take place in the air.
No, resurrected saints cannot be harmed by Antichrist or any other kind of danger or trouble on the earth. Once we have been raised from the dead and our body has been changed into a body like that of Christ, we cannot by injured by the physical forces of the earth. This is obvious.
But there is another reason why the destructive doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture should be removed from the Christian churches. It not only is not scriptural or reasonable, it is not the way God works.
When Israel left Egypt the country was in ruins. The Egyptian army that came after the Israelites was drowned in the Red Sea. This was not a Dunkirk-type withdrawal from an encircling, victorious army. This was the Lord's army marching out in total victory, leaving a defeated enemy in chaos. A similar situation shall exist when the saints are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Sudden destruction will fall on the wicked of the earth. There will not be a seven-year period during which the wicked proceed to enjoy themselves.
When Lot left Sodom, destruction fell out of the heavens. This is how it shall be when the saints are caught up to meet the Commander in Chief in the air.
Sometimes Noah and his family are presented as a type of a "rapture" of the Christian people to escape trouble. Noah and his family were not caught up to Heaven to escape the judgment of God. They remained in safety, buoyed up by the very waters that destroyed the wicked. So it is true that when we are serving the Lord, the troubles that fall on the world press us into Jesus. We "ride" on the waters of judgment as did Noah and his family.
When we are abiding in the secret place of the Most High, people may fall on either side of us but we shall escape unharmed. God can save us in the midst of the worst possible calamities.
Daniel in the Lion's den is an excellent scriptural example of the manner in which God delivers His saints from trouble.
Enoch was not "raptured" to escape trouble, neither was Elijah. They were caught up to Glory as a manifestation of their closeness to God.
When the sons of God are resurrected, and before they are caught up, they will spend time on the earth having a season of fellowship. Then slowly, grandly, they will ascend into the air above. The wicked will see this and be terrified, gnashing their teeth in anger and frustration.
God always sets a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
The angel of the Lord always encamps around those who fear God and delivers them.
God has given us power over all the power of the enemy. We can tread upon the most formidable forces Satan can bring against us. Jesus has all authority and power in Heaven and on the earth.
I cannot think offhand of any instance in the Bible when a saint was delivered by being moved from one place to another. Can you? God has too much power to have to withdraw His people in order to prevent their being harmed.
Perhaps you are in a difficult place situation right now. You are praying for God to remove you. You are tempted to break God's laws, if you have to, in order to escape from the unpleasantness.
Do keep on praying, but don't move until you hear from the Lord. You don't know what God will do to deliver you and bring you peace.
What sometimes happens is that God finds a way of giving us perfect joy and peace where we are. Then when He moves us there was no real necessity for Him to do so. By faithfully praying to Christ and remaining at our post we gain victory right where we are.
How many divorces would have been prevented; how many children would have been spared the problems associated with growing up without a mother, or without a father; had the parents (or at least one of the parents) sought God for a solution.
I do not say there never is a time for a believer to remove himself or herself from a painful situation. There do come such occasions. But we must wait until we are sure God has spoken, not fleeing because we "can't stand it for one more minute."
Character is formed in us when we wait in our prison until God releases us. Much good accrues to us. We are given the crown of life. Saints are not formed in a milk bath but in the fire.
So be patient and pray. Stay with it, unless God clearly shows you otherwise. God will give you victory right where you are if you don't run away.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (II Corinthians 2:14)
The Sufferings of ChristIf we are going to build up the Body of Christ we will have to fill up in our flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions. If we are suffering for this reason, let us rejoice.
If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:23,24)
"Fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions.
What an astonishing remark!
We know the atonement was made once and for all. We do not have to make a further atonement for sins. The Catholic doctrine of penance, that we are obliged to punish ourselves in some manner, or perform a religious act such as saying so many "Our Fathers," in order to be reconciled to God, is not scriptural.
We do not do penance, we repentwe turn away from our sins. Jesus was punished for our sins. There is no need to punish ourselves. When we punish ourselves we are seeking to atone for our sins. This is not scriptural.
If Paul was not being called upon to make a further atonement, what does he mean by claiming he was filling up in his flesh what was still lacking in regard to Christ's affliction?
I know the Apostle Paul spoke in Philippians of wanting to share the sufferings of Christ as well as the power of His resurrection.
I understand also that Paul experienced numerous tribulations and persecutions as he preached the Gospel Christ gave to him.
So Paul was not making a further atonement for the members of the Body of Christ. Rather he was continuing in the pathway of suffering that Jesus experienced, as the Lord sought to preach the Kingdom of God in the midst of fierce opposition.
Why should it be necessary for Paul to fill up in his flesh what was lacking of Christ's afflictions for the sake of the Church?
I am not certain. Perhaps it has something to do with fellowship with Christ. Perhaps God sees justice in the fact that if Christ had to experience severe tribulation in order to establish His Church, we also have to experience severe tribulation in order to continue to establish the Church. This seems to be the way of the Lord.
Now if we are children, then we are heirsheirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)
The older Brother had to suffer and the younger brothers have to suffer. Then the Older and the younger will rejoice together when the Church comes to perfection.
This makes a certain amount of sense.
There is a great deal of Christian work in Africa today. I read somewhere that at the beginning of the twentieth century, many young Christian families went to Africa as missionaries, and gave their lives there through sickness or being murdered. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, it is said.
I am of the opinion that before a work of God can be established in a new locality, someone has to pay the price.
There still are areas of the world where the Gospel has never been preached. I have been told that there are some places in northern India, for example, that have never heard of the Bible.
In such locations, the demons can do as they will.
Whoever would want to enter such an area is going to be challenged. The demons are not going to leave unless they are forced to do so.
If Christ sends us to a people untouched by the Gospel, He is going to provide all we need in the way of protection and health.
However, as in the case of the five missionaries slain by the Aucas, we may be murdered. Yet, as also in the case of the Aucas, the work of God is established.
If we share the sufferings we will share the joy of Christ as He and we inherit the members of the nations.
I think there ought to be a course in Bible school on sharing the sufferings of Christ. The students ought to be made aware that establishing the Kingdom of God is not merely a matter of transmitting information. It is, rather, the dispossessing of a stronghold that has been the playing ground of demons.
Then, when a member of their family is killed, or contracts a fatal disease, or they are captured and held for ransom, they will not be surprised. They will have been prepared in advance that this kind of suffering often is a part of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One group of missionaries as they embarked on a voyage to India, I believe it was, said: "We have died already." This is the attitude we must adopt if we are serious about spreading the Kingdom of God. We already have died. There is nothing worse that can happen to us. For us to live is Christ and to die is gain. Nothing matters, living or dying, in health or suffering sickness, as long as Christ is magnified.
We need more of this today. The Gospel is being preached as though it were a way of prosperity and happiness. It is not! It is a dangerous struggle against wicked spirits who know no end of malice and spite. They will do whatever Christ permits them to do in the way of causing us to suffer, stumble, and fall.
This is the road Christ walked. This is the road we have to walk if the Church of Christ is to be established in the world.
A false gospel of health, wealth, and happiness is being preached in America today. It absolutely is true that God heals our sicknesses, provides the money we need, and give us a deep joy.
But sometimes it is necessary, if we are to plant the Kingdom of God, that our pleasant circumstances have to be set aside for the time being while we are travailing in birth on behalf of other people. The experienced ministers know exactly of what I am speaking.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10)
Righteous GovernmentSometimes it appears as though the governments in the world are filled with faithless liars. Only the Kingdom of God has a Ruler who is Faithful and True.
I suppose there are governments of the world today, and have been a few in history, that have been ruled by men of integrity. But how often it is the case that the king or his nobles are seeking their own benefit rather than the benefit of those over whom they have the oversight.
We know from the Bible that it is God who establishes and honors government.
The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men. (Daniel 4:17)
"The lowliest of men." Sometimes the basest of men, as in the King James version.
There is considerable political activity in the United States as I am writing (December 19, 2002). I believe there are good men and true who are seeking to do the best they can to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States. But honestlyone gets the impression that the most important issue facing our politicians is who stays in office and how important he or she is. If most people in the country feel as I do, our concern is the welfare of the country, not who is elected or who is important.
I suppose it is a temptation when one gets near the seat of power to take advantage of the numerous opportunities for personal advancement.
When we think of wars past, present, and future, they occur because of the personal ambitions of rulers, not because they are of benefit to the people who are doing the fighting or their families. Of course, some countries have to fight to defend themselves against unscrupulous rulers of other nations.
It may be true that most of the trouble in the world, including the large areas of destitute people, can be traced, at least in part, to self-seeking rulers.
We may not realize it, but as Christians we are being trained to govern the nations. We may talk of "ruling and reigning" (sic) with Christ, but I don't think we are taking seriously what we are proclaiming. Most Christians emphasize going to Heaven when they die so they can enjoy their mansion. How does living in a mansion coordinate with governing the nations?
The New Testament tells us plainly that it is the victorious saints who will govern with Jesus Christ. It may be true that there are more churchgoers in the United States than there are victorious saints. In fact, one seldom hears about denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following the Lord Jesus every day. We are more apt to hear how we can be prosperous and have everything we need if we only have faith.
The truth is, God knows He would be foolish to restore Paradise to the earth until He has some people who can rule alongside the Lord Jesus. Paradise was lost because there were no rulers who could protect Adam and Eve from making their horrible error.
There will be no more unwalled paradises in the future, because God's sons will be governing the creation.
Have you ever thought of how many references to ruling there are in the New Testament?
The reward for putting our talent to good use is to rule over cities.
When Peter asked the Lord what the disciples would receive for having left all, the Lord responded by promising them they would sit on thrones judging the tribes of Israel.
Paul wrote to the effect that if we suffer with Christ we will reign with Christ.
The Book of Revelation tells us that those who pursue the live of victory in Jesus Christ will rule the nations with a rod of iron. Revelation informs us also that the saints of the new Jerusalem will rule forever.
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)
Probably one of the reasons the Christian people are not too clear about their role as rulers is they do not understand the difference between the Church and the nations of saved people who will inhabit the new earth.
The Church consists of people who have been called out of the world to be a governing (royal) priesthood.
The nations of saved people are those who have been saved but are not part of the Church.
If there were no people who are saved but not part of the Church, the Church would have no subjects; no people to govern. Have you ever thought about that?
If you will read Revelation, Chapter Twenty-one carefully you will notice that the people of the nations bring their wealth to the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem is the Church, the Bride of the Lamb.
Isaiah also has quite a bit to say about how the nations will serve the Israel of God.
If one does not understand that there are two groups of saved people, the members of the Church and the people of the nations who are not part of the Church, it is utterly impossible to have any understanding of the Kingdom of God, or any comprehension of the importance of the passages that speak of our ruling with Christ.
Obviously we do not rule over other members of the Church, so there must be people who are not of the Church but who are saved. We certainly are not going to rule over people who are lost!
I realize this is a big step forward in the thinking of many of us, but it is the fundamental concept of the Kingdom of God that is coming to the earth.
Now, what does this means to us as believers? It means that every day of our life God is training us to rule, and then testing us to see if we have learned our lessons. God can't just assign people to govern nations. This is ridiculous. The believers have to be trained.
This is why the biblical emphasis on "overcoming." Only the overcomers will rule with Jesus.
Why is this? It is because if we, as Christians, are overcome by the forces that come against us, we are neither qualified by the Word nor competent by our growth in righteousness to govern groups of people. It is as simple as that.
Think about our daily life in the world. Before someone is placed in a position of responsibility, he or she must be trained. Isn't that so?
There have been times in the history of the world when people of very poor character have been place in a position of power. Think of Nero and Caligula of ancient Rome. Consider the destruction caused by Hitler and Stalin. Have you read about the cruelty practiced by rulers in some of the countries of the present time?
Such rulers are an absolute abomination to God! They have brought harm to an inconceivable number of people.
Jesus told us that whoever would govern in the Kingdom of God must be servant of all. God's rulers are righteous, holy, and sternly obedient to God. They have a heart of compassion, always putting the welfare of their charges ahead of their own advantages.
This is how Jesus is and behaves. Can you imaging what the world would be like today if every leader was righteous, holy, sternly obedient to God, having a heart of compassion, and always putting the welfare of his charges ahead of his own advantages?
The world soon would be as Paradise.
This is why God is training rulers. He wants to bring Paradise back to the earth. But it will do no good to bring Paradise back to the earth until there are rulers who can maintain the godliness and peace.
We often speak of going to Heaven. Going to Heaven solves nothing! The solution to everlasting righteousness, peace, and joy is rulers who can bring this kind of situation into being and maintain it.
The training of the future rulers is rigorous. Many start, and then drop out of the race because they are unwilling to fight the fight of faith, or become fearful, or grow impatient with God's dealings. It requires courage and faithfulness if we are to be able to press through to rulership.
There are so many spiritual babies in the churches of our day, at least in America! They have two gods: their money and their stomach. Their pastors and teachers are assuring them that they can continue in their fleshly ways and God is obligated to take them to Heaven by grace. As was true of the Jews to whom the Book of Hebrews was written, they still need milk. They do not know the difference between good and evil.
You can't keep pampering the believers and feed them the chaff of the current traditions and expect them to become rulers like King David or the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather they keep crying and complaining because no one is waiting on them and changing their diapers.
Rulers are kings. They are stern. They have been tested, tested, tested, until all of their old personality has been burned away in the Divine Fire. They don't even recognize their own personality. As Paul said, they do not judge themselves. They know nothing except absolute obedience to Jesus Christ, the Lord strong and mighty in battle, the Commander in Chief.
I think God will count a thousand people expendable, as far as their life on earth is concerned, if He can gain one strong ruler. It will not take too many such leaders to bring the Kingdom of God into the earth, to enforce the doing of God's will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
Those who aspire to rulership in the Kingdom of God can expect to have every aspect of their personality challenged. They will be stretched on God's bow until it seems the demands on them will continue for eternity.
Their patience is tested to the limit. Their obedience is tested to the limit. Their courage is tested to the limit. Their willingness to stay in God's prison and endure that which is unpleasant is tested to the limit.
There is no part of what they are or how they behave that is left unexamined.
God loves the people He has created, not just the members of His churches. In fact, the rigors we undergo are to prepare us to serve the people of the nations whom God intends to save. God gives a great deal of thought to the selection of those who are to rule over His children.
It is my opinion that each member of the elect is handpicked in terms of his or her unique personality. He or she will be able to bring God to people, to some individuals from the past; some of the present; some who have not been born as yet. God sees all these saved people, and God knows which of us is best suited to serve each one.
The Church is God's means of governing and blessing the saved people of the world, who will prove to be a much larger number of people than the victorious saints who are being prepared to govern and bless them.
The preparation of the members of the royal priesthood is of supreme importance in the present hour. Once God perfects His ruling priests, forming them in the moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ, teaching them utter dependence on Himself so they are dwelling for eternity in untroubled rest in the very center of God's Person and will, God then will be ready to restore Paradise to the present earth; and, after the thousand-year Kingdom Age, to establish Paradise for eternity on the new earth.
The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth. (II Samuel 23:3,4)
Creating and InheritingGod through Jesus Christ created all things, but in order to inherit the nations and the earth, Christ had to become a human and make an atonement for our sin. So it is true that God has given various abilities to people, such as musical and artistic gifts. But if the gifted ones are wicked they will not inherit the products of their efforts. However, the victorious saints shall inherit everything.
The second Psalm used to puzzle me, where God invited the Word to ask for the nations as His inheritance and the farthest reaches of the earth as His possession.
The Word, now known as the Lord Jesus Christ, created the nations and the earth, as the Father worked through Him. Why should He then pray to inherit them?
In our country, developers hire carpenters and other skilled workers to construct houses. The carpenters and the workers do not inherit or possess the houses they build. Other people buy them and possess them. These people may die and pass the houses on to their children as an inheritance. Then the children inherit and possess the houses.
In order to inherit the nations and possess the farthest reaches of the earth, the Word had to become flesh, and then die on the cross to make an atonement for the people of the world.
Being a pianist and a lover of classical music, I was troubled over the fact that some of the composers lived ungodly lives. I can't think of any whom we would regard as a genuine, cross-carrying disciple of Jesus, although it appears Johann Sebastian Bach was a believer in the Gospel accounts and a devout person.
Do I want to be playing the music of someone who was wicked?
Then I began to think about the difference between creating and inheriting.
God has given various gifts to people, such as artistic and musical ability, an unusual ability to work with mathematics, and other professional and vocational aptitudes. These different kinds of expression are gifts from the Lord. They do not belong to the individual.
It's just like the carpenter who builds a house but doesn't possess it. Someone else paid him to construct it. In this instance, the Lord gave the gift; but this doesn't means the person inherits it.
If the gifted person lives a life that is righteous in God's sight, he probably will find himself busily employed in the next life at the task that is second nature to him, that which he enjoys. Think of what Beethoven, for example, could produce if he had forever to compose symphonies, sonatas, and string quartets! He has created beauty and he will inherit the beauty he has created. The beauty of the Ninth Symphony is his, if his life on earth pleased the Lord.
If the gifted person lives a wicked life, he will be sent to the fires that give no light. He has lost the soul that God gave him. Another will inherit his talent as well as that which he has accomplished.
According to the Bible, those who live a victorious life in Christ, who overcome the forces that sought to separate them from God's will, shall inherit all that is worthy to be part of the new heaven and earth reign of Christ and His saints.
This means I do not have to worry about the fact that I enjoy listening to and performing classical music. I do not have to study the biographies of the composers to find out who lived a godly life and who lived an ungodly life.
Because of the task assigned me by the Lord Jesus, that of communicating an understanding of the Scriptures, I do not have time to practice the piano or to listen to classical music. This may seem strange to the reader, but the pressure that is on me at this time leaves no time or strength for anything but writing and preaching.
It very well may be true that the pressure will lift before I die and I then will be able to spend an hour or two a day warming up my skills and learning some new pieces. If the release comes, I will know it. But in the meantime I hear of such doctrinal error and confusion that I know the Lord wants me to keep explaining the Kingdom of God.
Recently a minister said, on television, that the Kingdom of Heaven is a place to which we go, while the Kingdom of God is the blessings we enjoy going there. At least, this is what was reported to me.
I have no doubt this was taught. I have heard worse!
I know how such unscriptural teaching and thinking come into being. The preachers listen to each other. Error is compounded on error. Few ministers, it appears, are finding their own truth from the Bible and expounding the Scriptures to the believers.
Matthew refers to the parable of the sower as a parable of the Kingdom of Heaven. The other Gospel accounts refer to the same parable as a parable of the Kingdom of God. How, then, is the Kingdom of Heaven different from the Kingdom of God? The parables of Jesus are about the Kingdom (singular). There is but one Kingdom. It is the rule of God through Jesus through the saints over the nations of saved people on the earth. The Kingdom is in Heaven at the present time and will come down to the earth from Heaven.
The Kingdom is the government of God. Therefore it is the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God.
This is but one example of the confusion that exists in more than one place, unfortunately.
I love to explain about the Kingdom; about the Servant of the Lord; about the many tasks and roles of the Kingdom; about our being conformed to the image of Christ and brought into perfect rest in God's will; about the army of the Lord; about the Bride of the Lamb; about the living Temple of God; about the fact that our inward nature has been born of God and our outward form will be adopted in the Day of Resurrection; about the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement that is beginning now, and the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles into which we shall enter as we are prepared by the Spirit of God; about the fact that the only valid proof of salvation is righteous behavior; about the rest of God.
I especially enjoy telling how Paul was pressing toward the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord next appears. We do not often hear that the first resurrection is reserved for those who, like the Apostle Paul, have laid all else aside that they might win Christ. It is vital that the difference between the two principal resurrections be made clear to the Lord's flock.
The prevailing grace-rapture-Heaven error is carrying the day. It is time now to emphasize a return to what the Scripture states about the return of the Lord, because God's people are not prepared for the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
I love to tell about these areas that I think the Lord has made clear to me. So there is no time at this point to spend a joyful hour or two mastering Chopin's Preludes, or Beethoven's Sonatas. I believe the Lord would like to move His people forward to a fuller grasp on His salvation, and so I feel obligated to do what I can to help.
And I don't have to worry about the private life of Chopin or Beethoven.
If I continue to press forward, forgetting what is behind, not looking to the right or left, keeping all my treasures in Heaven, there will come a time, whether during this life or in the next, when I will be released to spend time on classical music.
Perhaps the Lord in His kindness will furnish me with a Steinway grand piano and some music to study. Maybe even one of the classic masters to teach me. Wouldn't that be marvelous?
Why don't you come along with me on the path that leads to the inheritance of all that God makes new in Christ.
So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the futureall are yours, And you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. (I Corinthians 3:21-23)
Religion and FellowshipAny religion that does not ultimately produce righteous behavior (not religious behavior but righteous behavior) is worthless to God and to man. The problem with religious institutions is that they tend to forget their nobler objectives while they seek to perpetuate themselves and their traditions.
What is a religion? A religion is a set of beliefs and practices through which people seek to please God, and in seeking God to better their life in the next world; and, in some religions, to better their life in the present world also.
All religions, except one, began with a person who believed that he or she had special insight into the way in which we should strive to please God.
The one exception is the Judaic-Christian religion. The Judaic religion began when the true God spoke to chosen people.
The Christian religion began when the Son of the true God spoke to chosen people.
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1,2)
Judaism began as a revelation of the one true God. People soon changed Judaism from fellowship with God into a religion that can be pursued independently of fellowship with God.
The Christian salvation began as a revelation of the one true God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. People soon changed the Christian salvation from fellowship with the Father and His Son into a religion that can be pursued independently of fellowship with the Father and His Son.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)
As we think about Christianity today we envision the hustle and bustle of various programs as people seek to practice the beliefs and traditions of their religion. These usually are good people of integrity. They are not hypocrites, as some have charged. They earnestly are attempting to do what they believe pleases God.
I think the same can be said of the followers of Judaism, and perhaps of all religions.
But in spite of the worthy intentions of the practitioners of the various religions, they often end up doing things that are unrighteous; on occasion acting in ways not in keeping with in common sense. Unfortunately religion sometimes weakens character, as people think in terms of their traditions rather than in terms of what is righteous and sensible.
For example: the current overemphasis on Christian "grace" leaves the believers free to commit all sorts of sinsometimes sin that is not practiced by the heathen. Today's Christians are not known by their righteous behavior.
The followers of Allah are famous in our time for the murder of women and children, and other acts of terrorism. Surely their conscience tells them better than this!
There have been heathen tribes who eat the decaying flesh of dead bodies as a ritual.
The one thing that the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, emphasizes is righteous behaviorbehavior that ordinarily is judged as worthy by the conscience of the average person: honesty, moral cleanliness, fair dealing, compassion, truthfulness, loyalty, self-control, faithfulness.
I think most religions would endorse these traits of character. But their adherents often place observance of the tenets of the religion above righteous behavior.
This certainly is true of the Christian religion. We stress belief in Jesus Christ as the means of pleasing God, but we do not do what Jesus taught. Jesus taught us to be honest, morally clean, scrupulously fair in dealing with other people, compassionate, truthful, loyal, self-controlled, and faithful.
Jesus scolded the Pharisees for tithing herbs and neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness. We Christians do the same. We stress belief in Christ and neglect justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
If the Christians had taught and practiced justice, mercy, and faithfulness throughout the centuries of the Christian Era, the history of the world would have been substantially different from what actually has occurred.
If the Christians of today were teaching what Christ and His Apostles taught, instead of the unscriptural traditions that are stressed each Sunday, it is possible war and terrorism would be avoided.
We are teaching our religious traditions in place of guiding the believers into fellowship with the Father and the Son. We can have fellowship with the Father and the Son only as we behave righteously according to the commandments issued by the Lord Jesus Himself and through His Apostles.
This is what our religious traditions emphasize: "Make a profession of belief in Christ and tell others to make a profession of belief in Christ." This is scriptural as long as it is followed up with "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus every day." When we do follow Christ, He directs us to be honest.
We are teaching that God cannot see our sins, instead of emphasizing the need for moral cleanliness. Consequently many pastors and other believers are addicted to pornography.
We keep pointing to an any-moment escape of the believers in an unscriptural "rapture," instead of telling them that the Father and the Son insist on fair dealing with other people if we are to have fellowship with God.
We talk about being rich in money and material possessions instead of the need for compassion on less fortunate people.
Evangelists exaggerate and lie continually as they plead for money, instead of telling the believers that all liars will be consigned to the Lake of Fire whether or not they profess belief in Jesus Christ.
We say that if we believe in Christ we will go to Heaven to live forever, and at the same time are not loyal to our wife, or husband, or children.
The believers of today are not known for their self-control. The unsaved notice that Christians are as apt to fly into a rage, or answer back spitefully, as anyone else. There are few signs of the character of Christ in spite of the abundance of religious talk.
The pastor urges the members of the congregation to go out and bring more people to church, instead of pressing on them to be faithful to their families and their employers.
I am not certain why it is, but religion has a way of destroying character and common sense.
If a Christian was defending himself in court and said "I always tell the truth; I am a Christian," the members of the jury would probably snicker. Christians are not known in America for being truthful or honest, only for preaching about being "born again," which to them means take the Evangelical "four steps of salvation."
God has shown us what is good. It is to practice righteous behavior, to love mercy, and to walk humbly in fellowship with God.
The Jews found a way around justice, mercy, and humility by stressing the minutia found in the Talmud, an interpretation of the Law of Moses.
The Catholics found away around God's wishes by stressing the doing of acts of penance.
The Protestants have found a way around righteous behavior by emphasizing grace.
Other religions, who would agree that practicing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God is the highest of all laws, find a way around these admonitions by stressing the tenets of their religion.
We are terribly in need of a revival in the United States of America. By revival I do not mean an exciting time in which multitudes of people profess faith in Christ, or are healed, or are filled with the Spirit of God. I am not referring to this kind of revival, although much good can come from such an awakening.
Rather I mean a revival in which the preachers begin to expound on passages from the Gospels and the Epistles; not on the traditional interpretations which often are erroneous, but on the texts themselves.
Theology and doctrine should never be constructed deductively. Rather theology and doctrine should be constructed just as one would construct an edifice with bricks. Let the passages of the New Testament be as bricks. Place them one by one without drawing doctrinal fiats from them; for often one passage will appear to contradict another. Just put them all in the building. They all are perfect. Soon there will be a structure that conveys the Thoughts of God.
The way it is now, a few favorite passages are preached, preached, preached, without noticing that they clearly contradict other passagesor at least appear to contradict them.
For example, the Apostle Paul in some places stresses faith. James stresses works of righteous behavior. Who is correct? Both are absolutely correct. James prevents us from misinterpreting Paul.
But today the interpretation that appeals to the self-love of man is selected and the insertion by the Holy Spirit of passages that prevent misinterpretation are ignored.
How many times have you heard grace emphasized? How many times have you heard deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus, emphasized? Does grace take the place of denying ourselves and taking up our cross? Shouldn't both be emphasized with equal fervor? Do you see what I mean?
We have been buried under a load of traditions based on conclusions drawn from a few verses of the New Testament. The bulk of the New Testament is quite cloudy in the minds of the believers. They cannot perceive what is written because of the strength of their traditions.
Many of our Catholic and Protestant traditions are not only unscriptural but destructive of the practice of justice, mercy, and walking humbly with God.
The Christian salvation is not primarily a religion. It is fellowship with the Father and the Son. As we interact with the Father and the Son continually we are changed. We begin to practice righteous behavior. We start being merciful. We find we no longer are lonely, for the Father and the Son always are walking with us. We are trusting no longer in our own abilities and experience but in a moment by moment gaining wisdom and help from God.
The individual who is living in fellowship with the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, will never murder women and children.
He will not lie, steal, or cheat others in the name of his religion.
He will not commit adultery or fornication, or look at pornography, because of the "freedom" given to him by New Testament grace.
He will be merciful to other peopleeven to those who despise the true God.
He will be loyal to those who trust in him, not neglecting them so he can practice his religion.
He will not fly into a rage or seek revenge when he is treated cruelly, or persecuted for his religion.
He will be faithful to those whom God has appointed over him, not excusing his rebellious attitude on the basis that his boss is "not a Christian."
We have a lot to learn about God and Christ, we Americans of today. We are facing war at this time (December 21, 2002). Our military forces are composed of excellent young men and women, some of whom we know personally. We have superior military ordnance.
But battles are not won by excellent people and superb ordnance. Battles are in the hands of the Lord. God gives victory in terms of His purposes in the lives of the people involved.
I rather suspect that God is grieved with the immorality in America and the lukewarmness of the churches. It may be that suffering will come to us in Americasuffering that will cause our preachers and teachers to look once again at the text of the New Testament, and then discard the trash that has accumulated over the past years.
It is time to clean the trash out of the temple and find the Book of the Law.
It is time for the churches to preach righteous behavior.
It is time for America to turn once again to righteous behavior and moral cleanliness.
The hearts of the parents must turn to the children and the children to their parents. The concept of the "generation gap" is an abomination to God.
I don't believe God is finished with America; but I think our nation must be cleansed from the prevailing immorality.
Religion won't bring about such cleansing. Only the Divine intervention of the Father and the Son can bring the strength and direction that we Americans need if we are to please God and save our nation.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14)
Women and ChildbirthIt has been given to women to bring forth sons of God. This is one of the greatest privileges a human being can have. This is why Satan presses so hard for abortion and homosexual relationships.
Jesus said we must be born again if we are to see and enter the Kingdom of God.
He said we must be born of water and of the Spirit. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, and Spirit gives birth to spirit," Jesus maintained.
On this basis I believe the Lord meant being born of water is being born of woman, and being born of the Spirit is being born of God. This makes sense to me.
It is obvious that we must be born of woman before we can be born of the Spirit of God. Such being the case, we can see that woman is the entrance to the Kingdom of God.
Think of it!
In America is has become fashionable to look at bearing children as some lowly, inconsequential role of women who are too lazy or stupid to do anything worthwhile, such as studying to become a doctor or working herself up to be chief executive officer of a large corporation.
Satan is behind such thinking. Satan is behind the emphasis in America on homosexual relationships. Satan is behind the striving for abortion rights.
Think about it! We know that Satan does not want more sons of God to enter the Kingdom of God. Each son of God who enters the Kingdom becomes a threat to Satan's kingdom in the earth.
What can Satan do? Attack the source. Prevent women, by one means or another, from having children.
Every woman that bears a child brings forth a potential son of God, an heir of the Kingdom of God. Now tell me: What is more important? Being the CEO of a giant corporation or bringing forth a son of God?
That giant corporation will not amount to so much as a small item in the history books of the future. But a son of God continues for eternity, continually growing into the image of God. Which is more important?
The accent on feminism, that women should have the same role as men, works against God's plan to bring forth sons of God and brothers of Christ.
The emphasis on reproductive rights works against God's plan to create an eternal temple for Himself.
The attempt to make homosexuality a normal pattern of relationships works against God's plan to create the Body of the Servant of the Lord, the company of saints who will bring justice to the nations of the earth.
Any force that seeks to prevent women from giving birth must be reviewed carefully as to its source.
I know that in some countries, such as China, there are controls placed on population growth for economic reasons. I cannot comment on this. I haven't heard from God about it; but it seems sensible to me that women should not be bearing children if there are not means to feed them.
There may be a time when a woman's life is in danger, and a choice must be made between the fetus and the mother. To my thinking, the mother should be spared.
Then there is the question of rape. There seems to be some evidence that an unwonted fetus is impaired emotionally even before it comes to birth. I could agree that the product of a rape should be terminated, if the mother so desires. I do not know if I have the mind of the Lord on this, but this is my judgment.
But any effort to prevent a woman from having a child must be reviewed with the greatest care, because each child can prove to be a tremendous blessing to God and sometimes to society.
Childbirth is not to be taken lightly.
Also, the Scripture tells us that women are saved through bearing children if they continue to live a godly life. I know we do not often think of our saving ourselves by our works of righteousness, but the New Testament does subscribe to this concept.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Timothy 4;16)
But women will be saved through childbearingif they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (I Timothy 2:15)
Walking With GodIt is well that we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. It is well that we celebrate the atoning death of Christ in the Communion service. But Christ's sufferings are in vain for us as an individual until we turn away from the world and walk with Him continually.
Yesterday morning we had our Christmas plays and pageantry. They were marvelous indeed! God has given us many talented people.
As I sat in my office prior to the service, I asked the Lord what He wanted me to preach. I do not prepare sermons in advance. I wait until an hour or so before I preach to make sure I know what the Lord wants said to those people at that service.
There always are friends and relatives who come to the service when children are going to be in a performance. So I have to be especially careful to pray to know exactly what should be said.
We have been studying the first two chapters of the Book of Hebrews for a week or two. What I have been emphasizing is the name of Son given to the Word now made flesh, and how we also are to press forward to become actual sons of God and brothers of the Lord Jesus.
The Jewish believers to whom the Book of Hebrews was addressed had been saved, filled with the Spirit, and now had returned to their lives in the world. They were not pressing forward to the fullness of the salvation God was presenting to them.
Since this burden was still on my spirit, I thought, "How in the world am I going to get out of this passage in the Book of Hebrews something that will be of benefit to people who are immersed in their Christmas preparationsespecially these friends and relatives?
As I sat on the couch in my office pondering this problem, I had the assurance that I could go ahead and preach from the second chapter of Hebrews, verses 13-18, and the Holy Spirit would put it together.
I also felt a warm spot for John 1:14, about the Word becoming flesh.
The Holy Spirit did put it together. The congregation and I read those verses together. Then, as I went along, I saw how relevant these verses were, even to the friends and relatives.
It is well that we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, I began, as well as the death of Christ when we take the Communion elements. This we do in honor of the memory of Jesus Christ.
But now that the Word has volunteered to come into the world as a baby, and then die on the cross to make an atonement for our sins, we have a responsibility, an obligation to respond in the manner He expects.
We are to seek Christ continually that we might become conformed to His moral image and enter untroubled rest with Him in the Father. We are to grow up as His brothers that He might have fellowship with us.
If we honor the memory of Christ at Christmas, and remember His death on the cross when we take Communion, and then do not press forward each day into His image and Person, His birth and death have been useless as far as we are concerned.
Christ wants us to walk with Him each day. This is why He came and died for us.
Enoch revealed his faith by walking with God continually.
Noah revealed his faith and righteousness by walking with God.
We do not reveal our faith by our religious words and practices but by walking with God.
Let us walk with God, as did Enoch and Noah. Then Christ will be glad that He came and died for us. He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (Genesis 5:24)
This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. (Genesis 6:9)
The Seed and the GloryReligion is a matter of information and persuasion. The Kingdom of God is a matter of planting a Seed and of being transformed by beholding the Glory of the Lord.
I have written quite a bit about the difference between religion and the Kingdom of God; but I thought I would add the following thought.
Religion is largely a matter of information, doctrine, and persuasion. We have a theology, a point of view that we regard as truthful and scriptural. We seek to persuade other people to adopt our information and doctrine. This basically is how a religion operates, as I understand the various efforts made by religious organizations.
The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is a Seed. It is a Seed that comes from God. Except an individual is born of that Divine Seed he or she can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God. No matter how much information or doctrine an individual is given, he cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God until he has been born of the Spirit of God.
Today we are referring to the acceptance of our information and doctrine as equivalent to being born again. This is not a true understanding. Being born again does not mean we have agreed with doctrine. Being born again means the Seed of God has been conceived in our personality.
Religion tends to be mental, affecting the brain of the believer. The Kingdom is spiritual affecting the spirit of the believer.
Then too, there is the matter of beholding the Glory of the Lord.
The Glory of God has a transforming effect. Every time we see the Divine Glory a part of our old nature dies and Christ grows in us.
Do you remember how Moses had to wear a veil so the Israelites could not see his face? Moses' face had taken on some of the characteristics of Divinity because He had seen the Lord.
How and where do we see the Glory of God? In many ways and places.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit illuminates the Bible. Once in a while we may have a vision or dream. On occasion, if the minister is speaking by the Spirit of God, we may have a glimpse of God's glory.
One of the most effective glimpses of Glory, I believe, is awarded to us when an experienced Christian is brought down to helplessness through various pressures and sufferings, and then is raised by the power of Christ. There always is more than enough resurrection Life to raise us up. There is a surplus of Life, and this spills over to those to whom we are ministering. We are dying and they are living.
The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God is the doing of God's will in the earth.
I don't know how much of the Kingdom we receive as teachers of the Bible seek to persuade us to believe their information and doctrine. But I do know that when the Seed of God has been planted in us, and we have turned aside from our culture, taken up our cross, and are following Jesus, that every once in a while we glimpse the Glory of Christ. Every time we do, part of us dies, and we are renewed in Jesus Christ.
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:3-5
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
Why Satan Hates Jesus ChristSatan hates Jesus Christ and the saints because God has given Jesus these people as His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. Satan regards people as his own inheritance and the earth as his own possession.
If we knew of the intensity of the hate Satan directs toward the Lord Jesus, and toward each Christian, we might be alarmed. We might live more carefully, knowing that Satan always is seeking our destruction; always accusing us before the Father in Heaven.
We see the hatred of Satan for Jesus as he sought to tempt Jesus to worship him and disobey God. We see the hatred of Satan for Jesus as Satan acted in Pilate, Herod, and the soldiers. We see the hatred of Satan for Jesus as the Lord was crucified and hung on the cross.
Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. (Psalms 22:12,13)
It appears to me that after the Father created all persons and things through the Word, the Word was among these beings as One of many high-ranking personages.
Because of His extraordinary love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness, the Word was anointed with the oil of joy and gladness among all the others. Then the Father assigned Him to the highest throne, declaring that His throne would be forever.
Remember that Satan wanted to raise his throne above the stars of God, but the Father chose the Word for this honor.
You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. (Isaiah 14:13)
Then the Father invited the Word to ask for the nations as His inheritance and the farthest parts of the earth for His possession. Apparently the Word prayed accordingly, for He has received all authority in Heaven and on the earth. Also, He has authority over all people.
Now Satan is extremely jealous and spiteful.
He hates Christ and would murder Him if he could. We see the spirit of Satan in organized religion when the leaders seek to destroy the believers who do not agree with their theology.
Satan hates the saints and accuses them continually before God's Throne in Heaven. He does everything in his power to tear the saints down from their high places in God. He lost his authority to harm them, because of Christ's atoning death on the cross. So he uses his wiles to deceive them so they will sin against God.
It appears that Satan at one time sat on one of the highest thrones in Heaven, being one of two guardian angels that overshadowed God's throne with their wings. Thus Satan has experienced the joy and wonder of the Glory of God.
Now Satan attends the most spiritually vibrant church he can find, a place where the Glory of God may be found. He cannot worship God, of course, but he remembers when he had been able to enjoy the Glory. He loves the music, the pageantry, the choral expression. Yet he is torn with jealousy and hate because the worship is directed toward the hated Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan screams: "These people are mine! The earth is mine! They should be bowing down before me and singing to me!"
So he strives night and day to deceive us into sinning.
The apostle John told us that the person who commits sin is of the devil. Jesus advised us that whoever sins is the slave of that sin.
This is true. Whenever we sin we are worshiping the devil. We do not realize it, but sin is the worship of Satan.
We can be in church and reveling in the Presence of God. But if we have hatred against another person we are worshiping Satan. When we gossip and slander Christians we are worshiping Satan and joining with him as he accuses that individual before the Father.
There actually are only two forces in the world worth our attention. One force is that of Christ. The other is that of Satan. Our own feeble will is only that of intelligent dust.
We were created with the need to worship. We will worship something or someone. We will worship God, or Satan, some other person, or some thing or circumstance, or ourselves. We will place our love, our joy, our hope, our trust, in someone or something. We cannot do otherwise, for this is the way in which we have been created.
To worship God through Christ is to be lifted up into all that is liberating; all that is joyous; all that is lovely; all that is peaceful; all that is constructive and beneficial; all that is desirable.
To worship Satan, or some other person, or some thing or circumstance, or ourselves, is to be cast down into all that is enslaving; all that is miserable; all that is horrible; all that is disturbing; all that is destructive and harmful; all that is unworthy of our worship.
We live in a fool's paradise in America. This especially true of us Christians. We imagine that the people of the world are our friends. We are not always aware of the misery and bondage in which other people live; of the poverty of their souls; of their fierce jealousy and rage against Americans whom they perceive to be wealthy thievesrobbers of the rest of mankind.
Also, we do not realize the rage of Satan against us, his desire to tear us down from our worship of Christ; his ceaseless plotting against us, studying our personality that he might know best how to separate us from God and destroy us.
When we are doing God's will there is a Hand that is protecting us. But when we grow careless and get caught up in the multitude of attractions and distractions of the American culture, we move close to the edge of that Hand. What we do not realize is that outside of the protecting hand of God there are bolts of fire that will quickly tear to pieces and consume the careless Christian.
There is no safety on the earth. There is no safety in Heaven; sin began in Heaven.
There is safety only in Christ, whether we are on the earth or in Heaven.
Nothing can harm us when we are living in Jesus Christ. But outside of Him there is only catastrophe; agony; insanity.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down." (Revelation 12:10)
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalms 34:7)
The Absolute Monarch and His BrothersWhat absolute monarch invites other people to be his brothers and fellow heirs and rulers? Jesus does!
One time the disciples were arguing among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.
The Lord rebuked them, and said whoever would be the greatest would be the servant of all.
The Word of God tells us we will be coheirs with Christ, the Greatest of all kings.
The Lord advised us that if we overcome, as He overcame, we will sit with Him on His throne.
Revelation tells us that the overcomes will govern the nations with a rod of iron, a promise made to the Lord Jesus in the second Psalm.
The King and His fellow kings and nobles will govern the world to come.
See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. (Psalms 32:1,2)
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
Our world is in an uproar at this time. Wars and rumors of war abound, just as the Lord Jesus said would be the case.
Now I want you to imagine something with me.
Let's pretend that every person in a ruling position, at every level of government, was in the moral image of Christ and living in untroubled rest in the center of God's Person and will. He or she was filled with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Each ruler and leader always placed the welfare of his or her charges before his own welfare. Each ruler, although possessing access to infinite authority and power to enforce his decisions, was compassionate, merciful, kindly, loving.
Each ruler was absolutely just, showing favoritism to no one. The rich and the mighty, the poor and lowly, were all treated fairly. No bribery was possible.
The righteous people were blessed by the government. The wicked were punished swiftly in accordance with their crimes.
Now think carefully about such a world condition.
What kind of world would it be? Would it not be Paradise on the earth?
This tells us something. The problem with the world is that the rulers more often than not are self-seeking people who do not know the Lord.
There is a Gospel. There is good news. There is a kingdom coming to the earth that will be governed by the type of people I have mentioned above. They all are brothers of Jesus Christ and rule just as He rules.
Isn't that the best news you have ever heard?
The future rulers are being trained today. It is a difficult curriculum, let me tell you. Each one of us is stretched to the limit. Every part of our personality to the smallest area is examined and tested with the greatest care.
Will all people who profess Christ be made rulers? I doubt it very much. They are not ruling now; rather, they are being ruled by their idols, their lusts, their fears, their covetousness, their jealousies, their personal ambition.
A university course of studies might begin with 5,000 freshmen. But when we get to the doctoral program there may be only five or six who are ready to proceed.
What happened to the others? They left the university for a variety of reasons. Even after the first year, from freshmen to sophomores, there is a large drop in numbers.
So it is in the Kingdom of God. Multiplied thousands start on the path that leads to the Throne of Christ. But when we come to the final struggle to conform our personality to the image of Christ and bring it into untroubled rest in God, only a handful of believers are ready and willing to press on to the fullness.
In order to be among the few who move forward to the fullness we have to count all else in our life as garbage that we might concentrate on one thingto know Christ; to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
It must be Christ, Christ, Christ, in all that we are and do. Jesus must be central in every relationship, circumstance, and ambition. The struggle for rulership is just like the doctoral program in a university. It is the highest and best the institution of learning has to offer.
It is of the greatest important to understand that God has provided allabsolutely allthat you will need to reach the prize. The only power that can prevent your reaching God's highest and best is your own unbelief and disobedience.
Think of what it will mean to the Lord Jesus if you don't quit!
Think of what it will mean to the people with whom the Lord brings you into contact if you keep on plugging along!
Think of what it will mean to your loved ones if you hold that shining example before them!
Think of what it will mean to you in the Day of Resurrection when you are crowned with life, righteousness, glory, and honor; when Christ smiles at you because you have done well; when you are given a multitude of people over whom you will rule with justice, making it possible for each one to pursue his or her own destiny.
On the other hand, think what it will mean to rise in the Day of Resurrection and discover that you have traded the wealth of God for the plastic and tinsel of the present world; when you see others surrounded with thankful people who were saved into the Kingdom, or who even went on to the fullness, because those other saints were faithful to the end. Here you stand destitute and alone!
Weigh the consequences of your choice with extreme care, because the scenario I have just described for you is more certain to occur than the rising of the sun tomorrow morning.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:13)
One With the Son and the FatherTo become one with the Lord Jesus is to become one with the Father. All that Jesus possesses He gives to the Father.
The following passage from the Gospel of John is one of the most incredible passages in the entire Scriptures. It is the prayer of the Lord Jesus:
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21-23)
AA That the saints may be one, just as the Father is in Christ and Christ is in the Father.
AA That the saints may be in the Father and the Son.
AA That the Glory God has given Christ may be given to the saints that they may be one as the Father and the Son are One.
AA That Christ may be in the saints and the Father in Christ.
AA That the saints may be brought to complete unity.
AA That the world may know that the Father has sent the Son and has loved the saints as He loves Christ.
It appears to me Christ is praying that the Father, the Son, and the saints become one entity, one family. Do you interpret the passage in this manner?
I remember when I first came to the Lord. I guess I always had believed in God, though I knew little about Him. I was nineteen years of age before I heard the Gospel.
I could see that in order to serve God I had to serve Christ. This set me back for a little bit. It is one matter to worship God. It is another matter to worship a Man!
But if I was to please God I had to transfer my worship to the Man, Jesus Christ. This I did. Fifty-eight years later I am still serving Christ.
And yet I am worshiping God. Why is this? It is because all that Christ is and possesses He gives to the Father. When we worship Christ we are worshiping the Father (although They are not the same Person).
I think it is safe to say that God is enlarging Himself and making Himself visible to His creation.
We know that Christ is God manifest in the flesh. Perhaps we should say that God manifests Himself in Christ. We don't want people to get the idea that Christ and God are the same Person. If They were, the passage above would not make sense.
Personally, I believe Satan does everything in his power to keep us humans from becoming one in the Father and the Son. One of his devices is to confuse the Nature of the Godhead. By picturing the Father and the Son as one Person, then there is no way in which we could become a part of this great Entity. Are we to be the brothers of God the Father? Are we to be the bride of God the Father? No, this is not scriptural.
If we saints are to be one, just as the Father is in Christ and Christ is in the Father, as the prayer of Christ states, then the Father and the Son are not the same Person. Neither do all the saints become one person.
This is a mystery, and yet it is simple. The Father is the Father. The Son is the Son. The Father and the Son are One in Nature and Substance. We have been called to be an integral part of this Oneness. It is as simple and straightforward as that.
But can man become part of God? Most certainly. We do not become the Father. We do not become the Son. But we become an intrinsic part of Them, according to the prayer Christ uttered.
What about the transition from flesh and blood to Divinity? There is no problem here. Christ is born in us. Divinity is born in us. Christ grows in us. Divinity grows in us. We always have known this, but perhaps have not thought about the meaning of being born again.
God's Israel, His elect, are all who are of Christ, of the one Seed of Abraham. They have been called to this special relationship to God from the beginning of the world.
This is why Christ did not pray for the world but for those whom God has given to Him. These are the members of the governing priesthood. They have been called out of the world in order to know God and be part of God in a special way.
They are the family of God.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, From whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (Ephesians 3:14,15)
We notice in the passage above that God is enlarging the expression of Himself so the world will believe that it is God who has sent Christ, and that God has loved the saints as He loves Christ.
Think about this.
Christ is giving to us the Glory that God has given Him so the saints may be one as the Father and the Son are One.
We are being made one with each other in Christ in God:
So the world will believe that it is God who has sent Christ.
So the world will know that God loves the saints as He loves Christ.
The final expression of this total Oneness is the holy city, the new Jerusalem. The nations of the world will walk in its light. I think this means in the light that is the eternal moral law of God, and perhaps also in its radiance, similar to the light that illuminated the world during the first three days of creation.
The utter Oneness that is described in this prayer is so beyond any kind of oneness, or unity, we can conceive that all we can do is accept what is written. It is a oneness achieved by a dispensation of Divine Glory that we have not experienced as yet. We can look forward to it in the future.
We can see from this that the Christian Church as a whole is far removed from the oneness prayed for here. Will it be another thousand years, or hundred years, before the Lord returns? It doesn't seem possible that all the groups that term themselves Christian will suddenly be made one as the Father and the Son are One.
Probably what will take place is that over the next several years there will be unprecedented revival until the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached for a witness to all nations. Then will come the rise of Antichrist and fiery persecution.
The result of the persecution will be the separation of the true saints from the babylonish systems, which will be organized into one huge religious institution.
The saints will be hidden away in the wilderness areas of the earth. The elect of the Jews will gather together with them. Then the Glory of Christ will be poured out on them until they achieve the perfect Oneness that exists in the Godhead.
Then will be fulfilled the words of Isaiah: "at the time spiritual darkness covers the earth the light of Divine Glory will rise on the saints." The nations of the earth will come to that light and know that God has sent Christ, and that God loves the saints as He loves Christ.
There is nothing whatever the wicked can do about this. They will stare in horror as the bodies of the saints come from the ground as tremendous lights, and then are caught up to meet the Commander in Chief in the air. Then the wrath of God will fall on wicked armies that seek to resist the advent of Christ.
Down from the sky will charge the shining warriors, ready to drive all sin from the earth and install the Kingdom of God.
We must remember that God will never give His Glory to another. We cannot receive such terrible Glory until we have become absolutely one with the Father and the Son.
Because Christ gives all He is and possesses to the Father, the Father gives all He is and possesses to Christ. Thus when we worship Christ we also are worshiping the Father.
The same is true of us. If we will give all we are and possess to Christ, Christ will give all He is and possesses to us. Thus when people come to us for assistance they actually are coming to Christ. This is all our desire, isn't it, that people will see Jesus and not us? Of ourselves we have nothing to give the multitudes of the earth. But Christ in us can feed the hungry. Isn't it so?
Let it be true of us always, that we have been crucified with Christ, and now it is not we who are living but Christ who is living in us. Through us, then, the hand of God is stretched forth to bless His creatures. This is the Divine plan.
Our task in the present hour is to confess our sins, denounce them, and renounce them, in preparation for the marvels that lie ahead of us. We are in the time of the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement. This is the next step after the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the next act of redemption on the path toward oneness with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. (John 17:10)
The Kind of Character We Will HaveHell is to be feared, Jesus said. Perhaps an even greater concern is what kind of character we will have in the ages to come.
There is a Hell. The rich man was, or is, in Hell. There is a Heaven. Our Father, God, is in Heaven.
There is no scriptural doubt about these two facts.
Without an any manner detracting from the reality of the two places named Hell and Heaven, let me point out another factor.
The New Testament does not present Christ as a ticket out of Hell. This is the way the Gospel is preached, but this is not scriptural.
Do you find anywhere in the Gospel accounts where the Lord Jesus said if you will receive Me you will go to Heaven and not Hell? Do you find anywhere in the writings of Paul where Paul even mentioned Hell?
If the New Testament never, not in one single instance, presents the Lord Jesus Christ as an escape from Hell and a ticket to Heaven, then we should not be preaching that we are to accept Christ in order to escape Hell.
Whenever Hell is mentioned in the New Testament it always, without exception, has to do with our behavior.
The Lord Jesus Christ emphasized godly living, eternal life, the Kingdom of God, and going to the Father.
The Apostle Paul emphasized godly living, eternal life, and the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps it would be a good idea if we of today emphasized what the Bible emphasizes.
By presenting Christ as the way to Heaven (instead of the way to the Father), and then interpreting grace as "unconditional forgiveness" and a free ride to Heaven, we have utterly destroyed God's intention under the new covenant.
God's purpose in giving us the new covenant is to turn us from wicked behavior to righteous behavior. God cannot have fellowship with wicked behavior.
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (II Corinthians 6:17)
Why do we believe in Christ? So our sins may be forgiven while we are learning, through the Holy Spirit, to behave righteously; while we are becoming a new creation in which all the old wickedness has been removed and the Nature of God has taken its place.
When we make the Gospel a plan for bringing us to Heaven apart from a change in our behavior, we have aborted the entire program of redemption. God is not interested in moving us from earth to Heaven but to change us so He can have fellowship with us.
Does this make sense to you? Read the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation and you will see that the contrast is made between those who behave righteously and those who behave wickedly; not between those who have believed in Christ and those who have not believed in Christ.
The churches of Christ in America must come to the understanding that the wicked will be sent to a place of torment while the righteous will be with God and Christ. Would we have it different from this?
We need to cease presenting Christ as an excuse for our sinful behavior.
The wicked belong in Hell, and then in the Lake of Fire. The righteous belong with God and Christ in Paradise. There is no plan of God that puts the righteous in Hell and the wicked with God and Christ in Paradise. What are we thinking of to preach such an abomination!
The Lord Jesus Christ came from Heaven to reverse the tragic consequences of the rebellion that took place in the Garden of Eden.
There were at least four tragic consequences:
Adam and Eve lost fellowship with God.
Adam and Eve lost the opportunity to acquire immortality in their bodies.
Adam and Eve lost the right to live in Paradise.
Adam and Eve began the development of the sinful nature, because they had not been created with a sinful nature.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem all we lost to Satan, to gloriously restore to man that which God intends for him to have.
Jesus Christ came to restore our fellowship with God, which is eternal life.
Jesus Christ came to restore our opportunity to acquire immortality in our bodies.
Jesus Christ came to restore our right to live in Paradise.
Jesus Christ came to remove the sinful nature from us.
Can you see how utterly different these goals are from the present teaching?
Fellowship with God, immortality, residence in Paradise, and the removal of the sinful nature, all depend on our obeying the commandments of Christ.
We cannot have fellowship with God, which is eternal life, while we are behaving unrighteously. The blood of the Lord Jesus serves to keep us without condemnation only as long as we are following the Spirit in the work of gaining victory over sin.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
Can you see the condition in the above verse? It does not say that the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses are fully met in us whether or not we overcome sin through the Spirit. We are kept without condemnation only as long we are living in the Holy Spirit and not in our sinful nature.
We cannot acquire immortality in our bodies while we are behaving in an ungodly manner. It is only the saints who are living in victory who are given access to the Tree of Life.
We cannot live in Paradise while we are not keeping God's commandments. The reason Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise was that they disobeyed God.
We cannot be delivered from our sinful nature unless we choose to live in the Spirit of God. If we choose to yield to our sinful nature, we will reap corruption and destruction in the Day of Resurrection.
Thus we see current Christian teaching is one massive error, promoted by Satan, designed to keep us from participating in God's plan of redemption.
Each one of us was born in sin, the Bible tells us. We have inherited all sorts of sinful, destructive compulsions. These tendencies toward wicked, destructive behavior reside in the members of our body, according to the Apostle Paul.
People who love God abhor these patterns of behavior, just as the Apostle Paul did. The good news is that Christ came to change our character.
There are several ways in which God changes our character through the Lord Jesus Christ:
The Spirit of God causes Christ to be conceived and formed in us.
The ascended Christ gave gifts and ministries to us so we can build up ourselves and others in Christ.
The Spirit illuminates the Scriptures so we can grasp the lessons offered in the Old Testament and understand and obey the commandments in the New.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make Their eternal home in us.
The Holy Spirit gives us victory over sin now, and will remove the sinful nature from us at the end of the age.
Finally, when the Lord comes, we will be clothed with a body fashioned from incorruptible, resurrection life.
When our character has been formed in the image of the Lord Jesus, then we can have fellowship with God; we will have immortality in our body; we will enjoy Paradise with others who thus have been redeemed; and we will be free from the sinful nature.
Can you see now how different the current teaching is from what the Scriptures teach us? We have changed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ from a plan to change us so we can enjoy what God placed on the earth in the beginning, into a plan to escape Hell and live for eternity in Heaven.
Would we want to be placed in Paradise while we still are sinful and disobedient to God? I don't believe this is what we desire.
We certainly do not want to go to Hell. Neither do we wish to enter eternity as an untransformed creature.
What we are as a person we are.
Believing in Christ does not change what we are, unless we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the work of transforming our personality.
Dying does not change what we are as a person, except that we no longer are clothed with flesh and bones.
Going to another place, such as Heaven, does not change what we are. Such an idea has no scriptural support whatever.
Now, think for a moment about eternity.
How do we want to appear after we die, and especially after the Day of Resurrection? What rank in the Kingdom do we aspire to?
Suppose we have never gained victory over our bitter, unforgiving, selfish nature. What if it is true that after we die, what we are in character no longer is concealed by a physical body. What if we are actually is visible to everyone? Would we be pleased with this? This is likely, you know!
What if we are placed with people who have the same sort of character we do? What if we found ourselves surrounded by people who are bitter and unforgiving?
There is a reality here that has been lost with our mythical Hell-Heaven emphasis. Other religions have their hells and their heavens. But Christianity is God's plan to restore to man what was lost in the beginning. It is a work of redemption from the hand of the enemy.
The Kingdom of God is a real, practical government. We are being brought into this realm. It is not a place, it is; as I said, a government that one day will govern all the nations of the earth.
There is no sin in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the doing of God's will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
Heaven is the Throne of God, the place of His rulership. Jesus sits on the highest throne of the Kingdom of God. We also will sit on that throne with the Lord Jesus, provided we overcome the works of Satan as He overcame the works of Satan.
Thus everything depends on the kind of character we have. Our joy throughout eternity will depend on our character. Our role in the Kingdom of God will depend on our character. Our closeness to God and Christ will depend on our character.
As I said, there is a reality here that is missed, I think, in the Christian churches. As we sow we are going to reap. This is a Kingdom law and cannot be abrogated.
At the present time we are determining what we will be like in the ages to come, what kind of circumstances we will find ourselves in.
If we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus in the transformation of our character, we will inherit the wealth of the Kingdom of God. We will inherit all that God is and possesses.
But if we grasp the present world, do not deny ourselves, do not take up our cross and follow Jesus each day in the transformation of our character, we will not inherit the wealth of the Kingdom of Godall that God is and possesses.
I do not say we necessarily will find ourselves in Hell when we die, or in the Lake of Fire at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. But I do say we will not receive the Divine Glory that could have been ours had we been more diligent.
We will have a long, long time to think about what we missed by not pressing forward to the fullness of God.
You can know today what your place in the Kingdom of God will be in the future. If you are a fervent, victorious saint, the fullness of Glory is yours. If you are a casual Christian, not giving yourself wholly to Christ, still bound by the world, by your lusts, and by your personal ambitions, then your place in the Kingdom of God will be nothing like what it might have been had you been faithful to Jesus Christ.
There are no mysteries here. Look at yourself and you will know your future.
If you are not pleased with what you see, there still may be time for you to change. Don't delay, because God is far more serious about our behavior than current Christian teaching would have us believe.
Once God decides we are not going to change, He may remove us from the earth to make room for someone more diligent. What God has given to us will be removed and given to another. You will be thrown into the outer darkness.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)
The Prophet of God Among MenThe local church is not a social club. It is a golden lampstand, the prophet of God among men.
I don't know but what we American Christians have lost sight of what the local church is.
I heard the expression lately, "a seeker-friendly church." I know what is meant by that. The idea is to appeal to the person who enters so he or she will be comfortable and pleased with the proceedings, and perhaps want to come again.
Some years ago a minister moved into our area. He polled the community, asking the people of the city what they would want in a church. According to what I heard, he had several hundred people in his first service.
One time my youngest son, David, went to a church in the area. He became bored in the middle of the service and got up to leave. The pastor caught him before he could get out the door and asked him what he wanted the service to be like.
It appears that the local church in America will thrive if the pastor is a salesman, an entrepreneur. If he is able to figure out what the community wants, and provides that, he is apt to make a success. By success I mean enough people will attend to pay for the operation of the church and give the pastor a decent salary.
My personal opinion is that much good is done in the larger churches. Many people are saved, healed, and filled with the Spirit.
Thus the local church in America is sort of a business that provides that which people need and desire.
I think there is another concept of what the local church should be: the prophet of God in the local community.
You can see immediately what a different viewpoint this is of what a church should be. Instead of seeking to build up the assembling in numbers, the person who has been sent there to lead the people is more intent on doing the will of Christ than he is on being successful.
Which is it to be, a business or a prophet? I rather doubt the two viewpoints can be harmonized.
The Book of Revelation presents the local assembly as a golden lampstand. The reference is to the solid-gold Lampstand that was located in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
As I understand the description of the Lampstand of the Tabernacle, the Lampstand proper supported a cup containing a wick and olive oil. Then there were six side-branches, also supporting cups with wicks and olive oil.
Now, what does the Lampstand of the Tabernacle symbolize?
The Lampstand symbolizes Christ, the anointed One of God.
Gold represents Divinity, the scholars inform us. That the Lampstand of the Tabernacle was pure gold means only that which is pure Divinity is capable of giving the light of the testimony.
The light of the testimony is the witness of God's Person, His will, His way, and His eternal purpose in Christ.
I think the Lampstand of the Tabernacle reveals the Lord Jesus in His role as the Prophet of God.
The Lord told us that the Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached in every nation for a witness, and then the end of the Church Age would be here.
Then we have the two witnesses, the two golden lampstands of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation. My interpretation of these two golden lampstands is that one is Christ and the other is His Body. Christ is solid gold and the testimony given by the members of His Body is solid gold. Of course the members of His body have numerous frailties that are not Divine at all.
But the thing to remember is that the only witness having Kingdom significance is that which is given by the Holy Spirit. Our role as believers is to be wicks, as it were, through which the Oil of the Holy Spirit can burn.
No human can bear witness of God. He can tell about the Witness, as did the Apostle John. But the true witness is always the pure gold of Divinity.
We understand, therefore, that we Americans do not really understand what the local church is. The local church, when Christ is moving in it, is the witness of God's Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ.
When we think of the local church as a business, which is successful if enough people attend to support the program and pay the pastor, we are liable to compromise the Word of God. We are going to forget about bearing a true witness of God. We will say things that are attractive. You don't attract American people by telling them that they cannot be a Christian unless they deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus each day. Yet, this is what Christ demands of every disciple!
Sometimes American Christians will say, "This church is not meeting my needs."
Can you see the extent to which the philosophy of humanism has entered Christian thinking? The purpose of the assembling is not to make people feel comfortable so they can continue with the American materialistic way of life. The purpose of the assembling is to build the believers to maturity in Christ.
Any system must have a clear objective, and specific ways of measuring progress toward reaching the objective, if the system is to operate efficiently and objectively.
If our objective is to add people to our local assembly, then we measure progress toward our objective simply by counting the number of people in attendance.
This is what often is done. However, a little thought will reveal that this is not a scriptural objective. What good is accomplished in the Kingdom of God by the gathering of large numbers of people under one roof?
We pay the bills and support the pastor, and the pastor is viewed as successfulall on the basis of the number of people who attend. Perhaps the heads of denominations need to give some thought to why they have adopted the number of people as a measure of success.
Let us say we have a church of a thousand people. How do we determine if a true witness of the Kingdom of God is being borne by this church and these people? What yardstick do we employ?
The second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation show us the yardstick that Christ uses. Never once! Never once is the yardstick the number of people who attend the services.
What does the Lord emphasize when He measures the churches? The Lord looks at how pure the testimony is. Are the people serving God or sinning? This is what is important.
Why are the churches pictured as lampstands? They are pictured as lampstands because Christ, the great High Priest, is trimming the wicks and filling them with oil.
What is the objective of the churches? They are to be the light of the world. They are to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ so that all men may be drawn to Him. The only way they can do this is by praying and listening to the Lord, following His every direction.
It is the responsibility of those in charge to listen carefully to Jesus, and do and speak only what they are hearing from Him. The point is not to add more people to the assembly. What good does that do, if your purpose is to reveal the will of Christ? The people you add may subtract from the spiritual quality of the assembly; from the light it is to be bearing to the local community.
There is a great deal of American thinking and philosophy in the local churches. The church often is pictured as a hospital where people come and have their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met. Perhaps there are churches that the Lord wants to serve as hospitals. Certainly there are tremendous emotional and mental needs, as well as spiritual, among the American people.
There are churches that are strong in evangelism; others that serve the poor, or those who have been in prison, or on drugs, or who are alcoholics. There are churches that start other churches, or send out missionaries.
My point is this: the success of a church cannot be measured by the number of people involved in it. A church can be large and growing rapidly while the Lord Jesus regards it as dead.
There may be a small assembly in a community that has only fifteen members. But the Presence of Christ may be there in a remarkable way, because it is a Christ-ordained body of intercessors.
The role of the local church is to be the prophet of God in the community. Whether the emphasis is on evangelism, or missions, or rehabilitation, the person who enters the church should be aware that "God is in this place."
It is not the task of the local church to find out what the people want but what God wants. When we do precisely what God is directing, then God will be served well, and the people whom God draws to the assembling will be served well.
But if the assembly turns its back on Christ and tries to put on a program to please the people of the community, hoping to draw more people by any means, then Christ will not be served and neither will the people.
Let each one of us determine to walk closely to the Lord, doing only what He directs. Then we, perhaps without realizing it, will reveal to other people the Person, will, way, and eternal purpose of God in Christ.
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:20)
The Promised RedemptionThe sinful nature resides in our flesh. The Holy Spirit helps us put to death the acts of the sinful nature. The evil tendencies lie dormant in our flesh, but the life has been removed from them. When the Lord returns He will transform our mortal body. There will be no sinful nature in our transformed body. This is the promised redemption.
The Bible is clear that there is coming a day of salvation, or redemption. I don't know what we have supposed the day of redemption will be like, but I expect most of us picture the Lord appearing and carrying us away to a place where all is perfect love and joy and we won't suffer anymore. I think this hope is deeply placed in most people.
It is true that when God has finished working we will be living in perfect peace and joy, and that certainly is something wonderful to look forward to. Life on earth is not a bowl of cherries, as a fifth-grade girl once informed me when I was teaching school. Her parents were going through a divorce.
However, the idea of going to another place is not scriptural. The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation show us that we are not going up to Heaven to live for eternity, Heaven is coming down to the earth. The home of mankind is the earth, not the spirit realm.
What, then, is the nature of the promised redemption? The redemption is from sin and death. There is coming deliverance from sin and death.
The redemption from sin will take place in two phases. Release from the bondage of physical death will occur once we have been redeemed from sin.
The first phase of redemption from the power of sin is taking place now.
The second phase of redemption from the power of sin will occur when the Lord returns, bringing with Him immortality.
The Holy Spirit is inviting us to gain victory over sin today. We accomplish this by confessing our sinful actions to the Lord, denouncing them as sinful, renouncing them, telling the Lord we want nothing more to do with them, and then by taking up our cross of self-denial and following the Lord each day.
When we confess, denounce, and renounce specific sinful behavior, the Spirit kills it. He takes the fire and life from the sinful impulse. If we are living as a fervent disciple, we now can manage to resist the urge to perform the particular sin.
The Holy Spirit keeps on pointing out the things we are doing that are sinful. We keep on confessing, denouncing, and renouncing these actions. Day by day we live in victory over known sin. The sinful parts of our personality that have not as yet been made known to us are kept without condemnation by the blood of the Lamb.
When the Lord Jesus returns he will remove from us those dead behaviors we have been refusing to yield to. He will cleanse us from all filthiness of flesh and spirit and clothe us with a body from Heaven that contains no sinful nature.
Adam and Eve were created without a sinful nature. The program of redemption removes those sinful, rebellious desires that have accumulated through the centuries.
Jesus Christ has the authority and power to set us totally free from sin. However, if we expect the receive the blessing of salvation from sin that is to appear in the last days, we must be living in victory today.
Those who already have victory will be given total victory when the Lord returns. They shall be crowned with righteousness and life.
But in the case of those who have been careless and wasteful, even the things of God they do have will be removed from them. This is the manner in which the Kingdom of God responds to diligence and laziness.
The Day of Redemption has begun, and we now are in the first phase.
If we are faithful in responding to the present phase, we will be invited into the second phase.
The end result of redemption is a personality completely free from worldliness, lust, and self-will, in body, soul, and spirit. This is the negative aspect of redemption.
The positive aspect is a character formed in the moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ and filled with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Those among us who are wise will lay hold on the eternal life being offered to our generation.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:41)
The ContestThe contest is between our fleshly, sinful nature, and the Holy Spirit of God. If our soul, our character, chooses to obey our sinful nature, our soul will be changed into the image of sin and rebellion. If our soul chooses to obey the Spirit of God, our soul will be changed into a life-giving Spirit.
Sin has come to maturity, both in the demon-filled environment in which we live, and also in our fleshly, sinful nature.
The Lord Jesus stated that many who are last shall be first. This may mean that during the time in which we are living there are opportunities to gain the highest thrones in the Kingdom of God. I would not be surprised if this were true.
God is creating rulers. As in any other lofty goal, the path to fulfillment is difficultvery difficult, as anyone who is attempting to serve God today is aware.
I don't know how it is in the rest of the world but in America there is a multitude of opportunities and distractions. Our culture is colorful and appealing. It is a rare Christian who is willing to turn his or her back on the call of the world and give his attention to what the Lord is doing in our time.
The contest is between our fleshly nature and the Spirit of God. Our soul, our character, is the one who makes the decision. Jesus said we gain our soul by our endurance.
Now the following is very important to understand: if our soul chooses to follow the various appetites and desires of the sinful nature, which dwells in the members of our body, our soul will be conformed to the image of the corruption of the flesh. If we continue to yield long enough to our sinful nature, we will lose our soul. This means our soul no longer will be able to respond to the Spirit of God but will have become as an animal.
If, however, our soul chooses to obey the Spirit of God, the soul will be transformed into a life-giving Spirit. In this case our spirit will become one with the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life, a life-giving Spirit. As we obey the Spirit diligently He changes us into a tree of life.
There shall be many trees of life in the future, all growing out from the main Tree of Life, who will give the Life of God to the nations of people whom the Lord is going to save.
When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. >..Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. (Ezekiel 47:7-9)
It is a battle all the day long. But if we consistently choose to obey the Spirit we will find ourselves in the rest of God: at rest in the Person and will of God; transformed in character into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ; changed into the image of Christ's body in the Day of Resurrection; and receiving the nations and the earth for our inheritance.
All depends on our choosing the Spirit of God rather than our sinful appetites and desires.
So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45)
Acquiring Eternal LifeTo follow the Spirit of God is to acquire eternal life and every other good and perfect thing. To follow the desires and appetites of the sinful nature is suicidal and results in all that is corrupt and agonizing.
You know, the common understanding of the Christian salvation is that if we accept Christ we will go to Heaven and live there forever; or if we live a good life we will go to Heaven and live there forever.
Heaven is the goal. After living in the present valley of the shadow of death, who wouldn't want to go to a better place! I currently am recovering from an operation and I am weak and tired. I wish I wasn't weak and tired. I wish I didn't have to send in an income-tax form. I wish I had no problems.
Do you feel this way?
It is not difficult to understand why salvation and going to Heaven have become synonymous. And I know it indeed is true that if we do God's will we one day will be in inconceivably better circumstances. One day in the future we will walk on a higher path.
But if we are to be on firm ground we must stick with the Bible. The Bible, in particular the New Testament, stresses eternal life as our goal, not residence in a better place.
Eternal life, which is life in God's Person and will, was lost in the Garden of Eden. Immortality, perpetual existence in the physical body, also was lost in the Garden.
Our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, came from Heaven to restore to us these two aspects of our state of being: life in the Person and will of God, and immortality in the body.
Once our state of being, our personality, has been redeemed, then we will find ourselves once again in Paradise.
The Apostle Paul stated as His goal that He might know Christ, and that he might attain to the resurrection from the dead. These are the two aspects of our state of being that are our goal: to know Christ, and to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Now, why is it important that we change our direction from going to Heaven to seeking to know Christ and to attain to the resurrection from the dead? It is important because the change in direction will affect how we approach our daily life in Christ.
If our goal is to go to another place when we die; and if our way of getting there consists only of making a right profession concerning Jesus Christ; then the multitude of New Testament exhortations that have to do with the way we behave are not truly relevant. We are on our way to Heaven, and grace is our ticket that will admit us after we die. Why should we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus each day? What difference does it really make whether or not we obey Christ and His Apostles?
Perhaps this is the reason why much Christian teaching has to do with how our religion affects our welfare in the present world. If we have faith we will be rich. If we forgive someone we will be healed from arthritis. If we give money, more will be given back to us. If we pray together as a family we will have a better home.
We don't hear too much about the effect how we are behaving today will have on what will happen to us in the Day of Resurrection. Yet, our condition in the Day of Resurrection should be our primary concern.
I suppose one might say we need a profound revolution in the way we understand the Christian salvation, a revolution based on placing our emphases on what the New Testament emphasizes. The New Testament assuredly does not emphasize making our eternal home in Heaven by grace.
Well, what does the New Testament emphasize? What is the Christian salvation all about?
The Christian salvation has to do with eternal life. God gave His Son that we might have eternal life.
I might point out that eternal life is not the same as going to Heaven. Eternal life is a kind of life, and we can have it on earth and in Heaven also.
In addition, the opposite of eternal life is eternal death, not Hell. In the beginning God said, "In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die." He did not say, "In the day you eat thereof you shall surely go to Hell."
The soul that sins shall die; not the soul that sins shall go to Hell.
Heaven and Hell are actual places to which one can go. Eternal life and eternal death are states of being. Hell is a place of torment. Sometimes people who have Christ, who have eternal life, are in torment for a season. But if they persevere they will be brought out into the light in God's time.
By the same token, people who have Christ, who have eternal life, but who are behaving in a manner more suited to Hell than to Heaven, may be given a space of time in which to repent. If they do not, they will be thrown into Hell. The wicked always end up in Hell, or in the Lake of Fire. This is where the wicked belong.
We can be spared from wrath in the Day of Wrath by believing in Christ and being baptized in water. But after that God expects us to cooperate with our Redeemer as He seeks to save us from our sins. If we will not repent, not change the way we behave, we will end up finally in the Lake of Fire.
God did not send Christ to save us from Hell, except in a secondary sense. God sent Christ to save us from sin so we will not end up in Hell.
Perhaps the greatest mistake in Christian thinking is that Christ came to save the wicked from Hell. No, Christ came to save the wicked from sin. Sinners always are of Hell and belong in Hell until Christ changes their behavior.
God will not have sin in His Kingdom, not by grace, mercy, love, or any other factor.
Our confusion is based on the prevailing notion that salvation brings us to Heaven to live forever. If we would place the emphasis on coming to know Christ, and attaining to the resurrection from the dead, our thinking would become clear. In other words, if we would obey the Apostle Paul, our thinking would become clear.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (Philippians 3:15)
Look at the difference this makes in the way we pursue the Christian discipleship! If we picture ourselves as going to Heaven some day by grace, we are going to play around the edges of the commandments found in the New Testament. This is why so many believers in the United States are involved in making money, entertainment, and having fun.
If, however, we obey the Apostle Paul, and strive to know Christ, to live by the power of His resurrection, to share His sufferings, that we might attain to immortality, then every day becomes a serious challenge. We have to fight constantly to know Christ in each new situation; to live by His resurrection Life; to bear patiently with His sufferings as we participate in them.
The traditional Christian life is one of waiting to die and go to Heaven, in the meanwhile fending off our troubles as unnecessary irritations coming from other people or Satan.
The true Christian life is one of pressing forward each moment into God's rest, that is, into the place of change into the moral image of Christ, and into untroubled rest in God's Person and will.
What an altogether different way of living! It is like two different religions!
Jesus told us that the gate is small and the way is difficult that lead to eternal life. I suppose we have thought that once we make a profession of faith in Christ we have gone through the gate and traveled the way, and now we will go to Heaven when we die.
Jesus indeed is the Gate. He also is the Way. Jesus authorizes us to go through the Gate and travel on the Way, the way that leads to the knowledge of Christ and immortality in the body.
But so few people find it! Lately a member of a denomination pointed out to his superiors that they were remiss and unscriptural in some of their practices. This individual was discovering the way that leads to life.
The response of the heads of the denomination was to criticize this man and refuse to listen to him. The leaders may suppose they are safely on their way to Heaven because of their doctrinal correctness. But they are not. They have not found the way to eternal life. They know the beliefs of their sect, but they do not know the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no eternal life whatever in the beliefs of any Christian denomination. There is eternal life only in the Person of the living Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are interacting with Him continually are pressing toward eternal life. Those who are trusting in their religious beliefs to save them are not actually being saved, that is, they are not being changed into the moral image of the Lord Jesus and brought into untroubled rest in God's Person and will.
Such is the blindness and misplaced emphases of our day. Will God bring clarity to us in the future? I think He will. But it may be in a time of great trouble in the United States.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13,14)
The Word Became Flesh. We are the flesh being made the Word. The Word is the testimony of God's Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ.
We do not know very much about the Lord Jesus prior to His being born of Mary. The Apostle John refers to Him as the Word, saying "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."
We know the expression "Word" is not referring to words in a book. Rather, the Word is Someone who came out from God and expresses at least four things concerning God:
God's eternal purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Jesus came and taught us we learned that the supreme God may be termed "Father." We understand that "God" is not His name but a title denoting someone who is to be worshiped. We understand also that "Father" is not His name but tells us He has brought us forth.
We learned that the Word came forth from the Father, and that the Father has proclaimed that the Word is God and is to be worshiped by us.
We learned also that God's Personality, His Influence who comes from Himself, is a Person in His own right, and is referred to as the "Holy Spirit."
We understand that God, now viewed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is unutterably holy. There is no uncleanness in Him. He is righteous in His judgments. He is compassionate and merciful. He also punishes severely all those who knowingly and willfully rebel against His will.
We American Christians in many instances have a faulty view of the Person of God. We have a tendency to think of God as a kindly grandfather in a far-off place called "Heaven." There He sits and wrings His hands over the conduct of people. However there is not much He can do about it. "Boys will be boys." This is our picture of the Creator of the universe.
Because we have misunderstood the Apostle Paul to mean God has given grace so that our sin might not be sinful, we have a generation of believers who are longing to be caught up to Heaven in an unscriptural "rapture." They have little understanding of the true Nature of the Holy One of Israel, the Consuming Fire.
Jesus told us of the love of God. Jesus told us also that God is to be fearedthat it would be better for us to pluck out our eye than to be cast into the eternal fire.
We American do not accept this, some teaching that it is the devil whom we are to fear, because God is so good.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Because many of our ministers are unwilling to teach concerning God's judgment of our misbehavior and are saying that Christians have no need to fear God or the Judgment Seat of Christ, we have become foolish. We are lacking wisdom. Thus we are as wise as doves and as harmless as serpents.
There is a great need today for Christian people to bear a true witness of God, speaking of His incomparable love and also of His incomparable wrath. One without the other gives us a distorted understanding of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ was and yet is the Word. The Word became flesh and lived among us.
Now we Christians, who are flesh, are to become the Word, as the Spirit of God writes God's eternal moral law on our mind and heart. We are to testify of the awesome love and the awesome wrath of God. We are to bear witness with our whole personality, in all that we are, say, and do.
We bear witness of God to the earth and to the heavens as well of the Person of God, when we are following the Spirit of God and are interacting with the Lord Jesus on a daily basis.
The Word, the testimony, tells about God's Person and also about God's will.
God's will is written in the Bible. As we follow Christ closely each day we become conscious of His personal will for us.
God's will is what He wants done. God's Kingdom, for which we are to pray so that it might come soon to the earth, is the doing of God's will on the earth as it is in Heaven.
There are not two lawful wills in the universe. There is only the one will, the will of God.
Every true Christian is to do the will of God at all times, and to do it diligently and perfectly. We are to obey the Father as our Lord Jesus obeys the Father.
The greatest problem in the universe is that of rebellion. God is going to shake the heavens and the earth, in the days to come, until every trace of rebellion has been removed from the creation.
Many of us have been saved through the blood of the cross. We also received the Holy Spirit and may have spoken in tongues.
Now there is a massive issue confronting us. That issue is God's will.
Perhaps we have not been informed of how important it is that we always are saying, and living, "Not my will, but Yours be done."
Part of the rest of God is that of dwelling in untroubled joy in the Person and will of God.
We are not to plan and scheme our way throughout life. Our task is to find the will of God and to do it perfectly. Anything less than this is completely unacceptable.
We cannot possibly move past the Pentecostal experience until we cry out with all our heart, "Not my will, but Yours be done." This is the most powerful prayer it is possible to pray.
We are to pray without ceasing until we are bearing witness of the will of God. The Lord Jesus always bears witness of the will of God. So must we, if we are to overcome the accuser of the brothers.
The original problem was the rebellion of Satan against the Lord. Satan brought his spirit of rebellion down into the Garden of Eden. Now, through Adam and Eve, all of mankind is in a state of rebellion against God.
When we first are saved we may be ready to obey God to a certain extent. But we may not know how to present our body a living sacrifice in order to find the will of God for ourselves.
When we receive the Holy Spirit we may be somewhat more proficient in discovering the will of God.
Now that we have been saved and filled with the Spirit, God is calling us to total, stern obedience. We are being summoned to move past the Pentecostal experience to the Tabernacles experience, in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are dwelling in Their fullness in us.
In order to pass into the fullness of God, total, stern obedience to the Father is required.
When we first come to the Lord Jesus we learn of the atoning blood.
When we by faith receive the Holy Spirit we profit from the wisdom and power the Spirit gives us in the realm of ministry, and also in the realm of victory in the realm of moral behavior.
When we come to the Father the issue is one of obedience. Are we looking to the Lord for every aspect of our being, speaking, and doing? Is there any dimension of our personality that is not in complete subjection to Christ?
If there is any point of disobedience in us, we are still in rebellion against God every though we may have placed our trust in the blood atonement and have experienced the Holy Spirit.
God has placed the "Tabernacles" experience at the end of the program of redemption because it is the most difficult for us to cope with, and because it represents the climax of the work of redemption.
We Pentecostal people are at the crossroads. We either are going to take our gifts and lay them at the feet of Jesus Christ that He through us might build His own Church; or else we are going to attempt to use the power of the Lamb to build the Kingdom of God according to our own understanding.
If we choose the latter road, that of attempting to build the Kingdom according to our own understanding, we are going to evolve into the False Prophet.
In this case we shall receive tremendous power, but we will use the power to support the Antichrist systemthat in which man is at the center of his own plans and programs.
We see today in Christian work a strong tendency use any human device possible in order to acquire large numbers of people. We are becoming proficient in gaining proselytes to our way of thinking. But we are leaving Christ standing outside the door.
We are approaching the age of Laodicea, the period in which man and his rights are stressed. The Lord stands at the door of the heart of each believer. He is asking us to permit Him to come and sit on the throne of our personality. There we dine with Him on His body and blood and He dines with us on our obedience and worship.
Christ is going to bring His Church to perfection, using only those who are totally submitted to His will. The rest of the believers may find themselves opposing the work of the Lord, because they are not dining with Him.
Hopefully many believers in the present hour will cease from their own works and press into the rest of God, into that place where they are listening to the Lord and doing His will.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Revelation 14:13)
The rest of the Christians may rush past us in their zeal to do Christian work. But the enormous pressures of the coming days will soon make it impossible for man to work. In that day those who have died in the Lord will be able to bring deliverance in the earth, for the Throne of God will be in them.
We must be very patient today while we are learning how to wait on the Lord for His every direction. It is time for each one of us to become, through the power of the Spirit, the Word, the testimony to the heavens and the earth of the perfect will of God.
We must bear a true witness of the Person of God.
We must bear a true witness of the will of God.
We must bear a true witness of the way of God.
We must bear a true witness of the eternal plan of God in Jesus Christ.
It is one matter to attempt to do the will of God. It is another matter to do God's will in God's way.
God's way is one of love, joy, and peace. How often has Christian work been characterized by arrogant directions coming down from those in authority who, as the Lord said, bind burdens grievous to be borne on the backs of the lowly, while they themselves will not lift a finger to help.
God's way is always one of righteousness. Sometimes people in their zeal harm others as they seek to excel in their religious pursuits. An example of this is the husband or wife who forsakes his or her family in order to do church work.
Another example is that of the evangelist who pleads for money until people give more money than they can afford. This is "robbery for burnt offering."
The Christian institutions throughout history have not always portrayed the gentle Jesus as they have striven to advance themselves.
Since the purpose of life on earth is to test our character to see if we are worthy of eternal life in the coming age, we make a great mistake when we seek to do God's will but not in God's way. All of our effort produces straw that shall be burned when it is exposed to the Divine fire. We may have labored until we have made ourselves ill. But it all has been in vain. God will not recognize it.
God has a will for you and me, but we must fulfill that will in God's way.
God's ultimate purpose is to gather all of the creation into Christ. Christ is destined to be the Center and Circumference of all of God's creation.
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, To be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillmentto bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:9,10)
All that is not worthy of the Kingdom will be thrown into the eternal fire.
All that is worthy will be brought down to death in Christ and then raised again in Christ. It then shall survive for eternity.
This is God's eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. The wise individual will seek to become a part of the Kingdom of God.
The Word became flesh. The Word reveals the Person, will, way, and eternal purpose of God in Christ.
Now we are being made an integral part of the Word. We are to reveal in ourselves the Person, will, way, and eternal purpose of God in Christ.
The only manner in which this glorious destiny becomes possible to us is as we, like the Apostle Paul, count all else as garbage that we may gain Christ, learning to live by His Life as we experience His death.
Here is God's highest and best. Is this what we really want? Are we prepared to give all that we might gain all?
That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, "Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest." (Hebrews 3:10,11)
"They have not known my ways"!
But we of today, profiting by the example of those who have gone before, are to become the Word of God to mankind, the covenant of God with the nations of the earth.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10)
Make Way for the ArkTo speak in a figure, the Ark of the Covenant is being brought to Zion. This means the Glory of God is returning to His Church. We must be careful not to attempt to add our own reasoning to that which God is doing, but just be very prayerful and very obedient.
Everyone who knows the Bible will remember the story. The Ark fell into the hands of the Philistines during a battle. Then the Ark was returned to Israel, but not to its place in the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
David, who had a heart for God, made moving the Ark from the house of Abinidab to Zion, the city of David, a high priority. Zion was a suburb of Jerusalem.
The Ark of the Covenant was placed on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. There was great rejoicing on the part of David and all Israel.
Uzzah touched the Ark in order to steady it, and was struck dead. This incident took place at the threshing floor of Nacon. Threshing floors are a type of judgment.
David was angry and afraid, and took the Ark to the house of Obed-Edom. After a period of time, David went to bring the Ark to Zion. This time the Ark was carried by Levites and not in a cart.
During both attempts to move the Ark there was much praise and worship. During the second attempt David prepared a place for the Ark and pitched a tent for it. He chose Levites to carry the Ark and involved the Levites in music and worship. As soon as the Levites had taken six steps David offered a bull and a fattened calf. Also he included army commanders.
It appears that much more care went into the second attempt. Probably the most significant difference was that the Ark was carried by Levites, according to the Law of Moses. No mention was made in the Law of the Ark being carried in a new cart.
When we speak of the Ark being brought to Zion, what do we mean in terms of today?
We mean the Presence of God, particularly in the realm of spiritual judgment and war, is being restored to those who are seeking the Lord and walking with Him each day.
Originally the Ark was in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle in Shiloh. After the Ark was removed and brought into battle by the two wicked sons of Eli, the Tabernacle without the Ark in the Holy of Holies was set up at the high place in Gibeon, an area a few miles north of Jerusalem.
As soon as David brought the Ark to Zion he placed it in a tent, and included an altar on which sacrifice could be made. David split the Levitical worship team into two groups. Some offered worship at Zion and others at Gibeon. Later the Ark was restored to the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon.
I have written previously about the symbolic significance of the temporary separation of the Ark from the rest of the Tabernacle. The indication is that the Church of Jesus Christ will be divided temporarily into a warlike remnant, and then the remainder of the Church. I do not believe the remnant will be brought back into the remainder of the Church, as one whole, until the coming down from Heaven of the new Jerusalem to be established for eternity on the new earth.
Be that as it may, the emphasis of the present article is how we should respond to the fact that God is ready to restore His Presence to us.
I think the emphasis is on the poles. Unlike the other furnishings of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, the poles were not removed from the Ark of the Covenant when the Israelites made camp. This tells us that God's work is never stationary.
One of the great differences between religion and Christ is that religion takes a position and sets up its defenses. Christ is always skipping on the mountains of spices. Christ always is dynamic, always growing, always bringing us from splendor to splendor.
The new cart speaks of an institutional attempt to advance the Kingdom of God. The poles point toward anointed people as the vehicle.
Denominations are notorious for putting institutions ahead of people.
Mostperhaps allof the denominations of today, from Catholic to Charismatic, began in the fire of God. After a generation or two, administrators rose up who were not part of the men of God in whom the movement was born.
The administrator may be a strong Christian, devout, leading a blameless life. But he is a new cart. He sets out to organize the work of God. He studies the percentages. He examines the mission fields. He plots how money should be allocated.
The administrator climbs aboard his aircraft with his laptop computer in one hand and his blueprints in the other. He is ready to build the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps he has not seen the seraphs with their faces and their feet covered at the fiery Presence of the Lord. Perhaps he has not heard the terrible "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His Glory.
Perhaps he has not felt the shaking of the doorposts and the thresholds or seen the temple filled with smoke.
But the prophet has seen, heard, and felt these things, and he cries out in repentance. He is ready for the Lord to send him into a painful situation.
He said, "Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." (Isaiah 6:9,10)
If you consider the above commission, it does not sound as though Isaiah is going to make much of an impact on the local community. He probably won't have much of a crowd on Sunday morning.
The goal of the administrator is to build his organization, so he thinks in terms of numbers of people. He is a good businessman. There is no foolishness about him.
But he is a new cart. The classic struggle is between the elder and the prophet. The elder usually wins out, while the prophet is stoned.
The businessman does not know of the travail of the prophet as God wrestles with him night and day. The prophet becomes the witness of God. God speaks in his soul and the fire burns. Such are the poles of the Ark.
God is ready to come to Zion today. However, God's emphases sometimes are not the same as those of the administrator. God is speaking of judgment, of repentance, of stern obedience to the Father. Christ is standing at the door of our hearts, seeking admittance that He may dine with us.
The prophetic remnant cry "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His Glory!"
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." (Isaiah 6:1-3)
The prophetic remnant cry "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His Glory!" But King Uzziah, presumptuous flesh, has to die first.
When the local church is directed by the prophetic remnant it will not always be "seeker friendly" or even comprehensible to the community. The administrator cannot understand this. How is he going to increase the assembly in numbers when the people are more intent on pleasing God than they are on pleasing the community?
There is a chasm between the two emphases. There can be no compromise. We cannot look to Christ for everything we do, and at the same plot how we are going to add numbers to the assembly. Either we are going to grasp God, or else we are going to build a business.
Of course we must be businesslike and straightforward in our dealings. We must respond diligently to all governmental statutes. Of course we must be sensitive to our surroundings. Of course we must be disciplined and do all things decently in order. We are not to be conducting our private devotions before the congregation.
God is not silly. He is reasonable and practical.
Is there a place for the administrator? Certainly, and he is to be diligent in his responsibilities.
Is there a place for the prophet? Of course, and he is to stay close to God at all times.
What, then, are we saying?
We are saying that God is ready to bring additional Glory to His churches. But the Glory will not come riding on a new cart. The Glory will be carried by God's anointed leaders who are intent on doing His will.
If our goal is to build a huge organization we are going to use modern marketing techniques and make every effort to make proselytes to our way of thinking.
If our goal is to work with the Lord, we are going to encourage the ministries and gifts of the Spirit as they help us understand exactly what God is saying to us; as they labor to bring every believer to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Our assigned task is not to build a religious institution. Our task is to listen to the Lord as He tells us what His current will is and how He is going to perform it.
We are to be sternly obedient, listening carefully to the Lord Jesus every moment of every day and night, taking nothing for granted.
God will pass by the monument builders of today and work with those who are listening to Jesus. These are the poles, and they are moving with the Lord Jesus back to Zion.
God has unprecedented wonders in store for those of today who will stop building their own kingdoms and listen to what God is saying.
Christ will build His own Church if we will listen and be uncompromisingly obedient!
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)
UzzahIt often is true that a false sense of God's approval rests on the Christian people. They are as Uzzah who was certain he was part of the glory trainuntil God struck him dead!
Let's think for a moment about Uzzah. The Ark of the Covenant had been returned, by the Philistines, to Beth Shemesh. Seventy men of Beth Shemesh looked into the Ark and were struck down by the Lord. The people of Beth Shemesh were frightened and asked the people of Kiriath Jearim to come and get the Ark, which they did.
The men of Kiriath Jearim came and took the Ark and brought it to Abinadab's house. They consecrated Eleazar, the son of Abinidab to guard the Ark.
As soon as David was anointed king, he brought together thirty thousand men and went to the house of Abinidab to get the Ark. They placed the Ark on a new cart drawn by oxen and started off, with Uzzah and Ahio, guiding the cart. Ahio was walking in the front, and apparently Uzzah was walking by the side to make sure the Ark did not topple over.
Uzzah was performing a needed task. The Ark had been in his house with Eleazar, his brother, guarding it. Thus Uzzah was very familiar with the Ark and was certain of God's approval.
How happy everyone was! David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might. There were music and festivities.
If you had been Uzzah, wouldn't you have felt secure and happy to be at the center of so much attentionthousands of people worshiping and praising God?
Then the oxen stumbled. Naturally Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. Was he to let it fall to the ground of the threshing floor? Wouldn't God approve of such a well-intentioned action?
To everyone's consternation, Abinidab's son was struck dead! King David was afraid and angry. Imagine how Abinidab and Ahio felt, as well as Uzzah's mother.
The high praise and worship were instantly turned to fear and dismay.
It is easy for us to sit back and say, "Uzzah should have known better! Anyway, Levites were supposed to be carrying the Ark with its poles on their shoulders.
If they were doing what they were supposed to, there would have been no problem."
We know that David, after making appropriate preparations, made another attempt, using Levites, which was successful.
The point of this brief article is that Uzzah was assuming that God was pleased, when God was not at all pleased. God was not pleased because His laws were not being observed and people were not honoring His holiness.
As I see it, one of the greatest of the problems of the churches of our day is one of a "feeling" that God is pleased.
We know however, that God is not pleased even though we "feel" that we are under His blessing. Why is God not pleased? God is not pleased because we have made His grace a substitute for unrighteous living. The program of salvation has been made convenient and non-demanding. Instead of deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus, we are teaching that all one needs do is confess he is a sinner and ask the Lord Jesus to save him. This is an appropriate beginning. But if this initial profession is not followed up with the demands of discipleship we will have congregations of people who think they are pleasing God when they are not.
We have hundreds of thousands of happy Evangelicals in America, all waiting for an unscriptural rapture. If you talk to them about righteous behavior they will not listen. They think you are saying we are saved by works and not by naked grace.
They are so certain God is pleased with them, but He is not. How do we know this? Because they are not keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. They are not presenting their body a living sacrifice that they might proved God's will.
America is facing Divine judgment. We are under the delusion that God is pleased with our country. But He is not. Wicked behavior is becoming more prevalent. The response of the Christians is that we are saved by grace and are about to be removed in a "rapture."
It is true that numerous Christians deplore homosexual behavior and the abortion of children. They cry out against the unbelievers who are practicing such sin in our nation.
If I am hearing the Lord correctly, the Spirit is not speaking about the homosexuality and abortion on the part of the unsaved, although our nation is going to suffer because of these practices. Rather the Lord is commanding His people to repent of their adultery, murder, gossiping, lying, thievery, covetousness, love of entertainment, and lack of fervent discipleship.
Judgment has begun in the household of God. The world will be judged later.
Let us remember Uzzah. He was certain the blessing of God was on him. He was doing what he had been commanded. He was in the center of a great religious undertaking.
But Uzzah was unaware of the actual attitude of the Lord.
This is our condition today. We American Christians are unaware of the actual attitude of the Lord toward us.
The solution is to pray until we hear from the Lord, and not just assume He is pleased with us.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyednot only in my presence, but now much more in my absencecontinue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12)
The Rich ManAll people, including Christians, who are in a position to share their wealth with those in need, and choose to live only for their own joy and comfort, will find their place in Hell with others of the same nature.
I think we are under a curse in America with regards to money. We worship money and we don't even realize it. This may be the reason why the prosperity-faith message was so widely received here, even though it goes directly against the teaching of the Apostle Paul.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (I Timothy 6:6-11)
We would expect unsaved people to suppose that their life consists of the abundance of things they possess. But Christians should know better. We need think only of Balaam, Gehazi, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira to realize that the Bible does not place a premium on being rich.
I understand that God promised prosperity to those under the Law of Moses who kept the Law. But you would look in vain for any such promise in the New Testament, as far as I know.
The Apostle Paul warned us that the covetous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. James advised the wealthy to weep and wail because of the misery that is to come upon them.
God loves the poor, and the Kingdom belongs to them.
Both the Old Testament and the New command us to be generous toward the poor. The problem with money is it makes us selfish. Those who are richer than the average tend to be more selfish than the average. You might disagree, but I have noticed this during my lifetime.
There is no doubt that we must choose between God and money, for both are gods; both promise us survival, security, and pleasure. No person can serve both God and money.
It is not unusual for American Christians to work hard, save their money, and then retire to do nothing but amuse themselves. God says: "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you. Then who will spend your retirement fund; and who will restore that part of your soul you lost by spending your time saving your money?
The New Testament says we should work hard so we can give to those in need.
I have lived in America all my life and I understand how our economic system operates. I realize we have bills to pay and we must see to it that they are paid on time, as much as possible. We cannot throw our financial obligations to the wind.
However, we have to be careful that we are not grasping and selfish. God loves a cheerful giver. It is easy to be bound with a spirit that keeps us from enjoying the freedom of using money instead of being bound by it.
There are many millionaires in America. Wisely invested, a million dollars leaves the owner with a considerable amount of money to share with the less fortunate. There are urban areas that are sources of crime that would be more wholesome environments if some of the wealthy Americans were to become involved with help for the homeless and opportunities for the youth. These areas are as Lazarus, lying at the gate of the rich man.
But money grabs hold of us and demands that we hoard it and worship it. It is easy to be bound like this.
As far as I know, the rich man is the only individual in the New Testament who is shown as residing in Hell. Notice that he was not in Hell because he had rejected Christ. He was in Hell because he was selfish.
Today we talk altogether too much about accepting Christ in order to escape Hell. You will look in vain in the New Testament to find such an emphasis. The people in Hell are not those who rejected Christ, necessarily, but those who were cruel to other people, as was the rich man. Many Christians are cruel to other people. Their proper place is Hell so they can be with others like themselves.
The older I get the more real Heaven and Hell are. I can see that the people with whom God has fellowship are those whom God enjoys. Without doubt, when we die we will be placed with people like ourselves. In the Day of Resurrection we shall be revealed as to what we are in personality. As we sow we shall reap.
Of course, when Christ is presented to us, we cannot choose instead to do good works. Whoever rejects Christ is rejecting the only source of eternal life. Christ is the only Way to the Father.
If I am not mistaken, the main problem in the world today is not that of rejecting Christ. The problem is that of unrighteous behavior on the part of the world and on the part of the Christian churches. I don't see anywhere in the entire Bible where the division is between the believers and the unbelievers. It always is between the righteous and the wicked.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)
We may believe that all people who have not received Christ, even though they never heard of Him, are to be thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is religious talk. It is neither just nor sensible.
Some people who never heard of Christ are recognized as to their good works, as was Cornelius before Peter came to him.
Then there have been multitudes of "believers" in Christ, such as in the Crusades, who behaved so abominably that the Arabs have not forgiven them to this day.
We have a nice little picture of all the believers playing ring-around-the-rosy in Heaven, even though they are selfish and mean; while multitudes of earth's people who never were presented with a decent testimony of Christ because of the laziness and self-seeking of Christian people will be hurled into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever.
Am I not correct in saying that religion can be a constructive influence, or it can be a destroyer of character and common sense?
Let us follow the advice of James and be helpers of those in need. This is pure religion and faultless. Whoever gives to the poor puts God in his debt, for God loves the poor and watches to see who share His concern for the needy of this world.
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5)
Already OneAll people who live in continual interaction with the Lord Jesus are one already, regardless of doctrine. All that is needed to perfect their oneness in the Father and the Son is the Glory that will be sent from Heaven in the last days.
I think most Christian institutions recognize that the Bible does not really endorse a number of competing groups that term themselves Christian. Yet, we don't quite know what to do about it.
Sometimes there is an effort to combine two or more organizations. The advantages are proclaimed. Perhaps it may be mentioned that there will be less confusion on the part of the unchurched, or on the part of the members of organizations that are similar and could come together without too much controversy. Certainly there would be more efficient administration.
Of course, some compromises have to be made. And then there is the question of who will be the main leader and who will be the most important subordinates.
I have heard of the effort to bring Catholics and Protestants together. It seems to me that a true Protestant can never regard the Pope as "Father," or kiss his ring, or acknowledge that he is in an apostolic line from the Apostle Peter.
Perhaps the greatest stumbling block would be the veneration of the mother of Jesus. How could any Protestant agree that Mary was immaculately conceived or that Jesus did not have brothers and sisters, as the New Testament reports?
It seems to me that a Catholic without the veneration of Mary would not be a Catholic; while a Protestant with the veneration of Mary would no longer be a Protestant.
Compromise is often helpful in solving problems of adjustment; but there are situations that do not admit to compromise, no matter what diplomats may believe.
I was in a meeting once where the leader was exhorting us to present a united front in a certain situation. Before the meeting was over there were irreconcilable doctrinal differencesand this among a handful of believers!
The Apostle Paul tells us that the gifts and ministries given by the ascended Christ will labor until we all come to the unity of the faith. How can this be?
The solution is not difficult at all. Whenever two people are in the rest of God, living in continual interaction with the Lord Jesus, they automatically are one.
Do they all believe the same thing? Not necessarily. What we believe in our brain is not nearly as important as we may have been led to believe.
Suppose I believe the Father is greater than Jesus and you believe Jesus is equal to the Father, according to the doctrine of the Trinity. Can we be one and still maintain our beliefs? Of course! Why not! If I am living in continual interaction with the Lord Jesus, and you are living in continual interaction with the Lord Jesus, then we finally will come to a correct understanding of the Godhead. So why should we waste time arguing? Is not our arguing over points of doctrine proof that we still are living in the sinful nature?
Our problem is, we do not know what unity is. We do not know what true unity is because we do not understand the difference between religion and interaction with Jesus. We may think that our salvation consists of what we believe in our brain. It certainly does not. Our salvation is our continual interaction with the living Jesus. All of us are mistaken in one or more points of doctrine whether we realize it or not. A correct mental grasp of theology is simply not that important. All that truly matters is our relationship with Jesus.
When you read the Gospel accounts you may notice that the Lord never took issue with people concerning their doctrine, only with their behavior.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the "faith" chapter, does not discuss doctrine but behavior.
The truth sets us free as it changes our behavior. Belief in the statement of faith of a denomination does not set anyone free. It serves only to set the denomination against others that do not have the same statement of faith.
Every individual in Heaven and upon the earth who lives in continual interaction with the Lord Jesus is one. Each such person is one in the Father and the Son and with one another. It already is true.
At the time of the closing of the Church Age the Lord Jesus will pour out unprecedented Glory on the believers who already are one in their hearts. This astonishing visitation will reveal to themselves and to others that they now are one in the Divine Godhead; that Christ has given them of His own Glory; that the Father loves them as He loves Jesus Christ.
Then the nations will come running to the Light of God that is resting on the saintsand this during the greatest spiritual darkness of all history.
Great and glorious days are ahead of us. Let us focus our attention on learning to live in total interaction with Jesus. Then we will be one with all other believers who also are living in total interaction with the Lord.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22,23)
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
JoabGod is a unique Person and has a will, a way, and an eternal purpose in Jesus Christ. It is the responsibility of every creature to do God's will as diligently as possible. But if the service is not rendered in God's way, there is no lasting reward for the servant. Joab, King David's army commander, is an example of this.
Joab was commander in chief of David's army. It was Joab who captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites.
Joab was an important figure during the reign of David. His name is mentioned 142 times in the New International Version of the Bible.
Joab was a courageous man, and he believed in the Lord.
Joab said, "If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight." (II Samuel 2:11,12)
Joab was loyal to David and did not seek personal advancement, as did Absalom, for example.
Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me. (II Samuel 12:28)
Joab gave David good advice when David was mourning over Absalom.
Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don't go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from your youth till now. (II Samuel 19:7)
When David commanded Joab to count the men of war, Joab knew it was not a godly thing to do and spoke against it.
But Joab replied to the king, "May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?" The king's word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel. (II Samuel 24:3,4)
We understand, therefore, that Joab was an important man in the kingdom of David. He was a brave, skilled warrior and enabled David to win many victories.
However, Joab had a failing. He was ready to commit murder to maintain his position as commander in chief of the army
Because Joab had been the one who killed Absalom, David appointed Amasa as commander in chief of David's army. When Joab heard this, he murdered Amasa.
Joab said to Amasa, "How are you, my brother?" Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab's hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bicri. (II Samuel 20:9,10)
Joab, after such splendid service to David, even in the killing of Absalom, was willing to murder an innocent man in order to retain his position as commander in chief.
Also, Joab murdered Abner because Abner had killed Asahel, Joab's brother. Yet Abner had done everything he could to spare Asahel and really was innocent of his death. Asahel had brought his own death on himself.
Joab is an example of a person who is active in God's service but who is not determined to do God's will in God's way. God was with Joab when he was fighting David's battle. But it was not of God that Joab murder Abner and Asahel.
There are several instances in the Old Testament of men, such as Gideon and Jehu, who did God's will at a particular time and who then were not careful to follow the Lord.
God advised Solomon to walk in God's ways, promising Solomon a long life.
And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life. (I Kings 3;14)
Solomon pleased the Lord at first, and then grew careless. The result was the division of the Israelites into the nations of Israel and Judah.
I wonder today if we lay enough emphasis on doing things God's way, particularly in the ministry. Does the end justify the means? I don't think so. It is possible, as Paul said, to do the work of the ministry and then be disqualified.
The American people are accustomed to the television evangelist who pulls huge offerings. Perhaps the evangelist uses the money in a right way, or perhaps he doesn't. But unsaved people know instinctively that this is not God's way.
Most of us have read of the way the leaders of the Catholic Church in time past have tortured and murdered those who were in disagreement with the doctrines or policies of the organization. Maybe they thought they were doing God's will, but they certainly did not go about it in God's way.
I wonder if students in Bible schools and seminaries are taught that God's will must be done in God's way. We might build a big church, but did we hurt other people on our way up? If so, our success doesn't count in the Kingdom of God.
God has complained that we do not know His way.
That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, "Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest." (Hebrews 3:10,11)
The rest of God is that place of abiding in Christ where we are always doing God's will from the heart. If we do not learn God's ways, we cannot enter the rest that is His perfect will.
Many of the outstanding personages of the Old Testament did God's will, but some did not understand God's ways. Joab was an example of such. God could never find rest in Joab, or Gideon, or Jehu.
I would like to do God's will in God's way. I would like God to be able to find rest in me. How about you?
If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, How quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! (Psalms 81:13,14)
The Fanciful and the RealisticThat a mature adult male, with the nearly incredible complexity of his reproductive system, could evolve from protozoa, does not appear to be a reasonable hypothesis. Even if such took place, in order to reproduce himself, the male must have available to him a mature adult female, having an equally complex reproductive system radically different in several respects from the male.
That male and female reproductive systems could evolve from protozoa at the same time is quite beyond reasonable probability, no matter how long a period of time is allowed.
It has been stated that if there were enough explosions in a print shop, given enough type, there finally would appear the text of the Encyclopedia Britannica. This is fanciful rather than realistic thinking. Such a composition never, never would take place. I do not know enough about probability mathematics to be able to state the equation that would confirm what I have stated; but an intelligent appraisal suggests there is a boundary between that which is realistic and that which is fanciful. The probability would reach zero and stop there.
Thus it is true that to speculate a mature adult male and a mature adult female could evolve from protozoa at the same time, making it possible for them to reproduce their kind, is fanciful. It could not occur in all of geologic time.
I do not know a great deal about scientific information; but I cannot think of a comparable theory, a theory based on an improbable supposition rather than observable data, that is used as though it were established law. The development of the universe also has its explanations; but I am not aware that any group of scientists have come forth and stated "This is the way the universe came into being." Rather ideas are presented and discussed.
This is not so with the fanciful hypothesis termed evolution. It is treated as established fact, as inviolable law. Artists portray the evolution of protozoa to ape to man as though there were clear evidence of such progression.
Since it is evident that the development of the mature male and female human could not possibly evolve by chance, why is evolution presented in the public schools of America as though it has been proven beyond doubt?
Certainly the hypothesis of intelligent creation is as reasonable an explanation as is true of evolution.
To claim that we cannot see God and therefore there is no God is not defensible. A great part of the history of mankind to the present day has to do with metaphysical phenomena. The simple idea in the heart of man that there is a God is certainly more substantial than the wild idea that somehow protozoa developed into two humans who could reproduce their kind.
Why should we ridicule the idea of there being a God when so much of the universe appears to be the result of creative thinking? There is an order to things that can be described mathematically. It seems to me this would not be the case if nature was a random creature.
I think we have been educated beyond our intelligence!
It would seem to me that a totally unbiased person, with no education, if he were shown the physical world in which we live, and asked if he thought the world was the product of random forces or was created by an intelligent being, would respond that it is more likely there is a creator than not. Wouldn't you say so?
If such seems reasonable to you, we must ask ourselves why would such a large segment of our population, many of whom are intelligent, educated people, insist that the universe, and the earth and its inhabitants, came into being through random actions of molecules coupled with adaptation to environment?
I think the answer is simple. The idea of an intelligent God raises the question of accountability for our actions. It is one matter to think of physical death as being the dissolution of our body, after which there is nothing. It is another matter to think that after we die we will stand before God and give an account of our behavior on the earth.
Let us take, for example, a divorced college professor of biology. Let us say he wants to bring a female student to spend the weekend with him on the beach. Is he going to favor the point of view that he will never answer for his conduct; or is he going to embrace the belief that after he dies he will answer to God for his conduct?
I actually believe this is the reason for the widespread support of the nonsense of evolution. I believe it is because people want to do as they please without having to answer to a god. I don't think the reason is any more profound than this.
But you know, this is something like turning your clock back two hours so you can get two more hours sleep and not be late for work. It really is not a sound approach to life.
I myself was not raised in a Christian home. When I heard the Gospel, I said to myself, "This is either true or false. I will give it a try to see if it works. What is there to lose?"
And so I did, some fifty-eight years ago. Because of my experiences since that time I am convinced beyond doubt that there is a God and Jesus Christ is His Son, just as the Bible states. There is no way in which the things I have experienced could have occurred randomly.
But let us say I am wrong. I die and dissolve into nothingness. I am no more. I am no worse off for having walked with Jesus all these years. He really has helped me have a rewarding life. I have the respect of my family and friends. I have remained faithful to them, largely because of my fellowship with Jesus. When we are tempted severely we need strong reasons to keep doing what is right, don't we?
But let us say I am correct. When I die (I am seventy-seven years old), I do not dissolve into nothingness but go into great peace and joy because I have obeyed the Lord. Jesus will be there to welcome me, and perhaps others whom I have helped during my lifetime.
Suppose you gamble that there is no God. So you take life as it comes, doing some things that you know were wrong and hurtful. You heard the Gospel of Christ and rejected it.
You die, and guess what? You pass into a place where there is a great mass of people wandering about. Yet no one knows or cares that you are there.
Soon you find out that the time will arrive when you will be called forth to stand alone before God and answer for your behavior. How would you like that experience?
I am a reasonably intelligent person with a doctors degree in education from a recognized secular university. My entire experience of life teaches me that I have had Divine guidance. Everything testifies to the validity of the Scriptures, Old and New Testament.
My choice in the beginning to gamble on there being a God has certainly paid off for me. Not only have I had help throughout my lifetime but I am looking forward to physical death just as I used to look forward to Christmas morning when I was a boy.
I am not really trying to influence your decision concerning evolution. Maybe you know something about the hypothesis of evolution that I don'tsome findings or established principles that make this influential doctrine something more than a fanciful escape from reality.
However it is a sincere action on my part to suggest to you that you give some thought to what I have stated. I don't know you but I wish you well. Hopefully we both will discover when we die that our decision to do what Jesus commanded has prepared us for life after death.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of deaththat is, the devilAnd free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14,15)
Only a Few Find ItThere is an entry level of salvation, and then there is the transformation of character that is the Kingdom of God. That which is unworthy of the Kingdom is thrown into the fire. That which is worthy of the Kingdom, such as human kindness, is brought down to death and then raised in Christ. Nothing remains of the adamic creation. All is made new in Christ.
You know, I have spent a good deal of my Christian life thinking about the fact that there is an entry level of salvation, and then there is a whole program of transformation into eternal life. I know the Bible says "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved." I know this is true because the inerrant Word declares it.
Then we have the Apostle Paul telling us, toward the end of his life, that he has not as yet gained Christ but is pressing on that he might attain to the resurrection.
In fact, a great part of the text of the Epistles of the Apostles are stern exhortations concerning righteous behavior, including severe warnings that if we continue to live in the sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God, we will die spiritually.
I have heard quite a bit of preaching in my life. Many of these sermons have been salvation messages. The subject has been "Accept Christ and be saved. This is all there is to it."
How many sermons have you heard that proclaimed the good news that all we have to do is believe and receive, and now we are on our way to Heaven?
But when I began to study the Bible, particularly the New Testament, I noticed that this simple way of going to Heaven was not emphasized. The major part of the texts had to do with fighting the good fight of faith.
At first I became angry, and would yell when I was preaching: "What is the matter with everyone? Why can't the Christians see that there is more to salvation than making a profession of belief in Christ?"
Then I began to write what I was seeing in the Scriptures. Eventually the anger dissipated and I calmed down.
I still can observe the discrepancy between what is being preached and what the New Testament teaches. But I see also that people cannot perceive what is so plain unless the Holy Spirit shows them. Oh well!
Any reasonably intelligent person ought to be able to understand that the New Testament does not stress simple belief in Christ but a protracted struggle against the sinful nature as being the normal Christian experience.
I guess this is what the Lord meant when He said, "Only a few find it."
Only a few find what? Only a few find eternal life.
I think "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" is speaking of being saved from destruction in the Day of Wrath.
Being saved from destruction in the Day of Wrath, and eternal life, may be two different things. You could save a person from drowning, but this did not mean the individual from then on would make a success of his or her life. You saved his life. Period. What happens after that is anybody's guess.
The Lord did not say "Small is the gate and narrow the read that leads to preservation in the Day of Wrath, and only a few find it." Jesus said, "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." It's a good thing too, because if the Lord had said only a few would be preserved in the Day of Wrath it would mean most people would be destroyed in the Day of Wrath.
I know we preach that being saved in the Day of Wrath, and eternal life, are the same thing, but I don't believe they are.
Being saved in the Day of Wrath means just that. When the Day of Wrath comes you won't be destroyed.
But eternal life has to do with a transformation of your state of being, the source of your thinking, speaking, and acting.
All of us were born without eternal life. The life we were given from our mother is corruptible, consisting of blood. Our life consist of the circulation of blood through our body. This keeps us warm and gives us energy.
Eternal life has nothing whatever in common with blood-life. Eternal life is the Life of God Himself given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are talking about two totally different kinds of lifeblood-life and Divine life.
Now, why is the gate small and the road narrow that lead to Divine Life? And why is it true that only a few, of the great mass of people who believe and are baptized, find it?
One reason, I guess, is that salvation is preached as a simple ticket that we buy so we can go to Heaven.
Perhaps another reason is that God chooses whom He wants to draw to Himself to this extent. I have come to the conclusion that all ranks in the Kingdom of God are by election, although we have to respond if we are to make our calling and election certain.
It is just as Jesus said: "The gate is small and the road is narrow that lead to Divine Life, and only a few people find it."
We start out with blood-life, human life. The blood-life is not able to cope successfully with the urges to sin that dwell in the members of our body. So we live in a state of sin and spiritual death.
The Lord Jesus comes on the scene. He is the Resurrection. He is eternal Life.
We place our faith in Him and receive forgiveness through the atoning blood that was shed on the cross.
Now we approach the small gate. Will we, as a forgiven person, choose to enter that small gate of crucifixion and self-denial, or will we go through the wide gate and continue on the broad road that leads to corruption and destruction?
Let us say we have chosen the small gate. We assign our first personality to the cross with Jesus. Each day we choose to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord wherever He leads us.
Each day we decide to turn away from the urgings of our sinful nature and choose to receive more of the Spirit of God. Each day a part of us dies and a part of us is reborn in the Spirit of God.
And so it continues, day after day; week after week; month after month; year after year; decade after decade. The old life perishes. The new life is strengthened.
We keep going through that small gate. We keep traveling on that narrow road. We do not turn to the left or right all the days of our life.
What happens to us? We change from a living soul to a life-giving spirit. We are crucified with Christ. Christ, who is eternal Life, is living in us. We, along with the Apostle Paul, are attaining to the resurrection that is to eternal life.
Now you can see why the Lord said "only a few find it."
How many believers do you know who are denying themselves each day and living in the power of Christ's resurrection each day? How many are even aware they are supposed to be sharing Christ's sufferings as well as His resurrection Life?
How many believers are continuing to live in the adamic nature, waiting for the day they die and go to Heaven to walk on the golden streets? How many are aware that salvation is not eternal residence in the spirit Paradise but the transformation of their state of being from the life of flesh and blood to Divine Life in the Presence of God?
How many are counting all aspects of their life as garbage that they might gain Christ? How many reckon they have not yet attained to resurrection life but are pressing forward toward the mark of the stature of the fullness of Christ?
Are there many or are there few who are living like this? So you see what the Lord meant when He said "only a few find it."
I do not know what God is going to do about the majority of believers who never have found the way to life in the Spirit, but who have placed their trust in Jesus for salvation. Are they going to be taught in the next life? Are they assigned to a lesser place in the Kingdom of God? Personally, I don't believe they are going to be thrown into the Lake of Fire. I think Christian teaching has assigned far too many people to the Lake of Fire. Would God create millions of people so they can be tormented forever in the Lake of Fire? I don't believe so.
The Lord told us, in the parable of the sower, that some would reap the Word thirtyfold; some, sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold. We know from this that not all who are saved will attain to the same degree of eternal life.
As I stated previously, I believe that attainment to Divine Life is by God's drawing. Jesus said, " No one can come to Me except the Father draw him." I think this applies to every level of salvation.
Yet, I believe also no one need feel that he or she is not called to the Throne. If you want a higher level in the Lord, then tell God about it. I don't think He is going to respond by saying you have not been called to a higher level. I think God will receive every one who chooses to draw closer to Him.
You know, there is nothing in life that is as valuable as closeness to the Lord. It is a wise individual, I believe, who perceives that our time and energy are best spent seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We may have only this one opportunity in all of eternity to show God how desirous we are of being close to Him. I personally want to take advantage of it. How about you?
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
The Testing of CharacterThink of life on earth as one long testing of your character. Whether you achieve little or much by this world's standards is of little consequence, for there is "nothing new under the sun." What indeed is of incomprehensible importance is the character you will bring into the eternal ages.
I have been proclaiming for many years that the New Testament does not present eternal residence in Heaven as the goal of salvation. Actually, the emphasis is on the gaining of eternal life, which is not the same as going to Heaven.
We have made salvation a movement to a better place. The truth is, salvation is a change in what we are so we belong in a better place; for all of us will end up where we fit.
There can be no greater error in Christian thinking than the idea that salvation is a substitute for godly behavior. If that were the truth, there would be no Kingdom of God. There would be no Paradise to look forward to. It would signify a change in the Personality of God, a disaster greater than all possible disasters.
Salvation results in a new creation, not the old creation moved to a happier place.
The present world, in which the children of God are placed in animal bodies, is for the testing and forming of our character. We are being prepared to have fellowship with God and the holy angels.
Actually, we could not care less whether we are changed or not. We just want to go to a place of love, joy, and peace. Isn't that correct?
Yet we know that bad people are not going to be sent to a place of love, joy, and peace. This is ridiculous.
So I suppose we are assuming that when we die, or when the Lord comes, we will be changed in personality. Perhaps we are basing this on the passages that say when the Lord comes we will have a new body.
Stop and think. Let's say you are an unforgiving, bitter, selfish individual. Maybe you do not enjoy the thought, but you must admit that you find it difficult to forgive. You are not generous. And you are cherishing bitternesses caused by past injustices. You derive pleasure from rehearsing how you have been treated unjustly.
So you are an unforgiving, bitter, selfish individual.
You have believed in Christ and been baptized in water. You attend church, but attending church has not changed your personality. In fact, you have become a gossip.
Now you die. Your body goes into the ground and your soul and spirit enter the spirit realm. What kind of person are you now? Do you have any idea?
You will be an unforgiving, bitter, selfish individual in the spirit realm.
Sometimes we are taught there can be no sin in Heaven, in the spirit realm. Is that so! Where did sin begin? Didn't it begin when Satan rebelled against God while Satan was one of the cherubim who guarded the Throne?
How did sin enter the earth? Didn't it enter from the spirit realm?
Why, then, would you be changed by entering the spirit realm?
So now you have died and are in the spirit realm. It seems likely to me that you will be placed with people like yourself. I don't think God is going to permit you to bring your little bit of Hell into the midst of saints who are living in love, joy, and peace. Do you?
Then the Lord returns to earth and your spirit and soul rejoin your resurrected body.
What kind of a person are you now?
A bitter, unforgiving, selfish person.
"But won't the Lord change me when He comes?"
He didn't change the lazy servant who wasted his talent! Rather He sent the man into the outer darkness.
Will you ever get a chance to be changed? I think you will, somehow, somewhere. For if God rejects all the Christians who are unforgiving, bitter, and selfish, there won't be many who remain in the Kingdom of God.
It is my personal opinion that we who have been saved and filled with God's Spirit are entering a new era of the Kingdom of God in which the Lord is enabling us to get these unclean spirits out of us. Why don't you ask the Lord if this is so? Tell Him you want to be changed into His image. See what happens.
Salvation is a transformation of what we are: the removal of our sinful nature, and change in our inward nature into the moral image of Christ. Included is perfect rest in the center of God's Person and will. If this is what you want, why don't you tell the Lord about it.
Everything that happens in the present life to a member of God's elect is for the purpose of testing him to see what is in his heart, and for the purpose of giving him an opportunity to change. The wise individual will realize at once that all else in our life is secondary in importance to the program of transformation.
If we are to attain to eternal life in the next world we must be found worthy in character.
But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, And they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.
The godly characteristics we acquire will be carried over into the next world.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (I Timothy 4:8)
Actually we are in pursuit of eternal life. While we have a portion of life now, we can be filled with life in the next age if we prepare ourselves now. Eternal life is one of the greatest of the treasures we can lay up in Heaven.
Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God Will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18:28-30)
Not enough thought is given in Christian thinking as to how we will appear in the next life. We may shine like a star being filled with the fullness of Divine Glory. Or we may appear as a miserable creature, an object of contempt.
You can see at once that where we are is not nearly as important as what we are. However, it seems likely that what we are will determine where we are. How do you feel about this? Am I making sense to you?
When you die you cannot bring anything with you into the spirit realm except what you have become as a person.
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:2,3)
God's Will and KingdomGod loves Christ. Christ loves me. I love others, as God directs. In this manner we all dwell in joy in God's perfect will and Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is a simple idea, easily understood. The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in saints governing the works of God's hands.
God loves Jesus Christ. God has given all that He is to the Lord Jesus and Jesus has given all that He is to God. God is content to live in Jesus and express Himself through Jesus. Jesus does nothing of Himself. It is the Father who dwells in Him who does all things.
In the same manner, Jesus has given all that He Is to the believer who gives to Jesus all that he is. Jesus is content to live in such a person and express Himself through that person. Eventually that individual will do nothing of himself. It will be Jesus who dwells in him and who does all things.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
It is God's will that each one of His elect be filled with the fullness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thus there will be one Divine Entity. This is the Kingdom of God, the holy city, the new Jerusalem.
When we become one in the Father and the Son, the world will believe that God has sent Jesus Christ and loves us as He loves Christ.
Then the Kingdom will be enlarged. God's love in Christ in us will be directed toward the saved peoples of the nations, as God directs. Christ will begin to be formed in them. As Christ is formed in them, God and Christ will dwell in them.
This process will continue until God is All and in all in His creation.
Thus we see that some reap Christ a hundredfold; some, sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.
The victorious saints, those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes, will have had Christ formed in them completely.
The remainder of the Church will have had Christ formed in them to a lesser extent.
The saved peoples of the nations will have had Christ formed in them to a yet lesser extent.
Christ will be in all people, and God in Him. Christ will be the Center and Circumference of the entire creation. All shall be crucified and raised in Christ. All shall be made new in Christ. Then a most marvelous eternity shall commence.
For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:27,28)
JeroboamWe never are to grasp tightly what God has given us, or attempt to force things and circumstances in order to protect our gift and insure its survival and operation. To do so leads us away from God and into idolatry. God always makes a way for and protects the gifts He has given.
King Jeroboam is an excellent example of what not to do with God's gifts. God made Jeroboam king over the ten tribes, knowing that in the future, King Rehoboam, with his unwise remarks, would cause a division among the tribes of Israel.
About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, And Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. (I Kings 11:29-31)
Jeroboam should have received assurance from God's words: "See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes."
That promise was all Jeroboam needed. No power in Heaven above or on the earth beneath could have done anything to change that decree, once the Lord God had spoken.
Jeroboam, who had not earned such a gift, should have rejoiced in the Lord with all confidence. If he had ruled with wisdom and justice the history of Israel from that point forward might have been altogether different. They might never have been dispossessed by the Assyrians.
However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. (I Kings 11:37,38)
Instead Jeroboam grasped his gift and peered around suspiciously to see if it could be taken from him in some manner. He did not stop and realize that if God had given it to him, no one was going to take it away.
Jeroboam thought to himself, "The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam." (I Kings 12:26,27)
Can you imagine this? Here Jeroboam was given the kingship as a sovereign gift. Then he clutched it to himself, forgot all about the Lord, and proceeded to make a name for himself as one of the wickedest of the kings of Israel.
Would Jeroboam have become so wicked if God had not anointed him king? There is no record that Jeroboam prior to this time was anything other than a courageous, industrious young man. In fact, Solomon put Jeroboam in charge of the whole labor force of the house of Joseph.
Can you see that our greatest gifts carry the greatest potential for disaster?
We never are to grasp tightly what God has given us. If God wants us to continue to have them, fine. If God wants to remove them, or put them on the shelf for a season, fine. What God has given God has every right to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Notice that the Lord Jesus did not grasp His Divine rights.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)
I wonder what God would do if He could find someone whom He could endow with great authority, power, and wisdom, who then would esteem himself as nothing and permit God to use him at God's pleasure.
It is difficult, isn't it, if God has used us and then places us on the shelf. We have to defend our testimony, don't we? Don't we have to make sure that God is glorified through our great gifts?
Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, became a byword in Israel, standing for all that is abhorrent to God. All because he clutched that which God had given to him so freely.
Let us not make the same mistake! The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
The LORD will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. This is the day! What? Yes, even now. And the LORD will strike Israel, so that it will be like a reed swaying in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land that he gave to their forefathers and scatter them beyond the River, because they provoked the LORD to anger by making Asherah poles. And he will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit." (I Kings 14:14-16)
A Certain Old ProphetThe young man or woman to whom God has spoken ought always to respect the advice of the elders. Yet care must be taken to make sure we always are hearing from the Lord, because the elders can discourage us from doing the Lord's will if they themselves are not in daily interaction with Christ.
You may know the story. God sent a man of God from Judah to Bethel to warn King Jeroboam of his sins. When Jeroboam stretched out his hand toward the prophet, his hand shriveled up. The man of God prayed for Jeroboam and his hand was restored.
Jeroboam wanted to bring the man of God home with him and reward him. But God had commanded the man of God not to eat bread or drink water but to return to Judah by a different way.
There was an old prophet in Bethel whose sons told him what had happened to King Jeroboam. The old prophet got on his donkey and rode off to find the man of God who had confronted King Jeroboam.
When the old prophet found the man, he invited him to his home. The man of God told the old prophet he was not to eat bread or drink water or return to Judah the way he came.
The old prophet lied to the man of God, telling him the Lord said he was to return to the home of the old prophet and eat bread and drink water there.
No doubt this was a temptation, because the man of God from Judah probably was hungry and thirsty by this time.
The old prophet evidently had been used by the Lord in time past. What was motivating him that he would set out after the man of God from Judah and lie to him?
It was bad enough that the old prophet was not hearing from the Lord himself; but then to deliberately lie to the man of God so he would disobey the Lord! Probably the old prophet was so accustomed to being disobedient himself that he didn't think too much about it.
I have read or heard of several accounts in which a man served as pastor for a while, and then went out a took a job that made more money. I guess this was the case with the old prophet living in Bethel. Evidently he was out of touch with the Lord, because God had to use someone else to speak to King Jeroboam.
The Bible refers to him as a prophet. But evidently as he grew older he lost touch with the Lord.
Why do I say this? Because he lied to the younger man.
The old prophet answered, "I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.'" (But he was lying to him.) (I Kings 13;8)
Now, why did he go out of his way to bring the younger man to his home and lie to him?
It seems to me that he wanted once again to feel the presence of the Lord, to be involved in the prophetic word.
This is the way it is today, and probably always has been. God speaks to man and women when they are young. They respond to the call and enter the ministry or become strong workers in their church.
As time goes by they prosper and make a comfortable niche for themselves. They lose the burning passion for Christ they had in the beginning.
As they grow older, at least in America, they begin to think about retirement and vacation trailers. Perhaps they have invested their money wisely and own apartments or condominiums.
They now are useless to God. They are not able to hear and respond to the current prophetic word, although they may not realize this.
God then speaks to younger, inexperienced people. The anointing rests on them and they declare the Word of the Lord.
The older ministers see this. They want to experience the Glory once again, just as Satan goes from church to church, hoping for a touch of the Glory he had known when he was a cherub guarding the Throne of God in Heaven.
The older ministers will involve themselves however they can. In this present instance, the old prophet tempted the man of God with food and rest, with material comfort. He had indulged himself, and was uncomfortable with the stern obedience exhibited by the man of God from Judah.
The man of God succumbed and went home with the old prophet. The Spirit of God came on the old prophet and he rebuked the man of God for his disobedience. Then the man of God was killed by a lion on his way back to Judah.
The old prophet was grieved over this, but the damage had been done. The old prophet was not a wicked person, just a prophet who had grown soft, who had lost the Presence of God from his life.
It appears that this cycle repeats itself in every generation. People, or churches, that start off in the fiery Presence of God, lose their intensity after a generation or two. We see this, don't we, in today's denominations.
Then God raises up young people who challenge the existing institutions. The institutions are uncomfortable with this and respond in negative ways. I have never heard of an established religious institution changing its ways when God raised up new witnesses of His will.
The young person is in a difficult situation. Because he lacks experience he must take heed to older ministers who try to keep him from deception. Sometimes the younger person will listen. Sometimes not, and then God has to "take him around the mountain a few times" until he learns manners.
There are occasions, as in the story from the Book of First Kings that we are recounting, when the young person loses his commission from God, because of listening to older people and taking his eyes off the Lord.
There are other occasions, as in the case of King Rehoboam, when the young person does not heed the elders and brings destruction on himself.
What, then, is the younger person to do? He cannot charge off by himself, ignoring the counsel of more experienced people. On the other hand, he cannot let them take his crown.
He must pray, pray, pray, asking God to guide him. He must recognize that younger people have a tendency to be rash, to launch out according to their own pride and ambitions rather than by the Spirit of the Lord.
He must wait on the Lord night and day, praying that God will send people to him who will help him stay on the right path.
I do not mean by this that he should go into a closet and fast and pray. Such an approach to finding God's will is seldom profitable for a young person. God does not like to be forced to speak. Pray and commit your way to the Lord. Then take a small step in the direction you think you should go, and watch to see if God is blessing. God cannot steer you, ordinarily, until you make a decision and begin to move.
Remember the story of the man of God and the old prophet. Don't be too quick to listen to older ministers, especially if they are telling you to disobey what you feel certain is God's will.
Pray much, keep a good attitude, and God will help you be respectful toward the old prophets without being drawn down into their lukewarm ways. You finally will be acknowledged as being of God, if you truly are.
After burying him, he said to his sons, "When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the message he declared by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true." (I Kings 13:31,32)
The Solution to the Problems of the WorldAs long as the leaders of government are sinful, self-seeking people, we will have wars and worldwide suffering. The only solution to the problems of the world is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ accompanied by rulers who have been morally transformed by the Spirit of God.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. It has nothing to do with our going to Heaven. We made up the whole idea of going to Heaven. The Gospel is the coming of a righteous government to the earth.
We American Christians are not always enthusiastic about the idea of the coming of God's government to the earth. We are so surfeited with material goods that we aren't overjoyed at the thought of radical change interrupting our busy schedules. We don't mind escaping Hell and going to Heaven when we die. But in the meantime we are having funor so we imagine!
But think about what the coming of a righteous government will mean to the poorer nations of the world, where injustice reigns and multitudes are starving to death.
And even in America we Christians are upset about the abortions, the homosexual and other perversive practices, the corporate greed and graft, the rape, murder, thievery, lying, child abuse, and other destructive practices.
I don't know about you, but I would like every type of sin removed from the earth. All sin indeed shall be removed when the Lord comes with His rulers, and what a day of rejoicing that will be!
The problems of the world are due largely to the wickedness of the leaders of government. With some notable exceptions, the leaders are sinful, self-seeking people. Perhaps they start off their political careers with the intention of benefiting the populace over whom they have control. But it appears that before too long they are grasping their positions of power, which often requires that they lie and accept bribes.
The Lord Jesus told His disciples that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their subjects, but that this is not the case in the Kingdom of God. The rulers of the Kingdom are servants of the people.
What would the world be like if all the rulers were like the Lord Jesus? The world would be paradise, wouldn't it? This tells us clearly that the problems of mankind come from the self-seeking nature of the rulers. Yet, we know it is the Lord who establishes rulers, and God expects them to be obeyed. So the solution to the problems of the world is not the overthrow of government.
We notice in socialist countries that after the wealthy are brought low through revolution, the socialist leaders soon exalt themselves over the impoverished masses and live in luxury. They appear in some cases to be as wicked as the former rulers whom they supplanted.
There is only one solution to the problems of the world, and that is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, accompanied by those who are an integral part of Him and live by His Life.
We see so much injustice in the world! What is preventing the Lord from returning? The obstacle is our unwillingness to permit Him to make us qualified and competent to govern with Him.
In order to govern with Christ we have to be changed in our personality, and we have to be living in God's perfect will. This means we must turn aside from much of that in which we ordinarily would be involved. This entails a sacrifice on our part.
How many American Christians are willing to give over their life to Christ that He might prepare them to be a righteous ruler? We don't see too many who are consecrated to this extent.
When God looks down from Heaven He sees the suffering of the hungry; of those without adequate clothing; of those without medical attention; of those who wander the streets because they have no home.
Meanwhile, we American Christians are looking forward to our retirement so we can shed all responsibility and spend our days enjoying ourselves. We are deaf to the cries of the multitudes who are starving and freezing.
We will be sent to Hell when we die to be with the rich man. We can cry "grace grace" as much as we like; but we will be sent to Hell because we did not care enough about other people.
It is true that you and I cannot feed all the hungry in the world, or clothe all the naked, or minister to all the needy. But there is one thing we can do and must do. We must make sure that every day we live we are obeying the Lord Jesus Christ, listening to Him, making certain we are not wasting time but are moving forward in His plan for our life. If we follow Christ diligently, then the blood of the oppressed will not be on our hands. We have done all we could.
There are desperate needs today. One of the greatest is that God's people grow to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ. When there are enough such people, the Lord will return with them and bring love, joy, and peace to the nations of the earth.
A person would have to be hard-hearted to live to himself or herself, when so many have neither the spiritual gifts nor the material abundance that we have. If we don't serve Christ to the best of our ability, we are going to regret this in the future. To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
Religion and JesusReligion consists of a dead set of beliefs and rules. The Lord Jesus is alive. Religions are created by man. The Lord Jesus came from God. The problem with religion is it doesn't dance with Jesus.
Religion is like a domineering, self-centered woman who can never be pleased. Her name is Babylon the Great. Jesus is always dancing along, skipping off to something wonderful.
"Come dance with Me," Jesus calls. Religion glares furiously at the happy couple.
There really is an enormous gulf between religion and Jesus.
Jesus is a person. Religion is a set of rules and practices that the devout observe.
God told us His requirement is that we practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
It appears that no covenant prior to the Law of Moses produced this simple relationship.
The Law of Moses did not produce this simple relationship.
The new covenant does not produce this simple relationship.
We see the religious tendency in Peter as he sought to build three tabernacles. Peter was in the Presence of Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and he wanted to build buildings that would hold the Glory he, James, and John were experiencing.
The Great Commission tells us to build disciples. We build churches.
The Lord wants to walk with us every minute of every day and night. But we have Him pretty well corralled on Sunday morning at eleven o'clock. After one o'clock the same day we amuse ourselves one way or another.
We humans just can't understand the simple desire of the Lord Jesus to have constant fellowship with us.
Practice righteousness, love mercy. Walk humbly with God.
The religious leaders twisted the Law of Moses until religious observances took the place of godly behavior.
The religious leaders of today have twisted Divine grace until godly behavior is no longer an essential part of salvation.
Jesus wants us to be with Him in the bosom of the Father. We want to go to the spirit Paradise and live in a mansion.
As far as mercy is concerned, religious Jews and Christians have often been unmerciful. We see the lack of mercy in the Pharisees. We see the lack of mercy as the Catholic prelates tortured and murdered those believers who did not agree with them.
And how about walking humbly with God? When have Christians been known for their humility? There have been noteworthy of humble religious saints. But religious arrogance is not uncommon.
In my mind, the most important aspect of our redemption is walking with God.
In the beginning God walked in the garden. Adam and Eve, apparently, could visit with God any time they desired. What would you and I give if we could go visit with the Lord Jesus any time we wished!
But did Adam and Eve take advantage of this? Apparently not, with disastrous results.
How about today? Isn't it true that most of the time, money, and strength of the Christian institutions is occupied with what people are going to accomplish? Plans, seminars, building programs, marketing devicesthese abound. How many denominations advocate a simple walk with Jesus.
As for me, after having been a Christian for many years, I want no more to do with religious enterprises, except as the Lord leads. I want to know Christ more than I do. I want to live in His resurrection power, and share whatever sufferings are my portion.
I want to be able to talk to the Lord at all times, continually asking His opinion of this and that. I don't want any aspect of my life that is not constantly being held up before Jesus for His evaluation.
I ask the Lord about everything, right down to the smallest detail. Being pastor of a church, many problems come my way. I keep giving them to the Lord. He keeps giving me wisdom and assuring me that He has the situation under control.
I am learning not to grasp anything. Just let the Lord do what He is doing.
After all, He said He would build His Church. I am letting Him do just that.
When I pray about the attendance, the Lord says: "You take care of the Word. I will take care of the attendance."
We know from reading the accounts of revivals how the Lord will suddenly move and thousands of people will come running. God can bring people any time He wants to, just as He brought the animals to Noah's Ark.
I am not saying we should make no effort to add people to a congregation or that we should be reclusive. Rather, I am suggesting that if we keep in close touch with the Lord He will direct us in the matter of church attendance.
I have noticed in our own assembly how the Lord will see a need, and then bring someone to join ussometimes from afar. After the individual has been here for awhile, we suddenly understand why he or she was needed in our congregation.
I am not suggesting the Lord will lead everyone in this manner. My point is that we need to be more concerned with hearing from Jesus than we are with plans and programs, no matter how worthy.
There are so many religious program today! I don't know which ones are of God. Many of the large youth gatherings are great occasions to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. Yet, it is obvious that spiritual good often comes from them. The Lord understands young people and it is not His way to stifle their normal desires.
I want to know Jesus more. I want to keep my hands off the Ark, not grasp anything, and let Christ work His wonderful works.
I don't ever want religion to come between me and the Lord. Many Americans, I believe, feel this way. So they try to serve God by themselves. This is a dangerous path to take because of the prevalence of deception. It is true also that we can be built up in Christ only by the gifts and ministries of the members of the Body of Christ.
It takes faith to just walk with God and not do religious works. But isn't that how the righteous are supposed to live?
The older I get the less I know. But Christ is becoming ever more real to me. Looking at religion from a distance I can see why the New Testament refers to it as "Babylon the Great."
The day is coming, I think, when the true brothers of Christ will be driven from the major cities of the earth. But there will the great religious institution, perhaps consisting of all religions, including Christianity; and perhaps located in Iraq at the site of ancient Babylon.
If Jesus is walking with us at all times, we have nothing to fear. One person with Jesus is a majority. Religion shall finally be destroyed by the Antichrist government, and all that will be left will be the wicked and the truly righteous.
Marvelous things are ahead. They will come forth in the midst of turmoil. But at the time of greatest darkness, the Lord will come, skipping on the mountains of spices.
Listen! My lover! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills. (Song of Solomon 2:8)
My lover spoke and said to me, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me." (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)
Smashing the NationsThe promise to the victorious saint is that he will rule the nations with a rod of iron. This is because he is a coheir with the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom it has been given to smash the nations with a rod of iron. Such smashing is necessary because of the rebellion in the hearts of people.
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like potteryjust as I have received authority from my Father. (Revelation 2:26,27)
It may be difficult for us to picture the gentle Jesus smashing people to bits. It may be even more difficult for us to picture ourselves smashing people to bits.
But we need to look around us in the world. After what I have witnessed recently, I am ready for the Lord to do whatever it takes to remove wickedness from the earth.
The other day I was at the house of an acquaintance, a fine man, one who loves Jesus Christ. He was not at home at the time, although there were adults in the house. Audrey and I sat down and waited for him to return.
There were two little girls sitting on a couch watching a television program. The television had a 31 inch screen and the reception was crystal clear. The girls were elementary-school age.
What they were watching was a total abomination. It was a story about two policemen who were working on a crime.
There wasn't much of a plot; it was mostly dialogue. The language was absolutely filthy. This was during the early evening when children would be watching.
Since I seldom watch television, maybe the news once in a while, I did not realize the level to which the television programming had sunk. A few years ago such language would not have been permitted. It still is not permitted in the newspaper, which seems inconsistent to me. Actually there is more of an impact on the mind from television than would be true of the newspaper. Certainly more on the minds of children.
I was outraged. I thought, "How wonderful it would be if these two little girls were being taught a Bible story, or just playing a game, or talking with their parents. But here they were being molded by the unutterable filth that spews forth from Hollywood, California."
If I had had a rod of iron in my hand at that time, and the producers and actors of that despicable program were in front of me, I might have gotten ahead of myself and done a little housecleaning. Do you know what I mean? But that is not the Lord's way at this time.
I said to myself and the Lord: "This has simply got to stop! I don't know how you are going to do it, Lord, but this has got to stop!"
Last Sunday my wife, Audrey gave what I would term a "national prophecy." It rose above our local assembly and referred to the United States of America.
God said (I believe it was the Lord) in the prophecy that He was going to judge the gods of the United States.
How is God going to do this? What are the gods of the United States?
Lust, sexual perversions, violence, money, entertainment, professional sports, witchcraft in some instances. How is God going to judge these? One way would be to cut off the television.
May the Lord hasten the day when American children no longer have access to the moral filth I saw on the television that evening.
The proponents of freedom of speech (which is an American idol if there ever was one) maintain that such programming is not really related to crime. Ha!
Last week two young boys killed their mother and then cut her body into pieces. They said they had seen this done on a television program and had gotten their idea from that.
We Americans are absolutely stupid if we believe children are not being formed by what they are watching on the television.
We worship freedom of speech. We are not profiting from the opportunities granted us by the framers of the Constitution. We are abusing their intentions. We are wrong, and God indeed shall judge America for refusing to put limits on moral filth in the media and pornography on the Internet. We are going to be brought low because of our refusal to adopt reasonable limits on what is being portrayed.
It may be true that Americans will never turn their hearts to their children until the country has been smashed. All the preaching in the world will not purify the rebellion and sin that is in the American people, that they would permit boys and girls to be exposed to such destructive influences.
Perhaps God will pour out His Holy Spirit to such an extent that our nation will repent. I hope this takes place. Only God knows if such an outpouring would save the children, or whether we are going to have to suffer greatly. God will do what is best for us.
One thing is certain: I personally will have no rest in my spirit until the Lord does something about two little girls sitting on a sofa and watching and listening to the abominations streaming from Hollywood, California, instead of learning about the Lord Jesus.
Do you feel as strongly as I about this matter?
I am not going to fret about it, because God is in control. But I certainly am going to let the Lord know how I feel about this.
I notice that when the Lord sets up His Kingdom on the earth He will smash the nations with the iron of God. Why doesn't He just pour out His Spirit on the nations so they don't sin any more? Why smash them to pieces? Have you thought about that?
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron, you will dash them to pieces like pottery. (Psalms 2:8,9)
Taking the Day as It ComesLearn to take the day as it comes. Do the best you can with the Lord's help. Trying to force perfection can be a destructive bondage.
I really am writing this brief article to myself.
I am what is termed a Type A, goal-driven personality. Also a perfectionist. I get an idea in my mind as to what I am supposed to do, and then drive myself until it is done regardless of how I feel.
I have had an anxiety breakdown in the past.
I used to drive myself with coffee and chocolate until I had a heart attack. As I was recovering the Lord told me if I continued to drink caffeinated coffee I was committing suicide. He didn't say anything about the chocolate.
However, I have quit both the caffeinated coffee and the chocolate and have learned to take a nap when I feel tired.
A while back the Lord spoke to me and said: "All there is, is now." I knew Jesus was saying that I should live in the present and quit driving myself in terms of the future. That was several years ago.
It has been difficult for me to cease my striving. Dr. McCarberg said it was no use advising me to take a vacation because I would work too hard at it. I have to learn to relax as I go along.
Lately I have discovered something. If I get up in the morning with what absolutely must be done that day, I can't hear the Lord as clearly as I would like. I am not allowing the Lord to direct my day.
I am asking God to help me slow down so I can hear Jesus clearly. So what if I don't get my quota of writing done, or my exercise routine for that day! I have been listening, seeking the mind of the Lord on how much writing I should do, how much exercisingeven if I don't get anything done. Think of it! The world will proceed as always although my quota was not achieved.
Better to work at half-speed for two days than full speed for one day and thereby kill myself.
I want to be sternly obedient to Jesus. Do you? Well I can't hear Christ when I am striving for perfection.
How stupid one would feel if he worked himself to death, entered the spirit realm, and found out what he had accomplished had no significance in the sight of God, no eternal significance. He had worn himself out for nothing.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eatfor he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalms 127:2)
Trained To Be Members of the Body of ChristIf we have been called from the foundation of the world to be a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, a member of His Body, then our entire life on earth is one of training. The task of the Head and Body of Christ is to bring justice to the saved peoples of the earth; to bring the Presence, rule, love, and wisdom to them. Obviously we must be prepared in advance in order to carry out our responsibility successfully.
I wonder if we Christians regard the circumstances of our life as being God's way of training us for our role as members of the Body of Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is the vehicle through which the Head expresses Himself, just as in our human body.
The Head and the Body may be considered as one Entity, one temple of God in which God lives, moves, and has His Being. This Entity actually is the Kingdom of God that is destined to govern the nations.
The rule of Christ, Head and Body, over the nations is divided into two parts. The first part will occur when the Lord Jesus returns with His Body and governs the nations living on the present earth. The second part will occur after the present earth and sky have been removed and there is a new sky and a new earth. The second part will last forever, as far as we know.
Our task, as members of the Body of Christ, will be to bring God's Presence wherever He sends us. His name and the name of the new Jerusalem will be written on us. We will govern, teach, and bless the saved people of the nations. They are our inheritance.
We can understand from this that we must be trained. We cannot serve as God's Presence in the earth until we have learned to flow with God's Life. There is no place here for our creative ideas. We must flow with God. We are to learn this today.
We absolutely must be in the moral image of Christ. Our holiness, righteousness, and obedience to God must be unblemished. It is not possible we can represent God until our behavior is like that of the Lord Jesus.
In former times the Lord rode on the cherubim. They were His chariot. Now we are to be His chariot.
Just think of the tasks we are to fulfill as members of the Body of Christ:
To be a member of the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9)
To be part of the Temple of God (Ephesians 2:22)
To be a member of the Body Christ (I Corinthians 12:12)
To be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
To be a part of the vehicle for the end-time revival (Isaiah 60:1,2)
To be a restorer of Paradise on earth (Romans 8:21)
To be a source of eternal life and healing for the nations (I Corinthians 15:45)
To be a member of the royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9)
To be a witness of God (Isaiah 43:10)
To be a son of God (Revelation 21:7)
To be a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29)
To be an overcomer of the accuser (Revelation 12:11)
To be a governor of the nations (Revelation 2:26,27)
To be a soldier in the army of the Lord (Joel 2:11)
To be a judge of men and angels (I Corinthians 6:2,3)
To be a wall of defense around the Glory of God (Revelation 21:14)
To be a part of the revelation of HimselfGod in Christ in the saints (Revelation 3:12)
It would be ridiculous to suppose that we could fulfill these roles and tasks with no training. So every moment of our days on the earth are designed to prepare us for our part in the Kingdom of God which soon is to come to the earth.
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
God's RulersGod created man to govern God's creation. Before this is possible, man must be subject to God.
The Bible is clear that man is to govern the works of God's hands. God created man to be His throne, the throne from which God will govern, judge, have fellowship with, and bless His creatures.
The fact that we are destined to rule gives a significance to our lives that is not, it seems to me, always recognized. The way the Christian salvation is preached gives one the idea that after we die we go to a kind of retirement home in the sky where we can lie around in the sunshine, play golf, or talk pleasantly with our neighbors.
Don't you look forward to this after you die?
But if our role is to govern the nations with Jesus; if we are to smash them to pieces with a rod of iron; if we are to descend with the Lord on the white war stallions; then we are looking at a future altogether different from chatting pleasantly with our neighbors, or just sitting in our mansion and doing nothing of significance.
Since there is no question that the Bible teaches we shall govern with Christ, how should this affect our life today?
Numerous believers are not prepared to govern the nations with Christ. They scarcely are emotionally strong enough to go from day to day without breaking down. Some succumb to the slightest temptation. Others are filled with bitterness and unforgiveness. There are Christians who lie, steal, gossip, who create division wherever they are. There are pastors who watch pornography on the Internet. The notion that such people are going to rule the world with Jesus is fanciful to say the least.
The Lord Jesus told us that it would be the victorious saints who would govern the nations with the rod of iron. This makes sense. The victorious saints are ruling their affairs today through Christ, and are being prepared to return with Him and install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
But what about the remainder of the Christian people, actually the majority?
It is obvious that they are not qualified by the Word nor are they competent to rule anything. So it must be that they will be governed by the stronger believers; for it is certain that everyone in the Kingdom of God will be under authority at some point.
The bottom line is, if we desire to rule rather than be ruled by other people, we had better act like it now. We need to come to the Lord until we are governing our body and our emotions. We must be sternly obedient to God in every issue that confronts us.
If we are to rule it is not enough to merely be saved. We must be living victoriously in Christ in the present hour. All the rewards are assigned to him who overcomes.
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like potteryjust as I have received authority from my Father. (Revelation 2:26,27)