Jesus Is The Answer To Racism, Discrimination, And Inequality

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:9-10)

Jesus Is The Answer To Racism, Discrimination, And Inequality

Jesus did not kneel. He died. There is a lot of discussions today about racism, discrimination, and inequality. Sports figures have been duped into believing that kneeling in protest will change something that has been around since the beginning of time. The cries to end racism resound around the world. Discrimination is taunted as the greatest of tragedies. Equality is demanded for everything. Racism, discrimination, and inequality all drink from the same cup of poison: there is no such thing as absolute truth. The reason there is racism is because of something the serpent said to the woman in the garden of Eden. Discrimination came because of the deception of the devil on the woman. The Divine Creator established inequality at the beginning of the world. The only problem that mankind faces is the problem of sin, and everything else is a product of sinful action.

Racism comes from the belief that there is a difference in people. Jesus told Nicodemus the Son of God came to save the world. God so loved the world, including all the nations that came from the act of God when He confused the languages of humanity in the plain of Shinar. Every human being on the face of the earth came from Adam and Eve. The blood in one person is the same as the blood in another person. God did not send His Son to die for one nationality or color of skin.

Contrary to the lie of Satan, all lives matter because all lives need the blood of Jesus. Racism comes from sinful hearts who do not believe in the grace and mercy of a loving God. There is no distinction or partiality with God. Racism has existed since Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit. Protesting racism is a ridiculous act of ignorance for something that cannot be changed by kneeling but the power of the word of God in a life changed by God’s word. If a man wants to fight racism, obey the will of the Father.

Discrimination is a two-edged sword. It is related to inequality. The world uses a broad brush to define what discrimination and inequality are. Satan used the same tactic when he approached the woman. God had told Adam and Eve they could eat of every fruit of the garden but was not permitted to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The devil came along and convinced Eve that God’s word discriminated against her, and God’s law was unfair. When Eve saw the fruit was able to make her wise and become like God (equal with God), she rejected the word of the Lord and took the fruit. Satan’s view of God was that He was a racist, His law was discriminatory, and refusing to let Eve do whatever she wanted to do was inequality. The nature of sin remains the same.

The world denies the word of God and attacks the Bible as a book of myths. Everything man needs for life is found in the Bible. It tells him where he came from, why he is here, and what will happen when he dies. Jesus said He came to bring the abundant life. That life is found in keeping the word of God, and when men follow the will of the Father, racism, discrimination, and inequality will end. Kneeling has never accomplished anything. All those who think they have changed the world because they knelt in protest are doing nothing to change the world. Jesus changed the world. He died for every man and woman regardless of who they were. But there is a caveat to the sacrifice of Jesus. God does make a distinction about people. He demands righteousness, holiness, and obedience to His word. Jesus discriminated between the many that would be lost in hell and the few saved in eternal life. There is no equality with all men being saved. Most of humanity will not be saved. Jesus said most men would be lost.

The Lord made racist, discriminatory, and inequality speech when He condemned adultery, homosexuality, lying, drunkenness, and a host of other sins. At least, that is the way the world views the will of God. What they fail to recognize is there is one God, and He is the only Lawgiver. Kneeling to protest will not save a person. Rejecting the will of the Father will not bring happiness. Jesus is the only means to find the abundant life. He teaches His followers to love their enemies, do good to all men, honor the king, and seeking the salvation of lost souls. There is inequality in the mind of God because not everyone will be saved. He judges without partiality, and He condemns sin. Living a sinful life does not constitute the blessing of God. The amoral philosophy of the world is a rejection of the clear teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When the day of judgment comes, there will be discrimination and inequality. If a man is found outside the covenant of God, he will be lost. And that is the day when every man will kneel before the great throne of the Lord God – but it will not be in protest – it will be in subjection.

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Peter’s Essay On Submisson

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. (1 Peter 2:13-14)

Peter’s Essay On Submission

The act of submission is the acceptance to lower oneself or to yield to others. It becomes a form of servitude that is akin to being a servant or a slave. In the act of submission, a person willingly allows others to take control of their lives. There is a forced submission, but this is a cruel means to subject people to a totalitarian view. The Bible never teaches submission without the will and always presents it as a choice to make or refuse. As powerful as God is, He never forces His divine will on anyone, including His own Son. Submission to the Lord has always been a choice, realizing that failing to submit to God will bring consequences. The spirit of a man constantly fights the requirement of submission, choosing to follow his own will rather than submit to the word of God. Slavery is viewed as a distasteful and cruel act, yet the Lord demands all men become slaves to His will to be saved. Paul often called himself a bondservant of Christ or a slave of Christ. Peter writes that he is a bondservant of Jesus Christ. They recognized the need to submit themselves to Christ. Others like James and Jude refer to themselves as bondservants.

In Peter’s first epistle to the pilgrims of the Dispersion, he frequently commands the saints to be in submission. Peter addresses six areas of submission in his letter. He begins by showing the need for submission to the government for the Lord’s sake. The government Peter is speaking of is Nero, a man who ruled with unrestricted tyranny, extravagance, religious persecution, and debauchery. Peter had famously said to the Sanhedrin that obedience to God took precedence over obedience to men. However, if the will of government does not conflict with the will of God, the Christian must submit every ordinance. That was the will of God. The people were to be honored, and honor was to be given to the king. Failing to submit to government is sinful because it rebels against the will of God.

Servants were quite common in the days of the early church. The New Testament church never forbade slavery but commanded servants to be submissive to their masters (as faithful Christians), whether to a good master or a harsh one. Peter gives the example of Jesus as proof the servant could not revile against his master, threaten his master, or mistreat his master. The same rule of submission found towards government was found in the relationship of the slave to master. This is the will of God, and refusing to submit to the master was sinful and against the word of God.

Likewise, wives are to be in submission to their husbands. Submission to government and masters is a challenging course to follow, and many women find it hard to accept the headship of a man. The social norms of a freedom-loving world allowing women to take roles of leadership in the home have dulled the senses of the divine pattern given in the word of God. This is not a choice a woman can choose whether to submit to her husband or not. Refusing to submit to the husband is as sinful as refusing to submit to the government or slaves to masters. The wife of Abraham submitted herself to her husband as a godly woman of faith. Examples of women who have led their unbelieving husbands to Christ show the power of a submissive heart in the life of a courageous and faithful woman.

Peter encourages young people to submit to their elders. The so-called generation gap is an excuse to allow the spirit of youth to disrespect the older and the older to dishonor the spirit of the young person. God created young people and old people to learn from each other. Respect is a word seldom taught to young people when it comes to their elders. Submission, along with government, slave master relationship, and the home, is a vital part of the character of young people who respect the hoary head of wisdom and experience. Under the Law of Moses, rebellious and disrespectful children were stoned to death. While the law has changed, the mind of God has not. Young people who refuse to submit to their elders will find the wrath of God waiting for them. This is the will of God.

Finally, Peter admonishes that submission is something shared among brethren. He emphasizes submission by writing that everyone must submit to one another and be clothed with humility. The main ingredient to submission is humility. Refusing to submit is the sin of pride. God resists the proud, but the Lord will grant blessings upon the humble. Learning to submit to one another will teach the heart how to submit to government, roles of industry (slave-master), the home, and the aged. All of these roles show the unbelieving world the glory of God and the faithful character of His children. Refusing to submit in this life will not alter the submission of all men to the judgment of God. Learn to submit now before eternity begins.

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Great Swelling Words Of Emptiness

These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. (2 Peter 2:17-19)

Great Swelling Words Of Emptiness

Albert Barnes writes, “Truth is simple, and delights in simple statements. It expects to make its way by its own intrinsic force and is willing to pass for what it is worth. Error is noisy and declamatory and hopes to succeed by substituting sound for sense, and by such tones and arts as shall induce men to believe that what is said is true when it is known by the speaker to be false.” The world does not believe there are false teachers. It is accepted that everyone has a right to their viewpoint, whether it is a fact or fiction. To condemn the philosophy or teaching of another by calling them a false teacher is unacceptable. The apostle Peter makes it abundantly clear that some have forsaken the right way and gone astray. False doctrine did not take long to creep in among the people of God. Satan immediately tries to destroy the creation of God by inducing hearts to challenge the word of God. The result is seen in the myriads of lost souls who never knew the truth and blindly followed a man because he spoke with such swelling words of emptiness like a well without water.

False doctrine has always been the downfall of man. Satan began attacking the creation of God when he came to Eve and asked whether God really said what He did. There were false prophets among the people of God who led them away from the will of the Lord. In the early church, men arose, demanding circumcision become necessary for salvation, which the Lord never required. Paul spoke of the great apostasy that would fill the earth with men speaking lies in hypocrisy, drawing souls away from the truth. The Roman Catholic Church became the fulfillment of those lies and spread false teaching for generations to come through the seeds of the Protestant Reformation. False doctrines and false teachers are a real and present danger to souls seeking the grace and mercy of God. With great swelling words of emptiness, false teachers convince the multitudes to believe words never found in the Bible. Truth has always been simple. God gave His word to men to read and understand His will. False teachers twist the word to fit their own agenda. They convince the unwary hearts with a great show of swelling words to believe a lie only to offer empty dreams. A man traveling in the desert dying of thirst is revived when he sees a well on the horizon. Immediately he goes to the well for salvation and tragically only finds a dry well. That is how Peter describes false teachers. They offer salvation, but there is none.

Thousands upon thousands of people have come to the altar call of false doctrine convinced they are children of God. For years, evangelists would hold great revivals throughout the country, drawing thousands to hear a noted preacher. After a powerful and moving sermon, an invitation was given for all those who need to accept Christ as their personal Savior to come to the stage and receive blessings. They are told to say the “sinners’ prayer” and to accept by faith alone the grace of God, and they will be saved. Feelings of euphoria flood their souls as they walk away convinced they have been born again and saved in the kingdom of the Lord. Sadly, they have found nothing more than an empty well. These are false teachers giving false hope. The saga continues today with faith healers, charlatans, mega-evangelists, men and women more concerned about their cars, jets, and mansions than the truth of Jesus Christ.

Everyone is accountable for their own soul. No man or woman will stand before God and blame their preacher, their parents, the government, society, or the author of this writing for their failure to obey the will of the Father. Just because a man calls on Jesus as Lord and lives a religious life will not mean he is saved. The only ones who are saved are those who do the will of the Father, which is a personal choice. When people refuse to follow the Bible and follow a man, they jeopardize their eternal life. Many will stand before the Lord and hear the word, “Depart.” Following a false teacher has eternal consequences. Do not be one of those who follow great swelling words of emptiness. Follow the Book. Live the Book. Know the Book. Truth is narrow but that narrow truth is all that will save you.

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What God Sees

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5-6)

What God Sees

Watching the news can be an exhausting and depressing way to spend the day. The headlines are filled with political wrangling, fears over pandemics, murder, tragedy, natural disasters, wars, famine, and general paranoia. It can become overwhelming to witness all the chaos going on in the world. The television screen fills with images of death and destruction. In communities across the land, immorality is rampant, with marriages breaking up over infidelities, parents abandoning their children, open perversion of sexual promiscuity, and nearly naked men and women walking around. The gods of money and wealth drive the industry of materialism and covetousness to destroy lives. Children cry out in hunger. Women are tortured and raped. Criminal enterprises fill the streets with the carnage of a drug war that seems never to end. Innocent people are gunned down or murdered. The world is a dark place to look at. Sin abounds.

From the view of the individual, the news is a limited glimpse into what is happening all over the world. The news can’t translate into reality everything that is going on in the world. The stories that fill the world are at the atomic level of knowledge for finite man to see and hear and witness. That is not the case with the Creator of the world. The omniscience of the Lord God opens up every particle of the nearly eight billion souls living on planet earth. He knows what every person is saying, thinking, doing and where they are in the vast planet 25,000 miles wide. The Lord knows everything occurring on earth and has a memory bank that is so extensive it remembers all the billions upon billions of souls that have lived since Adam. He sees it all. His knowledge is updated every second. What He can see in America, He can see in China at the same time. If a man stands on the summit of Mount Everest, God sees him. God knows the ten astronauts circling the earth. All the crew of the deepest diving submarine is seen by the eyes of God. What happens in the darkest corner of the darkest place on earth is clearly visible to the mind of the Lord God.

In the days of Noah, God looked in the heart of every man and woman and saw wickedness, and everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. Only eight souls would be saved from the wrath of God. Before the flood that killed everything with the breath of life, God saw their lives, heard their words, and witnessed their terrible deeds. The eyes of the Lord saw debased mind doing things ungodly, filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, and unmerciful toward others. And God sees the same thing today. Everything.

The earth is filled with violence and unrighteousness, and God sees it all. How it is possible for the wrath of God not to destroy the world today is difficult to understand. There is so much sadness, heartache, and tragedy on so many levels and the mind of God takes it all in. When Moses transcribed the story of the flood, he declared the omniscience of God to see all the evil that abounded on the earth. But Moses also wrote down what else the Lord saw. After the Lord decided to destroy all life on earth, it says that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. With all the terrible things filling the earth, a righteous family stood out among the darkness. So today, the Lord sees all that He sees, but He also knows those who are righteous, and He smiles. It grieves His heart to see so much wickedness fill His creation. Jesus came to earth to bring light to a dark place. God sees the darkness, but He gazes upon the lights all over the world.

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What Day Changed Your Life?

So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:38-39)

What Day Changed Your Life?

Many hallmark moments change the direction and course of life. The birth of a child, the first day of school, graduation, marriage, or a new job. Great events may mark a turning point in a person’s life, like surviving a catastrophe, becoming wealthy overnight, learning a dreaded disease is cured or in remission, or facing an uncertain future. Many factors lead to a time in life when a person can say with deep conviction that an event changed their lives for good. Getting married and bringing children into the world is at the top of the list of the most impactful decisions a person can make in life. Still, they pale compared to the single, most important, enduring, and consequential decision anyone can make. All men are created in the image of God, and no decision is of greater importance than becoming a child of God. This one decision has the greatest consequences of any decision made in life because it has to do with life after death.

If there is one day that should change the course of life, it is the day a man becomes a child of God. Realizing the hopelessness of living without God moves men to seek His will. Conversion is not an intellectual transference of a righteous soul to the glory of God. Obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ begins with the knowledge that a man is an enemy of God, a curse, a vile and sinful creature worthy of the wrath of God. The psalmist aptly calls the state of man to be that of a worm. That is the highest a soul can seek with any honor about being a created thing before the Almighty Creator of the universe. A man does not become a Christian because he is a good person or a man doing very well in his state of existence. The only thing a man can grasp for standing before the mercy seat of the Lord is to beg for mercy and kindness in the face of an angry God. Every man deserves to go to Hell, and this is without exception because every man has sinned and fallen from the grace of God.

Grace has allowed man’s feeble frame to approach God’s holy throne and beg for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus did not die because all men deserved His righteousness. The putridity of sin permeates every fiber of man, making him a loathsome and unworthy creature. Yet, God, in his rich mercy, gave His only begotten Son to die for all men. The Son of God came to earth, and His creation tortured and killed Him. Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive those at the cross, and no one deserved it. The Father gave hope to mankind when He brought Jesus from the dead. For two thousand years, the gospel of salvation has been ringing all over the world calling for believing souls to accept the mercy of God. The love of the Father for rebellious man was found in the love of the Son of God, who died for all men.

The greatest day in the history of humanity was early on the first day when Jesus rose from the dead. This would become the hallmark of remembrance for believers in Christ who gather each first day of the week to honor God in worship. For the life of the individual, the most incredible day is the day they became a Christian. The man from Ethiopia had been searching for answers, and God sent Philip to teach the story of Jesus to him. As Philip opened the scroll of Isaiah and preached Jesus to the Ethiopian, a change took place. The Ethiopian realized that Jesus had died for him and that joy and hope were found in obedience to the gospel. He demanded the chariot to stop and for Philip to baptize him for the remission of his sins. The two men went down into the water where Philip immersed the Ethiopian, washing away his sins. What happens next changed the life of the Ethiopian. He went on his way rejoicing. His life would never be the same. The Holy Spirit says nothing more about the man from Ethiopia, but what is known is that his life was changed. It marked a turning point and a change of life.

Has obedience to the gospel changed your life? Do you know the day you became a Christian? Has that day marked a significant transformation in how you think, how you talk, and how you live? When someone asks what day is your birthday, can you remember when you became a child of God? Knowing what day a person is born into the world is not that important because next to a date of birth is a date of death. Remembering the day a person is born again in Christ is the most important because living a faithful life of obedience will usher in eternal life. No day is as important as the day a man rises from the waters of baptism with his sins washed away. That is the moment of birth, and that is a day to remember.

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Jesus Came Out Of Egypt

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)

Jesus Came Out Of Egypt

The first few years of the life of Jesus were remarkable. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin living in Nazareth. Prophecies were given that Jesus would be born of the house of David in the small town of Bethlehem, near Jerusalem. Because of a decree from Caesar Augustus that all in the Roman Empire should be registered, Joseph and Mary returned to the city of their birth. It must have been a difficult journey as Mary neared the end of her pregnancy. Arriving in Bethlehem, the time for the birth of God’s Son arrived. It was not a grand palace, or a wealthy home, or a place of notable significance where Jesus would be born. There will be no dignitaries to herald His birth. Mary delivered her Firstborn Son with only Joseph as her helper. Joseph cut the umbilical cord, wrapped Jesus tightly, and presented Him to Mary. The place of Jesus’ birth was in a barn and where Mary laid the Son of God in a manger.

Shepherds from the field outside of Bethlehem came to see the baby Jesus and marveled at Joseph and Mary as Jesus slept in the manger crib. Angels had told only some shepherds of the birth of Jesus. Soon, Joseph would find a house for the family to live in, and Jesus began to grow. When eight days were completed, in accordance with the Law of Moses, Jesus was circumcised. When Jesus was 40 days old, Joseph and Mary took the infant to the Temple in Jerusalem less than five miles away. The first two years of Jesus’ life were in Bethlehem. One day some men from the East came to visit Jesus and His family, leaving gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Shortly after the men left, an angel of the Lord warned Joseph to take Mary and the child and flee to Egypt. He was not told to return to Nazareth but to go to Egypt, a two-hundred-mile journey. The gifts from the wise men enabled the travel and stay in Egypt. It is not clear how long the family remained in Egypt, but after the death of Herod, the family returned to Nazareth. Jesus would grow up to be a Nazarene

Egypt always had a place in the story of the people of God. Abraham journeyed to Egypt when there was a famine in the land. Joseph was sold into slavery at the age of eighteen and would spend the rest of his life there. After his family moved to Egypt, the generations of sons of Jacob would become a mighty people among the Egyptians. When a Pharaoh arose that did not honor Joseph, he enslaved the Hebrews out of fear. The oppression became heavy upon the children of Abraham, and they cried out to God for deliverance. There was nothing in their power that could deliver them until the Lord sent Moses and, through many mighty works, saved the people from the bondage of slavery.

The final act of God upon the Egyptians was the death of the firstborn. Only the Jews were saved who put the blood of a lamb on the doorpost and lintel of their homes. God passed over the house when He saw the blood. Pharaoh relented and permitted the Hebrews to leave. Trapped by the Red Sea, the Israelites were fearful of being destroyed by the approaching Egyptian army after Pharaoh had a change of heart. Again, the Lord delivered the people as the Red Sea parted and the people walked across on dry land. What saved the Hebrews also destroyed the Egyptians when they entered the sea. Salvation came by the hand of God.

Jesus journeyed to Egypt and fulfilled prophecy. God would call His Son from Egypt and become a pattern of deliverance for all men. The bondage of Egypt is the bondage of sin. Nothing in the power of man can save him apart from the grace of God. Jesus went down into Egypt as a child to show the Father’s redemption of all men. Herod wanted to kill Jesus, but the Lord would not allow it. Jesus was called from Egypt to remind the Jews of how God had saved them. The Son of God lived in a world of His ancestors to show His place in the redemptive plan of the Father. Like the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel, the blood of Jesus will cause God to pass over sin. Only through the waters of baptism (the Red Sea) is deliverance granted to those who obey the word of the Lord and present the blood of Jesus to the Father. Jesus became the means of salvation as one called from Egypt.

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What A Difference A Covenant Makes

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)

What A Difference A Covenant Makes

The Old Testament is called by Paul the Old Covenant, signifying the books of the Jews. All thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were completed in the time of Jesus and had been translated into Greek more than two hundred years before His birth. The Jewish version of the Old Testament was not divided as it appears in the modern Bible, although it contains the same books. In the time of Jesus, the old covenant was called the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. The Hebrew arrangement consisted of the Torah, Former Prophets, Latter Prophets, and the Writings (Hagiographa). What is striking about the Old Testament is the abrupt ending found in the book of Malachi.

Moses records the first five books of the Old Testament with the beginning of the world, people, and nations. From the lineage of Abram, the nation of Israel rose to power by the grace of God. Delivered from the bondage of Egypt, the Hebrews became the dominant power in the world. For a brief period, the nation was united under three kings but then fell into civil war. Nearly all of the tribes were destroyed by the Assyrians, and what was left was consumed by the Babylonians. Returning from seventy years of bondage, the remnant tried to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple. The former days of glory would never be achieved again.

Prophets like Malachi came to the people exhorting them to turn to the Lord. During the days of the divided kingdom, myriads of prophets preached repentance to deaf ears. After the people returned from Babylon, the prophets continued their message of repentance. Devotion to God waned in the post years of captivity. And then the Lord did a remarkable thing. He created a famine of the word of God for four hundred years. When Malachi finished his burden of the word of the Lord to Israel, the pens of the prophets ceased for four centuries. There was no word, no revelation, and no communication from God. The final words of Malachi are sprinkled with doom and yet tinged with hope. A prophet like Elijah would come before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord and turn the hearts of the people. Malachi spoke of the day coming burning like an oven, which will devour root and branch. And then the Lord went silent.

Four hundred years will pass before John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea. His message was the same as the final message of the Old Covenant: repent! The work of John would usher in the kingdom of Christ as the Son of God fulfilled His mission to bring grace to all men through His death. On Pentecost, the apostle Peter opened the doors of the kingdom to the Jews and later would open the door for the Gentiles. Churches began to grow in every part of the Roman Empire as men like Paul, Silas, Barnabas, and Peter went everywhere preaching the gospel. The New Testament consists of the four books detailing the short life of Jesus. Luke would tell Theophilus how the church began and spread throughout the world. Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John would write letters or epistles that would become the foundation of the New Covenant. John’s Revelation would close the Bible in its entirety with the fully revealed word of God.

What is striking about the ending of the Revelation is the difference from the writing of Malachi. Instead of uncertainty, fear, and looking for one to come that would turn the hearts of the people to God, John declares the mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be no four-hundred-year silence but language that says, “Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Dread has turned to eternal life. Uncertainty becomes a promised hope through the blood of Jesus. Instead of a four-hundred-year famine of the word, the abundance of God’s divine revelation is given to all men to come to the glory of the risen Christ. Jesus came in the flesh and offered salvation through His death so that everyone could be part of the kingdom of God. The Old Testament ends with uncertainty. The New Testament ends with eternal hope.

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Everyone Matters Before God

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. (Romans 10:12)

Everyone Matters Before God

There is a lot of individualism in the world where distinct groups of people try to identify to one certain cause or purpose. Nations were founded upon the division of tongues, identifying them as unique cultures. Environments often determined the character of peoples who lived in harsh places or lush gardens of Eden. Diet impacted much of the characteristics of people on how long they lived and their physical development. Skin colors separated races from one another, facial features distinguished areas of the world and cultural history determined the identity for generations.

The reality of humanity is that all peoples come from one man and one woman. God created Adam from the dust of the ground and then formed Eve from the side of man. It was Adam who called the Woman “Eve” because she was the mother of all living. His name for his wife was a declaration that every human being born on the planet earth came from the same womb. There are many distinctions made in the human genus, but the physical DNA of every man, woman, and child lends itself to the procreation of Adam and Eve. There is no escaping the truth that all men are related to one another. After the worldwide flood that killed every human on earth except Noah and his family, the present-day population of earth is nearly eight billion souls who came from the three sons of Noah. There is no distinction of men in the world who can say they are not from the same womb as another.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save every human being without any distinction. Everyone in the world: all that have lived, are living, and will live on earth are found under the umbrella of God’s grace for redemption. Jesus did not die for one group of people, one race of people, or one nation above another. Jesus died for everyone because everyone mattered. Paul reminded the Roman Christians that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in the sight of God because Jesus died for all men regardless of the color of their skin, the features of their face, the nation to which they belong, and whether they are male or female. Paul said there is no distinction between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) because Jesus died for all.

Any man who understands that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, can be saved. When the crowd asked Peter what to do to be saved on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle did not limit who could come to Christ. He told everyone gathered that day to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Luke records the story of men and women becoming Christians, a man from Ethiopia gladly accepting the teaching of Jesus Christ, a sorcerer converted to the truth, unlikely candidates for the gospel like the Philippian jailor, and even Christians were found in the household of Caesar. There is no distinction in salvation. The same Lord is rich toward anyone who seeks the will of the Father regardless of black or white, short and tall, rich and poor, slave or free, Republican or Democrat, young and old – for God so loved the world.

Everyone matters to God. Jesus died because everyone matters to Him. The Holy Spirit gave the word of God to the world because everyone mattered to Him. Heaven is a place where everyone can go because there is no distinction in the eyes of God. Peace will only come when men begin to look through the eyes of God without distinction. You matter regardless of who you are. Come to the grace of God. He will cleanse you and purify you. You matter.

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There Is A Right Way

They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. (2 Peter 2:15)

There Is A Right Way

False doctrine is as old as the earth. Satan first approached Eve challenging the word of God. The devil convinced the woman that she had the right to change the will of the Lord because she deserved so much more. How could God allow her to eat of every tree of the garden but one? This was not fair, and through the deceptive lie of human wisdom, Satan convinced Adam and Eve to choose their own way. The results were disastrous. Sin destroyed the relationship of God and man and cast the world into the darkness of rebellion. Satan continues to deceive the hearts of men by suggesting there is no such thing as false doctrine and false teachers. In a world of acceptance, declaring one group right and another group wrong is viewed as judgmental and condemning, and ironically considered wrong. To suggest there is such a thing as false doctrine is denied. And Satan continues to add minions to his cause.

Peter faces a world filled with false doctrine, not just in the Roman world of paganism, but within the body of Christ itself. In his final letter, the apostle affirms the need to give the diligence to add to faith characters of steel required to refute those who would follow a false way. He was a witness of Christ and saw the Lord transfigured on the mountain along with James and John. The word of God was not fables created by human wisdom but declared by the mouth of God through the Holy Spirit. Within the first four decades of the early church, false doctrine had crept into the church, destroying the faith of many. Peter addresses the poison of false teachers and their destructive heresies by declaring there is a right way and there is a wrong way. False teachers and their followers had forsaken the right way and followed the ways of Old Testament prophets like Balaam. The son of Beor had been dead for nearly two thousand years, but his pattern of falsehood continued to destroy the people of God.

The psalmist of old declared he hated every false way. From the beginning of time, the gospel of two has always been determined by the path of righteousness and the road to ruin. At the coronation of Saul, Samuel told the new king that he would teach him the good and right way. There is a path that is straight, and there is a right road. Righteousness is found on the straight path and the right road established by the word of God. The world listens more to the path of dishonesty, lies, deception, and unrighteousness. Jesus said it is a broad path that leads to destruction, and many follow this road. There are two ways a man can follow. Peter declared there is a right way, and those who are false teachers follow a wrong way.

In a world of acceptance, it is hard to convince people there is a right way. Religion has become so desensitized to error no one is wrong. In the past five hundred years, multiple faiths have begun because of false doctrine propagated by the ultimate apostasy, the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit gave the Bible to the world to show all men the right way. There is one church, one Lord, one faith, one God, one Spirit, one hope, and one baptism. If there is one church, why are there so many churches? If the Methodist church is not found in the Bible, is it the right way or the wrong way? What about the Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Nazarene, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, or Presbyterian? Are they the right way or the wrong way? If a man teaches a doctrine of salvation not found in the word of God, is it the right way or the wrong way? Even among those of the body of Christ, acceptance of other churches is becoming more prevalent. God only has one way.

A sign on the outside of a building does not make a group the right way. A pattern of New Testament discipleship is what determines whether someone is right or wrong. Jesus only died for one church, and there is only one covenant God has with those who have followed the right pattern of obedience. Jesus told the multitudes that being religious did not qualify a man as saved. Doing the will of the Father is the only way a man can find the right path. There is a way that seems right, but the end is a disaster. Following the right way takes a right heart to do the right things in accordance with the right message. The question must be asked: are you right?

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Ask, Seek, Knock, And Receive

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:9-13)

Ask, Seek, Knock, And Receive

The greatest joy of being a child of God is the blessings received from the hand of the divine Father. Some great fathers have exemplified noble characters of love, courage, wisdom, and protection but all fathers are failed men. They try to be the best fathers and yet fail from time to time. Jesus tells His disciples the heavenly Father gives immense blessings without partiality. Three principles mark the need of the child, and three principles declare the glory of the Father. The child of God must ask, seek, and knock to receive the blessings of the Father. In turn, the Father will answer, will deliver, and will open His storehouse of blessings upon His child. What is remarkable about the heavenly Father is He knows what the child needs, but the child must first ask, seek, and knock. There is a need for the child to learn dependence on the Father to receive the blessings.

Asking for the blessings of God can only come through the knowledge of the word of God. Someone said that prayer is pleading the promises of God and that no prayer can be answered if God did not promise it. Praying to the Father comes from knowing what to ask and how to ask for His divine blessings. The more a man spends in the word of God, the more he will seek the divine will. Asking requires knowledge. It creates in the heart a daily desire to seek the favor of God in every part of life. Nothing is left to chance or circumstance. The prayerful life of a child of God is filled with asking. When God hears the pleas of His children, He will give the child what they need. His blessings will not come if the child does not ask. God is faithful to answer every prayer of His children. No prayers are left unanswered.

Seeking God through prayer is an active part of a spiritual life. When a person is seeking something, they actively pursue with vigor what they desire. What they desire is not hidden in a place that cannot be found but rather, it is in an area that requires diligence with faith. Seeking the will of God is the pattern of a praying life as a man asks for the blessings of God. The Lord promised to feed the sparrow, but He did not promise to bring it to the nest. The child of God must live a seeking life to find those blessings promised by God. When a child strives for the promises of the Divine, he will find more than he could have imagined. Seeking the blessings of God will be rewarded with the open arms of the Father granting the desires of His child.

Knocking on a door suggests a need to enter. When Jesus knocks on the door, the handle is always on the inside. He can stand at the door and knock, but it needs the faithful heart of God’s child to open it from the inside. In the teaching of Jesus, the door will not be open unless the child of God knocks on the door. All the eternal blessings of God await inside the door of the heavenly storehouse abounding with the eternal measures of divine love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. None of these will have any value unless the child knocks on the door. The joy of living for the Lord is to know that when He hears a knock at the door, He will open the door. He knows the names of His children, and He willingly opens wide the door of His grace to let His children come in. Knock, and the door opens.

Jesus concludes His teaching by comparing what earthly fathers will do for their children and how the heavenly Father will bless His children. If an earthly father seeks the betterment and good of his children, how much more will the Father in heaven? God will not answer prayers with stones, serpents, or scorpions. Even an earthly father would not do such a thing for his children. The heavenly Father gives His children bread, fish, and an egg to sustain them and fill them. Jesus is teaching that God will bless His children with everything they need in abundance. God answers every prayer in the manner He sees fit, and it is the right and just thing that is offered.

A child of God should never doubt the power of their prayers. When they ask, seek, and knock, the Father will answer, give, and open – without exception. If anything is lacking, it will only come from the heart of little faith. Jesus extols the virtues of the heavenly Father is immeasurable. Let no day go by when the heart is not asking, seeking, and knocking, and the blessings will flow like a mountain stream from the throne of God. How much more will the heavenly Father give than the incredible blessings from His holy hand. Thank God for His blessings.

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Seeking The Best Seats

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

Seeking The Best Seats

Benjamin Franklin said of pride, “To be proud of virtue is to poison yourself with the antidote.” One of the hardest lessons for men to learn is they are created out of dust and exalting self-opinion, and worth above all others is finding nothing more than sanctified dust. The creation of the world should remind man the mosquito was created before him. Pride is an insidious disease that fills the heart of man with seeds of self-destruction. The angels are amused that man seeks to exalt himself above his station. Reinhold Niebuhr remarked, “Man falls into pride when he seeks to raise his contingent existence to unconditional significance.” Jesus warned against a prideful heart and taught His disciples a timely parable when He observed how men sought the best seats.

It is an honorable thing to be invited to a wedding feast. The festivities surrounding the bride and groom and the happiness of their union is enjoyed by so many. All the preparations are made for a great feast, and invitations are sent. People arrive to enjoy the marriage occasion, but pride fills the heart when men seek the best seats in the house without being asked. Immediately arriving at the feast, men would go up the best seats in the house with a proud and arrogant stride. Then, a man of great honor arrives, and the host comes and asks the man sitting in the best seat to step down and give his seat to the other man. Shame fills the heart of the presumptuous guest, and his disgrace humbles him. Pride has a way of exalting shame in the heart and actions of those induced by its charm.

Jesus warns against pride. He said it would be better to arrive at the feast and seek the lower seats so that the host may come and ask the man to sit at a higher place in time. Instead of pride bringing shame at the man’s arrogance, glory is shown for the one seeking the lower place first and then exalted before others. Pride begins with presumption. Humility starts with servitude. Seeking to elevate self above others will end in shame. Having a humble heart will be rewarded with glory. Pride seeks the exaltation of self. Humility begins with a lowly spirit and remains until called. The heart of a servant knows his place before all men and does not try to exalt above measure his worth.

There is no one greater than God, so what value is there for a man to fill himself with pride? Nothing that a man will accomplish will compare to the universe of God’s power. When humanity sought to build a tower to the heavens in the plain of the land of Shinar, the Lord confused the languages and forever established the habitation of man. Nations rise and fall at the will of the Lord. History is filled with the bones of tyrants and despots who sought to rule the world and lost everything. Wealth did not keep men from dying. The pride of human wisdom is an exercise in futility. Humility is the greatest attribute a man can possess, for he knows he is nothing more than an unprofitable servant. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humbled Himself in obedience to the Father.

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A Greater Than Jonah Is Here

And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:29-32)

A Greater Than Jonah Is Here

Michael Packard has a whale of a story to tell about the day he was swallowed by a humpback whale while lobster diving off the coast of Cape Cod. Without warning, the whale engulfed Packard but then forced him out of his mouth about forty seconds later. He survived with minor injuries and a great story to tell his grandchildren. In 1891, James Bartley was swallowed by a sperm whale after the whale attacked their boat during a whaling expedition off the Falkland Islands. A few days later, he was found inside the whale, still clinging to life when the whale was killed. None of these stories match what happened to a preacher from Gath Hepher named Jonah, the son of Amittai. The Old Testament book of Jonah tells the amazing story of the preacher sent to the heathen city of Nineveh to preach, who tried to run away from God. Punished for his disobedience, Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish (the type of fish is unknown) and kept three days fully conscious of where he was. While in the belly of the big fish, Jonah prayed, and the Lord delivered him after three days.

Some doubt the story of Jonah, but to do so means that Jesus is a liar. The Son of God told the story of Jonah as an object lesson for the validity of holy writ and concerning what would happen in the life of Jesus Himself. Matthew and Luke record the words of Jesus, paralleling the three days Jonah spent in the fish’s belly to the Lord’s own entombment in the grave. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus from the cross and put Him in a new tomb hewn out of rock. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. As Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, so the Son of Man remained three days in the tomb. He rose on the third day so that He would not see corruption fulfilling the prophecy of David. As the Lord delivered Jonah from the watery grave of the sea, so the Father delivered His only Begotten Son from the tomb of Hades.

The people surrounding Jesus were not convinced He was the Son of God. They sought visible evidence to clear their clouded minds. Jesus tells them the sign of Jonah will prove His divinity as the prophet preached to a rebellious and wicked generation, so will the Son of God preach to a rebellious Israel and perverse generation. After Jonah went to the city of Nineveh, the people repented in sackcloth and ashes. One hundred and twenty thousand persons turned to God at the preaching of Jonah. A greater than Jonah came among the people of God, and they refused to listen. Jonah was displeased the Lord did not destroy Nineveh, but the people did not have hatred toward the prophet. Jesus did not come to destroy but to save, and yet the people killed Him. A greater than Jonah had come to earth, and His mission was the salvation of all humanity.

Jonah was a story of grace, mercy, truth, sacrifice, and repentance. The story of Jesus is the same. God delivered Jonah from the darkness of the deep, and He delivered His Son from the depths of Hades to show all men the greatest story is found in Jesus. Charles Bartley and Michael Packard have a remarkable story to tell. Their story pales compared to when a man obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ and is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins. Rising out of the waters of baptism is the greatest story. Sins are washed away. A covenant of grace is given between God and an obedient heart. Nothing can match the wonder of that story.

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Hear The Word And Obey The Word

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)

Hear The Word And Obey The Word

It takes the heart of a mother to know the value of a faithful son. Throughout the wisdom literature, young men are admonished to honor their mothers, not forsake the law of their mothers, never despise their mother, and never bring grief to the heart of the one who bore them into the world. The death penalty was imposed upon those who cursed their mothers. A mother’s heart sees the beauty of a good son who honors God and honors the family. As Jesus was defending Himself against the charges of the scribes and Pharisees accusing Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub, a woman in the crowd was struck by the demeanor of Mary’s son with His clarity and boldness against His accusers. It was not her place to speak, but her heart was overwhelmed with respect for a mother’s son as she listened to Jesus. She cried out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came and the breasts that nursed you!”

Jesus loved His mother very much and owed such a debt of gratitude to her. There existed between the two a special bond that no one could understand. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit into the womb of a virgin, and Mary carried Jesus for nine months as a normal pregnancy. On that night in Bethlehem, she gave birth to the Son of God, and the angels broke forth in heavenly wonder and praise. There were many things that Mary kept in her heart as she watched her little boy grow to manhood. Simeon had warned the mother of Jesus that a sword would pierce through her soul. Jesus was obedient to His mother and grew in stature, increasing in wisdom and favor of God and men. Other children were born to Mary, and Jesus had half-brothers and sisters. When Jesus began His ministry, Mary was there. At the cross where Jesus was treated so contemptuously as a common criminal, the mother of the Son of God stood by without uttering a word. With the eternal weight of sin bearing down upon Jesus, He takes a moment to tell His mother He loves her and begs John to care for her. Jesus loved His mother.

The woman in the crowd was right to seek blessings on the woman who bore Jesus into the world. Jesus was not insensitive to her remark and was not disrespecting His mother. What Jesus wanted the woman and others to understand was the greatest blessings were found in those who would hear the word of God and keep it. The Jewish leaders had charged Jesus with casting out demons by Beelzebub. This blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was unforgivable. There was a time and place to honor mothers who bore faithful sons, but a crisis filled the land with hypocrisy, hatred, and envy from the scribes and Pharisees seeking to kill Jesus. What the multitudes needed to understand was God demanded obedience to His word above all things. It was important to honor mothers, but the man who hears the word of God and obeys it was the true blessing. Salvation comes from hearing the word of God and keeping the commands of the Lord.

Hearing the word of God is not enough. Keeping the word requires obedience. Salvation cannot be found in faith alone or hearing the word alone. Believing Jesus is the Son of God is a part of salvation, but this belief alone will not save a man. The will of the Father must be kept, obeyed, and followed according to the word of God. It is easy to say one believes in Jesus and never follows His word. The woman from the crowd was good to say nice things about the mother of Jesus but being a good mother or having a good son is not where salvation can be found. Truth must be heard and obeyed. The greatest blessing a man can possess is the salvation of his soul. Hear it and keep it.

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Rejecting God

He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me. (Luke 10:16)

Rejecting God

The gospel of two is very clear: either a man believes in the word God, or he does not believe. Eternal consequences come with the decision a man makes whether to accept the word of God as truth or to call it a fable, myth, or a cleverly devised scheme of men. Everything hinges upon accepting God as real or that He was created by the delusions of human wisdom. The majority of humanity rejects the story of Jesus because it is too fanciful for human understanding. Few believe the Bible to be authoritative. Among so-called Bible believers are found those who deny the miracles of the Bible, the ancient stories of scripture, and the teachings of Jesus. Reading the Bible becomes a flea market exercise of selecting which parts are appealing while rejecting anything contrary to modern philosophy and lifestyle. Piecemealing the word of God is the standard means of explaining the Bible. The conclusion is the many ways men reject God.

Jesus plainly taught to reject Him was to reject the Father. One cannot be dismissed without the rejection of the other. Whatever Jesus taught came from the Father. Accepting the teachings of Jesus meant the listener accepted the word of God as truth. All that Jesus said and did was in keeping with the will of the Father. The danger for the souls of men came from those who challenged the teachings of Jesus, denied the miracles of Jesus, and refused to submit to the teachings of Jesus. In so doing, they questioned God, denied God, and refused to submit to God. There is no fine line between the two. Rejecting Jesus had consequences of eternal damnation. This rejection went much further than the relationship between Jesus and God.

The Lord appointed seventy men to go out two by two into every city and place where He Himself was about to go, teaching, preaching, and showing the power of God. The Lord warned the seventy that many would reject them and not receive them. Jesus highlighted the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum as problem areas in the ministry of the seventy. What the Lord wanted the seventy to understand is that when men rejected them, they rejected Jesus and by rejecting Jesus, rejected God. That is the pattern of divine authority. When a man preaches the word of God and the multitudes reject the teaching, they reject Jesus and reject God. It is necessary for those who teach the gospel to know rejection comes from hearts refusing to submit to God. If a man teaches the necessity of water baptism and refuses to obey, they have rejected the gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father. Woe to them on the final day.

The requirement of preaching the truth is to proclaim only what is written by the finger of God. Anything more is blasphemy, and anything less is blasphemy. The word of God is settled in heaven, and the whims of men will not change it. Responsible upon every man is to teach the word of God as it is written. If a man rejects the word, they reject God. It is a serious matter to follow God’s word and teach what is written as truth. Anything less is to reject God. Failing to believe what is written is rejecting God. Rejecting God will end in the rejection of the divine judge when eternity opens its wide doors as all men are separated like sheep and goats.

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Giving Honor To God

Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38-39)

Giving Honor To God

The healing of the man from Gadarene was a powerful testimony to the human tragedy of sin, the compassion of Jesus, and the power of the word of God. Jesus arrived in the country of the Gadarenes opposite Galilee and immediately was met by a man from the city who had demons for a long time. The possession of the man was intense as the unclean spirit had often seized the man and, driven by the demons, forced the man to dwell among the rocks in the wilderness. Nothing could bind the man as he tore off chains and shackles with ease. Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones. His life was total misery and heartache.

When Jesus arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, the possessed man met Jesus and fell down before Him worshipping Him. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. He asked the demon his name, and the unclean spirit replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Begging the Lord not to cast him into the abyss, the demon begged Jesus to cast him into a herd of swine feeding on the mountain. Jesus permitted the evil spirit to leave the man and enter the swine, who ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned. When the people of the city came to see what had happened, they found the demon-possessed man sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. This frightened the people, and they begged Jesus to leave their shores. As Jesus was leaving, the formerly demon-possessed man begged the Lord to allow him to accompany the group, but Jesus had other plans for the man. He told him to go home and tell everyone what great things the Father had done for him. With great joy, the man went his way, proclaiming throughout the whole region what great things Jesus had done for him.

Jesus told the man to say to his friends, neighbors, and family what great things God had done for him and how He had compassion on him. Mark records the man began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him, and Luke says he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. Telling what great things God has done and all things Jesus has done is the same story, identical message, and brings glory to the Divine. Jesus had healed the man through the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God, the Father. Showing the saving power of Jesus gives glory to the Father and inclusively brings honor to the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, the Son of God gave praise and honor to His Father. Every word came from the Father. The miracles were manifestations of the Father’s power, and every prayer offered by the Son was given to the Father in humble obedience. What a man saw in Jesus was the Father because the Son had become the image of the Father. The Son wanted the world to see the Father. Jesus told the man from Gadarene to preach the Father, and the man obeyed Jesus when he preached the Son. To reject Jesus is to reject God. Obeying the Father is obeying the Son. The two are inseparable. A child of God should reflect the Father’s image in every part of life so the world can see the Divine character of the Father. The imagery of a Christian’s life should be so full of the Father the world can only see the light of truth, righteousness, holiness, godliness, and humility in the picture of Jesus Christ living through the lives of obedient servants. What the world sees in my life should be Jesus Christ so the world can know God. If a man preached the story of my life, who would they preach? Let the light of Christ fill my life so that all men can see God.

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No Longer Children

That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. (Ephesians 4:14)

No Longer Children

A child’s heart can easily be persuaded to believe a lie. Without the maturity of knowledge, a story can allow an innocent heart accept a cleverly told falsehood. This may not mean a bad thing in the child’s world, as childhood stories often are based on creative fantasies that fill the mind with imagination. The warning of the apostle Paul is the danger of spiritual children being led away with the imaginations of Satan’s lies that have eternal consequences. This is the greater danger when those born into Christ never grow in spiritual discernment and maturity. Paul warns the brethren not to be immature like children who can easily be swayed with any new teaching or doctrine. A child can be influenced and tricked into believing lies so clever they sound like the truth. The child of God must protect themselves from such dangers.

Knowledge is power, and it takes time and energy to equip the mind with the word of God. The power of Satan is immense, seeking on every turn to trick the soul of man into believing a lie. When the serpent came to Eve in the garden, his first words were dishonest to the command of God. He convinced Eve that God did not mean what He said and that she and Adam deserved to eat the forbidden fruit. Satan did not force or compel Adam and Eve to disobey God. He merely suggested they disregard the will of God and enjoy what was forbidden. The devil tricked them, and they immediately discovered his scheme was a lie, but it was too late. Shame, guilt, and the burden of sin had overshadowed them, and they hid from the presence of God.

The church’s work is to equip its members with the necessary tools to be edified, increase in knowledge, and fortify their souls against the wiles of the devil. God has put the tools required to build a wall of defense around his children, but these defenses will have no value if the individual does not implement those plans in his life. The Christian should always seek ways to grow in Christ so they will not be like a child in the knowledge of God’s word. There are many doctrines that stand against the truth of God’s word. If a Christian is not diligent in their knowledge of the Bible, they will easily be tossed about with every wind of doctrine. This is where apostasy plants its seed. Ignorance is the vast field of Satan’s farm where he tends the hearts of those who do not know the word of God. Any trickery of men filled with the devil’s lies will become what a person believes to their destruction. Is that not why there are so many churches and why so many different faiths?

Children are expected to grow, and when this does not happen, concerned parents seek medical advice to correct the problem. In the church of Christ, the only infants and babies in the church should be newborns. However, there is a large population of older Christians by virtue of how long they have been in the kingdom of Christ that are still unlearned, ignorant, and feeding on soy milk. They have no substance, depth of knowledge and are so unlearned in scripture; they are unable to find a chapter and verse in the Bible. These poor souls are fertile ground for the devil’s deceptions who seek people who are still childlike in heart and mind that he can fill with the deceptions of his lies—grown adults in the kingdom with minds of a child.

Paul warns the Ephesians to grow up in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Children must grow in maturity to become productive citizens of the church of God. Unity of faith comes from a knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man. The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ is when a man says he will no longer be a child tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. He will spend the time filling his heart with the word of God, leading his family and others to the redemption found in Jesus Christ. Truth stands upon the hearts of those men and women who grow each day to be stronger and bolder in proclaiming the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan is not afraid of children of God who remain infants. He is terrified of children who have grown up to be mature, responsible, and capable teachers of the word.

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When Nations Do Not Listen To God

Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth—the Lord God of hosts is His name. (Amos 4:12-13)

When Nations Do Not Listen To God

In the days of Jeroboam II, Israel experienced a period of social, economic, and cultural revival that brought unprecedented prosperity to the northern tribes of Israel. It was a false sense of security that settled over the nation because, in less than forty years, Assyria would destroy Samaria and take the people of the ten tribes captive. A sheepherder from Tekoa came to warn the people of the impending doom if they did not repent. Throughout the previous one hundred and seventy years, the Lord had sent His prophets to turn the hearts of the people back to Him, but without success. Every king that reigned over the northern tribes was wicked without exception. There was little hope as the hearts of the nation had turned to idolatry. With prosperity filling the land under Jeroboam, there was no urgency to turn to the Lord.

God sent His prophets to preach a message of repentance, but the Lord had also taken an active role in punishing the nation through His power. He had brought famine, drought, pestilence, plague, and destruction against Israel. In all their cities, the Lord took away their bread. He withheld the rain from the land. When there were still three months left to harvest, God made it rain in one city and withheld rain in another. In some places, it never rained, and the crops failed. People wandered from place to place, seeking water. Their gardens, vineyards, fig-trees, and olive groves were destroyed with blight and mildew, and locusts. Some cities were destroyed without cause. In all of these things, the people did not return to the Lord. No matter what the Lord brought against the people, their hearts would not turn to Him.

There comes a time in the heart of a man when repentance is impossible. As a nation, Israel had turned entirely away from righteousness, truth, holiness, and the desire to follow the word of God. When a nation turns its heart away from God, refusing to repent, judgment awaits. The cry of Amos was for Israel to prepare to meet their God. The Lord God of Hosts is His name, and He was coming with the firebrand of divine judgment. Assyria completely destroyed the northern tribes leaving no trace of their existence except in the seeds of the Samaritans, who were a mixed breed of Assyrians and Israelites. The Lord God brought the kings of Assyria against His own people as punishment for their refusal to repent. Amos warned the people to repent, and they did not listen. Israel was doomed.

The judgment of God against Israel demonstrated His will among the nations. As Creator, the Lord is the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to mankind. He turns the light of dawn into darkness and treads on the heights of the earth. There is no excuse for any nation to reject the workings of the Lord among them. While the events of Israel and the prophecies of Amos are nearly three thousand years old, the message of the Lord working among the nations remains. He continues to show Himself to the world as the Lord God of Hosts. Throughout history, the Lord has revealed Himself to nations as He did to Israel but to no avail. In times of national crisis, momentary feelings of religious fervor rise to the surface but never last. When the tragedy of 911 struck the United States, an immediate response of consciousness arose in the hearts of many people. Sadly, it did not last. With the pandemic of COVID-19, the world has seen the tragedy of disease that could have turned many hearts to God. Sadly, again, it has not happened.

National and world events should be markers of time to show the power and glory of the Lord God. Sin has brought the misery of disease, natural disaster, and death upon all mankind, but the hope to overcome comes only through the will of the Lord. Tragedy should not drive men away from God but draw them closer. In the case of Israel, it did little to change their hearts. For the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, captivity came because of their rebellion but a remnant of faithful returned. The wrath of God brought repentance. Return to the Lord and seek Him. He is the only answer to face the trials and hardships of life. Nations turn to the Lord when the hearts of their people turn to the Lord. When men do not seek the Lord, the nation is destroyed. As the spirit of the American people goes, so goes the nation.

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Serving God Or Serving Caesar

“Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:22-25)

Serving God Or Serving Caesar

The chief priests and scribes tried vainly to trap Jesus in some philosophical, religious, or moral question to prove He was not the Son of God. They sent spies among His disciples pretending to be righteous, seeking some proof of deceit. On one occasion, they challenged Jesus about allegiance to the Roman government and allegiance to God. Using taxes as the framework of their question, the critics of the Lord wanted to know if God’s people should pay taxes to the Roman government. Jesus perceived their craftiness and trickery and, taking a Roman coin, used the image of Caesar to answer that all things that are owed to the government are to be given, but all things required of God are His.

The answer of rendering to Caesar the things belonging to Caesar and to God the things that are God’s was not a new teaching. Joseph lived in the pagan world of Egypt and gave allegiance to all things Egyptian except his devotion to God. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four young men thrust into the ungodly world of the Babylonians when Israel was taken captive. Throughout their life in the Babylonian culture, they obeyed the laws of the land until those laws came in conflict with the law of God. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused to obey the king’s law, and Daniel was cast into a den of lions for disobeying government policy. They rendered to ‘Caesar’ the things that belong to Caesar, but they held true to their obedience to the law of God first and foremost.

It is easy to fall into the trap of civil obedience at the expense of spiritual directives. Everyone wants to be a law-abiding citizen without repercussions of disobeying civil law. The Bible commends the people of God to honor the king, pray for the rulers, and be subject to the government’s will. As the scribes and Pharisees tried to trap Jesus, the challenge to obedience to God is a decision the Christian must make about answering the mandates of our changing world. A year ago, the country was shut down by the power of government. State governments began to ban the assembling of churches, including making the singing of songs against the law. Fear spread across the land as confusion filled the hearts of the people of God. The United States Centers for Disease and Prevention, a federal agency of the national public health, began to mandate, monitor, and manage the lives of 329 million Americans. If the CDC again takes the country back to the early part of 2020 with its directives, how will the church react?

Peter and John were arrested for preaching Jesus and His resurrection. When questioned by the Jewish leaders and warned not to teach in the name of Jesus, the two apostles declared their obedience to the law of Caesar when required, but they would follow the word of God foremost. Later, when the twelve apostles were arrested for teaching in the name of Jesus, they answered they must obey God rather than men. A clear line was drawn they would not shun from doing the will of God – even in the face of a government decree that forbade them from doing so. The twelve apostles were not civil anarchists or rebels, but men of God devoted to following the divine precepts of Jesus Christ above the mandates of men. Their faith in God fortified their conflict.

Rendering to Caesar the things belonging to Caesar is a noble example of Christian duty. This cannot be at the expense or denial of what God has commanded His church to do. There must be faith in the providence of God to care for His children even when it puts the child of God at odds against the government. Faith comes from serving the Lord and His word; not the CDC, White House, or Supreme Court of the United States. The church will be tested. Let the child of God find in the fires of trial the courage to stand for truth, righteousness, and obedience to the will of the Lord God. What’s the worst that can happen? If we die, is that not joy? Lord, come quickly.

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There Is No One Like Jehovah

Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know? And former times, that we may say, “He is righteous”? Surely there is no one who shows, surely there is no one who declares, surely there is no one who hears your words. (Isaiah 41:26)

There Is No One Like Jehovah

An idol is made of wood, stone, or metal with no voice, possesses no knowledge, and cannot foretell the future. There is a futility in how an idol is created when a man cuts down a tree, uses some of the wood to build a fire and warm himself, and uses the remaining wood to carve an idol and fall down and worship it. It is folly. The nation of Israel was destroyed for seeking after idols. Through the word of the prophets, the Lord showed the uselessness of seeking after human totems of false gods compared to the power of the Divine. Idols could not tell the future, but God could. Isaiah describes how the Lord will punish His people but then raise up a man named Cyrus to bring His people back. Cyrus will be named by the prophet Isaiah as the shepherd of the Lord to perform all the pleasure of God’s will. Only the Lord can declare from the beginning what will come.

Foretelling the future is a trait left only to the will of Jehovah God. The prediction of Cyrus was made 150 years before it came to pass. Throughout the Old Testament, prophecies were made that could not have been imagined by the wisest of men. Prophecies concerning the Messiah fill the pages of the Old Testament. David spoke of Jesus one thousand years before His birth. Isaiah declares the glory of the suffering servant seven centuries before Calvary. The prophet Zechariah spoke of prophecies to be found in the life of Jesus five hundred years before his death. Within 24 hours of the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, at least sixteen prophecies were fulfilled by the word of David, Isaiah, and Zechariah. All of this came through the mouth of God to his holy prophets.

Nations that include Israel, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt fill the Old Testament pages with prophecies from the word of the Lord. Moses declared the future of Israel before the nation crossed the Jordan River. Everything came to pass as the Lord had spoken. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar the kingdom of Babylon would fall to the Persians, and in 539 B.C., Cyrus the Mede captured the city of Babylon. Daniel’s dreams of the beasts are direct prophecies of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. In one of Daniel’s dreams, Gabriel interprets the ram as the kings of Media and Persia and the male goat as the kingdom of Greece. Cities like Nineveh, Babylon, and Tyre all find their futures declared by the Lord through the prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Jeremiah.

God asks through Isaiah, “Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know?” That question must be answered in today’s world of skepticism and doubt. The Bible is not a book of cleverly devised fables but a declarative book of divine truth. Humanity may not worship a wooden image or stone god, but the Bible is the only hope of salvation. The righteousness of God is fully declared in the Bible as truth because there is no one who shows and who can declare the future of nations and cities like Jehovah. Human wisdom is like a stone god – there is no one who hears what they say because it is folly and grasping for the wind. Jesus said that He was the only way to God, He was the only truth of the Divine, and that only through His blood will eternal life be granted. There is none like Jehovah. He gave His Son to die for you and proved He was the Almighty.

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Casting God Behind The Back

Go, tell Jeroboam, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: Because I exalted you from among the people, and made you ruler over My people Israel, and tore the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it to you; and yet you have not been as My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only what was right in My eyes; but you have done more evil than all who were before you, for you have gone and made for yourself other gods and molded images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back.” (1 Kings 14:7-9)

Casting God Behind The Back

Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, was the usurper of the throne of Israel. After the death of Solomon, Rehoboam, his son, reigned in his place. Following the advice of younger counselors, Rehoboam caused the people of Israel to turn against him, and Jeroboam was made king over Israel. Only the house of Judah followed Rehoboam. To secure his rule firmly, Jeroboam set up calves of gold in Bethel and Dan and changed the feast to the fifteenth day of the eighth month. He made priests of every class of people who were not sons of Levi. The people flocked to the reign of Jeroboam as he turned the nation to the wickedness of idolatry. His reign would last twenty-two years when he would die shortly after the prophetic death of his son, Abijah.

When the son of Jeroboam became sick, Jeroboam sent his wife in disguise to find from the prophet Ahijah whether their son would recover. God told Ahijah who the woman was, and the prophet proclaimed a curse upon the family of Jeroboam. The child Abijah would die the day his mother stepped on the threshold of her home. Shortly after that, Jeroboam would die. God brought judgment upon the house of Jeroboam because the king did not live after the commandments of the Lord as David had done. The king had led the people of God into idolatry and done more evil than any man before him. In charging Jeroboam, the Lord declares the king had gone and made for the people other gods and molded images to provoke the wrath of God and cast God behind the back.

Sin is a rejection of God. To walk in the way of wickedness is to cast the Lord behind the back. Figuratively, this is a symbol of contempt, hatred, disdain, and disrespect of God. Rejecting God’s will is to willfully disobey the command of the Lord with a spirit of despising the nature of the Divine. Jeroboam had fully sought to please himself and his carnal nature satisfying his lusts and desires with no regard to God. His heart was so firmly set on the evil he had no pleasure in righteousness. Rebellion can lead to a soul hardened with the deceitfulness of sin where there is no return. Casting God behind the back is the final act of defiance against a righteous and just God.

Jeroboam had gone so far away from the path of truth, he could not be redeemed. Sin is a transgression of God’s law, but the son of Nebat had totally turned his back on God and sought salvation in his own way. There is no hope when a man goes that far. Turning away from the only source of salvation is the greatest tragedy of men.

It is difficult to battle sin on a daily basis and find victory at every turn. The constant battle of a child of God is to seek the mercies of the Lord while fighting the dangers of sin. Through the grace of God, forgiveness is granted to penitent hearts and willing minds ready to seek the Lord. Jeroboam is an example of a man who had gone so far away from God no redemption could be found. Casting God behind the back is a final act of disdain. He had turned his life away from the will of the Father. Sin can affect God’s children to the point of destruction. Satan is seeking to destroy the life of the Christian, and his great success is when he can convince a child of God to turn his back on God. Once accomplished, the soul is lost, and Satan has gained a minion.

The lesson would be to keep the Lord before the heart, always seeking the favors and mercies of God to forgive sins, obeying the commandments of the Lord, and living as close to the Divine nature as possible. It is easy for a soul to cast God behind them and what danger awaits those who reject the will of God. Jeroboam lost his child, his life, and his soul. He may have cast God behind his back, but the Lord God will be in front of him on judgment day, and there will be no place to cast God anywhere. Sadly, it is Jeroboam who will be cast away. Where is God in your life?

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Mistakes Of Newborns

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” (Acts 8:18-24)

Mistakes Of Newborns

Babies are perfect, but that does not mean they will not make mistakes. When a child is small, he does not understand the world’s complexities and can often find himself in a difficult place. His knowledge does not prepare him to realize what he is doing may be harmful or a habit that is not appropriate. The characteristic of an infant is used in scripture to describe the child of God. Jesus told Nicodemus a man must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. This suggests a new birth as an infant who has realized the grace of God but still knows very little about the word of God. Peter exhorts the disciples to desire the sincere milk of the word like babies long for milk. Clearly, a man who obeys the gospel has much to learn in the years to come. It is just as crucial for older siblings of the new child of God to realize the process of growth in a new Christian.

The evangelist Philip brought the good news of Jesus Christ to the city of Samaria, and there was great joy in that city. One of the converts was a prominent magician named Simon, who had done great things before all the people. Hearing the preaching Philip, Simon himself believed and was baptized. He continued with Philip being astonished at the miracles and signs which Philip was doing. Later, Peter and John came to Samaria to pass along the spiritual gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit. Simon was impressed by the power of Peter and John to pass along the Holy Spirit. Through the laying on of hands, he saw the Holy Spirit was given, allowing some to perform miracles and work signs. As a former magician, this intrigued Simon, and he wanted to have that power.

In the world of Simon, the sorcerer, offering money to learn the craft of another artist was common. With his background, Simon went to Peter and John and asked for the Holy Spirit’s power, offering them money. He wanted the ability to give the Holy Spirit to others. He was a babe in Christ with little understanding of what the Holy Spirit did and how the power was given to other men. Peter’s rebuke was with a specific purpose to correct the false notion Simon had about the Holy Spirit. Peter did not condescendingly rebuke Simon but, as a newborn babe in Christ, he needed to know and understand the importance of the Holy Spirit. The apostle tells Simon that money cannot buy the Holy Spirit because Simon’s heart was not right before the Lord. There were still remnants of the old world in the heart of Simon, and it needs to be purged out. Peter told Simon to repent of his wickedness. The heart of Simon had obeyed the gospel, but he had many things to rid himself of to perfect himself in the image of Christ.

Simon is often viewed with disdain for his desire to buy the Holy Spirit’s power. Peter rightfully rebuked the new Christian for his action, and sin should be addressed in the manner that is needed. But what is often overlooked in the story of Simon is that he did have a good heart begging Peter to pray for him to help him be forgiven for his sin. Luke leaves the story at the appeal of Simon for forgiveness which can only be assumed Peter then prayed for Simon, and in the hope of God’s grace, Simon became a productive and vital part of the church in Samaria. Simon did a terrible thing, but how many new Christians have found themselves following the old man of sin in the early days before they could learn deeper lessons from the word? The mistakes of new Christians should not be viewed in the same manner as one who is a seasoned soldier of the cross. New Christians will make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes they make some pretty big mistakes – like Simon. He asked for something that was not possible – motivated by the wrong things with the wrong intent. Peter correctly rebuked him for his sin and challenged him to repent. The strength of the story is that Simon did repent and beg forgiveness. He did not get mad and turn away. Luke leaves the story with Simon seeking the Lord, and that is the kind of man Simon proved himself to be.

It takes a lot of patience to train young children. They have curious minds and often find themselves doing things, saying things, and going places they should not. There is a need for gentle correction and sometimes harsh discipline to drive the point home. Such is the case for young Christians that often say and do the wrong things because they have not grown up in Christ yet. It is easy to rebuke a young Christian, who is often doing what an older Christian does. Both should be rebuked, but hope should be given to encourage and exhort them to be better disciples of the Lord and learn how to walk in Christ. Thank you, Simon, for your faith and example of repentance.

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Paul’s Divine Inspiration

So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:32-35)

Paul’s Divine Inspiration

The apostle Paul was born in the city of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia. Tarsus was a free city of the Roman Empire, governed by its own laws and magistrates. It stood on the banks of the river Cydnus, about 12 miles north of the Mediterranean. Paul was named Saul and was brought up in the strict teaching of the Law of Moses. His father was a Roman citizen by some means when Paul was born, granting him the birthright of Roman citizenship. He learned the trade of tentmaking that would serve him often in life, although his family was blessed with a certain status of wealth to send their son to Jerusalem to study at the feet of Gamaliel. His training in Jerusalem would introduce him to the sect of the Pharisees, where he would rise to a place of prominence. As a noted member of the tribe of Benjamin, Paul possessed a zealousness unmatched by many of his contemporaries.

It is impossible to know the parallels in the life of Saul of Tarsus and Jesus of Nazareth. Their lives did cross the historical time together. Jesus was thirty years of age when He began His ministry and was crucified three years later. By the time of the establishment of the church, Paul was already a man of influence. Within a year of Pentecost, the young man Saul was consenting to the death of Stephen. He began a severe persecution of the church to eradicate the teachings of Jesus Christ, having the authority of chief priests in Jerusalem. Nothing suggests Saul met Jesus or heard Him teach. Their lives were separate from one another, with Saul coming later on the scene of divine history. It is here the pattern of divine inspiration is found in the writings of Paul.

During the final days of Paul’s third missionary journey, he sends for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. His bond with the shepherds of the Ephesian church is strong, and he embraces them with great passion as he knows his work will carry him far away from his endearing brethren. In his final words of goodbye, Paul reminds them of the words of Jesus that said it was more blessed to give than to receive. What is remarkable about this quotation is that Paul was not present when Jesus uttered those words, and none of the four gospel writers record these words. Peter could have quoted these words of Jesus, and it would have been accepted because the apostle spent many hours with Jesus. Paul never sat at the feet of Jesus as a disciple. Paul’s quote of Jesus was a pure example of divine inspiration. There were other examples of inspiration when Paul quoted the words of Jesus during the last supper. The gospel writers record these words in detail. What Paul told the Ephesian elders was a direct quote from the mouth of God unknown by other writings of the early disciples.

The Bible is not a jumbled book of human wisdom written by men who conspired to deceive the world. Luke, as a historian, tells the story of the early church with exacting detail through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter will later affirm that all of God’s word was the work of holy men of God speaking as the Holy Spirit moved them. The Bible is the word of God. It must be accepted as divine because it is divine. There is no other book in the history of man that has the seal of divine inspiration as placed upon the books from Genesis to the Revelation. Other books were written by holy men filled with the inspired directives of the Lord, but the sixty-six books of the Bible are preserved to serve the needs of men to know God and find salvation in Jesus Christ. The example of Paul quoting words of Jesus not found in the gospels shows the character of the divine word given to men from the mouth of God. Accept the Bible as God’s word. There is no other book that will show the way to Heaven.

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The Prophet Joel And The Beginning Of The Church

But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:16-21)

The Prophet Joel And The Beginning Of The Church

Little is known about the prophet Joel who prophesied approximately eight hundred years before Christ. As a contemporary of Hosea and Amos, Joel faced a nation a century removed from the division of the land following the death of Solomon. The northern tribes would never recover from the onslaught of idol worship and be destroyed in less than eighty years. Judah would remain for another two hundred years but fall to the Babylonians. The prophets of Joel’s day saw the hearts of the people waxing worse in following the nations around them. Sin would destroy the people of God. The central message of the book of Joel was an invading locust swarm devastating the land. Some have suggested the locusts were an allegory of an invading army, but it seems more likely Joel is using an actual event of locusts that stripped the land, bringing drought and fires and utter destruction. Natural catastrophes were used by the messengers of God to remind the people of the wrath of the Lord with a call to repentance. Using the locust invasion as a backdrop, Joel proclaimed the coming of the day of the Lord.

For the people of Joel’s time, the message was very stern yet clear. There was no doubt the judgment of the Lord was coming upon a rebellious people. The day of the Lord is great and very terrible. Repentance is called for to return to a gracious and merciful God slow to anger and of great kindness. Great blessings will come upon the people if they turn to the Lord. Joel tells the people that afterward, the Lord will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Their sons and daughters will prophesy, the old men dream dreams, and young men see visions. This was the prophetic language of the coming of the kingdom of God spoken about in Psalm 2, Isaiah 2, Daniel 2, and fulfilled in Acts 2 and Ephesians 2. Peter would use Joel 2 to explain the events of the coming of the church of Christ on the day of Pentecost.

Following the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they had been endued with power from on high. When the Day of Pentecost had come, the twelve apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. A sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind filled the house where the apostles were sitting. When the sound occurred, a multitude came together and was confused by what they saw. They saw twelve Galileans speaking in multiple languages. Some thought the men were drunk. Standing up with the eleven, Peter raised his voice and began to explain the meaning of the events. He declared what was occurring was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy eight hundred years earlier. This is an example of “divine commentary” when Peter, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, declared the words of Joel were fulfilled that day in the city of Jerusalem. Homer Hailey writes, “It is concluded, therefore, that what took place on Pentecost marked the beginning of the complete fulfillment of Joel’s word.”

The New Testament church was not an afterthought of God to fill a space of time until Christ comes and establishes some earthly kingdom. Joel prophesied the day of the Lord would come with great signs, and Peter confirmed the prophet’s words pointed to the beginning of the church. The words of Joel looked beyond the condition of Israel in rebellion to a time God would bring Jew and Gentile together in the church of Christ where there was neither male nor female, slave or free, for all were one in Christ. Joel would not see the coming of the kingdom of Christ, but he prepared the faithful to accept the fulfillment of his words as the day of the Lord when God established His divine family, the church. The bridge of God’s grace reached eight hundred years to show the eternal purpose He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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The Church At Puteoli

From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day, the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. (Acts 28:13-14)

The Church At Puteoli

Luke was a historian of the first rank detailing the early development of the church and the work of men like Peter and Paul throughout the Roman Empire. The gospel was first preached in Jerusalem by the twelve apostles, followed by many saints going throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth teaching about Jesus Christ. In the first part of Acts, Luke details much of the work of Peter and the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul. Antioch of Syria was a hub of evangelism with men like Paul, Barnabas, and Silas going on preaching trips establishing churches in Salamis, Paphos, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Through the letters of Paul, churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Colosse, Philippi, Thessalonica, Rome, and the churches of Galatia are detailed with the early struggles of the first-century disciples.

Many churches attributed their beginnings to the work of Paul and his companions. While much of the New Testament will focus on the work of Peter and Paul, there were many unsung heroes of scripture that quietly worked to establish churches throughout the world. On Paul’s journey to Rome, his party was shipwrecked in Malta, fifty miles south of Sicily. After three months, the group began the final journey to Rome, landing at Syracuse and then reaching Rhegium. The next day they arrived at Puteoli, five miles west of Naples, where Paul and his companions found brethren and remained seven days. It must have been heart-warming for the apostle Paul to find a church of Christ in the city of Puteoli. The brethren were very hospitable and kind to the Romans and Paul and his fellow workers, including Luke.

Preaching the gospel is done by men of note like Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Timothy, and Silas, but there is a lot of work done by men and women whose names will never be known. Where did the church in Puteoli have its beginnings? When did the first convert in this Roman town learn the truth? How many members did the group have, and what challenges did they face? Luke offers no details, but it can be easily imagined how refreshing it was for Paul to find brethren in this little town 170 miles south of Rome. He would have warmly remembered the week he spent with the Puteolian brethren. It would be wonderful to think that Paul would occasion to visit them again, but nothing is known.

Many churches throughout the ages have quietly gone about their work of teaching, preaching, and showing kindness to others the world will never know. Their beginnings were not inscribed in the works of Paul. They may never leave a story for historians to write about, but churches like the one found in Puteoli are bastions of divine glory for the small work they carry out. One day a group of Romans soldiers with prisoners in tow came to the town of Puteoli, and the brethren showed Paul and his companions the grace of God. They quickly passed from the eternal canvas of God’s word, and yet their legacy remains today. This should inspire all of the churches of Christ to do everything they can do – wherever they are – with the means they have available – to show the world Jesus Christ. One day a man of God in chains may show up and need some encouragement and hope. There can be little doubt the week in Puteoli invigorated the apostle Paul to keep fighting the fight. A small band of Christians did what they were called to do. Let the congregation I am a part of follow the example of brethren in Puteoli.

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An Open Mouth And An Open Heart

So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation his justice was taken away, and who will declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.” So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:30-38)

An Open Mouth And An Open Heart

Stories of conversion are divine testimonies to the changing power of the word of God. There is nothing more thrilling to read than the manner the gospel moves in a man’s heart to accept the mercy and grace of God and the forgiveness of sins. Luke fills the Acts of the Apostles with story after story of first-century converts from three thousand in Jerusalem to towns and cities throughout the Roman Empire. Multitudes of men and women believe and obey the call of redemption through Jesus Christ. Evangelists like Phillip, a man full of faith, face the onslaught of persecution with the courage to go everywhere preaching the word. An angel of the Lord tells Phillip of an opportunity to teach a man from Ethiopia returning to his home after going to Jerusalem to worship. Phillip finds the Ethiopian along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

The man of Ethiopia was a person of great authority under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of her treasury. He was a man of faith who believed in Jehovah God and spent many hours examining the scriptures from prophets like Isaiah. As the Ethiopian is reading Isaiah, Phillip approaches the chariot and asks him if he understood what he was reading. The treasurer was eager to have someone explain the text to him, and he invited Phillip to join him in his chariot. Sitting together with the scroll of Isaiah open before them, the evangelists opened his mouth and taught the Ethiopian the story of Jesus Christ. The record does not say how long they talked. As the story of the suffering servant opened up before the Ethiopian, his heart began to open to a message he had never heard before, and it thrilled him to his soul. Phillip told the story of Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God by miracles, wonders and signs, and His message of love and sacrifice. The evangelists wove the plan of God’s redemption throughout the scriptures to show that Jesus had risen from the dead and salvation was no longer found in keeping the Law of Moses. Instead, there was a new covenant through the blood of Christ.

There is no record of what Phillip told the Ethiopian, but there are bookends that fill the gap of his message that day. Phillip began at Isaiah 53 and preached Jesus. As the two men sat and talked of scripture, the Ethiopian understood that God now desired men to believe and be baptized. It was the Ethiopian who suggested they stop when they came to some water. His heart had opened to the story of Jesus that commanded water baptism for salvation, and he asked Phillip what hindered him from being baptized. Phillip responded the only thing at that point was to believe with all the heart the word of God, and the Ethiopian agreed. So the Ethiopian commanded his chariot to stop, and he and Phillip went down into the water, and Phillip baptized the man from Ethiopia.

The story of the Ethiopian treasurer is one of an open mouth teaching a man with an open heart. An angel sent a man to teach a lost sinner. The angel did not teach the man. In the plan of salvation, men must teach men. No divine being will come to earth to save a man. Later, Jesus would appear to Saul of Tarsus, but Saul was not saved until a man came to teach him the word. Cornelius was told by an angel what to do to have words of salvation. He sent to Joppa for Peter, and the apostles came and taught the household the word of God. Evangelism requires an open mouth willing to find opportunities to teach others.

Through the grace of God, an open heart will be receptive to the word of God. There could have many arguments the Ethiopian could have used to dissuade the teaching of Phillip about the Christ. It was the open heart of the man from Ethiopia to accept that he was the subject of Isaiah. In the story of Jesus, Phillip told the Ethiopian that he must be born again in the waters of baptism. The man from Ethiopia embraced the necessity of baptism without reservation. He commanded the chariot to stand still, and he wanted Phillip to baptize him immediately. The Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing because he was a Christian, bound to Christ through the waters of baptism. An open mouth taught an open heart, and that is where stories of conversion come from. Thank God for open mouths and open hearts.

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Right God. Wrong God.

And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” And with these sayings, they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:8-18)

Right God. Wrong God.

The missionary journeys of Paul, Barnabas, and Silas established many churches and brought many souls to Christ. Their preaching was forceful and plain, and often facing persecution for the clarity of their message. Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles, often teaching in Synagogues and the marketplaces. With the accompanying signs of the Holy Spirit, Paul opened the word of God with proof of divine inspiration showing powers no man could do. These miracles confirmed the word bringing people to know the gospel. But the miracles did not always get the desired result, with people seeing the working of the Lord God and coming to see the saving power of Christ.

In the city of Lystra, a city of Lycaonia, a man who had been crippled in his feet since birth sat begging. Paul took any opportunity to preach to a crowd, and during one of those times, he observed the lamb man listening intently to his message. Few in the crowd took notice of this nobody among them. He had been forgotten by society as a cripple with little regard for his existence. He caught the eye of the apostle, who could tell this man was hungering for the truth. As Paul examined the man, he could tell he had the faith to be healed. He cried out to the crippled man from birth to stand up straight on his feet. And he did. This astonished the multitude to see a man crippled from birth immediately standing and walking and leaping about with joy. A great miracle had been done through the power of God. Paul had shown the city of Lystra something they had not seen before. What they witnessed was a sure testimony of Jesus Christ. What they did was not.

Seeing the man leaping about, the people raised their voices praising the power of the gods that came in the likeness of men. Instead of giving honor to God the Father, the people worshiped Paul and Barnabas, calling them gods. Barnabas, they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes. The priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to the gates to offer sacrifices with the multitudes. Everyone in the city came to sacrifice to the gods in human form for the wondrous miracle that was done. The man who had been healed was ignored, and attention was given to Paul and Barnabas. While the festivities were going on, Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes, running in among the multitudes trying to stop the people from worshiping them. Paul pleaded with them to turn from the useless things to the living God and know the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was to no avail. The people would not listen. Paul and Barnabas could scarcely constrain the people. Shortly afterward, Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and dissuaded the crowds, who then took Paul out of the city, stoning him and leaving him for dead. One moment they worship him as Hermes, and the next, they are killing him.

The right God was shown to the people who embraced the wrong god. Paul would survive his stoning – not because he was a god – but through the providence of the true God. The evidence was clear and demonstrative for the city of Lystra to know the living God. A miracle of unparalleled power was done, and all they could see was the work of the wrong gods. The man had been crippled from birth, and everyone in the city knew this fact. No one could have imagined how such a man could be healed in an instant. When Paul spoke to him (without touching him), and the man stood and leaped about, the multitudes should have bowed on their knees to praise the work of the one true living God. Instead, they hardened their hearts and gave glory to their useless gods. When the Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and persuaded the people Paul was not a god, they stoned him.

There is an incredible amount of evidence of the one true God. Throughout the universe and the known world, the handprint of the Creator is everywhere. Creation testifies to a Creator. The Bible exalts the word of God as divine. No book has ever matched its power and glory, and no doctrine or faith will merit consideration compared to the Bible. The New Testament church is the kingdom of God ruled by His Son as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No kingdom is greater than the church belonging to Christ. The message of the resurrection is the greatest miracle in the history of humanity and the redemption through the Son of God the greatest hope. Everything man needs to find eternity is found in Jesus Christ’s message, yet men still reject him for their own gods. Those gods can be a false religion, pleasures of the flesh, pride, riches, fame, and the mistaken belief there is no God. When the final day of judgment comes for all men, there will be two things known to all: the right God and the wrong God. Which one do you serve?

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Spirit Fruit: Self-Control

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Spirit Fruit: Self-Control

There are a lot of members of the “Self” family. Self-abnegation, self-complacency, self-conquest, self-deception, self-defense, self-denial, self-esteem, self-interest, selfishness, self-love, self-reliance, self-respect, and a host of other cousins of the grandfather of all, Self. The word implies controlling the emotions, impulses, and actions of the human spirit. One of the most challenging of the self characteristics is self-control or self-restraint. Shannon Fife said self-restraint is “feeling your oats without sowing them.” The New Testament defines the word as “having power over oneself, temperance, and self-mastery.” The final fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control and yet one of the essential virtues of the Christian life.

Sin derives its nature from the lack of self-control. Eve was tempted to eat the fruit, but the sin was not in the temptation. The tragedy came when she saw the fruit was good to eat and to make her wise, and she refused to stay her feelings. It was not reckless abandonment as some may view sin, but because of her lack of self-restraint, she disobeyed the command of God. Sin was the fruit of her lack of self-control. Eating the forbidden fruit was a sin derived from a failure to control the impulses of the human spirit leading to the fall of man. Centuries later, Jesus would die as a man who completely controlled his emotions and desires and yet without sin. The epitome, perfection, and example of the Son of God was His ability to control self by the fruit of the Holy Spirit fully.

Paul describes self-control as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is not an easily mastered art in the human soul. Trying to rein in the emotions of a volatile spirit requires divine assistance. Exercising control of the human spirit without the Holy Spirit is trying to stop a runaway horse without a rein. It cannot be done. The strength and appeal of a sinful life is the lack of self-control. There are no boundaries when there is no control. Living in the Holy Spirit breaks the uncontrolled spirit of passion to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. A gentle spirit comes from a spirit under control. Showing love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit measured by the power of self-restraint. Without self-control, love becomes hate, joy turns into fear, peace is turned into war, and so forth. All of the attributes of the works of the flesh come from the lack of self-control, such as sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, outbursts of wrath, and selfish ambitions.

Self-control comes from righteousness and the knowledge of judgment to come. Doing those things that are right in the eyes of God will diminish the desire to serve self. Understanding there will be consequences to actions and emotions left unprotected, the heart will find strength against unrestrained spirits. The fear of punishment is a powerful inducement to measure the actions of self against the wrath of God. From the Holy Spirit, the fruit of self-control keeps the soul safe from the wiles of the devil. Self-control is a learned experience requiring great patience and a willingness to seek the help of the Divine. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, self-control becomes a badge of identity for the Christian. It is the strength of divine power that controls the passions of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The lack of self-control can only be blamed on one person: self. God’s final judgment is very personal because the only person being judged is self – not a neighbor, friend, or family member. When all humanity gathers for the final day of judgment before the throne of the Lord God, everyone will be standing alone with self to answer for self and whether or not self-controlled the right person. How are you doing self?

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