A Prayerful Believer But Not A Christian

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always. (Acts 10:1-2)

A Prayerful Believer But Not A Christian

Religious people are easily identified. They are unlike the world in their demeanor, attitudes, and dispositions. There is a certain air about a religious person that shows the world devotion to a belief or a cause separating them from others. Sometimes it can be a type of clothing that distinguishes them or their manner of speech or deportment, suggesting a different kind of lifestyle. During the early days of the church, a Gentile named Cornelius was recognized as a religious man for many reasons. His life was one of pious devotion to the Lord God. He was unlike so many in the pagan world of idol worship, sensual pleasures, and self-importance. Cornelius stood in contrast to the world he served as a Roman military commander.

The household of Cornelius followed the ways of the Lord God with fear and reverence. His family honored God with respect and worship. As part of Roman society’s privileged, Cornelius and his family shared their blessings with others in many acts of benevolence. They were liberal in giving charity to those in need. The citizens of Caesarea knew of the kindness of the household of the Roman centurion who had done so much for them. Many of them also knew the Roman was a man of prayer. Cornelius was not a man of wrath and anger but a man of peace and prayer. He did not abuse his authority as a Roman military commander to neglect the Jewish population or any citizen of Caesarea. The people of the coastal town seventy miles from Jerusalem felt very secure with the Roman centurion Cornelius watching over them.

Cornelius was a devout, God-fearing man who gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God, but he was not a Christian. As good as his character and reputation were among the citizens of Caesarea and any respect he may have had among the early Christians for the type of religious man he was, in the eyes of God, he was lost and without hope. The story of Cornelius is the message of God’s grace and love. When the angel appeared to Cornelius, he did not suggest that Cornelius was saved. The angel did not tell the centurion what he needed to do to be saved but instructed him to send for a man. Following the instructions of the messenger of God, Cornelius sent two servants and a soldier to Joppa for the apostle Peter.

A few days following the angel’s visit, Peter and a company of six men arrived at the house of Cornelius. There was a gathering of family and friends to hear the words of Peter. As Peter began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon those gathered in Cornelius’s house as it had done on the twelve at Pentecost. Peter then baptized in water, for the remission of sins, those in the household of Cornelius.  Later, the apostle will tell the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem that when he arrived at Cornelius’s house, he came to tell those assembled words by which they could be saved.

It is difficult to imagine a devout man, fearing God, benevolent, and praying always as lost, but Cornelius and his household were not saved because they were religious. God did not send the angel to tell Cornelius to send for Peter because Cornelius was already a Christian. The angel did not give instructions to Cornelius on what to do to be saved. This required a man to teach another man because the man was lost and required the word of truth to be taught. The baptism of the Holy Spirit did not save Cornelius and his household. It was a sign that God had opened the doors of the gospel to the Gentiles. Only when Peter baptized Cornelius and his household in water did they become Christians.

There are many religious and devout people in the world today. This does not make them Christians and give them eternal hope. Obedience to the will of God is how a man finds redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ. Until the heart obeys the word of God and finds the blood of Jesus in the waters of baptism, there is no salvation. You can be a great person like Cornelius, but you will not be saved. An angel will not save you. Follow the pattern of Cornelius and obey the word of the Lord.

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The Story Of Jesus

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:25)

The Story Of Jesus Cannot Be Contained

Abraham Lincoln is one of the great historical characters that much has been written to define his place in history. As the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln came upon the pages of human history at a pivotal place as an American statesman. It has been suggested that more than 15,000 books have been written about Lincoln. His story is still debated and discussed during one of the most challenging moral and constitutional times in American history. The story of Abraham Lincoln has a lot of value to it, but his life is of little significance for most people of the world. As good a man as Lincoln tried to be, and while his leadership may have saved the young nation from total destruction, the story of the man from a log cabin in the frontier of Indiana cannot change the lives of every human being on earth.

Jesus Christ is the greatest personality in man’s history, and denying the impact of the man born in a small town outside of Jerusalem is futile. Throughout the annals of history, no one individual has changed the world as Jesus. His appearance on earth measures time. The story of Jesus has been retold, reprinted, and reproduced more than any story in the history of mankind. What is more remarkable about the life of Jesus is that only a small portion of His life is written down containing less than three years of a life spanning three decades. From this small fragment of life, the world changed and continues to change. The name of Jesus has molded the face of the destiny of humankind. Wars have been fought in His name, nations created based on His teachings, and faiths established on His words. There are no pictures of the man Jesus, few details to His physical character, and no remaining family genealogical identifications. And yet, this man changes the lives of men daily.

John, the apostle, knew Jesus more than most men. He became one of the closest companions of Jesus as the inner circle, including Peter and James. John’s gospel contains about twenty days in the life of Christ with a profound message of the divine nature of the carpenter’s son from Nazareth. Three other gospels are preserved for prosperity with the writings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. At the conclusion of his story of Jesus Christ, John recognizes that if everything known about Jesus were written down, even the world itself could not contain the books written. This was not a piece of literary prose to impress the reader but the full realization that there was not enough ink or parchment to describe the life of Jesus in the short life of Jesus. If the sky were made of paper, and all the trees of the forest pens, and every man a scribe by trade, the world could not contain the story of Jesus Christ.

The story of Jesus was written to change the hearts of all men. There are no limitations to the story of Jesus. For two thousand years, His life has changed men of every language, every culture, and walk of life. There is no single man that can change the heart of the world like Jesus. His life story has been produced in more languages and remains the most prolific selling book in humanity’s history. Atheists like Voltaire, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and Stephen Hawking tried to destroy the life of Jesus and failed miserably. Denying Jesus has never taken His story away. He will remain as the one life that fills the world. John affirms the reason the story of Jesus was written: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

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The Mouth Of A Christian

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another. (Colossians 3:8-9a)

The Mouth Of A Christian

Pulius Syrus said, “Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so he is.” Vance Havner wrote, “The Bible has a lot to say about our mouths, our lips, our tongues, for our speech betray us. What is down in the well will come up in the bucket.” The proverbs of holy writ decry the poison of the tongue and the evil it creates warning against unguarded words. Sailors are marked with a badge of distinction when someone comments on how a person “swears like a sailor.” Every person is recognized for the kind of person they are by the manner of language that comes out of their mouth. A good man is rarely accused of ill-tempered speech. Coarse and foul-mouthed individuals are remembered for their inability to control their language. A man’s reputation is largely established by what proceeds from the mouth, which is no more evident than the mouth of a Christian.

The child of God is a person who has been risen through the blood of Christ to show the world the wonderful grace of a loving Father. Their minds are not in the squalor of worldly language filled with anger, rage, slander, and filthy language. Accepting the mercy of forgiveness, a child of God works extremely hard to change their character from an unruly tongue to a speech seasoned with salt bringing grace to their hearers. A change takes place in a purposeful, forced redesigning of the soul to speak words of joy, love, peace, and forgiveness. As the mind forms eternal thoughts of God’s word, the tongue changes from being angry to kind, the spirit of rage and uncontrolled fury to calm patience and dirty language to words of Jesus Christ. The character of anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy language is not a part of the Christian’s vocabulary. There is a determined effort to rid the soul of such foul speech.

Christians are examples, and that example must be how the grace of God has changed their lives. When the world sees little or no change in the Christian’s speech, there will be and cannot be any desire of the lost to desire salvation. It is impossible to walk with the world’s speech with a knee constantly bent in prayer and the word of God. The mind cannot hold the anger and malice of a wrathful heart and the love and grace of God. When the Lord created man, He made the man with only one avenue of character. He will either be a man of grace whose speech is full of kindness and love or be a man of the carnal world whose speech betrays his heart with filthy language. The two are not compatible.

Paul encouraged the saints to get rid of the kind of speech that will obstruct the Christian example. These are not matters that can be ignored. A Christian is not to be known as an angry man. If a man is known to fly off the handle at the drop of a hat, he will not be thought of as a man of a holy character. Having road rage and screaming at the other person does not shine the light of Christ but the devil’s darkness. Telling dirty jokes and allowing cursing as a part of a man’s speech will never bring a lost soul to Christ. Lying is an abomination before God and listed as one of the grievous sins men will go to hell for. The Holy Spirit is admonishing the children of God to be very conscious of their speech and the consequences of an unbridled tongue. These things should not be in a Christian’s life: anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, dirty language, and lying. Get rid of it before it gets rid of your eternal home.

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Elected, Sanctified, And Cleansed

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Elected, Sanctified, And Cleansed

The Godhead is the manifestation of the divine personalities of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three were present at creation, and the scheme of man’s redemption unfolded on the pages of Holy Writ throughout the generations from Abraham to Israel to the coming of Christ in the flesh. It was the eternal plan of God to save men from the bondage of sin. From the curse in the Garden of Eden, the Father promised a Seed that would bruise the serpent’s head, which was fulfilled in Jesus raised from the dead. All men have the blessing of God’s grace to receive the remission of sins through the foreknowledge of the heavenly Father, the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit, and the blood of Jesus Christ in the waters of baptism. The plan of salvation involves all three of the Godhead. Each one is independent of the other but dependent upon working of the Father’s divine will in what is promised through the power of the Godhead.

Before the world was created, the Father determined the plan of salvation. The elect of God are chosen to be His own special people, set apart for His glory. When Jesus died on the cross, it was not a mistake or failed plan of God to establish a kingdom on earth. Man’s election was a divine plan that declares God’s manifold wisdom by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. The Father loved His people long before the world was formed from the void of darkness. Salvation is found in the knowledge of God’s eternal love that reaches far beyond the scope of time. A Christian is a chosen vessel. They are so important to the Father that He established a means of allowing men to approach His throne and find mercy. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father expresses the value of the creation before the Creator.

Sanctification is setting something of value aside. It becomes holy as a matter that is set aside for a special purpose. When the promise of salvation was first given at Pentecost, it included the promise of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and baptism were the agency that washed away the sins of men according to Peter’s words. Often overlooked in the declaration of hope is the promise of the Holy Spirit. Every person who obeys the gospel of Christ receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, sins are washed away, and the soul is made clean to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. Paul declares in his letter to Rome the wonder-working power of the Holy Spirit in the life of those elected by the foreknowledge of the Father. The Christian is led by the Holy Spirit, enjoys a relationship with the Holy Spirit as the Spirit Himself testifies to the Father the elected is an heir of righteousness and finds the promise of eternal life through the knowledge of the Holy Spirit. Through the word of the Holy Spirit, the soul is set apart to be holy, pure, undefiled, and blameless.

The third part of Peter’s divine declaration is the power of the blood of Jesus Christ washing away sins. Before time began, the Father set forth a plan to save all men and sent His Spirit to declare the words by which men would be saved. The Holy Spirit awaits the opportunity to bless the hearts of those who will accept the grace and mercy of a kind and loving Father. But salvation will not come if a man is not obedient to the will of the Father and accept the blood of Jesus Christ as the cleansing power of sin. Obedience is necessary for salvation. Without doing the Father’s will, there can be no measure of grace or hope of mercy. God has elected those who will be sanctified, and it demands obedience to God’s word to receive remission of sins. Peter told those gathered in Jerusalem to repent and be baptized. Those who were saved were those who obeyed the word of the Lord and washed their sins away in the waters of baptism. In his first epistle, Peter writes this same message by declaring obedience and the blood of Jesus Christ as necessary to be redeemed.

Salvation is found in the Godhead. The Father has elected those whom He has chosen for glory who are sanctified by the Holy Spirit and who obey the word of the Lord to be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins. Without the work of the Father, there can be no salvation. Rejecting the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, a man remains apart from God. Refusing to be baptized for the remission of sins condemns a soul. Obedience to the work of the Godhead is where man will find eternal life when he accepts the Father’s divine will to set apart those sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the obedience of the message of the gospel. Grace to you, and peace be multiplied.

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Cancel Culture Among The Jews

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. (2 Kings 22:8)

Cancel Culture Among The Jews

Ahaz was the 12th king of Judah after the division of the kingdom following the death of Solomon. Half of the kings before Ahaz had ruled seeking to serve the Lord, but Ahaz followed the ways of the northern kings of Israel. He offered his son as a burnt offering following all the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel. After sixteen years, his son, Hezekiah, took his place, ruling for 29 years seeking the Lord. What followed next spiraled the southern tribes into fifty-five years of immorality, decadence, and wickedness almost unparalleled in Israel’s history. Manasseh did evil in the sight of the Lord like the nations around him, including human sacrifice, Baal worship, idols in the Temple and courts, witchcraft, and he did much evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image of Asherah in the House of God. The record says that Hezekiah shed very much innocent blood till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another. His son, Amon, was twenty-two years old when he became king and, like his father, did evil in the sight of the Lord. At the age of twenty-four, his servants killed him in his own house. His son Josiah began to reign at the age of eight.

In the eighteenth year of king Josiah, Hilkiah, the high priest, made a startling discovery. Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and during a renovation of the Temple, Hilkiah found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord. The scribe Shaphan read the words of the book to King Josiah, and upon hearing its words, the king tore his clothes. Josiah began one of the most important reformations towards true worship and, for a time, brought respite to the people of God. It seems remarkable the people of God would be surprised to find the Book of the Law but earlier, when kings like Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon defiled the Temple, they removed the Ark of the Covenant and the Book of the Law. Shaphan, the scribe, read the book as if it were the first time he had knowledge of the book. Even King Josiah reacted like a man who had never heard the words of the book. Both men acted as if it were a new thing. The nation of Israel had canceled the word of God, embracing the culture of immorality, sensuality, materialism, and personal rights.

The results of the “cancel culture” have been profound in every generation. There is a refusal to accept anything that may speak against the norms of culture. In the days of Israel as a divided nation, the anthem of cancellation was the national cry of those who despised the word of God. Kings like Manasseh filled the land with homosexuality, gender equality without distinctions, transgenderism, drunkenness, corruption, the murder of innocents, abuse of the elderly, and suppression of those who stand for truth and righteousness. The word of God was canceled, and the people suffered because of it. Nothing could be done to destroy the word, but the land experienced a drought of spiritual enlightenment as the word of God was canceled.

Recently, Dr. Seuss has faced harsh critics of the cancel culture. This comes in the face of racial bias seeking elevating one group, denouncing criticism of sexual preferences, hatred for those in authority, and a general distrust for religion. The cancellation of Dr. Seuss is systemic to what is coming over the horizon when government officials begin to cancel those who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not going to happen on the shores of Russia or Iran but the country that has long held dear the rights of individuals to preach the unchangeable message of God’s love and the clear eternal truth of His wrath. There may not be much that will drive back the forces of Satan seeking to imprison the preaching of righteousness, but more a test to see how resolved the souls of the faithful will be to keep preaching the truth.

It is not out of bounds to consider a day when someone finds a Bible in this land and reads it for the first time. There is no doubt the country’s leadership has not read the Bible or believes in the wrath of God. The irony is found in man’s failed wisdom that seeks to cancel what cannot be taken away. God’s word is settled in Heaven. Will the Lord take His word away from this country and give it to a people like the Nicaraguans who hunger for truth so that His word can be spread throughout the world? Is there a day coming when missionaries from a foreign land will come to America to teach the gospel to a people who canceled the word? Dr. Seuss is only the tremor of what is coming.

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God Cannot Be Bribed

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17)

God Cannot Be Bribed

Bribery is one of the oldest criminal enterprises of humankind. A bribe is an act of exchanging favors, whether in the form of money or possessions, to influence a person’s behavior in authority. To bribe a judge is to seek a judicial outcome favorably for a certain individual. Bribing business officials tries to put the best contract in the hands of a specific group of investors. Government officials worldwide are notorious for using bribes to gain favors or extend favors to others. In some cultures, bribery is the grease that moves the wheels of life through its paces. It is a way of life. Businesses, courts, governments, and individuals all face bribery risks to some degree. There are many laws in place that seek to punish individuals charged with bribery. Companies employ risk assessment management to continually seek out situations that may compromise the honestly of business dealings.

Under the Law of Moses, bribery was forbidden. Anything that would impair the impartial administration of justice, particularly giving and receiving gifts or bribes, to pervert judgment, was forbidden. The law commanded no bribe to be taken, less it blind the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous. Samuel was one of Israel’s greatest judges, but his sons, Joel and Abijah, judges in Beersheba, turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. In Isaiah’s time, the land was filled with the love of bribes and seeking rewards for themselves. The fatherless and widows were abused in the corrupt system of bribery. Amos would decry the poor’s treatment when the good people were given up by taking bribes and depriving the innocent of justice in the courts. Ezekiel spoke of the hired murderers, loan racketeers, and extortioners everywhere during the days of bondage. The people of God allowed the sin of bribery to corrupt and destroy their nation. Ahab took the vineyard of Naboth by dishonest men bribed to testify against the righteous man, and the Jews found two false witnesses to testify against Jesus, no doubt paid in full for their treachery.

There are two things certain about the problem of bribery. First, it is as old as the world and will continue to plague the soul of man until the final day. Secondly, no man can bribe the Lord God Almighty. This does not suggest that men have not tried to bribe God, but He cannot and will not be tempted by the notion of changing His judgment for the betterment of men. The Lord reminds all creation that heaven belongs to Him and the highest heavens belong to the Lord and that all the earth is His. He is God of gods and Lord of lords. The nature of God is mighty and awesome. He will no show partiality because of a person’s standing in the world or their monetary wealth. What man among men is greater than God to impose his will upon his Maker? Who among all men can possess the God who holds the universe in the palm of His hand? How can man imagine he has the power or insight to bribe the Lord God Creator? This is impossible. God alone administers justice to the fatherless and the widow and shows kindness to the stranger. He is impartial and unbiased by the whims of men.

No man could bribe the Lord to change His mind about destroying the world in the days of Noah. When God told Noah what he was going to do, it never entered Noah’s mind to bribe God to change His mind because it would not be done. Great men failed miserably, and they never tried to suggest God be more merciful to them than others. Moses disobeyed the word of the Lord and was refused entrance into the promised land. He held no special favors to bribe God. The man after God’s own heart, David the king, committed adultery, deceit, caused a man to be drunk and finally murder. There was no bribe to lessen the punishment. David felt the full wrath of the Lord with mercy. A terrifying realization that a man will face is when all men stand before the Lord God Almighty, and there will be no bribery or plea bargain to lessen the punishment of eternal Hell. He cannot and will not be challenged in His righteous judgment. Men can be bribed. God will not. God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.

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Seeing The Good In The Heart

Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned safely to his house in Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore, the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless, good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land and have prepared your heart to seek God.” (2 Chronicles 19:1-3)

Seeing The Good In The Heart

King Ahab was a vile and wicked king who murdered his citizens and filled the land with the abomination of idol worship as few kings before or after him. He married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. The name of Jezebel is synonymous with evil and gross wickedness. Ahab and Jezebel were the most ungodly, immoral, and sensually perverted leaders of their time. Because of their influence, the northern tribes of Israel were destroyed by sin and eventually the Assyrian Empire. It was common knowledge how wicked a man Ahab was, yet the southern king, Jehoshaphat, decided to ally with his northern counterpart. His first mistake was to align himself with Ahab through marriage. Some years later, Jehoshaphat visits Ahab and the two kings have a great feast. During the celebration, Ahab seeks the alliance of Jehoshaphat to go to war against Ramoth Gilead. The king agrees and sets in motion events that will bring the end of the reign of Ahab.

The war does not go well for the northern kingdom. Ahab has been warned by Micaiah, the prophet, that he will be killed in battle. The king disguises himself among the soldiers, but a certain man drew a bow at random, and the arrow delivered a fatal blow to Ahab. He would die that evening around sunset. Jehoshaphat returned safely to his house in Jerusalem to consider his decision to align himself with Ahab. Jehu, the son of Hanani the seer, meets the king and offers a warning and a promise. The first was a rebuke for the king to have sought a union with a king as evil as Ahab. Jehoshaphat showed the world that he did not condemn Ahab’s example and, as Jehu said, expressed love to a man who hated God. This displeased the Lord greatly, and the Lord was angry with the king. However, it was clear Jehoshaphat had made a wrong decision and learned from his mistake. Jehu tells the king the Lord knows the heart of all men and saw good in Jehoshaphat. The king had walked in the former ways of his ancestor David and did not seek the Baals. He had removed the wooden images of idolatry from the land. Jehoshaphat sought the God of his father and walked in the commandments of the Lord with faithfulness. His decision to join forces with Ahab was a serious mistake, but there was good in his heart. God knew that Jehoshaphat had prepared his heart to seek God.

Sin has plagued all men, and good men have stumbled as easily as evil. There has never been a man without sin except Jesus Christ. All the heroes of the Bible were men of frail natures. Noah sinned by getting drunk, Abraham lied about his wife, Moses murdered a man, David murdered the husband of his mistress and lied about it, and Peter denied the Lord with cursing. The chapter of failed faith is long. What separated Jehoshaphat from Ahab is the heart of each man. Ahab’s heart was a stone-cold blackened mass of evil with no redeeming hope of repentance. Jehoshaphat was a man who sought the will of God in his life but made a fatal decision to try and have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. God’s providence brought an end to Ahab’s reign and reminded Jehoshaphat of the importance of a dedicated heart. It would be a hard lesson for the king to learn as he later would align himself with Ahab’s successor and suffer the loss of his fleet of ships.

Jehoshaphat was a good man, and the grace of God saw the kind of heart the king had. There are few lessons so meaningful than to realize how much the kindness of God’s mercy is needed for everyone who bears the mark of a sinner. King Jehoshaphat made mistakes, but his life was seeking the will of the Father as he prepared his heart to obey God. The dividing mark between those who are blessed and those who are not is whether the heart is right with the Lord. Ahab had no desire to serve the Lord. Although he was a child of God, he lost everything, including his salvation, because his heart was turned away from the Lord. Jehoshaphat had a good heart. Thank God for His abundant mercy, everlasting kindness, and the grace of divine forgiveness.

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Giving All To Have It All

Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

Giving All To Have It All

The worth or value of something is based on the one seeking the treasure. Some things are valuable because of their cost. An automobile like the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione is worth $3.5 million. The rarity of an item such as a perfect pearl can become very valuable to collectors who are willing to pay any price to attain their prize.  Sometimes, the notability of a collection can make it a rare commodity many seek after. Autographed books by Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, or Albert Einstein will bring a considerable price at auction. Insignificant items can hold great worth because of their meaning to the heart of the one who holds them dear. Trinkets made by a child can have great value to their parents because of the sentimental worth. Value is primarily determined by a person’s willingness to expend whatever energies necessary to acquire the item.

Jesus taught the importance and worth of the only thing that is of value to man. In His series of parables of the kingdom, the Lord tells two stories about a man who finds a treasure in a field and a merchant who finds one pearl of great price. Both of these men are seeking the rare prize of a costly treasure. They know the worth of these treasures, and they are willing to expend themselves fully to find their reward. In the first story, a man finds a treasure of unknown value and he immediately sells all he has to buy the field where the treasure was found. Like the first man, a merchant finds the one pearl of great price and sells everything he has to buy the one pearl. Common in both stories is the decision of the men to sell everything they have to possess one thing.

It is a radical decision to return home, place the house up for sale, liquidate all the possessions in a sale, and walk away with nothing but the cash from the sell just so the man could buy a field or the merchant a single pearl. The neighbors would think these men insane. There is nothing that makes sense of what these men are doing. If someone asked the men why they were selling everything they had, the answer would astound the community. Why would anyone sell everything they have to buy a piece of land or to purchase one pearl? It makes no sense and lacks reason, but the men do exactly that. At the end of the day, one man owns a new field, and one man holds a pearl of great price.

The most valuable gift offered to man is the gospel of Jesus Christ. No kingdom is of such worth and power as the kingdom of Heaven. To possess the good news of salvation is to possess Heaven itself. Jesus came to bring light into a world of darkness. He died so that all men could live. His sacrifice was given so that no man would have to suffer the sting of sin. In death, Jesus conquered the grave, allowing men to face mortality with immortality. The guilt of sin was taken away by the gift of Jesus Christ. No prize and no treasure are worth so much as the kingdom of Heaven. The treasure is found in the field, and the pearl of great price cannot be attained without seeking. God is not willing that any man perish, but the heart of men must seek and long for the gift of salvation. The question for all men is what they are willing to pay to find that treasure or possess the pearl?

God does not expect His children to sell everything they have to find salvation. It is not about the monetary significance of the story but the two men’s willingness to give all to have it all. They emptied themselves of what the world values because it had no value. What mattered to these two men was the ultimate treasure – the kingdom of Heaven. If a man is unwilling to expend the energy to seek and find the greatest treasure or the pearl of great price, he will die empty-handed. The gospel does not come by photosynthesis or through natural laws of adaptation. It requires a heart that is willing to give all to have what will bring greater joy and happiness than this world can offer. Faith and works go hand in hand because one requires the other. No treasure will be found by those who are not seeking. The door will never open when no one knocks. To have the pearl of great price, you must pay a great price. Are you willing to give up everything you have for Jesus Christ? Remember – that is what Jesus did for you.

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Be A Servant

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more. (1 Corinthians 9:19)

Be A Servant

Slavery has a negative connotation to it, and history is filled with the tragedy of human trafficking. For as long as the world has stood, bondage has been the lot of many of earth’s inhabitants and will continue to be so until the end of time. There will always be those who oppress and those who suffer under the hand of oppression. The Bible is filled with stories of slavery from the Hebrews in Egypt to provisions in the Law of Moses on the treatment of slaves. Jesus did not come to take human slavery away, and the early church never suggested slaves to rebel against their masters. Paul wrote a letter to a slaveholder named Philemon asking him to receive back a runaway slave named Onesimus. The epistles of Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter admonish slaves to be obedient to their masters and for masters to give up threatening against others.

Many of the New Testament writers used the imagery of slavery in the gospel’s language, describing the relationship with God and the Christian. Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all refer to themselves as bondservants of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The picture of slavery was a powerful message in the First Century, and the language had a profound meaning to the church. In his letter to Corinth, the apostle Paul says he made himself a servant to all. He had brought himself under the bondage of all as a slave would be to another. This bondage was voluntary, but it was slavery, nonetheless. He enslaved his life to the service of others. The heart of Paul was to serve the needs of others above his own life. This would become the moving force in Paul’s life as he was a bondservant of Jesus Christ first and then a slave to others.

The purpose of Paul becoming a slave to others was to win the hearts of other men. His attitude was to look out for the interest of others above his own wishes. He did not do this to receive any reward from other men. The example of Jesus becoming a bondservant was the example Paul sought to follow. Jesus became a servant of all men when He left Heaven and died for the sins of all men. Paul could do no less than his Lord to live his life in servitude of others. His life was focused on the sake of the gospel, and he would be a servant to all men to let the light of Christ shine in hearts darkened with sin. Paul was a servant of God.

It is hard for the modern Christian to relate to slavery in anything but a negative tone. One of the deceiver’s greatest tools is to fill the hearts of God’s people with pride. Personal slavery in the cause of Jesus Christ requires humility. This is a willingness to give up the pride of self for the good of others. To be a slave, a person must be willing to subject themselves to others. Earlier in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul suggested those who were taking one another to law should be ready to accept wrong for the sake of their brother. This required a servant’s heart to accept injustice so they could win the soul of the brother. A slave may have to accept wrong to show the power of doing right: Jesus did!

The church belongs to Jesus Christ, and men often forget that. They have the idea the church belongs to them, and they have the right and power to exercise their influence as they see fit. Often in the hearts of God’s children, there is a refusal to be humble and esteem others more than self. Pride exalts the heart to refuse the servant’s heart. There is nothing more needed in the body of Christ than more servants’ hearts willing to work with servant hands. The kingdom of God is made up of slaves who labor for the Divine landowner: God. When the attitude of heart turns on the idea of being a servant, the world will see the love of God in the family of God, and souls will be won to Christ. To be a Christian is to be a slave. Those unwilling to be slaves of men cannot be servants of Christ. Be a servant. Embrace slavery in Christ.

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Baptism Is Not Essential To Salvation, But It Is Essential To Obedience

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:37-41)

Baptism Is Not Essential To Salvation, But It Is Essential To Obedience

Fifty days after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, twelve men were assembled in a great hall in Jerusalem with thousands of devout Jews from every nation under heaven. It was an unremarkable day until suddenly, a sound from heaven, like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, filled the house where they were sitting. The men began to speak in foreign languages telling the good news of a risen Christ. Peter stood up with the eleven and began to explain what the great event meant. He showed from the Old Testament prophecy of Joel the events of the day were in fulfillment of God’s word. He explained the man who had been crucified a little over a month before, called Jesus, was the Son of God, the Christ. Weaving King David’s prophecies into his sermon, Peter astonished the multitude with the clarity of Old Testament scripture to conclude that God has made this Jesus, whom they crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!

As the crowd listened intently to Peter’s sermon, they felt compelled to respond to the news of the Messiah’s death. It seemed incredulous the Chosen One of God had been this Jesus of Nazareth, and they had rejected the Son of God. Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they pleaded with the apostles to tell them what they could do to be saved from the wrath of God. Realizing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the men feared for their salvation. What could they do to be saved? Their pleas came from broken and contrite hearts burdened with the guilt of sin. They were not asking a question to Peter and the eleven; they were seeking the path of obedience to the grace of God as they stood condemned.

Peter does not hesitate to tell the men gathered what they must do to be saved. The apostle tells them to repent and let every one of them be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s words are a promise to those gathered in Jerusalem and for all those who would walk on the face of the earth as long as time remains. Peter and the eleven continued to speak to the multitude to save themselves from a perverse generation. Those who gladly received the word of the apostles were baptized. Luke records on that day, three thousand souls were immersed for the remission of their sins as the Lord added them to the church as being saved.

If the story of the twelve apostles speaking in Jerusalem were reenacted today, there would be a very different response. Instead of Peter telling the crowd to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins, the apostle would say to the crowd to accept Christ as their personal savior, and they would be saved. Three thousand souls would accept salvation by faith only and believe they are saved. When baptism was brought up, the answer would be that baptism is not essential to salvation, but it is essential to obedience. This is the position of the Baptist church (by and large) as the Baptist Church “utterly repudiates the dogma of ‘baptismal regeneration.'” The Baptist Church’s teaching is that while baptism is not essential for salvation, it is essential to obedience since Christ has commanded it. What is found in the Baptist church is common in almost all the Protestant churches that deny the belief in water immersion for salvation. They will argue it is essential for obedience but not for salvation.

To define the word “essential” is to suggest something is absolutely necessary and extremely important. Baptism is not necessary to be saved, although Peter told those gathered at Pentecost that is what they needed to do (essential) to be saved. A contradiction is found in how man’s wisdom seeks to change the simple, direct, and easily understood command of God for a man to find salvation. Every story of conversion in the New Testament church includes the act of baptism. Paul frequently explained the purpose and design of baptism. Peter would later write that baptism saves. And yet we live in a world where multitudes of devout people believe they are saved by faith only, and baptism is not essential for salvation.

There must be a great deal of confusion about how baptism is not essential for salvation, but it is essential for obedience? The scriptures teach that salvation depends on doing the will of the Father. Jesus would pose the question of how a man can love Him and not do His commandments. Baptism is essential for salvation because God said so. When men deny the purpose of baptism, they deny the word of God. Denying the word of God will not bring joy but eternal wrath.

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The First Year

So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” (Genesis 3:24-4:1)

The First Year

At the beginning of time, God created a world that would provide every need of man and allow the creation to share in the glory of his Creator. The Garden of Eden was a beautiful home for Adam and Eve to walk in the cool of the day with the Lord God, enjoying a fellowship of divine companionship. Sin ruined the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed the command of God. They were strictly forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, understanding the command yet rebelled against the will of the Lord. Knowing that men would eat of the tree of life and live forever, God cast Adam and Eve from the garden protecting its entrance with cherubim at the east of the garden and a flaming sword which turned every way, guarding the way to the tree of life. Paradise was lost. Adam and Eve were cast from the protection of Eden and their first home.

Adam and Eve stood outside of Eden, peering into the garden that was their home. They could not go back in. There were no other humans literally in the world. Two people populate the entire planet. Birds filled the sky, and the oceans teemed with life. Cattle and beast roamed across the face of the earth. There was no fear between man and animal as all of God’s creation lived together in harmony. It will not be until after the great flood in the days of Noah that man will become a meat-eater, and the dread of man will come upon the animals. For Adam and Eve, they looked upon an incredible world of beauty untouched by the hand of men.

The early world was not a moonscape of disorder and confusion. Civilization began with Adam and Eve as a home was built, and they learned how to make fires, build structures, garden, and tend crops and care for animals. It was that first year that must have been so amazing for Adam and Eve. They would not see another human until nine months after conception when Cain was born and then Abel. Adam lived to the age of 930 years and had sons and daughters. It was the first year where Adam and Eve were alone in the world. The only one they could rely on was God. He would be their sustainer, their strength, and their protector. God did not abandon them and leave them to their own devices. As the world began to fill with people for nearly a thousand years, Adam could look back to that first year when it was only he and his wife and God. It had to be an exceptional time when the world was clean of the wickedness that would quickly fill the earth. Adam and Eve and God.

There was never a year like the first year in the life of Adam and Eve. As men began to multiply, the serpent’s influence wove its poison into the hearts of all men. In the days of Noah, God would destroy the world. The first year of Adam and Eve is a reminder of how important it will be for men to spend time alone with God, free from the trappings of the world. Adam and Eve thrived on the word of God and trusted in His power and wisdom to see them through the first days, the first weeks, the first months, and the first year of life outside Eden. Life should always be viewed from the perspective of a world filled with seven billion people, but every soul stands alone before God. Each man and woman need God in a personal way. He needs to be the only focus of life, the only purpose, and the only desire. It is as if we have been cast from Eden, and we stand outside – alone. To whom shall we turn for our help? The Lord God Creator is the only one that will sustain us and carry us through. How would you fare in your first year?

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Asking God To Forget

Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord. (Psalm 25:6-7)

Asking God To Forget

The time of youth is a period of life filled with hope, innocence, and the ability to know everything. Consequences are not recognized as a part of life because the soul has not long suffered the seeds sown in youthful waste. Few grow to maturity that do not look back at the days of youthful splendor with some sense of regret and, for some, many feelings of guilt. The experiment of immaturity is tenuous at best. Lacking the mature knowledge of years, a young man or young woman will make decisions that seem the best but later are recognized as youthful folly. Lessons learned in the early days of life will frame the decisions made in older years.

David was a man like all men who needed the mercy and grace of the Lord to forget his youthful energies. He first begs for the tender mercies and lovingkindness of God’s love to envelop him as he faces the sins of his past. Seeking the removal from God’s mind the plans, thoughts, and wishes of his youth, David recognizes his failings in early life. He not only seeks the forgiveness of the Lord, but he begs for God to forget how the young shepherd boy conducted himself as a youth. The heart of God knows all that David has done as the Omniscient divine Lord who sees all things and knows all things. This knowledge frightens David. He would not want anyone to know of his follies from his younger days. Seeking the mercy of God, David pleads with the Lord to forget, put aside, remember no more and purge from His eternal memory the plans of youth.

The time of youth is a place in life where experiments are met with reality. In the heat of passion, choices are made that have life-long consequences. Life becomes an effort to lessen the regrets instead of living without them. Jesus Christ is the only youth that grew to maturity without regrets, guilts, and misgivings about early decisions. David was a man after God’s own heart, but first, he was a boy. Knowing the Lord’s mercy, David sought for the righteous character of God to forgive his youthful actions. There is joy in knowing that when maturity grows in the heart of a godly person, those things of the past can be forgotten and removed from the mind of God. The hardest person to forgive is self, but God’s love is so great He is willing to put aside youth’s mistakes.

Asking God to forget the past comes with the requirement the heart is willing to live more closely to the will of the Father in the future. Youth is a time of learning, and maturity is applying the lessons to better decisions. There is a time to grow up and remove the youthful fancies of a bygone period of folly to a solid experience of learning the ways of the Lord, walking in the paths of truth, and seeking the salvation of the Lord. God is willing to forget the sins of youth. His mercy is everlasting and His goodness eternal. This also means that grown people need to act their age. When youth is past, it is finished. Trying to rekindle a youthful experience is an exercise in failure. Grow up in Christ. Live for the Lord. Seek maturity.

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Finding The Love And Peace Of God

Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Finding The Love And Peace Of God

The church in Corinth was a challenging and turbulent group of saints. In the first letter Paul addressed to the Corinthian brethren, he dealt with division, carnality, rebellion, immorality, chaos among the worshipers, and a host of internal problems plaguing the church. Writing his second letter, he is encouraged by their faith and the willingness to address the issues that were tearing the group apart. Closing his letter, Paul seeks to instill in the hearts of the saints the love and peace of God with four admonitions. These encouraging words are essential to the union of troubled souls and a pattern for all saints to seek the grace of God.

Paul wanted the church at Corinth to be complete or perfected in the union of the body of Christ. Division had marred the work of spreading the gospel. The aim of the church must be the restoration of the peace and love of God. Disunion does not serve to the glory of God. Seeking the joy of walking together brings harmony to the local church and shines as a bright light of hope for those outside. Everyone must work toward the completeness of unity. If the church had followed this pattern earlier, there would not have been the Corinthian church’s severe problems. Growing to maturity is the goal of the church. No congregation should be satisfied with the status quo. Every day should be an effort to increase in love, knowledge, and evangelism. When a church remains the same year after year, it is not perfected to the glory of God. Exhortation number one: be perfected.

Division does not lend itself to a benevolent heart. One of Satan’s useful tools is to bring division among the people of God so they will spend their time fussing, arguing, disagreeing, and hating one another. The Holy Spirit admonishes the church to be of good comfort and for saints to seek the unity of helping others with a mature mind of love. To have comfort is to bring comfort and be a comforter. Corinth was divided with members against one another. What they needed was found in the hearts of the members caring for other members and showing that care. The servant’s heart seeks the welfare and good of others, not esteeming self greater than others. Being like-minded, having the same love and mind brings comfort to the family of God, helping the work grow in spirit and number. Corinth needed a lot of comfort, but that comfort must come from its members. Without the kindness of brotherly love, there could be no forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation in the Lord. To be perfect required the second exhortation: be of good comfort.

When Paul heard from those of Chloe’s household of the contentions among the church of God at Corinth, his heart was saddened. Carnality had overwhelmed the attitudes of those who gave allegiance to Paul, Apollos, and Peter rather than stand united under the banner of Jesus Christ. It frustrated the apostle to see how childish the brethren were acting toward one another and the impact to the glory of God. The church must stand with one mind. Divided spirits will defeat the work. Doctrine must be established upon the word of God and not the opinions of men. Morality is not measured by what is accepted in society, like the man with his father’s wife. Worship is a specific pattern of authority demanded of God to be in accordance with the divine will of Jesus Christ, the church’s head. Corinth was not of one mind, and problems were rampant throughout the church. When a church is filled with strife, division, and unrest, carnal hearts are refusing to stand with God and His word alone. Exhortation number three: be of one mind.

Attitudes express the relationships of brethren, and division never unites but creates disharmony. Living in peace is seeking peace. Jesus taught His disciples the example of servitude when He washed twenty-four dirty feet belonging to His twelve apostles. The Lord washed the feet of Judas, knowing what he was about to do. The church will live in peace when it follows the example of Jesus. A servant’s heart is the motive of each member. Peace comes from God. Living in peace is perfected when the saints’ spirit unites with love and concern for one another. There were many evil attitudes among the brethren at Corinth. Paul wanted the contentions and strife to end. Then peace could rule in the church. If a church is filled with fighting, it is because the members have become combatants of error rather than contenders for the faith. The final appeal: live in peace.

When the church becomes complete, finds comfort with one another, seeks the unity of one mind, and lives in peace, the joy of God’s love and peace will overshadow the church. The world will see something special about the saints who show the glory of God in their daily lives and in the dedication of their worship of Jesus Christ. Souls will be brought to the truth. Heaven will rejoice. The angels will marvel. God will be pleased with His children. Jesus Christ will be exalted, and the Holy Spirit honored for the word. Finally, brethren – where are you!

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The Temptation Of Jesus

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18)

The Temptation Of Jesus

When Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, His birth was as common as any other baby born that day. There was nothing unusual about how He was born as Mary gave birth like all mothers before her. As Mary’s time drew near, she experienced labor pains, and when it was time to deliver, the process of birth took the natural course. What made the birth of Jesus unusual was the conception of the divine seed in a virgin’s womb. Joseph was undoubtedly amazed by the whole process as Mary wrapped the little baby boy and placed Him in the warm comfort of the manger. To their surprise, a group of shepherds came by to see the baby as proclaimed by the heavenly hosts. The record does not tell how long it took to find lodging, but in a short time, Joseph and Mary secured a house to live in. A few years passed as the little baby Jesus learned to talk with baby giggles, laugh, eat His vegetables (except brussels sprouts), and learned to walk. As a two-year-old child, Jesus played with toys and explored the world with the wonder of a growing mind.

One day, some men from the East visited Joseph and Mary leaving gifts for the young child. Warned by an angel that Herod the king sought to kill Jesus, Joseph packed his family and made the arduous journey to Egypt. The wonders of the Egyptian landscape filled the mind of the little boy as Jesus saw giant pyramids, colossal statues of Egyptian gods, and temples filling the land. Sometime later, Joseph again packed his family to return to their native land. Instead of returning to Bethlehem, Joseph went north to Galilee to Nazareth, where he worked as a carpenter. Jesus would see the birth of His step-brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas along with His sisters. The family would enjoy the hard work of the carpenter’s life in the town of Nazareth. Each year they would travel to the Temple following instructions of the Law of Moses. At the age of twelve, He excelled Himself when He debated the Temple’s teachers and listened carefully to their teachings. At the age of thirty, Jesus would leave home to begin the ministry He was sent to accomplish. Less than three years later, He would be dead. After three days, He arose. The sinless Son of God had fulfilled the eternal plan of redeeming humanity from the scourge of sin. What made the death of Jesus and His resurrection powerful was that Jesus was tempted but never sinned. He never once committed sin – without exception.

The gospels mention the temptation of Jesus when the Lord was driven to the wilderness and, after forty days of fasting, tempted by Satan. Often the idea of the temptation of Jesus centers upon this tri-fold event where the tempter charms the Son of God with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Repeatedly, Jesus rebukes the devil by appealing to scripture. Failing to tempt Jesus, Satan leaves for a short time but then continues the onslaught of wicked temptation on the heart of Jesus. The temptation of Jesus did not begin with Jesus in the wilderness. His trial and suffering the appeal of temptation started when Jesus came to the age of knowing right and wrong. When Jesus was sixteen years of age, He was tempted. At the age of twenty-five, Jesus was tempted. The reality is that Jesus suffered the temptation of sin long before the wilderness journey. Satan knew who Mary’s son was, and he was trying everything in his power to subdue the Son of God. He failed for thirty years. Jesus was victorious for thirty years without exception.

There were constant temptations throughout the ministry of Jesus until finally, Jesus was crucified and died. When the Lord said, “It is finished,” He meant many things, including the satisfaction that His life was complete, and He had kept the will of the Father without sin. Jesus was made like His brethren. If Jesus were not a man like all men, He could not be a merciful and faithful High Priest to aid those who are tempted. It would seem doubtful to live for more than thirty years without sin, but Jesus did that very thing. He never gave in. His life was devoted to refusing the tentacles of sin. Jesus left a pattern of righteousness for all who suffer the pains of sin. There are no excuses. Each person’s object and goal is to sin less in life, knowing the impossibility of being sinless. Jesus accomplished what no man can do so that He could leave an example for all those burdened with the darkness of sin. Temptation can be overcome. Jesus proved that.

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Change The World – Do Good

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

Change The World – Do Good

Albert Barnes sums up the admonition of Paul to do good to all men. He writes, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men – This is the true rule about doing good. ‘The opportunity to do good,’ said Cotton Mather, ‘imposes the obligation to do it.’ The simple rule is, that we are favored with the opportunity, and that we have the power. It is not that we are to do it when it is convenient; or when it will advance the interest of a party; or when it may contribute to our fame; the rule is, that we are to do it when we have the opportunity. No matter how often that occurs; no matter how many objects of benevolence are presented – the more the better; no matter how much self-denial it may cost us; no matter how little fame we may get by it; still, if we have the opportunity to do good, we are to do it, and should be thankful for the privilege. And it is to be done to all people. Not to our family only; not to our party; not to our neighbors; not to those of our own color; not to those who live in the same land with us, but to all mankind. If we can reach and benefit a man who lives on the other side of the globe, whom we have never seen, and shall never see in this world or in the world to come, still we are to do him good. Such is Christianity. And in this, as in all other respects, it differs from the narrow and selfish spirit of clanship which prevails all over the world.”

An exciting part of being a child of God is to let the world see the grace of the Father living in the hearts of those who the blood of Christ has redeemed. Religion is not a stuffed shirt feeling of rituals going through rote requirements, but a life changed to express feelings of goodness to all men. The world is filled with the “selfish spirit of clanship,” which should not be a Christian’s attitude. His or her light should brightly shine as one of goodness towards all men. What makes this character unique for the Christian is that kindness is shown to all men, regardless of color, background, and even spiritual degradation. In other words, while not accepting sinful actions, kindness rather than hatred should be shown toward those lost in sin. There is enough hatred in the world, and the Christian should never show contempt toward others. God loves the homosexual, murderer, thief, adulterer, and fornicator and desires them to repent. Showing acts of goodness or kindness toward all men allow the world to see the real character of the love of God in the heart of his children.

The opportunity to do good abounds in the life of a Christian. Small acts of kindness can have as much power as larger deeds. Looking for occasions to say a kind word to all men exemplifies the spirit of God. These acts of kindness can open doors of teaching the gospel and, as a result, save a soul. One of the greatest evangelism tools begins with the heart willing to open hands of goodness towards those mired in the depravities of sin. Jesus left an example of seeking those who desperately needed the love of God. Many did not accept the invitation of Christ but those who did learn the eternal lesson of God’s love and grace. Paul encouraged the brethren to seek those opportunities to do good and use those times to change hearts.

One of the most important areas of influence is within the family of God. If benevolence does not begin in the household of God, it cannot find its worth within a sin-sick world. There is a greater burden to show kindness to the brethren. Kindness begins first at the house of God. If a man is unwilling to be good to his brother or sister in Christ, he will never have the heart to help the man lost in sin. Paul did not suggest that doing good was limited to the household of faith. What begins within the family of God will show goodness to all men. Sowing seeds of kindness will reap a harvest of blessings. When a man sows discord or hatred, he will reap what he sows. Teaching the word is the greatest kindness a man can do for another. As there is the opportunity, let the word of Christ dwell in the heart of the Christian to do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith. If you want to change the world, start here.

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Be Careful, Be Quiet, And Do Not Fear

Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub, your son, at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, and say to him: ‘Take heed and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel”— thus says the Lord God: “It shall not stand, nor shall it come to pass.”‘” (Isaiah 7:3-7)

Be Careful, Be Quiet, And Do Not Fear

Ahaz was the 12th king of Judah, beginning his rule at twenty years of age. His reign would last for sixteen years, and unlike his father Jotham and his son Hezekiah, evil consumed his legacy. He patterned his life after the kings of Israel, including burning his children in the fire and following the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. During his reign, a confederacy of the Syrian king Rezin and fellow brethren led by the king of Israel, Pekah, came against Jerusalem to conquer the city. Pekah killed 120,000 people in one day and took captive more than 200,000. Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, had taken the city of Elath, and the danger of the Assyrians loomed before king Ahaz. He sought to ally with the Assyrians but remained fearful of the partnership and designs of Tiglath-Pileser. Although a king who had rebelled against the Lord, Isaiah is sent to assure Ahaz that Jerusalem will not fall.

Facing uncertainty and the dread of his northern brethren and the Assyrians’ potential threat, Ahaz finds himself in an impossible place. The counsel of Isaiah is to give him the courage to face the imminent dangers that surround him. Even a wicked king has found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Isaiah’s assurance is a sound policy of dealing with forces that seem overwhelming but can be defeated. Isaiah will tell the king that God will not allow His Holy city to be destroyed by the Assyrians or Israel’s northern kingdom. As bleak and frightful the day may seem, God remains in control of the affairs of men. Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah plotted evil against the people of God, but a higher power will thwart their purpose. Ahaz needed to take heed, remain calm, and not fear. The Lord would deliver him if he trusted the power of God.

Storms often come in life. Some are squalls that pass quickly, and others are intense typhoons that bring fear, anxiety, and worry to the most stalwart’s minds. Like king Ahaz, the future looks bleak if not without hope. Isaiah’s message is the security of knowing that God has a way of working His power into every storm. He is greater than the mightiest storm or trial that comes against righteousness, and He will not allow His people to be destroyed if they will but trust in Him. The city of Jerusalem did not fall by the hands of the northern tribes of Israel, and a more powerful nation would defeat Assyria. A time would come when judgment would be brought against the holy city, but that was in God’s design and purpose. Facing storms requires the insight to believe that God will prevail. It is taking heed to the word of the Lord, trusting in His promises, and keeping the heart from fear. God’s way is how to face conflict. It requires a heart that is not easily moved. The hosts of wickedness stand against the work of the Lord but will never prevail. Being fearless in the face of adversity is the metal God’s people are made of. When the calm resolve of faith enters the heart, then fear is taken away. Let the mind find the peace of God that passes all understanding. Be careful. Be quiet. Do not fear.

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A Better House

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

A Better House

The joy of moving into a new house is tempered by the exhaustion of relocating all the earthly possessions accumulated over the years. The fact remains that if it takes more than fifteen minutes to pack, there is more stuff than needed. Of course, few people can gather everything together in less than a few weeks with the task of packing, moving, unpacking, and finding a place for the abundance of things believed necessary to carry on life. Humans are a funny lot of creatures that spend their lives accumulating, protecting, insuring, fixing, and guarding temporary and never-lasting things. The smart mover will reduce the amount of clutter with each move. Still, when the end of the day comes, the stuff is nothing more than stuff and, there is a lot of that stuff. Sadly, when life is spent amassing possessions of this world, it is all left behind in death. What remains is for others to sort through and, by and large, get rid of. What was a precious trinket for the one becomes of little importance for the heirs. And the cycle continues through each generation.

God never intended for man to dwell on the earth gathering possessions, and yet it seems the primary purpose of life is about the stuff here and now. People work seven days a week all their lives and then die with nothing to show for their work. Billions of dollars are spent each year to redesign a failing machine destined to die. Man desires to live longer and fuller lives, so the focus is to extend the body’s life if possible. This is futile. The lesson from Methuselah is that he lived 969 years, and he died. No man can live beyond what God has established as his habitation, and only a few reach the centennial mark and beyond. The earthly house is destined for destruction. All that a man gathers in a lifetime of hoarding is destroyed or forgotten. Life’s cycle is absolute in its design. The body dies, and the possessions of life decay. What becomes life’s irony is why so much effort is spent trying to give life to a body that will die and why so much energy is expended to amass worldly goods that are not received in the grave?

The joy of Paul’s message to the Corinthians is to refocus the aims of life to realize the joy of a better house. There is a house provided by God that will not die and will not decay. When the human body dies, the Christian has the assurance of a new body given by the Father’s grace and love. This is not a building made by the hands of men but eternal in the heavens without end. It will never need medicine to keep its youthfulness. This better house will never move, relocate, or require maintenance. There will be no exhaustion, weariness, pain, sorrow, or tears in this better house. A house in heaven awaits the faithful who live to see the face of God. It will be a place that needs no sun, for the Father will be that light. The weakness of human flesh will be removed as God wipes away all the toils of life. Dwelling in the eternal city of Heaven, the child of God will dwell and abide with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the hosts of righteousness. And the best part is there will never come a moving day.

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A Purposed Life

Hear a just cause, O Lord, attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from Your presence; let Your eyes look on the things that are upright. You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. (A psalm of David; Psalm 17:1-3)

A Purposed Life

Life without purpose is an empty life. Many people try to find happiness in the things of the world, enjoyment of the flesh, and self-contained wisdom and never find fulfillment. A purposed life is trying to find some direction to model one’s life. There is a need to find the true meaning of what man is doing on this planet. The age-old question of self-worth must be answered in the context of divine truth. Whether a man believes in God or not, the question of identity remains the focus of life. Trying to answer why a man exists can only come from the One who formed, designed, and purposed man’s creation. In the beginning, God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” That is the purpose of man.

David was a man after God’s own heart because he was willing to invite the Lord to test his heart. It was not that the Lord did not have the power to know the hearts of all men, but David desired the Lord to examine his life. David was a man of prayer. His heart was open to allow the searching eye of God to look closely at his words, his thoughts, and his actions. He asked the Lord to declare him innocent without the pretense of being perfect but the prayer of being blameless. David longed for God to test his heart for righteousness. The omniscience of the Divine peered into the night and saw every part of David’s life. Admitting the knowledge of God about his life, David declared his innocence as he purposed to live a loving life before the Lord. His mouth did not speak guile. The heart of David fully rested in the word of the Lord. His prayer was to invite the Lord to examine him and find him innocent. God did what David asked and found him to be a righteous man.

Purpose-driven people are those who open their hearts to the examination of the Lord. They live each day with the recognition that everything about their life is open to the knowledge of the Almighty – and they find security in that knowledge. A purposed driven life is reliant upon the eye of God seeing everything they do and the ear of the Lord hearing everything they say. This is where purpose comes to fruition. There is no fear of condemnation. David was seeking to align his life with the will of the Father, and although a sinful man, he begged the Lord’s mercy to see his righteous character as he walked before the Lord. The prayer of David sought the presence of God in his life without reservation.

If you want to live a life of purpose, have a purpose in your life. Seeking the things of the world will not give you purpose. Heartache is all that is found in the trappings of the world. Have the courage to ask God to test your heart, examine your life, and hear your prayers. Then you will have a divine purpose that will help you in this life and bless you in the life to come. Purpose in your heart that you will not sin in what you say, what you do, and how you act. God bless your life to be purposed in Jesus Christ.

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Watching With Clarity

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6)

Watching With Clarity

The world is coming to an end. There is no doubt the clock is ticking on the earth’s longevity with a day coming when disaster comes in the form of God’s wrath. As sure as the promise of God to destroy the world by a flood in the days of Noah, so the certainty of the end of the world will come by the will of the Father. There are many today who believe that something man will do impacts the existence of the world. Global warming is being publicized as the springboard of global destruction in the next few decades. This will never happen because the Lord Creator will never allow the man to destroy what He has reserved for judgment. The Day of the Lord belongs to the Lord. It is a time reserved in the mind of the Father that only He knows. When the will of the Lord is accomplished, and He determines man’s existence has reached finality, the Son of God will come with His mighty angels, and the universe will come to a sudden end.

There will be no warning when the Day of the Lord comes. Weather patterns will often give signs of approaching danger. Volcanic eruptions can sometimes be known in advance, even with a minimal time before the explosion. When the end of the world comes, there is no hint, no advance notice, and not even the animals will be aware of impending doom. There is found in animals a sense of danger when something terrible is about to happen. They are alerted in their natural reasons to flee to higher ground or find protection soon. The Day of the Lord comes with no warning, notice, or determination by man to know of its day. Pundits of the end of time have tried for many a millennium to determine when the Lord will come. They have all failed and will continue to fail. If a man tells you he knows when the Lord will return, be assured he is a liar. Jesus said He did not know.

The end of the world will come as a thief who comes in the night. He does not give a warning coming when a person least expects it. Sudden destruction will be the nature of the last day. It will be swift, and it will be a total and complete destruction. Like the labor pains of a pregnant woman, the end of the world will come when least expected. No one will escape. There will be no mountains to run to or caves to hide in. Every eye will see the glory of the Lord. In an instant like the blinking of an eye, the universe will explode with incredible fury and be torn asunder. All souls will be ushered before the presence of the Almighty God. Time is destroyed. Death and Hades are destroyed. Satan and his minions are cast into Hell. Judgment comes. Verdicts read. Sentences carried out. Eternity becomes real.

Every child of God knows the Day of the Lord is coming, yet many do not live as if the day could come at any moment. Nonbelievers have no concern for the Day of the Lord. A Christian knows and believes the Lord will send His angels to destroy the world. No child of God should be caught unaware of the day when it comes. As people of light, walking in the light, and living in the light, the reality of the end is clear. The day of destruction should not overtake the righteous. Those who walk in darkness cannot see the light of truth. The people of God are watching with clarity the moment when the Lord comes, and they do so with great anticipation. Watching suggests a constant awareness that today could be the day. Sobriety means being clearheaded about the reality of the coming of the Lord and the knowledge of the sudden appearance of the Lord. These two factors are paramount in the heart of the Christian. Everything they do is preparing for the coming of Jesus. Living a sober life is preparing the soul for the judgment of the Lord. We may not know when the Lord is coming, but it will not matter because we are watching and living sober lives that will find their promise in the hope of eternal life. Pray each day: Lord, come today.

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But Now

And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.” (Luke 16:23-25)

But Now

The news of his death shocked the community. He had been a great leader in the business world and a benevolent philanthropist for many worthwhile causes. His peers heralded his insights as remarkable. The impact of his influence was felt around the nation. Hearing of his death, the community came together to eulogize and bestow honors on a man who helped change the world’s landscape. In another part of the world, a lone soldier is fighting against an assault by armed insurgents seeking to destroy his unit. Two men lay dead, and while his comrades seek shelter from the relentless firepower, the brave warrior throws himself into the heat of the battle, advancing against all odds to destroy the enemy nest. He destroys the first target but is mortally wounded. Collapsing in the enemy bunker, the soldier regains a measure of strength to fight to protect his men and kill as many insurgents as possible. His unit is saved because of his heroic actions, but a fatal blow comes with a bullet to the heart. Death is quick and sudden. Years later, he is awarded posthumous honors of the highest rank and his name engraved on marble as a great warrior.

Few men could have as much influence as the man who filled the world with his deep faith in God. He was a man of religion that spread the Bible’s message across the globe in almost every corner of the world. Thousands flocked to hear him and see his love for the Lord. For many decades, he preached the message of Jesus and salvation by faith only, and untold numbers of people flocked to find salvation in his soothing words. As with all men, time and tide march against him, and age brought him to his final destiny. Buried with great honors and long eulogies of praise for his faith and devotion to God, he finds his place among the tombstones of the myriads that have gone before him. Now only a marker with his name and dates reveals who he is. A few years earlier, a great war hero and successful politician faces his death. His life is remembered for bravery, dedication, honor, and as a part of the political world that changed the scope of government for years to come. Books and magazines are dedicated to his life story, which was quite remarkable. His peers revere his name as one of great historical meaning.

Few men can attain a special remembrance of history and then enter the halls of historical significance. The rarified air of fame is fleeting, and while honors are bestowed on those who gain notoriety for their courage, faith, and influence, there is a reality that is seldom seen and understood. When the man who changed the world as a philanthropist and community leader died, so did all his honors. At the moment of death for the brave soldier, he lost all the accolades of bravery and courage. The religious leader who filled his life with bringing others to what he believed to be salvation finally understood the reality of divine truth. As the great war hero’s life passed out his body, he knew everything he accomplished in life was useless. What all these men have in common is the realization that death has brought them face to face with God.

Death is the great equalizer, and death is a grand reality. The failing of human wisdom is to believe that life is about the importance of what is now without preparing for what is to come. Jesus tells the story of two men who are parables of contrast. The one man is a dejected, abused, and tormented man, while the other is an influential, wealthy, and prosperous community leader. Death comes to both men regardless of their station in life. What makes a difference in the final outcome is where they find themselves. One man finds peace and joy. One man finds horror and eternal torment. Abraham’s two words that draw the rich man’s attention to listen are the words, “But now.” Lazarus lived a horrible life dying without notoriety and fanfare in contrast to the great mourning for the rich man by his five brothers. Death was the wake-up call for the rich man that changed everything.

The news is filled with the rich and famous dying and the brave and the courageous giving their lives for what they believe in. There is great honor to be given to noble men and women who die and contribute to the world’s betterment. But sadly, none of this matters if a man is not a child of God. It will not matter how high the ladder of fame a man climbs or how history will frame his life for years to come. A man’s bravery will not matter if he is not a child of God. Even those who profess love and devotion to God who refuses to teach the pure gospel of truth found in Jesus Christ will hear those terrible words, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Life will not save you. Doing the will of the Father is what will save you. If you die and are not a child of God, there will be a dark and horrible eternal fate that awaits you. Do not live to hear the words, “But now.”

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Preaching Is Persuasive Arguing

And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews, and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10)

Preaching Is Persuasive Arguing

Preachers come in different shapes, sizes, and dispositions. The Old Testament prophets were a mixture of personalities ranging from Isaiah and Daniel’s stately presence to the rough and harsh world of Amos. Jesus selected twelve men who could not have been more different from one another and in stark contrast to the teachers of their day. The style of the apostle Paul was not like Philip or Peter and especially not as the orator, Apollos. One of the essential commonalities of the New Testament preachers is found in the preaching they engaged. By his own admission, Paul was not a man of stellar presence when it came to his preaching. His focus was on preaching Christ and Him crucified. Nothing else mattered to Paul, and he devoted his life to preaching the risen Christ. What distinguished his preaching was the manner of his presentation.

When Paul went into the synagogues of the Jews, he preached a bold message. He was not there to preach the words of men or try to impress others with his style. The synagogue was a hostile place to preach the message of the Messiah who died on a Roman cross. The word of God fortified Paul’s boldness. His style was to reason and persuade his hearers to understand the gospel of Christ. In fact, the preaching of Paul was persuasive arguing. Like Peter on the day of Pentecost, he did not hesitate to show Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah. The kingdom of God was preached before all those who would hear him without reservation. It was not a time to tell stories, engage the audience with banter, or impress the crowds with entertainment and fanfare. Paul came to preach. He came to argue in a manner that would convict men to repent and turn to God.

Preaching is about discussing the word of the Lord and engaging in conversations designed to change the heart. So much of preaching today is more about the “feel good, health and wealth” philosophies of men allowing the audience to enjoy a moment of spiritual euphoria with little or no lasting impact on life. Faith comes from hearing the word of God. Deep faith is built upon a foundation of sound doctrinal teaching that storms the soul with the ‘dunamis’ or power of God. The message must argue against vain doctrines and teachings of men. Preaching must convict, reprove and move the heart to action. Paul reasoned and daily discussed the merits of divine grace in the school of Tyrannus because the gospel was about finding the pearl of great price. Knowledge comes from digging for the truth.

The character of preaching is three-fold. There must be a message and someone to hear the message, and the transmission of that message must be clear. Preaching is not hard. When a man preaches God’s word, he does not have to find knowledge because that knowledge has been once delivered to all the world to understand. He should never hesitate to preach the whole counsel of God. Preaching anything less is not preaching. Paul spoke boldly; he reasoned and persuaded and daily argued the word as the word of God and not men. All who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus because the preacher they listened to preached the word.

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The Pivotal Moment In The Life Of Jesus

But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here. (John 14:31)

The Pivotal Moment In The Life Of Jesus

He knew He came to die for the sins of all mankind. As God, He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God but willingly offered His body as the Lamb of God for a bloody sacrifice. His journey began when he was thirty years of age, and in less than three years, He would die on a Roman cross as a common criminal. Throughout His ministry, Jesus spoke of the day when He would go to Jerusalem, where He would be treated with hatred by the people and die on the cross. Afterward, He would rise from the dead, but this would not happen without the journey to Golgotha. The scheme of redemption was planned in the eternal halls of God’s grace. Jesus knew when His hour would come.

On a quiet evening in an upper room, the Lord shared the solemn meal of Passover with the twelve apostles as He had done the past few years. His hour had come, and He knew His death was drawing near. First, He knelt before the twelve men and washed their feet. They did not understand the significance of His humility until Jesus explained the nature of servitude. His example would set the scene for the coming crucifixion. Judas would excuse himself from the gathering leaving Jesus with the eleven disciples telling them what He was about to do. And then came that pivotal moment when Jesus tells the eleven it was time to leave. Rising, He tells the disciples they must leave the upper room.

Going down the steps into the city, Jesus and His disciples begin walking toward Gethsemane. As the Lord walks along, He continues to tell the eleven about the ministry they will embark upon in the coming days, months, and years. They are unaware of how clear these words will ring to them as they recount this journey outside Jerusalem. At the same time, Judas has found the leaders who seek the death of Jesus. Soldiers have been secured, the Jewish leaders have gathered a mob together, and following Judas’ instructions, they make their way to a specific place in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus often went. It is unclear if Judas first went to the upper room and, not finding Jesus, took the mob to the garden. As Jesus arrives in the garden, he takes Peter, James, and John a short distance away and begins to pray. Shortly after He prays a third time, Judas arrives, and Jesus is arrested. Early the next day, the Son of God is condemned to death, taken to Golgotha, and crucified. Hours later, Jesus dies.

It is difficult to describe the suffering of Jesus. He knew He would die a horrible death. His love for the apostles was overwhelming, and His love for Judas was found in a bowl of water and the hands of the Lord washing His betrayer’s feet. Everyone knew the precursor to crucifixion was the savage beating called scourging. Each man would then be compelled to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion and thrown to the ground where he was nailed to a cross. He was then lifted up to suffer the most excruciating, humiliating, and painful death known to man. Death would be desired but fleeting. Mercifully, Jesus would last only a few hours before succumbing to the horror of Roman execution. Armed with this knowledge, Jesus made a fateful decision in the upper room when He said to His disciples, “Arise, let us go from here.”

When Jesus told the eleven they must leave the upper room, Jesus had fully committed Himself to the plan of His Father. His leaving the upper room proved two things. First, it proved His love for the Father. The world would know that Jesus loved His Father because He arose and went to Golgotha. Second, His leaving the upper room shows the world that He was obedient to His Father’s commandment. Before time began, God gave Jesus a command, and now Jesus was fulfilling that command. None of this could be done until Jesus left the upper room. It was a decisive moment in the life of Jesus, but more than anything, it was a crucial moment in every person’s life on earth. Had Jesus not left the upper room, there would be no joy and no peace. Thank God Jesus said, “Arise and let us go from here” so that all men can die with the words on their lips, “Arise and let us go to the Father.”

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Never Satisfied

Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)

Never Satisfied

There is never a time when a child is not growing. Growth is a sign of a healthy child as the body is designed to change over time, becoming more stable and mature for life’s challenges. Without the process of growth, the child would die or be deficient in many ways. It is vital to experience change to grow taller, learn to walk and talk, increase knowledge, and strengthen the immune system against disease. What is necessary for the physical body is of paramount importance for the spiritual man. The nature of humanity is made up of the mortal body and the eternal spirit. In time, the mortal body will decay and die. The eternal spirit, which is the true nature of man, will never cease to exist. Growth of the eternal spirit is a continual journey or abounding more and more in the process of spiritual growth.

Jesus told Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of God, one must be born again. The illusion of birth is the beginning point of the Christian journey. Peter would encourage his readers to desire the sincere milk of the word to grow thereby. The Hebrew writer chastised the Jewish Christians for not maturing to a spiritual level of understanding and remaining as needing milk instead of solid food. There are many examples of the need to grow in Christ, mature in the faith, and solidify trust in the Lord given throughout scripture. Paul’s admonition to the church at Thessalonica was to exhort them to not only grow but to abound more and more. He wanted to see more growth in their lives. They should not be satisfied with where they were spiritually. He urged them and exhorted them to excel more and more in all things.

One of the amazing things about the word of God is how one can read, study, examine and unlock so many mysteries contained on its pages and, at the end of the day, realize that only the surface has been opened. Men who have studied scriptures all their lives will be amazed at a new teaching or learning as if it were on the page for the first time. As well versed as some can be of the Bible, no man possesses all the knowledge of truth. A discovery awaits each time the book is opened. This should make every Christian realize the potential for growth and the need never to be satisfied with where they are in their relationship with God. Abounding more and more expresses the deep desire that at no time in life will there be a time to be satisfied. Each new day is a new horizon to understand a little more about the divine grace of the Lord.

Paul outlines an essential lesson for the Christians at Thessalonica to abound more and more so they can face the temptations and trials of life. The will of God is for His people to be sanctified or set apart from the world. A Christian should not engage in fornication or uncleanness and to walk properly toward those who are not Christians. This can only be done by a diligent effort never to be satisfied with where the heart is on the spectrum of God’s knowledge. Abounding more and more is a cure for what ails the human spirit – sin. If a person is too busy growing in Christ, they will not have time to wallow in sin. Abounding more and more is never to be satisfied. Do not stop, slow down or give up. The more you grow, the healthier you become. Holiness comes from excelling in Christ. Never be satisfied.

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The Weight Of The Word

The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. (Malachi 1:1)

The Weight Of The Word

The burden of the Lord is a manner which the prophets used to describe the message they preached to the people of God. It was a term generally used of a weighty, threatening prophecy and considered an oracle from the Lord. The preaching of the prophets was during a time of great upheaval in the nation of Israel. Isaiah used the burden of the Lord often in his prophecy of Israel and the degradation it had become as a nation with impending destruction. He referred to the burden against the nations around Israel with God’s wrath coming upon them for their evil deeds. Nahum wrote of the burden against Nineveh and Habakkuk of the burden which he was compelled to write. Zechariah brought the message of God to Israel as the burden of the word of the Lord. The final scroll in the ancient canon begins with the burden of the Lord’s word to Israel by Malachi.

Truth has never been convenient and popular. Like a millstone or heavy weight, the word of the Lord hangs heavy on the hearts of those who cannot abide in its doctrine. Jeremiah spoke of the impact of the word of God upon the hearts of unbelievers like the chaff blown away by the wind. Truth was like wheat falling to the ground possessed of substance and value. The word of the Lord is the chaff to those who are unwilling to accept divine truth but nourishment like golden wheat for hearts that are open and receptive to the manna of God. There is no difference in the word of the Lord as it remains the same. It is in the reception that a man accepts or rejects the nature of God’s truth. For one, it becomes a burden hard to bear. They are unwilling to accept the word of God. Their hearts are filled with the carnality of human wisdom, allowing no room for the seed of the Lord to grow in their hearts. For many desperate souls, the word of God was a reproach that found themselves so offended by the message they were unable to bear it. The truth remains the word of God is written to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Following Jesus requires a burden, but it is light and easy to bear. There has never been a time God has required anything of man to hard and impossible to reach.

The reaction to the word of God has been the deciding factor for those lost and saved. When a young man came to Jesus seeking eternal life, he was unwilling to carry the burden of truth. Jesus told him to sell all he had, give to the poor and follow Him. He refused. The Jews of Jesus’ day would not acknowledge Him as the Son of God even in the face of the miracles and teachings of the Son of God. They killed Him on a cross. While many obeyed the gospel in the early days of the church, many more rejected and refused to believe Jesus was the Son of God because the word was a burden they could not bear. Obeying the gospel is a heavy burden. Jesus described it as a cross to bear. When a man is unwilling to pay the price for salvation, there can be no hope. If he views service to God as too high a price to pay, he will refuse and be lost. Like in the days of Malachi and the prophets, the word of the Lord is a burden.

Religious groups today treat the word of God disrespectfully when they refuse to follow its teachings. God’s word is written in a manner a man can read and understand the Father’s will. The word of God can become a burden too heavy to bear, and a man refuses to obey; or it can become a burden that releases the guilt of sin from a downtrodden heart with joy in eternal life. Malachi’s message was a stern message to preach and harder to accept. Those who changed their lives because of his message learned to value the burden of the Lord. The people who were offended by his message refusing to change their hearts learned the lesson of God’s wrath. God’s word: is it a burden you want or one you refuse?

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A Really Big House

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

A Really Big House

There have been billions upon billions of people that have lived on the earth since the beginning of time. Only God knows the number of souls that are born and died. When the world is destroyed, that number will be known to the Lord as all humanity stands before Him in judgment. Out of the untold numbers of people standing before God on the final day, only a small percentage will enjoy the pleasure of eternal glory and rest. Jesus startled the multitudes with the knowledge that few are saved. Most souls will be cast into the lake of fire. With the small amount of saved among the incredible number of people who have walked on the face of the earth, the number is staggering. Is there a place where all these unknown numbers of people will be in eternity? Can there be an abode large enough to house the righteous? On the night of His betrayal and arrest, Jesus comforts His disciples by assuring them God has a place fully capable of caring for the faithful.

The cross is only hours away as Jesus spends His final time on earth. He knows there will be many questions and uncertainty from the eleven as they realize the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel is to be preached to a world lost in darkness, and souls will be added to the register of the saved. A little over a month later, three thousand devout Jews become the first members of the church of Christ as they obey the will of the Father. Multitudes will be added in the years to come. Over the next centuries, many more will find the grace of God and put on Christ in baptism. Before time ends and the judgment of God comes, untold multitudes will accept the message of salvation found only in Christ Jesus. Regardless of the number of the saved, God has a house large enough to house them all.

Square footage is an essential part of a house. The size of the house is necessary to know if there is enough room to live. When Jesus described the preparations made to house the righteous in eternal glory, He speaks of His Father’s house filled with many abiding places. There will be no lacking for all the righteous from the beginning of time until the last and final day. Imagine the size of the house of God. When John describes the new city in the Revelation, it becomes a city 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide, and 1500 miles high. This is figurative language to describe the immensity of the dwelling place of God. There are no limitations. Everyone who names the name of the Lord will find the house of God fully capable of housing them. Again, these are terms to describe an eternal reality with earthy visuals.

The house of God is prepared to receive every soul that seeks the gift of God. There will be no overcrowding because everyone will find joy in the presence of the Lord. The way of salvation is what Jesus prepared at the cross. Before time began, the house of God was ready to receive the faithful. Regardless of how large that number might be, God has all the room necessary. Jesus opened the door to the house of God. Eternal life will be granted to those who have obeyed the voice of the One who is the door of the sheep. There is nothing to worry about. The house of God is big enough for everyone with room to spare. There is room for one more – you.

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Corruption Is The Penalty Of Sin

And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Therefore He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 13:32-35)

Corruption Is The Penalty Of Sin

Billions of dollars are spent every year developing, marketing, and purchasing products that attempt to prolong youth and extend life. It is a profitable business because the reality is that nothing man can do will inhibit aging and death. These are certainties in life that no cream, medical procedure, or scientific breakthrough will change. The Egyptians tried to find eternal life and failed. All the marketing ploys of modern advertising will not give years back or turn back the time clock. Attempting to look younger is a waste of money and time. Antiaging products fly in the face of reality. Try as they might, people grow older every day, and their bodies reflect the aging process.

Before the advent of modern medical forensics, it was understood that when a death occurred, the body would not show signs of corruption until the fourth day. Often the bodies would be taken by the family, and a wake would be held to honor the dead and to mourn their passing. Before the fourth day, the body would be entombed. Any time after this and visible signs of decomposition would become apparent. This was the case, especially in the time of Jesus, as the Jews held strict compliance with burial before the fourth day. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the people were astonished because the dead man would have had an obnoxious odor. The miracle’s power was that He raised him on the fourth day, and He came forth alive without the stench of death.

The body’s corruption can be explained to the atomic level of medical science, but God explained the decay process in the Bible. When the Lord placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, He commanded them to eat of every tree but the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The penalty for disobedience was death. Satan deceived Eve, and Adam also took of the fruit in disobedience to the word of God. They did not die immediately – at least physically. God had told them they would die, and He referred to the relationship between man and God. It was not until Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and access to the tree of life denied the full penalty of their disobedience became clear. No longer able to eat of the tree of life, Adam and Eve would die. Adam lived for 930 years, and he died. He was buried somewhere, and his body began to decay. In a short time, everything that was the physical body of Adam disappeared. Abel was the first recorded death in the Bible by the hand of his brother, Cain. Abel’s body began to decompose and suffer corruption. Every person who has lived on the face of the earth has suffered the corruption of the grave—all but Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross Friday afternoon. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus and placed it in a sealed and impenetrable tomb the same day. Early on the morning of the first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead. It was not a coincidence that He rose on the third day. David wrote in Psalm 16 the Holy One would not be allowed to suffer corruption. The body corrupts physically because of the penalty of sin. It is a gruesome, horrid, and sickening process to witness the body’s physical decay. On the fourth day, the evidence of this process becomes abundantly clear, and in a short time, the putridity of decay impacts all the senses.

Jesus’ body did not experience this corruption because Jesus did not experience sin. The penalty of sin is corruption, but He did not sin, and the Father would not allow His body to experience the physical body’s corruption. God promised to raise the Holy One from the dead, and the resurrection would not endure the corruption of the flesh. Jesus was raised from the dead, no more to return to corruption. David saw corruption when he died, as do all men. Jesus did not. The resurrection happened on the third day according to the will of God to show that while the curse of sin is upon all men because all men sin, Jesus rose from the dead without corruption and sin. This was the same message preached by Peter on Pentecost to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Holy One. Jesus was alive, but He was more than alive. He did not suffer corruption so that all who call on His name could experience the incorruptible glory of a new body in the final resurrection. Where there is no sin, there will be no corruption. Praise be to God for the promised body that fades not away, eternal in the heavens.

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Jesus And The Tower Of Babel

Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. (John 19:19-20)

Jesus And The Tower Of Babel

The early world that began with such promise ended in the global destruction of everything with the breath of life, including every man and animal. Only the remnant of grace found in the ark was spared the destruction. Sin had cast men from the garden. Cain killed his brother. The genealogy of humanity continued a course of wickedness until it repented the Creator that He had made man. Preserving the promise made in the garden, the Lord told Noah of the impending doom and what he must do to be saved. Noah did according to the word of the Lord, saving his household and a remnant of animals.

Soon after the flood, it became clear that while God’s wrath had destroyed everyone on earth but eight people, sin still ruled in the hearts of men. Noah became a farmer and grew a vineyard after which he made wine and got drunk. His son Ham shamed His Father and was cursed. Sin had not been taken away, and the heart of men grew worse. In time, the multitude of humanity gathered in the plain of Shinar and, fearful of what happened to their ancestors, decided to build a city and a tower to reach into the heavens. The purpose of their plan was to make a name for themselves lest they are scattered over the face of the earth. Seeing the unity of their sinful hearts, the Lord came down and confused their language. Until this time, all men spoke one language. So, the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.

The flood did not answer the problem of sin. Through the carnal wisdom of humanity, sin was intensified with pride leading the charge against God. The tower of Babel was representative of how man tries to deal with his failure. Instead of seeking the will of the Lord, the sinful heart turned to self and sought to find answers in the flesh, the exaltation of human wisdom, and the pride of human achievement. None of these would save man from the wrath of God. The flood indicated the immensity of God’s power of destruction, and only by grace were eight saved. Noah and his family were not saved because they were sinless. The grace of God favored them to carry on the promise of the Seed given in the garden. After the flood, the world continued to be held captive to sin.

God promised Adam and Eve that a Seed would come that would bruise the head of the serpent. Jesus Christ was the Seed promise carried through the centuries as the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and realized in the Lamb of God’s birth by Mary, wife of Joseph. Jesus’ life was forged on the anvil of self-sacrifice, love for the Father, and a will to carry the burden of sin upon His shoulders. The Jews rejected Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Son and had Him crucified by the Roman authorities. As the Son of God was nailed to the cross, Pilate made a fateful decision that would hearken back to Babel as a reminder of the power of sin. It was a common custom to affix a label to the cross, stating the crime for which the person suffered. Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek so that many people could read it.

Three languages were affixed to the cross of Jesus to tell the story of saving grace. He was the answer to sin. His blood would bring men to the Father. Prophetically poised above His head, the Son of God was the one who divided the world into languages. He knew at the tower of Babel that He would pay the price for sin. Men would struggle to answer sin, but Jesus knew His life would be cast as the mold of eternal life. At Golgotha, three languages reminded humanity of their failed attempt and exalted the Son of God as the only answer to sin. The world is filled with many languages, but the language of grace is only found in Christ. Men tried to reach heaven by building a tower. God opened heaven by raising His Son on a cross. There is no hope in a tower. All hope is in the cross.

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