The Humility Of Job

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

The Humility Of Job

If there is one man in scripture that is the definition of suffering, courage, faith, and patience, the man Job is at the top of the list. The Holy Spirit dedicated more than ten thousand words to tell his story. It began with a conversation between the Lord God and Satan. The story ends with a conversation between the Lord God and Job. In between the two bookends is a sad story of loss, grief unimaginable, suffering almost unbearable, and the counsel of friends that often was misguided, cruel, judgmental, and without mercy. Quietly sitting with the four older men was a younger man with deeper counsel and spiritual insight. As an epic drama, the book of Job is poetic yet formed as a debate on the character of God and the plight of man. No final analysis is derived from the discussions, but God is recognized as omnipotent, omniscient, full of justice, righteousness, and truth. One of the great mysteries of the book is while the calamity of events that came upon Job and his family were enormous, nothing is presented at the end of the story where God explains why those things that occurred to Job happened. And Job never asked. It did not matter. He trusted in God.

Job’s faith struggled. He did not quietly take the loss of his family and his health without bemoaning his birth, his place in life, and the unfair counsel of his friends. The faith of Job sought to argue with God – with respect – but argue nonetheless. He persistently appeals to God for help, answers, guidance, and mercy. When the friends ceased answering Job, Elihu spoke up in anger. His wrath was because Job justified himself rather than God, and Elihu was also angry with Job’s three friends, for they made God appear to be wrong by their inability to answer Job’s arguments. When Elihu finished, the Lord took up the baton against Job telling him to stand up and face the Creator’s wrath and a righteous God. The Lord’s rebuke was a blistering barrage of righteous indignation. It moved Job to say he was vile and worthless. The rebuke continued. Finally, at the end of the Divine declaration, Job realized his folly and sought the kind mercy of the Lord God, seeking His love filled with a heart of repentance.

It is hard to debate the voice of God proceeding from a whirlwind. Job did not try to excuse himself. He did not blame his three friends. His plight was not something he could seek mercy from God as a pitiful man of no degree. The voice of defiance was never heard. His heart was not filled with anger at God. There were many emotions Job could experience when it all came to an end, but the one thing Job possessed was a heart of humility. He did not understand why everything that happened to him came about. His friends were not evil men. They had tried to comfort their friend with whom they had sat for a week in silence. Human wisdom failed, but those three friends were there with Job, and that mattered to him. They brought some comfort because of their presence. Job appreciated the wisdom of youth as he listened to Elihu, a daysman sent by God. Foremost, the man from Uz heard the voice of God as he had never heard before. He knew he was in the presence of the Almighty. He approached God with a humble heart.

The catastrophes that happened to Job would destroy most men. He learned patience and humility. Job acknowledged that he was not in a place to accuse God. His heart was filled with remorse not to have greater faith and trust in the presence of his heavenly Father. Bad things happen to people, and God still rules. Long after Job died, the Son of God came and suffered more than Job could imagine. Where was God when His Son was being tortured? The same place He was when Job was suffering. The humility of Job came from a character of suffering to trust in God and His will – whether he understood the answers or not. Job said he spoke what he did not understand, and he repented. As Job looked back over the conversation with his friends, he was ashamed because he had not given glory to God. Humility begins by saying, “I know that You can do everything and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” That is a heart subject to the will of God in the face of bearing a cross for Jesus Christ.

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Hard Preaching

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” (Matthew 23:1-3)

Hard Preaching

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most famous sermons in history. It is a hallmark of the teaching of Jesus as a collection of teachings foundational to the ministry of Jesus. Great multitudes came to hear the man from Nazareth, and when His disciples came to Him, Jesus opened His mouth and delivered the preamble of the Christian constitution that would define the kingdom of God. There would be many times in the short span of His ministry, Jesus would gather disciples around Him and expound on the mysteries of the coming kingdom. His popularity brought criticism, envy, and a concerted effort by the Jewish leadership to discredit and destroy Him. The religious sect of the Pharisees and the scribes were the harshest critics of Jesus, often trying to trap Jesus in His teaching. When Jesus finished the sermon on the mountain, the people were astonished at the authority of Jesus, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. The popularity of Jesus was high at the beginning of His ministry, but that would change in just a few years.

In one of His last public discourses before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke to the multitudes and His disciples of the influence of the scribes and Pharisees. This sermon would be the antithesis of the sermon delivered on the mountain, at least in character. While the sermon mountain was challenging and thoughtful, the message in the temple courts would be a harsh, stinging rebuke of Jewish hypocrisy. Jesus knew His hour had come to glorify the Father. He knew He would be killed from the envy of the Jewish leaders who wanted Him dead. The scribes and Pharisees would be glad to be rid of the man from Nazareth, but Jesus had one last message to the people about the Jewish leadership. The sermon of Jesus is one of the harshest, brutal, severest criticism of their hypocrisy. It is a message that resonates with the wrath of God.

Jesus warns the people to reject the example of the Pharisees and scribes. He recognized the harsh treatment the leadership burdened the people with and revealed their motives as self-serving. Pride exalted the hearts of the scribes to seek the honors of men and glory of power. They were not interested in the welfare of the people but in their own pockets filled with money. Jesus would call them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, serpents, brood of vipers, and murderers. His language was plain and unyielding. He charged them with loving the best places and greetings of human glory and to be called by titles. The Pharisees and scribes bound heavy burdens on the people to fill their coffers. They traveled land and sea to make a proselyte and made him twice as much a child of hell as themselves. He calls the leaders whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. They seemed to be righteous to men but inwardly were hypocrites and lawless—hard preaching.

There is a false image of Jesus Christ that He was never critical or harsh toward others. This is contrary to the doctrine of God, who is full of goodness but also filled with wrath against those who refused to obey Him. Jesus preached powerful lessons and sermons on love, grace, mercy, and truth. The Son of God also addressed the sins of the world and especially those found among His own people. There is a time for hard preaching when the subject matter is hardened hearts. The scriptures will bring joy and hope to the pure in heart, and the same word will bring judgment and condemnation to those who will not submit to Christ. Harsh preaching is not done in spite but in the holiness of the character of God who demands righteousness without hypocrisy. There will be a judgment, and all men will find the goodness and severity of God. To those who abide in the word of God, there will be a blessing. For those who reject the Lord, severity. That is the message of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Give Attention To The Whole Body

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27)

Give Attention To The Whole Body

Serving the Lord takes the whole body. The wisdom literature weaves a beautiful picture of the man of God consumed by the word of God. He shows the importance of keeping wisdom at the forefront of life to guide the heart, protect the eyes, fill the ears, correct the tongue and examine the path of the feet. All of the body working together to harmonize the soul to the will of the Father is where the perfection of character is found. It begins by paying attention to what the Lord says. God has spoken to man from the beginning of time, and the problems arise when men stop listening to His word. Satan began his attack on Eve by challenging what God said. Listening carefully to the words of the Lord will bring health and joy to the soul. The ear must tune to the right things. Wisdom must always be before the eyes. The heart keeps the word of God in the midst of the soul penetrating deep with the grace of the Lord. This is where true life comes from. It glorifies the Father as the whole body bends to the will of the Lord. Health is found in the nourishment of the Divine.

The character of a man comes from what is found in the heart. Jesus would later tell His disciples that everything that comes out of the mouth is first found in the heart. Good water comes from good springs, and good words come from good hearts. Evil comes from an evil heart. Adultery, murder, envy, and hatred do not grow from soil fertile in the love of God. The heart is the soul’s barometer, and if it is not guarded carefully, life will end in heartache. Wisdom is found in keeping the heart with all diligence. It requires daily care to manage the heart and the courage to daily measure the heart with the word of God. The issues of life come from the heart and goodness, or evil will come from a good or evil heart. Giving attention to the heart determines the course of life.

Keep the heart with all diligence by training the mouth, perfecting the eyes, and watching the feet. The mouth must refrain from perverse talking and corrupt speech. Deceitful tongues are filled with poison that gossip, murmur, and defraud. Anger can bring sin. Lying is a grievous abomination before the Lord. A heart guided by the word of God will learn to control the tongue and become a measure of blessing to hearers. The focus of life is found when the eyes are looking straight ahead, fixed on the Father’s will. God created the body with the perfection of form for the eyes to look ahead so the feet would not stumble. Pondering the path is done when life is marked out by the word of God, seeking how the Lord wants a man to live. Staying on the safe path of righteousness brings happiness. There can be no deviation to the right or the left. God’s word is sure, trustworthy, steadfast, and will bring a man to the throne of God. Changing direction or seeking another path will not bring a man to the throne of God.

It takes the whole body to work together to bring harmony. In the spiritual world, the ears must listen to the word of God, the eyes looking to Jesus, the heart attuned to the Father, the mouth guarded with grace, lips seasoned with salt, eyes looking straight ahead, and the feet on the narrow way of truth and righteousness without variance. When the whole body, working together under the guidance of the Father’s will, conforms to the desires of God, joy, and happiness are found in this life and the life to come. Good health is essential, but good spiritual health is eternal.

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I Am God

Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)

I Am God

There is no God like the Holy God of the Bible. Many gods appeal to human wisdom like Zeus, Ganesh, Kali, Buddha, Indra, and Odin. In the days of Israel, as they struggled against the tide of idolatry, Ashtoreth, Baal, Chemosh, and Dagon were the gods of choice. The Lord warned His people when they came into the land of Canaan to destroy the people of the land lest they pollute them with their idolatry. History was fulfilled in the people’s disobedience to follow after the gods of the nations around them to destroy the nation. Assyria brought their gods of Ashur, Ishtar, and Shamash and defeated the northern tribes. The Assyrians did not understand that the God they fought against allowed them to conquer His people to serve His purpose. Nebuchadnezzar came with the Babylonian gods of Marduk and Nergal and defeated the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The king burned the Temple of God and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. He believed it was his power that brought Israel to its knees, knowing nothing about the plan of God to use him to punish His people. Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, permitted the Assyrians and the Babylonians to inflict great harm to His people to serve His design and purpose.

Isaiah prophesied during the turbulent days of the Assyrian onslaught against the northern tribes. The social evils abounded under the rule of Ahaz, king of Judah, with some respite with Hezekiah becoming king. Isaiah announced the destruction of Jerusalem that would be accomplished in 586 B.C. Like the other prophets, Isaiah preached a message of repentance to a godless and unrepentant nation. The appeal of Jehovah was for the people to turn away from the gods of men and seek His grace and mercy. Throughout the book of Isaiah, the prophet declares the character of God as being like none other. The idols worshiped by the people could not save them. They were blind and dumb and powerless. Idol worship was folly because no idol could speak or hear and save the one who worshiped it. The Lord God was a God who created the light and darkness, made peace and brought calamity, created the heavens, and could tell the future. No other god could do what the true God could do. There was none like Him.

The appeal of Jehovah God has always been for men to seek Him and be saved. There is no other way a man can save himself. The gods of men have never saved. Seeking after the wisdom of men, the economies of humanity, and the pleasures of the flesh will not bring happiness. Only by the power of the One who formed man from the dust of the ground will a man find the reason for his existence and purpose in life. The Lord begs men to see Him to be saved because He alone is God, and there is none beside Him. All the gods of men have failed. They are mere totems of the whims of human wisdom made of sand. The Lord brings nations into power and removes them by the measure of His hand. Despots rise and fall at the word of the Lord. Woe to him who argues with his Creator. Isaiah says it’s like a clay pot arguing with its maker. There is no God like the God of the Bible that made the heavens and earth, worked His will among the affairs of men, and sent His only begotten Son to die for all men. Who can compare? There is none like Him.

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Just One Thing

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.'” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

Just One Thing

When all men stand before the Lord, there will be things that are found hindering salvation. For some men, the list is legion. Others may have only a few things that prohibit grace from being extended for eternal glory. Imagine the dismay of the young man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life and, because of one thing, turned away from the only hope he would find in this life. It is clear the young man’s motivation was to find what all men long for, and that is eternal life. His question was right, and he was asking the right person. For all reasons, it can be accepted the young man was a devout Jew who kept the law. He had not been guilty of adultery, murder, stealing, bearing false witness, and defrauding any man. His parents were blessed with such a noble and righteous son. In every part of his life, he had perfected the role of the Hebrew to be a model of integrity and a holy character.

The disciples will give a glimpse into how men like the rich young man were viewed. They were surprised he could not be saved as Jesus exhorted. They were astonished at the teaching of Jesus. Incredulously they asked if this young Hebrew could not be saved, then who could find true salvation. The problem lay deeper than what was seen in the external evidence. Jesus had looked into the heart of the young man and found a troubling spirit that was filled with covetousness. In every part of the law, the young man had been diligent as any devout Jew could be, but there was one thing and one thing alone that hindered him genuinely serving the Lord in purity and holiness. He loved his wealth more than God. His wealth came through the blessings of the Father, but the young man had fallen in love with his possession more than loving God. On the outside, he looked like the epitome of what a child of God would look be.

Lacking one thing would have been a sign of how well the young man had given his life to serving God, but the one thing he lacked became the albatross of his eternal demise. Because of one thing, he turned away sorrowful, refusing to obey Jesus. One thing. He had only to remove one thing in his life, and it would have been complete and whole before God. Eternal life hinged upon one thing, and he could not let go of the one thing. For many, having one thing to accomplish to gain eternal life would have been a dream. He only had one thing to do. It was a powerful force in his life. His riches were the one thing that kept him from eternal life. Riches were not sinful, but the desire to be rich is what condemned him. Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor. He could not sell half or part – it required all before he could follow Jesus. This one thing he could not do. It was only one thing. One.

The greatest tragedy came when the young man died and faced Jesus again. When that time came, Jesus did not tell him he lacked one thing. It was too late for any change. The decision to keep the one thing had now brought him before Jesus the second time. He wanted to know what he must do to gain eternal life, but in death, no questions were seeking the truth. The young man knew all the truth that had to be known. Because of one thing, he knew he was lost. All the riches he held so tightly slipped from his fingers as death overcame him. Nothing he treasured in this life came with him into eternity. The one thing he gave his life to retain was ripped from his dead fingers. Now, what of the one thing? Sadness filled his heart as he realized too late that one thing had kept him from eternal life—one thing. Despair turned to terror. He had lived an exemplary life as a devout Jew hanging on to his riches. The one thing he loved more than God condemned him.

You may have one thing that keeps you from serving the Lord. It may be a refusal to obey His word because of your parents, grandparents, friends, or family. Like the rich young ruler, your heart may be so immersed in the world you cannot let go, and the one thing you enjoy now will be taken away in death. Consider this somber reminder of the rich young ruler. He kept the one thing in his life, and in his death, he regretted holding on to the one thing. It condemned him to eternal fire and torment. How sad to see him crying out in torment – for one thing. What is your one thing?

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The Eyes Of The Lord

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)

The Eyes Of The Lord

It takes a beam of sunlight 490 seconds at the Sun’s closest distance to reach earth and seventeen seconds longer at its farthest distance. The earth is dwarfed by the size of the Sun, but at its greatest peak, the Sun can only shine upon half the earth. While one part is full of sunshine, the opposite side is cloaked in darkness. Much of the land bathed in sunlight is hidden in the darkness of mountains, deep valleys, and caves. The brilliance of the Sun only penetrates less than 50% of the earth’s surface. There are limitations to the ability of man to see around the world. The sphere of the earth’s surface only allows man to see about two to three miles with the human eye. Eagles and other birds of prey can see four to five times farther than the average human can. Technology can help men see further, but limitations remain because of the nature of the earth’s globe.

It is impossible to fully appreciate or understand the knowledge that God can see in every place. Part of the problem rests in the inability of the human mind to grasp the concept of a Being that can see a child in China eating rice and at the same time watch a woman in Glasgow, Montana deliver mail. Two opposite geographic points are six thousand miles apart, and God sees everything simultaneously with no deviation or blurring. He is God. His omniscience is testimony to His character and power. In the thousands of years of human existence, there has never been a time when man could match the all-seeing eye of the Creator. The Lord saw Cain kill his brother Abel. Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife, and God heard him. David tried to cover up the murder of Uriah following his adultery with Bathsheba, but the Lord knew everything. Jesus told Nathanael He saw him sitting under the fig tree. The Lord God is in every place at all times.

There is bad news for those who seek to hide their actions from the Lord. The eyes of the Lord are watching everywhere and seeing what the wicked do and what they say. No man will escape the judgment of God because He knows everything an evil man has done, what he has said, how he has cheated others, and what he has tried to hide. Everything done in darkness is done in the light of God’s eyes. Judgment is complete for all men because it sees everything all men do. If a person is condemned to perdition, it is because of the full knowledge of God seeing what they have done (or not done). The righteousness of God is determined by His ability to see everything and in every place. Whatever sin goes unpunished in this life will not be forgotten by the eyes of the Lord in eternity.

The good news for the righteous is the eyes of the Lord are in every place, seeing the glory His people give Him. There is a sense of trepidation to know God sees everything, but it is an invitation of inquiry, investigation, and examination for the man of holy character. There is nothing to be hidden. The pang of failure will always be present in sinful man, but through the grace of God, He sees the good in the heart and a willingness to be faithful. No child of God (without exception) is forgotten by the Father. Whatever trials a Christian may endure in Vietnam is known to the same God that sees the troubles of His faithful people in Nicaragua. The ever-present eyes of the Lord are a blessing to know He sees, He cares, He desires, and He longs to help His children. It can seem like a cold and dark world where no one cares. This will not be the case for the people of God who look up into the heavens and declare the omniscience of a loving God who knows everything about them. What a glorious thought. How inspiring to believe in God’s love.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good, and that is good, and that is bad. There is glory for those who open their hearts to the eyes of the Lord. Suffering and horror will come to those who try to hide from a God that cannot be hidden and will not be hidden from. No mountain top or valley deep will hide man from the eyes of the Lord. The deepest oceans are drops of water compared to the vision of what God sees. Darkness is as bright as the Sun to the eyes of God. He sees everything. What does He see in your life? One day it will matter when eternity begins what the eyes of the Creator have seen. Let Him see your heart in obedience to His word and your life in faithful service to His Son, Jesus Christ. Open your eyes and see God.

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The Doctrine Of Hell

Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

The Doctrine Of Hell

Eternal damnation is not a popular subject. Statisticians try to quantitate the beliefs of humanity about Hell, but the reality since the beginning of time is that accepting a consequence to sin has never been popular. The early world of Noah proves that all but eight people accepted the teaching of divine judgment. Critics point out that the Old Testament seldom refers to Hell, yet men like Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel were moved to live righteous lives. If there were no consequences to sinful lives, why live holy lives? The Hebrew writer pointed out that faith believes God is, and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. What if a man does not seek God – is there a punishment? Hell is a Bible doctrine from beginning to end.

What is remarkable about the doctrine of Hell is the preacher of righteousness that said more about Hell than any other character in the Bible is Jesus Christ. Noah would have been a good choice considering the world he lived in. The prophet Amos is a frontrunner for fire and brimstone, and John the Baptist was man with a clear purpose in address the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. Paul wrote most of what is preserved in the New Testament, but his writings do not carry as much information about Hell as the words of Jesus. The doctrine of Hell is real because Jesus is real. If 48% of the population believes in Hell, that means only 48% of the people believe in Jesus. Whatever the number is, to deny the doctrine of Hell is to deny the word of Jesus Christ. Most polls show many people believing in Heaven, yet on the same study, most deny Hell. The contradiction is enormous.

Whether a person believes and accepts the doctrine of Hell is immaterial to its reality. It is imperative to embrace the idea of eternal torment because, according to Jesus, most people will be cast into outer darkness where there is the weeping and gnashing of teeth. That is a hard lesson to consider and not readily accepted. Why are most people going to Hell? Most people deny the word of God. Rejecting the Bible as the word of God will judge a man to perdition. Refusing to believe Jesus is the Son of God condemns a person to eternal damnation. Not doing the will of the Father will send most honest people to the lake of fire. Hell will be filled with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, drunkards, extortioners, liars, murderers, and all those who deny the authority of Jesus Christ as King and Lord. Jesus told the eleven to preach the gospel to every creature under heaven, and those who refused to be baptized would be judged with eternal damnation or condemned.

If Hell is not real, why did Jesus die such a miserable death? What did He come to save man from if there is not a judgment of condemnation waiting for the unbelieving, unrepentant, and unloving? The doctrine of Hell is as real as the hope of Heaven. There is a type of fear that convicts men of sin, and Hell would be one of those fears. Salvation is not gained through fear of Hell. The hope of Heaven is found in the grace of God to remove His wrath from the predicament of man. Jesus preached a lot on Hell to show how much His Father loves humanity. The cost of eternal life comes through the price of obedience. Hell is real. Jesus said so more than any other man. Believe in His words and obey His word. Heaven waits.

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Convicted By The Word

Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.” (Ezra 10:1-4)

Convicted By The Word

The captivity of God’s people had come to an end. After seventy years of bondage, the word of God came to Cyrus, king of Persian, to return the Hebrews to Jerusalem. The returning exiles under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua began the rebuilding of the House of God. Faced with resistance, it would take nearly two decades for the temple to be completed. The scribe and priest Ezra came to Jerusalem to instill in the people a religious reformation to restore the holiness of God’s character over the land. He faced a formidable task. The leaders came to Ezra and confessed the people of God had mixed with the peoples of the lands in marriage. They had taken some of the daughters as wives for themselves and their sons. Worse yet, the leaders and officials led the way in this trespass.

Ezra was distraught beyond measure. He tore his garment and his robe, plucked out some of the hair of his head and beard, and sat down astonished. The people came before Ezra and waited for him to speak. They trembled with fear. Ezra remained unmoved until the evening sacrifice. Afterward, the man of God lifted his voice to God in prayer, seeking the grace and mercies of the Lord to save the people. Throughout the crowd, hearts were heavy, for the people wept bitterly. They knew what they had done was an abomination to God. Marrying pagan wives was forbidden under the law. Ezra prayed fervently for the people. The word of God was clear, and the word convicted the people of the Lord. Their weeping and broken hearts were not enough. They knew they had to do more.

Shechaniah spoke up and confessed on behalf of the people how they had transgressed the word of the Lord. They had taken pagan wives in contradiction to the Law. Their marriages were special to them, but the people’s hearts were more convicted by the word of the Lord. They made a covenant that day to do something incredible. Shecahaniah declared they would put away their wives for the glory of God and His word. There was no financial gain to put away their wives. It would not be for political reasons to divorce their wives. The notion of ending an unlawful marriage had no merit in the eyes of the pagan world and seemed foolish. What changed in the hearts of the people was the willingness to obey the word of the Lord. Nothing else mattered. When the final list was given, it was noted that some of them had wives by whom they had children. It did not matter. Obeying the word of God did matter.

The word of God will only convict the honest heart. Is it possible to be so convicted by the word of the Lord to become a eunuch for the kingdom of God’s sake? There is a false notion that people have that God wants them to be happy. The Lord never promised happiness, but He does demand holiness. Jesus acknowledged that many would not heed the word of the Lord and, like the rich young ruler who came seeking eternal life, will go away desiring the pleasures of this world than the eternal glory. What is enjoyed here is but for a short time and what is experienced in eternity is without end. Shechaniah, speaking for the people, made a bold and courageous statement to allow the word of God to rule, not the pleasures of life. The people gave their promise that they would put away their wives. Showing their repentance and being guilty, they presented a ram of the flock as their trespass offering. Repentance produced sacrifice, first in giving up their pagan wives; secondly, in worship to the Lord. A ram died that day for their sins because they were willing to obey God. Jesus died so that we can obey His word – whatever the cost. What are you willing to give up? How will the word convict you?

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The Value of Addition

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)

The Value Of Addition

There is value in numbers as an indicator of progress and success. A number can represent a positive indicator or a negative. It is not an emphasis in the early church, but God does take note of numbers. The Holy Spirit says three thousand devout Jews obeyed the gospel on the Day of Pentecost. Later, the number of men who heard the word and believed came to be about five thousand. The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. When the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified, they were multiplied. Luke also records the word of God grew and multiplied.

The value of a number indicates a sense of belonging. Three thousand people obeyed the gospel, and Luke says there were many more when the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Addition was important to God because He was adding souls to the kingdom of Christ. Soon after Pentecost, believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. To add someone to the Lord or the church denotes an increase in size. The kingdom of God is about addition because it is about saving souls. It is not significant to recounting of a number but the fact that addition has taken place. Only God knows the number of saved on the earth at one time or those resting in the bosom of Abraham. He knows the uncountable number of stars and the hairs on the head of every person, and He loves to add to His church souls redeemed by the blood of Christ.

Addition suggests some are not added. To be added to something means there is a place before the addition. When Luke said the Lord added to the church, he indicated those added were at one time out of harmony with the love of God. Addition changes the station of a man’s life from the darkness of sin to the light of Jesus Christ. A conversion has taken place. Adding a soul to the church subtracts a life from the clutches of the evil one. The joy of spiritual addition is one less servant of the devil, making mathematics with eternal consequences. If the Lord did not add a person to the church, they would be lost. Adding a soul to the kingdom of Christ expresses the grace and mercy of God.

Mathematics is the purest of sciences. One plus one equals two in any language at any time with any people. It will never change. The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Being added to the church came about through the obedience of those who heard the word of God, were convicted in their hearts they killed the Son of God and followed the pattern of addition outlined by Peter and the apostles. Those pricked in their hearts asked Peter and the others what to do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. It is at this time the essential character of addition comes into the eternal view. Three thousand souls repented of their sins and were baptized for the remission of sins, and the Lord added them – included them in the number – counted them a part of – the church. Addition is the mercy and grace of God, allowing a man to escape the wrath of God. Many more people heard the preaching of the apostles, but they refused to believe Jesus was the Christ and were not baptized. Did the Lord add them to the church? No. They were not added. If they refused to obey the gospel and the Lord never added them to the church, they were lost to perdition. It matters whether a person is added or not. Have you been added?

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Spirit Fruit: Gentleness

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

Spirit Fruit: Gentleness

There are two words attached to the meaning of gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit. A spirit of meekness and humility express an attitude of mildness and indulgence toward others with patient longsuffering. The character of gentleness is the opposite of anger, wrath, or an uncontrolled spirit. Some men are born with a kinder disposition than others, but this kind of gentleness is learned from the school of the Holy Spirit. As a fruit, gentleness comes from knowing the will of the Lord to be like Jesus Christ. The Lord invited men to come to Him because He was gentle in heart desiring His disciples to have that same disposition. Throughout the life of Jesus, He exemplified a humble and meek spirit in His Father’s strength in dealing with the harsh criticism of the Jewish leaders. Facing death, the Son of God impressed on the hearts of men His firm resolve not to render anger or to revile against those killing Him; He prayed for the Father to forgive them. This came from fruit born of the Holy Spirit.

Gentleness is a much-needed trait in a world filled with hatred, prejudice, and anger. Sin does not bring peace. It always brings animosity and bitterness. Without gentleness, a spirit of revenge and pride rules the heart. The self-centered, self-aggrandizing heart seeking its own glory will never know the power of meekness and humility. Satan paints meekness as a weakness, but it is far from the character of being weak. It takes great strength to learn to have a gentle spirit. Silence is a greater instrument of strength than the loud-mouthed, unruly tongue filled with the poison of uncontrolled anger. Through the Holy Spirit, the heart learns patience and to speak in a voice of wisdom. These traits show the Christian apart from the world as God’s elect with an example of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, and longsuffering.

The character of gentleness is found in the leaders of the church. Paul would instruct Timothy to appoint men to shepherd the flock of God who are gentle and meek. Those who would preach the word of God must possess the spirit of gentleness without being quarrelsome. This kind of wisdom does not come from the works of the flesh. Only from that which is above (Holy Spirit) will a man find the wisdom of God that is pure, peaceable, willing to yield, and full of mercy and good fruits. The gentle and quiet spirit is the most desired trait of a person of God. There will always be conflict in the life of a Christian. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, humility will focus the heart on being gentle with all men so that Christ can be magnified and the Father glorified. The church must be filled with souls that seek the fruit of the Spirit and, in particular, to learn gentleness.

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Two Thousand Year Old Disciples

Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. (Matthew 16:28)

Two-Thousand-Year-Old Disciples

According to the Guinness World Records, the greatest fully authenticated age to which any human has ever lived is 122 years 164 days by Jeanne Louise Calment (France). Born on 21 February 1875 to Nicolas (1837 – 1931) and Marguerite (neé Gilles 1838 – 1924), Jeanne died at a nursing home in Arles, southern France on 4 August 1997. Many centenarians have lived upwards of 119 years of age. In 2012, it was estimated there were 316,600 living centenarians worldwide. The lifespan of a person living 100 years is realized more fully, considering all the changes over a century witnessed by one life.

Methuselah is the oldest recorded person to live, reaching the age of 969 years. Adam lived to be 930 years which could be a few more years considering he was created as an adult (age unknown). Abraham had a son at the age of 100 and lived for seventy-five more years. His son would live to be 180 years. It was unusual for scripture to give the age of women, but Sarah is recorded to have lived 127 years. Moses was 120 years old when he died, and his eyes were not dim, nor his natural vigor diminished. These are impressive numbers to consider a human being living far beyond the one-hundred-year mark but none so remarkable as the age of those that many say is still living today – after two thousand years.

Jesus asked His disciples who men said that He was. There were many conflicting reports about Jesus, but Peter answered correctly when he recognized Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus would show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the Jewish leaders, be killed, and rise from the dead on the third day. This was the message of the kingdom of Christ. The Lord preached the kingdom was at hand. Everything about the kingdom of God was based on Jesus being the promised Messiah, the Christ, the Chosen One, and the Anointed. Through the vision given to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, God revealed through Daniel a kingdom would be established during the days of the Roman Empire that would destroy all kingdoms. The prophecy was a clear testimony to the coming of a kingdom in the fulness of times realized in the time of Christ.

When Peter heard Jesus talking about suffering and dying at the hands of the elders and chief priests, the impetuous apostle took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter for his unbelief and, turning to the disciples, declared that following Jesus would be cross bearing and suffering. Jesus would feel the pains of crucifixion in a literal sense, but those who were to be the disciples of Christ would bear a spiritual cross. The kingdom of Christ would be made up of those who denied themselves and followed Jesus carrying a cross. Jesus puts a time-marker on the coming of the kingdom when He tells the disciples that among them (the disciples), there would be those who would live to see the coming of the kingdom. In other words, the kingdom of God would come in the lifetime of some of those standing there with Jesus that day.

Throughout the religious world, the doctrine of the kingdom of Christ is taught of a future time. Many accept the idea that He could not set up His kingdom when He came the first time, and now humanity awaits the rapture, revelation, and recreation of the plan of God to establish a kingdom on earth. According to the words of Jesus, if the kingdom was not established in the first century, there must be people who are at least two thousand years old living today. Jesus said men were standing before Him on that day that would live to see the coming of the kingdom. If the kingdom did not come, then either Jesus is a liar, or some incredibly old men walk around Jerusalem today. Neither is acceptable. Jesus did not lie, the kingdom did come, and no one is two-thousand years old. The kingdom has existed for two millennia, and Christ has reigned at the right hand of God as King of King and Lord of Lords.

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It Was His Just Due

Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal. (1 Samuel 15:32-33)

It Was His Just Due

The king of the Amalekites was a ruthless killer. His expeditions against Israel and unsuspecting travelers in the region were fierce, cruel, and without mercy. None were spared the barbarous murder of the Amalekites. Women with child were ripped open. Children were slaughtered. Men tortured to the pleasure of the horde. Virgins raped and killed. The atrocities of the Amalekites were well known and feared. God had sent Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. He told the king to completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys. Nothing was to be spared. Amalek had ambushed Israel after they left Egypt and continued to spread a reign of terror with their murderous exploits.

Saul took 210,000 soldiers and defeated the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. His conquest of the people of Amalek was nearly complete, with thousands killed. The instructions of the Lord were quite clear. There was no doubt what Saul was to do. His job was to annihilate the Amalekites where none would remain. He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, and instead of killing him, spared the king his life. Refusing to follow the command of God, Saul and his men kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs. They could not see the purpose of destroying everything, so they kept what appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. Together with King Agag and the bounty of war, Saul went to Carmel, set up a monument for himself, and then traveled to Gilgal near Jericho.

The Lord came to Samuel, the prophet, telling him what Saul had done. Grieved at the continued disobedience of the king, Samuel met Saul in Gilgal. He told the king that God had rejected him from being the Anointed one of Israel, and the kingdom would be taken away from him. Before leaving, Samuel demanded Agag be brought before him. Saul had repented for his actions, but a very serious matter remained. King Agag was supposed to die, and Saul did not carry out the will of the Lord. Samuel carried out the will of the Lord. It seems Agag sought pity from Samuel, but no sympathy would be given. The king of the Amalekites would die in the manner he had slaughtered so many thousands, but his execution would be at the hand of a righteous God. Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

There will always be justice against those who live apart from the will of the Lord. Two kings received their due that day. Saul had his kingdom taken away because he had a rebellious heart. Agag lost his kingdom and his life from his reckless abandon of righteousness, reigning terror on others. God’s hand is against those who do evil. Judgment may not always be found in this life, but a fate worse than being hacked to death lay in store for Agag in hell. His death may have been swift, but his eternal death will never end. The justice of God is found against those who are filled with wickedness. Agag received his just due, meaning that righteousness was carried out against him.

All men stand before God accused and guilty and should receive that which is due to them. Only through the blood of Christ is the wrath of God abated. Without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, all men would stand spiritually before the Father as Agag. Thank God for the grace and love of God that offers redemption, joy, and forgiveness to those who deserve the wrath of God (their due)  – but grace abounds. It was right what Samuel did because it was the will of God.

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There Really Is Something Called Sin

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up and have not rather mourned that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)

There Really Is Something Called Sin

When the apostle Paul sat down to write a letter to the church at Corinth, he had a lot on his mind. The church suffered from numerous problems rising out of a divisive spirit, jealousy, rebellion, confusion, and immorality. At the forefront of the issues, a church member was living with his stepmother in an immoral relationship. It was such a horrific situation; even the pagans were appalled by such a thing. What made matters worse, the leadership of the Corinthian church and the body of believers failed to respond to the blatant immorality with any concern. To say the least, Paul was beside himself with concern the church had taken no action to save the people involved, and allowing sin to dwell within the borders of God’s church was reprehensible.

It would seem likely the report about the man with his father’s wife came from the house of Chloe, who had contacted Paul about the problems at Corinth. As Paul considered the question, he realized that at some point, the man had boldly entered a relationship with his father’s wife, and no reaction was found from the Corinthian brethren. There may have been personal disgust and gossiping filling the airwaves, but the man was allowed to be among the brethren in fellowship. What struck a nerve with the apostle Paul was how easily blatant sexual immorality was accepted within the body of Christ. At the root of the problem was an unwillingness to confront the man and the woman and call their relationship what God called it – sin!

Ignoring sin is not uncommon. The fabric of humanity call good, evil, and evil, good; light, darkness, darkness, light; sexual immorality, lifestyle, and a host of other names that suggest acceptance and approval. Paul did not hesitate to call the relationship of the man with his father’s wife sexual immorality because it was an abomination in the eyes of God. Sin must be recognized for what it is. Mitigating immorality does not change the character or nature of what God abhors. Ignoring sin does make it go away. Defining sin as anything but immorality will not change the mind of God. Lying is not advantageous as an acceptable means to conduct business – it is a sin. Lusting in the heart from pornographic images is immoral in the eyes of the Lord God. Failing to assemble with the saints to remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is sin. Cheating on taxes is a sin. Drunkenness is sin. It does not matter how man defines sin – God’s view of sin remains unchanged. Paul was bold and courageous to call out the couple that had been accepted within the fellowship of Corinth. There were consequences of sin the apostle likened to the effect of leaven. Failing to identify sin as immorality allowed the disciples’ hearts to turn a blind eye to any sin. It is not an easy task to preach about sin, but any other message is not the word of God. Sin must be identified for what it is and what it has done to the world. The measure of sin can only be understood in what it cost to defeat sin: the blood of the Son of God who died without sin. When men fail to call sin what it is, they deny the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His atoning blood. God so loved the world; He allowed sinful men to kill His Son. That was the price of sin. Thank God for His redeeming grace that identifies sin and, then by His mercy, is willing to wash sin away in baptism.

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The Wisdom Of The World

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:18-23)

The Wisdom Of The World

There are many things humanity has accomplished in the past thousands of years. From the pyramids of Egypt to the great wall in China and present-day technologies placing men on the moon and machines on Mars, human wisdom has vaunted itself as a power of dominion over the world. God instilled in the mind of His creation an incredible tool of knowledge to take possession of the world given to him to subdue. Sadly, the wisdom offered by the Divine to man has been his downfall. The world of Noah rejected the word of God for the wisdom of the flesh and perished. Building the tower of Babel was an example of how impressive the wisdom of united men had become but through a single act of dividing tongues, the Creator subdued man. There is a habitation that limits the knowledge of man, and God is the one who draws the line.

Knowledge has always caused problems when men fail to seek the wisdom of God. In creation, the Lord created knowledge, giving men the ability to accomplish great things. His failing has always been that rather than using the knowledge to glorify his Maker, he has used his knowledge to promote himself. Measuring wisdom by the standards of the world exalts the spirit of pride. Proper understanding is when the heart of man sees humanity’s foolishness compared to God’s word. What can man accomplish that is greater than God? Building the tower of Babel would be a great feat, but how does that compare to the multitude of stars that fill the night sky? A man can marvel at the small shiny reflection of the International Space Station as it passes overhead in the canopy of the night sky and remark at how smart man has become to place men in space. But what of the untold number of stars that surround it – how can the wisdom of man match the starry hosts?

Paul warns the Corinthians the wisdom of men is foolishness, divisive, and the root of trouble. Pride comes before the fall when men think they stand taller than angels. The greatest feat accomplished by humanity is microbiologically insignificant to everything God has done. His creation resounds with His wisdom. Science bursts forth with the evidence of the power of God. Nature is a symphony of divine design. The word of God is unparalleled in the writings of men. Nothing compares to the message of the Bible that has remained unchanged and unmoved. The word of God traps the wisdom of men in a snare of their own cleverness. God knows the mind of man, and they are worthless. Why would a man boast about anything? Do not the angels amuse themselves with the pride of men?

The Corinthians were trying to elevate the wisdom of men above God. Paul admitted he was only a man, as was Apollos. These men were servants of the Lord. They had no desire to be exalted by human standards. Their humility was found in the willingness to teach the word of God to glorify the Father. They did not seek elevation in the company of human wisdom. Their preaching was Christ crucified and nothing else. Preaching the wisdom of the world would deny the character of the Son of God. True wisdom comes when one accepts the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The only knowledge that saves is found in Jesus Christ. It is easy for men to seek a higher plane with self-glory, but the true disciple of Christ will seek the well-being of others, desiring the betterment of their fellow man above themselves and putting Jesus Christ first in all things. Glory in no one but Christ and, in so doing, glorify God.

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Spirit Fruit: Faithfulness

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

Spirit Fruit: Faithfulness

Faith is the foundational character of a man’s relationship with God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Through faith, a man can see the hope of eternal life and the promises made by the Lord. Men like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses exemplify the power of faith to believe the impossible and accept the unknown. Paul writes that faith comes from hearing the word of God, showing all men the revealed pattern of divine love and grace. It is from this kind of faith that faithfulness comes. The first faith brings one to God, and faithfulness is the character that solidifies the spirit to fidelity.

As one of the fruits of the Spirit, faithfulness is more than believing in God. The Holy Spirit expresses the character of faithfulness in the child of God as one of action. Faith and faithfulness are like love when a man loves God and shows that love through his manner of life. There is more to love than saying it. To find the true value of love, it must be exercised. Faith follows the same path. Saying one has faith in God has little meaning with the expression of faith through faithfulness. Faith will lead a man to God, but faithfulness is the manner of life that springs forth from the word of God to be evidenced in the life of the man.

A faithful man is one of integrity and honesty. He is known as a man of his word because of his faithfulness. As a member of a community, people will see his character as one of truth. In the workplace, the faithful man exhibits honesty, productivity, reliability, and a willingness to help others. There is no place faithfulness is more important than in the home. A man and woman are faithful in their relationship with one another as husband and wife. Their children see faithfulness in their character as parents. The home is established with the fruits of the Spirit, including showing faithfulness.

As a fruit, faithfulness comes from the Holy Spirit. Speaking truth from the heart requires guidance and counsel. As strangers and pilgrims in a perverse generation, showing faith takes more courage, and the Holy Spirit will bear the fruit of faithfulness to concrete the soul into the image of the Father. Daniel and his friends showed their faithfulness by standing for truth and not allowing the world’s influences to change their character. Faith had them stand before the fiery furnace and the lion’s den, but faithfulness guided their hearts, minds, and souls to show their love for God. Christians must show faithfulness in their speech, manner of dress, behavior, disposition, and attitude.

Faithfulness is a vital ingredient in the work of the church. What the church needs more than ever are members who show their faithfulness in the integrity of their work in the kingdom. A man bearing fruit from the Holy Spirit will show faithfulness in his worship to keep the commands of the Father in the assembly. This is found in prayer, song, remembering the sacrifice of Christ, returning the Lord the bounties of life, and growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Faithfulness born of the Spirit will help give the courage to talk to others about eternal life. The fruit of the Spirit is a manifestation of the growth of the Christian. The Lord will bless those who are faithful.

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The Agency Of Teaching Is By Men

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:3-6)

The Agency Of Teaching Is By Men

There are few stories as riveting as the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. The early disciples were terrified of Saul, who participated in the death of an early Christian named Stephen and made havoc of the church, dragging men and women to prison from every city he could find those of the Way. Saul was relentless in his pursuit of the Christians. He was zealous toward God to destroy the church. His single purpose in life was to stamp out all that followed Jesus of Nazareth. With the authority of the Jews in Jerusalem, Saul chased down Christians in foreign cities, compelled believers to blaspheme Christ, and cast his vote against them when they were condemned to death. Saul of Tarsus was exceedingly enraged against the Christians.

One day, Saul was on a mission to find Christians in the city of Damascus when about noon, a bright light shone about him. Unknown to Saul, he was a chosen vessel for the Lord to take the name of Jesus to the world. The Lord appears to Saul on the road to Damascus and tells him to go into the city to the house of a man named Judas. Jesus came to Saul to appoint him as a minister and witness of the gospel to both Jew and Gentile. The Lord was telling Saul what his life would be in the service of the kingdom of God, but there was one thing the Lord did not do. He did not save the man from Tarsus while he stood in the road. Saul was going to become a great disciple for Christ, but the first thing that needed to be done was for someone to come and baptize Saul.

Jesus did not take away the sins of Saul. The Lord told Saul to go into the city, and it would be told him all the things he was appointed to do. Saul arose and went into the city. He found the street called Straight and then found the home belonging to Judas. It was quite a shock for Judas and his household to see Saul of Tarsus standing at the front door, considering all the things people knew about Saul. They would have known that Saul had come to Damascus to arrest all those who called upon the name of Jesus, including their household. By faith and trust in the power of God, Judas and his family accepted Saul into their homes, waiting for the word of the Lord. When the Lord appeared to Saul on the road, he had been blinded, requiring others to lead him by the hand. Now in the house of Judas, Saul was cared for by the very people he sought to destroy.

Shortly after the Lord appeared to Saul, the Lord also came to a man named Ananias and told him to find Saul and restore his sight. He would find him at the house of Judas. Ananias stood before Saul and, by the power of God, restored his sight to him. With everything that had happened to Saul from the Lord appearing to him, his blind walk to the house of Judas, and not eating or drinking for three days, one thing remained unresolved. Saul was still a lost sinner. The appearance of the Lord had not saved him. His belief in the word of the Lord had not saved him. Waiting three days without eating and drinking did not save him. It was not until Ananias came to the house of Judas and said to Saul, “Now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Saul arose and was baptized.

Saul was not saved on the Roman road to Damascus. The appearance of Jesus did not save him but the agency of a man coming to tell the man from Tarsus what he must do to be saved. This pattern of salvation is repeated throughout the story of the gospel. The gospel was given through the agency of men to the devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit sent Philip to teach a man from Ethiopia. Paul and Barnabas, and Silas would travel many thousands of miles teaching the gospel to lost souls. Peter would teach a Roman Centurion and his household the saving gospel of Christ even though an angel had appeared to Cornelius.

The gospel is carried through the agency of men to other men. It is within the power of God to save any man with His grace and mercy without the intervention of human participation: but it is not His will! The gospel is carried by faithful men who teach other men. Our neighbors will not be saved by the appearance of an angel or intercession of the Lord in some bright light. It requires a man discovering the truth of God’s love either through his own study or a man like Ananias who will come and show the way of salvation. All the good feelings and signs a person will find in life will not save him. The idea that a man is saved because he feels saved is a lie. Faith comes from hearing the word of God and obeying that word. The agency of the gospel is through the interaction of men willing to teach other men redemption.

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Wrong Parental Advice

Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother advised him to do wickedly. Therefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord, like the house of Ahab; for they were his counselors after the death of his father, to his destruction. (2 Chronicles 22:2-4)

Wrong Parental Advice

Every child born into the world comes with a fresh innocence of newborn purity. Jezebel was one of the most wicked women in the Bible, and yet there was a time when her heart was as pure as the driven snow. Like her husband, Jezebel made a name for herself as the antithesis of righteousness, goodness, and holy character. Her reputation came through the influence of the world around her and parental guidance leading her down a path of destruction. She did not lose time to mold her daughter in the ways of Baal and idol worship. Athaliah was born to Ahab and Jezebel and, as a young baby, had a pure heart. Taught by her wicked parents, Athaliah would rise to power one day that would set her on the road to infamy as one of the cruelest women who lived.

In a marriage of political expediency, Athaliah was given to Jehoram, eldest son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. After Jehoram became king, he murdered his six siblings, probably at the behest of his wife. Eight years later, Jehoram dies from an incurable disease of the intestines which he suffered two years until his intestines came out. He died in severe pain. His death was to no one’s sorrow. After the death of Jehoram, his son Ahaziah became king, with his mother serving alongside him. He walked in the ways of his grandparents (Ahab and Jezebel), led by the strong influence of his mother, Athaliah. The reign of Ahaziah would last only one year before he was killed by Jehu, son of Nimshi, whom the Lord appointed to cut off the house of Ahab. After the death of Ahaziah, his mother murdered her grandchildren, taking the throne of Judah for herself. But Jehoshabeath, the king’s daughter, took Joash and hid him from the wrath of Athaliah.

The family of Ahab and Jezebel were a blight to the nation of Israel. Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. “In Jezebel, his Phoenician wife, Ahab found a champion of the foreign culture, who was as imperious and able as she was vindictive and unscrupulous. She was the patron of the prophets of Baal and of the devotees of Asherah” (ISBE). Jezebel taught her daughter, Athaliah, well in the art of evil and manipulating others. Jezebel and Athaliah were very capable of killing their own children and grandchildren for their personal cause. Influenced by these parents, Jehoram and Ahaziah ruled with the same wickedness.

Every child is born in innocence without any corrupt or evil seed. Ahab and Jezebel were without sin when they were babies, but it changed quickly. They had children that were born in purity, but they changed their hearts. The teaching of their parents primarily influenced the corruption and ungodliness that charactered their lives. Joash would be one of the great reforming kings of Judah, and it largely had to do with his grandmother, Athaliah, not influencing him. It can be assumed his aunt Jehoshabeath (Jehosheba), the wife of Jehoiada, the priest, instilled in the young boy love for God. The power of parental influence is overpowering to determine a child’s destiny.

The Bible is filled with the godly influences of parents who sought to instill in their children a love of God. Abraham and Lot are examples of how one man guided his home with God, and the other allowed the wicked influence of Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy his home. Manoah and his wife sought the Lord’s counsel to establish the rule of life and work of their son, Samson. Hannah was a powerful influence upon her son, Samuel. Daniel’s parents taught him from an early age to pray three times to the Lord, and he never forgot those lessons. Joseph and Mary were the parental influence of the Son of God. Parenting is fraught with danger and is not for the weak-hearted. The only goal a parent should have is to make sure their children are safely in the ark when it begins to rain. Nothing else matters. Life only gives one opportunity, and those days quickly pass. Which parent are you? Teach your children to fall in love with God by your example.

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Now Hiring

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

Now Hiring

It is not hard to find a business that does not have a notice looking for help. “Now Hiring” is more common as the economic outcome of COVID-19 and government assistance have driven many to stay home collecting unemployment checks. The government has been so generous, many of the basic level jobs pay less than what can be received from collecting federal and state assistance. Some companies are paying prospective employees to interview. Free money is a great temptation that does not make a community great but begins to destroy the fabric of what made America a strong nation: its workforce.

The Second World War was tragic for the cause and effect of the carnage inflicted worldwide. One of the strengths that came from the early 1900s is establishing an incredible labor force that changed the face of the world. It was not a throwaway, plastic society but a world of quality work done by hard-working people. There was a national pride in the country following the war that helped put men on the moon, create an industry of technological wonders through computers, wireless devices, cellphones, and science far beyond the imagination of men. Opportunities abounded with endless possibilities. Those days are gone.

Businesses are struggling to find people who are willing to work. Often, those who work have little desire to do a good job, barely getting by with minimal effort. Quality of product has lagged, customer service is almost non-existent, and going beyond the job requirements is refused. What is lacking is the spirit of Christ in the workplace. The gospel of Christ will save a soul from eternal judgment, but it will also make a world in this life that is noble, honest, just, and willing to work. Paul exhorts the church in Thessalonica to be examples of hard work and diligence. The apostle says that if a man refuses to work, he is walking disorderly. He rebukes those who live idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. The church has an obligation (a command) to withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly, including those who refuse to work.

Paul taught a gospel of integrity. The Christian example is found in the workplace, and there is no better place for the grace of God to shine in a community than when the Christian goes to work. When God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in the garden with the command to tend the garden. Sin had not entered the world yet, but God expected His creation to work. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the Holy Spirit condemns a lazy spirit, a person who refuses to work, and those who expect to live off handouts from others. The government may pay people not to work, but the Christian must be diligent in living a quiet life and working with their hands to give glory to Jesus Christ. Paul said he preached this message to the Thessalonians. Refusing to work was sinful and brought shame to Christ.

It is hard to change the world and impact how others behave, but a Christian is a person who knows that God is their master before all men. Judgment day will not just be about whether a man has committed adultery or lied or stolen. His judgment will primarily be about something he will spend most of his life doing – working at a job. If a Christian is a lazy, slothful, and belligerent person refusing to work, he jeopardizes his soul. Churches led by courageous men will challenge those who refuse to work, citing scripture to condemn such attitudes. If a man refuses to work, note that man and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.

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The Same Word

“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present. (2 Corinthians 10:10-11)

The Same Word

It is hard to imagine the apostle Paul as anything but a powerful force to reckon with. When he was called Saul of Tarsus, he was exceedingly enraged against the church and persecuted the disciples of the Lord even to foreign cities. Luke describes after Paul’s conversion, the church was afraid of him when he tried to join the church family in Jerusalem. Paul began to take missionary journeys where he helped to establish numerous churches converting many people to Christ. Reading any of his epistles to the churches would leave the impression the apostle Paul was a formidable man in presence.

In his second letter to Corinth, Paul seeks to defend his authority as an apostle as some were trying to discredit him. One of the charges that Paul knew the brethren made against him was his physical presence. There are no descriptions of the apostle in Scripture, but Paul suggests of himself his bodily presence was not impressive and his oratory lacking. This was the opinion of his detractors, whether justified or not. Paul defends himself with the authority that his letters were weighty and powerful, and his words were the same when he was present with the brethren. He may not have been a man like Apollos, who was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scripture, but Paul was a man whose word was as straightforward and demonstrative when he spoke as it was when he wrote his letters. The preaching of Paul was not to impress others with his physical appearance. He was not in the kingdom of God to make a name for himself among men.

Paul was a preacher of the gospel with the same diligence to speak the truth whether in person or in letter. He reminds the Corinthians that what he is in word by letters is the same man he is when he is present with the brethren. He may not be much to look at but what he says has eternal consequences. The power of the word is what drove Paul. There was no need to change the word of God to impress people. Paul preached the truth regardless of the opinions of men. Some may reject him because of his physical presence, but they are rejecting the word of God. The only message that Paul preached was the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The word must be the same in every part of a man’s life. There cannot be two sides of a man who on one side is hard on the truth and then in the presence of others softens the impact. It is easier to rebuke through the written word because there is no personal confrontation. Courage comes from a heart that will speak the truth in love face to face. Paul warned his detractors that his message when he came to them was the same as when he wrote them a letter. His faith was consistent with his belief which was rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. What we are in word by letters must the same when we are gathered with others.

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Committed To The Power Of Prayer

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. (Ezra 8:21-23)

Committed To The Power Of Prayer

The dangers of caravan travel were very real for Ezra and the Hebrews who desired to return to Jerusalem. Bedouin Arabs thrived on plundering caravans caught in the web of their attacks. Considering the amount of gold, silver, articles, and offerings for the house of God Ezra was carrying, the fear of attack was genuine. It was common to ask the king for an escort of soldiers and horsemen to protect the convoy of souls, but Ezra had boasted to the king there would be no need for such protection as the Lord God would protect them. It seems the reality of his boasting had caused some trepidation in the heart of Ezra as the plans became real and the journey fraught with danger. Ezra had boldly proclaimed to the king his confidence in the power of God to see them through.

As the caravan prepared to begin its long journey to Jerusalem, Ezra proclaimed a fast at the river of Ahava to entreat the Lord’s blessings. He understood the need for humility to take on such a monumental task of taking all those souls on a perilous journey without the king’s protection. Instead, he sought the Lord’s favor to humble the hearts of the people to seek from Him the right way and protect the little ones and all the possessions. Ezra boldly proclaimed his faith to the king, and now he must prove his faith to God. The people fasted. Entreaties were made to the Lord God. Faith lifted the prayers with fervent desire. Courage took hold of the hearts of the weak to be emboldened to seek the protection of the Lord. Trust flooded the souls to believe God would answer their prayers. And God answered their prayer.

The company of travelers left the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month for Jerusalem and arrived safely in the city with no attacks from marauding tribes. God’s mercy granted through the accompanying fasting and prayers proved the word of Ezra to the king that the Lord God was powerful and mighty to protect His people. The journey must have been filled with anticipation as each day, the Jews looked for the protection of God. They would have been mindful of the dangers lurking behind the mountains and the shadows of darkness. Their journey was an incredible show of faith when they left without an armed guard. Everyone would have ridiculed their refusal to accept the soldiers and horsemen from the king, but they set out with only the hand of God to protect them. Imagine the surprise to those who heard the caravan had made it safely to Jerusalem. Some would have said the people were lucky, and that was all. Others would have come to know the power of God because of the faith of Ezra.

Prayer is a powerful tool, but it requires the faith of the man to show belief in the power of prayer. Ezra could have asked for soldiers, but he had proclaimed to the king his undying faith in the power of God to deliver them. From a security view, going without soldiers was a risky and dangerous decision. It seemed to be an irresponsible and costly mistake. As the procession left, many people probably remarked how incredibly tragic the news of the caravan would be when they would be plundered and the people killed. When word came back the group arrived safely in Jerusalem, the stories were mixed as to how it happened. The king knew the God of Ezra was truly a great and powerful God.

The difficulty of prayer is to ask the favor of God and then let God take over. Often, prayer is given with a caveat in case the Lord cannot carry out the request. It is easy to tell God how to answer prayer. Ezra told the king the Lord would deliver them and asking for soldiers would deny his claim. Prayer must be made in bold language with the heart of faith willing to head out into the wilderness without soldiers and let God protect the caravan. It takes a committed heart to pray the prayer of faith. Ask God and then let Him do His work without telling Him how to do His work.

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Spirit Fruit: Goodness

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

Spirit Fruit: Goodness

The character of goodness is a trait common in most people. Having a good spirit is a natural result of proper training, instruction, and practicing established manners. Being a good person can come naturally. Young people should be taught to be honest, courteous, and kind to others, making them a good person. There are those in a community that stand out as people of kind acts and pleasant dispositions that everyone would consider to be a good person. These are commendable for anyone to follow after, and the world needs more people filled with goodness.

Paul’s description of the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes the fruit of goodness. Good fruit comes from a good tree, and a good tree comes from good stock. It may not be as natural a process as one might think. The kind of goodness Paul writes about is not the goodness found in the world. Goodness as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is something that is above the good things people do in the world. There is a spiritual connection with this type of goodness. It serves a higher purpose, often at a higher cost. Foremost to the fruit of the spirit is the willingness to abstain from everything evil and seek good things. Jesus reminded His disciples that good men come from hearts filled with good treasures, and evil men are born from hearts filled with evil. The Holy Spirit is where the spiritual goodness comes from to refrain from sin, which is the transgression of the word of God. If a man is not a Christian, he may be a good man, but the counsel of the Divine does not govern him. He is a good man in the general sense. The man who is filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be good regardless of the circumstance.

Goodness from the Spirit is found in the desire of the heart to walk in the ways of God. The psalmist said the Lord orders the steps of a good man as he delights in the way of God. This type of goodness is a higher spiritual manifestation than being a good neighbor. Good people who serve the Lord find favor in the spiritual world as they serve the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes a good heart to pray for an enemy and to bless those who curse them. Without the fruit of the Holy Spirit, this will not be possible. To be a son of the Father, goodness must come from an abiding presence of the Holy Spirit so the fruit of righteousness will shine forth in the life of the Christian.

The fruits of the Spirit come from the Holy Spirit. Barnabas was called a good man, and he was full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Good men and good women led by the counsel of the Lord will show their faith in their goodness. What separates the good man in the world and the good man in the Lord is the Lord. One is motivated by common grounds of decency. The man who is a good man in the Lord is moved by the goodness of God to show forgiveness, mercy, kindness, love, and compassion. God’s goodness sent His only begotten Son to die for the world. The goodness and severity of God are proclaimed loudly throughout scripture.

When a child of God is filled with the fruit of the Spirit, they abide in the Father’s character with goodness. Their spirit is guided by the righteousness of God, showing the world His grace. It is easy to think that goodness is a natural process, but the fruit of the Spirit comes through faith and dependency on the word of God. This type of goodness is the highest form of benevolence and only comes from the Holy Spirit. Being good is great. Showing the fruit of goodness obtained from the Holy Spirit is divine.

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Three Hours Of Darkness

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44-46)

Three Hours Of Darkness

The Palestinian sun brilliantly shone down on the tragic events taking place outside Jerusalem. Three men were nailed to crosses with the proficiency of the Roman Army. A crowd gathers around the scene, jeering, mocking, screaming, and hurling insults. Two of the men were known criminals charged with robbery and murder. The man in the middle was charged as a criminal but was innocent of all sin. It was a noisy place and smelled of death. Golgotha was a place of death used by the Romans to carry out capital executions of the government. No one escaped the cross. It was the most horrific means to kill a man perfected over the years to prolong suffering as long as possible. A merciful act that heightened the severity of the execution was breaking the legs of the criminals. Jesus was the man in the middle who endured the suffering of the crucifixion along with the other two men. His legs were never broken as He died around three in the afternoon.

Three hours after Jesus is nailed to the cross, the sun becomes obliterated from sight, and darkness falls over the land. It is not an eclipse of the sun or some natural phenomena explained by an erupting volcano, or a flock of birds, or dark storm clouds. This darkness permeated everything as the darkness veiled Egypt when the Hebrews were in bondage. It was a darkness that could be felt. The darkness of Egypt lasted for three days, but the darkness at the cross of Jesus lasted three hours. It was the middle of the Palestinian day when the sun was the highest and brightest. Suddenly, darkness covered the land with no explanation. It lasted for three long, troubling hours as the life of Jesus slowly slipped away.

God gave humanity a powerful sign in bringing the darkness. Jesus was bearing the darkness of sin for all humanity, and the earth responded in kind. It was as if nature itself was yielding itself to the reality of the death of God. Jesus was not coming down from the cross alive. He would endure the terrible pain of the cross for nearly six long, agonizing, and incredibly painful hours. There was no wine mingled with myrrh to dull the pain. Jesus refused it. The penalty of sin would be paid in full, and darkness was part of the price. Jesus hung on the cross for three hours, engulfed with darkness. There was no sun to offer hope. He could not look out in the crowd to see His mother. His first words when the darkness fell were pleading with His heavenly Father why He had forsaken Him. He cried for thirst as the darkness heightened His suffering. The darkness reminded Jesus why He came, and He declared His work finished. Finally, in the midst of the darkness, Jesus died. It was the sixth hour of the day when the sun would fill the sky with brilliant rays of sunshine, but not today. An unnatural darkness covered the land when Jesus died.

Man is not made for the darkness. He is not a nocturnal creature. His place is in the sunlight of the day. When God created man, he was made in the image of the Father for the glory of the Father. He was not created to be a spiritual nocturnal being. Sin brought darkness to the heart of man. Adam and Eve hid in the shadows of the trees seeking to flee the presence of God. Jesus died in darkness to bring light to the world. To die in the cover of darkness made the suffering even more. Jesus bore the physical suffering of the cross, but He did not die on a bright sunny day. He gave up His spirit as darkness covered the land.

It would not be until the morning of the third day that light would return to the soul of man. When Jesus died, the sun shone once again, and the world seemed to return to normal. What remained was the darkness of sin. On the first day of the week, Jesus rose in the early morning to bring the light of redemption to all men so they would never live in darkness again. The land was covered with darkness three hours when Jesus was dying, but the sun came back. Jesus died and rose to show men the darkness of their eternal spirit needs the light of His love. The sun may shine brightly in the sky, giving God the glory, but when the light of Jesus Christ shines bright in a heart darkened in sin, God is glorified, and Jesus praised.

The centurion got it right when the darkness ended, and he saw Jesus give his last breath. He said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.” It may have worried the centurion when three hours earlier, darkness filled the land. There was no explanation and no answer. Somewhere in the heart of the centurion, he realized the crucified man in the middle was different. Jesus died, and the darkness went away. The gospel changes hearts when Jesus dies in the soul of man and takes away the blackness of sin. Light comes in death. Let the light of Jesus take away your darkness.

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The Unrighteous Will Not Be Saved

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

The Unrighteous Will Not Be Saved

Peter said that some of Paul’s writings were hard to understand, and the untaught and unstable people will twist to their own destruction. That is not the case in the first letter to the saints at Corinth. There is clear and demonstrative language in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians that cannot be missed. The world will muddy the word of God, bending truth to fit their pernicious ways, but that will not take away from the truth. Paul’s language is unambiguous, unmistakable, and unequivocal when he writes the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. There is no room for misunderstanding the message of the Holy Spirit. The reality of eternal damnation is not to be missed. Jesus taught that hell is real and the disobedient will be cast in the lake of fire and brimstone with no exceptions. Paul echoes the teaching of the Lord in showing that those who persist in sin will not find joy in death.

Eternal damnation is not a pleasant subject, and it is natural to recoil from its message. There is a healthy view of looking at hell as real because it is real. Denying it does not change its reality. It does not fit the human model of wisdom. God is full of love, but the wrath of God is the exercise of His divine righteousness. He has no desire to condemn anyone, but He must because of His character. Paul says the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. The unrighteous hearts of those who reject the grace of God cannot stand before a Holy God and find eternal life. Righteousness demands justification against unrighteousness. God created man; man did not create God. The law of God is what determines the destiny of humanity. Sadly, most people will never see eternal life. Jesus affirmed this in His teaching.

Paul asked a rhetorical question when he wrote to the Corinthians. They knew the unrighteous would not be saved. What the apostle did was to remind the saints of the damning influence of sin and that God did not show partiality of one sin to another. He suggests a list of sins as examples of what is commonly accepted in the world yet condemned by a Holy God. Fornication is sexual immorality accepted by a carnal world but will condemn a soul to hell. Sex before marriage is viewed as the passing rights of young people, but God calls it sin. Those who engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage will go to hell. Idolaters are not limited to those who fall before a stone image. Covetousness is idolatry. Adulterers will be condemned to hell. Men and women who defile their marriage vows by engaging in promiscuous relationships will not be saved. Infidelity is sin, and engaging in sex outside of the marriage bond condemns a soul to hell.

The world is becoming more desensitized to the immorality of homosexuality, but God’s view has never changed. Men and women who turn against the natural way to have sex and instead indulge in sex with each other will be damned. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, and this includes the sexually perverted. Among the list given by Paul are thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners. Stealing will damn a soul. Worshiping wealth damns a soul. Alcohol will send many to perdition, and those who live life as a wild party of indulgences and greed will find no joy in death. This list is not a final list but an example of God’s view of unrighteousness.

Paul’s language is offensive to the moral sensitivities of modern man. He was not writing to appeal to human wisdom but the reality of God’s judgment upon those who refuse to obey the word of the Lord. The Bible is filled with God’s wrath against unrighteousness. His righteousness demands justice. The only hope is found in leaving unrighteousness and seeking the paths of holiness, purity, and righteousness in the love of God. Among the Corinthians, some lived unrighteous lives, but when they came to the grace of God in obedience, they were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. Their sins were all washed away in the waters of baptism. What joy the unrighteous became righteous. The message is clear. There is eternal damnation to those who live after the lusts of the world. Joy can only come in obedience.

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I Will Keep Your Words

You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Your words. I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word. I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments. The cords of the wicked have bound me, but I have not forgotten Your law. At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You because of Your righteous judgments. I am a companion of all who fear You and of those who keep Your precepts. The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes. (Psalm 119:57-64)

I Will Keep Your Words

The affirmation of the psalmist to God is clear: You are mine. There is no hesitation and no wavering of thought. The spirit of the child of God is devoted to the affirmation and confirmation of the word of the Lord in his soul. Reading the psalms, one finds a wealth of devotion unparalleled in scripture. These are not timid hearts trying to decide whether they are committed to the Lord God or not but people that have fully put their trust in the word of God. They have made a promise they will keep the word of the Lord with their whole heart. Every fiber of their being longs to know the statutes, commandments, and instructions of the Divine. When the author begins this section of his lengthy declaration of God’s word, he confesses to God that He is his portion and inheritance.

Dedicated people are committed people. It is not easy to dissuade hearts wholly committed to the Lord because they have the word embedded deep in their souls. Life has many turns and ups and downs with challenges abounding. What makes the heart of the child of God secure is the knowledge they have of the word. This is not a good-feeling-religion of mediocrity. Pondering life brought the heart to follow the laws of God, His will, commandments, precepts, and testimonies. There is an urgency to keep the word of the Lord as he seeks the mercy of God. Sin is not something to be trifled with, and the immediacy of knowing the word protects the heart from temptation. The wiles of the devil are ever-present, but the man secured in the word of God is like an anchor fastened to a rock.

The psalmist declares to the Lord that he promises to keep His words. This commitment must come through tedious hours of study and examination of the word. The significant part of his declaring allegiance to the Lord is his willingness to know the word. It is impossible to keep the word of God if a man does not know the word. Keeping the commandments of God necessitates the knowledge of those commandments. He promises not to forget the law of God rising at midnight to thank the Lord for His word. Imagine waking in the middle of the night to tell the Lord, “Thank you.” That is how much the word meant to this man.

Because of the righteous judgments of the Lord found in the word and discovered in the life of the man, there is much to be thankful for and give praise to God. Evil abounds in the world, but the heart of the child of God safely trusts in the word of God. The association of fellow believers is fortified by their desire to obey the commands of God. Finding people of like precious faith enjoins the hearts of the faithful to one another. The loyal heart has committed itself to the word of the Lord and to be a companion to all those who fear the Lord God. His final desire is to know the statutes of the Lord and to understand the decrees of God.

The need of every Christian is to have the heart of the psalmist. There must be a dedicated spirit to know the word of God. It must be the most important part of life to understand God’s will for a man’s life. Life is filled with evil and the temptation of the devil. Without a firm knowledge of the word of God, the soul will lose the battle, and Satan will gain the victory. Knowledge is power because it gives the heart the ability to fight off the wiles of the devil. There must be a firm resolve to know all that can be known in a lifetime of the word of God. A thousand years will not exhaust the knowledge of God, but a life filled with the precepts of the Lord will find peace, safety, hope, and promise of eternal life. Keep the word of God.

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Be Like God

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. (Ephesians 5:1)

Be Like God

To imitate something is to copy or use something as a model, form, or design. Within personal relationships, it is to act the same as or to impersonate and mimic. One of the keys of imitation is to present an accurate model of what is being copied. The result will be that what is imitated will be like the original. Authors have suggested imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it is more than trying to flatter someone else. Imitation is the foundation of man’s relationship with God. The Lord demands it and includes it in His canon of doctrine. Paul’s exhortation to the saints in Ephesus included the need to form one’s life to model God. As dear children, the Father’s offspring is to look like the Heavenly Father in every way.

Herman Melville wrote, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” Melville was not writing about the relationship between man and God in a spiritual sense. Still, his statement rings true with the struggle humanity has with obedience to the word of God. The days of Noah were characterized by individuality, where everyone did what they wanted to do. Only eight souls imitated the character of God, and only eight souls were saved in the ark. Throughout the period of early days of Israel, the land was governed by judges who the Lord would send to rescue the people out of bondage. This cycle continued for many years because there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They imitated what they wanted instead of seeking the divine blueprint. The failure of “originality” not only led to their failure but their destruction.

The human spirit has a hard time wanting to imitate the Divine. Freedom of life-choices is the banner most live under, believing that life is about the here and now. They believe that imitation is one letter short of limitation. Trying to mold their character after God will limit their pleasures, wisdom, and purpose in life. Why do so many people refuse to obey the will of the Father? They do not want to imitate God. According to human reasoning, imitating the world is a lot more productive and much more fun. Sadly, when these souls stand before the Father in eternity, they realize that human imitation was the greatest limitation.

Imitating God is a powerful task, daunting at best and humbling to try. How can a man imitate God? The Father has not given an impossible task, but with His divine help, any man can model their lives after the character of God. Children of God become like God. Reading the Bible helps a man see that God is loving, kind, merciful, benevolent, forgiving, and slow to wrath. There are myriads of ways to describe God as found in God’s word for His charity. It must not be lost on the student of scripture that the Lord God is also just, fair, punishing when required, without partiality, and unwavering in His word. All of the characteristics of God (goodness and severity) must be imitated by His children.

Love and forgiveness are the spiritual DNA of the child of God because they belong to the Father. The follower of Christ cannot endure sin as the Father abhors sinful conduct. The Lord God is pure and holy, and His children must be pure and holy. God so loved the world, He gave His only Son to die for those who did not deserve grace. Children of God learn to forgive and remove the stain of prejudice against others. Imitating God shows kindness, being tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave His children. When the world looks at the life of a Christian, they see the Father. If the world sees the child of God walking like the world, talking like the world, and living like the carnal world, they will not see the imitation of God. Who do you look like?

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Spirit Fruit: Kindness

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

Spirit Fruit: Kindness

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is an amazing contrast of the world and the child of God. There are few similarities as the light of God shines in a world darkened by the hatred, prejudice, and self-serving dictates of the human soul. The Christian is filled with the fruit that will show kindness to all men while the carnal heart looks out for self and no one else. A contrast of spirits shows the disposition of a disciple of Christ to be mild of temper, calm in spirit with an unruffled nature seeking the betterment of his neighbor. He is a kind and gentle person. This is not something a person naturally develops in life but comes from the Holy Spirit.

Kindness is a gentle word that is a moral platform of God’s grace. Joseph Joubert defined kindness as “Loving people more than they deserve.” Kindness began with God, and He expects His children to follow His example. The fruit of the Spirit shows kindness to be part of the growing process in the heart of the Christian. It also suggests that kindness is not a natural outgrowth of a disposition someone is born with. Kindness is an act that shows love toward enemies. It takes the hatred of self and follows the pattern of Jesus, who sacrificed Himself for others. The home is established on kindness as an integral part of the marital relationship of husband and wife. A happy marriage is when the husband shows kindness to his wife, and the wife expresses kindness to her husband. Parents teach their children to be kind to everyone. Respecting the elderly, helping those in need, and showing respect to those in authority is how young people learn kindness.

The proverb writer says that what is desired in a man is kindness, and the mouth of the virtuous woman is filled with wisdom and the law of kindness. It is interesting to see that kindness is a law. The fruit of the spirit is given for men to accept the will of the Father to be people who are kind, slow to anger, and merciful. Paul would tell Colosse saints to be the elect of God; they must put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, and forgiveness with love. The cousins of kindness are the true characteristics of a child of God. Christians are known for their kindness. This is one of the great dividing pictures of those who live according to the Spirit and those who live according to the flesh.

Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit that must be developed. It is not a natural outgrowth of a person’s disposition. Peter will include in the graces of a Christian the need to add to godliness brotherly kindness. It is a formula that must come from the heart of God, learned in the spirit of man, and shown through the active hands of a Christian. If there is any kindness in the world, it must come from God’s people first. Grouchy, angry, discontented, unhappy, and resentful people do not show the love of God and His kindness. It may be hard for some folk to be kind, but God expects it. Nay – He demands it.

The joy of kindness is the fruit it bears. Open a door for another. Smile – it becomes contagious. Let others know you care about them. Send a note to encourage. Help others. Help someone without being asked. Prepare a meal. Tell someone you care about them. Give a flower. Say thank you and please. Never fall victim to gossip but speak the truth in love. Forgive. Sing. Pray. Show the heavenly Father your kindness. The greatest kindness you can do for another is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and help them find eternal life. That is the kindness that will never end. Be kind.

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Refusing To Walk With Jesus

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:60-66)

Refusing To Walk With Jesus

When the people heard Jesus teach, they recognized He was a man of authority. His preaching was not like the Jewish leaders of the day. The sermon on the mount was a masterpiece of a direct, unmistakable, and powerful message from the word of God. There was division about Jesus because of the manner of His teaching. Some accepted His word while others held fast to the doctrines of the Jews. Jesus answered questions about allegiance to the Roman government, how to deal with unruly brethren, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, viewing sin as the detestable thing it was, and a host of issues that would not win Him many friends. No one could deny the teachings of Jesus. His messages were always without contradiction.

Jesus often accompanied His teaching with miracles by healing all manner of disease, casting out demons, and raising the dead. Multitudes came to Jesus to be healed. He took away their maladies and then taught them the healing power of the Father’s word. Following the feeding of more than five thousand people, Jesus went away to the other side of the sea. When the crowds found Him, they chided Him for not telling them where He had gone. Jesus knew the reason they sought Him was to be fed the bread and fish again. After the Lord taught the message of the bread of life, many were offended by His words. Many of His disciples told Jesus He had offended the people by His teaching. They had witnessed His miracle and now rebuked the miracle worker.

The miracles of Jesus showed the power of God so the people could be drawn to the Son. However, the miracles did not save them. Jesus fed five thousand people, but they were hungry the next day. The fish and loaves only took away their hunger for a moment. What the people needed more from Jesus was the bread of life that would always endure. Jesus was extremely popular when He fed them fish and bread, but people were offended when it came to His teaching. The selective nature of the human spirit is to desire something that will not last and be more inclined to refuse that which is eternal. This is what the people did with Jesus.

When God sent His Son to earth, He desired to save all men. Sadly, the human heart gets easily offended, and the people turned away from Jesus. They would never find a man who spoke like Jesus. There was no great manifestation of the power of God than found in the miracles of Jesus. The Lord had power over nature, time, distance, death, and the world of Satan. In the face of all the testimony of the divine power of God, the people turned away and walked with Jesus no more. When the human heart is offended because what is told to them does not fit with their wisdom and desires, man quits. That is what the people did to Jesus – they abandoned Jesus.

The crowds still walk away from Jesus. With all the teachings of Jesus in the Bible and the proofs of His miracles testifying to His divine nature, people walk away from the Lord because the word offends them. The Bible is not a book difficult to understand. There are many different types of churches, faiths, beliefs, and practices that do not harmonize with the teaching of Jesus. Modern religion has walked away from Jesus long ago because the truth offends them. Many people refuse to accept the Bible because they would have to change their life to mold it into the image of something that offends them. The ‘Cancel Culture’ has been around for a long time as men cancel the word of God for what they accept as truth.

Those people offended by the teaching of Jesus and who walked away from Him walked back to Him in death. The sad reality is that no one will ever be able to walk away from Jesus. A man can turn away from Jesus in this life and follow after human religion and serve the flesh to his full desire, but there will come a day when all men will come back to Jesus. On that day, there will be no time and no mercy. The Son of God they rejected will now be their Judge. All the teachings that seemed hard and offensive in life will then be crystal clear. Salvation will only come to those who walk with Jesus, not away from Him. The joy of eternal life is to walk with Jesus now so that we can walk with Him in death. Who are you walking with? Have you walked away from Jesus?

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