Reposted from 20 November 2017
by Roland W. Keith
In his reply to Bildad’s charges in the Book of Job, Job asked, “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living” (Job 28:12-13). He would go on to tell his friend, “God understands the way to it, and He knows its place… And He said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:23, 28). Many years later King Solomon wrote, “then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of His saints” (Proverbs 2:5-8).
The “fear of the Lord” spoken of in scripture contains a measure of actual fear of God’s power and what He can do to us, as Jesus counseled, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28), however, its focus is on having a sense of “profound reverence and awe toward God” (Miriam-Webster Dictionary). In large measure this sort of fear is both learned and earned. A small child fears his parents. Why? If they are doing their jobs well it is because they are raising their child in a balanced and fair environment of love, understanding, nurturing, and discipline. To the child the parent is this big, powerful, wonderful, and (somewhat) fearful giant who loves and takes care of them. Parents are a source of protection, caring, instruction, and again, discipline. Through their efforts the child learns about the world, their place in it, their responsibilities to others, and they learn what it means to be loved and to love another. A child of such parents has reverence for them, and at least for a time a certain awe of them. This respect is both taught and earned. In comparison, as much as a parent deserves a child’s respect God deserves ours even more. As our Creator and Savior, it is His due. So where do we learn of this wisdom?
To gain this wisdom we must learn of God and come to place our faith in Him. As Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). We can add to this not only hearing, but reading and studying the word, and validating its truth, as well. Of the Bereans, Luke noted, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). As Christians if we want to grow in our knowledge and understanding we must not only hear and study the word, but we must also test it. As John instructed his readers, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1; also, I Thessalonians 5:21).
There are many in the world who claim a relationship with God, yet their real goal is to take advantage of and misguide those who seek after the truth. In regard to this Peter wrote, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” (II Peter 3:17-18). In addition to testing the word we hear, we study it to come to a right understanding. The word was written to draw us to God and to guide us in a life devoted to Him as Paul explained to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17; also, I Corinthians 10:11).
As Followers of Christ determined to do His will in our lives and one day enter into the kingdom of God, we must continually meditate on His word. If we do not we are prone to forget and fall into error, and to remain unskilled laborers in His service, a situation that is untenable before the Lord (Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1). Every football player on team does his best to memorize the play book and know his part in each play. A singer memorizes an entire catalogue of songs to sing on tour, Doctors study the latest discoveries and methods of treatment to stay current as health care providers. Why do Christians have such a hard time memorizing verses, or at least devising a quick reference system to put questions others may ask at an instance recall (II Timothy 4:2)? As Paul admonished his young protégé, Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).
We must come to a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. As a skilled craftsman knows the secrets of his craft the servant of God understands the mysteries of God’s word, and knowing its power he is able to wield it with confidence as he puts God’s plan into action ((James 1:21-22). As members of the church we are to band together as a family (Hebrews 10:24-25), and as fellow soldiers in His army. We must be willing and able to put on the armor of God, prepared to fight against the forces of Satan (I Timothy 6:12; Ephesians 6:13). To come to the kind of wisdom and understanding that Job had we must come to know God, and to know God we must know His word. As the Psalmist wrote, “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:101-105).
Wisdom, then, it not something that is gained by intellectual ability. Many a man with a high IQ have failed to achieve anything close to wisdom. To get wisdom one must come to know God, and to understand His word which leads to a right understanding of good and evil. Knowing these things, the one who has achieved wisdom will use that knowledge in the fear of the Lord, turning away from the evil that surrounds him in the world.
Reposted from October 2017
By Roland W. Keith
What is God’s plan to save man? And, why bother saving him at all, considering his attitude and actions? The answer to the second question is answered by Jesus in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (also, Romans 5:8, ESV). The Father sent His Son to earth to redeem mankind, and the Son came to do His Fathers bidding, of His Own free will. He came to earth to fulfill the Law and Prophets, to live a life of perfect obedience to His Father and then at the appropriate time to lay His perfect life down in propitiation for the sins of imperfect man.
When Christ rose from the grave in victory He made it possible for man to be reconciled to God through His blood. As Paul told the Colossians, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14; also, Acts 20:28). His victory over death made it possible for God to put into action the rest of His plan to save man. A plan that is based on the gospel.
Paul told the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16; also, James 1:21). The power of God’s plan is based on the truth of the gospel, which is the story of Jesus— Who He is, what He accomplished, and what must be done for man to find reconciliation with God. In the gospel accounts Jesus made it clear that the offer of salvation has been extended to all men, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30; also Romans 1:16; Revelation 22:17). To be saved we must believe the gospel and come to Christ.
As Paul explained to the Romans:
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10: 13-15, 17).
To ensure that men everywhere would hear the gospel and be given a chance to accept Christ Jesus gave His followers directions that have become known as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16). We, as Christians, have been tasked with carrying God’s word out into the world and giving our fellow man the opportunity of knowing Jesus Christ. Those who hear the word and accept it are likened to a wise man, those who reject God’s word are likened to a foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). When we hear the word of God each of us must decide for ourselves what we will do with it.
Many will believe, but many others will reject the truth. However, even among those who believe, not all will have the faith they need to do the will of God. Under Moses the Israelites knew God existed, but demonstrated unbelief in not trusting Him to fulfill His promises (Hebrews 3:7-15). To receive the reward of heaven we must trust God. As Paul wrote, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6; also, John 20:30-31). Once we have determined that the gospel is true we must be willing to confess Christ as Savior: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10; also Matthew 10:32-33).
After we have confessed Christ we must also repent of, or turn away from, our sins, as Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3; also Acts 3:19; 17:30). Upon confession we must then submit to baptism. This step is a point of contention for many who seek God, however, in response to the crowd’s question on the Day of Pentecost: “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter response is definitive: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This is the same instruction that Ananias gave to Paul, who had sat and prayed for three days without having his sins forgiven or being saved: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16; also Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21). So, what is the result of both believing and being baptized? Luke wrote, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41, also 2:47).
To be saved we must hear the word of God. We must believe it and respond to it by coming forward to confess Christ before man (Matthew 10:32-33). We must repent of our sins and turn from our sinful lives. We must submit to baptism to have our sins forgiven. At this point we are added to the body of Christ (Acts 2:41; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; I Corinthians 12:13). After all this there is something more we must do— we must remain faithful to the end (Matthew 10:22; also, Revelation 2:10). For those who are faithful throughout life there is the reward of a place in heaven (Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 10:35; II Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).
Repost from 10/16/2017
by Roland W. Keith
Are you a moral person? Most of us certainly think of ourselves as such. But on what do we base that opinion? Various nations, cultures, religious groups, and social organizations throughout history have had quite different ideas on what a moral person looks like. Principles of right and wrong have varied widely, and standards of right behavior seem to shift as often as the wind. On what is your doctrine or basic law of moral conduct, that is acceptable behavior, based? Is it the writings of an elitist eighteenth-century philosopher? The latest and greatest self-help guru? The present day what-ever-makes-me-feel-good, what-ever-appeals-to-me philosophy? Or is it something more substantial? More stable, time tested and true?
For the Christian morality is based on sound doctrine. And, sound doctrine is the immutable word of God. As the apostle Paul wrote his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16, 17). Our morality, properly understood, is based on the righteousness of God, to be clearly distinguished from the self-righteousness often exhibited by those who try to persuade us to compromise our values to accommodate their behavior. To them we are wise to reply according to the words of Solomon: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
This understanding, then, requires the one who would follow Christ to turn away from previous held philosophies and behaviors in order to conform to the will of God, as Paul wrote the Ephesians:
"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:17-32).
According to Paul this sound doctrine requires us to be sober-minded, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and steadfastness. Additionally, Christians are to be reverent, truthful, kind, and pure. Moreover, we are to be involved in the proper instruction of our young, modeling good works, integrity and dignity (Titus 2:1-7). Not only are we to model right behavior among one another, but we are to be an example to all around us (Matthew 5:16). We must also practice what we preach in truth and fairness, not unduly burdening those who are subject to our authority (Matthew 23:2-4). And, always we are to be not only fair in authority, but honest when we are in subjection to another (Titus 2:9, 10).
For the Christian a moral life, based on the Bible, is an imperative driven by the promises God has made to man by His grace (Ephesians 2:8, 10), and made sure through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Paul stated:
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14).
Through the teaching of, and adherence to, the doctrine of God we are taught to: “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:12, 14). Jesus warned:
"Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, “My master is delayed,” and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:42-51).
By comprehending God’s truth, we come to a state of vigilance in which we are determined to obey the commands of our King in upright living, always prepared for and awaiting His return (Matthew 25:1-13). Unlike that of the world’s, the moral base for the Christian is certain, immutable, established in perfect equality, reason, justice, and truth. And that truth is established in this one fact: “that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (I John 5:20).
By Roland W. Keith
In His sermon on the mount Jesus taught His disciples, saying, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 4:14-16). In the same teachings He told His followers not to give alms and not to pray to be seen by others and praised by them (Matthew 6:1, 5). Later, He would describe many of their leaders as men who laid heavy burdens on others while not fulfilling those requirements themselves; moreover, what works they did do He proclaimed they did to be seen and praised by others, seeking to be honored for their efforts. Matthew 23:4-7). Jesus warned His listeners not to be like such men (Matthew 23:3).
We are therefore, as Christians, to go about our lives and the work that we do freely and in the open so as to honor God by our actions without seeking glory for ourselves. We are to set an example for one another in the church as well as to the world at large. If we are honored let us accept it humbly, while giving God the glory; if our efforts seem to go unnoticed let us accept that humbly also, knowing in our hearts that God has taken notice (Matthew 6:2-4).
In his letter to Titus, Paul wrote, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you (2:7-8). He would go on to tell him to exhort servants to be obedient to their masters, not secretly stealing from them but rather to faithfully execute their duties and in so doing, as Christians, to bring honor to God through their efforts (2:9-10). In the same manner let our very conversation demonstrate true fidelity to God’s word, as should our oneness in Spirit and support of the gospel that we have been charged to bring before the world, not fearing the hardships we may face for our actions, knowing that it is the path of our salvation (Philippians 1:27-30).
Regarding hardships many point to Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29; see also Lamentations 3:30) as a requirement for us to be passive or milquetoast in the face of danger. Not so. Jesus taught that we are not to return insult with insult, or evil with evil (Matthew 5:44). We are not to extend a confrontation by retaliation. As Paul wrote, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-18). When another hits you, do not strike him back. This does not mean we cannot protect ourselves or family, home and property, or country from true, imminent danger (Matthew 24: 42-44; Luke 11:21; Ecclesiastes 3:1-3; Nehemiah 4:14); as Paul noted peace is not always within our power.
When we endure persecution for the Lord, we set an example for those who follow after us. We must be willing to lose our lives to gain Christ if necessary, yet even under such circumstances we are not without recourse. I do not know if anyone endured more than the apostle Paul in the name of the Lord. He was beaten, run out of town, stoned and left for dead all without complaint. Yet he maintained his rights to legal protection and just treatment (Acts 16:37-38; Acts 25:8-12). Christ set the benchmark for us by allowing Himself to suffer and die for us. According to that example Peter wrote, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2). We must be willing to suffer, and more importantly to stand for what is right.
In Jesus Christ and men like Paul and Stephen we have been given case studies in Christian attitude and behavior in the most extreme instances of persecution and faithfulness. But for each of these accounts there are even more lessons in how we are to live on a daily basis. John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I John 2:15-17). We are to love the Lord, not the world. We are to avoid conformity to the standards of the world, transforming our minds and behavior to reflect the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). It is our duty to obey God’s commands and follow the directives and guidance He has provided us in His written word.
Paul warned the Corinthians: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:12-13). We set the example for younger Christians by showing how we safeguard our own standing with the Lord and demonstrating our confidence that God will protect us from anything beyond our ability to handle. We also lead by being there to restore the fallen among us, helping them to bear up under their burdens and teaching them that ultimately every person must grow self-sufficient in their faith, able to prove himself with the word, but also knowing that each of us will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:1-8;James 5:19-20).
We can all learn from Barnabas who was a true encourager (Acts 11:22-26), friend and reconciler (Acts 9:26-27), as well as a great giver (Acts 4:36-37), and man of principle and conviction (Acts 15:36-41). Others worthy of our emulation, after our Lord’s own example are those who followed in His footsteps in the Bible. Paul exhorted Timothy (and us) with these words: “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (I Timothy 4:13-16). He also encouraged his readers to not forsake our need to motivate one another to do God’s work, love one another and gather with the saints (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Paul also encouraged his young protégé to set an example “in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12). Everything mentioned here are things that we can all do or be involved in in some capacity and should do as servants of God. It is important to note that all these things lift us and those around us up, helping us to be stronger and more effective Christians and ultimately, whether directly or indirectly, leads to a more productive ministry in reaching the lost.
By Roland W. Keith
“There but for the grace of God, go I” is a quote attributed to the English Reformer, John Bradford as he witnessed men being led away to be hanged in the 16th century. No doubt there have been many a man whose life was turned from such a fate because they were led to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and subsequently submitted to Him for salvation. Millions more of us may not have been spared such a worldly end, but we have been set free of a far worse eternal fate because of God’s love and grace. Such grace, when accepted leads us away from all forms of sin and the fires of hell, toward God and His eternal kingdom, as Paul wrote to Titus, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).
Every man and woman are offered the free gift of God’s grace (Ephesians 4:7; Romans 5:18). Each of us can take the Lord’s yoke upon us to serve Him and receive His gift of salvation (Matthew 11:29-30; Mark 16:16; II Corinthians 9:8). It is equally as true that we can turn from God to our own destruction even after having found salvation (Galatians 5:4; II Peter 2:19-22). To understand these things, it is necessary to understand exactly what grace is.
According to the Free Dictionary online grace is “a favor rendered by one who need not do so.” Specific to Christianity it is: (a). Divine favor bestowed freely on people, as in granting redemption from sin. (b). The state of having received such favor. (c). An excellence or power granted by God. According to this and other dictionaries grace is a kindness or approval granted to those willing to accept what is being offered; that is the offer is made, not imposed; one may reject it at the outset, or one may accept it only to return or spurn it at a later time. It is a gift in every sense of the word. Its acceptance, rejection or return is solely at the discretion of the one to whom the gift is offered. However, the gift of grace offered by God is unique. Not only is it completely unmerited, it is a gift that is multidimensional in its nature. By grace we are accepted as the children of God (Jeremiah 3:19; Romans 8:16); we are saved by grace through faith ( Ephesians 2:8; Romans 6:23). We are justified by it (Titus 3:4-7). And, it sets us free from spiritual death (Romans 5:20-21) among other things.
Grace frees us from our sinful past and the consequences of God’s judgment upon the unrighteous by granting us justification through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. According to Jesus, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; see also Romans 5:15-21). We have been made acceptable to God the Father through His Messiah (Ephesians 1:6; I Corinthians 1:4). Nonetheless, just as the Son was made perfect by obedience, becoming the author of our salvation, we too must be obedient to receive that salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9). Many a person on judgment day will claim salvation for themselves based on a form of religion only to be rejected, because they had followed the dictates of their own hearts, instead of being obedient to the Lord (Matthew 7:21).
The grace of God is an extraordinary thing. He has granted it to those who do not deserve it (Romans 3:23; 5:12). He sent His Own Son to earth to purchase our salvation by His Own blood (Acts 20:28; II Corinthians 5:21). Moreover, the work to make God’s gift effective was done entirely by the Godhead (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, there is still action required of us to accept the gift. We must hear the word of God (Romans 10:17). We must believe (John 8:24) and be obedient to the word (Matthew 7:21; James 2:24). We must repent of our sins (Acts 3:19; 17:30-31). We must confess Jesus (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 10:32; Acts 8:26-39). We must be baptized (I Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Finally, we must continue to be faithful (Revelation 2:10).
In order to be faithful, we must remain obedient to the Lord’s commands (I Peter 1:13-14; James 4:7; Luke 16:13; Hebrews 5:9; 13:17). It is imperative that we grow in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18). We must also grow in faith with all diligence (II Corinthians 8:7). We are indeed saved by the grace of God, but that grace is the entry point to a life of faith, obedience and service in the Lord’s kingdom. But great is the end result of our faith on the day of judgment (II Timothy 4:8).
By Roland W. Keith
As all Christians know John the Baptist was the prophesied forerunner of Jesus Christ. As such his message was two-fold: To prepare the people for the arrival of our Savior and to herald the arrival of His kingdom (Matthew 3:1-3). Some people today are still looking forward to the kingdom, awaiting Christ’s return to establish His millennial reign on earth. Others see it as the eternal kingdom of heaven that they look forward to at the end of life. It is true that the kingdom is often spoken of in the New Testament as a future realm (Matthew 25:34; 8:11). However, it was also spoken of as something that was fast upon the world in Christ’s own day. Jesus told His listeners: “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1: see also Matthew 16:16-19).
Jesus did indeed establish His kingdom in the first century, but listen to how He described it: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Paul told the Romans that the kingdom was not eating and drinking (of the flesh), but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (of the Spirit— Romans 14:17). Nonetheless, first century believers saw the kingdom “come with power” during their lifetime. The eternal kingdom proper is in heaven, but it exists spiritually in the temporal world here and now, and has existed for nearly two thousand years. If we do not enter the kingdom while we are here in this body (II Peter 1:1-11), we shall not gain entry at all.
Today we see evidence of the kingdom in the lives and actions of Jesus’ followers. In a sense it is manifested in the places of worship we build to meet in, but those are merely buildings. The kingdom or church (Matthew 16:18-19), is within us and among us as disciples, as noted in Luke 17:20-21: “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The church is the kingdom of God on earth and when we become a Christian we become a citizen of it, as Paul wrote the Colossians, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). God established this spiritual domain and put His Son at its head (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18).
The establishment of the kingdom of God had been long prophesied as was its King (Isaiah 2:1-3; Luke 24:44-49). In Daniel 2:44, we read, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.” As already noted, the church and the kingdom are synonymous terms. Christ is both the King of kings and head of the church (I Timothy 6:15; Ephesians 5:23).
For those interested in how to become a member of God’s eternal kingdom start be reading the four gospel accounts and then read the Book of Acts, particularly chapter two. Through study you will find the five steps, founded on God’s love and grace, that lead to entry into heaven. You must: 1. Hear (or read) the word (gospel of Jesus Christ) (Romans 10:17). 2. You must believe (and exercise that belief in faith) (John 3:17-19; I John 5:5). 3. You must repent of your sins (Mark 1:14-15, Matthew 3:2; Luke 5:32; Acts 11:18). 4. You must confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 10:32-33). 5. You must be baptized (Acts 2:38; 22:16). If you do these things you will be transferred into God’s kingdom. Finally, we must remain faithful till death (Revelation 2:10; II Peter 2:20-21; James 5:19-20; I John 1:9).
By Roland W. Keith
Today we are going to take a look at the five R’s of sin and salvation: the reality of sin, the reasons for sin, the results of sin, God’s remedy for sin, and how to receive God’s remedy. One need only look at man’s destructive behavior to know that evil or sin exists. Quoting Old Testament scripture Paul wrote, “as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). Isaiah wrote of mankind, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6-7). Even our good deeds are often impure in some sense or are less than what they should be. One thing is certain when we look at how man treats his fellow man and the world in general— we are not as good as we could be. The question is why?
Tradition says that the reason for the first sin, committed by Satan, was the sin of pride. Original sin on the other hand is used to describe man’s first sin of disobedience in the garden of Eden. The sin of rebellion fostered by deception and brought to fruition by desire (Genesis 3:1-7). According to the record of this event Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. They had gained a knowledge of good and evil which resulted in them being barred from the tree of life, forever changing their own and their descendant’s natures. Because of their actions all of humanity has been made susceptible to physical and spiritual death through the spread of sin and wrath (Romans 5:12; see also Ephesians 2:3). The Psalmist wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). We are not born guilty of original sin, but we are born to sinful parents into an environment awash in sin. Like a virus sin has infected the entire world. We are born into a diseased world, a disease for which there is no natural cure or immunity. Yet while there is no cure for the disease there is a remedy to prevent its terminal effect— the blood of Christ.
Without the blood of Christ, we cannot overcome the results of sin. Sin has made the whole of mankind desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Though we may desire to do what is right it is common for man to find that he resorts to sin despite his best efforts (Romans 7:18). As Christ said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). It is this dueling nature within man, the battle between good and evil, that man by himself cannot win, Ultimately, he succumbs to sin and its requisite end— death, unless he turns to God (Romans 6:23). It is in Christ that the purity that is required to defeat sin, the purity that we knew as children, can be restored (Matthew 18:4; 10:15). It is in Christ that the defilement of our minds and actions are replaced with Godly purity (Titus 1:15).
The purity of the Christian is not personal perfection but relies on the perfection of Jesus Christ covering our shortcomings. It is evidenced in one who pursues righteousness, faith and the other godly attributes while one flees from sinful passions (II Timothy 2:22). The result of which is pure conduct (I Peter 3:12), self-control (Titus 3:5), and purity of heart Matthew 5:8).
In contrast, even among professed believers, there are those who are self-justified, but are not so in the eyes of God, such as the Pharisee who thanked God he was not like others (Luke 18:11-14). In this lesson, Jesus explained that it was the tax collector, lowly esteemed in Jewish society, who beat his chest and asked for mercy that was justified in God’s eyes. Nor are we justified because we have religious zeal, if that zeal is misplaced and not in accord with God’s word (Romans 10:1-3).
The remedy for sin is to place our faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, and obey His gospel (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; Mark 16:15-16). Described by Paul as the ministry of reconciliation, it is through the gospel that we are restored to God (II Corinthians 5:18-20; I Peter 1:18-19). It is by the blood of Christ and our obedience to the truth that we are born again and have our souls purified (I Peter 1:18, 22-23).
In explaining salvation to his fellow Jews Paul compared the difference between the old covenant and the new. Using himself as an example, he wrote, “though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:4-11).
The resurrection from the dead and the eternal joy of being in the presence of God can only be realized by faith in and obedience to the LORD and His Messiah (Acts 4:12). It is in Jesus that we are made righteous in the sight of God (Acts 2:37-41; I John 1:9). The only way to receive God’s cure for eternal death caused by sin is to turn from our sins in obedience to His son and allow His blood to wash away the effects of sin in our lives. Not only can we be cured, but we can become one of God’s children, free from death’s grasp. As John wrote, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, H). Like a virus sin has infected the entire world. e gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
By Roland W. Keith
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by Him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (I Peter 2:11-15).
Every Christian knows that we have been saved by the grace of God through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It has also been made clear that our own efforts with regard to works of the Law, that is the law of Moses, play no part in our salvation. God alone determined to save us and devised a just plan to do so (Titus 3:4). But to what purpose? We know that God’s desire is for all to come to Him that we may have eternal life with Him and avoid eternal damnation. However, is that the sole reason for all that He has done?
There is a reason why God created the universe, why He created living things, why He created one being in His Own image, why He gave that being dominion over an entire planet, why He gave that being free will, and why He chose to redeem him after he fell from grace. There is no singular reason for these things. God took pleasure in the creative process, and He has remained involved in His creation ever since. As the one being who has been made in God’s image and given a measure of His creative impulses, we know what it is like to create something and be pleased with our efforts (Genesis 1: 25, 27). We also know what it feels like to have something we have made become corrupted. And many of us know the painstaking efforts to restore our creation to its original condition (Luke 12:32; Romans 8:20; Ephesians 1:10). We are, after all, imitators of our Father. God is not simply an observer of His creation, but an intimate participant in its total existence (Colossians 1:15-20).
What then of the creature made to reflect the Creator? Is getting into heaven the sole purpose for our existence? Since God had already created heavenly beings, and since he created us as a part of a physical universe, that assertion does not seem logical. As far as we know humanity is unique in God’s creation. A short blog does not permit us to delve into all the reasons why God created us, so today we will concentrate on one. God created us to do good. According to Paul, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Such good works require us to seek God while turning away from worldly pursuits. In his letter to Titus, Paul also wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (2:12-14).
Jesus spent His entire ministry helping others physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Matthew 15:30; 11:4-5; Acts 10:38). And, according to His example, He expects the same from us, saying, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). In emulating His good deeds through our own we bring glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16; I Peter 2:12).
What are among the requirements for doing good? We must be obedient to those in authority over us (Titus 3:1). We must be devoted to the work; it cannot be an on-again, off-again pursuit (Titus 3:8, 14). Such efforts are profitable to those we help as well as to ourselves. Moreover, a tree that grows to maturity and does not bear fruit is cut down and removed from the orchard as useless (Luke 13:6-9), fit only to be thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19). However, when we bear fruit as Christ’s followers it not only benefits those in urgent need, it also accomplishes something else. By being model citizens concerned with and involved in the welfare of others it also silences those who would scoff at the followers of Christ out of ignorance (I Peter 2:15).
If a tree that doesn’t bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire, what does that say about works? Clearly Paul taught that works do not save (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nonetheless, James wrote, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:14-17, 20, 26).
Are Paul and James at odds? No. The works that are of no consequence are those performed under the Mosaic Law, a merit-based system that could only expose man’s violations of the Law but could not save them. Such works are dead works (Hebrews 6:1; 9:14). On the other hand, we are told that Jesus is the source of salvation for all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). John also tells us that we are children of God if we obey His commandments (I John 5:2). Such obedience requires work on our part. Jesus’ works and those of His apostles compelled those who witnessed them to believe in Jesus (Acts 2:22; John 14:12). While the age of miracles has passed, we continue to do the works of Christ by spreading the gospel and doing the other works that the Father has set before us. Moreover, we will be judged by them (Romans 2:6). Not dead works, that is works of merit under the old Law, but works of faith and obedience under the new law, the law of faith (Romans 3:27), the law of God (Romans 7:22), the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), or the law of liberty (James 1:25). If we are being obedient our fellow Christians and the world should be able to identify Who we belong to by our works. If those works are not there to be seen, can our faith survive?
Here are some examples of the kinds of work we are to be engaged in as God’s servants (Matthew 28:18-20; James 1:27; Acts 2:35; I Thessalonians 5:14; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:14-15; Romans 12:13-18; I Timothy 5:9-10; Hebrews 13:2-3, 6; I Timothy 6: 17-20). These are just some of the things we should be concerned with in the church. It is not a merit system, there is not quota, but it is of these things that we build a life of obedience or disobedience, for which we will be judged, even as the seven churches were judged (Revelation 2, 3). We should encourage one another to join in the harvest and stay the course. And when start to slack remember the words of Paul: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” Galatians 6:9-10).
By Roland W. Keith
“Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 13:5).
Most of us have doubts from time to time. About our abilities, our health, the world around us, about God, about our salvation. About many things. But it doesn’t have to be that way. King David often failed, he often sinned and felt downcast and troubled. Yet he was a man after God’s own heart and over the years he learned not only how to trust in the LORD, but what trust truly means. As king of Israel God did not make his paths straight, He didn’t prevent David from making mistakes or protect him from the consequences of those mistakes. But He did make him a promise, the same one He has made to all who follow Him. That if we obey Him He will be there for us. He will guide us, shield us from being pushed beyond what we can bear, He will give us the strength and understanding that we need to overcome.
King David wrote, “My steps have held fast to Your paths; my feet have not slipped. I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God; incline Your ear to me; hear my words. Wondrously show Your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at Your right hand” (Psalm 17:5-7) . David trusted God to sustain him against his enemies and times of trouble (Psalm 3:3-6). Nonetheless, he understood that death comes to all men, and even innocent and faithful people can die tragic deaths. He would have been well aware of the accounts of the babies Pharaoh killed, Samson and Able to name a few. Today we can add to that list— the children of Bethlehem, Jesus, John the Baptist, Stephen, James, and the traditional accounts of how many of the apostles died.
We can understand then that the trust we have in the LORD does not guarantee us a life of ease or a peaceful death. It is founded on much greater things than those. In Psalm 34:22 we read: “The LORD redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” Yes, God will always be with us and our lives will be the better for it. But what does that mean? It means we will be better people, equipped to deal with life’s troubles and temptations. We will grow not only wiser but spiritually and mentally stronger. And we will be better prepared to meet and accept life’s bounty and poverty with equal disinterest. It also means that we understand God’s endgame. Not to give us a life of ease and luxury here on earth, but to make us strong, obedient, productive members of His kingdom who will one day spend eternity with Him. We do not trust in God necessarily to deliver us from physical death, though He may choose to deliver us again and again, but we trust Him ultimately to raise us up from our physical death to spiritual life (II Corinthians 1:8-10).
The Christian knows that our help in all of life’s trials comes from the Lord, so long as we trust in Him (Psalm 121:1-3; Psalm 125: 1-4). As the Psalmist wrote, “The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him” (Psalm 37:39-40). When we truly put our hope and faith in Him, confident in His promises, God blesses us (Jeremiah 17:7; Proverbs 16:20). When hard times come, we are not afraid, nor do we despair, knowing that in the end we will triumph in Him (Proverbs 16:20; Psalm 112:7-8).
God is always there to sustain us and lead us home, no matter how dire the situation, as we read in Psalm 46:1-7: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.” When we are afraid, we can put our hope in Him with unwavering confidence, as David wrote, “I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4; see also Psalm 56:11-13; Psalm 118:6-8).
When we humble ourselves before the LORD, He will be there to raise us up (I Peter 5:6). God knows our hearts, and, as Paul told the Romans, “all things work together for good” for those who are called by the LORD (Romans 8:27-29). However, as Christians it is important to remember that for us “all things” encompasses all the good and bad we experience and how we use them to achieve the long-game in God’s plan— that which, over many years, brings us to the gates of heaven. Peter alluded to this when he wrote, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled” (I Peter 3:13-14). As one who had suffered for the Lord, Peter was thoroughly acquainted with suffering for righteousness sake, knowing of what he spoke.
None of us have a crystal ball (at least not one that actually works). The best that we can do is to live our lives in obedience to God’s word. To do that we must be well studied in the word and determined to incorporate its wisdom and guidance into our lives. It will also help to be aware of what is going on in the world, particularly regarding the church. It is easy to feel comfortable in the confines of our homes here in America. However, it is not the same in other parts of the world. Moreover, recent events in both the public and political arenas here in the states indicate that our security even here is waning. How prepared are we to trust in the LORD? Are we ready to say, as Paul did, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6). Are we determined to heed Christ’s words to the faithful in Smyrna, when John wrote to them: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Remember it was Jesus who told His followers, “I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you Whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5). Trusting in the LORD means more than just looking forward to all the promises of good He has made to us. It also means trusting in His warnings about the judgment. If the promise of heaven isn’t motivation enough then let hell motivate you as well. I once heard someone opine, “I know for sure I don’t want to go to hell, Texas is hot enough.” Growing up in West Texas I understand exactly what they meant, but how serious were they? All joking aside, heaven and hell is as serious a conversation as we can have. The greatest command is to love God with everything we have. Do we love Him enough to want to obey His every command? Do we love Him enough to want to spend eternity with Him? And, secondarily do we love ourselves enough to want to secure our eternal welfare as opposed to earthly gain?
If we have our priorities straight then we will put our love and trust in the LORD, and be able to join with Paul in saying, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, Who was raised—Who is at the right hand of God, Who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.