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).
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.