by Roland W. Keith
It is not unusual to hear a philosopher or so-called deep-thinker say or write something like “a life well-lived is a life lived for others.” The sentiment is honorable enough. A good person helps others. In fact, on the surface such a philosophy sounds downright Christian. But, is it? The truth is the right or wrong-mindedness of such a philosophy or ideology really depends on one’s definition of ‘helping’ or ‘living for’ others. In today’s politically correct world of all things liberal, tried and true values are being discarded in favor of the liberal agenda of the left, based not on Christian principles or conservative values, but on the apparent whims of progressives. In their view all conservative (and Christian) values must be suppressed, if not outright destroyed, while seemingly free-range liberal values are to be instituted at all costs, which they claim is helping others (but looks a lot like negative socio-political engineering to some of us) .
Don’t worry this is not a political piece. The question is, as Christians, what should our worldview be? The answer is not as open-ended as some people may think. The truth is if we study Bible principles (that is study the Bible) and seek to abide in Christ as He abides in us, the scriptures will guide us in how we are to live, the type of example we should set for the world, how we define acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and how we can truly help others (for example: not enabling their behavior, but helping them to their feet and teaching them to live up to their responsibilities).
Paul wrote the Colossians: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). The Christian man and woman walk according to the teachings of Christ, so much so that Paul equated life in terms of no longer living to self but letting Christ live through him (Galatians 2:20). Everything that Paul believed and lived by prior to knowing Christ he discarded if it did not meet with the Lord’s teachings. He was willing to sacrifice all to live for Christ. Moreover, Paul believed that all who come to Christ are transformed in the process (II Corinthians 5:17). As fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17), our focus should shift from a dying world to the eternal kingdom and our actions and concerns for ourselves and our fellow man should reflect that.
When we become members of Christ’s spiritual body (Ephesians 1:22-23), and subjects in His kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14), our view of how to live our lives should change (Ephesians 4:1-4). The combative man learns to live in peace, impatience becomes patience, the divisive woman seeks unity. We understand the preeminence of Christ and where His authority comes from and why we subject ourselves to it. In Genesis, when God the Father spoke the command as the great architect of creation He created it through His Son. It was Christ, the Son, Who was the builder. In that sense not only was the universe created by Him, it was created for Him, and it is He who holds it together to this day (Colossians 1:15-17). To come before God, through His Son, we honor and worship our Creator. When we live according to His word we become a part of His great plan of reconciliation for mankind. Our job is not is not to give others everything they want— it is to do our part in bringing all men together in Christ.
Paul wrote, “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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17). Our goal is to please the Lord by sharing that gospel; therefore, while we may long for the perfection of heaven we are of good courage here on earth (II Corinthians 5:6-9)— we have a job to do and we must do it with all diligence, in Christian fellowship (Romans 12:11; I John 1:7).
To please God, we must know what it is He wants us to do. In Deuteronomy 10:12-13 we read, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” The word fear here is to understand the power and authority of God, to respect and obey Him, and to worship Him. For the Israelites to heed these instructions they had to turn to the Law of Moses and the Septuagint (the Old Testament scriptures). For the Christian today to heed these words we must know the commandments and statutes as set down in the New Testament. The covenants may be different but the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:13 are still true: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
It is the duty of man to obey God. For those of us who have accepted the gift of salvation we find that by His grace we also, through His word, receive the training we need to renounce the world as we learn to live upright and productive Christian lives (Titus 2:11-14). As Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). The Christian laborer who is following the commands of the Lord is always productive, even though they may not always see the fruits of their labor. Not only is the Christian productive he or she is always growing through their studies. Yet how many of us could benefit from reminders of God’s will, such as Paul’s words to Titus: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1-2)?
The Christian, then, is a lifelong student and activist. An activist in the sense that he is actively engaged in living and sharing God’s word, as James noted when he spoke of being a doer of the word and not merely a hearer of it (James 1:22-25). Peter also spoke of the responsibilities of the Christian when he wrote, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (II Peter 1:6-10).
Along with Peter the apostle Paul also made a few lists, both about the fruits of the Spirit we develop (Galatians 5:22-25), and the works of the flesh we must overcome, such as idolatry anger, dissensions, sexual immorality, enmity, etc., warning those who fail to overcome the flesh that there is no place in heaven for those who do such works (Galatians 5:16-21). However, for those who are faithful and overcome whatever the devil may throw at them Jesus said, “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. This is what God has promised since the very beginning (Titus 1:2).
For those who abide in Christ and the law of the Spirit of life, freedom from sin and death awaits them (Romans 8:1-4). What we also find in observing these people is that they have a positive effect on all those around them, including non-Christians. The very nature of the Christian way is to live for Christ, which is to live for others. That doesn’t mean that the world will accept what we are saying and doing as Christians— some will agree with many of our principles yet reject the gospel of Christ, and in today’s world many will reject Christ and His word wholesale. In the end not everyone wants to be helped, not really. Instead, many want to remain in the condition they are in, whatever that condition may be. In fact, some of them will try to separate us from God and God from society by whatever means possible. To those we can reply as Paul did when he wrote, “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 8:35-39). To abide in Christ is to be victorious. No matter what our station in life, each and every Christian gains more than he or she could ever acquire in this life, laying hold of a treasure that exceeds all the wealth of the world when they pass through the gates of heaven into eternal life there. Moreover, when they lift one other person up helping them to know Christ they accomplish more than any CEO or politician or athlete who is looking toward worldly accomplishment ever will.
by Roland W. Keith
Before Christ came to earth man was not at liberty. Yes, people had free will, and could do as they pleased for the most part, but they were not truly free. At least not spiritually. They were bound by the Law— and the Law of Moses was a burdensome task master from which one could not separate himself. It was his guardian, accuser and executioner. Once you had violated it there was no extrication from punishment. Only through ritual practices of substitution (blood sacrifice) was its final verdict held in abeyance even for those who were faithful. As Paul told the Galatians, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:24-27).
It was Christ who set us free from the bondage of the Law of Moses. It was in Him that the old covenant and its system of law was replaced by a new covenant and a new system of law— the law of liberty, under which mercy triumphs over judgment for the faithful in Christ (James 2:12). In Romans 3:21-24, 27, we read, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law [of Moses], although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.”
When Jesus came He offered all men freedom from the eternal punishment that awaited them under the old Law (Revelation 22:16-17). Yet there were (and are) many who refuse His invitation, even among those who study the scriptures (II Corinthians 3:14-18); for those who turn to Jesus, however, the veil that separates man from God is lifted (v. 17).
Finding freedom in Christ is not without risk, however. With new-found gain there are often temptations, even in the spiritual realm. We must not abuse what we have gained, as Paul warned the people of Galatia, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:13-15).
For those who avoid such temptations and stay the course there is great reward, as James noted: “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). According to James one must remain true to the law of liberty, also known as the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), to attain its blessings.
The apostle Peter also encouraged his readers to remain faithful to the freedom gained through Christ when he wrote, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (I Peter 2:15-17).
One day not only man, but all of creation will be set free from the corruption caused by sin (Romans 8:19-24). Until that final day those of us who hope in Christ must be strong, resisting the one who would separate us from God, as Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:1, 5-6).
Jesus once told His listeners, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 34-36). If you have been set free from sin there is no greater place to be in your life, for as Paul explained to the Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). If you are free hold on to that freedom that leads to heaven’s gate, if you are not free I sincerely hope that you will be one day soon.
by Roland W. Keith
II Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
The classical view on the nature of hell is to the modern mind perhaps the most controversial. Throughout the history of the Church it has been the accepted position that hell is a literal place of both fire and darkness. As the eternal address of the condemned it is the most inhospitable and terrifying abode imaginable. Opponents to this view question how a merciful and loving God could subject the condemned to such a punishment for eternity.
To reconcile their concept of a just God with the plight of the condemned on judgment day many deny the existence of such a place altogether, but Jesus Himself says that “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). On another occasion He warned against behavior that would condemn one to hell with these stern words, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43, 47-48).
Others concede that God will certainly punish the wicked, but believe that the horrific description of hell is merely symbolic of the tragic state of being separated from God. However, we must not be too quick to ascribe symbolism to every visual description of the afterlife. Remember that most of the bible is literal and hell is described several times outside of the prophetic books, such as Revelation, and yet with much of the same terminology (see Matthew and Mark, above). Even in the prophetic books it is not necessarily true that all that is described by their writers is symbolic rather than literal.
Still others believe that hell may be as terrible as it is described but temper their sensibility of God’s justice by suggesting that the punishment is of limited duration whereupon those punished are either annihilated, or simply serve their sentence before being reconciled to God in heaven. In II Thessalonians 1:7-9, Paul wrote that, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.”
The punishment for the wicked is eternal, but is it eternal annihilation or suffering? In Revelation 20:12-15, John wrote, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written on the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Jesus describes the suffering of the wicked with these words in the book of Matthew 25:41, 46: “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels… and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The Bible does not leave us any room to logically deny the existence of a place called hell. It is clearly described, and the reasons for its existence, as an abode for the wicked, are explained, as are the reasons for how and why one is condemned to it for eternity. Moreover, while some may still wish to complain about the seemingly unfair possibility of ending up there, God in all fairness has left that decision to us. We choose where we will spend eternity. Choose wisely.
by Roland W. Keith
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
To comprehend the destiny of those who have not been evangelized we must begin with this understanding. Whatever God’s justice demands, even if it is beyond our human comprehension, it is no more than we deserve. As a loving and holy creator God’s justice cannot be anything other than fair. If God had not devised a plan to satisfy His Own requirement for justice, while at the same time providing an avenue for salvation, each man, woman and child beyond the age of understanding would be destined for hell.
In one sense God’s plan of salvation has two parts. The first was to send His Own Son to earth to live a perfect life, thus fulfilling the law, and having done so for that Son to lay down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. Romans3:16-18 reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
The second part of God’s plan is to use the followers of Christ to reach as many of the condemned as we can. God’s plan encompasses three categories of man— (1) Those that have heard and accepted God’s offer of salvation, (2) Those that have heard and rejected God’s offer, and (3) those that have not heard the gospel. The fate of groups two and three is ultimately the same because both remain in their sins. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Those that remain condemned suffer the second death, that is being cast into hell (Revelation 20:14).
Some question the fairness of condemning those that have not had the opportunity to hear of Christ. But Romans 1:19-21 explains, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse.” Each human has the innate and intuitive ability to perceive the existence of God, and to govern his life according to the natural law God has placed in his heart (Romans 2:14-15). Each of us has broken God’s law and stands condemned unless we are fortunate enough to hear God’s offer of salvation and accept it.
As Christians this knowledge concerning the condition of our own souls, as well as those of our fellow man should motivate us to evangelize as many as we can when we consider the words of Paul, “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?... But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us? So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17).
Acts 17:31 tells us that God “has fixed a day on which He will judge the world.” Jesus described that day when the three categories of man will stand before Him in Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
If we care about the plight of those who are lost it is incumbent on us, as Christians, to provide them with the opportunity to know and accept Christ as Savior.
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.