By Roland W. Keith
Over the years we have probably all seen articles, infomercials, and books that have proclaimed that they will divulge “the secret of weight loss,” “the secret of happiness,” or the “secret of success.” Many of us have also discovered that there really is no secret. Success comes from educating ourselves on sound methodologies, techniques and doctrines within the field of endeavor and then diligently and appropriately applying those things with a lot of hard work.
In business a person speaks of business principles and work ethic. A sports person talks of conditioning, rules, sportsmanship and game plans. A scientist speaks of hypotheses, theories, models and methods. In each case these road maps to success require discovery, innovation, failure, correction, adaptation, application, evaluating, and sometimes going back to square one and starting over. And, in the end if one does not find and apply a sound strategy or approach failure is almost certain.
The same is true for life at large. You can’t just blunder through life with no moral compass or plan and expect to find success or happiness. Good parents understand this, which is why they spend considerable effort in teaching their children the difference between right and wrong, good sportsmanship, the importance of hard work, respecting others, sharing, being a good neighbor, and protecting home and community. In our country these principles, on which we base our worldview, are based primarily on the Christian principles laid out for us in the Bible.
When Jesus came to earth, He established a new covenant between God and man, known as the Law of Liberty (James 2:12), the Law of Faith (Romans 3:27), and the Law of God (Romans 7:22), among other things. The old law (of Moses) was man’s guardian until Christ came (Galatians 3:24-26), and redeemed us through His blood (Ephesians 1:3-7). It was in Christ, that God created a new man, reconciling the world to Himself and establishing a new way of life, based on grace, faith and obedience (I Corinthians 5:17-19).
For those who become a Christian God has provided a roadmap, not only to a successful life on earth, but to the very gates of heaven. The Law of God, as recorded in the New Testament, sets forth the principles of a godly life. Within it we learn that we can communicate our needs directly to God, laying aside our anxieties in life by trusting that God will be with us and guide us through life’s difficulties (Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 6:25), and that ultimately when this life is over we will be welcomed into His eternal rest (John 14:1-3).
Whatever we face in life the scriptures offer a path to success. Not a magic wand to wave our problems away, but a way of life that leads us to right decisions and understanding, even godly wisdom (II Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:5; Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:9). It is on this path that we can find true happiness in life, not defined by circumstance, but by our attitude and determination to overcome the world, and find satisfaction in doing God’s will in our lives.
In that sense it is best to have a short memory, or at least one that does not dwell on past failures or disappointments, as Paul wrote, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:13-16).
Like Paul we can learn to rejoice and give thanks, even in the bleakest hours, trusting that all things will pass and work according to the will of God and to our ultimate benefit (I Thessalonians 5:16-18; I Peter 5:6-7). Unlike the apostles when they found themselves in stormy seas, we need to trust the One Who is Master of all things, believing that He will see us through the storm (Matthew 8:23-26).
Well, I see the end of the page approaching with more verses to discuss than space allows, so I will have to continue our study next week; I hope you will come back for the conclusion next Monday!
by Roland W. Keith
All of us who have been made alive with Christ, having received salvation through Him, are members of the fellowship of believers known as the church or the kingdom of God. It is a unique assembly of people, where all are made equal in the truest sense— no matter what our achievements are failings in life we share in the blessings made available by the grace of God here on this earth, and more so when we are one day seated with Christ in His heavenly abode (Ephesians 2:4-7). As Paul wrote the Galatians: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:27-29).
A promise has been made by One who cannot tell a lie and can (and will) deliver on all His plans. In I Corinthians 1:9-10 we read, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” We are called to a single communion and should therefore set aside all differences and act in one accord, in obedience to the will of the One Who has brought us together. As Peter noted each of us is like a living stone, being built up together upon the chief cornerstone, which is Jesus Christ, as a spiritual house. More than that, he tells us that we are, no matter what our earthly heritage, a single race of people made into a holy nation by God. In this world we are no more than sojourners and exiles awaiting our passage home (I Peter 2:4-12). As such we look to the horizon for a land yet unseen, trusting that it is there, with a safe harbor to receive us when we depart this life.
Jesus once prayed not only for those who had met and accepted Him as Messiah, but for all those of all generations who, through the word, would come to Him for salvation (John 17:20). He asked that we would all be as one with one another and would come together in the Father and the Son. There are to be no factions, or separateness of thought or understanding in the essentials of Christianity. There is but one foundation (I Corinthians 3:1-11), and as Paul told the Ephesians, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift (Ephesians 4:4-7). We are to be one in the faith because there is but one faith, we are to be one in the Lord because there is only one Lord, we are to be members of one body because Christ established only one kingdom. And, within that kingdom we are to follow the example of our King. As His disciples we are to serve not only Him, but each other and the world (John 13: 13-17).
We may not all be (nor could we be) members of the same congregation, but we are still members of the same church and should be able to recognize one another by our actions (Mark 9:38-42), accepting those who are teaching and acting in accordance to God’s truth with the right hand of fellowship. However, we must be discerning. Many may claim to be of the light, while walking in the darkness still; our fellowship must be reserved for those who are truly in the light (I John 1:5-7; 2:9-11). Christ once said, “For the one who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40), however, He also taught, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). As Christians we must be able to recognize the difference.
Many in the world distinguish between themselves and others according to race, creed and color, or national origin, or education, or social status, etc. Christians do not. As Paul noted, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:14-22).
All differences between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and woman (Galatians 3:27-29), and we might add rich and poor are of no account. We are one body in Christ, as Paul wrote, “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (I Corinthians 12:18-27).
We all have different parts to play, but there should be no division among us. God sees each of us as essential members of the body He has created, therefore we should seek a mind of unity and reconciliation (I Peter 3:8-9). How often have we seen discord among members of a family? It is all too common. However, Jesus taught that to be a member of His family we have to rise above the common motivations and divisions of a worldly family to be something different. Matthew recorded this observation of Jesus’, “While He was still speaking to the people, behold, His mother and His brothers stood outside, asking to speak to Him. But He replied to the man who told Him, "Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).
It is difficult to imagine the feeling of hearing Jesus say, “Welcome to paradise, My brother!” However, if we are faithful adherents to God’s word one day we will be welcomed to heaven by our Lord. For now the Bible tells us how to treat each other as Christian brothers and sisters, as well as how we are to treat the world. There is no mystery involved in how we are to live our lives while we are here upon this earth. Can we always live in peace? No. But we are to be at peace in the body of Christ (I Thessalonians 5:13), and in as much as it is within our power to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14). As David once wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 113:1-3). If we want the peace of heaven, we should seek peace on earth. We may not be able to achieve it, but it must be our goal.
As members of the fellowship of believers our concern is the world, and most particularly the body of Christ. What do we do on a daily basis to advance the cause of God’s kingdom? What do we do to protect our fellow brothers and sisters within it? Moreover, how often do we actually fellowship together? It is an obvious thing to state that “Unity comes from being united,” but it seems like people need to be reminded of that from time-to-time. One more thing comes to mind as we approach Thanksgiving Day, how often do we give thanks for the fellowship we share in Christ, knowing that every time we come together, we have a special guest: “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).
Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a great day of fellowship!
“And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
What if I were to tell you a child should fear his parents, what would you think? Some of you might agree, while others might say “I don’t want my child to be afraid of me.” But that is to misunderstand the difference between fearing something or someone and being afraid of something or someone. To be afraid is to be filled with an apprehension or a foreboding sense, born of a fear of future evil. The antagonist in such a scenario is not someone we normally respect or love or trust with our well-being because we perceive them as an imminent threat to our safety or that of someone else we love. On the other hand, while to fear someone may contain a small measure of apprehension, it is born of an understanding of the power and authority one holds over us, not the threat of evil. The sort of fear we are talking about, as used in the Bible to describe man’s relationship to God is born of respect and reverence for another, coupled with the knowledge that that person loves us and has our best interests at heart, that they are worthy of our trust and are fair in their judgments. So, I ask again, shouldn’t a child fear his parents? And, shouldn’t we fear the Lord?
Solomon once said, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). Such fear leads to a life of satisfaction and safety (Proverbs 19:23). However, the wise king also observed that the foolish man abhors the instruction that leads to such understanding, despising himself by his own actions, while the humble man who accepts God’s instruction dwells among the wise (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 15:31-33). Instead of being a weakness, fear of the Lord becomes a strength to those who seek it even as it leads to the destruction of evildoers (Proverbs 10:27-29). According to Malachi, God takes notice of those who fear Him and treasures them as a son, distinguishing between those who obey Him and those who do not (Malachi 3:16-18).
A photograph of some protestors recently appeared on line; in the photo one of them was carrying a sign that read, “If Jesus comes back, kill Him again.” I felt sad when looking at that picture, and a bit afraid knowing that so many in our society today hate the very idea of God and are so arrogant in the display of their hatred. It is certainly their right to feel that way, but I am reminded of the proverb: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil” (Proverbs 16:5-6). At my age I realize that all such people cannot be reached, in fact most will fall by the wayside. But we keep trying, right? Our consolation is in knowing that when one does call on the name of the Lord, God hears them and draws near (Psalm 145:17-19).
It is not the strength of a man that God delights in; but the one who fears Him, who seeks Him, who places his hope in Him is the one that pleases the Lord (Psalm 147:10-11; Proverbs 2:4-5). The man that respects God and honors His commands finds his greatest strength in life (Proverbs 14:26-27). When we study God’s word and fear its meaning the Lord guides us through its instruction, establishing His covenant within us, becoming not only our Lord, but our friend. A relationship that benefits not only us but future generations that we influence by it (Psalm 25:12-14). According to King David, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).
David often wrote of the benefits of knowing God. In this psalm he spoke of how we are blessed by God’s law, His testimony, His precepts, His commands and rules, His righteousness, and our fear of the Lord. God’s greatness David tells us, along with the other writers of the scriptures, is worthy of our love and honor, our respect and admiration, and our fear and obedience. He does for each of us what we cannot do for ourselves— He absolves us of our sins, freeing us from eternal condemnation. Yes, we should be afraid of His judgment, but such apprehension is overcome by the hope of His promises, and the loving care He has shown for us by sending His Only Son to earth to die for us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom— the wisdom that leads us to salvation and a home in heaven.
In this life a well-raised child fears her parents, the very ones who are responsible for her existence, her upbringing, and her safety. She dreads the punishment she receives by their hands when she does something wrong, but it is into their arms that she runs for protection and comfort from the bad things in life. She runs to them because she knows they love her and will do all they can for her well-being. As beings created in the image of God, we get that from our Heavenly Father, Who opens His arms wide when one of us runs to Him. He will punish those who have done wrong and refuse to repent and come to Him, but He has done, and will continue to do all that He can for us to protect us not only from the world, but from our own weaknesses and failures. However, He expects us to stand and follow Him, even as He prepares and strengthens us for all of life’s battles.
The greatest benefit in knowing and fearing the Lord is gaining the knowledge we need to overcome the world and finding strength and power in that knowledge when we act in obedience to His commands. It is a benefit that comes from acknowledging that He is the one true God. In I Chronicles we read, “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place” (I Chronicles 16:25-27). There is only one God, one Creator, one Judge and Savior of the world. It is Him that we should fear (Matthew 10:28), and it is He that we should love above all others for Who He is, and what He has done (John 3:16; Matthew 10:37).
After testing the world and himself, and after much study and contemplation King Solomon came to this conclusion: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). In the end we should fear God because He is God, and it is our duty. However, if we are His obedient children, we can do so with joy in our hearts knowing that our Father in Heaven has our best interests at heart.
by Roland W. Keith
"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel" (which means, God with us) (Matthew 1:23).
The Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of Messiah— One Who would not only deliver the Jews, but who would in fact bless the whole world. Hundreds of years after those prophecies were made the apostles proclaimed that the word of God had been fulfilled. Not only had Messiah come, but He was no ordinary man. He was the Son of God— deity incarnate. According to John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John would also explain that the Savior, so long awaited was in fact our Creator come to earth, writing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
According to Paul, God’s plan of salvation required His own Son to leave His exalted place in heaven and “empty Himself” by taking human form to deliver God’s word to man, and when rejected to be obedient to the Father’s master plan even to the point of being nailed to a cross (Philippians 2:5-8). If you are a Christian, a member of Christ’s church, it is because Jesus completed His task in all points honoring His Father’s commands (Matthew 17:5; John 8:28; 12:49).
The word delivered by Jesus, and subsequently His disciples was the gospel (Matthew 24:14; Mark 1:15; 16:15). It is through these words that salvation comes to man and a new covenant between God and man was established (Matthew 26:26-28; I Corinthians 7:22; Hebrews 7:22; 8:7; 10:16). According to Luke the gospel proclaimed Christ crucified and risen from the grave, and the forgiveness of sins in His name (Luke 24:46-47; I Corinthians 2:1-2). The apostle Paul would later explain that not only was Christ the testator of the will, but having risen from the grave He is now the mediator of the new covenant, redeeming all who come to Him through his own blood which was shed to pay for their sins (Hebrews 9:15-18).
In the book of Acts, we are told, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). All hope of an eternal life with God rests with Jesus Christ.
In Jesus’ day and ever since it has been hard for many to accept what God accomplished through Him. One of those early on was a man named Saul, who wrote, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:9-11). Later on the man who would become known as Paul would have his day of reckoning with Christ (Acts 9:1-18).
Paul would spend the rest of his life combating the enemies of Christ, giving everything he had to convert all that he could to his Savior (I Corinthians 9:22; Romans 11:4), and continuously warning both the saved and unsaved of the perils of the evil around them, all in the name of Jesus (II Corinthians 4:4-6; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 2:12; II Timothy 2:10). Paul was not alone in warning of the dangers facing those who would come to Christ. Peter also cautioned his fellow Christians to stay true to the Lord while being wary of those who would draw them away (II Peter 2:1-3). In the end both the faithful and unfaithful will stand before God as Paul wrote, “for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11-12).
With all the warnings, however, the greater message was positive and powerful. The world might have a veil over its eyes, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (II Corinthians 3:16). Those who believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and are willing to confess Him will be saved (Romans 10:8-10), if we are willing to come to Him in obedience to His word (Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:20-21; Matthew 25:31-46; 7:21-22; Romans 12:2; Acts 17:30). If we obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29), we will find a home in heaven, our debt of sin cancelled by Christ on the cross (Colossians 2:14).
Through the sacrifice of His Son God has qualified those who come to Him for a place in His kingdom (Colossians 1:11-14). Moreover, because of the faithful obedience of His Son, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11.
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.