By Roland W. Keith
What does it mean to fall away from God? To fall from grace? Many in Christendom believe that such a thing cannot happen, that once one is saved, they are always saved. After all, it was Jesus Himself Who said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:37-40). However, to understand what Jesus is saying here we must focus on a key word used twice in this text— that word is should. As used, it is an auxiliary function to express the futurity of an outcome that is probable or expected. It is not an absolute or foregone conclusion.
Jesus would go on to say, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand” (John 10:28-29). Here we focus on another word: will. Although it is not always used in absolute terms, here it is used to express the inevitability of what is being said. No one has the power to “snatch” a child of God from the grasp of his Savior. So how do we reconcile these two statements of Jesus’ concerning salvation? It is God’s will that all men should be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4), but clearly that is not the case. Many will reject God outright. But, what about those who have come to Christ and accepted Him as Savior? Are they not protected? The answer is yes— as long as they are obedient. All men— saved or unsaved— maintain their free will. No outside force can pull us away from God. If we lose our salvation subsequent to being saved it will be an inside job. It will be because we voluntarily forfeit what God has given us. You see, falling away is synonymous with turning away from or turning our backs on our Savior after all He has done for us. We should be saved after accepting Christ as Lord and obeying the gospel, but ultimately the choice is ours (Philippians 2:12).
In his letter to the Hebrews Paul wrote, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29). In similar fashion, Peter wrote, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (II Peter 2:20). It is a notable, and sobering warning, that Peter said of such people, “For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (v. 21).
It is clear that neither Paul nor Peter are addressing the unsaved about their spiritual condition, but are speaking to those already sanctified, and issuing a warning as to the consequences of turning back to the world after having received the gift of salvation. The New Testament is full of examples of those who had jeopardized their eternal standing. Simon the sorcerer was warned to repent and pray for the possibility of forgiveness (Acts 8:9-24). Paul turned Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan with the hope that they would learn not to blaspheme (I Timothy 1:18-20). Demas deserted Paul (and the Lord) because he turned back to his love for the world; and, there is no indication that he ever returned to the church (Titus 3:10). In his letter to Titus, Paul instructed him to have nothing more to do with those within the church who stir up division after one or two warnings, writing that “such a person is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).
God did not spare the angels of heaven when they sinned, nor will He spare us if we leave our position in the church (II Peter 2:4-9; Jude 1:6). Certainly, He knows how to, and is willing to rescue us from our trials, but when they are self-inflicted, we must repent. The prodigal son was received by his father with great joy, but only after he came to himself and returned to his father’s house (Luke 15:11-32). On the other hand, Judas Iscariot was a legitimate disciple of Jesus, casting out demons, anointing and healing the sick, and testifying for the Lord with the other apostles (Mark 6:11-13), yet he ultimately turned his back on the Lord and betrayed Him (Mark 6:11-13; 14:10; Luke 6:16; 22:3; Matthew 26:14-16). Of him, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mark 14:21).
Judas is not alone in the Bible as one who turned from God, forfeiting the promise given to him. An entire generation died in the wilderness because of their failure to trust in God and obey Him. Speaking of them Paul wrote, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:11-12). With regard to those of us under the new covenant Paul additionally wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (I Timothy 4:1-2). These can be numbered among those who have escaped the defilements of the world, only to become entangled in them again (II Peter 2:20-22).
So, how or why do some who have salvation in their grasp give it up? Many believe there is a God, and that Jesus is His Son, but they do not trust God to deliver His promises, much as the Israelites in the desert suffered from this form of unbelief (Hebrews 3:18-19). Others will be misled by men who twist the truth to draw them away (Acts 20:29-30). Still others will fall under the weight of tribulation or persecution (Matthew 13:20-21). However, the greatest number perhaps will suffer condemnation in a manner wholly self-inflicted— because of their own selfish desires. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (II Timothy 4:3-4). John also seemed to recognize the continual draw of the world among many in the church warning, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:15-17).
Those who continue to be tempted by the world must find a way to submit their will to that of God. Moreover, while God does not shield us from the world, He does have our back, as Paul noted, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13). For our part we must remain diligent, trusting in the Lord. Not only does He provide an escape, He provides the tools we need to overcome (II Peter 1:3-10; Ephesians 6:12-18). We also must have a determined, disciplined approach to how we live as Christians (I Corinthians 9:27). God has given us the play book, but we are the one’s responsible for properly executing it, so we must study the book and execute its commands appropriately. For those who are successful Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death” (John 8:51; Acts 10:32).
When we fail, and we will fail, we do not fall back; instead we repent, and move forward, knowing that God will forgive the penitent heart (I John 1:9; Revelation 2:5). The sincere Christian takes his own salvation and his responsibility to others seriously. He seeks wisdom and strength through the word, via prayer, in fellowship, and in action. There is no better way to become good at something than by practicing it. We have all heard the old saying “practice what you preach.” Well, for the Christian that should be a way of life. We should be doing the Lord’s work, stirring one another up to do more, worshiping and fellow-shipping together (Hebrews 10:24-25; I Corinthians 10:16).
Those who succeed in their Christian walk seek to instill the qualities of Christ in themselves, such as those mentioned by Peter (II Peter 1:5-10). He learns to let love abound toward all men (Hebrews 13:1-6). The Christian learns to deny himself for the sake of Christ (Matthew 16:24-25), sacrificing himself for others. He becomes a diligent watchman, confident in the strength he has gained in Christ (I Corinthians 16:13). And, he is sober-minded, willing to suffer for what he believes in (II Timothy 4:4-8), certain of victory.
by Roland W. Keith
Last week in our discussion of life and happiness we considered the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “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” (Philippians 3:13-15). We may not be able to truly forget the past in every respect, but we do not have to be one of those people who spend more time looking backwards than than they do ahead.
We can learn from the past, but we can’t change it. So, take life’s lessons and use them to move forward. That includes letting go of our tendency to judge others from a purely selfish (self-righteous) perspective, and holding on to old grudges, remembering that judgment awaits all of us, therefore it is best to get our own house in order first (Matthew 7:1-5). As Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). It is amazing how much understanding and tolerance we can gain when we take a hard look at ourselves before criticizing others. We may just discover we’re all bailing water out of the same boat, so its best to work together.
One of the stepping stones to happiness is in discovering that we all have more in common than we realize. We have all fallen short (Romans 3:23), we will all be judged (Revelation 20:12-13), we all need God’s mercy (Romans 11:32; Hebrews 4:16; I Peter 1:3; 2:10), and we can all find salvation in Jesus (Acts 4:12; Romans 1:16; I Thessalonians 5:9; Titus 2:11). It is easier to get along with others when we focus on our commonalities rather than our differences. And, it is easier to be happy with ourselves when we judge ourselves in humble regard to the teachings of Christ.
Another stepping stone to true happiness is in learning the power of positive thinking. For the Christian that begins with the word of God and the wisdom imparted there (Job 12:13; 28:12-28; I Corinthians 1:24, 30; James 1:5). When we meditate upon His word it becomes the source of enlightenment that will forever change how we view and live life. Among the scriptures are these words from Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).
Peace and happiness are within our reach. Not every minute of every day. There will always be sadness and loss, pain and disappointment or regret. But for the Christian those periods can be all but washed away in the joy and contentment of knowing Jesus Christ. Even our sadness can be tinged with the understanding that our lives upon this earth are but a moment in eternity, and that peace awaits the followers of Christ on the other side of death.
Like all things worth having happiness and contentment require something of us. Paul said we needed to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, holding fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:12-16). To me the hope of salvation is the ultimate manifestation of happiness or joy. If we truly believe that all of life’s upsets can be held in the proper perspective. As Paul wrote, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
The faithful, obedient Christian is heir to the promises of God (Romans 8:14-17). We have a Spirit who intercedes for us when we are struggling, but calling on the Lord; moreover, we can rest assured that all things work for our good in a spiritual, eternal sense (Romans 8:27-29). Therefore, no matter what the world throws at us we can be at peace with ourselves and live in peace with others, so long as it is within our power (Romans 12:18). Along with Paul we can abound, no matter what the circumstances, because our happiness and joy are bound up in the promises of God, not in the pursuit of worldly things are how the world treats us. Christ and our Christian family are the source of our comfort.
This world, and this life are temporary. We are just passing through on our way to another place, as John wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
What greater source of happiness is there than to know what awaits us in eternity? Why let the world get you down? Ask, and God will not only guide you in the here and now, but He will also prepare a home for you in the hereafter. All you have to do is obey His call.
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.
by Roland W. Keith
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:5-6).
Paul’s words to the Corinthians are at the heart of Christian service. As Christians we do not work for nor proclaim ourselves, but rather Christ crucified and His gospel. By teaching His word we light up the world with the knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Moreover, our work is for the Lord, not for man, meaning our allegiance is to God, not to any man or institution, but to God and His word alone; and for our faithful service we receive the promised inheritance as children of God (Colossians 3:23-25).
It is important in serving the Lord to understand that no man is expected to do it all. Each of us has abilities that we can use to serve in different capacities. We are one team, and while our works may overlap, we each have unique roles to play, as Peter wrote, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (I Peter 4:10-11; see also I Corinthians 3:8-9).
In addition to assessing our talents each of us must also make an honest assessment of ourselves— that is, of our commitment. There is no halfway with the Lord. If we commit, we must give God our best. We cannot look back at the world. If we are not willing to renounce what the world stands for we have no hope of succeeding in following Christ (Luke 9:57-62; 14:27-33). Someone in the business world once said, “It takes money to make money.” There is a cost to being successful, not only in money, but in time and effort, and in dedication and faith. The Christian may live in the world, but he cannot be worldly. He or she must leave the ways of the world behind to take the Christian path to salvation.
Christ often spoke of what it takes to be a true disciple of His. We must love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35). Even as we love one another as brothers and sisters, we must love the world as our neighbors showing compassion for their situation and giving of ourselves to care for their needs (Luke 10:29-36). Though we separate ourselves from the world in our behavior we still have a responsibility toward our fellow man. In fact, when we become Christians that responsibility only grows, taking on a spiritual dimension not previously considered or understood. Fortunately, we do not stand alone. As we are in Christ, being a part of His spiritual body, He works in and through us (John 15:4-5).
As previously mentioned, the dedication and commitment of the Christian must be absolute. Each of us must be faithful, understanding that we cannot serve the master of this world and our heavenly master at the same time (Luke 16:10-13). In fact, we cannot have two masters— therefore we must choose who we will follow. Consider Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34-38, “And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Clearly, we must decide who our loyalty belongs to. If, on the day of judgment, we want the Lord to proudly proclaim us as one of His before His Father, then we must proudly proclaim Him before the world while we are here. Paul told the Philippians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” “holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:12-16). The key to our success, as Paul understood, is in our obedience to God. The word fear, as most often used in connection with our relationship to God, denotes honoring one with proper and due respect. We must respect God’s sovereignty in our lives and show that respect by obeying His commands— submitting our will to His.
One of the things God expects from us is selfless service, as Paul told the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8). God expects us to emulate His Son. If Jesus could humble Himself to the point of humiliation and death on the cross, what should we be willing to endure for His sake, and the sake of our own souls?
The Bible contains many scriptures describing how we are to look to the interests of others, a few of which are: to serve one another (John 13:14), to live in peace with one another (Mark 9:50), to love one another (John 13:34-35), to honor one another (Romans 12:10), to comfort one another (II Corinthians 13:11), to encourage one another (I Thessalonians 4:18), and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). However, one of the most difficult things we can do for another, it seems, is to forgive them and help restore them when they fall. Forgiveness often becomes a test for Christians, as Paul wrote, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 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 6:1-10).
We are to do good to everyone, something we often find difficult to do. Just as difficult for some of us is to test our own works or actions to see if they measure up. Are we taking every opportunity to do all we can? When we look at ourselves how Christ-like are we? How spiritually and mentally tough are we? Remember what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:7-14: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.”
God has not chosen those wise in the ways of the world, the richest among us, nor those of high birth to do His work. They are not excluded, but not many answer the call (I Corinthians 1:26-29). God chose the weak and the foolish (according to the judgment of the world) to accomplish His will, demonstrating His might through them. Thankfully, while one plants and another waters it is God Who works to ensure the increase. As long as we are working according to His blueprint we will not fail. We need only answer His call in obedience. That does not mean that the work will be easy. Nor does it mean that there will not be danger and persecution. It means that God is with us, and His will is being done. The world will resist God’s word. We have already been warned about that. There will be hard times, discomfort, and persecution. There may be danger and death. But for those who fight to the end there will also be eternal victory. What we fight for is not earthly gain, but heavenly treasure.
The one who enlists for Christian service labors and fights for a kingdom not of this world. And we serve a King Who is above all other kings. One before Whom all of humanity will one day bow, confessing His name and submitting to His judgment. Unlike many others on that day the one who has remained faithful to their King will bow be before Him in joyful anticipation of righteous judgment and the promise of His grace.
by Roland W. Keith
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:34).
Let’s face it, most of us at some point in our lives have thought a little more of ourselves than we ought to have. At one time or another we have been infected with the ‘big head’. And for some of us the cure was a bit painful, even humbling. Being brought back to the reality of our limitations can be like that.
It is interesting that in the above quote Paul equated humility (“not to think of himself more highly than he ought”) with sober thought. To think soberly is to be thoughtful in demeanor, even-keeled or temperate in judgment, to be serious-minded or lacking in excessive emotion or prejudice. Such a person accurately assesses their own abilities, as well as those of others and gives deference or preference where due. They are not a respecter of persons, yet honor those put in authority over them.
Micah once wrote, “He [God] has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Humility for the Christian is to be fair to all, kind to all, and to act in obedience to God. If honor does come to us it should be as a result of that humble obedience, not through self-promotion (Proverbs 15:33). In fact, Jesus compared Christian humility to that of a child. Children who are well-raised respect and show deference to their parents and other adults, which bodes well for their future, as is true for the Christian who humbles himself before the Lord (Matthew 18:3-4).
On the other hand, those who exalt themselves will ultimately be humbled (Luke 14:11). James echoed this understanding in his letter: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:6-8; see also I Peter 5:5-6). Those who resist God are opposed by Him, those who resist the devil, and humbly turn to God are accepted by Him.
Those who turn to God in humility are recognizable by their compassion, patience, willingness to listen, and their love for humanity (Colossians 3:11-14). They see no difference between themselves and their fellow sojourner. However, it is important to understand that a humble person does not necessarily possess a milquetoast personality. Two of the most aggressive and toughest people in the Bible were Peter and Paul, both of whom were humbled by their experiences. Paul especially was brought low by the Lord before he was raised up as an apostle; even then he was given a “thorn in the side” to help manage any tendency toward conceit he might have had (II Corinthians 12:7).
Paul was not one to shrink back as an example to others (II Corinthians 11:21-30), yet he honestly wrote, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:18-20). The point is the type of humility we are talking about is not synonymous with the word wimpy. Christians have to be tough-minded and durable.
Peter and Paul are just two examples of humble servants in the Bible, but the greatest example of tough-minded determination and humility in scriptures is that of Jesus Christ. As Philip wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Those few verses describe the most profound example of humility ever recorded. No one has ever given up more, nor submitted to greater apparent degradation for the benefit of others than our Lord did. We cannot begin to repay our Lord for what He did for us, but we can do our best to emulate Him by how we treat one another and by what we are willing to sacrifice for others (Romans 12:10-11; John 15:13).
It turns out that true humility is not for the faint-hearted or weak. It takes courage and personal fortitude to be humble. The follower of Christ is humble, but firm in his convictions, not willing to compromise the truth. The man and woman of God must view all as someone just as worthy in God’s eyes as they are, yet be determined not to yield to the world in its error, standing for the truth against all odds.
by Roland W. Keith
Jackie and I are unexpectedly on the road, but I wanted to get this post on the board. In October 2016 Pastor Andrew Brunson was arrested in Turkey for having a Christian Church meeting in his home. The charge was for the action of terrorism. Last week after two years of trials and imprisonment Andrew Brunson was set free and allowed to return to the U.S., thanks to the efforts of President Trump and Jay Sekulow. Considering his ordeal, endured in the name of God, it seems appropriate to repost a blog originally published on 25 September 2017. I t deals with the need for all of us to have courage when faced with persecution in the name of God, just as Mr. Brunson did, and as Joshua did centuries before. So here it is.
“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).
When the time came for the Jews to go in and possess the Promised Land only two of the original generation were allowed to enter in— Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:29-30; 26:65). Due to the nation’s unbelief (failure to trust God), the Jews who came out of Egypt were not allowed to take possession of the land promised to them; even Moses and Aaron faltered in their belief, and were excluded from the land (Numbers 20:6-13, 24). Certainly, after all they had been through, the Jews, and their two leaders, knew that God existed. Their unbelief, then, was of another nature. They did not trust God because they had given into, or developed, a lack of moral (or mental) strength. In Aaron’s and Moses’ case they failed to obey God’s explicit instructions and sanctify Him before the people, demonstrating a failure in moral courage in obeying the Lord and leading His people. As for the people themselves, when faced with the prospect of defeating the nations in the land, their courage left them altogether and they rebelled against God (Numbers 14). Later, when told of God’s judgment against them, they sought to enter the land only to be defeated (Numbers 14:39-45).
When Moses passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:1-8) he admonished him to have courage, saying “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” He repeated his need for courage (as quoted above), in the very next verse. With that courage Joshua was able to lead the Israelites into the land promised them, and to take possession of it. As Christians, we too need to heed Moses words of encouragement given to Joshua. We should not dread the world or its dark ruler, knowing that God is with us, and because of His presence and protection we are fully capable of defeating our enemy. We also know that in times of trial we can call on the Lord for instruction and strength, as the Psalmist wrote, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries… Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:11-12, 14)!
Many years later David would offer the same advice to His son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished” (I Chronicles 28:20).
Again, as Christians, we are wise to heed these words. God has given us a work to do in His house, His kingdom, and we will not fail, if we take our strength and courage from Him. As Paul told the Corinthians, we must “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (I Corinthians 16:13). In defining that courage, we must use it to emulate our Lord in all our actions, as Paul wrote the Philippians, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
If we want to avoid being excluded from the heavenly Promised Land awaiting us we must have the courage to enter in and take possession of it. This means we must be willing to stand up for Christ against His enemies without concern for the consequences in this life. We find a prime example of what our behavior should be in the account of the apostles before the Sanhedrin, recorded in Acts 5:27-33, 41:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them… Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Another great example of perseverance is that of Paul, in Acts 20:22-27:
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Even in the face of imprisonment, persecution, and ultimately death, Paul refused to shrink back from the name of the Lord. How many of us will stand firm when persecution comes? We must if we want to please our King. We must stand firm, always willing to step in, shoulder-to-shoulder, to share in the burden, strengthening one another. When Paul was in chains, enroute to Rome, He was able to take courage from those who came to see him along the way (Acts 28:15-16).
In considering these examples we must understand that a day may be approaching when we will be called upon to suffer for the name of the Lord. As Jesus informed His apostles:
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Matthew 10:16-27).
Here in the U.S. we may often read these accounts in the Bible as historically remote examples, but even today Christians around the world are being persecuted, and the tide is turning against us in this country. The day may be fast approaching when Paul’s words to Timothy come home to us: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (II Timothy 3:12-14). If such days do in fact come upon us let us take comfort in Peter’s words:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:3-9).
I pray that all Christians everywhere will stand tall and persevere in the face of persecution and that we will all share in the inexpressible joy that Peter wrote of on the day that our salvation is made sure.
by Roland W. Keith
In his first letter John wrote, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure (I John 3:1-3). How is it that we, as humans, do not know our Creator?
When we survey all the gods out there that men have worshipped we find a wild assortment from the fantastic to the cartoonish, to the natural, to the unnatural, to the ones who are just like we are. Passing by the cartoonish, the natural and unnatural as not worthy of our attention let us focus on the pantheon of “divine personages,” that is, those supernatural beings who are like us. Beings such as Zeus or Mercury. When we look at them we find that the problem with their divinity, or, lack thereof is that they are, in fact, just like us. Prone to lying and cheating, with outbursts of uncontrolled and unjustified anger or rage, or petty jealousies. Etc. The problem is they are a bit too human. Too fallible. Too ordinary. They are clearly creations of our own imaginations with all of our attributes, both good and bad.
Now let’s compare them to the apostle Paul’s “unknown God” (Acts 17:16-34). Where the false gods are petty, fallible and ordinary Paul’s God is perfect. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He is not like us. Where the false gods reflect us in all our glory the one true God is glory divine. He does not have all of our attributes, but rather He created us in His own image, and when He did that we were a perfect being. We reflected His image. But then we sinned and His image within us became almost infinitely dimmer. We took on unholy attributes that we cannot attribute to our Creator. But the image of the Creator within us was not completely extinguished, nor was His love for us.
If I understand the Bible correctly God’s greatest attribute is love. God is love (I John 4:8, 16). It is His perfect, infinite love that led Him to extend His grace to His fallen creation (John 3:16), and to determine to exercise another of His amazing and unbounded attributes— forgiveness. The difference between all the gods with little “g’s” and the one true God is that I don’t think man has it in him to have conceived of the God of the Bible on his own. If God had not revealed Himself to us in His handiwork and His word He would have remained the “unknown God,” beyond man’s imagination. As it is many in the world do not see God’s signature in His creation and reject His word out-of-hand. However, for those whose hearts are open to the truth God’s word is a revelation.
God’s nature was and is known to man through His creation and has been since the beginning of time. Moreover, it was made specifically manifest in these last times when His Son was born into the world as a man. According to Peter’s account, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (I Peter 1:20-21). Those of us who put our faith and hope in God become His children and seek to emulate His purity in our lives (I John 3:1-3).
Those who seek God through His word must be more than a casual or curious seeker, however, as James wrote, “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). Paul was perhaps a little blunter when he warned, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8). God’s divine nature is one of both mercy and justice.
In addition to James and Paul another inspired writer, John, wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (I John 2:15-17). Those who truly seek to know God will at some point have to make a choice: to follow the desires of the flesh or let them go to do the will of God. Peter compared the Christian to one who is only passing through a foreign land on his way home, writing: “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 (I Peter 2:11-12).
Those who come to comprehend, even in a small measure, the divine nature of God should be demonstrably grateful for all that He has done, and for the kingdom He has established for His followers (Hebrews 12:28-29). So grateful that we not only devote ourselves to His worship but to living our lives developing the attributes He has set before us to exercise (II Peter 1:5-7). As Peter went on to say about forging these traits within ourselves, “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 1:10). Those who come to God and live in obedience to His will become members of a very special kingdom as Peter noted in his first letter: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10).
God is love. God is truth. God is just. God is merciful. God is faithful. Who does not seek these things? The divine nature of God, which He has revealed to us, should draw us to Him. So, why do so many resist His will for their lives? Pride? Selfishness? Guilt? The amazing thing is God will help us overcome these things. In fact, He will help us overcome any obstacle if we will but seek His will for our lives. God will punish the disobedient, make no mistake, justice is a part of His nature, but it is also in His nature to love us and to call us to Himself. As Paul wrote to Timothy, God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4).
I will leave you with two thoughts from King David: “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God" (Psalm 14:2). God’s desire is for us to seek and find Him. David sought the Lord and found Him, asking one thing of Him: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). If you call upon Him, He will answer— it’s in His nature.
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.