by Roland W. Keith
To discuss the divine nature of God it is best to first define what we mean by the word nature in this context. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary nature is “the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing.” In other words, it is the essence of the person— what makes him, him or her, her.
According to the Bible God is love (John 3:16), He is righteous (John 17:25; Acts 3:14; Romans 1:17), He is just (Luke 18:7-8), and He is forgiving (Ephesians 4:32). All of these attributes of God, among others, we find in man also, but only because God made us in His image. However, where man often falls short in exercising these qualities God’s actions always perfectly reflect His nature. It is because of the fallen condition of man that we often fail to recognize these Godly qualities for what they are, and perhaps more accurately, why we resist them.
According to John: “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:11-12). When God manifested Himself as a man, one of perfect character, those literally trained in the word of God failed to discern Who He was. In fact, many claimed He had a demon (John 8:48-49, 52; 10:20-21), and sought to kill Him (Matthew 26:4). Yet, for those who did believe in Him a great honor was in store, as Paul wrote: “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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 3:26-29; see also I John 3:1-3).
For those who trust in God comes the privilege of being seen as righteous in the sight of God, as innocent on the day of judgment, through the blood of His Son. Even so, for those who reject God His judgment will come down upon them in all its holy wrath (II Peter 2:4-6).
In order for man to be seen as righteous Jesus lowered Himself from His exalted position, taking on the form of man to pay the debt of sin all men have incurred (Hebrews 2:9-10). It is through His actions and sacrifice that all who will come to Him and confess His name (Romans 10:9), will be saved. We will, in fact, be allowed to share in His divine nature.
We were ransomed with the blood of Christ, and those of us who conduct ourselves in the fear of God and are obedient to the truth, and who model ourselves, as best we can, after the divine nature will be given a place in His eternal kingdom (I Peter 1:17-23). In his second letter Peter wrote, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (II Peter 1:3-4).
When one believes that Jesus is the Christ and suffered on the cross for us how can that person not determine to live according to the will of God (I Peter 4:1-2)? As Paul told Timothy we should be willing to suffer as a good soldier for the cause of Christ, not only to honor God, but also, on a personal level, to receive the promises He has made to those who obey Him (II Timothy 2:3-7). Since sending His Son to earth two thousand years ago God has exercised great patience toward mankind (II Peter 3:8-9), but He will not always strive with man (Genesis 6:3). Each of us has an appointed day to die and thereafter to face judgment (II Corinthians 5:10).
For those of us who study the word of God with open hearts we discover the prophecies concerning these things to be well-confirmed. Undeniably so. Reaching all the way back to Old Testament times we find God’s word to be the attested truth, born out over many centuries by many proofs and the eyewitness accounts of some forty men (II Peter 1:19-21). The Old Testament accounts led us to Jesus and His gospel, which leads us to God’s grace, to faith, and to salvation as set forth in the New Testament (I Peter 2:22-23).
It is in the gospel and the other inspired scriptures that we learn of God’s plan to redeem us through His Son. It is an amazing story of redemptive love and grace wherein mankind is touched by the divine and allowed henceforth to dwell within His light as members of His body.
Please join me next week as we continue our study of the divine nature of God and how each of us can experience and share in it.
by Roland W. Keith
It is not unusual to hear a philosopher or so-called deep-thinker say or write something like “a life well-lived is a life lived for others.” The sentiment is honorable enough. A good person helps others. In fact, on the surface such a philosophy sounds downright Christian. But, is it? The truth is the right or wrong-mindedness of such a philosophy or ideology really depends on one’s definition of ‘helping’ or ‘living for’ others. In today’s politically correct world of all things liberal, tried and true values are being discarded in favor of the liberal agenda of the left, based not on Christian principles or conservative values, but on the apparent whims of progressives. In their view all conservative (and Christian) values must be suppressed, if not outright destroyed, while seemingly free-range liberal values are to be instituted at all costs, which they claim is helping others (but looks a lot like negative socio-political engineering to some of us) .
Don’t worry this is not a political piece. The question is, as Christians, what should our worldview be? The answer is not as open-ended as some people may think. The truth is if we study Bible principles (that is study the Bible) and seek to abide in Christ as He abides in us, the scriptures will guide us in how we are to live, the type of example we should set for the world, how we define acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and how we can truly help others (for example: not enabling their behavior, but helping them to their feet and teaching them to live up to their responsibilities).
Paul wrote the Colossians: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). The Christian man and woman walk according to the teachings of Christ, so much so that Paul equated life in terms of no longer living to self but letting Christ live through him (Galatians 2:20). Everything that Paul believed and lived by prior to knowing Christ he discarded if it did not meet with the Lord’s teachings. He was willing to sacrifice all to live for Christ. Moreover, Paul believed that all who come to Christ are transformed in the process (II Corinthians 5:17). As fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17), our focus should shift from a dying world to the eternal kingdom and our actions and concerns for ourselves and our fellow man should reflect that.
When we become members of Christ’s spiritual body (Ephesians 1:22-23), and subjects in His kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14), our view of how to live our lives should change (Ephesians 4:1-4). The combative man learns to live in peace, impatience becomes patience, the divisive woman seeks unity. We understand the preeminence of Christ and where His authority comes from and why we subject ourselves to it. In Genesis, when God the Father spoke the command as the great architect of creation He created it through His Son. It was Christ, the Son, Who was the builder. In that sense not only was the universe created by Him, it was created for Him, and it is He who holds it together to this day (Colossians 1:15-17). To come before God, through His Son, we honor and worship our Creator. When we live according to His word we become a part of His great plan of reconciliation for mankind. Our job is not is not to give others everything they want— it is to do our part in bringing all men together in Christ.
Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17). Our goal is to please the Lord by sharing that gospel; therefore, while we may long for the perfection of heaven we are of good courage here on earth (II Corinthians 5:6-9)— we have a job to do and we must do it with all diligence, in Christian fellowship (Romans 12:11; I John 1:7).
To please God, we must know what it is He wants us to do. In Deuteronomy 10:12-13 we read, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” The word fear here is to understand the power and authority of God, to respect and obey Him, and to worship Him. For the Israelites to heed these instructions they had to turn to the Law of Moses and the Septuagint (the Old Testament scriptures). For the Christian today to heed these words we must know the commandments and statutes as set down in the New Testament. The covenants may be different but the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:13 are still true: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
It is the duty of man to obey God. For those of us who have accepted the gift of salvation we find that by His grace we also, through His word, receive the training we need to renounce the world as we learn to live upright and productive Christian lives (Titus 2:11-14). As Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). The Christian laborer who is following the commands of the Lord is always productive, even though they may not always see the fruits of their labor. Not only is the Christian productive he or she is always growing through their studies. Yet how many of us could benefit from reminders of God’s will, such as Paul’s words to Titus: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1-2)?
The Christian, then, is a lifelong student and activist. An activist in the sense that he is actively engaged in living and sharing God’s word, as James noted when he spoke of being a doer of the word and not merely a hearer of it (James 1:22-25). Peter also spoke of the responsibilities of the Christian when he wrote, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (II Peter 1:6-10).
Along with Peter the apostle Paul also made a few lists, both about the fruits of the Spirit we develop (Galatians 5:22-25), and the works of the flesh we must overcome, such as idolatry anger, dissensions, sexual immorality, enmity, etc., warning those who fail to overcome the flesh that there is no place in heaven for those who do such works (Galatians 5:16-21). However, for those who are faithful and overcome whatever the devil may throw at them Jesus said, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10. This is what God has promised since the very beginning (Titus 1:2).
For those who abide in Christ and the law of the Spirit of life, freedom from sin and death awaits them (Romans 8:1-4). What we also find in observing these people is that they have a positive effect on all those around them, including non-Christians. The very nature of the Christian way is to live for Christ, which is to live for others. That doesn’t mean that the world will accept what we are saying and doing as Christians— some will agree with many of our principles yet reject the gospel of Christ, and in today’s world many will reject Christ and His word wholesale. In the end not everyone wants to be helped, not really. Instead, many want to remain in the condition they are in, whatever that condition may be. In fact, some of them will try to separate us from God and God from society by whatever means possible. To those we can reply as Paul did when he wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). To abide in Christ is to be victorious. No matter what our station in life, each and every Christian gains more than he or she could ever acquire in this life, laying hold of a treasure that exceeds all the wealth of the world when they pass through the gates of heaven into eternal life there. Moreover, when they lift one other person up helping them to know Christ they accomplish more than any CEO or politician or athlete who is looking toward worldly accomplishment ever will.
by Roland W. Keith
Before Christ came to earth man was not at liberty. Yes, people had free will, and could do as they pleased for the most part, but they were not truly free. At least not spiritually. They were bound by the Law— and the Law of Moses was a burdensome task master from which one could not separate himself. It was his guardian, accuser and executioner. Once you had violated it there was no extrication from punishment. Only through ritual practices of substitution (blood sacrifice) was its final verdict held in abeyance even for those who were faithful. As Paul told the Galatians, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:24-27).
It was Christ who set us free from the bondage of the Law of Moses. It was in Him that the old covenant and its system of law was replaced by a new covenant and a new system of law— the law of liberty, under which mercy triumphs over judgment for the faithful in Christ (James 2:12). In Romans 3:21-24, 27, we read, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law [of Moses], although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.”
When Jesus came He offered all men freedom from the eternal punishment that awaited them under the old Law (Revelation 22:16-17). Yet there were (and are) many who refuse His invitation, even among those who study the scriptures (II Corinthians 3:14-18); for those who turn to Jesus, however, the veil that separates man from God is lifted (v. 17).
Finding freedom in Christ is not without risk, however. With new-found gain there are often temptations, even in the spiritual realm. We must not abuse what we have gained, as Paul warned the people of Galatia, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:13-15).
For those who avoid such temptations and stay the course there is great reward, as James noted: “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). According to James one must remain true to the law of liberty, also known as the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), to attain its blessings.
The apostle Peter also encouraged his readers to remain faithful to the freedom gained through Christ when he wrote, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (I Peter 2:15-17).
One day not only man, but all of creation will be set free from the corruption caused by sin (Romans 8:19-24). Until that final day those of us who hope in Christ must be strong, resisting the one who would separate us from God, as Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:1, 5-6).
Jesus once told His listeners, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 34-36). If you have been set free from sin there is no greater place to be in your life, for as Paul explained to the Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). If you are free hold on to that freedom that leads to heaven’s gate, if you are not free I sincerely hope that you will be one day soon.
by Roland W. Keith
II Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
The classical view on the nature of hell is to the modern mind perhaps the most controversial. Throughout the history of the Church it has been the accepted position that hell is a literal place of both fire and darkness. As the eternal address of the condemned it is the most inhospitable and terrifying abode imaginable. Opponents to this view question how a merciful and loving God could subject the condemned to such a punishment for eternity.
To reconcile their concept of a just God with the plight of the condemned on judgment day many deny the existence of such a place altogether, but Jesus Himself says that “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). On another occasion He warned against behavior that would condemn one to hell with these stern words, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43, 47-48).
Others concede that God will certainly punish the wicked, but believe that the horrific description of hell is merely symbolic of the tragic state of being separated from God. However, we must not be too quick to ascribe symbolism to every visual description of the afterlife. Remember that most of the bible is literal and hell is described several times outside of the prophetic books, such as Revelation, and yet with much of the same terminology (see Matthew and Mark, above). Even in the prophetic books it is not necessarily true that all that is described by their writers is symbolic rather than literal.
Still others believe that hell may be as terrible as it is described but temper their sensibility of God’s justice by suggesting that the punishment is of limited duration whereupon those punished are either annihilated, or simply serve their sentence before being reconciled to God in heaven. In II Thessalonians 1:7-9, Paul wrote that, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.”
The punishment for the wicked is eternal, but is it eternal annihilation or suffering? In Revelation 20:12-15, John wrote, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written on the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Jesus describes the suffering of the wicked with these words in the book of Matthew 25:41, 46: “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels… and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The Bible does not leave us any room to logically deny the existence of a place called hell. It is clearly described, and the reasons for its existence, as an abode for the wicked, are explained, as are the reasons for how and why one is condemned to it for eternity. Moreover, while some may still wish to complain about the seemingly unfair possibility of ending up there, God in all fairness has left that decision to us. We choose where we will spend eternity. Choose wisely.
by Roland W. Keith
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
To comprehend the destiny of those who have not been evangelized we must begin with this understanding. Whatever God’s justice demands, even if it is beyond our human comprehension, it is no more than we deserve. As a loving and holy creator God’s justice cannot be anything other than fair. If God had not devised a plan to satisfy His Own requirement for justice, while at the same time providing an avenue for salvation, each man, woman and child beyond the age of understanding would be destined for hell.
In one sense God’s plan of salvation has two parts. The first was to send His Own Son to earth to live a perfect life, thus fulfilling the law, and having done so for that Son to lay down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. Romans3:16-18 reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
The second part of God’s plan is to use the followers of Christ to reach as many of the condemned as we can. God’s plan encompasses three categories of man— (1) Those that have heard and accepted God’s offer of salvation, (2) Those that have heard and rejected God’s offer, and (3) those that have not heard the gospel. The fate of groups two and three is ultimately the same because both remain in their sins. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Those that remain condemned suffer the second death, that is being cast into hell (Revelation 20:14).
Some question the fairness of condemning those that have not had the opportunity to hear of Christ. But Romans 1:19-21 explains, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse.” Each human has the innate and intuitive ability to perceive the existence of God, and to govern his life according to the natural law God has placed in his heart (Romans 2:14-15). Each of us has broken God’s law and stands condemned unless we are fortunate enough to hear God’s offer of salvation and accept it.
As Christians this knowledge concerning the condition of our own souls, as well as those of our fellow man should motivate us to evangelize as many as we can when we consider the words of Paul, “How then will they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?... But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us? So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17).
Acts 17:31 tells us that God “has fixed a day on which He will judge the world.” Jesus described that day when the three categories of man will stand before Him in Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
If we care about the plight of those who are lost it is incumbent on us, as Christians, to provide them with the opportunity to know and accept Christ as Savior.
By Roland W. Keith
In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus told this story of the vintner and his two sons: “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you”.
In the story one son either lied or had a change of heart that led to him breaking his promise and dishonoring his father’s command. The second son refused his father’s command outright, but then regretted his behavior, that is he felt contrition for his disobedience, which led to a positive change of heart. Due to this change of mind he amended his behavior and acted in obedience to his father’s wishes. This story is the Bible’s ‘textbook’ example of what it means to repent.
True repentance is a turning away from sin to embrace God’s will for our lives. It is this turning away from evil that leads to the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Acts 2:38; 11:18). Moreover, Jesus taught that as we are forgiven we must also be willing to forgive those who have trespassed against us (Luke 17:3-4; Colossians 3:13). Mercy gained should ultimately become mercy given. We have all been transgressed against even as we have all been guilty of transgression in our lives.
When we confess our sins in repentance John tells us God is faithful and just in cleansing us of those sins (I John 1:9). God was willing to overlook the ignorance of man in times past and hold their sins in abeyance until that which was perfect had come (I Corinthians 13:10; Hebrews 5:9), but now that Christ has appeared and delivered God’s last covenant to man with the agency of the Holy Spirit, God requires all men to come to repentance before the coming day of judgment (Acts 17:30-31). Yet, even as God’s justice demands judgment of the transgressors He has no wish to condemn anyone. He devised a plan of salvation to satisfy His just nature and sent His Son to earth to implement that plan (John 3:16-18). God’s plan sets forth the opportunity for man to come to Him in faith in His Son. In addition, as Peter explained in II Peter 3:8-9, God has been patient with mankind, desiring that each person should reach repentance. However, God’s great love for man does not override His need for justice. As Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
God has done all He can for us. He sent His Son to die for us. And, He has given us a clear path to salvation with an ironclad promise, founded on His word and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose gospel is proclaimed among all the nations (Luke 24:46-47).
If there are those out there who still ask, “Why should I repent?”, I ask you to consider the words of Paul: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We have all earned spiritual death as a result of our sinful actions, but God will take away the due punishment we face for our sins if we will repent and turn to Him for salvation through Christ Jesus. In addition, Luke recorded this exchange from Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38).
Those who refuse God’s invitation, rejecting the kindness of God’s offer, will feel the full effect of His wrath on the day of judgment (Romans 2:4-5). We should be grieved at our own sins, as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (II Corinthians 7:10). The end result of unrepentant sin is spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (II Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:15). The sad thing is, there is no reason anyone should suffer such a fate. What are we holding on to in this lifetime that is worth eternal damnation? What do we have here on earth that is better than what we will gain in heaven?
In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we are given the example of a young man who thought that what the world had to offer was more desirable or greater than what he had in his father’s household, so he asked for and received his portion of the inheritance and set out in the world. After living it up and squandering his wealth he found himself destitute with nowhere to turn. It was then he determined to return to his father, admit his mistake, and ask for a job as a hired hand. Instead he was joyfully received by his father, who had thought he had lost his son forever, only to gain him back. Like the prodigal son we are all ‘lost’ in the world spiritually, and when we turn to God, admitting our sins, there is rejoicing in heaven (Matthew 18:13; Luke 15:10).
Repenting of our rebellion against God and accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ not only brings us into salvation, it enables us to serve the Lord in His work to redeem other lost souls. Most of you know the story of Jonah, who rebelled against God’s command to deliver His message to that great city. Because he tried to run away from his duty to God he found himself cast into the sea and swallowed by a great fish. It was in the belly of the fish from whence Jonah prayed to the Lord. He repented of his disobedience and was delivered from his plight. The second time God came to him he went to Nineveh and delivered the Lord’s word. In so doing he became a part of God’s work in saving the citizens of that city when they repented of their evil ways.
The Bible is full of stories of men who disobeyed God, including some who repented and many who didn’t. One such repentant soul was King David. After committing adultery with a married woman and then causing the death of her husband to hide his first sin, David repented, although his sins were not without consequences— they cost the life of David and Bathsheba’s infant son. Still, David sought the Lord, following after Him throughout his life, always seeking His guidance and forgiveness. In Psalm 51:5-7 he wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Another man who repented of his rebellion was Saul of Tarsus. After being confronted by the vision of Christ on the road to Damascus Paul repented of his ways and became one of the great champions of God’s truth. As he reported to king Agrippa, “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:19-20). The man in need of repentance spent the rest of his life leading others to Christ.
King David and Paul the apostle are both great examples of men who struggled with sin, even open rebellion against God and yet found redemption in repentance and an humble heart. Moreover, after submitting themselves to God’s will both became examples of what we can achieve, what God can achieve through us, when we act in obedience to His commands. Success in life is measured in how we live it, not in what we achieve in the physical realm. If we have lived in accordance to God’s word, we have lived life well. If, instead we have lived according to the dictates of the world we will one day be found wanting (Revelation 20:12-13).
Paul wrote, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:5-10). For those who put off, that is repent of, what is earthly and put on the new self in Christ Jesus there is a great day coming. For all that walk in the light there is the assurance of forgiveness and a cleansing of all unrighteousness (I John 1:7-9).
Jesus once said, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Have you given the angels in heaven an occasion to rejoice over you?
by Roland W. Keith
Most people fear death. We are, after all, born with a natural impulse and desire to live. However, death is a natural part of life; there is a beginning and there is an end to our human existence, as there is for all physical life. Solomon wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
After Adam and Eve's fall from grace God told Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). Since then no man has had access to the Tree of Life that was put into the garden to sustain man for as long as he ate from it. From the first man and woman’s sin until the world comes to an end each of us will return to the dust from which we were taken, and our souls will return to the spiritual realm (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Every one of us has an appointment with death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27). For most human’s death is not what they should fear, however, because it is inevitable, what they should be afraid of is the judgment they will face afterwards. But they do not dread that day because the don’t believe they will be judged. The wise man on the other hand heeds the observation of Job when “he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding'" (Job 28:28).
For the man and woman who takes Job’s advice the natural fear of death is under good regulation. We can look forward to that day knowing what awaits us, with the confidence of one who has prepared for their appearance before the judgment seat of Christ. We do not need to fear our own demise, nor overly grieve the death of loved ones we know died as faithful Christians because we know there is a place for them in the kingdom of God (I Thessalonians 4:13-14; II Corinthians 5:1).
God has fixed the day of judgment on which all of mankind will be held to account for the life we have lived, judged by the one appointed (Acts 17:31). In Revelation John gave us a brief description of that day: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12-13; Matthew 25:31-46).
That day may well be both the most tragic day in history and the most joyful. On that day all the saints will finally enter heaven to spend eternity with God, but for those not found in the book of life “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (II Thessalonians 1:9). The cowardly, liars, idolaters, the sexually immoral and many others that make up the faithless and disobedient will suffer what is known as the second death in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15; 21:8).
Without describing the actual day of judgment Paul alluded to its outcome when he wrote to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). For Paul to die was gain. He saw the afterlife as something far better than life on earth (Philippians 1:21-23). Moreover, no matter how well we live life here or how good life is to us it does not equal what is awaiting us in heaven. Though we cannot receive our inheritance while in earthly form (I Corinthians 15:50), nor can we depart before our time, we can certainly make it our life’s goal to get there and to bring as many others with us as we can.
It is the knowledge of God’s plan of salvation and its reward that helps us to alleviate the fear of death and to proceed through life with a sense of purpose that extends beyond our time here on earth (Revelation 2:10). The Bible tells us that God’s children are precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15). It also tells us that those who die in the Lord are blessed and will find rest from their labors (Revelation 14:13).
None of us know exactly what heaven or hell will be like, but we are given enough information to make an informed decision about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We are also given enough information to decide where we would rather spend eternity. We can follow the world through the wide gate that leads to destruction, or we can enter through the narrow gate that leads to life as one of the saints of God (Matthew 7:13-14).
Jesus told the apostles, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to
Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Does Jesus have a place prepared for you? If not, it is not too late to change the path you’re on.
by Roland W. Keith
Most of us have known people in life who talk a good game, as they say. But when it comes to standing up for what they believe in when faced with adversity they crumble. One of life’s hardest lessons is to learn that a person we have been there for time and again in turn abandons us in a difficult time. Thereafter it is hard for us to put our trust in that person, knowing they might forsake us again when push comes to shove.
It is no different in the spiritual realm. Christ gave up everything, including His Own life, for us (Mark 10:45). In return He expects us, as His followers, to be willing to do the same for Him and one another (Luke 9:24; John 15:13). We must be willing to stand up for Jesus and our fellow disciples. Just as Jesus made the good confession concerning Himself before Caiaphas and the council, then Pontius Pilate, knowing the consequences (Matthew 26:63-64; John 18:33-37), we must be willing to confess Christ before our fellow man.. As Paul told Timothy: “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 6:12-14).
No confession or statement of allegiance that we will ever make compares to the one we make when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Paul told the Romans, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10; I John 4:15).
Ultimately all of humanity will confess the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11), but for many it will come only after their opportunity for salvation has already passed them by. But if we are willing to make that confession during our earthly lifetime, in faith, we will reap the benefits of God’s many promises made to those who obey His commands. It was Jesus Himself who proclaimed, “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
We often hear that faith alone saves. However, that is a greatly oversimplified view. Faith without action or obedience on our part is not enough. For instance, if we believe in God, but put the world or our desires ahead of Him we cannot expect His acceptance since He deserves and demands preeminence (Matthew 10:37-38; II Thessalonians 1:11-12; Hebrews 10:29). In his gospel account John noted: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42-43).
Many of the Jewish leaders believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but not only did they deny it, they murdered Him to protect their positions in society. Others make the confession but over time return to their old ways thus denying Christ in their actions, so ultimately, they are no different than the Jewish leaders. Are they then saved? In addition, Belief and confession lead to salvation (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 10:32-33), but that is not all that is to be done for the one who would come to Christ (Acts 8:37; 2:38). However, for now, we will restrict our study to the topic of today’s lesson.
Confession. Are there any prerequisites to make our confession effective? According to the word before we can confess in the Lord we must hear of Him (Romans 10:14; Luke 11:28; John 5:25). We must believe that He is the Son of God (John 8:28; 9:35; Acts 16:31). Moreover, we must also repent of our sins (Luke 13:3; Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 2:38; 3:19).
We must believe that Jesus is deity. That He came to earth on our behalf, was crucified and rose from the dead, overcoming death on our behalf. In the Gospel of John we find this exchange between Jesus and Martha: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on Me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die. Believest thou this?
She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I have believed that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, even He that cometh into the world (John 11:25-27; see also 20:28).
What Martha understood and confessed is what we also must know to be true and be willing to confess before the world (Acts 8:37; Matthew 10:32-33). It is the same as Peter believed and confessed (Matthew 16:13-18), as well as all the early Christians.
Once we have made that confession we must be willing to fight to keep hold of it and the promises made to all who remain faithful. As Paul wrote Timothy: “Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses (I Timothy 6:12).
For those who confess Christ there is eternal life in heaven. In the book of Revelation, we read: “He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5). Do you want to be added to the book of life, and one day hear Jesus confess your name before the Heavenly Father? If so, I have one question: have you confessed Him before your fellow man? And do you continue to confess him in all your words and actions?
by Roland W. Keith
The apostle Peter’s second letter, which he penned sometime between A.D. 64 and 67, was and is an open letter to all Christians, everywhere. It has been described as something of a treatise on knowledge, but more specifically it is a study of the importance of distinguishing between truth and error, and those who are true teachers of God’s word as opposed to false teachers or prophets who would deceive us.
Regarding his own trustworthiness Peter wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:16-21).
In comparison to his own credentials as an apostle he described false teachers as “irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing” (II Peter 2:12-13). These are those who twist the word of God to deceive themselves and others to draw them away from the promises of God in which they hope. Peter’s desire in writing this letter was to encourage us to be diligent in our Christian pursuit (II Peter 3:14), and to help us be aware of the dangers of those who oppose the truth, warning his readers, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (II Peter 3:17).
Jesus stressed the importance of being watchful, observant of the times and their signs, and being prepared for the master’s return (Matthew 25:13; 24:32; Luke 12:46). Later, Peter would remind his fellow Christians that any delay in Christ’s return was not due to slowness, but rather a desire to provide as many as possible with the opportunity to repent; nonetheless the day will come when He will return, and we must be ready, remembering the promises He has made (II Peter 3:9-13). In like manner Paul described the relief and wonder that awaited Christ’s followers upon His return, in contrast to the vengeance to be inflicted on “those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (II Thessalonians 1:5-10).
In detailing His return Jesus told His disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.'
"Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and His angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'
Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
What of those who are enlightened but later wander away from the truth? Is there any hope for one who has become misguided? In answer to that James wrote, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). As Christians we should have each other’s back. If we see a brother or sister going astray we should take action to bring them back to God, knowing the dangers that await those who turn from the truth, as James also taught, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4; see also I John 2:15). On the other hand, as John noted, if we remain in the light the blood of Jesus perpetually cleanses us of our shortcomings (I John 1:7).
Someone once asked, “If Jesus had returned yesterday, where would you be today?” A sobering thought for many of us. Are we truly pursuing the life that God has intended for us? Are we at peace with God, rejoicing in the hope before us? (Romans 5:1-2), or are we knee deep in the concerns of the world, paying only nominal attention to God? If so, perhaps we should turn back to God and lay those concerns at His feet, as Paul encouraged the Philippians, “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” (Philippians 4:4-7).
There are many in the world today who think of themselves as religious, but in the end, what is their religion worth (James 1:26-27)? The litmus test for our religious standing is the Bible. Since becoming a Christian how stable has your religious life been? How much have you grown as a servant of God? How many of us have become stagnate or regressed in our spiritual lives, instead of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Savior as Peter spoke of (II Peter 3:17-18)? After making a list of Christian qualities in II Peter 1:5-9, the writer stated, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:10-11).
In addition to these qualities do we spend adequate time in the study of God’s word and in prayer? Do we observe the world and make a distinction between its ways and the way of God? Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” That’s life. We often come to the point of decision without knowing enough to make the right one, so many of us just “flip a coin” and proceed. However, when it comes to our eternal destination shouldn’t we want to know where the two paths lead? The Bible is our roadmap to heaven; moreover, it is our guide that warns us of all the forks in the road and pitfalls along the way and how to avoid them, by making informed decisions. That includes how to avoid false teachers— those who would lead us off the path into the wilderness of life.
If we have been misguided there is still time to turn back and find the true path. If we have been lax in our own efforts, we can change our ways. And, that time is now. Today. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).
by Roland W. Keith
Jesus’ ministry was as public as you can get. Everywhere He went He drew large crowds, often being met by throngs of people who pressed in upon Him, followed Him when He would take leave or who would even go ahead of Him to meet Him at a new location when He sought separation or privacy. His life and teachings, His miracles, His trial and execution, and most importantly His resurrection are a matter of record. Who Christ was (and is) was attested to by His own words and the signs and wonders He worked during His ministry (Matthew 6:2; Luke 13:17; John 6:14; 7:31). If His claims or reputation had been proven baseless He would have been easily discredited during His own lifetime and we would never have heard of Him.
Though some refused to believe in spite of witnessing many of the things He had done, His teachings continued to spread after His death, and His followers multiplied. His work, including the signs and wonders, continued through His disciples who were imbued with power by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 14:3). Jesus Himself claimed that all He taught and did was given Him by His Father, as in John 5:36: “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about Me that the Father has sent Me” (see also John 3:11: 8:28; 14:10; John 10:32). It was these very things that His faithful eyewitnesses testified to and continued to do in His name.
All that Christ did was by the authority of God. The miracles He worked, including the resurrection, were done as a testimony to Who He was. And later, all that His disciples accomplished in signs and wonders was evidence that what they spoke concerning Him was from God as well. And what is the word that Jesus and His followers declared to the world? That Jesus is the Christ (John 10:24-30; 17:3; Matthew 16:16). That He came to earth to save all who would come to the Father through Him (John 3:16; Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; John 12:47; Mark 16:16). And, that all men should heed His words from the Father and act in obedience to Him (Acts 5:32; John 3:36; II Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9).
Jesus once asked, “Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
He later noted that it is the word, and our obedience or disobedience to it, that we will one day be judged by, in accordance with the authority of the Father who sent Jesus into the world to deliver and establish the last covenant between God and man (John 12:47-49).
On the day of Pentecost Peter delivered the gospel to those assembled telling those who responded to the message to, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:38-40; see also I Peter 3:21-22).
In his second letter Peter would warn those who were considering turning from the word: “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. 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" (II Peter 2:20-21). In the same letter Peter encouraged his readers to be diligent in confirming their own salvation (II Peter 1:10-11; see also Philippians 2:12).
All that we need to secure salvation is written in the Bible: What we must know to come to God and find salvation, and what we must do once we have been saved are contained in the word of God. There is no other way to be saved. As Jeremiah wrote, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Man does not have salvation within himself. He finds that by coming to God and submitting to His word (Matthew 4:4; Luke 11:28; John 5:24; II Timothy 3:16-17). For many God’s word seems hard because the temptations of this world call to them. Many in Jesus’ time, with his miracles still fresh in their memories, turned from His teaching and what He offered as recorded by John: “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:66-69).
When it comes to our salvation God’s word is the only authority. As Peter truly said the words we find in the Bible are the words of eternal life, passed down at first by the prophets and in these last by the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-2). We cannot live a truly spiritual life without them, as Jesus told Satan, “It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew4:4).
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.