Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.

Archive for April, 2018

How God Uses Fire

God frequently used fire to punish the disobedient. He rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities near about (Gen. 19:24). He brought hail mingled with fire upon the Egyptians, Ex. 9:23. By fire, God destroyed 250 men who were in rebellion (Num. 16:35). God sent fire upon Nadab and Abihu to devour them because they acted without His authority (Lev. 10:2). Someday the heavens will be dissolved by fire and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (2 Pet. 3:12).

People fear fire and respect it. In their hysteria, some have crushed others to death fleeing from the searing flames bent on devouring them. Here we have a contradiction: while people will flee from fire, billions are racing toward the fire of hell, actually inviting it.

Hell is a place of fire. The Scriptures describe hell as a lake of fire (Rev. 20:14); a furnace of fire (Matt. 13:42); and hell fire (Matt. 18:9). It is into this fire that the ungodly will be cast. How terribly frightening to contemplate being thrown into a lake consumed by fire, or into a suffocating, searing furnace of fire. This is just a hint of what the fire of hell will be like.

The punishment of fire is far worse than anything we have seen, heard, or imagined. Fire produces pain. Those who go to hell will be tormented by fire, continually. Jesus said, There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:42). “…The rich man died and was buried, and being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame” (Lk 16:22-24).

The nature of this fire is everlasting. Jesus will ultimately say to those on His left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). Jude describes it as eternal (Jude 7).

Jesus warns us that if we place our members at the disposal of sinful desires we shall be cast into hell fire, where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone shall be salted by fire (Mk 9:48-49). There are two destructive forces: the worm and fire. Both suggest to us the permanence of retribution. The worm dies not, therefore the gnawing anguish never ceases. Those in hell are salted with fire (preserved); therefore, the results remain constant. The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night (Rev. 14:11). Just think, to be in constant agony forever, with no hope of escaping the horrors of hell.

Who will be going to hell? All those who know not God and have not obeyed the gospel of Christ (2 Thess 1:7-9). “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).

Who Is The Antichrist?

The apostle John is the only writer of the New Testament who uses the term “antichrist,” and he uses the term five times (1 Jn 2:18 cf; 2:22; 4:3 f; 2 John 7).

We have people who are “anti-smoking,” “anti-gun,” “anti-Semitic” or “anti-abortion”. There really is no big mystery as to what the word means: “Antichrist” is anyone who opposes Christ.

The antichrist was already present in the days of John, but unfortunately, his words have been taken to suggest that an individual “Antichrist” was yet to appear. The term is commonly used today by premillennialists to refer to one individual, who is supposed to appear at the end of time. Connections between the “Antichrist” and the “man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11 are often made with the visions of Daniel concerning the “king of the South” (Dan 11:36-45) and the “beast of the sea” (Rev 13:1-9). Premillennialists believe that Daniel foresaw a human leader, satanically energized, who would come to Jerusalem, enforce his will, exalt himself above all other people and gods, and wreck havoc and slaughter. They claim he will be so convincing as an ally and deliverer that Israel will sign a pact with him to be her protector. He will then turn against the nation and occupy the throne in the sanctuary of the rebuilt temple, which for Israel will still symbolize the presence of God, and blasphemously present himself to the world as if he were God.

There have been many who have been suggested as the “Antichrist.” Chrysostom held that it was the resurrected Nero. Some Catholics held that it would be an apostate priest or even the Pope. Speculations about who the “Antichrist” is have included about every U.S. President and world leader (such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler). Notably, two thirds of the world’s population are antichrists. Nations like Russia, China, and India are predominantly antichrist, for they do not believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God.

There were “many antichrists” that were “already … in the world” leads others to conclude that the “antichrist” is an attitude reflected in both individuals and systems. John certainly applied the term that way to the Gnostics of his day (2 Jn 7). It is very evident that John was more concerned about “antichrists” who had already come so it will be good for us to study how can we avoid being misled by “antichrists” today (whether it be one or many).

Who Were The Antichrists?

They refuse to follow apostolic authority. In John’s day, they were individuals who had associated with the apostles and other Christians. They had gone out on their own and were no longer in fellowship with them. Thus it became manifest that they were not “of us” (approved by the apostles). Later, John describes the “spirit of antichrist” as that which does not respect apostolic authority.

In our day, “antichrists” behave the same way. They may start out acting like they respect apostolic authority and seek to be with Christians. Eventually, their true nature comes out and they will not want to be with those who respect apostolic authority very long. Those who reject the apostles, reject Christ Himself and are thus “antichrist” (Jn 13:20).

They deny Jesus is the Christ. Many Gnostics alleged that Jesus and Christ were two different persons. They envisioned a “Christ spirit,” an ethereal but powerful supernatural being who descended on a man named Jesus at His baptism and left Him just before His death. Thus the “Christ spirit” was not fully human, but only temporarily indwelt a man through whom that spirit, before departing, demonstrated extraordinary power and wisdom. This is this denial that Jesus Christ came in the flesh that John identifies as the “spirit of antichrist” (1 Jn 4:3-4).

They also denied the Father and the Son. By denying that Jesus is the Christ, they were denying the Son, He who was “begotten of the Father” and who became flesh (Jn 1:14). By denying the Son, they were in essence also denying the Father. When John wrote his book, there were many “antichrists” in the world. This directly contradicts modern teachers who say that one “Antichrist” will arise in the future. Today, an “antichrist” would be one who denies Jesus to be the Messiah, or who denies the nature of Jesus (that He was fully God and fully man).

Guarding Against The Antichrists

John’s readers were reminded of their “unction.” This “unction (anointing) from the Holy One” enabled them to “know all things” and it enabled them to “have no need for anyone to teach you.” The false teachers who threatened John’s readers employed the terms for knowledge and anointing to describe their religious experience. They arrogantly saw themselves as possessing an elevated and esoteric form of divine knowledge, and as the recipients of a special, secret, transcendent anointing. That led them to believe that they were privy to the truth that the uninitiated lacked. John’s response, which was both a rebuttal to the antichrists and a reassurance to Christians, was to assert that they had an “unction” of the Holy Spirit.

The “anointing” is a “conveying of a supernatural blessing” (Lk 4:18), referring to the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. They provided both revelation and confirmation of the truth for the early church (Mk 16:17-20 f; Heb 2:1-4).

These Christians could have identified the “antichrists” without John’s help. Despite having this “anointing,” they needed to be encouraged to continue in what they had learned from the Spirit. Having the gifts of the Spirit did not keep them from sinning or being misled (1 Jn 2:26). Only by heeding what they had heard from the beginning would they continue to abide in the Son and in the Father, and receive the promise of eternal life.

Christians today do not have the “anointing” like John’s readers. Many people today misapply this verse to teach that we can have some direct “anointing” from God. However, if we did, then we would not need the scriptures, and only the self-deceived would make such a claim today (1 Jn 2:20, 27).

Even so, we have something just as good. We have the word of God, which is the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17). We have “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). We have an objective standard by which we can know the truth, and avoid being misled by subjective feelings that can be mistaken for some sort of prompting of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Like John’s readers, we need to be encouraged to continue in what we have learned from the Spirit-given word. Having the word of God does not ensure that we will not be misled by others (Gal 1:7 f; 2 Cor 11:4). Unless we study and apply the word, we are open to deceptions by modern-day “antichrists”. Therefore, “antichrists” can still be a very real problem for us. While there may not be many professing Christians who deny that Jesus is the Christ, or that He came in the flesh, there are many who reject the authority of the apostles by rejecting the scriptures.

Are you an “antichrist”? Do you actively teach or simply believe that Jesus Christ never walked the earth, but was a mythological figure? Do you actively teach or simply believe there was a man named Jesus Christ, but He did not actually rise from the dead? Do you actively speak out against or simply believe that the Christian religion is a false religion? Are you an atheist or agnostic who is indifferent and non-religious? Then you too are an “antichrist”.

The “antichrist” has no horns or red glowing eyes. Neither is the “antichrist” some demon-possessed, super intelligent human clone. He is also not necessarily a political candidate, unless that candidate denies that Jesus is the Christ. We must “continue in the Son, and in the Father” (1 Jn 2:24), and in the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). Remember, we are living in the last hour, and Christ may come at any time and judge us for our unbelief. Therefore, take heed lest we also fall (1 Cor 10:12).

Identifying False Teachers

Beware means to be warned, be careful, be cautious, and to be on guard unless we become a victim. Falsehood means those things that are not true; false submission, deceitful, impersonation, untrue, not correct. False teachers are those persons who teach error, false religion, and fake scriptures. Their teachings are unscriptural, heretic, and untrue. Here are a few things you should know about false teachers and how you might be able to identify them.

CHARACTERISTICS OF FALSE TEACHERS

Jesus said that we can identify false teachers for “by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:16). Below are characteristics of false teachers:

They deny Christ (2 Pet. 2: 1). They are lovers of money (Lk 16: 14). They resist the truth (2 Tim. 3: 8). They lack the truth (1 Tim. 6: 3-5). They are deceitful (Eph. 4: 14). They are unstable (1 Tim. 1: 6, 7). They are lustful (2 Pet. 2: 12-19). They are bound by the traditions of men (Matt. 15: 9).

EXAMPLES OF FALSE TEACHERS

  1. Balaam (Rev. 2: 14). Those who were of the teaching of Balaam were those who saw nothing wrong with idolatrous religions and immoral practices.
  2. Bar-Jesus (Acts 13: 6). Also called Elymas, Bar-Jesus was a false teacher and a worker of deception.
  3. Hymenaeus (2 Tim. 2: 17). He was promoting a senseless theology that had no biblical bases.
  4. Nicolaitanes (Rev. 2: 15). Their teaching paves the way for the practice of immorality in the name of religion.
  5. Pharisees (Matt. 23: 26). They were emphasizing an outward form of religion without concentrating on the holiness of life.
  6. Sadducees (Matt. 16: 12). They promoted the religious traditions of men.
  7. Scribes (Matt. 12: 38, 39). They were looking for new signs, ignoring already established signs from God.

PRESENT-DAY FALSE TEACHINGS

  • Ability to work signs and wonders (Col. 2:16-19 f; Heb. 1:4-9).
  • Payment of tithes and instrumental music in worship today (Jam 2:10 ff; 2 Cor. 9:6-7; Gal.3:10);
  • They teach and celebrate Christmas and other Pagan holidays;
  • The righteous to inherit the physical earth on the last day, not heaven;
  • Promote compulsory levies against the will of God (2 Cor. 9:6-7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2).
  • Infant baptism and sprinkling of water (Rom. 10:9-11).
  • Quarterly, half-yearly and yearly communion taking against the will of God (1 Cor. 11:23; Acts 20:7).
  • They do not mind the Biblical injunction on women’s position in the church (1 Cor. 14:33 f; 1 Tim. 2:11);
  • The worship of images of Jesus and Mary the mother of Jesus;
  • Speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 13:8-10).

WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY ABOUT
FALSE TEACHERS

If anyone teaches otherwise, and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing. He has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:3-5).

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves…Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven” (Matt 7:15, 21)

“For they are many insubordinate men, empty talkers, and deceivers, especially the circumcision party; they must be silenced since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have no right to teach…This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit 1:10-13)

This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt 15:8-9).

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1: 8)

WHAT WILL BE THE END OF FALSE TEACHERS?

The false teachers and their doctrines will be rooted out when the truth of the gospel is preached (Matt. 15:13). False teachers are reserved for judgment and swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).

CONCLUSION: It is unfortunate that some people have given in to the false teachers and are being held captive by their wrong doctrines. Make sure you identify these false teachers by their words, actions, performances and their deeds, and be firm to use the whole truth (the word of God) to rebuke them. Stand firm; give them no chance so that you will not become a victim. Make sure you study the Bible always and come to the knowledge of the truth so that the false teachers will not lead you astray (Col. 2:1-8 ff; Tit 1:13; 1 Tim. 4: 1-3).

Falling From Grace

A large majority of the religious world today believe in the doctrine and teaching that once someone is “saved” it is impossible for them to fall away. There are of course those who disagree with this doctrine and teaching and seek to prove otherwise from a biblical stance. Often passages like Matthew 7:21-23 and 1 John 1 are used to show that it is possible for someone who has been saved to not inherit eternal life.

The Hebrew writer was writing to some early Christians that were going through a great deal by wearing the name of Christ. Hebrews 11:32-38 records just some of the ways they were being persecuted and the faith they held in it. The problem though is that many were drifting and neglecting their salvation (Heb 2:1-4). The problem was that many of them were dull of hearing and weren’t where they should have been spiritually and in knowledge and discernment (Heb 5:11-14).

The Hebrews writer is warning these people of abandoning their faith and turning from it. It’s in the sixth chapter that we find yet another problem they were facing. “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Heb 6:4-6)

Did you notice who the writer is talking about? We aren’t just talking about the world in general. We aren’t just talking about people who are good people. We’re talking about those who have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the word of God and then have fallen away. How is it possible for one who is in darkness to be enlightened by the light of Jesus Christ, for one to taste the goodness of the word of God and share in the Holy Spirit without being saved?

Paul had some things to say about this as well to the Corinthians, Galatians, and to Timothy.

It Can Happen. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12)

It Has Happened. ”…By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.” (1 Tim. 1:19)

It Will Happen Again. “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…” (1 Tim. 4:1)

In Galatians 5:4 he says “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” We understand that Paul isn’t writing these letters to just anyone but rather to Christians in these various places. Paul affirms that those in Corinth were truly saved (1 Cor. 1:2), Timothy is being given instructions to teach and edify the saints in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3), and though he is upset with them, Paul writes to the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:2).

Common logic says that I cannot fall from somewhere I never stood. I can’t fall from a table if I’m not standing on it. If it is true that once someone is saved they can never fall away, why the warnings? If it is true that once someone is saved they can never fall away, why does Paul say it can, has, and will happen again?

The scripture is clear that it is possible for a disciple of Jesus Christ to neglect such a great salvation (Heb 2:3). It is possible for someone who had been cleansed by Jesus’s blood to once again become entangled in the defilements of sin (2 Pet. 2:20-22). It is possible to fall from the grace in which a child of God once stood (Gal. 5:4).

But the encouragement those reading the Hebrew letter and for us today is also found in the sixth chapter. “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb 6:9-12)

While it is possible to fall from grace, sadly many spend so much time thinking about all the ways one can fall from it they don’t appreciate and know how to stand firm in it (1 Pet 5:12). Let’s strengthen our faith, knowledge, and application of God’s will for our lives and live as people who are truly set apart and vessels for honorable use. Let’s spend more time growing and having the confidence to stand firm in God’s grace than we do worrying about falling from it. Even so, let us never be so bold and brash to think that we cannot never fall from the grace of Almighty God.

Harden Not Your Heart

There are many Christians whose hearts have become hardened because of a failure totally to commit their lives to God. What is sad is that they are totally unaware that their hearts have become hardened.

Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (Ex. 4:21 cf; 8:15), because of his resistance to the demands made upon him by God. Hardened simply means to be stubborn or resistant. In the manner of Pharaoh, many have become hardened by their continual stubbornness, insensibility, and sin.

The apostle Paul insists that we “…exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called Today; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). The warning against being hardened is so vital that the words are repeated, “Harden not your hearts”, three times in the context (Heb. 3:8 f; 15;4.7).

The importance of the subject suggests that we understand the different ways of being hardened, the causes of it, and the preventives and cures for the hardened heart.

Examples of the Hardened Heart

(1) Refusing to Obey the Gospel

There are many people who hear the gospel preached over and over again, yet never obey it. We cannot understand why and may begin to wonder if they are even listening. They have refused to obey so often that they have become insensitive to the message, and it soon means nothing at all to them.

(2) Immoral Behaviour

Such Christians may be attending the public worship service, yet secretly be involved in fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, etc. When the sin is discovered we are amazed at how a person can be so hypocritical. Such ones have become as those of whom Paul spoke in 2 Timothy 3.5: “holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof…” These have become so hardened that they no longer feel guilty about the sin they have committed.

(3) Sins of Omission

Such sins would include forsaking the assembly, failing to give properly, unwillingness to study the Bible, and neglecting to do good works. Such sins are as harmful as the so-called sins of immorality. James says, “But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves” (1:22).

Cause of the Hardened Heart

The Bible states quite simply what makes one’s heart become hardened. “… lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13) Paul says in Ephesians 4.22: “that you put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxes corrupt after the lusts of deceit.”

Sin is deceitful because it makes promises it cannot fulfill. It offers pleasure which quickly fades away. It takes us further than we ever imagined when we first participated in the sin. Sin is camouflaged by pleasure and is constantly searching for excuses and justification. The person who first indulges in a particular sin attempts to comfort himself by saying, “It’s not really so bad”; “there’s nothing wrong with it”; “it won’t hurt anyone”; “no one will ever find out”; or “I’ll be able to change soon, before it’s too late”. After a long period of deception, the sinner becomes entirely hardened, characterized by stubbornness and insensitivity, concerning his sin and the condition of his soul.

Preventives and Cures

(1) Encouraging One Another

This is the solution offered in Hebrews 3:13 to prevent one from becoming hardened. We are encouraged elsewhere in the New Testament to be responsible for the spiritual welfare of our brother: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Heb. 10.24). “You who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6.1 ff; 1 Thess. 5:11; Jam. 5:19-20).

In spite of the many scriptures which teach us to exhort one another, a prevalent attitude among brethren is: “I don’t want to stir up any trouble”; or “If he wants to endanger his soul that’s his own business”. There must be more concern for one another by members of the church.

(2) Listen to Encouragement

When someone shows concern for our spiritual welfare, we need to be grateful to them and not say: “I wish you would mind your own business,” or, “He has no right to interfere with my life”,  or “Who are you to judge me”. Be willing to correct an error when a brother points it out to you.

(3) Stop Sugar-Coating Sin

If a person could look ahead to the ugly, horrible consequences of sins such as fornication and drunkenness, it might help him to abstain from the sin, or stop before becoming hardened. The deceitfulness of sin makes that a difficult task. However, a look to the future would cause many to see the fate of sin and lead them to a change in direction.

(4) Examine Yourself

A daily examination of one’s spiritual life would prevent many Christians from becoming hardened in their unfaithfulness. Paul advises in 2 Corinthians 13.5: “Try your own selves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves.

(5) Plan to stop sinning now – Today.

Too many of us plan to work more, give more, study more, attend more, or stop sinning, sometime in the future. The word “today”, as used by the writer to the Hebrews, proclaims the urgency of repentance and salvation. Now is the time, and today is the day to change. Harden not your heart! “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).

Do You Really Love God’s Word?

This world is filled with every kind of book you can imagine. Solomon said of books, “…Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh” (Eccl 12:12). There are people who are avid readers of worldly books. One might say that there is a lot to learn by reading all these varieties of books. Luke wrote of those who had once practiced magic who were later converted to Christianity to have burned their expensive books in the sight of everyone (Acts 19:19). But that is not the book in question in this lesson. The Holy Bible contains 66 books filled with chapters and verses dating back to the origin of mankind. It is said to have had 40 authors who were all inspired to write God’s Holy Word. By its own account, this Word was described as perfect and capable of saving one’s very soul from eternal damnation (Ps 18:30 f; Eph 1:13). How much do we love that book?

Most people have a vast library known as The Holy Bible, and yet they never read it. Maybe they are in love with the leather binding, the gold-edged leaves, or just its smell. Perhaps they view owning a Bible and displaying it on a coffee table as warding off evil. Even so, most bibles are nothing more than dust collectors and are rarely used as intended.

The question above is not inquiring about your feelings toward a sometimes expensive leather-bound book and how it looks, but how you feel about what it says. How much in love are you with its message, as opposed to its appearance?

Is it only a book we pick up as a last resort in times of desperation? Is it only a family record book wherein deaths and marriages are logged? Is it only a depository for recipes and pressing flowers? Or…is it a book we love without measure?

Without question, each one of us loves God’s Word to some degree. However, the question is meant to be a piercing one, as opposed to what degree do we love God’s Word? Can we honestly say along with David, “I love your commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold(Ps.119:127). And again he said, “Your word is very pure, therefore your servant loves it” (Ps 119:140). Can we wholeheartedly agree with Solomon who claimed,“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver” (Pro.16:16)! Are we willing to “buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov 23:23)? Are we willing to study God’s Word in order to be approved of God (2 Tim 2:15)? Are we like David who wrote about a godly man, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, he meditates day and night” (Ps 1:2)?

The apostle Paul spoke of loving God’s Word was an ominous warning. “…because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess 2:10-12). Jesus said, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:24). Bottom line is this, if we love God we also love His Word. If we love God’s Word we will obey Him (Jn 14:15). John wrote, “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this, we know that we are in Him” (1 Jn 2:5)

May we pray to attain and retain this level of joy concerning God’s Word, “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches (Ps.119:14). The question begs, “How much do you love God’s Word?”

God’s Plan of Salvation

Every New Testament Christian obeyed the same gospel in order to be saved. There was not one exception. God’s plan of salvation was not contained in one verse, nor was it isolated to one book, or even one conversion. One verse may mention that faith saves. This does not mean that faith only saves (Jam 2:24) because other verses mention other things which save. In order to complete God’s plan of salvation, the following verses must be allowed to compliment one another, thus allowing all scripture to work together (2 Tim 3:16-17).

In order to Become a Christian, One Must:

Hear the Gospel

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17) What is the gospel? It is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:1-4). The first step to salvation is hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why the Lord told His disciples to preach the Gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15). He knew they needed to hear it! The eunuch obeyed the Gospel after Philip had “Preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35,38). It is the Gospel by which men are called to obtain glory in Christ (2 Thess 2:14).

Believe Jesus is the Christ

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16). After one hears the Gospel, he must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn 8:24). After those men in Acts 2 heard Peter preach the Gospel (vs. 14-36) they came to believe. This is manifested in the fact that they were “cut to the heart” (vs. 37).

Confess Jesus is the Christ

“…With the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom 10:9, 10). After hearing and believing one must be willing to confess his faith in Jesus as the Son of God. After the eunuch heard and believed the Gospel, and before Philip baptized him, he confessed his faith in Jesus as the Christ (Acts 8:37).

Repent of Sins

“God…now commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30). After one hears the Gospel, believes and confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, he must then be willing to repent of his sins. This is exactly what happened in Acts 2. They heard the gospel preached and “were cut to the heart“. This is the same heart which must believe Jesus to be the Son of God and confess the same with their mouth (Rom 10:9,10). Upon asking, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” the apostle Peter proclaimed, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Baptized Into Christ

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16). After hearing the gospel, believing and confessing Christ, and repenting of sins, one must humbly submit to Christ by obeying the commandment of baptism. It is baptism that connects one with the blood of Christ which washes away his sins, so baptism can “Wash away your sins” (Acts 2:38 cf; 22:16; Eph 1:7 f; Rev 1:5). It is baptism which places one in Christ where salvation is (2 Tim 2:10; Gal 3:26,27). Effectively one is buried with Christ by baptism and raised to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3,4).

In each case of conversion in the book of Acts,
each obeyed the commandment of baptism:

  • Those at Pentecost: Acts 2:38
  • The Samaritans: Acts 8:12, 13
  • The Ethiopian eunuch: Acts 8:36-38
  • Saul (aka apostle Paul): Acts 9:1-6; Acts 22:16
  • Cornelius: Acts 10:43, 47, 48
  • Lydia and her household: Acts 16:15
  • The Philippian Jailor: Acts 16:30-33

Faithful Unto Death

“…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10). After obeying the gospel of Christ one must remain faithful to the Lord until death in order to finally make it to heaven. Ask anyone who has obeyed the gospel and they will tell you that remaining faithful is the hardest part of being a Christian. It takes only a few minutes to obey the gospel. However, it takes a lifetime to remain faithful to all that the Lord has commaned his saints. And on top of that, they must endure trials and persecutions (2 Tim 3:12). If they do, they will receive a crown of life (Jam 1:12). If they don’t they will be cast into a lake of fire (2 Thess 1:7-9).
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Are We Practicing What We Preach?

Most hate sin as long as it is not their sin. Have you ever noticed why so many focus on homosexuality and abortion while neglecting to mention their own sins? They shout with a fist full of rage against murder and rape, but do they mention that they are living in adultery? Do they mention that they are liars and thieves? Do they mention that they take an eye for an eye and seek revenge on all who do them harm? Do they mention that they use vulgar language and tell dirty jokes? Do they mention that they watch filthy movies and listen to provocative music?

We hate drunkenness when it destroys someone’s life. We hate gossip when people are spreading stuff about us or our kids. We hate gambling when we see it place someone into poverty. In fact, most are really good at hating sin in other people. For some reason, our moral vision is so clear when we look at others, but is blurred when it comes to our own.

Our gossip is justified because we’re telling only a couple of folks, and our intentions are good, of course. Anger? we find it quite silly when we see people getting angry over the most ridiculous things, but our anger is always justified. Self-pity? Impatience? Selfishness? It’s so sad to see these sins in others, isn’t it? I wish I could help them take their eyes off of themselves and put them on the Lord.

But our own self-pity? Justified. Our impatience? Excusable. Our selfishness? Quite reasonable. You’d feel the same way if you were in my shoes, they say. That’s the most dangerous thing about sin, isn’t it? It’s self-deluding.

Satan doesn’t care if we hate sin, as long as we don’t hate it in ourselves. He loves self-righteousness, and he’s thrilled when we shake our head at those whom we know not. These familiar words from Jesus need to fill our hearts every day:

 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye(Matt 7:3-5).

What Jesus is clearly saying is that we must first remove the great sins within ourselves, before we can attempt to point out even the smallest sins of others. Put more bluntly, as Christians, we must practice what we preach (Rom 2:21,22)!

Citizens of the World vs Citizens of Heaven

There are some who have reservations about Christians serving in the government? Some wonder can Christians vote in elections? Most Christians are aware that many politicians are dishonest and some government officials are corrupt. What does the Bible say about Christians participating in such things?

When Jesus lived upon the earth, Israel was ruled by Rome. The Jews hated the Romans. Roman officials often were corrupt and oppressive. On one occasion when the Pharisees wanted to get Jesus in trouble, they asked Him a question: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matt 22:15-22) If Jesus said it was wrong to pay taxes, He would be in trouble with the Roman rulers. If He said it were good to pay taxes, He would be in trouble with the Jews. Jesus asked them to bring him a coin and identify whose image was on it. They replied, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus replied: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21).

Every Christian lives in two kingdoms. One kingdom is spiritual. The other kingdom is physical. We are citizens of the kingdom of Christ, which is the church of Christ (Matt 16:18-19 f; Col 1:13). At the same time, we are citizens of an earthly nation such as Great Britain, France, China, America, etc We must be good citizens in each kingdom. We have duties to fulfill in each kingdom.

The apostle Paul also lived during the time that Rome ruled much of the world. He was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29). Nero, one of the most corrupt rulers who ever lived, was on the throne when Paul wrote: “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resists the power withstands the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And would you have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise from the same: for he is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that does evil. Wherefore you must need be in subjection, not only because of the wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God’s service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Rom 13:1-7).

The apostle Peter also commanded Christians to “Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Pet 2:13-17).

Sometimes the question is asked: “What if the government commands Christians to do something which is against God’s law? What if the government forbade Christians to worship God? What should we do?” If there is a conflict between man’s law and God’s law, then God’s law supersedes man’s law! The Jewish officials arrested the apostles for preaching Christ. They said to them: “…We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:28-29). We must obey both God’s law and man’s law. If there is a conflict, then God’s law must be obeyed even if we must disobey man’s law. This is the only exception!

Some say worldly people can serve in the government, but Christians cannot. The Bible does not teach this. God has just one law. It is for all men. If it is wrong for a Christian to serve in the government, it would be wrong for anyone. If it is right for a non-Christian to serve in the government, it would be right for a Christian to do the same.

Surely, there are many temptations to do wrong if one has authority over his fellow man. It is easy to abuse power. There are also temptations to get rich by using one’s authority in a dishonest way. Christians must be honest and fair in all their dealings with their fellow man. This is true in business. It is also true in government. It is true in all things.

Must a Christian pay taxes? May he vote in an election? May he serve in a government or political office? The answer to all these questions is “yes.” However, a Christian must put God and His kingdom first (Matt 6:33). A Christian’s foremost duty is to serve and obey God (Eccl 12:13). Believe me, this is a full-time job. It is not a sin for a person to serve in government for their livelihood. Even so, because of the nature of politics, a Christian places his soul in danger by being around so many dishonest politicians. Paul gave us all an emphatic warning that evil communication or companionship corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33). Yet, to escape evil one must get out of this world altogether (1 Cor 5:10). The remedy for this is to put on the whole armor of God in order to fight against the trickery of Satan and all who would follow him (Eph 6:11-18).

Often Christians are placed in an awkward position between voting for a liar or a bigger liar. Christians who are honest with themselves know that both political parties are telling lies in order to obtain power to do evil things. Christians must never forget that we can never expect politicians to do the work of God. It is elders who must guide the church (Acts 20:28). It is preachers who must preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2-5). The best we can hope for in the political world is to attempt to elect good and moral people into positions of power.

Reap What You Sow

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in good time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Gal 6:7-9).

Stated plainly and simple by the apostle Paul: “God is not mocked”?  Pharaoh mock God when he said, “And who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Ex 5:2). And what of the mockers that surrounded the cross of Jesus? (Matt 27:41-43) and the soldiers who had earlier tormented Him (Matt 27:27-31)? And are we not correctly told that “in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” (2 Pet 3:3).

Many people evidently think they have escaped judgment for sins. They think that they are presently succeeding in mocking God with no consequence. What they fail to realize is that God allows such not because He is powerless to stop it, but because He has appointed a time to rectify things, and that time has not yet arrived. It will, but in the meantime, even the most foolish outrages are permitted to continue with hopes that another heart can be reached by the gospel and a soul saved before the day arrives (2 Pet 3:8-10). Those who think otherwise are being deceived.

God has ordained that we reap what we sow. That seems fair, but often it does not appear to work out that way. Even Solomon had observed that many times people do not get what they deserve. He said, “I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness.” (Eccl 7:15). He finally admitted his inability to figure it out, but also reaffirmed that there would come a time when God would right the wrongs and bring all things back into harmony with truth and righteousness; the righteous will receive according to their righteousness and the wicked according to their evil; “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man…” and “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it be good or evil.” (Eccl 8:12,13 cf; 12:13,14).

This principle of reaping what one has sown is a spiritual principle which will not be thwarted, though sometimes it appears otherwise during our lifetimes here. And yet, we have a saying, “What goes around comes around.” which essentially says the same thing. Sinners reap much hardship today as a result of their sins, but the final reckoning is yet in the future. A person, though his own selfishness and greed may never know the warmth of a truly loving relationship with another human being. He may become wealthy and powerful and be surrounded by so-called “friends” but he has lost much more than he has gained. How many have never known the love of God; His peace, mercy, joy, and confidence. Has he really come out ahead?

“The one who sows to the flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption.” Sowing to the flesh means to carry out the deeds of the flesh. Paul lists them as “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorceries, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these… those who practice such things shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Gal 5:19-21). The sinner destroys himself spiritually by corrupting his soul, and eternally by consigning himself to the eternal, ultimate ruin and depravity prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matt 25:41).

“But the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Sowing to the Spirit means to live by the Spirit and thus produce “the fruit of the Spirit.” This includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22,23). For those who “walk by the Spirit” their destiny is “eternal life.” This refers not only to the everlasting nature of our heavenly home but also of the blessedness of the quality of life there. Paul tells of the incorruptible nature of our new, spiritual bodies with which we will inhabit our new home (1 Cor 15:42-54). Our present bodies of flesh and blood cannot inherit such a wonderful place. We must be changed. Then and only then will all be made right (2 Cor 5:1).

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Gal 6:9). It would be easy to lose heart without the faith and hope in our hearts that we will indeed receive the promises of God. If it seemed as if there were no final reckoning and all our sacrificing was more or less in vain. It is when we lose sight of our goal that we are in the most danger (Heb 12:1,2 f; Jn 14:1-3).

The consequences of such lack of or loss of faith is plainly implied here. We reap only “if we do not grow weary.” Some suggest by their doctrine that there is no “if” to it; that once one is saved he will reap whether he grows weary or not. But the Holy Spirit says “if” and so must we if we are to faithfully proclaim His Word.

But we do not intend on growing weary. Our hope is fixed on Jesus. We know the consequences of “sowing to the flesh” and desire to avoid them. To those that insist on mocking God, yes, sometimes they make us angry at the heartless, foolish words and actions they use in opposition to the Redeemer. More than anger, there is a profound sorrow that they judge themselves unworthy of eternal life.

Many will sow evil and they shall reap evil upon themselves. A few will sow righteousness and they shall reap salvation. Yes, thank be unto God, we shall reap what we sow!

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