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Why is it that the Love of many will become cold? Because iniquity abounds! Our present society has turned to sinful things like no other society in the history of man. Our mass communication system ensures that sin is now a world-wide venture in just a very few moments. The effect of such a bombardment of sin is that it dulls man’s ability to love.
God created us with the ability to love. Sin subtly hinders that ability. It is so subtle that we think we know how to love when in fact we don’t. The measure of true love is to be compared to God’s standard and not to what we think. When exploring God’s standard on love, we can see that He is the standard. None of us love like God expects us to love. He expects us to love the way that He loves. All of us fall way short of that amazing love.
How do we keep our love from waxing cold? How do we love like God expects? We keep clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep cling to His Word. Surround ourselves with people who are doing the same. We place ourselves in an environment where we are surrounded by God.
Before Dee and I were married, we took her nephew to the drive in movie with us one night. Willie was quite the young boy. He liked everything that young boys like. I said I was going to go get some popcorn at the concession stand and Willie wanted to go with me. We got to the concession stand where he was eyeballing this very large Hershey’s chocolate bar. It was the kind that my dad would buy when I was a kid and it would last him for a month. Willie asked me if he could have one of those chocolate bars. I said that he could, but he would have to let his Aunt Dee portion it out to him. I thought it best for her to give it to him in pieces and regulate how much chocolate he would eat. I didn’t know that when we got back to the car, he showed her the chocolate bar and said, “Look what Ron got for me. Can I have it?” She looked at him and said, “Okay. I guess its okay.”
We continued to enjoy the movie. It wasn’t until about 15 minutes later when Willie was acting like a buzz saw. He was one big giant ball of energy. He was jittering and shaking and playing the air drums and talking a mile a minute. We looked at each other and wondered why is he acting this way. Then I asked her, “Did you give him that chocolate bar?” She said, “Well he told me that you said it was okay.” I told her I said it was okay if you gave him a piece of it. Willie had eaten a whole giant chocolate bar in about 10 minutes, and we were suffering the consequences. For the rest of the evening he was wild with energy.
Willie and played the technicality game. The technicality game is where you’re technically telling the truth but you say it in a misleading manner. Christians are the same way with God. They ask God to give them something when they know that He doesn’t want them to have it. They just play the technicality game to make Him think they are doing something good for Him.
Friends, God cannot be fooled. He knows what we think before we even think it. That is a thought that needs to be meditated upon. I’ll say it again, “God knows what we think even before we think it.” How do you deal with a God who knows what you think even before you think it? It’s no wonder that God tells us that we need to speak the truth. When Jesus speaks of himself saying that he is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6), He could in fact be giving us a warning; A warning that we should always tell the truth because God knows the truth even before we think it! He knows what we’re going to do even before we formulate the idea in our heads. So we better come clean!
There is no way you can deceive God. There is no way that you can play the technicality game with him. He knows exactly what you’re going to do even before you consider doing it. That is a sobering thought! We’re dealing with the God who knows us even better than we know ourselves. There’s no way to manipulate the truth or play the technicality game with God (Matt. 6:8). There’s nothing we can do to deceive or trick God.
We are such feeble creatures. We are so finite because we live within the constraints of time. We don’t know what the next minute will bring in our lives. But God knows. I don’t mean to say this as a consoling statement. I mean to say it as a warning. It is a statement that should make you think about always speaking truth with God. It’s a statement that should make you well aware that there’s someone who knows what you’re going to do in the next 5 minutes, and you can not deceive Him (Luke 12:27-31). You cannot play a technicality game with Him. You cannot manipulate events to make them work toward your favor. You cannot give an excuse for anything. God knows!
How is it that He knows everything about your life? He does because He is already there. God does not live within the constraints of time. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13). He lives outside the constraints of time. This is how He can live in our past and our future all at once. You and I however are linear creatures. We exist from second to second, minute to minute, hour to an hour.
Not only can this be a sobering thought, but it can be a comforting thought as well. Because God knows what we’re going to do 5 minutes from now, He can arrange events in our lives that will shield, protect, guide and love us. In this way he has the power to make things happen and give us His mercy, grace and goodness.
One of the reason that we have so many pansy Christians is because people neglect the terror of the Lord. Pansy Christians are those who are too afraid to witness for Him. They are the cowards who give up at the first sign of difficulty and run for cover. In a practical sense, they can always be identified as “church shoppers.” They look for what they want instead of what God wants. God wants us to remember sin. He wants us to always have it on our mind because it is the thought of sin that brings us to God in humility; ready to accept His way, and give up the reigns of our life to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:11 says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” It is interesting that Paul said, “knowing.” What is it that Paul knew. Well, many things I am sure, but here he is focusing on the TERROR OF THE LORD! The knowledge of that is what drove Paul to witness for God. It is that unabated terrifying side of God that caused Paul to get out of his “comfort shell” and be made “manifest” to the world as a real Christian (one who would die for the Lord Jesus Christ). He was afraid of what God could do, (and would do), when He was addressing man’s sin. Where are the Christians like that today? Are they waving their hands back and forth in a “gathering” of tee-totaling” academics? Are they standing firm? NO! They are too busy “feeling” God instead of “knowing” God. They have conveniently forgot that they will one day have to give account of their Christian life to God (Rom. 14:12). They are too busy having a “great life” while all the time they are surrounded by people who are dying and going to hell. That is no laughing matter my friend. Not at all!
Acts of compassion should be motivated by the terror of the Lord. Knowing what He can and will do if we are not obedient to Him.
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
There are many places where Jesus warned against the danger of false motives. In giving, He reminded us that we must not give our tithes in order to receive glory of people (Matt. 6:1–4). He also warned us against praying to receive applause of people; prayer is for conversing with God rather than a speech to be heard and admired by people (Matt. 6:5 – 6). He warned us against displaying our personal godliness by revealing our private spiritual disciplines so as to win the approval of people (Matt. 6:16–18). Regarding these two things, Jesus was talking to his disciples about proper motivation. He declared that all worship and service should be motivated by the single desire to please God.
A motive is something which “moves.” What the mainspring is to the clock, motives are to the Christian, what the motor is to the automobile. Motives certainly do affect our lives in many ways. Some examples of these are:
- Selfishness — everyone likes to feel important;
- Self-gratification — we like that which pleases us personally, and we like to have our own way;
- Self-interest — it is human nature for each of us to look out for the best interest of self. We find it easy, even if unconsciously, to ask, “What’s in it for me?”
One does not have to be an expert in motivational research to know that the above motives are inadequate for those who would invest their lives in the Service of God and others most effectively.
When examining the early church in the book of Acts, we discover what it was that made the church so effective. Just as well, we see that they did not serve purely out of love. They were human beings like us, and they served out of mingled motives rather than the pure motive of love for God and love for others.
The early church achieved one success after another in what appeared to be an impossible assignment with tremendous handicaps. The book of Acts is a thrilling success story. What were the motives of the early Christians? Can we have the same motives today? Why did the early Christians witness so faithfully?
They discovered the joy of being a bearer of good news (Acts 2:41 – 47; 5:42; 8:8). In obedience to the command of the Lord, by word of mouth, they spread the good news of his resurrection. They proclaimed God’s love for sinners and his desire to forgive sin. They could not conceal the good news that death had been defeated and that the grave had been robbed of its victory. This was such wonderful news that it brought joy to their hearts just to bear it. For them, witnessing about the saving acts of Jesus Christ was natural. Not to have done so would have been unnatural, inhuman, and unchristian for them. They received great inward joy through witnessing.
The early church recognized and responded to the authority of the crucified but risen and living Lord (Matt. 28:18b; Acts 2:36; 5:29). They believed that God had resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead and had bestowed upon him the authority of lordship. They believed that this gave Jesus the right to issue orders and to command their time, talents, testimony, and treasure.
These early Christians believed that it was right for them to obey Christ even if this obedience brought them into disfavor with both religious and civil authorities. At the risk of being imprisoned and beaten, they chose to obey the Lord.
Many of today’s Christians consider obedience as being optional. There seems to be little recognition of the present lordship of Jesus Christ. Consequently, disobedience characterizes the modern Christian more so than does obedience. Perhaps this is why the church is not effective today. Perhaps this is even why the world seems to be changing so drastically towards evil. It certainly has some effect, not only on the Christian, but on the world surrounding him as well. The motives of the Christians of the early church were a strong sense of duty, the desire to be obedient. This is the critical element that helped motivate the early church to be a faithful witness to their generation. They paid dearly for their motives, and their sacrifice made it easier on the church which was to follow. But today, there has been a moving away from what they gained in the world, and it is none more evident as it is in the USA, where everything seems to be “fundamentally changing.”
Yes, the early church suffered the shock of persecution (Acts 8:3–4). It was this persecution that scattered the early Christians, even though they were very nationalistic and felt that Christianity was a Jewish movement. They were prejudiced against Gentiles to the extent that God put forth special efforts to reveal that the Gentiles were also included in his love and purpose of redemption (Acts 10). Had it not been for the persecution that stirred up the church in Jerusalem, it is highly possible that Christianity never would have gained worldwide significance. The early Christians went everywhere preaching the Word, not because of the compulsion of compassion, but because they were scattered by persecution.
They could have given up on Christianity. They could have just quit. But, they were surrendered to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 16:6). The Holy Spirit came into the church on the day of Pentecost to equip each believer to be a spokesperson for God (Acts 2:17–18). He came to lead, guide, and teach the disciples as the Lord had taught his apostles (John 14:26). The book of Acts is the dramatic account of divine initiative on the part of the Holy Spirit and human cooperation on the part of our Lord’s disciples. They lived and labored in fellowship with and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is still in the heart of each believer and in the church to carry on the work of the Lord today. We need faith to believe and accept that He is present; we need to surrender and cooperate with Him. We need to pray for His power as one of God’s best gifts (Luke 11:13).
The early church believed that all people separated from Christ were lost from God and did not know the way home (Acts 4:12). Have you ever been lost in a wilderness or desert? Were you ever lost as a child in the park or in a large department store? Can you remember the fright that filled your heart when you realized you were separated from loved ones and that you were in a position of danger? The unbelieving world knows that something is wrong, but many do not know what it is. People have a deep, unsatisfied longing in their hearts that the world, with its treasures and pleasures cannot satisfy. The Bible teaches, and experience verifies, that Jesus Christ provides the answers to the mystery and meaning of life.
The early church believed that people were lost from God and living under the condemnation of sin. They believed that humankind’s only hope of forgiveness was through faith in Jesus Christ. They believed that they had been entrusted with the good news that would make it possible for people to be saved from hell and to heaven where the deepest longings of the heart would find full satisfaction in continuing fellowship with God. Because they wanted all people to be saved, they continued to bear their witness.
It was the natural, normal, and proper thing for a Christian to talk about the joy and satisfaction of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior both in time and for eternity. Consequently, day by day and week by week in the temple, in the synagogues, on the highways and streets — anywhere and everywhere — these early disciples bore their witness. With mingled motives, they loved, they labored, and they lifted men and women toward God. May the same motives command our intellect, our emotions, and our energies in the Service of God and of a needy world.
How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn’t move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”
Every conscientious parent recognizes how difficult it is to exercise his God-given authority over his children. The delicate balance of being tough yet tender is not easy to maintain. Many parents intensify a rebellious spirit by being dictatorial and harsh. Others yield when their authority is tested. When a strong-willed child resists, the pressure to give in for the sake of peace and harmony can become overpowering.
I am reminded of the mother who wanted to have the last word but couldn’t handle the hassle that resulted whenever she said no to her young son. After an especially trying day, she finally flung up her hands and shouted, “All right, Billy, do whatever you want! Now let me see you disobey THAT!”
Where our Captain bids us go,
‘Tis not ours to murmur no;
He that gives the sword and shield
Chooses too the battlefield
Where we are to fight the foe.
One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.
At first, I saw God as my judge, keeping track of the things that I did wrong so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I died. He was a lot like the President – I recognized His face when I saw it, but I really didn’t know him. But later, when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride. But it was a tandem bike. It was like Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has never been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but it was predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful “long” cuts. Up mountains and through rocky places at breakneck speeds. It was all that I could do to hang on. And even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal.” I was worried and I was anxious and I asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and that’s when I learned I was going to have to trust Him.
I forgot my boring life and entered every adventure and when I would say I was scared, He would just lean back and touch my hand. He took me to people who had gifts that I needed – gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. He gave me gifts to take on my journey and off we were again and he would say, “Give the gifts away, they are extra baggage, too much weight.” And so I did to people we met and I found that through giving, I received and the journey continued. I did not trust Him at first to take control of my life, I thought He’d wreck it. But He knows bike secrets – He knows how to make those sharp corners and how to jump to clear high rocks and do things I could have never done if I were in control. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places. I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful companion, Jesus Christ. And when I’m not sure that I can do it anymore, He smiles and says, “Just pedal.”
One thing which is true of all followers of Christ, eventually you will have your time on the spiritual battlefield. 2 Chronicles 32 covers the actions that King Hezekiah took in order to defend Jerusalem from the Assyrian army, and gives great examples of what we should do in order to win our own spiritual battles:
- Secure Godly support. In verse 3, Hezekiah first consulted with those he trusted. If you don’t have Christian friends who are growing, advancing and deepening their walk with Christ, PRAY for some. Proverbs 15:22 tells us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- Stop the flow of sin. Then, in verse 4, Hezekiah stopped the flow of water which would have given strength to the enemy. There are things which we sometimes allow into our lives which give strength to OUR enemy, the devil. One of the most important strategic moves in spiritual battle is to make sure that the flow of un-Godly, unrighteous, sinful “stuff” in our lives is stopped. It can come in many different forms, including television shows, movies, music, books or websites which contain material which is counter to what God’s word would have us consume.
- Repair, Restore and fortify. In verse 5, Hezekiah began making repairs to the wall around the city. The very nature of this undertaking required first examining the entire lower wall, to find the problem areas. Similarly, it is necessary that Christians examine their own lives often, to make sure there are no areas which make us easy prey for the enemy. Galatians 6:4-5 tells us, each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
- Weapons for battle. Verse 5 also mentions the weapons King Hezekiah made for his people. You and I are blessed to possess our own “armory”, prepared for us by our King. Read and study Ephesians 6:10-18 to learn more about the spiritual armor. If God’s people go into battle without these resources, we are defeated before we even begin.
The battle belongs to the Lord! Finally, verses 6 through 8 recount Hezekiah’s encouragement of the people for battle, as he reminded them that their enemies were simply fighting in the flesh, but the Israelites had the full power of God with them. He did not simply issue orders and edicts, and tell the people “We’re going to war! Get to your stations!” This king actually took the opportunity in what was a very tense time, to encourage the people, reminding them not of who THEY were, but of who their GOD was.
There are many different verses of encouragement in God’s word which remind us that God doesn’t just go into battle with us, but before us, preparing the way for victory. My wife recently reminded me of one, when she returned from a ministers’ wives retreat months ago. It was part of the short speech David gave to Goliath before he killed him in 1 Samuel 17. He said in verse 47, “the battle belongs to the LORD.”
God’s people will certainly find themselves involved in spiritual battles throughout their lives. However, as the people of God, not only do we need not fear defeat, but we can be assured of victory when we honor our Lord, and use the resources He has given us.
The modern “tongues” movement is primarily embraced by the “Charismatic”. This is not an English word. It comes from the Greek word “charisma” which means gifted. Therefore a person who claims to be “charismatic” (by the definition of the Word), claims to be gifted. By insinuation, this indicates that there are some “Christians” who are not “gifted”. This is wrong as the gift of the Christian is the Holy Spirit Himself. Not only does the “Charismatic” claim (by the definition of the word) to be gifted, he (whether he admits it or not) claims to be more gifted than other Christians. The Bible tells us what to think of those who brag on these gifts. Proverbs 25:14 says, “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain. It also tells us what to think of people who profess to have apostolic gifts who don’t have them. 2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. Revelation 2:2 says, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”
The signs of the apostles (Mark 16:14-20)
Cast out devils.
Speak with NEW tongues.
Take up serpents.
Not be hurt by poison.
Heal the sick
Since these are the “signs of an apostle”, only those who believed under the ministry of an apostle received these gifts (signs). Therefore, anyone who wanted to counterfeit the apostolic succession must counterfeit the apostolic signs. The Bible labels anyone who is counterfeiting an apostle as a FALSE APOSTLE (2 Cor. 11:10-14). NOTE: The anti-Christ is also Charismatic.
2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
One of the biggest lies that a Charismatic participates in is the perversion of Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. Acts 2 deals with the baptism of the Holy Ghost and 1 Corinthians 14 deals with the use of unknown tongues. Anyone who can read can readily see that in Acts 2 there is no reference to speaking in an unknown tongue (Acts 2:6 says that “every man heard them speak in his own language”). Likewise, there is no baptism of the Holy Ghost in 1 Corinthians 14.
Baptism of the Holy Ghost
In regards to this, notice Acts 2:
No one is kneeling or praying for any “baptism”.
The “initial evidence” is NOT tongues. It is the sound of a mighty rushing wind.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (KJV)
What is it then (1 Cor. 14)?
In chapter 14 we read that the important gift is prophecy. This is because by prophecy, you can teach about something that has already been written in the Scriptures. This is how Jesus taught (Matt. 21:42; Mark 7:6; John 12:14).
Unknown Tongues: From the relationship of mankind in general, there is no such thing as an unknown tongue. Some man on this earth knows the tongue that a person speaks. Here in this passage, tongues is an existing language that was not previously learned. Don’t let some man deceive you into thinking that it is a special heavenly prayer language. This is NOT in the Bible.
Modern day teaching is that tongues is a sign that one is baptized in the Holy Ghost. This is not Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
Spiritual gifts are not obtained. They are GIFTS from the Holy Spirit, given as HE sees fit (1 Cor. 12:11).
If speaking in tongues is evidence of being baptized (immersed into) in the Holy Spirit, and therefore being placed into the body of Christ, why then does 1 Corinthians 12:18 teach us that God places us into his body as He sees fit?
Not everybody IN THE BODY OF CHRIST will speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30).
There is a more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31).
God’s emphasis is that we should desire to prophecy as it edifies the church (1 Cor. 14:1-3, 12).
Tongues are for a sign to them that believe not (1 Cor 14:22).
There is a difference between speaking with and in tongues (1 Cor. 14:39).
Merry Christmas! Every year, people all over the world get ready for Christmas by putting up a Tree and decorating it. They buy presents and wrap them in pretty papers and put them under their Christmas Tree. But, do you know why Christmas is celebrated and what the Tree and the presents mean? Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s take a closer look at His story.
A long time ago, an angel appeared to a virgin named Mary in the land Israel. Luke 1:30-32 “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest…” At the birth of the Son of God, a star shone above where He lay for all to see. A star is put on the top of the Tree to represent this majestic star. Some wise men from the East followed this star to where the Son of God lay. Matthew 2:9-11 “…and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was…And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…” God had a special plan for His Son, who left His royal throne in heaven to become man in order to bring salvation to all men.
The colors on the Tree have special meaning which tell His story:
- White represents Jesus’ purity and sinlessness because only the Son of God was born without a sinful nature.
- Black represents sin which brings death. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…” Every man is a sinner by nature, so without intervention, everyone will die and go to Hell.
- Orange is the color that represents the torturing fires of Hell.
- Red represents the blood of the Lord Jesus. The shedding of blood is the only payment for sin, and only the pure blood of the Son of God could pay the sin debt for all mankind.
- The brown branches on the Tree represent the tree upon which Jesus was crucified. After His death, His body was placed in a tomb and sealed. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “…that Christ died for our sins …And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day…” On the third day, Jesus Christ rose victorious over sin and death. By rising from the dead, He conquered death that He might give life.
- The green branches of the Tree represent life. Because Jesus now lives, so can we. What is the gift that God offers to man? Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The gift which God offers us is life, which we can receive through Jesus Christ.
- The gifts under the Tree represent the precious GIFT which Jesus extends to all. If we accept the gift of eternal life, we will live with the Lord Jesus in heaven forever.
- Yellow is the color on the Tree that represents heaven.
What about YOU? You and I and every person in the world are sinners by nature. Sin causes death which means that without intervention, you will die and go to Hell. However, the good news is that the Lord Jesus paid the price for your sin and now offers YOU the gift of life, which is known as salvation! You can be saved from your sins! Will you accept the gift? What a great tragedy it would be for you to choose to spend eternity in Hell separated from the Lord Jesus who paid such a high price for you!
If you are serious about receiving God’s gift, then you can tell God directly by praying a prayer like this one to Him and He will save you:
Dear God, I see that Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ has paid a high price for me. I’m a sinner on my way to Hell. I don’t deserve Your gift, but I ask You to save me. Thank You, God, for saving me. Amen.
People often try to justify their desire to gamble by saying, “after all, life itself is risky.” Investing in the stock market, crossing the street, riding in an airplane, falling in love, getting married, even doing church work all carry with them an element of risk. People also try to justify gambling by pointing to the element of chance that was involved in the Old Testament use of lots or the Urim and Thummim, and in the New Testament method of choosing Judas’ successor. However, there is no legitimate point of comparison between the type of chance involved in these Scriptural practices and the type of chance involved in gambling. The Old Testament lots were specifically sanctioned and commanded by God (Lev. 1:8, Josh. 14:2, Ex. 28:30, Num. 27:21, Dt. 33:8). Gamblers today cannot produce such commands of God for the lots they cast! Likewise, in the choice of Matthias to succeed Judas no real risk was involved, Both candidates, Justus and Matthias, were fully qualified for the position, so the final choice was entrusted to the Lord in prayer.
The real crux of the problem of gambling is not the element of risk or chance, but the question of motivation. This is the real heart of the problem, for if the motivation involved is wrong, gambling is wrong even when the element of skill predominates over simple chance.
The basic purpose of most gambling is not to help and serve others, but to help ourselves at their expense. Luther observed: No one gambles with another in order to give away to the other what is his own (for he could do that without gambling), nor in order to lose what is his own, nor in order to seek the gain of the other man as though it were his own. This is why gambling is always contrary to love and is motivated by greed because a man seeks, to the harm of another, what does not belong to him.
The basic Christian objection to gambling is that it is an attempt to gain something from our neighbor without giving a fair service in return. If we really love our neighbor, will we wish to win at his expense? In gambling are we heeding the admonition of Scripture, Philippians 2:4 ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.’ Christians must keep two facts in mind when seeking gain or profit from their activities. They must give fair labor in exchange for what they receive. They seek to earn for themselves, not from selfish motivation, but in order to be of service to others. Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
A Christian’s life is to be devoted to serving others, not to serving self. In most games of gambling, part of the enjoyment is taking advantage of someone else’s loss. Gambling is nonproductive, and can be justified only by arguing its entertainment value or the good use made of a portion of the revenue. Since the end never justifies the means, gambling cannot be justified on these grounds if greed is involved. The fact that dishonesty and selfish motivation can be practiced in any form of business cannot be used as an excuse to justify gambling, if gain at the expense of another is part of the very nature of gambling. The common consent involved in gambling does not excuse the stealing involved in gambling anymore than common consent excuses the murder involved in dueling.
The Bible does not specifically forbid gambling, but there are several biblical principles that should make Christians hesitate to participate:
- God presents work as the normal way to get the money we need (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:12).
- When a person cannot work, the second choice is prayer (Phil. 4:6, 19).
All my income belongs to God, not me (Psalms 24:1), and I am not free to use it as I wish. I am a steward, who should use it for God’s purposes. Christians are called on to meet the needs of their family (1 Tim. 5:8), and share with others, particularly Christians who have needs (2 Cor 8-9; Gal. 6:6-10; 3 John).
Does God want me to use His money to buy a lottery ticket? God uses money to accomplish important purposes in my life:
Meet basic needs (Matt. 6:11; I Tim. 6:8).
Build character (Phil 4:10-13)
Give direction, by providing or withholding resources.
Helping others through me.
Show His power by providing miraculously.
Gambling does not accomplish any of these things. In fact, it hinders these things being accomplished in my life. So, a person must ask themselves, “Am I looking to God or to the lottery for my needs?”
The Bible says that it is required of a steward that a man be found faithful 1 Cor 4:3). Since we are to be stewards of everything we have, (not just our money), and we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), gambling that which we have stewardship over is directly opposite of a life of faith.
Greed and covetousness are sin (Exo. 20:18; I Tim. 6:9; Heb. 13:5), and these are motives in most gambling. The book of Proverbs warns of disaster for people who want to get rich quickly (28:20, 22). Not only that, wealth that comes easily goes just as easily (Pro. 13:11). AND, if it is gained the wrong way it can even break up families (Pro. 15:27).
Luke 14:25-33 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
The Christian life is pictured in the Bible as a race to run; a course to finish. The Apostle Paul was determined not only finish his course, but to do it with joy (Acts 20:24). This is exactly what he did. Shortly before his death, he gave this testimony: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2Timothy 4:7). He finished his course. Each of us needs to be aware that God has a course for us, and He wants us to carry it out to the end; He wants us to finish our course.
Gods plan for each of us is specific to us. No one else can carry it out for us. It is ours. However, He will help us find and complete that plan. Still, many Christians never even find their plan, let alone finish it. In fact, they hardly even try.
The passage above speaks of one who intends to build a tower. Building this tower is like running a race and finishing a course. Yet, because of many pitfalls, the tower may never get built. By looking at the necessary ingredients for building this tower, we can see how to succeed as well as learn why so many people fail.
God wants us to finish our course
The first requirement of those who would build a tower is that they must be “intending to build” (vs. 28). If they do not at least intend to build, then nothing else can be accomplished. To “intend” means to “have in mind as a purpose.” When we intend to finish our course our vision of the race goes well beyond the starting line. It also allows a view of the finish line, or in this case, the placing of the final brick. Granted, the way to the end may not be understood but a vision of accomplishment is formed. You cannot go someplace if you don’t know where it it.
This intention or vision is also spoken of as our “purpose.” In 2 Timothy 3:10, Paul told Timothy, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience.” Probably the greatest number of Christians fail to finish their course because they have no purpose in their lives. Or, their purpose has been skewed by the Devil or self. So, we must have the right purpose.
It Must Be For God: We cannot finish our course by living our life for self. We must lose the life we want to live for the sake of Jesus Christ. Luke 9:24 says, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Jeremiah told the scribe Baruch, “And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…” (Jer. 45:5). We must seek great things for the Lord. Jesus told His disciples, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” (Luke 22:25-26)
It Must Be From God: Many Christians try to serve God on their own terms. They choose what they want to do for the Lord and then expect Him to support them in their labors. But this will not work. It is not enough to be doing something for the Lord. The mission has to be the one He has given us. When Saul got saved, he began his Christian life by asking, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). As with Paul, we too must seriously asked the Lord what He would have us to do. Paul, when praying for the Colossians, asked the Lord that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9). In other words, to know and understand the course He had planned for them. Caleb claimed the promise of God when he said, “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day” (Joshua 14:12). But note that he claimed only what God had already promised him.
To finish our course we must find God’s purpose for us and follow after that purpose. God may not tell us everything at once. He will at least give us a starting direction and will always show we the next step to take. But we need more than a purpose.
We need a plan: Good intentions are cheap. In fact, without some action behind them, they are worthless. But before we can act, we must know where we are going. Our passage in Luke tells about the builder who sits down before he begins to build and “counteth the cost” (vs. 28). That is what we do when we establish a plan and determine if we are willing to give the necessary effort to accomplish our purpose.
Why Do we Need a Plan? We need a plan to discover God’s way of accomplishing the purpose. He must be the source of the purpose and the plan as well. We seek His face through prayer and meditation and wait for Him to give us a plan. Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches us to, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
We need a plan to discover God’s timing. God’s timing is beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and He will make all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). But our timing may destroy the entire purpose and will certainly cause unnecessary delays and detours. We need God’s timing in order to determine several things:
- When to begin action.
- What steps to take.
- What our priorities are.
- What can be left for later.
How Do We Get This Plan? We seek God’s direction through prayer. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” If we seek God’s answer and wait for it, He will let us know what He wants us to do.
We develop the plan through meditation. The virtuous woman “considereth a field, and buyeth it” (Proverbs 31:16). God can and will work through our thought processes if we are submitted to Him. This is why Bible reading coupled with meditation upon His word is so important.
We gain wisdom through counsel. Others may counsel us personally or we may find help through published materials that can help us. God uses all of these ways. Proverbs 11:14 – “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
Planning is crucial to finishing our course. But there are people who have spent their life making one plan after another and yet have accomplished very little. Planning must be coupled with action.
In Luke, the builder of the tower must get to the point where he has “laid the foundation” (14:29). For Christians to accomplish their purpose for the Lord, they must lay a solid foundation. Jesus told a story about two men who built houses (Matthew 7:24-27). He does not mention any difference in floor plan, or size, or exterior covering. He only mentions one difference: the foundation on which the houses were built. One was built on the sand and the other on the rock and when the storms came, only the house with the firm foundation stood. The type of foundations also told us something about the men who built the houses. The man who built on the rock was called a wise man. The one who built on sand was called a fool. What kind of builder are we?
The Baptist preacher and teacher, B. H. Carroll (1843-1914), said, “Only prepared men accomplish great things. And the greater the preparation, the less need for long time to do great things.”
Prepare For the Work: Proverbs 24:27 states, “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.” Picture someone in early America who is homesteading in a new land. What is most important? Should they build a nice house first? Of course not! To make our work fit in the field would be to prepare for defense against any hostile Indians and to make sure that the crops get planted in time for harvest. A house is no good if we are killed or if we have no food to eat.
Many people want to put the cart before the horse in Christian service. Paul spoke of those who were, “desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (Titus 1:7). There are people who want to teach but do not want to do the study or get the training necessary to be a good teacher.
Any significant work for the Lord requires some form of preparation. More and more people want to skip this step. For us, it may mean BibleCollege or some special form of training. It may mean working under someone for several years and learning from them. It may mean getting our financial house in order. But, if we are ever to finish, our course, we must prepare.
Prepare for the Winter: Proverbs tells us that the ants are wise because “they prepare their meat in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25). They use summer as a window of opportunity to gather food so that when the winter comes and there is not food to gather, they can live off that which is in store. Preparation means that we use opportunities and do things at the best time to do them. If our purpose requires some form of learning that is easier to obtain before marriage, then we need to make a choice between the two. Attending school later may be necessary, but timing is important. We often want to skip the dull stuff but the dull stuff is often the key to success.
Okay, so we have discovered God’s purpose for our life. We have made plans and have laid the foundation through preparation. Now what? Now…it is time to push!
We Must Push with All our Might: The main thrust of our passage is that someone wants “to build a tower” (Luke 14:28). To build a tower we must do the work of a builder. We must put forth the effort. We must push. A worthy purpose requires a working servant. Many Christians fail to finish their course because they are lazy; they have no push. Solomon admonishes us, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Paul tells the Colossian servants, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (3:23). Doing a work for the Lord takes all we have…and then some. Are we working as if for the Lord?
We must be Persistant (vs. 29, 30): Yet, to finish the tower, one thing yet is needed. The builder must be “able to finish.” Some men start many things but finish none. Paul finished his course. Will we finish ours? Is so, we must refuse to faint (Proverbs 24:10; Galatians 6:9). We must finish by faith (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1Corinthians 15:58).
We have been looking at the Christian life as one in which we build a tower or finish a course. Another picture used in the Bible is that of sowing and reaping (Psalm 126:5-6). In order to reap, we must work the land, sow the seed, care for the plants and refuse to quit. God promises that those who refuse to faint will eventually, in due season, reap the harvest (Galatians 6:9). What would it take for us to fail? Why not just keep on going on for the sake of the Lord?
The Purpose of the church-EXAMINED.
The purpose of the church is multi-faceted, but it revolves around one—only one—activity. That activity is the winning of souls. In short, it is telling others how to be saved, encouraging them to get saved, and leading them in the process of being saved. We are very plainly told in the Bible that, “…he that winneth souls is wise.” (Pro. 11:30). The activity of winning souls stands over every endeavor a Bible believing church is involved in. It is paramount, un-negotiable and vital. If you do not think so, then you are sadly mistaken.
Today, the church has evolved into some kind of conglomerate, some kind of multi-functional business venture (emphasis on “business venture). Like some Good Samaritan club, people come together to escape the harsh attacks of evil that they withstand throughout their week. It takes the place of some good, wholesome fun that can be found no place else in the world. And, it becomes an educational source where people can go and have their morals sharpened by the word of God. Of course, all of these are not wrong, but they have somehow upset the cart; the scales have become out of balance. Where at one time soul winning was the most important thing, now it has been replaced by all of the rest. Instead of being slightly off, the church has now become grossly out of balance in the area of winning souls.
In what areas do many churches weigh heaviest? In what areas do they invest the bulk of their resources? They are vast and range from small group encouragement sessions to being the vassals of the distributors of Christian books and programs. I have been to churches where they canceled meetings so they could show the super bowl. I have preached in churches that were divided right down the middle. On each side of the aisle sat the two prominent families of the church along with their supporting families. The poor pastor was stuck right in the middle of the feud. I preached at one church where I actually did no preaching at all. The auditorium was exactly like a movie theater auditorium and the “stage” was full of rock band equipment. All they did was play Christian rock music and there was no mention of Jesus, salvation or the Bible anywhere. My preaching was the privileged task of being the guest of honor in the very front row center. This is only a small sample of what some churches now call “preaching the gospel.” It is what they have replaced for winning souls. No one in any of those churches even thinks of winning someone to Christ, let alone actually trying to do it. Yet they are all “busy about the Lord’s work.” In fact, there have been some people who have left churches where I pastored who said, “I can’t grow. In everything you say, you always say something about winning souls. Could you please stop telling me that?”
Now, to have support groups, encouragement and structure for Christian growth is truly important. It is good to have classes to teach how to rear children the Biblical way. Classes of marriage and handling of finances are necessary and the Bible speaks of these subjects and many more like them. It is necessary for Christians to, “Bear one another’s burdens…” (Gal. 6:2). It is good to be glad in the house of the Lord (Acts 2:46) and to be encouraged by the singing and worship (Col. 3:16). Not every moment of the Christians life must be winning a soul. Every soldier needs time to regroup and rearm. He even needs time away from the battle to resort. The problem is, that most churches have remained stuck in the regroup, rearm and resort area and no one is actually in the battle. They have forgotten that you cannot win a war with only the rear echelon. You must have the fighters. And, in the army, every soldier is a soldier first and foremost.
One day Jesus approached Peter and Andrew while they were fishing, He did not ask them to join a fellowship. He did not offer to them a support group. He didn’t even offer them an answer to their personal problems. What He told them was, “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19). He wanted to make them into soul winners. He intended to teach them how to tell others about the gospel (good news) of salvation. He wanted them to be equipped to carry that gospel to others throughout their entire life. And, that is exactly what they did, and they did it at the hazard of their own lives. They never lost sight of the main goal. They never got their number one main order out of sight. They always had their “prime directive” before them. The Jews of old would carry God’s word in little boxes strapped to their foreheads called–frontlets (Deu. 11:18). This was in command to God’s directive to have no other Gods but Him (Exo. 20:3). It was their main mission to teach this to their children and this is how they would remember. Too bad the churches of today do not have spiritual “frontlets”. Too bad they keep forgetting their number one mission.
The apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22). Though he taught many of God’s principles of help to the church, he still never lost sight of this first command given by Jesus (Acts 1:8). He was committed to even going to the uttermost parts of the earth, and he was pretty successful about it. Even though he had all the cares and concerns of helping the different churches, making a living and dealing with the little concerns of life, he still found time to win souls.
We all know the gravity of the situation; the importance in winning a soul (James 5:20). It is a life and death matter for the one who is won. But in a certain sense, it too is a life and death matter for a church. Where the members of a church are not actively trying to win souls, the church, like a dried up piece of fruit, will die on the vine. It does so because the Christians within dry up and die on the vine. You can always tell those who are drying up because they present reasons why they cannot do it. Listen! People can do anything they want to do if they want to do it bad enough. Churches (dead churches) are filled with people who side-step the command to win souls by replacing it with a little program and then soothe their guilty souls by convincing themselves that they are really serving the Lord. It is really amazing how many churches spend more energy and resources in humanitarian aide rather than Godly aide.
So, let us end on a good note. Let us end on the assumption that you have determined you are going to do something about pleasing God in this area of winning souls. John 4:36 says, “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” I hope that you will receive wages abundantly for your eternal work. I pray that you both reap and sow. I look forward to that for you personally and for the church as well. It would be fantastic to have a church full of those who can rejoice together—rejoicing that can only come from laboring in the field. The church does not ever need to be a dry, dead place. The only way to keep it alive and vibrant is to win souls. This is our purpose—to win souls. There is no other way around it. Nothing can replace this God given formula for joy.
Luke 6:31-33 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
This passage of Scripture describes how we must treat each other during the Millennium if we are to remain in a “right” relationship with the Lord. Even though it is a millennium passage, it is still profitable for us today (2 Tim. 3:16).
There are some very good principles presented by the Lord Jesus Christ for us to use to navigate the pilgrims passage that we have before each of us. Although the keeping of these words does not determine our salvation, as it will in the Millennium, it will help us conform to a more likable image of Christ.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
Why is there not more of this happening in the church? Do people treat others the way the wish to be treated? There seems to be a great disparity between the way we are treated and the way we treat others. The two don’t always match. Should they, there would be less conflict.
People are not sensitive enough to observe how others are treating them. It is often overlooked because others are not looking for it. Face it, it is quite embarrassing to tell someone, “Now this is the way I wish to be treated…”. No one is likely to do that. There are self-help, sharing groups that are full of people saying how they wanted to be treated, but others could just not see it. It is expressed in statements like, “They knew I didn’t like that, but they did it anyway.” The answer is: they didn’t know you did not like it because they simply never paid attention to what you liked or not.
On the whole, people have a predetermined idea of how they wish to be treated, but seldom think of how they should treat others. Their focus is on “self” and not others. Once they come to that predetermined conclusion of how they wish to be treated, they do not broadcast it because it would not seem a right thing to do. Others are supposed to perceive it and if they don’t, then watch the sparks fly.
There is the story of Ted and Jane. Jane made herself up real pretty for her birthday so when Ted came home from work, he would notice something different about her and be reminded of her birthday. She didn’t feel right about saying to him, “Ted, you know it’s my birthday tomorrow.” It just felt too selfish of an act to do something like that. She opted for a more subtle way to help him remember.
Ted totally forgot about Jane’s birthday. He was completely oblivious to the matter. Coming home from work, he greeted her as always, with a kiss. They talked about their day and proceeded with their evening as usual. Not only had he completely forgot her birthday, he didn’t even notice that she had made herself up nice and pretty. Jane was deeply hurt inside. She had an expectation; he was supposed to notice and that would remind him of her special day, but that’s not what happened. He was not sensitive enough to observe how she was treating him. The result was pain and hurt. Had he observed how she was treating him, he would have noticed something different. The result would have been joy.
People don’t notice how others are treating them because they are more concerned with self; they are more concerned with the way others are treating “THEM.” This is purely a focus on self. We want others to notice us, but we don’t notice others. The Lord Jesus said, “…as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” That is not: “…as ye do unto men, they should do likewise unto you.” You treat others the way you expect to be treated, but you make the first step, AND have no expectation that they will treat you likewise. After some time, it will wear off on them and have an effect. But, you must take the first step. You must lead by example, treating them the way that you wish to be treated, all the while observing them so you can be sensitive to their expectations. There is no room for: “This is the way I am—take it or leave it!” This command by the Lord is not a goodie box of “what you get,” but rather “what you should give.”
Love those who do not love you.
This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do as a child of God. It is difficult because when you love someone, you are laying your heart out before them and there is a risk that they will trample on it. Even though there is a risk, any attempt to master this precept will make you a much better person.
There is no doubt that the world is lacking in love. People love themselves (but they don’t know it), their family, and their friends. There is little room for anyone else. We hold back from helping others because we fear an obligation might develop, or they might take advantage of me. But we fall deeper and deeper into a selfish hole until we have no way for mankind to climb himself out.
To turn around this downward spiral we need to take the first step: love our enemies, remembering the weight of the enormous pressure our enemies can bring to bear. We need to adopt, and develop, a loving life to all. Yes, we may get bowled over by the world, but just as worldly living is infectious, so is love. You must not love your enemies looking for immediate results, but for long term solutions. This does not mean that there are no immediate results. Adopting this teaching into your life will help you immensely in your attitude towards others and your outlook on life. If you can do it long enough, it will become habit, and not only will it be easy, but it will make living for the Lord easier on the whole.
To love someone who loves you in return is easy, but to love your enemies is difficult. It is here where lies the true lessons of love. When you give out a good helping of your love and get some love in return, you have, in a sense, exchanged some love for some love. This is similar to purchasing something: you exchange something that is valuable to you so in return you may obtain something that is valuable to you. The Beatles sang, “Can’t buy me love.” The reality of the fact is we do it all the time when we love those who love us in return. We just don’t know we are doing it.
Do good to everyone
Too many people are doing bad things to others. Even Christians get drawn into the oppressive style of living, repaying evil for evil (1 Thess. 5:15). We like to “pay back” others who have wronged us. In fact, we are so good at it, we do it before we even know what we are doing. A wife says something mean to her husband. The husband responds with saying something mean back to his wife. We just react. So spontaneous is this exchange that we don’t even realize it happened. The proof is in the making up process when they say to each other, “I didn’t really mean what I said.” The question remains: “Then why did you say it?” The response is: they don’t know why, but they didn’t mean to do it. It is because we are so conditioned to live by such worldly standards that doing otherwise seems impossible, but it is not.
We must take the first step to do good to others. Although, the world as a whole may not appreciate such living, those whom we do good to will. When they in turn do the same to others, it begins to spread. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a society where everyone loved each other? This is what living in the kingdom will demand, and this is what heaven will be like as well. You won’t have to worry about someone having some kind of ulterior motive when they do something good for you.
The Lord Jesus lived by this guiding principle. Not only was it His nature to love (1 John 4:16), but it was to us—His great example.
The Chinese Character Story is an amazing story of how God embedded the gospel and the story of Creation right inside the Chinese language. The Chinese communist do not believe in God, but the language that they use daily, holds the story of God. This booklet by Pastor Coale clearly shows how God could do such a thing as to turn Satan’s work around on himself.
Have you ever thought, “What other gospel addresses this same event?” The Parallel Gospels not only aligns the gospels in parallel with each other, It also organizes them in chronological order. Pastor Coale wrote this book to help him in his own study and he is sure It will be a great help to you as well. This book is a great help in studying the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and will be referred to over and over.
Gifts and Tongues: The Charismatic Catastrophe will help all seekers of truth to know the mind of God concerning speaking in “tongues” and spiritual misuse of “gifts.” It is for this purpose that Pastor Coale brings this work to us. All too often, Christians are approached by super-Charismatics who prey upon them. They seek converts among innocent Christians trying to learn about God. When new Christians are told they are not really saved until they speak in tongues, they become rightfully concerned. Since they want to please their new Lord, they naturally want to speak in tongues, but something holds them back; something tells them things are not right, but they can’t put their finger on it. This booklet is written for those Christian brothers and sisters. If they follow where this booklet leads them in God’s word, they will clearly understand God’s teaching on this subject.
There was a famous American pastor who went to Africa to preach for a summer. He preached in many countries while there. The crowds who came to listen were various, but always large in numbers. After finishing with a crowd of over ten thousand souls, he and his hosts were headed to a town where there was expected to be three thousand. But the country that he was in did not have a very stable government. That particular day, the government ceased the sale of gasoline that morning. On the way to the church, there were cars lined up all over the sides of the road. Some were left abandoned; others had frustrated owners camping out in them. It was a dreary and ominous sight for the American pastor, especially when earlier a tremendous storm blew in. There was lightning and thunder all around the area. On the way to the church that morning, the American pastor thought to himself, “There probably won’t be very many people in church today. In a church of three thousand, if half of the people come, it is going to look pretty skimpy today.”
When they arrived at the building, it was about half full of people milling around preparing for the service. But it didn’t stop there! People continued to trickle in all throughout the morning until the building was “bursting at the seams.”
First they prayed. They prayed for a good hour. He thought it would never end. He had never experienced anything like this before. Then there was singing and praising. It bubbled over into exuberant exaltation of the Lord in dance (proper dance) and joy. There was such an atmosphere of love and praise for the Lord that the pastor was even able to “get his ‘jam’ on.” He then preached for about an hour, but when he finished, as the storm raged outside, the faces of the people looked surprised. The song leader stepped up and the singing began again. Then there was prayer and more testimonies of praise. There was such praise for the Lord that the shouting and elevating of Jesus spilled over once again to jubilant song and dance. Some were standing with outstretched arms; some were kneeling at the altar. Some were smiling and shouting; others were crying and shaking their heads in sorrow and deep conviction. He sheepishly, but willingly joined in praising Jesus right along with everyone else. An announcement was made and the people began sitting, still shouting with joy. Eyes turned to the pastor and he quickly deduced that they expected more from the word of God.
He preached yet another full sermon. At the invitation, the altar was full. Then prayer broke out in the building once again. Five hours had passed. First it seemed like the church would be empty, but it filled. Then it seemed like you couldn’t pry the people away. Amazed by this display, he asked the national pastor, “Why aren’t these people leaving?”
“Things are different between Africa and America. The people here, THEY NEED GOD. You see, the people here have nothing. Some of these people have walked 2 and 3 hours to get here. They don’t even know if they will eat tomorrow, let alone have a job. These people are a devastated people without God. They live one day at a time. There is such a desperate need for God over here, that every time there is an opportunity to come face to face with God, and be in His presence, they take advantage of it. They can’t afford excuses, or compete with television shows or radio. They NEED to be in God’s presence.”
As I listened to this story, I began to wonder about that very simple, yet convicting phrase: “We need God here.” It was a shocking and unexpected answer from that simple African pastor: “WE NEED GOD HERE!” He was not saying that Americans don’t need God as well. Nor was he criticizing American churches. He was stating a simple and plain fact. It was truly how the African pastor saw things from his position. Having been in several third world countries myself, I can relate to that statement. Having lived in third world countries for a big chunk of my life, I can see that statement formulate into a vision. At no fault of the general American, there are just too many choices, especially in the way of “religions” competing over their interest. At no fault of their own, the general citizen of this country has an abundance of food, water, health care and shelter available to him. In short, there are very, very few instances in our great land that cause our citizens to be driven to their knees, yearning for an opportunity to be in the presence of God because they have no food, water, shelter or food, just to make it another day. There is not much real NEED of GOD HERE in our great land.
Friends, because we don’t have that situation here, does not mean that we don’t NEED God. Everyone needs God. We all need God. I need God, and so do you. So far, God has not driven us to this realization. So far, God has granted us a reprieve from such a destitute situation; a situation where there is no other place to turn to but Him. For now, He has left us to ourselves. We can turn to our government, families, and charities for help. The lines at the food banks are not full of starving people so far.
For now, God has given us the “choice” to need Him or not, but it might not be that way for long. I know that this is something that most of my fellow countrymen cannot “relate to” because they have never seen anything like that with their own eyes. They have only heard stories about such situations, or seen it on T.V. I assure you that there is a big difference between seeing it on T.V. and seeing it in person. Let me go even farther than that. There is a big difference between seeing it for your self, and living it in person, but when you do, when you have absolutely no other place to turn to but God, you will crave the presence of God. I don’t mean coming to the end of your rope in such a sense that you can’t figure out any other way to fix your problem except asking someone to pray for you. You know, the kind of problem where you have already solved it, but you just can’t grasp the resolution because it lies just outside of your reach. I am talking about the kind of problem that has no resolution. These are the kind of problem where you absolutely NEED GOD to live another day. These are the real big problems. These are those that drive you to God and keep you there. The kind of problems where you not only welcome an opportunity to be in His presence, but are disappointed if you cannot be there.
So I ask, “Do you need God?” Do you need Him so much that you would not so much as lift up your eyes unto heaven, but smite your breast saying, “God, be merciful to me—a sinner.” (ref. Luke 18:13). How poor are you?
I am not saying you need to be poor. I am asking, How much do you Need God? It shows in your desire to be in His presence.
“But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;” Acts 15:38-39
There are many instances in the Bible where people could not be at peace with each other. Lot could not get along with Abraham. His brothers could not agree with Joseph. The people could not get along with Moses. Saul could not get along with David. The church at Corinth was filled with contention and discord.
The Christian life involves working with people. The more you know how to get along with people, the further your influence will go. God puts us with a family up to 18 years before we leave. That is longer than any animal stays with its parents! Then comes college dormitory life—more people. Then comes marriage—a person for life. Children—more people. Then comes a career—more people. During all this is church involvement—more people. People who do not know how to get along with others have problems all of their lives.
How do Christians become at peace with each other? What is it that we are to do to accomplish this monumental task? Here are some basic things that we can do to live a peaceful life:
- Remove Pride From Your Life. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” When someone is proud and backslidden they argue and have a hard time getting along with anyone.
- Read Your Bible Daily. The Bible says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psa. 119:9). If you read God’s word daily, you will eventually fall in love with it and it will provide peace in you life (Psa. 119:165). The Word of God gives you the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5). If you are thinking like Jesus, you will treat people the way He would.
- Involve yourself in prayer for others. It is amazing how well we can get along with someone when we pray for them. The Bible tells us: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21; Luke 12:34). So, if we put the treasure of our time into praying for someone, then our heart will follow.
- Be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are told in the Bible to be “filled with the Spirit;” (Eph 5:18). If we let the Holy Spirit have control of our life, then we will love others and be at peace with them.
- Learn to listen. People like to talk! It is the easiest and most common way for us to communicate to others. It is how we inter-relate. Talking is at the center of every social activity. Who could imagine a birthday party where no one spoke a word or made a sound? God equipped us with this little tool so we could express our heart-felt feelings as well as our intellectual discoveries. Therefore, when we speak we are revealing our very soul (Matt. 15:18). We must be very cautious when we speak because we can actually destroy relationships by what we say (Pro 13:3). Much trouble can result in opening our mouth and unbridling our tongue (Jas. 1:26; 3:8). Words can actually inflict: “soul damage.” Talking about other people is not bad at all, but to do it in a destructive manner is not good. This is called: gossip. Gossip is sharing information with someone who is neither part of the problem nor the solution. It is much better to listen than it is to speak
- Don’t be a fool. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” A fool is someone who is not serious about practicing God’s principles. They cannot take reproof (Pro. 9:8). It is foolish to speak everything on your mind. There are some things which you should keep to yourself.
- Don’t give your opinion unless asked. Unsought advice is seldom followed and usually resented.
- Do Not Wear Out Your Welcome. Proverbs 25:17 says, “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.” Familiarity does breed contempt. So, it is wise not to spend too much time with any one person or family.
- Guard Your First Words. Be careful how you begin conversations (Pro. 15:28). The first words we speak usually set the tone, pace or direction of the conversation. Many are the times when we say, “You didn’t let me finish what I was saying.”
- Do begin any conversation negatively. People will turn you off and although their ears many be hearing what you say, their brain will not be listening. Make the conversation upbeat and interesting and people will want you to: “go on.”
- Treat People As You Would Jesus. Matthew 25:40, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
- Give People Breathing Room. Do not insist everyone believe as you do on every subject.
- Do Not Joke with People You Do Not Know very Well.
- Do Not Take The Dog By The Ears. Proverbs 26:17 says, “He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.” Do not get involved in disputes that do not concern you.
- Do Not Insist On Your Way All The Time. Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;”
- Do Not Give Your Opinion If The Person In Authority Has Given Their Advice In The Matter
- Never Argue
- Choose Your Friends Slowly And Wisely.
- Get with a group of people who already are what you want to be. Spend the majority of your time with those who are stronger than you. This will challenge you and grow you in the Lord.
- Treat Friends with Dignity.
- Do not just drop in.
Let us strive to have peace with each other.
Zechariah 8:17 “And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.”
John Lennon wrote a song saying that it was easy to imagine that there was no heaven. It is easy to imagine things that are not true because we focus on those things. Also, today’s media is very effective in encouraging us to imagine falsehood.
There is enough evil in the world to go around for everyone. There really is no need for us to imagine any more. When we do, we keep spiraling down out of control with little hope of coming to our senses unless we purpose to stop imagining evil against our neighbor.
God hates it. He hates when we imagine evil because He knows that it is our nature to follow after things that we imagine. Why not imagine good? Why not think righteous and pure thoughts?
I believe there is great Biblical justification for Thursday being the day of the crucifixion. It is the fifth day of the week (a number often associated with death in the Bible). It would satisfy Sunday being called “the third day since these things were done” (as in Luke 24:21). It would also allow for three days and three nights, although not necessarily 72 hours (something not necessarily is required by the statement in Matthew 12:40). The nights would be a partial day on Thursday, then all day Friday and Saturday. The nights would be Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night. I think Thursday would satisfy the statements of all the scriptures involved.
There are those who argue that Jesus was crucified on Friday by citing that the Jews were determined that Jesus be buried before the Sabbath that followed the day of preparation (Luke 23:53-54; Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; John 19:31). Since the Sabbath is on Saturday, then He must have been crucified on Friday. However, two things need to be carefully noted. First, this Sabbath was after the day of preparation. This linked it to the annual feast of the Passover. The fourteenth day of the first month at even was the Lord’s Passover (Leviticus 23:5) and was a day of preparation. The next day, the fifteenth day, was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. It was an annual Sabbath. It was called an high day–“for that Sabbath day was an high day” (John 19:31). It was not a normal Sabbath; it was one of the annual Sabbaths.
Most Bible teachers make this annual Sabbath also the weekly Sabbath, but this is not necessary. A weekly Sabbath was always on Saturday. However, an annual Sabbath could be on any day of the week. This was because an annual Sabbath was connected to a date of the year. And, just as anyone’s birthday is not always on the same day of the week, so these annual Sabbaths occurred on different days.
Where do we get the concept of annual Sabbaths? We get it from Leviticus 23, the chapter that gives the original feast days for Israel, we see some special days being called Sabbaths. “In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:24). Leviticus 23:39 says of the first and last days of the feast of tabernacles: “Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath.” Therefore, the feast of trumpets and the first and last days of the eight-day feast of tabernacles are all called Sabbaths. However, these days are connected to calendar days of the year. Therefore, they will vary as to what day of the week they occur. So, they are annual and not necessarily weekly Sabbaths.
The requirement for an annual Sabbath seems to be that it is called an holy convocation and no work (“servile work”) is to be done on this days (just like the weekly Sabbath). This brings us back to the day of Passover (the 14th) and the first day of firstfruits (the 15th). The fourteenth day of the first month is not called a holy convocation. Therefore, work can be done on that day (we suppose work like crucifixion). However, though the fifteenth day of the first month is not specifically called a Sabbath, it meets the qualifications and therefore is an annual Sabbath. Of this first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the law says, “In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein” (Leviticus 23:7). No doubt, this is the Sabbath that so troubled the Jews concerning the burial of Jesus. This leaves the door open for the weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbath to be on different days. And, since there is no possible way to get Jesus in the grave for three days and three nights between Friday and Sunday, that is clearly the correct answer.
One of the most tragic things that have ever happened in the world is the gruesome and ruthless death of the Lord Jesus Christ. When you think that he did nothing wrong to deserve such treatment it makes the thought yet more sobering. I don’t think that any one of us can ever relate to what He endured. He had only done well for the nation of Israel and the recorded accounts of His life never reveal any violent actions at all. In fact, they all seem to be peaceful except when dealing with the Pharisees and religious hypocrites. Even then, there is never any account of violence towards them. On the contrary, he loved them enough to tell them where they were wrong in an effort to get them to do right. He was a man who was meek and peaceful yet at the same time hard and steadfast. To add to His treatment, when we read the Bible, it is hard to think that it was His own people who were crying out for His death. It was the very people whom He was a part of that were pummeling Him and spitting on Him with frenzied jeers of contempt. He was treating them in the most honorable way anyone could who loved someone. At the same time, they were treating Him with the most contempt that anyone could be treated. It is a sad picture to say the least, and I am glad I was not there to witness it.
As I think of every punch, slap, shove and strap He received, I become more mixed in feelings inside. When I imagine every stripe of the scourging; every rip in His body, every grimace of agony on His face, I become angry. When I come to the cruel crown of thorns placed upon His already bruised and puffy face, I want to do something about it. At every turn in the punishment where He could have just said something to end it all, I wonder why He didn’t. Why didn’t He speak to end it all? When every drop of blood streamed from His body, leaving a trail of goodness throughout a world of wickedness, I wonder why He did not just call the angels from His heavenly kingdom to end it all and prove to the Jews and Gentiles alike that He was a king to be feared. My hatred grows for the Pharisees, Scribes and Philosophers of the day. I want to fight. I want to do something to stand by Him, but I am frozen in my fear. Something is holding me back. Something deep within is not allowing me to move from my spot. How glad I am that I am not there, but alas I am. I am there in the imagination of my soul, and it is as real as if I were there that fateful day. I am ashamed.
Peter is not the only one who has denied Him. The world is full of people today who deny Him, although their state is much worse than mine. They ignorantly go about their daily activities as if He never existed. They are truly ignorant of every thought of Him, but I cannot be. My anger for the Pharisees who called for His crucifixion, and sought false witnesses, is real and present. When Pilate offered to let one prisoner go, they called for Barabas. When asked what they wanted to do to Jesus, they called out for His crucifixion. And so it began: The sad and bloody journey up to Golgotha.
He is carrying the burden of His very own cross, but it seems as if there is something much more, because He staggers under its very weight. He clings to it for support, barely able to lift the heavy load. He is leaving a trail of blood behind Him. The Roman soldiers are taking every opportunity to strike Him. His own people are jeering with contempt for Him. They are under the Pharisees spell. They sit comfortably upon their mules, their faces stream pride for their, yet another, accomplishment. I loathe them. Surely they could have a little mercy. How can there be no compassion for the beating of any human being beyond the point He is at? His eyes are puffed up and are barely able to open, yet the cruel blows continue to fall. His hands are shaking under the intense pain. He staggers, but still bears the heavy burden, and once again I would like to help Him, but I cannot. How can the Pharisees allow this barbarism? What is it in the heart of the people that drives them to such frenzied acts of violence? How can any human being be so grossly vicious?
My mind cannot process all that is being taken in. Why? How? He stumbles under the burden and I want to help Him, but I am fixed in one place. By chance, (Is it by chance?), our eyes make contact. Through all of the suffering; through all of the pain, through all of His spilled blood, it’s as if He is conveying to me a calm and merciful forgiveness. I feel torn. Why do I receive such a gaze? I have inflicted no blow. I have brought down no whip? I have not spit into His face, nor even jeered at Him. I have felt no contempt for Him at all. It is then that I realize: each blow He receives if because of me. The bruised eyes, crown of thorns, and open wounds are as if I put every single one of them there my very self. It is not the Pharisees, nor is it Pilate or the Roman soldiers. It is not because of Judas (His betrayer). It is not because of any skeptic. It is I who has inflicted this pain upon Him, for I have sinned.
He suffers because of the sin of the whole world, of which I am a part. I cannot even say that each wound that He bears represents a sin that I have committed, for I have sinned much more than the stripes that I see upon Him. My anger is now redirected from the Pharisees and their foolish pride, to me and mine. The thought is sobering and does not remain long in my head, before immediately moving to the deepest regions of my heart. The thought, like a dagger, has pierced me to my very core, and I feel that I must now do something: I must ask for His forgiveness. But, the crowd is too many. The soldiers are too good at their jobs of keeping back the crowd. I push and strain, but there is no gap in the crowd where I can make my way to Him. I am completely cut off. For the first time in my life I know what it is to be: undone. It is my sin that brought this upon Him. Mine and mine alone.
People do not realize that. They blindly go through life as if it belongs to them, but it does not. They are completely oblivious of the Love that the Lord paid for their redemption to Him. Somehow, we are under the impression that it is the Jews who killed their King, but it is not. It is our sin that has brought this sad state of affairs upon the very King of Glory. We ought to ponder this from time to time and never live outside of its sober parameters. Forgive me Lord.
There are so many taxes that the people are reluctant to hear the word again. So, if there is to be any more “raising of taxes”, Big Brother has to do it by convincing people that they are getting something for free. Look at a few of the taxes we presently face and think about the comment at the end…
- Building Permit Tax
- CDL License Tax
- Cigarette Tax
- Corporate Income Tax
- Dog License Tax
- Federal Income Tax (Fed)
- Federal Unemployment Tax (FU TA)
- Fishing License Tax
- Food License Tax
- Fuel Permit Tax
- Gasoline Tax
- Hunting License Tax
- Inheritance Tax
- Inventory Tax
- IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
- IRS Penalties(tax on top of tax)
- Liquor Tax
- Luxury Tax
- Marriage License Tax
- Medicare Tax
- Property Tax
- Real Estate Tax
- Service charge taxes
- Social Security Tax
- Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
- Sales Taxes
- Recreational Vehicle Tax
- School Tax
- State Income Tax
- State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
- Telephone Federal Excise Tax
- Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
- Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
- Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
- Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
- TelephoneState and Local Tax
- Telephone Usage Charge Tax
- Utility Tax
- Vehicle License Registration Tax
- Vehicle Sales Tax
- Watercraft Registration Tax
- Well Permit Tax
- Workers Compensation Tax
(And to think, we left British Rule to avoid so many taxes)
Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt. We had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 we are told, “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” A then steward is somebody that is given something valuable to take care of, and he is supposed to take care of it for his master. Not only that, a steward is to be “faithful” because he has goods delivered to him that don’t belong to him. Such is every one of us who is given stewardship of God’s money. We understand about God giving us money and us using it as the Lord would have to do. But here we are talking about a different kind of stewardship. We are talking about the “mysteries of God.” We are talking about stewardship over something that has been given for the purpose of teaching to others.
What are these mysteries? There are seven of them in the Bible and they are committed to preachers to teach to others. I will briefly describe them as follows:
1. The Mystery of Godliness.
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
This verse is the greatest verse in the Bible on the Deity of Jesus Christ. If you don’t have a King James Bible you won’t be able to find this mystery defined. All other bibles change this verse in order to take away the deity of Christ. They change the phrase “…God was manifest in the flesh…” to something else. God being “manifest in the flesh” means that God showed up as a baby and later grew up to be a man. It cannot be explained how He did this. Why? Because it is a mystery how it happened. He came down to this earth as a baby, and a woman took care of Him, just like every other baby. He experienced every facet of growing up as a human male.
2. The Mystery of the Indwelling Christ
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Paul says, “This mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This means the “mystery” is that Jesus Christ is inside the saved man. It can’t be explained how: “Christ” is “in you, the hope of glory”. It can’t be explained how a sinless, perfect Saviour would stoop down to come in and dwell inside a wicked, sinful vessel. Not only that, it can’t be explained how Jesus could be in a vast multitude of saved people all at the same time. There isn’t many individual Jesus’. There is one Jesus and he dwells within each believer. This is a mystery and can’t be explained how it happens. It is the mystery of the indwelling Christ.
3. The Mystery of the Body of Christ
Ephesians 5:30-32 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
The Bride of Christ in this age is espoused to one husband so it can be presented a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). This means that every one who is a Believer is all espoused to the same person: Christ. All men and women wind up married to Christ as one unit. How can you explain it? It can’t be explained. It’s a mystery. As far as the spirit is concerned, we are joined to Him right now (1 Cor. 6:17). The marriage has already taken place, but as far as the body is concerned the marriage hasn’t taken place. Our physical bodies are down here and His is up there (2 Cor. 5:6-8). It can’t be explained. We are supposed to believe it. Paul said, “This is a great mystery” (Eph. 5:32).
4. The Restoration of Israel
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
This mystery deals with the restoration of Israel. The mystery is that God is not through with Israel. And even though God may look like He’s through with Israel, He’s not! Someday God is going to take the Jews and bring them back to Palestine (He did that in 1948), and after the Jews have been reduced down to about four or five hundred people, God is going to get them saved in the Tribulation and convert them to Jesus Christ. That’s the mystery of the believing remnant of Israel which is going to turn to God. Romans 11:28-29 says that “as concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This means that we should love the Jews. Yes, some Jews out in the world are unlovable characters. It doesn’t matter what you think of them, you’ve got to love Israel and take care of it. If you don’t, the Lord will fix you. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28). When a Jew gets converted, he’s no longer a “Jew.” He’s a Christian.
5. The Mystery of Babylon the Great
Revelation 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation 17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
She is a woman out in the wilderness seated on a beast. The beast has seven heads and ten horns. This is a “mystery.” It is something you’re supposed to believe, but you can’t explain.
The woman is a city that reigns over the kings of the earth. She has a golden cup in her hand full of abominations (Rev. 17:4). And, she is arrayed in purple and scarlet. There is only one city that is built on seven mountains (v. 9), that reigns over the kings of the earth, whose symbol is a golden cup: ROME. The Lord said that that city was a whore (v. 1). She’s a prostitute who sells herself for money. She has such influence that she runs the kings of this earth. She will sell out what she believes and what she professes in order to get along with the world. She’ll let her own priests get killed in Africa if she can get control of Africa. She might even get in a black pope.
6. Mystery of Iniquity
2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
The mystery of iniquity is the mystery of the Antichrist. His number is 666. He has a sign: it’s a kiss. He has a salute: its two fingers. He has a letter: it’s an X. And he has a name, a religion , a face, and a mark. There’s more information in the Bible on him than there is on any other man in the Bible outside of Jesus Christ Himself. He’s the Antichrist.
7. The Rapture
1 Corinthians 15:51-55 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The final mystery is the Rapture. It is the disappearance of the Body of Christ in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. There are two kinds of people. Those who are alive when the Lord comes are to be caught up without dying. Those that are dead will be pulled up out of the ground. If you’re mortal, you’ll be caught up without dying and put on immortality. If you’re dead and buried when the Lord comes back, then you’re down in the ground rotting and you’re corruptible, and you come out of the grave and put on incorruption. The ones that are buried can’t stay in the ground. The live man goes up without dying; and the dead man goes up, and the grave can’t keep him down.
I was once a slave.
I was once a slave. Not in the sense that I was owned by any human master, but in the sense that I was a slave to vices that submitted to. The common masters of the human soul today are sex, drugs and booze. These things all draw you back to them. When we cling to them, they gain control bit by bit. Little by little they own us until we are completely taken in by their powerful draw. Then, the chains of addiction bind us until we cease to have any choice in how we live. We are hooked. We are owned.
In the USA where slavery was once an issue that divided the nation, it is no wonder we are sensitive to the word. Yet, we do not think it slavery to be enslaved by terrible, and deceitful vices? People have sold themselves into bondage for a little good feeling today. In doing so, they disregard any thoughts for the future. They would rather feel good for the moment at the expense of others future. Listen to the story of the present day slave and his liberation…
When I was on the auction block, naked and in chains, my thoughts ran wildly from anger to fear to humility and back again. Angered because selling one human being to another was wrong. But it was really no different than selling myself to a life enslaved to wicked vices. Fear because I was totally exposed to everyone. Being naked, there was nothing to hide behind. Humbled because there was nothing I could do to change anything. I was the lowest of all human beings; being bid on by the various slave owners looking for “new stock” to work their fields and breed their females.
I was poked, prodded and examined. Fingers picked through my hair and my mouth was pried open to expose my teeth for inspection. Finally it came time for the bidding to begin. I dreaded this, but my fears soared when no one bid on me. The auctioneer kept trying to persuade people to bid on me, but no one did. Amidst all of my shame, the worst, and most humiliating thing I had ever experienced was when I came to realize that I was unwanted by anyone. Didn’t I have any worth to anyone? Surely I was valuable for something. If no one bought me, what would be my end? Would I be put out to pasture?
The thoughts were interrupted when, when to the surprise of all present, I heard a voice say, “I’ll take him.” It was crowded, but when I looked in the direction of the sound of the voice, I saw a common man making the only bid for me. Encouraged by the bid for me, the auctioneer was renewed with enthusiasm to increase the bid and get more people involved. It was to no avail. No one else wanted me. The auctioneer had worked himself up into a sweat, but no one would make a bid for me.
“He’s yours,” the auctioneer told the man.
“Take off his chains. You can have them. I won’t need them.”
“He might be wild and attack you. You never can tell with these kind of people.”
I had never remembered a time in my life when I didn’t wear chains. It was strange and liberating. The weight of the chains literally lifted from me. I wondered why I had been treated this way. What was the catch? Surely nothing good was going to come from this. “Come with me,” my new master told me. I got down off the block and followed the customary 3 steps behind him. I didn’t mind being totally naked because it meant the chains I wore all of my life were gratefully gone.
We arrived at the bath house where my master told them he wanted me cleaned proper. That meant he wanted my beard trimmed, hair cut, nails and feet cleaned and scrubbed. I had never been cleaned this way before. As I wondered at the four people working on me, I realized that, in fact, I had never even been clean before. It was fresh and new. I knew then that I wanted to stay clean forever. “Please follow me,” my master asked more than demanded.
Out into the street once again this time brought a tingling of envy on my part. I knew I was naked, but I was clean. The chains were gone and I was clean. Into the clothing store he led me where he told the clerk, “Put on him the best suit of clothes you have in the house. Money is no object. I want him to have the best.”
I was being measured and prodded. Pins and needles and markers were all about me. Finally they brought out the clothes they had made for me. I had never had clothes like this before. The silk ran softly across my clean cool skin. There were no restrictions in movement anywhere. The best thing was—the color was blue.
I appreciated the coincidence of making my first new suit of clothing out of my favorite color–blue. This very thought was overwhelming as I had began the day as a slave, the lowest of low, being sold on an auction block where, nobody wanted me. I was totally worthless. Now I was standing on the street, unshackled, clean with a new suit of clothes made in my very favorite color.
All of this was new to me. I still could not comprehend it. There was a tint of joy mixed with cautious apprehension as my appreciation for my owner grew.
“Have you eaten today?” he asked. I had not, but I hesitated to tell him so. He had already done so much for me and I didn’t deserve any of it. How could I take him for granted? “Come on, you can tell me if you’ve eaten or not.” he coaxed.
As was the custom of slaves, I dare not look him in the eyes. I safely stared at the ground when he addressed me. I stammered, not knowing how to answer him. His rugged hands touched me under the chin and raised my head up. “You can look me in the eyes.”
Looking in his eyes, I could see something that I had not seen since I was a child. I first saw it from my mother. It was the look of deep compassion coupled with sincere concern. It was the look of someone who cared about me as a person and not an object. It enveloped a kind of friendship, but I could not accept that my master could ever be my friend. Those eyes looked deep into my soul in such a way that I knew everything about me was revealed. It was as if my whole life was laid out before Him there on that street.
My life did not have much true joy in it. It was filled with pain and suffering; things that I did not want to share with anyone because I did not want to confront them again. There were things that I put in a hidden compartment of my mind because the only thing I could do to overcome them was to bury them deep into the compartment of distant memory. His gaze seemed to open up all of those hidden compartments of my life and not only see the pain, but experience it himself. I was not really sure, but I think I saw a tear well up in the corners of his eyes as he said, “come on, lets get you a meal.”
Off we went down the street. Because he wanted to walk with me, it was impossible to walk three steps behind him. The slower he went, the slower I went until he beckoned me to walk with him. I was very uncomfortable with this because I knew people were looking at Him with disgust because of the way he treated me. their comments were not nice. They threw at him words that contained a terrible, hateful message. These were the kind of words I was accustomed to hearing, but he did not deserve anything like this. He was being punished for compassion and it made me feel defensive of him. I did not know this new master very well, but at least I knew I was His, and I didn’t like what they were doing to him.
We arrived at the boarding house with a following. The owners were not going to let me eat in the main dining hall because I was a slave. After some deliberation, we went into the back room where slaves could eat. He beckoned me to sit down, which I did. Then the biggest surprise of all was that he sat down at the table with me. The owners were trying to get him to go out into the main dining hall, but he would have none of it. “I eat with my friend”, he said with a tone of finality. “Master, you don’t have to do this,” I said. “You’ve already done too much. There is no need to embarrass yourself so.”
“It’s okay. I want to be here with you.”
“Master, I promise I will wait for you. I won’t run off.”
“I know you won’t. But I want to eat with you. I want to know you better. What’ll you have?”
“Whatever you want for me to eat Master. It’s not proper for me to choose for myself.”
“Waiter! We’ll take two of the finest steaks you have.”
When the steaks came, I looked at it without knowing what to do. He showed me how to use the knife and fork and cut it. I had never been allowed to hold a knife before. It was the first time I had ever held the cool steel in my hand. No one had ever trusted me with a knife, especially one sharp enough to cut a steak. With a little difficulty I cut the meat and put it in my mouth. The sensations were so active I could only think they were going to collapse in a type of fatigue.
Today was a day of firsts. I had never tasted meat like this before. It was the best meal I had ever had. I enjoyed it so much that I almost forgot who I was. When it was time to leave, I quickly remembered my place. As we went outside in the streets, there were people waiting to persecute my master. They didn’t like it that he ate with the slaves. They thought it showed a wrong message. They didn’t want to be held to His standards. They wanted him to digress to their standards, but my master was courageous. He stood up to them all and did the right thing.
Following him to the end of the street, the crowd thinned. this is where it happened. At the end of the street, he turned to me and told me something I will never forget. He said, “I bought you so you will never have to be in bondage again. You are free to do as you please. Here are your papers. I love you and I am sorry that you ever had to be in bondage in the first place.” I was stunned. Was I hearing correctly? Was I being set free? Did he really buy me, clean me, clothe me and feed me to set me free? I had long since lost hope of ever being free. It was so far out of reach that I had even refused to think about it. Now I was being set free by a master who loved me. I didn’t really know him, and now he was setting me free.
I hardly realized he was shaking my hand in a gesture of departure. I was trying to come to grips with my thoughts. By the time I came to myself, he had already turned and was walking away. Again I didn’t know what to do. I had no where to go. If I went back to the world, I would certainly be put in bondage again. I knew I didn’t want that, but what could I do? I had never been faced with making so many choices. I knew I couldn’t stand there forever. “Whatcha gonna do boy?”, a burly man watching with amusement asked. I was being pushed. People were beginning to surround me. It didn’t take long for the world to catch up to me and press in. They were mocking, pushing and demeaning. There was nothing I could do about it. Hands were tearing at my new set of clothing. They wanted it for themselves. They wanted me to return to my hopeless, naked, enslaved position.
It came to mind suddenly. When I had no thought of what to do, I wanted to cry out for my master, but he had gone on. If I really wanted him to be my master, why had I not followed him? I was so infatuated with my freedom, that I forgot Him. Pushing through the crowd, I went after Him. After a short time, I caught up with him. I had never wanted someone to be my master before. I had always despised those who were proud of the title. But this time was different. I knew I wanted him to be my master. “Master,” I cried. He turned to wait for me. “Can I come with you?”, I asked.
“You don’t need to. You’re free now.”
“I know. You gave me my papers.”
“You can go anywhere you want to go.”
“I know, but can I follow you? If it’s okay with you, can I be your slave?”
“I didn’t buy you because I wanted a slave. I bought you because I care.”
“I know that now. But I want to be your slave. I want to follow you. I want you to be my master.”
This is the attitude that a sinner who has been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ should have. There should be a deep desire for devotion to their master. Under grace, He has put no requirements on the sinner. The Lord bought us, cleaned us, fed us and clothed us; then He set us free. We are free to do as we wish. We can run off back to the world; we can follow selfish ambitions; or we can follow the master, not because He demands us to do so, but because we appreciate what He did for us.
Many Christians today have it all wrong. They approach a relationship with Jesus because they are looking for what He can do for them. Like those who demanded food from Jesus were disappointed when He would not give it to them (John 6:34-66), Christians today fall away when God doesn’t do exactly what they want. They are the master of the relationship instead of allowing Jesus to be the master. Yes, they may speak like He is the master, but their actions show a much different thing. They go to certain churches because they are looking for a certain: children’s program, support group, bible study, activities for the family, marriage counseling, etc. They are what is commonly know as “church shoppers.” They are looking for the perfect place where God can give them what they demand of Him. God may not ever give them what they want because it goes contrary to what He wants. He wants them to freely follow HIM!
Confused Christians have their masters. If they are not the vices of the day, they are the programs a church can offer. It is not the Creator. If He was their master, they would be willing to forego the programs and sit under good Godly preaching that would help them. Preaching that would show them where they are right as well as show them where they are wrong. They would not let personalities in the church dictate their attendance. They would not care if someone said something bad about them or not. They would only care about following the Saviour who rightfully bought them, cleaned them up, clothed them, fed them and set them free. They would give up their freedom for a devoted life of following Him no matter how difficult it would be.
I would that every Christian reading this article would be able to say, “I am glad to be His happy slave.” Why? Because He doesn’t demand it.~
An old gentleman lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
A few days later he received a letter from his son:
Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
Vincent was able to help his aging father even though his circumstances were not so good. Because he loved his father, he was able to do something for him that he could not physically do himself. He was able to do so because he didn’t allow himself to be discouraged by his circumstance. He looked for a way to help. He looked for something he COULD DO instead of focusing on what he COULD NOT DO.
Life is full of such similar circumstances. Oh, we are not always going to plant a tomato garden, but there are things that are going to cross out path of life that we are just not able to do; there are times when we want to help someone, but we see that we cannot do what we would like to. These are the times for innovation and application. Oh, I am not saying that we should be devious and get others to do our work for us. Vincent was that way. He lied to get the FBI to dig up his dad’s yard for him. That is wrong of course, because lying is always wrong. But, if we think positively, pray and give God enough time to show us a way, we can do amazing things.
Paul wanted to get Christ preached to the world. He had much opposition to that noble goal. There were people going around preaching Christ in a mocking manner, trying to put a stop to Paul’s ministry (Phil. 1:14-18). Instead of getting discouraged by this big problem, Paul saw something positive. He saw it as Christ being preached. He rejoiced that Christ was being preached. He didn’t get upset, angry; of even try to get even. He rejoiced.
Too often, Christians are leading a discouraged life because their sights are set upon their circumstances. All they see is the evil, bad things. They choose not to see how God is working in their life. The classic Biblical illustration of this is Peter. The disciples were in a boat in the middle of a raging storm when Jesus came walking to them on the water. The Lord beckoned Peter to come to Him, which he did. He was walking on the water just fine until he took His eyes off Jesus and began focusing on his negative circumstances. When he did, he began to sink.
You can identify Christians who are consumed with their circumstances because:
- They always say “can’t.” They talk about what they “can’t” do rather than what then can do. When presented with a challenge, they immediately begin analyzing why they won’t be able to accomplish it instead of putting their energy into thinking how they can do it. In fact, it is amazing how quickly they discard any challenging idea. In fact, they are thinking of themselves: what it will cost them, how difficult it will be for them to do it. The Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13).
- They always make excuses. This goes back to not really wanting to do something in the first place. If a person really wants to do something, and they are interested in it, they will not need any excuses because they will find a way to do it. People do what they are interest in. If they are not interested in something, they look for excuses why they can’t do it. Excuses are different from reasons. Excuses are what we fabricate when we can find no good reason for getting out of doing something we don’t want to do. The Bible says, “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea: and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” (Jas. 5:12).
- They are undependable. They say they are going to do something, then they don’t come through. If they really cared, they would be dependable, but they are not. Unlike a reason or excuse, undependability is when we flat out lie; saying we will do something when we have no intention of doing it at all. They just tell them what they want to hear so we can get them off of our back and have no guilt. They make a commitment, but they begin looking at the circumstance and back out, leaving the one to whom a commitment was made, hanging out in the wind. The Bible says, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” (Ecc. 5:5).
- They are “money minded.” They are constantly talking about money; of their lack thereof. They think that without money, they can do nothing, but Jesus said, “…without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). The problem is a misplaced faith. Their faith is not in the Lord God, but in the “almighty dollar,” but as we know, the dollar can fail. It has done it before, it will do it again. People are constantly bombarded with the idea that wealth is money, but there are more important things than money: happiness, contentment, joy, relationships and love for a few.
- They are gamblers. They depend on luck. People who place their faith on luck, are the most unlucky people in the world. Any true Christian knows that “luck” does not exist. Everything is a design. There is a designer and He has a plan. When you begin looking at what you cannot do because of your circumstances, you are tempted to return to the vomit of “luck” (Pro. 26:11; Job 20:15). The Bible says, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; not he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecc. 5:10). You tend to hear them talk about what they will do if they win “the big one.”
- They talk about their past. People who focus on their circumstance and look at the negative will often bring up memories of their past; memories of how they used to be able to do things. But, now, with their circumstance changed, they can’t do anything. The Bible says, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” (Isa. 43:18). It does no good to dwell in the past. Old accomplishments were for old times. New times demand, and require, new accomplishments. The Bible says, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:18). Because you are a new creature, and old things are passed away, any new thing you do, becomes old right after you do it. Seconds after you accomplish it, it becomes an old thing and is part of your past. When you come across people who live in the past (there is a difference between living in the past and reflecting on old memories), it is because the person is of an negative mind set. They are looking at what they cannot do, instead of what they can do. Yes, they cannot do the things that they once could do, but there is a whole set of new things that they can now do that they couldn’t do before.
- They are easily discouraged. When people convince themselves that they cannot do something, they become discouraged. This discouragement is out of frustration only because they feel that they can’t do what they want to do. Instead of looking for a way to accomplish something, they do nothing and get discouraged about it. It is more healthy for the mind to focus on what you can do instead of what you cannot do.
- They live a false Christian life. In other words, they give up on Christ, but instead of going completely back into the world, they put on aires of being a Christian so that they can hide their embarrassment. The Bible calls this: backsliding and has much to say about it. Proverbs 14:14 says, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The implication is that they begin craving and living the life that they used to live, even though they are a Christian and can never change that. They act like they are spiritual when they are only concerned with themselves.
All of these reasons focus on self. Self is extremely negative because that is the way it feels when it is being deprived. It comes up with the message: “What happened to me? No one cares about me!” We commonly call these: “pity parties.” Contrariwise, the positive outlook pleases others. A positive focus does whatever it can to help others. In short, this is called: LOVE. So, do you seek to do that which you can do? Or do you complain about what you can’t do?
Contentment is not something you simply obtain.
You do not wake up one day and find that you are suddenly content. Neither do you just get old enough and that makes you content. Contentment is something that is learned.
Paul said, “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phil. 4:11). Paul admits that he had to learn contentment. It was not one of his personality traits, nor was it a special ability that he had. It was something that he had to learn from the time he was very young until the day that he wrote these words to the Philippians.
As a young man, Paul sought his fortune and fame, as do other young men. He thought he found it in the profession of a Pharisee. As a young Pharisee during the time of the first persecution of Christians, he excelled. He was poised for greatness because he was in on the movement from the “ground floor.” He had been recognized for his zeal and was commissioned to root out and destroy Christians wherever he could. But even though he made a name for himself, he still found no contentment.
He found no contentment when he finally met Jesus face to face on the road to Damascus, but this is where his lessons in contentment began. He was blinded after the encounter and did not know if he would ever get his sight back. He needed to learn to accept his blindness. He could either have felt pity on himself, or make use of his life as he could. But God had another plan. And so the trials, troubles, sufferings and persecutions began until one day, in a letter to his friends, he writes, “…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
Contentment begins with knowing God (Matt. 6:31-34.) A person will never be content living in this world if they do not first learn how to live a Godly life. If you come to the point in your relationship with God that you seek Him first, then you learn how to live Godly. But it doesn’t stop right there. You must learn not only how to seek Him first, but to depend on His love for you; that you will be okay under His leadership, love and care. In short, you must learn not only how to seek God first, but to give Him your problems and stop worrying over them; depend on Him being bigger than any problem you could ever have. These are hard lessons to learn. Oh, it is not so hard to take our troubles to God, but it is difficult for us to leave them with Him. We show this by worrying about our troubles. You can already see how to live a stress free, content life when you have nothing to worry about anymore.
Contentment benefits living in this world (1 Tim. 6:6-9). We must understand that we absolutely own nothing. We must have the higher view of our life; that we brought nothing into this world, and when we go, we will take nothing out. Even our legacy is not in our hands, it is in the hands of those left behind. It is a false understanding to think you have made a difference in the world because any difference you made or not, is in the hands of those you leave it with. It is not under your control. We are on a pilgrimage that is preparing us for heaven. Yes, God can miraculously make us prepared for entrance to heaven when the time comes, but in His infinite wisdom, He has seen fit to teach us about our upcoming life in heaven now. The sooner we see that life does not surround ambitions of the world, the sooner we will live a content life. This way, we can go to our jobs and places of work with joy and not stress. In fact, we can be happy all day long because we realize that the things now trivial, were once big things to us. You can easily see how contentment is learned by just having the proper perspective on life in general.
Contentment comes from seeking first a life with Jesus. (Heb. 13:5-6) It comes by understanding that He means what He says and says what He means. He says, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” You cannot get any more content in life than to live a life understanding that the one who holds you in His arms is the Lord Jesus Christ, and He won’t drop you or let go. Babies trust their mothers all the way up to the time that mommy makes them do something that they don’t like. They are content in their mothers arms until mommy does something that they don’t like. It may be giving a bath, or changing a diaper, but whatever it is, this is where the trust is lost. When they realize that mommy just did something for their overall good, even though it was uncomfortable for a spell, then the trust is returned. The baby learns how to trust their mommy. Likewise, Christians should learn how to learn contentment by growing up in the Lord; communing with Him and learning how to trust Him. You can easily see that the closer and more often you are with the Lord, the easier it is to be content.
So Paul says that he had to learn contentment. He is no different than any other man. We all must learn how to be content. Is your life troubled? Do you feel so overwhelmed that you think you need to see a counselor to help you get your life back on track? Do you have the tendency to turn to drinking or drugs to give you peace? Then you are seeking an instant, microwave portion of contentment, but it does not exist. You must learn how to be content. God will make sure that, one way or another, you will learn how to be content with Him. The only question is: just how much tribulation, trials or suffering you must go through to learn contentment.