How Much God Hates Sin

Posted by on February 22, 1998 under Articles

The Psalmist said, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104).

Today, there is a tendency to play down sin. Here are some examples:

  • Homosexuality is referred to as an “alternative life style.”
  • Legalized abortion, in my opinion, is the greatest catastrophe in America since we became a nation. Millions of unborn babies are murdered annually, all because we do not realize how much God hates sin.

How much God hates sin can be seen in the punishment of sin in the past. In the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15-19):

  • The serpent – condemned to destruction.
  • The woman – condemned to submission and pain.
  • The man – condemned to toil and tears.
  • All men – condemned to death (1 Corinthians 15:22).

The Flood: In Genesis 6, we see the condition of man’s heart, that it was evil continually.

  • God’s solution – the flood. He will destroy mankind along with the creatures. Why? All because of sin; God hates sin.

Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19).

  • These cities were destroyed along with their inhabitants because of the sin of sodomy (homosexuality) and other sins (Ezekiel 16:49).

Many other examples could be cited, but these are enough to show that God hates sin, and that he punishes it without mercy when men continue in it. We can see how much God hates sin by the future punishment he has promised to the wicked. Please read 2 Peter 2:4-9).

We can see how much God hates sin by looking at what he has done to redeem us from it. He sent his Son to earth to die on a cross to condemn sin and to make us righteous (Rom. 8:3-4). He sent his Son to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). He made his Son, who knew no sin, to be sin that we might be made righteous (2 Cor. 5:21). He sent his son to bear our sins in his body that we might be dead to sin (1 Peter 2:24).

These passages not only teach now much God hates sin but also how much he loves us. God hates sin so much that he commands that we turn from it. He loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for us (John 3:16).

Let us, “Hate every false way.” This is possible only by loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

When Godly Passions Compete

Posted by on under Sermons

This evening I am speaking specifically to and about godly Christians. I am talking about Christians who live spiritual lives, who have a godly focus in life, who are committed, who serve, and who willingly make sacrifices of faith in Jesus Christ. I am speaking about people who have a godly passion and are committed to that passion. It is my daily goal to be such a person.

Godly people with a spiritual passion can and do make mistakes. We do not hesitate to admit that. While we are committed to being genuine, we do not claim to be perfect.

I want to focus on a common mistake made by godly people with a passion. I freely confess that I know that I have made this mistake many, many times. It is not a mistake born of evil, but a mistake born of devotion and commitment.

This mistake finds its moment of conception when this progression of thoughts begins. “I have made a serious study of the Bible, and my study continues. I have confidence in my understanding of God’s will. I have confidence in my understanding of God’s priorities. I am certain that my godly passion rises from God’s priorities. God’s priorities are my priorities. God’s values are my values. My concern finds its balance in God’s concern.”

The mistake: I conclude, “My godly passion is God’s most important work.”

May I make a personal confession to you? I think it is impossible for David Chadwell to think like God thinks. I certainly can understand God’s revelation and let it direct my life. However, I now realize that there is a vast difference between understanding God’s revelation and thinking God’s thoughts. No matter how studious and committed I am, I doubt that it is possible for me to understand God’s priorities, God’s values, or God’s balance. God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and God’s ways are not my ways–and never will be. There is no way that my human mind will ever climb to the lowest level of God’s mind.

  1. In the context of this discussion, God does something very basic that godly humans cannot do.
    1. In this context, what is it that?
      1. God continually maintains multiple concerns and multiple initiatives without experiencing conflict.
      2. Those multiple concerns and initiatives always encompass two things simultaneously.
        1. They encompass every concern God has for our world.
        2. They encompass every objective God has in His spiritual kingdom.
      3. From our human perspective, those concerns and initiatives differ radically because they simultaneously occur in different parts of our world.
      4. For example:
        1. Is God actively concerned about what is happening in communist China? Absolutely.
        2. Is God actively concerned about what is happening in Eastern Europe? Absolutely.
        3. Is God actively concerned about what is happening in the United States? Absolutely.
        4. Is God actively involved in all three arenas? Absolutely.
        5. Are God’s initiatives identical in all three arenas? If for just one hour God enabled us to see all the ways that He takes active initiatives in these arenas, It would astound us to see:
          1. How active God is.
          2. The diverse forms of God’s initiative in these very different situations.
          3. How radically different God’s initiatives are in these arenas.
      5. There is no place on this earth where God is not active, not taking initiative.
      6. Godly people make a serious mistake when we conclude God’s activity is limited to our initiatives and work.
    2. Humans cannot maintain multiple concerns and initiatives when we are addressing radically different needs and situations.
      1. An axiom: “He who involves himself in everything accomplishes nothing.”
      2. Why?
        1. Our energies are too divided.
        2. Our resources are too scattered.
        3. Our initiative is too fragmented.
        4. Commitment to too many pursuits results in ineffectiveness–we “spread ourselves too thin.”
        5. So we advise the “over committed,” decide what you want to do, focus on it, and accomplish something.
      3. For humans, diverse commitments in multiple initiatives creates conflicts of interests.
      4. In these matters, God is distinctively different.
        1. He is not bound by time, He cannot exhaust His resources, He cannot fragment His abilities, and He cannot exceed His energy.
        2. God sustains diverse commitments in multiple initiatives and never experiences a conflict of interest.
    3. Godly humans have always struggled to comprehend this truth about God.
      1. Let me give you three Bible examples.
      2. God told Israelite Jonah to preach the message of repentance to Assyria.
        1. Jonah could not comprehend that God was concerned about Assyria.
        2. To Jonah, concern for Assyria and concern for Israel was a definite divine conflict of interests.
        3. Assyria was a rising power in the region.
        4. They were a threat to Israel, and would eventually conquer and destroy the kingdom of Northern Israel.
        5. To Jonah, even if God could be at work in Assyria and Israel at the same time, it was totally undesirable.
      3. The prophet Habakkuk struggled to understand how God could use the very wicked Babylon to punish the much less wicked Judah.
        1. Surely Judah was guilty of evil and idolatry.
        2. But the wickedness of Babylon made Israel look righteous.
        3. From Judah’s perspective, that was a gross conflict of interest and a dreadful inconsistency.
      4. In the New Testament, how could God be working as hard to bring salvation to people who were not Jews as He was to people who were Jews?
        1. Paul dealt with the troubling question in Romans 11.
        2. The Jews were the descendants of Abraham, the people of God, the people with whom God had worked for generations.
        3. How could God actually reject them to create opportunity for peoples who had never been the people of God?
        4. Devout Jews could not comprehend how that God could even be equally interested in saving non-Jews.
        5. They certainly could not comprehend how that God was taking very different initiatives among both peoples at the same time.
  2. Consider the many godly passion within this congregation.
    1. One of God’s special blessings to West-Ark is found in the fact that we have many godly Christians who have different godly passions.
      1. Some have a passion for foreign missions.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. Guyana, Ethiopia, Laos, Romana, and peoples of other places live with a burning fire in these brothers and sisters’ hearts.
        3. And this congregation is richly blessed by their active godly passion.
      2. Some have a passion for local outreach.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. The needs of the homeless in our community burn within their hearts.
        3. The needs of the inner city burn within their hearts.
        4. The needs of the elderly burn within their hearts.
        5. The needs of children like those in the Madeira children’s home burn within their heart.
        6. And this congregation is richly blessed by their godly passion.
      3. Some have a passion for working with young people.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. They see the needs and the struggle of many teens.
        3. They know the confusion and the search for purpose.
        4. They know 45% of the teenagers that are raised in churches of Christ leave the church sometime after graduating from high school.
        5. They see the pain and the struggle right here right now.
        6. And a godly passion for our young people burns in their hearts.
        7. And this congregation will be increasingly blessed by their passion.
      4. Some have a passion for helping struggling marriages and strengthening existing marriages.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. They have heard, they have seen, and they know the reality of the situation.
        3. Marriage is experiencing serious problems even among Christians.
        4. There is so much pain, so much struggle, so much hurt, and so much failure.
        5. And it is passed from generation to generation.
        6. And these people have a godly passion to minister to the families.
        7. And this congregation will be increasingly blessed by their passion.
      5. That certainly is not all the godly passions in this congregation.
        1. There are also godly passions that burn within those who want to help people seeking recover; to help those who are in crisis; to help promote spiritual growth and maturity.
        2. And every godly passion that exists is a blessing to the congregation.
    2. Why do different godly people have different godly passions?
      1. A godly passion is created when a person of deep faith in Christ combines love for God with these things:
        1. A love for the people in need.
        2. A personal understanding of the need.
        3. A personal awareness of the pain and tragedy.
        4. A personal conviction that through Christ these people can be helped.
      2. All godly passions are rooted in faith in Jesus Christ and love for God.
  3. As a congregation, we must let God use all of our godly passions.
    1. We must not place our godly passions in positions of conflict and rivalry.
    2. We must never forget that our God is at work in countless ways that we never recognize.
    3. We must understand that God will use every godly passion we have in this congregation to achieve His purposes in Jesus Christ.

God is at work in thousands of ways that we never consider. Let’s not minimize or oppose the godly passion of others. Let’s encourage each other’s godly passion. Let’s generate and multiply passion for godly service and godly deeds. Let’s not worry about how God will use our passions. Let’s let God use them.

Let’s see what God does when He sets hearts on fire.
That passion begins in believing in the God who loves you enough that He let His Son die for you.

The Mystery of God’s Help

Posted by on under Sermons

Answer three questions for me with a yes or a no. Are you superstitious? Yes or no. Should you be superstitious? Yes or no. Is being superstitious a weakness? Yes or no.

Let me anticipate two sequence of answers. Sequence # 1: are you superstitious? No. Should you be superstitious? No. Is being superstitious a weakness. Yes.

Sequence # 2: are you superstitious? Yes. Should you be superstitious? No. Is being superstitious a weakness? Yes.

If you consider yourself a Christian, whether you are or are not superstitious, you likely believe a person should not be superstitious because it is a weakness.

Why? Why do you believe superstition is a weakness? Do you believe superstition is a weakness because the powers attributed to superstition do not exist? Do you believe superstition is a weakness because it is based on fear? Do you believe superstition is a weakness because in our scientific age you believe everything has a “this world” cause-and-effect explanation?

  1. I am grateful to live in the age of science and technology.
    1. I truly appreciate the benefits science produces.
      1. I appreciate the incredible difference those benefits make in:
        1. My living standards.
        2. My work.
        3. My health.
        4. My total life environment.
      2. I literally cannot imagine what my life would be like without electricity, home appliances, pure water, safe food, modern medicine, the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, the computer, the fax machine, and the Internet.
    2. Yet, as a Christian, I grieve as I watch the philosophy of science alter faith.
      1. When I see Christians’ faith change because of the influence of science, my grief intensifies.
      2. How is faith changed by the philosophy of science?
        1. The philosophy of science affirms that all occurrences can be explained by understanding “this world” facts in cause-and-effect relationships.
        2. Inference number one: science deals with reality.
        3. Inference number two: the spiritual ignores, evades, or distorts reality.
      3. It is common in the church for many of us to use a scientific approach to faith.
        1. We affirm our faith in the creation, the miracles of the Old and New Testaments, the incarnation, the resurrection, and the return of Christ.
        2. We affirm our faith in the current existence of God.
        3. We affirm our faith in the current Lordship of Jesus Christ.
        4. We affirm our faith in the current existence of the Holy Spirit.
      4. Without hesitation we emphatically endorse as fact that God, God’s Son, and God’s Spirit were powerfully active and at work in creating salvation.
      5. We are very definite in our affirmations about what God did, but we are very hesitant in our affirmations about what God does.
      6. We question, challenge, or doubt any declaration that states specific ways that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are active and at work today.
      7. It is as though:
        1. Jesus died on the cross, and Jesus’ active work ended.
        2. God raised Jesus from the dead, and God’s active work ended.
        3. The Holy Spirit worked powerfully in the church of the first century, but as soon as the New Testament was written, His active work ended.
      8. While we do not hesitate to affirm God’s work from creation to the close of the New Testament, we question any suggestion that God works or intervenes in any direct manner today.
        1. So when we pray for the sick, we pray for God to bless the doctors.
        2. When we pray that God help in a crisis, we pray for God to bless the efforts being made.
        3. As a rule, when we ask God to act, we commonly limit God actions to physical cause and effect actions that we can explain.
      9. Many of us have reasoned ourselves into this corner: “If you can’t explain how God does it, then God does not do it.”
      10. Too often Christians exchange the mystery of God’s work for scientific cause-and-effect explanations.
  2. Paul clearly stated that an essential part of salvation involves mystery.
    1. For example:
      1. In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to those Christians:
        1. 2:7–“…We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery…”
        2. 4:1–“Let a man regard us…as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
        3. 15:51–Jesus’ return involves a mystery.
      2. In Ephesians Paul associates mystery with Christ and our salvation six times.
        1. 3:4–By reading what Paul wrote, these Christians could understand Paul’s insight into the mystery of Christ.
        2. 5:32–The relationship between Christ and the church is a great mystery.
      3. In Colossians Paul associates mystery with Christ and our salvation four times.
        1. 1:26,27–The key element in the mystery of how God could save people who are not Jews is found in this statement: Christ in you, the hope of glory.
      4. Paul also wrote this statement in 1 Timothy 3:16–“By common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh was vindicated in the spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
    2. The reality of mystery in God’s salvation work includes at least two things.
      1. Mystery includes the fact that God planned and did things in ways that we could not know unless He revealed them .
        1. We would never have guessed or expected that God would create the means for saving people by:
          1. Letting His Son live a human existence.
          2. Allowing His Son to die for us.
          3. Conquering Satan through the suffering of His Son.
          4. Creating a spiritual kingdom that could exist on earth.
          5. Achieving spiritual victory by allowing Christ to live in us.
        2. If you and I were on a committee to create salvation, we would have suggested none of that.
        3. It is a mystery.
      2. Mystery includes the fact that we know what God did or does but cannot explain how God did or does it.
        1. God allowed a part of Himself to become a living, physical human.
          1. How did God do that?
          2. I don’t know; it is a mystery.
        2. Jesus literally lived a more demanding physical existence than any of us will ever live, yet he never sinned.
          1. How did Jesus do that?
          2. I don’t know; it is a mystery.
        3. God took the beaten, bruised, bloodless, spear lanced body of Jesus and resurrected that body to life.
          1. How did God do the impossible?
          2. I don’t know; it is a mystery.
        4. God allowed Jesus to appear in physical form in that body to many after the resurrection.
          1. How did God do that?
          2. I don’t know; it is a mystery.
        5. When I combine faith in Christ, repentance of my sins, and baptism, God uses the blood that Jesus spilled on the ground 2000 years ago to destroy all sin and all guilt in my life.
          1. How does God do that?
          2. I don’t know; it is a mystery.
        6. If I am in Christ, and if I have a heart ready to repent of evil, God uses that same blood to constantly cleanse me of the evil I know I did and of the evil I don’t know I do.
          1. How does God do that?
          2. I don’t know; it is a mystery.
    3. You believe in the mystery.
      1. Most of you never question the incarnation, Jesus’ sinless life, Jesus’ atoning death, Jesus’ resurrection, or Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
        1. You not only believe in them; you accept them as unquestionable facts.
        2. If anyone suggested that these things did not happen, you would be insulted and indignant.
        3. Oh yes, you believe in the mystery.
      2. But do you trust the mystery?
        1. Do you trust the mystery when you are baptized?
        2. Do you trust the mystery to cleanse you daily?
        3. Do you trust the mystery when you pray?
        4. Do you trust the mystery by knowing that Christ lives in you and the Spirit makes your body its temple?
        5. Do you trust the mystery with a confident understanding that God is working in your life in ways that cannot be explained to help you develop spiritual strength and maturity?
  3. Do you try to grow in faith without trusting the mystery?
    1. Faith exists as a result of two things: what the person does and what God does.
      1. No person has faith only through what he or she does.
      2. No person has faith only through what God does.
      3. Each believer grows in his or her faith because of what he or she does and because of what God does.
    2. One of the better known scriptures to us is Romans 12.
      1. The first two verses urge Christians to give their bodies to God and to renew their minds.
      2. Verse three urges them to humble themselves and to develop sound judgment “as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
      3. Verses 4 and 5 states that all of us with our individual differences compose a single body of Christ in which we all function in different ways.
      4. Verse 6 says we all have different gifts, that those gifts came from God’s grace, and that the size of our faith is one of those gifts.
    3. It is very important that you not misunderstand my point.
      1. Your faith is not 100% dependent on you.
      2. Your faith is not 100% dependent on God.
      3. Your faith is dependent on both you and God.
      4. You do not “just have it” and you are not “just denied it.”
      5. Just as you study, learn, understand, and trust in order for faith to exist, God is also at work in you developing and advancing your faith.
    4. How does God do that?
      1. I cannot explain how God does that anymore than I can explain how God raised Jesus from the dead.
      2. God does it; it is a part of the mystery.

Jesus did not retire when he ascended back into heaven. His work had begun, not ended. God did not retire when He resurrected Jesus. The primary work He planned for His kingdom on earth had begun, not ended. The Holy Spirit did not retire when the Bible was in written form. His work was far from complete.

From the moment that you became God’s son or daughter, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit began working in your life. Until you are at home with God, they will not stop working in your life. Until you are at home with God, Their work in your life is not complete. Let God complete His work in you. Love and serve him with all your being. And never stop trusting the reality of the mystery of God’s work.

Are you a Christian?
Do you really believe God created salvation as a result of Christ’s Resurrection?

“I am too evil. I have problems I can’t conquer. I’m beyond God’s help.” Have you said this or know someone who says this?
What will we tell such a person?

We understand that nobody is beyond the help of God. How? I don’t know. But I have seen people turn their lives around by giving it over to God. God does things in human life beyond explanation.
God can forgive. God can redirect in Jesus Christ.
You are not the exception.

We can’t explain it. We just know that it is true. Endorse the truth. Place your confidence in God. Place your trust in the mystery of the blood of the Savior. The Savior who died for you invites you to Him.

Lord, Help Me Not Be Smug Or Hopeless

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Lord, it is so easy to feel superior. What a temptation! I rarely recognize the feeling as one of superiority, but it is. I see others and silently say, “If he had faith, he would not struggle. If she loved God, she would not waiver. If he had a prayer life, he would be stronger. If she spent time studying the Bible, her doubts would disappear.”

Then, in the security of my self-confidence, I rejoice in the strength of my faith and the depth of my love. I smile when I consider my prayer life and my knowledge of Your word. I reassure myself by thinking of the many things I do for you.

Later, as I reflect on these times, an ugly awareness stares at me. I see the Pharisee who felt spiritually superior because he was not like the wicked tax collector.

Who am I to measure the faith or the love of another person? Is knowledge of Your word measured by the ability to dissect verses or by clinging to the message? Are the notable ways to serve Christ restricted to my list of godly works? Am I to forget that You were thrilled when a widow gave a penny? Or that You note the cup of cold water given in Jesus’ name?

My dark days descended on me. Desperate illness struck my family, and one that I loved died. Injustices destroyed my career. My dreams for my children turned into ashes. Neither time nor money permit me to serve You in the ways that I did.

Each day I know struggle and weakness. Evil mocks my strength. I wavier because my faith was in me, not You. And I am afraid as I learn to trust You instead of me. Suddenly, my Bible knowledge became “book knowledge.” In that moment I understood the difference between having Bible knowledge and laying a foundation upon the Rock.

Troubles easily become despair, and despair easily becomes hopelessness. What a temptation! Father, help me find courage in the cross! Help me find confidence in the resurrection! Help me find hope in Your forgiveness! Help me find assurance in Jesus’ return!

God, Me, and Freedom

Posted by on February 15, 1998 under Sermons

To you, what does it mean to be free? Most of us never do in-depth thinking about freedom. In 1980 my father and mother accompanied Joyce and me on a trip to Israel. It was a rich, enjoyable experience. To my Dad it was a unique experience–it was the only time he ever traveled outside the United States.

He enjoyed the experience far more than I expected he would…until we were returning to catch our departing flight. We flew into Amman, Jordan and traveled by bus to Israel. Getting into Israel was relatively simple. Getting out of Israel was very difficult. Suddenly, my father realized that he could not go where he wanted to go. He realized that he was totally controlled by the decisions and orders of others. For the first time in his life, he was not truly free.

It had a chilling effect on him. It made him realize what freedom was. Let me tell you how powerfully this impacted my Dad at that moment. He despised paying taxes. At that moment, he said, “If I ever get home, I will never complain about paying taxes.”

Have you ever had an experience that made you realize what freedom is?

  1. Is the greatest gift that any society can receive the gift of freedom?
    1. When communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, many of us immediately assumed that new freedoms would bring great blessings to the peoples of eastern Europe.
      1. Why would we not conclude that?
      2. We associate our greatest blessings with our freedom–our prosperous lifestyle is inseparable from our freedom.
      3. To us it is perfectly logical to assume that freedom will produce the lifestyle and the prosperity that we enjoy.
    2. When those societies were freed from the totalitarian control of atheistic communism, some very interesting things happened.
      1. Some societies immediately resurrected old hatreds and turned on those they hated.
        1. They had not been free to vent their hatreds.
        2. Freedom gave them the liberty to hate.
      2. When the totalitarian control of the superpower collapsed, some smaller groups wanted totalitarian power locally.
        1. They were free to begin civil wars within their own societies.
        2. Their hunger for control was free to fight against and destroy factions within their own society.
      3. Freedom created new opportunities for greed and the abuse of power.
        1. Elections provided people access to power.
        2. They had the freedom to speak and to persuade.
        3. Becoming elected officials created new opportunities, and some abused those opportunities.
      4. In the past civil order was the product of totalitarian control; now civil order depended to a large degree on the responsible choices of individuals.
        1. Organized lawlessness soon became more powerful and advanced than the police.
        2. Crime soared as it exercised a powerful presence within many of those societies.
    3. It was quite evident that freedom is much more than the absence of totalitarian control.
      1. It takes far more than the collapse of dictatorial control for freedom to exist.
      2. If freedom is to exist, some basic essentials must also exist.
        1. A strong foundation of ethics and morals must be accepted and held by the greater majority of the society.
        2. The greater majority in the society must hold a common sense of responsibility that seeks the good of society.
        3. Individuals within the society must understand that selfishness and self-centered existence destroys freedom. (There is a delicate balance that must be maintained between the rights of the individual and the best interest of the society.)
        4. The society itself must be educated in the definition of freedom, the objectives of freedom, and the goals of freedom; the society must know what freedom is, what it accomplishes, and where it is going.
    4. What happens when you free people within a society that:
      1. Has lived for generations under totalitarian control?
      2. Has never experienced individual rights?
      3. Had all systems of religious ethics and morals destroyed?
        1. For generations nothing was done because there was good and evil or right and wrong.
        2. Everything was done because it was the will of the totalitarian system.
        3. The totalitarian system destroyed religious ethics.
      4. What happens? You enter chaos, not freedom.
    5. What happens when people seek to bring freedom into existence:
      1. Where people have lived without freedom in any form for generations?
      2. Where no one has experienced the responsibility of freedom?
      3. Where people had no opportunity to learn or understand the critical links between freedom, rights, and responsibility?
      4. What happens? You enter chaos, not freedom.
    6. People do not step out of totalitarian control into freedom; people make the journey from totalitarian control to freedom.
  2. Because you understand freedom from the political and social perspective, I want to challenge you to understand freedom from a spiritual perspective.
    1. I want you to let Paul, the freedom expert, teach us.
      1. Paul is the freedom expert.
      2. Before he became a Christian, he was an expert in the law of Moses.
        1. He likely was the most scholarly Jew converted in the first century.
        2. His credentials in the Mosaical law were superior and superb.
      3. After he became a Christian, he was an expert in the gospel of Christ.
        1. I sincerely doubt that any Christian had a clearer understanding of the good news of the grace of Christ than Paul had.
        2. The leader of the movement that tried to destroy the church became the leading spokesman for the church.
        3. The man who fought Jesus the impostor became the man who knew that Jesus was the Lord and Christ.
        4. His encounter with Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road turned this expert in the law into the expert in the grace of Jesus Christ.
        5. Both experience and revelation created his understanding of freedom in Christ.
    2. Listen carefully to these statements that Paul made.
      1. To the Christians in Galatia who had turned away from the grace of Christ to accept the law of Moses, Paul wrote:
        1. Galatians 5:1–It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. Please carefully note the statement, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free…”
          2. Christ set the Christian free in order for the Christian to be free.
        2. Galatians 5:13–For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. Carefully note that the Christian was called to be free.
          2. That freedom is not to be perverted to satisfy ungodly desires.
          3. However, Christians are called to be free.
      2. To the Christians in Rome, Paul contrasted life lived according to physical drives with life lived in the Spirit.
        1. Paul contrasted life ruled by the concern for the physical with life lived in the Spirit.
        2. Romans 8:15–For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. Life lived in the spirit cannot produce the mind of a slave, the heart of a slave, the circumstance of a slave, or the fear of a slave.
          2. When you become a Christian, you do not enter a new form of slavery; you are adopted into God’s family.
          3. You enter a “Daddy-child” relationship with God.
    3. What does Paul, the freedom expert, want Christians to understand?
      1. What God did for Israel through the law and what God does for Christians in the gospel are two entirely different things.
        1. God’s objective in the law was to gain control of an out-of-control people.
        2. God’s objective in Christ is to free people who are enslaved to evil and guilt.
        3. The law was an intermediate step toward freedom.
        4. The grace of Christ is the entrance into freedom.
      2. Consider this illustration: Is marriage freedom or slavery?
        1. A wife can declare to her husband, “By law you are responsible to be faithful to me.”
          1. “I demand that you abide by that law.”
          2. “If you don’t, you will pay the price: I will divorce you and you will suffer.”
        2. A wife can tell her husband, “In my love for you, I commit to you totally.
          1. “My love for you is unconditional.”
          2. “My commitment goes far beyond refusing to be unfaithful.”
          3. “I am committed to everything that faithfulness is.”
      3. Questions:
        1. Which creates trusts?
        2. Which produces freedom?
        3. Which is the least likely to prevent adultery?
    4. Spiritual law by its nature:
      1. Stresses consequences.
      2. Searches for mistakes.
      3. Condemns when it uncovers mistakes.
    5. The objective of spiritual freedom is to give life and create relationship.
      1. It gives life by forgiving.
      2. It nourishes life with continued grace and unconditional love.
    6. But freedom exists only if:
      1. The Christian understands the concept of freedom.
      2. The Christian accepts the responsibilities of freedom.
      3. The Christian enters a relationship with Christ in order to have freedom.

When Christians see spiritual freedom as opportunity to pursue personal agendas or to live irresponsibly, they have no better understanding of spiritual freedom than Eastern European societies had of political freedom.

What kind of relationship do you have with God?
Are you interested in being free in Christ?
Or are you just trying to live under the controls of the law?

Caution: God At Work!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

We American Christians tend to be aggressive even when we appear to be passive. We possess a form of certainty that must amuse and frustrate God. We are uncertain about precious little. “Our way of thinking” coupled with “our spiritual perspectives” ooze with a certainty not to be questioned.

We never intentionally instruct God or tell Him how to “conduct His business.” Aren’t we careful to say, “If it is your will,” when we make requests for the sick? However, our convictions about God’s priorities or concerns are never shy.

In this certainty, often we are quite definite about when, where, and how God is and is not working. It is hard for us to understand that not even evil prevents God from being at work. God is at work everywhere in everything. In context, that is the point of Romans 8:28. God even uses evil to accomplish His objectives and fulfill His purposes. I did not say that God causes evil. I said that God uses evil.

Consider two clear examples. Evil motivated Joseph’s brothers to sell him as a slave. Year’s later, Joseph realized that God worked through that evil to save his entire family. He told his brothers, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20). Did God make Joseph’s brothers evil? No, Satan did that. But God used Satan’s evil initiative to accomplish His own purposes.

The greatest example is the crucifixion of Jesus. Lawless (godless–NAS) men killed Jesus (Acts 2:23). Satan’s greatest single victory on earth was the execution of God’s son. Yet, God worked through that evil to achieve His greatest victory in earth. That death atoned for all human sin from the first one to the world’s end. That death led to resurrection. In the resurrection, God made Jesus Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

Thankfully, God does not do things as we Christian humans do. Often we spend more energy and time in debating when, where, and how to work than in working. God is not afflicted with such indecision. He just works–all the time everywhere. Even when a teenager is sold into slavery or His son is executed, God is at work.

Were visible, spiritual caution signs placed everywhere God is at work, we American Christians would be astounded. Maybe we would help more and hinder less.

Can I Live Without That?

Posted by on February 8, 1998 under Sermons

Three men got into a heated discussion about which part of the body was the most essential to life. It began when two of the men expressed a difference of opinion about escaping life threatening situations. One said, “Nothing is as important as your legs. If you are in a life threatening situation, you have to have your legs to carry you to safety.”

The other said, “That depends on the danger. Many times your hands can eliminate the danger faster than your legs can take you away from the danger.”

The argument was on. “Well, if you want to argue in that way, the ears must hear the danger before the hands can act.”

“That may be true, but the eyes can see the danger much faster than the ears can hear it.”

The third man jumped into the argument. “Both of you are talking about external factors. Internal factors are much more important. The brain is absolutely essential in all this. It tells the legs or the hands what to do. It interprets what the ears hear and the eyes see.”

“That is true, but if there are no muscles to respond to the brain’s orders, nothing would happen. The brain can interpret all it wants to interpret and give all the orders it wants to give. But if the muscles do not respond to the brain, the brain will be killed.”

“Well, let’s get real here. The muscles cannot do anything without the bones. Muscles are useless unless they have bones. The brain can give the orders and the muscle can receive the message, but if there are no bones, nothing happens The most that the muscles can do without bones is jerk.”

Does that remind you of some of the discussions that Christians have? Just ask a talkative Bible class that has Christians with definite opinions, “What is the most essential thing we must do to escape hell?” Or, “What is the most necessary thing we must do to be saved?” Or, “What is the most critical thing that must occur for the church to be Christ’s church?” I predict that you will hear a very similar discussion.

  1. This situation is not a frivolous matter; it places the spotlight on Christian thinking and Christian focus.
    1. We seem to be obsessed with trying to decide what is the most important.
      1. Some declare that knowing the word is the most essential thing that should be stressed.
      2. Some declare that faith is the most essential thing that should be stressed.
      3. Some declare that love is the most essential thing that should be stressed.
      4. Some declare that obedience is the most essential thing that should be stressed.
      5. Some declare that service is the most essential thing that should be stressed.
      6. And everyone says that we do not have the proper balance in the things that are being stressed.
    2. So what is the most essential?
      1. Knowledge?
      2. Faith?
      3. Love?
      4. Obedience?
      5. Service?
    3. Can you be spiritually alive and spiritually health without any one of those?
      1. Can you have spiritual strength and spiritual health if you have knowledge without faith, emotion, or service?
      2. Or if you have faith without knowledge, emotion, and service?
      3. Or if you have emotion without knowledge, faith, and service?
      4. Or if you have service without emotion, faith, and knowledge?
    4. If you have two, do you need not be concerned about the other two, or if three do you need not be concerned about the other one?
    5. Could I ask you to give thought to something ?
      1. Don’t think about this for just a few minutes tonight as we discuss it.
      2. Put it in your thoughts to chew on for a while.
      3. Have you ever considered that this discussion about what is most important is our discussion, not the New Testament’s discussion?
        1. Can you think of a scripture, placed in its proper context, when a New Testament writer says, “The most important thing in being a Christian is…”
        2. Have you ever noticed that is discussion focusing on our debate, our concerns, our chosen emphasis?
      4. Any religious group who is concerned about being correct biblically, who accepts scripture as God’s word and God’s authority, is vulnerable to this kind of thinking.
        1. Concern for being biblical means that we want to place our emphasis where the New Testament places it.
        2. That means that we must decide where the emphasis is placed.
        3. Therein is the trap–we decide.
        4. It is too easy to focus on an emphasis that addresses our personal concerns or problems created by our personal concerns.
  2. Believe it or not, this is a very old problem, a problem that existed before Christianity existed.
    1. The Pharisees were dedicated restorationists who had two basic goals.
      1. They wanted to restore national and spiritual dependence on Old Testament scripture with a proper emphasis on the law of Moses.
      2. They wanted to spiritually return the Jewish people to the “old paths”–literally their words.
    2. In the process they were very concerned with placing the greatest emphasis on the most important commands.
      1. One of the significant discussions and debates that they continued among themselves and with others was this: “What is the most important commandment?”
      2. They recognized that all of God’s commands were not of equal importance.
        1. Some of God’s commands took priority over other of God’s commands.
        2. It was a practical concern: when obedience to God would result in contradictory actions, which command should be obeyed?
      3. Let me give you an example of a situation that places God’s commands in conflict.
        1. A neighbor runs into your house to escape some men who are trying to kill him. Realizing the danger, you hide him.
        2. Before you can telephone 911, the men trying to kill him are at your door asking if you have seen him.
        3. How many Christian commands or teachings do you confront in this situation?
          1. Christians tell the truth; they do not lie.
          2. Christians are honest.
          3. Christians love their neighbors as they love themselves.
          4. Christians are committed to doing good.
        4. Do you tell the men that he is not there and that you have not seen him, or do you tell them the truth and let them carry him away?
      4. The Pharisees were concerned about addressing this kind of conflict, so they debated the priority of commandments.
    3. So one of the questions that they asked Jesus was, “What is the greatest commandment?”
      1. Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus never answered that question with giving the two greatest commandments?
        1. They never asked him for number one and number two.
        2. He never answered without giving them number one and number two.
        3. That was no accident–number one would be abused and misapplied, if they did not accept number two.
      2. What was Jesus’ answer?
        Matthew 22:37-40 And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two comandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. The first commandment:
          1. Love God with all your heart–all your emotions.
          2. Love God with all your life.
          3. Love God with all your knowledge and understanding.
          4. The first thing you must do is love God, but love for God must be rooted in all your emotions, all your life, and all your knowledge and understanding.
        2. The second commandment:
          1. You must love people like you love your own self.
          2. If love for people is based in the same context that love of God is based (and it is), you love people with your emotions, with your life, and with your knowledge and understanding.
      3. Pay careful attention to the balance, and the balance obviously is there because Jesus never separated these two commandments.
        1. You cannot use loving God to justify not loving people.
        2. If you do not love people, your love for God becomes meaningless.
    4. The Pharisees’ concern for restoring the place of scripture in Israel was a correct, good concern.
      1. Their concern to return people to the “old paths” was a correct, good concern.
      2. However, in the pursuit of correct, good concerns they misplaced their emphasis.
      3. Because of their misplaced emphasis they became the most formidable enemy of God’s own son while he was on earth.
      4. I find that a terrifying understanding!
      5. If we are not careful, we can become so concerned about restoring the church and doctrine that we become blind to the Savior.
  3. So, which is the most important: knowledge, faith, service, or emotion?
    1. May I make an observation and ask a question.
      1. My observation: perhaps the answer to that question has much to do with whether you are running from hell or you are running toward God.
      2. My question: which one of them is unimportant?
    2. It is apparent to me that:
      1. An ignorant Christian is easily deceived and led away from Christ.
      2. A faithless Christian trusts himself and his deeds and is without a Savior.
      3. An inactive Christian renders both his knowledge and faith useless.
      4. An emotionless Christians goes through the motions, but has no true relationship with God.

Can I be spiritually alive without knowledge of scripture? Or without faith in the promises and power of Jesus Christ? Or without ministering to people as I serve God’s purposes? Or without genuine emotion for God, Christ, people, and God’s eternal objectives?

Perhaps the question is, “What is my concept of being spiritually alive?

Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

Do you need to flee from the wrath of God? Have you allowed Him to remove your sins by immersion into Christ? We want to encourage you to run toward God.

Family Members Are Unique

Posted by on under Sermons

When you were growing up, how many children were in your family? How many brothers do you have? How many sisters?

Could you list all the ways that you and your brothers and sisters were alike? Could you list all the ways that you and your brothers and sisters are different? Sure you can. In fact, in most instances, it would be easier to list all the differences than to list all the ways that you were alike as children. With some brothers or sisters, you would declare that you were completely different–there were no ways in which you were alike.

When all of you became adults, did all those differences disappear? Did all of you, as adult brothers and sisters, become exactly alike? As adults, some similar characteristics may have developed, but your differences remained, and always will remain. Each of your brothers and sisters are distinct persons with a personal package that includes a unique personality and distinctive abilities.

  1. When a person becomes a Christian, that person establishes a relationship with God.
    1. Scripture verifies a relationship comes into existence by using specific concepts.
      1. A believing, penitent person’s baptism into Christ is a spiritual birth (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:22,23; Galatians 3:26,27).
      2. After baptism, the person is said to be a spiritual infant (1 Peter 2:1-3).
      3. If that infant does not spiritually grow, serious spiritual problems develop (1 Corinthians 3:1-5).
      4. The person is expected to continue the growth process until he/she reaches maturity (Ephesians 4;11-16).
      5. All this growth occurs within the context of a spiritual family.
        1. God is the Father.
        2. Jesus Christ is the oldest brother.
        3. Christians are brothers and sisters to each other.
    2. Do you think all spiritual brothers and sisters are spiritually just alike?
      1. Because we all are born into the same spiritual family, do you think we will have identical spiritual personalities?
      2. Do you think all of us spiritually will look like and act like identical twins?
      3. Do you think all of us will have identical strengths and abilities?
      4. If, as baptized believers in Christ, we differ spiritually in many ways, does that mean we are not in the family?
    3. There are two defining realities at work in every person who is a Christian, each person who is in God’s family.
      1. The first defining reality is spiritual growth.
        1. We do not all begin our spiritual growth at the same point of spiritual development.
          1. Just as some infants physically are born with serious problems, some Christians are spiritually born with serious problems.
          2. The birth occurred, he or she is God’s child, and it is unthinkable that we should abandon this spiritual infant, but the problems are real.
          3. Spiritual growth and development does not begin at the same point for all of us; it does not occur at the same rate for all of us.
        2. The rate of spiritual growth and the level of spiritual maturity is unique to the spiritual potential of the individual.
          1. Ability factors and potential factors differ in us as physical individuals.
          2. Ability factors and potential factors differ in us as spiritual individuals.
      2. The second defining reality are spiritual abilities, or, as scripture refers to them, spiritual gifts.
        1. We understand that an ability is a gift that we were born with.
          1. The potential of that ability was within us at birth.
          2. That ability will become useful and significant in a person’s life only if he or she develops it.
          3. But you only can develop the ability that you have, and that ability is a gift of birth.
          4. I would love to be able to express myself through music–but I was not born with the voice, the ear, nor the aptitude; I don’t possess that ability.
        2. The same thing is true spiritually–spiritual abilities are potentials that we have when we are spiritually born.
          1. That spiritual ability will only become useful and significant in a Christian’s life if he or she develops it.
          2. But the Christian can only develop the ability he or she has, and that ability is a gift of spiritual birth.
          3. Spiritually, we certainly were not all born with the same abilities.
        3. Consider Romans 12:6-8–Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. We have different gifts.
          2. God’s grace made those gifts possible.
          3. Prophecy, a form of teaching, is a gift.
          4. Teaching is a gift.
          5. The ability to encourage (exhort) is a gift.
          6. Generosity is a gift.
          7. Leadership ability is a gift.
          8. The ability to use mercy to bring healing and hope is a gift.
          9. The Christian who possesses the gift can utilize the gift only if he develops it.
          10. Paul’s point: develop the spiritual ability God gave you and use it effectively for God’s purposes.
          11. Focus on what you are able to do, develop it, and do it well.
      3. We need an honest understanding of spiritual ability.
        1. Some Christians may have many spiritual abilities, some Christians may have a few, and some Christians may have only one.
        2. Christians must identify and avoid two false conclusions:
          1. False conclusion # 1: “If I can do it, any Christian can do it.”
          2. False conclusion # 2: “Every Christian must work or serve in this specific way.”
          3. Both of those false conclusions wrongly assume that every Christian possesses the same specific spiritual abilities.
        3. God knows what each one of us is capable of doing and being, and what is occurring in each of our lives spiritually.
          1. I cannot see into your heart, mind, and life.
          2. It is impossible for me to know what is occurring in you.
          3. God sees what is happening in everyone of us; He and He alone knows our spiritual abilities and how we are using them.
      4. Expectations based on comparing sons or daughters to each other are horribly unjust in a physical family; they are equally unjust in God’s family.
  2. Every time I stand before you to teach or preach I am overwhelmed by the variety of spiritual needs that exist in our assembly.
    1. Regardless of how few or how many are present, it is quite possible that no two persons here are spiritually identical or in identical spiritual places.
      1. Some of you are battling enormous pain, and your struggle with that pain demands your total spiritual focus as you trust God for daily strength.
      2. Some of you wage war every day with something that enslaved your life before you were born into God’s family.
        1. It may be an attitude; it may be a behavior pattern; it may be a moral issue; it may be an addiction.
        2. But each day you spiritually exist by trusting God’s strength, trusting God’s forgiveness, and continuing the war.
      3. Some of you must focus your daily life on allowing God to help you escape the past.
        1. Through no choice or fault of yours, you were the victim of a terrible experience years ago.
        2. The wound was deep, and the scar is ever present.
        3. Maybe no one knows what happened to you.
        4. But it powerfully affected your thinking, your emotions, and your life, and you lean on God every day as you struggle with it.
      4. Some of you rely on God to fight fear every day.
        1. There are days that the fear seems to be bigger than you, bigger than life.
        2. Each day it is a challenge: don’t let fear become bigger than God.
        3. At times that fear terribly depresses you, but you are determined in your faith not to give the fear victory.
      5. Some of you are really growing and developing spiritually, and you are hungry to grow faster than ever.
        1. You are starved for the insights and encouragement that will help you grow faster.
        2. You really want to be fed.
      6. Some of you are filled with dreams and visions of what can be done for Christ and his kingdom (his rule in the hearts and minds of people).
        1. You want those dreams to come true.
        2. You are consumed with a desire to help people and touch lives.
        3. Every day you can see how those dreams could become reality.
      7. Some of you are very gifted, goal oriented, “make it happen” Christians.
        1. The focus of your life is to “make things happen” for Jesus in our community and in our world.
        2. Bible figures like Peter and Paul inspire you and fill you with the flames of spiritual ambition.
    2. And every week my challenge is to try to say and teach things that will be meaningful and helpful to all of you.
      1. I thank God that you give me that opportunity, and I accept it very seriously.
      2. As I accept this opportunity each week, I do so with this awareness.
        1. Everyone of us have different spiritual growth patterns.
        2. Everyone of us have different spiritual gifts or abilities.
        3. And God’s grace is working in each of our lives, just as our love as parents is working in each of our children’s lives.

So may I give you a challenge? Do all within your ability to encourage others as we grow and develop at different rates in different ways. See every Christian’s ability for what it is–a gift from God valued by God. Measure no other person’s gift by your gifts. No matter where another Christian is in his or her spiritual development, extend your hand of encouragement with your heart of love.

Don’t ever fail to encourage. Don’t ever fail to lift from the heart.

I am so happy we have a God. I am so happy we have a Savior.
God knows everything that has ever happened in my life. He knows my every weakness. He still loves me in spite of knowing every bad thing about me.
God says, “I take you like you are, where you are, because I have somewhere to take you.”
God is willing to risk your making mistakes. Sometimes we are so afraid of ourselves that we are afraid of dealing with life. God can use any ability you have for eternal purposes.

Will you believe the promises He has given you?
Will you allow Him to rebuild you?

How Quickly Awareness Grows

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Jerry and Meg Canfield returned to Laos from West-Ark in late December 1997. There they primarily worked on health projects. This work was done with registration and approval of the Lao government.

Saturday night, 31 January 1998, we learned that Jerry and Meg, Ken Fox, a Thai preacher, and around forty Laotian Christians were arrested Friday evening during a Bible study assembly in Laos.

The U.S. State Department, U.S. embassies in Laos and Thailand, Congressman Asa Hutchinson, and Senator Tim Hutchinson began actively seeking a resolution. Tuesday morning, Jerry, Meg, Ken, and the Thai preacher were released.

Please pray for our Laotian brothers and sisters who remain in jail.

Rarely do we experience such impressionable reminders of the contrast between life in the United States and life in much of the world. The separation of church and state is debated here with great emotion. However, the controversy does not question the right of the church to exist, function, or express itself. Aggressive initiatives question the right of the church to function in some areas of public life. Some wish to place significant restrictions on the rights and activities of all religions in this nation. Many of these advocates argue that religion significantly restricts their rights and activities.

The American debate is significant and could result in restrictions previously unknown in this nation. But no one seriously advocates the destruction of the church.

When members from this congregation are arrested for hosting a home Bible study with persons who want to assemble, it sobers us. It should. It should also shake individual, spiritual apathy. Blessings unused accomplish little more than blessings denied.

The Indestructible Kingdom

Posted by on February 1, 1998 under Articles

As seen from the book of Revelation, the saints in John’s time were undergoing a great trial of persecution. They needed encouragement and assurance that they might face up to these trials.

The Lord gives them this encouragement when he said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (2:10). This seems to be the purpose of the book. He expands this by showing the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom.

In 7:9, he gives us a glimpse of the Kingdom beyond the grave. A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. The angel said to John, “These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And he that setteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore.

John spoke of himself as being a companion of those who were undergoing tribulation in the Kingdom (1:9). With this revelation, they could look forward to victory beyond the grave. “O grave, where is thy victory?”

John said, “. . . I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season . . .” (6:9-11). These were slain, yet they lived; they were now comforted. Things were good now, but they will get better. This is why the Spirit said, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them” (14:13-14).

God promises that, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things” (Rev. 21:7). The souls under the alter haven’t inherited all things yet. They don’t have perfect peace and happiness because they haven’t been avenged. But in Chapter 20, the Great Day comes when the wicked are judged, and along with Satan, are cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Then John saw the final triumph of the faithful; the holy city coming down from God out of heaven and a great voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21:3-4). “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (21:5). “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (22:14).

So we see from this the destiny of the redeemed: perfect fellowship with God (21:1-8); perfect protection by God (21:9-27); and perfect provision from God (22:1-5).

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

God had the eternal kingdom in mind before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Instead of Satan hindering the purpose of God, he only put God’s people through a refining fire to purify them for that eternal realm with God.

The wonderful thing about it all is, it is not only for the saints in the first century, but, “whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” We, too, can overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of his testimony, if we love not our life unto death (Rev. 12:11). We are made clean by the blood of the Lamb, by being baptized into his death (Rom. 6:3-4). And his blood continues to cleanse us as we walk in the light and have fellowship one with another.

Walking in the light includes proclaiming his word (testimony). Because we are debtors (Rom. 1:14-16), we owe an eternal debt of love to our fellowman. We must show this love by telling him about the blood of the Lamb, and the word of his testimony. Then we must give our bodies as living sacrifices unto God (Rom. 12:1-2). We must crucify the old man and let Jesus live in us (Gal. 2:20).

If we are with the Lamb, victory is assured. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

Voltaire, a French philosopher and skeptic of two centuries ago, said that he “hated life and dreaded death.” How different from the Christian! Voltaire had nothing to look forward to, but the Christian everything.

Christianity spans two worlds, time and eternity. Time is needed to prepare for eternity, to know Christ, “and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). But we must keep in mind “our citizenship is in heaven.” We cannot be heavenly minded unless we are conscious of our heavenly citizenship and that we are only sojourners on earth. We must not, while sojourning among the ungodly, become ungodly, but remember that we are the salt and light of the earth.

As the Christian closes the book of Revelation, he understands how he can be content with his lot in life. The words of the Spirit, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4) has meaning. What can he say to the ungodly? Groan, and again I say groan, for the misery that will come upon you. Why? Because they have united with Satan and “the God of peace shall bruise Satan” under the saints’ feet shortly (Rom. 16:20)!

The Christian looks backward to God’s promise in Eden to bruise the Serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15) and forward to its perfect fulfillment in the Serpent’s being “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10), and praises Christ because he is counted worthy to suffer with him. “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5).

Holy Father, we praise you and thank you for allowing us to be a part of your Son’s “Indestructible Kingdom.”