Things We Take for Granted

Pleased To Make a Contribution
Greetings
Watch Out! For Deceivers
The Revelation of the Mystery
Salvation
The Lord’s Supper
Opportunity for Repentance
A Clean Conscience
The Wisdom of God
The Importance of Preaching
The Church
The Love of God
The Peace Which Surpasses Comprehension
The Existence of Satan
Sound Doctrine
God’s Grace
The Significance of the Good Confession
Prayer
The Power of God
The Joy of Forgiveness
"In Faith" rather than "Under Law"
The Blessed Hope
The Blessings of Challenge
The Multiplied Harvest
The Training from Discipline
The Bible as The Word of God
Lessons Children Teach Us
The Boundaries of Our Habitation
Fruitful Seasons
Opportunity to Turn
Messages From Angels
Old Testament Prophecies
God’s Handling of History
Jesus in the Flesh
Jesus’ Death on The Cross
The Character of Jesus
One Blessed Hope
One Lord
The One Faith
There Is One Immersion
One God and Father of All
We Received A Spirit of Love
The Spirit of Power
The Spirit of Discipline
The Goal of Our Instruction

 

Pleased To Make a Contribution

Paul had a tremendous desire to preach the word, especially to those who had never heard. ‘‘For this reason," he says to the Christians: in Rome, "I have often been hindered from coming to you," (Romans 15:22). He then lists his desires to come to Rome to see the saints:

"But now," he informs them, "I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints" (Romans 15:25). After the meeting in Jerusalem over the issue of circumcision, recorded in Acts 15, the apostles and elders asked Paul and Barnabas to remember poor saints in Jerusalem and Judea (Galatians 2:10). Then, they began an organized effort to arrange for a gift from the Gentile churches in the Roman Empire to churches in Judea.

Paul was specially involved in this particular offering. Representatives from each of the congregations were to accompany the offering to watch over and ensure honesty in all transactions, and Paul would be among their number when they presented it to the elders in Jerusalem. "Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs," he says, "I will go on by way of you to Spain. And I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fulness of the blessing in Christ" (Romans 15:28,29).

But Paul anticipated that troubles were to come:

"Now may the God of peace be with you all. Amen" (Romans 15:30-33)

 

 

Greetings

Even though Paul had not been to Rome, he knew a number of the brethren there. This indicates relative freedom of travel in the Roman Empire, and shows evidence of good communication and fellowship among individuals and congregations in the first century church. He most likely sends this letter with Phoebe, a willing servant of female gender of the church in Cenchrea [the sister port city along the isthmus of Corinth] with these words of commendation:

Then follow his greetings to various individuals in Rome:

After sending his personal greetings, he adds, "All the churches of Christ greet you" (Romans 16:16). Father, may we have hard working, beloved, choice men and women in the Lord to which we today can send our greetings.

 

 

Watch Out! For Deceivers

Anyone who thinks the first century churches were pictures of peaceful assemblings of perfect Christians has never carefully read the inspired record. The epistles were written to help those congregations keep on track as they experienced all kinds of people problems from within, and persecution, invasion, and destruction from without. Listen to these solemn words from Paul:

"Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them" (Romans 16:17).

Here is the divine analysis: "For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting" (Romans 16:18). Ultimately the burden rests upon us as individuals. Will we be spiritual enough to recognize these workers of Satan among us, or will we be sucked in by their smooth and flattering speech? To the brethren in Rome, Paul warns:

Are you wise in what is good? Are you so familiar with truth and righteousness that you easily recognize lies and evil? You will have the opportunity to find out! Watch out for those who cause dissension and hindrances contrary to the teachings of the apostles.

 

 

The Revelation of the Mystery

As Paul closes out his letter to the saints in Rome, he lists those who were with him: Timothy, Tertius (whose hand actually wrote the letter) and others. Then he explodes in a final burst of precise to the only wise God, magnifying Him in these terms:

"Now to Him who is able to establish you:

It is interesting that God is primarily praised for what He does for people. In this case God is praised for being able to establish the Christian; that is, to give Him a firm foothold and a secure possession.

God first establishes the Christian through the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ. It is clear that continually hearing preaching is necessary in order for the child of God to maintain his faith. The old, old story needs to be told and heard again and again.

The saint is also established by the revelation of what Paul calls "the mystery." This mystery was hidden for long ages but has now been made known to all the nations as the prophets foretold. Obviously the mystery is very important. But what is the mystery?

The mystery is "Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27). "Christ in you" is another name for the indwelling Spirit of God (Romans 8:9-11). Throughout the Old Testament pieces of information concerning the indwelling Spirit were given, but they were in hidden or code form, and the information was not decipherable until the revelation was given to the apostles. The indwelling Spirit was spoken of in these terms:

Remember, it is the revelation of the mystery, which leads to obedience of faith and thus establishes us. May those who preach Jesus Christ and the mystery do so with great boldness and with clarity of speech. And may you be established in that preaching, to the glory of God through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

 

 

Salvation

Why does God allow tragedy? Why does He let agony continue, suffering increase, and evil men grow worse and worse? Why does disease rage, and death sweep her deadly scythe over the standing harvest of mankind?

The word of God does not directly answer these questions; but one thing is for certain - if there is no tragedy and if there are no emergencies, then there can be no rescuers.

God has so arranged this universe and man’s existence in this universe so that the testimony of God’s involvement is clear. The lessons are there, to be studied and learned by those who will observe and contemplate. "We know," says the apostle Paul, "that the whole creation suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (Romans 8:22). This extreme pain runs throughout the entire universe; the only hope the creation has is to be somehow set free, to be rescued. Hence the suffering continues, and the tragedy goes on with an occasional heroic rescue of some kind; so that the entire race of man becomes aware of physical death and physical salvation.

God touches man at the physical level; then, to those who are willing, He raises their sights to the spiritual arena. Having given man the strong lesson of physical suffering, physical death, and physical rescue, the Almighty has His soil prepared for the following spiritual lessons:

Let us be certain, then, that we do not take this spiritual salvation, which was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ, for granted. Emotionally and intellectually, we need to be in constant awareness of the lesson of physical suffering and rescue going on around us, and then thank God for our spiritual rescue from the "fate worse than death." "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen" (Jude 24,25).

 

 

The Lord’s Supper

When Joseph was in slavery in Egypt, in prison, he interpreted the dream of the king’s butler and baker. "Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office," he told the cupbearer. "Only keep me in mind and when it goes well with you, please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house" (Genesis 40:13,14). The chief cupbearer was restored to Pharaoh’s service. But listen to these sad words: "Yet the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him" (Genesis 40:23).

Our progress in life has been similar to that of Pharaoh’s butler. We have been guilty of lapses, called sin, and the result has been that the King has been furious with us, and has banished us to the prison for sinners. And our future was foretold also, by Hosea, in a dream: "Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up (in the third day that we will live before Him" (Hosea 6:1,2). Just as the cupbearer was lifted up on the third day and restored to service, so we also have been lifted up with Christ on the third day and restored to service of the King.

When our Lord was in prison, so to speak, with us, as He participated in the Passover meal, He told us: "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me," and "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me" (I Corinthians 11:24,25). He did not want us to follow in the footsteps of Pharaoh’s butler and forget; He wanted us to remember. And He wanted us to joyfully take time to remember every first day of the week in a re-participation of what He shared with His first disciples.

How’s our gratitude attitude? Do we take the Lord’s Supper for granted, and then just get tired of the Lord’s Table? Maybe we need to listen to the words of Malachi the prophet in a somewhat similar situation in Judah of old: "But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it" (Malachi 1:12,13).

As one who has been rescued by the Lord Jesus from the black burning recesses of hell, I want to remember Him about His table. I appreciate His offer to drink the fruit of the vine anew with me in His kingdom, and, as one who has come to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom in the presence of the King. I count it a great joy to remember daily also, and am thankful for the weekly remembrance, which keeps it uppermost in my mind. And since He is so much greater than Joseph, and did so much more than Joseph did for the cupbearer, I never want to miss any weekly observance in remembrance of Him, keeping in mind His words, "For I am a great King, and My name is feared among the nations" (Malachi 1:14).

 

 

Opportunity for Repentance

Jesus was blunt. "Unless you repent," He said, "you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). Now, contrary to the belief system of many, that is not a threat. It is a simple statement by Jesus of what will happen to us if we do not repent. If we continue to think as we have always thought, we will continue to "get what we have always got." If we continue to think "garbage" thoughts, we must end up in the garbage dump of eternity. Jesus’ statement is not a threat; it is a simple pronouncement of what will happen to us if we do not repent. Repentance is an opportunity, not a demand to be complied with in gritted-teeth obedience.

What is repentance? Repentance comes from the Greek word, which means to "change the mind." In other words, repentance has to do with changing how we think. The basic idea of the New Testament is that change, or metamorphosis, flows from within, from the inner man. If we renew, or reprogram, the mind, we will be transformed. The test of repentance over a period of time is a change in behavior. If there has been no alteration in behavior, then there has been no repentance. "A certain man had a fig tree," explained the Master Teacher, "which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’" (Luke 13:6-9).

What is the source of our repentance? Why should we change? The true answer to that question is always found in our devotion to the man Jesus Christ. It is Christ who died on our behalf; it was not Paul, nor any other brother, who was crucified for us. It is in Christ that are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In Christ is the only place to find all the spiritual blessings and grace. The grace and truth of God were always there, but "grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ"’ (John 1:17). It took the appearance of the "kindness of God and His love for mankind" - Jesus Christ - to really open us up on a personal basis, and set in motion the things which would cause us to take advantage of the opportunity to be transformed.

Ever since sin entered the world through Adam, every man lest One has fallen before its onslaught, and has become enslaved to sinful thinking. Praise God for the opportunity to change that through Jesus Christ, and to be strengthened with power though His Spirit in the inner man.

 

 

A Clean Conscience

The world pays a high price for guilty consciences. Mental hospitals are crammed with people who couldn’t deal with their guilty consciences any more, and chose: to live in la-la land rather than face the awful truth of their own sinfulness. Doctor’s offices are jammed with multitudes whose bodies are breaking down under the stress of an evil conscience. Guilty consciences are the reasons most lies are told, and they are the reasons so many things go on under the cover of darkness. And if you are not properly immersed into Christ, and following through in setting your mind on the things of the Spirit, you have a guilty conscience also.

But it is possible for an ardent believer - in Christ to have somewhat forgotten what a blessing it is to have a clean conscience. It is possible to forget what renewing power the Spirit of God has in the Christian’s life, and to forget what price was paid for the clean conscience that only God can give. Maybe it is time to take time to review once again:

Do not take a clean conscience for granted. Remember that only God can supply a good conscience, and that He only does so when the terms of the gospel are met. Cherish it, praise God for it, and maintain it. He who forgets his purification from his former sins ends in being blind or shortsighted (II Peter 1:9). Be on the alert, therefore. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong. Let all you do be done in love. Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 16:13,14; I Corinthians 10:31).

 

 

The Wisdom of God

The Holy Spirit informs us, "The world through its wisdom did not come to know God" (I Corinthians 1:21). If there is any basic knowledge a man should know, it should be the knowledge of God. Yet it is clear that man’s wisdom cannot bring us to even this basic knowledge. It ought to be evident that man’s wisdom is considerably lacking.

There is a danger, however, that a Christian might take for granted God’s wisdom, that He might forget the superiority of God over man, and revert back in his thinking to the frailty of man’s wisdom in the conduct of his daily life. To help you maintain your focus on God’s wisdom, we offer the following points to jog your thinking:

God has much wisdom for us, and wisdom has much to offer us. But you will notice that the wisdom of God is all summed up in Christ, and that this has been set forth for us since, in God’s ways of dealing with all mankind, the suitableness of the times has come. Thus it is, in God’s wisdom, that Christ - the power of God and the wisdom of God - is preached. Believe that preaching, and obey that preaching, and you will be wise.

"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:5-8). Do not take God’s wisdom for granted. Be searching the scriptures for the wisdom of Christ, and be praying always without doubting.

 

 

The Importance of Preaching

Some preaching is interesting; some isn’t. Some people hold our attention; some don’t. Some subjects jerk at our heartstrings; some of the important foundational material has to be endured. But God is committed to preaching, for reasons best known to Him.

Our society is much like the Athenian society of old, we are constantly engaged in hearing or telling something new. Thus the audience in the assembly of the saints - the believers and the God-fearing among the Gentiles - tend to want something new instead of the old, old story. But, in spite of that, God is committed to preaching, for reasons best known to Him.

The church grows and is sustained by preaching Love it; look forward to it; enjoy it; get others excited about it. But don’t take it for granted.

 

 

The Church

In some people’s minds there is a problem with the church. It consists of other people. As long as the church is conceptualized as a building, there is no problem with the church; but once an individual begins to understand that the church is not a building but people, then he may have problems with the church. And he may take the church for granted.

Jesus knew from the beginning, however, that the church would consist of people. Yet listen to His voice as He describes the church:

There are many more portraits of the church, which the Spirit of God paints in His inspired presentation, but these suffice to give us a general outline of what God thinks of the church. Sometimes the pressure of daily living, and the personal growth and discipline, which the individual Christian undergoes can obscure the picture of the church in the Christian’s mind. He can get to the point where he focuses so much on problems that he takes for granted all the blessings which come to him daily through the church of’ the living God, and loses heart because he feels overcome with other difficulties.

Don’t take the church for granted. Remember what she is to Christ, and see her in that way.

 

 

The Love of God

Here are some important words from the apostle John: "And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us" (I John 4:16). One of the more difficult projects for the Christian is to understand that God really does love him, and that the Almighty only has the best interests of the child of God at heart.

But, having understood that point, there is another danger - the Christian might take the love of God for granted, and therefore fail to respond to his heavenly Father as he ought. Parents occasionally experience this. Their offspring, having grown up in an atmosphere of love and care, may take this love and care as an automatic "given," not even understanding what life would be without it, and therefore not appreciating that love.

There are some words of wisdom from the word of God, which will help us to be in constant remembrance of the love, which God has for us, which in turn will enable us to keep our love and response to Him fresh and genuine:

When we take the love of God for granted, we become selfish and self-interested. Without constant awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus, we lose sight of our own need for forgiveness and love, and this translates into "doing our own thing" and ignoring the desires of God. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments"’ (I John 5:2). The second of the great Old Testament commandments - "Love your neighbor as yourself" - really was like the first - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul." Be constantly aware of the cross and God’s love for you, and translate that into love of the brethren.

 

 

The Peace Which Surpasses Comprehension

This world does not really offer much in the way of peace. External peace is broken by wars, death, and the neighbor mowing his lawn. Thievery, robbery, graft, and endless power grabs all contrive to deprive an individual of peace on earth. Internal peace is also ravaged by heartache, a sense of failure, and a guilty conscience. Worry about the future, anxiety about where the next dollar is going to come from, marital problems (or lack of marital problems), and concern about relationships with children all combine to deprive an individual of peace on earth.

But…listen to Jesus as He talks to the apostles about the coming Holy Spirit. "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27). It is no accident that nearly every epistle in the New Testament contains greetings of peace; peace is what Jesus came to bring to the troubled hearts of men in any part of the world in any generation in any situation. "My peace I give to you," He said, "not as the world gives."

How does Jesus give peace to us?

And what a peace! Peace that surpasses comprehension. A peace that is able to guard a person’s heart and mind. Do you want this peace? Do you have it, and have begun to take it for granted?

Remember the price of this peace. Remember that we have been justified through Jesus’ blood in order to have peace with God. And that once we have peace with God, we can pursue peace with all men. Don’t take it for granted.

 

 

The Existence of Satan

Recent polls have indicated one of the inconsistencies of the thinking of the American public. Significantly more than 50% claim they believe the Bible is the word of God, and significantly less than 50% believe in the existence of the devil. Now it’s a simple fact that, if you believe in the Bible, you are going to have to believe in the devil also. Jesus was tempted by the devil; Jesus called him the god of this world: and Jesus, in speaking to some recalcitrant Jews, said, "you are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Jesus’ teaching about Satan is consistent with the rest of the Bible, beginning with the account of Adam and Eve and onward.

But the Christian has a different problem. It isn’t that he doesn’t believe in the existence of Satan; it is that he takes Satan’s existence for granted, and forgets about him. And that is dangerous.

Do not take the existence of the devil for granted. "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him. Be firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" (I Peter 5:8,9).

 

 

Sound Doctrine

Everyone needs a guide to the scripture. When the Ethiopian was traveling in his chariot, reading the prophet Isaiah, his comment to Philip was that he could not understand what he was reading without someone to guide him. We have the need, and therein the devil has his opportunity.

Jesus, as He was explaining the nature of the Pharisees to His disciples, informed us both as to our need and our danger. "They are blind guides of the blind,"’ He said. "And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14). Billions of people all over the world are following their blind guides into the eternal pit. Hindu and New Age Gurus explain to their followers, "There are many paths to God, my sons. Follow me on a shorter way. I will teach you to find God inside yourself." Moslems insanely follow one mad leader after another into the latest Jihad, a "holy war in Allah’s name." Teachers routinely "freeze" their "targets" in the ice of humanism in government schools all across the western world. The baby sprinklers day by day lead millions down the broad way of destruction, "in the name of Christ." The "accept Christ into your heart" crowd aggressively perverts the gospel and misleads millions of well-meaning people, while the Mormon missionaries and the Jehovah’s Witnesses pound door after door in making others twice as much the sons of hell as themselves. And the followers? Into the pit!

If you have been taught what the Bible says concerning the way of salvation, praise God, and don’t take it for granted. "For the time will come," Paul tells Timothy, "when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn their ears away from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (II Timothy 4:3,4).

So what is sound doctrine? "Sound" has to do with something solid, something with substance. False doctrine is always at some point based on thin air; there is nothing to base it on, no substance on which it rests. Those who believe in the book of Mormon base that entirely on a "feeling." The doctrine of "accepting Christ into your heart" is: emotionally based, not scripturally based. Those who try to talk about "the rapture" and "the second advent of Christ" admit in their own literature that they have arbitrarily come up with an imagined distinction. And the baby sprinklers have not one scripture backing their rhantizing of infants (or adults, for that matter).

"But as for you," Paul tells Titus, "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). Along the same line, he informs Timothy, "And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2). Sound doctrine is a rare commodity in this world. Don’t take it for granted. And appreciate those who have the courage to teach it, proclaim it, and entrust it to faithful men in an increasingly hostile world.

 

 

God’s Grace

Man in general is a cantankerous, "ornery critter." Every family is a rebellious house; most are stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears; every generation is perverted and wicked. It’s only by God’s grace He didn’t torch the whole works off right from the beginning, and just forget about man. "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8). And the Lord has given the rest of us opportunity to find favor in His eyes also, through Jesus Christ.

But even those who come into Christ have a tendency to push God to the limit, not having left behind the fleshly nature as they ought. Listen to these warnings:

Note that the above scriptures are directed at those who are in fact Christians. There is that natural tendency to rebel at God, to "push the envelope." If you find yourself in that condition, you need to be rebuked, and to get yourself back on the right track, otherwise you are one of those who has long beforehand been marked out for condemnation. Don’t take God’s grace for granted.

The key to standing in the grace of God is our desire, if we desire to please men, and use the cover of godliness as a means of currying favor with same, in order to use them, then God has marked us out for condemnation. We need to have the heartfelt attitude of the apostle Paul, "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:8-11).

Do not take the grace of God for granted. Think about it. Appreciate it. Praise Him for it. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11,12).

 

 

The Significance of the Good Confession

"I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!" You make this statement in the process of becoming a Christian, with perhaps all the good intentions of a follower of Jesus Christ. But this world has another question ready for you: "Do you really?" And in the providence of God, He lets the world ask the question in some rough ways, "a fiery ordeal among you," He called it, "which comes upon you for your testing" (I Peter 4:12).

Before a person can be immersed into Christ, and thus be granted forgiveness of sins and the indwelling Spirit, God requires that he publicly profess his faith in Jesus as Lord. The Ethiopian, recorded in Acts 8, was required to confess his belief that Jesus was the Christ before Philip would immerse him. Thus it is written. "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Romans 10:9,10).

But what does that confession that Jesus is Lord mean?

When you are instructing someone in the Lord’s way of salvation, don’t take for granted the good confession. When you thoughtfully consider, as a Christian, what it means to hold fast the confession, or what it means to testify the good confession, don’t take it for granted. "And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I John 5:5).

 

 

Prayer

Until a person is immersed into Christ, he is separated from God by his sin. The result: God does not hear his prayers. As the Lord Himself spoke through Isaiah, "Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear" (Isaiah 59:1,2). Cornelius, a good man, and the first Gentile to obey the gospel, had prayers which ascended as a memorial to God (Acts 10:4), and a prayer - which resulted in the gospel being preached to him. But to try to pretend that God generally hears the prayers of those outside of Christ is to deny the sacrifice of Christ, and the reconciliation accomplished only through Him. Our boldness and confident access to God is only through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:12).

The Christian, however, may soon forget what a tremendous privilege it is to have the resources of heaven at his beckon call; he may lose sight of the surpassing greatness of God’s power toward us who believe; and he may take prayer for granted. Here are some major steps the follower of Christ can take in his own life to make sure that he prays earnestly every day - not just trying to get through to God on an occasional emergency basis:

Christian, don’t take prayer for granted. Recognize what an exciting privilege it is, and learn to pray as our Lord Jesus prayed.

 

 

The Power of God

Does God really have any power? A person might wonder, with oil crises, and savings and loan crises, and drought and earthquakes and hurricanes, and murder and starvation and human suffering. Does God really have any power to do anything to help people, or does a person just have to do the best he can, and praying doesn’t change circumstances at all? Teddy "Blue" Abbott, one of the cowpunchers who drove the trail herds into Montana over a hundred years ago, and married into Montana’s earliest pioneer family, said that he had attended a few revival meetings, and heard the circuit riders preach about God. But he said that he couldn’t see where God made any difference on the open range - you still had to depend upon yourself whether you lived or died (We Pointed Them North).

The apostle Paul prays, "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,

God has power - in fact, He has something called the surpassing greatness of His power - but it is power, which can only be seen with "the eyes of the heart." God, for man’s benefit, has to let suffering and death occur, so that man can understand, by contrast, life and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. With all the suffering and death brought in by sin, man still has an extremely difficult time recognizing how destructive sin is; suffering and death will continue as long as earth exists, that some might understand, and seek God’s remedy. So God’s power is more subtly demonstrated to the discerning spiritual mind. Here is how the power is defined: "These are according to the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ,

Such great power! But such little physical manifestation. Remember, our spiritual eyes need to be enlightened to see this power. And this power is toward us who believe! Don’t take it for granted. I pray, then, that you will "be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16).

 

 

The Joy of Forgiveness

It may surprise you (and I hope it won’t) that there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ. When any person on the face of the earth believes that Jesus is risen from the dead, when he is willing to repent, when he confesses that Jesus is Lord, and when he is immersed by Jesus’ authority for the forgiveness of sins, he receives forgiveness of sins.

Correspondingly, there is joy in that forgiveness. But there is joy only if certain points are recognized in the mind of the individual:

The Christian, then, who confesses his sin to God, and has confidence through what is written that God is faithful and righteous to forgive him his sin, is conscious of the joy of fellowship with God. As Peter says concerning Jesus, the One who came to save us from our sins, "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" (I Peter 1:8,9).

 

 

"In Faith" rather than "Under Law"

The law, said the apostle Peter, was a "yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear" (Acts 15:10). "The Law," said the writer of Hebrews, "made nothing perfect" (Hebrews 7:19). In fact, it was set aside because of its weakness and uselessness.

But multitudes of church leaders the world over put God to the test by trying to put the disciples under the yoke of law. In a vain effort to produce external holiness in their congregations, they attach their disciples to a failed system, to a ministry, which can cause nothing but death. If you have to submit to decrees such as "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch," in order to have some appearance of holiness in your life, you have demonstrated that you are still in slavery to the elementary principles of the world, and do not have the basic maturity required to be a son of God.

"Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith ? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:2,3). It is clear that faith produces results, which the Law could never accomplish. So how does faith produce fruit?

The Law, which required outward conformity, failed. Faith, which produces the image of Christ in the inner man, succeeds.

Don’t take faith for granted. Many kings, prophets, and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it. For thousands of years, men labored under law, and those who were declared righteous could only hope that somehow God would justify them, as they were conscious that the yoke of law condemned them.

Don’t take the grace of faith for granted. "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God" (I Peter 2:16). "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" (Galatians 5:13). "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).

Keep your eyes on Christ, on things above, not on the things of this earth. Don’t take faith for granted.

 

 

The Blessed Hope

When hope dies, the man dies. Without hope, there is no motivation. In the economic realm, without hope of profit there is no reason to produce. Without hope, a woman’s affection for her husband slowly dies. Even in the gospel, "the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops" (I Corinthians 9:10).

One of the sins which so easily besets the Christian is to fix his hope on any of the uncertainties of this life. Consider:

Everything in this life is shaky. Nothing in this life is solid enough to pin your hopes on.

But the Christian has a tremendous advantage. He knows that Jesus is going to return, and "the body of this humble state" conformed to the body of His glory. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:11-13).

Don’t take this blessed hope for granted. Remember that the rest of the world is without hope and without God. Keep in mind that everything in this life can be taken; yet the Christian is positively motivated by the constant hope of his resurrection at Jesus’ return. And that makes all the difference.

 

 

The Blessings of Challenge

The animal nature of man doesn’t like challenges. The flesh, it seems, would like to drift along, taking it easy. So when circumstance rears her head, showing a new wrinkle or presenting an unusual difficulty, then the carnal nature demonstrates sour attitudes, throws temper tantrums, and in general behaves like a spoiled brat.

But the Christian, praise God, has buried his carnal nature with Christ in immersion; he has laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and has put on the new self who is being renewed to the true knowledge of the risen Christ. To this perpetually new self, this new creation, the bondservant James writes: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4). The child of God needs to realize that the challenges of life really are blessings - in disguise, maybe - and he needs to overcome his fleshly nature to see them in the right light. Reflect on these points from James and the Holy Spirit:

Trials are blessings from God. Next time you are tried - sorely tried, as the expression goes - don’t take it for granted. Don’t avoid it, and don’t have a bad attitude about it. Consider it all joy, knowing that the endurance produced is your special stepping stone to the perfection you so earnestly desire.

 

 

The Multiplied Harvest

One of the great truths in the spiritual realm is stated as follows: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). This is an inexorable law - it is just as true as the law of gravity; it is just as fixed as the second law of thermodynamics. And, depending on what a man has been sowing, it can be very encouraging, or discouraging.

But the principle of the harvest is intended to be encouraging. Consider the following points connected with sowing and reaping:

We must not take this great truth for granted; whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

But there is another great aspect of sowing and reaping that we must not take for granted either. What you sow comes back to you multiplied! From one kernel of corn, you expect several ears, each with a hundred or so kernels. From one grain of wheat, you expect a head with some 15 to 30 new grains. In nature, you harvest more than you sow. God gave us the physical harvest so that we can understand that the same point is true in the realm of the spiritual harvest - what you sow comes back to you multiplied!

Our Lord Jesus used this principle in a discussion on the Golden Rule: "Give," He said, "and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38). What you give out not only comes back to you, it comes back multiplied.

Here, then, is a tremendously powerful principle from the Lord Himself. If you give encouragement, encouragement will come back to you-later-multiplied. If you give out smiles and enthusiasm, smiles and enthusiasm will come back to you-later-multiplied. If you give love, concern, or help, or praise, or truth, or any other good quality, it will come back to you - later - multiplied.

Don’t take the multiplied harvest for granted. Make it work for you, and not against you.

 

 

The Training from Discipline

When the Lord God decides to whip one of His children, He does not miss. The stripes are laid on, justly and unflinchingly; the lashes precisely placed. Hence it is written: "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful" (Hebrews 12:11).The faint-hearted Christian may decide to leave the faith when the Lord brings His hand down, but to those who endure, "afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

So many times the Christian looks at discipline from the perspective that "I get disciplined when I do something wrong." But God has a much larger view, and the training from discipline each follower of Christ receives is very valuable, and not something to be taken for granted.

We as Christians need to realize that there is a great spiritual war going on - the dragon, the serpent of old, has gone off to make war with the church of Christ. In this war, the Lord Jesus is the Commander-in-Chief, He being the Head as well as Savior of the body. To win the victories He needs to win against the forces of darkness, He needs disciplined offensive units who will move and function at His direction. These disciplined offensive units - the local congregations - must be developed through training, discipline, and direction. Their endurance must be increased. They, as platoons in the Lord’s army, must develop the teamwork and communication necessary to function as efficient units. People must be developed for each of the skill positions, as well as replacements in case of injury or death.

What I’m driving at is a very significant point: Discipline from the Lord may come, not because the Christian is doing anything wrong, but because the Lord is preparing that Christian to play a particular position as part of an effective scoring machine. It is true: "But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (I Corinthians 12:18).

Don’t take God’s discipline for granted, and don’t get angry or sulky when the discipline comes. "Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:6). Rejoice! The Lord is "whipping us into shape," preparing us for the action in the next battle to come.

 

 

The Bible as The Word of God

Foundations are critical, but not generally eye-catching. Much effort is expended in putting up a nice, brick front of the house. Long hours went into the agonizing decision as to what color the carpet should be. Drapes and furniture are all selected on the basis of comfort and color schemes. But what about the foundation? Poor old foundation - nobody looks; nobody notices, nobody cares. Until disaster strikes, that is. When the flood waters are swirling around the house, then someone wonders, "Will the foundation hold?" But by then it is too late to do anything about it; the foundation will either stand secure, or collapse.

"Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like," said Jesus. "He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard, and has not acted, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed and the ruin of that house was great" (Luke 6:46-49). The basic difference in the two houses was the foundation.

What a blessing it is to have built your life on the word of God! Don’t take the security it offers for granted.

Like a compass or gyroscope, regardless of the storms or confusion on life’s seas, the Bible stands as a blazing light, steadily pointing the right way to go. As Isaiah says to us under the new covenant, speaking (somewhat metaphorically) of the Bible, "And your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’" (Isaiah 30:21).

 

 

Lessons Children Teach Us

Assuredly God did not have to perpetuate the human race through the process of "progressively developmental progeny," better known as children. He could have used some (cloning process, or had us picked - ripe and fully developed - from a tree. But He kicks off each new generation with a squalling, helpless infant who needs to be nurtured and molded, patiently and persistently guided into the maturity of full-bloomed adulthood. And in this process, all who are involved - aunts, uncles, members of the local family of God - learn some important lessons in regard to the spiritual realm of our heavenly Father. These lessons children teach us are not to be taken for granted.

Your own children are special; they are your favorites. They have access to you at any time they really need your attention. The whole world can be put on hold while you attend to your offspring. They need, as those in your favor, special care, love, and rescuing. Similarly, Christians are those who are in the favor or grace of God, and come under that special care. "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God; and such we are" (I John 3:1). Don’t take it for granted.

 

 

The Boundaries of Our Habitation

There is a hand, which guides and governs in the affairs of men. It is the same hand which hid Moses in the cleft of the rock, and which was stretched out toward an unbelieving and unrepentant Israel. The early Christians had confidence in that hand. Listen to a portion of their prayer when the first persecution came on the church. "For truly in this city;" they said, regarding the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem, "there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to do. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus"’ (Acts 4:27-30).

There is a great need now, as the church approaches the 21st century, for Christians to be able to have the same trust in that hand as did the first century church. With former Council on Foreign Relations member and Trilateralist George Bush - now President of the U.S. - trumpeting that the "new world order" is now in place, Christians everywhere should understand that the tearing down of the Berlin Wall meant that a bigger wall, one that includes all peoples, had already been built. The savings and loan crisis continues in ever widening circles; over 1100 banks in America are in big time financial trouble, including eight major New York City banks (the collapse of any one of which would more than wipe out FDIC reserves). The drug and crime problem is increasingly rampant in a society whose morals have rotted away in the filth of humanism. Another war by the American government on the American people, as the Vietnam War, looms under the headlines of the Persian Gulf scenario. Those who in our day have taken their stand against the Lord and His Christ view their triumph as being at hand.

But listen to these words from the 64th Psalm:

They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, "Who can see them?"
They devise injustices, saying,
"We are ready with a well-concealed plot."
For the inward thought and heart of a man are deep.
But God will shoot at them with an arrow;
Suddenly they will be wounded.
So they will make him stumble;
Their own tongue is against them;
All who see will shake the head.
Then all men will fear,
And will declare the work of God,
And will consider what He has done.
The righteous man will be glad in the Lord,
and will take refuge in Him;
And all the upright in heart will glory.

There is something I do not want to take for granted. There is a God who "made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God" (Acts 17:26,27). My confidence is in Him who can shatter the opposition when He chooses to. If others squandered the legacy of freedom, I have not. If others were silent for fear, I was not. If others bent because of pressure, I did not. My time is not going to be spent in wringing my hands, and plaintively crying over a lost republic. My citizenship is in heaven; my God has sent me into the world for such a time as this. I have come to recruit soldiers into a resurrected army, and to foment a worldwide spiritual revolution. Join with me, and let God’s hand guide and govern in the affairs of men. Don’t take it for granted.

 

 

Fruitful Seasons

God is light (I John 1:5). Among other things that means "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45). Where light is, God is; and in this sense we are all His offspring, and in Him we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28).

Where God is not, all is darkness. This is why Jesus referred to hell as "the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13). It is the outer darkness because it is away from the presence of God and from the glory of His power (II Thessalonians 1:9).

Men tend to forget about God, and the omniscience of His presence. They vainly imagine that the sun was set in its place by the processes of random action. They, as superstitious pagans, somehow think that chemicals magically organized themselves upwards to produce life, that over a period of time plants spontaneously spring from the ground. The Gentile societies of the world degenerate into these pagan beliefs because they do not "see fit to acknowledge God any longer" (Romans 1:28). They do not honor Him as God, or give thanks; they become futile in their speculations and their foolish collective heart is darkened.

There is something, then, that we don’t want to take for granted. God has given us something to remind us of His presence in the world, so that we don’t lapse into paganism and forget to honor God or give thanks. Here is what Paul and Barnabas had to say to the men of Lystra who tried to offer sacrifice to them as men, thinking them to be the pagan gods of Mercury and Jupiter: "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them. And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:15-17).

Those rains and fruitful seasons, to satisfy our hearts with food and gladness, are themselves a witness of the presence of God. They are to remind us of His goodness, and by contrast make us recognize what it would be like to be without God in the outer darkness. At harvest time, take time for honoring God and for thanksgiving. Don’t take the rains and fruitful seasons - witnesses of the presence of God - for granted.

 

 

Opportunity to Turn

God loves men and women. Sometimes we wonder why, or how He could, but He does. God our Savior "desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (I Timothy 2:4). But the history of men has been one of stiff-necked rebellion. From the time of Adam and Eve, man has willingly taken the whispered suggestions of the deceiver, and has knowingly flaunted the will of God.

But God loves men and women. So He gives each of us an opportunity to turn, an opportunity not to be taken for granted. And He gives us some good reasons to turn:

Worthy is our God to receive praise and glory and honor and dominion and authority. Don’t miss the opportunity to peer beyond your own spiritual darkness to see the blazing light of Him who sits on the throne, and to be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. "For you . . . God raised up His servant [Jesus], and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways" (Acts 3:26).

 

 

Messages From Angels

Angels are messengers. Of angels, there are two kinds: those who carry God’s messages, and those who carry Satan’s messages, Of those angels who carry God’s messages, there are three kinds: the angel of Jehovah (Jesus in the Old Testament), men, and spirit beings. These spirit beings with messages from God are the ones whom we commonly think of when we think of angels, and these and their communications we must not take for granted.

But let me make one point clear. The messages from angels that we are looking for are the messages recorded in the inspired word of God. Anyone today who informs you that an angel told them this or that will lie about other things too! God’s message to man is complete; there is no need for further communications from angels of God.

Let us consider some of these communications:

From Genesis to Revelation angels brought God’s messages to men. Consider those messages carefully, then act accordingly!

 

 

Old Testament Prophecies

The Old Testament record is a history. But it is more than history; it is the illustration of people and their characters; it pounds home the lesson that men must fear and obey the Lord God of Israel, who is obviously sovereign; and it records the details for sacrifice and offering to the Most High. In the midst of all that walks the foreshadow of the Lord Jesus. More than 750 prophecies [by my count] detail Him and His kingdom in prediction and predilection, in teaching and typology, so that an exact "laser image" of Him was created in the open minds of those who studied and believed their scripture. Thus, when He appeared, those who truly looked for the salvation of Israel recognized Him, and gave Him the proper reception as the Messiah. The rest stumbled over Him, having created a false image of the Messiah in their own minds.

But let’s listen to what the writings of the New Testament arrangement have to say about those Old Testament prophecies.

Jesus and the apostles depended heavily upon what was written by the Old Testament prophets to prove their contentions. Let’s not take those great writings for granted.

 

 

God’s Handling of History

"But when the fulness of the time came," the apostle Paul states, "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law" (Galatians 4:4). God’s plan from the beginning had been to spread the message of salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit to the entire world (Genesis 12:3). But in order to do so, the world had to be properly prepared for the coming of the Messiah and the gospel, which would follow His death and resurrection. Let use note the hand of God in history, setting the stage for "the fulness of time."

God arranged history so that when Jesus came into the word, everything was perfectly prepared for the spread of His gospel.

God handles history. Don’t take it for granted, take confidence in it for the times ahead!

 

 

Jesus in the Flesh

The coming of Jesus in the flesh is much more than a babe in a manger, erroneously depicted with wise men, stars, and a "Madonna." Jesus came in the flesh to accomplish some very specific and important tasks, and to communicate some very significant points to mankind. None of these should be taken for granted.

We occasionally speak of some energetic person "really putting himself into his message" in order to communicate to his audience his perspective. Consider the above points about Jesus in the flesh, and note that "He really put Himself into His message" - including suffering and painful death - in order to communicate to mankind His true perspective. Don’t take it for granted.

 

 

Jesus’ Death on The Cross

When a businessman, or a coach, or some other leader is able to achieve two or three goals by one successful stroke, I stand in awe at the intelligence and shrewdness of the designer. Sometimes "the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light" (Luke 16:8). But when I then consider the number of things, which God accomplished through Jesus’ death on the cross, my awe is greatly magnified, and my appreciation for the intelligence of the Great Designer is deepened and I bow more strongly before His Majesty. Note some of these goals accomplished in that one master stroke:

What a great God! What great intelligence and wisdom! To have actually designed and staged the drama of Christ in the world in such a way that the parts of the epic perfectly match our inner needs. Fall before Him in praise! Glory in the cross! Don’t take Jesus’ Death for granted.

 

 

The Character of Jesus

What is character? Character is the consistent demonstration of personality strengths or weaknesses, involving all aspects of human living. The individual may be loving and caring, or he may be cruel and selfish. He may show great personal discipline, or he may be a slob. The sum of these recognizable traits - appropriately called characteristics - make up the character of the individual.

It is important to note that when we recognize another individual, his characteristics are what we recognize - a certain way of walking, of certain words or phrases in talking, a certain way of doing things or working with other people. A person’s flesh may age, or be ravaged by disease or accident, but we recognize the individual by his character.

Thus it was one evening. Peter talked six other disciples into going fishing with him (they apparently customarily did their net-fishing at night). "But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Children, you do not have any fish, do you?’"

"They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch.’ They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved [John] said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ And so when Simon Peter knew it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea" (John 21:4-7).

How did John know that it was Jesus on the beach? Note these points:

What is really significant for us is that this event occurs after Jesus’ resurrection. Even though Jesus had already transcended this life, His character remained the same. If you really want to know His character, you will have to begin by studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to understand His nature, and truly recognize His characteristics. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Don’t take it for granted.

 

 

One Blessed Hope

When hope dies, the man dies. So what hope keeps the Christian living? "There is one body, and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling" (Ephesians 4:4). There is one hope - one hope that unites all Christians, one hope that imparts perseverance to all who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, one hope which is common to all believers in Jesus, one hope which overcomes all despair and destruction for those who are in Christ Jesus. What is that one hope?

The word eagerly keeps cropping up in regard to our resurrection from the dead. Slavery, jail, wars, beatings, starvation, oppression - no matter what the circumstances, the resurrection of the body pulls the Christian onward in hope. It is the one hope of our calling. There is one hope - one hope that unites all Christians, one hope that imparts perseverance to all who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, one hope which is common to all believers in Jesus, one hope which overcomes all despair and destruction for those who are in Christ Jesus. Don’t take it for granted.

 

 

One Lord

The seven points of the unity of the Spirit are centered, appropriately enough, about the "one Lord," the Lord Jesus Christ. "For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or one earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him" (I Corinthians 8:5,6).

The whole issue of lordship is of major importance to God. Your lord is the one whom you truly obey. "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness" (Romans 6:16). It is possible to bow the knee to some modern Baal, saying, "My master." It is possible to confess the name of some modern potentate, saying, "Caesar is Lord." But for the true child of God, there is one - exclusively one - Lord.

"There is one Lord" (Ephesians 4:5). The exclusive Lordship of Jesus Christ unifies all true followers of Him as they carefully teach, preach, and practice in accordance with His word. Listen to some of His closing words: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19,20).

 

 

The One Faith

"God is not a God of confusion, but of peace" (I Corinthians 14:33). But there is a god of confusion - Satan, the father of lies and the master of misinformation. Whenever God has spoken, the serpent has hissed that God is not necessarily telling the whole truth. "You surely shall not die," were his exact words to Eve (Genesis 3:4). Thus, when God speaks of one faith, Satan whispers, "It is not reasonable for there to be just one faith."

In the face of such consistent pressure from the world to be "reasonable," God has exhorted Christians to "contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Consider these elements of "the faith" which must continuously be contended for:

There is only one faith (Ephesians 4:5). Let us in all honesty come to the unity of the faith, and not take it for granted.

 

 

 

There Is One Immersion

The Almighty has created "unity of the Spirit." The apostle Paul, writing under inspiration of this same Spirit, noted that there were seven bases upon which our unity as children of the Lord rests:

  1. One body
  2. One Spirit
  3. One hope of your calling
  4. One Lord
  5. One faith
  6. One immersion
  7. One God and Father of all

By the hand of the Lord, the one immersion is one on which all who follow the Lord must agree. Those who do not agree with the scripture on immersion are not following the Lord Jesus.

There are five immersions mentioned in the writings we call the New Testament:

Immersion

Element

Purpose

John’s immersion in water for forgiveness of sins
Immersion in fire lake of fire for judgment
Immersion in suffering suffering on behalf of the lost
Immersion in the Holy Spirit noise like violent wind, tongues like fire, speaking in foreign languages a sign for those of Jewish background; to begin church, accept Gentiles
Immersion in Jesus’ name in water for forgiveness of sins, into Christ, receive the indwelling Spirit

So which immersion would be common to all Christians? John’s immersion, the immersion of repentance, was an immersion while the Law was in effect; consequently pre-dating the new covenant. The immersion in fire is not for Christians; this is the consequence of sin, from which the gospel of Christ is to save the follower of Christ. The immersion in the Spirit only occurred twice - once to begin the church and once to open salvation to the Gentile: obviously this immersion is not for all Christians. Many Christians experience immersion in suffering and persecution; but some will pass from this life before they suffer for the gospel: this, then, is not the one common immersion. The one immersion is immersion in Jesus’ name.

Note some of these characteristics of this immersion:

It is preposterous to think a person could be saved or have the unity of the Spirit if he does not believe in the one Lord - Jesus. It is just as preposterous to think a person can be saved or have: the unity of the Spirit if he does not believe in and practice the one immersion. Don’t take it for granted.

 

 

One God and Father of All

"Hear, O Israel," the great commandment had begun, "the Lord is our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). So who is this one God? Is He Allah? Is He some inner light, or some cosmic force resident in all nature? Who is He?

There is one God and Father. Know Him, and be known by Him, through His Son. Don’t take it for granted. Be in union with all who truly call upon His name.

 

 

We Received A Spirit of Love

"God has not given us," said Paul to Timothy, "not a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and discipline" (II Timothy 1:7). The Spirit of love is contrasted to being timid, or holding back because of fear.

The type of love, agape, which is consistent with the character of God is not easily understood. God’s love is not some silly, simpering, wispy stuff driven by quixotic emotional breezes. The way, which leads to an understanding of love is rough and rocky, following the bloodstained footprints of the Christ Himself.

Note that this love is not the kind of love that a non-Christian can have. Only those indwelt by the Spirit of God can have the love of God poured out in their hearts. Anyone who is not properly immersed into Christ, and who is not performing deeds appropriate to repentance, does not have the love of God. This love is indeed the fruit of the Spirit - the result of the Spirit working in the Christian’s life through time and tribulation.

The love of God is not recognized by those who are unspiritual. "God is love," say the sacred writings; but the race of man persecuted, tortured, and crucified the embodiment of love. God’s love has to be learned before it really can be discerned.

We have received the Spirit of love. Don’t take Him for granted. It’s through Him the love of God is poured out in our hearts.

 

 

The Spirit of Power

No "fraidy-cats,"! The Christian is no timid soul. Upon his immersion into Christ, he was granted the indwelling Spirit of God, given "to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). This Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of power" (II Timothy 1:7).

These are times when men faint "from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world"’ (Luke 21:26). But the Christian is no mere man. The Christian is no timid soul. He has received the Spirit of power.

But this power is not an earthly, "might makes right" type of energy and strength. Our Lord Jesus set the stage when He instructed the apostles, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom far many" (Matthew 20:25-28). Let’s consider, then, some elements of the power to serve!

The Christian is empowered by God’s Spirit. Don’t take this for granted: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

 

 

The Spirit of Discipline

When confronted with some dark horror from the pits of the abyss, the unit in the army of God does not break rank and flee in terror. No, they continue to march in confidence, singing praises to Yahweh, knowing that Satan shortly will be crushed under their feet. They are able to march in rank victoriously because they did not receive a spirit of fear, but a Spirit of discipline (II Timothy 1:7).

For the army of the Lord to be effective, there must be two layers of discipline. Each Christian himself must exert self-control, and the local body of Christ must he able to function together as a disciplined offensive unit. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of discipline, works to produce both levels.

The American Christian tends to have a problem with discipline. He tends to be a consumer, not a soldier. He shows up for a Sunday smorgasbord, instead of for drill and instruction. But, "it is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline" (Hebrews 12:7). The child of God needs to welcome this discipline. "But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children, and not sons" (Hebrews 12:8).

The discipline comes through evangelists and church leaders. In the church in Corinth’s case, the apostle Paul wrote, "For this reason I am writing these things while absent, in order that when present I may not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not tearing down" (II Corinthians 13:10). And to Titus, evangelist for the churches on the island of Crete, "For this reason I left you on Crete, that you might set in order what remains . . ." (Titus 1:5). "Obey your leaders," says the writer of Hebrews, "and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls" (Hebrews 13:17).

Discipline is tough to take, both when it comes personally and when it comes corporately. "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). But we received the Spirit of discipline; and instead of taking it for granted, we "are disciplined for our good, that we may share His holiness" (Hebrews 12:10).

 

 

The Goal of Our Instruction

There are true goals, and there are pretended goals. The wolf in sheep’s clothing pretends to be concerned about the sheep, while his true concern is his ravenous appetite. The scripture warns of those who walk in craftiness and who adulterate the word of God. "For many walk," says Paul, "of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:18,19).

"But the goal of our instruction," says the apostle in another place, "is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (I Timothy 1:5). It is significant that these three desirable items - love and a good conscience and a sincere faith - result from the right kind of instruction. False instruction, and false instructors, will not produce them. Thus Paul adds, "For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion . . ." (I Timothy 1:6)

There are true goals, and there are pretended goals. If you, by the grace of God, have been taught the word of God by those who make it their goal for you to have love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith - if it has been their goal for you to have these true, unadulterated Biblical precepts in the life of you and your family - praise God, and appreciate those who have so ministered to you. Don’t take it for granted. Then go and spread this pure word to someone else.