“…then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)
It is quite normal and understandable for us as Christians to wonder if we will know our loved ones in heaven. While there is no Scripture that deals specifically with the subject, there are several lines of reasoning that lead us to a positive conclusion.
First of all, the disciples recognized Jesus in His resurrected, glorified body. His physical appearance was unchanged. There was no mistaking that it was “this same Jesus.” This suggests that we too will have our own distinctive features in heaven, though in a glorified form. There is no suggestion that we will all look alike. When it says in 1 John 3:2 that we shall be like the Lord Jesus, it means morally like Him, i.e., forever free from sin and its consequences. But certainly we will not look like Him so as to be mistaken for Him. Never!
Second, there is no reason to believe that we will know less in heaven than we know down here. We recognize one another down here; why should it be thought strange that we should recognize each other up there? If we shall know then as we are now known, that should be decisive.
Paul expected to know the Thessalonians in heaven. He said that they would be his hope, joy and crown of rejoicing (1 Th. 2:19).
There are indications in the Bible that people have been given and will be given the ability to identify people they have never seen before. Peter, James and John recognized Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:4).
The rich man in Hades recognized Abraham (Lu. 16:24). Jesus told the Jews that they would see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God (Lu. 13:28). We are told to make friends through the wise stewardship of our money so that these friends will welcome us to the everlasting habitations (which assumes that they will recognize us as their benefactors) (Lu. 16:9).
But one word of caution should be added! While it seems clear that we will know our loved ones in heaven, we will not know them in the same relationships that existed on earth. For instance, the husband-wife relationship will no longer be in effect. That seems to be the clear meaning of the Savior’s words in Matthew 22:30, “…in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.”
“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41, 42)
Mary sat quietly at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. Martha was flustered and upset in her service, and resented the fact that Mary didn’t pitch in to help. The Lord Jesus didn’t correct Martha for her service but for the spirit in which she was doing it. Also there is a suggestion that Martha’s priorities were wrong; she shouldn’t have put service above worship.
Many of us are like Martha. We are achievers, who would rather be doing than sitting. We pride ourselves on being organized, efficient, able to accomplish. We are so preoccupied with our work that our morning Bible reading is often interrupted by the memory of sixty things that have to be done. Our prayers tend to be helter-skelter because our mind wanders from Dan to Beersheba, planning out the day. It is easy for us to resent it when others don’t grab a towel and help. We feel that everyone should be doing what we are doing.
Then there are those who are like Mary. They are lovers. Their lives exude affection for others. To them people are more important than pots and pans. One Person in particular is the Object of their affection. They are not lazy, though it might seem that way to us Marthas. It’s just that they have different priorities.
We ourselves appreciate a person who is warm and loving more than one who is coldly capable and efficient. Our hearts are captured by a child who showers us with hugs and kisses more than by one who is too busy with his toys to pay much attention to us.
Someone has well said that God is more interested in our worship than in our service; the heavenly Bridegroom is wooing a bride, not hiring a servant.
Christ never asks of us such busy labor
As leaves no time for sitting at His feet
The patient attitude of expectation
He often counts a service most complete.
Mary chose that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. May we all do the same!
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2)
Hospitality is not only a sacred duty (Be not forgetful to entertain strangers); it carries within it the promise of glorious surprises (for thereby some have entertained angels unawares).
It had started out as just another ordinary day for Abraham. Suddenly three men appeared before him as he sat by the door of his tent. The patriarch reacted in the typical middle-eastern manner—he washed their feet, arranged a cool resting place for them under a tree, went out to the herd for a calf, asked Sarah to bake some bread, then served them a sumptuous meal.
Who were these men anyway? Two of them were angels; the third was the angel of the Lord. We believe that the angel of the Lord was the Lord Jesus appearing as a Man (see Genesis 18:13 where the angel is called “the Lord”).
So Abraham entertained not only angels, he entertained the Lord Himself in one of His many preincarnate appearances. And we may have the same privilege, startling as it may seem!
How many Christian families can testify to the blessing received from entertaining godly men and women in their homes. Impressions for God have been made on children that followed them all through their lives. Zeal for the Lord has been rekindled, sorrowing hearts have been comforted, problems have been resolved. How much we owe to these “angels” whose very presence was a benediction in the home!
But it is also our incomparable privilege to have the Lord Jesus as a guest. Whenever we receive one of His people in His Name, it is the same as if we received Him (Mt. 10:40). If we really believe this, we will spend and be spent in the wonderful ministry of hospitality as never before. We will “use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. 4:9). We will treat every guest the same as we would treat Christ Himself. And our homes will be like the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany—where Jesus loved to be.
“Wilt thou not revive us again that thy people may rejoice in thee.” (Psa. 85:6)
A backslidden condition is often like cancer; we don’t know we have it. We can grow spiritually cold so gradually that we don’t realize how carnal we have actually become. Sometimes it takes a tragedy, a crisis or the voice of some prophet of God to awaken us to our desperate need. Only then can we claim God’s promise, “I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground” (Isa. 44:3).
I am in need of revival when I have lost my enthusiastic zest for the Word of God, when my prayer life has lapsed into a dull routine (or lapsed altogether), when I have left my first love. I need a fresh touch from God when I am more interested in TV programs than in the meeting of the local fellowship, when I am punctual for work but late for meetings, when I am regular at my job but spasmodic at the assembly. I need reviving when I am willing to do for dollars what I am unwilling to do for the Savior, when I spend more money on self- indulgence than I do on the work of the Lord.
We need revival when we harbor grudges, resentments, bitter feelings. When we are guilty of gossiping and backbiting. When we are unwilling to confess wrongs we have committed or to forgive others when they confess their faults to us. We need reviving when we fight like cats at home, then appear in the assembly as if all were sweetness and light. We need to be revived when we have become conformed to the world in our talk, our walk, our whole life-style. How great is our need when we are guilty of the sins of Sodom—pride, fullness of bread and prosperous ease (Ez. 16:49)!
As soon as we realize our coldness and barrenness, we can claim the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Confession is the road to revival!
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival—start the work in me.
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need.
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
J. Edwin Orr
“Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings.” (1 Th. 5:19, 20)
We usually think of quenching in connection with a fire. We quench the fire when we throw water on it. In so doing, we either douse it completely or greatly reduce its scope and effectiveness.
Fire is used in the Scriptures as a type of the Holy Spirit. He is fervent, burning, enthusiastic. When people are under the control of the Spirit, they are glowing, ardent and overflowing. We quench the Spirit when we suppress the manifestation of the Spirit in the gatherings of God’s people.
Paul says, “Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings.” The way in which he links the quenching of the Spirit with the despising of prophesyings leads us to believe that quenching has to do primarily with meetings of the local church.
We quench the Spirit when we make a man ashamed of his testimony for Christ, whether in prayer, worship or ministry of the Word. Constructive criticism is one thing, but when we carp at a man over words or nitpicking details, we are apt to discourage or stumble him in his public ministry.
We also quench the Spirit when we have services so overorganized that He is effectively in a straitjacket. If arrangements are made in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, then no one can object. But arrangements that are made on the basis of human cleverness have the effect of leaving the Holy Spirit as a Spectator instead of as the Leader.
God has given many gifts to the Church. He uses different gifts at different times. Perhaps a brother has a word of exhortation for the fellowship. If all public ministry is centralized in some other man, then the Spirit does not have liberty to bring forth the needed message at the appropriate time. This is another way of quenching the Spirit.
Finally, we quench the Spirit when we refuse His promptings in our own lives. Perhaps we are powerfully moved to minister on a certain subject but we hold back because of the fear of man. We feel impelled to lead in public prayer but remain seated because of shyness. We think of a hymn that would be especially appropriate but we lack the courage to give it out.
The net result is that the fire of the Spirit is quenched, our meetings lose their spontaneity and power, and the local body is impoverished.
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed until the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30)
Just as it is possible for us to quench the Spirit in the meetings of the church, so it is possible for us to grieve Him in our private lives.
There is a certain tenderness about the word “grieve”. We can only grieve someone who loves us. The neighborhood brats don’t grieve us, but our own naughty children do.
We hold a special place of nearness and dearness to the Holy Spirit. He loves us. He has sealed us until the day of redemption. He can be grieved by us.
But what grieves Him? Any form of sin brings sorrow to His heart. It is not by accident that Paul here calls Him the Holy Spirit. Anything that is unholy bows Him down with grief.
The exhortation “grieve not” comes in the middle of a series of sins against which we are warned. The list is not intended to be exhaustive but merely suggestive.
Lying grieves the Spirit (v. 25)—white lies, black lies, fibs, exaggerations, half-truths and shaded truths. God cannot lie and He cannot give that privilege to His people.
Anger that overflows into sin grieves the Spirit (v. 26). The only time that anger is ever justified is when it is in God’s cause. All other anger gives the devil a beachhead (v. 27).
Stealing is grievous to the Holy Spirit (v. 28), whether from mother’s purse or from our employer’s time, tools or office supplies.
Unwholesome speech grieves the Holy Spirit (v. 29). This runs the gamut from dirty, suggestive jokes to idle chatter. Our conversation should be edifying, appropriate and gracious.
Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice complete the list in chapter 4.
One of the favorite ministries of the Holy Spirit is to occupy us with the Lord Jesus Christ. But when we sin, He has to turn from this ministry in order to restore us to proper fellowship with the Lord.
But even then He is never grieved away. He never leaves us. We are sealed by Him unto the day of redemption. However, this should not be used as an excuse for carelessness but should be one of the greatest motives for holiness.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18)
Taken by themselves, the sufferings of this present time can be appalling. I think of the gruesome sufferings of the Christian martyrs. I think of what some of God’s people have had to endure in the concentration camps. What shall we say concerning the horrible sufferings associated with war? The cruel dismemberment and paralysis connected with accidents? The unspeakable pain of human bodies racked by cancer or other diseases?
And yet physical suffering isn’t the whole story. It seems at times that bodily pain is easier to bear than mental torture. Isn’t that what Solomon meant when he wrote, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?” (Prov. 18:14)? There is the suffering that comes with unfaithfulness in the marriage relationship, or with the death of a loved one, or with disappointment over a broken dream. There is the heartbreak of being forsaken, of being betrayed by a close friend. We wonder oftentimes at the ability of the human frame to endure the blows, the agonies, the crushing griefs of life.
Viewed by themselves, these sufferings are overwhelming. But when seen alongside the coming glory, they are only pinpricks. Paul says they are “not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” If the sufferings are so great, how much greater must be the glory!
In another passage, the Apostle Paul indulges in a delightful burst of spiritual imagery when he says that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). Seen on the scales, the afflictions are feather-light while the glory is infinitely heavy. Judged by the calendar, the sufferings are momentary while the glory is eternal.
When we see the Savior at the end of the journey, the sufferings of this present time will fade into insignificance.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
Esther K. Rusthoi
“…they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” (Song of Solomon 1:6b)
The brothers of the Shulamite maiden had sent her to work in the vineyard. She kept so busy tending the vines that she neglected her own vineyard, that is, her personal appearance. Her skin had become swarthy and dried, and no doubt her hair was unkempt.
There is always the danger of neglecting our own vineyard by becoming overly occupied with someone else’s. There is the peril, for instance, of becoming so engrossed with the evangelization of the world that one’s own family is lost. If God gives us children, those children are our number one mission field. When we stand before the Lord, one of the greatest joys will be to be able to say, “Behold, I and the children which God hath given me” (Heb. 2:13). Not all the accolades from appreciative audiences will compensate for the loss of our own sons and daughters.
It does seem from the Scriptures that responsibility begins at home. After Jesus had driven the demons out of Legion, He charged him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19). It often seems that the most difficult place to evangelize is in our own backyard, but that is where we should start.
Again when the Lord commissioned His disciples, He said, “…both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Begin in “Jerusalem” (your home base)!
Andrew was determined not to neglect his own vineyard. We read of him, “He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (John 1:41).
There are, no doubt, cases where a believer is faithful in seeking to win his loved ones to the Lord Jesus, and yet they persist in their unbelief. We cannot guarantee the eternal salvation of our relatives and friends. But what we must guard against is the possibility of being so preoccupied in ministering to others that we neglect our own family circle. Our own vineyard, in such cases, should have priority.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13)
No one can ever really call on the Name of the Lord without being saved. This call of desperate earnestness never goes unanswered. When we get to the end of our own resources, when we abandon all hope of saving ourselves, when we have nowhere to turn but up, if at that time we send a distress call to the Lord, He will hear and answer.
A young Sikh named Sadhu Sundar Singh determined that if he could not find peace, he would commit suicide. He prayed, “Oh God, if there is a God, reveal Thyself to me tonight.” If he didn’t get an answer in seven hours, he was going to put his head on the railroad track as the next train rushed to Lahore.
In the early hours of the morning, he had a vision of Jesus coming into his room and saying in Hindustani, “You were praying to know the right way. Why do you not take it? I am the way.”
He rushed into his father’s room and said, “I am a Christian. I can serve no one else but Jesus. Till the day I die, my life is His.”
I have never known of anyone who called on the Name of the Lord in blood-earnestness without being heard. Of course, there are those who pray to the Lord when they are in a tight spot, who promise to live for Him if He will deliver them, and who then quickly forget once the pressure has been lifted. But God knows their hearts; He knows they were only fox-hole opportunists who never made a genuine heart-commitment to Him.
The fact remains that God will always reveal Himself to the one who is desperate to find Him. In countries where the Bible is not readily available, He may do it in a vision. Elsewhere He may do it through a Scripture portion, through personal witness, through Christian literature or through the miraculous converging of circumstances. So in a real sense it is true that “he who seeks God has already found Him.” It’s that sure!
“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John 13:17)
Those who teach and preach the Christian faith should practice what they preach. They should present to the world a living example of the truth. The will of God is that the Word should become flesh in the lives of His people.
The world is more impressed by action than by talk. Wasn’t it Edgar Guest who wrote, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day”? And there is the well-known jibe, “What you are speaks so loud, I can’t hear what you say!”
It was said of one preacher that when he was in the pulpit, the people wished he would never leave it; but when he was out of the pulpit, the people wished he would never enter it again.
H. A. Ironside said, “Nothing locks the lips like the life.” In similar vein, Henry Drummond wrote, “The man is the message.” Carlyle added his testimony: “Holy living is the best argument that tells for God in an age of fact…Words have weight when they have a man behind them.” E. Stanley Jones said, “The Word has to become flesh in us before it can become power through us.” “If I preach the right thing but do not live it, I am telling an untruth about God,” said Oswald Chambers.
Of course we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who perfectly embodies what He teaches. There is absolutely no contradiction between His message and His life. When the Jews asked Him, “Who are you?” He replied, “Just what I have been claiming all along” (John 8:25 NIV). His conduct corresponded to His claims. Ours should do so increasingly.
Two brothers were doctors, one a preacher and the other an M.D. One day a troubled woman came to see the preacher, but she was not sure which of the doctors lived there. When the preacher opened the door, she asked, “Are you the doctor who preaches or the one who practices?” The question impressed him afresh with the necessity of being a living example of what he taught.
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” (Phil. 3:12)
In yesterday’s study we saw that our conduct should correspond to our creed. But in order to balance the subject we must add two postscripts.
First, we have to acknowledge that we will never fully and completely live out the truth of God as long as we are in this world. After we have done our best, we still have to say that we are unprofitable servants. But we must not use this fact to excuse failure or even mediocrity: our obligation is to continually try to close the gap between our lips and our lives.
The second consideration is this. The message is always greater than the messenger, no matter who he is. Andrew Murray said, “We who are the Lord’s servants will sooner or later have to preach words which we ourselves are unable to fulfil.” Thirty-five years after he wrote the book
Abide in Christ, he wrote, “I would like you to understand that a minister or Christian author may often be led to say more than he has experienced. I had not then (when he wrote
Abide in Christ) experienced all that I wrote of. I cannot say that I have experienced it all yet.”
The truth of God is superlative and sublime. It is so supernal that, as Guy King wrote, it “causes one to fear lest one should in any wise spoil it by touching it.” But must it go forever unheralded simply because we do not reach its loftiest summits? On the contrary we will proclaim it, even if in so doing we condemn ourselves. To whatever extent we fail to experience it ourselves, we will make it the aspiration of our hearts.
Once again we emphasize that these considerations must never be used to excuse behavior that is unworthy of the Savior. But they should keep us from unwarranted condemnation of a true man of God just because his message sometimes leaps to heights which he himself has not attained. And it should not keep us ourselves from holding back the full counsels of God, even if we have not experienced them in full. God knows our hearts. He knows whether we are practicing hypocrites or passionate aspirants.
“The battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)
If a man is a soldier of the Cross, he can expect to be attacked sooner or later. The more courageously he declares the truth of God and the more accurately he exemplifies the truth in his own life, the more he will be subjected to assault. An old Puritan said, “He that standeth near his Captain, is a sure target for the archers.”
He will be accused of wrongs he did not do. He will be savaged by gossip, slander and backbiting. He will be ostracized and ridiculed. This treatment will come from the world and, sadly enough, it may sometimes come from fellow-Christians.
At such times, it is important to remember that the battle is not ours, but God’s. And we should claim the promise of Exodus 14:14: “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” What this means is that we don’t have to defend ourselves or fight back. The Lord will vindicate us at the proper time.
F. B. Meyer wrote, “How much is lost by a word! Be still; keep quiet; if they smite thee on one check, turn the other also. Never retort. Never mind your reputation or character—they are in his hands, and you mar them by trying to retain them.”
Joseph stands out as an example of one who did not try to vindicate himself when falsely accused. He committed his cause to God, and God cleared his name and promoted him to great honor.
An aged servant of Christ testified that he had been wronged many times over the years. But he prayed in the words of Augustine, “Lord, deliver me from the lust of always vindicating myself.” He said that the Lord had never failed to justify him and to expose his accusers.
The Lord Jesus, of course, is the supreme Example. “…when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23).
This, then, is the message for today. We don’t have to defend ourselves when we are falsely accused. The battle is the Lord’s. He will fight for us. We should hold our peace.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 NASB)
We live in a day when cults are multiplying with amazing rapidity. Actually there are no new cults; they are just variations of heretical groups that sprang up in New Testament days. It is their variety that is new, not their basic tenets.
When John says that we should test the spirits, he means that we should test all teachers by the Word of God so that we can detect those that are false. There are three fundamental areas where the cults expose themselves as being counterfeits. No cult can pass all three of these tests.
Most of the cults are fatally defective in their teaching concerning the Bible. They do not accept it as the inerrant Word of God, the final revelation of God to man. They give equal authority to the writings of their own leaders. They claim new revelations from the Lord and boast of “new truth.” They publish their own translation of the Scripture which twists and perverts the truth. They accept the voice of tradition on a par with the Bible. They handle the Word of God deceitfully.
Most of the cults are heretical in their teachings concerning our Lord. They deny that He is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. They might admit that He is the Son of God, but by this they mean something less than equality with God the Father. Often they deny that Jesus is the Christ, teaching that the Christ is a divine influence that came upon the man Jesus. Often they deny the true, sinless humanity of the Savior.
A third area in which the cults stand condemned is in what they teach concerning the way of salvation. They deny that salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus alone. Every one of them teaches another gospel, namely, salvation by good works or good character.
When propagators of these cults come to our door, what should be our response? John leaves us in no doubt: “Don’t have him inside your house; don’t even greet him. For to greet such a man is to share in the evil that he is doing.” (2 John 10, 11 Phillips).
“(We) have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4:2)
On the previous page, we noted three areas in which the cults expose themselves as being untrue to the Christian faith that has been once-for-all delivered unto the saints. There are other characteristics of the cults of which we should not only be aware but which we should carefully avoid in our own Christian fellowships.
For instance, their leaders build up what we might call a personality cult, setting themselves forth as virtual messiahs and wonder-men. Men with charisma often exercise harsh, autocratic control over the laity, demanding submission and threatening dire punishment for failure to obey.
They often claim to be exclusive possessors of the truth, make prideful claims to certain distinctives, and criticize all other groups that disagree. Some claim to combine the best of other doctrines and thus to be the final word. They imply that no one can be fully happy until he is initiated into their mysteries.
They try to isolate their members from all other teachers, from all others who profess to be believers and from books written by others than their own leaders.
They often prescribe a legalistic lifestyle that becomes a system of bondage. They equate holiness with certain rituals and observances which men can do by their own strength rather than by divine life.
They exploit the people financially by a system of clever psychological manipulations. The leaders live in splendor and luxury, while many of the people are reduced to near poverty.
Many of the cults are sheep-stealers, conducting raids on other religious institutions rather than trying to reach the unchurched.
They overemphasize one doctrine or a few doctrines, completely neglecting vital areas of divine revelation.
They treat those who teach the truth as enemies. Thus Paul asked the legalistic Galatians, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).
It is unfortunate that any of these attitudes or acts should ever creep into sound Christian fellowships, but as long we are in the body, we all have to guard against them zealously.
“But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” (Mt. 9:13)
God is far more interested in how we treat other people than in how many religious ceremonies we go through. He prefers mercy to sacrifice. He places practical morality above ritual. It might seem strange to read that God doesn’t desire sacrifice, because it was He who instituted the sacrificial system in the first place. But there is no contradiction. While it is true that He ordered the people to bring sacrifices and offerings, He never intended these to take the place of justice and kindness. “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3)
The Old Testament prophets thundered out against people who observed all the proper rituals, yet who cheated and oppressed their neighbors. Isaiah told them that God was fed up with their burnt offerings and religious holidays as long as they oppressed the fatherless and widows (Isa. 1:10-17). He told them that the fast God desired was to treat their employees fairly, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor (Isa. 58:6,7). Unless their lives were right, they might as well offer a dog’s head or swines’ blood (Isa. 66:3).
Amos told the people to stop their religious observances because God would continue to hate these rituals until justice and mercy flowed like a mighty torrent (Amos 5:21-24). And Micah warned that what God wants more than ritual is reality—the reality of fairness, justice, mercy and humility (Micah 6:6-8).
In our Lord’s day, the Pharisees earned His scorn by pretending to be religious with long, public prayers while evicting widows from their homes (Mt. 23:14). They were careful to give God a tenth of the mint in their garden, but this could never take the place of justice and faith (Mt. 23:23). It is futile for us to bring our offering to the Lord if our brother has a valid grievance against us (Mt. 5:24); the gift is acceptable only after the wrong has been righted. Attending church regularly will never serve as a cover-up for dishonest business practices during the week. There is no use giving mother a box of chocolates on Mother’s Day if we treat her hatefully during the year. Or a shirt to father on Father’s Day if we do not show love and respect to him the rest of the time.
God is not fooled by externals or rituals. He sees the heart and our day-by-day behavior.
“Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” (Psa. 12:1)
Faithful people are an endangered species; they are rapidly vanishing from the human race. If David mourned their demise in his day, we often wonder how he would feel if he lived today.
When we speak of a faithful person, we mean one who is trustworthy, reliable, dependable. If he makes a promise, he keeps it. If he has a responsibility, he fulfills it. If he has honorable allegiances, he is staunchly loyal to them.
The unfaithful man makes an appointment, then either fails to keep it or is inexcusably late. He agrees to teach a Sunday School class, yet fails to arrange for a replacement when he cannot be present. You can never depend on him. His word means nothing. No wonder Solomon said, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint” (Prov. 25:19).
God is looking for faithful men and women. He wants stewards who are faithful in caring for His interests (1 Cor. 4:2). He wants teachers who are faithful in passing on the great truths of the Christian faith (2 Tim. 2:2). He wants believers who are faithful to the Lord Jesus, sharing His rejection and bearing the cross. He wants people who are uncompromisingly loyal to His inspired, inerrant, infallible Word. He wants Christians who are loyal to the local assembly, instead of wandering from church to church like religious gypsies. God wants saints who are faithful to other believers and faithful to the unsaved as well.
As in all other virtues, the Lord Jesus is our glorious example. He is the faithful and true Witness (Rev. 3:14), a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God (Heb. 2:17), faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). His words are true, His promises are unfailing and His ways are utterly dependable.
Although men might not put a high premium on faithfulness, God does. The Lord Jesus commended the faithfulness of His disciples with the words, “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me” (Lu. 22:28, 29). And the ultimate reward for faithfulness will be to hear His accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant:… enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Mt. 25:21).
“And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” (Gen. 12:3)
When God first called Abraham to be the head of His chosen earthly people, He promised to bless the friends of that nation and to curse its enemies. In the intervening centuries the Jewish people have suffered untold hostility and discrimination, but the curse of God has never been lifted on anti-Semitism.
Haman plotted the destruction of the Jewish people in Persia. He inveigled the king into signing an unalterable decree. For a while everything seemed to be moving in his favor. But then snags developed. The arch-conspirator staggered from disappointment to failure till finally he was hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, the Jew.
Failing to learn from history, Adolph Hitler was doomed to relive it. He inaugurated a vicious program to wipe out the Jews with his concentration camps, gas chambers, ovens, mass shootings. It seemed that nothing could stop him. But then the tide turned and he died ignominiously with his mistress in a Berlin bunker.
Anti-Semitism will reach its most horrendous climax during the Great Tribulation. The Jews will be delivered up to be afflicted and killed; they will be hated by all the Gentile nations. Vast numbers will be massacred. But the pogrom will be interrupted by the personal advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have persecuted His people will be destroyed; those who have befriended Christ’s Jewish brethren will enter the Kingdom.
No true believer should ever allow his soul to be tainted with a trace of anti-Semitism. His Lord, his Savior, his best and truest Friend was and is a Jew. God used the Jewish people to give and preserve the Scriptures. Although God has temporarily set aside the nation because of its rejection of the Messiah, He still loves Israel for the Fathers’ sake. No one who hates the Jews can expect the blessing of God on his life and service.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psa. 122:6). They shall also prosper who love the Jewish people.
“Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.” (2 Sam. 6:23)
David was ecstatic when he brought the ark to Jerusalem and when it was placed in the tent that he had specially prepared for it. Sensing that this was one of his greatest achievements and one of the most glorious moments in his career, the king danced before the Lord with all his might. His wife, Michal, ridiculed him for what she thought was shameful behavior. As a direct result of her critical attitude, she had no child unto the day of her death.
We learn from this that a critical spirit produces barrenness. Of course, when we say that, we are not speaking about constructive criticism. If criticism is true, we should welcome it and benefit from it. There are few friends in life who love us enough to give helpful criticism.
But destructive criticism can be devastating. It can destroy the work of God in someone’s life, and can undo the progress of years in a few minutes.
In the incident involving David, the ark represents Christ and the ark given its place in Jerusalem speaks of Christ enthroned in the human heart. When that happens, the Spirit-filled believer cannot help but express his exuberance and enthusiasm. This often stirs up the hostility of unbelievers and sometimes the scorn of other Christians. But that critical spirit inevitably leads to barrenness.
It can lead to barrenness not only in an individual life but in a local assembly as well. Take, for example, a fellowship where the young people are subjected to a continual torrent of criticism. They are taken to task for the way they dress, for their hair styles, for their public prayers, for their music. Instead of patiently training them, the leadership expects them to be instantly full-grown. Soon the young people drift away to more congenial fellowships, and the assembly is left to die on the vine.
Let us be warned by the example of Michal that censoriousness not only harms its victims but takes its revenge on the one who practices it. That revenge is spiritual barrenness.
“…as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17b)
Here is one of those New Testament truths that shocks us by its sheer audacity. We would not dare to utter the words if we did not see them in the Bible. But they are gloriously true, and we can revel and rejoice in them.
In what sense are we like Christ in this world? Our minds almost automatically think first of the ways we are not like Him. We do not share with Him the attributes of deity, such as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. We are full of sin and failure whereas He is absolutely perfect. We do not love as He loves, or forgive as He forgives.
How, then, are we like Him? The verse explains. “Herein has love been perfected with us that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, that even as he is, we also are in this world” (Darby). God’s love has so worked in our lives that we will not be terrified when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The reason for our confidence is that we have this in common with the Savior—judgment is behind us. We are like Him with respect to judgment. He bore the judgment of our sins on the Cross of Calvary and settled the sin question once for all. Because He took the punishment of our sins, we will never have to take it. We can confidently sing, “Death and judgment are behind me,/ grace and glory lie before,/ all the billows rolled o’er Jesus,/ there they spent their utmost power.” Just as judgment is forever past for Him, so it is past for us also, and we can say, “There is no condemnation,/ there is no hell for me,/ the torment and the fire,/ mine eyes shall never see./ For me there is no sentence,/ for me death has no sting:/ because the Lord who loves me/ will shield me with His wing.”
We are like Him not only with respect to judgment but also with respect to acceptance before God. We stand before God with the same favor that the Lord Jesus does, because we are in Him. “Near, so very near to God / I could not nearer be,/ for in the Person of His Son,/1 am as near as He.”
And finally, we are like Christ because we are loved by God the Father, just as Christ is. In His high-priestly prayer, the Lord Jesus said, “…thou…hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23b). Thus, it is no exaggeration for us to say, “Dear, so very dear to God,/ I could not dearer be./ The love wherewith He loves His Son,/ such is His love to me.”
So it is blessedly true that as Christ is, so are we in this world.
“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly.” (Prov. 18:24)
Even though all modern versions translate this verse differently, the King James Version enshrines the valuable truth that friendships must be cultivated. They thrive on attention but die through neglect.
An editorial in Decision Magazine said, “Friendships don’t just happen; they have to be cultivated—in short, we have to work at them. They are not built on just taking, they are built on giving. They are not just for the good times, they are for the bad times as well. We do not hide our needs from a true friend. Neither do we hold onto a friend only to have his help.”
A good friend is worth keeping. He stands by you when you are falsely accused. He commends you for whatever is praiseworthy, and is frank to point out areas that need improvement. He keeps in touch over the years, sharing your joys and sorrows.
That is important—keeping in touch. It can be done by letters, cards, phone calls, visits. But friendship is a two-way street. If I consistently fail to answer letters, I am saying that I don’t consider the friendship worth continuing. I am too busy. Or I can’t be bothered. Or I hate writing letters. Few friendships can survive on continued neglect.
Our refusal to communicate is often a form of selfishness. We are thinking of ourselves, of the time, effort and cost involved. True friendship thinks of others—how we can encourage or comfort or cheer or help; how we can minister spiritual food to them.
How much we owe to friends who have come alongside with the Spirit-given word when it was most needed! There was a time in my life when I was feeling very low over a deep disappointment in Christian service. A friend who could not have known of my discouragement wrote a cheery letter in which she quoted Isaiah 49:4, “Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.” It was just the word I needed to pick me up and set me to work again.
Charles Kingsley wrote, “Can we forget one friend,/ can we forget one face,/ which cheered us to the end,/ which nerved us for our race?/ To godlike souls, how deep our debt!/ We would not, if we could, forget.”
Most of us have only a few close friends in life. That being so, we should do all in our power to keep those friendships strong and healthy.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)
It is possible to live a long, long life as a believer and yet never learn to cast our care on the Lord. We can memorize the verse and even preach it to others, yet never really practice it in our own lives. We know theologically that God cares for us, that He is concerned with our affairs, and that He is well able to take care of the greatest anxieties we could imagine. Yet we insist on tossing and turning in our beds at night, fretting, worrying and imagining the worst.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I have a friend who faces more problems and headaches than most of us have ever known. If he had to bear them himself, he would be a spiritual basket-case. What does he do? He takes them to the Lord and leaves them there, gets up from his knees, crawls into bed, sings a few verses of a hymn, and is off to sleep in no time.
Bill Bright once said to LeRoy Eims, “LeRoy, I have found great comfort in 1 Peter 5:7. I have concluded in my own life that either I carry my burdens or Jesus does. We cannot both carry them, and I’ve decided to cast them on Him.”
Eims decided to try it. He wrote, “I went to my room and began to pray. To the best of my ability I did what Bill had said. For months I had carried a heavy knot in my stomach. I could actually feel the thing leaving. I experienced the deliverance of God. No, the problem did not go away, and hasn’t to this day. But the burden is gone. I no longer spend sleepless nights or cry myself to sleep. I can honestly face the burdens with a joyful spirit and thankfulness of heart.”
Most of us can identify with the one who wrote: “It is God’s will that I should cast/ my care on Him each day./ He also asks me not to cast/ my confidence away./ But oh! how stupidly I act/ when taken unawares,/ I cast away my confidence/ and carry all my cares.
And all the time the Savior is saying to us:
Bear not a single care thyself,
One is too much for thee.
The work is mine and mine alone.
Thy work is ‘Rest in Me.’
“Behold, Lord…if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)
As soon as Zacchaeus had opened his heart to the Lord Jesus, a divine instinct told him that he should make restitution for the past. It might sound from the text that there was a question whether he had ever cheated anyone, but it is reasonable to believe that the “if” really means “since” in the case of this rich tax collector. He had gotten money dishonestly, he knew it, and he was determined to do something about it.
Restitution is good Bible doctrine and good Bible practice. When we are converted, we should restore to the rightful owner things we have taken wrongfully. Salvation doesn’t relieve a person from making right the wrongs of the past. If money was stolen before salvation, a true sense of the grace of God requires that this money be repaid. Even legitimate debts contracted during one’s unconverted days are not cancelled by the new birth.
Years ago, when hundreds of people were saved in Belfast under the preaching of W. P. Nicholson, the local factories had to build huge sheds to hold the stolen tools that were returned by the new converts.
Mammoth warehouses would be needed in this country to house the loot taken from the Armed Services alone. To say nothing of the steady leak of tools, supplies and merchandise that flows illegally from factories, offices and stores.
Ideally, when restitution is made by a believer, it should be done in the Name of the Lord Jesus. For example, “I stole these tools when I worked for you years ago, but I was saved recently and my life has been transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ. He has put it on my heart to return the tools and to ask your forgiveness.” In this way, the glory goes to the Savior, where it belongs.
There are circumstances where, as a matter of Christian testimony, interest should be paid on money that was stolen. The trespass offering in the Old Testament foreshadowed this. It required the payment of damages plus one-fifth.
Admittedly, there are situations where, because of the passing of time or because of changed conditions, it is no longer possible to make restitution. The Lord knows about this. If the sin is confessed, He accepts the sincere desire for the actual act—but only in those cases where restitution is impossible.
“…they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” (Acts 5:15)
The people recognized that Peter’s ministry was a ministry of power. Wherever he went, the sick were healed. No wonder the crowd wanted to get into his shadow! He wielded a tremendous influence.
Everyone of us casts a shadow. Inevitably we influence the lives of those we contact. Herman Melville wrote: “We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”
You are writing a gospel,/ a chapter each day,/ by the deeds that you do,/ by the words that you say./ Men read what you write,/ Whether faithless or true./ Say! What is the gospel/ according to you?
When asked which of the gospels was his favorite, one man answered, “The gospel according to my mother.” And John Wesley once said, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians of England.”
It is sobering to realize that someone looks at each one of us and thinks, “That’s just what a Christian should be.” It may be a son or daughter, a friend or neighbor, a teacher or student. You are his hero, his model, his ideal. He watches you more closely than you think. Your business life, your church life, your family life, your prayer life—all these set the pattern for him to imitate. He wants your shadow to overshadow him.
Generally we think that shadows are nothings. But the spiritual shadow we cast is something real. Therefore we must ask ourselves this question: When to the last great reckoning/ the lives I meet must go,/ Shall this wee, fleeting touch of mine/have added joy or woe?/ Shall He who looks their records o’er -/of name and time and place -/ Say “Here a blessed influence came”/ or “Here is evil’s trace”? (Strickland Gillilan).
Robert G. Lee wrote: “You can no more prevent what you are, what you say, and what you do from affecting other people than you can prevent your body from casting a shadow in sunlight. What you are within you shows without, with no ambiguous expression. You exert an influence which mere language and strong persuasion are feeble to express.”
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Rom. 14:5)
The word “alike” should be omitted from this verse; it was added by the translators. It should read, “another esteemeth every day/’ that is, he looks upon every day as sacred.
To Jews, living under law, the Sabbath or seventh day was especially sacred. The law forbade labor on that day and restricted travel. Additional offerings were required.
Christians, living under grace, are never commanded to keep the Sabbath. To them all days are sacred, even though they believe that there is a principle in the Word of one day of rest in seven. They cannot be condemned for failing to keep the Sabbath (Col. 2:16).
The first day of the week, that is, the Lord’s Day, stands out in the New Testament for several reasons. The Lord Jesus arose on that day (John 20:1). After His resurrection He met with His disciples on two successive Sundays (John 20:19, 26). The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost on the first day; Pentecost occurred seven Sundays after the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:15,16; Acts 2:1), which symbolizes Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). Hie disciples gathered to break bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). And Paul gave instructions to the Corinthians to take a special offering on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1, 2). However, it is not a day of special obligation, like the Sabbath, but a day of special privilege. Because we are released from our normal employment on Sunday, we are able to devote it to the worship and service of our Lord in a way we are not able to devote the other days.
While we have liberty to regard all days as equally sacred, we do not have liberty to do anything on Sunday that might stumble others. If working around the house, repairing the car or playing football would stumble a brother, then we should forego what we might consider to be a legitimate right. As Paul said, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13).
Jews under law had their day of rest at the end of a week of work. Christians under grace begin their week with a day of rest, because Christ has finished the work of redemption.
C. I. Scofield pointed out that the true character of the Lord’s Day is illustrated by the way our Lord used it: “He comforted weeping Mary; walked seven miles with two perplexed disciples, giving a Bible reading by the way; sent messages to other disciples; had a private interview with backslidden Peter; and imparted the Holy Spirit to the men in the upper chamber.”
“And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.” (Gen. 29:31)
There is a law of compensation in life. According to that law, people who are deficient in one respect are given some counterbalancing benefit in another. The law prevents anyone from having everything. What one person lacks in beauty, she may make up for in practical wisdom. A man who is not well-coordinated in athletics may have a better disposition than if he were. Poets are not always practical, and artists are not always good managers of their finances.
When God saw that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, He caused Leah to be more prolific. Years later the law of compensation worked in the same way with Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah, but Peninnah had children and Hannah did not (1 Sam. 1:1-6).
Though Fanny Crosby did not have the gift of sight, she had the gift of song to a superlative degree. Her hymns are one of the Church’s great legacies. Alexander Crudens suffered from severe depression but he had the strength to produce the concordance that bears his name.
Here is a humble Christian who cannot preach for sour apples; he has no public gift at all. But he is a mechanical genius, and thankfully can keep the preacher’s car in operating condition. The preacher is hopeless in mechanics. When anything goes wrong with his car, all he can do is raise the hood, put his head under it and pray.
If someone objects that the law of compensation does not work perfectly in this life, we would have to agree. There are inequalities and injustices. But this life is not all! The last chapter has not been written. When God pulls back the curtain and lets us see the world beyond, we realize that the scores are evened and the tables turned. We hear Abraham, for example, say to the rich man, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented” (Lu. 16:25).
In the meantime, it’s good for us to take a balanced view of life. Instead of concentrating on our deficiencies, we should remember that God has given us some qualities and abilities that others who seem to be more favored do not have. This will save us from feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy and envy.
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Mt. 10:35, 36)
Our Lord is not speaking here about the direct purpose of His coming but rather about its almost inevitable result. He is saying that whenever people would follow Him, they could expect bitter opposition from their relatives and friends. In that sense, He did not come to bring peace but a sword (v. 34).
History has fulfilled the prophecy. Wherever people have turned to the living, loving Savior, they have met with abuse and hostility. They have been ridiculed, disinherited, thrown out of the home, fired from their jobs, and, in many cases, murdered.
The opposition is completely irrational. Here is a father whose son was a dope addict. But now that son has turned his back on drugs and is actively serving Christ. You’d think the father would be pleased. But no! He’s furious. He frankly admits he would rather have his son the way he was before.
Others are saved from alcoholism, from crime, from sex perversion, from the occult. They naively think that their relatives will not only be ecstatic but will want to become Christians themselves. It doesn’t work that way. The coming of the Lord Jesus brings division into the family.
To forsake the religion of one’s parents for Christ inflames the deepest passions. For instance, a family may be Jewish in name only, yet for a member of that family to become a Christian provokes violent emotional outbursts. The offender is called a renegade, a traitor, and is even associated with Hitler as an enemy of the Jews. Christian pleas and protests fall on deaf ears.
In many Muslim countries, conversion to Christ is punishable by death. The sentence is carried out not by the government but by the immediate family. The wife, for instance, may put ground glass in her husband’s food.
And yet through the bold confession of new converts and through their patient, Christ-like endurance of hatred and persecution, others come to realize the emptiness of their own lives and their own religion, and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. And so the ranks grow through opposition, and thrive through persecution.
“And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” (Ez.33:32)
One of the ironies of declaring the word of the Lord is that people are often intrigued with the speaker but not with the message that requires action on their part.
This is true with public preaching. The people admire the preacher. They remember his jokes and his illustrations. They hang on his enunciation. Like the woman who said, “I could almost weep every time my minister says that blessed word ‘Mesopotamia.’” But they are paralyzed as far as obedience is concerned. They are immunized against action. They are anesthetized by the pleasant voice.
This is a familiar syndrome to those who carry on a counseling ministry. There are some people who get a secret satisfaction out of being counseled. They thrive on being the center of attention for that brief hour or so. They enjoy the fellowship of the counselor so much that they become chronic counselees.
Presumably they have come to get advice. But they don’t really want advice. Their minds are already made up. They know what they want to do. If the counselor’s advice agrees with their own desire, then they are fortified. If not, they will reject his advice and continue on in their stubborn way.
King Herod belonged to this class of dilettantes. He used to enjoy listening to John the Baptist (Mk. 6:20) but he was a superficial dabbler. He had no intention of letting the message change his life.
Erwin Lutzer writes, “I’ve discovered that the most frustrating problem in helping those who come for counsel is simply that most people do not want to change. Of course, they are prepared to make minor adjustments - particularly if their behavior is getting them into trouble. But most of them are comfortable with their sin as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. And often they’d prefer to have God keep His activity in their lives to a minimum.”
Some counselors have developed a stratagem to bridge the gap between hearing and doing. They give the counselee a specific assignment - something that he must do before he appears for another session. This tends to eliminate those who are not serious. It prevents wasting time for them both.
It is a serious thing to reach the stage in life where we can hear God’s Word and not be moved by it. We must pray for continued sensitivity to the voice of the Lord and a readiness to perform whatever He says.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isa. 55:7)
The trembling sinner fears that God will not receive him. The penitent backslider doubts that God can ever forget. But our verse reminds us that those who return to the Lord are greeted with bounteous mercy and abundant pardon.
This is illustrated by a story that surfaces periodically over the years—a story in which the details change but the message lives on. It is about a rebellious son who left home, went to New York, lived in sin and shame, finally landed in jail. After four years in prison, he was paroled and desperately wanted to go home. But he was tortured by the fear that his father would not receive him. He couldn’t face the disappointment of being rejected.
Finally he wrote his dad giving no return address. He said that he would be on the train the following Friday. If the family wanted him, they should tie a white handkerchief on the oak tree in the front yard. If he saw no handkerchief as the train passed, he would keep going.
Now he is on the train, sullen and withdrawn, fearing the worst. As it happens, a Christian is sitting beside him. After several unsuccessful tries, the Christian finally gets him to open up and tell his story. They are now fifty miles from his home. The returning prodigal fluctuates between fear and hope. Forty miles. He thinks of the disgrace he has brought on his parents, and how he has broken their hearts. Thirty miles. The wasted years pass before his mind. Twenty miles. Ten miles. Five miles.
At last the house comes into view. He sits there stunned. The oak tree is covered with white strips of cloth, fluttering madly in the breeze. He gets up, brings down his suitcase and prepares to get off at the station.
The tree, of course, speaks of the Cross. With arms outstretched and decked with innumerable promises of pardon, it beckons the repentant sinner to come home. What a welcome to the Fathers house! What unbounded forgiveness when the wanderer returns!
“Shouldest those help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.” (2 Chron. 19:2)
King Jehoshaphat had joined wicked King Ahab in war against the Syrians. It was an unholy alliance that almost cost his life. The Syrians mistook Jehoshaphat for Ahab and were about to kill him when they realized their mistake. Although Jehoshaphat escaped death, he didn’t escape a stinging rebuke from the prophet Jehu. God is angry when His people love those who hate Him and cooperate with the ungodly.
Where could such a thing happen today? It could happen when professed evangelical Christians join with avowed liberals in great religious crusades. These liberals deny the great fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. They seek to undermine the authority of the Scriptures with their doubts and denials. Although posing as Christians, they are actually enemies of the Cross of Christ. Their god is their belly. Their glory is in their shame. They mind earthly things (see Phil. 3:18, 19). The cause of Christ cannot possibly benefit from their patronage. It can only suffer.
As the ecumenical movement gains momentum, Bible-believing Christians will face increasing pressure to close ranks with every ungodly element in Christendom. If they refuse, they will be ridiculed and denounced, and their liberties will be curtailed. Yet faithfulness to Christ will require them to walk a path of separation.
One of the unkindest cuts of all comes when real Christians are contemptuous of their brothers who refuse to work with the ungodly. It is not unknown for Christian leaders to speak with appreciation of the modernists while assailing the fundamentalists. They fawn over liberal scholarship, quote liberal writers approvingly and show a lovely tolerance of liberal heresies. But they have nothing but scornful epithets for their fundamentalist brothers who seek to maintain clear-cut lines of demarcation between the righteous and the ungodly.
To court the favor of God’s enemies or seek their help is a policy of treachery. Loyalty to Christ demands that we stand with His uncompromising followers against the foe.
“…as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. “(1 Sam. 30:24)
When David recovered the city of Ziklag from the Amalekites, some of his men did not want to share the spoil with 200 who had stayed behind at the brook Besor. David ruled that those who stayed by the supplies should share equally with those who went into the battle.
For every soldier who engages in combat, there are several who work behind the lines. In the U. S. Army in World War II, only about 30% of the troops were in combatant units. The others were support personnel, serving in such units as engineer, quartermaster, ordnance, communications, chemical, transportation and military government.
There is a parallel to this situation in the work of the Lord. Although all Christians are soldiers, not all are in the front line of battle. Not all are preachers, or evangelists, or teachers, or pastors. Not all are missionaries serving on the battle fronts of the world.
God has support personnel in His army too. There are His faithful prayer warriors who agonize daily until the tide of battle turns. There are His devoted stewards who live sacrificially so that they can send more money to the front. There are those who provide food and accommodations for those who are in face-to-face conflict with the enemy. Then think of those who type manuscripts that will one day carry the message to distant lands. Think of those who edit, translate and print Christian literature. Think of the women of excellence who minister in the home, raising sons and daughters for the service of the King. For every one in the thick of the battle, there are several others serving as support personnel.
When the rewards are passed out, those who had supportive roles will share equally with those who were acclaimed as war heroes. Those who served quietly behind the lines will share equal honors with the evangelical celebrities.
God is able to sort it all out. He can accurately measure the importance of everyone’s contribution. There will be plenty of surprises. Inconspicuous people whom we thought to be fairly unimportant will be seen to have occupied crucial positions. Without them, we ourselves would have been powerless.
“There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29, 30)
The greatest of all investments is the investment of one’s life for Jesus Christ. The important considerations in any investment are the safety of the principal and the rate of return. Judged on this basis, no investment can compare with the life that’s lived for God. The principal is absolutely safe because He is able to keep that which we have committed unto him (2 Tim. 1:12). As for the income, it boggles the mind by its immensity.
In today’s passage, the Lord Jesus promises to repay one hundredfold. That amounts to a 10,000% rate of interest—something that is unheard of in the world. But that is not all!
Those who have forsaken the comforts of a home in order to serve the Lord Christ are promised the warmth and conveniences of many homes, where they are shown the kindness of God for Jesus’ sake.
Those who forego the delights of marriage and a family, or who sever other tender earthly ties for the Gospel’s sake, are promised a worldwide family, many of whom actually become closer than blood-relatives.
Those who forsake lands are promised lands. They leave behind the privilege of owning a few acres of real estate, and gain the immeasurably greater privilege of claiming countries and even continents for the precious Name of Jesus.
They are also promised persecutions. At first this seems to be a sour note in an otherwise harmonious symphony. But Jesus includes persecutions as a positive return on one’s investment. To share the reproach of Christ is greater treasure than all the wealth of Egypt (Heb. 11:26).
Those are the dividends in this life. Then the Lord adds, “…and in the world to come eternal life.” This looks forward to eternal life in its fullness. Though eternal life itself is a gift received by faith, there will be differing capacities for enjoying it. Those who have left all to follow Jesus will share a greater degree of reward in the City Foursquare.
When we consider the transcendent returns from a life invested for God, it’s strange that more people do not participate. Investors can be extremely shrewd when it comes to stocks and bonds, yet strangely dense when it comes to the best investment of all.