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“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3: 29-21 (Peter’s sermon to the people in the temple after the lame man was healed)

This blog is part 3 of a series that explains the main revelation of the Bible, that is, the gospel of salvation that is made available to us by exercising our faith in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  In part 1, we discussed the need for salvation and the circumstances that created the need. In part 2 we defined “the Messiah”, established that the true Messiah is the Lord Jesus, and looked at the purpose and the implication of His first and second coming.  In this blog message we will put it all together and explain why the Gospel is based on placing our faith in the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, and why it is the only means of salvation.

It is time to go back to the basics of Christianity.  The church has gone off track in many areas (e.g. prosperity teaching, hyper-faith, hyper-grace, kingdom now/dominion teaching, mega churches, a focus on numbers rather than spiritual maturity, etc.) and we need to get back to God’s word and the principles that it teaches.  Taking a close look at the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a good place to start.

I once again (if you have read parts 1 & 2) remind you that the gospel in a nutshell is the following: if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (the Christ) then you will be saved. This concise version of the gospel is stated in the following verses from the gospel of John.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27

From this definition of the gospel we see 3 questions: 1) what does it mean to be saved? 2) What is “the Messiah”?  3) What does it mean to believe?  We’ll look at question 3 in this blog.

We learned from the previous two blogs that we are in need of a savior due to the sin of Adam and Eve and the curse that has come upon us, and that God the Father has sent His Son Jesus as the Messiah as a means of escaping this situation and to restore the damage that resulted from the curse.  Believing in Him requires that we now follow Him, that is, that humbly accept His forgiveness and now focus on the promises that He had provided for our future in heaven  – this is the pathway to escape from our situation and be saved. Following Him will redeem us from the penalty of the curse and from the penalty that was incurred from our own personal sins, and will give us a way to be transformed into a new, spiritual creature with the power to live free from sin, and the power to produce the fruit of the spirit in our lives.

When we say that we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, if we really believe, there will be a change in our life.  There will be a transformation that occurs.  Let’s look closer at what it means to really believe.

“What does it mean to (really) Believe?”

I would like to propose a hypothetical story to illustrate what it means to really believe in the gospel.  It goes as follows: Suppose there is a family business that specializes in locating and extracting rare materials from remote areas of the world.  The father or patriarch of the family who started the business sends one of his sons to find a rare material in a remote jungle in South America.  They agree that in a week there will be a “check in” by some means of communication.  During this first week a severe storm occurs in the jungle and all of the son’s equipment is damaged or lost and the he is left alone, unable to communicate with his father.  A few weeks pass and the son assumes that the father can’t get to him or can’t find him so he starts out on his own to find the way back.  Along his journey he encounters another man who says he knows the way back, so he decides to travel with him and follow his guidance, but he is skeptical about his ability to find the way and also about his motive.  Shortly after this, another man appears who came from his father who claims that he knows the way home.  At this point the son has 4 choices: 1) he can put his faith and trust in the man sent from his father and follow him home, 2) he can put his faith and trust in the man that he encountered in the jungle and follow him, 3) he can abandon both of them and attempt to find his own way home, or 4) he can decide to stay and survive in the jungle, making the jungle his home.  A serious problem is that he would most likely only have a few weeks to survive in the jungle due to lack of food, fresh water, and the conditions in the jungle.

It may appear obvious that the best or perhaps only choice is to believe in the man sent from his father and to follow him to safety.  Notice that choosing to follow this man would require some action.  He would have to abandon the other man’s guidance and would have to also abandon his own approach to find the way out of the jungle.

Hopefully you are getting the picture that true belief must be accompanied by some change on our part when we are in circumstances like these.  It must be more than just a mental agreement with the facts.  In other words, the man in the story couldn’t just say, “I believe you are from my father and that you know the way home,” but then not agree to follow him.

In our situation, God the father has sent Jesus as the way for us to get out of our circumstances.  Jesus referred to Himself as “the way” and “the door”, implying that He is in fact the means of escape.  Truly believing in Him requires more than mental consent.  It requires that we embrace this truth entirely, seeing that we must leave this cursed world (for now in our thoughts) and place our hopes and affections in the future that Jesus has pointed us to.

Truly believing in the Gospel requires us to change the way that we think.  It requires that we change our view of this world, and that we change the “path” that we are on in this life.  This is why the word “repent” is often combined with the exhortation to believe in the Scriptures; repent meaning to change the way that we think or to change the direction of our life.  For example, here is what Jesus said:

“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1: 14-15

The Greek word used here translated as “repent” is metanoeo meaning to change one’s mind, to think differently or afterwards, that is, to reconsider.”  For some reason, over the years the English meaning of repent seems to emphasize more a feeling of remorse rather than being focused on changing the way we think.

If we truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah than it should be apparent in our lives.  It should be reflected in our actions, the way that we live, and the direction that our life is headed in.  One critical area that should change is the focus of our hope.  The Messiah offers us hope for a future kingdom where He is King.  If we have accepted this truth and placed our faith in it, than we should have this future hope as the focus of our life.  We should not continue with our hope set on the things of this world.

A true, deep, sincere belief in the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ results in an inner change, or a conversion (as Peter mentions in his sermon in Acts 3 quoted at the start of this message). Our old view of this world must be abandoned.  The old path that we were traveling must be abandoned.  Our old way of thinking must be abandoned.  Our old hopes and dreams must be abandoned.  Faith requires that we die to all of these old ways and take on a new life making us like completely new creatures.  Like the son in our hypothetical story above, we can’t follow our own way or the ways of other men who claim to know how to get us to a better place.  No, we must follow the way of the true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The pathway of the Messiah is a spiritual one, but our old way of life is a fleshly, physical one.  The new path leads us away from this physical earth and all that this world has to offer, and leads us to a new heaven and new earth, spiritual and eternal, no longer under the curse.

God has made a promise to all who have placed their faith in the Messiah that they will be part of the new kingdom of God in heaven.  He has made a covenant that all who will turn from this world and follow His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, will be received into the new kingdom of God when Jesus returns at His second coming.  We must embrace this promise in the same way that Abraham, the father of all who have faith, had embraced the promise that God made to him.

The Scriptures say this of Abraham’s faith:

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.  And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’  Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 4: 20 – 5: 2

This is the amazing wisdom of God, that He has offered us an opportunity to be transformed in our inner man by placing our faith in His promise that was made tangible in the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and will be fulfilled in His second coming.  By placing our hope in the promise of His second coming and accepting the reconciliation that was made at His first coming, including the reality of a resurrected, immortal new body, we can shift the focus of our hearts and lives to this future promise of hope, and this causes us to be transformed from carnally (or physically) minded to spiritually minded.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, (set their minds on) the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Romans 8: 5-9

“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still  hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” Romans 8: 24-25

“And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” 2 Corinthians 4: 13-14

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21

There is no other message or promise in all of mankind that offers this opportunity for salvation as does the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Biblical text.  There is no other revelation that compares to this with a resurrected Christ who has fulfilled the prophecies of the holy prophets that were made over thousands of years.  No other message has the power to transform lives as does this gospel.  Listen to how the apostle Peter presented the gospel to the men of Israel:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by Got to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in you midst, as you yourselves also know – Him, being delivered up by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He would be held by it….This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore  being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now hear.” Acts 2: 22-24,32-33.

And later Peter says this:

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 12

I remember as a young teenager when I first turned my heart to God and began to seek Him that I wished that there was someone else who really, really believed in God and lived their life aligned with their belief.  It was my desire to live that way.  As time went on and I began to understand more and more of the message that had been revealed from God in the Scriptures, that is, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, I realized that really, really believing the Gospel required me to die to this world.  As it turns out, this is a beautiful thing because it leads to freedom from the bondage that this world has on us.  It leads to freedom from fear, stress, and anxiety.

The full picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this:  God initially created man to live in a paradise, to be in close contact and communication with Him, and to have an immortal body with eternal life (no death, to pain, no sorrows).  Our first parents, Adam and Eve, had sinned and caused a curse to come upon mankind including ejection from paradise and from the presence of God, as well as becoming mortal, facing death.  Mankind, that is the descendants of Adam and Eve, have inherited this curse.  God, in His mercy, sent a Messiah to offer a way of escape to all those who turn to Him, follow Him, and place their faith and hope in the promises that have been established by His first coming and will be realized at His second coming.

All of us who have entered into this covenant relationship with God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have put to death our old self and consider ourselves as having died with Christ on the cross with our old man being buried with Him, and now we consider our new self as having risen with Christ, as a new creation, born of the spirit, with our hearts and hopes set on the spiritual things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God the father in heaven.

We also are patiently enduring through this life until He returns as sojourners (temporary residents) the same as Abraham, the father of our faith, waited for the promises that God offered him.

Please take a fresh look at the gospel and what it means to you personally.  Get the whole picture of what we are being saved from and who the Messiah really is to us, and then exercise your faith fully to align your entire life completely with this beautiful message of hope.  The fruit of this faith will be spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and the final result will be eternal life in a new heaven and earth with the Lord Jesus.

Amen.

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“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,…” 2 Timothy 2: 8

This blog is part 2 of a series that explains the main revelation of the Bible, that is, the gospel of salvation that may be obtained from, or in, Christ Jesus the Lord.  In part 1, I discussed the need for salvation and what it means to be “saved”, in this portion I will discuss what/who is the Messiah and the implication of His coming.

I remind you that the gospel in a nutshell is the following: if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (the Christ) then you will be saved, and is stated in the following verses from the gospel of John.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27

From this definition of the gospel there arises 3 questions: 1) what does it mean to be saved? 2) What is “the Messiah”?  3) What does it mean to believe?  We’ll look at question 2 in this blog.

In part 1 we clarified what it means to be saved and the background that caused us to be in this position of having a need to be saved. In short, the sin and rebellion of our first parents in the Garden of Eden resulted in a curse upon mankind.  The Messiah was sent in response to this need with the intention of offering a means of removing the consequences including the removal of God’s judgement incurred due to man’s sin, and also the transformation of man’s fallen, carnal nature, that is, our tendency to focus on the physical world and the hopes and pleasures that this world offers.  The Messiah offers a means of removing the penalty resulting from our sins and a means of transforming us from carnal to spiritual beings (being born again of the spirit).

In order to accomplish this purpose of removing the consequences of the curse and of man’s sins, we must understand who the Messiah is, what His purpose was in coming, and how His coming impacts our lives.  We cannot place our faith and trust in someone without a complete understanding of these things.  The following is an attempt to clearly define who and what the Messiah is, why He came, and what His coming means to us, so that we can better exercise our faith in Him and in the promises of God that He represents.

 “What is the Messiah?”

The dictionary definition of the word “messiah” is “the promised and expected deliver of the Jewish people.”  According to Wikipedia, in Judaism the word “messiah” (hamashiach, meaning “the anointed one”) is often referred to as “King Messiah”, emphasizing the fact that the Messiah is to be physically descended from King David and King Solomon, and His coming will re-establish Israel and usher in the Messianic Age.  It is my understanding that much of the Jewish religious ceremonies and activities are focused on the expectation of the coming of the Messiah (and they are still looking for the messiah since they have not accepted Jesus as Messiah).

There are many prophecies concerning the promised coming of the Messiah and I would suggest that you research these prophecies for yourself.  A good source of information is the “Jews for Jesus” website (https://jewsforjesus.org/) where they have listed the many prophecies about the Messiah and the fact that these prophecies point to Jesus as fulfilling them.

In the New Testament of the Bible, the use of the Greek word for Messiah is “Christos” (or Khristos), meaning “anointed” and has been anglicized into the word “Christ” as it also appears in the Bible when it is translated to English. Any place where the word Christ is used you can substitute Messiah. We must recognize that even the title attributed to Jesus in the New Testament scriptures, i.e. The Lord Jesus Christ, acknowledges that Jesus was regarded as the Messiah by the writers of the biblical text and the Holy Spirit.

The Jews who were living during the time of the initial coming of the Lord Jesus, even His disciples, were expecting the coming of the Messiah to be with physical power, and that He would be a deliverer of the Jews from the Roman Empire and a restorer of the nation of Israel.  They had missed the fact that the Messiah must first come in humility and suffer at the hands of evil men, as was prophesied, and that He would come a second time to establish and restore the kingdom of God.  There are many prophecies regarding His first coming; here is an example from Isaiah:

“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.  Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men;” Isaiah 52-13-14

This fact of His humble coming to suffer was also confirmed by the angels who were at the empty grave when Jesus was resurrected.

“He is not here but risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” Luke 24: 6-7

And there is also this from the Lord Jesus Himself after when He appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection:

“Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ (Messiah) to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ and beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24: 25-27.

As pertaining to the Gospel, it is important to recognize that the Messiah was promised to be sent to this world by God the Father with the express purpose to remove the curse from God’s creation and restore the world to its intended state (as it was originally created to be in the Garden of Eden). The Scriptures state clearly that Jesus came to restore what was lost by the first Adam.

“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came on all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:18-19

It should be noted that when God issued the conditions of the curse, at that exact time, He first mentions the coming Messiah:

“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise you head, and you shall bruise His heel.’” Genesis 3:14-15

The following lists the multiple purposes of the coming of the promised Messiah:

  1. He is THE only begotten Son of God who had taken on human form and come to earth, and is equivalent to God as His only Son, and the physical representation of God with the stamp of His nature (remember that mankind was separated from God’s physical presence as a result of the curse and did not clearly know God’s nature and attributes).
  2. He is the Lamb of God, the Savior of mankind, offering redemption from the judgment of God that was the result of the curse. This redemption represents God’s mercy towards us, even when we were His enemy. God showed His love towards us by sending His only Begotten Son to die on our behalf.
  3. He is the first to be resurrected by God, the first born of many who will enter into glory with a resurrected, immortal body, restored from the cursed body of death and corruption, and He is alive and seated at the right hand of the Father. The curse from Adam’s sin brought death, but the free gift of redemption from Jesus Christ brought eternal life, restoring hope to all who believe.
  4. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, who will return to destroy the current earth with its associated world system, and establish a new heaven and earth where He will rule His kingdom in righteousness and justice. All authority and powers that exist will then be submitted to Him, with Him submitted to the Father. He therefore is the Lord of every believer, and so we must recognize and honor Him as such.

I would like to discuss each of the above listed items briefly with the supporting scripture, but would encourage you to research deeper.

Purpose 1 – The only begotten Son of God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1: 1-4

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1: 14

Although all of those who have entered the kingdom of God through the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, are children of God and therefore sons and daughters of God, the position of Jesus is different or special as the only begotten Son of God.

In Psalm 45 there is a clear statement about the Messiah being God:

“Your thone, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” Psalm 45: 6-7

And also, in Psalm 110, David addressed the Messiah as Lord, although He was to be a descendant of his, suggesting that David knew that the Messiah would be more than just a descendant, but that He would have an exalted position, since He would ascend into heaven and be seated at the right hand of God:

“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” Psalm 110:1

The fact that Jesus was born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit also points towards His divine origin.

Why is this important?  We must understand that Jesus came down from heaven. He was God with us!  He represented God on earth, and therefore His communications, actions, judgments, and declarations of truth were and expression of God, and were ordained by God the Father.

“Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, ‘You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.’” John 7:28-29

Jesus, as Messiah, is also the only representation of God the Father.  The Father sent Jesus on His behalf and He is the only way to be restored to the Father.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Think of the implication of this truth, that Jesus had come down to earth from heaven as a direct representation of God.  Proverbs 30 says this:

“Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?”  Proverbs 30:4

Jesus expressed to us the nature of the living God, the Creator of the universe, in human form:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Hebrews 1: 1-4

And Jesus set an example for us by humbling Himself to become a man:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery (something to be held onto to be equal) to be equal to God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2: 5-8

In short, the Messiah, Jesus, has made a way for all who believe in Him to enter into an intimate relationship with the living God.  We can communicate with Him, and we can get to know Him through His Word, the Bible, seeing in Jesus the very nature of God.  When He returns at His second coming, we will be fully restored  to a place where we will be in His physical presence, and the curse will be completely undone.

Summary of purpose 1:

  • Who was the Messiah:  The only begotten Son of God with the stamp of God’s Nature
  • Why did the Messiah come: to reveal the nature of God to mankind, since they had been rejected from God’s presence under the curse
  • What Promise did the Messiah present: the establishment of truth from God the Father, from someone who had come from heaven directly.

Purpose 2 – The Savior and Redeemer

Our need to be saved is the result of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and the resulting curse and system of sin and death that was passed down to all humans.  All mankind is guilty before God, needing a Savior to redeem them or to pay the price required for the judgment of sin to be removed from their life.  God has supplied that redemptive payment by sending His Son, Jesus, to die, or be sacrificed, as an innocent “sacrificial lamb” to pay the price for all mankind.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1: 7-14

This redemption applies to us immediately to restore our relationship with God, allowing us direct access to the Father.

“For through Him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2: 18-19

Additionally, the redeemed have their name written in the “Book of Life” so that on the day of Judgment, when we stand before God, we will be spared from the second death.

“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelations 20:15

A very high price was paid on our behalf, that is, the life of the Messiah.  We have been purchased by this payment, or redeemed.  Yet we didn’t deserve it.  We need to live our lives within this context.

Summary of purpose 2:

  • Who was the Messiah:  The Savior and Redeemer of all mankins
  • Why did the Messiah come: to remove the penalty of sin, paying the price by His suffering and death on the cross, and to restore our relationship with God the Father, now allowing us to enter into intimate communion with Him.
  • What Promise did the Messiah present: All those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be spared the second death; All those under the blood of Jesus can enter into God’s presence directly to communicate with Him.

Purpose 3 – The Resurrected Messiah

The Lord Jesus Christ was not just raised from the dead, as was Lazarus previously (who later died), but His body was transformed into a new resurrected body, from a physical body like ours to a new, resurrected, spiritual body.  No other person, throughout history, had gone through this type of transformation, nor has anyone since.  It is this new, immortal, spiritual body that is promised to all those who are truly in Christ Jesus, truly saved, and who are the true Christians.

In the 15th chapter of the book of 1st Corinthians in the Bible, the apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of the resurrection as part of the gospel.  Please read the entire chapter to get the full context.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Cor. 15: 1-8

And this later in the same chapter:

 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (died). For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” 1 Cor. 15: 20-23

This is our hope!  No other religion or alleged revelation or belief system offers this hope that has been established by an historical event, that is, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, as was witnessed by many and has changed our world as a result.

The curse of death and hell were defeated by the risen Christ Jesus!

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and the mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’” 1 Cor. 15:51-55

Summary of purpose 3:

  • Who was the Messiah:  The First and Only person who has been Resurrected
  • Why did the Messiah come: to establish our hope of a future resurrection with an immortal and eternal body.  We not can set our minds and hearts and affections on the spiritual things that await us, storing up our riches in heaven rather than on earth.
  • What Promise did the Messiah present: All those who are in Christ Jesus are citizens of Heaven and will share in the Glory of the resurrected Messiah, including the receipt of a new body.

Purpose 4 -The Messiah King

The very same Jesus who was resurrected from the dead exists today in the same body.  Remember that He ascended up into heaven and will return in the same manner.

“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,  who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ ” Acts 1: 9-11

The Lord Jesus ascended to a place of authority at the right hand of God the Father, with all things submitted to him:

“and what is the exceeding greatness of His (God the Father) power towards us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him, who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1: 19-23

Looking back also at the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians, Paul states that at the second coming of Jesus Christ the final enemies will be defeated and all things will be in literal submission to the Lord Jesus, the Son, with Him in submission to God the Father, making God the Father “all in all”.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive, but each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says “all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15: 22-28

Summary of purpose 4:

  • Who was the Messiah:  The Lord and King
  • Why did the Messiah come: to prepare for the restoration of the initially intended creation and kingdom of God. The Messiah’s first coming clarified that His first appearance would be in humility and suffering as a lamb to be slain, but His second coming would be in power and authority as the lion of Judah to restore the kingdom.
  • What Promise did the Messiah present: Upon the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the new heaven and new earth will be established and all of God’s children will have an inheritance in this kingdom

Conclusion:

We see that the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, has come to correct the damage that resulted from Adam and Eve’s rebellion and sin.  Upon His first coming, He has made a way for us to be reconciled to God the Father, and to establish in us a hope for a future in heaven.  This establishment of our hope is the means for us to be transformed internally from the carnal/fleshly attitude and mindset of this world to a spiritual way of thinking with our hearts and minds set on heaven and the things above.

We will see more clearly in the next part of this blog series about the exercising of our faith/believing has also made a way for us to be internally transformed into new creations, resulting in our becoming spiritual with the ability to walk in true love.

We eagerly await His second coming when all things will be made completely right with the kingdom of God completely restored and all enemies defeated.  In the meantime, we press on towards the prize that awaits us, with our hearts set on the promised future in heaven.

Amen.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” Romans 1:16

I recently wrote a message about the importance of knowing the truth, or more specifically, recognizing that the revelations that are contained in the Bible are absolute truth and are the standard by which all other professed truths should be measured.  The truths that I am referring to are the truths that we use to determine our world view, that is, the truths that guide our lives, determining what is right and wrong, influencing our decisions, and form the foundation of our philosophy of life or belief system.

I thought it would be important to follow that blog with a discussion of the core revelation of the Bible, which is the Gospel of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.  The books of the Old Testament of the Bible lay the ground work for the coming of the Messiah (or Christ) and the need for salvation and the books of the New Testament record the details of His coming and the purpose behind it.

It is important to also note that I am assuming that most of the readers of this blog would be considered Gentiles or non-Jews.  Therefore, I will be leaning more heavily on the Gospel as preached by Paul who was the Apostle to the Gentiles and had also received a revelation of the Gospel specifically for the Gentiles (as opposed to Peter who was the Apostle to the Jews, leader of the early disciples in Jerusalem, and who help to propagate the Gospel to the Jews).

“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11-12

“This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Ephesians 3: 1-6

I would like to start with a simple statement of the Gospel, what you might say is the Gospel in a nutshell.  It is found in an exchange between Jesus and Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, where I see a concise statement of the Gospel:

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27

In a nutshell, the Gospel message is that if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (the Christ) then you will be saved.  There are three important questions that arise from this simple message that need to be fully defined in order to get gain the proper understanding of this Gospel: 1) what does it mean to be saved? 2) What is “the Messiah”?  3) What does it mean to believe?  We’ll look at each of these separately, with this current blog – part 1 – covering the first question, “What does it mean to be saved?”, and then with subsequent blogs – parts 2 & 3 – covering the other questions.

What does it mean to be saved?

The use of the word “saved” implies that you need to be saved from something.  In order to understand this “need to be saved from something” we must first look at the background from the scriptural revelation.

The Bible explains that God had originally created man in a paradise and had intended for us to have eternal life in this paradise, in direct communication with Him, that is, physically seeing and interacting with Him in His presence.  As a result of man’s direct disobedience of God’s directives (instigated by satanic deception), man was rejected by God from the garden paradise and placed under a curse. The curse brought death to all mankind and has also made it so that all men are sinful by nature.  Additionally, we are all born into a cursed world that is separated from God’s physical presence.

Here are some Scriptures that are the source of these truths:

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying “You shall not eat of it”, Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you shall return.’” Genesis 3:17-19

Notice in the above scripture that the statement that Adam would “return to the ground” was referring to the fact that he would now die.  Up until this point Adam would have been given access to the tree of life and lived forever, but under the curse God restricted him from accessing the tree of life (the source of eternal life).

“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil, and now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove out the man and He placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24

We also know that as a result of the rebellion in the garden, that God’s enemy, Satan, has somehow gained control over this world and influences those who have not honored God, nor accepted His Messiah, and who follow the world system (course of this world) that is opposed to God’s system.

“And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath just as the others.” Ephesians 2:1-3

This current cursed world system is diametrically opposed to God’s ways and all who follow it are not of God.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all this is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2: 15-16

This information leads us to a critical truth that the Apostle Paul states in his letter to the Romans when explaining the gospel: As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve and the separation from God and curse of this world, all men who are a part of the world system (and who remain in the world system by rejecting the opportunity to come out of it through Jesus Christ) are guilty of sin and when judged by God will be the object of His wrath.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest (or evident) in (or among) them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (or divine nature, deity), so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1: 18-21

Because we were all born into this world system and have dishonored God, we are all guilty.  This is confirmed explicitly by Paul in Romans also:

“What then? Are we (Jews) better than they (the Gentiles)? Not at all.  For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.  As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no not one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks after God.  They have together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one.’” Romans 3: 9-12

And Paul again in the letter to the Galatians:

“But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:22

Now back to the question, “What does it mean to be saved?” The answer is that we need to be saved from the judgment of God, who will judge us, and if we are found guilty, He will exercise His wrath against our sin, and will send us to the second death, meaning that we will be thrown into the lake of fire, (i.e. hell).  Jesus, as the Messiah, paid the price to redeem us from this judgment so that we can be removed from the curse of death and judgment, and instead have a resurrected immortal body for eternal life.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life, and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelations 20: 11-15

All those who have accepted the redemption from the Lord Jesus Christ will have their names written in the Book of Life, and therefore will be spared the second death.

Many are confused by this answer and find it hard to accept, but we must realize that God has His reasons for what He does, much of which we cannot understand in our current position in this world.  Some of His purposes behind this truth are revealed in the scriptures, for example, by allowing all men to become entangled in sin and unable to redeem themselves on their own merits, it is impossible for any man to boast before God:

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded.” Romans 3:27

And this:

“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” Romans 4:2

And again:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8

Also we learn from the scriptures that God desires to show mercy towards all mankind so He has allowed this situation of all men being under the bondage of sin and in need of a savior/redeemer:

“For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.  Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” Romans 11: 32-33

God has sent a Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has made it known to all mankind in order that all men may receive this free gift of mercy.  There are no special talents needed, nor is there a need for a superior intellect, but all men everywhere can receive this gift of salvation from God by applying a sincere faith to what He has promised to us through Jesus Christ.

This is the end of part 1, and as I mentioned above, I will cover the remaining questions about the meaning of the Messiah (see “The Gospel of Jesus Christ Defined – Part 2) and our responsibility of applying a true and living faith to these truths, in a separate blog.  I hope this has helped you deepen your understanding of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Humble Yourself like a Child to become Great in God’s Kingdom

“Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18: 4

The life and actions of a true Christian should stand in stark contrast to the life and actions of the rest of the world.  The differences between humility and pride should be one of the more noticeable areas of distinction.  The Scriptures are clear that pride is a major evil that is present in this world.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15 – 16

The root of pride in a person is the elevated view of their own self value and self worth, beyond their true value.    Pride manifests itself when a person attempts to assert themselves based on this inflated self-view.  The Scriptures warn us against such actions or attitudes:

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12: 3

Pride is often the root cause of jealousy and envy.  For example, when someone is honored or rewarded but we think it should be us on the receiving end rather than them because we are more deserving, so we become envious or jealous, not recognizing that it is God who is in control of these circumstances.  So we see then that pride is in contention with love:

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; “ 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5

We must be aware that this pride can enter into the body of Christ, as people carry over their prideful attitudes from the world without humbling themselves.  Religious pride can be subtle and can take many forms.  It is an age old problem though, and even the Lord Jesus rebuked the religious people of His time for their pride.  In the 23rd chapter of Matthew, while harshly criticizing and rebuking the religious scribes and Pharisees, He says this about humility and pride:

“They do their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.  But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren.  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.  He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23: 5-12

Pride can potentially be manifested in any or all Christians, but it seems that those who enter into any type of leadership position are especially vulnerable.  Perhaps the various positions and the associated titles that we have adopted in our current church structure are not what God has intended. My personal conviction is that there should not be titles for positions in the church.  In the Scripture quoted above from Matthew 23, the Lord explicitly mentions the use of “rabbi” and “father” and “master”, but my opinion is that we should not just limit the restriction to those three, but rather they are just example of what should not be done, not an exhaustive list. The root of the problem is that it feeds a person’s pride!  I am convinced that this is so, and therefore I do not use titles when addressing other Christians, because I don’t want to contribute to their pride.  I have found that many are visibly upset when I don’t use their title when addressing them.  It’s pride – shame on them.

All true Christians should be working towards being humble servants towards one another.  This is where true greatness in the kingdom of heaven lies, so it should be our goal.  Don’t make it your goal to be elevated to some position with a title in the church, but rather, determine your gift  to be used in the body and allow God to open the door for you to use this gift to serve others.  The gift that you have will be something that you will be compelled or constrained to use, and God will open up a means for you to use it.  Just make sure that your pride is not a part of the motivation.  Be aware also that you can use this gift, and possibly even more effectively, without having a title associated with it.

There is a subtle point here that you may miss that I want to emphasize.  The world may see humility as something nice to have and may even recognize it as a good quality in a person, but the Lord is not just saying that this is a nice thing to have, He is saying that this is the path to greatness in His kingdom.  In other words, this is what we should set our sights upon and labor towards accomplishing.

Imagine a secular organization, and its leader speaking at a meeting with all members present, and using the humility of a small child as an illustration of how to be great within the organization.  It would never happen, but this is what Jesus did!  He is saying that humility is how you become great in His “organization”.  Here’s the full context of the Scripture from Matthew 18 quoted at the start:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ and calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew 18: 1-4

I am certain that once we have passed on from this life to the next, we will be extremely happy if we have worked towards this greatness, but if we fail to do so, we will greatly regret it.

Yes, we must “humble ourselves”; it takes an effort on our part.  We must identify and put to death any and every prideful thought.  Ask the Holy Spirit for help and use your conscience to expose the flesh.

Humbling ourselves is intertwined with our walking in the spirit and our becoming more spiritual.  As I stated above, humility is a part of love, and love is spiritual, therefore, all the things that aid in our becoming more spiritual will help with us becoming more humble.  Set your mind on the things of the spirit, store up your treasures in heaven, place your total trust and confidence in God’s power, and be anxious for nothing.

One important point is that we recognize that when God uses us, we are merely a tool in His hands.  All that is accomplished is done by Him, even more than we realize.  We should recognize that it is God who will reward us; we should not be looking for recognition or rewards from other men.  Knowing the reality that it is all of God and very little or us, will put us in our proper place. As we walk in the spirit, with our eyes seeing the role of God and His Spirit in the workings of our lives, and recognize His power and amazing abilities, then we can easily find our proper, humble place.  Lord, please help us to do so.

Amen.

 

Seek the Truth

“Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.” John 17:17 (prayer of Jesus to God the Father)

Idol Worship

Does idol worship exist today in our culture?  You may think that it exists in some foreign country where uncivilized or uninformed people still create statues or carved images that they consider to be an image of a god and they pray to it, present sacrifices to it and fall down prostrate before it to worship the image.  Certainly though, most would say that idol worship does not exist in today’s western culture.

I would propose to you that idol worship is rampant today in our western culture, but rather than a physical carved image we have invisible, mental images that we worship, and rather than falling down to worship in front of physical images, we worship and serve them in different ways, but serve them none the less.

An idol is anything that becomes a substitute for the true, living God.

In biblical days the people made physical carved idols of metal or wood that they considered to be a god, but in truth, they had no power:

“He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied.  He even warms himself and says, ‘Ah, I am warm, I have seen the fire.’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’ “  Isaiah 44: 16-17

These people believed a lie.  They somehow were deceived into thinking that this inanimate block of wood or metal had some power.  It was self-deception and foolishness.

“They do not know or understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.  And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination?  Shall I fall down before a block of wood? He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and cannot deliver his soul, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’ “ Isaiah 44: 18-20

This very same deception exists for us today!  Rather than a physical carved block of wood or molten shaped metal, we have the lie and deception in the form of a mental concept, a false theory or false view of reality that causes us to shift our attention, our affections, and our service away from the true living God.  The result is the same: God is not honored.  God is not given the proper place in our hearts.  Our thankfulness is not directed towards Him.  And just like worshiping a physical idol, it is an abomination to Him.

Truth vs. Lies

At the core of this is the difference between truth and lies.  The root problem is that a lie has been substituted for the truth. (Is there not a lie in my right hand?)  This deception results in bondage, and we must purge out the lie and replace it with the truth in order to be freed.

I want to draw your attention back to the Scripture verse quoted above from the Gospel of John, from the prayer that Jesus prayed for His disciples:

“Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.” John 17:17

The word “sanctify” in the original Greek is “hagiazo” meaning in this usage “to purify” and more specifically, the context suggests this version: “to purify internally by renewing of the soul”, and the renewing of our soul suggests that we change the way that we think or change our internal views and understandings of the truth.

The way in which we establish truth in our life is foundational.  All of our actions and decisions are based on this foundation of truth.  If what we have accepted as truth is perverted or compromised in any way, all that is built upon it will not stand firm.  As such, we need to be very much aware and cautious about what we have established as truth in our life.

Recently while riding my bicycle around my city by local fairgrounds I came across a fenced in area with a large banner over the main entrance gate entitled “Pagan Pride”. In curiosity I stopped and asked a man at the gate what it was about.  We got into a conversation during which, in an attempt to get to the root of the issue, I asked him how he determined the truth.  He replied, “Truth is what you make it to be.  You create the truth.”   Hopefully it is clear that a person’s method of determining truth is critical to their way of life.  As long as people continue to believe in lies they will continue to be in bondage to their lifestyle resulting in pain and suffering that is a product of their sin.

I want to take some time to explain my definition of truth in this context.  In general, I am not referring to the truth that men have established about our current physical surroundings like the mathematical truths (1+1=2) or laws of physics (Newton’s laws of gravity). The truth that I am referring to is what we use to establish reality; the truth that we believe and accept about our surroundings, especially about the past that has led up to and has influenced the present, and also what we believe about the future.  The truth that I am referring to has a major impact on our lives. It has an influence on who we are, on how we feel, on how we think and make decisions.

For example, if we have accepted as truth that man has corrupted the earth’s ozone layer and has caused global warming and/or severe climate change that could potentially cause catastrophic and irreversible damage in the future, than we will behave, make decisions, be happy or sad in certain circumstances as a result of accepting this truth.

I want to be very clear about this.  We must understand that the truths that we accept and believe will establish our view of reality, and this view of reality is not neutral concerning God.  Either He is included in this view or He is not. Either He is the creator of this reality or He is not.  Either He is in complete control of this reality or He is not.  Either His revealed details of the history of this reality are true or they are not.  Either His plans for the future of this reality are true or they are not.  All of God’s truth, in its entirety, must be in place, otherwise we have created a mental falsehood that is an idol and an abomination, and it will cause bondage.

God’s word is truth

How then is this truth established?  The answer to this is also found in the quoted verse from John 17: God’s word is truth.  I would add to this an adjective: God’s word is absolute truth, upon which we can build a sure foundation that will ensure freedom.

God’s word comes in two forms.  There is the word of God as has been revealed in the Bible, the Scriptures, and then there is the word of God that He speaks to us directly through His Spirit.  In the context of the truth that determines our way of life, the absolute truth of the Scriptures is by far the most critical source.  In fact, the spoken word of God from His Spirit should always be compared and weighed against the Scripture and if a conflict exists, than the Scriptures always override the direct word.

The problem with the direct communication of God’s word by His Spirit is that we are vulnerable to our own thoughts, prompted by our carnal mind or by our flesh, causing a great potential for deception.  I am not saying that we should abandon our attention to the voice of the Spirit. On the contrary, I believe that the Holy Spirit was sent to lead us into the truth and to show us clearly the truth.  I am saying that the Holy Spirit’s voice should not be a substitute for the Word of God, but rather should work in conjunction with it.

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13

The voice of the Holy Spirit will not cover the entirety of the truths that we need to establish our view of reality.  We need to seek truth from the Scriptures in order to get the full picture of reality from God’s perspective.

It is not sufficient for us to simply say that we believe that God’s word, the Bible, is the absolute truth.  We need to know and understand the content of the truth that was revealed and apply those truths to our life. We need to purge out the old lies from our past and replace them with the truth in all areas of our belief system. This process takes time and effort; it requires study and persistence.  We need to prayerfully read and study the Scriptures, under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.  Our attitude, our attention, our affections, our decisions, our goals, our happiness, all of our life should be based on the truth that we have established from the revealed Word of God. This is our spiritual worship and service to Him.

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12: 1-2

Sadly, many Christians today do not give the needed attention to the Word of God.  They instead depend on other men to garner truth.  They read books, listen to sermons, talk to other Christians, watch documentaries, none of which are bad, but they cannot replace the Holy Scriptures as the primary means of establishing the truth.

I say this of myself.  My role is to exhort you, to encourage you to continue in the truth, and to direct you to seek Him.  I don’t have the specific answers to your problems but I can direct you to the one who does – the living, all powerful and all knowing God!  No man, including myself, should be the one you look to as a source of truth.  Look to God and His Word.

I find it sad also that some would want to pick and choose what truths they want to accept from the Bible and mix them with other “truths” from various sources to establish their view of reality.  The foolishness of this, as I see it, is that we don’t fully comprehend the limits of man’s understanding of our world or the limits of our knowledge of the past.

What is reality?

The gap between what we think we know and what is the actual truth is much wider than we can perceive or what we will allow ourselves to accept. In other words, we don’t know how much we don’t know, and in many cases we don’t want to know because we want to believe what we think is true. We can’t even know the truth about the reality that is happening in the present let alone the reality that happened in the near past and especially in the distant past. We all know that when an event occurs and is witnessed by many people we get a different version of the event from each person, all of which vary greatly.  And yet we read accounts of past history as if they are completely accurate and true without the bias or misconception of the author.

Teachers teach subjects strongly influenced by their opinions and biases.  New reporters report the news interlaced with their opinions and influenced by their biases, politics and world view. Scientists publish their discoveries and research finding with strong biases.  History is written from the viewpoint of the author, whether it is from the country that they are from or from the side of the war that they fought on.  Yet we take these opinions as truth and establish our view of reality based on these views.  Do we also not see that there is a lie in our right hand?

If man is the source, it cannot be considered “absolute” truth.  Only God’s truth is absolute and unchanging.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Luke 21:33

God has revealed His word at first by using Abraham and his descendants, speaking to them through the prophets and having them meticulously record and preserve their history and writing.  He then revealed himself through His Son Jesus, the Messiah, as was witnessed by the apostles and disciples of that time and recorded in the Gospels, Luke’s record of the early church called the Book of Acts, and then the letters to the early churches, the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of men, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1: 20-21

“So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” 2 Peter 2:15-16

This is God’s revelation to mankind.  We must understand that He has preserved and protected His word.  The entire Bible is under His protection and must all be considered as authoritative.  If we can remove any part of it, then all of it becomes invalid.  In other words, if we can disqualify any single portion of the Bible from being the authoritative inspired word of God, then it opens the door for any other part of it to be disqualified. It is an all or nothing proposition. No but rather we must trust that God is all powerful and able to protect and guide the formation of His revelation to mankind, and to keep it intact throughout the ages.

We must also examine our motive for not accepting some parts of God’s revelation.  Is it because it conflicts with the desires of our flesh?  Does it cause us some pain or discomfort to implement the truths that were revealed?  Sometimes the truth hurts, but in the long run it is well worth the pain.

Years ago I overheard people talking about their plans for the future. They didn’t realize that I could hear them.  Their plans had a strong influence on my future and my happiness. Upon hearing this I was greatly upset and discouraged.  As I looked to the Lord, His Spirit spoke to me (I wrote this down) saying, “Don’t be discouraged. What you see and hear is not the reality of things. What you think in your mind is not reality. What you suppose is going to happen is not reality; only what I ordain to happen is reality. I know reality for tomorrow today. Trust in me and lean not on your own understanding.”  I can now testify that the things that I feared did not happen and in fact the opposite occurred.

Seek the Truth and Establish Reality from it

My point is that we are too quick to establish our view of reality, whether it be the overview of our world or the view of specific circumstances.  The truth is that only God really knows what is real.  Much of this reality has been revealed in His Scriptures and is available for us to use for our own lives.  How great a privilege it is to have this opportunity to access these truths that He has taken the time to establish through His prophets of old and through the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t neglect this privilege.  Don’t neglect the study of His Word.  Don’t reject parts of His Word because you don’t understand them or because you find them to be a source of pain or discomfort.

Truth is invaluable and essential to our Christian walk.  We must vehemently seek after this truth and use it to purify our inner thoughts and view of reality.  Don’t take this lightly but be committed to the pursuit of truth through the Holy Scriptures.

Once the truth is established, having applied our faith to this truth, we then attain the assurance of hope, the result of which is true love in our inner nature.  We become a new spiritual creation with love written on our heart, and able to generate the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

I leave you with these thoughts about truth from the Scriptures:

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ “ John 14:6

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,” Ephesians 6:14

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” 3 John 1:4

 

The “Five Whys” of Life (Why are We Depressed?)

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25

During the process of product development and manufacturing, it has become standard practice in the industry that when a problem occurs the process is halted and a root cause analysis is conducted to find a solution to the problem as well as to assure that the problem never occurs again in the future.  There are various methods to conduct the root cause analysis, but the most popular was introduced by Taiichi Ohno, who is known as the father of the Toyota Production System, which became Lean Manufacturing in the US.  He called the method “the Five Whys”, directing the production team to continue asking “why” five times, and after doing so, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.

Our lives are very complex and can be challenging, much like the product development process.  We are not well prepared for the challenges we face throughout our lives, as both children and adults or parents, and we can easily find ourselves in a state of despair or confusion.  I find it helpful to periodically look back at the foundation of my Christian faith and reestablish the thought process that has brought me to the conclusions I now rest upon. I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to ask “Why” five times while examining what I consider the core problem of our lives.  I feel that we can gain insight into the nature of this problem and its solution.

The first step is to define the problem. It has been my experience, and my observation, and I think that you would agree, that many people find themselves in a deep state of depression at some stage of their life, some earlier than others.  Related to this, is the lack of motivation and dissatisfaction we feel about our life.  I’m no expert about the extent of this problem, but I know of too many people who are on anti-depression medication.  I also think that many people  who are seemingly functioning normally and appear to be happy and satisfied to most onlookers, are in reality deeply dissatisfied with their life and struggle to keep themselves going every day.

This problem of depression and dissatisfaction can affect people at all stages of life, and it can occur multiple times throughout our lifetime.  It happens to rich and poor alike. Everyone has dealt with this condition at some point in their life, and has had to come up with some sort of solution, some more successfully than others, to keep them going on in their life.

Okay, so here’s the initial problem: People are depressed and dissatisfied with their life and have little or no motivation.  The next step is to ask the question, “Why are people depressed, dissatisfied and unmotivated?”

I have faced this problem myself and I have thought about it for a long time. My conclusion (my answer to “Why” number 1) is that this problem is the result of people not having a clear understanding of their purpose in life.  With no clear purpose or meaning in one’s life, all becomes vanity; all of their efforts and labor are in vain.  King Solomon said it thousands of years ago:

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher (Solomon); Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?  One generation passes away, and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever.”  Ecclesiastes 1: 2-4

By the way, one of the first songs that I had written on my guitar was related to my identifying with this feeling of vanity.  The chorus of the song states: “Is all my labor just in vain?  Can someone free me from my pain, or will my whole world just trickle down the drain?”

This problem is directly related to a person’s world view, which deals with the deeper questions of life such as, “who am I, what is my purpose, why was I born, where will I be after I die?”  Everyone must face these questions and come up with some answers that form their world view or philosophy of life.

Following this line of thinking, my analysis concludes that the next question (Why #2) is something like this: “Why do people not clearly understand their purpose in life?”

The understanding of our purpose in life is directly related to our belief about the origin of human life on earth. People have two choices with which to establish their view of human origin: the most popular in our current western culture is the idea of the universe originating from a “big bang” that occurred millions of years ago, and then life resulting from a series of evolutionary progressions that caused life to evolve from the molecular level to human beings; this is known as the theory of evolution.  The second choice considers this universe and all life on earth as being created by a superior being; this view is known as intelligent design, stating that our world was created by a master designer of superior intelligence (i.e. God).

Those who choose to believe that the theory of evolution is the true explanation for our origin, then see their purpose as being a part of the progression of the evolutionary process.   It has been my experience that the purpose resulting from evolution is too vague to contribute to the resolution of our dissatisfaction and resultant depression.  Being one in billions of people involved in a random progression of life over billions of years with no clear and definite conclusion, and supposedly controlled by an unknown “force”, results in uncertainty and confusion. The vanities of life that King Solomon referred to are still apparent and are unresolved with this view.  Nothing is new under the sun, and all thing end in vanity. This view does more to fuel our anxiety than to resolve it, and this leads to depression.

Obviously, my choice has been the latter (and hopefully yours also).  I’m convinced that the intricacies of our bodies, as well as other animals and plants, and the beauty of the world around us, did not happen as a random process; there must have been some intelligence behind their design.  There are many books and documentaries that explain this in more detail if you need to be convinced further.  One recent documentary is called “Is Genesis History?” and is available on Netflix.  Another excellent documentary is called “God of Wonders” and may be available on YouTube if you search for it, but can also be purchased on the Berean Call website. Here’s the link: https://www.thebereancall.org/.

With this knowledge about our origin being from a Divine Creator, we can now look closer at our question: “Why do people not clearly understand the purpose of their life?”  I believe there are two answers to this. The first is that they have chosen to believe in the theory of evolution as the source of all life.  Although I could pursue this further, I would rather pursue the second answer, that people have accepted the belief in a Divine Creator, since I believe that most people reading this have accepted as truth that we were created by a Divine Creator.  Although some people believe in a Divine Creator or Intelligent Designer, it appears that many still don’t understand their purpose in life, so we need to look into this further.  Many have not received the answer to this problem regarding their purpose in life from the Superior Creator God that they have come to believe in, so this is still a problem.

Following this path of reasoning, we now come to our next “why” question (Why #3): If there is a Divine Creator who has created the universe and all life that is in it, why is He silent?  Why doesn’t He reveal Himself to us and give us direction and explain why He created us and for what purpose. Why don’t we hear a voice from heaven or see this Creator God with our own eyes?

Let’s pause here to summarize our progress with the “5 why’s”:

  • Initial Problem: People are depressed and dissatisfied and unmotivated.
  • Why #1: Why are people depressed, dissatisfied and unmotivated?
    • Answer #1: They don’t understand their purpose in life.
  • Why #2: Why don’t people understand their purpose in life?
    • Answer #2: Although people believe in a Divine Creator as the origin of their life, and this would seem to be the source of finding out their purpose, they have not received a clear explanation of their purpose from their Creator.
  • Why #3: Why have people not heard clearly from their Creator about the purpose of their life?

My answer to Why #3 is that God has revealed himself in the Bible, but let’s look back to the beginning of God’s relationship with mankind.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were able to physically communicate directly with God.  They saw Him with their eyes and heard his voice with their ears.  As a result of the sin and rebellion of Adam and Eve, they were rejected from the Garden and included in this (apparently) was the end to the intimate communication that they enjoyed in the Garden.  It would seem that as part of the curse mankind has been removed from this direct interaction with their Creator.

It is clear that God in His wisdom has chosen to not reveal Himself physically to human beings in this current age after the fall of man in the Garden, but instead has chosen to reveal Himself exclusively to the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham culminating in the coming of the Messiah, who was the “Word made flesh”, or the human representation of the Creator God.  This revelation has been recorded in the Bible for all to receive, but it requires faith, that is, believing without seeing God physically.

“Jesus said to him(Thomas), ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ ” John 20: 29

This has been my personal conclusion as I have been convinced that the Biblical record from the writings of Moses to the record of the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the true representation of the Creator’s message to His creation.  We learn from the Bible that we were created in the image of God and were purposed to serve Him, to honor and glorify Him, and to bring pleasure to Him.  Included in this purpose is a special relationship where God becomes like a Father to us, and we can enter into a type of friendship with God.  Jesus came to reconcile our relationship with God so that we can enter into a direct communication with Him and become a part of His family.

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ,..” 2 Corinthians 5: 17-18

The next question that arises is why people don’t fully understand their purpose, even though we have embraced God as our creator and have recognized and believe in His revealed Word, the Bible. It seems that we become confused about our condition in this life, even though we have been reconciled to God.  The next question we may ask is “If a loving Creator as revealed in the Bible is our source of life, why is my life so hard? “  or “Why is there evil, pain, and suffering with the final condition death?”  Would you agree that this is confusing even to Christians?

Condensing this, we come to the next question – Why #4: “Why did God create us in a world where life is very difficult and ends in death?” As Christians, the answer to this should be very clear, but I am afraid that for many Christians it’s not clear or it has faded into the background and has not become a part of our thinking and world view as we walk through our life. This was the case for me for a long time.

We must look again to the Scriptures to find the answer to this.  The truth is that God did not originally intend for us to be in this world as it is today.  We should, in fact, recognize that we don’t belong here.  Adam and Eve were created in a world that had neither pain nor suffering, nor was there a need for rigorous work to survive, nor was there death.  Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, choosing to believe the serpent’s lie that they could become like God if they ate the forbidden fruit, caused a curse to come upon this entire world and the human race.  Additionally, Satan has somehow been allowed some control in this world as a result of this sin.  Legally, it seems, he has the right to influence and garner some control or authority over this world through spiritual means.

As Christians, we must recognize that we don’t belong here and as children of God we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven, or in the future heaven and earth that will be restored at the second coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  For now we are aliens and strangers on this earth, temporary residents who are just passing through on our way to a better place.  This understanding helps us to cope with the pain and suffering and evils of this present world.  Also, we look at death as a welcome event.  Paul, the Apostle, said it like this:

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3: 20-21

And this:

“For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1: 21

This truth of having a future in a new heaven and earth that will be completely different than our current cursed world system resolves the problem that was defined by King Solomon of the vanity of vanities.  As Christians we recognize that the next world that God has preserved for us will be beyond our comprehension and will be without the curse.  We will have an existence that will satisfy and complete our lives, with no negative impact.  It will be the full, abundant life that Jesus spoke about! (See John 10:10 quoted at the start)

Our final question (#5) should be this: If we have come to believe that we were created by the living God who also created the universe and all that is in it, and that He is the loving and holy God that has been revealed in the Bible.  And if we believe that this world has been cursed and placed under the control of the devil and his forces until the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we will be transformed and join in His glorified condition, then why are we depressed?  How can we be depressed if we really believe this?  Is this a reality in our lives?  Why would any hardships or trials dampen our joy in this amazing reality of eternal life with Him in a future new heaven and earth?

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

“What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 31 – 39

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” Philippians 4: 6

“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new,’ and He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’  And He said to me, ‘It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.’ ” Revelations 21: 5 – 7

Here is the final summary of the “5 Why’s” of life:

  • Initial Problem of life: People are depressed, dissatisfied and unmotivated
  • Why #1: Why are people depressed, dissatisfied and unmotivated?
    • Answer #1: They don’t understand their purpose in life.
  • Why #2: Why don’t people understand their purpose in life?
    • Answer #2: Although people believe in a Divine Creator as the origin of their life, and this would seem to be the source of finding out their purpose, they have not received a clear explanation of their purpose from their Creator.
  • Why #3: Why have people not heard clearly from their Creator about the purpose of their life?
    • Answer #3: God has revealed Himself through the Holy Scriptures and has chosen not to speak to His creation directly, but people who have accepted the Bible as God’s revelation still don’t understand their purpose and are confused about the hardships of life and a world full of evil.
  • Why #4: Why did God create us in a world where life is very difficult and evil, and that ends in death.
    • Answer #4: God did not initially intend for us to be in this world but placed a curse on this world due to the sin and rebellion of our first parents, Adam and Eve (as revealed in His Scriptures), but God in His mercy has made a way for us to be restored to His family and removed from the curse of death through the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Final Why #5: Why are Christians still depressed and dissatisfied if they have truly embraced the reality of our position in Christ and the amazing glory that we will be a part of in the future when Jesus returns?
    • Final Answer #5: If we fully accept and believe the promises of God and make them our future hope and the focus of our life, we will find joy, peace and happiness in this life, and will be able to endure the difficulties of life and the evil that exists on earth, knowing that we have a life beyond our death which will be a glorious eternity with an immortal body in a new heaven and earth.

Amen.

Do You Walk the Christian Walk?

“By this we may be sure that we are in Him: he who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” 1 John 2: 5-6

There’s an analogy that we use today for applying a test to people who claim to be something that they are not.  We say, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.” Jesus said essentially the same thing but from a different analogy when He said something along these lines: “You will know a tree by its fruit.”  Here’s the quote from Matthew:

“You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.” Matthew 7:16-17

People can claim to be followers of Christ, but the true test of Christianity is not in the words that people speak, but in their actions.  It is a good saying that “actions speak louder than words.”  Even here, though, we must also be careful to test for the right actions.  Some of us have been fooled by smiling faces and a lot of religious, ceremonial activities that equates to external fluff.  The real litmus test is a person’s actions when under the pressures and duress of life, when their real character is exposed, internally, whether they are truly walking in love.

The fruit we are looking for is love; and this is clearly indicated in the Scriptures as the true test of being a Christian.  The Epistle of 1 John is explicit on this topic.  Consider the following portions from that letter:

“He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.  He who loves his brother abides in the light and in it there is no cause for stumbling.” 1 John 2: 9-10

“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.  Do not wonder, brethren, that the world hates you.  We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren.  He who does not love remains in death.  Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3: 11 – 16

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation (atonement or satisfaction) for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.  1 John 4: 7 – 12

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” 1 John 4: 20 – 21

At this point I would like to make it clear that not only do we need to be aware of those who falsely claim to be Christians, but perhaps more importantly, we need to look to ourselves and make sure that we are continuing to produce the required fruit in our own lives.  Consider this exhortation from Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith.  Test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?  – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Cor. 13: 5

We are first and foremost responsible for our own growth in love.   We must be careful about how we judge others for in so doing we may bring a greater condemnation upon ourselves.  Jesus addressed this problem:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5

We must remember also that there is a direct correlation between walking in love and not having sin in our lives.  It’s this: if we are truly walking in love, then we will not be in sin, because sin is an offense against love.  In other words, if we have sin in our lives then it is an indication that we are not perfected in love.  All of God’s commandments and regulations that expose sin are summed up, or completely covered, in these two commandments: to love God with all of your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, to test Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ and He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’” Matthew 22: 36-40

“The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13: 8-10

Unfortunately, there is a very serious problem surrounding this situation, and that is, that we may sincerely desire to love and to be perfected in love, but we cannot just will ourselves to do this.  No matter how strong our will power and how deeply we are committed to walking in love, we will find that it is impossible to accomplish this in our own strength.

The reason for this has been revealed in the Scriptures.  I’ll sum it up like this: Love is spiritual, therefore, we must be spiritual to love.  And now we run into our next issue, to define what it means to be spiritual, for there are many who consider themselves to be spiritual, but they are not walking in love.  I therefore must be specific and say that I mean we must be spiritual in a Biblical sense, as defined in the Bible.  We must take on a spiritual nature as defined in the Bible to be the very nature of God as revealed in the life and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by God the Father for this purpose, to expose and define the very nature of God, which is one of love. The Scriptures indicate that this spirituality is an internal occurrence.  It is a mindset and involves the way that we think.

“Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’  But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2: 14-16

When we as true Christians die with Jesus Christ to this world, as symbolized by our baptism when immersed under water joining in His death, we are then raised with Him to new life as spiritual beings with our focus now on heaven and eternal life, considering ourselves to be children of the living God and as citizens of the new kingdom where Jesus is Lord and King.  When we die to this world, shifting our hope and focus towards heaven, we can then also put to death our fleshly desires that had been focused on the things of this world.  We must then continue in this work of death to our flesh and death to this world, and then focus our life towards heaven and the spiritual things.  This inner transformation (or conversion) is the key to becoming spiritual and therefore is the key to being able to walk in love.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians explains this need for us to die to this world, setting our minds on things above, and then to put to death the things in our lives that are tied to this world:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, among whom you also once walked, when you lived in these things.  But now put away also all these: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3: 1-10

It is very important that we don’t lose sight of the goal of walking in love, and that we recognize that God has made a way for us to reach this goal through the life that we have been given in Christ Jesus.  Let’s not take for granted this great privilege we have of knowing God and of being offered a promised future in heaven, sharing in His glory as His children.

Love is the goal and the Holy Spirit has explicitly defined this love for us in the Bible so that we are without excuse.  I will end with this beautiful chapter on love from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13