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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.

As Christians, How Should We Now Live?

“Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you should do so more and more.” 1 Thess. 4: 1

This message is for Christians, and more specifically, for the subset of Bible believing Christians who adhere to the directives of the Holy Scriptures and see them as the source of truth and as an authoritative revelation from God to all Christians throughout the ages.  I personally believe that the Bible is the revealed Word of God and that all true Christians must hold to it as the sole authority and standard to measure all other proposed truths against. If you don’t agree with this or if you have some other source of truth that takes precedence over the authority of the Bible, then this message will most likely not be a benefit to you.

The Bible is more than a historical record, and its relevance is as applicable today as it was centuries ago.  Its verses were written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, the divine Holy Spirit of God was able to cause what was written to have relevance from the time it was written until the end of this age, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at His second coming.

I am stressing these points about the authority and relevance of the Scriptures because I want to look closely at the instructions that were written in the 4th chapter of 1 Thessalonians and were established by the author, the apostle Paul, as instructions for how the Thessalonians should live as converted Christian.  Again I say it – these instructions are applicable to us today also.

Paul lays out 3 areas or categories of instruction as follows: 1) holiness, 2) love of the brethren, 3) hope.  I would like to drill down into each of these areas, looking more closely at the verses and discussing their relevance for us today.  I see in these exhortations a practical direction for us to follow that will help us to live out the remainder of our Christian lives in a way that is pleasing to God, as Paul suggests.

“For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus” 1 Thess. 4: 2

Notice first that Paul had previously instructed them on these topics, possibly even multiple times. Notice also that Paul states that these instructions were given “through the Lord Jesus” meaning that they have been revealed to him by God, and have divine authority, therefore they should not be taken lightly.  Also, note that under each of these 3 categories, Paul mentions specific topics of instruction that encompass the guidelines for Christians to live their lives.   We must recognize that there are more topics that could be included than these that are mentioned, but these were the ones that Paul thought were important and relevant to the Thessalonians, and also that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write and include, so we must also see them as relevant for guidance to us today.

Holiness

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification (or being made holy)….” 1 Thess. 4: 3

The dictionary.com definition of the word sanctify is “to make holy; to set apart as sacred; to consecrate” and “to purify or free from sin”.  The original Greek word used here is hagiasmos meaning “purification, i.e. the state of purity” and also refers to the effect of this purification, that is, “the sanctification of heart and life.”  The word is translated as holiness, sanctification or consecration in today’s English versions of the Bible.

There are two ways of looking at sanctification, the first being that it requires a setting apart or separation.  For Christians, we need to be separated from the world.   Looking deeper, we must realize that the world is focused on the things of the flesh, or more specifically, focused on satisfying the strong desires and longings of our physical bodies.  As Christians we need to shift our focus from physical things offered by this world to spiritual things that have been promised to us from God through His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to approach life with an attitude that our physical life here on earth is temporary, but our future life in the kingdom of God is permanent.  We need to store up our treasures for the future life in heaven.  We are to be like pilgrims, aliens, and strangers here on earth, just passing through on our journey to our true future home.

This shift of focus is internal and changes the way that we think, resulting in a definitive, distinct difference between us and the world.  This is the separation that Paul is speaking of.  Christians are not instructed to remove themselves physically from this world but rather to recognize that they are not “of this world” and that they must not love the things of this world.

Prayer of Jesus to the Father: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17: 13-17

“Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2: 15-16

People who are in the world have their minds and hearts set on the things that this world has to offer them and this is what consumes them, demanding all of their attention and energy.   Sadly, many Christians allow their physical desires to take over their attention and focus, maybe not in their words, but in their deeds and thoughts.  A good test for this is the amount of anxiety that is in our lives – high anxiety and stress would indicate that our hearts are set on the things of this world rather than on heaven.  Examine yourself to see if you are walking in the faith with your heart set on heaven.

“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. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8: 5-6

The second way of looking at sanctification is from the idea of purity and holiness.  We need to recognize that the Lord has instructed us to be pure in our thoughts and actions.  This requires that we put to death the deeds of the flesh that we once practiced before our conversion, when we were in the world with our hearts set on pleasing ourselves and advancing our position in this world, looking for the praises of men and the pleasures and riches that this world has to offer.

Paul mentions a specific topic in his reminder to the Thessalonians:

“…that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God;”  1 Thess. 4:3-5

Paul specifically addresses here the issue of having sex outside of marriage (i.e. unchastity).  The strong physical desires that are associated with sexual activity have made sexual immorality an issue throughout the ages, and it is especially relevant today.

Consider our western culture here in America and the sexual attitude that prevails.  Almost every TV program and movie has a message that promotes sexual promiscuity or a segment that exposes sexual immorality either explicitly shown or implied.  Even some commercials are sexually explicit and promote immoral sexual activity.  Pornography is easily accessible for even the young pre-teens of our society.  Our children are being raised to think that fulfilling our sexual passions (and even in some cases sexual perversions) is normal and acceptable, and certainly not restricted to marriage.

The sexual standard set forth by our western culture is that as long as you are having sexual relations (i.e. intercourse) with one person that you “love”, your actions are acceptable; only when people have casual sex with multiple partners are they looked down.  In fact, I would say that for men the standard is even lower than for women, where multiple partners is okay as long as they are not in a “committed” relationship or married, and as long as the partners they choose are not prostitutes.

Currently there is much in the news about politicians and Hollywood celebrities who are being accused of sexual abuse.  We wonder why there are so many situations that result in rape and/or unwanted/non-consenting sexual encounters, especially where drugs and alcohol are involved – these are symptoms of the deeper problem of promoting sexual activity outside of God’s instructions. Rather than treating the symptoms, we should deal with the root of the problem by going back to God’s instructions regarding chastity, training our children in this truth.  Unfortunately, it may be too late for our society to change in this area, but we as individuals can make the necessary changes in our life and set an example for others and pass on these truths to our children (or train them in this if they are young).

As Christians we need to have a different attitude towards sexual activity.  We need to follow God’s direction and view sexual relations as something that should be limited to a married couple.  Also, as was instructed by the Lord Jesus, we must not only change our external, physical actions, but also our internal thoughts; Jesus said that lusting after a man’s wife is the same as committing adultery with her.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5: 27-28

Paul continues in Thessalonians 4 with more instructions:

“…that no man transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we have solemnly forewarned you.”   1 Thess. 4: 6

Some versions include the following translation:

“…that no man defraud his brother in business,”  1 Thess. 4:6 (alternative translation)

In the first, original translation, the key is to consider what is meant by “this matter”.  It could either mean the matter of holiness and sanctification in general, or more specifically, the matter of sexual unchastity.  In the alternate translation, we can assume that Paul intended to specifically warn against defrauding other Christians in business transactions, adding a new topic to his discussion.

Included in both translations is the idea that defrauding people is ungodly and should never be found among Christians.  We must be aware that it is very easy to clean up our external, visible actions but to leave the internal or hidden things of the heart and through-life unchecked.

The type of defraud that Paul was warning against would apply to people nowadays who attend gatherings with other Christians, but continue in sexually immoral activity (like viewing pornography, lusting in their thought life, or even worse, having secretive sexual activity like adultery or fornication).

Being dishonest in our business dealings would apply today to the many types of businesses that knowingly defraud their customers by promising things that are not delivered, or similar deceptions.  Christians should never be involved in questionable business ventures, even if they are “legal” according to the government laws, but underhanded in reality.

Notice also, that in these verses Paul exhorts his Christian brothers in the area of finding a Christian mate for marriage:

“… each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the heathen who do not know God;” 1 Thess. 4: 4-5

On this topic I must admit that I have much to learn and have been seeking the Lord to show me how this selection of a wife should occur.  I believe that our society and culture in America has moved so far from the proper view of dating, courtship, and marriage that we must get God’s redirection on this completely, removing all of our previous understanding.

Taking a wife in “holiness and honor” I believe means that we should look for a Godly character, humility, and a heart that loves the Lord as the guiding factor in our selection of our mate, and not be completely focused on sexual attraction.  Please, if you are single looking for a mate, seek God for direction and instruction in this most important decision that will impact greatly the remainder of your days.

Paul’s final warning on this topic of holiness:

“For God has not called us for uncleanness but in holiness.  Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” 1 Thess. 4: 7-8

Love

Our purpose for reading and studying the Scriptures is not so that we can claim to be Biblical scholars or to be able to quote verses from any part of the Bible, but rather, we read and study so that the Word of God will transform us; we read so that we can become lovers – lovers of God and lovers of our neighbors.

Love is the ultimate goal of the Christian and all things that we endeavor to accomplish should be related to love.  God is not interested in quantity but He wants quality.  Christian quality is measures by our ability to walk in true love as God defines it in His Word.

Paul encouragement in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 includes growing and continuing in love for the brethren (fellow Christian believers).  Again I would remind you that loving our fellow Christians is not the only area of love that is important.  The Bible instructs us that we need to love God, our neighbors, and even to love our enemies.  Paul is encouraging and supporting their existing good attributes of loving their brothers and sisters in the Lord and he exhorts them to do so even more.

“But concerning love of the brethren you have no need to have any one write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by Got to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brethren throughout Macedonia.  But we exhort you, brethren, to do so more and more,….” 1 Thess. 4: 9-10

It is interesting that Paul follows this encouragement to continue loving one another with practical instructions about their conduct.  This may at first seem unrelated to loving one another but in fact it is directly related since our actions and conduct can greatly impact other people.  Paul makes it clear in other verses of Scriptures (e.g. Romans 12) that adhering to the commandments of God’s law is equivalent to walking in love.  Therefore, our actions are an important part of walking in love.  Here’s is what follows verse 10:

“….to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.”  1 Thess. 4: 11-12

Clearly, Paul is showing that loving others is more than just feeling emotional warmth towards them.  It’s even more than helping them when in need, or more than forgiving them or feeling compassion for them.  Love also involves being fair towards others and not taking advantage of their kindness towards us.  It involves carrying our own weight and doing our part to provide for our own needs, never presuming upon the generosity of others.  True love means that we are maturing and growing as Christians, becoming strong and independent. It means that we are able to not only take care of ourselves but also to be used by the Lord to help others in need.  This too should be our goal; it should be our understanding about how to truly walk in love.

Hope

The last part to be included in Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians is his encouragement regarding our future hope in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and how we don’t need to view death like people in the world do (those without hope).

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.   For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.  For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thess. 4: 13-18

Christians need to live their lives with the understanding that death is not the end for us, and that those who die are not lost and gone forever.  Rather, there is a day that will surely come when Jesus will return and we will be transformed with new resurrected bodies, and meet with Him up in the air.  Halleluiah!

May the Lord continue to make clear to us how we should walk and to live our lives until He returns.  May He show us how to be sanctified, how to walk in love. May He make the reality of His future return even more real to us.  This is my prayer for all who read this.  Amen.

Watch and Wait for His Coming

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:13

“…so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Hebrews 9:28

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” John 14: 1-3

“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

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelations 1:7

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24: 36-44

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, 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 this 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.’ ” 1 Cor. 15: 51-54

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thess. 4: 13 to 5: 6

The above quoted scriptures are not an exhaustive list on the topic of the end times and of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (there are many more), but they are the most explicit and direct, and they are enough to remind us of the importance of this event.  As Christians, we need to continually remind ourselves that our hope is not in this world. We need to be mindful of God’s promises about the future resurrection of the dead and have our hope fully focused on heaven, watching and waiting for His return.

I recently heard an older Christian rock song entitled “I can only imagine” that was originally released back on 2001.  The song’s author had lost his father and had written the lyrics while pondering his death and what it must be like in heaven.  As I was listening to the song and thinking about the lyrics I remembered that I had come to the realization that, although it may be somewhat beneficial to imagine what heaven will be like, it is much, much more important for us to make heaven a reality in our hearts.  We need to exercise our faith to allow the reality of both the second coming of Jesus and the future existence of a new heaven and new earth under His authority and control.

Let me explain further what I see as a danger in just imagining rather than establishing the reality of these things.  The problem is that when we imagine, we usually associate what we have imagined with things that are not real.  We sometimes use our imaginations to escape reality, for example, we may imagine ourselves on a beach on a tropical island when we want to escape our current situation.  We usually then disconnect what we are imaging with the real world.  Herein lies the issue.  The reality of heaven needs to be a part of our everyday reality, not just some imaginary world that we think of sometimes.  Our natural inclination is to disconnect from what we are imagining and therefore imagining about heaven would also become a disconnected imagination rather than a very real future condition.

I know we can’t be thinking about heaven constantly, but when we do think of it, it needs to be registered in our minds as something real and the second coming of Jesus as a coming real event.

Here’s an example that may help.  All of us have had friends and loved ones pass away.  Although painful, the reality of death really hits home during these times.  We would rather not think about it or block it out, but there will be a day, an hour, a minute and second that we too will breath our last breath.  We don’t have to imagine what that day will be like, but we can allow the reality of it to enter into our hearts.  Yes, it’s real – there will be a real day and time that we will die (if the Lord does not return first).  My point is that imagining what it will be like at your funeral is not the same as allowing the reality of your death to enter into your heart.  The same applies to the reality of heaven and the reality of the second coming of the Lord Jesus.

For the person who has no faith, who either does not believe in a creator God or does not believe in the promises that God has presented to us through His Messiah, the Lord Jesus, there is no hope.  Faithless men are not only hopeless, but death is still their enemy. To them it is something to be feared and blocked out.  Death, to them, emphasizes the futility of life as they realize that all things for them are lost when they pass away.

As Christians we must not allow this mindset to overtake our thinking.  Consider the above quoted verses from the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians.  At the beginning of chapter 4 of that letter, after he had discussed his travels and other events that involved the Thessalonians in previous chapters, he continues:

“Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more.” 1 Thess. 4: 1

Here Paul is strongly urging them and attempting to incite them to action regarding what follows in his letter.  Understanding the reality of the second coming is part of what follows in chapter 4.  We need to live our lives with the understanding that death is not the end for us or for our friends and family who have died in the Lord.  The hope of our future with Jesus removes the grief and fear of death and the absurdity and futility that exists for those who have no hope.  This hope is also a great comfort for us, not only when we encounter death, but throughout our life, in all trials and afflictions.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” Romans 8: 18-19

We must recognize that it is so easy for us to get caught up in the day to day activities of our life and to allow our hope to be shifted back to something associated with this world.  We must guard against these forces that will cause us to forget our future hope and the glory that is in store for us at the second coming of Jesus.  The day of the Lord’s return is coming and is a certainty. Let’s keep it in the forefront of our minds and allow the reality of it to penetrate our consciousness, deep into our hearts.

I’ll leave you with this reminder from Peter:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3: 10-13

This World is Absurd and Futile

“Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.  What profit has a man from all his labor in which he labors under the sun?”  Ecclesiastes 1: 2-3

“All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” Ecclesiastes 1: 8

“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1: 14

According to the footnote in the New King James translation of the Bible, the word used here for “vanity” can also be translated as “absurdity, futility, frustration, nonsense, and so throughout the book [of Ecclesiastes]”.  The word is used 28 times in the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes.  In the original Hebrew, the word is “hebel”, and it means “vapor, breath, emptiness”.

The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is a difficult one to fully grasp.  Obtaining wisdom is not a quick and easy task, but it takes time and meditation to absorb the depth of these truths. I am certain that this book leaves many readers confused and tempted to just pass it off as some meaningless, outdated, musings from the Old Testament.

I submit to you that understanding the wisdom and the view of the world that Solomon puts forth in his scriptural writings is critically important.  The book of Ecclesiastes was included as part of the Holy Scriptures for a reason; it has a purpose; this is the inspired word of God and part of His revelation to mankind.  Remember also that King Solomon was, according to the Bible, the wisest man who ever lived; based on this fact alone we can’t just write off what he is saying.

At first glance, the idea that “all is vanity” or that everything in our world is empty and futile may seem contrary to popular thinking or even foolish to most people.  We must remember, though, that as Christians we need to establish our world view based on the revealed word of God, taking into account the entire overview of the history of creation as shown to us in the Bible.  We also must put aside the previous views of this world that came from our godless past, produced by the evil world system.  Our minds and our thinking must be renewed and transformed. We must now have a spiritual mindset and viewpoint.

In our current western culture, there is a proclivity towards the positive and a rejection of anything negative.  At the root of this, people who are without the hope that has been offered through the promises of God in His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, have difficulty finding a reason to live if they embrace the reality of an empty life that ends in death.  It is a grave danger, though, to embrace a false, fabricated view of reality, only because it feeds a need for a positive hope.  As Christians, we must hold fast to the truth, knowing that it comes from our Creator and Father in heaven.

There is a critical importance to recognizing the vanity, futility, and absurdity of this world, as Solomon observed thousands of years ago.  This viewpoint is a hard one to accept since it goes directly against the grain of the secular human philosophy and evolutionary progression that is so prevalent in our world.

Let us look for a moment at the larger picture of our situation as followers of Jesus Christ.  We are told that we must die with Christ in order to live with Him.  We are told that our old self was crucified with him.  We are told that we must die to this world and to this world system.

“We know that our old self was crucified with Him……but if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Romans 6: 6, 8

“Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations.” Colossians 2:20

How can we truly die to this world if deep down in our subconscious mind we are still embracing the false idea that this world is fruitful, satisfying, and offers hope? Unless we fully accept the reality that this world has been cursed by God and subjected to futility, we will not be able to fully die to this world and live with our hearts anchored in heaven.  Recognizing the futility of this physical world system and the vanity of all that it produces is a critical part of being transformed into a spiritual Christian.

Here is the wisdom that is contained in our need for a death to this world:  only by death to the physical can spiritual life come.  It is seemingly paradoxical but we must die to live.  We must be negative to be truly positive!

If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that deep inside we hesitate to embrace the fact that this world is absurd and futile.  It is so hard to embrace the fact that everything we do amounts to nothing in the end and is in vain.  Again I say that we must look at this in the light of God’s revelation of truth, with the eyes of faith.  We have another hope that the world does not see and requires faith to take hold of.

Let’s look closer at a portion of Scripture in the New Testament that deals with this topic, that is found in Romans Chapter 8, after a discussion about our adoption as sons of God, our assured inheritance, and the glory that we will share with Him.  I want to use the Amplified version because it drives home the idea that God has purposely caused this world to be subject to futility:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the gory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!  For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him who so subjected it – [yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children.” Romans 8: 18-21

In the quote above, in the phrase “For the creation was subjected to frailty, the word “frail” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “easily led into evil“. By the way, in some versions the word frailty is replaced by “vanity” or “futility”. The main point, as explicitly stated in these verses, is that it was the will of God to subject the entire creation to a condition of futility.  This was part of the curse.  We don’t really know what the original condition of the world was before the curse came upon it, but we know it was better than our current situation.

I think it is safe to say that the condition of the future heaven, with the curse removed, will be a place that is NOT futile or vain or absurd or frustrating or nonsensical.  Rather, it will be satisfying and with purpose and beyond what we can imagine, perfect for us in every way.

Continuing with the quote from Romans 8, we see that Paul too exhorts his readers to embrace the reality of this future hope:

“We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons).  For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope.  For how can one hope for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure.” Romans 8: 22 – 25

Solomon’s observation that this world is absurd and futile, and that all of man’s work is in vain, is an accurate assessment of reality.  We must reject the past lies and peel back the imaginary, fantasy view that we have painted for ourselves to override the painful truth of this world’s absurdity and futility. We must also recognize that God has subjected the world to this futility for a purpose, as part of the curse that was the result of Adam’s sin.  We must also recognize that we don’t belong here, but we have a future hope in heaven that is waiting for us.

To be clear, I am not saying that we should stop all that we are doing because it is all for nothing. I am saying that we should behave like aliens and strangers in this world, and as travelers who are just passing through with our hearts set on the treasure that is waiting for us in heaven.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6: 19-20 (the words of Jesus)

There will be no thieves in heaven and our things in heaven will not corrode or decay!

I would suggest that you read the entire book of Ecclesiastes and pray that God opens your eyes to all of the wisdom there.  I will leave you with the conclusion that Solomon ends the book with:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14

Amen.

There is Only One Gospel – It Produces Love

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1: 6-9

The apostle Paul wrote this warning to the churches of Galatia close to 2,000 years ago.  I firmly believe that this same warning also applies to Christians today, and was not just a one time warning unique to the situation that Paul was addressing at that time.  I believe that there are Christian teachers and church leaders today who “pervert the gospel of Christ” in a similar manner, to varying degrees, as was being done at that time.  Historically, there has been a tendency for Christian organizations to digress from the core elements of the gospel, focusing on “religiosity” rather than producing true Christian character and love.  Even today there are many Christian churches that would be considered spiritually dead.  This letter to the Galatians addresses the cause of this problem that leads to death.

If you read the entire letter that Paul wrote, you will see that he is essentially saying that there is no other means of restoring our relationship with God, no other way to remove the curse from Adam and Eve’s sin, no other way of salvation from this present evil age, no other way to become spiritual, no other way to be transformed to walk in love, and no other Messiah sent from God for this purpose, but only the Gospel message that Paul had previously preached to them about the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, and what He had accomplished on our behalf through His death and resurrection, and which is only attained by us through faith as a free gift from God.

I thought that it would be valuable for us to look at the main underlying components that support the Gospel so that we can protect ourselves from unknowingly turning to any other proposed “different” gospel.  Paul touches on these components throughout his letter to the Galatians.  Let’s consider some of these:

The Truth

“You were running so well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  Gal. 5:7

The Gospel is based upon the truths that have been revealed in the Bible.  We must be very clear about how we establish truth in our minds or the Gospel can potentially become compromised or even abandoned.  Truth should be established through recognizing the authority of God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures.  The writings of the Bible are not mere writings of men, but are revelations inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“And we also have the more sure prophetic word, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation (or origin), for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1: 19-21

We must remember that there are very few things in this life that we can rely on as being absolute truth.  We cannot trust the teachings of men as being absolute truth, although they may perhaps contain some portion of truth that may apply to some circumstances.  At best, any truths coming from men are limited in their scope to this physical realm, as well as limited to our recent time frame; anything beyond that is guess work and unreliable.

Many of us are able to hear from God by listening to the still, small voice that speaks to us for guidance and encouragement.  Although I encourage this type of communication with God, I also must caution you that this is not the same type of anchor for our soul as the absolute, authoritative truth that comes from the Scriptures.  Our natural minds often interfere with our ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s communication and therefore we must always check our understanding of what God is speaking to our hearts against the Biblical truths which are absolute.

As a side note, I recently read a beautiful story about a Christian woman who saw a homeless man outside of her grocery store and wanted to buy some food for him.  The Holy Spirit spoke to her and said she should buy him bananas and some protein bars.  She wanted to buy him some fried chicken instead, thinking it would warm him up, but she listened to the inner spiritual voice and didn’t get the chicken.  When she gave the man the bananas and protein bars, he was very grateful.  Immediately after giving them to him, there came another woman with some fried chicken for the man, much to the original woman’s surprise and joy, bringing her to tears.  She though how great it was that God had a concern for this homeless man in this way.

It is beautiful thing to be able to hear from God directly, but we must not use it for determining the absolute truths that establish our understanding of life and that anchors our soul.  Only God’s Word, the Bible, can be the authoritative source for our truth, and the source for the Gospel message.  Be warned that following your heart or the teachings of men without the guidance of Scriptures can lead you astray into the error of false gospels.

True Faith

“Now it is evident that no person is justified (declared righteous and brought into right standing with God) through the Law, for the Scripture says, The man in right standing with God [the just, the righteous] shall live by and out of faith and he who through and by faith is declared righteous and in right standing with God shall live.  But the Law does not rest on faith [does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith], for it itself says, He who does them [the things prescribed by the Law] shall live by them [not by faith].” Gal. 3: 11 – 12 (Amplified Bible)

The situation that Paul was confronting at Galatia was about religious Jews who were attempting to recruit the Galatian Christians to Judaism and to follow the Jewish religious rituals and practices, focusing on the Mosaic laws.  The problem with this, as Paul pointed out, is that being “religious”, that is, focusing on keeping a set of regulations and adhering to ritual practices, does not require faith.  In other words, a purely “religious” person’s “life” comes from following religious regulations and practices; this is what gives them satisfaction and comfort, relieves their guilt, and makes them feel like they are accepted by God.  Unfortunately, when we focus our lives on keeping religious rules, rituals and regulations, it puts us into bondage because there is no resulting spiritual growth produced from this activity.  The bondage is a result of remaining focused on our “flesh”; only true faith can take us out of our fleshly focus.

In contrast, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, and the promises of God, we have spiritual growth and are free from the bondage of the flesh.  Our “life” comes from the reality of being true children of God and heirs of His kingdom.  This is where our satisfaction and comfort comes from: knowing that our relationship with God has been repaired, our sins forgiven, and our future home in heaven is secured for us and waiting.  We look forward for the final return of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who will establish the final Kingdom here, including us with our resurrected, immortal bodies.  This is the true faith that causes us to be born of the spirit and sets us free from the bondage of the flesh.

Be advised that any proposed gospel message that does not require faith and that keeps our focus on this physical world, and the material things within it, is an erroneous, false gospel.  We will need discernment to recognize this because the proponents of these false messages will surely make the claim that the focus is spiritual and that faith is involved, but we must look deeper into the reality of true faith and true spirituality as defined by the Scriptures.

I believe that there are many “Christian” churches that have shifted the focus of their message to regulations and practices and have de-emphasized the need for true faith.  It may not be explicitly stated in their doctrines and preaching from the pulpit, but it is communicated by other means, requiring the congregation to focus on church attendance, donations, volunteer work, participation in church functions, etc, rather than having the main emphasis and focus on true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to be careful not to fall back into flesh based activity, but rather remain in a place that focuses our affections on spiritual things, requiring our faith to be strong.

Hope

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Gal. 3: 25-29

The truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ  has as its main focus the hope that we have in the future promise of eternal life in heaven with a resurrected body, living in the glory of the kingdom of God as His children with an inheritance waiting for us.  This hope allows us to shift our affections from this physical world, which feeds our flesh, to the spiritual world that causes our spirit to come to life.  Being in Christ means that we have removed ourselves from this physical world in our minds and hearts, having put our flesh to death by dying with Christ.  This is the true power of the Gospel message; no other message is needed since this blessed hope with its transforming power is fully available through Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Bible.

“Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.” Galatians 4: 28

Love

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5: 5-6

In the above two verses in chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul reaches the climax of his letter, culminating his warnings and arguments with the fact that what really matters is “faith working through love”.  So we see that if we embrace the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and place our faith in what has been promised to us as children of the living God, our hope is then established, our flesh no longer rules our lives but rather we shift to becoming spiritual beings, new creations, with the realistic power to walk in love.  Love is the goal; if we are not able to love then something is wrong – something is missing.  In that case perhaps we need to re-examine the gospel that we have accepted to make sure that it aligns with the true Gospel as revealed in the Bible.

A few verses later, Paul again reinforces the concept of love. He shows them that the essence of the law is really about love:

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Galatians 5: 14

In the amplified Bible, the word “fulfilled” is replaced with the phrase “complied with”, which I think better explains that we can’t just ignore the law completely, but rather, if we are truly walking in love we will be complying with all the precepts of the law.  Again I say that the problem with the law is that if we focus on the law by itself and pursue abiding by its precepts without true faith, then we will not, and in fact cannot, become spiritual, and therefore cannot walk in love.  Without true faith we cannot adhere to the law.

“For if a Law had been given which could confer [spiritual] life, then righteousness and right standing with God would certainly have come by Law.” Galatians 3: 21b (Amplified)

For Christians the key is to become spiritual; if we are spiritual we will be able to walk in love with the law written on our heart.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explicitly states this need for spirituality in our battle against the desires of the flesh that hinder our ability to love.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.” Galatians 5: 16-17

When he says “doing what you would” I believe that equates to walking in love.

Be warned though that you must make sure that you have the correct biblical definition of love (not the world’s definition), and likewise, the correct biblical definition of being spiritual.  Many religions use the term spiritual and love to describe their activities, but these do not align with God’s meaning as revealed in His Scriptures.  Seek Him to help you gain the true understanding of these!

I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire book of Galatians for there are many other truths brought out in this letter that can help us in our walk with the Lord.  I hope you have found these insights helpful.  God bless!

Don’t throw away your Confidence!

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.” Hebrews 10: 35, 36

This message is really about our Christian faith, or more specifically, an important aspect of our faith, that is, the trust and confidence we place in the things that have been promised to us by God.

The concept of faith as presented in the Bible is rather complex, much more than just believing that there is a God, or believing and accepting a list of doctrines.  Additionally, there are some erroneous or misleading teachings about faith, the most notorious being the idea that our faith should be focused on ourselves and our ability to believe in something in order to make it happen.  This false teaching states that our positive thoughts and positive confession, what they would call faith, will bring about a positive result.  It promotes the idea that if we believe something hard enough and long enough we can make it happen; that somehow our belief in something will trigger a physical mechanism that causes the thing we believe in to come into existence or come about. And that if we imagine or visualize something and then confess it, or say the words to support our visualization, then the thing that we have visualized will come about.  This same technique is taught by the new age philosophy and even is used in witchcraft and sorcery.

True faith should be focused on making the unseen spiritual things that have been revealed to us in the Scriptures a reality in our minds and hearts, especially what has been promised to us regarding a future new heaven and new earth upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Faith should be combined with our trust in God and His ability to keep us and give direction to our life.  But faith should not be an attempt to use our imaginations to envision some future state or situation or desired outcome.  In order to engage in a true Biblical faith, we need to be immersed in the Scriptures, paying attention to the advice and admonitions there with regards to the workings of our faith.

True faith, as displayed and explained in the Bible, is a way of life.  It is a view of reality that is based on the revelation of God as presented in the Bible.  It is a replacement for the view of reality that we had previously been living and acting by that was an accumulation of the experiences and teaching based on the temporary physical world, minus the reality of a living, creator God and the truths surrounding His interaction with His creation.   Our faith should penetrate deep into our souls, impacting our daily thought patterns, our responses to situations, our choices and decisions in life, and, most importantly, our actions.  Our Christian faith should be a strong contributor to our transformed nature, resulting in a true spiritual love and our ability to walk in love.

Along these lines, the writers of the Bible, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, present often the idea of having confidence, which is a means of defining the type of faith that we should be practicing.  Let’s look closer at this.

First let’s look at the word “confidence” and make sure that we understand its meaning.  It is interesting that the English word confidence has as its root the word “confide” which means to entrust or to impart secrets to a friend with trust.  The English word confidence in dictionary.com is defined as: “full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.”

In the original Greek of the New Testament, there are two words that are translated to the English as confidence.  The first, “hypostasis”, is defined as “a setting under for support (like a foundation or substructure).  In a figurative context it is translated as “concretely” and in an abstract context as “assurance or confidence”.

The writer of Hebrews used this word twice, the first as follows:

“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,” Hebrews 3:14

And here also, where faith is explicitly defined:

“Now faith is the assurance (or confidence) of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

The idea conveyed is for us to have a mental state that is like being on a sure and solid foundation that we have confidence in, much like the confidence we would have in crossing a bridge that is constructed of large structural steel beams placed on immense concrete abutments, as opposed to the lack of confidence we would have in crossing a rickety bridge made of rotten wood suspended from fraying cords.

(Note: This word is also used in Hebrews 1:3 but in a different context than the others. It is used to explain how Jesus was the “expressed image of (God the Father’s) person”, making His invisible attributes “concrete” or to have substance.)

The second Greek word translated as confidence is similar: “parresia”, and is often used to convey a boldness and openness in speaking.  Also, it is defined as “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance”.

The writer of Hebrews uses this word three times as follows:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,” Hebrews 10: 19

And the verse quoted above at the start of the message:

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.” Hebrews 10: 35, 36

I see these two Greek words that are translated as confidence as being closely connected with the first expressing the internal mental condition we should have regarding our hope in what was promised, like standing on a firm foundation, standing on a rock as opposed to standing on sinking sand or miry clay.  The second defines the output of having such a mentality, that is, our boldness of speech, or boldness to see ourselves in the presence of God directly with Him hearing our prayers and requests, or our confidence about a future reward that gives us the strength to endure our current hardships.

Let’s look closer at the broader context of the verse from Hebrews 10:

“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.”  Hebrews 10: 32 – 36

Here we see that our internal confidence manifests itself in our ability to endure through difficult times, giving us the strength needed.  The exhortation is to “not throw away our confidence” meaning that we should not discard it as having no use, like throwing away an old garment or useless item.  Rather we need to recognize its great value, and make sure that we have established our confidence internally so that it will be displayed when difficulties arise and we face the need for endurance.

The “great reward” that is mentioned in the above verse is referring to the promised reward that Jesus will bring to those who are faithful and endure to the end.  It has to do with eternal life, a resurrected, immortal body, a mansion in heaven, and entering into the literal kingdom of God as His child.  These are things that are priceless.

I remind you that this is a very clear directive from the Scriptures, that we should not discard, or throw away, our confidence.  This confidence is based on the full assurance of hope that we have received and believed when we have heard the message of salvation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I encourage you to even more deeply establish this confidence in your mind and heart, and to allow it to flow out in your daily activity, regardless of the degree of hardship.  Recognize also that this confidence will be a weapon against future conflict that may arise, possible hardships or persecutions that we all may face later as Christians.  This is part of the “shield of faith” that will “extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy” when in spiritual battle.

“’For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him’ (from the prophet Habakkuk chapter 2), but we are not of those who draw back to perdition (or destruction), but of those who believe to the saving of our soul.” Hebrews 10: 37-39 (follows our main quoted verse above)

Amen.