Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
The goal of everything that we do should be to bring honor and glory to God. We are not meant to lift up ourselves, and our life purpose is not to become famous or to be comfortable. We are meant to glorify Jesus. The Apostle Paul was able to say that everything he did—preaching and praying and witnessing and living from day to day—was aimed at magnifying the name of Jesus Christ. That is what God expects from us. Charles Spurgeon said, “You are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than a single eye to your Lord’s glory.”
The church at Philippi was born out of intense difficulty and hardship. It was in Philippi that Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail. One of the first converts was the jailer who had witnessed their behavior prior to the earthquake. They had been jailed illegally according to Roman law, yet their words were not of complaint, but of praise to God. They were even singing at midnight despite their pain and poor treatment. God was glorified, and when He is glorified, we have done what we should.
Our effectiveness in glorifying God is not limited by our circumstances. Whether or not things are going the way we want, we can still glorify Him. Whether we are finding success or facing catastrophe, we can still glorify Him. This must be our goal and aim so that, as Paul put it, “by life, or by death” we will lift Him up and magnify His name. There is no substitute for success at this task.
Everything we do should be meant to bring honor and glory to God rather than to ourselves.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man on earth in his day. As the unquestioned leader of the massive Babylonian Empire, he could command individuals as well as vast groups of people, and he could enforce consequences on anyone who disobeyed. He was used to getting his way. Yet despite his command to bow down and worship the huge golden idol he had erected, Nebuchadnezzar found himself confronted with three young men who refused his edict. They did not care that the king had the power to command them to be killed. They did not care that the furnace was glowing with a furious heat. They cared about God, and they were committed to being true to Him no matter what. They would not bow to any idol, regardless of the consequences.
There are many wonderful promises in the Bible, but there are no promises that if we obey God and serve Him we will never have trouble. Sometimes it is our obedience that creates the difficulties in which we find ourselves. The temptation in those moments is to try to compromise to avoid the problem, but that is the wrong approach. Instead we should stand more firmly than ever for the truth when it is unpopular or even dangerous to do so. From a prison cell in Rome where he was awaiting execution, Paul wrote, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).
No matter what our circumstances may be, we can and must remain faithful to God.
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
1 John 3:3
Because we live in an unholy world, it is easy for us to lose sight of the vital importance of holiness in our lives. But the sins of others do not excuse impurity on our part. We are called to be a holy people, living in a way that honors God. And the command for our holiness is based on the nature and character of God. “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine” (Exodus 20:26). It is because He is holy that He commands us to be. God wants us to be like Him, and while we will never be perfectly holy until we reach Heaven, we should strive to be more and more pure day by day.
Sin is powerful, but thanks to the Holy Spirit who lives within us and the new nature we receive at salvation, we are no longer captive to it. When we sin, it is because we want to, not because we must. And those sins reveal our lack of dedication to being pure and holy. J. C. Ryle wrote, “I cannot see how any man deserves to be called 'holy,' who willfully allows himself in sins, and is not humbled and ashamed because of them. I dare not call anyone 'holy' who makes a habit of willfully neglecting known duties, and willfully doing what he knows God has commanded him not to do.”
There are no secrets or shortcuts to the process. Holiness begins when we do what God says. It is not a mysterious or mystical path, but simply walking in obedience to what God commanded. The problem comes when we want things He has forbidden and do not want to do what He decrees. The life of purity is the life of commitment to obedience, recognizing God's right to govern our lives.
We cannot truthfully say that we are holy unless we can also truthfully say that we are obedient to God.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:15-17
It is easy for us to look around and find people doing things that are worthy of judgment and condemnation. Most days we only need to watch a few minutes of news before we see someone being praised and held up as an example, not in spite of, but because they are doing something evil. Yet while it is simple to judge “them” for what they are doing or not doing, we must never forget that the first place we should look for problems is not in the lives of others, but in our own. Jesus said, “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).
Often we magnify the faults and flaws of others while giving ourselves a pass. But that self-deception does not change the fact that the sins of our own lives are still real and still need to be dealt with, no matter how we may excuse them. There needs to be a willingness and an honesty to evaluate our own conduct in light of God's truth, rather than relying on the fact that we may not be as bad as someone else to excuse our behavior. Paul wrote, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” 1 Corinthians 11:31).
God expects us to look to His standard rather than the behavior of those around us to determine our obedience to Him.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
The busyness of life can easily consume all of our time and attention. Even if we are doing good things, we can miss the most important things if we are not careful. And the most important next event on God's calendar is the return of the Lord. We should live each day with the knowledge that He could come, and with the hope that He will. This is what loving His appearing looks like in action. Alexander MacLaren said, “The apostolic church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death and heaven. The early Christians were looking, not for a cleft in the ground called a grave but for a cleavage in the sky called Glory.”
None of us knows how long we will live or whether the Lord will return during our lives, but each of us should long for the day when we see Him. We must not allow ourselves to be so caught up in the things of the world that we lose our overwhelming love for God. Anyone who has been separated from their loved ones for a long period of time, whether because or war or work or sickness or something else, knows how eagerly the reunion is anticipated. We count down the days and even the hours until we see those we love on earth. But how often do we view the Lord's return with the same anticipation and joy? The passage of time since the promise of His return was given has not changed the certainty of it. He is coming again.
We should live each day in a manner which reflects our longing to see Jesus face to face.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
1 John 3:4
One of the early pioneer missionaries to the American West was Marcus Whitman. In 1836, this doctor and preacher led a group of people to Oregon, where he began preaching and working among the American Indians living there. His ministry would continue until he was martyred in 1847. Though a number of people were saved, many of the Indians did not receive his message gladly. The story goes that when Whitman preached against sin, the Indians asked him for “good talk” instead. They did not want to hear that they were breaking God's law and needed a Savior. They wanted someone to make them feel good about themselves.
We live in a society that downplays the wickedness of sin and, in many cases, even glorifies and promotes sin. Many people around us do not want to hear the truth that God's law remains in full effect and that breaking that law is sinful, no matter how good it may make someone feel to do it. Like Whitman's audience, those around us want “good talk” rather than the truth. But this is not just a problem for the world—often it affects Christians as well. We do not want to be confronted with the reality that God's Word is still the standard by which all human behavior must be judged. We want to carve out exceptions and justifications for the things we want to do, regardless of what the Bible says.
This is the path to destruction. There are no “little” sins. Each sin is an act of betrayal against the God who saved us, and each sin brings consequences and judgment. James warned, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). We must not rationalize or explain away sinful behavior. God's law still stands as He wrote it, and we are sinning each time we go against it.
If we love God as we should, we will hate every sin, both those seen as large and those seen as small.
Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
Jesus was not accepted with open arms by most of the religious leaders of His day. There were a few exceptions (such as Nicodemus), but by and large Jesus was viewed with suspicion and skepticism throughout His ministry. This was not because of anything He did that was wrong, for He was perfect. Instead it was because they did not want to believe. More than once they asked Jesus to provide them some kind of sign that He was the Messiah. Yet to demand a sign was really a demand for more signs. Jesus had already been declared to be the Messiah by John the Baptist. He was working miracles, casting out demons, healing the sick, and even bringing the dead back to life. If those were not enough, what sign would be?
Before we may look back on the religious leaders' failure with too much judgment, we should remember that the disciples didn't get it either. Those men who had been chosen and spent time with Jesus day after day failed to grasp what He meant. It was not until after the resurrection that they put the pieces together.
We live in an age that thrives on display. Bigger and louder and longer are the driving forces of our culture. Yet we don't need signs any more than the Pharisees did. We need instead to do what the disciples did after Jesus rose from the dead—believe the Scriptures.
We do not need any kind of special signs to believe that all God says in His Word is true.
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
The custom in Bible times was to prepare a body for burial by placing herbs and spices inside the fabric that was wrapped around it before it was placed in the tomb. Because Jesus died on the cross just before the start of Passover, which was a special sabbath when no work was allowed, there had not been time to carry out that practice before His body was placed in the tomb. The women who went to the garden tomb that Sunday morning were ready to carry out the burial rituals, except for one thing. They knew that a large stone had been placed over the door, and they had no way to move it. Yet despite the fact that what they were planning to do for Jesus was impossible for them to accomplish on their own, they still made all the preparations and went to the tomb.
There are times when the things God calls us to do exceed our abilities. We do not see how it will be possible for us to accomplish His assignments. However, we should never let the fact that something is impossible for us keep us from doing all that we can. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “Go as far as you can on the right road.” God usually does not roll the stones away until we have prepared the spices. We have no reason to expect Him to do miraculous things if we have not done all we can.
Never let obstacles or challenges prevent you from doing all you can for God.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Because Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the other disciples after His resurrection, he refused to believe that the Lord was truly alive. In fact, he was adamant that he would not believe without direct proof that he could evaluate for himself. Yet when Jesus appeared to the disciples, all doubt in Thomas' mind vanished. He had no problem recognizing Jesus for who He was. Anytime we see Jesus for who He truly is—the glorified Son of God—it will banish our doubts and fears.
Jesus was still fully God even though He was also fully human. But His glory was “veiled in flesh” as Charles Wesley put it. Only for one brief moment was it revealed while He was still on earth. “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-2). When we see Him, He will be that glorified Lord whose beauty and power cannot be concealed.
When we see Jesus for who He really is, we will have no problem acknowledging His right to control over our lives. He is the Lord, and as such we are to be subject to His authority. God does not conduct opinion polls or go by popular opinion. No matter what others around us may do, He is always to be obeyed. The risen Christ is absolute Lord over every part of our lives.
A proper view of who Jesus is helps us remember the obligation of obedience which we owe Him.
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Jesus came into the world as part of God's plan for the redemption of lost mankind. Even before the creation of the world, God already knew that man would sin, and He already planned for the provision of redemption. The work of Christ was pictured in the Old Testament in the sacrifices offered by the priests for the people of Israel. But the picture could never capture the scope of what Jesus came to do. He was not just the priest who would offer the sacrifice, but He Himself was also the perfect sacrifice salvation demanded. Horatius Bonar wrote, “The very essence of Christ’s deliverance is the substitution of Himself for us, His life for ours. He did not come to risk His life; He came to die! He did not redeem us by a little loss, a little sacrifice, a little labor, a little suffering. He gave all He had, even His life, for us.”
We must not allow the passage of time to lessen our appreciation for what Jesus did for us. We were hopelessly lost until His mercy and love made a way for us to be saved. Because of His salvation, we can look to the future without those who dread the coming judgment. Because of His salvation, we have the certain promise of eternity in Heaven. But that salvation came at a huge price. Jesus not only died for us, but He took on the penalty for all the sins of mankind, which was revolting to His holiness. But He did it because His love for us was so great, and we must never forget it.
Every day should be filled with gratitude to God for the wonderful gift of salvation we have received.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
One of the greatest and most common fears is the fear of death. Survey after survey shows that dying is dreaded by a vast majority of people. But for those of us who are saved, death holds no terror. The great evangelist D. L. Moody began his autobiography with these words: “Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.”
In truth, the more we learn and understand about Heaven, the more we want to go there. There is work for us to do on this earth, but it is not our home. Paul explained the conflict this way: “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:23-24). Because of our salvation, if we experience death, it will merely be the door that leads us into the presence of God for all eternity. When we reach Heaven, everything will be perfect. All of the burdens and heartaches and diseases and infirmities will be gone forever. All of the temptations and besetting sins we have battled will be behind us. We will truly be more alive than ever before.
Death no longer has the power to terrorize a Christian because we know where we are going.
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
Those of us who know the Lord eagerly look forward to His return. We know the day is coming when Satan and evil will be completely cast out of the world, and things will return to the way God made them in the beginning. We rejoice that sickness and death and tears will vanish, never to return. But while the day of the Lord is a blessed hope for Christians, the response of the lost will be very different. Rather than a loving Savior, they will be meeting a righteous Judge. They will not see the kind eyes that rejoiced to pick up little children, but the fiery eyes of holy wrath. They will not hear words of comfort, compassion, and hope, but instead will hear words of judgment that will pronounce their eternal doom.
The promise of the Lord's return should be more than a comfort to us—it should be a constant reminder to be faithful to share the gospel with those around us. Every person who has ever lived will face God, and every one of them will then acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). But that day will be too late to alter their eternal destiny. That will have already been settled by their refusal to accept Christ during their lives.
We must reach people while there is still time. We must be diligent and passionate about the cause of evangelism because of the coming day of judgment. Each person we lead to the Lord will face His return with joy rather than fear.
The eternal destiny of those around us is at stake, and we must do all we can to reach them before it is too late.
Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.
In 2000, as part of their bicentennial celebration, the Library of Congress launched a special project. After the original library was burned by the British during the War of 1812, Congress purchased nearly 6,500 books from Thomas Jefferson's personal collection. Many of those books were destroyed in another fire in 1851. So the Library of Congress began searching for copies of all those books that had been lost in an effort to complete the restoration project. Many of them were rare and very difficult to find. Imagine how hard it must have been for Jefferson to collect them all. In our day we take the availability of knowledge for granted and expect to be able to look up any detail that we need to know almost instantly.
Yet despite the vast increase in information we see in our day, there is no corresponding increase in wisdom or understanding. That is because those come from God. Daniel pointed out to Nebuchadnezzar that the only reason he was able to interpret his dream was because God had revealed it to him. Remember, Daniel was not working from what Nebuchadnezzar told him—the king couldn't remember the dream. Only God could tell Daniel both what the dream was and what it meant. As our society works harder and harder to undermine the truth, it is more important than ever for us to seek the wisdom only God provides. He is the source of truth, His truth never fails.
God offers to us all of the knowledge and wisdom we need to live rightly and glorify Him.
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The religious leaders and political authorities in Jesus' day throught that by rejecting Him they would be able to keep Him from accomplishing His mission. They thought Jesus needed their approval and acceptance. They were wrong. Because God is all-powerful, He does not need anything from us for His plans to succeed. In his sermon to the superstitious Athenians, the apostle Paul said, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24-25). God starts out having already won every conceivable battle, and it is folly to stand against Him.
Jesus specifically told those who were rejecting Him that the Old Testament had not only prophesied of Him (in the passage from Matthew 21 above, He was quoting from Psalm 118:22-23), but had also prophesied their rejection of Him. Their rejection of Christ only hurt themselves. Rather than humbling themselves before Him, they determined to stand in His way and reject the very miraculous and marvelous work of God.
Those of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior have obviously not rejected Jesus the way the religious leaders of His day did. But we do sometimes lift our hearts up in pride and insist that our way is better than what God has instructed in His Word. Instead, we should humble ourselves before God and gladly receive His instructions and provision.
Every time we reject God's Word and His truth, we are not harming Him but ourselves.
And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
God gave the apostle John a vision of future things while he was on the island of Patmos. Though the events John recorded have not yet happened, we can see the way in which things that are happening in our day line up with what is yet to come. Human nature is the same now as it was in the past and will be in the future. So it should not be any surprise to read that there will be no shortage of individuals—including leaders of nations—eager to align themselves with the enemies of God in the end times. They are already doing that. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:2-3).
Lost people reject God's rule and authority over them. It has been that way ever since sin entered into the world. But every attempt to rebel against God is doomed to failure. We need to remember this truth in our own lives when we are tempted to turn away from what God has said. We will always find those who will encourage us to do wrong, but we must not listen to the voices of deceit and temptation. Instead we must firmly commit to doing what is right and obeying God's commands. Only then will have the blessing that He promises to those who are faithful to Him. Only then will we know true victory.
While the world rebels against God, His children must faithfully obey Him.
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
The ancient Mayan Empire once covered much of Mexico and Central America. It was a highly advanced civilization for its time, developing great skill in mathematics and astronomy. To the millions who lived there, it must have seemed like it would last forever. Yet more than a thousand years ago, it collapsed. Today, only a few ruins and fragments of records remain to show that there was once a great kingdom that flourished. All human kingdoms have a life cycle. They rise, and then they fall. God's kingdom is different; it is eternal.
When Daniel interpreted the dream of the king of Babylon, God revealed to him the vast sweep of human history that was to come. But God's plan does not end with man. Instead He is the end and purpose of all that happens. He is the stone shaped without human hands. He is eternal.
There is a great longing in the human heart for things that last. We desire things that are dependable, because we realize so many things are not. Only God can provide what we need and seek. Only God is able to set up an eternal kingdom that will never be conquered or destroyed. Only God can truly offer guarantees about things to come. That is such a comfort to those of us who know Him because it gives us a lasting foundation on which we can build our lives.
We can trust God's promises about the future because He will always be there to keep them.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
In 1997, more than 150 members of the Chen Tao cult moved to Garland, Texas, in response to a prophecy from their leader, Hon-Ming Chen. Chen declared that a flying saucer would arrive to deliver God to Earth—and that he himself was the father of Jesus. Chen's adherents awaited the arrival of March 31, 1998, with eager anticipation. According to a story in The Dallas Morning News, “They dressed in white, wore cowboy hats, and drove luxury cars. They told reporters they had come to Garland to watch God come to Earth and take human form at 10 a.m. on March 31, 1998, at the home of Mr. Chen.” The prophecy failed to come true, and most of the members left the group.
Throughout the centuries, there have been a huge number of false prophets claiming to speak for God or even to be God—just as Jesus foretold would happen. Some of them, like the Chen Tao group, have been ridiculous and easy to spot. Many others, however, have been carefully crafted to be as close to the real thing as possible. Paul warned, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). We must be people of discernment and discretion, not evaulating any doctrine by how it sounds or how it makes us feel, but by comparing it to the Word of God. False teachers are a real threat, but we do not have to be deceived.
We must be on guard because Satan is actively working to deceive us and lead us astray from the truth.
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
Arthur Henry Hallam was engaged to marry the sister of his best friend from college, Alfred Tennyson, after falling in love with her on a visit to Tennyson's home. Hallam went on a trip to Europe with his father and died suddenly from a brain aneurysm at just twenty-two years of age. Tennyson dedicated one of his most famous poems, In Memorium, to Hallam. The lengthy poem is a reflection on life, death, and loss and concludes with a reflection from when Tennyson's sister Emily eventually married. After having addressed his friend in his grave and his sister on her way to her honeymoon, Tennyson reflects on God's purposes in our world. The poem ends with these lines:
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
The world has been broken since the fall of man. As wonderful as things still are, they are only a pale shadow of what God created. But what is today is not all there is. There is a day coming when all that is wrong—all sin, sickness, death, violence, war, and heartache—will be taken away forever. The world will return to God's original design. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Though we do not know when that day will be, we know that its coming is certain. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are ready so that we will not be ashamed when we see the Lord. Have you trusted Christ as your Savior? If not, do so today. If yes, live today in such a way that you will not be ashamed when He returns for you.
The return of Jesus Christ is just as certain now as it was when He first made the promise. He will come again.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
2 Peter 1:19-21
It is easy for us to take the Bible for granted. Never before in history has the Word of God been as widely available as it is in our day. We can read it, listen to it, study it, and hear it preached and taught any time we choose. Yet day after day, many Christians neglect the Bible rather than recognize it as a great treasure. In his autobiograhy, George Müller wrote, “God is the author of the Bible, and only the truth it contains will lead people to true happiness. A Christian should read this precious Book every day with earnest prayer and meditation. But like many believers, I preferred to read the works of uninspired men rather than the oracles of the living God. Consequently, I remained a spiritual baby both in knowledge and grace.”
We have the “sure word of prophecy” (as Peter described the Bible), not so we can carry it to church on Sunday and look spiritual, but so we can fill our hearts and minds with it and do what it says. The world is desperately seeking wisdom and direction. People have their horoscopes prepared so they can see what the stars have to say about their future. People go to palm readers to see what the lines on their hand predict. People offer all kinds of alternatives, but God has spoken. All that we need to know to please Him in the days ahead is contained in the pages of His Word.
We do not need new predictions or forecasts about the future. We need the certain truth of the Bible.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
The Bible is filled with commands that God has given us, not to restrict our lives and make us miserable, but to protect us and guide our steps. When we walk in His ways, we receive the blessings and promises that go with obedience. When we refuse, we experience the negative consequences that go with disobedience. That's why God repeatedly warns us to give attention to His Word—not just to know it, but also to obey it. It is important for us to take these warnings seriously and not turn away from the Bible when it does not tell us what we want to hear. I read a joke about a man who had been a smoker for most of his adult life. He read article after article warning of the dangers and risks of smoking, and finally told a friend, “I've been reading so many articles about smoking and lung cancer that I've decided to quit reading.”
The Bible does not work to produce its desired impact by itself. We must be involved in the process. First, we have to believe that what God says is true. “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2). Then we must do what it says. Knowing that an anti-venom injection will cure a poisonous snake bite does one no good unless he uses it. We need to know the truth, but we also need to put it into practice. Otherwise the Bible will not transform us as God desires.
Merely knowing the truth does not guard us from evil and lead us to righteousness. We must put it into practice.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
1 Thessalonians 5:6-10
One of the most amazing miracles Jesus performed was the resurrection of Lazarus. News of it spread so quickly that the religious leaders actually discussed killing Lazarus so that the story, which was encouraging so many people to believe in Jesus, could be stopped.
Perhaps you know the story. Lazarus became ill, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, called for Jesus to come heal him. But Jesus deliberately delayed until after Lazarus was dead and buried before going to His friends' home. There He met a distraught Martha who questioned why He had not come sooner. Jesus gave her a powerful definition of eternal life and how it changes everything for those who believe in Him: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:” (John 11:25). He then raised Lazarus from the dead.
The church at Thessalonica had many questions for Paul about the Lord's return. Paul's letter to them spends much time explaining how those events will take place. There seems to have been a special concern for those who had already died in the Lord. Paul assured them, and through these words, the Holy Spirit assures Christians that our destiny is settled—we will spend eternity with Jesus. He is life, and while those who trust in Him will experience physical death if He does not return before, they will never taste the death of separation from God and punishment for sin. This glad promise should fill us with hope and confidence. No matter what happens, we will live with Him.
Our salvation gives us hope to go through life with confidence, knowing where we will spend eternity.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
On May 1, 2021, Medina Spirit thundered home ahead of the field, winning the 147th Kentucky Derby. As is customary at the world's most famous horse race, Medina Spirit was led to the winner's circle where a huge blanket of red roses was draped over his back. However, when the mandatory drug tests came back, Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethadone, which is a banned steroid. A second test confirmed the positive result, which is grounds for disqualification. This means that crossing the finish line first won't be enough to win the race. The horse had to win within the rules in order for it to count.
The Christian life is the same way. We can lose the rewards and crowns we would otherwise have to give to Jesus if we do not follow the rules God has laid out for us. Paul used being disqualified from a competition as a metaphor in his warning to Timothy to stay on track in the Christian life. “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (2 Timothy 2:5). God does not want us to excuse going against His Word to make it easier to accomplish His work. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., said, “It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.”
It is a tragedy to lose rewards because we fail to follow the instructions God has given for our lives.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
The vision that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel of a valley filled with dry bones is primarily a prophecy about the regathering of the nation of Israel—that even though the nation might appear to be dead, God had the power to bring it back to life. But this story is also a wonderful picture of salvation as well. The world tells us that we are basically good people who just need a little tweaking to be fine, but God says that we are completely dead apart from Him. The lost world is not striving for salvation on God's terms. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).
Yet the fact that we are dead poses no challenge for the power of God. When Jesus stood at the grave of Lazarus, His friend had been dead for four days. It was utterly impossible for him to hear anything. Yet when Jesus called his name, Lazarus heard His voice and responded to the command “Come forth.” In the same way, God's Spirit brings to life the message of the gospel in our hearts, and even though we are spirituallly dead, we are made alive in Him. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). If you have been witnessing and praying for someone to get saved and it looks hopeless, don't despair. God is able to raise dead nations and dead people back to life.
God's power is nowhere more clearly displayed than in the salvation of the lost.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Despite what some people teach, grace does not give a Christian the license to live in any way he pleases. Instead it teaches the opposite—that we are to turn away from wickedness and live according to God's Word. The key to victorious Christian living is found in our focus. It is not enough just to turn away from this world, but we must also love the next one. Dr. John Rice wrote, “This world is only an anteroom of the next. This short life is incidental compared with eternity. This world is not home to the Christian. Here we are only sojourners, temporary dwellers in a foreign land. Our citizenship is in Heaven. Our treasure should be in Heaven. Our thoughts should dwell lovingly and longingly on that sweet home of the departed saints, of our Savior and of our Heavenly Father.”
The struggle against temptation and sin is real, and it will continue for as long as we live. Yet despite the strong allure of the things of the world, we do not have to succumb to it. Instead we can fix our hearts and minds on what waits for us in Heaven and love the things that God loves. When we do, we will not find sin nearly as attractive. When Jesus met with Peter after His resurrection, He asked what Peter loved most. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).
The way in which we live is determined by what we love most.
He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance:
Though Mark Twain was not a Christian, he was raised in church and was well acquainted with what the Bible says. And though he did not believe, he was able to see how events in the world confirmed what God said in His Word. Regarding the Jewish people he wrote, “The Egyptian, Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream stuff and passed away. The Greek and Roman followed, made a vast noise and they are gone. Other peoples have sprung up, and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now or have vanished. All things are mortal, but the Jew. All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
The only possible answer to that question is one Twain was unwilling to accept—God. God keeps all of His promises. No other nation in history has been scattered and regathered to become a nation again after the passage of centuries. But no other nation had a promise from God like the one He made to Abraham, and then confirmed to Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and so many others. So even when human wisdom deemed it impossible, the Jewish people did return to the land of Israel. Every promise God has made to us is fully true and accurate. Even when human hope despairs, the Lord is faithful. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
No matter how hopeless a situation may seem, God is faithful, and He will fulfill every promise.
Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
No doctrine of the Christian faith is more precious to us than the certain hope that one day we will see Jesus. Whether it be at the Rapture or when we die, we will immediately enter His presence to live with Him forever. All of the future depends on the truth that Jesus rose from the dead, and that by conquering death He guarantees our eternal life. Yet this blessed truth is hardly welcomed with open arms by the world. When Paul preached to the curious crowd in Athens, they were happy to listen to him until he got to the resurrection part of the gospel. “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter” (Acts 17:32).
We cannot enter God's presence as we are. We must be radically transformed even as believers before we can enter His holy presence. The promise of eternal life made by a man would be at best a comforting story to hear. But the promise of eternal life from someone who has conquered death and the grave is a powerful hope. None of us knows how long our lives will be, but we do know what is coming. God has given us a sure guarantee of the future. Paul began his letter to Titus with an expression of this: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). We can be confident regarding the future—knowing that death is not the end for a Christian—because of the nature and character of God. He has given us the promise, and His promises are certain and sure.
The triumph of Jesus over death and the grave is the guarantee that our future destiny with Him is secure.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
God brought the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt with an incredible display of power. One after another, the things from the natural world that the Eygptians worshiped were shown to be powerless compared to God. He parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape Pharaoh's army. God led them through the wilderness, miraculously providing everything that they needed for forty years. He parted the Jordan River and gave them victory over the residents of the Promised Land. The Israelites had the law of God as written down by Moses and explained to them by the Levites. Yet despite all their advantages and blessings, they turned away from God again and again. They adopted both the idols and the immoral behavior of the people living around them. They were Israelites, but they were not obedient to the God of Israel.
There are many people in our day who have greatly benefited from the blessings of God, yet do not walk in His ways. It is not enough to carry a Bible, attend a good church, and outwardly present the appearance of a devout Christian. The truth of God must be in our hearts. Unless it is real on the inside, eventually the outward facade will disappear and the truth will come out. God is not deceived by things that may hide our inward thoughts and feelings from others. He is looking for people who will be true to Him, beginning on the inside.
God is looking for people whose devotion to Him is heart deep.
For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
Both the Bible and history are filled with examples of people doing things their own way rather than the way God instructed. Despite the fact that it never works, people persist in substituting their own ideas and opinions for God's revealed truth. Cain wanted to bring his produce for an offering. Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant with the best of intentions—to keep it from falling. Saul offered a sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel the priest. But choosing to "please God" by doing things our way when it runs contrary to His instructions is never pleasing to Him. Rather, God is pleased when we submit our will to Him and follow the instructions that He has given us.
When we place our opinion above what God has said, we are commiting the sin of idolatry. We would never set up statues and pray to them, but we have replaced God with our own ideas as the source of authority just the same. This is the very first commandment for a reason: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). A person who is going his own way and not following God's pattern is worshiping himself, even when that person is doing it under the pretense of worshiping God. God has both the right and the authority to instruct us in our worship of Him as well as in every other area of our lives. Instead of trying to substitute our way for God's way, we should submit to His good plan. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:6).
God always knows better than we do, so His ways are always best.
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.
Each person must make his or her own decision whether to trust Christ as Savior. None of us can make that decision for anyone else, but we can do our part to create an environment that will promote faith in Christ and faithful living in those who come after us. This is the testimony that God gave to Abraham: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19).
Our homes and our churches should be that kind of place—a place that is not just interested and invested in the present, but in the future as well. We plant trees, not because they will primarily benefit us, but because future generations will sit in their shade. Similarly, we plant the truth in the hearts and minds of young people, not because we need a way to occupy our time, but because we desire for future generations to experience the blessings of living for God. There is no better way to change the future than to build truth in the hearts and minds of young people.
God's Word is crucial because it is the guide which tells us how to live. The precepts and principles of Scripture are our roadmap for the decisions of life. The promises God's Word contains, when claimed and believed and tested, will be signposts along the way for those who follow us.
We must do everything possible to pass on our faith to the generations that will come after us.
And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
The story goes that a man came to the evangelist Sam Jones to complain about how much his church expected him to give. “How much do they ask?” the evangelist inquired. “Five dollars a year,” the man answered. “Well,” replied Mr. Jones, “how long have you been converted?” “About four years.” “What did you do before you were converted?” “I was a drunkard.” “How much did you spend for drink?” “About $250 a year.” Jones asked, “How much were you worth?” “I rented land and plowed with a steer.” “What have you got now?” “I have a good plantation and a span of horses.” “Well,” said the evangelist emphatically, “you paid the devil $250 a year for the privilege of plowing with a steer on rented land, and now you don't want to give to God, who saved you, five dollars a year for the privilege of plowing with horses on your own plantation. You're a rascal from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot.”
Every Christian has been forgiven a huge debt we could never repay. Yet too often we begin to think that we really weren't that bad and that God had to put out more effort to save others than He did us. That is a lie that the devil loves. He knows that if our gratitude to God for our forgiveness begins to wane, our love and service for Him will suffer as a result. Never forget all that God has done for you, and never stop being thankful for it.
As we remember what God has done for us, our love for Him flourishes.
And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they knew where they were going, but they didn't know how to get there. There were no marked roads or maps available. They didn't have GPS, Alexa, Siri, or anything else to help guide them. But they had God, and that was all that they needed. The Lord led them through the deserts of the region with an unmistakable sign of His presence. God was providing not only reassurance and guidance, but their physical needs as well. When the daytime sun blazed down on the desert, God was a cloud to provide shelter and shade. When the nighttime chill quickly cooled the desert sands, God was a fire to provide warmth. In every situation, in every need, in every circumstance that we face in life, God is there for us.
When Abraham was ready to offer his promised son Isaac, God provided a ram as a substitute as a beautiful picture of what Jesus would do for us on the cross. In response, Abraham gave that place a new name. “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14). This special name of God (which is used nowhere else in Scripture) has a double meaning. It means that God provides for our needs, and it means that God Himself is the provision for our needs. This is particulalrly true in our salvation—Jesus provided the payment for our sin through becoming the payment for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And it is also true throughout our Christian life. In Jesus, we have all that we need. "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:9-10).
Regardless of our need, Jesus is our provision.
Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God; Thus saith the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about; Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.
Before the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, Moses warned them of the judgment that would come if they were not faithful to follow God. Despite that warning and many subsequent ones delivered by priests and kings and prophets, the people continually turned away from God. Eventually, just as He had promised, God sent foreign nations to scatter the people. The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah. When the Jewish people had been dispersed, those who lived around them thought that meant God was done with them forever and moved in to take over their land. They were wrong. God still loved His people and had not forsaken them, and He still has a plan to bring them back to Himself in a great last days revival.
Many times Christians are the objects of scorn and ridicule from the world. Often it seems like ungodly people are doing well, while things are going wrong for us. But nothing happens in our lives that takes God by surprise or that breaks the promises He has made to us. We do not have to be upset or discouraged if the world holds us in derision. David wrote, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 37:1). God never forsakes His children. Even when it seems like nothing is going right, He is faithful. We can trust in His unfailing love and care no matter what is going on or what those around us may say.
No matter how much the world mocks or derides us, God is faithful and He will be victorious in the end.
And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
There were many ways to formalize an agreement in Old Testament times. The parties to a covenant would sometimes exchange salt, symbolizing that the deal would last until each person's salt could be separted out. Sometimes there would be an exchange of shoes, as we find in the story of Boaz and Ruth. The most solemn and serious covenant was a covenant of blood. Each person making the covenant would walk through the blood of a sacrifice, showing their commitment to die if they broke the agreement. When God made a covenant of blood with Abraham, Abraham did not pass through the blood. Instead God went through twice, first as a furnace and then as a lamp. This meant that God was covering Abraham's side of the agreement as well as His own.
This is a beautiful picture of our salvation. Even though we are the ones who broke God's law, it was the precious blood of His Son which was shed for our redemption on the cross. The Lord made this provision for the salvation of all who believe, knowing that we could never pay the price for our sins. God's offer of salvation does not depend on any action on our part. Salvation is His work in the lives of those who trust Jesus for salvation. His acceptance of our plea for rescue is guaranteed. Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). So many people in our day are trying to gain acceptance with God by what they do or refrain from doing. But Jesus has already done it all.
God's promise to save those who place their faith in Jesus is backed by His character and nature.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, Satan has been offering substitutes for God's way of doing things. He is constantly seeking to find ways to change the truth of God into a new form that will be more attractive to people, and lead them to destruction. It was happening when Jude wrote his epistle, and it is happening in our day. A theologically-liberal theologian named Lloyd Geering wrote in his book The World to Come, “If the global society emerges, it will require humanity to develop a new consciousness and a new form of spirituality...If the human species is not to self-destruct it must develop into a global society which will find cohesion in what may be called a global human culture. The challenges which lie ahead cannot be overcome by any one person or group working on their own but only by the human species working as a whole.”
There is no such things as new truth. The truth has been delivered to us once and for all in the Word of God. Every effort to change it is not from God, but from Satan. Those who are promoting these new ideas that are in opposition to the Bible often cloak themselves so that their true motives cannot be seen. We need to remain alert and aware so that we are not taken in by their deception. The more that we know about the truth, the less likely we are to be swept away by the counterfeits offered to us by Satan.
Anyone who is replacing God's truth with his own ideas and philosophies is a deceiver and a liar.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
The devil has a goal and purpose behind everything he does. From the beginning, Satan has been trying to assume God's rightful place as the ruler and object of worship in the universe. It was not by accident that the final temptation Satan presented to Jesus revolved around the Lord worshipping Satan rather than the reverse. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
During the Tribulation, Satan will redouble his efforts, sending the Antichrist to attract people away from God. And it will work. However, he is not waiting for that day. Satan is actively working right now to draw people away from God and toward him. There is coming a day when Satan will be finally and completely defeated. Until that day comes, we must respond the same way the Lord did. “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10).
Only God is worthy of worship and praise. Only God deserves our whole-hearted love and service. Anything that we place in His rightful position on the throne of our hearts, minds, and lives is a victory for Satan. Anything that comes before Him is an idol we worship. Anything that comes before Him must be cast down, for God alone deserves to rule and reign.
Keep God on the throne of your life, and you will frustrate Satan's schemes.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Dr. A. T. Schofield told of attending one of the revival services held by D. L. Moody in London. He was seated behind a prominent London attorney. At the conclusion of the sermon, as the choir sang an invitation song, the man remained in his seat. When Schofield spoke to him, the lawyer shrugged him off. But a few days later, he came to the hospital where Schofield worked and asked to see him. He had come to tell Schofield of his salvation. Though he had been a member of a church for many years, he had never been saved.
The lawyer said, “While you were talking, I was listening to that choir. You know how it kept at it—'Come to Jesus! Come to Jesus!' Well, the first fifty times I didn't mind, but when it kept on unceasingly, and after I had heard it about a hundred times, I began to think. And as it still went on, I realized the truth of the Savior's words, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). I thought I had better come. So I took the Lord Jesus as my Savior there and then and went home rejoicing, and ever since my joy has been growing and growing; I don't know how to contain it.”
The invitation to accept God's gift of salvation is still open. Anyone who comes to Him in faith can receive it. But the time is coming when the door will be closed. We must reach those who are lost while there is still time.
The Lord has tasked us with the responsibility to invite and encourage others to trust in Him for salvation.
But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
The people of Noah's day had no excuse for not knowing that the flood was coming. For decades, Noah worked on the ark, but he was not just a builder. For all of those years, Noah was warning people about God's coming judgment. Peter tells us, “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5). If the people had believed Noah's admonition, they would not have been surprised when the rains began and the water started to rise. By the time they did believe, it was too late.
The daily activities of life, meals, and marriages, are not wrong. But if we are not careful, they will fill up our time and hold our attention so strongly that we will miss what God is saying. Charles Spurgeon said, “These things engrossed all their thoughts. And yet, friends, and yet, what was the use of eating and drinking when they were to be drowned the next day? And what was the use of being married, when they were to be drowned on the morrow? If they had looked at these things in the light of faith, they would have despised them; but they only used the blear eye of sense, and thus they set great store upon these present things of mirth.” God does not hide the truth from us. It is plainly given in His Word. But it is our responsibility to heed His warnings and admonitions and live as He directs.
We must keep our hearts and minds tuned to hear what God is saying amid the busyness of life.
And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Queen Victoria became the ruler of the British Empire while she was still a teenager and reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. Not long after her death, a story appeared in a London newspaper that highlighted her faith in Christ. At the conclusion of a sermon, she approached the speaker and said, “Oh, how I wish that the Lord might come during my lifetime.” When he asked her what her desire was based on, she replied, “I should like to lay my crown at His feet.”
The world around us honors those who accomplish great things, accumulate great wealth, or attain great power. But all that we can do pales in comparison to the majesty and glory of Jesus Christ. And when we see Him, all that we have done, any glory we have won, will simply be a trophy we can present to Him for His glory rather than our own. The struggle of mankind against pride is as old as all of human history. Yet if we see Jesus as He really is, high and lifted up, we will realize how foolish our pride is.
There is nothing that we do for God or for others that should fill our hearts with pride. After all, it is not our power and might and wisdom that accomplish things. It is God's power alone. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Everything we have and everything we do is because of God, and He alone deserves praise and worship.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
The Bible uses the metaphor of a wedding and the feast that would follow to describe our future union with Jesus Christ. He has paid the price for us with His own precious blood, and He calls us to live in a way that brings honor and glory to Him so that we will not be ashamed when see him. The final verse of Robert Robinson's great hymn “Come Thou Fount” describes that glorious event:
On that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.
Of course, it is not our own righteous works that qualify us or obtain our standing with God. The best that we can do falls far short of what a perfectly holy God demands. But God has provided the “fine linen” for those of us who have been saved to wear. Paul wrote, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). The grace of God does not just provide the payment for the penalty of our sins, but it also places the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ on our record so that when God sees us, He sees the righteousness He demands.
The only way we can stand before God is if we are dressed in His righteousness alone.
Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
Nehemiah was heartbroken when he heard how the city of Jerusalem was defenseless and how the Jewish people who lived there were suffering as a result. So he resolved to do something about it. He got permission from the king to go back and build a wall. Nehemiah understood an important principle: that God's work requires God's people to join hands. Nehemiah worked on the wall, but it was the efforts of the people of Jersualem that brought the task to a successful conclusion. “So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).
Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; staying together is progress; working together is success.” God's work is not usually done by individuals working in isolation, but by groups of people joining hands together and laboring together until the task is complete. Every church needs the people of the church—not just the pastor or a few full-time staff workers, but everyone—to be active and involved for the ministry to have the impact it should.
The seventeenth-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto is credited with the discovery of the 80/20 rule, commonly called the Pareto Principle. Though it has many applications, one of the best known is that in most projects, 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. That may hold true in many areas of life, but it should never be true of God's church. We should all be active in His work.
God has a part in His work for every Christian; be alert to opportunities He may have for you today.
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
The vision of the end times that God gave to the apostle John in the book of Revelation depicted the wrath of God being poured out on the world in a series of plagues, wars, and natural disasters. We might expect that people who experience these terrible calamities would turn to God, seeking relief from His judgment. They will not. Instead, they will cling to their sins and refuse to turn to God for forgiveness. In fact, they will use these judgments as a reason to harden their hearts and go into even worse sin. “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory” (Revelation 16:9).
This deep attachment to sin and resistance to God is not something that will only appear during the Tribulation. We see it all around us as people loudly proclaim their pride in their sinful conduct. We see it as people refuse to even admit they are sinning, let alone repent of those sins. While God is a loving God, He is also a holy God, and He is to be obeyed. David wrote, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1).
So while our culture may adopt, glorify, and promote sin, Christians need to look at sin the way God does and maintain holy and pure lives. If we understand His hatred of evil, we will not find it to be so attractive. If we grasp how our lives are impacted, we will not cling to our sins, but will quickly repent and forsake them.
Sin puts deep tentacles into our hearts if we allow it to. The only solution is to turn to Christ and, through His power, completely cut them off.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.
The year 1637 was a horrible time in Germany. The Thirty Years War was raging, and the resulting devastation to the economy, a crushing famine, and an outbreak of plague brought widespread death. Martin Rinckart, who was a pastor in the town of Eilenburg, conducted more than four thousand funerals that year alone, including that of his wife. Rinckart knew all about hardship and heartbreak. He knew what it was like to truly suffer. And it was Rinckart who wrote these words:
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
We do not have joy because things are going well. We do not have joy because there is peace and health and economic prosperity. We do not have joy because of our circumstances. We have joy because God is the source of true joy and He never changes. There are times in life when we go through hardships, but God is still in control. There are times when we suffer losses that seem too great to bear, but God is faithful. There are times when we feel like the sun may never shine again, but God is real. And He is the source of our joy. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
God's joy is always available to those who trust Him regardless of their circumstances.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
When Herman Edwards was introduced as the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006, he immediately made it clear what he would be looking for in his players. Edwards said, “The players that play on this football team will play for the name on the side of the helmet and not the name on the back of the jersey.” It can be hard to get a team filled with star atheletes making millions of dollars per year to work together. But it is essential. A team that is riven by division and strife is not likely to win their games or reach their goals.
The same is true in the spiritual world. All of God's children wear the same helmet—the helmet of salvation—and we are called to work together, each of us playing the role God has given us. A church that is not united will not see great victories for God. The church in Jerusalem was characterized by their unity, and great power followed. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1-2).
The critical thing for a church that is struggling is not to replace their “players” or “coaches,” but for everyone to work together. Our common love for God should knit our hearts together, and our desire to please Him should motivate us to carry out the responsibilities we have in His work.
A church that is united around their common bond through Christ and common desire to lift Him up will have the power needed to overcome the enemy and win the victory.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
God takes us into His family and gives us His name when we are saved. But in return, He expects us to live up to that name. We have a purpose here on Earth. We are not just passing time until we get to Heaven. We have a calling and a purpose and a destiny, and we are called to live up to it, day after day. Horatius Bonar wrote, “If you are Christians, be consistent. Be Christians out and out; Christians every hour, in every part. Beware of halfhearted discipleship, of compromise with evil, of conformity to the world, of trying to serve two masters—to walk in two ways, the narrow and the broad, at once. It will not do. Halfhearted Christianity will only dishonor God, while it makes you miserable.”
The calling of God is not just for people in full-time ministry. It is for every believer. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). God has a work for you to do, and He is calling you to live in such a way that the work will not be hindered. God certainly does not need our help to accomplish His purposes, but He has given us the opportunity to glorify Him through our service. But we only bring Him that glory if our daily lives are characterized by having a right relationship with Him and with others.
We must not allow pride to come between us and God. We must not allow hurt feelings or impatience to come between us and other Christians. Only when both of these relationships are right can we do all that God has set before us to accomplish.
Working for God in any role is a high honor, and we should strive to be worthy to do His work.
All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
1 Corinthians 6:12-14
The Christian is called to live a life that is controlled by God and His Spirit rather than by anything else. The flesh tempts us to indulge our appetites and fulfill them in ways contrary to what God has decreed. This was the heart of Satan's temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 when he tried to get the Lord to do things apart from God's plan. Not all of the those things were inherently wrong. It is certainly not wrong to eat bread, as Satan tempted Jesus to do, but it is wrong to act independently of God's will.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul mentions things that are not inherently sinful but are also not "expedient," or helpful, to our Christian walk because of how they pull us into an old lifestyle of bondage. Make no mistake. Satan does everything he can to hide the eventual cost and outcome of sin, but the price must always be paid. There is no way to avoid the consequences that follow the actions which we choose.
John R. Rice wrote, “Did you notice that the enslavement of habit is always in sinful matters and never in righteous matters? No one ever got in such a habit of praying that he could not stop praying. No one ever got in such a pattern of being honest that it made a slave out of him. No one was ever in such a habit of loving God that he loved God too much. No one ever got in such a habit of attending church or winning souls or helping others that he was enslaved by it. Whatever enslaves your mind, your will, your body so that you cannot control yourself and your desires, is evidently a sin.”
A Christian should never do anything which will limit his freedom to serve God.
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.
The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, did not talk about that experience very much. He explained that as a pilot, he preferred talking about flying to talking about landing. But at an event celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing, Armstrong said, “I was aware that this was a culmination of the work of 300,000 or 400,000 people over a decade.” When Neil Armstrong died, his fellow astronaut Jim Lovell said, “His favorite part was being part of a team.”
Though each of us must do our part in the work of the Lord, it is not an individual project, but rather a team effort. And each member of the team must do his or her part. Imagine what would have happened to Armstrong and his fellow astronauts if people in engineering, construction, or flight planning had decided that because their faces would not be on television, their jobs were unimportant and they did not need to do them diligently and well. Disaster would have surely followed.
The Lord's work deserves the very best we can give it. Whether anyone knows who we are does not matter. There are no crowns for fame, but rather for faithfulness. Every task God places before us matters. As the saying goes, “Even if the task is not worthy of you, diligence is.” Rather than seeking glory and self-promotion, we should rejoice to be part of the team God has called to do His work.
There are no little jobs in God's work, and everything we do for Him deserves our very best.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:5-7
The story goes that during the great Welsh revival, a man went from London to see what God was doing in Wales. When he got off the train, he saw a policeman standing in the town square. “Where is the Welsh revival?” the visitor asked. The policeman stood to attention, patted his chest and said, “The Welsh revival, sir, is under these buttons!” Every great work of God starts in the hearts of His people. His power in the presence of the Holy Spirit lives within every Christian. We do not need to get more of Him—He is fully present. Instead He needs to get more of us.
When Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy, he challenged his protégé to be strong and to stir up the gift God had already placed within him. Timothy did not need a new gift; he needed to be renewed,strengthened, and encouraged to use the gift he already had. Timothy did the work of God in hard places. He needed the renewal and power that only God can provide. According to church history, he was martyred in Ephesus because he took a strong stand against the worship of Diana.
Speaking the truth in our culture is becoming less and less popular. But that makes it more important, not less, that we have God's power active and working in our hearts. Before God's work touches those around us, it always touches our own lives first. Only after we have been stirred are we ready to stir those around us.
When our own hearts are stirred by God, we are ready to effectively minister to others.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
There are no “secrets” to successful Christian living. Rather than discovering some new way that unlocks previously unknown opportunities, we must take the things that are before us day after day and respond to them properly. Doing the basics—loving each other and being honest, patient, hopeful, and generous—will accomplish whatever task God calls us to do. It is easy to get focused on big assignments that will be visible to others, but what we may consider small things are at least as important, and maybe more so. Arthur Conan Doyle said, “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
The reality is that most days are not filled with huge milestone moments. Most days are filled with normal, routine events. The key is that we are faithful and diligent to take advantage of those moments. It is easy to overlook the little things today while we focus on something major that may come in the future. But we must instead be on guard, not allowing opportunities for service to God and others to pass us by. Instead we must grasp each one as it comes. Jesus said, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).
Jesus did not just please the Father when preaching to large crowds or when working great miracles. Day after day, even when there was no one around but the disciples, Jesus did what God wanted Him to do. It should be the same for us. God sees all, and even if our faithfulness is overlooked by others, He will not miss it.
Every task, whether large or small, demands and deserves our very best.
Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
2 Corinthians 8:7-9
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, he spent a great deal of time talking about giving. There are very few subjects that create as much tension as the topic of money. And our attitude toward our financial resources is indicative of what is happening in our hearts and minds. When Paul talked about giving to God's work, he put it in the context of the sacrifice that Jesus made to provide for our salvation.
David Livingstone spent decades on the mission field and lost a great deal according to the calculation of the world. But he wrote, “Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own best reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It was emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege.”
If we view what we give to God, whether that be our talents, our time, or our money, as a sacrifice we are making, we are not looking at it correctly. Everything we have belongs to God. Everything we have is a gift from God. And we must be cheerful rather than grudging in our giving. "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
A proper appreciation of what God did for us makes it easy for us to give back what He has given to us.
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
David lived long before Christ's coming and long before the Holy Spirit came to dwell within believers on an ongoing basis. Even so, David knew the power of God on his life and saw the Lord work in miraculous ways over and over. Yet what David wanted more than anything was to experience the closeness of God—a relationship that was deep and personal. He expressed that desire as a wish to live continually in God's house. Of course, for us the relationship with God is very different. We do not have to go to a special place to experience God's presence. We have it as part of our inheritance as members of His family through salvation. Yet how often do we allow the busyness of life to rob of us that close fellowship we must have?
George Müller said, “The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord. The first concern is not how much I might serve the Lord, but how my inner man might be nourished. I may share the truth with the unconverted; I may try to encourage believers; I may relieve the distressed; or I may, in other ways, seek to behave as a child of God; yet, not being happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day may result in this work being done in a wrong spirit.”
God must be first place in our hearts and minds if we are to live and love Him as we should.