Thursday, December 27, 2012

‎"The Church which is His body."

My present purpose is to consider briefly the work of the Holy Spirit in the formation of the Church of God — the body of Christ. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). The Baptism of the Spirit is but feebly understood by the many. Some imagine it to be a kind of "second blessing" entered into by a favored few at some time subsequent to salvation; others suppose it to be a repeated thing to be called down by saints individually and collectively by earnest prayer.

Scripture speaks otherwise. The baptism of the Spirit (Christ being the baptizer, John 1:33) is with a view to the body of Christ. By reason of it the saints of God, however numerous, are united to the living Head in heaven and to each other. Such a thing was unknown until Christ was glorified. There were godly men before, of course; individual faith has been since the days of Abel, if not of Adam. But there was no union, nor could there be until redemption was accomplished and Christ ascended to the right hand of God. Then was brought out a purpose, which was formed before the world was, but kept hidden in the heart of God until the suited moment arrived. That purpose was to have a company of persons in heavenly glory with the Second Man, to share with Him all the results of His glorious work, in closest association with Him as members of His body. The members are being gathered while the counsels of God concerning the earth are in abeyance. When the Messiah was presented to Israel, He was refused. This has delayed the Kingdom, with all its connected blessing for the whole earth. All will be made good by-and-bye, and all that the prophets have spoken will be accomplished: but for the present Christ sits at the right hand of God, and the Holy Spirit is here, gathering out His members and joint-heirs. When the number is complete, the Lord will descend into the air, and receive them to Himself. It is a wonderful thing to have part in such a counsel. It was an immense privilege of old to be a Jew, and to be in possession of the word of God and the divine sanctuary. But the new wine is surpassingly better for faith. In the new company all fleshly distinctions between Jew and Gentile disappear, the middle wall of partition having been broken down, all have access by One Spirit unto the Father, and all the blessings of the risen Head are ours who are one with Him (Eph. 2). Thus to know our place truly, we must learn Christ's place to grasp our heavenly portion. Christ's portion must be comprehended; for in this all the members share, through the infinite grace of God. All spiritual blessings in the heavenlies are ours in Him; and all the Father's love rests on us in Him.

This lifts the soul right out of the world, and gives it a heavenly character. If our portion is altogether heavenly, and if we are really one with the exalted Man there, it makes us want to know what is there and to become familiar with it all. Impossible that a saint could really grasp by faith his union with Christ in glory and love a hostile and evil world. Intellectual understanding is worthless and vain.

The apprehension of such a place of blessing and privilege carries with it its corresponding responsibilities for our walk on earth. These the apostle presses in 1 Cor. 12. The difference between Eph. and 1 Cor. as regards the truth of the one body is, that the one gives us the heavenly side, and the other the earthly. The members have all received something from the Head for the general edification and blessing, and there is to be no discontent with the place and functions divinely assigned to each (1 Cor. 12:14-18), on the other hand there is to be no contempt on the part of the more eminently gifted for those who are but slightly endowed. All are necessary and none are to be despised (vv 19-21). The feeble and the uncomely members, far from being useless in the body, are to have our special affection and care. There is to be a community of interest among Christ's members (vv 22-26).

We see these divine principles understood and acted upon in faith by the early saints. The picture presented by the Spirit of God, in the opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles is charming in its loveliness and simplicity. From all this, the Church of God has grievously departed. The honoured vessel who was used as the administrator of the truth of Christ and the Church — the apostle Paul — beheld with sorrow the vast majority declining ere he was called to his rest. How rapid the decline after his departure! How soon was the truth completely lost! It is only of late that God has recovered this for His own. Much truth concerning the individual blessing of believers was won back in the sixteenth century, but little or nothing was then entered into as to the Church of God. But the Spirit of God has brought the truth to the front once again before the Lord comes. He would have the saints enter into their true relationship to Christ, that there may be a becoming walk, individually and collectively, and a right attitude towards Him.

It may be argued that it is practically impossible to act upon such principles after all that has come into the professing Church. With the vast mass of Confessors of Christ spending their energies in building up humanly formed bodies, what is to be done? Let us not forget that the Church of God is made up of individuals and each individual saint has his own responsibility to the Lord. To attempt to get the public body right is futile, each must tread the Lord's path for himself. The Holy Spirit is still on earth, and the body of Christ is still here, as we read, "there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4:4). If but few seek to carry this out in faith, they may count on the presence of the Lord with them and the power of the Spirit of God. What more can heart desire? (Matt. 18:20).

by
W.W. Fereday.
Taken from Truth for the Last Days, 
Vol. 1, 1900, Page 119

Good News for the New Year

"Fear not ... for a Savior is born to you...Christ the Lord!" Luke 2:11 

"Fear not!" This is one of the great themes of the Christmas story (Lk 1:13, 30, 74, Matt. 1:20). The good news is full of great joy and cast out fear! Fear has a way of tying our stomachs up in knots, paralyzing our thinking, inducing panic. Fear, and its cousin worry, can capture our hearts when we find ourselves in situations beyond our control. The Lord Jesus talks about tiny, defenseless sparrows in the context of fear and worry: " Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink... Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they" (Matt. 6:25-26)? In Matthew 10:29-31 the He says," Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Fear can grip us, trying to choke all faith out of our hearts. 

As we face a New Year, think for a moment of that first Christmas, a young engaged couple expecting a baby. Think of all the uncertainties and unknowns they were facing. Surrounded by animals and scandal. She is in labor, her child will be born in a stable, of all places. They might have wondered, " Why is it like this? But she was holding onto the words spoken by the angel, "Do not be afraid, Mary...." (Lk 1:30). Outside of town, shepherds are watching over their sheep and all of a sudden the sky lights up and an angel proclaims," Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). The shepherds' fear is turned to joy as they hear news that a Savior is born. 

A Savior comes to rescue, preserve, and protect his people from the troubles that surround them. That's what Jesus came to do for us. We do not need to be afraid of the past, present or future, because God has sent a Savior to us, Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the One who will "never leave us or forsake us" (Heb. 13:5). He will supply all our needs according to his riches in glory (Phil. 4:19) and add to us all the things we need as we seek him and his Kingdom (Matt. 6:33). The world is gripped by fear, financial uncertainties, political unrest around the world and so much more. But the answer for the future, for 2013, is the real message and meaning of Christmas: "Fear not ... for a Savior is born to you...Christ the Lord!"God has sent a Savior for you. To save you from your sins and to help you in this life, to lift your burden and ease your fears. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Three Legs of Christmas (Part Three)


"Unto to you is born...a Savior who is Christ the Lord" Luke 2:11

THE THIRD LEG – THE RESURRECTION – HE LIVES 

“Unto you is born a Savior, WHICH IS CHRIST THE LORD”. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the essential sequel to His atoning death. It would be good to read 1 Corinthians 15, which is a great chapter on the resurrection of Christ. His resurrection validated a number of things, including the following: 

The resurrection validated that the Savior’s death on the cross was a voluntary sacrifice, that He laid down His life and He took it back again. (John 10:17,18) “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again”. “No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father”. 

The resurrection validated that the Savior completed the work of salvation. It says in (Romans 4:25) He was “delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification”. 

The resurrection validated that God was perfectly satisfied with the work of His beloved Son. God put His “seal of approval” upon His perfect sacrifice for our sins. It was the working of His (God’s) “mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places”. Read (Ephesians 1:19-23). 

The resurrection validated that Jesus Christ is indeed the person that He said He was, the eternal Son of the eternal God. Jesus is “Christ the Lord”. 

“Unto you is born a Savior, WHICH IS CHRIST THE LORD”. Peter stood up and preached in the first days of this dispensation of grace, (Acts 2:36) “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”. Jesus is not only the Savior, but He is “the Christ”. He is the anointed of God. He is the Messiah of Israel. Jesus is not only the Savior, and the Christ, but He is the Lord. That is, He is God manifest in flesh. In order for you to be saved you must acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ and believe in His resurrection. It says in (Romans 10:9,10) “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, (Jesus as Lord), and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”. “For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. It says also in, (Romans 10:13) “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved”. Have YOU ever called upon Him to save you? 

This Christmas season you will likely be busy with family and friends. You will, no doubt, be giving and receiving gifts.Why not take some time and be mindful of God’s great gift to you. It says in (James 1:17) “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father”. He gave you that “good” gift, that “perfect” gift, He gave you His well beloved Son. Will you receive Him? (Romans 6:23) says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. What a wonderful gracious God we have to offer to us, so unworthy and undeserving, the gift of eternal life. Because it is a gift we can not work for it or merit it by anything we are or do. Will you receive this gift? If you do, you will be able to say like the apostle Paul, (2 Corinthians 9:15) “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift”. 

The Three Legs of Christmas (Part Two)


"Unto to you is born...a Savior who is Christ the Lord" Luke 2:11

THE SECOND LEG– THE CRUCIFIXION – HE DIED 

“Unto you is born A SAVIOR”. Because of the commercialism of Christmas and the busy activities associated with the holidays, very few people take time to consider the Savior. Little thought is given as to who He His and what He accomplished when He suffered bled and died on that cross at Calvary. The Lord Jesus Christ is called a Savior. The Bible frequently talks about “salvation” and man’s need to be“saved”. These words mean deliverance or rescue from a danger which threatens. All humanity is in peril, and therefore needs to be delivered or saved from that danger. The danger is God’s judgment that will surely be visited upon sin and the sinner that dies with his sins not forgiven. The Bible declares this judgment to be confinement to the “lake of fire” (see above) and eternal banishment from God. Are your sins forgiven by God? Jesus Christ is the Savior. He is the one, and the only one, who can save the sinner from his sins. It says in (Acts 4:12) “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other Name (Jesus Christ) under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”. There is no salvation without Him. He is the exclusive Savior. What are you depending upon to get to heaven? Are you depending on your religion or your religious activities? Are you depending on your church, your priest or your pastor?Are you depending on infant baptism, doing the best you can, keeping the “golden rule”, tithing, etc, etc? None of these things will bring you salvation. You need a Savior, and God has provided His Son. “Unto you is born a Savior”. It says in (1 Timothy 1:15) “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. This is the reason that he came, “to save sinners”. How could He do this? Not by His perfect life, not by the wonderful words He said, not by the mighty deeds He did. The divine declaration of a holy and righteous God is (Hebrews 9:22) “Without shedding of blood is no remission”. It was necessary that the Lord Jesus Christ be “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). He came to provide salvation for sinners, and this could only be done by the sacrifice of Himself on our behalf. We read in (1 Peter 3:18) “Christ…suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God”. When He hung upon that center cross, He was bearing our heavy load of sin and He suffered, bled and died in our guilty room and stead. He went under the wrath and judgment of a holy, righteous and just God. The hymn writer wrote the words; 

“All my sins were laid on Jesus, Jesus bore them on the tree; 
God, who knew them, laid them on Him, And, believing, I am free!” 

This is the very heart of the Gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4) “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” This is God’s good news for each of us. 





The Three Legs of Christmas (Part One)

"Unto to you is born...a Savior who is Christ the Lord" Luke 2:11

It has been said that Christianity rests on three great pillars. I would like to look at them as three legs on a three legged stool. All three legs are found here in the angel's words to the shepherds in Luke 2:11. Let's look at each leg.

THE FIRST LEG– THE INCARNATION – HE CAME 

“Unto you IS BORN”. The birth of Jesus Christ is indeed, “the reason for the season”. His birth was a natural birth, like anyone else born into the world. It says in (Galatians 4:4) “When the fullness of the time was come, (the time of His birth was divinely determined) God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under the law”. And, (Luke 2:7) says, “She (Mary) brought forth her firstborn Son”. The conception of His birth, however, was supernatural. He was born of a virgin, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, seven centuries earlier. (Isaiah 7:14) “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign, behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel" (meaning “God with us” or “”with us God”). The virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is confirmed in the New Testament, for we read in (Matthew 1:18) “Before they (Mary & Joseph) came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost”. Also, it says in (Matthew 1:20) “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost”. When we speak of the Lord’s incarnation, we refer to the fact that He became man. He became man without ceasing to be God. (Isaiah 9:6) reminds us of a very important aspect of the birth of Christ. It says “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given”. Not only was a child born, like the birth of any other child, but, unlike any other birth, unto us a son is given. (John 3:16) “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. Was there ever a time when you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Was there a definite time when you put your faith and trust in Him? It says in (1 Timothy 3:16) “Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh”. God gave His Son. Why did God give us such a wonderful gift? Notice again what our verse says. 

“UNTO YOU is born”. This is the reason that He came.(1 Timothy 1:15) “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. God says in His Word that we need a Savior because we are all sinners, both by nature and by practice. We are sinners by nature because we are all born into this world with a sinful nature within us. That means we are sinners by birth. It says in (Romans 5:12) “By one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. Because of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, the whole human race is infected with sin and the consequence of sin which is death. Being born into this world, we are in the flesh and God says (Romans 8:8) “They that are in the flesh cannot please God”. If you are not saved, you have never thought, said or done one thing that has pleased God. It says in Isaiah 64:6) “We are all as an unclean thing and all our righteous nesses are as filthy rags”. Not only are we sinners by nature but we are sinners by practice as well. Note what the Bible says in the following verses: 

· (Romans 3:9) “Jews and Gentiles alike, they are all under sin”. 

· (Romans 3:10) “There is none righteous, no not one”. 

· (Romans 3:23) “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. 

· (Ecclesiastes 7:20) “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not” 

These verses are sufficient to show mans sinful condition in the eyes of a Holy God. It is true that all may not have sinned alike, or to the same degree, yet all alike have sinned in some degree. We have stated that the consequence of sin is death, but death is not the end. It says in (Hebrews 9:27) “It is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment”. God will judge the sinner who dies in their sin. (Revelation 20:11-15) describes the “great white throne” judgment. The solemn scene ends with the words “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”. (Revelation 21:8) describes “The lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death”. Is your name written in the book of life? This is the reason that we need a Savior and God’s salvation. This brings us to our second leg. 





Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What does the Bible say about Loyalty?

I was recently reading about the story of Jonathan and David. Their friendship was really remarkable. But what really stood out to me was the loyalty of Jonathan to David. Then I thought of the loyalty of Ruth to Naomi and that started a whole line of thinking on this subject of loyalty. In the world we live in today we really don't see a lot of loyalty, loyalty in marriages, in friendships in business, or even in the church. I looked up the word loyalty in the dictionary, it means "unswerving in allegiance as 1) faithful allegiance to one’s sovereign or government, 2) faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due, 3) faithful to a cause, ideal or custom." Synonyms are: faithful, allegiance, devotion, dedication, constant, unwavering, steady, unfailing.

Notice that the definition implies that what you are loyal to should be deserving of your loyalty. Think of the people, organizations, teams, causes, etc. to which you are (or have been) loyal. Which ones are deserving of your loyalty? Which ones are not?

What does the Bible have to say about loyalty and being loyal? 

Proverbs 21:21 in the NASV says, "He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor. " In the NIV loyalty is translated as "love." There's another translation of this same passage that describes it as "faithful love." 

Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Here we can learn that loyalty is unwavering in good times and bad. In Matthew Matthew 26:33-35 Peter said that even if all were made to stumble he would stay loyal, but in Matthew 26:69-75 we see that Peter denied the Lord and scattered just like the rest. So here we learn that loyalty is what you do, not what you say. Psalm 78:8 teaches us that loyalty is in your heart. It is willing and not reluctant. "And may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set it heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God." 

We learn from Exodus 17:8-13 loyalty can be demanding when Moses was loyal to Joshua who was fighting the battle down in the valley. Moses kept his arms stretched out praying for him. And when Moses was tired Aaron and Hur were loyal to him holding his arms up, while Joshua was loyal to God and to his people fighting the battle! 2 Chronicles 11:13-16 shows us that lloyalty may involve sacrifice when the priests and Levites left all they had to follow Rehoboam. 

We are reminded in Psalm 84:10-11 that loyalty to the Lord will be rewarded, "For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." 

In the Old Testament we read of disloyalty being punished. Because Edom deserted Israel in its time of need, "I will bring you plummeting down," said the Lord (Obadiah 1:4-14). 

When a person is loyal in their business they are promoted to greater positions of usefulness. They have proven themselves in one area and are given another area of responsibility. Jesus said, "You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things..." (Mtt. 25:23). The message to Smyrna was "...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Re.2:10 

Does your life bear the mark of loyalty? If you are a Christian, it should! We should be loyal to our family, our church, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Where does your loyalty lie?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Letter to the Church at Laodicea

Message by Ernie Brown 

Scriptures considered: Revelation 3:14-22, Colossians 4:16-18.

The letters to the seven churches of Asia, or Turkey as it is nowadays, have very serious lessons for all Christians. We must pay heed to them for ourselves, rather than applying them to others.

Spiritual decline

The Christian church was inaugurated on the day of Pentecost, the fiftieth day from when Christ was raised from among the dead. Since that auspicious start, we Christians, as a whole, have become increasingly worldly and much less Christ-like or Christ-centred. The letters to the seven churches give a prophetic outline of the history of the church, highlighting the origins and results of this spiritual decline. They trace things through from the day of Pentecost right up to the second coming of the Lord. This last letter, to Laodicea, describes things as they are in the present day, at the very end of the Christian church period, immediately before the coming of the Lord. 

"The Amen"

We read in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "All the promises of God are Yea and Amen in Him." As the Amen, everything that God has committed Himself to do is both affirmed and confirmed in Christ. He is the One on Whom rests all the stability and assurance of what God will ever do.

"The Faithful and True Witness"

In Laodicean days, when the witness borne to God is worse than at any other time in the history of the Christian church, Christ is presented as the Faithful and True Witness. Nowadays, the two marks of faithfulness and truth are largely missing from that which outwardly professes to be Christian. In such conditions, He Who is the living embodiment of faithfulness and truth can alone be relied on to maintain what is due to God. 

"The Beginning"

As the Beginning, He is the true source and origin of everything that is of God and for God.

"I know thy works"

The Laodiceans were not lazy. They were quite willing to work, and their works were not pagan works. They even had a veneer of being true and good. Yet, there is nothing that could earn a specific commendation from the Lord. He said two things that give reasons for this.

"Thou art neither cold nor hot" (v. 15)

"I will spue thee out of My mouth" (v. 16)

At Colossae, 9 miles west, the water was cold, refreshing, pure, derived from melting snow on the nearby hills. At Hierapolis, 6 miles north, there was an abundant supply of hot spring water at 35°C (95°F), full of beneficial minerals, especially calcium, and considered to be therapeutic. Local people still bathe their eyes in the water. Laodicea was built in the third century BC at a natural crossroads in a low undulating plain. It was a good site in strategic terms, but with no natural source of drinking water. Supplies were brought in from the south via a stone aqueduct, which terminated in a water tower. From this, the water was distributed to the streets via pipes. The water was neither cold and refreshing, as at Colossae, nor was it hot and therapeutic, as at Hierapolis. It was tepid and laden with unpalatable minerals. Visitors not used to its flavour would spit it out in revulsion. The church at Laodicea was in danger of being rejected in the same way by Christ.

"I am rich"

The Lord says, "Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods." Laodicea had access to tremendous assets and resources. The city was a rich banking centre, controlling the finances of a large, commercially vibrant region. It wasn’t vulnerable to the fluctuation in market trends by being over dependent on any one commodity or trade. Among its diverse trading activities, it had a thriving woollen trade. Warm cloaks, made from local wool, of exceptionally high quality, from a special breed of long-haired black sheep, were ideal for both shepherds out in the country and also fashion conscious business people in the commercial centre. There was also a healthy export trade.

"You say you have need of nothing"

This would certainly register with the Laodiceans. In the year AD 60, the city was declared by the imperial authorities in Rome to be a disaster area, after a severe earthquake devastated the city. The Roman authorities offered grants and subsidies to help with the reconstruction. The Laodiceans declined the offer, stating that they were quite capable of funding the project themselves, without outside help. They were extremely proud of their self-sufficiency. The same spirit evidently marked the local church. The Christians at neighbouring Colossae were happy to be told, "Ye are complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10). The affluent Laodiceans seemed to consider themselves to be complete in themselves, rather than in Christ.

"Wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked"

The Lord’s assessment of them was completely opposite to what they thought of themselves. Wealthy, well clothed, haughty, self satisfied Laodiceans would feel grossly insulted to be described as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." The Lord was, of course, speaking about spiritual and moral values, not financial and economic ones.

It is significant that the Lord attributes blindness to the Laodiceans. God always delivers blessing in pristine beauty and condition. Committed to man, things soon deteriorate and fall away. Eventually at the end of every phase of God’s revelation to man, blindness is seen to set in. The last judge, Samson, ended his days in blindness (Judges 16:21). The last priest, Eli, was blind (1 Samuel 4:15). The last King of Judah, Zedekiah, had his sight taken away (2 Kings 25:7). How salutary that the last condition of the Christian witness immediately before the coming of the Lord is described as including the distressing, helpless condition of blindness. The lesson is clear. None is so blind as he who doesn’t want to see.

"To him that overcomes"

Notwithstanding the appalling general condition, the Lord does not give them up. He calls for overcomers, even in Laodicea. If the Lord appeals for an overcomer, there must be the prospect of there being at least one. But how can it be done?

"Buy…"

Everything that is valuable costs you something. And from Whom could they buy what they needed? "Buy of Me," the Lord says. He is the holy One Who is able and willing to help. No one else can do so.

"Gold, tried in the fire"

What were they to ask for? "Gold, tried in the fire." In the Bible, gold is used as a picture of things that are considered valuable by God. The most precious resource and asset at God’s disposal is the Person and work of His beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. "Gold, tried in the fire," suggests that which is of Christ, proved in personal soul experience in the presence of God.

"White raiment"

The Laodiceans were used to preening themselves in their rich black cloaks. The Lord directs them to acquire, from Him, white garments to cover their naked shame. The allusion is clear. Clothing is what people first see of us. White is always a picture of purity and righteousness. Chapter 19 verse 8 tells us that the church, the Lamb’s wife (not by then on earth, but in heaven with Christ) will be clothed in "fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." The righteous deeds of the Christian believers will be on display, as clearly as though they were worn as a suit of clothes. The Laodiceans were directed away from flashy clothing to doing what is right in the sight of God.

"Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve" 

Laodicea had a famous medical school, specialising in the treatment of eyes. Their surgeons were skilled in eye operations, including the removal of cataracts. Additionally, much revenue was gained locally from the sale of eye ointments and eye salves. Local factories made good use of the nearby mineral salt deposits, which research had determined to be beneficial over a wide range of eye conditions. They would know full well what the Lord was talking about when He said, "Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." Only something Christ can give them can enable them to see clearly.

"As many as I love, I chasten"

What we do doesn’t alter what He is. Although the state is judged, the persons are still loved. All discipline has a positive aim. It is administered with a view to correction and restoration to full joy and fellowship. 

As He says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." He so loves us and cares for us that He must at times discipline us. This does not make it any easier at the receiving end (cf. Hebrews 12:11). 

"Repent"

The Lord makes the matter perfectly plain. "Repent." Unless our hearts are right before God, we will never take the right action. Repentance must precede the answer to the Lord’s knocking. There must be a real change of mind before God. We must agree with God about the poor spiritual condition in which we are. Each individual is responsible to the Lord to do so on a personal basis. In verse 20, a tremendous opportunity opens up. The Lord makes His appeal to any individual who is willing to listen: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to Him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." There is always room for recovery, and there is some response from individuals. The Lord, in His patience, is knocking, but from the outside. We will not hear the Lord’s voice until we have repented.

"I stand" 

Not a casual stance, but one which is adopted continually until the object is achieved. That is, the personal response of the individual overcomer. An "overcomer," is any individual who refuses to be swept along by the tide of unfaithfulness rampant just before the Lord’s coming, and is determined to seek help and grace from God so as to remain true to his Lord and Master, at whatever personal cost.

"I am knocking"

Why refer to a door, or gate? As part of the reconstruction of the city after the earthquake mentioned earlier, a local wealthy benefactor paid for the erection of an impressive new "gate" for the city. Nocturnal visitors to the city found the gate locked, so as to safeguard the city’s wealth and treasures. They had to knock and be subjected to close scrutiny before gaining admittance. They were treating the Lord in the same way, keeping Him outside. Individuals responding to His knocking would themselves gain access to and receive all the spiritual treasure they would ever need or could enjoy. The Lord is calling attention to the fact that He is there, knocking, but from the outside. The Laodiceans had shut themselves in to themselves, without Him. They were so busy with their own activities that they could not even hear the knocking that was going on on the outside. They were not only going on without Him, they were not conscious that He was outside.

There is always room for recovery, and there is some response from individuals. But, we must hear His voice. If consciences are awakened, repentance would be brought about. 

"If any man"

The mass will never turn. The response must be individual. 

"Open the door" 

The overcomer must open the door for himself. The knock is imperative. The voice is appealing. If there is no response to this appeal, there can be no more. "I will come in to him." How gracious the Lord is. He expresses His willingness to come into our hearts, our lives, but He doesn’t force Himself upon us.

"I will sup with him and he with Me"

What joy, what communion, is available to us if we allow Him to have His true place, the chief place, in our plans, our ambitions, our motives.

He comes to our side, that we might enter into His side ("I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me"; cf also John 13:8). 

"With Me on My throne"

Rewards are granted to those who make room for Him in this way: "To Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne." Here again we have a reference to a well-known local practice. Public thrones, there and then, were not designed for single occupancy. They were more like benches, with sufficient room for those summoned by special invitation of the occupant of the throne. Such dignitaries, selected on account of high office or spectacular achievement, were summoned to sit on the throne alongside the visiting sovereign or president of the function to view the proceedings of the day at the arena, theatre or stadium. 

As always, the Lord Himself is both the source and the standard for everything He offers us. When He lived on the earth, He was always faithful to His Father in heaven, whatever the opposition, whatever the personal cost to Himself. Having gone back to heaven, He is now seated in honor alongside His Father, awaiting His day of glory, when He shall sit on His own throne, and receive universal honor and acclaim. He now says to those who have committed themselves to be faithful on earth to Him while He is in heaven, "When I appear in power and great glory, you will be alongside Me sharing that glory." (See also 1 Samuel 2:30).

Closing remarks

If the Laodiceans had read The Epistle to the Colossians, and taken heed to it, they would not have needed this letter. For us, it is safe to look for a Philadelphian in the saints, and keep guard against Laodicean tendencies in ourselves. The obvious remedy and preventive to Laodicean conditions is Colossian ministry (affections set on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, Colossians 3:1-4). 

Christ is coming again. He has left Christians on earth until then with the privilege and responsibility of being true and faithful to Him while we wait for Him to come. We must be good stewards of whatever has been entrusted to us in the meantime. May we seek grace to do so.

The Glory of God and Jesus

Article by J.T. Mawson 

"But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55).

"The glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God," and a man upon earth full of the Holy Spirit, unafraid of that glory and in living union with the Man exalted there-this was the revelation of an entirely new order of things, a heavenly order of things, which can only be known on earth by the Holy Spirit who has come from that glory. Let us diligently seek to understand this-and it is only by the teaching of the Holy Spirit that we can understand it-then we shall understand Paul’s gospel and "the mystery" of it (see Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 1:25-27).

The truth of the assembly, the body of Christ upon earth, really commences with this that Stephen saw. His eyes were turned away from the world; he probably never was held by the gross things in it, but he had had his part in the religious side of it; but now we see him separated from it, the temple, the priests, the learned leaders of the Jewish system, all have faded from his view; even an earthly kingdom with the divine Messiah at its head is surpassed and entirely eclipsed by that which now enthralls him-the glory of God, and a Man at the right hand of God. This wonderful revelation is the more arresting in that the Man who could stand at God’s right hand, in the presence of that glory before which the highest angels fall prostrate with covered faces, was the One whom the world had judged to be only worthy of a malefactor’s cross, but it is not that which we wish to emphasize here. 

It is the fact of the glory of God and Man being in absolute consonance. We know that that Man was "Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever" (Romans 9:5), but that is not the point of this passage. The Lord is spoken of by His personal human name. It was JESUS whom Stephen saw, the One who was born in the manger at Bethlehem, who died upon the cross of Calvary, who was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, and who had ascended bodily to that glory. He was and is for ever absolutely agreeable to that glory, nay, altogether necessary to it, and that this might be known the heavens were opened, and Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, saw by the power of the Spirit that to which he had to bear witness ere he died, and that which was to be the beginning and body of all Paul’s ministry. The glory of God has found a Man; apart from this the purpose of the glory in regard to men could never have been fulfilled, and itself must have remained hidden from the universe for ever. That Man is Jesus, who loved us and died for our sins, and consequently we cannot be indifferent to this great fact. Our hearts are glad because of what this means for our Saviour; we have often considered Him as the despised and rejected of men, "the shame of the cross and Jesus" we often think of together, but now it is "the glory of God and Jesus"; we cannot but be glad and rejoice as we consider this.

This is only one side of the new order of things which here comes to light, and yet we must dwell further upon it, for everything takes character from it. We must not confine our thoughts of the glory of God to the place of exaltation into which Jesus has gone, that is described as "the right hand of God"; there is much more in the expression than the thought of locality. It is the shining out of what God is in His very nature. The expression has its own special significance. Moses desired to see the glory of God, but the time had not then come for it, though God gave to His servant a partial revelation of it, proclaiming His name as merciful and gracious.

These two qualities are an integral part of that glory, as the prominent place that they occupy in the Epistle to the Ephesians proves; but the glory of God-the full display of His nature and ways-could not be revealed until He had a Man in whom it could shine forth and who could maintain it in all its radiance, undimmed and untarnished by any failure for ever. That God has secured this now is proved beyond doubt by the fact that He has thrown open the heavens and shown to us "the glory of God and Jesus."

The other side of this new order is more surprising and, perhaps, more difficult to grasp, but just as real and true. It is that the Holy Spirit has come down from the exalted Man, our Lord, bringing with Him the full knowledge of the glory of God, for He is the Spirit of that glory, and that He now indwells believers on the earth and unites them in a vital union with Christ who is exalted at the right hand of God. Stephen is a pattern of this, for he was not only a witness to what his divinely-anointed eyes beheld, but he became descriptive of Christ in the midst of the most adverse circumstances. It was not in the fact that his face shone like an angel’s that he was descriptive of Christ, for the glory of an angel is not the glory of God, and his face shone in this manner before he looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus; but it was in that most wonderful grace that made him pray with his last breath, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Thus was the life of Jesus made manifest in his mortal flesh. But this could not have been had he not been a member of the body of Christ, and he could not have been that had not the Holy Spirit come from Christ to make him so. What else but Christ, morally, could the Holy Spirit bring from heaven? Nothing. What other business has He but the displacement of self and the forming of Christ in the lives of those whom He indwells? None. And Stephen is the pattern of it. In him we see a man upon earth brought into perfect accord with the glory of God, and this not only in the fact that the glory of God and Jesus filled his eyes objectively, but that the life of Jesus was formed in Him subjectively, and manifested itself practically in the very world out of which Jesus had been cast.

Stephen may have been an amiable man or the reverse, it matters not; what he may have been naturally had no place here; he was full of the Holy Spirit, and Stephen was displaced and Christ shone out. "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Beholding the glory of the Lord he was transfigured into the same image.

But the Holy Spirit who filled Stephen did not dwell exclusively in him. He dwelt in Stephen because he was a member of the body of Christ on earth, and every believer in the exalted Lord Jesus is equally a member of the body of Christ; and, consequently, the Holy Ghost dwells in each and all. And the body is to be descriptive of Christ. This is the great theme of the Epistle to the Colossians, and to this end we who "were sometime alienated and enemies in our minds by wicked works, now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present us holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (Colossians 1:21-22), i.e., in the presence of that glory we are as Christ is, for we are part of Him, and He is in us as His members, and consequently we are to be as He is in the place where He is not. Nothing in which men can boast or contribute can help the body of Christ. The best that man can produce belongs to the world that is passing away, for the glory of man is as the flower of the field. But the assembly, which is His body, has its origin in and takes its character from the glory of God; the Man who is entirely agreeable to that glory is its Head and life; and the Holy Spirit who has come from that glory is its unwearied power.

And we are looking for the glorious day when the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church will be finished, and when it, as the holy city, shall descend out of heaven from God, having the glory of God (Revelation 21:10-11).

That which she will be then, when her light shines forth like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal, is being formed in her now by the Holy Ghost. She is being fashioned according to the glory of God and the Man who is at the right hand of God, and while failure proclaims itself wherever the eye turns in that which professes the name of Christ on earth, there is no failure in this work of the Spirit; and there shall yet be displayed to the universe the triumph of God in His counsels of blessing, and He shall have glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What did the Mayans Really Know?

Did the Mayans really know something about the end of the world? NO! The Bible says, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matthew 24:36

However, one day each one of will come to the end of this life's journey (whether by natural causes, accident or some other way). Today, maybe for the first time, maybe for the 100th time, maybe for the 1,000th time, you are hearing the warning from God that the moment you die you will stand before God and be judged by Him. If you die having rejected Christ, your soul will spend all eternity apart from the God who created you. You will be lost for all eternity. God's desire is that ALL come to repentance, that none be lost. By putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ you can have the assurance that at the moment you die you will be forever with the Lord, spending all eternity with Him. That is the choice each person that lives has to make, that is the choice that YOU have to make.

Let me ask you a simple question. If you died this very moment, do you have the complete assurance without any doubt that when you stand before God He will welcome you into His presence for all eternity because you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ? If you do not have that assurance, Pray, ask God to open your heart to the truth of the words there, and make the choice today to ask Jesus Christ into your heart and life by faith. Don't ignore this warning!!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Wonder of Christmas

I can remember as a young boy waking early on Christmas morning running out to the family room with great wonder at what was there under the tree! For some, this time of year still brings about a sense of wonder and awe. But many of us, in the midst of all the hustle and hype of the holidays have lost the wonder that ought to come when we are reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. Recently I was reading through the passages in Scripture that we often call "the Christmas story." I was amazed that during the very first Christmas there was a sense of wonder and awe. Then I was was challenged, "Shouldn't I still have the same sense of wonder and awe when I consider all that God did in sending His Son into this world, not to condemn us but that through Him we might be save?" Let's consider some of those who were in wonder and awe on that first Christmas. As we consider these thoughts let's take in the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Pause and wonder" (Is. 29:9).

In Luke 1:18 we read of Zechariah (John the baptists father) who wondered how he and his wife could give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah. Image how this man who was well advanced in years would have felt! At first wonder in the sense of doubt, "how can this be?" But as you read more of Zechariah's experience we see that this wonder of doubt becomes a wonder of worship! Latter on in chapter one we hear his song of praise and it filled no longer with the wonder of doubt, but it display a heart that is filled with the wonder and awe of worship! He speaks :
  • of a redeeming God (1:68)
  • of the the strength of that God (1:69)
  • of the Sovereignty of such a God (1:70)
  • of the Salvation and deliverance by His God (1:71)
  • of the Mercy of God (1:72)
  • of the fact that this is a covenant keeping God (1:72)
  • and that his God is Holy and Righteous (1:75)

In Luke 1:34 we read that Mary wondered how it would be possible for a virgin to give birth to a baby. Mary's wonder here isn't so a question of doubt as much as it was an expression of faith, even though so small. She believed the promise, but she did not understand the performance. How could a virgin have a child? Gabriel explains that this would be a miracle, the work of the Holy Spirit of God. He goes on to tell her that the baby would be a "holy" (1:35). Then when see that true wonder brings about a heart that is surrendered to the will of God (1:38) and in her song we see that wonder causes her to praise Him for the promises as if they were already fulfilled. So we see her faith. Then we see a heart full of wonder is full of joy (1:47). She was in awe of the greatness and holiness of her God as a result of her wonder (1:49). Her whole experience displays a heart that is overflowing with love for her God.

In Matthew 1:18:25 we see Joseph wondering why he and Mary had been chosen by God to be the parents of the Messiah. Later we see Mary pondering everything in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51). Both Joseph and Mary marvel at what devout Simeon says to them in Luke 2:25-35.

Think of the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem keeping watch over their flocks when the dark night was light up by the presence of angel proclaiming the Savior's birth. I notice several things here that is worth pointing out. First, what kind of shepherds were they? We are told that they were watching shepherds (2:8). They had been faithful with what they had been given. Shepherds were not held in such high esteem in that day, yet heavens secrets concerning the arrival of the Savior was given to them. Why? Perhaps Psalm 25:14 has the answer, "The secrets of the LORD are with those that fear Him" or "are in awe of Him." Next thing I notice about these shepherds is that they are wondering shepherds (2:9-10). The type of wonder here was one of fear but notice what the angels said, "Fear not!" This is one of the great themes of the Christmas story (Luke 1:13, 30, 74, Matthew 1:20). The good tidings or the good news is full of great joy and cast out fear! These shepherds were also willing shepherds (2:15-16), they responded in faith! They didn't say "let's go see if these things happened." They said, "let's go see these things that have happened." They were also witnessing shepherds (2:17-18). They didn't keep it to themselves, they told every one they saw and people marveled at what they shared! The last thing we see about these shepherds is that they became worshipping shepherds (2:19-20).

What Hinders Our Wonder
In each of these scripture we see that there was a cause an affect that brought about wonder. Wonder is not a fuzzy feeling. If we look for that were missing the point. Wonder comes from being occupied with the real reason for the season! Have you ever notice so many manger scenes have the figures facing out so we can see them. I heard of a little girl who moved the figures in a manger scene all facing in, when asked why she said, "They need to be looking at Jesus, not at us!" She got it! This is the main reason we loose our wonder! We're too busy being occupied with other things.

Another factor that affects our wonder is that we get way too busy this time of year! We need to "pause and wonder" (Is. 29:9). We need to "be still" to appreciate and know Who is God (Ps. 40:10). It has often been said that if we don't come apart a rest, we'll just come apart! I think there is a lot of true to that, especially this time of year.

May we enjoy this time of year with friends and family, but let's not forget to pause and wonder. Let our wonder lead to worship Him who not only came as a baby and was laid in a manger. But remember why He came to bring glory to God through His life and His death. Pause and wonder why that one who laid in a manger, grew up and as a man hung on the cross paying the price and the penalty for my sins and yours. He was buried and rose again, ascend back to Heaven and is coming back for us! Pause and wonder at the plan of salvation. When you pause and wonder it will lead you to praise and worship!












Sunday, December 2, 2012

CHRISTMAS

Christ Jesus was born in a stable, in a feeding trough. This reminds us of 2 Corinthians 8:9 "For we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Hope, He came into a world without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12) to provide us with hope- HIMSELF (1 Timothy 1:1).

Righteousness- He was completely righteous, sinless. He knew know sin (2 Corinthian 5:21), He did no sin (1 Peter 2:22), In Him was no sin (1 John 3:5) and He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Inn- This reminds us that there was no room for Him in the Inn (Luke 2:7). At the cross the world said away with Him, even today the world has no time for the Lord Jesus. Do you?

Savior Luke 2:11 reminds us, "Unto you is born... a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." There is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12) Christ Jesus came into this world to Save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). 

Trust in Him-Each of us have to "confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Messiah- He is God's annointed, the Christ. Peter declared that "God has made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). This reminds us that God has given Him the authority as Lord of Lord's and that our live's ought to be surrendered and submitted to Him.

Accepting all; who come to Him! All need Him and He accepts all

Shepherds and wise men sought Him and so should you! They brought Him gifts, what are you bringing Him today? Have you given Him your heart! Wise men still seek Him today