Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Willing Heart

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

God doesn't forcefully take anything from us in this age of grace. That would be fake worship, and He is not interested in it. That would be totally against His nature. He is perfect in truth, wisdom and love, with absolute power. If He wanted robots, He would have made them, but He didn’t. We can each choose whether to believe when we hear the Good News of how He loved the world enough to send His beloved, only begotten Son to die for our sins, and we can choose whether to obey, out of genuine love for Him. If we truly know Him, then the natural response is to love Him. No one could ever convince me of any other possible outcome. So in other words, anyone who does not love God (and thus obey the God they claim to believe in) has a lack of knowledge. They are NOT wise. For those of us who DO love God, our offerings include not only money, but our time, talents, efforts, devotion and pretty much all that we are or ever will be. (Rom. 12:1-2, Heb. 13:15-16)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! Psalm 111:10

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! Psalm 119:1-3

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly. 1 Chronicles 29:9

I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. 1 Chronicles 29:17

And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the LORD’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD. Exodus 35:21-29

(Note that we sow and reap in all sorts of ways, but the motive in all of it must be love. When we’re generous, God blesses us to be a blessing to others.)

So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 2 Corinthians 9:5-12

At first glance the following passages would seem to support the idea that we are free of all further expectations from God the instant we accept Jesus as our Savior, but we need to view all Scripture in the light of the rest of the Scriptures. Jesus says it costs our LIFE to be His disciple. (Luke 14:33-35, Matt. 10:37-39, Matt. 16:24-27) James says faith without works is dead and that we are under the royal law and the perfect law of liberty, by which we will be judged (as to how we chose to use our freedom to glorify God or not--which is to profane it if we claim to be His but care nothing for His ways). (James 2:8-26, 1Cor. 10:31) John pleads with us to live in such a manner that we will have no need to shrink back in shame from Jesus at His coming and He tells us that whoever loves the world and sin is a liar if they say they even KNOW God, let alone love Him. (1John 1:5-2:6, 1John 2:15-17, 1John 2:28-29) Paul says that we are under the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), and also that if we defile our bodies with sexual sin, we are defiling God's own temple! He compares it to joining Christ with a prostitute! (1Cor. 6:12-20, Eph. 5, Col. 3, Rom. 13:8-14)

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:2-4

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 9:30-33

No, the point of those passages is not to say we are free TO sin, but that we do NOT earn salvation by our behavior. We obey the spirit of the law out of love for God, out of understanding of who it is that we serve and belong to. (Gal. 1:10, John 12:25-26) That "love" does not include sinning on purpose, encouraging others to do so or approving of it when others sin. (Matt. 18:5-10, 1Thess. 4:1-8) It's better to be "hurt" by the truth now than to suffer forever by hearing what you want to hear now. (1Cor. 5, Mark 9:42-49, James 5:19-20, Jude 1:22-23, Gal. 6:1, Eph. 4:15-32, 2Cor. 7:8-10) “Safe zones” from speech that we might disagree with were designed by Satan to prevent people from hearing the truth that saves. (Rom. 1:18-32, 2Thess. 2:9-12) Our motive is LOVE, not wanting any to perish. (2Pet. 3:9-14, 1Tim. 2:1-6, 1Cor. 13:1-3)

If, as Jesus says, we’re to despise even our family if they try to dissuade us from following Jesus, then it goes without saying that we shouldn’t go along with friends or even enemies as they live contrary to the values in the Bible. (Luke 14:33-35, Titus 2:11-15, Matt. 10:37-39, Matt. 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23-26) (This does not mean abandoning our spouse or dependent children, or failing to respect our parents.) When Paul said he was a chameleon amongst those he was trying to reach with the Gospel, he did NOT mean he joined in their sin. Again, context is everything. Paul goes on to discuss “competing for the prize” according to the rules–exercising self-discipline so as not to be disqualified. If he meant that we should blend in with the world, that would contradict the rest of Scripture, so we know that is NOT what he meant. No, we’re told that bad company corrupts good morals and to be careful not to slip when trying to help someone else up (who has stumbled into sin). (1Cor. 15:33, Gal. 6:1, 2Thess. 3:6, 2John 1:6-11)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:22 

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:16-21

The concept of idolatry does not only apply to bowing to statues, kissing religious medallions, and worshiping false gods. Anything that has taken the proper place of the one true God in our lives becomes an idol. Yet people take the word of their favorite celebrities over the Bible and let themselves be swayed from the truth by people they love?! Why do those who live by adages such as “I wasn’t born yesterday” and “if it sounds too good to be true, it is” fall for lies such as “God has changed with the times” and “God is no longer concerned with sin [and that is why Jesus had to die for ours ??]” and “all ‘good’ people go to heaven”?

There is NO OTHER way to salvation except Jesus, and no additions to His finished work are needed or acceptable. Paul said this about those who were being deceived into thinking that circumcision was still necessary, but it applies to all works we do thinking they will save us:

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:4

Jesus is the ONLY One who could EVER have saved us and He did ALL that was needed. Salvation is FREE, however, the evidence we have received it is a life of holiness (righteousness, obedience to God), having repented from the evil sins that separated us from God before Jesus became our Redeemer. (Heb. 13:8, Mal. 3:6, Matt. 3:7-12) We’re told that we have nothing in common with unbelievers and not to yoke ourselves with them. The following passage immediately follows the one at the top of this article about responding with our whole hearts to God’s message. God wants us to distance ourselves from our old sinful lives, including people who reject His offer of salvation who would try to draw us away from Him–misery loves company!

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

God doesn't want anyone thinking that by doing certain things, they will be able to contribute to their own salvation. Jesus is the ONLY way to be made right with and acceptable to God. (John 14:6, John 3:16-18, 36, 1John 2:23) The point is that we worship in spirit and truth, not according to the letter of the law, NOT according to rote and ritual. If we understand who our God is, how powerful, amazing, glorious and wonderful in every way–how much it cost to redeem us from the power of sin over our lives both in this world and the next, then we won't play games with Him. We won't give Him crumbs of our lives and only seek Him when we need something. Jesus is the pearl of great price to us just as we are to Him!

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Mark 7:6-9

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. John 4:23

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” Matthew 13:44-51

Look at the verse below about "our treasure" in context. These are not random thoughts strung together. Jesus is the light of the world and the word of God is a light for our path and lamp for our feet. (John 8:12, Psa. 119:105) When He refers to the “lamp of the body,” He means that what we take in with our eyes will determine where we go with our feet (into sin from rejecting or ignoring the Word or into righteousness, from seeking and treasuring it). There is a link between LOVING God and OBEYING God. (John 14:15-24) He doesn't NEED anything from us. Everything we have comes from Him in the first place. (Psa. 24:1, 1Chron. 29:14) He gave us free will to choose because He wants our willing HEARTS. He is love. (1John 4:16) How we respond to all that He is, has done and continually does, is everything.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:19-24

Here's another passage to view in context. Notice in the last parable of the series, Jesus makes it perfectly clear that not everyone enters the kingdom. We know from other passages that the kingdom is within us (Luke 17:20-21) and we can't see it without being born again. How are we born again? By having our spirit regenerated by the Holy Spirit. He lives in us and that is why the kingdom of God is within us--that is why you can't see who is born again, but like the wind, you can see the EFFECTS of it (or not, if He is not present or the believer is grieving and quenching Him from helping them walk as they should). (Rom. 8:18-19, Eph. 4:30, 1Thess. 5:19) The effects of the Spirit are called fruits. (Gal. 5:16-26)

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8

This doesn't mean there will be no literal kingdom, but it does mean that only those who are baptized INTO Jesus by the Spirit will enter. The water is symbolic of the drowning of our old self. We rise out of the water into His resurrection, a new, clean creation in Christ.  (Rom. 6:3-11, John 14:15-24, 1Pet. 3:21-22 - water cannot give you a clear conscience toward God.) “The flesh profits nothing” applies to ALL of our works, including water baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Those commemorate the work the Spirit has already DONE in regenerating a believer when they put their trust in the shed blood of Jesus to wash their sins away. (Acts 10:44-48, Rev. 1:5, 7:14, Heb. 9:14, 1John 1:7) We do them because we were commanded as BELIEVERS to observe them as ordinances, not in order to contribute to our salvation. (John 6:63, Luke 22:19, Titus 3:5, Matt. 28:19-20)

This is the kingdom within us is what was taken from Israel and given to a people who would produce its fruits. The Church has the firstfruits of the Spirit, which means there will be more “harvested” after it. (Rom. 8:23, 1Cor. 15:23, James 1:18, Rev. 14:14-16) Jesus was the “firstborn of the dead,” meaning there will be more resurrected after Him. (Col. 1:18, Rev. 1:5, Rev. 14:4-5) It doesn’t mean God is finished with Israel forever. (Matt. 21:42-44, Isa. 54, Jer. 33:19-26, Hosea 6:1-2, 11) They will also enter the New Covenant. (Rom. 11:19-24, Heb. 4)

We must overcome by faith, abiding IN Jesus and He in us. (John 15, Rev. 21:7, Rev. 22:10-15) People who consider the trash of this world more valuable than treasure in heaven, who think that earthly pleasures are more desirable than pleasing God, who seek to serve themselves even when it dishonors God and profanes His holy name that they call themselves by, will REGRET it. (2Tim. 2:19, Heb. 12:14-17) Some may find they never had a saving faith to begin with and are lost eternally, and others may lose reward. (1Cor. 3:11-15, Matt. 24:45-51, Rev. 22:15) Should we be “coveting” rewards in the next life? In a way, yes (but not that we don’t want others to have them, or wish we had theirs). Jesus told us to store treasure in heaven. (Matt. 6:1-21, Matt. 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22) These rewards will be the result of the glory and honor we brought Him in this life. (2John 1:8, Heb. 10:36, James 1:12) They will show how faithful we were to Him, and it will give Him great pleasure to award them. We don’t need wait to see how worthy He is with our eyes (when it will be too late to give more of ourselves), we have all we need in order to come to that conclusion now, in the Bible.

Jesus is explaining below that He cleanses us with the pure water of the Word, which is what happens when we believe the Gospel–accept by faith that the blood He shed for us on the cross will wash away our sins. (Heb. 9:22, Titus 3:4-8, Eph. 5:25-27, Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:19-20, Heb. 13:12-17, 1John 1:5-10) At NO POINT does He say that if we run off like the prodigal son and wallow in the mud like a pig and FAIL TO RETURN to Him in repentance, which means “turn from,” that we are STILL clean (remember, the prodigal son came back to his father of his own accord). (2Pet. 2:1-3, 17-22, Rev. 3:4, Rev. 16:15) We need to ABIDE in Jesus. He is returning for those who are IN Him (John 14:2-3, 1Thess. 4:16-18, 1Cor. 15:23, Rom. 8:9)–not those who once pretended to believe but showed by their evil deeds that they were not being genuine, and not those who think that by doing enough good deeds, they won't need Jesus or that they will somehow add to what He did on the cross. Neither of those extreme opposite beliefs is true, saving faith.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. John 13:6-11

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:63-69

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:1-14

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:19-26

What will be your choice? Will you be like Joshua and Caleb, who entered the promised land (which was a foreshadow of the kingdom of God) due to their whole-hearted faithfulness, or like Solomon who eventually (and probably gradually) let his wives turn his heart away from God so that after his death, out of respect for his faithful father David, the kingdom was divided? (Num. 32:11-12, 1Kings 11:4) Will you treasure in your heart the absolute MIRACLE that God would want to make you His own and reside IN you, or will you treat the gift you have received as common like Esau did with his birthright of the firstborn? (Heb. 12:14-16, Heb. 10:29, Heb. 6:4-12)

As you may know, Isaac was a “type” of Jesus. Abraham was told to go and sacrifice his only son, whom he loved (Gen. 22:2), but God was testing his faithfulness, Isaac lived. (Gen. 22:12). (No one was ever tested in that way again.) Abraham became our “father” through his faithfulness. (Gen. 22:15-18, Rom. 4, Rom. 9:6-8, Gal. 3:16-18, Rom. 2:28-29) (Note there clearly still ARE genders, the point of the following passage is that we all receive the same salvation in Christ. Whoever uses this in support of today’s sad issue of gender confusion is gravely misled. God made what He made the way He wanted, for the purpose He wanted. Gen. 1:27-28 Rebellion against God is nothing new, though. Gen. 3:4, Rom. 1:24-28)

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:27-29

Later, Abraham’s servant was sent to obtain a wife for Isaac. (I would recommend reading the entire chapter of Genesis 24, as it is a beautiful story.) The servant spoke to Rebecca in this way:

Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” Genesis 24:49

Her family wanted her to stay with them for a while before departing, but she was willing to go right away the next morning. (Gen. 24:55-58) She didn’t just say she would follow or dally around after making the commitment, she WENT. (Luke 9:59-62, John 12:26) Speaking of morning, another “type” of Jesus was Boaz, who married Ruth. She remained with Boaz at the threshing floor until morning (Ruth 3:8-14), when Boaz redeemed both her personally (by marrying her at what appears to be the end of the barley harvest - Ruth 4:13, Ruth 3:2) and at the same time, he redeemed her mother-in-law Naomi’s land. (Ruth 4:9, Matt. 13:45-46, Acts 20:28, 1Cor. 6:19-20, Rev. 5:9)

The kingdom of God is often compared to a crop of grain (Matt. 9:37-38) Jesus was the firstfruits of barley–we know this because He fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits of barley (Lev.23:9-14, 1Cor. 15:20) The counting of the omer (for 50 days) is completed on Pentecost (which is also called “firstfruits” or Feast of Weeks, when the firstfruits of wheat is offered (“new” grain–it is not possible to have “firstfruits” again of the same crop in the same year). (Ex. 34:22, Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31)

Boaz previously praised Ruth (who was a Gentile who had come to faith in the one, true God of Israel, just like us - Ruth 1:16-17 - and who had left her home behind like Rebecca) in this way:

But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” Ruth 2:11-13

In Psalm 45, the groom represents Jesus. (We are told this by Paul who quotes from it and says it refers to “the Son.” Psa. 45:7-6, Heb. 1:8-9) She is told to forget her family (whom she has left behind to go and marry, like Rebecca and Ruth). To anyone whose family says that “God has no son” or that Jesus was only “a son” of God (Prov. 30:4, John 1:18, 1John 4:9-10) or that Jesus’ mother still manages His affairs for Him as though He were a child, you need to think for yourself! (2Cor. 5:16, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 11:27-28) Don’t be deceived! Don’t rely on traditions of men, no matter how long they’ve been practiced or by how many. (Matt. 23, Mark 7:1-23) If your religion relies on ANY other book than the Bible, or elevates tradition to the level of Scripture even though there are contradictions between the two, then you have a serious problem! And if you recognize that others are deceived and yet think that you have given all God desired of you by attending “church” (which is not a building or institution) once a week, you are also deceived. He wants your WHOLE heart!

Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. Psalm 45:10-11

God is looking for FAITHFUL, DEVOTED servants who despise the evil in this world the same way He does (Mal. 3:13-4:3, Prov. 6:16-22)–people who don’t want to go back to their “old country” (Heb. 11:15-16, Ruth 1:18) and are not easily swayed and distracted, people who will not desert Him the moment things get rough. (Matt. 13:18-23) Believe me, times ARE going to get rough, especially for those who refuse to go along with Satan's agenda. (John 15:18-21, 2Tim. 3:12-13, Luke 12:11-12, Rev. 13:7-10, 14:9-13) We need to be READY to withstand whatever happens. (Heb. 12:3-14) We need to put on the full armor of God and be found faithfully serving our Lord when He returns for us. (Eph. 6:10-20, 1Sam. 14:6-7, 2Tim. 2:3-7, 11-12, Rev. 22:12) He IS our Lord, right? Or does anyone think they can just say some empty words and God can't see inside their heart or observe their contradictory behavior? (Rom. 10:9-10) It’s NOT enough to just CALL Him Lord–that will not fool Him. (Matt. 7:21, Luke 6:46)

Let me tell you this: Those who are born again are indwelt by God's own Spirit and they ARE able to resist temptation to sin–they are able to desire to know and do God's will. (Philip. 2:12-16) He doesn't "understand" why they "can't" stop sinning, because they CAN. He will forgive ANY and ALL slips, but it's not possible to repent of sins we are deliberately continuing in. That is mocking God. We bear fruit because we have a new nature inside of us. (Gal. 6:7-8, 2Pet. 1:9, Romans 6, 2Cor. 5:17) Jesus explained in the parable of the sower that some would not persevere and continue following Him. He also warned about counting the cost. Salt that has lost its saltiness is useless. That is what a person who promised to follow Jesus and then turned back is like. (Luke 14:25-35, Luke 9:62) Whoever accepts what false teachers tell them to tickle their ears is only harming themselves. (2Tim. 4:3-4)

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:3-4

The second part of the following passage is often quoted by people who like to imagine that their life as a Christian is supposed to be comfortable and easy. However, the context shows that this refers to standing up for Jesus no matter what. We are not to fear death or anything in this life, because we know that we will be with Jesus forever. (Psa. 116:15, 1Thess. 4:17-18) That's ALL that really matters. Our bodies are mere tents that we live in while away from our true home. (Heb. 10:34, Philip. 3:17-21, 2Pet. 1:3-15, 2Cor. 5:6-10) Whoever has not “put on Christ” will be found NAKED when they stand before God. If we have been clothed and cleansed, let's strive to stay that way and live to please God so that people who are observing us will get a true picture of what it is to belong to Jesus. (1Pet. 2:11-12, 1Pet. 4:1-5, Titus 2:7-8, Matt. 5:16) Let's remain steadfast under fire so that He will say to us "well done, good and faithful servant" when He returns to save us from God's wrath and reward us. (Matt. 24:45-51, Heb. 9:27-28, Rev. 11:15-18, Rev. 22:12-20)

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:26-31

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. Romans 14:8

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

I must point out that the following passage is NOT about the Jews rejecting Jesus. This is written to believers who “were sanctified.” The warning is to STOP sinning on purpose! When we didn’t know better, that was understandable, but now we are born again and we DO know better. (Acts 17:30-31, Rom. 3:23-26, 1Tim. 1:12-13, 1Pet. 1:14-19, 2Cor. 12:20-13:2, 5, Eph. 4:17-32) This is not to say there is no forgiveness for sins committed after coming to faith. (1John 1:9, Heb. 7:25) The point is that we don’t continue living in sin now that we’re free from its hold on us and our old sinful self was crucified with Christ. (Rom. 6, Gal. 2:20)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Hebrews 10:19-39

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” John 5:14

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10-11

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34

Throughout each day and night, we should be asking ourselves if we would be ashamed to be doing whatever we're doing if Jesus were standing right there, watching and listening. He's actually CLOSER than NEXT to us. He's IN us and there is NOTHING that He doesn't know. (Heb. 4:12-13, Rev. 2:23) He is a true, fair judge. (Matt. 22:16, Mark 12:14, Luke 20:21, John 7:24, John 8:16, Acts 17:30-31, 2Tim. 4:8, Rev. 16:7, Rev. 19:11) He knows exactly how much strength He gave us to avoid temptation and what we did with it. (1Cor. 10:13) We are free to live life abundantly–when we try to do so, always putting God first and doing as we feel He would have us to do in light of an HONEST reading of the Scriptures (the WHOLE counsel of God - Acts 20:26-33, 2Tim. 3:16-17 - not little “feel good” snippets out of context), we have nothing to fear. (John 10:10, 1John 4:18, Rom. 14:22-23, James 4:17) If we listen to and follow the example of the unsaved, lost world's twisted interpretation of Scripture, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. We need to each examine OURSELVES to see if we are "in the faith" or if we're deceiving ourselves. (2Cor. 13:5, Rom. 16:17-19, 1Cor. 6:9-20, 1Cor. 15:33, 2Cor. 11:1-4, Eph. 5:3-21, 1Cor. 4:4-5, 2Tim. 3:12-17, James 1:12-16, 1John 2:24-29, 1John 3:4-10, 2John 1:6-11) Don't be one of those to whom Jesus says "I don't know you" or "I never knew you" or "I don't know where you come from." (Matt. 25:12, Matt. 7:23, Luke 13:25-27)

People who want to continue in their sins and yet claim to be perpetually “washed clean” like to say that God’s ONLY concern is that we accept Jesus as Savior. How does that explain, then, the rest of the Scriptures exhorting us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Eph. 4:1-3, Philip. 1:27-30, Col. 1:9-14, 1Thess. 2:10-12, 1John 2:6) Why also would we be the “house” Jesus is faithful over IF we hold fast and why should we imitate “those who inherit the promises” and hold fast so that we will “receive the promise”? (Heb. 6:11-12, Heb. 13:7-9) And why then is “commandments” plural in the last sentence below? (Luke 6:46-49, 2Cor. 5:15) The fear we are to have of God is a healthy respect for His awesome power. Nothing is impossible for Him! He is holy and we are to be holy as well, out of love, reverence, loyalty and common sense. (1Pet. 1:14-19)

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:13-24

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:1-5

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Hebrews 3:5-6

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:12-16

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

We believers in this age are grafted into Israel. (Rom. 11, 1Pet. 2:9-10, Rom. 10:19-20) We are not under the ritual law, which was a foreshadow of the fulfillment in Christ, by Him. (Matt. 5:17, Col. 2:16-17, Heb. 10:1) However, God still expects obedience. (Matt. 5:18-48, Eph. 5, 2Cor. 12:20-13:2, Luke 6:43-49) When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are entering into the New Covenant–it’s like a marriage meant to last forever. If a husband and wife don’t give one another their whole hearts, the marriage will not last. (2Cor. 3:3-6, 1Cor. 11:23-32, Matt. 19:3-9, Eph. 5:22-33, 1Cor. 6:15-20, Rev. 19:7-8) Moses commanded Israel to obey God (as they previously promised to do - Ex. 19:8, 24:3, Deu. 5:27) below:

“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (Also Mark 12:28-34)

However, they refused to go into the promised land out of fear and lack of trust in God despite all of the wonders and miracles He showed them when He brought them out of Israel. So they wandered in the desert 40 years until all of that generation except faithful Joshua and Caleb died. (Num. 32:13) Those Jews who are “hardened of heart” and “partially blinded” today, still rejecting Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:5-8, Heb. 4) the ONLY one who can give us rest, are “wandering in the wilderness” for these past almost 2,000 years, which amounts to 40 years of jubilees - 50 x 40 = 2,000. (The jubilees represent freedom. Lev. 25) However, this time they do not have any manna, as they have rejected the Bread of Life. (John 6:29-36) Here Joshua reiterates what Moses said just before they (finally) enter the promised land:

“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua 22:5

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” Joshua 1:16

The church has not “become” Israel nor was it “always” Israel. We are partaking of their blessings, which is a mystery of the ages that God had planned all along. (Rom. 9:4-5, Rom. 11:11-12, Eph. 1:3-14, Eph. 3:1-14, Eph. 5:32, Col. 1:24-28) John the Baptist said he was the friend of the bridegroom (not the bridegroom OR bride). (John 3:29) Jesus said the least in the kingdom of God was greater even than John the Baptist, who was the greatest of those born of women. (Matt. 11:11) This is because when we genuinely believe, we are spiritually born of GOD (born again)–we are sealed with His Spirit and adopted as sons. (John 1:12-13, Rom. 8:15, 23, 2Cor. 1:21-22, Eph. 1:13-14, Gal. 4:4-7) This is an INCREDIBLE privilege that should be viewed as such and held VERY dear.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:1-23

See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3

We have nothing to be proud of–this is ALL God’s doing in order to make unfaithful Israel jealous. (Rom. 11:13-24) We have received mercy due to their disobedience and they will again receive mercy when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. (Rom. 11:25-36) So this is a limited time offer and whoever is wise will take it seriously, not striving against God or playing games with Him. We have received the right to become children of God by believing. (John 1:11-13) If our faith is real, the Holy Spirit gives us power to overcome the world and our former nature that was enslaved to sin. (1John 4:4-6) This is how we are born again and enter the kingdom. This is how we overcome.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:1-17

There is no condemnation for those IN Christ. This is why Jesus said to ABIDE in Him, because there is no hope for us to bear fruit any other way. (John 15) He doesn’t “lose” any, but it’s our responsibility to REMAIN in Him by submitting to the influence, guidance, teaching, correcting, convicting of His Spirit. (John 14:26, John 15:4-10, John 15:26, 16:7-8, 1Thess. 5:16-22, Eph. 4:17-32, John 6:63, Rom. 8:10, 1Thess. 4:7-8, 2Tim. 1:7-8, 1John 3:24) Whenever the Bible says “submit to God,” that is what it means to us. Walk in the Spirit. (Rom. 8:5-9, Gal. 5:16-18, 24-25) Our God is ONE: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (John 14:10, 20, John 16:13-15, John 17:20-23, Acts 5:3-4, Col. 1:15-20, Col. 2:9-10) If we obey the Father, Son or Spirit, we are obeying the one true God.

We are constantly told in the Bible to “hold fast,” “run the race with endurance,” “fight the good fight of faith,” “stand firm,” “persevere,” “be on guard,” “overcome” and so forth. (Rom. 12:9, 1Cor. 15:1-2, 1Thess. 5:19-22, 2Thess. 2:15, 2Tim. 1:13-14, 1Cor. 9:24-27, Heb. 10:35-36, 1Tim. 6:11-12, Luke 21:19, 1Cor. 15:58, 1Cor. 16:13-14, Eph. 6:13, Philip. 1:27-30, Philip. 4:1, Col. 4:12, 1Thess. 3:8, 2Thess. 2:13-15, James 1:12-16, James 5:7-9, 1Tim. 6:17-21, 2Tim. 1:14, 1John 5:21, Rev. 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21, 21:7) This isn’t “works” (such as good deeds to try to earn salvation), but fruits of the Spirit who indwells us and gives us the victory if we will just yield to Him. This is proving our faith is GENUINE. The gate is NARROW–pay attention to the context of that passage. We can’t fit anything through it that God has chosen in His infinite love and wisdom to prune off of us. (Matt. 7:13-27, John 15:1-6, 10)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:14-18

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:14-29

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:3-25

God wants our WHOLE hearts. He deserves nothing less. Let’s not live in such a way as to be ashamed when we stand before Him, having no excuse as to why we valued worthless, temporary things more than Him and His kingdom. We have no excuse because in the New Covenant, Christ is IN each of us who are true believers (whereas in the Old Testament, only a select few received the Spirit), empowering us to prevail. All we have to do is surrender control to Him. It’s not DOING something, it’s CEASING to strive against Him. He knows this is hard for us, but He gives us grace when we confess our failures and ask for His forgiveness, cleansing and help to overcome. (Heb. 4:14-16)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:24-29

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:4-10

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:3-6

Let’s not commit spiritual adultery against the One who gave His life for us. (John 10:15-18, Matt. 20:25-28, Eph. 5:29-32) God has stern words for those who claim His promises under false pretenses.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. Psalm 50:14-19

Let’s encourage one another in our Christian walk rather than going along with the world and maybe even joining them in criticizing those who don’t compromise. (Heb. 10:23-25, 2Cor. 13:11, Col. 2:1-8, 1Thess. 4, 1Thess. 5:14-22, 1Tim. 5:1-2, 2Tim. 4:1-5, Titus 1:8-11, Titus 2, Heb. 3:12-13, Heb. 10:24-25, 1Pet. 4:3-5, Rom. 14:4, 10-13, 1John 2:9-11, 1John 3:15, 1John 4:20) Let’s love in word AND deed. (1John 3:18)

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. 1 Peter 5:5-12

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We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Friday, July 7, 2017

Different Drum

Wonder why I keep beating the same drum about how children of God should behave like it if they are serious (and not call themselves by His name if they’re not - 2 Tim. 2:19)? Because in the Bible, God gave us a picture of what it means to belong to Jesus. When we are members of the Body of Christ, who is HOLY, then it is like our defiling Him when we sin deliberately. (Heb. 10:26-29) This is particularly true when we sin against our bodies (i.e. sexual immorality - any intimate physical relationship other than that in marriage between one man and one woman), because we are one Spirit with Him and He dwells IN us. (Eph. 5:22-23, 1Cor. 6:12-20, Col. 1:24-26) So committing those sins is actually profaning the temple where He dwells. Whoever is willing to defile and profane Christ and His temple does NOT love Him and apparently, does not even KNOW Him or they would understand how WRONG it is. (1John 3:6, 1Cor. 3:16-17) They would value His holiness, beauty, glory, honor and gift of eternal life MORE than the absolute GARBAGE this world has to offer, including temporary physical pleasures.

When we who believe live like the rest of the world, not caring about what pleases God, that is compared in the Bible to selling our inheritance rights for a bowl of soup like Esau did. (Heb. 12:14-17) This is not something to take lightly–not by a long shot! (1 Peter 4:17-18) We are told that to love the world is hostility toward God and it will jeopardize our glorious inheritance. (James 4:4, 1John 2:15-17, 1Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, Rev. 21:7-8, Rev. 22:10-21) Choosing to “fit in” amounts to loving ourselves and others more than God. (Matt. 10:37-39, 2Tim. 3:12-13) That is not how we go about ensuring we will hear “well done, good and faithful servant” when He returns. (Matt. 24:26-25:46, John 12:25-26, John 14:2-3, 1Thess. 4:16-17, 1Cor. 15:51-52)

The Holy Spirit dwelling in believers has not always been the case–it’s a profound mystery of this age regarding the Church (not an institution or building, but the gathering of all called out believers in, and followers of, Jesus.) (Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:18) We have received mercy and the opportunity to be grafted in to Israel’s blessings due to their disobedience (for which most of them were “hardened of heart.”) There is a “full number of Gentiles” to come in and then God will “unblind” Israel. (Romans 11) So in other words this is a limited time offer–it ends when our personal time is up or when the full number of Gentiles comes in and Jesus returns (all of which only God knows when they will happen).

We have entered into the blessings of the firstborn Son of God (Rom. 8:29, Col. 1, Heb. 1:6, Heb. 12:22-24), yet most of us don't treasure this unimaginably great inheritance enough to give up worthless "treasure" for a short time here on earth? If that’s the case, then we will get what we deserve, which is at the least great loss of reward if we truly do believe (1Cor. 3:15) and at the worst, we will not end up where we thought we would if we are only pretending to believe, as though we could fool God. (Rev. 2:20-23) God is as He said He is in the Bible–we are NOT free to invent our own “improved” version of Him–one who “understands” why we “can’t” stop committing our favorite sin, perhaps? Just know this–everyone is either FOR or AGAINST Jesus. (Matt. 12:30, 1John 2:23)

Paul said we need to examine ourselves to see if we’re even in the faith if sin still enslaves us. (2Cor. 13:5, Romans 6) It's incredibly sad how many are deceived. (Jude 1:4, 2Pet. 2:18-22) No wonder Jesus said it was a narrow gate to pass through. (Matt. 7:13-14) People just keep doing the same as has always been done (except that what is “acceptable” gets worse over time, snowballing), and doing the same as they see people around themselves doing, forgetting that Jesus said the broad path leads to destruction!

I wish when I beat this same drum over and over again, that everyone who needs to would hear it and the tune would get stuck in ALL of our heads until we actually sing along (heed the warnings, like those in Rev. 2-3). The Bible tells us to encourage one another in our walk with God–He knows it’s not easy to go against the flow. (Heb. 10:24-25, Heb. 3:13, Titus 3:8, James 5:19-20, Matt. 5:14-16) This “song” (God's message to the Church) needs to stick with each of us throughout every day. It is so ironic that when we say we want to “march to the beat of a different drum,” we mean focusing on ourselves as unique individuals–but that's the wrong kind of "different drum." God called us to die to our old sinful selves and live to Christ. (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3, 2Cor. 5:14-15, Rom. 6:6) That is the way to get off the broad path and onto the narrow one. That is the different drum to march to–not the one the deceived world marches to, but the one our Savior marched to.

The one who overcomes is the one who LOVES God more than themselves, enough to want what He wants and always choose His will and His way, no matter what. That is exactly what Jesus did, and He is our example to follow. (1Peter. 2:21, 1John 2:5-6) Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey. (John 14:15-21, John 15:10, 13-14) The Bible also says that the wonderful things He has prepared are for those who LOVE Him. (1Cor. 2:9-10) Who couldn’t love Jesus after He laid down His life for us? (John 10:14-18) Let’s wake up and be ready to rejoice! (Rev. 3:1-3, Eph. 1:15-22, 2Tim. 4:8, 1John 2:28-29)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:1-21

You can download this article as a pdf on the top tab at my other blog: http://layoutfortoday.blogspot.com/

Your Team

As I write, baseball and softball seasons are in full swing. Earlier, people picked the members to play on their teams, put in countless hours of practice, and so on. Perhaps some who previously played for one team are now playing for another. Things change constantly in this world, including in sports, so we never can know what to expect. Not so with God and our eternal destination. He has promised an unchanging, glorious inheritance to those who are His own, and to those who are not His, the future is just as certain, only not at all bright.

To anyone who isn’t sure which eternal team they are on yet, now would be a good time to get that straight. Just as with sports, there are only two sides–everyone is on one or the other. The two options are: 1) eternal bliss with God living among us, or 2) eternal torment with Satan and his evil angels. This isn’t something to take lightly.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 3:16-19

Jesus said: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Matthew 12:30 (Also see Matt. 10:32-33, Luke 12:8-9, John 12:25-26)

Only God can draw a soul to Himself. He draws near to those who seek Him and respond to His calling. (Jam. 4:8, John 6:44, Matt. 8:22, Mark 1:17, John 6:37-40) So my main focus will be on the consequences of the choice made once that has occurred. Jesus said to count the cost in advance. (Luke 14:27-33, Luke 9:62) There seem to be a wide variety of conflicting teachings, and so many are confused. Salvation (which is justification–being declared “not guilty”/atonement–being “made right” with God) is a one-time event, but believers then undergo a lifelong process called sanctification (which is being perfected and made holy, in the image of Jesus). (Rom. 8:29, 1Pet. 1:15-16) We are sanctified in God’s eyes at the time we come to believe even though we can see that in a practical sense we have much growing and maturing in Christ yet to do. (1Pet. 2:2-3, Heb. 5:12-14, Heb. 6:1-3, 1Cor. 3:1-3, Gal. 2:20) We were cleansed and purified, but because we still live on the earth in these weak bodies of flesh, there is constant temptation and danger of becoming dirty again. (2Cor. 10:3-6, 1Pet. 4:1-5, Rom. 8:5-11) We will not be fully sanctified until we depart this earth and are glorified as well. (Rom. 8:12-30, 2Thess. 1:9-12)

PREPARATION

If you think about it, even baseball fans make preparations before attending a game, right? They buy a ticket, plan their route and how long it takes to get there, make sure they have enough gas, bring along food to tailgate or money to buy it there, etc. They also make sure their favorite sports team shirt is clean. Jesus provides us with a pristine white garment when He washes away our sins. We need to keep it on and keep it white by walking WITH Him. (This is also referred to as walking IN Him or in the Spirit.) If we find at the last minute that the shirt we were going to wear to the game was in the wash, we could buy a new one at the game. Not so with the garment of salvation and robe of righteousness. JESUS is the ONLY provider of that garment and the ONLY one who can wash away new stains that appear after we received it. (Rev. 3:4, 16:15, 1John 1:9)

Jesus told a parable about a man not having the sense to count the cost before starting a building project. (Luke 14:25-35) This would be like having enough money to buy the ticket, but how does it correlate to salvation? Jesus said we need to give up all claim on our lives for Him IF we love Him and want to follow Him. If we’re not willing to do that, then we don’t have sufficient funds to finish what we started. We can’t BUY salvation–not with money or good deeds. The “ticket” is free, but when we turn back, deciding not to continue on the journey we started, it’s like throwing away our ticket or turning the car around and going back home (to the world, in this case.) (1John 2:19, John 6:60-71, Heb. 10:36-39) So in other words, this is NOT a game.

Jesus also told a parable about ten virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom, but half of them ran out of oil in their lamps before he arrived. This would be similar to having enough gas to drive to the game. The one who runs out might miss the game by the time they walk who knows how far to get gas and then back again to their car. The five foolish virgins realized they had run out of oil for their lamps (His word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path and faith comes by hearing the word - Psa. 119:105, Rom. 10:17) as he was arriving and went to buy some, but they MISSED it when those who were READY went in with him. Jesus warns that we are to “keep our tanks full” of the Holy Spirit through His word. We’re to keep watch (walk in the Spirit, paying attention to how we live–for His glory, not for ourselves) and be ready (found faithfully serving Him when He returns) at all times. (Matt. 24:42-25)

OBEDIENCE

We probably have in mind a checklist of items to bring with us to the game. These things help us to enjoy the game more - hat, sunscreen, camera, etc. If we are told NOT to bring certain items, we will abide by those rules, won’t we? They might not let us in otherwise. (2Tim. 2:3-5, 1Cor. 9:24-27) Should we take preparations for eternal life less seriously than we do when we attend a baseball game? It’s a sad fact that the majority do just that. Jesus said the gate is narrow, but people think they can squeeze all their junk through it. They want to keep one foot in the world and one in the next. Those who are wise will not consider the worthless treasures of this world as more valuable than the kingdom of God. (Matt. 6:19-34, Matt. 13:44-46)

There is a difference between a sheep who has lost its way and can’t find the way back home and a person who is deliberately running away and hiding from God. Ask Jonah how that worked out for him! (Jonah 1-4) Jesus came to seek and save the LOST. (Luke 19:10) The father in the parable of the prodigal son waited for him to return. He didn’t run after him, pleading with him. He waited patiently for him to regain his senses and come back home. When he did, his father rejoiced and forgave him for his disgraceful behavior. (Luke 15:11-31) Our Father has what we need and, if we have any sense, what we WANT. He doesn’t beg or force us to accept it. He won’t, because 1) He is GOD, our Creator - we answer to Him, not the other way around, and 2) that would not prove our faith in and love for Him to be genuine.

No amount of “working on ourselves” will make us holy or perfect, but His Spirit transforms us from within with our cooperation. God doesn’t force us to believe, nor does He force us to obey Him (but we are exhorted to do both, because we CAN use the gift of our free will to unwisely resist Him). He uses various means to make His will known, most importantly His Holy Spirit through His Holy Word. He draws us to the well and offers us the water of life to drink, but he doesn’t force us to drink it. Once we drink it, that water should well up inside of us and overflow, not become poisonous or be kept only for ourselves. We are meant to be lights drawing people like moths to Jesus; like the salt of the earth. (John 4:13-14, James 3:9-12, Col. 2:6-7, Matt. 5:13-16, Rev. 22:17)

LOYALTY

If we believe Jesus, the Son of God, died to pay the full penalty for our sins and rose again, and will be returning for those who are His, we are not meant to go along with the flow and blend in. Our lives should be different in a good way, so that others will see how good our God is. (2Tim. 3:12, Matt. 5:10-16, John 14:2-3, 1Thess. 4:16-17, John 17:6) Needless to say, if we appear to be the same as everyone else, then there will be no persecution as we were told to expect, will there? It undoubtedly makes our earthly lives easier when we don’t “rock the boat,” but we will have to give an answer to God for how we lived after receiving such a great and precious gift of eternal life, not to each other. (Gal. 1:10, 2Tim. 2:4-7)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15:18-21

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:4-10

What if our friends and family all live in the same worldly way and we don’t want to seem “weird” to take salvation “too seriously”? There were people like that in Jesus’ day–people who believed but didn’t follow Him. They didn’t want to be persecuted for going against the flow. Jesus said if we love anyone more than Him, we’re not worthy of Him. He said that those who do the will of God are His family. We should think in the same way since it is only through Him that we are adopted into God’s family. (Mark 3:31-35, Rom. 8:29, Gal. 4:4-6) Our attitude should be a desire to reach the lost, not to join them. (Psa. 37, Psa. 73)

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. John 12:42-46

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:37-39

FOLLOWERS

Jesus didn’t come to make people feel comfortable in their sins. He came because He is the ONLY one who could take their sins away. He was the only one who could perfectly keep the law so that His sacrifice of Himself could atone for OUR sins. (Rom. 3:23-26, John 8:23-24) He is offering NEW life to sinners, who are under the sentence of death. He made it clear to everyone that repentance IS required. (John 5:14, John 8:10-11) He came to light a fire–to separate the wheat from the chaff. John the Baptist warned people that just claiming to belong to God was not enough. (Matt. 3:7-12, Luke 12:49-53) That includes believers separating themselves from the world AND from people who love it, who would hinder us from following Jesus. (Matt. 19:20-22, Matt. 8:22, John 8:44, 1Cor. 15:33-34) (This does not mean abandoning your spouse and young children who need you. 1Cor. 7:10-17, 1Tim. 5:8)

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Whoever chooses to be on the team opposing God (remember, you are either FOR or AGAINST–there are NO neutral observers in this battle between God and Satan) will be deceived by the coming evil one (if they are alive then) and will join him in his eternal punishment. Only those whose names are in Jesus' book of life will recognize the signs and wonders he is allowed to perform to be false, and hold fast to Jesus even unto physical death if necessary, to gain their eternal lives.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. Revelation 13:1-18

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:9-13

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15

RAPTURE

If you are a believer and are positive that you will be raptured prior to the reign of the beast, I am not disrespecting your beloved pastor or favorite, most trusted Bible scholar. However, we must each consult the full counsel of God and let His Spirit within us help us to understand, always checking what they say against the Bible. (Acts 17:11, John 14:26) Something to consider in YOUR personal study is that the seven letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 were addressed to CHURCHES. In other words, they are ALL written to professed believers. When we read those letters, we can see a little bit of ourselves in most of them, can’t we? Each letter was to be read by each church, even though there were individual messages particular to each one. We can likewise learn from them to see what Jesus wants us to do–in a word, OVERCOME. He warned us that we WILL have tribulation, but we know that because He has overcome it, then we can, too, by HIS power within us. (Rev. 16:33, 1John 4:4)

Notice that only ONE of the churches (Philadelphia) was promised to be SPARED (how that is accomplished is not specified, but the open door in Rev. 3:7-8 seems to point to the one in Rev. 4:1) from the "hour of trial to come on the whole world" which appears to be the "reign of the beast" (which is Satan’s wrath, part of God’s perfect plan for testing those who dwell on the earth - Rev. 12:12, Rom. 9:22). (Rev. 3:10, Rev. 17:12) Why would He keep those of the Church of Philadelphia from it? He tell us! It's because they had ALREADY unswervingly endured persecution–to such a degree as to prompt Him to promise them that their persecutors will bow before their feet. (Rev. 3:9, 2Thess. 1:4-10, Matt. 5:10-12) They hadn't denied Jesus even though it was painful for them, and yet even they were told to HOLD FAST to their crowns and overcome in order to receive the promised reward. (Rev. 3:11, Gal. 4:28-29, Heb. 6:11-12, Heb. 10:23-39 (especially v. 36), James 1:2-4, 1:12, 2:5, 2Tim. 4:6-8 )

God alone will determine who (among those living at the time) has and who has not endured sufficient persecution without wavering, such that they have “tested out” of the “hour of trial” because they have “passed” the test of faith and been found to be genuine. (1Pet. 1:6-7) Therefore, I don't feel that it is ethical to assure all who claim to be believers (no matter whether their lives even display fruit of the Spirit or not - Gal. 5:22-25) that they are members of the "Church of Philadelphia" and thus will somehow be spared going through ANY tribulation (as opposed to God's wrath). Tribulation clearly comes before God’s wrath/the Day of the Lord. Notice that the order of events in the sun, moon and stars compared with tribulation and the Day of the Lord. Also, the “lawless one” reveals himself not at the beginning of his rule, but when he commits the abomination that makes desolation. Prior to that, he is promising peace. (Dan. 9:27) Even after that point, it is not yet the Day of the Lord but the beginning of birth pangs. (2Thess. 2:1-4, Matt. 24:23-28)

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Matthew 24:29

And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. Acts 2:19-20

Likewise, I feel it’s inappropriate and even dangerous to assure people who once checked a box on a card saying they accepted Christ as their Savior (or something similar) that they are eternally saved even though they have lived as enemies of the cross ever since–with no change whatsoever in their lifestyle. True believers are a new creation in Christ and that reality will gradually be revealed from the inside out over time. (Philip. 3:17-19, Philip. 2:12-13) That is not “working for salvation,” it is working “out” salvation, through the power of the Holy Spirit within. If He is not present, then we have not been born again. (Romans 8:6-14) TODAY is the day to give your whole heart to God and surrender to His perfect will and transforming power if you previously only made a verbal confession of faith, or none at all. The big question isn’t when Jesus will return, but when OUR OWN personal appointment with God will be. There will be a time coming when it will be too late to “switch teams.” God is going to send a delusion on those who refused to love the truth while they had the chance during this age of grace. (2Thess. 2:9-12, Rev. 13:11-14) He is not interested in FANS, but in serious, honest “competitors” (to run the good race, fight the good fight of faith and win souls).

WRATH OR TRIBULATION

Back to our discussion about the letters to the Churches, why didn't Jesus just have John write one letter, to Philadelphia, saying they are the only ones who are the true church and everyone else will perish? Or why did He offer hope to the others even though they were not given a promise to be spared? I think that it is because the others won't all perish–MANY will NOT be deceived by the antichrist. Who are those people who refuse the mark of the beast and are martyred if they are not believers whose names are written in the book of life? (Remember, everyone on earth whose name is NOT in the book will be deceived, take the mark and worship the beast.) But if they are on the earth at this time and their names are in the Lamb’s book of life, but they are not kept from it somehow as promised to the Church of Philadelphia, then they will be purified and refined through tribulation–made worthy of the Lamb, even if it costs them their physical lives. (Matt. 10:26-39, Matt. 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38, Dan. 11:33-34, 12:10, Dan. 7:21-22) They will overcome by holding fast until the end of the trial. (Rev. 2:7, 11, 26, Rev. 3:5, 21, Rev. 13:7-10, 21:27, Rev. 7:14)

The church is not appointed to God's wrath, but God uses tribulation and trial (throughout the age) to purify and refine our faith. (1Pet. 1:6-9, Acts 5:41, 2Thess. 1:4-10, 1Pet. 4:12-19, 1Pet. 5:6-10, Romans 8:16-19, Acts 14:21-22, Heb. 12, Luke 22:31, Mark 9:49-50, Isa. 48:10) For us to say that we couldn’t possibly go through the hour of trial/reign of the beast would be to suggest that God loves us believers in this age more than He loved those in ages past? We know that is simply not true! Suffering for Jesus’ sake is to be viewed as a privilege. (Acts 5:41, 9:16, Philip. 1:29-30, Heb. 13:13, 1Pet. 2:21)

God is perfectly able to protect His people from His own wrath. The Israelites were in Egypt during all ten plagues, yet not harmed by any of them (whereas only the last one, the Passover, refers to Jesus’ atonement as the Lamb of God). The Israelites did suffer at the hand of the Egyptians, though. Lot was not removed from the earth, but to a safe location when Sodom and the other cities like it were destroyed. (Gen. 19:15-26) (Note that Lot was brought to safety inside the house by the angels while the blind men, probably also representing spiritual blindness in addition to their depravity, sought to harm them through the night. The city was destroyed at dawn.) The woman who gives birth in Rev. 12 (who is a “sign” not a literal woman) is taken to a place prepared for her in the wilderness. (Rev. 12:1-6, 13-16) Before Elijah was taken up to heaven in the chariot, he was cared for by birds in the wilderness for a period of time and then in the house of a widow for 3 ½ years during drought. (1Kings 17, Luke 24:25-26) Elisha sent a woman to take shelter elsewhere for 7 years during a drought as well. (2Kings 8) So God is able.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 2 Peter 2:4-10

Once Jesus removes those who are His from the earth, including those who died abiding IN Him and those still alive (this is the first resurrection–the rest live after the millennium. Rev. 20, Heb. 9:27-28, 1Thess. 4:16-17, 1Cor. 15:51-52), God's wrath will begin in earnest. (Isa. 26:20-21, Zeph. 2:3, Rev. 15:5-8, Rev. 6:12-17, Rev. 15:1, Rev. 11:15-19) Please understand that “abiding” does NOT mean simply professing faith without following Jesus–it means to love, serve, honor and obey, to bear fruit. (John 15:8-14)

WALK IN HIS STEPS

Jesus Himself is Head of the Church and our judge (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23, Col. 1:18, 2Cor. 5:10), and He is not happy with at least some aspects of the "walk" of five of the other six churches. (Smyrna is told to endure despite having no faults pointed out. Rev. 2:9-11, 1Pet. 2:21) Some true believers will be saved “as through the fire” but with loss of reward. (1Cor. 3:10-17) I believe this is why Paul exhorts us all so strenuously that we should “run a good race” and “fight the good fight.” There is great reward in it. If it were as simple as making a confession of faith, Paul most certainly would already have “attained” it. A clue may be in the word “ek” in Greek, which means “out of.” The word we use for “church” is “ekklesia,” meaning “called out.” Paul uses it in reference to the resurrection. (1Tim. 6:12) Obviously everyone, good and bad, will be resurrected eventually, but not to the same eternal reality. Toward the end of his ministry and life, Paul expresses that he knows that he has accomplished his goal (through the power of Christ, of course). (2Tim. 4:6-8) “Those who love His appearing” are the same ones who have no need to “shrink back in shame at His coming.” (1John 2:28-29, Heb. 10:32-39) (i.e. overcomers - Gal. 6:17, Col. 1:24-26, Acts 20:22-31)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection out from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:7-21

REWARDS

Sadly, Jesus is not pleased with any aspect of the last church addressed in Rev. 2-3, Laodicea. He is being merciful in warning them (and us) of what it takes to be counted worthy of the kingdom. (1Thess. 2:10-12, 2Thess. 1:5, Acts 5:40-42, 2Pet. 1:8-11) Notice that being worthy is never connected to salvation (only belief), but it IS connected to the kingdom? This is about rewards. This is one case where it’s NOT “the thought that counts,” but about putting your money (and your very LIFE) where your mouth is. This is about “in truth and Spirit” not “rote and ritual.” (John 4:23, Matt. 15:8-9)

It matters whether we receive our FULL reward from Him, because it brings HIM (who is our life and our very heart - Col. 3:4, 1Pet. 1:8-9) glory, honor and pleasure to reward us for our faithfulness to Him. (Rev. 4:10, 11:18, Rev. 20:6, 1Cor. 3:14-16) Is part of that potential reward the honor of reigning with Him "with a rod of iron" during the millennium, as part of the first resurrection? (Rev. 2:26-27, 3:21) Paul seemed to think so–he certainly didn’t question his own faith, as though he needed to contribute to his salvation. (Philip. 3:8-21, 1Cor. 9:24-10:13) Paul also said the Thessalonians were his crown of glory and exhorted them to live in a manner worthy of the Lord. (1Thess. 2:19-20, 1Thess. 4:1-12)

Notice Jesus didn't say in Matt. 19:19-23, "You who merely made a verbal confession of faith," but they FOLLOWED and gave up everything for Him. (Luke 9:62) Peter said to practice qualities that demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, not to forget that we have been cleansed of our former sins, but to confirm our calling and election so that we may look forward to being granted entrance into the kingdom. (2Pet. 1:5-12) And the writer of Hebrews was very concerned with persevering in faith until the end. (Heb. 3:5-14, Heb. 6:4-12, Heb. 12) We must never deny or be ashamed of Jesus and our faith in Him, no matter what may happen. If we keep our mouths shut now because the world hates our message to the “extreme” point of calling us names or “unfriending” us, what will we do when they threaten our very lives? (Luke 19:37-40, Matt. 10:17-22)

ISRAEL

Some say the entire tribulation refers only to Israel, not the church, but remember that the church is grafted into Israel. (Rom. 11:11-32) Again, six of the CHURCHES are not promised to be kept from the “hour of trial to come on the whole world,” but rather they are exhorted to overcome by enduring until Jesus returns (before God’s wrath begins). If they do not wake up and keep watch, He will come upon them like a thief in the night. (Matt. 24:42-44, Luke 12:38-40, 1Thess. 5:1-11, Rev. 17:14) doesn’t say that the “called, chosen and professing to believe” return with Jesus. It says the “called, chosen and FAITHFUL” return with Him. The faith of these souls was tested and found to be REAL. They didn’t fall away the minute things got tough. The second death will not hurt them–they are part of the first resurrection. (Rev. 20:1-2)

We (the Church–Jewish and Gentile believers in this age) are special in that we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant, whereas the vast majority of God’s people in the Old Covenant did not receive the Spirit. It doesn’t mean that God will not test, discipline and chastise us the same as He has always done, but that we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. Believers in this age have been given by the Father to Jesus. (John 17:6, Rom. 8:23, James 1:18, 1Pet. 1:6-7, Heb. 12, Rev. 3:19) We have already entered into the New Covenant. (Luke 22:19-20, 1Cor. 11:23-25, 2Cor. 3:2-6) The Old Covenant is obsolete. (Heb. 8:13) This was foretold in the Old Testament. It is not a changing of God’s mind, but part of the plan all along. (Jer. 31:31-33)

When those Jews who are presently “hardened of heart” from accepting the Gospel “recover” from their condition (at the time the fullness of the Gentiles comes in), they will enter into the New Covenant as well. (Heb. 8-9, Romans 11:11, 25) Now that Christ has come and finished His perfect work of redemption, the only way to have peace with God is through Him. (Acts 4:12, Heb. 1, 1Tim. 2:5-6, 1Cor. 3:11, 1John 1:5-2:6, 1John 5:10-12) Prior to that people were saved by faith as well, but they needed to believe that if they were obedient, God would accept them. Their transgressions were only taken away temporarily by repeated animal sacrifices, but they believed in the promise of the future Savior. (Heb. 11:6) God has made one new man from the two through Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant. (Heb. 2:11-22, Gal. 3:28) Jesus said He was making one flock from the two. (John 10:16) Notice how the New Jerusalem has twelve foundations with the names of the apostles and twelve gates with the names of the tribe of Israel, and Jesus has 24 elders? (Rev. 21:2, 21:12-14, Rev. 4:3-4, Isa. 24:23)

STAY AWAKE

Am I saying that there is no such thing as a rapture and the church will suffer God’s wrath? No (but I have separated the “tribulation” from the “Day of the Lord” according to the Bible, not my own preference). The inclusion of Gentiles along with believing Jews in the Body of Christ, indwelt by His Spirit, was a “mystery” to the Old Testament prophets, revealed first to Peter in Acts 10 and then to Paul, who was made the apostle to the Gentiles. (Rom. 16:25-27, Rom. 10:16-21, Rom. 11:11-13, Gal. 2:7-8, 1Tim. 2:7, Eph. 1:7-10, Eph. 3:1-12, Eph. 5:32, Col. 1:18-29, 1Pet. 1:10-12, Rev. 10:5-7) This was due to the rejection of of Jesus by the Jews as a whole. (Matt. 21:42-44, Rom. 11:28-32 Acts 2:21) I actually think that those “given” to Jesus by the Father (John 6:37, 17:6) will reach their full number at the same time as the “fullness of the Gentiles comes in” (Rom. 11:25), at which time the Church, which is His Body, will be complete and gathered to Him.

We need to be ready. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 7:21) This seems at first glance to be contradictory, but Jesus is to be LORD. If we call on Him without our HEARTS, without any intention whatsoever of obeying Him, but only with our lips, then we have made a false confession (and He knows our very thoughts). (Rom. 10:8-10, Rev. 2:23) Obedience is required to “see Jesus” and “enter the Kingdom.” (Rom. 8:19) The kingdom is “within” is another way of saying that we must be born again to be heirs of the kingdom. (Luke 17:20-21)

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Hebrews 12:11-17

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:15-26

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:3-6

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:1-14

DEVOTION

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit upon belief, but yet in John 14-16, Jesus equates obedience with love and makes it a requirement of the Spirit making His home in us (which is what “born again” is) and our abiding in Him. (Luke 17:21) Repentance, forgiveness and cleansing by Jesus’ blood are necessary to maintain a holy temple where God resides. We don’t earn salvation, but we don’t play games with God once we have it. Those who do not LOVE Jesus (as shown by their actions, words and attitudes–He expects to be OBEYED) are NOT born again. To know Him is to love Him. (1John 3:6) Faith without works is just as dead as works without faith. (Jam. 2:14-26, 2Pet. 1:3-12) This would explain why so many people CLAIM to believe, yet show NO fruits of the Spirit. They are not born again. (John 6:63) Their spirits are still “dead,” not regenerated by the Holy Spirit who makes us new in Christ. (Rom. 6:4, John 6:63, 2Cor. 5:17)

Rather than take the precious gift of salvation for granted and go on living as we did before, we should treasure it. (Col. 2:1-15) The joy of our salvation is what sustains us in difficult circumstances so that we can endure and even be content. (Philip. 4:4-20) We need be ready to stand firm for Christ no matter what happens and be ready for His return no matter when that is. It’s over when God decides it’s over and nothing we can do will change it. If we KNOW Him, then we have no desire to change it, as all of His ways are perfect, good and right. There is NO reason to fear. God knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He will not allow any of us to be tempted or tried beyond our ability to resist. (2Pet. 2:9, 2Cor. 10:13, 1John 1:18, James 4:7) My point is not to scare anyone, but that we should settle it in the depths of our souls that whatever happens, we know that this life is temporary and our home is in heaven. Our physical bodies are "tents" or tabernacles/temples for the spiritual presence of the Lord. He will decide when it is time to “pull up the stakes” and welcome us home to Himself. (2Cor. 5, 2Peter 1, 1Cor. 3:16, 1Cor. 6:19-20) We are NEVER alone. (Heb. 13:5-6, Matt. 10:28)

Make sure not to claim the glorious promises of heavenly inheritance in Ephesians, Colossians and other Scriptures without heeding the admonition on how we "once walked" as Gentiles in our sins, but NOW we must grow in maturity, heed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and walk in a worthy manner. God is not interested in lip service, but in our whole hearts. (Mark 7:6-5, John 4:23) We have no ability whatsoever to obey of our own power, with unregenerated spirits–it is through His Spirit giving us new life when we TRULY believe in our hearts that makes it possible (Rom. 8:5-14, Philip. 2:12-16) (but it is STILL a choice - God doesn't force us to believe OR obey). We could in NO WAY EVER earn, deserve or repay our salvation, but once we ARE saved, we owe our entire lives and hearts to God. (Matt. 10:32-39, Luke 9:62, 2Tim. 2:19-22, Heb. 12:14-28, 1Cor. 9:10, Rev. 3:4, 1John 2:1-6, Gal. 6:7-10, 2Cor. 7:1, Eph. 4:17-24, Col. 3:1-11, Rom. 6, 7:1) If we are born again (and we must be in order to enter the kingdom of heaven), then we are one spirit with Jesus, who is HOLY. (John 3:3, 1Cor. 6:16-20)

OPEN DOOR

Notice in the following passage, Paul considers it an “open door” if he can tell someone about Jesus, even when he’s in prison. He exhorts us to be gracious and yet season our speech with salt. (In other words, don’t be argumentative and rude, but don’t just agree with people who oppose God’s ways in order to make your own life easier or to seem “nice,” either.) We’re not meant to toss everything we know of God out the window in order to placate the world.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:2-6

The above passage reminds me of the testimonies we hear on Voice of the Martyrs. We know that in Rev. 12:10-12, those who now dwell in heaven conquered because they “loved not their lives unto death.” Not all of the persecuted Christians in various places today are killed, but all endure suffering. They have persevered through persecution and many have been imprisoned for Jesus’ sake. They would welcome an “open door” like Paul and Silas experienced when in prison. (Acts 16:25-26, Rev. 3:7-8)

The one who loves Jesus is the one who obeys Jesus–that is who He "knows" because His Spirit dwells within them. (John 14:15-24, John 15:8-14, 1Thess. 4:3-8, 1John 2:1-6, 1John 3:9, 24) That person ABIDES in Jesus and obeys out of LOVE, keeping their "lamp filled with oil," from hearing the word. (Rom. 10:17, Luke 18:8, Psa. 119:05, Matt. 25:1-13, Rev. 2:3-5) In this way, they know what He expects of them, and they make His priorities their highest priorities. His honor and glory is their ultimate goal. If you think about it, would you believe someone if they said they loved you but they NEVER want to spend any time with you (or maybe just an hour once a week...) or even communicate with you–if they chose to spend all of their free time doing something else or with someone else, would you believe them? What about if they only do as you ask them to when they feel like it, or they don’t stand up for you when you are slandered, or even join in with your enemies? We may be able to fool others and even ourselves with fake faith, but God can’t be fooled. (Gal. 6:7-8, Matt. 6:24)

Let’s look at the flip side of the coin. When we do things to please someone we love, does that mean we are trying to bribe them? Do we only want them to give us something, or do we think that will make them love us? In this fallen world, sometimes that is our attitude toward each other and God, but that is a twisted view of love. Motive matters. If we’re trying to do “good works” (whether to “behave” or to do good “deeds”) because we think we can earn God’s love and salvation, that isn’t pleasing to Him. That’s not love–it’s choosing our own way instead of His ONE plan. If it’s based in fear of not receiving His love, that is a total lack of understanding His character–in other words not from knowledge of Him. (Eph. 3:14-21) Or, if we’re only after getting things from Him, then our motive is greed and selfishness. Neither of those could ever be a good basis for a relationship.

We obey God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:9-10) Jesus died for us before we even knew we needed salvation, while we were ignorant sinners. (Rom. 5:7-8) Our obedience is in response to the love we have already received from Him, and in response to the truth enlightening us as to our lost condition. (Rom. 6:20-23) Now we can know what pleases Him from reading our Bibles and His Holy Spirit illuminating the Word for us. (Eph. 5:8) Our ability to please Him begins with faith. When we are adopted into God’s family, that begins our accountability to Him and our new family. (John 1:12-13, 2Cor. 5:14-15, Eph. 4:17-18, 1Pet. 4:3, Gal. 6:1-2)

God doesn't change. (Heb. 13:8, Mal. 3:6) Don't consult a changing world for answers that are contained in the unchanging Bible that He inspired chosen men to write. (2Tim. 3:16-17, Col. 1:9-11, 2Pet. 1:5-12, 2Pet. 3:18, 1Pet. 1:16-21) His Spirit teaches believers so they can discern the truth. (1John 2:24-29, James 1:5-8, 1Cor. 2:12-14) If you are a believer and do not find this to be the case, then perhaps you don’t read your Bible much. Reading a verse per day on a phone app or email will not reap the same results as investing time reading an actual Bible.

To those who say they don’t believe–you are fooling yourself. (Rom. 1:18-21) It takes WAY more faith to believe that everything “just happened by chance” than to believe in God. But nevertheless, not believing does not change the fact that He exists any more than not believing in air, gravity or magnetism, which can’t be seen either, will cause them to cease to exist. I hear you saying that we can see the EFFECTS of those things. Just as we can with God, if we will admit the absurdity of “the big bang” and “evolution.”  If I tried to sell you a lottery ticket with the odds of winning matching the odds of things falling into place as they would have to for the world and all life to begin as is hypothesized, you would have enough sense not to buy it. Those kinds of odds are the same as impossible, and no amount of time passing will improve them. Not only that, but with each new discovery in science, the odds get worse instead of better. God perfectly designed the universe for our planet and our habitat for our bodies, which He also designed. And what about the fact that for “things” to collide, they have to exist. Think about that one for a bit... Where did those very first things come from? Don’t say anything collided with anything else until you can explain where those things came from in the first place. You can’t, can you? That is because there is no explanation, except for God. His very name “I AM” is the explanation. He has always been and always will be, and there is NO OTHER. Period.

HOLD FAST

For those of us who have acknowledged that God is God and we are not, we were also to have surrendered our selfish ways in favor of His perfect ways. We are told SO many times to behave in a way that honors God and to hold fast to the truth until the end. Jesus promised not to lose or cast out any of those given to Him by God, but not that there would be no consequence for disobedience (separate from the eternal penalty for disobeying the Gospel in unbelief). His parables indicated that there WILL be a consequence. (John 6:37-40, John 10:28-30, Matt. 18:32-35, Matt. 24:48-51, Matt. 25:10-13, Matt. 25:26-30, Luke 12:45-48, Luke 19:22-27 Also see Jude 1:5-7.) Jesus is not interested in lukewarm Christians making empty promises. (Rev. 2:4-5, Rev. 2:14-16, Rev. 2:20-23, Rev. 3:1-3, Rev. 3:15-19) How can anyone truly understand what He has done for us–the pain, anguish and suffering He endured on our behalf–and not want to give Him ALL? We were lost and He found us. We were dead and He gave us life. Is there such a thing as giving Him too much of ourselves in return? The earth and everything in it belongs to Him to begin with! (Psa. 24:1)

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Besides the fact that we should not be satisfied to give Jesus crumbs during this lifetime and suffer loss of reward for eternity, there is a very dire fact we must face. If we think that we will just be content to "settle for less" by choosing not to suffer: If we are alive, on the earth (some who have already conquered dwell in heaven by then - Rev. 12:10-12), during the reign of the beast (the "hour of trial" - Rev. 3:10, Rev. 17:12), then we will be forced to take sides. We can't just say, "I'm fine with being part of the second resurrection," because a choice is REQUIRED between worshiping God (sealed by the Holy Spirit, possibly losing our physical life - Matt. 10:28) or the beast (taking his mark in order to buy and sell, therefore survive, thereby losing our soul to eternal punishment). Take notice that cowardly people are included in the list of people not allowed to enter the Holy City. (Rev. 21:8) God is our strength and hope of deliverance. (Psa. 147:10-11) The Israelites who refused to enter into the promised land due to unbelief in His almighty power to give them the victory, despite all of the wondrous signs they had just seen, ended up dying in the desert after wandering forty years. (1Cor. 3:14-18, Rev. 22:14-20, Zeph. 3:11-13, Mal. 3:16-18, Psa. 95:6-11, Heb. 3-4)

WARNINGS

To those who encourage others to ignore the book of Revelation, or even make them feel like they're doing something wrong to show an interest in it, I would really be worried if I were you about the warning in Rev. 22:19. I would repent of disparaging ANY part of God's word (even if you were taught to do so by the tradition of those you trust). For that matter, if I were a teacher making a profit from God's word and telling people what they like to hear–little snippets of fluff out of context–I would repent as well! (Acts 20:26-32, 1Tim. 4:16, 1Tim. 6:3-16, 2Tim. 2, 2Pet. 2, Jude, Matt. 5:19, James 3:1, Titus 1:11, 2Tim. 4:1-4, 2John 1:8-11) And for anyone who disdains Israel, thinking that they “blew it” forever and that we get all the good things promised to them, there is also a stern warning. (Rom. 11:17-21, Jer. 31:31-37) We are grafted in to Israel. If God were to forsake Israel, then He wouldn’t be trustworthy and He wouldn’t be OUR God, who never does ANYTHING wrong or even less than perfect. (Psa. 89:20-37, Jer. 33:19-26, 35-37, Isa. 54:5-10)

Regardless of anyone's view on the rapture, I believe that what is meant by "watching" and "being ready" and "staying awake" or "waking up" is to live as though Jesus were coming back at any moment, conscious of the fact that He will be requiring an account of each of us as to how we invested the gifts He gave us for the good of His kingdom. (Matt. 25, Luke 19, Matt. 26:41, Matt. 5, Luke 11:33-36, Luke 12:35-40, Luke 21:34-36, 1Thess. 5:1-11, Rom. 13:11-14, 1Cor. 15:33-34, Heb. 2:1-4, Rev. 3:1-3) Run the good race. No one "runs a race" when they make a one-time confession, but being a disciple is LIVING for Jesus, FOLLOWING Him. (1Cor. 9:24-27, 1Cor. 15:33-34, Heb. 12:1, Philip. 3:8-21, John 12:25-26, John 15:8, Titus 3:8, Eph. 2:10, Heb. 3:5-6, Heb. 3:12-14)

It is true that we can't save ourselves, even by choosing God of our own desire and will. However, He does draw people to Himself and if you feel that pull on your heart, don't resist. If you are already a “member of His team,” don’t run the bases half-heartedly as if you have hit a grand slam because you “don’t have to work for salvation” when it is already yours by grace through faith. Run like your life depends on it because the eternal lives of others who haven’t yet heard DO depend on it - (Rom. 10:14-15), and because Jesus gave His ALL for us. How can we be pleased with ourselves for doing less?

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:6-13

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:8-13

JESUS IS LORD

EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess Jesus is Lord, but there is only reward for doing so during this lifetime. Once we have seen with our own eyes and want to change our mind–change teams, if you will–it will be too late. Choose wisely now!

By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ Isaiah 45:23

For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:11-12

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

If you "think" you are "on God's team," but everyone around you would be surprised to hear that you consider yourself a Christian (in America we don't have to fear being killed for our faith, yet, and still people remain silent instead of standing up for Jesus–maybe because if we name the Name then we know we should live like it or else we are hypocrites - 2Tim. 2:19), then today would be a good day to repent of having lukewarm faith and get serious with God.

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:14-22