Future Recognition

Who among us has not pondered the great question, “Will I recognize my friends and loved ones when I get to heaven?” While the Bible does not directly ask this question, the human heart does. In death’s dark hour, can we comfort the relatives of those who “died in the Lord” with the hope of a future reunion in heaven? Or, when the funeral director closes the casket, is this truly the hour of final departure? It appears as though the Scriptures assume we will know and recognize one another in heaven.

The great patriarch Abraham died at the age of 175. Moses records his death with these words: “Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah…” (Genesis 25:8-9). Notice the sequence: he died, was gathered to his people, then his body was buried in the cave. Though the tomb was new, somehow Abraham was now with his people.

This phrase, “gathered to his people,” is found recorded at the death of many Old Testament worthies, such as:

  • Ishmael (Genesis 25:17)
  • Isaac (Genesis 35:29)
  • Jacob (Genesis 49:33)
  • Aaron (Numbers 20:24)
  • Moses (Deuteronomy 33:50)
  • Josiah (2 Kings 22:20)

The destiny of Moses is further described in Deuteronomy 31:16 when God said, “Behold, you will rest with your fathers.” This could not possibly refer to his physical body of Moses, for it was buried “in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor” (Deut. 34:6).

Not only do we read of individuals being “gathered” to their people, but after the death of Joshua we find an entire “generation had been gathered to their fathers” (Judges 2:10).

“Gathered” Defined

What does it mean to be gathered to your people? “Gathered” is defined as “to be collected, gathered together used of entering into Hades, where the Hebrews regarded their ancestors as being gathered together. This gathering to one’s fathers, or one’s people is distinguished both from death and burial” (Gesenius’ Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon, p. 626). William Wilson commented, “To be gathered to his fathers, is a peculiar phrase deserving notice; it is distinguished from death which precedes, and from burial of the body which follows: Gen. xxv.8; xxxv.29; 2 Kings xxii.20. It seems to denote the being received by his own people, or among them. We read in the N.T. of being received into Abraham’s bosom, or of sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, as at a feast; so that to be gathered to his own people, is to be with them in joy or torment in Hades” (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, p. 182).

Abraham has been “gathered to his people” until that day when his dust shall live again at the sound of the last trumpet, and all the buried dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. When Isaac and Ishmael were “gathered to their people,” did they recognize their own father, Abraham? It would be foolish to deny they did.

It was a source of comfort when the prophetess Huldah told the good King Josiah he would be “gathered to his fathers” (2 Kings 22:20). But what comfort would there be if he could not recognize his “fathers”? Was he to dwell in eternity, among his own family, as a total stranger?

In 1 Samuel 28 we find the account of Saul and the woman at Endor. This woman earned her living as a medium, one who conducts seances. It is not our purpose here to discuss how she obtained these powers, or even if they were real. During her seance with the king, Samuel the prophet appeared and rebuked Saul. He said, “Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.” This passage does not simply refer to a physical death. It teaches that Saul and his sons would be in Hades, the unseen abode of departed spirits, and they would be there with Samuel, in his presence.

Objections Considered

While considering the objections raised to the doctrine of future recognition, I am reminded of the words of brother Moses Lard, a well-known gospel preacher of the past century, “We have no sympathy with that infernal delusion called soul sleeping. Neither have we respect enough for it to attempt its refutation. We speak for the comfort of good men, not the refutation of bad ones. Still in passing we may jot down a thought or two” (Lard’s Quarterly, April 1865, p. 278). I wholeheartedly agree with brother Lard. Here are a few more thoughts for your consideration.

When we speak of future recognition, some skeptic will usually ask, “Would you be happy in heaven knowing some of your friends or relatives were not there?” Instead of helping our problem, this question increases it. If I cannot recognize any of my loved ones in heaven, then I would be forever uncertain if any of them made it there! Furthermore, this question assumes I would want to overlook the manner of life these people led while alive. If they are lost, it will be because they did not desire heaven enough to quit the practice of sin. Yes, we will be saddened by the loss of some, but I always thought this is why “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Another objection sometimes raised is based on Matthew 22:30, where Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” But, this passage proves our point. The angels of heaven surely know and recognize each other; some are even mentioned by name in the Bible. We will not have a physical marriage in heaven, for we will be “married” to the Lamb of God. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.'” (Rev. 19:7-9).

Our Present Hope

The first child from the union of David and Bathsheba died after a week of suffering (2 Samuel 12:15-23). Grief stricken David, with his child yet unburied, said, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” What comfort could David have of being with his child again if he could not distinguish his child from mine?

After the final judgment I fully expect to “see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28). I shall see them in the same way I shall see Jesus (1 John 3:2) and His Father (Rev. 22:4). The same Greek word for “see” is used in all three verses.

Congregations of God’s people often sing the beautiful song, “Shall We Gather At The River.” In it, we bid our brothers and sisters in Christ to look for us on the margin of the river of life, when our earthly journey is completed. We will “gather with the saints at the river, that flows by the throne of God.”

Earthly ties cannot last forever. Knowing that we shall recognize one another in heaven, let us labor diligently to increase our acquaintances in that glorious abode of the soul. “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

 

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The Compassion Of The Pharisees

Compassion is one of the greatest characteristics of the human spirit. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “compassion” as a “deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.”

Our Lord was moved by compassion on many occasions. Matthew tells us that, prior to the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus went out and saw a great multitude and “was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14).

Upon seeing a poor leper Jesus was “moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed'” (Mark 1:41). His compassion was also shown to the widow of Nain who had lost her son (Luke 7:13), and to the two blind men near Jericho (Matt. 20:34).

His compassion also moved Him to teach the multitudes (Mark 6:34). At this very moment He is our compassionate High Priest in heaven (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16).

Following His example, Christians are commanded to be compassionate individuals. We are to have compassion for one another (1 Pet. 3:8), and for the lost (Jude 1:22-23).

As you study the New Testament, there is one group of people who appear to be totally lacking in this great moral quality, i.e., the Pharisees. In this article, I would like to examine a few examples of their ungodly attitude.

The Pharisee And The Tax Collector

In Luke 18:9-14 our Lord gives us the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee did not really go to the temple to pray to God — he prayed to himself. The Pharisee was really trying to tell the Lord how lucky he was to have him in His corner.

Jewish law prescribed only one obligatory fast, and that was on the annual Day of Atonement. Jews who wished to gain special merit fasted also on Mondays and Thursdays. It is noteworthy that these were the market days when Jerusalem was full of country people. Those who fasted whitened their faces and appeared in unkempt clothes, and those days gave their piety a large audience.

The Levites were to receive a tithe of all a man’s produce (Num. 18:21). Nevertheless, this Pharisee tithed everything, even things with which there was no obligation to tithe. Our Lord pronounced woe upon those who paid “tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matt. 23:23).

No doubt all that the Pharisee said was true — he did fast twice a week; he did meticulously give tithes; he was not as other men are; still less was he like that tax-collector. However, the question is not, “Am I as good as my fellowman?” The question is “Am I as good as Christ?” And when we set our lives beside the life of Jesus and beside the holiness of God, all that is left to say is, “God be merciful to me — the sinner.”

The Woman Caught In Adultery

The Pharisees were out to get some charge on which they could discredit Jesus, and in John 8:1-11 they thought they had impaled Him on the horns of a dilemma. The event begins as the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery and set her before our Lord. When a difficult legal question arose, the natural and routine thing was to take it to a Rabbi for a decision — so the scribes and Pharisees approached Jesus as a Rabbi with a woman taken in adultery.

Adultery was a crime punishable by death (Lev. 20:10). If Jesus said the woman ought to be stoned to death, they would have accused Him of lacking compassion for a sinner, and never again would He be called the “friend of sinners” (cf. Luke 15:2). If He said the woman should be pardoned, it would immediately be said that He was teaching men to break the Law of Moses.

As the Pharisees insisted that Jesus respond to their questions, Jesus stooped down and wrote with His finger on the ground.

The scribes and Pharisees continued to insist on an answer — they got it. Jesus said in effect: “All right! Stone her! But let the man that is without sin be the first to cast a stone.” There was a silence as slowly the accusers drifted away. Therefore, Jesus and the woman were left alone.

There are still those who think Christianity gives them the right to judge the heart and motives of others and condemn them. They think Christ has given them the role of a moral watchdog, one trained to tear the sinner into pieces.

Our first emotion towards one who has made a mistake should be pity. We must always extend to others the same compassionate pity we would wish to be extended to ourselves if we were involved in a like situation (Gal. 6:1).

It is easy for men today to draw the wrong lesson from this story and leave others with the impression that Jesus forgave lightly and easily, as if her sin did not matter. Jesus exhibited genuine pity. The basic difference between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees was that they wished to condemn; He wished to forgive.

It seems to me that the Pharisees wished to stone this woman to death and were going to take great pleasure in doing so. They knew the thrill of exercising the power to condemn; Jesus knew the thrill of exercising the power to forgive. Jesus looked upon this sinner with a pity born of love; the scribes and Pharisees regarded her with disgust born of self-righteousness.

Jesus ends this event by challenging this woman to lead a sinless life. Here was no easy forgiveness; here was a challenge that pointed a sinner to heights of goodness of which she had never dreamed.

The Sinful Woman

In Luke 7:36-48 we find our Lord in the courtyard of the house of Simon the Pharisee. The houses of wealthy people were built round an open courtyard, and in the courtyard there would be a garden and a fountain. When a Rabbi was at a meal in such a house, all kinds of people came in to listen to the words of wisdom that fell from his lips.

According to custom, when a guest entered such a house the host placed his hand on the guest’s shoulder and gave him the kiss of peace. That was a mark of respect that was never omitted in the case of a distinguished Rabbi. This helps us to understand why Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matt. 26:48-49).

Cool water was also poured over the guest’s feet to cleanse and comfort them, and either a pinch of sweet-smelling incense was burned or a drop of rose oil was placed on the guest’s head. These things good manners demanded, and in this case, not one of them was done.

In the east the guests did not sit at a table — they lay on low couches, resting on the left elbow, leaving the right arm free, with the feet stretched out behind; and during the meal the sandals were taken off — this explains how the woman was standing beside Jesus’ feet.

The woman in this case was a notoriously bad woman. Around her neck she wore, like all Jewish women, a little vial of concentrated perfume; they were called alabasters. She wished to pour it on His feet, for it was all she had to offer — but as she saw Him the tears came and fell upon His feet. Luke tells us that she “stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (Luke 8:38).

Simon was conscious of no need, therefore felt no love, and so received no forgiveness. Simon looked at himself as a good man in the sight of men and of God. The woman was conscious of nothing else than a pressing need, and therefore was overwhelmed with love for Him who could supply it, and so received forgiveness.

The one thing that shuts a man off from God is self-sufficiency. The strange thing is that the better a man is the more he feels his sin — this is why Paul thought of himself as “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

Are You More Like Jesus Or The Pharisees?

Are you compassionate towards the lost? Do you see those lost in sin as individuals who have been blinded by “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:3)?

Do you mourn over their sins and try to teach them? Paul said his “heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1-3). Do you have compassion towards your brethren when they sin? Does your compassion move you to warn them? Paul told the Ephesian elders that “for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31).

Do you mourn when a brother or sister leaves the Lord? How do you treat those who fall away and then come back to God? Do we allow them to be swallowed up with sorrow (2 Cor. 2:1-7)? Do we “reaffirm” our love towards them as we are commanded (2 Cor. 2:8)?

Sometimes Christians allow the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh or the pride of life to drive them away from God (cf. 1 John 2:16). And like the prodigal son, they sink in the mire of sin — they are stained with the shame and guilt that sin brings (cf. Luke 15:11-24). And sometimes, like the prodigal son, they “come to themselves” and realize what a mess they have made of their lives and they determine to come back to their Heavenly Father. How you treat those who come back to God speaks volumes about your compassion — it reveals you to be a follower of Jesus Christ or a modern day Pharisee.

I am convinced that there are Christians who rejoice when other people fall into sin. Sometimes as people are trying to rebuild a life that has been wrecked and ravaged by sin, other Christians do their best to discourage and destroy them! Sometimes a person comes forward to make a public confession of sin and some busybody wants to know all of the details. Sometimes people repent, and then other Christians have to tell everyone they meet what the person did wrong — although they would never dream of divulging their little family secrets. Apparently, some people think that there is a cooler spot in hell reserved for the gossip than there is for the adulterer!

Does the degree of compassion in your life make you more like your Master or the Pharisees? Let us all examine our lives!

Sin, Guilt And Depression

Sin, Guilt And Depression

by David Padfield

There can be no question that guilt is one of the great destroyers of the soul. Guilt, whether imagined or real, leads individuals on a downward spiral which will destroy their relationships in life and render them worthless in the kingdom of God. An individual with a guilty conscience often becomes bitter and lashes out to those who are trying to help.

Sin is at the root of the problem, for sin leads to guilt and depression, and sinful handling of sin further complicates matters leading to greater guilt and deeper depression. Proverbs 5:22 well describes this progression of sin, “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin.” However, guilt can be a good thing when it brings one to a realization of one’s sins.

Sin Guilt DepressionWe live in an age when most people blame the problems of the world on “sickness” by telling us, “We live in a sick society.” When someone assassinates a national leader we hear, “Our nation is sick.” When a couple of teenagers walk into a high school with guns blazing and murder over a dozen people, we hear, “Society is to blame.” The idea of “sickness” as the cause of personal problems removes all concept of personal human responsibility, and this is the crux of the problem! People no longer consider themselves responsible for what they do wrong!

The Bible never discusses the problems of the world as “sickness,” but rather, it points out that sin is the real culprit (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). By blaming the problems of the world on “sickness” we cause people to lose all hope, for there is no vaccine to cure the “sickness” of the world. However, when we point out that the problem of the world is “sin,” we give people hope, for “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Psychological Crutches

In dealing with the guilt that results from sin, the world often offers psychological crutches, but no cures. Freudian psycho-analysis turns out to be an archeological expedition back into the past in which a search is made for others on whom to pin the blame for our own behavior. Freud called himself “a completely godless Jew” and a “hopeless pagan.” Freud did not make people irresponsible, but he provided a pseudo-scientific rationale for irresponsible people to justify themselves.

Rogerian psychology is based on humanistic thought, namely, that the solution to man’s problems lies within the man himself. Christians reject this viewpoint on the basis of its humanistic presuppositions alone — it begins with man and ends with man and asks us to accept the aberrant behavior of people without any sort of judgment. However, the Scriptures specifically command that we “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). The main goal of Rogerian psychology is to make people feel good about themselves, regardless of their sins.

Skinnerian psychology believes in a view of behavior modification that says man is simply an animal and we must treat him as such. Skinner believed man to be nothing more than an animal and thus fails to see man as a being who was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

There are three main causes of depression, the first two being a chemical imbalance or a brain tumor. The third cause of depression is guilt, which is the result of unforgiven sins. If you have a medical problem then you need to see a medical doctor. However, if your depression is the result of sin, then you need Christ Jesus in your life!

Guilt Is The Result Of Sin

The story of Cain illustrates the progression of sin, guilt and depression. Cain began badly by giving a sinful offering (Gen. 4:1-8). When God rejected the offering, Cain complicated the matter by responding wrongly to the rejection — he got angry and depressed — his face “fell.” God, who warned against the consequences of this improper response, noted Cain’s guilt, anger and depression.

God graciously said, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” or, as one translation says, “If you do right, you will feel right.” God also warned Cain that failure to repent and offer the right kind of sacrifice would cause him to fall deeper into sin.

The clutches of sin, like a wild animal, was crouching at the door and waiting to devour him. God offered hope by saying that Cain could reverse the downward spiral of sin by breaking out of his sinful pattern through repentance and a subsequent change of behavior.

Cain failed to heed God’s words and fell deeper into the depths of sin just as God said he would. His downward spiral led him to murder Abel. Sin leads to guilt and depression — sinful handling of sin further complicates matters leading to greater guilt and deeper depression.

We can read of how Adam suffered from the depressing shame of a guilty conscience (Gen. 3:1-13). The capacity for self-evaluation that God built into man activated painful inner sensations. Adam came to know good and evil by personal experience and his conscience accused him of sin. Adam decided to run; instead of running to God, he ran from Him.

When God called Adam out from among the trees of the Garden of Eden, he emerged covered with fig leaves. Adam further complicated the matter by attempting to handle his guilt on his own rather than turning to God for the proper solution. Adam had committed a crime, had attempted a getaway, and was now trying to cover up. God pointed the finger of accusation directly at him. God confronted him and forced him to deal with the problem. Adam tried to shift the blame to Eve. Those who suffer from a guilt often try to do the same thing.

Ahab, king of Israel, was an exceedingly evil man (1 Kings 16:29-33). Ahab took Jezebel as his wife and set up an altar for Baal. Elijah was a faithful prophet of God and spoke out against Ahab. When Ahab met Elijah, he accused Elijah of sin (1 Kings 18:17-18). Sinners will often attack righteous people when their own sins are exposed.

Judas, one of the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:4), was a man with a terrible burden of guilt. Judas was also a thief, for he carried the “money box” for the disciples and used to steal from it (John 12:4-6). Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray Christ (Matt. 26:14). Imagine how his conscience must have bothered him at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:21-25). Later that evening, Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss (Matt. 26:47-50). After Jesus was condemned Judas was remorseful, but his guilt caused him to take his own life (Matt. 27:1-5).

Even the apostle Peter was not immune from the guilt which accompanies sin (Matt. 26:69-75). In spite of the fact he promised to die with the Lord, he denied him. He cursed and swore that he never knew Jesus. Later, his guilt caused him to go out and weep bitterly.

Herod and Herodias conspired to kill John the Baptist (Mark 6:17-28). John had said it was not lawful for Herod and Herodias to be married. Herod and Herodias both suffered from a guilty conscience. To soothe their conscience they decided to kill the messenger.

King David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:1-5). In covering up his sin, David had Uriah killed (2 Sam. 11:14-21). When David realized his sin, he humbly repented (2 Sam. 12:1-15). Prior to forgiveness, David suffered from a guilty conscience. After David found the forgiveness of sins, he wrote: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” (Psa. 32:1-4).

What Guilt Does

Guilt can affect our physical bodies. David’s sin caused him to murder Uriah, and his guilt affected his physical body, i.e., his “vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Like Peter, some people have uncontrollable tears because of guilt. Many individuals can not get to sleep at night because of their guilt. Sadly, many Christians today lead miserable lives because guilt has a hold on them.

Guilt often leads to other sins as well. Cain’s guilt led to depression and finally murder. Judas allowed his guilt to lead him to take his own life. Herod and Herodias allowed their guilt to end in the murder of John. Guilt can cause you to hate and lash out at those who are trying to help you.

Psychologists often spend a lot of time talking about “why” — but in the Bible the stress falls upon the “what.” Psychologists will ask, “Why did you cheat on your wife?” or, “Why did you steal that car?” The question of “why” is a waste of time and leads to blame-shifting. “What” questions (i.e., “What did you do?”) lead to the solution for our problems.

The Removal Of Guilt

Either you can have yours sins forgiven by the blood of Christ, or you can allow the guilt of your sins to destroy you.

Suppose you were driving in a car and the water temperature gauge on the dashboard turned red and said your car was overheating? You could stop the car, go to the trunk and get a hammer, and then smash the gauge to pieces — and then go on your way. However, you will not get far — destroying the red warning light will not remove the problem — it simply masks it for a little while.

Your conscience is a lot like the red warning light on the dashboard — it tells you when you have a problem that needs attention. You can go to a Freudian psychologist and have your conscience smashed, seared and destroyed — but your problem remains. Your problem is sin and it will never get better on its own! It is possible for one to sear their conscience (1 Tim. 4:2).

When your conscience bothers you because you know you have done wrong, what should you do? Your friends might tell you there are no moral absolutes. A Freudian psychologist will tell you it is your mother’s fault. A Skinnerian psychologist will treat you like an animal. However, there are moral absolutes, and your sins can not be blamed on your mother, and you are not an animal — you have been made in the image of God!

What is the purpose of our preaching? Paul said, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5, NKJV). “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5, Adams). The goal of our preaching is to bring men into a loving conformity to the law of God, and this in turn brings a clean conscience.

Instead of excuse-making or blame-shifting, the Bible advocates that you assume your responsibility and blame, confess your sins and seek the wonderful forgiveness which can only be found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The word of God can cut you to the heart. On the great day of Pentecost Peter told his audience they had “taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” the Son of God (Acts 2:23). When these people realized that God had made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ, they were cut to the heart and asked what to do in order to be saved (Acts 2:36-38). Stephen preached a similar lesson before the Jewish council. His audience was also “cut to the heart” (Acts 7:54), but their guilt caused them to kill the messenger (Acts 7:55-58).

A good conscience depends upon good behavior (1 Pet. 3:10-11). Good lives come from good deeds. Good consciences come from good and noble behavior.

From his guilt, David cried out, “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psa. 32:4). It was as if God’s hand was crushing him. He believed his depression was from God and he considered it the merciful punishment of God warning him and leading him to repentance. David acknowledged his sin and sought forgiveness (Psa. 32:5-7). David’s forgiveness restored to him the joy of salvation (Psa. 51:1-13).

King David demonstrated the wonderful truth of Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

Conclusion

You might be reading this article because you are suffering from the pains of sin, guilt and depression. I do not seek to minimize your pain or your problems, for I know the pain is real. Sin is painful! Sin caused the Son of God to be nailed to a wooden cross. Sin can crush and destroy you. However, I want to let you know there is hope for your problems, for “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

Imitators Of God

Imitators Of God

by Gene Taylor

Christianity is not some type of unattainable ideal. It is an ideal but one which is both attainable and practical. In the above text, Christians are described as “dear children” and are urged to imitate their Father.

When people become children of God, there should be a change in the way they live. The verses which follow our text, Ephesians 5:2-13, address this subject. From them Christians can learn how to “be imitators of God.”

Walk In Love (Ephesians 5:2)

One’s “walk” is their manner of life. Christians should be characterized as loving individuals. The standard for the Christian’s love is Christ (John 13:34-35). He should love as Christ loved, sacrificially (Eph. 5:25). This is the principle of esteeming others before self (Phil. 2:3-8).

Reject Moral Impurity (Ephesians 5:3-5)

Similar warnings are found in Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. In the moral quagmire of our time, Christians must stand up for the morality of God. For to reject God’s standard is to reject God. Immoral acts should “not even be named” among Christians (v. 3).

This includes rejecting covetousness for it is also immoral. The Christian must not be consumed with “things” (Luke 12:15) but must rather put them in proper perspective (Matt. 6:33).

It also includes “filthiness” and “foolish talking.” Christians must be careful of what they say and how they say it (Jas. 1:26; 3:2). Words reveal what is in the heart (Matt. 12:34). God’s children must always speak properly (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6).

Guard Against False Teaching (Ephesians 5:6-7)

Every New Testament writer warns of false teachers (cf. Matt. 7:15; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:1). The only possible solution to the problem of false teaching is the word of God, the Truth (John 8:32; 17:17). The only way to be imitators of God is to know and obey the Truth. Sadly, that is not always the case even among those who claim to be God’s people (Gal. 4:16). Only obedience to the Truth of the gospel will purify one’s soul (1 Pet. 1:22).

Christians must continually strive to obey and practice God’s word and let no one deceive them.

Be Light In A World Of Darkness (Ephesians 5:8-3)

God draws a clear line between good and evil, light and darkness, His children and the children of the devil (Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9). Because He has delivered Christians from Satan’s darkness, they must live with Him in light, their lives showing His light (Matt. 5:14). To be like God, one must walk in the light (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5-7).

Those who belong to God must “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (v. 11). If they are children of God, they belong to the light (1 Thes. 5:5-6) and their lives should reflect it.

Conclusion

Verse 14 provides the closing admonition to the text: “Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.'” Life without Christ is a spiritual stupor for it is Christ who motivates and energizes one’s life (Rom. 6:4; Eph. 2:1). Certainly one who claims to wear the name of Christ ought to awaken and live for Him and by His word.

Because they are His children, Christians must let their lives reflect that glorious and sacred relationship. They must be “imitators of God as dear children.”

Remember Lot’s Wife

Remember Lot’s Wife

by David Padfield

In the 17th chapter of the gospel of Luke our Lord speaks of the past judgments of God and records words that will be remembered throughout eternity by those who did not heed the warning there issued to “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).

The story of Lot and his wife is a very ancient one (Gen. 19:1-26). The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were doomed to destruction because of the vile life-style of its inhabitants. Lot and his wife were told by angels of God to, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.” (Gen. 19:17). “Fire and brimstone” quite literally fell from the sky and ignited the asphalt and sulfur pits around the cities, so the entire city was consumed. When God “overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” Lot’s wife “looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:25-26).

The historical records of the Canaanites tell us that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah now lie under the southwest end of the Dead Sea — the utter absence of the slightest trace of animal and vegetable life in its waters are a striking testimony to this catastrophe.

The morning after the destruction of the cities, Abraham went to a place where he had stood the day before, interceding with the Lord for Sodom, and he saw how judgment had fallen upon the entire plain, since “the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace” (Gen. 19:27-28).

There are many lessons we can learn from Lot’s wife — lessons that can aid us in our walk with God.

She Was Married To A Righteous Man

Lot made many mistakes in his life, yet the Divine record still calls him a “righteous” man (2 Peter 2:4-8). While living in Sodom, the wicked men of the city said, “He keeps acting as a judge” (Gen. 19:9).

We all know the power of a good example. Paul warned us about the power of association, saying, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.'” (1 Cor. 15:33). Lot’s wife went out of the city with him, but only so far.

Not one of us is righteous enough for ourselves. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isa. 59:1-2). We are also taught that “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). We must seek redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23-26). Peter reminds us that, “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Pet. 4:17-18).

She Was Warned Of The Danger

A message from God himself warned Lot and his wife to “Escape for your life” (Gen. 19:17). A clearer message could not have been given.

Christ also warns us of the danger before us — He spoke more about hell than all the apostles (Matt. 7:21-23). Jesus tells us of the judgment day when the wicked “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).

The apostle Paul foretold the day when the “Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thes. 1:7-8).

On one occasion Paul had the opportunity to preach before Felix. Luke tells us that “as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.'” (Acts 24:25). The thought of a judgement day can not be pleasant for an unregenerate man.

On the day of Pentecost, when the Lord’s church was established and the terms of Divine pardon made known unto men, Peter preached the very first sermon ever given in the name of our risen Lord. He told those who believed that they need to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, “and with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.'” (Acts 2:40).

She Made An Effort To Be Saved

Her doom is rendered all the more impressive when we consider the circumstances — she so nearly escaped. She was lost because her heart was still in Sodom. She was convinced, but not converted. She was seeking safety with divided desires and interests.

We must all strive to get to heaven. On one occasion a disciple asked Christ about the number of people who were going to be saved. Jesus ignored the basic question and told the man to “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (cf. Luke 13:23-30).

There is a lesson here for Christians as well. Paul reminded the Hebrew Christians and us as well that we have left spiritual Egypt and are on our way to the promised land. Along the way it is possible to sit down to rest, and while resting die (Heb. 3:7-19). “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” (Heb. 4:1).

If you are negligent in your service towards God, remember that time in your life when eternity was brought near, your false confidence was dispelled, and you earnestly “fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before” you (Heb. 6:18). At that time you really studied your Bible and your prayers were earnest pleadings before God. But now, maybe the immediate cause of your fear has faded away and you are becoming lukewarm. Stop for a moment and reconsider your former earnestness. Recall the thoughts you used to have during the Lord’s Supper as you communed with our Savior. Remember the blessings of your salvation — how precious and dear they really are.

All the parables of judgment given by Jesus were directed toward the disciples. It is very possible for us to “neglect” our salvation (Heb. 2:1-3).

She Committed But One Sin

In our day, we have a tendency to minimize and downplay sin and its consequences. I have often heard preachers talk about “sins of weakness” and “sins of ignorance” as though they were not as bad as “sins of intention.” Brethren, all sins stem from weakness and ignorance! Our ignorance of hell and its consequences and our weakness due to a lack of study of God’s word contribute to our violating the law of God.

No doubt Lot’s wife had a better moral life than others in Sodom. If you can, picture that day of destruction in Sodom. The sun rose as it had before, and there she was in an attractive house, she had friends in that town, and there were no visible signs of danger. Yet, she is told by angels of God that she must leave at once — even though she had daughters in the city — she paused, and the pause was a pause of death. She was guilty of the sin of unbelief.

Our Need Is For More Faith

“When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, ‘Son of David, have mercy on us!’ And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.'” (Matt. 9:27-29).

These blind men were healed “according to their faith.” Our life as a Christian is lived according to our faith, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

“According to your faith” will be your contribution, your attendance, your study habits, prayer life and the amount of time spent in teaching others. When some new program is suggested, those of little faith will hesitate. Those with great faith will not have to be begged to attend, to work, or to give. Brethren, why should elders and preachers have to beg and plead with some Christians to get them to attend the worship services with the saints? We degrade the glorious gospel when we take the best we have and lay it at the feet of swine (Matt. 7:6).

When something happens to our faith, other Christians need to help. There need is for an increase in our faith (Rom. 10:17). Those weak in the faith need the word of God, not pop-psychology and psycho-babble.

Conclusion

Our continued salvation lies not in the past, but in the present. Lot’s wife perished, not because she went back, but because she looked back — it was a sign of where her real interests were. Paul said, “we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39).

Learn a lesson from Lot’s wife, but don’t learn it the hard way! Let us not look back, but look unto Jesus. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2).

 

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When Christians Sin

When Christians Sin

by David Padfield

It is a sad, but true, fact that Christians sometimes sin (1 John 1:5 – 2:2). From this passage we learn that only a liar would deny that he ever sins and that confessing our sins to Christ is required for Christians to obtain forgiveness.

The book of Acts records the occasion when a Christian, Simon the sorcerer, sinned before God and man (Acts 8:9-24). Simon sinned by attempting to purchase the power the Holy Spirit had given to the apostles and was destined to perish because of his sin, for his heart was not right with God (Acts 8:21). He was told to “repent” in order to be forgiven by God (Acts 8:22).

In order that we may appreciate the awfulness of sin and blessings of forgiveness, let us study what happens when Christians sin.

Righteous People Can Become Unrighteous

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel said, “when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die” (Ezek. 18:24).

Christians can depart from God and be hardened by sin. The Hebrew writer said, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12).

Christians can also fall from grace (Gal. 5:4) and leave their first love (Rev. 2:4-5). Paul also warned, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

There are some religious groups who teach that it is impossible to fall from grace. Sam Morris, a noted Baptist preacher, said: “We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul… All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger… The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul… The way I live has nothing whatsoever to do with the salvation of my soul.” (Do A Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul?, Sam Morris, First Baptist Church, Stamford, Texas).

How Can A Christian Obtain Forgiveness?

Christians are God’s children, and as such we can go to our Father and ask His forgiveness — we can address Him as “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:8).

Christians are required to repent of their sins before God will grant forgiveness (Acts 8:22). Repentance is not just saying, “I’m sorry.” The word “repent” “signifies ‘to change one’s mind or purpose,’ always, in the NT, involving a change for the better, an amendment, and always, except in Luke 17:3, 4, of ‘repentance’ from sin.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words). Repentance is often described as “a change of heart that brings about a change in action.” John the Baptist told the people to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). Repentance involves restitution (Lev. 6:1-7; Luke 19:8-9; Matt. 7:12).

Confession of our sins is also required before Christians can be forgiven, for John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is not a confession of faith in Christ, but confession of our sins. The word “confess” means “to confess by way of admitting oneself guilty of what one is accused of, the result of inward conviction” (Vine).

Prayer is a natural extension of repentance and confession (Acts 8:22). As Christians we have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1; Heb. 4:14-16).

King David of Israel provides a wonderful example of on individual who sought God’s forgiveness by acknowledging his sins, turning away from them and asking God’s forgiveness (Psa. 51:1-13).

There is not one example this side of Calvary where any non-Christian is told to “pray” as a part of his forgiveness. When Ananias came to Saul of Tarsus he found him praying. Every Baptist preacher I have ever met would have knelt down beside him and encouraged him to keep praying — maybe he would eventually “pray through.” However, Ananias told him to stop praying and start obeying! Ananis said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

When God Forgives His Children

Some of the most beautiful and poetic passages in the Bible deal with the manner in which God forgives His repentant children.

The great prophet Micah said God “will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). When God forgives us our sins will be removed “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12). God will blot out our sins and remember them against us no more (Psa. 51:9; cf. Acts 3:19).

Our sins are wiped out of His memory, never to brought up again!

When Should Christians Forgive Others?

Some Christians are under the mistaken idea that we can or should forgive other people, regardless of whether God has forgiven them of their sins or not.

Yes, we are commanded to forgive others, for Jesus said, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Jesus also taught that “if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15; Mark 11:26). The parable of the unmerciful servant plainly shows that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others (Matt. 18:21-35).

However, we are to forgive other people only when they repent! The sinning brother must ask for forgiveness. “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4).

Let me say it again — the sinning brother must repent before you can forgive him (Luke 17:4). Remember that “repentance” includes restitution and amendment of life.

Picture what happens when you forgive someone that God has not yet forgiven. Suppose a person lies about you and you “forgive” them, even though they have not repented nor asked for your forgiveness. If you “forgive” this person it means that you are never going to bring this matter up to them again — nor will you bring the matter up to others or yourself. However, after you have “forgiven” this person, they are still destined to perish, for “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8).

The truth is that the best thing you could do for this person is to bring them back to God — “if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

It comes as a shock to many Christians, but there are some people we should not even pray for! When a brother or sister in Christ continues in their sin until their death, God has commanded us to not even pray for that person. “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” (1 John 5:16).

Conclusion

Let us all see the enormity of sin and willingness of our Father to forgive. God has set conditions for forgiveness of His erring children. When a Christian sins, he must repent and pray (Acts 8:22).

Non-Christians (those who can not call upon God as their “Father”) must “repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Have you been forgiven by God on the basis of His will?

What Is Wrong With Dancing?

What Is Wrong With Dancing?

by Gene Taylor

There was an interesting article by Jennifer Lee in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, August 11th, 1997 (Before the Fall: Small Church Seeks the Purity of Eden, page 1). It told of a church that held “clothing-optional” services.

“The one-room church with its lace curtains could be any other small-town church in America until the lay preacher, Harry Westcott, steps out from behind the pulpit naked except for white sneakers and a black watch. The accompanist, his fingers skimming the keyboard of the Wurlitzer, is similarly undressed.”

Thus begins the services of a nondenominational church at Cedar Waters Village nudist resort in Nottingham, New Hampshire. This village “claims to be the first Christian nudist resort in the U.S.” It was founded in 1950.

The bulk of the article goes on to relate the argumentation and justification these nudists give for their practices. They include such things as “People were always baptized nude until the second or third century;” “Nude is natural. The philosophy is body-acceptance;” and “If you believe that the human body is a creation of God in his own image, there is nothing shameful or harmful about being nude.” I have come to expect such typical rationalizations for such aberrant behavior. As a matter of fact, I heard these same arguments used by a minister of a denominational church in Texas some 25 years ago to justify using an exotic dancer in worship services. It seems that any one who wants to engage in any practice can somehow justify it.

Some so-called “Christians” are that way. Those who claim to be members of the body of Christ but cling to worldly practices often seek such justification.

Those who claim to serve Christ but enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages try to justify their practice by saying such things as, “Well, Jesus drank wine;” “Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake;” or “You know, the Bible doesn’t condemn social drinking or just having a drink in the privacy of your home as long as it’s done in moderation.” The Bible does condemn “strong drink” (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-32) and drunkenness (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21) and common sense ought to cause anyone in their right mind to realize where the use of alcohol leads. It leads to death from alcohol poisoning as with the LSU student who recently died after pledging a fraternity. It leads to impairment of faculties and death when driving as in the fatal automobile accident of Princess Diana. Be smart enough to abstain from alcohol completely. Even at Cedar Waters Village, a nudist resort, “alcohol isn’t allowed.”

Others who claim to be members of the church justify dancing in much the same way. Quoting again from the article in The Wall Street Journal, it said, “Sexual promiscuity and excessive physical contact aren’t tolerated. All dancing — even square dancing-must be done clothed because, as Mr. Westcott explains, ‘Dancing is a vertical manifestation of a horizontal desire.'” Even nudists can see the dangers involved in dancing. Why can’t some of those who claim to be Christians? It is because it is something they want to do and, as we have already seen, when someone really wants to do something, he will go to great lengths to justify it in his own mind and the minds of others. The problem is, though, no matter how he may try, he cannot change the mind or will of Almighty God.

Who Pays When I Sin?

Who Pays When I Sin?

by David Padfield

After His mistreatment by soldiers in the Praetorium, a Roman centurion led our Lord to Golgotha, the “place of the skull.” As the procession traveled that short distance Jesus fell under the weight of the cross. The centurion, in a desire to hurry things along, “compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross” (Mark 15:21). The word “compelled” refers to the compulsory powers of Roman couriers over residents in an occupied country (cf. Matt. 5:41). There is a good likelihood that Simon was a disciple of Jesus, for his sons are listed by name, and Rufus is mentioned again in Romans 16:13.

“This must have been a grim day for Simon of Cyrene. Palestine was an occupied country and any man might be impressed into the Roman service for any task. The sign of impressment was a tap on the shoulder with the flat of a Roman spear. Simon was from Cyrene in Africa. No doubt he had come from that far off land for the Passover. No doubt he had scraped and saved for many years in order to come. No doubt he was gratifying the ambition of a lifetime to eat one Passover in Jerusalem. Then this happened to him.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, p. 360).

Think about this for a moment: Simon was totally innocent of any crime. Jesus is the one who had been condemned to the cross for the crime of being “the King of the Jews.” Yet Simon had to pay a price for being near Jesus and then had to bear His cross part of the 650 yards from the Fortress Antonia to Calvary.

I submit unto you that there are many times when one or more individuals have to pay the price for the actions of others.

The Sin Of Adam

Adam and Eve sinned against God and thus brought physical death to all of mankind (Gen. 3:14-19). The Bible does not teach that we inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezek. 18:20).

While we do not inherit Adam’s sin in any way, we do suffer the consequences of his sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” (Rom. 5:12).

All men, women and children are now subject to physical death as a result of the sin of Adam.

Joseph

The brothers of Joseph were extremely jealous of him. After discussing whether or not to kill Joseph, his brothers decided to sell him to Midianite traders who later sold him as a slave in Egypt (Gen. 37:28). The brothers then concocted a story and allowed their own father to believe that Joseph had been devoured by a wild beast (Gen. 37:31-33).

Who sinned in this matter? Obviously it was the brothers of Jospeh. Who had to pay the price for their sin? It was Joseph who had to work as a slave in Egypt and who had spend the majority of his life in a foreign country. Not only did Joseph pay for the sin of his brothers, but his father, Jacob, had to pay a terrible price as well. After learning of the “death” of his son, the Bible tells us “all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, ‘For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.’ Thus his father wept for him.” (Gen. 37:35). Many years later, when Jacob finally learned that his favorite son was still alive, the Bible says “Jacob’s heart stood still” at the news (Gen. 45:26).

Achan

At the destruction of Jericho the people of God were warned not to take any of the silver or gold from that city for it belonged to God. “And you, by all means keep yourselves from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.” (Josh. 6:18-19). One man, Achan, sinned by stealing “a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels” (Josh. 7:21).

When the people of God attacked the city of Ai they suffered a terrible defeat, for “the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water” (Josh. 7:5). Joshua, the leader of the people, was deeply concerned and went to God in prayer about the matter. God told him that “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.” (Josh. 7:11).

After interrogating a large number of people, Achan finally acknowledged his crime. Joshua sent messengers to Achan’s tent who found the stolen items and “brought them to Joshua and to all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord” (Josh. 7:23).

As punishment for his crime, “Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.” (Josh. 7:24). Then, “all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones” (Josh 7:25).

Who sinned in this case? Obviously it was Achan who stole the silver and the gold. Who had to suffer the consequences for his sin? Not only did his sin cost thirty-six soldiers their lives, but no doubt many of those soldiers had families. There would be many widows in the camp as a result of Achan’s sin. Little children in the camp would have to grow up without the benefit of having a father to guide and protect them. Not only that, but Achan’s own children lost their lives as a result of their father’s sin. If you could bring Achan back from the grave and ask him what he would do if he had it to do all over again, what do you think he would say? If he knew his own children would die as a result of his greed don’t you think he would have avoided it altogether? The problem is that most people do not think of the consequences of their actions.

David And Bathsheba

When David ruled over Israel, one year “it came to pass in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” (2 Sam. 11:1). One evening David was walking on his rooftop and “from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold” (2 Sam. 11:2). David then sent for the woman, Bathsheba, and committed adultery with her.

Some time later Bathsheba sent word to David that she was with child. David knew how bad it would look for the king to be caught in such an affair, so he called for her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and tried to devise a plan to send Uriah to his home for a while so he would think the child was his. David’s plan went array when Uriah, the noble soldier, refused to go to his wife while “the ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields” (2 Sam. 11:11).

David then devised a plan whereby Uriah would be killed in the next battle. David sent a letter to Joab, the commander of the army, and instructed him to “set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die” (2 Sam. 11:15). David’s plan worked, for during the next battle “some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also” (2 Sam. 11:17).

After a period of mourning, Bathsheba was married to David and he “brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son” (2 San. 11:27). No doubt David thought all was well and no one would ever find out about his sin.

After the birth of David’s son, Nathan the prophet went to David and told him a story of a rich man who killed the one ewe lamb of a poor man and fed it to his guests. “Then David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.'” (2 Sam. 12:5-6). Now picture Nathan pointing the finger of guilt towards David and saying, “You are the man!” Though David had not personally touched Uriah, Nathan said, “You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon” (2 Sam. 12:9).

Though David was extremely contrite and remorseful, he had “given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” God told him he would have to be punished for his sin. As a result, the child died after seven days of suffering.

Who sinned in this matter? It was David who broke at least four of the Ten Commandments. He coveted his neighbor’s wife, stole her from her husband, committed adultery with her, and then killed her husband. Who paid the price? Uriah and some of David’s other servants died needlessly in battle. The young child died as well. The entire nation was disgraced by the immoral conduct of their king and his attempt to cover up his adulterous affair (sounds familiar doesn’t it?).

What About Us?

We do not live in a vacuum — our lives affect other people, “for none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself” (Rom. 14:7). There have been times in the life of each one of us when other people had to suffer the consequences of our sins.

Young children often have to pay a terrible price for the neglect of their parents. When Christians forsake the assembling of the saints, not only do they suffer, but their children have to grow up ignorant of the gospel as well. We are reminded to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

In cases of divorce it is always the children who suffer the most. It is hard enough to raise good children when both parents are doing the best they can. Several years ago I served as a volunteer reading tutor in the public schools — I found it interesting that every child I tutored came from a broken home!

Sometimes parents have to pray the price for the sin of their children. “A foolish son is the ruin of his father” (Prov. 19:13). Children sometimes commit public sins which cause shame and disgrace to their parents and ruin the good name of the family.

Sometimes one spouse has to pay the price for the sin of the other. This is especially true in cases of adultery. The innocent party not only has to live with the shame and guilt of their partner’s sin, but they also have to worry about the possibility of contracting aids or some other social disease.

Conclusion

Let us all be careful in our actions and remember that our sins have consequences — not only for us, but also for those we love most.

One of the most humbling thoughts in the world is that the innocent Son of God had to die for our sins. Paul reminds how “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The infinite love of God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Work Of Angels

The Work Of Angels

by David Padfield

Thousands of books have been written on the history of mankind. However, the one chapter that is usually missing from such books is the one which would describe the role of Angels in human history. There is scarcely any important event in sacred history that does not involve Angels.

On the morning when this celestial ball on which we live was created, the Angels of heaven “shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7). Angels are not Divine, but were themselves created but Christ, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” (Col. 1:16). Angels were created with a freewill. The apostle Peter reminds us that “God did not spare the Angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4).

How Many Angels?

The number of Angels is hard to describe. The Hebrew writer tells us of the “innumerable company of angels” (Heb. 12:22). When God gave the Law at Sinai, “He came with ten thousands of saints; from His right hand came a fiery law for them” (Deut. 33:2). The Psalmist said, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; the Lord is among them as in Sinai…” (Psa. 68:17).

In a night vision Daniel saw the throne of the Ancient of Days, and before Him “a thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” (Dan. 7:9-10). Hovering over the plains around Bethlehem a “multitude of the heavenly host” sang the praises of God when our Savior was born (Luke 2:13). In the Garden of Gethsemane our Lord told Peter His Father could provide “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matt. 26:53). In a vision John saw Angels around the throne of God, “and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11).

Only two Angels are mentioned by name in the Bible. “Michael the Archangel” is referred to in Jude 9. The term “Archangel” means “chief or captain of the angels.” In Daniel 10:13 he is called “one of the chief princes.” The Bible also speaks of “Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19). Jewish Apocryphal books also speak of two other Angels, named Raphael and Uriel.

Two Classes Of Angels

In a vision the prophet Isaiah saw the Seraphim who stand before the throne of God and cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isa. 6:1-3). This is the only Old Testament passage where Seraphim are mentioned. Each Seraphim had feet, a face and six wings. This vision made a tremendous impression upon Isaiah, for his favorite designation of God is “the Holy One of Israel,” a phrase occurring some twenty-six times in his book.

Ezekiel tells us of the Cherubim who were present when the glory of God left the temple in Jerusalem (Ezek. 10:1-21). “And the sound of the wings of the Cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezek. 10:5).

One of the vessels of ministry used in both the tabernacle and the temple was the Ark of the Covenant. It is interesting to note that two Cherubim of beaten gold were on top of the Ark, on the mercy seat, facing each other. “The Cherubim spread out their wings above, and covered the mercy seat with their wings. They faced one another; the faces of the Cherubim were toward the mercy seat.” (Exodus 37:9).

The Purpose Of Angels

The Hebrew writer summed up the purpose of Angels when he said, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). Angels are interested in the salvation of men. Angels were intrigued when prophets of old spoke of “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

In the course of human history Angels sometimes appeared as men. Abraham, the friend of God who dwelt under the oak tree at Mamre, was visited by Angels in human form (Gen. 18:1-5; 19:1-3). An Angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Manoah to tell her about the birth of her son, but the woman though it was a man who spoke to her (Judges 13:3-6). The women who came to the tomb of Jesus saw a “young man clothed in a long white robe” (Mark 16:5), but John tells us it was an Angel (John 20:12). The Hebrew writer admonishes us, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained Angels” (Heb. 13:2).

Angels have often been involved in giving help to mortal men, such as feeding Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 19:5-6), protecting Daniel from the lions (Dan. 6:22), delivering Hezekiah from the Assyrians (Isa. 37:36), and freeing Peter from prison (Acts 12:7-10).

Angels are not always visible when they serve the human race. When the king of Syria made war against Israel he determined to take the life of Elisha, the man of God. The king “sent horses and chariots and a great army” to Dothan and surrounded that city at night (2 Kings 6:13-14). The next morning a servant of Elisha was greatly afraid when he saw his city was surrounded by horses and chariots. Elisha told the servant , “‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:16-17).

On one occasion our Lord gave us a glimpse into the realm beyond the grave. Our Savior told us about the rich man and Lazarus, and how when the rich man died he was buried, but Lazarus “was carried by the Angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22).

Providential Care

In the New Testament we can read of the providential aid Angels have given in bringing men to Christ. Philip the evangelist was told by an Angel of the Lord to journey “along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza” where he found the Ethiopian eunuch “sitting in his chariot … reading Isaiah the prophet” (Acts 8:25-28). As far as the sacred record indicates, the Ethiopian knew nothing of the appearance of the Angel to Philip.

In the city of Caesarea Maritima there was a devout Gentile “called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment” (Acts 10:1). While this devout man was engaged in prayer an Angel of God appeared to him and told him to send for a preacher, Simon Peter, who “will tell you what you must do” (Acts 10:6). The Angel did not save Cornelius or preach to him in any way — he simply pointed the way to the preacher of the gospel.

The concern Angels have for us is also shown by the fact that “there is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

Christ And The Angels

Angels were constant attendants during the earthly ministry of our Lord — they came to Him in times of distress, peril and want. Angels announced His birth (Luke 2:9-13), and ministered to Him after His temptations in the wilderness (Matt. 4:11). When He knelt in prayer in Gethsemane, Angels came and strengthened Him (Luke 22:43). At His death they stood guard over His tomb (Luke 24:4), and after His resurrection they made the glad announcement that, “He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6).

When He ascended into heaven, it was two Angels who stood by His apostles and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).

Guardian Angels

Our Lord said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their Angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Does this mean each of us has a “guardian Angel”? I don’t think so. While Jesus assures us that we have Angels who work on our behalf, He did not say there is an Angel who is assigned for every person.

However, Jewish people had a common belief that every Israelite had a guardian Angel. When Peter was released from prison he went “to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12). When Peter knocked on the gate, a woman named Rhoda “recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate” (Acts 12:14). Those in the house said, “‘You are beside yourself!’ Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, ‘It is his Angel.'”

At The Judgment

Angels will accompany the Lord when He returns — the voice of the Archangel will be heard when the Lord descends to judge the world — and all of His holy Angels will be with Him (Matt. 25:31). At the judgment, Angels will assist in the separation of the wicked from the righteous. Christ will return “with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:7-8).

In the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus tells us how at the judgment “the Son of Man will send out His Angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:41-42). And then in the parable of the dragnet, He tells us how “the Angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire” (Matt. 13:49-50).

If Angels of heaven shouted with joy when the earth was born — if the Angels hailed with “Hosannas” the Babe born in Bethlehem, what will be their “Hallelujahs” when they accompany the King in all His triumphant glory?

Fooling God

Fooling God

by Gene Taylor

Scripture warns us not to be deceived (1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33). We can be deceived in many ways, but one of the major sources of deception is self. We find ways to avoid facing unpleasant truth and rationalize away personal guilt.

It is foolish to try to deceive ourselves. Galatians 6:7-9 touches on some common illusions among those who profess to be Christians. Sadly, those who try to deceive themselves and others by these things somehow think that God will likewise be deceived by them.

God Cannot Be Mocked

To mock is “to turn up the nose at, sneer at, treat with contempt, is used in the Passive Voice … does not mean that men do not mock Him; the Apostle vividly contrasts the essential difference between God and man. It is impossible to impose upon Him who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 760).

God is not mocked in that His law cannot be ignored without punishment (Rom. 2:6-9). Adam and Eve tried it to their sorrow (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:6, 24). Ananias and Sapphira tried it to their death (Acts 5:1-11).

God is not mocked in that He cannot be deceived (Heb. 4:12-13). Achan concealed his sin from others but God was not mocked (Josh. 7). Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, tried to gain a personal profit by lying but God was not mocked (2 Kings 5:20-27). Jonah tried to run from Him but God would not be mocked.

God’s Law of Harvest Cannot Be Broken

If one sows to the spirit, he has real hope of eternal life (2 Tim. 4:6-8). If one is sowing to the flesh, he had better be ready to reap corruption (Rom. 3:8; 6:23). One cannot neglect God’s law without consequences (Heb. 2:2-3). One cannot sow the “works of the flesh” and reap heaven (Gal. 5:17-21). One cannot engage in such things as “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” because “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” One cannot sow “wild oats” and expect to reap that which is good.

All The Fruits Of Our Behavior Are Not Immediate

As a matter of fact, we must look primarily beyond the present for reward. Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). He added, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (1 Cor. 4:17). One should never mistake God’s present tolerance for a full harvest. Some were erroneously thinking that way in New Testament times. The apostle Peter corrected them by saying, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:9-10). The young may escape the wrath of their parents, the law and society but they will not escape God’s judgment. The worldly may think they have “gotten away with sin” if they receive no immediate penalty or if their sin is condoned by brethren — but such is not the case.

Conclusion

All of us must realize that God will not be mocked — neither in this life nor in eternity. He is not fooled by our clever deceptions. We will reap what we sow. Therefore, we must obey God.