11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14;11-12)
Imagine if you will a magnificent golden Throne surrounded by a multitude of Angels, winged beasts, twenty-four elders, and thousands upon thousands of overcomers (saints) dressed in pure white robes; all giving praise and worship to He who sits upon the Throne.
To the right of the Throne there grows a beautiful Garden for which mankind was originally intended to live in fellowship with their Maker. And far, far to the left of the Throne we see (and smell) a deep, dark pit, the final destination of the deceiver of mankind, as well as those who have chosen to ignore or reject God's offer to return to He who created them.
Now add to this picture billions upon billions of people from every nation, and every generation since Adam and Eve, standing before the Throne waiting their turn to be judged by the King who sits upon the golden Throne.
Got the picture? Take your time, that's a lot to stuff into anyone's mind, regardless of how brainy they imagine themself to be.
Out of all those billions of people we will select four representatives, because all who stand before the throne are already condemned, and everyone's reasoning will be almost the same with only slight variations.
Ah, here is a likely prospect for our study, he is a quite elderly man I would say, exceptionally well dressed with fine, chiseled features, a set jaw, piercing eyes, and many gold rings upon his fingers. I would guess him to be a wealthy CEO or something of that sort. I will ask him for an interview.
"Normally I wouldn't bother with the likes of you, seeing as you have nothing by which I could possibly make any gain. But under the circumstances, I'll make an exception."
"I thank you sir. First, I wonder if you will tell us your name and what might be your profession?"
"My name is Thomas. Doubting Thomas is what they call me, and for good reason. I doubt everything. I even doubt that this circus is actually occurring. In my set of beliefs such a thing is impossible, especially for one such as I. As to my profession, I have many, and have tried just about all in my quest for the top, which I have attained. In my day I was the richest man in the world, and may very well still have been, had I not died prematurely."
"I see sir, and since you now stand before the Throne, I assume you will be going to trial before the Judge. May I ask, sir, what you expect the outcome to be?"
"Why, I will be exonerated, of course. I have done nothing wrong for which I should be tried. And if I should have committed some minor infraction along the way, I have a trump card. When I was young I was baptized by my parents, who, incidently, were very religious. Besides this, I have been to church a few times in my life, and have even gone up to the alter a time or two when my financial situation looked poor. It didn't do any good. God, if there is one, didn't give me what I wanted, so I don't believe in God."
"That is very interesting to be sure. Who then would you say is sitting on the golden Throne up ahead?"
"I have no idea, nor do I care. I only know that I don't believe in this nonsense, nor in God, so therefore none of this is happening."
"Well sir, that certainly is an interesting and novel viewpoint you have. And I thank you for the interview, and the best of luck to you at your trial."
Ahead of me stands a young fellow, in his early twenties I would say, possibly with a minimal of college education, dressed in a rather bazaar outfit with a bright bandana on his head, a flowered vest, and a bright sash about his waist. He would appear to be a vagabond, however he is rather well-kept and exceptionally happy under the circumstances. Let us see what he has to say, shall we?
"Not at all, man. Always glad to help you old geezers in whatever way I can. Gotta' share the wealth like the Good Book says you know."
"Yes, I believe I do. First may I ask you your name and what occupation you held, if any, during your life?"
"No problemo. They call me Reckless Rick 'cause I'm always jumping from one thing to another. Like fer'instance that there question you hung on me about an occupation. I've done lots of them, but my main bag was being a teen leader for different churches, mostly those churches what you straight folks call a cult. Really there ain't no such thing, cause they all go the same place, you know, like heaven an' all. And like, you know, the Old Man upstairs, He's real cool and all. Pure love an' all. He ain't going to send none of His people to hell. Know what I mean, man?"
"I think I understand. But I do have a question. What do you suppose that huge pit with smoke rising from it is for?"
"C'mon man, be cool. That's for the devil an' all. Like no lovin' God ain't going to send nobody there. That's just a fairy tale to scare folks into the churches so's they'll fill their coffers. It's got nothin' to do with real folks like you 'n me."
"Um, yes. Well young man, I was going to ask what you expect the outcome of your trial will be, but under the circumstances...."
"No problemo man. Like I got it covered either way. Get this, old man if I get throwed a curve ball, I got a bat to fit it. It's like I been workin' with the kids, like I told you, bringin' them in by the droves. He's got to give me plenty of His little gold stars for that bit of play, don't you think?"
"But didn't you say it was cults you....."
"Oh that. Don't go gettin' righteous on me. One church an' one religion is like another. Anybody with a brain rattlin' in his head knows that. It's just a big game all the churches play, tryin' to see who can cut down the other the most, an' who can get the most marbles by the end of the game. Take my word for it, I seen 'm all."
"Yes, I see. Well Rick, I thank you for the enlightening interview, and I wish you luck when your time comes."
"Don't need no luck, just a head full a' smarts. You just wait an' see."
There's a clean-cut, well dressed middle-aged gentleman. By all appearances he should fare well before the Judge. He's even wearing a cross on his lapel and carrying a Bible in his hand. Let's ask him for an interview, shall we?
"Not at all. I would be glad to help in any way I can."
"Thank you, that would be most appreciated. First of all, may I ask your name, sir?"
"Certainly. My name is Joe. In fact, you may be interested to hear that folks refer to me as 'an all-around good Joe'."
"That's very good, Joe. And I see you're standing here with all these people waiting to see the Judge. What are your feelings at this time, and what do you expect to be the outcome of your trial?"
"Well, it's not too clear at this point. From what I have heard, and all I have read, all who stand before the Throne are already condemned. But in my case, I know there has been some mistake, because I know for certain that I don't belong here. I expect to be called out at any moment and given the white robe I deserve."
"I see, Joe, that you have your Bible with you. Do you expect that will influence the Judge?"
"I suspect it will, but that is not why I have it with me. You see, I am the pastor of a church, and I have a Th.D. in Religious Studies specializing in church doctrine. I am also very strong in evangelizing, I speak in tongues and prophesy and have even healed the sick in the Name of the Lord. So you can see, I certainly do not belong down here with these reprobates."
"It would certainly seem that way sir, and I do wish you all the best. Thank you very much for answering my questions, and I do believe I see a young lady we would all like to hear from."
Our next interview will hopefully be with the anxious young lady in the full-length dress and bonnet. She appears to be searching for someone, but perhaps she will pause long enough to answer a few questions.
"Normally I wouldn't mind, but at present I am in a hurry and trying to find someone."
"I understand madam, but this is rather important, and you do have an eternity in which to find whoever you are looking for."
"I suppose you're right. Very well, what is it you would like to ask me?"
"Well, first of all madam, if I may ask your name."
"My name? My name is Hanna. They call my Helpless Hanna because I always need someone to guide me and tell me what I should do. That is who I was looking for when you stopped me. Maybe you can tell me what to do and what to say when it's my turn before the Throne?"
"I'm sorry Hanna, but I'm afraid I can't. And if what I hear is correct, you will have to stand before the Throne without council. And that brings me to my next question, which is; how do you feel about your coming Judgement? And what do you expect the outcome to be?"
"Oh, I'll do alright, I think. I did what my pastor said I should do, I went to church on Sunday, I paid my tithes and did a good deed every day. I'm a nice person, everybody says so. I'm sure when He weighs my good deeds with my bad, He will tell me I did well, and let me go into His Garden."
"Ah oh, it's my turn! I don't want to go up there alone! Will you go with me? Please? Just hold my hand a little? I don't want to be alone"
"I'm sorry Hanna, but no one is allowed to go with you. I'm sorry."
Hanna is getting ready before the Judge. Pray for her.
"Yes Lord, I don't understand. I did a lot of good things! I did what my pastor told me to do! What did I do wrong?"
DID YOU BELIEVE ON ME?
"Yes Lord. I accepted you like my pastor said to do. I even signed a paper saying so. I even wear a cross around my neck, see?"
DID YOU BELIEVE ON ME?
"Yes Lord, like I just said. I even prayed the Sinner's Prayer and everything. Didn't you hear it?"
DO YOU KNOW WHAT BELIEVE MEANS?
"Yes Lord. My pastor said it means to think something is true. I knew it was true that You are God, and that You died for our sins. I believed that."
THE DEVIL KNOWS ALSO, AND TREMBLES, BUT IT DOES NOT SAVE HIM.
BELIEVE MEANS TO TRUST AND OBEY. YOU DID NOT OBEY BECAUSE YOUR EARS WERE FULL OF WHAT OTHERS TOLD YOU, AND WOULD NOT LISTEN WHEN I CALLED YOU.
YOU ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE. IT PAINS ME TO LOSE EVEN ONE OF MY PRECIOUS CREATIONS, BUT IF THE CLAY REFUSES TO RESPOND TO THE POTTERS HANDS, IT MUST BE REJECTED.
"But I did what my pastor said. Honest I did!"
HE IS NEXT. JOE, COME FORTH!
"Yes Lord, here I am, kneeling at your feet, Sir. See? I even have my Bible with me that I read all the time. I am even a pastor of your church Sir. I think there has been some kind of mistake and....!"
WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
"Sir? Why, You are God Sir. You are the One who died for our sins. You died for my sins, everybody's sins, Lord. That's why I don't understand....."
WHO DID YOU TELL THEM THAT I AM?
"Why, Sir, I told them what You said; that You are the Good Shepherd, a Loving God who wants only the best for His sheep. I taught them that You wanted every one of Your sheep to go to heaven. I taught that....."
DID YOU TEACH THEM THAT EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME?
"Well, yes Sir, I did, sort of. I mean, I taught that they should love you like You love them. That they should be kind to one another, that they should go out into the world and bring others into our church, and....."
DO YOU KNOW WHAT SUBMIT MEANS?
"Yes Lord. And I taught them that. I told them to submit to the Elders, and to their pastor, just like you said to do in your Bib....."
DO YOU KNOW WHAT OBEY MEANS?
"Yes Sir! I sure do! And that I really preached hard. You would have been proud of me. Yes Sir. Why, I not only demanded that they obey all of Your laws, but I made up a bunch of my own, like ...."
JOE, YOU DID NOT PREACH MY GOSPEL, BUT YOUR OWN. DID YOU NOT READ THAT A MINISTER OF MY WORD WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT HE TEACHES?
"But, but, Lord, you don't understand. I.........."
I NEVER KNEW YOU.
THOMAS, COME FORTH.
"Here I am, your Honor. But I must tell you before you begin that I don't think you realize what an important man I am, and......"
DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
"Well, sure. You're God. And that's fine in your own domain. But down here I'm an important man and....."
ALL THAT YOU HAVE, I GAVE YOU, ALL THAT YOU ARE, I MADE YOU. AND FOR THIS, YOU SHARED IT NOT, NOR GAVE CREDIT WHERE IT WAS DUE. YOU ARE NOT WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE, BUT WHO I THINK YOU ARE. YOU ARE OF NO USE TO ME NOR ANYONE ELSE. GO, AND TAKE YOUR PLACE WITH THE OTHER DEFECTIVE VESSELS.
"But, but, you don't understand! I was Baptized. I belonged to the right church. I'm an important self-made man. I don't believe in the Bible or You, so therefore I can"t be held responsible, and.....!"
RICK, COME FORTH AND BE JUDGED.
"Here I am Lord, ready and waiting as your obedient servant, as I have always been, as I'm sure you know."
WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
"Why, Lord, you're the greatest! The coolest! You are the Father of Love, the Creator of everything bad and beautiful. Why you're the One every religion of the world prays to. You're the....."
WHAT IS MY NAME?
"Your name? Man, You go by many names. You're the Buddha, the Surya, the Brahma, the Shang-ti, the....."
I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA. I AM JESUS. YOU, WITH YOUR MISDIRECTED VIGOR HAVE LED MANY OF MY CHILDREN ASTRAY. YOU HAVE TAKEN ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A GODLY MINISTER, AND HAVE FAILED. TAKE YOUR PLACE WITH THE DEMONS YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO FOLLOW.
"But, but, I don't get it. I was told that all roads lead to you. That there was no right or wrong. I was sincere, and I worked hard to bring your children into the light. I can't help it if I was lied to! It's not my fault! It's your fault for not making it clear to me......"
ALL WHO STAND BEFORE THE THRONE OF JUDGEMENT HAVE CHOSEN TO REJECT MY OFFER AND MY SACRIFICE IN ORDER TO PURSUE YOUR OWN LUSTS. I SOUGHT YOU DILIGENTLY, EVEN TO CASTING MY LIFE'S BLOOD TO THE GROUND. BUT YOU DID NOT SEEK ME DILIGENTLY, RATHER YOU HID YOURSELF FROM MY CALLING, AS DID ADAM AND EVE IN MY GARDEN.
I GAVE YOU SIGNS AND WONDERS. I SENT MY ANGELS TO GUIDE YOU. I SENT PROPHETS TO WARN YOU. FINALLY I CAME MYSELF TO DIE FOR YOU, THEN I SENT THE HOLY SPIRIT TO INSTRUCT YOU.
BUT YOU WOULD RECEIVE NONE OF IT, AND IN SO DOING, YOU REJECTED THE SALVATION I PROVIDED FOR YOU.
IT IS NOT I WHO CONVICTS YOU THIS DAY, BUT THE MULTITUDE OF SAINTS BEHIND ME WHO HAVE HEEDED MY CALL, WHO HAVE ACCEPTED THE REDEMPTION I PAID FOR YOU ALL. THEY ARE MY FAITHFUL MARTYRS THAT PROVE MY SACRIFICE HAS BEEN SUFFICIENT, THAT MY CALLING HAS BEEN CLEAR TO ALL WHO LISTENED FOR IT WITH AN OPEN EAR.
THO I AM THE JUDGE OF ALL MATTERS, IT IS YOU WHO HAVE CONDEMNED YOURSELF BY YOUR WILFUL CHOICE TO IGNORE YOUR CALLING.
NOW DEPART FROM ME, YE WHO WORK INIQUITY, FOR NO SIN WHATSOEVER SHALL ENTER MY GATES. THIS I HAVE DECREED FROM THE BEGINNING, AND I DO NOT CHANGE.
It would be difficult enough to just stand back and do nothing while the wicked evil-doers of the world continue on their fast road to Hell. But when we consider that it is not only the overtly wicked who will perish, but the nice, the kind, the beautiful people of the world as well.... It is our co-workers, our fellow church members, our club members, our friends, our family. It is all those who decide against, or delay in making a decision to turn their life over to their Maker, which is our reasonable duty.
Why were we born? What is each and every person's purpose for being placed on this earth? Is it not to gain wealth for ourselves? To lord it over others in selfish pursuit of pleasure and ego boosting? To fulfill our own selfish desires as society and the media says it is?
Not according to the Bible, the very Word of God.
We, that is mankind, are not here for our purpose as we suppose, no more than is a figurine crafted for the sake of the piece of clay of which it is made. And as the figurine is intended for the sake of the artist alone, so are we created for the sake of Him who created us. And as the sculptor has total discretion over the clay; to accept, reject, or destroy it; so does God as our Creator have total discretion over us.
We are merely pots, earthen vessels in which the potter, that is God, desires to place His seed of Life, the Holy Spirit, in order to raise up creatures in His own image, of which Jesus is the First-Fruits. That First-Fruit, the One and only to mature to perfection, had to die in order for others (that is us) to receive the seed of His perfect life with which to mature in His image.
Jesus and God the Father have accomplished their part; and now it is up to each and every one of us to decided to do our part.
God, as our Creator, has given His vessels an amazing privilege, and that is to not only accept or reject what He has intended for us, but to be given Eternal Life in the very form that He is Himself.
This is an awesome thing for us to comprehend, but thankfully we don't have to understand it - just accept it as fact; and accept His offer.
In this day and age we have lost the concept of "Slave" and "Master," much to our downfall. We have even ventured so far from that concept as to demand our "rights," even from God, our Creator in who's eye we are barely a speck of dust, if that; and live but a blink of God's eye.
Yet we demand of God, deny Him, even His existence, and have placed ourself in His stead as gods of not only our own lives, but the world.
David, who God said is a "Man after my own heart" said this of God: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?"
We should be awestruck and amazed that God is able to create such creatures as a cockroach, leastwise a man or a woman. We should be in terror of His magnificence and power; and fall down at his feet in absolute submission because of the Love and Grace He has provided for us.
But have we done this? No, but we will, every one of us!
It's an amazing fact of human nature that we have the ability to become blinder to reality the longer we are away from it. One example of this is a child who considers himself as invincible and immortal - until he gets a scratch on his finger.
We, especially this nation, are like that child: we do not consider God because we do not see Him, nor feel the need for Him at present. But during times of trouble.....?
During WWII we heard a great deal about the absolute need for prayer. We knew that to win the war, we needed God on our side. But since the war is over? God has been set aside, denied, and even barred from our schools and courthouses.
Has this changed at any time?
Oh yes. Absolutely!
Do you recall 9/11? What did you hear from every official? From the TV? PRAY, PRAY, PRAY FOR THIS NATION!!!
Of course it only lasted a very short time, until we felt in control again, then it was back to: "Out with God."
And according to the book of Revelation, during the Tribulation we will have become so hardened that we will not only refuse to call on God during times of our hardest troubles, but become angry at him and fight against Him when He comes to save the world!
Is it any wonder the Lord is going to be unyielding at the time of Judgement?
On the contrary; I am amazed that He has chosen to accept even a few of his creation to spend but a short time with, leastwise an Eternity.
How many people do you know with whom you would like to spend even a thousand years?
In the above story we witnessed examples of what happens when the Seed of Life (the Call) is cast upon the field, that is this Earth, and does not fall on fertile ground.
Helpless Hanna, a fine, decent young woman, attractive and appealing, certainly, in our eyes, a good candidate for being accepted into the Garden of Life: One with which our Lord would wish to fellowship as much as we would ourselves.
But the Lord does not judge as we judge. He sees the heart. He sees things from an Eternal perspective, that we are but an infinitesimal beginning of a great work in progress. We see things from our own, human perspective, that is, upside-down, and refuse to see it any other way. To us it is: Ourselves - Our Family - Our Possessions - Our Reputation - and finally, maybe Our Maker, which is God.
God tells us to see only Him, and to put everything else aside, as if it were nothing more than dirt, which is what it is, ourselves included; unless we accept the Seed of the Holy Spirit; and then we only have value as we allow that Seed within us grow. That Seed within us has the value, not the unfinished pot (us) that It is planted in.
It is the flower in the pot we cherish, not the pot itself. An old plastic cup will serve if it is filled with fertile soil. But a beautiful vase with a small crack in it is useless, especially if it is filled with gravel.
Helpless Hanna, with all her potential, had been led astray by the very one she placed her trust in, the one who she believed would lead her into the Garden.
Jesus said to follow Him, that He is the door; not to follow others. He said that we are to listen for His voice, which is a whisper, and to question all the yelling voices in the world. We learn to hear His voice, and to recognize the voice of the True Shepherd moment by moment through prayer, and through constant communication with Him, having our thoughts and our mind in the Heavenlies.
However we, being human, follow the advice of men, and only pray occasionally, and then ritualistically. Our only heart-felt prayers are reserved for when we want or need something for our self and our lust.
How would you feel if your child only spoke to you when he wanted something, otherwise he ignored, avoided, and disobeyed you? Would you chose him to spend Eternity with?
Helpless Hanna was a defective vessel, unable to receive, leastwise retain, the Water of Life that flows from the Throne of God. She was brought to the Door of the sheepfold, then held there by the one she chose to listen to, the Pastor, rather than search the Word for herself, and seek the True Shepherd. She, along with multitudes of faithful church-goers, are led astray by the very ones they believe are God's light to the world. They are just as assuredly, but not as obviously, lost as those 900 who followed Jim Jones into the wilderness, or the Jews who listened to their religious leaders and cried out for the blood of their Messiah.
Reckless Rick, a likeable, energetic, dedicated young man, full of vigor and enthusiasm; surely he would be a grand addition to the Garden of our Lord. What church or organization wouldn't be delighted to have such a one working on their behalf?
However, as any mother or teacher can attest, a happy, energetic child, with all his charm, is a destructive force if he will not listen for and obey instructions of the one in charge.
Reckless Rick, with all his potential, is a wandering lamb after which the Shepherd must continually chase after and return to the sheepfold, only to have the lamb refuse to enter in.
Sheep love to flock, stay together, which makes easy work for the Shepherd. The church is like a flock of sheep. They huddle around one another, often oblivious to the Shepherd, unless they are in need or sense danger.
But what a joy it must be for the Shepherd when one of the flock loves nothing more than to stay right with Him, cuddle up next to Him, and hang on every Word he speaks; A lamb who waits patiently, with anticipation, for any command from his Shepherd, and executes that command immediately and without question, without regard for himself or his own interests.
What a Church of such people would be? What a Family? What an Army?
Of course, such a sheep is not in the crowd of people standing before the Throne; no, they are standing behind the Throne dressed in a robe of pure white.
Doubting Thomas, a fine, upstanding man, with many years experience which his grey hair and abundant wrinkles will attest, is highly successful by any man's standards. Wealthy, highly educated, respected by all, and successful in all his ventures; he stands head and shoulders above the crowd.
Except one. And that one exception has brought him before the Throne standing beside all those he strove so hard to rise above and to have look up to him.
Now he sees that the One from whom he should have been seeking approval, is looking down on him.
And add to this tragedy the fact that his entire life, as long as it may have been, was filled with sorrow and loneliness, not the joy he believed his pursuits would bring to him.
Unlike the sheep who flocked together for warmth and companionship, or the sheep who ran off in their own escapes; Doubting Thomas would follow no one, nor seek any pleasure that did not produce a profit for himself.
Doubting Thomas believed in no one, nor any thing but what he could hold in his hand. And his goal in this life was to stand on a pedestal of his own making, higher than anyone else; which he accomplished.
Such dedication to a single purpose; such skill and daring; such self-sacrifice, though misdirected, would surely have been needful and welcome in the Army of God. But alas, one who will not humble himself in order to learn to obey will make for a poor leader. A General in the Army must begin by first learning to take and follow commands before he can give them. And then he is only of value if his direction is for the good of others, not to fulfill his own selfish desires.
And Doubting Thomas' one foothold on reality, his hope and trust for his eternal soul, turned out to be a slippery quagmire; a foundation of images having no more substance than the life he had built for himself.
Pastor Joe: now here surely is a man destined for greatness in the eyes of our Lord. He has dedicated his life to the sheep, and to the study of the Lord's Word. He has worked hard to bring lost lambs into his fold, and to feed them and keep them warm and comfortable.
Isn't this exactly what the Bible says a pastor is to do? Most assuredly this pastor does not belong here amongst those who have refused the Lord's call, were misguided, or were outright rebellious to Him.
Pastor Joe has had a great deal of study in the Word and has read the Bible earnestly, pouring over every word, many times. But like the Pharisees and the Scribes of Jesus' day, he did not study the Word for what God had to tell us, but to reinforce what he already believed and had been instructed by others to believe the Word said.
Jesus told His Disciples that He would send a Comforter who would instruct them in the Word, and to explain what the Word has to tell them. That does not mean any of the Words would be changed or added or subtracted, but that the Word would be explained and become a part of their life.
Jesus said the Bible is written in mysteries and in parables in order that the carnal mind and unbelievers can not understand them. That means we can only understand what the bible means (not just memorize what it says) if we are provided Godly instruction.
Yet we humans, having no better sense, listen to what other carnal minds, often highly educated unbelievers, tell us the Bible says. In many, if not most cases, we would be much better off prayerfully reading the Bible on our own to find out what God wants us to know than to listen to what others have to tell us.
Which brings us back to Pastor Joe.
We have seen how Pastor Joe, with all his good intentions, has led at least one of his flock down the broad path of destruction, which is the very same road he had blindly chosen for himself.
And how can anyone instruct us how to go where they have not gone themself?
Pastor Joe did what many other, even notable Bible experts have done and are doing; they preach their own beliefs, and not the commands of God. (Remember that the Rulers who sent Jesus to the cross were the very "best" and respected and powerful men of their day; men that God had placed in authority and presumably spoke the very words of God.)
Many churches place much importance on what their members do, that is their works. It's "do this and do that" and you will get to Heaven. This is what the Jewish Rulers taught. And it sounds right on the surface, does it not? It appeals to our pride knowing that we have worked our own way into favor with God which others have not. This was one big stumbling stone for the religious leaders of Jesus' day. They rejected the idea vehemently that the riffraff on the streets could attain the same thing they could with all their piety and works.
Other churches take the opposite extreme; many in order to keep from being "works" oriented, teach what is called "Grace Alone," that is, all you have to do is confess Jesus and you will go to Heaven. And there is definite truth in this. We are saved by Grace alone, meaning that Salvation is a gift from God, through accepting the death of Jesus Christ for our sins, and that there is nothing we can do, nor have done, to be worthy of it.
But as in anything, absolutes and opposites are rarely if ever where truth lies. Sometimes truth is somewhere in the middle, but much more often it incorporates the middle as well as both extremes.
Consider two groups of people, the one groups says "no" merely because the other group says "yes." Consider the Lilliputians and the egg, and very likely people in your own acquaintance, in your church, in your family. And if you are in neither group, you are the only one who is likely to be able to see the truth of the matter.
Works will not get you to Heaven, nor will they bring you contentment, nor favor with God. The Jews evidenced this, as there is no one who had more works than they.
But neither will the lack of works get you to Heaven or in favor with God.
Again, consider your own family, of which God calls His own, and which He refers to often in the Bible as examples of how He wants us to respond to one another and to Him.
If you had a child who did everything he could to keep you thinking well of him, and in order to make sure you gave him what he wanted; but was always unhappy, feared your disapproval, and did not respond to you with warmth and love - would you be happy with that child?
Then you have another child. This child is just the opposite of the first. He thinks because he has been birthed by you, lives under your roof, and has accepted your food and clothing, that he has fulfilled all he has to in order to obtain the fullest of what you have to offer. He firmly believes that you now owe him, and that you have promised to provide him with whatever he desires. What would you say to this child? (I am not just making this up, there are actually churches who teach this very same thing.)
Now you have one other child. This child is usually happy, especially when she is around you. When you come home she is always excited and runs up to you, throws her arms around you and is thrilled to be with you. When you leave for work, it saddens her greatly, but she does not cry or object because she believes that you will come home as soon as you can, and will be carrying her with you in your heart while the two of you are separated.
When you come home she has done all she knew to do (works) and asks if there is anything more you would like for her to do. And if there is none, she accepts that patiently.
Should there be some reason you have to reprimand or punish her, she is sad that she has made you angry or unhappy, but understands that you are punishing her out of love for her, and that it is for her own good, and so she never tries to hide anything she has done wrong, but confesses it willingly and immediately.
This child, unlike the others, fears you, not for fear of losing your love or approval as does the "works" child, but rather she fears doing something that might cause you to be sad or unhappy because she enjoys making you happy, in spite of the fact that she might have to give up her own happiness for yours.
When you bring her a gift, no matter how small, she is not only thankful, but she treasures it and takes very good care of it. Then if you should tell her she must give the gift, or something else that she treasures away, she does so without complaining, but instead she is grateful for the time she was able to have it and make use of it.
Which of these three children would you wish to spend Eternity with? Which will you be glad for them to leave home?
God has made us in His own image. Because we are in His image, if we are of a reasonably healthy mind and spirit, we are able to understand what He wants, feels and expects; because He has imparted those same attributes in His creation.
For us to think that God is some sort of Santa Clause who needs us to ask for whatever we desire and He will jump at the chance to satisfy us; or that He desperately needs our attention and companionship, is foolishness. Consider the Jews which he often destroyed who were obeying Him much more than we are today.
Consider the fact that all Adam and Eve did was eat an apple, which caused the wrath of God to begin with.
It is not what we do that brings the wrath of God upon us; In God's eyes a small lie is just as much a sin as is murder.
Adam and Eve were not punished and sentenced to death because they ate an apple. Nor are we justified because we don't eat an apple.
We all, as was Adam and Eve, are condemned because of disobedience.
Is that so different from we humans that we cannot understand it? If we have a child who, when told to take out the trash, does not do so, but rather paints the garage; who washes the car instead of the dishes as instructed - don't we punish him for disobedience?
And this is a good child trying to please by doing more than he is told to do. What of a child who continually does what he is told not to do?
God wants obedience, and Love above all; the same as we all do. And the way we show our Love is through obedience; for without obedience, there is no Love.
God is not one sided on this. He has said, amazingly enough, that if we Love and obey Him, He will Love and obey us!! (1John 3:22; 5:14-15)
Does this not sound like a marriage, that is, how God instructs a wedded couple to respond to one another?
But notice the conditions, and the order;
God first Loved us. He proved this by creating us, then while we were rebellious and incapable of Loving or obeying Him, He gave His only begotten Son to die for us.
Then He invites us, still rebellious sinners, to believe on the Son, and provides those who responds with the element that we as carnal mankind is missing: that is the Holy Spirit, who instructs us how to understand God - and, He provides us with the capacity of Love that we humans are missing!!
The Bible says that without Love, all our good works are in vain. That is because we, on the carnal level, are incapable of Love. We can have the feeling of love. We can have the actions of love - but only God can truly Love.
So that means if we truly Love, we have the Spirit of Love within us; that is the Holy Spirit.
But how can we know we have that Spirit of Love, instead of believing our own works are that of Godly Love?
We have a dilemma. If we're doing what's required of us, why then should we believe we're missing out on something we haven't experienced?
God has provided an answer, albeit one that we can not understand until we have received the Holy Spirit to reveal it - which by then we will already understand it, because we will have that Love.
Confused? Chances are that you are, unless you have the Holy Spirit, and then you very likely don't need it explained. But if you don't have the Holy Spirit; no amount of explaining will help.
First you have a Call; something inside of you is telling you that things are not right in your life. Usually this happens when things are at their worst. You cry out to God for help. Perhaps, and very likely, you go through the ritual of "Being Saved" according to whatever church you seek out.
Now that you are "Saved," you have three choices. The first of these choices is the one most often followed; since you are no longer in the fear that brought you to your knees in the first place, you take back the reigns of your life. At this point you may do one of two things: You may return to your old life, which is very often done, until the next time you feel desperate. This is what is called in the Army a "Foxhole conversion," made under fire until the danger has passed. You may have recognized this in the life of Doubting Thomas.
In the parable of the Sower and the Seeds, you will have been the one who's Seed fell upon a rock.
The second thing you may do after such a conversion is become a church member. You may be an occasional church attender, or you may be like Helpless Hanna and be the most faithful and active member the church has. But of course what you will then have become is a faithful servant to the church, not to God. This is exemplified in Pastor Joe (and in the Pharisees). He had the appearance of being an exceptional Christian, but his roots were shallow. And who was more surprised to find this out than Pastor Joe himself?
This group has learned to "play church," that is, instead of sacrificing themselves and searching their hearts in order to obtain the perfection which Jesus commands us to do, they settle for what is called "churchianity."
In the parable of the Sower and the Seeds, your Seed will have fallen amongst the thorns and thistles. But your thistles, as with Pastor Joe and Hanna's, are hard to recognize because they are not out "in the world" as they are with many who become swallowed up in family problems, jobs, friends and such, which cause them to leave the church altogether. No, these thorns and thistles do not press you out of the church; instead they tie you down in the church, where you feel contented to remain on the very stoop of the stairs which leads to our Lord.
Your third choice is much like that above, and can easily be mistaken for it; that is, you throw yourself into the life of the church, dedicating yourself to its purposes, ready to fulfill all that is required of you both by the church Elders as well as what the Bible says you should do.
You read the Bible faithfully and you pray often; you even have your name placed on the Prayer Chain.
You help the Pastor and volunteer in your community.
And if someone brings a need to you, you do all you can to help.
You are on the right track, and doing many Good Works. In the eyes of all you are an excellent Christian. Not a thing can be said against you, and in your own mind you are fulfilling God's will for you.
And this is a danger point at which many sincere Christians stumble. It is easy to satisfy yourself that you are doing what God wants you to do; and you will be fully supported by all, even the Bible. But keep in mind that the Bible gives many instructions for each step toward God's goal for you. If you only read, or pay attention to those verses regarding the step you are on, you will believe that you have "arrived."
Always keep in mind that "arriving" means reaching God's goal for you, which is no less than what Jesus has become. If you have fallen short of that perfection by two inches, you have not "arrived," but are still growing; which is what God is requiring of you. He does not expect you to attain perfection, for He knows that is impossible. What He does expect is for each and every one of us to search diligently for Him, listen intently for His whispered commands, and to obey.
Many Christians are in this category, that is, they believe that because they are now on the first step, there is nothing more required of them. Such was Helpless Hanna.
And such very likely was Pastor Joe.
If the last two choices above appear to be the same, that is because they are. The difference is in the heart. Whereas the first example is just in appearances, that is, there are no roots growing toward the heart of the convert; those in the second group are striving day by day, moment by moment to grow closer to the Lord (climb the stairs you might say rather than settling comfortably on the stoop).
People who are unaware of this growth process, or who wish to deny its existence will say: "So, what could possibly be wrong with being a good church Christian? Surely nothing can be added to this! I'll get my mansion in Glory, and that's all I want anyway" And it is just such a belief which stops many "good Christians" from becoming what the Lord intends for them to be. They do not seek the Lord, but rather (just as Helpless Hanna) they listen to what their Pastor tells them to do, and they do it -- religiously.
And where did Pastor Joe get his knowledge of the Word of God? He listened to his instructors and did just what he was instructed to do.
Which is just what the Pharisees did.
Have you ever considered it strange that when a person changes denominations, they also change their beliefs to fit that denomination, even if those beliefs are diametrically opposed to what they believed before? Have you ever wondered why their beliefs didn't become a blend of the two?
Have you ever wondered why a preacher who begins preaching in a new denomination will be just as fervent in his new belief as he was in his former?
Consider the Civil War, how a loving family can suddenly turn on one another and kill each other without guilt, just because they hold a different opinion.
Consider how an entire country like Germany could turn on one nationality of people so wickedly and without guilt.
Or how an "Innocent" nation like ours could invade an ancient people and set out to utterly destroy the Natives just so we could possess their land.
Consider the Martyrs of the Church, past and present.
Then consider the ideas planted in our children by TV, Video games, Commercials, Peers, and Schools.
We have to look beyond what we think is right; beyond what we are taught is right; even beyond what we are taught that the Bible says is right. Each church has its own set of rights and wrongs, and all a person has to do to find rules they like is to change churches.
And if you can't find a church that agrees with you, then you can start your own!
Few were more religious "Christians" than were Al Capone or the KKK.
This is where Pastor Joe and Helpless Hanna failed: They looked on a horizontal plane for guidance and example, and not to the One who is Righteousness and Salvation.
Pastors should be instructing their congregation to look to the Lord who is, or should be, within each and every one of them for their instruction and guidance. And those in their congregation who are uncertain that they have received the Holy Ghost should be instructed and matured in such matters.
Instead many pastors seek to be the shepherd instead of the hireling who is to care for the True Shepherd's sheep, and they have the sheep look to them for guidance, either because they don't trust the sheep to be truly converted, or because they have not been converted themselves.
Thus we have the blind leading the blind; wherein Jesus said, they will both fall into a ditch.
A healthy Church has the Lord as its Shepherd.
A carnal church has a man as its shepherd.
If the Holy Spirit is in you, you will know it because you will begin doing things you would not ordinarily do. You will have thoughts you would not normally have. And by this you will know that He has taken root in your heart and has not hit stone.
And you will find within yourself a desire to learn God's will for you.
You will find yourself noticing things about yourself that you have always accepted as ok, maybe even as good; that you now feel a need to be rid of. These you will offer up to the Lord, Who will then "prune" them from your life.
Is this painful? Sometimes. But it is like an operation - you dread it, and it hurts; but what a joy to be rid of the pain and fear that the illness had been causing you!
You will find within you an awareness that you are incapable of Love. And though you had always thought of yourself as a loving person, you will have begun to doubt it, and pray to have God's Love planted in your heart
You then will find yourself experiencing Love. Not the love you had before for your family and friends. Not even the love and compassion you felt for hurting children, or the elderly, or the poor.
The Love you will feel will be for those you might even dislike; that is, those who you normally can't even stand, or would hate; even your enemies.
You will discover a strong compassion for the lost who we have just pictured standing before the Throne of Judgement. You will have a strong desire to help them, to save them, to even sacrifice your own self-image and reputation for them. You may well find yourself even willing to sacrifice the approval of your family, even your life for them as did Jesus, and the Apostles, and the early Christians.
Those vessels without God's Love will be standing before the Judgement Throne.
While those vessels with His Love will be standing behind the Throne wearing a robe of pure white.
Sacrificing oneself and one's life for Christ is not just being willing to die for Jesus' Name, as we suppose, but for His Body as well; and that being His Church, His people, those who serve Him as you do!
You will find that there is a difference between being a member of a church, and being a part of the Church, that is, the Body of Christ.
You will discover that Evangelizing is not bringing people to the door of a building, and getting them to sign a piece of paper; but to lift those who think they are Christians up to the Lord so they, too, will become a part of the Body of Christ.
You will no longer be happy around carnal things. Things of the flesh like TV, movies, and even pleasant worldly music will cause you to feel uncomfortable. The news will sicken and distress you, as it should everyone whether a Christian or not. And we all know this, even admit it on occasion.
You will find your thoughts and your desires are only for the Lord; that those times you have to pull away from the work of the Lord in order to perform daily chores are a distress to you, like the little girl who's father must go to work.
You will no longer feel comfortable with negative thoughts, and you will become super-aware of such, realizing that God is not only watching you, but in you as well, and having to experience Himself everything you say, think, feel, see or hear.
Sound frightening? To the carnal mind it does. But once the Holy Spirit is in you, it will feel more natural than anything else you have ever undertaken.
Have you ever done, or eaten, something that you always considered repulsive; only to find that it is now more enjoyable than anything else?
Be prepared to find yourself becoming distanced from your church congregation, and very possibly even scorned. Not because you will be pulling away from them, because there is nowhere to go since most all churches are the same in that they cater to the neophyte and the carnal rather than those who are truly growing in the Lord. No, they will pull away from you believing that you are either strange, crazy, or a religious fanatic (which you will be, and which they should become and claim to be).
For examples of this castigation, check out Nicodemus, the Apostles, and Paul. And what better demonstration of this fanatisizm than our Lord Himself?
Does this all sound like fiction? or at best something out of the life history of the Sainted Martyrs of old? It probably does, but it shouldn't. This was common knowledge and the experiences of just about all of the first Christians. Somehow we have lost sight of what God has provided for His own, and has promised to those who diligently seek Him.
But few people diligently seek God these days of the apostate church, which Jesus clearly prophesied would come in these last days. And for those who teach that He meant the Catholic church, consider that it has been around almost from the beginning and has essentially refused to change until these last days. No, it's the Protestant churches and those closely akin to them which are sliding backwards into unbelief and distortion.
Consider those churches that have incorporated worldly entertainment into their programs, who accept unrepentant perverted men into their ministry, and who distort and fragmentize the Bible.
It is not what any church or preacher teaches that will save us, but the Word of God which is in each of His own who have truly received Him, in any denomination, in any nation, and in any culture. Jesus said, and the Apostles affirmed and demonstrated as did many other Martyrs, that the world will persecute the True Believer, and accept those who are worldly like themselves.
Therefore, if you are not being persecuted, you might just review your conversion to see if you are either not really saved, saved but fearful of what others might say (which is very possibly not saved), or you belong to a cult or group that takes pride in being persecuted, but are not serving the Lord.
Adam and Eve were given just one commandment - don't eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. So there was only one sin possible for them to commit, which they committed.
Consider this: if God had not told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit, they could not have sinned having done so.
Their sin was not eating of the fruit. No, their sin was disobeying God.
Sin means to "miss the mark," or to have a fault, to trespass. In other words, by God's standards, to be less than perfect as He is perfect.
And their error was the same as the errors of those interviewed before the Throne; they listened to someone else other than God. Eve listened to the serpent, and Adam listened to Eve.
God had only one desire for Adam and Eve, which is the very same desire He has for us today and into Eternity; to Love Him as He Loves us!
And God has one purpose for us, which is the purpose he had when He searched for Adam and Eve in His garden; and that purpose is to walk and fellowship with us!
Before the flood, as far as we know, there were no laws for the people to follow (they couldn't get at the Tree of Knowledge). But the Bible does not say that these people merely sinned (as described above): these people were wicked, continually and completely. Nor did they seek after the God who made them, which means they did not Love Him or desire His fellowship (for which we were created in the first place). There was only one who "walked with God," as did Adam and Eve in the Garden, and that was Enoch, who sought fellowship with God.
Sounds a lot like the world today, doesn't it?
What about Noah and his family? Noah's family may have been sinful for all we know, they were just along to help, since they believed Noah. (Noah preached to others about the coming destruction, but none would listen.) Did Noah walk with God as did Enoch? The Bible says so, and he found "Grace" with the Lord, just as we have, if we "get on the ark" of Salvation, which is the Cross.
The Jews were given Ten Commandments, which we still consider the Will of God for His people to this day. They were also given many other ordinances which were not intended for anyone but the Jews, for which they were made promises, if they kept those ordinances, which they did, off and on for a time. (How many of us are on and off Christians even today?) The rest of the world was (and is) still under the condemnation of Adam's sin, which is death, unless we find Grace as did Noah.
And Grace is found in only one place, that place is at the foot of the Cross, where we must not stand, and not kneel, but lay prostrate in total submission.
Is Grace free? Absolutely.
Was Noah's Grace free? Absolutely. Did Noah have to work for his Grace? Absolutely not. There was nothing he could do in order to merit the Grace he was given.
Did Noah have to work because of that grace in order to receive Salvation? Absolutely. For 120 years he worked, both building the ark and preaching, trying to save the lost sinful souls that filled the earth, having nothing to keep him going but the Word of the Lord, and faith in that Word.
Had he stopped working or having the faith to continue the work before 120 years, it is very likely that we would not be here to consider the consequences.
Grace is what Saves us.
Believing in that Grace is the means to what Saves us.
Faith in God, and in His Word brings us to the Cross to receive that Grace.
Working out our Salvation, and preaching God's Word (evangelizing) to a lost world, is evidence of our salvation; as was the finished ark to Noah.
Love for His creation is the reason God provided His Saving Grace.
Our Love for God is what causes us to seek God and to Please Him - irregardless of the Salvation He has given us.
Enoch walked with God in a time when it was extremely unpopular to do so, because he wanted to, and apparently because he loved God. He did not walk with God in order to avoid death, because he didn't know that would happen. He walked with God irregardless of any reward he might or might not have received.
The Apostles and the early Christians did not follow Jesus for reward. Quite the contrary, they followed Jesus in spite of the fact that they knew all they would receive is beatings, assaults and death. They gave up all to serve the Lord - not for gain, not even for eternal gain; but out of Love for the Lord.
I firmly believe that they would have done exactly what they did, as would many of the other martyrs of the past, even if they were told for certain that there was no reward at all waiting for them but hell.
That is love. It's the love the little girl has for her father. It's the love that causes a mother to run into a burning building to save her child. It's the Love beyond understanding; that must be experienced, but cannot be explained.
It is the Love that God has for us, His children;
It is the Love that God expects from His children.
No less, and no more.
And how is that Love demonstrated?
Exactly the same way it was in the beginning with Adam and Eve. The same way Jesus demonstrated it, both toward His Heavenly Father, and toward us. And exactly the same way Noah, Abraham and the Apostles demonstrated their Love.
And exactly the same way we expect our child to demonstrate their Love for us as a parent.
[If this study has struck a chord in your heart.
If you realize that you have not been diligently seeking our Lord.
I would strongly suggest that you pray for the infilling of the Holy Spirit,
and express a heart-felt desire to be led solely by Him.
Know that you are not alone,
And be prepared to experience that Joy Beyond Understanding.]
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